the Coptic Quarter of Cairo is one of the oldest in the city and is part of Old Cairo as it was started in the 1rst Century, when Saint Mark the Apostle went into egpyt to Prosletyze the new Religion of Christianity to the Egyptians. It has survived countless persucutions and conquests during it's almost 2,000 year history and in this district are some of the famous Landmarks of Coptic Christians and other Eastern Christian Denominations are located like the Hanging Church, the Abu Sergis Church (where the holy family stayed during the flight from bethlehem). The Church of Saint Barbara and More.
at the European Quarter of Cairo sits the other Christian Quarter, composed of Roman Catholics and Mainline Protestants.
Coptic Cairo is a part of Old Cairo which encompasses the Babylon Fortress, the Coptic Museum, the Hanging Church, the Greek Church of St. George and many other Coptic churches and historical sites.
The Hanging Church is one of Cairo's most famous Coptic Orthodox Churches.
The Church of the Virgin Mary, built into the walls of the Water Gate of the Roman fortress. the Monastery and Church of St. George . Turn left outside the door to St. George and the path leads to the Church of St. Sergius. Abu Serga. Continuing on this path brings one first to the Ben Ezra Synagogue. Past that is St. Barbara. There is also a gate that leads to the Greek Orthodox cemetery.
Here's the things you can see during your visit to old Cairo:
The Hanging Church
Church of St Sergius
Church of St George
Convent of St George
Ben Ezra Synagogue
Mosque of Amr Ibn Al-Aas
How to get there :
Take the subway (costs 1 Egyptian pound) from Downtown to Mer Girgis station and you'll find yourself outside Mar Girgis Church
The admission fee are for free for almost all the sites there except for the Coptic Museum.
You can find several Bazaar stores but not so pushy as the one at Khan el Khalili.
Coptic Cairo has a lot of sights to enumerate but let me give an overview and how to get there.
After doing the Pyramid complex tour on my own, yeah I was really tired and want to retire to bed but it was still early in the afternoon, so I took a shower and decided to roam around. I took the metro Line 1 (Line 2 was the one I took in the morning to Giza station) at the nearby Sadat Station and got off at the 4th metro station called Mar Girgis station. Right when you emerged on the ground level, you'll be immediately greeted by those coptic structures. The Babylon Fortress, the hanging church, the greek church of st. george, the coptic museum -- all beside each other.
One thing I've noticed in the area is the serenity, I felt this peaceful feeling in the area, it was calm, it was quite different from the other tourist areas in the central Cairo, not too much people are there since I came late in the afternoon, just a couple of tourists. Even the people on the souvenir shops and several restarants are calm and not persistents, only one shop owner approached me and said that I can visit his shop, and if I see something I want - buy, otherwise just have a cup of tea. I thought -- that was so nice and civil. His kids approached me and just want me to take their pics and they were so shy but charming.
There's a presence of military troup just near the cemetary area (wearing white uniforms), and when I was about to tke a pic, one passersby said don't take pics of the militaries, it's not allowed, and I said, no, I was just taking the pic of the cemetery, and the guy smiled back at me.
Surprisingly, this area is quite different, the atmosphere is calm, people don't look at you much, shops aren't annoying, restaurants are friendly, in fact people there are genuinely friendly -- am I in Cairo? Like seriously, because when I came back to my hotel, the ambience in the surroundings changed and coptic Cairo is just 4 metro stations away from Tahrir.
Coptic Cairo is a small area where so many sights - churches, cemeteries, convent, museum, synagogue are squeezed in a clean, quiet and friendly district.
It's quite interesting really. In fact I was amused by this area.
Egypt was one of the first countries to embrace Christianity, which became an official religion in 4th century A.D. Egyptian Christians are known as Copts, hence, the name Coptic Cairo for the area where they first settled. Coptic Cairo is uncharacteristically tranquil and quite a pleasant area to walk around.
Very little, however, remains of the original settlement as the annual inundation of the Nile had destroyed most of the original structures. What visitors see now are mostly reproductions or restorations. There are so many points of interest within Coptic Cairo. my favorites from which are:
1) The Hanging Church - built in 9th century A.D. on top of the Water Gate of Roman Babylon (hence, the name) in honor of the Virgin Mary. I love the light filtering through the windows above over the church's colorful interiors - very solemn. Its 13 columns are said to represent Christ and the 12 disciples with the darker one symbolizing Judas.
2) Church of St George - built in honor of the Mar Girgis (St George), its colorful stained glass is beautiful. The original church was built in the 10th century, but had to be rebuilt several times following several fires. Look for the image of St George housed in some special enclave to your left when you enter the church.
3) Coptic Museum - this offers an excellent glimpse into the Coptic Christian culture featuring architecture, religious art, textiles and garments and literature. The exhibits are well laid out and professionally labeled. One drawback are the rude tourist police at the entrance who treat every camera-toting tourist with intense suspicion.
4) Greek Orthodox Cemetery - peaceful and serene (pun not intended), the shady trees provide respite from the scorching sun, while you read epitaphs and take snaps of interesting tombs and mausoleums.
Coptic Cairo is a fascinating little enclave within the city of Cairo.
In 2004 it was closed for restoration, but I visited several times before that.
Entrance is down an underground passage.
The first building you see is the Convent of St George. Only the garden can be entered, as the convent is inhabited by nuns.
Other places, almost cheek by jowel as the enclave is very small, are :
the Church of St George,
Church of St Sergius--.
This church is built on a site traditionally claimed to have been visited by the holy family during their flight into Egypt.. When we were there a group of women surrounded the barricaded steps leading down to the actual site, and spontaneously broke into singing "Oh ,Come, All Ye Faithful". It was so unexpected, but quite moving.
