The cave church also called the Monastery of Saint Simon is one of the largest churches in the middle East.
It is located in the Mokattam mountain in Southeastern Cairo, Egypt, in an area called ”Garbage City”. This area is called Garbage City because of the huge population of garbage collectors also called Zabbaleen that reside here and make a living from collecting and recycling garbage. The Garbage city is a slum settlement in Cairo notable for having nearly every space filled with garbage including the streets and rooftops of the settlement. The inability of Cairo to set up efficient garbage collecting system gave rise to the formation of these settlement with huge piles of garbage.
The inhabitants of the Garbage City are mainly Coptic(Egyptian) Christians who have been recycling Metropolitan Cairo’s garbage and waste for over several years. For several generations, the Zabbaleen aka garbage people or collectors earned a living by collecting garbage from door to door from the residents of Cairo for nearly no charge using donkey-pulled carts and pick-up trucks to transport these garbage to their homes in the so called garbage City, where they sort the garbage and sell the garbage to middlemen or create new items from the recycled garbage. The living conditions are poor here and unhealthy with awful smell pervading the atmosphere since they live among the garbage. To get to the Cave Church you must pass through the Garbage City and bear the sight of garbage piles and odor emanating from it.
The cave church is an architectural wonder and you do not have to be religious to appreciate and relish this wonderful architectural craft. The church has a sitting capacity of 20,000, with about 70,000 Christians worshiping here weekly.
Though large Christian communities are not abundant in Muslim dominated Egypt, these group of Christians were able to establish this massive cave church.
The garbage collectors were largely Coptic Christians(Egyptian Christians) and as their population continued to increase over the years, the need to establish a centralized church was identified.
In 1975, the first Christian church was built in the village and thereafter work began on the monastery that was built right into the cliff-side. The Cave Church(Monastery of St. Simon) was the result of this new project. The cave church has carvings on the side of the cave depicting various Bible stories, and the church perhaps is like no other in the world.
The Cave Church is a great tourist attraction and a wonderful site to see and visiting it could be a great experience.
Despite the fact that the church is sited in a poor neighborhood in Cairo, yet this church is magnificent with so many statues of Biblical characters carved into the mountain. Some people have described it as beauty from ashes been the fact that in the midst of garbage(Garbage City) such a beauty was created.
Some also describe it as the most amazing church they have ever seen.
I think is utterly amazing to see what can be done when people are inspired and driven because it must have been a huge and difficult task to carve out this church inside a mountain and is hard to believe it was done by hand.
P.S: IMAGES NOT OURS UNLESS STATED.
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WRITTEN BY SAMUEL AGBOMA
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