Al-Manial Palace was chosen to implement visitor management in this paper due to its importance as a unique natural and cultural site. It is one of the unconventional, lesser-known, but must-see attractions in the Egyptian capital.1
Various methods were used during this paper. Secondary data included information about the history, the significance of the site and site compositions. In addition, the interview with the site manager gave further clarifications about the needs and challenges of the site. Observations were also made through three visits to the site which helped in both gaining specific information about the condition of site components and in making applicable site-specific suggestions.
Statement of Significance
Figure 1: Location of Prince Mohamed Ali Palace (Al-Manial Palace, google maps)
The Manial Palace on Rhoda Island, in the Sharia Al-Saray area in the El-Manial district of southern Cairo, Egypt. It is a mixed site with a natural and cultural significance. It was built by Prince Mohamed Ali (1875-1955), between 1901 and 1929, this palace complex houses six structures including a hunting museum belonging to the late King Farouk, the prince’s residence and furnishings and a beautiful garden which contains rare plants that were collected by the prince himself from other countries.2
Vision and Mission
Making The Manial Palace with its valuable garden and all its unique architectural features among the first known tourism destinations in Egypt.
- Sustainable development of The Manial Palace.
- Treating current threats and preventing further damages.
- Taking proactive steps to protect supervise and maintain its features.
- Raising public awareness and engagement in the development of the site.
The stakeholders include the government as the public sector that should consider the site as more than a regular site, especially with its historical role and profitable spot that produced 2156260 pounds as income in 2017 according to the site manager.
Also, there are other several stakeholders such as:
- Prince Abbas Helmy the third is directly related to the personal history of the palace.
- “Friends of The Manial Palace Association” was founded by Prince Abbas Helmy the third.
Friends of The Manial Palace Association plays a significant role in fundraising events and in cooperation with the management of the museum they help propagate information about the museum to schools, universities, and travel agencies including the construction and maintenance of a Website and other such activities. Involving other stakeholders like the community also can be achieved through organizing cultural events including exhibitions, lectures, visits, tours, presentations … etc. In addition, in cooperation with the management of the museum, scholars and experts can get to contribute by advice and assistance in producing literature, brochures, descriptive pamphlets, labels and notices throughout the museum and other such work.3
Visitor Management Plan
After studying the current condition of the site through different field trips and an interview with the manager, it was found that human action threats include:
- Wrong Behaviour
- Lack of Proper Maintenance & Treatment
- Improper Conservation & Vandalism
- Improper & Out of Context Elements
- Lack of Proper Interpretation
- Lack of Proper Safety Preparations
- Misuse of Site Elements
- Lack of Proper Gardening Works
A draft management plan is formulated after addressing the current issues of the site.
- To protect the components of The Manail Palace especially the garden against tourism pressure.
- To maintain, supervise and develop the contents of the site regularly.
- To develop strong supervision on the wrong behaviour of the visitors and the condition of the site components.
- To raise the public awareness and engagement in this heritage site.
The suggested plan considers having different teams with specific responsibilities such as:
- Supervision & Maintenance.
- IT, Data and Marketing
It is important to consider that solutions include proactive/ long term solutions and reactive solutions that are addressed in detail in Visitor Risk Management. The Reactive solutions can be solved within a year at maximum as it includes replacements and installations of light elements. The proactive solutions can take a slightly longer time according to the collected fund but it is advised not to be longer than two to three years as they are easy and realistic and very important to be achieved as soon as possible.
The fund can be secured by cooperation between stakeholders such as “Friends of The Manial Palace Association”, the Community and the management of the site especially the marketing team through setting different events and marketing campaigns.
Figure 2: Number of visitors in 2017(information source: site manager)
According to information gathered through the interview with the manager of the site the tourists numbers reached 24432 tourists in 2017. Due to observations during the visits to the site, it is noticed that VIP visitors in companionship with Prince Abbas Helmy the third continuously visit the site and are sometimes accompanied by press and media. Also, it is noticed that there are different types of visitors such as foreign tourists and residents including students on school trips, traditional families and scholars. Several Egyptian and foreign scholars in 2017 reached 22336 scholars as the site is related to and rich with information about the history of the late period of Muhammad Ali`s ascendants to Egypt. Although, the site is unknown to many tourists and local people and needs further marketing.
Sensitive/Fragile Areas of the Site
The garden which is unique and contains rare plants and types of trees is considered the most threatened component of the site. It lacks the proper gardening work and according to field trips and observations of the condition of the site the improper gardening includes:
- Tree branches in the garden and dead roots were not removed or cleaned.
- Wrong ways of irrigation resulted in sinking plants in water.
- Lack of proper gardening made the garden look messy and growing trees at improper distances.
Figure 3: Improper condition of the garden (taken by the researcher)
Damage to the garden are also caused by wrong behaviour of picking the flowers, sitting on the grass and using the garden as a picnic park (walking, eating and setting) on the grass as there is neither fence nor preventive signs surrounding the garden.
Figure 4: Photos showing that there is neither fence nor preventive signs surrounding the garden (taken by the researcher)
Another fragile endangered component is the hunting museum as it lacks proper safety preparations including:
- Improper barriers and easy to break lockers and caused damage by touching and reaching the attributes.
- Lack of properly located and not expired fire safety preparations.
