In autumn everything is different, as if life changes in the warm, cheerful and moderate Egyptian autumn. When you wake up in the morning, you get the feeling that you want to spread the cheerful warmth of sunlight to everyone you meet. This heartwarming weather is suitable for an adventure, like a trip to the Multi-Religious Compound in Cairo. The Compound includes holy places for three religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The synagogue, church, and mosque stand side by side in harmony.
I started my visit with the place closest to my heart, which is the Hanging Church. I love this church so much because it is different from all the churches I visited before. When I entered the churchyard, I was truly impressed by the sound of the ringing bells and the hymns that were playing. It is called the ‘Hanging Church’ because it was constructed above the ruins of the Babylon Fortress, making it higher than the surrounding land by a few meters. As soon as you enter this holy place, your spirit finds serenity. I looked around and 120 icons and pictures of saints welcomed me.
I lost track of time and suddenly became aware of it when I heard the laughs of schoolchildren. With the spirit of a child, I left the church and continued my trip to the cave. I could not believe that I was standing in front of the cradle of Jesus Christ, the bed where Jesus used to sleep in during the Holy Family trip. He stayed in this cave for some time, above which the Virgin Mary’s Church was built.
The Hanging Church and Virgin Mary’s Church are not the only churches there. There are also Church of Saint Barbara and Church of Saint George. A synagogue and a mosque surround these churches. Here is an advice you can give to anyone visiting this place; do not leave this Compound unless you visit the Ben Ezra Synagogue.
Nothing separates the church from the ancient Jewish synagogue; you feel it is a part of the church although it was built in the Islamic age. Beautiful crowns decorate the synagogue’s marble columns and the candles of the menorah are being lit till today. There you can find the Jewish documents of Geniza.
In the meantime, you hear the calls for prayer raised from a nearby mosque, which is like no other. This ancient mosque was the first mosque built in Africa. The Mosque of Amr Ibn el ‘Aas gives you the feeling of being connected to the sky because of its roofless yard. It is told that when Muslims came to Egypt and Amr Ibn el ‘Aas entered the country, it was the time of Dhuhr prayer.
The priest of the church called on Amr Ibn el ‘Aas to pray in the churchyard, but he thanked him and said he would rather pray beside the church, which later became the spot where the mosque was built, next to the church and the Jewish synagogue.
I finished my prayer in the mosque and left the Multi-Religious Compound warmhearted, in awe that I was standing on a piece of land that is living proof of how we are all connected.