As the eastern gateway of Cairo, Heliopolis is one of the most affluent suburbs of the capital. The area was established in 1905 by Belgian industrialist Édouard Louis Joseph, Baron Empain, a man so attached to the area he helped build that he insisted on being buried there.
His wish was granted upon his passing in 1929.
At its inception as a settlement, Heliopolis stood out in Cairo through its grand, almost palatial, aesthetics, as can still be seen in streets such as Ibrahim El Leqaany and areas like Korba.
The most significant homage to Baron Empain’s vision is his own home – Qasr El Baron - on the eastern side of Heliopolis on Salah Salem Street.
Contrary to popular belief, Heliopolis is simple to reach from anywhere in Cairo, especially on public transport.
Bus stations are located in Roxy Sqaure, El Hegaz Square and inside the Sheraton Heliopolis area.
As with most of Cairo, microbuses are also a good way to travel to, from and through Heliopolis.
Although the Metro doesn’t quite reach the depths of Heliopolis, the closest stations are Saray El Qobba, Hammamat El Qobba.
Plans are afoot to extend the line into the heart of Heliopolis for a new station on El Merghany Street. Nostalgia and transport come together in the form of the still popular tram, which runs through several streets including Abdel Aziz and El Mergheny Streets, and reaches Ramses Square.
Despite seeing better days, the tram is still utilised as a cheap, reliable and no-nonsense way to travel.
Unlike so much of central Cairo, Heliopolis’s streets are much more accommodating to get around on foot. Areas like Korba and Ard El Golf are distinctively quiet and tranquil. Meanwhile, areas such as Roxy Square, bring you down back to earth with the trademark Egyptian hullabaloo.
There are a lot of commercial centres and restaurants all around Heliopolis, the most famous being Citystars Centre on Omar Ibn Khattab Street.
Nicknamed the capital of Egypt, it is filled with all the most popular restaurants and shops around.
There is also Horreya Mall on El Ahram Street, which was the first mall to open in Egypt, and Florida Mall in the Sheraton Heliopolis area.
Close by, right by the Cairo Airport, one would come across the Oasis food court; while Tivoli Dome by Midan Almaza was considered the largest food court in the Guinness Book of Records of 2011.
Many figures from the arts, culture and political worlds have resided in Heliopolis; of the most famous is President Gamal Abdel Nasser, who lived in the Mansheyet El Bakry area throughout his presidency.
Scholars such as Abbas El Akkad and Bint El Shate’e; celebrities like Roushdy Abaza, Abd El Moneim Madbouly, Laila Elwy and Naglaa Fathy; as well as several significant directors and novelists. Heliopolis was truly inspiring for many artists and creators that several wrote and produced films about it; the most known of these being ‘Dehk w Le’ab w Gad w Hob’ which centres on this area during the 60s.
Earlier in the 50s Salah Abou Seif also produced a string of films and as a result we have these works of art that highlight the uniqueness of this area and how dynamic is truly is.
There are a few hotels in Heliopolis, such as Fairmont Heliopolis & Towers, Intercontinental, El Salam Concord and Radisson Blue.
Cinemas can be found on practically every main street; there are the Normandy, Roxy and Heliopolis cinemas, as well as theatres in all the malls aforementioned. Sporting clubs are also ride, including El Shams Club and Heliopolis Sporting Club.
One of the main attractions in Heliopolis is the Maryland Garden on El Hegaz Street, which was the most frequented outing in the 70s and 80s; within it is the Sindbad amusement park.
Residents of Heliopolis fiercely loyal to their area and put it in very high regard, so much to the extent that some even refer to it as the Republic of Heliopolis.