The church and monastery of St. Simeon, also known as the Cave Church in Mokattam Mountain, southeast of Cairo, is located in the area known as “garbage city” due to the number of garbage collectors or large scavengers living in the area.
About Mokattam and Cave Church
These scavengers are descendants of farmers who began to migrate from Upper Egypt to Cairo in the 1940s, who were displaced by poor crops and poverty and came to the city in search of work and the establishment of temporary settlements all around.
Initially, the Zabalis maintained their tradition of raising pigs, goats, chickens and other animals, but over time they collected and sorted out the waste of the city’s residents. By sorting household rubbish and selling valuable things, people reap the rewards of living and save a lot by exploiting organic materials and turning them into food for their animals. After the recovery of this trade, successive waves of immigrants from Upper Egypt began to live and work in the newly established garbage village in Cairo.
For years, Zabalin temporary settlements have been relocated throughout the city in an effort to avoid municipal authorities. Finally, a large group of scavengers settled under the slopes of Mount Mokattam in the eastern end of the city, which grew from 8,000 in the 1980s to 30,000 according to recent statistics.
Egypt is a predominantly Muslim country, but nearly 90 percent of the Zabbalists are Christian Copts. Because Christian communities are rare in this country, Zabaleen prefer to remain in Mokattam within their religious community, although many have the potential to obtain homes elsewhere.
The establishment of the church
The local Coptic Church was established in the village of Mokattam in 1975. Its establishment had a great impact on the Zabaline people,
who felt safer in their village and only started to use more permanent building materials such as stone and brick.
Due to their previous experience, when they were evacuated from Giza in 1970, the Zabalin lived in tin shacks. In 1976, a major fire broke out in Manshiyet Nasser, leading to the construction of the first church under Mount Mokattam on a site of 1,000 square meters.
Many other churches have been built in the caves of Mokattam, including the church of St. Simeon al-Kharraz, the largest of which can accommodate 20,000 people. In fact, this church is the largest church in the Middle East.