The Magic and Mystery of the Pyramids
And the Route of the Holy Family
At Egypt's Celebration of the Millennium
By Dr. Zahi Hawass
Director of the Pyramids at Giza
CONTENTS: Millenium Preparation / Restoration of the Sphinx Temple / New Tombs Opened to the Public / The Gold Pyramidion / The Mystery Inside the Pyramid / The so-called Secret Door / Water-Shaft of the Sphinx / Theories About the Sphinx and the Pyramids / Route of the Holy Family / HOME
Egypt is now preparing for the celebration of the new millennium. Everyone all over the world wants to sit in the shadow of the pyramids and watch the magic and mystery of the turning of the millennium.
Many people believe that all the mysteries of the pyramids will be solved before the year 2000. However, it is important to know that many of these "mysteries'' are not based on reality. Nothing like a lost civilization is hidden under the sphinx or the pyramids. There are people spreading rumors and untruths about these greatest of ancient monuments, but they are simply wasting their time. Thinking people will not believe them, even if some buy their books for entertainment. A number of these "authorities" have even used radio shows and other public media in the United States to beguile people with misinformation.
I have been excavating at the pyramids for the past 12 years and have found no evidence for of "lost civilizations" or any of the like rumors being spread. What have been found are real artifacts - bakeries, inscriptions, and the tombs of ancient Egyptians from royalty to workmen -that reveal the story of ancient Egyptian civilization.
Art Bell, in his late-night radio show in the States, often presents the question: "How did the ancient Egyptians move the monstrous stones used to construct the pyramids?" When he came to visit me at Giza, I took him to an area behind my office and showed him how workmen at Giza cut six tons of stone. These men employ the same techniques used in antiquity. The laborers put a piece of metal in the middle of a stone block, and strike the metal with an axe'. In only one minute, the huge block is cut into several sections.
As Mark Linz, head of The American University in Cairo Press, remarked to me, "The ancient Egyptians were a great people, people like us, but they created this wonderful civilization." Mark, who publishes the works of many prominent, recognized scholars on ancient Egypt, added that "We should learn from them instead of attributing these marvels to other civilizations." And he's right.
Egypt's active Minister of Culture, Mr. Farouk Hosni, is supervising the celebration of the millennium at the pyramids. It will be one of the greatest gifts Egypt has given the world. Egypt's second great gift to the world is the preparation of all sites connected with sojourn here of the Holy Family, by Egypt's dynamic Minister of Tourism, Dr. Mamdouh El Beltagui. Twenty-four sites connected with the route of the Holy Family, when they fled to Egypt to escape persecution in their homeland, will be visited. The Supreme Council of Antiquities at Giza is also preparing the site for the millennium; we are restoring tombs and temples and discovering yet more important monuments.
Recently Mr. Farouk Hosni announced the reopening of the Great Pyramid of Khufu, additional tombs, and the Sphinx Temple at Giza, in a press conference with Dr. Gaballa A. Gaballa, General Secretary of the Supreme Council Antiquities. The over one hundred media personnel attending the conference reported this exciting news to the world. Mohamed Ghoniem, First Undersecretary of State for Cultural Affairs, stated, "the news from the Minister of Culture's press conference was transmitted all over the world. You could see Egyptomania in all my travels through Europe and America." He added that, "The restoration and new discoveries increase interest in ancient Egypt."
The pyramid of Khufu was closed on April 1, 1998, after it was discovered that the numbers of visitors to the pyramid had increased humidity inside the monument to 80%. The walls of the pyramid's Grand Gallery were found to be covered with about 3cm of salt, which is highly destructive to stone.
The pyramid was closed according to a site management plan to accommodate both the importance of tourism as a source of national income and the importance of preserving the monuments. This plan requires that one of the three pyramids at Giza will be closed each year and that the various monuments will be opened and closed to the public on a rotating basis.
The Department of Antiquities of Giza, composed of a team of Egyptian architects and conservators, has been working to repair and conserve the Great Pyramid for a year.
1. Graffiti left inside the pyramid by visitors was mechanically removed.
2. The walls of the Grand Gallery were cleaned of corrosive salt residue.
3. The walls of the first and second chambers have been cleaned.
4. Cracks found in the walls of the Great Gallery have been repaired.
5. A new lighting system has been installed inside the pyramid.
6. The first and second pyramid chambers will be opened to the public for the first time.
7. A French company has donated a new ventilation system. The system has been placed at the opening of the pyramid's "air shaft" to increase the flow of fresh air into the pyramid.
