The Royal Carriages Museum (RCM) has launched a two-month long exhibition of rare old pictures under the name “The Royal Carriages Museum—an archival outlook”. The exhibition comes in celebration of the first anniversary of the museum reopening last year following a EGP63 million restoration project overseen by the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.
The Museum which shows a collection of the fine carriages that were used by the royal family on occasions that ranged from weddings to official errands or processions and funerals, first opened its doors during the reign of Khedive Ismail who ruled Egypt from 1863 until 1879. The museum was closed since the early 2000s for much needed restoration works which were interrupted due to national circumstances at the time, on top of which was the Arab Spring 2011 uprising, which was followed two years later by the 30 June 2013 Revolution.
“This is the RCM’s first archival exhibition; it shows documents that include pictures for the royal carriages as well correspondence and administrative memos relating to the daily activities of the employees of the royal family,” Nabila Hassanein, RCM curator said. The documents on display also concern requirements of the royal horses, their saddles and trappings, as well as reports on the medical conditions and diets of the horses, Ms Hassanein said.
RCM lies in Beaulac, one of Cairo’s overcrowded, impoverished neighbourhoods. Yet Beaulac was not always like that. As its name implies, it was once a luxuriant, wealthy district bordering the Nile on the northern outskirts of Cairo. Sadly, it is today neglected and its randomly built, crowded housing is home to a mostly vulgar populace, making it one of the unpleasant parts of the city.
The Royal Carriages Museum is one of three worldwide, the others being in the United Kingdom and Austria. Its façade rises 15 metres and is decorated with imposing architectural elements in the form of horses heads. The building was erected by Khedive Ismail in the mid-19th century to house the royal carriages and stables, had a large courtyard in front to prepare the carriages and horses for riding. It also housed a veterinary clinic and ambulance, as well as workers’ living and sleeping quarters.
The museum contains several galleries, among them the Hadiya (Gift), the Tashrifa (Procession), the Hussaan (Horse), and the Markaba al-Rasmiya (Official Carriage). Many of the royal carriages on show are of special historical interest, especially those that were received as gifts from abroad. The carriages were acquired from the reign of Khedive Ismail through to King Farouk, Egypt’s last effective monarch. Among the most important of the carriages that were presented to the rulers of Egypt as gifts is the carriage given by Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie to Khedive Ismail for the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. Khedive Ismail used this royal carriage in his wedding ceremony.
Another notable example is the Cuban carriage that was used by royal family members at the opening session of parliament.
The museum displays 476 exquisite artefacts, most notable of which are 40 royal carriages of different sizes and types. The artefacts on display also include pieces of the livery and costumes of the carriages drivers, whips, horse saddles and trappings, and carriage lamps, and also includes accounts of the care of the carriages and horses in the royal stables.