Egypt is mentioned throughout the Bible with tales of the Great Exodus and the flight of the Holy Family into the land of the Pharaohs. Christianity in the country has a long history, and this tour aims to visit many important ancient Christian sites and locations mentioned in the Bible including some said to have been visited by the Holy Family during their journey through the country. We also visit some of Egypt's most famous Pharaonic sites and learn about the context of how ancient Christians lived in Egypt over the centuries.
Your journey begins in the Egyptian Capital, Cairo, home of course to the Pyramids and Sphinx, but also to some important ancient Christian sites, particularly some of the ancient churches in what is now called 'Coptic Cairo'. Your tour starts with a visit to the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities which amongst many other things, houses the treasures from King Tutankhamun's tomb. It also holds important artefacts dating from the reign of the Pharaoh Akhenaton, thought to be the world's first monotheistic king.
Next we head to Coptic Cairo to see some of the oldest Christian Churches in Egypt, the most significant of which 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 also visit the Coptic Museum which houses a large collection of ancient Christian artefacts, mainly dating from 300-1000AD.
We can't leave Cairo without visiting the Pyramids, and we tour the three main pyramids. the Sphinx and the Solar Boat museum before leaving Cairo and heading north to the coastal city of Alexandria. En-route, we stop at Wadi Natrun for a picnic lunch and a visit to some of the monasteries. During their journey into Egypt, the Holy Family were believed to have made a stop here at Wadi Natrun, and between the 4th and 7th centuries the region became one of the most important regions for Christianity in the Middle East. St Macarius 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 (these are the Monastery of St Macarius the Great, Paromeos Monastery, the Monastery of St Pishoy and the Syrian Monastery. Once in Alexandria we will visit the Roman amphitheatre, Pompey's pillar, the Catacombs of Kom al-Shoqafa, Qait-Bay Fort and the modern Alexandria Library.
Leaving Alexandria, we head through the Nile delta region towards Ismailia, via the ancient town of Tanis. Tanis gained prominence recently when it was featured in the movie 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' as the hiding place for the Ark of the Covenant, though there is no historical basis for this theory. After touring the ancient site of Tanis we continue on to Ismailia where we spend the evening.
Ismalia is situated on the banks of the Suez Canal, which we cross through a tunnel before continuing into the Sinai Peninsula and to St Catherine's Monastery, located at the foot of Mount Sinai. The monastery was built between the years 527 and 565 around the 'Chapel of the Burning Bush' that was built on the site where Moses is reported to have seen the burning bush. The living bush which can be seen today is reputed to be the original. Very early the following morning, we begin a hike to the summit of Mount Sinai, thought to have been the location where Moses received the 10 commandments from God, though others believe this happened at the nearby mount Serbal. You should reach the summit in plenty of time to watch a beautiful sunrise over the Sinai mountains. After descending the mountain, we visit Catherine's Monastery itself before returning to Suez, arriving late in the afternoon.
Our next drive takes us south from Suez, along the Gulf of Suez to Zafarana and the historic monasteries of St Paul and St Anthony in Egypt's eastern desert. Both Paul and Anthony are said to have been brought up by wealthy parents, but chose to give all this up to live a stoic lifestyle in order to become closer to God. Their monasteries date from the 5th and 4th centuries respectively and St Anthony’s also claims to be the oldest continually inhabited monastery in the world.
After returning to Cairo your last two days include tours to the Fayoum region, where you can see the Roman Ruins and experience oasis life, and to the pyramids at Saqqara and Memphis, which are thought to be some of the oldest in Egypt.