Mentioned in several ancient Coptic texts but forgotten by the church today, the monastery of Al-Muharraqa was situated once on the West bank of the Nile, today known as the Saudiyyah village. It is to the south of Tammua, not far from the pyramids of Lisht, Meidum, and Dahshur. It is highly possible that these pharaonic funeral archetectures may have being reused by the early Christians as a place of worship.
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The next location on the official list of Holy Family’s southward itinerary is Maadi, a suburb city 10 kilometers south of Old Cairo. According to the tradition, the Holy Family embarked for Upper Egypt here in order to escape from the pursuing soldiers of Herod. The local priest believes that the Church of the Virgin Mary in Maadi is situated on the place of an ancient synagogue used during a time when some Jews had fled to Egypt for refuge.
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The Coptic Museum occupies an area of 8000 m2, buildings and garden included. Ever since the founder initiated the project, the Coptic community has been active in filling it with precious and rare pieces. Members of the community have sent icons, cloths, manuscripts, priestly garments, frescoes, and wooden panels. Painted wooden ceilings and marble fountains were collected from old Coptic palaces.
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In Klot Bek, near down town Cairo, one finds the large Cathedral of St. Mark that functioned as the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate from the 1850’s until 1968. Just beside the Cathedral, is the residence for the monks of the Monastery of the Syrian, which is believed to stand on the place where a 4th century church once stood.
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In Al Zaytun, a quarter in Cairo, we will visit the famous Church of the Holy Virgin where she appeared for many weeks in 1968, and performed a large number of miracles. Since that time, many people believe that the Holy Family must have visited this location.
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In Matariya the Holy Family found shade under a sycamore tree. At that spot Jesus created a well, blessed it and drank from it. The Holy Virgin also used its water to bath Jesus. On the place where she threw out the water, a ‘balsam’ plant grew which gave a beautiful fragrance, that is why it is called the Tree of the Holy Virgin.
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Featured photo: Norbert Schiller, a priest blessed a child and two women at Kom Maria just outside the village of Dayr Abu Hinnis.
The text below is an Egypt Today article from the year 2000, when H.H. Pope Shenouda and President Mubarak were still in power.
Author: Cornelis Hulsman
Egypt’s oldest churches and monasteries have always attracted many hundreds of thousands of pilgrims every year.” The Coptic Orthodox Church, to which 90 percent of Egypt’s Christians belong, has convinced authorities and the public of the flight’s importance, and the Ministry of Tourism has since actively supported religious tourism, publishing a photo book and distributing it worldwide. In the past year dozens of articles have appeared in the Egyptian press about the project, and Nile TV broadcast an awareness-raising documentary during Pope John Paul’s recent visit. The American University in Cairo Press is also publishing a book about the Holy Family.
Continue reading Searching the Route: On the History and Present of the Holy Family Tradition