Churches of Coptic Cairo, Minya & Asyut Christian monasteries, Biblical sites at Tal Basta, Tanis (Zoan) & Wadi Natrun
The Gospel of Matthew describes the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt, which saw Joseph, his wife Mary and their infant son Jesus escape King Herod’s Massacre of the Innocents. Our Route of the Holy Family tour follows the footsteps of the Holy Family around Egypt.
Your biblical journey begins in the Cairo, the Egyptian Capital. From here our tours start with visits to Tal Basta, Tanis and Ismailia. The Holy family are said to have passed through these regions whilst in exile. These regions, in particular Tanis also have a strong Pharaonic past with the discovery of intact burial chambers in 1939. Our 2nd day of tours is concentrated on holy sites around Cairo. We visit the Tree of the Virgin Mary in Al-Matariya, The Church of the Holy Virgin in Musturod and the Church of the Virgin Maria in Bilbeis – all believed to be sites where the Holy Family sought refuge whilst in Egypt.
Heading north out of Cairo we visit Wadi Natrun where we will have picnic lunch and visit some of the monasteries. During their journey into Egypt, the Holy Family were believed to have made a stop at Wadi Natrun. Between the 4th and 7th century the region became one of the most important regions for Christianity in the Middle East. St Makarious of Egypt retired to the desert in the 4th century to live a stoic life and many hundreds of others following suit in the following centuries in search of a simple, holy way of life. Today only four of the monasteries survive, all of which originally date back to the 4th century – The monastery of St Makarious the Great, Paromeos Monastery, Monastery of St Bishoy and the Syrian Monastery.
Day 5 of your tour is centred on Cairo again with a visit to Coptic Cairo to see some of the oldest Christian Churches in Egypt. Whilst in Coptic Cairo we will visit many churches but the most significant of these is the Church of St Sergius, which is believed to have been constructed on the site where the Holy Family resided during their journey into Egypt. In the afternoon of day 5 we visit the Coptic Museum which houses a vast collection of religious icons.
Following the Nile Valley south out of Cairo we drive for approximately 250km’s to the province of Minya. Here we will visit the Monastery of the Holy Virgin – a rock hewn church which is thought to have been established in 328 AD by Helena, the mother of the Byzantine Emperor Constantine on the site of a cave where the Holy family sheltered for 3 days.
Travelling further south we follow the Nile to the city of Asyut where we visit the Monastery of the Holy Virgin, constructed on the site where the holy family stayed for 6 months and 5 days. Jesus is said to have returned here after his resurrection to consecrate the altar, which has led some to believe that this could have been the first church.
Our journey ends with a drive back to Cairo, along the way we will make a stop to visit the Convent on the Virgin which was founded around a cave where the Holy Family stayed before returning to Palestine. During the Festival of the Virgin, up to a million pilgrims come to pray here. After a final night in Cairo your tour ends
Day 1: Arrive in Cairo, transfer to hotel
You arrive at Cairo airport where we greet you and transfer you to your hotel. Our rep will help you settle into the hotel and its surroundings, and outline the plan for the next few days.
Day 2: Tour of Tal Basta, Tanis & Ismailia
After an early breakfast we drive out of Cairo to Tal Basta. Tal Basta is situated in the township of Zaqazig, close to the Nile Delta and is home to the ruined temple of Bastet. The town is also home to an ancient well which is said to have been one of locations where the Holy Family rested during their exile into Egypt. After touring the temple ruins we continue our journey to Tanis. During Biblical times Tanis was known by the name Zoan, as referred to in the Bible. In the film the Raiders of the Lost Ark, Tanis was said to be the hiding place of the Ark of the Covenant. The city was founded late in the 20th dynasty and became the northern capital of Egypt during the 21st dynasty under the rule of Smendes. Tanis then remainder Egypt’s northern capital into the 22nd dynasty. There are many ancient sites at Tanis, including temples and a royal necropolis. In 1939/1940 Pierre Montet discovered the intact burial sites of Psusennes I, Amenemope and Shoshenq II which contained a large amount of Gold, Jewelry, Lapis Lazuli and many other precious items which are now housed in the Cairo Museum.
After time in Tanis we continue on to Ismailia where we will have lunch before returning to Cairo in the afternoon.
