We visit the magnificent Coptic Orthodox Church of the Holy Virgin and Saint John in Zaqaziq. The church, which is one of the most beautiful churches in Egypt, was built by Greek Orthodox Christians in 1925 and sold to the Coptic Orthodox Church who celebrated their first Holy Liturgy there in 1995.
In Tell Basta you see the ruins of Bubastis, the capital of Egypt in the 22nd dynasty (945-720 B.C.). You see the remains of a temple and re-used blocks from other pharaonic cities that is so typical of pharaonic cities in the Delta.
The Old Testament prophet Ezekiel prophesied around 500 B.C., that the once proud pharaonic city Bubastis [the name comes from Pi-Beseth, meaning the domain of the cat goddess] would fall into ruins [Ezekiel 30:17,18]. Coptic tradition says that the temple collapsed when the Holy Family entered, in fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah’s “Behold, the LORD rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt: and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence” [Isaiah 19:1].
We will also see in Tell Basta a 1st century well that some believe to be created by Jesus Christ. Some pilgrims started drinking polluted water resulting in the Egyptian Organization for Antiquities placing a fence around the well.
German scholar Dr. O.F.A, Meinardus wrote about traditions informing us that the Holy Family likely traveled through the Eastern Delta, the approximate location from where the Exodus took place.
The name ‘Land of Goshen’ is only mentioned in the Bible, and not Egyptian documents. The cities Pithom and Pi-Rameses, two fortified cities the Hebrews built before the Exodus, (Ex. 1:11) however, have been found. The Austrian Institute excavated the ruins of Pithom and found the remains of some temple buildings and grain stores. Pi-Rameses in particular is important because the Egyptians moved their capital from Memphis to Pi-Rameses in the 14th century B.C. because of the threats coming from the east. Pi-Rameses was the capital of Egypt in the time of Moses. In the same region the ruins have been found of Tanis, the capital of Pharaoh Sheshonk I [Shishak in the Bible] (935-914 B.C.) who plundered the temple of Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 12:9). Some researchers speculate he may have taken the Ark of the Covenant to this city.
Farma was once a port and trading center at the most eastern branch of the Nile. The Holy Family had to pass through this city before entering the Nile Delta. The Farma branch dried up and the once flourishing city disappeared in medieval times and is now covered by sand of the desert. Today we find important 5 th or 6 th century churches ruins on site.