The Holy Family at Samannoud
They continued their journey to the North passing by Zagazig and making their way to Meniet Samannoud (a.k.a. Meniet Genah). They passed by the town currently known as Daqadous, where a church of the Virgin Mary is found. There is also a water well from which they drank. Then they crossed the Nile to Samannoud (or Jemnoty) in the Delta, where the local population received them with kindness and hospitality that earned them a 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 Child Jesus blessed.
The Holy Family at Sakha
They traveled northwest until they reached Sakha. The Coptic name of Sakha is “Pekha Issous” meaning “the foot of Jesus,” for the Holy Child’s foot-print was marked, here, in bas-relief on a rock preserved, but hidden for centuries for fear of robbery, and only unearthed on September 27, 1984.
The Holy Family at Wadi El-Natroun
They crossed the Rosetta branch of the Nile to the western delta, and headed south into Wadi El-Natroun (Natroun Valley, a.k.a. Scetis) in the Western desert of Egypt. Before reaching Wadi El-Natroun, the Holy Family passed through the spring of Al-Humra where the Infant Jesus caused a water spring to well up from the ground. The well is called “Beer Mariam” (Mary’s well). In the earliest decades of Christianity, the desert around Wadi El-Natroun, became filled with monastic settlements, and later, many monasteries, in spiritual commemoration of the Holy Family’s passage through the Valley.
The Holy Family at Matariyah and Ain Shams
Eventually, they left the desert behind and made their way south, crossing the Nile to its eastern bank, and heading for Matariah and Ain Shams (ancient Heliopolis, the site of the oldest university in history). Both these adjacent districts are outlying suburbs of present day Cairo. At the time of their arrival, Ain Shams was home to a large Jewish community, who had erected the Synagogue of Unias for worship. In Matariyah, a tree still stands called “Mary’s tree,” for the Holy Family 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 onto the ground, and from that spot, the fragrant balsam plant blossomed. Besides the healing and pain soothing properties of this balsam, its essence is used in the preparation of the scents and perfumes of which the Holy Myron is made.
The Holy Family at Zeitoun
Setting out next towards Old Cairo, the Holy Family rested for a while in Zeitoun. On April 2, 1968, St. Mary appeared on the domes of her church in Zeitoun, for many hours almost everyday, until 1971. Her apparitions were accompanied by many supernatural phenomena, seen by thousands of people from different countries, religions, and languages. Numerous miracles and healings occurred during every apparition.
On their way they proceeded along a course, which is now the crowded, bustling quarters of Cairo, within which the serene landmarks of an earlier Coptic heritage still stand, marking the path the Holy Family followed.
The Holy Family in Old Cairo
Old Cairo is among the most important locations visited by the Holy Family. The spiritual impact of their presence is still felt, though their stay was brief; because the Governor of the area, enraged by the tumbling down of idols at Jesus’ approach, sought to kill the Child. They took shelter from his wrath in a cave above which, the Church of Abu Serga (St. Sergius) was later built. This, and the whole area of the Fort of Babylon, is a destination of pilgrimage for Christians from around the world. Important sites include:
1. Hanging Church
2. St. Sergius church
3. St. Barbara
4. The Convents of St. George and of St. Mercurious
5. The Coptic Museum and the ramparts of the Fortress of Babylon
6. The Greek Orthodox Church of St. George
In central Cairo (in Zuweila Alley):
1. St. Mary Church
2. St. George Church
3. St. Mercurious Church
4. The Convents of Virgin Mary and of St. George
The Holy Family at Maady
After their short, but impressive stay in Old Cairo, the Holy Family moved in a southerly direction, reaching the modern Cairo suburb of Maady. In earlier pharaonic times and at that time it was an outlying district of Memphis, the Capital of Egypt. From Maady, they boarded a sailboat to carry them up the Nile towards southern Egypt. The historic church built upon the spot from which they embarked, dedicated to the Virgin, is further identified by the denominative, “Al-Adaweya” meaning the Virgin’s church of the ferry.” In fact, the name of that modern suburb, Maady, derives from the Arabic word for “the crossing point.” The stone steps leading down to the river’s bank are believed to have been used by the Holy Family.
An event of miraculous importance occurred on March 12, 1976. A Holy Bible of unknown provenance was carried by the lapping ripples of the Nile to the bank below the church. It was opened to the page in the Book of Isaiah declaring, “Blessed be Egypt My people” (Isaiah 19:25). This Bible is now preserved behind glass in that church.