Between Chaos and Charm
Cairo is a difficult city to live in. It’s harsh and unforgiving, often rebelling against its residents and raging war against them for mistreating her. It’s perfectly understandable; we treat the city cruelly and it treats us cruelly in return.
Among all the chaos that is this city, we find ourselves loving it profoundly in some magical moments, like right after it rains, or when the sun descends and makes spectacular splashes of colour across the sky. The truth of the matter is, this city is a part of us and we are a part of it, with all the chaos and repulsiveness, with all the spectacles of beauty and the special corners of it that we simply adore.
Among these special corners is the district of Heliopolis.
Residents of Heliopolis have a special bond with it and an attachment to it that is not easily broken. There are things about this district that captivate the heart and let you forgive all the harsh, cruel moments we see in this city; those when we feel like it’s trying to kick us out of it, that it has forsaken us and doesn’t want us anymore.
Heliopolis residents also deeply relate to particular food and drink outlets across the district that cannot be found anywhere else. Abu Haidar; the Shawerma guy in Roxy, Ice Cream Magic and the wildly famous “laban” ice cream. You can’t call it vanilla, it’s called “laban” and you must respect its name. The Al-Madeena Al-Monawwara dairy shop with its ice cream stand outside, not to mention the pudding and the trifle that are simply to die for. Farghaly; the fresh juice store and the renowned Fakhfafeena. You simply cannot have one like it anywhere else!
Anyone who grew up in Heliopolis went to the Merry Land as a child. We all rode the “Pidalo” and fed the ugly, black fish with their horribly long moustaches. We also all took a walk in Roxy, with all the stores that are bulging with apparel and shoes of the worst taste. We all love Korba with its magnificent architecture and landmark buildings.
Heliopolis is also known for its small shops and tiny boutiques. Khalil the Tailor in Korba, Qawmeya Stationery store in Hegaz and the nameless shoe repair store in Marghany Street; almost everyone who grew up in Heliopolis knows them and has dealt with them before.
Among the landmarks that make Heliopolis uniquely charming is its beautiful churches. The masterpiece that is the Saint Fateema church, marking itself as a remnant of tomorrow’s history with its pink bricks and spectacular location. The Basilica Church in Ahram Street and the dangerous curve it made the street take, proudly marking its territory and forcing everyone and everything to work around its existence. And the Saint Mark church in Cleopatra Street with the tiny, narrow road it’s located on and the bells shaking the entire area with every wedding ceremony.
Yes, this city is cruel and, yes living here is no easy endeavour, but there are those special corners that make it charming. Those corners make us come back with love; they are what make this city home.
To me, Heliopolis is what makes this place my home.