Zamalek, an island in the Nile, essentially sits between modern-day downtown Cairo and Giza. It is a high-end, garden-style district with many attractions, embassies, schools, famous hotels, and some of the finest low-cost hotels.
One of the cultural powerhouses in the cosmopolitan Zamalek neighbourhood on the Nile island of Gezira is the Cairo Opera House, a sizable riverside theatre for performing and visual arts. The Museum of Modern Egyptian Art displays paintings and sculptures from the 20th and 21st centuries, while separate galleries focus on emerging regional artists.
The island appears to have gained popularity after Khedive Ismail constructed his summer residence there, and several other royal families did the same. Several legends surround Ismail's palace. One is that he built it to house three of his fourteen wives, but the most widely accepted version is that he did so to accommodate Empress Eugenie during the opening of the Suez Canal. Undoubtedly, Eugenie and other Suez Inauguration guests stayed in the palace. Today's Marriott is his palace. There have also been modifications made to other royal houses.
The island was also the location of Egypt's first contemporary fairgrounds, which was transformed into the new Japanese-contributed Opera House fifty years later. In reality, parts of the display building still exist. The Museum of Modern Egyptian Art is housed in Saray an-Nasr, which is also home to the Nile Hall (Saray an-Nil) and Al-Mustadira (Artists' Synicate Building), which display works by modern artists. Other attractions include the Italian Cultural Center, a museum featuring the works of internationally renowned Egyptian artist Mahmud Mukhtar, and the Akhenaten Gallery of the Ministry of Culture, which is housed in a villa on Maahad as-Swissri street.
Expensive restaurants worldwide can be found alongside embassies and opulent hotels. The Gezira Sheraton, a significant stopover for many tours entering Egypt, the Cairo Marriott, one of the favourite luxury hotels, and the Longchamps, one of the favourite low-cost hotels, are all located here. The cuisine ranges trim French to English. A whole evening can be spent exploring the various venues in this self-contained paradise.