Why You Should Visit Coptic Egypt in 2018

Jan 11, 2018 - 3 min read

Most people think of Israel as the most popular destination for pilgrimage tours, but many travelers do not realize that Coptic Christians in Egypt were among the first adherents to Christianity. Coptic Christians have a 2,000-year history in Egypt and are an integral part of the country’s multi-religious and pluralistic society. Today, Coptic communities are found in every corner of the country and comprise approximately 10% of the Egypt’s population, representing the largest Christian group in the Middle East. As you make your 2018 travel plans, here are some reasons to visit Egypt and learn more about its diversity and historical treasures through its most iconic Coptic attractions:

A Pilgrimage for Christians: Many of Egypt’s Coptic treasures include places tied to Christianity’s biblical origins and have become essential stops for local and international pilgrimages. Halfway between Cairo and Luxor, the Church of the Virgin Mary in Asyut stands where the Holy Family spent six months after fleeing the ‘Holy Land’. The lofty Saint Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Alexandria was built at the site of the Christian Saint’s first worship in 60 AD, and has been maintained as seat of the Coptic Orthodox Pope for more than 1,900 years.

St. Mark’s Coptic Cathedral is the oldest church in Africa and the seat of his Holiness the Pope of Alexandria, Patriarch of all Africa and the Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church.

Impressive Monasteries: The Copts’ long-standing promotion of monasticism influenced the establishment of monk communes at remote desert monasteries. Visitors in search of this monastic lifestyle today can choose from a variety of flourishing communities to observe, including the Saint Paul Monasteries near the Red Sea coast, Deir al-Kashef in the Western Desert, and Saint Catherine’s Monastery at the peak of the Biblical Mount Sinai.

After a hike through the cliffs and plateaus of the Galala Al-Qibliya Mountain, you can reach the monastery of St Paul, which was built in the 4th century by hermits who had chosen to isolate themselves from the material world at the very same location where Saint Paul had chosen to live in a cave for 90 years.

A Capital Steeped in Christianity: For religious and secular alike, no visit to Cairo would be complete without a trip to the southern neighborhood of Mar Grigis. Nicknamed “Coptic Cairo,” the riverfront district is believed to have been visited by the Holy Family during its sojourn in Egypt, and houses several aesthetically impressive and historic Orthodox cathedrals. The Hanging Church, constructed in the 7th century, is famous for its 110 icons of seminal Christian figures, including the Virgin Mary and the Twelve Apostles. The 10th century Church of Saint George, of the Greek Orthodox stream, attests to the enduring interactions between Copts and other Christian denominations. Coptic Cairo is also home to the Coptic Museum, which holds the largest collection of Coptic art Egyptian Christian artifacts in the world. The Coptic neighborhood moreover hosts the 9th century Ibn Ezra Synagogue, symbolizing the community’s acceptance of other faiths and Egypt’s rich Jewish heritage and extensive history of coexistence.

The unique Church of St. George is the only round church found in Egypt. Built in the 10th century on top of a Roman tower of the fortified town called Babylon, the church is connected to the Monastery of St. George and is the seat of the Greek Patriarchate of Alexandria.

Visit Experience Egypt for more ideas on how to plan your next vacation to Egypt.