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