Throughout the history of Coptic Christianity, the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt has played a huge role in their faith and celebrations. The Copts believe that the visit of Jesus to Egypt was a blessing to its people and they strongly believe that this visit prepared the Egyptians for the dawning of Christianity that took place forty years later due to the preaching of St. Mark.
The Holy Family, being Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus, sought shelter in Egypt until the death of King Herod as he was attempting to kill all baby boys in Jerusalem at the time as he felt threatened that this baby would take his thrown. This supposed threat came to Herod’s mind when the Magi came to him searching for the newborn “King of the Jews”.
Egypt was a logical place to find refuge for the family as it was outside the dominions of King Herod. Furthermore, seeing as Egypt was part of the Roman Empire at the time, and linked to the coastal road then referred to as the way of the sea, it made travel between the countries of Palestine and Egypt safe and easy for the family.
The Flight of the Holy Family into Egypt is mentioned scarcely in the Bible, but accounts of it can be found in the books of Hosea as prophesy and in Mathew as the actual account of the event.
History claims that the family entered Egypt by crossing the Wadi Al Arish, the River of Egypt, and their first stop in Egypt was in Tel Basta. In Upper Egypt they stopped in Matariya, which is nowadays a holy stopping place with a sacred tree mark. They then continued their journey southwards towards the city that is now known as Heliopolis. They passed the fortress of Babylon, nowadays in Old Cairo.
Other areas that are now part of the footsteps include Wadi Natrun and of course parts of Cairo. The Hanging Church and the Tree of Mary are today settled in the city walls with people making their lives around it.
These days, people who wish to trace the footsteps of the family will find various churches and shrines that mark the areas where the family stayed. The most important of these is the church of Abu Serghis where the family’s home was located. The Hanging Church in Coptic Cairo offers mural displays of the events of the flight and this event has been recorded in scores of art in the two thousand years of Coptic Christianity’s existence. In fact, in Paris’s Notre Dame Church, a choir chapel window displays a scene from the flight as well.
We have set out a tour that traces the footsteps of the Holy Family, guided by a Coptic Priest and tour leaders that visit the most significant churches and shrines related to this Biblically historical event. As we approach Easter, people feel more inclined to visit these holy places and be part of something spiritual and special. This tour traces the Flight of the Holy Family into Egypt by visiting farma, Sakha, Wadi El Natroun, Matariyah, Ain Shams, Old Cairo, Maadi, Minya, Dairout and Qussqam. In addition to this, travelers visit the Cave Church in the Mokattam hills. This is a remarkable piece of history in the Coptic faith and the means by which such an amazing church came into existence should not be missed.
Here you can view the contents of the Footsteps of the Holy Family itinerary.
During the turbulent times we have been facing, we hope that as Easter approaches, people open their hearts to those who suffer hardship. We wish the citizens of the world peace and prosperity, understanding for each other, and the desire to do good.