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. In direct contrast to Zamalek, an affluent, nearby city, in Mokattam we find residents living in the midst of the city's garbage-the garbage collection system for Cairo is located here, on the road that leads to the Coptic church in the quarry. 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.
Mokattam 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.
- City of the Dead, Islamic necropolis and cemetery
- List of types of limestone, ancient Egyptians quarried limestone in the hills
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- BBC Newshour The Angel of Garbage City, October 11, 2014, 20:00 UTC.
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