16 May 2019

I’m really liking Ramadan in Egypt.  The streets are quieter in the morning and I love being out during iftar.  It feels like the entire city sits down to eat together. We’re in the middle stretch right now so I see more people eating and smoking, but it’ll pick back up toward the end of the month.

Lots of exploring recently, especially in cemeteries.  Hosh al-Basha, the Nothern Cemetery, cleaning another cemetery, and a nice walk down Muizz Street with my middle son who’s leaving for college soon.  We have friends coming right after he leaves, then the end of school, then a quick trip to the US after that.  And then a good chunk of summer without much to do.  I like to have enough of summer than we get bored and are ready for school to start. But not too bored.  Cairo-bored, not Riyadh-bored.

I went through my lists of places to see in Cairo the other day.  My basic map has about 700 pins (how can that be?) and I’ve been to at least half of them.  It has all my stuff in Cairo, from Dahshur to Matariya, interesting shops, glassblowers, cordmakers, places to get Uyghur naan, mosques, churches, domes, minarets, so much.  And there’s still so much to see. But that map has completely changed my experience here.  From the day we arrived, I could go anywhere in the city (as long as my data works) and find something interesting to see. Usually lots of somethings.  I’ve been able to coordinate meet ups with people coming in various modes of transportation from different parts of the city.  I’ve found friends who are happy to go anywhere, as long as I know where I’m going.  Even though I hated being stuck in Riyadh with a broken foot last year, working on that map was at least something good that came out of it (and the fact that we were moving to Cairo was pretty much the only thing that got me through that, plus having my parents come visit in the middle of it).

Today we saw a man sitting on a couch in the back of a pickup truck.  It looked quite pleasant.  We also took a tuk-tuk today for the first time in Egypt.  We had a tired baby with us, and a not-too-long but very warm walk to a road where an Uber would be able to find us, so when a tuk-tuk pulled up, we hopped in.

It’s suddenly gotten quite warm here, but it’s still cooler than Riyadh, plus the heat isn’t as intense in the morning.  It’s actually been nice to go out in the morning because of Ramadan.  Everything still opens early, which was a happy surprise, so we can go out early and be home by noon before the heat is too bad.  And this is as hot as Cairo gets, so it’s not like Riyadh where May is awful, but you know June, July, and August are noticeably worse for weeks on end.

07 May 2019

We went to al-Azhar Park last evening with some friends for Ramadan.  It was such a lovely spot to go.  I’d been stressed about the logistics, especially since I thought the traffic would be horrible, but there was no traffic and everything worked out really well.  We watched the lights turn on in mosques and saw lots of fireworks and firecrackers, plus we heard the call to prayer, of course.  Then we ate our own iftar on the highest hill in the park where you can see all around Cairo.  The park was nearly empty, not surprisingly, and it was so fun to be there.  

We tried the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization yesterday.  We had no idea what to expect.  I knew most of the collections haven’t opened yet, and that the building has mechanical problems, so we were ready for most anything. Plus I wasn’t sure if it would open late because of Ramadan.  Our Uber driver tried to take us to the entrance, but that turned out to be impossible since the parking doesn’t seem to have much to do with the entrance.  We ended up entering through the basement and found people to get us to the right place.  But one we got out tickets (resident rate this time), we were the only people in the exhibit room and we had a lovely time.  There’s not much to see.  We read every word and looked at every object and watched every video and it took a little more than an hour.   But it was interesting and eclectic.  When it’s really open, it’ll have things from all the different museum collections around Cairo so it should actually be a really great place to visit, plus it’s easier to get to from where we live than most of the other museums.  There were Pharonic and Fatimid ceramics, Coptic woodwork, modern and ancient jewelry, a minbar, a reconstructed 18th dynasty chariot, and Pharonic furniture.  60 pounds is too much for this spot, but 10 pounds was reasonable.  I’ll definitely go back when it’s more complete, which might be in a year or so?  We heard different estimates.  I’m just hoping more will be open before we leave.

I also went on a school field trip a few days ago to Fatimid Cairo.  I didn’t have to worry about those with the older boys, and I’d never volunteered to go on them with my youngest.  Usually they didn’t ask for volunteers anyway.  But I’ve happily gone on both field trips this year, to Saqqara and now to Muniz Street.  I think this is the end of parents going on field trips since elementary school is over for us in a few week. It was a nice trip, especially since I didn’t have to deal with any logistics.  

