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Tucked into the striking cliffs of the Mokattam Mountains in Cairo, Egypt, the St. Simon “The Tanner” Monastery, or the Monastery of St. Simeon, presents a unique blend of faith, history, and art. This remarkable Coptic Orthodox church, also known as the Cave Church, is famous for its large statues and carvings depicting biblical scenes, attracting thousands of locals and tourists alike.

History

The monastery is named in honor of St. Simon “The Tanner,” who played a pivotal role in the Miracle of Moving the Mountain in the 10th century. The churches were carved into the rock of the mountain from the 1970s onward by the local Zabbaleen, a community of Coptic Christians who earn their livelihood from recycling Cairo’s waste, after being originally relocated from ‘Maspero triangle’ in downtown Cairo.

How to get there

Positioned in the southeastern part of Cairo, the monastery is best reached by taxi or hired car from the city center. The journey offers a unique glimpse into Cairo’s Zabbaleen community and allows visitors to appreciate the city’s stark contrasts.

List of Attractions

Inside the monastery, various churches are worth visiting, including St. Simon the Tanner’s Hall, which can accommodate 20000 worshippers and where the life of St. Simon is colorfully depicted. Visit the St. Mark’s Church and the St. Simon’s Church with their beautiful religious sculptures. The most significant attraction is the amphitheater, a vast open-air area decorated with biblical reliefs.

Ticket Information

Entry to the Monastery of St. Simon is free of charge. However, donations to aid with the upkeep of the site are welcome.

List of Tips for Visiting

  1. Respect the fact that this is a working church with daily prayers and services, dress modestly.
  2. Tour guides are available at the entrance but are not mandatory.
  3. The site can be hot and sunny, wear a hat, apply sunscreen and bring water.
  4. Pay attention to the intricate carvings depicting biblical stories, especially those of St. Simon.
  5. Pre-arrange your transportation back, as taxis in the area might not be readily available.
  6. The views of Cairo from the monastery are extraordinary; don’t forget your camera.

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