Also known as The Monastery of St. Simon the Tanner, the church was established in 1975 when the Zabaleen (waste collectors) began to settle more 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 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.
It’s a gorgeous blend of natural wonders and human ingenuity.
Many of the Zabaleen 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.
How to get there: Take an Uber to the Cave Church. Although this neighborhood is crowded and poor, it’s a district of Cairo like any other and you don’t need a special guide to visit. 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.