03 May 2019

It’s been a long, long time since we’ve been in a country that really makes Ramadan enjoyable.  It’s barely a blip on the radar in Kyrgyzstan.  Almost no one fasts, there’s almost no decorations, and any festivities are saved for Eid al-Fitr, or Orozo Ait.  But there are Ramadan singers.

Saudi Arabia managed to squelch most of the fun out of Ramadan too.  The grocery stores were festive, and there were all kinds of private parties, but almost nothing public.  Life just flipped and everything happened at night.  School was shorter, work was slower, and hearing your doorbell at 1 am was completely expected.  It was somewhat interesting, but mostly it was a hassle since you had to remember to not ever eat or drink anything outside and it was hard to find food during the day. But the iftar specials were lovely.

Cairo has been getting ready for Ramadan for weeks.  Lanterns are everywhere, along with nuts and dried fruit.  There are so many fun decorations and I can’t wait to go out in the evening to see everything lit up.  A friend of ours told me that al-Azhar park is a great place to be at sunset, where you can hear the call to prayer from lots of mosques and watch the lights turn on, plus the park is nearly empty at that time the first week.  I’m hoping to go out a couple of times next week.

Ramadan in Jerusalem was the last night we really enjoyed it, with the Thursday night concerts and trying all the different Ramadan foods and drinks on the street.  I have high hopes for this Ramadan.

30 April 2019

Yesterday was Sham al-Nessim.  I love really old holidays like this.  We celebrated by doing some exploring in the morning, in Muqattam and then at Abusir.  We found lots of people taking their picnics to eat at Saqqara, and I liked thinking that the people who built those pyramids and mastabas celebrated the earliest version of Sham al-Nessim.  And we tried ringa.  I’m not interested in feseekh, both because it doesn’t sound nice and it kills people every year, but I decided we had to try ringa, which is smoked herring and very traditional for Sham al-Nessim.  It was super salty, but we had it with tahina, olive oil, and lemon and it was pretty good.  I doubt I’ll do it again, but I’m glad we tried it this year.

I spent tons of time in Coptic churches last week, for Holy Week.  I took quite a few friends with me who’d never done anything for Holy Week, so I’m glad a few more people know about it now.  It was lovely.

We’re nearly finished with our second phase of family life.  Since our youngest is seven years younger than our older two children, it was a big change for our family when he was born.  We were really comfortable with our two boys who were very close in age.  But, of course, we adjusted and loved having three boys.  And now both of our older boys are gone or leaving.  When you live far from where your kids are in college, they’re much more “gone” than they would be if we lived in the US. So now we have seven years with just one child at home.  I trust it will be good, but just like the last big change, it’s still a little scary, in particular for me because changes at home affect me a lot.

It’s warmed up quite a bit recently which isn’t lovely but is fair. There have been very few hot days since last October, and six months of nice weather is nothing to complain about.  And my children are tired of hearing this, but even the hottest weather in Cairo is better than a summer in Riyadh.

21 April 2019

I have a few extra minutes today that I usually don’t get on a Sunday morning, since people don’t have school but the husband does have work.  So I can do some catching up on odds and ends that I’ve missed posting about over the last couple of months.

I’d been looking for shoelaces for my youngest’s shoes and couldn’t find them.  We asked in one large store and they sent us off to another section, where I didn’t see any shoelaces.  But the original person who sent us there came over and told the man in that section what we needed, and he pulled out a bag of leftover shoelaces from the shoe section.  He rummaged about and found two black shoelaces (different lengths, but close) and gave them to us.

I’m working on a complicated service project.  I really want to do it and I think it will work.  But it’s scary.  I don’t like to be in charge of things.  But this literally is a thing that no one else would do, so if it’s going to happen, I need to organize it.

I tried loquats for the first time the other day.  I had no idea what it was, and then someone said they were kumquats which I was sure wasn’t true, but I wasn’t sure if the skin was edible.  So I did some searching and figured out they were loquats (which explained the kumquat mixup).  I liked them, especially when I figured out a better system for eating them.

There are lots of holidays coming up, and it’s a little complicated because everyone’s schedules are different.  One place is just taking the next two weeks off entirely, another has five of the next ten weekdays off, and another has three.  Almost none of these days are consecutive.

