Ben Ezra Synagogue used to be a Christian place of worship by the name of El-Shamieen Church and according to a legend, the building was built on the exact spot where Moses was found as a baby in his basket. However, when the Coptic Christians owning it weren’t able to pay the annual taxes imposed by the Muslim rulers any longer, they had to sell the church. It was sold to Abraham Ben Ezra, who purchased the building in 882 AD for 20,000 dinars and turned it into a Jewish synagogue.
The synagogue became a place where North African Jews congregated for major festivals and famous rabbis came to worship on their visits to Cairo. Then, during a restoration in 1890, the most famous and diverse Geniza in the world was found. In an empty space below the roof, roughly 300,000 priceless manuscripts were hidden away, a collection that is now known as the Cairo Geniza. The manuscripts have long since been transferred to different libraries, but visitors to the synagogue will still be able to visit this place of historical importance and learn about Coptic and Jewish Cairo. In fact, the Ben Ezra Synagogue is the most visited Jewish site in the city and surprises visitors with the beautiful geometric and floral patterns in the Turkish style.
Ben Ezra Synagogue is located right behind the hanging church and next to the line 1 metro station Mar Girgis in the district of Old Cairo. The synagogue is open daily from 8am to 4pm.