The monastery of the Holy Virgin of al–Muharraq lies at the foot of Qusqam Hill, 327 kilometers south of Cairo. This monastery is unquestionably the most prominent location in the Holy Family’s itinerary. Dayr al-Muharraq means the monastery scorched by fire in Arabic referring to the desiccated desert around as well as occasional burning of ruderal vegetation. According to tradition, this is the place that the Holy Family stayed for six months and five days, and where Jesus, after his Resurrection, returned and consecrated an altar in order to fulfill the prophecy in Isaiah 19:19, in that day there will be an altar to the LORD in the midst of the land of Egypt. The location of the monastery is roughly the geographical center of the African Egypt.
The holiest place in the monastery is the Church of the Holy Virgin whose altar is believed to be consecrated in the first century A.D making it the first church in the world. It has a beautiful collection of the icons from the 18th and 19th century. In 1880 and 1964, the monastery subsequently erected two other churches and dedicated them to the Holy Virgin as well. Besides these places of worship, Dayr al-Muharraq also has a century old episcopal palace and a keep dating back to the 6th century. It was constructed mainly to protect the monks from the attacks launched by nomadic tribes in the area.
Dayr al-Muharraq is surrounded by a wall modeled after the one of Jerusalem. For Copts, pilgrimage to this monastery is equal to that of Jerusalem.