After six months, we finally have a functioning elevator again.

Today is Palm Sunday.  I’m planning to spend lots of time in Old Cairo this week since there will be lots going on, plus the security is probably best there. I went yesterday afternoon and there plenty of activity getting ready for Palm Sunday.

The weather has been so lovely for months, and not just in comparison to Riyadh.  It’s nearly the end of April and the highs are still around 25, and often lower.

I’m still exploring all the time.  We finally found the Karaite Synagogue in Fatimid Cairo I’ve been looking for.

A friend of mine who sketches told me about a sketching class she took online, so I tried it too and I’ve started doing some very tentative sketching when I go out.  I’m not very good but I do enjoy hanging out in buildings for a while.

09 April 2019

Yesterday I went to the Egyptian Museum, for the first time since 1997.  I’m sure I’ll be back, and I’ll be more organized, but it was fun to do an initial visit to see what we could find.  While we were getting an Uber we ran into some other friends who happened to be going to the museum, so we all rode there together.  

And that’s where we found all the tourists I hadn’t seen since moving here, except at the pyramids.  I keep reading that tourism is picking up here, but I hadn’t seen it myself. I also hadn’t realized how many tourists are here.  The museum was filled with people at 10am, mostly tourists, and it’s a large place.  I know I’m always making comments about how tourists only go to a few places in Cairo, but honestly, I hadn’t realized how true that was till yesterday.  It’s a mixed bag - I didn’t much like having so many tourists around yesterday, and Cairo would change if they went more places, but Cairenes could really use the money tourists spend. 

I need to spend some time figuring out what is hiding in the museum.  Their collection of the Amarna Tablets is completely nondescript.  If you didn’t know what they were, you’d never know that they’re really important so I’m glad we stumbled on them.  I’m sure there’s a lot more in the museum like that with really good stories, so that will be a fun project to work on.  Someday. :)

20 March 2019

Another thing I love about living here is that almost everything I’m doing is interconnected.  I read and discuss articles about Cairo’s history for my Arabic class, which I can then use in the Cairo map I’m creating, or as background information for the service project I’m organizing in a cemetery.  I go out to work on the map, and I get lots of changes to speak Arabic plus a fun time with whomever I’m with.  I go to church, and I hear Arabic constantly there and I get to speak it.  I’ve finally figured out how to do all the work on my map from my phone, so I can literally pick it up anywhere in the city and add to it, whether I’m out with friends or lost somewhere or driving along in an Uber (and speaking Arabic).  I go grocery shopping in the suq where, again, I speak Arabic, but also find new things to try and get ingredients for Egyptian food that we eat for dinner.

There are obviously other parts of my life that don’t fit in with all of this, but most of what I’m doing can only be done here.  That was one of the hardest things in Riyadh.  I wasn’t allowed to do almost anything I love to do, and almost everything I was doing could be done anywhere.  But I did have a chance to work on some different things there that I’d never have time for here, because Cairo.

10 March 2019

Six Months In

The Cairo version after living here six months.  Here are the posts from Guadalajara and Riyadh. I was still trying to be mostly positive in the Riyadh version.

Cairo requires no pretending though.  The other day I needed to make a list of difficult things about being here for a separate thing, and I made quite a long list very quickly.  It's not hard to think of problems here, from the rats to the traffic to the sexual harassment and air quality and the broken-for-five-months elevators and lots more.  But even after I finished typing all of that, I still knew that there is no place in the world I'd rather be right now.  I suppose I'll have to leave sometime, if only to visit family this summer, but I have literally zero desire to be anywhere else. The only thing that would be better is having my family come here instead. 

So the bad things.  Some of these are seasonal.  While it's nice and cool in the winter, and for quite a few months, the air quality is much, much worse in the winter.  There are days I stayed inside because of it (or really, that I should have) and measurements over 500 AQI aren't unusual.  But we have decent air purifiers at home and I can keep the air quality acceptable inside, which is a lot more than most Cairenes can say. And even on the worst days, the air quality usually improves in the afternoon (although just to non-hazardous levels- anything below 150 seems pretty good to me now).  It's too hot in the summer, but after Riyadh, it's not so bad at all.  The sexual harassment is noticeably worse in warmer weather though, unless you wear long sleeves to avoid it.  The rats are always a problem (but I'm learning how to deal with them).  The traffic is always bad.  The city is always dirty.  There are good reasons for people to not love living here, or to hate it.

