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A marginalized minority of Coptic Christians in a Muslim-majority country, the Zabbaleen were forcibly relocated to the outskirts of Cairo by the government in 1969. After creating a new home at Mokattam, they also carved the Monastery of Saint Simon into the entrance of a hill near the community.

To reach the monastery, visitors must traverse winding pathways past heaps of collected trash within the Zabbaleen village. Seven churches and chapels are hidden within a series of caves inside the Monastery; the Virgin Mary and St. Simon Cathedral is the largest church. Inside the spacious caverns, beautiful engravings cover the walls, each representing stories from the Bible. St. Simon’s Hall, a large seating arena that accommodates 2,000 people for spiritual meetings, sits on the upper level.

The Monastery also includes an education center, an area for children, as well as a school for the deaf. Now considered one of the largest Coptic monasteries in Egypt, the grandeur of the churches hidden within the heart of the Mokattam Hills belie their relatively recent construction.

Via Amusing Planet

Images via Vagabondblogger