Facelift of Cairo’s Baron Palace sparks outcry

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A general view of the restoration work at the Baron Empain Palace, "Qasr el Baron" or The Hindu Palace, built in the 20th century by a Belgian industrialist Edouard Louis Joseph, also known as Baron Empain, in the Cairo's suburb Heliopolis, Egypt August 18, 2019. (Reuters)
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An Egyptian worker is seen during the restoration work inside the Baron Empain Palace, "Qasr el Baron" or The Hindu Palace, built in the 20th century by Belgian industrialist Edouard Louis Joseph, also known as Baron Empain, in the Cairo's suburb Heliopolis, Egypt August 18, 2019. (Reuters)
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Egyptian workers carry out restoration work of the Baron Empain Palace, "Qasr el Baron" or The Hindu Palace, built in the 20th century by Belgian industrialist Edouard Louis Joseph, also known as Baron Empain, in the Cairo's suburb Heliopolis, Egypt August 18, 2019. (Reuters)
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Archaeologists work on restoring relief sculptures at the historic "Le Palais Hindou" (also known as the "Baron Empain Palace") built by in the early 20th century by Belgian industrialist Edouard Louis Joseph, Baron Empain, in the classical Khmer architectural style of Cambodia's Angkor Wat, in the Egyptian capital Cairo's northeastern Heliopolis district on August 18, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 18 August 2019

Facelift of Cairo’s Baron Palace sparks outcry

  • Work to restore the building has sparked outcry
  • Antiquities Minister Khaled El-Enany dismissed online criticisms as “fake news”

CAIRO: Egyptian authorities have defended renovation works at a historic Cairo palace after the site’s new look sparked mockery on social media.
The site, dubbed the Baron Palace, was built between 1907 and 1911 by wealthy Belgian industrialist Edouard Empain.
The baron also spearheaded the development of the surrounding upmarket neighborhood of Heliopolis.
Built in a style reminiscent of the Cambodian Hindu temple of Angkor Wat, the striking building set amid lush gardens has long since fallen into disrepair.
But work to restore the building has sparked outcry.
Many have taken issue with white marble additions to the building’s rosy pink stone exterior, saying the materials are of poor quality and not in keeping with the original style.
One Twitter user asked: “Who is the fool behind the restoration of Egypt’s palaces? Our heritage is being systematically destroyed.”
A Facebook page called Egyptian Historians chided officials for the “warped” restoration.
“Be honest with yourselves and admit that you ruined it... you are literally demolishing our monuments,” a post on the group’s page said.
Antiquities Minister Khaled El-Enany dismissed online criticisms as “fake news.”
“I didn’t hear one word of truth in all these social media comments,” he said in a statement.
His ministry said the colors of the palace had faded from weather damage over many years.
“The restoration is a real dream and we will breathe life into this abandoned landmark,” Enany added.
General Hisham Samir, who heads up the ministry’s engineering branch, said the colors were “correct and are backed up by historical sources.”
The works began in July 2017 in cooperation with the Belgian government and will cost 100 million Egyptian pounds (over $6 million), the statement added.
Samir told AFP that the work is expected to be completed by year’s end with plans to open the building to the public by early 2020.
Egypt’s multitude of historical monuments and buildings are a major draw for tourists, though the country has often faced accusations of neglecting these sites.
The government has recently launched various restoration projects to stimulate tourism, a key sector that has suffered in recent years due to political insecurity and sporadic militant attacks.


Algeria says France to return remains of 24 resistance fighters

Updated 17 min 56 sec ago

Algeria says France to return remains of 24 resistance fighters

  • Tebboune said some of the remains belonged to “leaders” of the resistance movement who were killed in the 19th century

ALGIERS: Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune on Thursday said France will return the remains of 24 resistance fighters who were killed during its colonization of the North African country.
“Within a few hours Algerian military planes will fly in from France and land at the Houari Boumediene international airport with the remains of 24 (members) of the popular resistance,” Tebboune said during a military ceremony.
Tebboune said some of the remains belonged to “leaders” of the resistance movement who were killed in the 19th century fighting against France which occupied and ruled Algeria for 132 years.
In his speech, Tebboune said these resistance fighters “had been deprived of their natural and human right to be buried for more than 170 years.”
One of the leaders whose remains are to be returned is Sheikh Bouzian, who was captured in 1849 by the French, shot and decapitated.
The remains of two other key figures of the resistance — Bou Amar Ben Kedida and Si Mokhtar Ben Kouider Al Titraoui — are also among those expected back in Algeria.
The country won independence from France in 1962 after eight years of bitter war that left some 1.5 million Algerians dead.
Emmanuel Macron, the first French president to be born after the war, made his first official visit to Algeria in December 2017, announcing that he came as a “friend” despite France’s historically prickly ties with its former colony.
At the time he told news website Tout sur l’Algerie that he was “ready” to see his country hand back the skulls of Algerian resistance fighters.
Algerian and French academics have long campaigned for the return of 37 skulls held at the Musee de l’Homme in Paris.
In December 2019, Macron said that “colonialism was a grave mistake” and called for turning the page on the past.
During his presidential election campaign Macron had created a storm by calling France’s colonization of Algeria a “crime against humanity.”