Heliopolis Baron Empain Hindu Palace In Egypt about Wealth, Power, and a Haunted Place. Walking tour
The Hindu Palace of Baron Empain in Cairo This tour is about a historical architectural masterpiece in Cairo, Egypt. Baron Empain Palace known as Le Palais Hindu or literally the Hindu Palace. It is located in Heliopolis district of Cairo Heliopolis is a neighborhood located about 20 kilometers to the northeast of Cairo. Heliopolis suburb also known as Masr EL Gedida or New Egypt was established around 1907 by the owner of the palace the Belgian industrialist Édouard Louis Joseph. The Baron Empain Palace was established on about 12,500 square meters and it is located on the famous highway of Auroba street that leads to Cairo International Airport The visitors entrance and ticket office are on Ibn Batota street After the recent renovations, a tramway trolley was installed here as a reminder that Baron Empain introduced the tramway to the Heliopolis area The Hindu inspired Palace was established between 1907 and 1911 by Édouard Louis Joseph It is a distinct building with a unique architectural design that you do not see anywhere else in Egypt The palace style, location, and size reflect the status Baron Empain used to have back in the beginnings of the 20th century in Egypt. With its unique appearance, the palace is a head turner on one of the most important roads in Cairo. The palace
consists of three floors and a roof it is also surrounded by a large garden from all sides The basement contained the residence area for the servants and staff. Baron Empain lived between September 1852 and July 1929. The baron was a wealthy Belgian businessman and industrialist. In the past, the large entrance garden used to have many exotic and unique plants. It also had many busts and statues
The tourism and antiquities ministry added a couple of classic cars to be exhibited at the entrance to reflect the time when the palace was alive The palace architecture is inspired by Hindu Indian and Cambodian temples The tower and exterior designs have similarities to the Angkor Wat temples in Cambodia The palace architecture is also inspired by Indian temples of Adisha, a state located in the east of India. We can see here the similarities to the Lingaraja Temple. It is a Hindu temple in Odisha that is dedicated to Shiva The building is decorated with many statues inspired by Hindu deities looking like snakes, Buddhas, Shivas, Krishnas, Elephants, and other Hindu deities Other statues are unique pieces of art that were especially imported for the palace from Europe. This marble statue of Narcissus for example was made by French architect French Architect Antoine Garnaud who lived from 1796 to 1861. Dragon like creatures statues stand as guards at the entrance. These are also inspired by Hindu and Buddhist temples in India and Southern Asia. The tower of the palace stands tall and unique.
It was said that it was built on a rotating base but that is not true. This seven-headed statue is a depiction of the Asian deity Naga. Naga is a half-human half-serpent being that can occasionally take human form, animal form, or both. Naga beings have been known for over two thousand years in mythological South Asian and South East Asian cultures, including Hinduism and Buddhism. You can see here a similar statue on the right side from Cambodian Royal Palace in Phnom Penh Naga beings are known as guardians and protectors of treasures and others. Two of these Roman style statues at the entrance, are made by the sculptor Charles Cordier who lived between 1827 and 1905. The missing heads may have been made of bronze.
On this plate above the main entrance we see this piece of art called Temptation of Buddha. It shows the demon Mara trying to disrupt Buddha's meditation to achieve enlightenment by tempting him with her beautiful daughters As we go through the main entrance, we are welcomed with a set of boards showing information about the original owner of this palace Baron Empain and his Hindu Palace origins. Édouard Louis Joseph, or Baron Empain, was born in 1852 in Belœil, Belgium. He started his career as a draftsman at a company called Société métallurgique in 1878. He developed experience in railway construction projects in Belgium and started his own companies. Baron Empain started companies that developed railway lines in France and the Paris metro He even started his own bank in 1881 Banque Empain, which later became the Belgian Industrial Bank, ("Banque Industrielle Belge"). He also became a Major General during World War I.
Baron Empain expanded his business during the 1890s starting tram lines in Europe, Russia, China, the Belgian Congo, and Egypt. He also owned a number of electricity and power generating companies. He arrived in Egypt in 1904 intending to work on some of his projects. He eventually established the Cairo Electric Railways and Heliopolis Oases Company in 1906. He partnered with Boughos Nubar Pasha, the businessman and son of Egyptian Prime Minister at the time. This helped him get twenty five thousand square kilometers allocated in the desert to the east of Cairo. This was to establish a new district or city. Baron Empain then started planning for the new district, Heliopolis which is
named after the ancient Egyptian city that means city of the sun. It was like ancient Egyptian glory is resurrected all over again in the form of this modern and luxurious district of Cairo. The Baron started hiring a team of professionals for the big project. The French architect Alexandre Marcel who lived between 1860 and 1928 was hired as an architect for the project, and was also responsible for the design of this palace. Alexandre Marcel also designed the catholic basilica in Heliopolis. He also has a list
of famous buildings and projects in France and Brussels. George Closson, is another French architect on the team and an assistant of Alexandre Marcel. He lived between 1865 and 1949. The baron also made sure that his brother Francois Empain was on the board of the company managing the project. He was also a shareholder partner and a director in many of the Baron Empain other companies. We can see here part of the original embossed art decorations on the wooden wall coverings. It
reflects the European style and nature landscaping showing animals, trees, and plant decorations This is Habib Youssef, the only Egyptian architect on the team. He lived between 1876 and 1956. He participated in the design of many buildings and residence homes in the new district of Heliopolis his sons Charles and Max continued their father's legacy and participated in the design and development of Heliopolis In 1907 the work commenced through Cairo Electric Railways and Heliopolis Oases Company to build a new suburb in the desert to the east of Cairo. Many landmarks and famous buildings were constructed including the Heliopolis Palace Hotel, a sporting club, and other recreational amenities including a racetrack, a park, and a golf course. Houses were built for rent.
