In the Egyptian capital Cairo, the Palace of Baron Empain has been restored to its former glory. The impressive structure was built more than a hundred years ago by the order of a wealthy Belgian but fell into disrepair after his death.
A hint of mystery hung over the building, and ghost stories began to circulate. Satanists even performed rituals there. The ghosts of the past should now be permanently buried. Édouard Louis Joseph Empain. That was the name of the Belgian engineer, entrepreneur, and banker who built the palace in Heliopolis – a luxurious suburb of Cairo.
He had built the entire district, and the palace was the icing on the cake. He received international recognition for it, something that had already happened to him when he realized the Paris metro.
The palace arose amid the wide avenues of greenery and villas in the district, which in addition to a golf course and a horse track, also had its own airport. The many oriental elements in the building, such as elephants, snakes, and dragons, were reminiscent of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
Empain himself stayed in the palace for a short time and some relatives after him. But after the Baron’s death in 1929, the building went downhill. In 1959, his family sold it and changed ownership several times. It got beat up, and vandals and bats got the upper hand. That was also the moment when strange things started to be reported.
Stories that the building was haunted and that light sometimes flickered behind the empty windows soon circulated, but also that there were secret tunnels in the building. “Nonsense,” said doorman Abou Rami, who works in the area and has lived there for more than twenty years, with news channel ABC News.
“These are rumors spread by foreigners. It is always quiet here. Such things are always said of places that are handed down to the elements.”
In any case, it gave the building an appeal. According to restorer Basma Selim, it was even visited by Satanists in the 1990s, who performed their rituals there. “They daub the walls with black skulls and swastikas,” she says.
That is now a thing of the past. The Egyptian state bought the building in 2005 and agreed to restore it with the support of Belgium and turn it into a monument and museum. It opened on Tuesday after a revamp that lasted more than three years and cost 9.8 million euros.
The results are impressive. The palace shines in all its grandeur again, which is clearly visible in the many photos that have already been taken of the building.