Arrive Cairo, be met and assisted, transferred you to the Hotel for the evening.
(Sunday) Today depart Cairo by air-conditioned vehicle and travel to Pelusium: an ancient Egyptian city on the easternmost mouth of the Nile River (long silted up). One of the first resting places of the Holy Family, the city has long been destroyed however today it is an active archeological dig with a First Century church being restored. Pelusium is famous as the spot that Pompey was hanged and during the crusades King Baldwin died of ptomaine poisoning.
From Pelusium you will follow the trek of the Holy Family to Tel Basta (or Basta), about 60 miles north-east of Cairo. Here, Jesus caused a water spring to well up from the ground, and His presence caused the idols to crumble, as foretold by the prophets of old. ("Behold the Lord rides on a swift cloud, and will come into Egypt and the idols of Egypt will totter at His Presence and the heart of Egypt will melt in the midst of it". Isaiah 19:1) You will visit the site of Belbeis (Ancient Philippos) where they rested in the shade of a tree which came to be called, "The Virgin Mary's Tree'.
Then you will follow their route to Mostorod (which came to be called, in those days, 'Al Mahamma') only about 6 miles away from Cairo. 'Al Mahamma' means 'the Bathing Place', a name given to the town because the Virgin Mary bathed the Christ Child. O/N Cairo (B).
Having left their mark on Belbeis, the Holy Family set off in a north-westerly direction and, reaching the small township of Meniet Samannoud (known also as Meniet Genah), they crossed the Nile to the city of Samanoud (or Jemnoty) in the Delta, where the local population received them with a kindness and hospitality that earned them deserved blessing. There is in Samannoud, to this day, a large granite trough which, according to local belief, was used by the Virgin for kneading dough, and a water-well which the Christ Child Himself hallowed.
On to Sakha Town, the Coptic name of the town, 'Pekha-Issous', (vernacularized to Lysous) means, 'the foot of Jesus'; for the Holy Child's foot-print was marked, here, in bas-relief on a rock. The rock was preserved, but hidden for centuries for fear of robbery, and only unearthed again 13 years ago.
Then on to Wadi el-Natroun (Natroun Valley). In the earliest decades of Christianity the desert expanses of Wadi el-Natroun became the site of anchoritic settlement and later of many monasteries in spiritual commemoration of the Holy Family's passage through the Valley. Return to Cairo to overnight. (B)
Eventually, they left the desert behind them and made their way southwards, crossing the Nile to its eastern bank, and heading for Matariyah and Ain Shams (Ancient Heliopolis, the site of the oldest 'university' in history called since earliest Pharaonic times, 'On'). Both these adjacent districts are outlying suburbs of present day Cairo, only 6 miles or so from the city center.
At the time of the Holy Family's arrival there, Ain Shams was home to a large Jewish community, who had erected a temple, the Synagogue of Unias, for their worship. In Matariyah, a tree still stands to this day, still regularly visited, called "Mary's Tree", for the Family is believed to have rested in its shade. Here, too, the Infant Jesus caused water to flow from a spring, from which He drank and blessed, and in which the Virgin washed His clothes. She poured the washing water on to the ground, and from that spot, the fragrant balsam plant blossomed: besides the healing and pain-soothing properties of this balm, its essence is used in the preparation of the scents and perfumes of which the holy Chrism is composed.
Setting out next towards Cairo proceeding along a course which traverses what are now crowded, bustling quarters of Cairo, within which the serene landmarks of an earlier Coptic heritage still stand, marking the paths the Holy Family followed.
The area now called Old Cairo is among the most important locations visited by the Holy Family where the spiritual impact of their presence is most felt still; though their stay was brief, for the Governor of what was then Fustat, enraged by the tumbling down of idols at Jesus' approach sought to kill the Child. But they took shelter from his wrath in a cave above which, in later years, the Church of Abu Serga (St Sergious) was built. This, and the whole area of the Fort of Babylon, is a destination of pilgrimage not only for the Egyptians but for Christians from around the world. An air of piety and devotion pervades the whole district. O/N Cairo. (B)
Today depart Cairo and follow their path south. Reaching the modern Cairo suburb of Maadi which, in earliest Pharaonic times, which was an outlying district of Memphis, then the capital of Egypt. At Maadi they boarded a sailing boat which carried them up the Nile towards southern Egypt. A historic church is built upon the spot from which they embarked, also dedicated to the Virgin. The stone steps leading down to the River's bank, and believed to have been used by the Holy Family, are accessible to pilgrims through the Church courtyard. The sailboat docked at the village of Deir Al-Garnous (the later site of the Monastery of Arganos) 6 miles west of Ashnein el Nassara (a small village near the town of Maghagha). Outside the western wall of the Church of the Virgin there, a deep well is believed to have provided the Holy Family with the water they needed.
On towards the south they went and crossed the Nile again to the spot on the east bank of the River where the Monastery of the Virgin now stands upon Gabal El-Tair ('Bird Mountain'). The Holy Family rested in the cave which is now located inside the ancient church there.
Gabal El-Tair is also called Gabal El-Kaf ('Palm Mountain'). Coptic tradition maintains that, as the Holy Family rested in the shade of the Mountain, Jesus stretched His little hand to hold back a rock which was about to detach itself from the mountain-side and fall upon them. The imprint of His palm is still visible. Overnight at Mercure Minya. (B,L,D)
Once more crossing the Nile, back to its west bank, the Holy Family traveled southwards leaving behind them the rubble of fallen idols, and thence to Qussqam, the place where there would be "an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt".
Gabal (Mount) Qussqam, which takes its name from the town nearby that was laid waste, is 200 miles south of Cairo. The Monastery of Al-Muharraq nestles against the western foothills of the Mountain. It was built around the area where the Holy Family remained just over six months. Their time was spent mainly in a cave, which became, in the Coptic era, the altar of the Church of Virgin Mary, built at the western end of the Monastery compound. The altar stone was the resting place of the Child Jesus during the months He dwelt there.
The whole area, the Monastery and its surroundings is called the Second Bethlehem. It was here, at the very spot where Al-Muharraq Monastery stands, that the Angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, and said "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" (Matthew 2:20&21). Overnight Mercure Minya. (B,L,D)
Today we return to Cairo and overnight at the Hotel
Staff will transfer you to the airport, assist with exit formalities and checking in for your international departure.