Perched on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, Montaza Palace is one of Alexandria’s most recognizable landmarks. Families flock to its gardens to picnic or walk in the greenery, a welcome respite from the city center. Built in 1892 by Khedive Abbas II, the palace was used as a hunting lodge and summer home for when the sweltering heat drove people from Cairo.
While Montaza is well known among Egyptians, less well known are the Khedive palaces in Istanbul. Abbas II, the last ruler of the Khedivate of Egypt and Sudan—a semiautonomous state of the Ottoman Empire—and a major figure during the British occupation, travelled to then-Constantinople to strengthen ties with the Ottomans and undermine the British. There, he built a palace on the shores of the Bosporus.
Khedive on the hill
Designed by Italian architects, the palace, known today as Khedive Palace or Çubuklu Palace (pronounced “chubuklu”) after the neighborhood in which it was built in the Asian side of Istanbul, was built for use during his visits to the Ottoman capital. The Art Nouveau building, inspired by Italy’s Renaissance villas with touches of Ottoman neoclassical styles, dominates the shoreline with its expansive marble terraces, monumental fountain, and, similarly to Montaza, a strikingly tall tower.
The hilltop palace was completed in 1907, seven years before Abbas II was deposed by the British. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the creation of the Republic of Turkey, the palace was purchased by the City of Istanbul in 1937 and fell into disrepair until 1984, when it was restored an opened to the public.
Today, homesick Egyptians can visit the palace and stroll through the rose garden (the largest in Istanbul), enjoy the paved paths and grounds dotted with cafes and restaurants.
Mother Pasha’s mansion
Abbas II’s family left its mark across Istanbul, with many of the waterfront mansions and residences standing to this day. The current Egyptian consulate in Istanbul, located on the European side in the upscale neighborhood of Bebek, was the summer palace of Abbas II’s mother, Amina Naguiba. Amina was a prominent figure at the time known to advise her son, who succeeded to the throne at the age of 18. She became known as the Valide Pasha, or “Mother Pasha,” and was the only woman given the distinction throughout the history of the Ottoman Empire.
She remained in Istanbul after her son was deposed until her death in 1931, when the mansion was given to the Egyptian government. Today, the building serves as the Egyptian consulate building and is commonly known as the Valide-I Hidiv Mansion.
From the shores of the Mediterranean to the Bosporus Strait, Egypt has left an extraordinary mark largely unknown to Egyptians. These Khedive-era estates not only hold historical value, but are iconic and integral to the fabric of their cities.