The holy steps

The holy steps” The story of the Holy family‘s escape from face of death to the land of safety.

Angel Gabriel appeared to an engaged virgin named Mary and heralds her son’s Birth. “The Torah was full of ancient prophecies that spoke of the details of this miraculous birth, its place, and the born king who would save the people of Israel and his journey to the land of Egypt.

Therefore, Herod’s heart was troubled, fearing for his throne, thinking that the child Jesus would take the rule from him and become the king of the Jews. It is worth mentioning that Herod was one of the most evil kings in history. He issued orders to slaughter every child under the age of two, but the angel had appeared to Joseph, the carpenter and betrothed of Mary, in a dream and told him to take the child and Mary to Egypt, saying: “Take the boy and his mother and flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the boy to kill him.” So, he took the child and his mother at night and went to the land of Egypt.

In these words, the Gospel speaks of the journey of Lord Jesus and the Virgin Mary to Egypt, which marked a new page in their history and lasted for 3 years, 6 months, and 10 days. Theophilus, the 23rd patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria from 385-412 AD, recorded in the manuscript “The Memar” (a Syriac word meaning “narrative”) the main stations of the Holy Family’s journey, starting from “Farma,” also known as “Pelusium,” which is the city located between the current cities of Arish and Port Said. It is considered the oldest route connecting Egypt to Syria until Mount Qosqam in Asyut Governorate in Upper Egypt, where they returned to Palestine after the death of King Herod.

The route of the journey:

The Holy Family traveled from Bethlehem to Gaza until reaching the Zaranik Protectorate (Al-Falusiyaat), located 37 km west of Arish, and entered Egypt through the Sinai Desert from the north towards Farma (Pelusium), which is located between the cities of Arish and Port Said.

The Holy Family then entered the city of Tel Basta, near Zagazig in the Sharqia Governorate, about 100 km northeast of Cairo. In this city, the spring of the Lord Jesus, known as “Ain Ma’a,” exists. The city was full of idols, and as the Holy Family entered, the idols fell to the ground. The people mistreated the Holy Family, so they left the city and headed south.

The Holy Family continued their journey until they reached the town of Matariya, also known as Al-Mahamma, which is located about 10 km from Cairo. The word “Al-Mahamma” means “the place of bathing,” and it was named as such because the Virgin Mary bathed the infant Jesus there and washed his clothes.

From Matariya, the Holy Family traveled north to Bilbeis (Philbes), a town located in the Sharqia Governorate, about 55 km northeast of Cairo. The Holy Family took shelter under a tree that became known as the Virgin Mary’s Tree. On their return journey, the Holy Family also passed through Bilbeis.


The holy Family traveled north and west to the town of Menyet Samanoud, located in the Delta region. The Holy Family crossed the Nile River to reach the city of Samanoud (Jamnoti – Dabat Nitri), where they were warmly welcomed by its people and blessed by Jesus. The city is known for its large granite quarry, which is said to have been used by the Virgin Mary during their stay there. There is also a well of water that was blessed by the Jesus himself. From Samanoud, the Holy Family traveled north and west to the city of Baltim, currently located in the Kafr El Sheikh Governorate. The city got its name from a stone on which the footprint of the Jesus appeared. This stone was hidden for a long time, fearing that it would be stolen in some eras, and was rediscovered only about 13 years ago.

From the city of Sakha, the Holy Family crossed the Nile River (Rosetta branch) to the west of the Delta and moved south to the Natron Valley (Wadi El Natrun), where the Lord Jesus and his mother, the Virgin Mary, blessed this place.


From Wadi El Natrun, the Holy Family traveled south towards the city of Cairo and crossed the Nile River to the east, heading towards the areas of Matariya and Ain Shams. The area of Matariya, located near Ain Shams (Heliopolis – On), is about 10 km away from Cairo. At that time, Ain Shams was inhabited by a large number of Jews who had a temple called the Temple of Onias.

In Matariya, the Holy Family took shelter under a tree that is known to this day as the Tree of Mary. The Lord Jesus caused a spring of water to gush forth, drank from it, and blessed it. The Virgin Mary washed the clothes of the infant Jesus in this water and poured it on the ground, and a fragrant plant with a beautiful scent, known as the balsam plant or balsan, grew in that spot. This plant is added to various perfumes and ointments, including the sacred myrrh. From the area of Matariya and Ain Shams, the Holy Family continued their journey towards ancient Egypt and rested for a while in the olive groves on their way to ancient Egypt.

