Police have arrested nine people suspected of setting fire to the homes of Coptic Christians following the burning to death of a Muslim in the village of Dahshour last week.
The spiral of violence began after a Coptic man who irons for a living and one of his Muslim customers got into a fight after the man accidently burned his client's shirt.
The incident turned into a violent confrontation between Muslims and Christians in the village, south of Cairo, in which a Muslim in a crowd protesting about the argument died after being hit by a firebomb.
Mobs attacked and looted Christian homes and shops in Dahshour, forcing almost the entire community out.
Many found refuge in a monastery miles away from the village, with fleeing families accusing the police of being slow to act.
Erian Aziz, a Christian tailor, said :"This spat should have never reached this level.
Thugs capitalised on the situation and the government did nothing. We knew trouble was imminent, but police, instead of arresting troublemakers, encouraged us to leave."
Al Jazeera's Rawya Rageh reports from Dahshour.