Friday, April 18, 2014

Abandoned Places: Qasr el Baron

Modeled after the Angkor Wat, the Qasr el Baron, or Baron Empain Palace, took four years to build. It was finished in 1911 in the Heliopolis district of Cairo and has a troubled, if not sinister, history. In fact, the palace was built by the guy who founded Heliopolis, Belgian millionaire Edouard Louis Joseph, Baron Empain. The house was surrounded by gardens and terraces within which hid erotic statues. The main tower is said to have been built on a revolving base to provide a 360 degree view and constant sunlight into the Baron's room. There's also a rumored secret tunnel to the nearby basilica, somewhat at odds with the whispers of Satan worship and orgies that went on during the years Baron Empain  was in residence.

The Baron's wife, scorned by the Baron's affairs, is said to have thrown herself down the stairwell of the revolving tower.
His daughter, Miriam, suffered from psychological issues and would sequester herself in the basement rooms when she was in a bad mood. It was there she was found dead. Murder or suicide? No one knows.

The Baron returned to Belgium at the beginning of World War I and never returned to the house. It's said that there was a mirrored chamber in the basement rooms, possibly the same room Miriam was found in, and, upon the Baron's death in 1929, the mirrors ran with blood and were permanently stained red.

The Baron's son moved in for a while after the Baron's death, but it was a fairly short tenure. It had been abandoned, looted (including any mirrors), and vandalized by the 50s. In 2005, the Egyptian government bought the property and began plans to restore it. It was briefly opened to the public but, after only two months, was closed again and never re-opened. No explanation has ever been given.
All but the first and last pictures are by Hossam el-Hamalawy and used under the linked license.

As an added bonus, here are some pictures of some abandoned quarries:


  1. Yesterday's comment is proof that commenting from my phone needs to be kept short. So - daughter = suicide. Mother = murder. Daughter pushed mom down stairwell , then later killed herself in guilt.

    Ta da!

  2. Now I need to go back and read Rusty's comment.
    Shame they didn't keep it open to the public. It could be a real money-maker, especially with the revolving tower. Wonder if the statues are still there?

  3. I wonder what happened that made them decide not to keep it open to the public. The house probably would have been too difficult to make safe enough for the public. The stairwell does look like a killer. These are very intriguing photos!

  4. Maybe designing the house after a famous temple angered some gods who put a curse on them.

  5. Rusty solved it?

    That is a seriously interesting story. I'm going to have to read more about it. Sounds like a good basis for an occult thriller.

  6. This is a creepy story. Like, heebie jeebie, give you goosebumps on your arms creepy. I want to know why they opened it for two months only to close it two months later. Was it haunted? I say YES!!

  7. There's an abandoned quarry near my folk's place. Also filled with water. I would be very curious to see that tower rotate. :)

  8. Some places deserve to be abandoned perhaps. Sheesh.

  9. It sounds like a creepy story could be made from that history. The palace is quite ornate and gothic. It would make a great setting.

  10. I've been to Heliopolis dozens of times and never knew this was there (but Heliopolis is very big). Coincidentally - I spent my teens in Bloomington IN where there are abandoned limestone quarries that look just like the pics! :)

  11. It sure achieved a history. I would imagine it would be a big tourist draw.

    Happy Easter Andrew.

  12. Sounds like a story waiting to be told in a novel or a movie. With all the other turmoil going on in Egypt I guess they have other things to worry over than this place.

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  13. Rusty: I figured that's what happened. I was completely unable to decipher bits of it.

    Alex C: I don't know. I couldn't find more than a couple of statue pics (which were not available for use), and all of the pictured statues had pieces broken off of them.

    Donna: As far as I could find, the Egyptian government never gave a reason. In fact, refused to give a reason.

    Pat: Well, I suppose that could be.

    Briane: Yeah, I think Rusty is in the wrong business. He should have been a world-class mystery solver or working for Scotland Yard or something.

    Elsie: Yeah, I'd like to know the reason for that, too.

    David: Me, too! Actually, what I want to know is why know one has bothered to verify that one way or the other.

    L.G.: That could be true.

    Jeanne: It would make a great setting. Go write that story.

    Lexa: If you go again, you will have to go look for it. And take some pictures or something. Did you know the city was built by a Belgian?

    Jo: Happy Easter to you, too!

    Lee: That's probably true. And, yeah, it probably would make for a great historical fiction.

  14. I love the thought of a rotating room. :-D

  15. Have been loving these abandoned places posts ...

  16. Fascinating building, and I love the ghost story element. I feel like the villagers with pitchforks should have paid a visit.

  17. Misha: It is pretty cool.

    Kathryn: Glad to hear it.

    Shannon: Maybe they did?

  18. How intriguing...and how sad about the daughter! Beautiful place, though. Just beautiful.

  19. randi: Yeah, it has a certain quality to it.

  20. Absolutely love this one; my favorite of all of them so far, and I've seriously enjoyed a fair number of them. So much inspiration to be found in one building!

  21. Alex H: I think this one might be my favorite, too, although North Brother Island is pretty cool, too.