Egypt: Sisi snatches ownership of historic building under pretext of “securing his palace”

Egyptian Prime Minister Dr. Mostafa Madbouly has issued a ministerial decree to expropriate property No. 21 Ibrahim El Laqani Street, Heliopolis neighborhood, Cairo Governorate, which means expropriation of the Heliopolis Hotel – under the pretext of securing the Al-Ittihaeya Presidential Palace, according to Al-Manassa news website.

Property No. 21 Ibrahim El Laqani Street, Heliopolis District, Cairo Governorate, is a hotel consisting of a basement, ground floor, and two floors above the ground, with two shops, Groppi and Arafa. The ministerial decision stated in its rationale that the decision was issued for the purposes of public benefit related to securing the Al-Ittihaeya Presidential Palace.

In this way, the Egyptian presidency has snatched ownership of the historic Heliopolis Hotel, under the ludicrous excuse of “securing the presidential palace nearby”

Until February 17, the purposes of securing and protecting presidential palaces, areas, buildings and vital facilities were not works of public interest that necessitated the expropriation of real estate – where those purposes were limited to projects of water and sewage, irrigation and drainage, energy, construction or modification of bridges, railway crossings and underpasses, transportation, urban planning and the improvement of public facilities.

However, on that date, the Council of Ministers added the securing of these premises to the purposes that require expropriation for the public benefit, based on the authority granted to it by law, which allows it to add other works of public interest to the mentioned works.

Ministerial decree No. 1125 of 2022, states that the hotel building is owned by the Misr Real Estate Asset Management company, which is affiliated with the Misr Holding Company for Insurance, that is subject to the supervision of the Ministry of Public Business Sector. However, it also appears that the company did not object to handing over the hotel building to the Presidency of the Republic.

The new decree was also based on Presidential Decree No. 289 of 2018 authorizing the Prime Minister to exercise the powers of the President of the Republic stipulated in the Law of Expropriation for the Public Benefit.

Accordingly, head of the Presidential Office, asked for considering the expropriation of the hotel building as a work of public interest, as a requirements for securing the area surrounding the presidential headquarters (taking into account the purposes of securing and protecting vital areas, buildings and facilities are among works of public interest), as well as a request to seize, by direct execution, the entire land and buildings of this real estate.

It is not known what they want to do with the historic building. “What do they want to do? Will they tear it down? What will happen to the historic restaurant Groppi?’,  wonders a Twitter user under the name: The Big Pharaoh, commenting that this decision reflects “nightmarish scenarios’ with respect to the historic building.

The Big Pharaoh continued his comment, saying that such decisions are very dangerous, as they dilute the concept of private ownership and public property, where a recent legislation has become a tool to serve the Egyptian rulers’ business interests.

“Today your house can be snatched by force, you get peanuts in compensation, if the rulers eyed your space.”

Since it was the presidency that requested the expropriation, “my gut feeling tells me ownership will go to the sovereign fund. I hope the building remains intact and I hope Groppi, a historic restaurant there, remains operational. However, this possibility might be doubtful,” the Big Pharaoh said in his tweet.