On their way from the olive groves to ancient Egypt, the Holy Family passed through the area where the historic Church of the Virgin Mary is now located in Harat Zwaila, as well as Al-Azbawiya in Qalut Bek.


The Holy Family arrived in ancient Egypt, which is considered one of the most important areas and stations they visited during their journey to Egypt. It contains many churches and monasteries. This area was blessed by the presence of the Holy Family, but they could not stay there for more than a few days due to the destruction of idols, which angered the governor of Fustat. He even wanted to kill the young Jesus.


The Church of St. Sergius (Abu Serga) contains the cave (the Grotto) where the Holy Family took refuge, and it is considered one of the most important landmarks of the Holy Family in ancient Egypt. The Holy Family then journeyed from the area of ancient Egypt towards the south, where they arrived in the Maadi area, one of the suburbs of Memphis, the capital of ancient Egypt.


The HolyFamily set sail on a sailboat on the Nile, heading south to Upper Egypt from the spot where the Church of the Virgin Mary, known as Al-Adaweya, now stands. It was from this spot that the Holy Family crossed the Nile in their journey to Upper Egypt, and it is from here that the name of Maadi originated. The stone staircase on which the Holy Family descended to the banks of the Nile is still present and has a shrine that opens from the church courtyard.

One of the amazing events that occurred at this church is that on Friday, March 12, 1976, the Holy Bible was found floating on the surface of the Nile in the area facing the church, open to the book of Isaiah the Prophet, chapter 19, verses 25. The blessed land of Egypt was mentioned in this passage. After that, the Holy Family arrived at the village of Deir Al-Garnous (Arganos), which is 10 km west of Abydos of the Christians – the center of Maghagha.


Next to the western wall of the Church of the Virgin Mary, there is a deep well, and tradition has it that the Holy Family drank from it. The Holy Family passed by a spot called Abay Issous (House of Jesus) east of Behsna, and its current location is the village of Sandafa (Bani Mazar), while the current village of Behsna is located about 17 km west of Bani Mazar.


The Holy Family traveled from Behsna southward to the town of Samalout, and from there they crossed the Nile to the east, where the Monastery of the Virgin Mary is now located in Jabal Al-Tair (Akoros), east of Samalout. This monastery is located south of Maadiat Bani Khalid by about 2 km, where the Holy Family settled in the cave located in the ancient church. It is called Jabal Al-Tair because the vultures of Abu Qir gather there, and it is also called Jabal Al-Kaf because the Coptic tradition mentions that the Holy Family, while in the vicinity of the mountain, a large rock from the mountain almost fell on them but Jesus stretched out his hand and prevented the rock from falling, leaving his handprint on the rock.


On their way, the Holy Family passed by a tall sycomore tree (the tree of the cave) 2 km south of Jabal Al-Tair, next to the road adjacent to the Nile. The mountain extending from Jabal Al-Tair to Nazlet Abid to the New Minya Bridge is also called the worshipper’s tree, as all its branches are descending towards the ground and then rising again with green leaves. It is said that this tree prostrated to Jesus Christ, glory be to Him.


The Holy Family left the Jabal Al-Tair area and crossed the Nile from the east to the west and headed towards the Shmonians (Shmun Al-Thaniyah), where many miracles occurred, their idols fell, and the Holy Family blessed the Shmonians.


The Holy Family traveled from the Shmonians and headed south for about 20 km towards Dairut Al-Sharif Filis. Then they left Dairut Al-Sharif for the village of Qusqam (Qust Qusya), where their idol fell and was smashed, and its people were expelled from the city, making this city a ruin.


The Holy Family fled from the village of Qusqam and headed towards the town of Mir Mirah, located 7 km west of Qusya, where the people of Mir honored the Holy Family while they were in the town, and Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary blessed them.