But every single day I love being here.  My Arabic is improving slowly, but it is getting better.  I love grocery shopping.  I LOVE hanging out with my middle son so much.  There are some really great people here to hang out with.  I like using Uber to get around because it avoids so many hassles.  Church is fulfilling. I love where we live and am so glad we didn't end up in a different neighborhood that others had recommended.  I love exploring Cairo.  Honestly, I'm doing what I hoped I'd do as an adult when I made plans as a teenager.  It only took 20 years to get here, and it won't last, but I'm so very happy here.

09 March 2019

And another two weeks have disappeared.  I haven't even done a six months in Cairo post, even though I have plenty to say about that.  My husband's step-father died recently and we've been dealing travel and the funeral and the resulting emotions, but we're also going on at home mostly as usual.

There has been some tension at church recently regarding languages and translation, and some strong feelings about the subject. But this is likely not the place to talk about it. 

On Thursday I spent the most lovely day with a friend who sketches at Bab Zuwayla and Mu'ayyad mosque.  We didn't do much, but just sitting in old buildings is is wonderful.  The week before we did the same thing Abu Sayfayn and Anba Shenuda.  And others of us walked along the aqueduct to the Citadel and poked around there a bit, plus we did the Nilometer, Roda Island, and Mari Mina. 

If all goes as planned this week (and I keep thinking something is going to happen to mess it up again), I'll get closer to a cemetery project I've been working on for over a month now.  Coordinating schedules hasn't been easy.

Strawberries are still in season.  I really didn't think they'd last this long and it's very nice.


24 February 2019

I'm wondering if I will have to add blogging onto my list of things to do, maybe on Sunday when things are a little quieter and I can at least make sure I write about the things that happened the week before.

Yesterday we went to the churches south of the Babylon fortress.  It took some doing, and more time than we'd planned on, but we found everything in yet another very interesting neighborhood.  I'd noticed a lot of interesting street art from driving along the edges of one neighborhood and it didn't disappoint when we went inside (and I'd like to say the people sitting at the south entrance to the secure part around the fortress who told us there was nothing to see outside the fortress were wrong).  The churches were worth finding too, although I still think Abu Sayfayn is my favorite.

We also went Dahshur since I blogged last, where the Red Pyramid and Bent Pyramid are.

All this means that I need to spend a lot of time going through photos.

Strawberries are still cheap, at least to me.  40 cents a pound.  But others assure me the are much more expensive than they used to be.

I've started a weekly two-hour Arabic class.  It took some work to figure out a time that appeased everyone (and there are lots of everyones to appease, plus paperwork) but it's all set now.  And my teacher is happy to do whatever I want so we watch Haret al-Yahood and read about Cairo history.  Poor man.


13 February 2019

The government is saying a sandstorm is coming.  None of the weather apps agree, but they’re terrible with predicting sandstorms, or at least they were in Saudi and I haven’t heard of anyone who thinks they’re better here.  Thursday and Friday are supposed to be the worst, plus rain could come too.  Can I just say that mud falling out of the sky is not my favorite weather?  I like pretty much all weather, as in something happening from the sky, except that option.

But!  As I was poking around trying to find out more about this purported storm, I discovered that the Coptic month of Amshir started a couple of days ago and it’s the windy, stormy month.  Plus, there are proverbs about this month.  One is about a person who is like Amshir, because their mood changes every hour.  Another is about a person named Touba (the previous month, when it’s cold) and like Amshir, so they’re really not a very pleasant person.  Another is something like Amshir blowing so much that it even makes and old woman fly.  That is a major paraphrase and I’m going to ask my resident Egyptian friend about that one tomorrow.

Also, all the Coptic months have sayings. https://www.exploretravelandcruises.com/egypt-weather/  I’m fond of Tout, when the heat dies.

12 February 2019

Yesterday we were at Sultan Hasan when some smoke started coming out of an upper window, to the left of the qibla iwan.  But no one seemed concerned, and since I’ve decided that I won’t get concerned overseas unless the people around me seem concerned, we kept looking around.  After a few minutes, more smoke started coming out, plus a loud sound started from somewhere inside the building.  At this point, people in the building started to pay attention.  The sound got louder, more smoke kept coming, and then a bunch of men emerged from the door below the window and there was a bit of a commotion.

