The Mokattam (Arabic: المقطم, also spelled Muqattam), also known as the Muqattam Mountain or Hills, is the name of a range of hills and a suburb in them, located in southeastern Cairo, Egypt.
The Arabic name "Mokattam", which means "cut off" or "broken off", refers to how the low range of hills is divided into three sections. The highest segment is a low mountain landform called Moqattam Mountain. In the past the low mountain range was an important ancient Egyptian quarry site for limestone, used in the construction of temples and pyramids.
The hills are in the region of ancient Fustat, the new capital founded by 'Amr ibn al-'As after the Muslim conquest of Egypt in 642 CE. A section of the Mokattam Hills contains Muqattam, an affluent suburb of Cairo. Other sections have slums. The Zabbaleen people, who are an integral part of collecting and processing Cairo's municipal solid waste, live in Manshiyat Naser, Garbage City, at the foot of the Mokattam Hills.
The Muqattam is widely known in the Coptic Church, as it is believed to have moved up and down when the Coptic Pope Abraham of Alexandria performed a mass near it in order to prove to the Caliph that the Gospel is true when it says that if one has faith like a grain of mustard one can move a mountain. The name "Broken off Mountain" may be related to the fact that in the story the mountain breaks off from the underlying rock and rises up, before coming back down.
The story can be found here. See Simon the Tanner for a fuller version of the story.
The only other real historical aspect of the Mokattam Mountain is an early Christian story, upon which a grand monastery was built. Tradition holds that a now famous saint by the name of Simon the Tanner who lived during the tenth century once miraculously moved the mountain.
At that time, Egypt was ruled by the Fatimid Caliph Al Mu'izz Ledeenallah Al Fatemy. During this period, the Coptic church was under the direction of the 62nd Coptic Pope, a Syrian by the name of Anba Abram. At the time, the Christians in Egypt were engaged in handicrafts. St. Simon worked in one of the crafts widespread in Babylon (Old Cairo) which was tanning, a craft still known there till this day. This profession involved also other crafts that depend on the process, from where he carried several titles related to skins; St Simon the Tanner, the Cobber, the Shoemaker.
According to Coptic sayings, the Caliph Al Muizz, an enlightened man, was fond of literacy gatherings and inviting different religious leaders to debate in his presence with neither anger nor contention.
In one of those meetings in which Pope Abram and a Jew named Jacob Ibn Killis were present, the Pope got the upper hand in the debate. Plotting to take revenge, Ibn Killis quoted the verse where the Lord Jesus said in Mt 17:20: "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to the mountain, Move from here to there, and it will move, nothing will be impossible for you" and demanded him to prove that his religion is right by means of this. The Caliph saw in this an opportunity to remove the mountain that was spoiling his view.
At the same time, if the Christians proved unable to perform this miracle, than it would be proof that the religion of the Christians was wrong and he would be finished with them. And so, after three days of prayers and fasts by the people throughout the land of Egypt, Simon was chosen to move the Mokattam Mountain. It is said that a great earthquake swept over the mountain. Each time the people stood up to worship, the mountain was thrust up and the sun would be seen from under it.
When the people sat down, the mountain thrust down. This was repeated three times. Afterwards, the Caliph was racked with fear and embraced the Pope warmly and this was a new beginning for a good friendship between them. However, St. Simon went missing and was never found. It is believed that his skeleton was discovered in 1991 inBabylonin theSt. Mary's church(the Hanging Church). This brings us to one of the modern attractions of the mountain, the Monastery of St. Simon (Arabic: سمعان الخراز)
the Tanner. Its not really an old monastery, as Egyptian monasteriesgo, established and dedicated to St. Simon some one thousand years after his death.
Moqattam is the name of a documentary film about the garbage-collecting Manshiyat Naser village and its Zabbaleen people, directed by Jehane Noujaim.