From Mir, the Holy Family traveled to Mount Qusqam, where the Monastery of Al-Muharraq is now located, and this area of the monastery is one of the most important stations where the Holy Family settled, so the place was named Bethlehem Second. This monastery is located on the western slope of Mount Qusqam, which is known because of the city that was destroyed, and it is about 12 km west of the town of Qusya in As

yut Governorate, 327 km south of Cairo. The Holy Family stayed for about six months and ten days in the cave, which later became the structure of the ancient Church of the Virgin Mary, located on the western side of the monastery, and the altar of this church is a large stone on which Jesus Christ sat. In this monastery, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, telling him to take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel because those who sought the child’s life had died.


On their return journey, they took a different route that led them slightly southwards towards Mount Asyut, also known as Mount Dronka, where the Holy Family blessed it and a monastery was built in the name of the Virgin Mary. It is located 8 km southwest of Asyut. Then, they arrived at ancient Egypt, then to Matariya, then to Al-Muharraqa, and from there to Sinai and then to Palestine, where Saint Joseph and the Holy Family settled in the village of Nazareth in Galilee.


Thus ended the journey of suffering that lasted more than three years, during which they traveled more than two thousand kilometers on a weak means of transportation, sometimes riding on boats in the Nile, and most of the way on foot, enduring the fatigue of walking, the heat of summer, the cold of winter, hunger, thirst, and being chased everywhere. It was a difficult journey that the Lord Jesus Christ, as a child, along with his mother, the Virgin Mary, and Saint Joseph, endured with joy.

Revival of the Holy Family Path:

The path of the Holy Family’s journey includes 25 points that extend over a distance of 3500 kilometers round trip from Sinai to Asyut. Each site where the Holy Family stayed contains a group of artifacts in the form of churches, monasteries, or water wells, as well as a collection of Coptic icons indicating the Holy Family’s passage through these locations, according to what was approved by the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt. The journey of the Holy Family began from Rafah in the northeast of the country, passing through El-Farma east of Port Said, and the Delta region at Sakha in Kafr El-Sheikh, Tel Basta in Sharqia, and Samannoud in Gharbia. They then traveled to Wadi El Natrun in the Western Desert, where they visited the monasteries of Anba Bishoy, the Virgin Mary, Syrian, Al Baramous, and Saint Abu Makar. After that, the family headed to the area of Mataria and El-Maadi, where the tree of the Virgin Mary is located. They then visited the “Zuweila Mosque” in Fatimid Cairo, the ancient areas of Egypt at the “Abu Serga Church” in the middle of the religious complex, and from there to the “Maadi Church,” which is the point where the Holy Family crossed the Nile River, where the page of the Holy Bible appeared on the surface of the water, referring to the famous saying “Blessed is Egypt, My people.”


Continuing on to Minya, where Jabal Al Tair is located, the Church of the Virgin Mary is situated atop the mountain adjacent to the Nile. It is considered one of the most important shrines of the Holy Family during their journey to Egypt after the Monastery of Al-Muharraq. This mountain was named “Jabal Al Tair” after a large group of white birds called Bouqyous Al Abiad used to frequent it. It is also known as “Jabal Al Kahf” and “Deir Al Bakarah.”


The church was established by Queen Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine, in 328 AD. It was carved into solid rock, and was often a Pharaonic or Roman tomb that was converted into a church. The church has a western entrance adorned with beautifully carved stones of various sizes, and to the southeast of the church is the cave where the Holy Family stayed for three days.


Then to Asyut, where the Monastery of Al-Muharraq is located, with the first church that was consecrated by the Lord Jesus Christ himself. The monastery covers an area of approximately 20 acres, making it one of the largest and greatest monasteries in the Egyptian deserts. The monastery has five churches, in addition to the Fortress Church. Two of them disappeared in past eras, and the ancient Church of the Virgin Mary predates the monastery, dating back to the first century AD.


This church holds a special place among the rest of the Coptic churches because it is associated with the Holy Family’s journey in Egypt. The church is named after Saints Sergius and Bacchus, who were martyred in the Rasaafa region of Syria according to Christian belief. Like the rest of the early churches, the church and its underground caves were designed in the basilica style, consisting of a horizontal space, longitudinal and curved corridors, and a cave below. The church is distinguished by its unique architectural and artistic characteristics, which reflect the spirit of Coptic architecture in Egypt. We can see the pulpit, the baptismal font, and the wooden screen decorated with ivory, in addition to religious scenes representing saints and apostles on various domes and columns. Then the Holy Family moved on to the cave of Derunka, before returning to their homeland in Bethlehem.