Built on the site of a small mansion owned by Abidin Bey, Abdeen Palace, which is named after him, is considered one of the most sumptuous palaces in the world in terms of its adornments, paintings, and large number of clocks scattered in the parlors and wings, most of which are decorated with pure gold. Built by Khedive Ismail, to become the official government headquarters instead of the Citadel of Cairo (which had been the centre of Egyptian government since the Middle Ages), this palace was used as well for official events and ceremonies.
Construction started in 1863 and continued for 10 years and the palace was officially inaugurated in 1874. Erected on an area of 24 feddans, the palace was designed by the French architect Léon Rousseau along with a large number of Egyptian, Italian, French and Turkish decorators. However, the palace’s garden was added in 1921 by Sultan Fuad I on an area of 20 feddans. The cost of building the palace reached 700,000 Egyptian pounds in addition to 2 million pounds for its furnishing. Between four palaces, King Fuad spent more than 18 million French francs with just one Parisian furniture manufacturer Linke & Cie. More money was also spent on the palace’s alteration, preservation and maintenance by consecutive rulers. The palace has 500 suites.
The palace today is a museum, located in the Old Cairo district of Abdeen. The upper floors (the former living quarters of the royal family) are reserved for visiting foreign dignitaries. The lower floors contain the Silver Museum, the Arms Museum, the Royal Family Museum, and the Presidential Gifts Museum. A new museum, the Historical Documents Museum, was opened in January 2005. Among other documents, it contains the Imperial Ottoman firman, or decree, which established the rule of Muhammad Ali and his family, and a certificate for the Order of the Iron Crown, from the short-lived South American Kingdom of Araucanía and Patagonia.