El Matareya (Arabic: المطرية ) is a district in the Eastern Area of Cairo, Egypt. The district is unrelated to the coastal town in the Dakahlia Governorate, that is also named El Matareya. The district holds the ruins of the ancient Egyptian city of Heliopolis, one of the oldest cities of ancient Egypt.


The name, El Matareya, is thought to come from the Latin word Mater which means ‘mother’, and is from the presence of the ‘tree of the Virgin Mary’ in this district.


It,with the nearby Ain Shams district, had a notable history during Egypt’s Pharaonic period as a part of ancient Heliopolis. The district has archaeological sites of the period, some only recently discovered, beneath its current structures. In Ancient Roman times Heliopolis belonged to the Augustamnica province. Legend tells of the Christian Holy Family sheltering under a tree in Heliopolis, presently known as ‘the tree of the Virgin Mary’, now with the Chapel of the Virgin in El Matareya.

In fact,The French naturalist Pierre Belon du Mans mentions visiting El Matareya in his 1547 journey to Egypt. El Matareya once had the villas of prominent people. The famous Egyptian poet Ahmed Shawqi lived in a villa he named ‘Karmet Ibn Hani’ or Ibn Hani’s Vineyard كرمة ابن هانىء here, near the palace of the Khedive Abbas II at Saray El-Qobba, until his exile from Egypt at World War I.

Historic elements

The Masalla Obelisk

In fact,The El Masalla area of the district contains the ancient Masalla Obelisk, or Misalla (Arabic: المسلة, trans. obelisk), one of the Pharaonic era obelisks that still remain in Egypt. It is the only surviving element of Heliopolis standing in its original position, and of the great Temple of Ra Atum constructed by Pharaoh Senusret I (1971—1926 BCE) of the Twelfth Dynasty. The 68 ft (20.73 m) tall red granite obelisk weighs 120 tons—240,000 pounds (110,000 kg).