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Historic Cairo palace to reopen after $6M restoration

Mansion fell into disrepair after owner's death

(CNN) - Egypt is just months away from reopening the Baron Empain Palace after a $6 million restoration project on the historic Cairo building.

The Baron Empain Palace, also known as "Le Palais Hindou" or the Hindu palace, was built by Belgian millionaire Baron Edward Empain in 1911, in the Heliopolis district of the Egyptian capital.

The mansion fell into disrepair after 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, Reuters news agency reported.

Now, Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities has confirmed that restoration efforts, carried out by The Armed Forces Engineering Authority, are 85% complete.

The palace's ceilings, marble columns, doors, ornate windows and statues are all being fully restored, the ministry said.

Some features, including iron fencing built around the palace in 2006, were removed after they were deemed to be incompatible with the building's aesthetic, the ministry added.

After the extensive restoration, which has cost to the tune of around $6 million (100 million Egyptian pounds), the palace is due to reopen in October, according to state news agency Al Ahram.

The restoration has caused some controversy. Al Ahram reported that the building has been painted a 'burnt sienna color' and that several organizations had criticized the new look, the "Egyptian Historians" Facebook group describing it as a "defamation."

Others, including the government, defended the color as historically accurate, however.

"The colors of the façade of the Baron Empain palace are the same as the original ones," Hisham Samir, engineering adviser to the minister of antiquities, said in a statement published online.

"The restorers had taken all necessary measures from testing, analysis, architectural and photographic documentation of the wear-and-tear to plan accordingly and work on the samples within restoration methods followed in practice," he added.

"Based on this, the restoration work on these facades was implemented according to what was discovered in terms of the original colors which were adversely affected by the weather over time," the statement read.


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