Day two found us still struggling with sleeping upside down. Read that to mean that Emma, Sarah Jane, and Megan (by default) “napped” from 10:00 pm to 2:00 am. Woke up, ate and played from 2:00 am to 6:00 am, and then napped again from 6:00 am to noon. Sam meanwhile slept the entire 14-hour span.
So, for the afternoon we braved the Metro rail system and went to Coptic Cairo. For a mere 1 EGP each (Egyptian Pound = $.18) we were able to train surf (riding without hands) and share body odors with many other people. The Metro is actually very efficient, fast and economical. So much so that many Egyptians forgo owning a car and travel either by Metro or taxi exclusively. And besides, it appeals to the thrill seeker in all of us.
Coptic Cairo is the oldest area of the modern day city of Cairo with settlements dating back to the 6th century BC. When the Romans finally took over Egypt they established a city here under Emperor Trajan’s rule around AD 98. They named the city Babylon in Egypt. The Romans tried to extinguish the old Egyptian religion, but instead of adopting the Roman religion, the locals turned to the new cult of Christianity. These early Christian believers strongly held to the tradition that this community beside the Nile, along with several other sites along the river, was the refuge places of Mary, Joseph and the young boy Jesus after Herod’s edict to kill all young boys of Jesus’ age. The Christian community that settled here eventually called themselves Copts and like other Christians in the Roman Empire fell under extreme persecution. The churches remaining in this walled community are dedicated to the church leaders who were martyred for their beliefs under Roman persecution. Our city’s namesake, Santa Barbara - Sitt Barbara, was imprisoned in a tower here and eventually killed by her own father for trying to convert him to Christianity. Even after Christianity became the official religion of the empire in AD 323 the Copts continued to be persecuted because they were seen as heretics to the established Christianity of Rome. To this day it remains a stronghold for Christianity in Egypt.
After a peaceful afternoon wandering through the old churches, winding passageways and graveyards we packed ourselves like sardines back into the Metro and headed home.