Figure 5: Lack of proper safety preparations inside the hunting museum (photos taken by the researcher)
In-context Tools and Strategies
After reviewing the threats to the site it seems most likely that the following tools best serve the site:
- Group size limit and Trip scheduling
- Modify visitor behaviour
The most affected area by the massive school trips is the garden which is affected by the wrong behaviours of the visitors therefore it is very important to consider context-fencing that protects the garden and does not interfere with the context of the site.
The site also lacks proper supervision of wrong behaviours of the visitors, thus it is necessary to control the group size of the visitors to be easily supervised.
The golden hall also witnesses a large number of visitors attending celebrations inside but according to the site manager, the celebrations are fully controlled with strict procedures.
It is also suggested to raise public awareness with the right understanding of the value of the site. Workshops, short sessions before the tours and interpretive signs that explain reasons for prohibited actions are ways that can result in better behaviour by the visitors.
Carrying Capacity Issues
Considering Characteristics of the localities and Characteristics of visitors, their behaviour and impact; vulnerability of the local ecosystem as the garden is affected heavily, especially by the effect of a massive number of visitors in the one school
trip as the situation is hard to control with professional, simple and friendly instructions as the concept of carrying capacity addresses number of people allowed into a site without damaging the site and the visitors’ experience. Therefore it is
important to minimize the number of visitors in one group (e.g. groups between five students walking with a supervisor or teacher would be much easier to control than the whole class) to minimize the effect and make the supervision much easier.
The “fixed” components and the capacity of natural/cultural components (e.g. ecological/archaeological capacity) should be carefully observed in a better way as suggested previously. The “flexible” components (e.g. infrastructure) are not used for determining carrying capacity as the new project is considered a large investment in infrastructure thus their capacity can be raised.
As the site lacks proper manpower or trained personnel this component affects the determined capacity for the site therefore it was suggested to have a training plan or program to raise the number of trained staff members resulting in a better experience for the maximum number of visitors with minimum damage to the site.
According to the site manager, the economic revenues from tourism to this site go to the government treasury and at the same time, the worker’s employment is affected by the tight budget resulting in a lack of proper salaries and trained manpower.
The Best Visit Route for the Strategy
Figure 6: Components of Manial Palace (Modified map after http://www.sitesint.com/projects/manyal-palace-museum/)
The Ministry of Culture recently embarked on a renovation effort. Sites International worked with the Ministry to restore the original palace layout, accentuate existing planting with specially cultivated trees and shrubs and introduce site furniture, water features, lighting and public toilets. The new landscape design pays tribute to the historical site and gives due attention to the Nile River bordering the site.4
The best visit route according to the new project would be the route that mixes two ways including a variety of features; i.e. water features, garden plants and trees and leads to the different architectural components (i.e. The Clock tower and The Golden Hall) and yet gives the visitor the ability to see the other architectural and natural components giving him the choice to visit it resulting in a balanced mix of site elements and engaging experience.
Figure 7: Suggested visit route leading to the Golden Hall (Photo after http://www.sitesint.com/projects/manyal-palace-museum/)
Figure 8: Suggested visit route leading to the Clock Tower (Photos after http://www.sitesint.com/projects/manyal-palace-museum/)
Interpretation Program/ Activities
The site needs a lot of improvements and to replace improper elements & install the alternative engaging interpretations such as storytelling, explanation of included artworks such as calligraphy in an artistic context and clear visible text elements instead of the current negligence condition due to lack of proper interpretation that took many forms such as:
- Lack of proper interpretation that resulted in confusing the visitor or prohibiting him from the ability to read.
Figure 9: Improper and absent interpretations (taken by the researcher)
- Lack of appropriate signage explaining the artistic poetry and Quraan decorations.
Figure 10: Absence of interpretation for calligraphies (taken by the researcher)
- Use of large boards inside residence halls (Saraya Al-Iqama) corrupted the visual integrity of the palace.
Figure 11: Large boards inside residence halls (taken by the researcher)
Figure 12: Lack of proper maintenance and absent interpretation in many locations (taken by the researcher)
Visitor Risk Management Program
As per the observations of the site the risks were classified into proactive and reactive risks assessments that needed proactive and reactive solutions to upgrade the site condition and the experience of the visitor:
- Mortar decay in the ground resulting in holes affecting the safety of the visitors.
- Lack of maintenance and proper interpretation
- Wrong Behaviour
- Lack of Proper Maintenance & Treatment
- Lack of Proper Safety Preparations
- Absence of interpretation in some areas
- Misuse of site elements
- Lack of proper gardening work resulting in a bad messy look of the garden detaching the visitor from it.
The suggested reactive and proactive solutions to these risks are presented in the following charts:
Figure 13: Suggested Reactive solutions (generated by the researcher)
Figure 14: Suggested proactive solutions (generated by the researcher)
In a conclusion, Manual palace is underrated and unknown to many people. The current condition could be developed in many ways to provide a more engaging, satisfying and educational experience for the visitors. The site needs a lot of development including interpretation, marketing, maintenance and safety preparations that were discussed in the paper.
1. Trip Advisor website:
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g294201-d566589-Reviews-Manial_Palace_Museum-Cairo_Cairo_Governorate.html 29/2/2018, 8:00 PM
2. Weakly Ahram website:
http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/News/19631.aspx 29/2/2018, 10:00 PM
3. Arab Info Mall Website / Friends of Manial Palace Museum Association:
https://arabinfomall.bibalex.org/En/OrgData.aspx?orgid=333§ionid=3 3/13/2018, 4:00 PM
4. Sites International Website:
http://www.sitesint.com/projects/manyal-palace-museum/ 4/3/2018, 3:00 PM