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A guide to Coptic Cairo – Egypt

Coptic Cairo is a part of Old Cairo, Egypt, that is believed to be visited by the holy family (Virgin Mary, child Jesus, and Saint Joseph). The area is rich with numerous historic constructions including Babylon Fortress, Coptic Museum, Hanging Church and Greek Church of St. George, with some of these structures dating back to the 6th century BC.

The Hanging Church

The Hanging Church is a place of great spiritual importance, where not only Christians visit and enjoy the spiritual atmosphere, but also people of other faiths. Also known as Saint Virgin Mary’s Coptic Orthodox Church, Hanging Church, the most well-known church in Cairo and one of the oldest constructions in Coptic Cairo. The Church goes back to the third century AD. In 1407, the Church was announced as the official residence of the Pope. As for the name, it was called “hanging” as it was constructed on the top of Babylon Fortress‘s gatehouse.

Virgin Mary Church

The Church of the Virgin Mary in Haret Zuweila (also transliterated as Haret Zeweilaḥaret zuwēla) is the oldest church in the district of Haret Zuweila, near the Fatimid section of Cairo. It was probably built around the AD 10th century, though it is first mentioned in writing in the early 12th century on the occasion of the consecration of the new bishop of Cairo under Macarius‘ Papacy. The Church of the Virgin Mary in Haret Zuweila was the Seat of the Coptic Orthodox Pope of Alexandria from c. 1400 AD to 1520 AD.

St. Barbara Church

St. Barbara’s Church stands north of the Coptic Museum and is east of the Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus (Abu Serga), on the eastern side of Fort Babylon. It was originally dedicated to Abu Kir and Yohanna (or Ss. Cyrus and John). When the remains of St. Barbara were brought here, a separate sanctuary was built. A wealthy scribe and a secretary of Abdel-Aziz Ibn Marwan (governor of Egypt between 685 and 705 AD), had built the Church. A door found during one of the church’s many restorations could date as early as the 4th Century. Between 1072 and 1073, the Church was fully restored to house the relics of Saint Barbara

Abu Serga Church


The church of St Sergius is considered to be Cairo’s oldest church, dating from the 4th century AD. The church is of significant historical importance being built on the spot where the holy family rested at the end of their journey into Egypt. It is the Episcopal church of Cairo where many patriarchs of the Coptic Church were elected. The first to be elected here was Patriarch Isaac (681-692). The church is dedicated to Sergio’s and Bacchus, who were soldier-saints that were martyred during the 4th century in Syria by the Roman Emperor, Maxi Milan. It has three altars and twelve columns decorated with portraits of the twelve disciples

Mari Girgis St. George Coptic Church

After you’ve entered the Harit Al Kidees Girgis the first church you will come to on your left is the St. George Convent. It is believed that the foundations of the building dates from the 7th or 8th century and is home to between 30 and 40 nuns today. Also dedicated to our main man, the dragon slayer St. George, there are some beautiful mosaics depicting his epic dragon slaying deeds in the main courtyard.

St. George Greek Orthodox Church

The first doorway north of the Coptic Museum gate leads to the Greek Orthodox Monastery and Church of St George. St George (Mar Girgis) is one of the region’s most popular Christian saints. A Palestinian conscript in the Roman army, he was executed in AD 303 for resisting Emperor Diocletian’s decree forbidding the practice of Christianity. There has been a church dedicated to him in Coptic Cairo since the 10th century; this one dates from 1909.

 The Coptic moulid (saints’ festival) of Mar Girgis is held here on 23 April.

Coptic Museum

The Coptic Museum is a museum in Coptic Cairo, Egypt with the largest collection of Egyptian Christian artefacts in the world. It was founded by Marcus Simaika in 1908 to house Coptic antiquities. The museum traces the history of Egypt from its beginnings to the present day. It was erected on 8,000 square meter land offered by the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, under the guardianship of Pope Cyril V. 

The Coptic Museum is a wonderfully tranquil place where one can stroll around peacefully, both inside the museum, as well as outside in it’s lovely gardens. This makes it a great place to visit if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Cairo.

Shopping/Eating

There are several cafes/antique and souvenirs stores you can shop and rest right after the entrance door. The Harit Al Kidees Girgis, is also a great place to buy books and souvenirs related to Egypt’s Christian heritage.

Attire

Since you’ll be going into a lot of religious buildings, be sure and have your shoulders and knees covered. I’d also recommend wearing a pair of shoes you can slip off without too much trouble.

How to get there?

The easiest way to reach Coptic Cairo is by metro, and this will only cost you 1 EGP for the ticket. Take the metro and head to Mar Girgis station, which is the stop for Coptic Cairo. You can also use Uber/Careem or white taxis.

  • Other Sites In Coptic Cairo
    • Church Of Mar Mina
    • Ben Azra Synagogue

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