Originally built in the late 19th century as a royal park, the palace itself was added to this space and renovated in the 1920s. It occupies a large walled plot of land on Roda Island, which is just about a half-mile south of the tip of Zamalek (or more properly Gezira, where the massive Sofitel tower stands). The grounds are heavily wooded, and the site consists of a series of buildings reached by paths that wind through an artfully untended forest. In spite of its relaxed charm, it doesn't attract many tourists, so it's a wonderfully quiet and atmospheric place to visit.

I usually avoid the display of hunting trophies in the Hunting Hall, a 1960s add-on near the entrance, and head into the gardens themselves. For me, the two most interesting parts of the palace are the completely over-the-top palace building, set in the center of the grounds, and the museum, tucked away toward the back. The palace exterior is unexciting, but the interior is a pastiche of Islamic decoration and architecture set to the theme of barely restrained opulence. The museum is devoted to a collection of antiques that Prince Mohamed Ali assembled between 1914, when the British deposed King Faruq, and 1952, when he fled the country after Nasser's military takeover.

A few years ago, the ceiling of the opulent throne room (a separate building from the palace) collapsed, and at the time of writing, had not yet reopened. The complex has been undergoing renovations for a number of years, so you may not be able to access all parts of the palace or all the museum rooms.