Last evening, Tuesday 21 October, an event was held at the Coptic Museum in Old Cairo to launch the tourism project of the path of the Holy Family’s journey in the first century into Egypt. Gracing the event were Pope Tawadros II; Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab; Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou; a number of governors, State ministers, and officials; as well as 71 representatives of Churches across the world, and Coptic bishop and members of the clergy. Attending were also a large number of figures from the tourist industry.
The event was organised jointly by the Ministry of Tourism, the Egyptian Tourism Promotion Authority and the Coptic Church.
The journey into Egypt
The Biblical story in the second chapter of the gospel of St Matthew goes that, when Jesus Christ was born, Herod the King sought to kill him. But “… the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child and His mother by night, and departed into Egypt. And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.” (Matt 2: 13 – 15)
Tradition has it that St Joseph brought St Mary and the Christ Child into Egypt where they remained for some three years.
“But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, Arise, and take the young child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child’s life. And he arose, and took the young child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel.” (Matt 2: 19 – 21)
During that three-year journey, the Holy Family entered Egypt from the northeast and travelled southwest into the Delta and further south into Upper Egypt. According to tradition, it is believed that the southernmost point they reached and resided in for the longest period during their journey was present-day Assiut, some 350km south of Cairo. Every spot on the way from Palestine to Assiut boasts some holy place where the Holy Family is believed to have rested for some short or longer interval, endowing it with blessing and leaving some trace which Egyptians highly revere. And in every such place there exists today some church or monastery to mark the holy site. These places are very well known to Egyptians and hold churches that serve local congregations to this day and keep the tradition of the Holy Family’s journey very much alive and part and parcel of the daily life of Copts. The Coptic Church celebrates the Entry of the Holy Family into Egypt every year on 24 Bashans, 1 June. Copts regularly mark the event as a living tradition.
The idea of the tourist project is to plan tours or visits to the places the Holy Family traversed or resided in during their journey in Egypt.
Before heading to the Coptic Museum for yesterday’s event, Pope Tawadros and PM Mahlab stopped at the nearby church of St Sergius, commonly known as Abu-Serga, where they visited an underground cave that is believed to have hosted the Holy Family for a few weeks on their journey.
In the Coptic Museum hall, Dr Zaazou explained the scope and importance of the tourist project, and the tourist revenue it is expected to generate. PM Mahlab stressed the fact that the project asserted that all members of the heavenly religions live in Egypt, side by side, in peace.
For his part, Pope Tawadros said that the visit of the Holy Family to Egypt was, still is, and will always be a great blessing to the land and people. “In the Book of Isaiah, he said, the Lord says: Blessed be Egypt my people, (Isaiah 19: 25).
Everyone then moved to an adjacent hall for a music and song performance of Coptic hymns and patriotic songs.
22 October 2014