Baron Empain's 1906 Fantasy in Heliopolis
Cairo's New City of the Sun
A modern garish light show illuminates the Baron's Palace
The newly completed Palace in 1912
Gardens, Fountains and Parklands.
Now the Palace sits swallowed by urban sprawl and on the way to Cairo Airport
Decoration above the Front Door
Surprisingly, the whole structure is made of reinforced concrete, although its design suggests sandstone.
The exterior of the palace is covered with so many statues of so many varied designs.
Snakes and elephants sit alongside Buddhas and Renaissance figures. The overall effect is truly astounding, making onlookers pause to take a second breath as they view it for the first time. A team of artists and sculptors was brought over from Indonesia to give the exterior such an oriental feel.
After the 1952 Revolution it fell into a condition of total disrepair, the parquet floors, Belgian mirrors and gold door-knobs being stolen by anyone who could manage to get in.
The palace remained in this condition until just a few years ago.
Far from being the home of a wealthy industrialist and his family, the palace became the home of thousands of bats and stray dogs, with stories of ghosts and strange goings-on to accompany them.
To mark the centenary of the building of Heliopolis, the Ministry of Housing and the Ministry of Culture managed to acquire the property from its owners and to begin a restoration. Whilst the interior has been thoroughly cleaned, there still remains much to be done. The exterior of the palace, though, and its grounds have been beautifully restored. The long-term future use of the Baron's Palace is yet to be decided.
Baron Empain, fabulously wealthy in his day, now lies in a granite tomb beneath his Basilica in Heliopolis, whilst his extraordinary home is now a ruin.