The Cultural Palace was overcrowded at the occasion of the Amateur Theatre Festival when a burning candle lid paper décor on the stage and started a conflagration. A stampede erupted towards a single exit. Fire extinguishing equipment was locked in a far-away room, and fire engines and ambulances arrived late and unprepared People burned but died also in the stampede. In the aftermath the Minister of Culture, Farouk Hosni, resigned, a move that was later revoked by President Hosni Mubarak. In May 2006 eight cultural bureaucrats were convicted for negligence and received 10-year prison sentences.
The fire affected specifically the theatrical community of Egypt who had come to the Cultural Palace on that day for the festival. September 5 has been named the National Day of Theatre in remembrance.