The Ben Ezra Synagogue became a place of worshipping for Jews in 882 AD. Back in the 6th Century AD, the synagogue was a figure of the Jewish revolution, when the prophet Jeremiah gathered all the Jews after Nebuchadnezzar's destruction of the Jerusalem Temple. Situated next to the Hanging Church and the Coptic Museum, it is considered a must-visit destination during the trip to Cairo.
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Although there are a lot of restaurants in Coptic Cairo, the restaurant which is located closest to the Ben Ezra Synagogue is the Restaurant & Café Al Khan. Situated on Mari Gerges Street, the Café offers a wide range of Egyptian dishes to feast upon. The elegant and comfortable atmosphere of the restaurant even makes it cosy for children.
How to reach Ben Ezra Synagogue
If you are going to visit the Ben Ezra Synagogue, it is highly advised to also spare time for the other attractions built close to the Synagogue. This includes the Coptic Museum and the Hanging Church along with the Monastery and Church of St. George etc. To visit the place, the following modes of transportation are recommended:
Subway: The subway can prove to be the most convenient mode of transportation, especially for tourists. All they need to do is to board the subway from any of the stations across Cairo, and de-board at Mar Girgis Station. From the Station, the Ben Ezra Synagogue is situated at a mere distance of 3 meters in the South direction. The walk from the Subway Station to the Synagogue is more likely to spoil your plans for the day by adding more historic places situated nearby on your list.
Taxi: One may also hire a Taxi to reach directly to the Ben Ezra Synagogue. For this, they need to drive South towards Kasr Al Shama’e once they have reached Mari Girgis Subway Station.
Tips to Remember
It is advised to avoid carrying any gadgets such as mobile phones, iPod etc. to prevent any sort of disturbance to the people worshipping in the Synagogue.
Architectural Beauty of the Ben Ezra Synagogue
The architecture and interior of the place are one of the many reasons to pay a visit to the place. This is because the interiors of the Synagogue gives a glimpse of different rulers who once ruled over Egypt. The place consists of two floors, with the First floor being the worshipping place for men and the Second floor for women. The First floor is divided into three parts by steel bars with a platform located in front of the sanctuary. It is on this platform that the rabbi stands to read the Torah. There is even a lector platform of octagonal shape, with the Torah resting along one of its edges. Similar sort of architecture can be observed on the Second floor as well.
Further, the walls of the side halls contain paintings in the form of geometric patterns with floral decorations in their background. One may also observe these decorations around the Star of David situated at the centre of the ceiling. The entire place symbolizes mixture of Hatai and Roman decorations along with “Ottoman Arabesques” in the form of floral designs and patterns. Such a beautifying architecture and interior decoration naturally boosts the element of spirituality from within and helps to homogenize into the vibes of the Synagogue.
The Ben Ezra Synagogue was sold to the Jews by Coptic Christians for 20,000 Dinars.
History of Ben Ezra Synagogue
The building of Ben Ezra Synagogue was originally a Christian Church, which was constructed in 4th Century AD. In 9th Century AD, the place was transformed into a Jewish synagogue. The Synagogue was sold by Coptic Christians to compensate for the taxes they owed to the then Arab rulers.
In the 12th Century, the Ben Ezra Synagogue was restored by Abraham Ben Ezra, who did so with a vision to build a worshipping place for the Jews residing in Cairo. Since then, the Synagogue has been known as Ben Ezra Synagogue and has become a key figure of Jewish religion over time. Further, there are also beliefs associated with the place where the Synagogue is standing today. People of Cairo believe that the Ben Ezra Synagogue has been constructed on the land where baby Moses was discovered. Legend also has it that the famous Rabbi Moses Maimonides studied and worshipped at the present day Synagogue. The reason why this place is also known as El-Geniza Synagogue is that the Geniza or Store Room of the Synagogue, discovered in late 19th Century AD, contained numerous sacred manuscripts. These manuscripts belonged to Hebrew, Aramaic and Judeo-Arabic cultures. The Synagogue is even believed to possess an old copy of a Testament written by the Prophet Al-Azir (Ezra), hence contributing to the sacredness of the place.