Lower Moqattam is a dump, literally. The people living in this community make their living sorting through the trash of Egypt that makes it to the dump. The ground floor of almost every apartment structure is filled to the ceiling with trash. Rumor has it that much of the trash is recycled in some way; more accurately put, it is reused. The narrow streets are five story apartment corridors and are busy with small dump trucks, loaded pick-ups, horse drawn carts, and people moving the garbage from doorway to doorway. Children walk the streets as well, and it looks as though most of them are going to school with backpacks in tow. The hustle and bustle of it all has a very refreshing feel in light of the actual business, but the stench of refuse permeates everything and reminds that this actually is a dump.
We drove through the lower areas on up the hill toward the limestone cliffs that tower above this area. We passed through a small tunnel/gate into another land altogether. OK, the smell was still there, but that is not what took our breath away. Into the limestone cliffs were carved several larger than life scenes from the Bible. Scenes of the Flight to Egypt, the Ten Commandments, the Ascension of Christ are found all up and down the cliffs. Every time you turn around you find another scene neatly tucked into the stone. At the foot of these cliffs is a Coptic church that has literally carved itself into the mountain. A sanctuary has been carved out of the cliff that seats several thousand people. Most of the people who live in Lower Moqattum are Coptic Christians and have been living at this site for centuries. We wandered around the sanctuary, looked into the grotto-like chambers that were used by the early Coptic church, and marveled at the work of this community. It is a true gem that few visit; who would look for this type of workmanship in a dump?