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An Old-Time Crime Story set against the backdrop of an Architectural Jewel and a Historical Masterpiece: the Aisha Fahmy Palace

An Old-Time Crime Story set against the backdrop of an Architectural Jewel and a Historical Masterpiece: the Aisha Fahmy Palace
 
Written by: Barbara Gai
tjaty@libero.it

On the shore of the Nile on Zamalek Island, at the old Abu El-Ela Bridge, in the most prestigious neighbourhood of Cairo and one of the most important cultural centres in the era of the eighties of the last century, is situated the Aisha Fahmy Palace, characterised by a unique European classical architectural style. It was built in 1907 by Italian designer Antonio Lasiac, who is considered one of the most famous Italian architects in the late 19th century until the 1930s. The owner of the palace was Pricess Aisha, the daughter of King Fouad I's chief yawaran, Ali Pasha Fahmi. Ali Pasha controlled the palace until his death, when it passed to his daughter Aisha, who was eager to purchase her brothers' part and take ownership of the entire castle.
The palace, which extends for 2,700 square metres, possesses a spacious garden overlooking the Nile and consists of three floors, including 48 rooms and halls. The design of the rooms on the ground and first floor presents different shapes and decorations on the walls and ceilings, and the external windows were also designed from leaded stained glass. Also, most of the floors are made of parquet.

The second floor has many rooms with an antique feel, including the Japanese room that was given to Aisha Fahmy and designed for her, where some words are engraved on the room's walls in addition to the presence of two statues. The first floor has numerous rooms filled with various fine-art paintings. Aisha Fahmy's dressing room is on the second level and is decorated in gold.

Three of the apartments, which have a wonderful Nile view, were created with summer subjects. These chambers have a variety of paintings by foreign painters, with many original textile arts and European oil paintings by many famous artists, such as Delacroix, Gauguin, Rodin, Renoir, Fernand Pelez, Henri Rondel, Guillaume Seignac, Charles-Emile Jacques, and many others.

The three rooms on the left are the winter rooms, including a room with a vintage feel that was originally used for playing billiards. It is distinguished by antique fireplaces, ceiling sculptures, and wrought-parquet flooring, and it has now been transformed into a living room, where Fahmy’s father’s name is engraved in the wood.

The Japanese chamber, which the Japanese ambassador gifted to Aisha Fahmy when he paid her a visit at the palace, is on the higher floor. Impressive Japanese lights and Japanese carvings can be seen in the room, while on either side of the chamber are two sculptures with golden paint.

Also, the second floor contains a number of rooms with archaeological themes and a private dressing room. Despite the difficulties in accessing it at the time, it had both a "bathrooms" area and a gas heater, indicating the utter luxury that Aisha Fahmy was living in at the time.

The princess's bedroom is decorated with a shiny gold leaf. She also has her own fitting room. The museum's chandeliers and artistic window panels are original but have been restored over the years.

Due to its picturesque setting and elegant structures, we have the impression of being in another era. For this reason, the Aisha Fahmy Palace is regarded as a unique masterpiece. Youssef Bey Wehbi, the most well-known actor who was married to Aisha Fahmy and resided at the palace with her for many years, was a witness to many stories and dramatic situations that inspired him to portray them in the first sound movie Egyptians saw in 1932. He saw his friends' tragedy on the Nile Corniche in the Zamalek neighbourhood, and their tale provided ample fodder for newspapers in Egypt and Europe for almost a century.

The palace was the scene of many happenings, including tales of weddings, separations, murders, and betrayals, as if it were under a curse that affected its owners.

The founder of the palace, Ali Bey Fahmy, who also imported the most costly furnishings from Europe and lavishly decorated it to make it appear to be a work of art, was one of the wealthiest individuals of his period; he gifted the palace to his French wife and did an excellent job of building and equipping it, including bringing the Serbian king's bedroom and several other treasures from all over the world to enjoy his greatest moments with his wife, who killed him shortly after their wedding when he confronted her about her deception. In the aftermath of this dramatic event, this beautiful palace became the property of Aisha Fahmy, Ali’s sister, until 1962, the year of his death.

Ali Bey Fahmy, whom the press called the Prince of Youth, was just twenty years old as the novel opens. He went on to become one of the wealthiest individuals after inheriting his self-made father's wealth. It was not unusual for the youngster to be spoiled and to project the image of a spoiled young man to society because his father had left behind four girls. He was a nightclub frequenter and an extremely extravagant spender. He led a wealthy life, and word of him spread far across society. The fact that the aristocratic families rejected him due to his terrible reputation and depravity was also not surprising, and the young Egyptian millionaire eventually fell in love with a notorious French woman named Marguerite, who was ten years older than him.

The reality would eventually surface after the excitement, love, and desire masks were removed. Margaret was an illustration of an accomplished lady with a range of experiences. She readily identified her objective and worked towards it. Due to the disparities in their respective cultures and civilizations, the couples' differences worsened after marriage, and the distance between them grew considerably. She enjoyed her freedom as she had before, so the problems between them increased. Ali Fahmy struck Margaret in front of the housekeepers, returned later to apologise to her, and their relationship continued in this manner until the day of the tragic epilogue: During a couple's journey to London in the summer of 1923, a fight broke out between them after only six months of marriage. Margaret shot her Egyptian husband three times during the argument, killing him.

Aisha Fahmy Palace Palace is one of Cairo's most stunning buildings and unquestionably a must-see for anybody who wishes to experience many eras in Egyptian history, despite its owner's turbulent and occasionally sad life story.