Cairo (AFP)

The Palace of Sovereign Mohamed Ali Pasha, considered as the modernizer of Egypt in the 19th century, is due to reopen according to the authorities in 2020, after renovations to allow it to regain its splendor of yesteryear.

The Viceroy of Egypt, of Albanian origin, had built this palace located in Cairo in 1808, at the beginning of a long reign (1805-1849) on what was then a part of the Ottoman Empire.

Much of the current work focuses on renovating the precious paintings and imposing chandeliers of this high-ceilinged palace, which blends Western and Oriental styles.

The work on the paintings is particularly delicate: "We started by removing the (traces of) previous restorations before we could reach the original colors," explains Mohamed Sadeq, director of the site.

The exterior of the palace, surrounded by lush gardens extending over almost 24 hectares, is also at the heart of the work. In 2015, a car bomb attack claimed by a group affiliated with the Islamic State (IS) jihadist organization, targeting a nearby security office, damaged two buildings.

"The palace has a special importance because it was built using the most advanced techniques of the time, electricity was even installed, which was a first," Mariem Youssef, head of the hospital, told AFP. of the renovation project.

"The main challenge is the maintenance of the structure, the wood inside has aged" according to Mohamed Sadeq.

A former officer of the Ottoman army, Mohamed Ali Pasha introduced extensive economic and social reforms in Egypt, leading an independent policy towards the Ottomans. He has set up modern institutions and built important infrastructures.

His palace has deteriorated significantly over time, as have other historical monuments of the country, which are an important attraction for tourists. Egypt has often been accused of neglecting the maintenance of this heritage.

The cost of the renovation of the palace is about 195 million Egyptian pounds (10 million euros) and the restored site is expected to open again in June 2020, according to the Ministry of Antiquities.

© 2019 AFP