"The Obelisk of Ancient Heliopolis" Al Matariyah by bdougherty

Al Matariyah Travel Guide: 14 reviews and 41 photos

The obelisk is not easy to find - although it has an entrance fee and guards posted at the site there were no tourists in the entire area the day we were here. We took a taxi from present-day Heliopolis to Matariya but our driver had no idea what we were looking for. He dropped us off at the site of the Virgin Tree and we found a policeman who knew the loaction of the monument. We continued north in another cab and eventually saw the tip of the obelisk looming overhead.
The two guards in charge of the grounds did an outstanding job of ensuring we were not bothered by the dozens of neighborhood children who were present in the park area surrounding the obelisk. They continually swatted them with slender twigs they had pulled from one of the nearby trees. The children were relentless in their desire to speak to us and shake our hands - seeming to make the it a contest between them and the guards as to how many lashes would find their mark.
There are some ruins along the perimeter of the park - not much in the way of interpretation but that is ok as the place is utterly unique and makes you feel that you have stumbled apon something nearly unknown to the rest of the world.

This is the oldest surviving obelisk (B.C. 20 century), within all the existing 26 standing obelisks worldwide. Heliopolis is 15 km northeast from downtown Cairo.
Al-Matereia area occupies the ancient site on which the Pharaonic city of Oun was located. The Greeks called this city Heliopolis. This obelisk was built for Pharaoh Sesostris I (Senusert I) (The 12th Dynasty, reigned B.C. 1972-1928) It is 20.4 meters high and weighs 121 tons. It is made out of red granite.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:no crowds - unusual experience
  • Cons:located in neighborhood reputed to be home to Islamic extremists
  • Last visit to Al Matariyah: Jan 2005
  • Intro Updated Nov 30, 2008
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