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Exorcism in Coptic Cairo


EGYPT, Cairo

          It’s our fourth day in Cairo. Sylvain, my travel buddy, is ready to pack it up and go back to Europe.  However, we both decide to give Egypt another chance.  We definitely want to leave Cairo.  The trains heading south are leaving in the evening. We buy our train tickets and set out for another adventure.  We decide to visit Coptic Cairo, which is the Christian section of the city.  As we exit the metro we see an immediate change in the scenery.   For the first time in four days we are able to see unveiled Egyptian women.

          Our first stop is an Orthodox graveyard.  The tombstones are very unique.  Haunting is a better word to describe them.  The pictures of the dead are plastered in the stones.  We get asked to leave by a crypt keeper.  It is obvious that we are not there to visit a deceased relative. We have cameras around out necks.

          We go down the steps to enter a labyrinth of churches.  At the entrance are a variety of merchants selling Christian souvenirs.  In the first church hangs a huge picture of Jesus Christ surrounded with pink neon lights.  (Am I in Vegas? I think to myself.)  We quickly rush to the next church.  Hoards of tourists are invading my personal space.  Much to my surprise, at the next church, a group of tourists are listening to a lecture from their guide.  The guide claims that the body of the Virgin Mary is buried under the church. The tourists are in awe.  They are actually standing on her grave.  (Didn’t Mary ascend into heaven?)

          After seeing two churches, I am churched out.  Now, Sylvain wants to go in a nunnery.  I plead with him not to go in.  The nuns need privacy and there are no tourists inside.  He does not care.  He goes in anyway.

          This chapel is different from the ones we’ve seen earlier.  The first room is a large empty dark space.  A cluster of children and women are blocking the entrance.  They were speaking as if they have not seen each other for a long time. We take off our shoes.  Then Sylvain goes inside immediately.  I hesitate for a moment.  I became too curious so I enter.  There were more women inside sitting quietly by the entrance. They are facing a wooden mesh.  A break in the mesh is the entrance to a larger room.

          Approximately twenty men were standing in a semicircle.  An elderly woman stands in the corner convulsing and in a trance.  She does not say anything but makes moaning sounds on occasion.  A man stands in front of her.  He is chanting words.  She trembles. The exorcist holds a wand.  He hits her body with a slight force.  The men in the semicircle say something in unison. They remain silent afterward.  The woman’s face is drenched with sweat and tears run down her black dress.

          Another man comes into the circle.  He carries a metal chain with neck clamps on either end then hands it to the exorcist.  The exorcist clamps one around his neck and the other around the woman’s neck.  He pulls on the chain and drags her by the neck.  He continues to chant.

          I am in shock. I drag Sylvain out.  I cannot believe what I have just experienced.  I am not sure what happened to the lady.  I hope the best for her.

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