The Montazah Palace Gardens
The Montaza Palace Gardens are located at the eastern edge of Alexandria on the north coast of Egypt. The complex, around 360 acres, is a beautiful property that overlooks Al Montaza Gulf. The complex also contains five beaches for swimming: Aida, Cleopatra, Vanessa, Semiramis, and the private beach of Helnan Palestine Hotel.
There's all sorts of fun to be had in Montaza. One excellent option is to take a boat ride and see the gardens from the water. Other awesome marine activities are waterskiing, diving, snorkeling, or just chilling out in front of the ocean.
History Of The Montaza Gardens Complex
In 1892, Abbas Helmy II, the last Khedive of Egypt and Sudan, began frequently riding horses and donkeys on the shores and in the neighborhoods of Alexandria with some of his friends. They started their rides from Sidi Bisher, an area tost of Alexandria today, and then rode to various along the Mediterranean.
One summer night, Helmy ordered his men to prepare 80 donkeys for his Alexandria ride with the Khedive Music band, which consisted of 48 musicians and their instruments. When they reached Sidi Bisher, a group of Bedouins heard the music and were fascinated. When they learned that the Khedive was among the riders, they followed him around.
Helmy II loved one area near Sidi Bisher, especially intensely because of the scenes of the sea and the quiet and fascinating atmosphere of this location. He even went again to view this area more closely and went to a specific spot between two outcroppings with a small island to its north. At this moment, Helmy decided to use this spot for his summer residence and build a palace and some gardens there.
On the top of one of these outcroppings, there were old cannons that go back to the reign of Mohamed Ali, who put them there to protect the north coast of Egypt and Alexandria. These cannons are still in the same spot where Helmy built the Salamlek Palace in front of it.
The other outcropping's top contained a center for coast guards, and the Khedive bought it from the government and built the Haramlek Palace there. Helmy II also purchased the house of Sinadino, a wealthy Alexandrian tradesman, and added the land to his complex. He bought a lot of land from people living in the area to expand the space of his summer resort. The Khedive followed the construction of the two palaces himself, and he named the whole complex the Montazah, or the garden, a name that was suggested to him by Mahmoud Shokry Pasha, the head of the Turkish Divan in Egypt.
After the death of Abbas Helmy II, the royal family continued taking care of the Montazah complex until the reign of the last king of Egypt, Farouk I. Then, the Egyptian Revolution of 1952 took place, and the Palace was owned by the government, which opened the gardens to the public; the Salamlek Palace was transformed into a museum until it was added to the presidential palaces, which serve as a hosting place for the president's visitors.
The Montaza Gardens
The garden of Al Montazah is 3000 meters wide and contains a vast selection of trees and plants, some quite rare. Some tropical plants are still in good shape, although they were planted over 75 years ago. The plant collection in Montazah includes Catania, giant boots, Zamia, Carlota, and particular types of palms. This is in addition to big plants like Anthurium, Hokiry, Araliaceae, Victoria, and Ropilia.
The Helnan Palestine Hotel
This is the only hotel built inside one of the royal palaces. The government took ownership of it after the Egyptian revolution in 1952. It is located just in front of the modern lighthouse of Al Montazah.
The hotel was built on the orders of the former Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser to host the first Arab Summit, attended by all the Arab presidents and kings of that time. Afterward, the hotel became the lodgings of most kings, queens, presidents, and essential figures who visited Egypt. The hotel even hosted visitors from Egypt at the grand opening of the new Library of Alexandria. The list included French president Jack Chiraq, Sofia, the Queen of Spain, and Queen Rania of Jordon. The hotel is also a favorite summer spot for some of Egypt's prominent artists and authors.
The hotel has 233 rooms, all with splendid sea or garden views. It also has 20 suites, two royal suites, and a villa on the sixth floor, suitable for large families and groups. The mansion has six rooms, a unique private kitchen, and a big reception hall.
The Helnan Palestine Hotel is famous for its various delicious restaurants. The "Estacoza Restaurant, " located directly on the sea, offers delicious fresh seafood dishes, including their favorite seafood platter. There is also the Alexandrina Restaurant, which serves various international dishes and has a famous open buffet dinner available every day of the week. There are also Asian and Italian restaurants for specialized dishes, and the Zodiac Restaurant offers soft and hot drinks, yummy ice creams, and desserts.
The Salamlek Palace and Hotel
The Salamlek Hotel provides its visitors with the luxurious style of the life of kings and queens. Abbas Helmy II originally built the hotel as the hunting lounge for him and his future Austrian wife. After they were wed, he changed her name to Gawidan Hanem. The name Haramlek in Turkish means the place where men meet; Haramlek is the opposite of Salamlek, which means where women stay. In the reign of King Farouk, the Palace was used as his particular office and meeting hall.
The Palace was designed by Dmitri Fabersious, one of the most famous architects. It was created using a lot of rich decorations, and it contained an artificial forest at the time full of animals that the Khedive and his companions used to go and hunt. The garden of the Palace has Italian cannons that King Ahmed Fouad brought from Europe to defend the Palace against any attack from the sea.
During World War I, the Palace was a military hospital. British soldiers were often transferred there to receive treatment.
After the revolution in 1952, the Haramlek Palace was transformed into a hotel managed by the Sphinx Tourism Company. The San Giovanni Company came afterward and made a lot of restorations and renovations to the hotel. When you first enter the hotel's main hall, you find yourself in the Khedive Salon with its luxurious furniture. It contains a collection of photographs of the Khedive with different essential figures. You will spend some time at the reception to be able to choose the best suite as the hotel has 14 unique suites: "Mawlana Al Moheeb," which contains five expansive rooms and a particular royal garden view; "Sahebat Al Essma" with its vast three rooms and expansive balcony, " Dawlat Al Ra'ees" with two rooms and a wide balcony, or "Afandina" with three rooms and a big balcony.
The most fascinating suite in the hotel is the Crystal Suite or the Queen Royal Suite. It was named that way because all its items were made of blue glass and crystal. The Haramlek Palace was built by King Ahmed Fouad in 1925 when he ordered his Italian architect, Firotche, to construct it to be the summer residence of the Royal Family of Egypt at the time.
The Palace Design
The Palace has a distinctive design combining different styles, with the Byzantine style dominant. This is in addition to the Gothic, Classical, and, of course, Islamic styles of architecture.
Haramlek Palace contains a lot of French antiquities, and it was decorated richly in the Baroque and Rococo styles that consist of unique ornaments of plants and geometric designs. The Palace has a vast open-air hall in the middle, with all the rooms and suites surrounding it. The Palace has three floors. The first floor consists of many rooms and halls, and the most important among them is the office of the king, the billiards hall, and the dining lounge. The second floor used to host the chaperones and servants of the kings and queens, while the third and last floor hosted the king and queen suites with a massive balcony in between. This floor also has the baby prince suite, designed out of cork to prevent the sleeping baby from being disturbed by the sound of footsteps.
The Palace was renewed and restored during King Farouk's reign. King Farouk wanted to dig a crypt from the Palace directly to the sea so he could use it in case of an attack on the Palace. However, the Egyptian revolution in 1952!
Toda prevented him from completing it; the Montazah Complex is one of Alexandria's most popular picnic spots. The last time I visited Alexandria, I took my wife and mother to the Montazah. My mother wanted to rest in the Helnan Hotel, where she stayed in the Zodiac Restaurant and had lemon juice and a club sandwich while reading her novel happily in front of the sea. The visit was a wonderful experience, and we all loved it.