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Several of my articles on Garden City were plagiarized word for word by novelist MEKKAWI SAID (winner of the Egyptian State price for literature!!!!) and re-published under his own name in a three-part series in El-Masry El-Youm daily in September 2015.

Cheers to our "talented" literature prize awardee. Your pain his gain !!!


Roda Island Landmarks
by Samir Raafat

Nilometer circa 1870
Manasterli pavilion circa 1870 with Nilometer minus vault accidentally destroyed in 1825 explosion


The three kilometer-long island of Roda is unofficially divided into a northern and southern section with the Manial Palace in the middle. The name of the island reportedly derives from a residence that stood in the south belonging to Prince Manial of the Bahari Mamluks.

Also at the south are two historic landmarks. The oldest by far is the Mikyas Al Nil (Nilometer) used since civilization began to measure the progress of the Nile thus predicting the resulting harvest and taxation. With the Nile now ensnared behind Aswan's High Dam, the Nilometer serves as a reminder that for seven thousand years of recorded history the annual floods had religiously synchronized the nation's entire psyche.

The first recorded evidence of the present Nilometer goes back to 715 AD during the reign of Omayad Caliph Sulayman Abdel Malek. Restored in 815 by Caliph Al Mamoun it toppled over during an exceptionally high flood in 850. Rebuilt by Caliph Al Motawakil and subsequently restored by Fatimid Caliph Al Mostanssir in 1092 the Nilometer survived albeit in shambles up until the arrival of the French Expedition under Napoleon in 1798.

Plans and drawings by Napoleons's scholars, evidence that the Salamlik was built atop the ruins of a Mosque and that the Nilometer had an archetypal bubble dome. At its next rebuilding the bubble dome was replaced with a pointed vault inspired from an 18th century painting by Danish traveler Fredrik Ludvig Norden. Accidentally destroyed in 1825 following an explosion in the nearby Barood-khana (powder factory), the vault was refitted using Norden's painting as a reference for the second time.

The other important landmark at the island's southern tip is the Manasterli Pavilion. This 19th century structure was actually the Salamlik section of a much larger complex that included a Haramlik and its adjoining garden. In its entirety the Manasterli complex, rich in Islamic design, was known as the Red Palace. The surviving riverside pavilion reflects the character of some of the showy halls on the Bosphorus with its deep curved cornice, wood bracing, inlaid windows, terrace and undulating arches.

The Haramlik built circa 1846 and its bordering garden disappeared in the 1950s to make way for a water treatment plant completed in 1961. With regards to these radical changes an ongoing litigation 'Manasterli Estate vs. Ministry of Public Works' emerged and is still pending a final court decision. Asserting they were never properly compensated, claimants are countering the government's April 24, 1943 decision to appropriate the Red Palace and some of its annexes.

The acknowledged owner of the complex was Hassan Fouad Al Manasterli Pasha who according to one of his descendants, hailed from Manastir, an area on the Macedonian-Greek border. He held several important posts during the short reign of Abbas I including that of Governor of Cairo in 1854 and Head of Interior in 1857.

It was also at the Manasterli pavilion that the Pasha held his diwania (meetings). It was also during that time that he was proclaimed custodian of the nearby Nilometer. Having transposed the neighboring Mosque of Game'a Al Mikyas the pasha was buried in the newer nearby version on 30 September 1859. For several generations thereafter the Manasterli Pavilion was the official launch pad for the Arouss Al Nil (Bride of the Nile), an annual celebration over which the Manasterli family proudly presided.

Manasterli Pavilion made history once more this time after World War 2 when King Farouk along with several Arab monarchs and leaders met there in 1947 to discuss final arrangements regarding the creation of an Arab League.

An item in the Egyptian Gazette of 26 December 1948 reports the following:

King Faruk's gift--The Manasterly Palace presented by King Faruk to the Arab League reports "Al Misry" will be inaugurated when an Arab banquet is given in honour of King Ibn Sa'ud next January. The historic palace, built by a Mamelouk on the tip of Roda Island, Cairo, commands a magnificent view of the Nile at one of its widest points. It was bought by the King from the heirs of the Mamelouks and in being redecorated. The League will move to the Bostan Palace, formerly the Museum of Modern Art in Bab al-Luk next month. "Al Misri" reports a suggestion that the southern part of the island around the palace be turned into an Arab League colony with legations and mosques.

Except for a few banquets held in honour of the new League at Manasterli Palace, the suggestions reported by Al Misri were mooted. More so when the League moved out of Bostan palace and into its new headquarters by Kasr al-Nil Bridge.

Spared the demolition ball, the Nilometer, the Manasterli Mosque, the Manasterli pavilion and its annexes are now under the aegis of the Ministry of Culture. Hence, part of the surviving complex was transformed into a cultural center and most recently into the Umm Kulthum Museum. The pavilion itself is home to the newly created International Music Center where concerts, recitals and other cultural manifestations are held.

the official Manasterly Center website

plaque of Fouad Monasterli Pasha
Official posts held by Hassan Fouad al-Manasterli Pasha according to Names and Appellations of Cairo Streets p.453 (1986) by Mohammed Kamal El Sayed Mohammed:

  • Egypt's katkhoda--deputy 1 February 1850 - 29 March 1854
  • Governor of Cairo 21 November 1854 - 24 November 1855
  • Undersecretary of Interior 24 February 1857
  • Head of Interior 24 April 1857 - 10 February 1858
  • Died on September 28, 1859

entrance to Nilometer
alley leading to vaulted Nilometer

back of pavilion
back of pavilion (above) main hall (below)

manasterli pavilion main hall

King Abd al-Aziz al-Saud, Azzam Pasha, King Farouk
Abdelrahman Azzam Pasha flanked by King Abd al-Aziz al-Saud of Saudi Arabia and King Farouk at Manasterli pavilion (1945)


north Manial Island
view from Giza of northern part of Manial Island evidencing Kasr El Eini Hospital

Reader's Comments
Subject: Sitara Hanem
Date: May 12, 2000
From Ata Hassan

A mention in previous email of Sitara Hanem, lady in waiting to Queen Nazli, evokes stories of how the Queen showed up at the Manasterli townhouse on Marasili Street in Sayeda Zeinab and with Sitara Hanem would consult clairvoyants and hold extrasensory sessions. Sitara Hanem was Turkish and spoke little Arabic.

Subject: The Manasterlis
Date: Tue, 07 May 2002 22:29:28 +0300
From: Nelly Alfy

Hassan Fouad Manasterli Pasha had a son (among several others) called Mohammed Ali Manasterli who married someone called Asma. Asma's sister Mounira married Moharram Hakki Abou Gabbal.
Mohammed Ali El Manasterli and Asma begot (i) Moustafa Maher El Manasterli who married his cousin Fatma Abou Gabal; (ii) Hassan Fouad El Manasterli who married Sitara Hanem (lady in waiting to Queen Nazli); (iii) Ibrahim Fouad El Manasterli; (iv) Mohammed Fouad El Manasterli.
Moustafa Maher El Monsaterli studied law in Montpellier and was a judge in Egypt's Mixed Courts. He had one daughter: Asma (my mother in law).

Manasterli family tree

articles posted on were published in the following books by Samir W Raafat: THE EGYPTIAN BOURSE, Zeitouna, Cairo -- CAIRO THE GLORY YEARS, Harpocrates, Alexandria -- HISTORY & SOCIETY IN A CAIRO SUBURB; MAADI 1904-1962, Palm Press, Cairo -- PRIVILEGED FOR THREE CENTURIES, printed digitally and bound by Elias Printing, Egypt

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