The Roman Fortress of Babylon in Cairo

The Babylon Fortress, known as the Wax Palace or Babylon Castle, is an ancient fortress located in the city of Cairo in Egypt, specifically in the Old Cairo area next to the Coptic Museum, and now the Pyramids of Giza. The fortress is considered one of the largest fortresses witnessed by the Roman civilization in Egypt, and is one of the largest fortresses built by the empire, as well as the center on which the city of Fustat was built.

Coptic Cairo | Egypt Coptic Churches

The Roman fortress of Babylon or Qsar el Shamee is one of the exciting Roman monuments and things to do in Cairo, it was built around the year 30 BC, with the arrival of the emperor Augustus in Egypt, on the eastern bank of the Nile River. It was built on the outskirts of the Egyptian city (Heliopolis). According to some sources, the place chosen for the fort traces its origins to the reign of Pharaoh Sesostris, others also indicate that its foundation goes back to the reign of Nebuchadnezzar who was the greatest King of ancient Babylon during the period of the Neo-Babylonian Empire (626-539 BCE). However, the evolution of the fortress is strongly linked to the emperors Trajan and Diocletian. In 112 A.D. orders claimed for the construction of a powerful fortified port at the entrance of the Red Sea channel in Babylon.

The reopening of the canal was due to the strategic and commercial interests of Rome in the East, after the annexation of the Nabatean Empire in 106 A.D. Around A.D 300, Emperor Diocletian built an imposing fortress in Babylon, as part of the reorganization and administrative reform project in Egypt. The entrance of the canal remained in the same place, although now flanked by two imposing circular towers, which currently limit the entrance to the Coptic Museum. At the end of the fourth century A.D., and exactly under Emperor Arcadius the Babylonian fortress was again enlarged and reinforced as the basis of the Legio XIII Gemina.

In the 19th century, most of the structure of the Roman fortress of Babylon was demolished. The two circular towers of the river port and part of the walls of the Roman fortress are preserved and restored. One of the two towers that flanked the port and the entrance to the Red Sea channel is integrated into the Church of Saint George. The structure of the other circular bastion can be observed at street level, the original location being visible several meters below the current ground level.

Other ruins of the walled area of the fortress are preserved in the Hanging Church. The Coptic Church of the Holy Virgin Mary was built on the Roman structures of the huge fortress. This church dates back to the fourth century AD, possibly being the oldest Coptic church in the Coptic world.

Inside the walls of the ancient Roman fortress, several churches of Coptic Christianity are preserved. They emphasize, in addition to the mentioned Al-Muallaqah church, dedicated to the Holy Virgin Mary; the Church of St. Sergius, built, according to tradition, in the place where the Holy Family was after its arrival in Egypt fleeing the persecution of King Herod. Other places of interest are the Coptic Museum, the tomb of Ibrahim al-Gohari, the Church of St. Barbara, and the Ben Ezra Synagogue.

Ben Ezra Synagogue | Coptic Cairo

Ben Ezra Synagogue

Egypt is still a great tourist destination because its history has been at the origin of what the world is today.

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