Coptic CairoMarch 6, 2020 in Egypt ⋅ ☀️ 20 °C
WARNING! This entry became longer than I expected, but there are pictures this time.
Our first full day in Cairo was basically a free day as most of the tour group arrives today. We booked a private tour of Coptic Cairo which took us to some of the Christian churches in the area (Coptic refers to a part of the Christian church that started in Egypt). There are only 2 religions in Egypt - Muslim (75-80%) and then Orthodox Christians.
The tour was excellent and our guide was very informative. We travelled to the Monastery of St Simon, also known as the Cave church, built into the Mokattam mountain. With a seating capacity of 20,000 people, it is the largest church in Africa. There is a belief that the mountain was moved to settle a debate between a Jewish leader and a Christian leader in the 10th century where "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed then you can command this mountain to move. Nothing is impossible" (Matthew 17:20). So the story goes, the mountain was lifted due to St Simon's great faith. Other parts of the story may have been embellished somewhat... for example, a part of the roof fell away to expose a carved statue of the virgin Mary and child, that was said to be natural, not man-made. Looked a little too perfect to not have been carved by man.
Nevertheless, the site was fascinating and not often visited because it is located within an area known as garbage city. The inhabitants of this area are garbage collectors who sort, salvage and sell the rubbish. There are around 15,000 people who live here and most of them are Coptic Christians which is why this church exists here. It is not on the tourist map as such probably because access is very limited - you could not fit a bus up the narrow alleys etc.
Although not part of the tour, our guide (who is Muslim) wanted to show us a large mosque. As usual, women have to cover up so I donned a green hooded gown that made me look like some ancient druid. Brad thought I looked like Yoda from Star Wars. Abdul (our guide), explained some aspects of his faith. There was a group of school girls who followed me and it turned out they wanted to have their photo taken with me. A white foreigner in a mosque is unusual... or maybe they thought I was Yoda (hahaha! ). Then they wanted photos with Brad.
We moved on to the Hanging Church, so called because it is built upon the original Babylonian fortress so in a sense is hanging on to it. It is there oldest church in Egypt, built around 3rd Century. Then onto a Greek Roman church of St George and finally Saints Sergius and Bacchus Church which is believed to be where the Holy Family, Joseph, Mary and the infant Jesus Christ, rested at the end of their journey into Egypt. There is a crypt beneath this church where they lived for a few months. At each stop, Abdul insisted in taking our photo which normally we wouldn't do.
Finally, we stopped for lunch - a traditional Egyptian meal called Koshry at Abou Tarek (A restaurant apparently famous for this dish). A vegetarian meal consisting of chick peas , lentils, rice, pasta and fried onions covered in a tomato flavoured sauce. It smelt good and was very tasty and very filling.
So, a busy morning. Tonight we meet our tour group. I believe there are 38 people all up, so quite a large group. Sorry about the length of this footprint and congratulations if you managed to get to the end.Read more