CAIRO — Heliopolis

Most foreign visitors enter Cairo through Heliopolis which is where the airport is situated. It was built in the early 20th century as a ‘garden city’ for the rulers of Egypt. Since the 1950’s a lot of apartment houses have been built to accommodate Cairo’s sprawl. The main street is Sharia al-Ahram where you will find Urubu Palace which was once a hotel but is now the office of the Egyptian president. On this street you will find two cafes that have been here since the beginning of Heliopolis, The Amphitron and Palmyra which are worth a visit. Also you will find the Basilica where the founder of Heliopolis, Baron Empain the Belgian Industrialist, is buried. There is also the Baron’s Palace which is a hindu-style temple modelled on the temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Although the exterior is still in good condition the inside has been gutted and entry is not allowed.


The ancient site of Heliopolis lies in a district known as Mataria, or Matariya. For years it was mostly so isolated that tourists rarely visited the site and all that was really there for them to see was a red granite Obelisk belonging to Senusret I (though the oldest in Egypt which originally stood with its twin before the Temple of Amun), some tombs in the area and for the Christian explorers, the nearby Tree of the Holy Virgin. Today, the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) is more fully developing the site and someday it may become a much more important tourist destination.