The history of Egypt is diverse, and when we look at it, we see a great heritage of different civilizations. Christianity is one of the main religions that left a mark on the land of Egypt. This mark manifests mainly in the churches built around Egypt.
Coptic Cairo hosts a large number of beautiful historic churches. Located within and around what was historically known as the Babylon fortress, Coptic Cairo was built around 525 BC. The compound contains many churches, a Jewish synagogue, and the Coptic museum. The area was settled in the 6th century by the Persians, who built the fortress. After the Romans took over Egypt, they fortified the stronghold to stand against invaders.
It is known in Christian history that the holy family fled to Egypt, escaping King Herod, who wanted to kill Jesus Christ. It's believed that they took shelter in a cave on their journey. This cave later was turned into a church known now as Saints Sergius and Bacchus Church (Abu Serga).
The Hanging Church is the most famous Coptic Church in Egypt. Built on the southern gate of the Babylon Fortress, the church's nave is constructed over a passage. Dating back to 690-92 BC, some historians trace its origin to the 3rd or 4th century.
There is a debate regarding whether the Hanging Church was built before or after the Church of St. Sergius. However, it is well-established that this was the first church constructed in the Basilican style.
The Hanging Church is open to the public from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, seven days a week.
The entrance fee to the Hanging Church is Free.
How to Get There
The Hanging Church is located in the Coptic Cairo neighbourhood of Old Cairo. The easiest way to get there is to take the metro to the Mar Girgis station. From the station, it is a short walk to the church.
Coptic Mass is held from 8:00 am - 11:00 am on Wednesdays and Fridays; and from 9:00 am - 11:00 am on Sundays.
As mentioned, this may be considered the oldest church in Cairo, dating back to the 4th century. The church is built over what is believed to be the cave where the Holy Family took shelter for the last time in Egypt.
The church celebrates the passage of the Holy Family in June every year. Unfortunately, the church was burned in the 8th century and then reconstructed after what is known as the Fustat fire.
The church is open to visitors daily, 24/7.
Admission to the church is free! However, visitors are encouraged to make a small donation to help maintain this historical gem.
How to Get There
Saints Sergius and Bacchus Church can easily reach the Old Cairo district by taking the Cairo Metro to Mar Girgis Station. From there, it's a short walk to the church, which is located near the Coptic Museum and the Hanging Church.
Mass is celebrated in Arabic at the church throughout the week. For exact timings, it's recommended that you contact the church directly or check their official website.
This church was built to honour Saint Barbara. Saint Barbara's story is about devotion and loyalty to her faith. In Christian history, Saint Barbra was a little girl from Anatolia whose father was tortured after he knew she had converted to Christianity. After her death, her remains were brought to Egypt.
St. Barbara's Church welcomes pilgrims and visitors year-round, from Morning to afternoon, seven days a week.
There is NO entrance fee to explore the awe-inspiring Saint Barbara Church, allowing you to immerse yourself in Cairo's cultural heritage without spending a dime.
How to Get There
If you stay in the Old City, you can walk to the church. It is about a 15-minute walk from the Coptic Museum.
Keniset Mar Girgis was built in the 10th century, but its current structure dates back to 1904, when it was reconstructed due to a huge fire. The new construction was finished in 1909.
The Church of St. George graciously opens its doors every day of the week. Visitors can explore the church's captivating beauty from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
Admission to the Church of St. George is free, but donations are always kindly appreciated to support the maintenance and preservation of this religious monument.
How to Get There:
The Church of St. George is easily accessible via public transportation. Depending on your starting point, you can choose from several nearby bus routes and metro stations. Taxis and rideshare options like Uber and Lyft are also available. For the visitors that prefer walking, the majestic church is within walking distance from many central points in the city.
To experience the vibrant and unique religious services, attend Mass at this historic church every Sunday.
Also known as Abu Seifien (the saint of the two swords), the saint is represented in Coptic Egyptian art as a man sitting on a horse and holding two swords. It is believed that the angels handed him the swords to fight against the barbarians. This church was built in the 6th century outside the fortress next to Amr ibn Al 'as Mosque and was dedicated to Saint Mercurius.
Saint Mercurius Church is open to visitors every day from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
There is no entrance fee to visit Saint Mercurius Church, allowing everyone to partake in its spiritual splendour.
How to Get There:
Located in the historic district of Old Cairo, just a stone's throw away from the renowned Amr ibn Al 'as Mosque, Saint Mercurius Church is easily accessible by public transportation. You can take the Cairo Metro Line 1 to Mar Girgis Station and stroll through the charming narrow streets to reach the church. Alternatively, you can hire a taxi or join one of the many guided tours that include this remarkable church on their itineraries.
Saint Mercurius Church holds regular Coptic Orthodox masses open to the public. Masses are held on weekdays at 7:00 am and 6:00 pm; on Sundays, there is an additional mass at 9:00 am. It is recommended to arrive a few minutes early to ensure a seat during the service.
Ben Ezra Jewish synagogue, also known as El-Geniza synagogue. According to the Jewish folk, it was built over the place where they found Moses. It is known from the documents found in the storage room that this was a church sold by the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria to a group of Jews who turned it into a synagogue.
The Ben Ezra Synagogue is open to visitors from Saturday to Thursday, operating from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM. It remains closed on Fridays.
The entrance is free, and a donation box is visible, but there is no pressure to donate.
How to Get There:
In the heart of Old Cairo, Ben Ezra Synagogue is easily accessible by public transportation. The nearest Metro station is Mar Girgis, which is a 15-minute walk from the synagogue. Alternatively, visitors can use taxis or ride-hailing services like Uber and Careem to reach the site directly. For a guided experience, many tour operators in Cairo offer visits to the synagogue as part of their historical and religious site itineraries.
The synagogue primarily serves as a historical site and museum, so regular religious services are not scheduled. However, special prayers and celebrations may occasionally take place. For more information on upcoming events, contact the caretakers or management at the site.
The museum was established in 1908 and opened in 1910, thanks to the efforts of Marcus Simaika Pasha. Its purpose was to showcase the Coptic heritage and Coptic arts.
The collection boasts approximately 16,000 art pieces and antiquities, divided into 12 categories and arranged chronologically. The museum houses various artefacts, such as icons, manuscripts, and textiles. Additionally, it features objects from various churches throughout Egypt, including a restored door from the historic Abu Serga Church.
The Coptic Museum is open daily to the public from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, including weekends and public holidays, allowing you to plan your visit at your convenience.
The standard entrance fee is 120 EGP (approximately USD 7.5) for international visitors and 60 EGP for Egyptian residents. Upon presenting a valid student ID, students enjoy a discounted rate of 60 EGP and 30 EGP, respectively.
How to Get There:
Located in the heart of Old Cairo, the Coptic Museum can easily be reached via public transportation or taxi. If you prefer taking the metro, the nearest station is Mar Girgis, a short walk from the museum.
I hope these tips help you plan your visit to Coptic Cairo!
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Synagogue Ben Ezra is a synagogue located in Old Cairo, Egypt. It is the oldest synagogue in Egypt and is believed to have been built in 882 CE by the Jewish community of Fustat. The synagogue was named after Rabbi Ben Ezra, a prominent Jewish scholar who lived in Fustat during the 10th century.
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