Travel to Coptic Cairo – Oasis of Tranquillity in a Chaotic Capital
The word Egypt stems from the word ‘Copt’, the name given to Egypt’s Christians. The quiet backstreets of Coptic Cairo have been home to a Christian community since the 2nd century when the Romans established a fort here. Today its cobbled backstreets have many sights to discover and provide a peaceful haven in an otherwise busy city.
The area Coptic Cairo falls into is more accurately called Old Cairo, and dates back to Persian times, around 500 BCE. Two later, Roman-era towers greet visitors who once inside the quarter enter a peaceful haven of churches, monasteries and convents. It’s a great place to spend a few hours, perhaps after the frenetic streets of Islamic Cairo.
The two main attractions are the Coptic Museum and the Hanging Church. The museum dates from 1908 when it was established to help preserve Egypt’s Coptic heritage by Morcos Simaika. Here you will fine examples of sculpture, frescoes, stelae as well as some Pharaonic exhibits; there is also a garden and a small café to enjoy.
The nearby Hanging Church is so-named because it sits above the Roman Water Gate on several stone piers. It was from here that the last Byzantine Viceroy escaped as Islamic armies advanced. Still in use today the present church is the second to be built on the spot, the original being destroyed in 840 by the then Armenian Governor. Enjoy the interior which is a work of art.
Coptic Cairo is also the site of the important Ben Ezra Synagogue – once a church – where important Hebrew manuscripts were discovered in the 19th century. For Christians it is important as tradition says that opposite is the spot where Moses was found in a basket and where Mary washed Jesus.
Allow a half-day to visit Coptic Cairo which is easily explored on foot. No guide is really required though one will add background to what you see.
Pause to enjoy a pleasant half-hour or so in the leafy garden of the café in the Coptic Museum.
Get to Coptic Cairo by either taxi, Metro (Mar Girgis station) or in a privately hired vehicle.
- The Hanging Church sits above the Water Gate of what was Roman Babylon
- The exhibits of the Coptic Museum chart the history of Christianity in Egypt and charts Coptic art styles from Roman to Ottoman eras
- The Ben Ezra Synagogue is Egypt’s oldest synagogue and has a beautiful interior