Cairo’s Villa Casdagli needs rescuing

Nevine El-Aref , Tuesday 8 Jan 2013

Late-nineteenth century Villa Casdagli on Simon Bolivar Square in Cairo’s Garden City is in urgent need of restoration following years of neglect

villa casdogli

At Simon Bolivar Square in Cairo’s Garden City stands the Villa Casdagli with its distinguished architecture and European-style paintings. The villa is in need of restoration because some of its external features and internal wooden ornaments have deteriorated due to exposure and other factors.

The villa was built in late 19th century by the Austrian architect Edward Matasek for the British-Levantine businessman Emanual Casdagli. In 1943, the villa became the US embassy until the end of World War II and after the 1952 revolution it was converted into a girls’ school named after the Sudanese revolutionary Ali Abdul-Latif.

In 2006, the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), now the Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA), placed the villa on Egypt's heritage list as an Islamic monument. In 2008, the SCA, in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the American Research Centre in Cairo (ARCE), developed a comprehensive restoration project for the building. The project was funded by the US Department of State's Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation.

The restoration project will be carried out in two phases over 12 months. The first six months will consist of conservation studies looking into the best ways to restore the villa's distinguished architectural features after an environmental assessment, stone and brick investigations, and laboratory tests on frescos and glass.

Phase two is the restoration work which will attempt to return the villa to its original appearance and turn it into a Museology Institute with a public library.

In late 2010, the school was relocated and the restoration project was due to begin.  However, the project was halted due to the January 2011 revolution. There were media reports that the villa was subjected to several robberies during and after the revolution and that several of its architectural and ornamental wooden features were reported missing.

Antiquities Minister Mohamed Ibrahim told Ahram Online that the villa was never officially handed over to the MSA due to the revolution. The villa is currently in the possession of the Ministry of Education which has to release it to the MSA.

He asserted that the villa had deteriorated because during the last Mohamed Mahmoud Street clashes in November 2012 thugs and vandals damaged some sections of the building's glass and stole iron gates ornamented with foliage elements, and some marble steps.

"In general the villa is safe and sound except for what I have told you and the MSA is waiting to start the previously planned restoration project to begin," Ibrahim added.

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