• Local's Guide To Egypt

9 Egyptian Churches, Cathedrals and Monasteries You Need to Visit at Least Once


Because Egypt is a predominantly Muslim country, most non-Egyptians are unaware that Egypt has some of the oldest and most historically significant churches, cathedrals and monasteries in this part of the world.


You don’t need to be Egyptian or even Christian to appreciate the history of these centuries-old places of worship, or the beauty of the more modern ones.


While many of these churches can be found in Coptic Cairo, some are in more… remote places (Sinai mountains, anyone?). But whatever the destination, each of these churches, cathedrals and monasteries should be visited at least once.



1. The “Cave Church” - Monastery of St. Simon the Tanner


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Location: Moqattam, Cairo

Established: 1975


This awesome cave church (or technically, ‘churches’ -- the St. Simon monastery complex has seven churches) is unlike anything else we have in Egypt.


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Carved into the Moqattam Hills, the main monastery hall can hold over 20,000 people and was named after the Coptic Saint Simon, who, according to legend, moved the Moqattam mountain in 979 AD as proof of the strength of his beliefs.


The cave church was built by the Zabbaleen community of Cairo’s Garbage City, and today is not only a religious spot but an educational center, kindergarten and school for the deaf.



2. St. Catherine’s Monastery


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Location: Mount Sinai, Sinai Peninsula

Established: 6th century AD


Part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site (for other Egyptian heritage sites, head here), the Orthodox Saint Catherine Monastery is the oldest Christian monastery in the world still used for its original function.


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Interior of St. Catherine's

According to UNESCO: “Its walls and buildings are of great significance to studies of Byzantine architecture and the Monastery houses outstanding collections of early Christian manuscripts and icons. The rugged mountainous landscape, containing numerous archaeological and religious sites and monuments, forms a perfect backdrop to the Monastery.”


St. Catherine's Monastery is at the foot of Mt. Sinai, where it's believed by the Abrahamic religions that Moses found the Burning Bush and received the 10 Commandments.



3. Wadi Natrun Monasteries


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Location: Wadi Natrun Valley, northwest of Cairo

Established: 4th century AD


More than 1600 years ago, Saint Macarius of Egypt decided to build his monastery in the Natrun valley, known for its large alkali lakes. This attracted the attention of other Christian monks and hermits, who then decided to settle in Natrun as well, establishing four large early Christian developments.


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The four Wadi Natrun Coptic monasteries that are still active to this day are:

  • The Monastery of Saint Macarius

  • The Monastery of Saint Bishoy

  • The Paromeos Monastery

  • The Syrian Monastery

All of the four can be seen and visited until today free of charge, but leaving a donation is always helpful in preserving these historic sites.



4. The Heavenly Cathedral


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Location: Sharm el Sheikh

Established: 2010


This modern church was considered by some one of the most beautiful in the world upon its completion over ten years ago, and is now an unexpected must-see for many Sharm el Sheikh visitors.


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The exterior is simple, but the interior took a team of 19 people two years to create. There are frescoes and murals, and the walls depict Biblical scenes such as The Creation and Exodus, and on the ceiling there’s St. John’s vision of The Apocalypse.



5. The “Hanging Church” - Coptic Church of St. Virgin Mary


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Location: Coptic Cairo

Established: 690 AD