Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A walk through Cairo's religious history

nzherald (Jill Worrall)

A quick dash around the treasures of Tutankhamun and a battle through the tourists around the pyramids and the Sphinx can be the extent of many Cairo itineraries.

But east of the Nile lie two neighbourhoods where life continues at a less frenetic pace than in the rest of the city and that have associations with no less than Jesus, Mary and Joseph and the Islamic hero who retook Jerusalem from the Crusaders, Salah ad-Din (Saladin).

Egypt's Christian heritage is said to date back to the arrival of Mark, one of the 12 Apostles in the first century AD. Believers were known as Copts (which, via Arabic and Greek simply means Egyptian).

Today there are about six million Copts in Egypt, about 10 per cent of the population, but 1600 years ago Christianity was the official religion of the entire nation.

I reached the area through a vegetable market where fresh produce was still arriving by donkey cart and men were sitting in shady alleys over tiny round tables sipping coffee and smoking sheesha.


Anonymous said...

seeing as the population is now 80 million 10% of the population is 8 million not 6. However you have got your facts wrong anyway the coptic population is closer to 20% than 10%.

Andie said...

Anonymous, it is usually charming to receive a comment on the blog in response to a post. However, it is rather more charming when someone else's remarks (in this case Jill Worrall's) are not attributed to me. The reason why I put a huge quotation mark at the beginning of each section quoted, indent it, and put the author's name in brackets after the link is so that it should be clear to readers who should take credit for the writing.

As you apparently feel strongly on the subject perhaps you should visit the NZ Herald (where the report was published) and post your comment there.

I am delighted, whatever the statistics on the Coptic population (discussed by Ibrahim and Ibrahim in their excellent "Egypt: An Economic Geograpy"), that Coptic Cairo has been gaining some attention recently.

On Look Films said...

Check out the multimedia documentary film and audio archiving project my team and I are working on about Cairo and the call to prayer.