3 Oct 2019
Posted in Culture, History

Three religions, one city.

Cairo, Egypt’s capital city, has a history that reaches far back. It began as part of the ancient settlement of Memphis (now southwest of the city) founded in 2000 B.C. by King Menes, who united Upper and Lower Egypt. In the first century A.D., the Romans took the city.

On a visit to Cairo, be sure to take in important monuments that illustrate the presence of the world’s three great religions in the city.

Old Coptic Cairo began as the Roman fortress town of Babylon. Egypt was one of the first countries to adopt Christianity, and it was Emperor Trajan who built the fortress between A.D. 98 and 117. Over time it became a Christian and Jewish enclave.

Within Old Cairo stand three houses of worship that shouldn’t be missed: the Church of St. Sergius, El Muallaqa (the Hanging Church, pictured), and Ben Ezra Synagogue.

St. Sergius, one of the oldest churches in Egypt, was built in the fifth century and restored 700 years later. It was in a cave under the church that Mary, Joseph, and the infant Jesus found refuge while fleeing Herod.

Al Muallaqa, the Hanging Church, is one of the city’s loveliest. Originally built over the remains of a Roman gatehouse, the church (its true name is Sitt Miriam) was dedicated to the Virgin Mary. One portion of it is said to date from the fourth century.

Many legends surround the site where Ben Ezra Synagogue now stands. It was built in the fourth century as a Christian church and sold by the Copts in the ninth century. The prophet Jeremiah is said to have preached here in the sixth century B.C. At the synagogue’s spring, the pharaoh’s daughter found Moses in the bulrushes. Though the synagogue no longer has a rabbi, it continues to be used by the few Jewish families living in the area.

Delve into old Islamic Cairo at the medieval Citadel of Salah ad-Din (Saladin) and its crown jewel, the Mosque of Mohammad Ali. Tour the Mosque of Ar-Rifa’i, built in 1869. Egypt’s royal family is buried here, including King Farouk, Egypt’s last king.

For details about a journey to Egypt, contact Kiran Chand at kchand@rcrusoe.com or call 888-490-8013.

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