Strolling through Coptic Cairo was a really cool experience. “Coptic Cairo” is basically the oldest section of Cairo, where the early Christians settled and built their churches, apparently as many as 20 churches within one square mile, 5 of which still endure to this day.
We started our visit there by touring through the Coptic Museum, for an orientation to the area.
We found it quite well done, though a little repetitive on the information boards (some of the same boards were posted in two or three different rooms…)
When we finished in the museum (where we weren’t allowed to take any photos) we checked out remnants of the Water Gate entrance to the old Roman fortress.
After the fortress gate, we went around the corner to see the Hanging Church, or the Church of the Virgin Mary, which was actually built into the walls of the old fortress. It is the oldest church in Cairo, dating from the 4th century.
Some of the mosaics inside the courtyard which are obviously not 4th century though.
Then we continued our way down one of the oldest original streets in Coptic Cairo.
We ended up winding our way through the Coptic cemetery.
We adopted a guide somewhere along the way, and he took us to a few more sights and explained some of the context and significance. One of those sights was the Greek cemetery, which we could tell right away was a lot wealthier and well-kept than the Coptic one.
After the cemetery, we went to the Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus.
The church is renowned because legend has it that it’s built on the site of the cave that housed Mary and Joseph in Egypt, on their flight to escape Herod.
Nearby is the St. George church. It’s quite new, dating from 1909, but apparently there have been churches on this site dedicated to the martyr since the 10th century. When we were there, they were still working on constructing it to be more earthquake-proof, so it wasn’t as picturesque as it could have been. Still, it was impressive.
After all this wandering, we were ready for some lunch, so we headed out of the Coptic Cairo complex, where things are quite touristy and expensive, and went into a residential area nearby instead. It was interesting to catch a glimpse of how people in that area live their daily lives, in an section of Cairo where tourists rarely go.
Lunch was delicious, and afterwards we caught the metro to a station near Islamic Cairo, for our next adventure.