Egypt has many interesting tourist places for visits. Every city in Egypt has something that stands out. The ancient civilization of Egypt was in most of the cities. The most famous city in Egypt is Cairo because it is the capital and the city where there are cultures and destinations of several civilizations.
In Cairo, there are many churches and mosques but there are not many synagogues in Egypt. After the Jews were expelled from Spain, they started to emigrate to Egypt and their numbers increased because of the commercial prospects after the opening of the Suez Canal.
Egypt began to expel Jews in the 1950s. Therefore there are not many synagogues in Egypt but the most famous one is the Ben Ezra Synagogue. This Synagogue is one of the biggest and oldest synagogues in Cairo.
The History of Ben Ezra Synagogue
The Synagogue was a Christian church but when it increased the annual taxes imposed by the Muslim rulers in the dynasty of Ahmed Ibn Tulun, Abraham Ibn Ezra of Jerusalem in 882 bought the church for 20 thousand dinars. From this moment the church converted to a Jewish synagogue.
The Synagogue was destroyed in 1012 in the dynasty of Al-Hakim bi-Amr Al-lah. In 1039 and 1041 it was reconstructed little from its original form. One of the most important reconstructions (with the fidelity of its original structure) was in 1890 because the Gueniza was found; it is more than 100 thousand manuscripts and biblical and liturgical texts in Hebrew, Aramaic, Arabic, and Persian. These manuscripts are known as “the Guernica of El Cario” and were later transferred to other libraries.
The Name of the Synagogue of Ben Ezra
Before being a synagogue it was “the Church of El-Shamien”. After it was a synagogue, its original name was “the Israelite Synagogue or the House of Meeting of the Israelites. Later, after reconstruction in 1039 and 1041, it was known as “the Synagogue of the Prophet Elijah”.
The Construction of the Ben Ezra Synagogue
It was built in Old Cairo in Fustat. It is behind the Hanging Church. Its form is basilica and Turkish style. It is divided into 3 parts, the largest is in the center. It has two floors; the upper one for women and the lower one for men. In the center of the lower floor, there is a marble bimbo where there is the altar for the reading of the Torah.
There are marble pillars decorated with beautifully carved capitals. The decoration of this synagogue reflects Egyptian art and some Byzantine, Islamic and Christian influences. In the center of the ceiling, there is a large Star of David that is surrounded by Ottoman arabesques.
About the Synagogue of Ben Ezra
The history of the Synagogue site is rich. It was said to be the place where the box of Baby Moses was found. It was also said to be the place chosen by Prophet Moses for prayer or that Prophet Jeremiah built a synagogue and then it was destroyed by the Romans to build their Babylonian fortress. So, it was a synagogue and after its destruction, a church was built dedicated to Archangel Michael and later returned as a synagogue.
Your Dream Vacation by Jakada Tours Egypt
The Ben Ezra Synagogue is one of the most important and biggest attractions in Cairo that attracts many tourists. So check out our travel packages to Egypt or Nile cruise and choose your most suitable trip and visit other attractive destinations in Egypt “the cradle of civilization” such as Luxor, Aswan, and Hurgada.