The Cave Church of the Zabbaleen in Cairo

Sep 10, 2013 3 comments

The Monastery of Saint Simon, also known as the Cave Church, is located in the Mokattam mountain in southeastern Cairo, Egypt, in an area that is known as ‘garbage city’ because of the large population of garbage collectors or Zabbaleen that live there. The Zabbaleen are descendants of farmers who started migrating from Upper Egypt to Cairo in the 1940s. Fleeing poor harvests and poverty they came to the city looking for work and set-up makeshift settlements around the city. Initially, they stuck to their tradition of raising pigs, goats, chickens and other animals, but eventually found collecting and sorting of waste produced by the city residents more profitable. The Zabbaleen would sort through household garbage, salvaging and selling things of value, while the organic waste provided an excellent source of food for their animals. In fact, this arrangement worked so well, that successive waves of migrants came from Upper Egypt to live and work in the newly founded garbage villages of Cairo.


Photo credit: Gianluigi Guercia

For years, the makeshift settlements of the Zabbaleen were moved around the city trying to avoid the municipal authorities. Finally, a large group of Zabbaleen settled under the cliffs of the Mokattam or Moquattam quarries at the eastern edge of the city, which has now grown from a population of 8,000 in the early 1980s, into the largest garbage collector community in Cairo, with approximately 30,000 Zabbaleen inhabitants.

Egypt is a Muslim-majority country, but the Zabbaleen are Coptic Christians, at least, 90 percent of them are. Christian communities are rare to find in Egypt, so the Zabbaleen prefer to stay in Mokattam within their own religious community even though many of them could afford houses elsewhere.

The local Coptic Church in Mokattam Village was established in 1975. After the establishment of the church, the Zabbaleen felt more secure in their location and only then began to use more permanent building materials, such as stone and bricks, for their homes. Given their previous experience of eviction from Giza in 1970, the Zabbaleen had lived in temporary tin huts up till that point. In 1976, a large fire broke out in Manshiyat Nasir, which led to the beginning of the construction of the first church below the Mokattam mountain on a site of 1,000 square meters. Several more churches have been built into the caves found in Mokattam, of which the Monastery of St. Simon the Tanner is the largest with a seating capacity of 20,000. In fact, the Cave Church of St. Simon in Mokattam is the largest church in the Middle East.


Photo credit


Photo credit


Photo credit


Photo credit


Photo credit


Photo credit


Photo credit


Photo credit


The garbage city. Photo credit


Photo credit


Photo credit

Sources: Wikipedia, A.P.E. Cairo


  1. "Gouge out your eyes", and other wise parables. Lovely.

  2. I'll give you an example so you can understand.If you're watching too much tv and neglect other things more important it is better to stop watching altogether.If your're a fan of a football team and that causes you to pick sides and fight with the "others" get drunk, cause property damage is better for you to stop watching football or get involved in it in any way.

  3. By Understanding the Heavenly Kingdom you will understand the purpose of His coming and the creation of His Church
    “The Heavenly Kingdom is not a place…it is a way of being”!

    Lord Jesus diet without sin so he could become “the firstborn from the dead; (spiritually dead) that in all things he might have the pre-eminence”. At His resurrection God Logos becomes “the head of His Body the Church” (Α Colossians 1:18) “He is the head of his body, the Church; He is the source of the body’s life”.
    The canons (rules) for the creation of His Church were delivered the day of Pentecost by the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4) enabling Lord Jesus to become High priest and mediator to His Father for the Salvation of man after His Resurrection. [John 10:9] “I am the door: by me if any manenter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture”.

    Spiritual life in His Church created by the Apostles is not the learning of spiritual truths, but a life of union and communication with the Holy Spirit. Sainthood which is a description of being Holy is a supernatural state of being that is an acknowledgment of the Union of man with God. This union takes place in a Mysterious way during Baptism delivered by the Apostles as described in (Galatians 3:27) “You were baptized into union with Christ, and now you are clothed, with the life of Christ himself” In [Corinthians 4:6] Paul is very lucid of the purpose of the spiritual life in His Church which is for man to get to know God personally! “God makes His Light shine in our hearts, to bring us the knowledge of God’s glory shining in the face of Christ.

    By being recreated by Lord Jesus to a god man (Holy) describes ~the only purpose of man on earth~ and it also describes the Heavenly Kingdom. [Luke 17:21] No one will say, “Look here it is”! Or, “There it is!” because the Kingdom of God is within you”. The Heavenly Kingdom is not a place…it is a way of being!

    Lord Jesus did not come to teach philosophically but THERAPEUTICALLY (to cure man from sin)
    The vision of Divine Light
    “It is me, God, Who became man for you; and behold that I have made you, as you see, and shall make you god”.


Post a Comment

More on Amusing Planet


{{posts[0].date}} {{posts[0].commentsNum}} {{messages_comments}}


{{posts[1].date}} {{posts[1].commentsNum}} {{messages_comments}}


{{posts[2].date}} {{posts[2].commentsNum}} {{messages_comments}}


{{posts[3].date}} {{posts[3].commentsNum}} {{messages_comments}}