On the outskirts of Alexandria, some 15km or so along the coast, there’s a beautiful pink palace in extremely pleasant gardens. Montaza Palace is away from the stresses of busy urban Egypt, the palace is now off bounds to all but the president but the view from outside is still worth while and a walk around the park has many a hidden treasure. Started by Kedive Abbas in 1892 the last ruler of Egypt and Sudan, his son enlarged it including building a very cool bridge connecting it with the shoreline. Whether it’s a splash on the beach or a rest in the shade from the afternoon heat. Montaza Palace is very much the place to hang out, there’s nothing quite like it in Egypt, there are impressive buildings in Cairo’s Heliopolis that are of a similar age but the sites in Egypt are usually ancient and its rare to find something like this.
There’s a unique atmosphere as young couples relieved from the scrutiny of Islamic culture enjoy a cuddle in the park often accompanied by a picnic. Away from the watchful eye of their elders, everyone seems to keep themselves to themselves and this is one place which is completely devoid of any hustling. If you are trying to cram Alexandria into a day trip from Cairo then you’ll want to make use of the bus services that leave from the centre (No.260 from Masr Train Station or No. 260 from Midan Orabi), even if you have a few days to kill – the uneventful 15km walk is not really worthwhile, if you have time to spare then I’d recommended the cheap but cramped train journey which culminates closely to the Montaza Palace, the somewhat decrepit feel of the lower class trains adds a sense of adventure to your visit, these sort of trains ply the routes south of Cairo but it’s forbidden for foreigners to travel on them, so this might be your only chance.
Although part of the Montaza Palace is occasionally under renovation, its ostentation, funky design and bright pink colour is a definite draw and gives off the aura of an impressive building. The buildings by the beach of the park were supposedly built as homes for the wealthy and hanging out in the semi-built project may bring back youthful memories of exploring building sites. The water splashes against the rocks at the edges of the park in a way you would expect the Atlantic to but not the Med, in fact the Alexandrian coastline generally is quite rough for such a calm sea.
Admission to the park is 4 EGP and to the beach it is 10 EGP, which makes it a worthwhile bargain. Away from the stresses of busy urban Egypt, Montazah is a small slice of paradise and definitely one of the most enjoyable things you are likely to visit in this part of Egypt.