Judaism is the third official religion in Egypt, together with Islam and Christianity. One of the first known monotheistic religions, likely dating to between 2000-1500 B.C. Egyptian Jews have their own synagogues scattered throughout Egypt. Here we are just covering the 11 most well-known synagogues in Cairo and Alexandria.
1-Shaar Hashamayim or Adly Synagogue:
The Shaar Hashamayim Synagogue (Gate of Heaven) is located on Adly Street in downtown Cairo. This synagogue was built between 1903 and 1905 by the Moseiry family and others. Morris Qatary, a Jewish architect, designed it.
The synagogue was built to practice Jewish prayers as well as to serve as a tourist attraction for Jews at the time. The synagogue is known by several names, including Adly Synagogue, Shaar Hashamayim Synagogue, which means Gate of Heaven or Gate of Paradise, and Ismailia Synagogue.
The synagogue is approximately 10,000 square meters in size, with two floors and a basement. Photography is strictly prohibited both inside and outside the synagogue and is only permitted with the permission of the president of the Jewish Community in Egypt.
The Maimonides Synagogue is one of Egypt’s oldest synagogues. It is located on 15 Darb Mahmoud, Moskey, Jews’ Lane in Cairo. The synagogue was constructed in the 10th century, following the arrival of Moshe Ben Maimon from Andalucía, Spain, in 1135. The Ministry of Culture designated it as a tourist attraction in Egypt in 1989.
3-Ben Ezra Synagogue:
The Ben Ezra Synagogue is located in Fustat, Old Cairo, near the Hanging Church and the Abu Serga Church. This Synagogue is one of Egypt’s largest synagogues. The synagogue was originally an orthodox church, the Church of the Levantines, which was sold to the Jews for approximately 200,000 Dinars to cover the taxes levied against them.
It is named after Ben Ezra, a congregation in Syria Palaestina that followed the teachings of rival Talmudic Academies. It is also known as the synagogue of the Palestinians or the synagogue of the Levantines. Now is famous as the synagogue of the Geniza, which was discovered at the synagogue in 1890.
4-Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue:
The Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue can be found on Nabi Danial St in Downtown Alexandria. It is one of the largest synagogues in the Middle East, with a capacity of 700 people. According to Jewish belief, Eliyahu Hanavi is a prophet, and the Old Testament predicts that Eliyahu Hanavi will appear in the future, foreseeing the people of Gog and Magog, who will eat and destroy everything in their path.
The synagogue was built in 1880 during the reign of Khedive Ismail by an Italian architect. It is believed that it was built on top of an older synagogue dating back to 1354 AD. This old synagogue was destroyed by the French soldiers in 1798. It was rebuilt again during the time of Mohamed Ali Pasha (1805-1849). It was destroyed again and rebuilt during the time of Khedive Ismail in 1880.
It is designed as a three-story basilica. The facade features 21 semi-circle windows, as well as a large semi-circle window above the main gate. The synagogue’s main entrance is on the western side. It has a wonderful library that houses approximately 50 old versions of the Torah as well as some other old books dating back to the 15th century.
Menasce Synagogue is one of Alexandria’s oldest synagogues. It’s on Yacoub De Menasce st in Alexandria. Yacoub De Menasce comes from a Jewish family that fled to Egypt from Spain. He began his career as a teller/cashier and advanced in his career to become Khedive Ismail’s teller.
In 1869, he was elected president of Cairo’s Jewish community. He traveled to Alexandria and built this synagogue, as well as the Menasce Tombs and Menasce Schools. His son, David Levi De Menasce (1830-1885), was president of the Jewish community in Alexandria, and he was succeeded by his son, Jack (1850-196) until the outbreak of World War I when the British authorities regarded him as an enemy because he carried the Austrian-Hungarian nationality.
6-Eliyahu Hazan Synagogue:
The Eliyahu Hazan Synagogue is located on Fatma Alyousif St in Alexandria’s Sporting District. It was completed in 1928.
Green Synagogue was built by a Jewish family called Green. It is situated in Alexandria’s Muharram Bey District.
8-Jacob Sasson Synagogue:
The Jacob Sasson Synagogue is located in Alexandria’s Glim District. It was built in 1910.
Castro Synagogue is located in Alexandria’s Muharram Bey District. It was built in 1920 by Moshe Castro.
10-Nezah Israel Synagogue:
Nezah Israel Synagogue was constructed in 1920 in Alexandria.
11-Shaaré Tefila Synagogue:
Shaare Tefila Synagogue is located in Alexandria’s Camp Sheraz District. It was built in 1922 by the Enzarawat and Sharbein families.