Egypt denies reports of changing character of iconic historical palace during restoration

Source: Xinhua| 2019-08-18 22:57:09|Editor: Shi Yinglun
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Photo taken on Aug. 18, 2019 shows the Baron Empain Palace during its restoration work in Cairo, Egypt. Egyptian Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anany on Sunday denied reports that the original character of the legendary Baron Empain Palace in Cairo's Heliopolis district has been changed during the ongoing restoration work of the 20th century's masterpiece. (Xinhua/Wu Huiwo)

CAIRO, Aug. 18 (Xinhua) -- Egyptian Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anany denied on Sunday reports that the original character of the legendary Baron Empain Palace in Cairo's Heliopolis district was changed during the ongoing restoration works of the 20th century's masterpiece.

"Some people have been worried that the palace and the marble columns were painted in different colors ... today we can see with our own eyes that the original colors are still preserved," al-Anany told reporters during a tour at the palace.

There have also been reports that the original steel gate and the walls of the garden of the palace have been removed and that a four-meter wall will be constructed around the palace to block passersby from watching it, the minister said.

"I confirm all these reports are false," he said, affirming that the ministry is working carefully to preserve the palace in a form that is faithful to its original character.

Dust covered the palace since it was built over a century ago, "however, when the restoration teams cleaned the external walls of the mansion, it restored its original color which is burnt sienna," al-Anany said.

"Same thing happened with the marble columns," he stressed, noting that this is the first-ever all-out restoration process for the palace.

The Baron Empain Palace, better known as Le Palais Hindou, which literally means the Hindu Palace, is a distinctive and historic Indian-inspired mansion in Heliopolis that was owned by Belgian millionaire Baron Edouard Empain, who is also the founder of Heliopolis district.

The palace, which was built between 1907 and 1911, was designed for Baron Emain by French architect Alexandre Marcel and decorated by Georges-Louis Claude.

It was inspired by the Hindu temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

The facade of the two-storey piece of art is richly decorated with sculptures of snakes, dragons and other figures. The construction is completely made of concrete which was a new building material at the time.

For many years, the palace was considered a place of ghosts that actually turned out to be bats.

Meanwhile, the minister said that the rehabilitation of the palace, which is being carried out by the Engineering Corps of the Egyptian Armed Forces and private companies, will cost 100 million Egyptian pounds (6 million U.S. dollars), adding that the whole process will be completed within 90 days.

Once the restoration is done, the minister said, the palace will be turned into an exhibition featuring the history of the wealthy Heliopolis suburb through various eras.

Hesham Samir, al-Anany's assistant for engineering affairs, said that the engineers of the Armed Forces oversee that the renovation works is being carried out by four private companies.

"The companies have been working on rehabilitating the garden and its walls, the marble columns, the statues and the antiques," he said.

He added that the renovation, which started in August 2017, is also observed by archaeologists from the antiquities ministry to ensure the highest levels of restoration.

"We are doing our best to ensure that the palace will be fully restored by the scheduled time so as to start preparing it to be a permanent exhibition as the minister said," Samir pointed out.

Egypt, one of the most ancient civilizations, has been working effortlessly to preserve its rich archaeological treasures and historical heritage, which will also help boost the once-flourishing tourism industry that has largely been affected by the political turmoil over the past few years.

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