Khalil Hamada Street is 20 meters (66 feet) wide. On one side stands the Coptic “Church of the Two Saints”; on the other side is a mosque. The church was built first, but the mosque followed just a few years later. And when the Christians constructed a new annex, the Muslims followed suit. Over time, the minaret has grown significantly higher than the church’s steeple. The mosque fills up five times a day after the muezzin makes his call to prayer; the church’s bells only ring twice a week.
“Heaven and earth are filled with heavenly peace,” the church’s members sang on New Year’s Eve. That was also the last thing Mariam Fakri heard as she exited the church with her sister Martina, her mother and her aunt. They were among the first to do so. After having spent the whole day cooking, they wanted to get home to break their fast with a celebratory meal. Miriam was 21 years old, and she was planning on getting engaged in a few days. In addition to her university studies, she also taught Sunday school to youths at her church. She was happy and easygoing, and she had many Muslim friends. Before heading off to church, she had written on her Facebook page: “2010 is over. I enjoyed experiencing this year. I have so many wishes. Please, God, stand by my side and help them come true.”
Then the explosion struck. Mariam died on Khalil Hamada Street under an image of St. Mark the Apostle holding a little church in his hand. The screws, screw nuts and ball bearings that had been packed into the bomb also tore into the other three women. The only member of the family to survive was Mariam’s father, who had been standing behind them. The next day, he had to identify his daughter. Her body was so horribly burnt he could hardly recognize her.