Since people seemed concerned at that point, we went back into the mausoleum because it was further from the problem and it’s been there for nearly 700 years so I didn’t think yesterday would be the day it would collapse.

The sound got louder and louder, and then it finally stopped.  And everyone went back to normal, except there was still smoke drifting out. We looked around for another five or ten minutes.

As we were leaving, a fire truck pulled up.  Two actually, one that was old and small and then a bigger shiny truck.  After much discussion, they pulled away, because apparently there wasn’t anything to worry about anymore.  I thought the response time was pretty good, given Cairo’s traffic and the lack of fire stations in the city.  I’m not sure what the fire trucks would have done though.  But I liked the idea of fire trucks coming to save a nearly 700-year-old stone building.

09 February 2019

This week I've gone to Old Cairo twice and I also took a friend to the Church of the Virgin Who Melted Iron and the Maimonides Synagogue in Fatimid Cairo.  I went back to Old Cairo because I wanted to be sure I'd seen everything this book mentioned, so I toted it along with me.  This is the best general book about Coptic Cairo because it's broader in its focus that Babylon of Egypt or Fortifications and the Synagogue, and it incorporates new archaeological information that the Churches of Egypt doesn't have. 

I still haven't been able to find much about the Church of the Virgin in Fatimid Cairo, but I'm trying.  We spent a long time looking around the entire building (I've never been with someone who was willing to see all the things) and it was a lovely visit.

One thing I finally found in Abu Sarga were the14th- or 15th-century panels of the Last Supper and the Nativity.

There was some kind of health clinic going on in the courtyard of the Hanging Church a few days ago.  It reminded me of Mexico.












01 February 2019

Museum of Islamic Art

And yet another place that took us far too long to get to, although I’m glad we went to lots of other buildings first so the things we saw fit in with what we’ve seen.

This is a wonderful museum. I especially loved finding pieces that I’d read about bring in other buildings but had been moved here (like the Coptic Museum, only on a much larger scale).  The beams from one of the Fatimid palaces were there, doors from Imam Shafi’i’s tomb, a minbar I’d read about, and one of the mihrabs from a Ibn Tulun, plus lots more.

My only quibble is that there isn’t a lot of info in English.  The large information boards are all in both Arabic and English, and everything is identified in both languages, but for individual pieces, the only extra information was in Arabic and the writing was small enough and the light low enough that it was hard to read.  But I’m sure I’ll go back with my husband, and he will take at least a bazillion photo, so I’ll have more time to read someday. And I think most people wouldn’t have thought there wasn’t enough in English.

I forgot my camera and it was a bit dark, like I mentioned, so these aren’t great but there should be more another time. Al






31 January 2019

Southern Cemetery, part 3

And the rest of the photos.










30 January 2019

Southern Cemetery part 2

Since there wasn't much time after the Jewish cemetery, we just did the tombs around al-Shafi'i which is an incredibly significant place all by itself since he is the founder of one of the four schools of Islamic jurisprudence.  The building is being restored (which was a happy surprise, although I'd have liked to see it before the restoration started) and we'll return to see it when it's finished, but it's still very much worth a visit.  There are around 7 more very old tombs right around there associated with Muhammad's family, plus the tomb of Muhammad Ali's family.  The smaller tombs are locked and you need to find the person with the key (not always doable, but we did go in a few including the original Um Kulthum), but Muhammad Ali's family tomb has a government ticket and a man working there who speaks English and knows lots of interesting things.  It reminded me a bit of al-Rifa'i but on a much smaller and much more interesting scale.

All in all, another really amazing morning. And again, I'm going to have to divide this because I have too many photos.  These are from everything except Hosh al-Basha.


















29 January 2019

Southern Cemetery part 1

The Southern Cemetery, basically the long narrow section that runs from the Citadel all the way to Maadi, has been on my list for a while and we finally did our first trip there, this time taking another couple with us who seemed like the type who would enjoy this jaunt (they did).  I'd planned to see most of the historical tombs, staying more on the north side of the cemetery, but we decided to see what we could see of the Jewish cemetery at the very southern end.

