Christian & Islamic Eras

Christianity came officially to Egypt in the first century CE through St. Mark. Biblical tradition, however, holds that the Holy Family sought refuge in Cairo during the first years after Christ's birth to escape King Herod's purge of all infant boys. Despite a split with the churches in Rome and Constantinople over theological issues in 451, Egypt remained a Christian country until the Arab invasion in 641.

Within 500 years, however, Egyptian Christians (called "Copts") were in the minority and today they make up only about 10% of the population, against 90% Muslim. The photos here offer a glimpse of one of the Coptic Monasteries in the valley of Wadi Natrun, between Alexandria and Cairo, as well as a Coptic church in Cairo.

Islam today, as it has for centuries, dominates the religious life and structures of Egypt. Cairo, in particular, boasts magnificent mosques on a scale with those I saw in Istanbul and Iran. The Sultan Hassan Mosque (ca. 1350) and Rifai Mosque (ca. 1900) stand next to each other in the heart of Cairo. High above Cairo, on the Citadel built by the Ottoman rulers, stands the magnificent Mohammed Ali Mosque (ca. 1800s). Also included are photos of two more modern mosques in Alexandria.

To visit other pages about Egypt, choose from the drop-down list below. To begin the tour of modern Egypt, visit Alexandria & Sharm El Sheikh.