Rest House reopens
The King Farouk Rest House in Helwan was officially reopened on Tuesday after five years of closure, writes Nevine El-Aref
On the banks of the Nile in Helwan near Cairo in an area far from the bustle of this now busy district stands the three-storey King Farouk Rest House, its modest boat-shaped architecture and quaint garden providing the impression of a country lodge.
Some 80 years ago Helwan was a peaceful resort enjoyed by members of the royal family, aristocrats and top government officials, and the Rest House is a reminder of this time of pure air and lush greenery.
A life-size bronze statue of an ancient Egyptian harpist greets visitors to the Rest House, which also contains a bronze sphinx and a huge gilded clock encrusted with precious stones and featuring golden dials. The glass frame of the clock is decorated with golden ancient Egyptian-style crocodiles.
“We have reopened the King Farouk Rest House a month after my last visit and created a new attraction for tourists that has been off the map for the last five years,” Minister of Antiquities Khaled Al-Enani told Al-Ahram Weekly. “Nothing stood in the way of its reopening,” he said, adding that the recent work had mainly been a matter of adding labels and restoration work in the building’s halls.
The building was closed in 2011 due to the lack of security that took over the country after the 25 January Revolution.
Al-Enani said that for the reopening labels were put on every artefact and piece of furniture and security measures were reviewed. New monitoring cameras were added to the security system, old cameras mended and broken ones replaced.
“The garden has been developed for seminars and cultural events with a cafeteria, a book store and a replicas shop,” Al-Enani said.
The Rest House would now be added to the Hapi Nile Tour, a trip launched by the ministry two years ago connecting four sites located on the Nile in Cairo. The sites are the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square, the Mohamed Ali Manial Palace and the Al-Manesterly Palace on Roda Island.
The land on which the Rest House was built was bought in 1916 by Italian architecture Arsan Giovanni in order to build a tea kiosk for the grand hotel then in Helwan. In 1932, it was bought by Bek Mohamed Hafez and then sold to King Farouk in 1935, who added a large garden.
The outbreak of World War II delayed construction work, but in 1942 the building was completed and was surrounded by a botanical garden containing rare plants. The building includes a basement with a large entrance gate at the back where the kitchen and servants quarters are located.