Babylon Fortress

Posted On : 02/03/2023 Kate Clark 50
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Coptic Cairo is home to a number of incredibly popular Cairo tourist attractions, including sacred sites such as the remarkable St. George's Church which dates back to the 10th century; the famous Hanging Church which dates back to the 3rd century.

There is also the amazing Coptic Museum which houses the world's largest collection of Coptic Christian artifacts.

All three of these incredible attractions are actually located within the precincts of the Babylon Fortress. As a result, anyone who books one of our Egypt tour packages that includes a visit to Coptic Cairo will certainly see the Fortress of Babylon.

In this article we talk about:

The position

Who built it?

Why was it built?

 Information to know

The monuments around the Fortress

The position

Fortress Babylon is an ancient fortress located in Cairo. This splendid monumental complex is located in the heart of "Old Cairo", also known as "Coptic Cairo", located on the east bank of the Nile facing the island of Rhoda, at the point which for the ancients represented the junction between Upper and Lower Egypt .

The fort is considered one of the largest forts testifying to the Roman civilization established in Egypt, and is one of the largest castles built by the Roman Empire. 

Who built it?

This large building was built from the time of Emperor Trajan until the time of Emperor Arcadius (98 AD - 395 AD)

Why was it built?

According to the historian Diodorus Siculus, this fortress dates back to the 19th century BC, when the pharaoh of the 12th dynasty, Sesostris, after defeating the Babylonians at the end of a particularly cruel war, took the captives to Egypt to make them slaves.

But the captives rebelled and built fortifications to defend the area they resided in, which was thereafter called Babylon.

However there is another story according to the Coptic historian John, bishop of Nikiou in the 7th century, who mentioned that this fortress was built by Nebuchadrezzar, king of Babylon, when he occupied Egypt in the second half of the 6th century BC.

Information to know

This fort is also known as Qasr el Shamee or the palace of candles as the towers of the fort were adorned with lighted candles at the beginning of each month, so people could follow the movement of the sun from tower to tower. within the fortress enclosure are six Coptic churches, a convent and the Coptic Museum.

Babylon, according to historians, was originally the name of a capital city of a neighboring country known as Babylonia.

But another probability refers to the name of ancient Pr-Hapi-n-Iwnw (Nile house of Heliopolis) which was the abode of the deity in the City of Heliopolis, Habi was the deity of the Nile.

Although the fortress was sadly ruined at the beginning of this century, it is considered one of the best preserved military structures from the Roman era.

Most of the walls consist of three regular layers of red brick alternating with five layers of stone, bound together with a lime mortar mixed with sand, pebbles and charcoal.

The wall consisted of an irregular five-sided plan with numerous semicircular bastions.

The western side facing the Nile was devoid of fortresses but featured a drawbridge with two massive circular towers about 33 meters in diameter, structures not common to Roman fortresses.

Now, the door leading to the Coptic Museum is located between these two towers. St. George's Greek Orthodox Church is built above the north tower.

Another door facing south is flanked on both sides by two large towers which lead into an internal courtyard which can be accessed from the garden of the Old Wing of the Coptic Museum. It is above this gate that the Hanging Church ''Al-Mo'allaqa in Arabic'' was built.

The monuments around the Fortress

The Fortress of Babylon is located in the Ancient Egypt region, which is one of the most important historical and cultural areas in Egypt.

Due to its importance it was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1979 AD The Fortress of Babylon is surrounded by many important monuments, the most important of which are:

1. The Ruins of the city of Fustat: built by Amr ibn Al-Aas in the year 21 AH, it is one of the oldest Islamic cities in Egypt.

2. The Amr ibn Al-Aas Mosque: It was the first mosque built in Egypt and Africa by Amr ibn Al-Aas in the year 21 AH.

3. The Churches of the Monastery of San Gerges: It is called The Hanging Church, and it is the most important church in Egypt, dating from the 9th century AD until after the Islamic conquest of Egypt.

4. Deir Abi Sifin Church: It is located north of the fortress of Babylon, and the church was demolished in the 8th century AD 

A small church remains in the name of Saints John the Baptist and Jacob, and during the time of the Fatimid Caliph Al-Muizz Li Din Allah the Fatimid church was renovated.

5. The Church of Santa Barbara: This church dates back to the 4th and 5th century AD and is located within the Monastery of San Gerges.

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By Kate Clark

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