The Definitive Guide to Living in the Capital , Cairo , Egypt

City Life

Cairo Guide: Life in Korba

Cairo Guide: Life in Korba
    written by
    Aleksandra Sekinger

    One of the most attractive and exciting neighbourhoods
    in Cairo, and perhaps Egypt,
    is Korba, located in the Heliopolis
    district. Built as a sanctuary for wealthy foreigners and aristocrats, the
    earliest development of Heliopolis
    was in the Korba neighbourhood during the early 20th century. Though modern-day
    Heliopolis has
    spread far beyond the limits of Korba, Korba remains its cultural centre. Modern-day
    Korba is a quaint shopping district that boasts original architecture,
    fascinating cultural sites as well as some of Cairo’s finest cafés and restaurants.

    Architecture

    Korba is internationally renowned for its
    architecture. The unique architectural design, commissioned by Belgian Baron
    Empain, combines Islamic and art-deco styles. The elegant balconies and
    spacious European-style sidewalks are located amidst buildings of stylised decorative
    patterns, emulating the arabesque architectural tradition. Circular domes also
    crown several of the buildings, enforcing the influence of Islamic architecture.

    These styles unite further in their mutual regard for
    geometric shapes. Columns, windows, domes and even air conditioning unit covers
    follow a visually balanced ratio of shapes that lends an elegant, functional
    and glamorous feel to the city. The heart of Korba is a walkable neighbourhood
    of shops with antique francophone signs surrounded by villas, as well as old
    apartment buildings with tremendous allure and architectural integrity.

    In 2005, for the neighbourhood’s centennial
    anniversary, several buildings underwent major renovation. There are still
    stringent laws about how the original architecture of the building or
    foundation cannot be altered. This has allowed for the neighbourhood to maintain
    a strong, cohesive visual narrative. Korba was recently beautifully captured on
    film in Egyptian director Ahmad Abdalla’s feature film Heliopolis,
    as well as in the Canadian film Cairo
    Time
    .

    History & Sites

    In 1907, Belgian Baron Empain began building
    modern-day Heliopolis, a Cairo suburb that he envisioned would attract the
    residence of wealthy aristocrats and encourage affluent foreigners to visit for
    the day; entertaining themselves in parks, restaurants and shops. A tram
    connecting Korba to Ramsis Square ,
    which is still operating today, facilitated transportation to the wealthy
    suburb.

    Located on Orouba
    Street , the Baron Palace
    is the former residence of Baron Empain. The Palace was designed by French
    architect Alexandre Marcel and was modelled after two Hindu temples in Cambodia and India . Unfortunately, the palace is
    not currently open to the public, but it can be viewed from the street, and
    especially from the side-street that faces the building’s rear.

    The Basilica of Notre Dame, a Catholic church on Al Ahram Street,
    was commissioned by the Baron and is modelled after the Hagia Sofia in Istanbul . It’s also where
    the Baron was buried in 1929. Other antiquated places of worship include Saint
    Maron and Saint Rita church on Beirut
    Street as well as a Jewish synagogue on Al Missalah Street.
    Many contemporary mosques lie on the outskirts of Korba, alluding to the once
    harmonious fusion of the three Abrahamic faiths in the neighbourhood.

    Dining & Nightlife

    Korba is famous in Cairo for its dining scene. If the weather is
    nice, head to Le Chantilly
    to enjoy their outdoor garden space while you snack on their delicious fondue
    and other Swiss delicacies. Don’t miss the opportunity to try their delectable sweet
    dessert profiterole suchard.

    There are also several recommended cafés, including Harris Café, a
    quaint place ideal for meeting up with friends or enjoying a light lunch. Don’t
    miss a visit to L’Amphitrion
    if you’re in Korba. As old as Heliopolis
    itself, this restaurant was once a social hall for soldiers during WWII, as well as
    a hip hangout for rich aristocrats and Mediterranean expats. One of Heliopolis’
    popular bars Deals
    is also located in Korba. This bar is great for an intimate gathering with
    friends or a football match– and the prices are reasonable too!

    But if all of this sounds too shi-shi foo-foo for you , and you’d rather kick it baladi-style,
    Korba’s got that too. Whether it’s Ahwet el Sawaisa or Koshary Hind,
    Korba also delivers up Heliopolis’
    cheaper eats and hangouts.

    Korba
    Street
    Festival

    Since its centennial anniversary and major renovation
    in 2005, Korba has been holding annual street fairs on Baghdad Street. The festival takes place
    in May, before Cairo ’s
    heat becomes unbearable.

    The festival lasts the whole day from 10AM to 10PM,
    and includes a parade, live music and various food vendors with interesting
    international food and homemade crafts. There are also paints and chalks
    available for children to play with. In previous years, Egyptian bands like
    Wust El Balad performed and there have been puppet shows featuring songs by Om
    Kalthoum. Unfortunately, the Korba Street Festival was cancelled in 2010 for
    unknown reasons.

    If you’re looking for a fun activity for a free Friday
    afternoon, have a walk around Korba. You’re sure to fall in love with its
    beautiful architecture, trendy shops and great eateries.

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