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In 1905 the Belgian industrialist Édouard Louis Joseph, Baron Empain, bought a swath of land northwest of Cairo. His plan was to build a new self-sustaining community in the desert with housing, shops, and recreation facilities, which came complete with luxuries like street lighting, water, and drainage plus a tram link to the capital. The town he called Heliopolis became a hit with upper-class
Egyptians and expat movers and shakers. It remained an oasis of well-manicured mansions, of weekends at the country clubs, and of cocktail parties with the social elite until the coup d'état of 1952.
By the 1990s, Heliopolis had been swallowed by the massive growth of Cairo and was decaying under decades of neglect. However, Suzanne Mubarak, wife of President Hosni Mubarak and a native of Heliopolis, pledged to save her home neighborhood, a campaign which has revived the heart of Heliopolis. It's now one of Cairo's most charming districts.
The area known as Mari Girgis (Saint George) is centuries older than the Islamic city of Cairo. But even calling it Coptic Cairo isn't entirely...
In the middle of the 19th century, the slavishly Francophile khedive Isma'il laid out this district on a Parisian plan across the old canal...