Hidden in the small streets of the Zabaleen, or the garbage collectors area, at the foot of Moqattam, the Saint Samaan church stands as a testament of the faith of many Egyptians.
In 1969 when 15,000 Christian Egyptians collectively left their home villages in Assiut for Cairo to seek work and a better standard of living, the families were given permission by then-president Gamal Abdul-Nasser to live in a deserted area by Moqattam hill. The ramshackle houses turned into the busy area that is now known as Mansheyet Nasser, or Zabaleen.
The families made their living as garbage collectors and made recycling into a profession. To this day every morning piles of trash are dumped in the area by dozens of garbage trucks coming from all around Cairo and families collect garbage themselves with small donkey carts in the different neighbourhoods of Cairo. Once the garbage is collected it is sorted and recycled.
Deep inside the neighbourhood, the Saint Samaan church is carved in the side of the mountain, and is the spiritual heart of the community.
Construction of the church started in 1974 by the Egyptian cleric Samaan Ibrahim, going through many phases until reaching the shape it has today. The first church was built with steel and iron sheets. Two years later a brick building was added to celebrate religious holidays. The unexpected growth of the church’s congregation inspired its founders, Samaan Ibrahim and his companions, to expand the church to its current magnificent form and it has become one of the most significant churches in Egypt. (Daily News Egypt)