When many people think of Cairo, Egypt they think about The Pyramids of Giza, The Sphinx and everything King Tut, and rightfully so as they are amazing! However, Cairo is made up of so much more than that to see. The current population of Cairo is 19.5 million people and ranks the 17th largest city in the world. Imagine what you can see and do in a city of that magnitude.
One of the coolest tours we took in Cairo was of Coptic Cairo. You may ask what Coptic Cairo is? Let me tell you! It is the old part of Cairo within the boundaries of the Roman fortress of Babylon, where many churches, synagogues, and historical sites sook out refuge. Although Egypt is primarily Muslim, 90% of the people practice Islam, Islam only came to Egypt around 640 CE. Christianity was the main religion up until that time and still, about 10% of the population in Cairo are still Christian. There are only 5 known Jews that currently live in Cairo
It is believed that as early as the 6th century BC the Persians built a settlement on the Nile called Babylon. It is said that the Virgin Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus visited during the Flight of Egypt to seek refuge from Herod. At this time, it is thought that Christianity began to spread throughout Egypt.
These are the main things to see in Coptic Cairo:
Church of St. Sergius and Bacchus (Abu Serga) is one of the oldest churches in Egypt, dating back to the 4th century. This is the very spot where Joseph, Mary, and Jesus rested during the Flight of Egypt.
The Coptic Museum houses the largest collection of Egyptian Christian artifacts in the world from the beginning of time to the present day.
St. Mercurius Church (Abu Seifien) is where the Pope of Alexandria sat between 1300 and 1500 AD as well as other Coptic patriarchs and is the final resting place for many of heads of the church.
Hanging Church (El Muallaqu, Sitt Mariam, St. Mary) is the original gatehouse to the Babylon Fortress and dates to the 3rd century. It is situated 29 steps above the pedestrian level.
Ben Ezra Synagogue (El-Geniza Synagogue) in 1115 it was purchased from a Coptic church and made a place of worship for local the local Jewish community. This synagogue’s storeroom, geniza, was found in the 19th century, which contained sacred manuscripts.
If ever in Cairo, make time to explore more history including Coptic Cairo. It is definitely a step back in time and allows you to appreciate the beginnings of religion in this mysterious city.