On the Holy Trail “A tour of Christian sites takes you across the country”

Coptic Museum

The Coptic Museum

From monasteries and churches to pilgrimage sites and artifacts, Egypt is home to some if the most visit-worthy Christian sites in he region. Little wonder, considering the holy Family trekked across the country, hiding from the wrath of King Herod after the birth of Jesus. St. Mark introduced Christianity to the country in the first century AD, marking the beginning if an era that would last until the seventh century and the arrival of Islam.
If you’re not planning on traveling far, hen Old Cairo is the place to go, though most of the ancient churches are not to be found there. The first stop should be El-Mu’allaqa or the Hanging Church, on Mar Girgis Street, to see the beautiful collection of restored ancient icons and an iconostasis inlaid with ebony and ivory
Nearby is the Coptic Museum with an impressive collection of manuscripts, icons, crosses, mosaics and the remains of excavations.
A short walk away is the Church of Abu Serga, built on the site of a cave in which the Holy Family is thought to have resided at the end of their stay in Egypt. Make sure to stop by the Church of Saint Mercurius, as well as the Convent of Saint George, where you will find a huge, ornamented door inside the building and a series of catacombs where the legendary dragon-slayer is believed to have been tortured.
Straight ahead is the Ben Ezra Synagogue, Egypt’s oldest, dating back to the ninth century. Past it is the Saint Barbara complex, named after a young girl who is said to have been martyred for trying to convert her father to Christianity. At the church you’ll find a gate that leads to the Greek Orthodox cemetery.
Head over to Al-Khurinfish district in the Zuweila area, located in the Fatimid section of Cairo, to see the ruins of an old monastery, a number of churches and several modern monasteries.
There are dozens of similar churches all around Cairo (touregypt.net is an excellent resource for tracking them all down). But if you want to properly retrace the steps of the Holy Family through Cairo without missing any stops, it’s best to make your way to an agency. South Sinai Egypt specializes in organizing visits to Christian sites within Cairo.
If you have more time, then pack your bags and contact Memphis Tours Egypt, which organizes trips to Christian sites outside the capital, following in the footsteps of the Holy Family.
You begin in Sinai, before traveling through the Delta, down the Nile to Upper Egypt and back. Along the way you will visit the monastery on Mount Dronka just south of Assiut (which hosts an annual Moulid of the Virgin Mary in August), a church on Gabel El-Teir (Bird Mountain) — also known as Gabal Al-Kaf (Mountain of the Palm) — near Minya, and El-Moharreq Monastery near Assiut.
Considered the birthplace of Christian monasticism, the mountains along the Red Sea house some of the oldest monasteries in the world: the fourth- and fifth-century monasteries of Saint Anthony and Saint Paul, near Zaafarana. Saint Paul is known as the first Christian hermit and Saint Anthony is credited with founding and spreading monasticism. Saint Anthony’s houses a collection of crosses, manuscripts and impressive wall paintings, and the nearby cave where Saint Anthony lived and died is worth the hike.
Another exciting hike is the trek up Mount Sinai to watch the sunrise from the spot where it is believed the prophet Moses received the Ten Commandments from God. Below, St. Catherine Monastery shelters the Burning Bush from the Old Testament, as well as a diverse collection of icons and jeweled crosses.
Sakha, in Kafr El-Sheikh, was one of the many stops of the Holy Family during their flight from Herod’s soldiers. It is well known for the 1984 ‘discovery’ of a stone with Jest. footprint, now preserved in a glass case inside the Church of the Holy Virgin.
The Holy Family then passed through Wadi El-Natroun, 100 kilometers northwest of Cairo. Here you’ll find the Monastery of Saint Macarius, where early Christians fled from persecution, the Monastery of El-Bara-mous, the Monastery of Saint Mary, Saint Yehni Kama’s Monastery and Saint Bishoi’s Monastery, which is the monastic residence of Pope Shenouda III, the patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church. To this day, the Coptic pope is still chosen from among the monks of Wadi El-Natroun.

Taken from Egypt Today Magazine

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