This included villas apartment buildings and more economic cheaper residence buildings. Heliopolis was also built with high quality utilities including water, sewage, electricity infrastructure in addition to the tramway that was the backbone of the transportation system Heliopolis became famous for its wide streets, roads, large parks, elegant shopping areas, and quiet residential streets. Heliopolis became home for aristocratic class of Egyptians as well as many non-Egyptians living in Egypt. The ground floor of the palace was designed to have a reception room, a billiard room, and a dining room. Baron Empain fell in love with Egypt and decided to stay with his family in the newly constructed palace.
Baron Empain expanded his business across the world. He founded about 108 companies in 13 countries across four continents. Fourteen of these companies were in Egypt. Baron Empain had two children Jean Louis Lain Empain lived between 1902 to 1946 and Louis Jean Lin Empain, who lived from 1908 to 1976. When the Baron died, they inherited about 6 billion French Francs which is equivalent to about 1 Billion Euros in 1929. This is equivalent to about 20 Billion Euros today. The Baron title continued through the family it started by the King of Belgium Leopold the 2nd granting the honoring title to Édouard Empain in 1907 who became the 1st Baron Empain. The title moved by inheritance. It was
taken over by his sons Jean Empain and Louis Jean Empain as the second generation Barons. The title then moved to Edward Jean Empain, the third Baron Empain, who lived from 1937 to 2018. Finally, it went to Jean Francois Empain the 4th Baron Empain ( He was born in 1964). Edouard Jean Empain, the third Baron Empain was the CEO of Schneider Group. He was a well-known heir to a substantial fortune in Europe. He became the subject of a famous and
violent kidnapping case in 1978. The kidnapping happened in Paris, France where he used to live. The kidnappers kept him for 63 days. They even cut his finger and sent it to his family to show they were serious about the ransom they were asking for.
The ransom demanded was 80 million French Francs. The police was eventually able to kill a kidnapper, and to arrest another. The Baron was later found safe and alive. This incident left a devastating impact on the Baron and his family for the rest of his life. The palace was eventually sold by the owners in 1957. It was left empty until 2005 when the government took over the palace and eventually compensated the owners.
After it was sold in 1957 it went into decades of dark ages. Many of its interiors were ripped, the building started deteriorating over the years, and many weird and scary stories started surfacing about the haunted palace of Heliopolis. The palace became a deserted creepy place it started attracting different types of visitors including stray animals, and burglars who saw an opportunity to take away some of the expensive parts of the interior fixings and decorations.
Many of the expensive floorings and mirrors were stolen. The bathrooms and ceiling decorations were damaged, many of which had been made especially for the palace or even specially customized or had the Baron's initials embossed on them. The palace became infested with a large number of bats. These bats took the palace
as their home for decades. Other insects and animals called the basement home. The surrounding gardens became so damaged they looked like a scene of a cursed land in a horror movie full with dead trees and plants, and scary-looking mythical creatures. The palace attracted groups of drug addicts, and even Satan worshippers. They committed black magic gatherings, and animal sacrifice rituals.
At some point the mirrors were stained with blood color as reported by some sources. These activities in addition to the regular scenes of scores of bats around the place made it a rich source for even more creepy stories Some security guards reported seeing ghosts or shadows moving in the palace with voices of cries and screams. There are also some reports about lights turning on and off abruptly. These incidents usually happen at night without anyone being inside. These stories and reports were occurring over several decades that it became an urban legend. No one knows for sure what was exactly happening inside the lonely palace.
We can see here a part of the original wall. It was left deliberately to show traces of bats scratching the walls and how the walls looked like before the recent renovations. The police eventually raided the palace and made arrests. the case was well known back in the 90s as the Satan Worshippers case. The palace was then put under strict
security and no public access was allowed. It became a lonelier empty place than before. Jean Empain, the son of the first Baron continued to live here after his father passed away in 1929 and he used to have extravagance parties and to host large gatherings in the palace In this floor, the first floor, there are four rooms each with its own balcony and bathroom. After many years, the time has finally came.
The Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities in cooperation with the Belgian Embassy in Egypt and other civil society associations started a project in 2017 to turn the palace into an archaeological gallery to tell the history of Heliopolis district and its founder Baron Empain. The project team had a difficult task at hand. The walls were covered with graffiti, bat scratches, and feces. The floors were covered with thick layers of dust, stains,
mud, debris, animal remains, and more. The damage was everywhere. This was not the worst thing they had to deal with. The palace was one of the first buildings in Egypt to be built with reinforced concrete. It was a new technology back in 1907. The concrete has deteriorated over the decades and the steel bars were exposed and rusting. This caused serious structural issues that could have led to the collapse of the whole building. All the details of the damages were documented. The team referred back to the original blueprints
of the palace as they were trying to restore it to its original shape and style as much as possible. The foundations were tested for stability. Samples of the concrete were analyzed to decide on the best way to treat it. In 2020 the palace was finally ready for opening to the public. The opening also coincided with the 115th anniversary of the foundation of Heliopolis district back in 1905.
The palace is not far from the famous Basilique Notre Dame d'Heliopolis, – or Our Lady of Heliopolis Co-Cathedral that was built by Baron Empain back in 1913. After his death in Belgium, his body was transported back to Egypt to be buried in this church not very far from his palace. Heliopolis was originally built as a luxurious town with spacious parks and wide streets.
Gradually, it became a destination for Egyptians from different social backgrounds and for those looking for a high class and quiet neighborhood to call home. Buildings started getting higher and population grew significantly over the years Part of a new suburb of Heliopolis was making sure religion and worship places were made available to all known religions and sects in Egypt. At that time, these included many places of worship in the district including mosques, churches such as our lady of Heliopolis Co-Cathedral (which is also is the burial place of Baron Empain and his son Jean Louis Lain Empain), Saint George Coptic Orthodox Church, Saint Mark Coptic Orthodox Church, Theotokos Greek Orthodox Church, Saint-Rita Maronite church, Sainte Therese Armenian Catholic Church, and the Jewish Al Missalah synagogue As we go up the stairs to the roof, we can see the windows around the stairs the design of the palace makes the light shine inside all day long. The windows are also designed in a way that creates cooling atmosphere inside the palace naturally especially in the summer when the temperatures in Egypt are very high. We can see here the beautiful spiral staircase and the chandelier. There is a story about the
baron's wife falling off the stairs and dying here but it is not a reliable story And here we are, looking over the dream of Baron Empain that came true: Heliopolis or as the Egyptians call it today: Mase El Ghedidah or New Egypt The presidential palace can be seen here close by. It was originally built by the Baron as the Heliopolis Palace Hotel. It was one of the world's largest and luxurious hotels until the 1930s. The population of Heliopolis grew significantly over the years. In 2016 the estimated population of Heliopolis district was around 143,000.
Most residential buildings are now low or high-rise buildings villas and mansions are still there to reminds us of the old days, but not many of them are remaining The roof is an integral part of the overall Asian design of the palace. The chimneys are made in the form of gates decorated with elephant mythical character. Other tempting statues and decorative carvings surround the place.
The roof was intended to be a place where gatherings and parties can be entertained. The Giza pyramids could be seen from the palace back in the early 20th century when most of the surrounding area was still just a desert. The baron had an elevator installed to connect the palace floors to the basement. It was one of the first elevators to be installed in Egypt. The technology was relatively new worldwide. This is a marble statue of the Roman mythical nymph Amalthea . During the god Jupiter infancy, she took care of him to hide him from his father, Saturn to protect him, according to the myth.
An exact copy of this statue by Pierre Julien is in the Louvre Museum in Paris Baron Empain had some of the wealthiest neighbors in Egypt. For example the Arabesque palace of Boghos and Marie Nubar Pasha which is now a military headquarters. And close by was the residence of sultan Hussein Kamel who ruled Egypt between 1914 and 1917.
It is now a presidential guest house. Some of the wealthiest Egyptians live in villas and mansions in the same area around the palace today. As a result of 1952 revolution led by Gamal Abdel Nasser, Heliopolis became home to many of Cairo's educated middle class, and over the years the distance between Cairo and Heliopolis is not empty desert anymore. Today, Heliopolis is practically inside Cairo.
Heliopolis had the first amusement park in Africa: Luna Park. It was built in 1911 but unfortunately during World War I it was converted into an Australian field hospital The Maryland was another amusement park. It was built in Heliopolis later on. It became an entertainment destination for all Egyptians and even a touristic attraction Today Heliopolis is still home for many Egyptian celebrities, politicians. and important government
and military offices. And it continues to be one of the richest and best living areas of Cairo. In recent years several road and bridge construction projects in addition to other infrastructure projects were finished by the government to address many of the problems that have arisen from the increasing population and congested streets of Heliopolis. It is now looking strongly into the future The Baron Empain Palace is now back to be the crown jewel of Heliopolis.
It is standing tall as a unique and incredible architectural piece of history not only in Egypt but also in Africa and the Middle East. Here in the middle of Heliopolis after the recent renovations, it cannot be called a lonely palace anymore. This palace is a must-see attraction for any visitor to Egypt Thank you for your interest in this video please subscribe to Egyptian Planet channel to learn more about Egypt