The tale of Cairo cave church is composed of several scenes that took place through different times. The place got its name form Sam’aan Al-Kharaz (Saint Simon the tanner) who worked as was a shoemaker and distributed water among the poor. This saint is said to have performed a miracle in this very place. This was in 10th century during the reign of al-Muizz li-Din Allah. The church is located in the Mokattam Mountain in southeastern Cairo. This is from where the tale begins.
First scene in the story:
The curtains of the scene opened to present a decision.
In 1969, the decision was to remove all the garbage collectors of Cairo to the hills of the Mokattam Mountain to live there. So they built themselves primitive houses around the mountain. These were simply huts of tin that are called “Zaraayib” (namely pigsties). These trash collectors collect trash from the houses of most sectors of Cairo. First, they sort out the trash and classify it. Second, they find what can be re-used among the trash and live on what they get from selling them.
A garbage Collector named Qiddees Abd Al-Maseeh used to collect garbage from the area of Shubra, and used to meet a certain minister. Qiddees invited this minister to visit the Zabbaleen (the Garbage City) area in the Mokattam Mountain. After many invitations, the minister finally came to visit.
Then, the curtains slowly shut
Second scene in the story:
The curtains are still held back witnessing the minister’s sorrowful face.
The minister was astonished to see the number of people who lived there and their condition. According to the church’s website, this was in the year 1974. In his visit, the minister went up to the cave, taking along two other persons. While they were praying, a whirlwind arose causing all the paper in the area and the trash to be strewn everywhere. When the whirlwind subsided, a small piece of paper fell before the three. It is believed that a paper had a verse from the bible urging them to build a church for the people who lived there. As a result, construction work began to build Cairo cave church. Eventually, the curtains fall again eager to be opened in the next scene.
Third scene in the story:
With the sound of construction work, the curtains open up again
After choosing the place, work began on a church made of tin. In addition to a roof made of reeds. Just like the roofs of the rest of the area. Cairo cave church was built and numerous people came to visit and participate in the church activities. The number was too many to the extent that the church couldn’t contain them. As a result, builders were obliged to enlarge the place by replacing the tin with bricks and reinforced concrete. However, in 1976, a large fire broke out in Manshiyat Nasir compelled the minister to turn to a helpful architect, who planned a wonderful design for the church. Thus the building became the lofty one we see now covering an area of about 1000 sq.m.
The curtains closed to be opened again in 2020
Fourth scene in the story:
With the place of art in the middle of the garbage the curtains are opened to tell people that hope is a real thing.
In 2020, it’s not a single church anymore, but a whole complex now. Several more churches have been built. However, the Monastery of St. Simon the Tanner is the largest with a seating capacity of 20,000. The number of churches that are built there isn’t the only shade of hope in the place. However, the cave church boasts many adrenaline spiking activities. These activities including zip-lining and rock climbing and other fun activities for both adults and kids to enjoy. Another form of hope is reflected in the complex: the delightful sculpture work. When you roam around the complex, you will be amazed by the huge reliefs and story-telling sculptures that are carved inside the mountain.
Being in the cave church in Egypt is a one of a kind experience. You will wander in the complex while you’re still in the mountain’s embrace. The complex tells the story of hope where miracles, art, spirituality and fun colloid to form an exceptional experience. The cave church is a living hope and a proof that beauty can be created from ashes.