A Visit to Sadat City

A Visit to Sadat City

Sadat City is named after the former President of Egypt, Anwar Sadat, who started to build it 40 years ago and hoped that it would become the capital city of Egypt. It never did, but it is one of a ring of new towns situated around Cairo, whose aim was to decongest Cairo.

About 80,000 people live in Sadat, and it is situated 95km north of Cairo on the Desert Road to Alexandria. The government offered ground to the Presbyterians to build a church, and they are in the process of doing so. However, at present they use a villa which was donated by a church member in Cairo, which has a flat for the pastor as well as meeting space downstairs.

There has, however, been no resident Pastor there for some time. The current Pastor is Medhat Fawzy, who graduated from the Seminary in May 2016, but he is resident in Giza, as his wife works near Cairo. Medhat is also my Arabic teacher, and I was delighted when he asked me to preach one Sunday evening in Sadat.

The Congregation in Sadat

Although I have preached several times at St Andrew’s, both at the English-speaking congregation and two of the Sudanese, this was my first invitation to preach in a Synod of the Nile congregation. I had to make my way to Giza (near the pyramids) by metro, and then use a tuktuk and a bus before catching the minibus for Sadat City.

The service started at 7.30 pm, as Sunday is a working day, and most members work. As the church is not central, a minibus picks up most of the people. That particular Sunday there were 15 adults and several children at the church, which I think was more than usual. The space reminded me of St Andrew’s Galilee, where I spent my previous 6 years, and it was very informal and relaxed worship. It was a very enjoyable experience, though when we returned to the bus stop at 9.45pm we had just missed a bus and so had to sit in an empty minibus, waiting patiently for it to fill up before it left.

By 11pm, there were still only three of us, and we decided to pay more just to get back to Cairo. It was 1am when we got back to the Seminary, but fortunately the guard at the gate was awake. Working as a Mission Partner in Cairo certainly provides opportunity for adventure

I Was in Prison, You Visited Me

I Was in Prison, You Visited Me

Qanater is a town on the Nile, north of Cairo, at the point where the river starts to divide, forming the Delta.  A barrage was constructed there in the 1850s (later improved by a Scottish engineer in the 1880s!) to control the flow of the Nile and improve irrigation. It was a popular place for people to travel from Cairo to enjoy the river, and there were a number of parks and gardens. By now they are sadly overgrown.

qanater-3Qanater is now the site of a complex of prisons, one for women and two for men. One of the male prisons is specifically for international people – men from different countries who for one reason or another find themselves in prison.

I had travelled there with a group from All Saints Anglican Cathedral, which has had a prison ministry for a number of years. There were 12 of us in the minibus, including Father Samuel, who had worked for many years in churches in Libya, but who had to leave because of the worsening situation there. They go every week and visit the women one week and the men the next. Mostly it is the international prisoners who are visited, as they don’t have family in Egypt and so have fewer visitors.

The group brings groceries for the prisoners – rice, pasta, cooking oil and some hygiene items, which the prisoners are able to use. There would be about 60 international prisoners on the visiting schedule, but the group would only see about 10 each week. Some of the prisoners are jailed for crimes, but others are refugees or migrants who were found without the proper papers and have been imprisoned.

I spoke with someone from Ethiopia, who was in the latter category and who just wants to return home to Addis, where he worked as a ‘wedding decorator’. Like most of the prisoners we visit, he was Christian and was able to wear a big cross round his neck. His English wasn’t very good, but was better than his Arabic. We chatted for perhaps 20 minutes in a visiting room, after which we all stood in a circle and said a prayer. It was good to have the chance to visit, and I look forward to going back again.