I can't remember if I've mentioned this cemetery before.  It's possibly very, very old, all the way back to Ibn Tulun in the late 800s which would make this the second or third oldest existing Jewish cemetery in the world, after the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.  The story is that when Ibn Tulun cleared the area around Jabal Yashkur to build a mosque and city, he gave the Jews of Fustat a new cemetery to replace the one he cleared away, and this is that cemetery.  Some of the Geniza documents were found here, and it's in two sections, one for Karaites and one for Rabbinites.  Even if it's does date back to Ibn Tulun, it is very old and attests to the very long Jewish presence in Cairo.

It turned out we were able to see far more than we thought we'd be able to, and we spent a very long time talking to some of the men who live around the edge of the cemetery.  There are obviously property issues- this is a very important Jewish cemetery and the Jewish Community of Cairo owns the land, but land is scarce in Cairo and squatters (does English literally have no better term for this?) are everywhere.  It's beyond complicated.  More on all of that later, hopefully.

And I'll do the rest of this post tomorrow since I have too many photos.










28 January 2019

Saqqara and Djedefre Pyramid

We did another trip to Saqqara on Police Day (observed), this time with my husband and middle son.  Sometime I want to go with someone who wants to spend a few hours there so we can poke around in all the corners.  But there's time.  Also, we took a wrong turn at one point on the way there and ended up next to the Pyramids of Giza.  I like living in places where a mistake ends up being interesting. Washington DC is like that too- if you miss an exit right before the Potomac, you're probably going to see a bunch of monuments before you can fix it.

We're trying to see all the pyramids we can around Cairo, and I've marked them on my map so we decided to try to find the northernmost ruined pyramid on Friday afternoon.  I didn't really have much hope that it would be a very worthwhile trip, but I warned everyone and they still came.  The route we tried went through a cemetery which is always interesting, but then we drove around for a long time on dirt roads trying to aim for the pin I had.  We finally found a road that wasn't very obvious (we felt exactly like we were on the escarpment in Riyadh at this point) and it took us right to the pyramid, next to the cell phone tower.  Utility road have made so many adventures possible for us, in Mexico (at the Tequila Volcano), in Saudi with the Aramco pipeline road and the power line road on the escarpment, and now the cell phone tower road to the 4600-year-old pyramid. 

Anyway, absolutely no one was there and everything was completely open.  Some work has been done to restore the outline of the mortuary temple on the side, and there's a satellite pyramid in a heap of dirt, but the main thing is the pyramid.  It's only 30 feet or so high now, so that's why it's not famous, but it probably was built to be about the size of the smallest of the Great Pyramids and the Romans deconstructed it for the granite, of which there was still plenty around.  There's a nice view of the Great Pyramids and they were only ones we could see, but it was a murky sort of day. 

It turned out to be a very interesting place.  All four of us had lots of fun poking around and I'd love to go back another time. 




27 January 2019

In an effort to get more Arabic speaking practice, I asked a woman who works in my building to stop by to speak with me a few times a week.  It’s a good system because she always is here and always comes (so I can’t ever get out of it).  She’s had a rough life, like a lot of Egyptian women, but she’s always such fun to talk to.  Today I learned the expressions dam khafiif and dam ta’iil, meaning literally light blood and heavy blood, but referring to being funny/light-hearted and serious.  We also talked about the Egyptian tradition of putting your hand in the blood of a slaughtered sheep and putting the print on the wall five times to bless the home.  I hadn’t heard the five times part.  And she said that she can only pray once or twice a day because she walks a lot of dogs for work.  I knew dogs made people unclean for praying, but I hadn’t thought before how her job would keep her from being able to pray.


26 January 2019

St. Mercurius Complex

Just a little north of the Roman fortress is another complex of Coptic churches, at least one of which probably predates the Muslim conquest (Abu Sayfayn).  I hadn't been there before, but I was there with a group and since we'd all driven together in one car, we could drive over and manage to squeeze it in before we had to leave. 

I especially liked Abu Sayfayn  and I will now start going here more often.  It's just a few minutes' walk from Coptic Cairo.  I will spare you the history lesson here, but it really is an interesting church.  In a happy accident, they opened the sanctuary for us.  Women aren't allowed in, but since we had several men along, they went inside and were allowed to take photos.  Also, sayfayn means "two swords" in Arabic so you'll usually see St. Mercurius holding two swords over his head.

Anba Shenuda is next door, along with the Church of the Virgin al-Damshiriya around the corner.  Anba Shenuda certainly dates to at least 743 and al-Damshiriya likely dates back that far too.