The Cave Church in Cairo is a massive open-air Coptic church nestled inside a cave – and it’s a must-see architectural gem on your Egypt itinerary.
The enormous Cave Church is tucked deep inside a natural cave in the Mokattam Mountain.
And it’s a gorgeous blend of natural splendor and human ingenuity that’s one of the best things to do in Cairo.
The Cave Church holds up to 2,000 worshipers and hosts services surrounded by its rugged cave walls.
The church is also the heart of the local Christian community. It’s a quiet and serene spot surrounded by greenery. And it’s an off the beaten path destination partly because the streets are narrow and not easy to access.
The Cave Church is located inside the so-called “Garbage City” (known locally as Manshiyat Naser), which is an interesting district that’s also worth exploring.
Many of the locals work as waste collectors who collect trash across the city and then recycle the materials in their workshops in Mokattam.
A visit to Garbage City can be easily combined with sightseeing at the Cave Church.
Though I definitely recommend a tour guide around Garbage City. It’s easy to get lost in the winding, narrow streets of this working-class district and the locals aren’t used to tourists.
Inside the Cave Church, Cairo
Also known as The Monastery of St. Simon the Tanner, the church was established in 1975 when the Zabaleen (waste collectors) began to settle permanently in Mokattam.
It’s named after the Coptic saint who lived in 10th-century Egypt and reportedly moved Mokattam Mountain miraculously with his faith.
The Cave Church in Cairo is now the largest in the Middle East.
The large amphitheater has a big stage with an alter, statues and icons. The walls of the church are adorned with reliefs of Biblical figures carved right into the mountain rocks.
The church is a stunning sight to see – and an awe-inspiring architectural marvel that will definitely leave you inspired.
What is “garbage city”?
Many of the Zabaleen (trash collectors) were farmers who fled poor harvests and poverty in Upper Egypt and migrated to Cairo for work.
They initially raised livestock in the hills. But they later found waste collecting and recycling a lot more profitable.
And their neighborhood began to grow.
Today their so-called “Garbage City” is a tour group destination. And the recycling centers, churches and winding streets of this hillside community are fascinating to explore.
Need to know:
On Google Maps: 27JG+3PW
How to get there: Take an Uber to the Cave Church. Although this neighborhood is crowded, it’s a district of Cairo like any other. So you don’t need a guide to visit the church. Though if you want to explore the surrounding neighborhood or visit the recyclers, it’s better to hire a guide who knows their way around.
Nearby: Azhar Park and the Citadel are about a half hour taxi ride away.