Egypt and Belgium signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to fund Heliopolis’ Baron Empain Palace restoration, with EGP 16 mn, a step coming merely two months ahead of the iconic spot’s grand opening, Invest-Gate reports.

The deal is part of the Egyptian-Belgian cooperation in the field of heritage reservation, underpinning management and development of the site based on specialized studies to protect its archaeological elements, history, and civilizational development, while preserving the surrounding environment, according to a ministerial statement on September 12.

In a ceremony held on-site, the agreement was inked between Minister of Investment and International Cooperation Sahar Nasr and Belgian Ambassador to Egypt Sibille de Cartier, in the presence of Antiquities Minister Khaled El Anani, who highlighted that Baron Palace will turn into an integrated gate that demonstrates the history of east Cairo’s Heliopolis over the decades.

Nasr, however, revealed that the fund comes as a part of the ministry’s plans to establish a debt exchange program, wherewith Egypt settles its debts by using the finances in cultural development projects. “We are currently considering expanding the loan exchange program with Belgium, Italy, and Germany as this allows for investing the loans in priority venture and development projects in Egypt,” she noted.

Meanwhile, the Embassy of Belgium said on its official Twitter account, “We are proud to contribute to the preservation of this important common heritage and hope it will lead to many more initiatives to protect and renovate the ‘city of the sun’!”

Facelift of the 108-year-old mansion, which first started in August 2017, is part of Egypt’s plans to pump EGP 2.5 bn in antiquities projects in the near future, with EGP 1.47 bn to be spent by next December and EGP 1 bn in 2020. After restoration, the spot will feature an exhibition on the history of Heliopolis, along with a visitor service area, embracing the monument as an emblem of the district’s mix of early 20th century Moorish Revival, Persian Revival, traditional Arabic, and European neo-classical architecture, according to an earlier statement.