Thursday, July 13, 2006

Church and Coptic Cairo - July 7

Another early morning... It actually wasn't too early and really should have been earlier. As it is we completely missed sacrament and were only there for about half of testimony meeting. We had to walk from the hotel to the Dokki metro station (it reminds me of Andrew's cat...) and take it to the Sakanat al-Maadi station. Since we were already almost late for church, Kirk wanted some of us to take taxis to the church and some of us to walk so that we wouldn't all walk in late at the same time. He had told us the address of the church and then gave directions to the taxi driver. The roads in this area of Cairo were set up rather easily. In theory the streets were numbered consecutively (though not all streets were marked...) and the villas were also numbered in an orderly fashion. But our taxi driver could not find the street we were looking for so just dropped us off and tried to get us to pay him 5 EGP for our pre-bargained 3 EGP ride. We gave him 3 and then left. We didn't really know where we were so we walked up and down the streets looking for the right one. It didn't exist. We did see a man wearing a white shirt and tie carrying what looked suspiciously like a scripture case. We started going that direction but then noticed this huge group of Americans all dressed up marching around...we joined them (apparently we stick out!) and marched around with Kirk trying to find this unknown street.

Arabs are so willing to give directions, even if they are faulty ones, so we ended up getting a lot of dead-end leads...finally Kirk realized that he had switched the villa number with the street number so we were looking for a non-existent street. Oops! We did eventually make it to church and the it was wonderful. There were so many families there...and they even did a special sacrament service for us.

After church we headed into Coptic Cairo. We took the Metro from Maadi to the Mar Girgis stop. Here a huge wall is built around a highly concentrated Coptic population.

Shortly after getting to Coptic Cairo, you will notice signs all over the place stating:

If is traditionally believed that this is where Mary and Joseph fled to hide the baby Jesus from King Herod. They had to have hid somewhere, and apparently it is down that staircase.

Coptic Cairo is certainly has an interesting mix of worship places. We went into the oldest known synagogue in Cairo. We visited a Greek Orthodox Cathedral. There were many other represented religions as well. It was very interesting to see how the art was all the same. The Star of David was used in Islamic art as well as Jewish art, and believe it or not, the Arabs and Jews used to get along! The art was all very Islamic in all the different churches we visited.

After exploring the churches for a while we went to look at some gardens. As we were just entering the garden, we were stopped by a Coptic Egyptian family. I was immediately swarmed by women and children while Andrew was taken off, once more, to have serious conversations with them menfolk. I had a good time introducing myself a million times over. It was great! The kids knew how to say a few key phrases: "What's your name?" (which is pretty much all I can say in Arabic, so no one felt dumb), "How old are you?" and "Do you love Jesus.". I did hair and played catch and reassured the children many times that I love Jesus...

Andrew talked about religion. These were some really devoted Coptics. They had crosses tattooed on the underside of their wrists. They were also determined to have religious conversation and the conversation that took place may have strayed into being moderately illegal. There are no missionaries in Egypt and it is illegal to preach so, although Andrew wasn't preaching, per could have been bearing testimony, which is also pretty much illegal. But they had heard that we had a prophet and wanted to know if we actually believe in him, which we do. Their conversation got pretty heated, but it ended on good terms.

Oh, we also got some "presents" from an Egyptian Jew who thought that we were cool because Andrew said he was of Jewish descent.

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