Day 3: Tour of holy sites at Al-Matariya, Mostorod & Bilbeis
Today our tours are centred on Christian churches around the Cairo area. Our first stop is to Al-Matariya which was an important town during Pharaonic periods and was once part of ancient Heliopolis. Legend tells us that the Holy Family rested beneath a tree in Heliopolis, which is now known as the ‘Tree of the Virgin Mary’. The Chapel of the virgin which we will also visit is close by. We then continue to Mostorod which is located approximately 10km northeast of Cairo, which was also part of ancient Heliopolis. Whilst in Musturod we visit the Church of the Holy Virgin. The Church is located on the site where the Holy Family are thought to have sought shelter after a long day of travelling. In the crypt of the Church we will see the cave where the family were thought to have rested as well as a well, whose water is said to have magical properties. Our final visit for today is to Bilbeis, where we will visit the Church of the Virgin Maria. After arriving back into Cairo the remainder of the evening is free.
Day 4: Tour of Wadi Natrun
After breakfast we head to Wadi el Natrun. The name Wadi el Natrun is Arabic for ‘Natrun Valley’, which derives from the 8 lakes in the region which produce Natrun Salt. During ancient times the region was important for the Egyptians as the Natrun Salt which was mined here was a critical part of the mummification process. During their journey into Egypt, the Holy Family were believed to have made a stop at Wadi Natrun. Between the 4th and 7th century the region became one of the most important regions for Christianity in the Middle East. St Makarious of Egypt retired to the desert in the 4th century to live a stoic life and many hundreds of others following suit in the following centuries in search of a simple, holy way of life. These individuals believed that life in the desert would teach them to eschew the things of the world and allow them to follow gods call in a more individual and direct way. Today only four of the monasteries survive, all of which originally date back to the 4th century – The monastery of St Makarious the Great, Paromeos Monastery, Monastery of St Bishoy and the Syrian Monastery. After time spent visiting these monasteries we return to Cairo where we spend the evening.
Day 5: Coptic Cairo & Maadi Churches
Today begins with a visit to Coptic Cairo to see some of the oldest Christian Churches in Egypt. Whilst in Coptic Cairo we will visit many churches but the most significant of these is the Church of St Sergius, which is believed to have been constructed on the site where the Holy Family resided at the end of their journey into Egypt. We will also visit the Churches of St George, Abu Seifein and Santa Barbara. Later on we visit the Coptic Museum which is home to an excellent collection of Coptic artefacts and also the Church of Al Adra Al Adawia in the Maadi district of Cairo.
Day 6: Drive to Minya, visit Monastery of the Holy Virgin
We have an early start today as we have approximately 250km’s to drive to the province of Minya. Whilst in Minya you will visit the Monastery of the Holy Virgin. The rock hewn church is thought to have been established around 328 AD by Helena, who was the mother of the Byzantine Emperor Constantine. The sites sanctity derives from the legend that the Holy Family is believed to have sought refuge in a small cave for 3 days. This small cave now houses an icon of the Virgin, which is believed to have magical properties. This evening is spent at a hotel in Minya.
Day 7: Drive to Asyut, visit Monastery of the Holy Virgin
After breakfast in Minya we continue south to the city of Asyut. Whilst in Asyut we will visit the Monastery of the Holy Virgin which is located at the foot of Mount Qusqam. This monastery claims to have been constructed on the site where the Holy Family stayed for 6 months and 5 days, during the exile into Egypt. Jesus was also reported to have returned to this site after his resurrection to consecrate the altar, this is referred to in Isaiah 19:19 ‘In that day there will be an altar to the LORD in the heart of Egypt, and there will be a monument to the LORD at its border’. This evening will be spent in Asyut.
Day 8: Return to Cairo via Convent of the Virgin
After an early breakfast in Assyut we begin our long journey back to Cairo. We will take a slightly different route to include a visit to the Convent of the Virgin. The Convent is located on the edge of the Assyut Mountains. According to tradition, the convent was founded around a cave where the Holy Family stayed before taking a boat north and returning to Palestine. Over the past few decades there have been reports of apparitions of the Holy Virgin which have attracted many thousands of pilgrims to the site. During the Moulid (Festival) of the Virgin, up to a million pilgrims come to pray here.
After arriving back into Cairo you have some free time for some last minute shopping or exploring before your trip ends tomorrow.
Day 9: Cairo, tour ends with transfer to airport
Your tour ends after breakfast and your time is free until we transfer you to the airport for your flight home.