Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Zabbaleen Cave Church in Cairo

My friend Hayfa sends me the most amazing things. Her mind is another Here, There and Everywhere Kind of mind. 🙂



This article resonates with me because when we moved to Tunis, the garbage collectors would fight over our trash. I felt horrible, we had an infant, and there were diapers in the trash. 😦 Our maid would take cans and jars and especially jars with lids out of the trash, and ask if she could take them. We learned before throwing anything away to see if she wanted it first. They used, and re-used, everything. We learned to look at our consumption in a whole new way. It was one of the best things about living in an ‘alien’ community; we learned to see ourselves with different eyes.



Thank you, Hayfa, for this fascinating article.


The Cave Church of the Zabbaleen in Cairo


The Monastery of Saint Simon, also known as the Cave Church, is located in the Mokattam mountain in southeastern Cairo, Egypt, in an area that is known as ‘garbage city’ because of the large population of garbage collectors or Zabbaleen that live there. The Zabbaleen are descendants of farmers who started migrating from Upper Egypt to Cairo in the 1940s. Fleeing poor harvests and poverty they came to the city looking for work and set-up makeshift settlements around the city. Initially, they stuck to their tradition of raising pigs, goats, chickens and other animals, but eventually found collecting and sorting of waste produced by the city residents more profitable.

The Zabbaleen would sort through household garbage, salvaging and selling things of value, while the organic waste provided an excellent source of food for their animals. In fact, this arrangement worked so well, that successive waves of migrants came from Upper Egypt to live and work in the newly founded garbage villages of Cairo.


For years, the makeshift settlements of the Zabbaleen were moved around the city trying to avoid the municipal authorities. Finally, a large group of Zabbaleen settled under the cliffs of the Mokattam or Moquattam quarries at the eastern edge of the city, which has now grown from a population of 8,000 in the early 1980s, into the largest garbage collector community in Cairo, with approximately 30,000 Zabbaleen inhabitants. Egypt is a Muslim-majority country, but the Zabbaleen are Coptic Christians, at least, 90 percent of them are. Christian communities are rare to find in Egypt, so the Zabbaleen prefer to stay in Mokattam within their own religious community even though many of them could afford houses elsewhere.


The local Coptic Church in Mokattam Village was established in 1975. After the establishment of the church, the Zabbaleen felt more secure in their location and only then began to use more permanent building materials, such as stone and bricks, for their homes. Given their previous experience of eviction from Giza in 1970, the Zabbaleen had lived in temporary tin huts up till that point. In 1976, a large fire broke out in Manshiyat Nasir, which led to the beginning of the construction of the first church below the Mokattam mountain on a site of 1,000 square meters. Several more churches have been built into the caves found in Mokattam, of which the Monastery of St. Simon the Tanner is the largest with a seating capacity of 20,000. In fact, the Cave Church of St. Simon in Mokattam is the largest church in the Middle East.

Mokattam                                                            mountain in                                                            southeastern                                                            Cairo
the                                                            Zabbaleen are                                                            Coptic                                                            Christians
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The first                                                            church below                                                            the Mokattam                                                            mountain
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Cave                                                            Church of St.                                                            Simon in                                                            Mokattam is                                                            the largest                                                            church in the                                                            Middle East
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The                                                            largest                                                            garbage                                                            collector                                                            community in                                                            Cairo
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Egypt's                                                            Zabbaleen                                                            Carves                                                            Beautiful                                                            Hidden Cave                                                            Churches in                                                            Cario
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Wall                                                            Painting of                                                            Jesus in Cave                                                            Church of the                                                            Zabbaleen in                                                            Cairo
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Wall                                                            Statue of Cave                                                            Church of the                                                            Zabbaleen in                                                            Cairo
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Exterior                                                            of Cave Church                                                            of the                                                            Zabbaleen in                                                            Cairo
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The City                                                            Cairo
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Gabage in                                                            City Cairo
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December 15, 2013 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Community, Cultural, Faith, Home Improvements, Survival | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Palestinian Snowman

Love this photo from Skye news; Palestinian photo as snowstorm hits Middle East. We were flying back from Cairo to Amman once, only to discover Amman had a snowstorm and there was maybe 4 inches of snow in a city ill-prepared for snow removal, LOL. When we moved there, we knew it got hot – but we had no idea how very cold it also got, and how the cold was amplified by the marble floors and hard surfaces. We LIVED in flannel shirts 🙂



December 15, 2013 Posted by | Middle East, Weather | Leave a comment