Belbeis – An Ancient City And Home To Africa’s First Mosque

When people talk about Egypt, it’s not often that you hear them discussing Belbeis, and yet this ancient city has so much to offer the modern day traveler. 

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When people talk about Egypt, their conversations are usually about all the infamous Egyptian tourist attractions like the Great Pyramids of Giza and the Valley of Kings. Rarely do you even hear mention of places like Belbeis, and yet this remarkable little city has so much to offer tourists who have a fascination with Egypt’s historical past.


With a population of around 300,000 people, the city of Belbeis is by no means a large city, but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s a place not worth visiting. Today, the city is home to the Egyptian Air Force Academy complex and many large schools. It’s also home to the very first mosque ever built on the African continent. The Sadat Quriesh Mosque is also known also as the Emir el-Geish Mosque was originally built in 640, and then extensively renovated in 1593. Unlike many of the ancient mosques, it is still in use today.

A Brief History Of Belbeis

The city of Belbeis is located in the Nile Delta region of northern Egypt, and is just a short distance to the east of Cairo. It is an ancient city, and due to its waterfront location, it has always served as a fortress city. Like so many other cities in Egypt, it has been in the hands of several other countries prior to the modern era.


For instance, it played a pivotal role during the Crusades. At that time it was fought over by Muslim and Crusading armies alike until an assault in 1168 turned the Coptic Christians against the Crusaders. After that, the city became the main point of departure for Muslim attacks against Palestine.

The Coptic Christians

During the crusader period, the Coptic Christians exerted a huge influence over the region, and this can still be seen today by the presence of many churches, including the truly remarkable Mari Guirguis (St. George) church which was also constructed by the Coptic Christians of Belbeis. Named after the famous saint, it was constructed on top of the ruins of another ancient church, and today it is considered to be one of the only truly round churches throughout all of Egypt.


The large central hall of the church dates back to the 1200s, and a number of expansions and improvements were carried out during the years that followed. According to available records, Mari Guirguis was severely damaged during a major fire in the early 20th century, but it was restored and is currently open to visitors. Another interesting fact is that the city's fortifications were also once renovated by Napoleon in 1798.

A Multicultural City

One of the truly endearing things about Belbeis is the fact that even to this day, the city is still a mixture of Coptic Christians and Muslims living peacefully side by side. This mixture has helped shape the city for hundreds of years, and as any visitor will notice, it has clearly left its mark. Today it is also a key destination for those who want to "walk in the footsteps of the Holy Family", and who wish to take guided tours to many different churches throughout the region.

Getting There

It is only a two ride by car from central Cairo to this interesting, scenic, and historic location. The journey takes the traveler through some verdant farming areas as well as a number of other historic towns and villages along the way. If you are planning a visit to Cairo, a day trip to Belbeis is well worth the effort if only to enjoy the amazing architecture and the impressively well preserved historic locations throughout the town.


If you would like to enjoy an Egyptian holiday of a lifetime, please be sure to explore Egypt tours. We offer an extensive range of Egyptian package tours, as well as high quality custom Egypt tours which can be tailored specifically for our customers. Please do take note however that not all tours include a visit to places like Belbeis, but we’ll gladly add it to your holiday itinerary if you would like us to. Our tour representatives are on standby 24/7 and they will be more than happy to assist with any questions or concerns you might have.