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two citadels, the Babylon of Old Cairo on the Nile and the Citadel of the Air, the palace founded by the great Sultan Ibn Tulun, beside his mosque, which still survives. These were quite strong enough to give the powerful Sultans of Egypt time to recover from any blow an enemy could deal them till suddenly they were confronted by the better armed and more warlike chivalry of the Crusades. It was then that Saladin projected his Citadel, which was impregnable till the invention of artillery. The Cairo which is still a mediæval city with antique mosques and palaces and baths and fountains and churches, may be divided into three partsBabylon, El-Katai, and El-Kahira; in other words, the Roman citadel behind old Cairo, the quarter of which the Tulun Mosque is the centre, divided from the first by the mounds of El-Fustat, and the quarter which stretches from the Citadel to the Muski. It is the last which foreigners know best, though they seldom know more than a few picturesque spots in it, such as the bazars and the Blue Mosque.
I will begin with Babylon, which is now exclusively Christian. It and the well in the Citadel are the only things in Cairo anterior to the Saracen invasion. Its name, Bab-el-On, is thought to imply that it was an outwork of On or Heliopolis, one of the early capitals of Egypt, which is six miles away on the other side of Cairo. In the mounds' which cover the ruins of Fustat just outside its gates, little dumps of ancient Egyptian antiquities are found. I myself picked up a tiny image of Knum, the Ram-headed god, there, when I was howking for remains of Arab pottery. The Egyptian Babylon still has its Roman walls and one great Roman gate, as fine as those of Rome.
Inside it is a beehive of Copts. The Coptic Babylon is almost an underground city. The Copts built right over their streets as if they were bees, though now they are beginning to leave a little more of them open to the sky. And to reach their churches you always have to dive under a house. These churches are very, very ancient, and go back to the days when the churches were the particular object of Moslem
persecution and insult. They are always, moreover, enclosed in a fortress. Those which are not in the ancient Roman citadel, are in ders l_or little citadels of their own.
One of them, called the Mo'allaka, or hanging church, because it is built on to a Roman bastion, is among the most beautiful churches in the world; it can be mentioned in the same breath as St. Mark's at Venice or the Royal Chapel at Palermo, for the richness and perfect harmony of its decorations. The original entrance, through an underground passage, which the most savage persecutor would hesitate to enter for fear of a stab in the darkness, is no longer used. In more tolerant times the church has been given an approach of great beauty. In the high wall near the entrance is a white marble Coptic stoup. You enter an octagonal hall with old carved benches round its walls which leads into a gracious courtyard, with a fountain like an old Sicilian monastery and a pergola of vines. At its end are a noble flight of steps and a handsome porch opening into a delightful inner court, like the patios built at Tunis by the exiled Moors of Granada, light and bright, throwing into high relief the old church to which it admits.
You open the door and are almost stunned by the effect. The Mo'allaka is large for a Coptic church, especially when you consider the character of its decorations, for it is lined all round with the most perfect Coptic screens. Kait Bey, the chief builder of mediæval Cairo, four hundred years ago had one imitated on a mosque pulpit. Even in his day this cost him a thousand pounds. These Coptic screens are made of old dark wood, whose polished surface is inlaid with discs of ivory, ebony, and mother-of-pearl. Here they are extremely ancient, and their ivory discs are carved as delicately as the ivory crucifixes and reliquaries in the great days of Byzantine art. These old screens, which have Moresque
' In Egypt the word Der generally signifies one of the old fortified convents. But Mr. Ball, one of the most distinguished members of the Survey Department of Egypt, in his report on the great Oasis points out that the word is also applied by the natives to the Roman forts of the Oasis, which possess no trace of ever having been used as convents.
arches inserted at a later date to lead to the sanctuary, have the mellow lines of antiquity. I suppose the chapels behind the beautiful screens which back on the entrance wall are in theory for the women, who are separated from the men in Coptic churches, for the Mo'allaka has not the usual place allotted to women.
One of the chapels contains a very beautiful Byzantine Madonna painted before the Byzantines had lost the roundness and softness of ancient Roman pictures.
This little old church has wonderful grace as well as wonderful softness of colouring, and in its centre is a tall, long, narrow pulpit, made of old marble, which would be like the ambones of the Aracoeli at Rome if it were not supported on fifteen antique marble colonnettes instead of a base, panelled with porphyry and serpentine. In the chapel to the right of the sanctuary is an altar with a rich antique baldachin, a rare feature in Coptic churches, and behind the screens on the right is another antique church, less richly decorated, formed out of a room in the Roman bastion.
I have seen seven antique Coptic churches in and around this Babylon. The most perfect and important is Abu Sargeh, in whose crypt are shown the vaults in which the Holy Family lay concealed during their Aight into Egypt. The most interesting is Abu Sefen, which preserves the features of a primitive basilica. Babylon contains also the most ancient Greek cathedral, well restored, built into another Roman bastion, with an arcade of high beauty running round it, and the finest view of Cairo. And just outside it is the oldest Cairo mosque—that of Amr the victorious, who conquered Egypt for the Caliphs, and named the city that he founded Al-Fustat, the City of the Tent. This mosque, going back to the first century of Mohammedanism, is all that remains of Al-Fustat, which was burnt by a twelfthcentury Caliph to prevent it falling into the hands of the Crusaders. In the mounds of sand heaped upon its ruins by the winds of the desert any one who likes can fossick for the remains of Arab pottery (all dating from before A.D. 1160), of which such glowing fragments are exhibited