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Anba Samaan El-Kharraz “Simon the tanner” Monastery


Anba Samaan Monastery or Saint Simon the tanner in the heart of Fatimid Cairo is a historic masterpiece manifesting the genius of the Egyptian architect who built this remarkable piece of architecture to become one of Masr Al-Qadims’s most exquisite landmarks. Samaan El-Kharraz or Simon the Tanner is one of the saints of the Coptic Orthodox Church and he was a good and righteous man who worked at leather tanning and repairing shoes.  

In the reign of Al-Mu’izz li-Din Allah, the fourth ruler of the Fatimid caliphate in Egypt, he had a minister named Yaqub ibn Killis, who was Jewish. He informed Al-Mu’izz that the Christian Gospel says, “if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
Al-Mu’izz ordered Coptic Pope Abraham of Alexandria, who is now venerated as a saint by the Coptic Orthodox Church, to move Mokattam Mountain. The saint asked Al-Mu’izz to give him some time. Abraham continuously fasted for three days until he fainted and saw the Virgin Mary in a dream, who told him about a man would help him move the mountain.

He helped to move the mountain from Ramses area. After the transfer of Mokattam, Saint Samaan disappeared into one of the caves of the mountain. Later, a monastery was built in the same place.


The most distinctive feature of Saint Simon Monastery is that it is carved into the rocks of Al-Mokattam Mountain. At first glance, it seems as it is part of the mountain. It is located in Al-Mokattam area. The idea of building Saint Simon Monastery came up after the discovery of the cave where Saint Simon was buried in February 1974 during an expedition of Coptic archaeologists to find Saint Simon’s possessions. They were able to find a tomb with a skeleton inside, which is believed to be Saint Simon the tanner corpse. The discovered tomb also had a drawing of the patriarch and a bald man filling two jars of water. So, the scientists assumed that this bald man is Saint Simon because he used to distribute water to poor people houses.


So, when the monastery was built, it housed all the discovered relics of Saint Simon along with beautiful paintings carved into the rocks. It was built gradually with the help of Zabbaleen district’s residents in Al-Mokattam area, who transferred more than two million and a half stones to construct the monastery. It was built on an area of approximately 1000 m2 in the heart of Al-Mokattam mountain.


Moreover, it consists of four churches, which are Cathedral of Virgin Mary and St. Samaan El-Kharraz, Anba Abraam Church, St. Marcos Church, St. Samaan El-Kharraz’s hall with a capacity of 2000 people, and Anba Paula Church. Many tourists go to visit the monastery and see the mountain that moved miraculously.




Virgin Mary and St. Samaan El-Kharraz Cathedral

It was named in honor of the Virgin Mary and St. Samaan to commemorate the memory of the miracle of Al-Mokattam Mountain moving.
The Cathedral was built in two phases. The first phase was a small cave with a one-meter ceiling frequented by church servants for the prayer meetings. Then an altar was added. While in the second phase, fixed step-like seats were constructed in November 1994 to accommodate a large number of people. It is the largest church in the monastery.

Anba Abraam Church

It was given this name in honor of the patriarch, who the miracle happened during his reign. He was the one who introduced the three-day fast, which the church fasted before the miracle, and it also preceded the Nativity Fast. So, it became 43 days rather than 40 days of fasting.

The Church of St. Marcos and St. Samaan El-Kharraz Hall

This place was discovered in 1974, and it was filled with huge stones to the cave’s ceiling, which now houses St. Mark Church and St. Samaan El-Kharraz ‘s hall. It had only one extremely steep entrance, which is currently the big glass window overlooking the area. In 1991, the stones were removed from the cave to start the construction of the church and the hall.

The church of St. Marcos was established in 1992 and the dome of the church was decorated with three marvelous paintings made of mosaic pieces. The paintings depict important events from the Bible, such as the Crucifixion, the resurrection, and the Ascension.

As for St. Samaan Hall, it has several exquisite paintings showing spiritual events from the Bible, the most distinctive of which is a painting of Jesus Christ opening his arms, waiting for all who come to him.  

The Church of Anba Paula Awal Al-Sawah

It was named after Anba Paula Awal Al-Sawah, who had an ascetic life and isolated himself at a cave in Al-Mokattam Mountain to worship God for 70 years. This cave was discovered in 1986 during some construction works in the area. The first holy Mass prayer held in the church was in 1991.


Anba Samaan Monastery on Google Maps


 Saint Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral


Alexandria city is the edifice of civilization and cradle of history, which houses the oldest church St. Mark Church. When St. Mark the evangelist came to Alexandria in 62 A.D and founded the Church of Alexandria known as St. Mark Coptic Church. St. Mark Church became the headquarter of the patriarch of the church for one thousand years. Then the 66th Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark first moved the seat of the pope from Alexandria to the Hanging Church in Al-Fustat area then after several times in Al-Abbasia area.


On July 24, 1965, during the celebration of the 13th anniversary of the 1952 Revolution, Pope Cyril VI laid the foundation of the largest cathedral in the Middle East in the name of St. Mark the evangelist, in the presence of President Gamal Abdel Naser, who  Abdel Naser donated 100 thousand pounds as a contribution to the cathedral construction.


The Cathedral was built next to St. Peter Church on Anba Reweiss land in Al-Abbasia area. It took three years to complete its construction. Then in 1965, when the remains St. Mark the evangelist returned to Egypt after 1900 years of his martyrdom, the Cathedral was inaugurated in a global ceremony attended by President Gamal Abdel Naser, Emperor of Ethiopia Haile Selassie, some patriarchs of Christian churches in the East, and representatives of Christian communities from all over the world.    


During the Inauguration, the Cathedral received gifts, including an altar covered with pure gold from the Russian Orthodox Church and a bible a golden cross from the Ethiopian Emperor. 




St. Mark Cathedral Design

The external design of the Cathedral is shaped like a cross, and it consists of two intersected basements with a dome in the middle. It also has two minarets. From the inside, it is shaped like a basilica and divided into three parts consist of three sanctuaries behind them the Cathedral’s three altars. The main altar was named after St. Mark the evangelist and the founder of the Coptic Church in Egypt. The other two alter were named after Virgin Mary, St. Athanasius the Apostolic and the 20th Coptic Patriarch, and Pope Kirolos VI; the 116th Patriarch and the founder of the Cathedral.  


St. Mark Cathedral houses more than one church, two of which hold the name of Virgin Mary; the first is Virgin Mary and Anba Reweiss Church, and the second is Virgin Mary and Anba Bishoy Church. These two churches were constructed on August 22, 1976 below the Cathedral as well as Anba Antonius Church, St. Morris Church, and two other churches.


Saint Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral on Google Maps


Last Update: 2024