Stepping out of vans a small gate greets us. We walk through, past two cars of sleeping tourist police and countless vendors selling everything from trinket pyramids and multi-colored scarves. We continue walking.
Coptic Cairo is the oldest section of Cairo, Cairo before Cairo Professor Sullivan explained.
The Hanging church, parts of which date back to the 3rd century, was our first stop. As we sat in the pews and Professor Sullivan gave us some history, as gaggles of other tourists strolled by jabbering in Hindi and Japanese.
The symbolism is what intrigues me the most. The arched arched ceilings represent Noah’s arc–God’s saving of humanity. Pillars below the pulpit represented the 15 apostles. A black amidst the white stood for the disloyal Judas. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judas_Iscariot
Next we visited the Church of St. George, Abu Serga, Ben Erzra Synagogue and finally the first mosque built in Africa–Ibn Al Aas.
As we journeyed through the three monotheistic faiths the interconnectivity became increasingly pronounced.
Ben Ezra was built like a church because it was until the Christians sold the building to the small Jewish population.
The original church was built at the site of the current Ben Ezra to commemorate the place the Pharaonic Princess drew Moses out of the reeds. With a little Bahksheesh (tips/bribes) from Sullivan, the guards let us peer over the fence at the well. Not much now because the land has naturally risen.
We walked down a flight of stairs and down an alley to visit the Church of St. Geroge. Coptic Christians from around the world continue to make the pilgrimage to St. George, to honor him as their Patron Saint. Though not particularly religious or spiritual the site of others walking through the series of small chambers with my peers and others was moving. Not because of the religion itself but because of its affect on people.
Cheap plastic flowers appeared glued to old paintings. In a moving cut-out hanging from a wall St. George slayed his dragon over and over. The experience was completely silent, only nods and smiles–all the more thought provoking.
Though religion is rattled with conflict and the cause of endless death and persecution, the serenity of these houses of worship within close quarters and the endless streams of varying tourists tells an inspiring story of interdependence.
Pictures coming shortly….