Fire breaks out in grounds of Cairo's Omar Toson Palace

Nevine El-Aref , Friday 15 May 2015

Toson Palace
Fire breaks out at Toson Palace in Shubra district near Cairo, Egypt, Friday, May 15, 2015 (Photo: Ahram Arabic)

A fire broke out in the grounds of a 19th-century royal palace in Cairo but caused no damage to the historic building, officials said on Friday.

Three fire vehicles were dispatched to the Omar Toson Palace in the district of Shubra in northern Cairo to extinguish the blaze.

Photos from the site showed flames leaping from behind the wall of the palace.

Mohamed Abdel-Latif who is head of the Islamic Antiquities Department at the Ministry of Antiquities, told Ahram Online that the fire broke out at a modern hall on the grounds of the palace, and didn't reach the historical building. "Thank God the fire is contained and nothing has happened to the palace,” said Abdel-Latif, who added that the police were investigating the causes of the fire. 

Abdel-Latif said that the halls on the site were built by the Ministry of Education in the 1970s when the palace was in the possession of the ministry, and were used to store desks, tables and other equipment. The antiquities ministry, Abdel-Latif said, will ask education ministry to remove the items and clear the halls. 

The palace is a 3,200-square metre building on two storeys, with an arcade façade and a long terrace on its upper floor. It was built in 1868 for Prince Omar Toson, who also designed the building. The palace features ceilings finely decorated with golden foliage. 

After the 1952 revolution the royal palace became a government property and was converted into a school. In 1984 it was declared a protected historical site and put under the supervision of the antiquities ministry, and in 2010 a restoration project was scheduled to restore the palace, but the 2011 revolution saw the plans delayed.

There have been calls in recent years from antiquities activists to restore the palace and protect it from "violations" by local residents.

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