Heliopolis style

20 Nov
  The domes of Saint Mark’s Church, standing over the horizon. St. Mark’s Church is the oldest church in Heliopolis  
    Baron Empain Palace (Qasr Al Baron)- a Hindu palace. Modelled on Angkor Wat in Cambodia and the Hindu temples of Orissa (c. 1910).
Built entirely of concrete.
     
     

Korba Area,Heliopolis 1931
 
Heliopolis style is an architectural style specific to an Egyptian district in eastern Cairo. At the beginning of the 20th century, the architects of the Cairo Electric Railways and Heliopolis Oases Company which was the Belgian company responsible for the building of a new suburb “Heliopolis” ; also had a new style exclusively designed and developed to use it in the buildings of the new district.

Until today, this suburb is the only unique example which exists for this architectural form, and it is still very well preserved. It is represented by a large ensemble of buildings spanning a wide area of land, and with its typical historic form-language that relates itself to several epochs, this style is a unique mixture of the Moorish, Arabic and European styles.

The creators of this style tried to successfully implement the aesthetic and functional advantages of the three styles. Combining the qualities of these types (Moorish facades, Arabic sections, European plans) in a homogeneous unit; suitable for :

1. The general atmospheric conditions in the northern African countries (Implemented in sections).

2. The Arabic-Moorish sense of style in buildings which spread and was appreciated in the region (Implemented in facades).

3. The social traditions of the Egyptian domestic life at the turn of the century (Implemented in plans).

 
Modern Heliopolis (Arabic: مصر الجديدة‎, transliterated: Maṣr el-Gedīdah – literally “New Egypt” or “New Cairo” [since Cairo is referred to as Egypt locally]) is a district of Cairo, Egypt. The town was established by the Heliopolis Oasis Company, headed by the Belgian industrialist Édouard Louis Joseph, Baron Empain, beginning in 1905. The Baron, a well known amateur Egyptologist and prominent European entrepreneur, arrived in Egypt in January 1904, intending to rescue one of his Belgian company’s projects in Egypt; the construction of a railway line linking Matariya to Port Said. Despite losing the railway contract to the British, Empain stayed on in Egypt; a decision due to his love of the desert and/or relationship with Yvette Boghdadli.

History

In 1905, Empain established the Cairo Electric Railways and Heliopolis Oases Company, which bought a large stretch of desert some distance to the northeast of Cairo at a low price from the colonial government. His efforts culminated in 1907 with the building of the new town of Heliopolis, in the desert ten kilometers from the center of Cairo. It was designed as a “city of luxury and leisure”, with broad avenues and equipped with all necessary conveniences and infrastructure; water, drains, electricity, hotel facilities, such as the Palace Hotel and Heliopolis House, and recreational amenities including a golf course, racetrack and park. In addition, there was housing for rent, offered in a range of innovative design types targeting specific social classes with detached and terraced villas, apartment buildings, tenement blocks with balcony access and workers’ bungalows.

The new city also represented the first large scale attempt to promote its own style (Heliopolis style). Empain’s own residence however, adopted a unique style. Alexander Marcel, a French architect and a member of the prestigious French Institute, was commissioned by Empain to build him a Hindu palace. Modelled on Angkor Wat in Cambodia and the Hindu temples of Orissa, the palace was erected between 1907 and 1910. It still stands today and remains one of the finest examples of early creative use of concrete, of which it was entirely built. The chosen neighbourhood boasted some of the wealthiest Egyptian residences; to his left facing Avenue Baron was the Arabesque palace, now military headquarters, but originally the home of Boghos and Marie Nubar Pasha. It was the Pasha who assisted Baron Empain in purchasing the 6,000 acres (24 km²) of empty desert at one pound each on which he built Heliopolis. Diagonally opposite stands the former residence of Sultan Hussein Kamel, who reigned over Egypt between 1914 and 1917. Today, that is a presidential guest house.

The Heliopolis War Cemetery is located on Nabil el Wakkad street. This cemetery contains the Port Tewfik Memorial, a memorial to over 4000 soldiers of the British Indian Army who fell in the First World War, which was originally situated in Port Taufiq but was relocated to Heliopolis after its destruction in 1967.

The Basilique Catholic church situated in Al-Ahram street is a famous landmark in Heliopolis, and it is the burial place of Baron Empain. The many places of worship in the district, including Saint Maron and Saint-Rita church in Beirut street, a Jewish synagogue in Al Missalah street, and the mosques all over the city, demonstrate that the city has been living in religious tolerance since it was established.

Modern Heliopolis was originally filled mostly with foreigners and native aristocratic Egyptians. After the 1952 military coup d’état led by Nasser, it became home to much of Cairo’s educated middle class. As Cairo has expanded, the once large distance between Heliopolis and Cairo has vanished and it is now well inside the city. Because of the large growth in population, the original gardens that filled the city have mostly been built over.

Recreational facilities

Heliopolis suburb is full of recreational places, as it was initially established to offer its residents and visitors rest and relaxation. Heliopolis club is one of the most luxurious sporting clubs in Egypt. It was established along with Heliopolis in 1905. The Merryland is also a famous recreational park; it contains a lake and was at the height of its elegance in the 1960s and 70s. It now contains a dolphin show, restaurants including TGI Friday’s and a small amusement park. Other sporting clubs include El Shams Club (biggest in size and no. of members), Heliolido club, El-Ghaba club, El-Tayaran club and others. Heliopolis is full of modern cafes (Cilantro, Costa Coffee, Beanos…etc) and restaurants along with some Egyptian traditional ones. Some bars and nightclubs can also be found. Tens of cinemas can be found in Cairo and near Madinet nasr (Nasr City) , Normandy Cinema in Al-Ahram street, Cinema Roxy, Cinema Heliopolis along with the new cinemas in Horreya Mall and City Stars Intercontinental Mall.

Political importance

Heliopolis has a special political and military importance. It is the residence of the Egyptian president Mohamed Hosni Mubarak, the site of the Egyptian Presidential Palace‎ (Arabic: قصر رئاسة الجمهورية‎) and the president’s office. Almaza military air base and the Egyptian Air Force H.Q is found there also. The suburb was hit during Egypt’s war with Israel.

The present and the future

In contrast with its initial establishment, Heliopolis now is considered a main part of Cairo not just a quiet suburb. With the numbers of residents doubled several times since 1922. New extensions for the former suburb are found in the north-east, with new cities developed like El Rehab ,El Shorouk, El Obour, Badr and eventually Madinaty.

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