By Amr Abdallah
CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt will soon reopen the century-old Baron Empain Palace after a $6 million renovation of the Indian-inspired mansion built by a wealthy Belgian engineer in the upmarket Heliopolis district of the capital Cairo.
Built in 1911, the two-story mansion fell into disrepair after Edouard Empain’s death in 1929 and for many years, amid protracted ownership disputes, it was rented out for social events or as a film set.
Egypt finally launched a 100-million Egyptian pound restoration of the palace – an emblem of Heliopolis’s mix of early 20th century Moorish Revival, Persian Revival, traditional Arabic and European neo-classical architecture – last year and it is expected to reopen for visitors in three months’ time.
Antiquities Minister Khaled Al-Anani said during a tour of the palace on Sunday that the restoration followed extensive studies and talks with civil society organisations in Heliopolis and the Belgian Embassy in Cairo.
The Armed Forces Engineering Authority is carrying out the restoration.
“I know what the Baron (Palace) represents for the people of Heliopolis, so I could not act according to a unilateral archaeological decision and ignore the people,” he said.
The project has entailed a reinforcement of the ceilings, restoration of marble columns and frescoes above the main entrance as well as decorative elements like statues and sculptures, and shoring up doors and windows.
(Additional reporting by Sameh Elkhatib; Writing by Yousef Saba; Editing by Mark Heinrich)