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Coptic Cairo
Coptic Cairo is the oldest part of Cairo and is located, along with Islamic Cairo, in what is today called Old Cairo. Coptic Cairo is a fabulous place to visit especially if you are interested in religious arts and history. The beautiful arts that you can explore in Coptic Cairo speak a great deal of the Christian history of Egypt in the reign of the Romans that links between Ancient Egypt and the Islamic era.
Coptic Cairo is not really a quarter per se, it is the collective of several places in Old Cairo where many churches were built and where the Coptic Museum is located. However, it is still possible to have a day dedicated to explore Coptic Cairo and enjoy what remains of the Christian era. There are many important churches in Coptic Cairo including Greek Orthodox and Coptic Orthodox churches.
Another very important church located in Coptic Cairo is the Church of Saint George which is better known as the Church of Saint Mary Gerges and is located right beside the Mary Gerges underground metro station. The church of Saint George was built on the outer walls of a rounded Roman tower and therefore is one of the very few remaining rounded churches. From the church, you can descend a flight of steps down to the Roman tower. The Church of Saint George is known for its beautiful artistic stained glass windows that display Christian arts which, during the day, let the sunbeams filter through into the church. Along with the heavy incense, the beams of light create a beautiful relaxing spiritual atmosphere. On April 23rd, a huge Coptic festival is held in celebration of the Moulid (birth celebration) of Saint Mary Gerges and is a great cultural way to spend the day if you’re in Cairo.
The greatest and most important of these churches would be Hanging Church. The Hanging Church was built above the gatehouse of the Roman fortress in Old Cairo and is considered the most important religious destination representing the Coptic culture in Cairo especially for its rich representation of the 2nd century which embraces you the minute you walk into the Church after climbing the 23 marble steps that lead to the entrance. Although the church is relatively small in area, its rich interior is very overwhelming with the beautiful artwork that displays so many stories of Jesus and the Holy Family. When you leave the church, you will find a lot of Bazaars where you can buy souvenirs and cultural gift items from very friendly vendors.
Another must-see in Coptic Cairo is the Coptic Museum. Leaving Old Cairo without a visit to this museum packed with outstanding Christian artwork would be a shame. This museum houses the largest collection of Coptic Christian artwork in the world and anyone interested in the artistic a representation of the Christian era in Egypt should pay it a visit. The Coptic museum is divided according to artistic medium. The first floor contains carved stone, frescoes, and woodwork, and the second flour contains textiles, manuscripts, and metalwork. The artwork also represents the transformation from Ancient Egypt to the Christian era.
There are many other churches and religious Christian places worth visiting in Coptic Cairo, but these are the most notable both historically and artistically.
© 2009 Yasmine Sheaito
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