Christmas is just around the corner and we have listed for you our top church picks for you to visit this holiday season. No matter what the country has been going through in its recent years, there is absolutely no denying that Egypt has one of the most, if not the most, diverse, rich and significant history across the nations. However, when you’ve been living in the same place your whole life, it’s easy to take its history and beauty for granted.
Christianity has played a huge role in shaping Egypt’s history and it shows in every church in every corner of the country. In my opinion, it doesn’t matter if you’re Christian or otherwise, every Egyptian should get to know more about our Coptic history. There is no better way to do so than by visiting these beautiful churches in Cairo during Christmas.
The Hanging Church
Saint Virgin Mary’s Coptic Orthodox Church is its official name. It is the oldest of the lot, as its establishment dates back to the third century. The size of the church at first sight can disappoint some people, but wait until you get inside. The whole church is built on top of an old Babylon fortress, with its nave suspended above the passage, hence its name (literally “Al Mu’alaqa” in Arabic).
The whole structure is an architectural wonder, and you need to have a guide, or better yet a deacon, with you in order to truly understand and appreciate its wonderfully bizarre architecture.
The Church of Saint Simon aka The Cave Church
This one is not the easiest, nor the most pleasant, church to get to, as you have to go all the way through Garbage City in order to get there and the smell of the garbage could be overpowering. However, once you do arrive you will find yourself in one of the most peaceful getaways in the city. The church is named after Simon the Tanner, a Coptic Saint who is associated with the miracle of the moving of the Mokattam Mountain.
This church, along with six small others, are carved into cliffs on a ridge above Garbage City. The carvings of the statues and the biblical verses in the limestone of the cave are a real sight to behold. With an amphitheater that seats 20,000 people, the Monastery of St. Simon is considered to be the largest church in the Middle East. It also offers spectacular views of Cairo.
Saint Mary’s Church in Maadi
This is a beautiful sanctuary on the bank of the Nile. It is believed that the Holy Family passed by the exact same location of the church, and from there started their journey to Upper Egypt. Its historical significance, and its perfect location make this a must-go-to church if you live in, or visit, Cairo.
Saint Mark Coptic Orthodox Church in Heliopolis
Heliopolis is home to a huge sector of the Christian population in Cairo. Therefore, a visit to the district’s first church to be established is a must in order to know more about the modern history of Christianity in Cairo. The cornerstone of this church was founded in 1922, under the papacy of Pope Cyril V on what’s now known to be Cleopatra Street. The church is a true flag of modern Christian architecture in the city.
Church of the Virgin Mary in Haret Zuweila
Being built around the 10th century, this church is considered to be the oldest in the historic Haret Zuweila district. The journey to the church is an experience of itself as the church is hidden in the alleys of Medieval Cairo. The exterior of the church is a true testament of how rich and far dated Egypt’s Coptic history is. Inside the church, there is a well in the sanctuary that is believed to have been blessed by the child Jesus during the Holy Family’s visit to Egypt.
The church’s historic significance further extends to being the Seat of the Coptic Orthodox Pope of Alexandria from the 15th century to the 16th century.