The Heliopolis Presidential Palace
, Kasr al-Ittihadiya
(قصر رئاسة الجمهورية) is one of the various Egyptian presidential palaces and houses the executive office for President Mubarak, the 4th Egyptian president.
It is located in the upscale Heliopolis
, in Cairo
At the time when Heliopolis itself was being built, the grandiose Palace Hotel was being built in the middle of the desert where the new suburb would rise in 1908-1910.
Inaugurated as a grand hotel on 1 December 1910, the french-administered hotel greeted Egypt's best as they celebrated the official launch of Africa's most luxurious hotel.
The landmark was designed by Belgian architect Ernest Jaspar
, the hotel boasted 400 rooms including 55 private apartments. Its banquet halls were amongst the biggest anywhere. The utilities were the most modern of their day. All had been constructed and put together by the contracting firms Leon Rolin & Co. and Padova, Dentamaro & Ferro, the two biggest civil contractors in Egypt. Messrs. Siemens & Schuepert of Berlin fitted the hotel's web of electric cables and installations.
Beyond the reception offices are two lavishly decorated rooms, in the Louis XIV
and Louis XV
styles respectively and then comes the central hall, which is a dream of beauty and symmetry. Here the architecture, which is responsible for so many wonderful effects in Heliopolis, reaches its artistic zenith. From every nook and cranny hang, suspended like stalactite pendants, Damascus-made Oriental lamps of fantastic loveliness.
The Heliopolis Palace Hotel's main dome that was so awe inspiring to kings and tycoons alike measured 55 metres from floor to ceiling. The 589 square metre hall, designed by Alexander Marcel
of the French Institute and decorated by Georges-Louis Claude, was carpeted with the finest oriental rugs and fitted with large floor-to-ceiling mirrors, draperies and a large marble fireplace. Twenty-two Italian marble columns connect the parquet to the ceiling. To one side of the hall there was the grillroom, which seated 150 guests, and to the other was the billiard hall with two full-sized Thurston tables, as well as a priceless French one.
The mahogany furniture was ordered from Maple's of London
. The upper gallery contained oak-paneled reading and card rooms furnished by Krieger of Paris. The basement and staff area was so large that a narrow gauge railway was installed running the length of the hotel, passing by offices, kitchens, pantries, refrigerators, storerooms and the staff mess.
A Grand Hotel
Boasted Africa and Middle East is the most luxurious hotel at the time, and given its grand architecture, it had became a tourist attraction for many foreign royals and rich businessmen.
Visitors of the palace include, Milton S. Hershey, John Pierpont Morgan, Albert I King of the Belgians and his consort Queen Elizabeth.
Two wars interrupted the hotel's hospitality activities, and on both occasions the Heliopolis Palace Hotel was transformed into a British military hospital for the British and Dominion soldiers.
In the 1960s, the abandoned hotel was home to various government departments.
In January 1972, the palace became the headquarters of the Federation of Arab Republics - the short-lived political union between Egypt, Libya and Syria, hence the current name of Kasr al-Ittihadiya (Unity Palace).
In the 1980s, after being thorough restoration efforts, it was declared the headquarters of the new presidential administration for the new Mubarak administration.
Today, it's perhaps one of the most restricted of all presidential palaces. While few other than national leaders and journalists can visit it these days, there are still some around who remember having frequented it as the Heliopolis Palace Hotel.