Cairo's Makattam area: a cave church and a garbage city

Entrance to the church of St Simon. The entrance to the church of St Simon; here taxis ply and kiosks offer their services The Makattam Hills come close to the centre of Cairo. They house two contrasting features of the city: within a large cave lies the Church of St Simon the Tanner; and to reach this church the visitor passes through Zabbaleen 'village' built in an old quarry by the hillside. This is Cairo's re-cycling quarter, Zabbaleen literally means 'garbage people'. The chancel of the church. The congregation sits in great banks of seats looking down on the chancel. Above which screens allow for projection; a modern twist to the oldest form of church Banks of seats in St Simon's Church. The amphitheatre, formed by the cave, accommodates over 20,000 people Banks of wooden seating. The banks of wooden benches must seem daunting to new clergy who come to serve in this Coptic Church The rock wall of the cave. The striations of the geological formation of the Makattam Hills under which the church sits One of the aisles of 80 rows An aisle with 80 rows, allowing seating for over 200 people in each row The Chancel of the Church. The focal area of a Coptic church is the chancel where there are seats for the deacons and two lecterns. At its rear is the Iconostasis, this is a rigid wood and marble screen with icons of Christ, angels and saints, and three doors (here one out of sight to the left) leading on to the sanctuary beyond The chancel fence. The view across the chancel 'fence' which separates the congregation from the celebrants... Sacks of garbage. ...and the view of the road, on the way up to the church, seen by the arriving visitor. This is Mokattam Village, also known as 'Garbage City', where some 30,000 Coptic Christians live, many of whom make their living from re-cycling waste materials they gather in Cairo Road and bridge piled with rubbish. The sheer amount of rubbish on display is extraordinary. Sacks of waste are pilled into every available corner Street with donkey cart. Donkey carts, just visible to the right, are still used for collecting waste from the city, brought to the village, the waste is sorted, sold on, and organic matter feed to animals. It is claimed that over 80% of all material is re-cycled Makattam as a normal suburb. Photographs from other angles show the suburb as a normal working community More sacks of rubbish. The prospect of the summer heat seems rather unedifying New buildings. The buildings are new Motorbike and cars. Probably over 90% of the people of Makattam are Coptic Christians The Zabbaleen people had migrated to Cairo and settled in the Giza district, but in 1970 they were evicted and moved to temporary accommodation in an old quarry area close to the Mokattam hills. In due course their shacks have been replaced by permanent buildings Street with posters of Christ. Apart from the large posters of Christ which pop out from between the Arabic lettering on the buildings... Main street in Makatam. ...Makattam can look much like any other less affluent quarter of Cairo The next page takes you from a cave church and garbage city, to jewels in the crown of Cairo's architecture: two of the mosques on the Citadel complex. The interior of the Great Mosque on the Citadel in Cairo. line
Saturday 20th May 2017 Murphy on duty

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