Mabaani Min Bukhour…Kanaa’is Wa Adyura Misriya (Buildings of Incense…Egyptian Churches and Monasteries), the most recent book by the journalist and writer Robeir al-Faris is now on the market
Mabaani Min Bukhour…Kanaa’is Wa Adyura Misriya (Buildings of Incense…Egyptian Churches and Monasteries), the most recent book by the journalist and writer Robeir al-Faris is now on the market, published by The General Organisation for Cultural Palaces (GOCP).
Faris was invited by GOCP to write to the Muslim reader on the topic of churches, basing on the idea that on the idea that ‘man is enemy of what he ignores’. Since the majority of Egyptian Muslims know very little—or none at all—about churches, their physical content and their general rules, fanatic Muslims find it easy to inflame sectarian strife through the propagation of false information about churches. The most notorious example is the claim, believed by many Muslims to be true, that churches and monasteries stockpile arms.
Churches inside out
The recent book, which comes in 208 medium-sized pages with coloured illustrations and is sold for the subsidised price of a mere EGP2, tells all about churches, and explains the difference—unknown to many—between a church and a monastery.
It begins with a simplified explanation of all parts of the church building from outside and inside. It describes the altar, the sanctuary, the iconostasis, the chorus, the nave, and the altar utensils, as well as the community service centres or buildings.
The first chapter introduces some historical and modern churches including that of the Holy Virgin in Zeitoun, Cairo, the 4th-century Hanging Church in Old Cairo, and the church of Anba Hinniss in the village of Deir Abu-Hinniss in Malawi, Minya, in Upper Egypt.
The second chapter takes the reader through a tour to the monasteries of Wadi al-Natroun in the Western Desert, the monastery of Anba Badaba in Bahjoura in Upper Egypt, and that of St Anthony in the Eastern Desert.
It also introduces the Greek Catholic church of St Kyrillos (St Cyril) in Korba, Cairo, and the Evangelical church of Qasr al-Dubara in Downtown Cairo.
An appendix includes a feature story by the writer published in Watani in August 2011 describing Egypt through its churches, and another on the falsity of the claim that churches house arms.
Visit a church
The book is absorbing and provides valuable information. Faris told Watani that the idea of the book came to his mind after the demolition of the church in the village of Sol in March 2011 and the claim that magic was being practised there. “When I attempted to explain to my Muslim friends that such a claim was preposterous, many told me they knew nothing about churches other than the notions propagated by Islamists. This is when I decided to go to the Ministry of Culture with the idea of a book that would cite all the facts on churches and monasteries; the people at the ministry welcomed the idea and invited me to write the book.”
Faris says he has been receiving excellent response to the book, with several Muslims contacting him to say they wished to visit churches. This, Faris says, should be no problem; he had already written in Watani International as far back as May 2007 about a few Muslims who were invited by the Cairo weekly al-Dustour to venture into churches to find out first hand about then. Today, however, with all the attacks by Islamists against churches, many churches would be wary about allowing Muslims with flagrant sectarian appearance—such as beards and Islamic attire—to visit. A prior talk with the church priest or a church elder should work to explain matters and iron out any apprehension, though.
7 October 2012