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Rare Weapons Collection at the Abdeen Palace Museum, Cairo

Wednesday, April 17th, 2019 | Posted by Sean McLachlan

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Want a special gift for the gun nut who’s got everything? The Abdeen Palace Museum in Cairo has you covered! How about this 13-shot breastplate? The perfect accessory for the discerning armed citizen.

Abdeen Palace was built in the 1863 by the Khedive Ismail and remained the residence for the royal family for many years. The khedive wanted a more central seat of government than the Citadel, built on a hill on the edge of Cairo and all too medieval for a modern monarch. A great fire in 1891 led to Abdeen Palace being substantially rebuilt. It imitates European palaces in style, at least in those portions I have seen. The grander rooms such as the throne room, reception room, and private quarters are all off-limits. A historian friend of mine has seen them and says they are magnificent. Perhaps I’ll have to work on my connections in Cairo and find a way to take a peek.

After the revolution of 1953 toppled the monarchy, Abdeen Palace was shut for many years before being reopened with the ground floor devoted to several museums, including the Silver Museum, the Arms Museum, the Hunting Museum, and the Royal Gifts Museum.

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The spacious palace grounds are full of artillery pieces.
The palace is a popular destination for Egyptian families.

The Arms Museum has a vast collection of weapons, from swords used by the armies of the Mahdi in the Sudan to Soviet machine guns from World War Two. The Egyptian royals seemed to have enjoyed collecting oddities, and you’ll see many rare weapons here that you’ll be hard put to find anywhere else. Whether some of these were ever used in a fight is anyone’s guess.

Sadly, as with most Egyptian museums, the signage isn’t up to snuff. For example, there’s no label for the multi-shot breastplate above. I’m dying to know who invented the thing. All I know is that it’s bound to make it into one of my books sooner or later.

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Various African weapons are on display
to rival the collection at Cairo’s Ethnological Museum

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Persian battle-axes from the 16th to 18th century

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Two-barreled Gardner machine gun used in the Nile Expedition of 1884

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Various experimental pistols from the 19th century. The signage
was poor in this case and it wasn’t clear which label went with
which gun. One label simply stated “An Odd Pistol.” I agree.

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The Royal Gifts Museum includes a large collection of medals from
various nations, some of which would soon be at war with one another.

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King Farouk I (ruled 1936-52) wanted a canteen made from a
crab claw, so he got one. You can do that when you’re a king.

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Egyptian dalek? Nope, a bulletproof sentry box, aka “Console Portable
Shelter,” made in London in the first half of the 20th century. There
are no firing slits in this thing so I don’t see much point.

Photos copyright Sean McLachlan.


Sean McLachlan is the author of the historical fantasy novel A Fine Likeness, set in Civil War Missouri, and several other titles. Find out more about him on his blog and Amazon author’s page. His latest book, The Case of the Purloined Pyramid, is a neo-pulp detective novel set in Cairo in 1919.

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