Baron Empain Palace – El-Montaza, Egypt - Atlas Obscura
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El-Montaza, Egypt

Baron Empain Palace

Located near Cairo's El Korba district, the abandoned mansion continues to inspire mystery and rumor throughout the city.  

Located on a slightly raised dais in the heart of Cairo’s suburban district of Heliopolis, the Baron Palace is a massive mansion built by the Baron Édouard Empain, a Belgian entrepreneur and architect who also built the Paris Métro. Its distinctive architecture and placement have led to the proliferation of rumors over the years.

In its prime, the palace had luxurious gardens, gilded doors, and Belgian mirrors designed by Georges-Louis Claude. Built between 1907 and 1911, the mansion is covered with detailed animals and figures inspired by Orissa in India and Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

Now long-abandoned, the palace is said to be connected to underground tunnels which lead to the nearby Catholic basilica where the Baron is buried. The Baron’s life was somewhat tragic and long after his death, he remains a mysterious figure in city-lore.

His wife allegedly fell to her death from the main tower of the palace—which is reached via a spectacular revolving spiral staircase—and his mentally ill daughter was found dead in a basement chamber a few years after her mother’s death. After World War I, the Baron returned to Europe and his son took control of the house, hosting parties and living the good life, but by the July 23 revolution in 1952, the house had been sold.

In more recent times, the house has been the supposed location of satanic rituals, heavy metal parties, orgies, and animal sacrifices. There are rumored sightings of the Baron’s daughter, of furniture moving across rooms, and of parties going on late into the night.

Before the Arab Spring, the government had plans to remodel the palace and open it as a museum or park, but with the deposing of Hosni Mubarak, the project came to a halt. In 2017, there had been reports that the government would renovate the palace and use it as a conference space, but as of yet, these plans have yet to materialize.

Know Before You Go

The palace is not generally accessible to the public, however the area around the palace, El Korba, is a vibrant and dynamic neighborhood in the city full of shops, restaurants and a marketplace. If you are looking for a tour of the place, you will need to go through a tour company, or file an official request through the Ministry of Antiquities.