For my last tour day, I am told we are going to Garbage City today to see the Monastery of Saint Simon. I have no idea what to expect. Apparently, everyone who lives in this town works in the garbage industry. There is zero unemployment. To say there is a huge trash problem in Cairo is an understatement; there is no official pickup, so rubbish is literally tossed into the streets without a thought.
Cairo has a population of 9.5 million residents, making it impossible for the slum settlement of Manshiyat Nasser to keep the streets clean. Daily workers head out to their private accounts or comb the streets collecting trash, then they bring it back to sort it. I was expecting the aroma to be pungent enough to make eyes water and to cover my nose, but it wasn’t too bad, perhaps the smell just didn’t penetrate through the car windows. Out of respect, I didn’t take photos.
After we made our way though the scavenger town, we entered the gates of the monastery and into a whole new and impressive world. Portraits of Jesus, the Ten Commandments, along with other biblical scriptures are carved into the side of the mountain; also there’s a beautiful mosaic that displays the day El Mokattam Mountain was moved.
As you enter the summer cave, that seats 20,000, it’s hard to believe that it was once hidden under trash and debris. It took 10,000 garbage people twelve years to clear it out.
The medieval Islamic fortress, Citadel of Saladin, is a short drive away. The Citadel’s museum isn’t open, so we went straight up to the classical Turkish style alabaster Mosque of Mohammed Ali. This is the largest mosque in the arabic world.
Removing my shoes I was allowed to enter; pillars lined the courtyard and a Turkish Baroque ablution fountain stood in the middle. unfortunately, the clock tower has looked like this for way too many years and the clock has never worked.
Built suspended above ancient Roman Fortress ruins, gave the Hanging Church its name, not because they hung people there. Photography is not allowed inside, as far as churches go, it’s nothing spectacular. It is one of the oldest churches in Egypt, dating to the 3rd century AD.
The Cavern Church, known as Abu Serga, is where the Holy family stayed when they had to flee to Egypt. When you walk in you might wonder why it’s named the cavern, the building is brick and timber. The ceiling resembles an ark, Noah’s Ark actually.
As you descend the staircase you understand why; there is a cavern below the church. This is where Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus lived. You walk along a boardwalk above the cavern’s floor, cut-outs show you the original floor, where they walked. At the far end, within the brick wall, is a nook where Jesus’s basket was placed while he slept.
Going up the stairs, you can look down into the well that the family drank from, yes, there’s still water far below.
For my farewell tour activity, I chose to take a Felucca ride around the Nile River. The temperature dropped a few degrees and the city traffic noise disappeared. It was the perfect ending to the best vacation ever.
Here’s the video
Okay, your turn….
Is Egypt somewhere you’d want to go….