Heliopolis

One of the most attractive and pleasant areas of Cairo

 

  Baghdad Street Heliopolis

 

 Photos: Baghdad Street, Korba - Heliopolis

 

  Korba Heliopolis, building detail

 

 Heliopolis is a suburb of Cairo, close to the Airport and Nasr City.

It was originally built as an Oasis paradise in the Desert by the Baron, Edouard Empian, a wealthy  Belgian entrepeneur) who had a dream and made it come true.

 

Baghdad Street, Korba

 

Korba Heliopolis

 

Modern Heliopolis was built in the first decade of the 1900's and since then it has expanded and is no longer a unit on its own. He connected it to Cairo with a tramline (still existing), and encouraged people to live there or come for the day for shopping or going to Luna Park the funfair (no longer in existance).

The architects combined oriental style with european, hence the oriental buildings with covered archways in all the shopping districts. You can search on the net for more detailed information about modern Heliopolis.

Many of the original buildings remain, and due to the 100 year celebration in 2005, much renovation was undertaken.

The main area of interest is Korba, a lovely shopping district, surrounded by old villas and apartment buildings which are very interesting to see. This extends to Roxy (shopping district), and Medan Ismailia. Another interesting area is the market area "Medan El Gammah" (Square of the Mosque). You can buy just about anything there and it is very alive and not  touristic at all - a great market area used by everyone.

 

Baghdad Street Heliopolis

 

 Close to Korba is the Basilica (Church) which was also build by the Baron and modelled on Istanbul's Hagia Sofia. The Baron died in 1929 and is buried there.

Basilica, Heliopolis

The private home of the Baron was the "Baron Place". It is on Orouba Street (also known as Salah Salem - route to the airport). It is in the style of a Hindu Temple, and craftsmen were brought from Cambodia. The family of the Baron left Egypt after the revolution in 1952 and it was later sold. Due to legal problems and inappropriate plans for the place (stopped by the government), it layed empty and in ruin for perhaps 45 years or more.

But in 2005, it was bought back by the government (in exchange for desert land) and the gardens have been renovated and at last people were allowed to enter the palace and enjoy the gardens as well. As of June 2007, the Palace and gardens are no longer open to the public, but you can get a good look at it, especially from behind.  Looks like for the time being the grounds will just be just for special events, ie. concerts and TV programmes, which is a shame....

So to enjoy the best of Heliopolis, a visit to Korba itself is in order. There are some very nice shops, coffee shops etc. To get there you could take a taxi asking for Korba - Heliopolis (Heliopolis in arabic is Masr Gedidah) which means new Egypt. Or you could take the Metro (Underground) to Sariya El Kobba station and get a taxi from there (costs about 3.00 LE).

There is also a park full of coffee shops and restaurants (up market), lake and amusements for children. It is called Merryland and is only a short ride from Korba, just after Roxy, a good place to go. It was once the racecourse of Heliopolis and had the fun fair too, but at least is is still a big open space with nice trees. attached to it is another park (the left side), which is much more simple - has lots of nice old trees, but this park can get very busy on Public Holidays, as it is a cheap place for people to go.

Heliopolis is the greenest part of Cairo. This is due to the original planning of Baron to have a garden type city, but also because Hosni Mubarak lives here and the Parliamentary palace is also here (at the end of Baghdad Street Korba,) but it is hard to see it due to the high security walls. It was originaly  the Palace Hotel, and even served as a military hospital in the first World War.

Views of Baron Palace - Heliopolis (back and side) 

Baron Palace - rear view

Baron Palace, Heliopolis (side view)