El Mokattam Mountain Cave Church, also known as the Monastery of St Simon, is located in the Mokattam mountain in southeast Cairo. The area is known as ‘garbage city’ due to the
large number of garbage collectors or ‘Zabbaleen’ that live there and sort through the city’s waste, recycling up to 80% of it.
To reach El Mokattam Mountain Cave Church, visitors must weave through winding alleys before arriving at the entrance to what is believed to be one of the largest engraved monasteries in the world. The Zabbaleen are a minority Coptic Christian group and this gigantic church, which has been carved out of the mountainside and has a seating capacity of up to 20,000, is their place of worship.
The cave church is dedicated to Simon the Tanner, a craftsman saint who lived during the 10th century. The church as it exists today features various motives and sculptures depicting the life of Christ, and an amphitheater surrounding a central pulpit.
Reaching the monastery is relatively tricky due to the narrow, bustling alleys visitors must navigate before reaching the far end of the village. The best way to reach the cave is with a private guide or as part of an organized tour.