Egypt’s Tourism Minister Yehia Rashed last week greeted 520 tourists of 20 nationalities who were the first to take part in a tour recreating the biblical trip to Egypt, taken by the Holy Family in the first century. The trip also took them to St Catherine’s monastery in Sinai which includes the Burning Bush from which God addressed Moses in the Old testament.
Earlier this month, Mr Rashed had held talks with the Vatican’s tourism officials in Rome to promote religious tourism to Egypt which includes remarkable sites where the Holy Family: Baby Jesus, St Mary and St Joseph, had sojourned on their flight into Egypt. They were then fleeing the face of Herod the King who wished to kill the Child.
They entered Egypt from its northeast border and headed southwest to the Nile Valley at present-day Cairo, then travelled further south along the Nile bank to what is today Assiut, some 350km south of Cairo. Tradition has it that the Holy Family stayed in Egypt for some three years until Herod died and they could go back to the land of Israel. (Matthew 2). Every spot in which the Holt Family is believed to have stayed throughout Egypt is now marked by a church or monastery.
Egyptian tourism, a main pillar of the country’s economy and a key source of hard currency, has been hit hard by years of political turmoil since the 2011 Arab Spring uprising and consequent rise in Islamist terrorism.
The Egyptian minister’s trip to the Vatican came soon after Pope Francis’ visit to Cairo on 28 – 29 April, a trip which has been described as “historic”.