Tag Archives: Sinai&Delta

Wadi al-Natrun

The Holy Family continued their flight, went further west and crossed the Nile. According to some accounts the Holy Family saw Wadi al-Natrun, about half way between Cairo and Alexandria, from afar and blessed it, according to others they indeed visited the place.

In the Wadi Al- Natrun is a village called Al-Homra, which is about 26 km. off the desert road between Cairo and Alexandria. Before reaching Wadi Al-Natrun, the Holy Family passed by this desert village where the infant Jesus caused a well to be opened in the ground. This sweet water well, which is called unto today “Bir Mariam” or (Mary’s well), is incredibly located among lakes saturated with the natron salt. The well had been neglected for many years but is now being restored.

In their heyday in the 5th and 6th centuries, the many monasteries of the Wadi Al-Natrun sustained thousands of monks. They were established in spiritual commemoration of the Holy Family passage through the valley. For this reason this area was called ‘Wadi Sheheet’, meaning the place where hearts are weighed. Today four large monasteries near each other – and occupied with monks and hermits, have remained. These are the monasteries of St. Macarius, St. Bishoy, Al-Syrian and Al -Baramous.

Sakha

Traveling westward the Holy Family came to the place now known as Sakha, a town 135 km. north of Cairo. In Sakha we visit the Church of the Holy Virgin, probably built on the location of one of the four prominent monasteries in medieval times in this area. Only one of these monasteries, Dimyana, survived unto this day.

Sakha has become famous in modern days for the discovery of the “Bikha Isus” or the footprint of Jesus in 1984. At a depth of approximately 1.5 m., Halim Philippus, a supervisor in the church, found a light gray stone about eighty centimeters long with a tiny brownish impression. On its back the word ‘Allah’ (God) was written in Arabic. On its top – another stone was found that resembled half a capital from a column.

Halim knew from tradition that the monks in this area who had buried the stone of the footprint of Jesus, had placed this half of a column as a marker on its top. The “Bikha Isus” is now preserved in a glass case for protection. Additionally, near this church you will see a thorn tree, believed to be similar to that from which the crown of thorns of Jesus was made [Matthew 27:29].

Dimyana

Dimyana is a mixed Christian-Muslim village, with a convent built on a spot where local Christians believe the Holy Family rested. The name goes back to St. Dimyana who chose that place to worship God, and where she was martyred along with 40 virgins during the persecution of the Roman Emperor Diocletian (284-305).

When we visit this convent we see the tomb of St. Dimyana and the remains of a beautiful 9th century church. Clergymen will explain to you the importance of the traditions around the village of Dimyana and the Holy Family. The Convent of St. Dimyana is filled with marvelous mosaic paintings that will capture your attention. We will also see the nuns who excel in making absolute superb icons for low prices. Icons, which are not available, can be ordered and will be sent to Cairo.

Samannud

After Daqadus, the Holy Family fled to Samannud which was once an important city in pharaonic and Ptolemaic times. It is said that the Holy Family stayed here between 14 to 17 days as they were warmly welcomed by the local population. We need to go through a narrow street to reach the famous Church of St. Apa Nub; a twelve year old 3rd century martyr. The church treasures his relics which are preserved in a tube and covered with spices and perfumes, following the way Jesus’ body was wrapped with spices: “And when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.” [Mark 16:1]. The tube containing the relics is wrapped into a scarlet colored piece of cloth with the saint’s picture on it and is kept in a shrine. Occasionally priests remove the tube from the shrine in order to give the pilgrims blessings from it.

In the church’s courtyard we find a well that was blessed by Jesus, which is now covered to protect it from dirt and pollution. Water is pumped up via a purification installation and is given to people to drink. We see in the church’s courtyard a large granite bowl in which the Holy Virgin baked her bread, which is also covered for protection, and filled with water so that people can touch it as a blessing.

Daqadus

Daqadus comes from the Coptic ‘ti Theotokos’, which means ‘the mother of God’. Local Christians believe that Daqadus is a place where the Holy Family was well received. For that reason, Daqadus became a blessed site throughout the ages.

In Daqadus you see the Church of the Holy Virgin dating back to 1888, which stands on the same spot of an old church dating back to 1239. That church, unfortunately, disappeared during a flood at the beginning of the 19th century. The church believes this mediaeval church stood on the spot of a fourth century church founded by Empress Helena (ca. 250 – 330).

Inside the modern church compound you see an ancient well that was blessed by the Holy Family when they stopped at Daqadus. The church also has a uniquely beautiful library with medieval manuscripts.

Bilbays

According to tradition, at the moment the Holy Family entered the town, a funeral procession of a widow’s son was just leaving and Jesus felt compassion for her and raised him from death, a story that resembles the resurrection of the son of a widow in Naim [Luke 7:11-17].was an important bishopric in the 4th century. The Church of St. George dates to the 1960’s and was built on a location older churches have stood.

Musturud

Musturud is actually part of greater Cairo, on the agricultural road from Cairo to Bilbays. Here we visit the Church of the Holy Virgin at Musturud in which the Holy Family found shelter after a long day of traveling. We will also see the cave where they rested and the well that Jesus created, which the Holy Family used for drinking, washing and bathing, that is why it is called al–Mahamma (bathing place).

The recorded history of this church goes back to 1185 A.D. when Pope Marcos III built a great church on this place and dedicated it to the Holy Virgin. Coptic Christians, however, believe older churches stood on this spot. The church has recently been restored and has a beautiful collection of icons. Musturud has become an important pilgrimage location for Coptic pilgrims yearly, attracting hundreds of thousands of people.