Almost two months ahead the grand opening of the iconic Baron Palace after decades of closed doors, Egypt signed a debt swap agreement with Belgium to fund the palace restoration with EGP 16m.
Egypt’s Minister of Investment and International Cooperation, Sahar Nasr, singed the agreement on Thursday with the Belgian ambassador to Egypt Sibille de Cartier. In the palatial garden, Egypt’s Minister of Antiquities, Khaled El-Anany, attended the signing in celebration of restoring the palace which is in the final stages.
The EGP 16m fund is a part of the Egyptian-Belgian cooperation in the field of heritage reservation.
The minister of antiquities stated that 85% of the restoration is completed, with a total of EGP 104m, some of which is the Belgian grant.
The Belgian embassy in Egypt expressed its thrill in taking part in renovating the heritage palace that was built by a Belgian millionaire and the founder of Heliopolis Edouard Louis Joseph, or Baron Empain, at the end of the 19th century.
“We are proud to contribute to the preservation of this important common heritage and hope it will lead to many more initiatives to protect and renovate the ‘city of the sun’!” the embassy tweeted.
De Cartier asserted that relations between both countries are strong and as deep as the Baron palace, as they started last century to establish them.
“Baron palace presents the Egyptian-Belgian historical cooperation, and the relation between both countries starts from the establishment of Heliopolis. This agreement takes part in opening the new museum which portrays the history of the ties between the two countries,” she said.
For her side, Nasr stated in a press release that the fund comes as a part of the ministry’s direction to establish a debt exchange programme in which Egypt settles its debts by using the finances in cultural development projects.
Nasr further added that the ministry targets applying the loan exchange programme with Italy, and Germany “as this allows for investing the loans in priority venture and development projects in Egypt.”
The museum is planned to be a documentation to the elite neighbourhood it was built in, Heliopolis. A museum is to be opened at the palace to document the pictures, documents, and archived blueprints of the palace since its establishment.
The restoration of the palace started in 2017. So far, the ministry successfully renovated the ceiling of the building, and its almost worn away front part.
The palace is considered one of the most famous and remarkable landmarks of Heliopolis, if not all of Egypt. It was designed by French architect Alexandre Marcel.
Baron Empain had a major role in designing the upper-class Heliopolis neighbourhood in Cairo, from the time he arrived in Egypt in 1904.
He established his own business, which was called Heliopolis Oasis Company, bought a large space of desert from the colonial forces, and turned it into what is currently known as Heliopolis.
He died in 1929, and was buried under the Basilica Church in Heliopolis, which was linked to the Baron palace by an underground tunnel.