Al-Gawhara Palace, which is also known as Bijou Palace, is located in the famous Cairo Citadel, along with a number of other popular Cairo attractions, including the magnificent Muhammad Ali Mosque; the National Police Museum and the Egyptian National Military Museum. While most of our Cairo tour packages don’t include a visit to this palace, we can easily add a visit to any one of our current itineraries.
Al-Gawhara Palace, originally commissioned by Muhammad Ali in 1814, is a place of truly amazing architectural beauty where various styles of architecture have been employed in a way that allows them to blend together seamlessly.
Even if Al-Gawhara Palace was standing completely empty, it would still be a fantastic place to visit, but it is anything but empty. Instead, many of the palace’s original contents are proudly displayed in its many halls, rooms, and passageways, including a giant chandelier weighing roughly 1,000 kilograms which was a gift from King Louis Philippe of France, and Muhammad Ali’s beautiful throne which was a gift from the then king of Italy.
It has often been said that Egypt went through a sort of architectural renaissance during the reign of Muhammad Ali, and the Al-Gawhara Palace is well and truly a striking example. As an added bonus, visitors Al-Gawhara Palace also get to enjoy unrivaled views of Coptic Cairo. If you enjoy historical architecture, then this complex is certainly one of the must-see Cairo tourist attractions.
The Brief History of Al-Gawhara Palace
Muhammad Ali had Al-Gawhara Palace built in 1814 and subsequently named it after his last wife, Gawhara Hanem. It was built primarily to serve as a private residence although it often housed special guests, along with a number of administrative offices.
For the design and construction of the palace, artisans were brought in from various countries, including Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey. As a result of this, Ottoman architecture is the predominant architectural style, but with very prominent European influences.
Each group of artisans was generally responsible for the design and construction of different sections of the complex, including a mint; a gunpowder factory; an arsenal; and even schools.
In 1822, just 8 years after Al-Gawhara Palace was built, its wooden construction was all but destroyed by a major fire which burned for two days. Muhammad Ali immediately had the palace repaired. He also had a number of extensions done, and several new features added, including a large fountain, flower gardens, terraces, and etc.
Unfortunately, exploding gunpowder within the complex caused another fire in 1824, just two years after the first fire. Muhammad Ali once had all the resultant damage repaired. On this occasion, he also had a vestibule, a staircase, and some corridors added, all of which were made using large pieces of imported marble.
One hundred and fifty two years later, Al-Gawhara Palace witnessed yet another fire which was the result of a burglary gone wrong. On this occasion, the fire was far more severe than the previous two, to the point where it came very close to gutting the building entirely. Fortunately, Al-Gawhara Palace was once again restored to its former glory for all to see and appreciate.
The Legend of Al-Gawhara Palace
According to legend, Muhammad Ali was so determined to secure and guarantee his total control of Egypt that he once invited 470 Mamelukes to the palace to enjoy a feast with him. After the feast was over, he had them all shot just as they were leaving. Legend has it that only one managed to escape.
Visiting Cairo Citadel and Al-Gawhara Palace
Al-Gawhara Palace is a splendid attraction which is conveniently located in the famous Salah El Din Citadel, which in turn is located in a particularly fascinating part of Cairo. The Citadel is also home to other excellent attractions, so it is definitely a place worth visiting. We highly recommend visiting Al-Gawhara Palace, along with the other attractions at the Citadel, and particularly the Muhammad Ali Mosque.
While many of our Cairo Tour Packages and other more comprehensive Egypt Tour Packages do include a visit to Cairo’s Islamic Quarter, not all of them include a visit to the Citadel and/or the Al-Gawhara Palace. As a result, if you are considering booking one of our guided tour packages, please be sure to check your preferred tour itinerary to see if a visit to the palace is included.
Top 6 Cairo, Egypt Tour Packages
At Egypt Tours Plus, all tour packages are fully customizable. If your preferred tour package does not feature Al-Gawhara Palace, but you would like it to, simply let us know, and we will be more than happy to tailor your tour accordingly, providing your preferred tour is a private guided tour rather than a group tour.