CAIRO – 12 September 2019: Egypt and Belgium signed a Memorandum of Understanding worth LE 16 million to cooperate in the restoration and re-employment of the Baron Empain Palace as part of the Belgian debt swap.
The Memorandum of Understanding was signed by Egyptian Minister of Investment and International Cooperation Sahar Nasr, and the ambassador of Belgium to Cairo, in the presence of Minister of Antiquities Khaled al Anani and the governor of Cairo at the Baron Empain Palace.
The Memorandum of Understanding stated that within the framework of efforts to protect, develop and preserve the Egyptian archaeological heritage, the debt swap will be used to finance the restoration of the Baron Empain Palace to provide an integrated gate for the Palace and upgrade its current situation.
Moreover, the Memorandum of Understanding stipulated on setting a plan for the management of the site based on specialized studies to protect archaeological elements, their history, and the history of their civilizational fabric development, while preserving the surrounding environment.
For her part, Minister Nasr affirmed Egypt’s keenness to strengthen the strategic, developmental and investment relations with Belgium, pointing out that the ministry is considering expanding its debt swap program with Belgium, Italy and Germany, as it converts debt into developmental and investment grants in the priority areas of Egypt.
The minister revealed that the ministry places the provision of grants for the continuous development of the Egyptian archaeological heritage among its top priorities within the framework of cooperation with the Ministry of Antiquities. “This agreement is a continuation of the effort to provide fund for the development of Egypt’s cultural sector, especially that the international partners are also keen to protect the Egyptian monuments.”
Nasr said that Baron Empain established a new city to accommodate the Egyptian citizens, and the government is doing the same with the establishment of the New Administrative Capital, but efforts are now greater.
Furthermore, Minister of Antiquities Khaled al-Anani said that the Ministry of Antiquities has so far completed more than 85 percent of the restoration work of the Baron Empain Palace in Heliopolis district, which is scheduled to open in 2019. The minister further explained that the palace will be re-employed to display the history of Heliopolis through the ages, in cooperation with the Belgian Embassy in Cairo, and local civil society associations.
Anani further clarified that the exhibition will include a distinguished display of pictures, archival documents, drawings of the palace, maps and films about Heliopolis.
The minister of antiquities confirmed that the restoration work started in July 2017, and that it is currently underway at a cost of LE 104 million, where the Belgian government contributes to the project with a grant of LE 16 million.
Belgium’s ambassador to Cairo stated that the bilateral relations with Egypt have been strong since the foundation of Heliopolis, and that the two countries enjoy a historic partnership since the beginning of the 20th century.
“Heliopolis was founded by Baron Empain through the modern re-use of Islamic architecture to establish a city tolerant to all races and religions.” The Belgian ambassador to Egypt further stressed that the agreement will contribute to the re-opening of this palace to showcase the story of partnership between the two countries, and the story of Heliopolis “the city of the sun”.
Following the signing, the ministers of antiquities and investment, the Belgian ambassador to Cairo and the governor of Cairo were escorted into the palace to follow up the restoration and re-employment work.