In cooperation with the ministries of antiquities and tourism, the Association of Coptic Heritage Lovers—headed by Sami Mitry—organised an event at the 4th-century church of Abu-Seifein (St Mercurius) in Old Cairo. The event, held on 17 December under the sponsorship of Anba Yulius, General Bishop of Old Cairo churches, focused on the religious plurality of the district of Old Cairo.
The area around the church is called Mugamaa al-Adyaan, literal for ‘Religious Complex’. It houses a large number of the oldest churches in Egypt; the Amr Ibn al-Aas Mosque which is the first mosque built in Egypt directly after the Arab conquest in the 7th century, and the Ben Ezra Synagogue.
The event included five lectures.
The first tackled Christian architecture in Old Cairo, and was delivered by Shorouq Ashour, professor of tourist guidance at Future Academy. Dr Ashour explained that there are 18 Christian antiquity sites in Old Cairo, each fit to be an open museum in its own right.
Manal Ismail Tawfiq, professor of ancient Egypt archaeology, shed the light on Memphis, the ancient capital of Lower Egypt, in which the colossus of Ramses II was found.
“Ancient Egypt between concern and negligence” was the title of the lecture by al-Ghareeb Sonbul, head of the Antiquities Ministry department for maintenance and restoration. Dr Sonbul talked of the ministry’s work in restoring a number of historical sites: the Muhammad Ali mosque in Salaheddin Citadel; the shrine of Sayed Ali-Zein al-Abidin, and Amr Ibn al-Aas mosque, all of which are in Cairo.
Director-General of Research and Archaeological Studies and Scientific Publications in Lower Egypt and Sinai, Abdel-Rahim Rihan, lectured on the antiquities unearthed along the path travelled by the Holy Family from Rafah to al-Farama, whereas Fr Saleeb Gamal delivered a lecture on the church of Abu-Seifein; its art, history and spirituality. Fr Saleeb said the church was a living museum that included 267 of the earliest icons. He said a recent restoration had endowed the place with its original splendour.
The event closed with a demand for the Antiquities Ministry to transform the Christian archaeological sites in Old Cairo into open museums.
19 December 2017