Modern Heliopolis 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.
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.