Cairo landmark Villa Casdagli to be restored to former glory

Nevine El-Aref , Tuesday 19 Mar 2013

After an initial restoration plan was stalled by the revolution, the antiquities ministry will finally launch a project to save the badly damaged building

Damages at villa casdogli

The Egyptian Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA) will restore the early 20th century Villa Casdagli, located in downtown Cairo, following years of negligence and recent destruction occurred during clashes between protesters, vandals and police.

"Villa Casdagli is really in a very bad conservation condition," said Mohamed Ibrahim, antiquities minister, adding that due to clashes most of the mirrors that once decorated the villa's main hall have been smashed.

Wooden stairs connecting the villa's ground floor to the first floor were burned down, and fire also destroyed the wooden decorative motifs, walls, cupboards and floors. All the windows have been broken, and the walls are peeling.

"Casdagli is to regain its original look," Mohamed Abdel Aziz, director of the Historic Cairo Rehabilitation Project (HCRP), told Ahram Online, adding that restoration work will start immediately, following a ministry decision to proceed.

According to Abdel Aziz, the ministry will launch a bid to select the most suitable company to complete the conservation project.

The villa was built in the early 20th century by the Austrian architect Edward Matasek for the British-Levantine businessman Emanuel Casdagli.

In 1943, the villa became Egypt's US embassy, which it remained until the end of World War II. 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 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 plan for the building. The project was funded by the US Department of State's Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation.

The restoration project at that time was scheduled to be carried out in two phases over 12 months, including an initial period of conservation studies, looking into the best ways to restore the villa's unique architectural features. The aim was to turn the building 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 subject to several robberies during and after the revolution and that several of decorative features were damaged or missing.

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