Heliopolis is a suburb of
Cairo, Egypt. Established in 1905 by the Heliopolis Oasis
Company which was owned by Edouard Louis Joseph (Baron
Empain), a Belgian industrialist, this district is now a
major part of the capital city and the number of residents
has doubled 1922.
Originally planned to be a city of “luxury and pleasure”,
Heliopolis had wide avenues complete with necessary
utilities such as water, drainage, electricity, and visitor
accommodations such as the Heliopolis House and Palace
There were even recreational facilities such as a
racetrack, golf course, and park. Houses for rent
(which were presented in a variety of designs
targeting different social classes) were available
as well as apartments, tenement houses with
balconies, and bungalows for the workers of the
With all this building and development was born a
unique style of architecture called Heliopolis
style. A successful mixture of Moorish facades,
European plans, and Arabic sections, Heliopolis
style implements the aesthetic and functional
purpose of these three architectural styles.
initial efforts using this style are remarkably well
preserved in present-day Helipolis.But the actual abode of Baron Empain was not done in the
Heliopolis style. Rather, it looked more like a Hindu palace
(which it was meant to resemble) inspired by the Angkor Wat
in Cambodia and the Orissa Hindu temples. Finished in 1910,
it was designed by French architect, Alexander Marcel. The
finest example of a building built entirely in concrete, the
Baron Empain Palace (Qasr Al Baron) still stands today as a
testimony to the creative use of this building material.
Aside from the Qasr Al Baron, there are many other buildings
of note in Heliopolis namely, the Heliopolis War Cemetery
which houses the Port Tewfik Memorial, a memorial to British
Indian Army soldiers who died during WWI. The memorial had
originally been located in Port Taufiq but was transferred
to Heliopolis after it was destroyed in 1967.
carries the distinction of being the location of the
Basilique Catholic Church, the final resting place
of Baron Empain. On Beirut Street there are also the
St. Maron and Saint Rita Churches, on Al Missalah
Street is a Jewish synagogue, and all over the city
are a smattering of mosques, testifying to the
religious freedom practiced in the city.
The residents of Heliopolis when it was first built
were mostly foreigners and upeer-class Egyptians.
After Nasser’s coup d’etat of 1952, middle class
citizens started making their homes here.
expansion of the capital city, the line that
separated Cairo from Heliopolis started to blur and
the former became integral to the city.
Several of the original
spacious gardens were built over as the population in the
area increased. The Heliopolis Club, a reminder of the
original purpose of Heliopolis, is one of the most decadent
and luxurious sports clubs in the country.
Bigger and with
more memberships is the El Shams Club. Other clubs include Heliolido, El-Ghaba, and El-Tayaran. Recreationa facilities
in the district include the Merryland (originally a park
with a lake) which now has a dolphin show, a number of
signature fast food centers (such as TGIF), and a small