CAIRO – 27 May 2021: Egypt’s Ministry of Culture, under the leadership of Enas Abdel Dayem, resumed work at the Mansoura National Theater, which was subjected to vandalism and destruction in the Daqahlia Security Directorate bombing in 2013.
Within two years, the theater’s entire maintenance will be completed, according to President of the Egyptian Opera House Magdy Saber.
The Mansoura National Theater was initially a palace for Khedive Ismail, and during the era of late President Gamal Abdel Nasser, it was transformed to the Mansoura National Theater.
The Mansoura Opera House was one of the annexes of the palace of Amina Hanim, wife of Khedive Tawfiq.
The palace was built in 1870; then the Italian engineer, Marelli, in designed the house in 1902 and rebuilt it to contain the office of the Municipality of Mansoura, as well as rooms and a hall for the members of the Municipal Council, in addition to a theater with a capacity of 650 seats. It also includes the Municipal Council Casino and a billiard hall.
In the 1930s and early 1940s, legendary Umm Kulthum held a number of concerts there, and in the 1940s, the theater hall was designated for fire brigades until 1964. The Mansoura National Theater was reopened on the Dakahlia National Day, May 7, 1964.
The theater was closed in 2005 and all its activities were suspended to for restoration that would turn it into an opera house.
In 2010, an estimate was made for the project to restore the theater and turn it into an integrated cultural edifice that includes the Mansoura Opera House, theater, cinema and a hotel for participating teams from abroad. At the time, the cost was estimated at LE 22 million.
The Government of Japan offered to provide a grant for the project of restoration, replacement and renewal of the theater and its conversion to an operah with its annexes, which is a grant provided by the Government of Japan to cultural centers in third world countries every few years.
The grant stipulated that the building be completely evacuated from non-cultural activities such as the bank, the city council, the exhibition of productive families, and the shops. The grant was not obtained at the time due to the difficulty of evacuating these activities.
In late 2013, the Ministry of Culture decided to restore and develop the Mansoura National Theater building. Funds were provided and restoration work would have started as soon as the building was evacuated from non-cultural activities.
Due to the refusal of the bank, the productive families and some shops in the building, the eviction order remained the same until December 24, 2013.
On December 24, 2013, people woke up to the bombing of the Dakahlia Security Directorate, which is located next to the Mansoura Theater building. The building was severly damaged after the explosion due to its close proximity.
Hours after the incident, the West Mansoura district issued a decision to remove the building due to the imminent danger it imposed.
Minister of Culture at the time Saber Arab inspected the theater two days after the incident, and confirmed the Ministry of Culture's support for the restoration of the theater and its return as a cultural beacon in the city and the Delta region.
A decision was issued by the Council of Ministers to restore the building and to approve the necessary financial allocations, in cooperation with the Ministry of Planning. A few days later, the West District placed a new sign above the restoration sign confirming the decision to remove the building due to the imminent danger it imposed.
The Ministry of Culture formed a committee of professors from the Mansoura Faculty of Engineering to inspect the building to determine its suitability for restoration and to determine the proper method in the event of its restoration.
The committee was unable to inspect some parts of the building and asked the ministry to assign a company to support and solidify the building, and to remove the collapsible parts so that it could perform the tasks as required.
On March 29, 2016, Minister of Culture at the time Helmy al-Nimnim, said that a speedy schedule had been agreed upon, especially with the availability of financial allocations, as he made it clear that he requested to reduce the work period so that restoration work would be completed as soon as possible.
Soon after, the repairs stopped, but Egypt’s current Minister of Culture Inas Abdel Dayem worked to launch restoration and maintenance works again.
In this context, Head of the Egyptian Opera House Magdy Saber, said, during his recent visit, that the reasons for stopping repairs and constructions in the building came as a result of some obstacles and engineering problems. New engineering proposals have been made to preserve the building.
Saber confirmed the construction and maintenance work is in full swing, promising to complete the restoration process in two years to ensure the building’s readiness for work while preserving its original form.