Crazy for Coptics!

We went on 2 tours this week.  Islamic & Coptic Cairo.  Learned about all the spiritual, churchy stuff going on in Cairo.

We saw some really awesome stuff,  but ….. you know what I found to be the most interesting ….. In Egypt, they tolerate all faiths ….. They don’t, however, seem to be to tolerant of a lack of faith.  What I mean is …. they don’t care if you are a Christian, a Muslim, a Jew … whatever …… but, they do seem to think it’s pretty lame to be “nothing.”  Oh, and when I say “be”, I mean you need to be a practicing, believing, standin’ firm, praying’, church goin’ something.  Amen.

…………..Ok, I am using the general population of Egypt pretty loosely here.  Obviously, I haven’t met all gazillion of them, but it’s just a vibe I pick up.  Religion, faith … these are important to everyone here.  It’s totally normal to ask if you’re Christian or Muslim or Mormon.  Rere asked on her first day “Madame, you are Christian?  (yes, Rere) Strong Christian? or not?” ……..

So, anyway, I just found this to be pretty interesting.  Obviously in the states we are tolerant of others religions, but we deal with it by excluding the faith factor from everything.  Just don’t talk about it and we will all be fine.  Wouldn’t want to offend anyone by talking about your “religion.”  Bible thumpers are so overbearing.

…….. Ok, again …Obviously, EVERYONE isn’t that way, but you know what I mean.

Anyhoo …..

A little history on the Coptics.  First of all “Coptic” basically means “Egyptian.”  So .. all Egyptians are technically Coptic.  But … a long, long time ago, some of the Coptics (or Egyptians) decided to convert to Islam and now they use the word “Coptic” to refer to Egyptian Christians and everybody else is pretty much Muslim.  So, the Coptics are believed to be some of the first Christians in Egypt.

Gather round.  It’s story time:
St Mark was sent by Jesus to Egypt to tell Egypt about Chrisitanity.  As the story goes, poor Mark’s sandals were a bit worn out and he decided to stop off at the cobblers house to get his shoe fixed.  As is typical …. this (now pagan) cobbler was very hospitable and offered to let Mark stay, rest, and sleep.  Of course, Mark (following orders) shared with this cobbler the good news of Jesus.  The cobbler accepted the news of Jesus and it is believed that he hosted the first church in his home.  …. You can read the Bible to see how the story is supposed to end.  ðŸ˜‰

Another interesting fact about Coptic Cairo ……. So, remember how King Herod was trying really hard to find baby Jesus and kill him.  Of course, Mary & Joseph (like any good parents) weren’t havin’ that.  So, they fled to Egypt for a few years.  …….. There is a map in one of the churches that shows what they believe the journey looked like.  One of their stop overs was …… Yep, you guessed it.  Cairo.  The church it’s believed they took refuge in is in Coptic Cairo.  I went there!!!!  Yes, pretty amazing to think I stood where Jesus actually was.

And now, since I’m a Christian and Coptic Cairo was my favorite between Coptic & Islamic and since Julia already posted all the pics from Islamic Cairo …. I’m gonna share a couple pics of Coptic Cairo.  The Coptics weren’t to fond of us taking pics of their churches, but pics were allowed in the Hanging Church .. and at the fortress.

 A pic of the Babylon Fortress …. this has nothing to do with the Tower of Babel, just FYI.  Those big holes are underground rooms.  NOTE: This is important because the “Hanging Church” was built over a hole in the ground like this.  When they built the church they just laid planks over the big opening … hince, it got nicknamed “The Hanging Church” …. It’s actual name is St. Mary Virgin’s Coptic Orthodox Church. (that’s a mouthful) ..

An example of Coptic writing and Arabic Calligraphy ….. these carvings always amaze me.  What if you make a mistake … no erasers … do you start over …do they cut your hand off and end your career? Yikes.  
Courtyard entrance to the Hanging Church … this courtyard is all pretty new and has recently been restored.  It was very pretty, but nothing compared to the inside of the church.
Hello!  Could a facade be anymore fabulous?  All carved stone and inlay and paint …. and oh impressiveness.  Let’s go inside ……
 SNAP!!  People please … this is gorgeous.  The sermon is given from the fancy thing in the middle.  He stands up there and tells it like it is. The walls you see …. theses are all inlayed wood with Ivory and Ebony ….it’s so intricate.
A closer pic of the inlay work … pictures just don’t do it justice …

This is the Coptic Cross.  Apparently, back in the day, when the Christians were being hunted, the Coptics would wear something with this cross on it as a signal to other Coptics .. so they could know who to trust.   
It has the shape of the traditional cross with the points going North, South, East, & West.  The three extra points on each end symbolize the trinity and the three points times the four points equals twelve … symbolizing the 12 disciples.  Cool huh.

There were twelve columns in this church … one for each of Jesus’s disciples.  Only one column was black …. guess who that column represents … Judas ….Ouch.

 Love all these details … even the pews were beautiful.

This is the gate to the city.  Way back when, the city streets were more like alleys and passage ways.  There was usually only one entrance into the city from the outside … these entries were closed at night and opened again every morning.  Supposedly, there was sometimes a trick to opening the gates and only the people who lived there knew the trick. 
Remember how I said they didn’t really like us taking pics ….yeah …bummer.  You’ll just have to come visit me in Egypt to see the rest of the churches in Coptic Cairo. 🙂

Categories: Cairo, Coptic | Leave a comment

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