The Art Traveller: exploring the abandoned Baron Palace, Cairo


Quite a few years ago I was in Cairo and managed to do a bit of urban exploration of a fascinating place, the “Baron Palace” in the suburb of Heliopolis. It was built in the first decade of the20thC for Baron Empain, a Belgian industrialist. He is fascinating, look him up! He got French Belle Epoque architect Alexandre Marcel to create a palace in concrete based on Hindu temples, quite a strange choice for Egypt, and a case of Orientalism par excellence!

Anyway the palace has been deserted for over a century now. Apparently it’s now all cordoned off with a barbed wire fence, but years ago when I was there it was possible to explore all the outer area and some of the more accessible external chambers. I did not have much film with me, so I didn’t take as many pictures as I wish I had (I was using 35mm transparency film at the time for most of my work).

As “Heliopolis” means “city of the sun” in Greek, I photographed the palace’s tower in silhouette against the late morning sun. This is a digitised 35mm transparency.

Next time I go to Cairo – whenever that may be – I’ll definitely stop by the Baron Palace and see how it looks now.