Coptic Cairo, Cairo
My tour group and I were on our way to see the church of Saint Samaan but in order to do that you have to go through Garbage City . BEWARE If you have a sensitive olfactory nerve (that is strong smells bother you) please bring a mask!
In 1969 the governor of Cairo decreed that all trash collectors, Zabbaleen, would move to the garbage dump that happens to be at the bottom of Mokattam Mountain. They built primitive houses called zaraayib , translated means pigsties. They have no running water, sewer system or electricity. They live with the livestock they raise, goats, donkeys, pigs. The Zabbaleen are viewed by Muslim Egyptians as the equivalent of the Untouchables in India.
The Zabbaleen collect more than 4000 tons of garbage a day using either a pickup truck or a donkey and cart. Usually it is the men who leave at dawn to begin collecting the garbage from the streets and houses of Cairo. They return whenever they have a full load and if there's time they go back out again. Women and children sort the garbage which can take up to 10-12 hours daily. They give the organic waste to the pigs (which Muslims are forbidden to touch) thus fattening up their pigs so they can sell the pork to local tourist facilities. Once the garbage is sorted they sell the materials to factories. One example is granulators are used to change opaque colored plastic into small plastic pellets; these pellets can be made into garbage bags and plastic hangers. Other crafts are also made from rags and paper and sold as crafts. This is what they live on.
The women and children recycle 80% of Cairo's 4000 tonnes of garbage, in contrast to what the Western countries recycle; which is a low 20-25%
**NOTE** I think the Western countries should take some tips from the Zabbaleen and how they manage to recycle so much of the garbage.
There was also a documentary done about 4 children and how they transition into life.
Garbage Dreams A very interesting documentary. I just hope I have the correct URL for it.
To find out where Garbage City is please refer to my tip for "The Cave Church - Mokattam Mountain"
There is more to Cairo than Islamic culture and pyramids. A small but important Christian minority has coexisted in Egypt with the dominant Islamic culture for centuries. They profess the Coptic faith in extremely old and peculiar churches where the original rituals from the very first centuries of Christianity have been preserved. The highlights of the Coptic quarter include the crypt of the Holy Family under St. Sergius Church, the Ben Ezra Synagogue, and the Nunnery of St. George.
We found the adjacent Christian cemetery a fascinating place, where the tombs revealed how rich a history Egypt has had and how ignorant we are about Cairo's multi-culturality.
Coptic Cairo is easily accessible from Central Cairo with the metro (Mar Girgis station).
After a short stop in Old Cairo, the Holy Family took a boat and sailed to Maadi, today a district of modern Cairo, but in earliest Pharaonic times a district of Memphis, the capital of Egypt then.
The old church was built on the place where the Holy Family boarded on the boat which carried them towards southern Egypt and is dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
The church was later named "Al-Adaweya", meaning the Virgin''s Church "of the Ferry" (in fact, the name of the modern district of today, Maadi, comes from the Arabic word meaning the "crossing point").
An important miracle took place in Maadi Church on Friday, the third of the Coptic month of Baramhat (March 12, 1976): a Holy Bible with unknown origin was brought by the Nile waters to the shore, under the church.
The Holy Bible was opened to Isaiah book, at the page where is written: “Blessed be Egypt, my people” (Is.19:25).
The Bible can be found inside the church, in the Sanctuary of the Virgin.
At the back of Ben Ezer's Temple, in Old Cairo, is a very deep well.
This is the place where the coffer in which Moses was placed by his mother was found.
If you throw a stone into the well you can still hear the sound of the water.
It’s an interesting experience as the Coptic-Orthodox mass is in Arabic and for a stranger sounds sometimes like a Muslim recitation.
The church is divided in two parts and the men stay on the left side while the women stay on the right. The church is full of kids and the Coptic women in Cairo seem more liberal that the normal Arabic women, only a few wearing the traditional outfit, the others preferring a more European style.
Although is in Arabic, some parts of the mass can be easily understood by a Christian.
While exploring the Coptic Quarter, where the Egyptian Christians live, we couldn't miss its fascinating churches. One of them was the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, also known as 'The Hanging' Coptic Church.The church is so called because it was built over a Roman gate-tower.
It was 1st built in the 4th century, but rebuilt many times.
There are a lot of Coptic treasures in it.
Visit the Coptic Museum:
(1) founded in 1908 and it is advisable that you visit this first, for an orientation of the area. Just southwest of it is the Hanging Church (2) (The Church of the Virgin Mary), built into the walls of the Water Gate of the Roman fortress. It is possibly the oldest Christian church in Egypt, dating to around the 4th Century. From here, the possibility exists that one must exit the first entrance due to construction work in the area and head up Mar Girgis north a few steps to a second entrance. This entrance leads into the Monastery and Church of St. George (3). This is not an old church, dating only from 1909, but there has been a church in Coptic Cairo dedicated to he Martyr since the 10th century. Turn left outside the door to St. George and the path leads to the Church of St. Sergius (4) (Abu Serga), which legend has it is built atop one of the sites where the Holy Family rested on their flight from Herod. Continuing on this path brings one first to the Ben Ezra Synagogue (5), which is Egypt's oldest and dates to the 9th Century. Past that is St. Barbara (6), named for the young girl who was martyred for trying to convert her father to Christianity. There is also a gate that leads to the Greek Orthodox cemetery, which surrounds the complex to the east.
the copte district is very special,with very ancien christian sites and churches,at the south of cairo,this area is particularly poor.You know that 'copte',which is the name for the christian community of egypt,sudan,and ethiopia,comes from 'gypt'='egypt'