The Church of St Barbara
The Synagogue of Ben Ezra--.
The synagogue was originally the Church of St Michael the Archangel. It was then bought by the Jewish community in Cairo.
Finally is the Church of the Virgin [al Mu'allagah] which rests on the two bastions of the Roman Gate. When we visited it was being repainted.
Apart from the churches there is a large gift shop where you can also buy drinks and water.
Side streets lead to the dwellings of the Coptic community who live there. Woman can be seen carrying their shopping, and Coptic priests wandering about.
Coptic Cairo is a great place to visit. There are working churches, monastarys, synagogs, convents and much more to see.
Its a great rabbit warren of interest everywhere you go.
They are still very active in restoring the area to it's former glory.
Coptic Cairo is an ancient area of Cairo dating back to the 6th century BC. It is most famous for its link to the Holy Family who traditionally visited the area during the Flight into Egypt, seeking refuge from Herod.
There is so much to see here and as we strolled the narrow dusty streets we got a sense of Egypt past and present that is so steeped relgious belief.
The Jewish Synagogue
After the fall of Jerusalem in around 70 AD, the area saw an influx of Jews, and it's here where Egypt's oldest synagogue, Ben Ezra is located. No pictures allowed here and the security protested when I took a pictures of the outside
Our guide encouraged us to take the short walk to the old graveyard. Here, behind the church we see a mixture of old and relatively new tombs .It’s a rough trek to get there through a disgusting entrance of trash and rubble to reach the run down site .
By now my brain is in overload and I couldn't absorb another historical fact so a quick look was enough for us.
Next we descend (filthy steps) to the original streets of the city to pay a visit to Saints Sergius and Bacchus Church.
Dating back to the 6th century BC this church is built upon the Holy Crypt where Joseph Mary and Jesus are said to have taken refuge for three months during their flight into Egypt fleeing Herod.
The Church itself is quite a simple structure and thankfully nothing like other religious sites we have seen, like Lordes in France which is wildly ornate and "built for the tourist dollar’.
We aren’t permitted to take pictures of the crypt however, I’m not really sure why. Maybe it is to boost the postcard sales. Really there’s not much to photograph anyway as its just a sort of cellar.
Coptic Cairo is located south of the city centre.It is the heartland of Cairo's important Coptic community.Only few church survive in this place altho' once there were more than 20 churches here.Like the Hanging Church with foundations dating from the 4th century AD,it could be the oldest church in Egypt.Then the St.Sergius Church,it is said to have been built at the site where Joseph,MAry and the infant Jesus took shelter after fleeing from the Holy Land.Then a church converted to a Synagogue.But the main attraction is the Coptic Museum,it houses all the aspects of Coptic art and worship,from tapestries,early handwritten Bibles and icons taken from churches and monasteries all over Egypt.
Although modified repeatedly over the centuries, the Mosque of Amr ibn el-As is the first mosque ever built in Egypt and the whole of the African continent. It is also one of the few remaining structures from el-Fustat, Cairo's predecessor. The mosque was originally constructed in the 7th century, by Amr ibn el-As, the leader of the Arab armies of Islam, just to the north of the Roman Fort of Babylon which is now known as Coptic Cairo. However, numerous expansions and restorations to the mosque have followed, effectively erasing the original mosque. Nonetheless, some of the ancient architecture, with some recycled Roman columns, can still be seen. It is worth noting that this mosque was also a centre for religious studies centuries before el-Azhar was established.
This is were the Christian used (and still) live in Cairo. There are walls that circle the district that is the oldest of the modern part of Cairo. I think it was the only place in Cairo I used the metro and not the taxi. When I got out of the metro I saw several policemen but the whole area was quite and peaceful in general. The first thing I saw was the old roman walls (ok, just part of it). What I liked most was to walk among the small cobbled alleys(pic 1) trying to visit some of the churches.
The church of Saint George(pic 2) is a greek orthodox church (originally built in 10th century) and it seemed I was back in Greece for a while with all the signs in greek and so many greeks around. By the way I know many greeks that choose to get married here. The monastery is closed to public but you can visit the chapel with a 8m high door.
I also visited the St.Barbara church(founded in the 5th century but rebuilt in 11th) and then spend time t the greek orthodox cemetery. St. Sergius church supposed to been built on a cave that the Holy Family stayed for awhile. The last church I visited was the Hanging Church with a nave suspended above the passage and has this weird name because it was built above the ruins of an old Babylon fortress in 9th century. You can also visit the Ben Ezra Synagogue which is the oldest in Egypt.
Before going back with metro I visit the Coptic Museum (pic3), that has some interesting but not impressive artifacts from greek roman period till the Islamic era. Probably the Egyptian Museum was enough for me.
I have been going to Cairo since 1994..and until 2009 I did not visit coptic Cairo.
But then A friend of mine was interested to see old Coptic Cairo and the hanging church.
so I asked to go there too.
In my opinion it's an important part of Cairo..should be recommending it from now on to every one who visits Cairo.
I chose to visit Coptic Cairo for the mere fact its one of the few sites in Cairo thats accessible by the metro (Mari Gari stop). I was surprised by the level of security checks they had there but again a smattering of Christians in a dominant Muslim city could be a cause for concern. The church was interesting but I actually found that the best part of Coptic Cairo was the shops. There were numerous shops selling everything from high end papyrus to cheap postcards. I did most of my souvenir shopping here as the prices and options were excellent. There were also numerous places to eat and while I didn't dine at any of those places the aromas were intoxicating. So if anything visit Coptic Cairo for the shops and for your Christian fix as well.