Alexandria's Jewellery Museum
The Jewellery Museum is a two-story villa which belonged to Princess Fatma Al-Zahraa - a member of the Egyptian Royal family, which she decorated to her taste in 1920. The foyer is a grandiose affair with burgundy soft, deep carpets and carved, gilded ceilings. From here, a short flight of marble steps lead to the first floor.
Portraits of all the royal descendants of the Mohamed Ali Dynasty (with a brief description) decorate the walls. Very little information is known about the life and history of Princess Fatma with the exception of her evident extraordinary taste in interior decoration.
The rooms of the two floors are filled to the brim with display boxes showcasing every kind of imaginable item of status, luxury and wealth. The most important pieces in the collection are the royal crowns and tiaras. The platinum tiara and a pair of matching earrings stand out from the rest. The tiara, which belonged to the wife of King Fouad was set with 2,159 first grade diamonds and priceless white pearls.
Also not to be missed is the private toilet set of King Farouq. The set comprises huge crystal bottles capped with heavy lids of pure gold and embossed with the royal coat of arms gracefully perching on a tray of gold.
Strangely enough, instead of being dazzled by the sheer amount and mastery of craftsmanship of the jewellery found in the villa, the interior decoration is more striking. Unlike most of the private residences of the royal family in Egypt, which are usually dominated by the Islamic taste in architecture and decoration, this villa is totally influenced by European styles.
The ceilings of every room were hand-painted by Egyptian, Italian and French artists. Some ceilings depict stories from Greek mythology, while most of the second floor ceilings depict parts of famous French and Italian love stories, painted in vivid colours. The walls of the villa are either paneled with oak or chestnut wood, or painted with huge tableaus of French medieval tales.
Even the bathrooms on both floors are true works of art. The corridors and bathrooms are all lined with small white pieces of porcelain made by the French prestigious porcelain house of Sevres. The walls of the spacious two bathrooms are hand painted with swimming nymphs, images from the well-known Fables of La Fontaine, and fairytales all painted on white backgrounds with bright colors
The highlight of the villa however, are the wondrous stained glass panels found in the main hall of the first floor, in the stairwell, and in the first floor bathroom. The most famous French artists of the time were commissioned to create these masterpieces, which recount the tales of famous European love stories. Unfortunately, the villa had been stripped from all the personal belongings and furniture of its former owner. It would have been very interesting to see how the Princess furnished such a villa. The garden is not vast but tastefully kept. The small well-stocked souvenir shop sells cards, books on the different eras of Egyptian history, and brightly colored gift items at reasonable prices.
The Jewellery Museum is open daily from 9am to 4 pm except on Fridays when it opens from 10am to 11.30am and from 1.30pm to 4pm.