El Palacio Egipcio, Medellín’s Egyptian-Style Mansion

The main façade of El Palacio Egipcio

photography by: Omri Westmark

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Colombia and Egypt are more than 9,300 kilometers apart at their closest points, separated by the vastness of the Amazon River, the Atlantic Ocean and the Sahara Desert. Despite their sheer geographical divide, the two countries are unexpectedly linked by a sole unusual edifice that flummoxes any passerby who happens to be around.

Located in the heart of Medellín is a conspicuously odd building that looks as though it was teleported from a distant place and time. As its name and appearance might imply, El Palacio Egipcio (The Egyptian Palace) pays tribute to Ancient Egypt, mimicking its architectural style quite convincingly.


This urban curiosity was the brainchild of Don Fernando Estrada, a Colombian optometrist, astronomer and an ardent Egyptophile. It was his trip to the Land of the Nile in 1911 that made Estrada exceedingly passionate about Egypt, something that only intensified in the following years as he collected a treasure trove of books, artworks and ideas from that faraway part of the world.


Estrada’s obsession with Egypt culminated in 1928, when he opted to construct his dreamhouse in the city of Medellín, recreating a Pharaonic mansion thousands of kilometers away from where the ancient civilization thrived millennia ago. Designed by architect Nel Rodríguez Hauesler, the Egyptian-style building featured a series of Lotiform columns, an iconic tower and even an inner courtyard adorned with various Pharaonic ornaments.


Up until he passed away in 1958, Estrada lived here with his wife, Soledad, and 14 children. Following her death somewhere in the 1970’s, the house changed hands multiple times, serving as a restaurant, a carpentry shop, a school, a studio for designers and also a homeless shelter. As of today, the Egyptian Palace is home to an art center as well as a venue for performances and lectures, and is open for visitors from Sunday to Friday.


Curiously, throughout its history, the building has been associated with several urban legends. For instance, as an aficionado of ancient Egypt, Estrada had an ample collection of artifacts within the confines of his home, including a replica of the illustrious Nefertiti Bust. However, it was rumored for decades that Estrada’s bust is in fact the original sculpture while its counterpart at the Neues Museum in Berlin is a reproduction.


Another tale revolves around a secret passage found by one of the building’s recent owners, Alberto Montoya. The mysterious corridor linked the palace with an adjacent house, leading many to speculate that Estrada and his family never actually lived at their sumptuous edifice but rather used the premises for secret meetings by the Freemasonry.


Whether these stories are true or not is up for you to determine, one thing is evident, though, El Palacio Egipcio is impossible to ignore, evoking a sense of surrealism among its beholders.