Monastery Of St. Simon The Tanner – A Haven In The Urban Sprawl

The Monastery of St. Simon the Tanner (Monastery complex of St. Sama’an) is hidden amidst the vast urban sprawl of modern day Cairo. It is a very unique religious site, and it’s convenient location make it a real gem for tourists.

Rock carving in the Monastery of St. Simon the Tanner - Photo by Roland Unger

Rock carving in the Monastery of St. Simon the Tanner.

Cairo, the capital city of Egypt, is today one of the largest and most densely populated cities in the world. Nonetheless, for visitors who are in search of unique and interesting places to visit and explore, Cairo has plenty to offer. The city is literally full of attractions, but while some are very well known to tourists, others tend to lurk below the radar, and as a result, they are often overlooked by regular travelers.

The Monastery of St. Simon the Tanner is just one such example. Set withing the Muqattam Hills, the monastery can be reached by following the road which is opposite to the one which leads to the famous Cairo Citadel. Even though the monastery isn’t often featured in holiday brochures and so on, it actually has a very long and interesting history, and it’s most certainly a place worth visiting.

Monastery of St. Simon the Tanner – A Brief History

While it might not be immediately apparent, there are actually seven individual chapels or churches that make up the Monastery of St. Simon the Tanner, most of which are tucked away in the caves of the hills. The existence of the monastery only came to light as recently as 1969 when the “Zabbaleen” peoples were relocated to the Muqattam region.

The Zabbaleen people are the city’s unofficial garbage collectors, and they have worked in this capacity for the past 70 or more years. This is the reason why travelers get confused when asking for directions to the Monastery – locals will often inform travelers that the Monastery is located in what some call “Garbage City”.

Getting There

To visit the site means navigating into the mountains and then making your way through the city in order to reach the Monastery. What many travelers find interesting is that the residents of the city often point them in the right direction without even being asked. Clearly, they appreciate that the Monastery is a religious and tourist destination and tend to help people quickly reach it. Most visitors are amazed by what they find.

The Monastery is set in a very open area that is tucked tightly against the base of one of the hills. The colors of the stones and the impressive carvings create a dramatic image, and a permanent nativity scene is in place as well.

An Act Of Faith

The location takes its name from St. Simon who, legend has it, moved the Muqattam Mountains in order to prove the strength of his Christian faith and beliefs. This was said to have occurred in 979, and exactly thousand years later the process of constructing the Monastery began.

The Monastery Today

As mentioned previously, the Monastery of St. Simon the Tanner has been It carved into and from the native limestone, and the site comprises seven impressive individual chapels and churches. Today the complex serves as an educational center; a kindergarten school, and a school for the deaf. There are also various literacy and vocational courses made available for the local population.

Although this often overlooked site may not be the easiest and simplest destination to reach, it is certainly worth the extra effort. The overwhelming majority of travelers who do make a point of visiting the Monastery of St. Simon the Tanner insist that it is one of the more impressive and more memorable  they have visited during their travels in Egypt.

Egypt is awash with fascinating tourist attractions which never fail to draw in countless tourists from around the globe, but unfortunately no Egypt tour packages can include visits to every attraction in the country.

Egypt Tours Plus been specializing in custom Egypt tours for more than half a century already, so we have a pretty good idea as to what our customers want. We can also tailor a tour to include any and all places you want to visit, including the Monastery of St. Simon the Tanner.

 

 

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