The Supreme Council of Antiquities has also made two decisions relating to the Giza pyramids:
1. Only 300 visitors per day are now allowed to enter the pyramids.
2. The Council agreed with the Civil Airline Department to ban all planes from flying over the pyramids..
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The Restoration of the Sphinx Temple
The Sphinx Temple is unique because of its special features connected to the sun. It is the oldest sun-temple in existence. This temple has a niche on the eastern side, for the ritual of the rising sun, and another niche on the western side for the ritual of the setting sun. The 24 pillars inside the temple represent the 12 hours of the day and the 12 hours of the night.
The temple was uncovered at the beginning of this century, with large stone blocks thrown both inside and outside the temple. The Antiquities Department of Giza, moved these 2-ton and 8-ton blocks and placed them in their appropriate locations with respect to the temple's original plans.
Cracks in the temple walls have been sealed with mortar consisting of lime and sand. Now that restoration is complete, visitors can watch the sun appear over the Sphinx's right shoulder, as did the ancient Egyptians, on the Spring Equinox (March 22-23) every year, with a view of the Sphinx Temple, as well.
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New Tombs Opened to the Public
We chose three new tombs to restore in the Giza Pyramids Plateau. The restoration involved making new ceiling and roofs for the structures, removing graffiti left by visitors, and restoring the, inscriptions and paintings on the walls.
1. The Tomb of the "Guardian of the King's Secrets"
Seshem-Nefer was the overseer of the two seats of the House of Life. He was also guardian of the king's secrets. The tomb is dated to the end of the Fifth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom. It is located to the southeast of the Great Pyramid, and it is one of the largest tombs at Giza. It is very special because contains both fimerary scenes and depictions of daily life. Of the loveliest scenes is a depiction of the offeringbearers and a scene of the deceased and his wife hunting in a marsh. The entrance to the tomb is flanked by two statues of the deceased.
2. The Tomb of the Vizier of the King
Nefer-Maat, a member of the royal family of the Fourth Dynasty, held many important titles, among them "Son of the King", "Crown Prince", "Overlord of Nekheb", and "Vizier of King Khafre". His tomb is found to the south of the Great Pyramid. Its walls are decorated with scenes of the deceased and his wife in front of the scribes and offering-bearers. Another unique scene shows the deceased seated in front of an offering table; under his chair is his favorite dog.
3. The Tomb of the King's Treasurer
Senefru-Kha-ef was Treasurer of the King of Lower Egypt and the Herdsman of Apis. His tomb is dated to the end of the Fourth Dynasty and the beginning of the Fifth Dynasty. Inside the tomb was a beautiful limestone sarcophagus that has since been removed and placed in the Egyptian Museum. The tomb contains typical family scenes of the deceased and his children.
Preparation of these tombs for public visitation required two important steps:
1 . Architectural restoration: stones were added to the fagades and walls of the tombs where needed, and. ceilings were constructed for the tombs. New doors have also been made for all of the tombs. Some of the structural damage to the tombs was repaired. Electricity and lighting were properly installed so as not to disturb paintings and inscriptions.
2. Technical restoration: salt was removed from the structures where necessary, and paintings and inscriptions on the walls were conserved.
Engineer Mohamed Faheirn Rayan, head of Egypt Air, has said, "Egyptian monuments and discoveries are very important tools for the promotion of tourism." They, are, in fact, the basis for Egypt's magnetic appeal to visitors from around the world.
On December 31, 1999, we are offering a very exciting program that will draw hundreds to attend this magical night at the pyramids. The pyramids were built in the third millennium B.C.; 4,500 years later, they will be the centerpiece for our celebration of the third millennium A.D.
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The Gold Pyramidion to Cap Khufu's Pyramid
I began my excavations near the eastern side of the Great Pyramid five years ago. Through this work, we made an amazing discovery: the satellite pyramid of Khufu. The substructure of the. pyramid consists of a burial chamber and an entrance facing north. The superstructure is composed of limestone blocks from the plateau and reaches about 3m. in height. Near this pyramid, we also unearthed the oldest capstone, or pyramidion, ever found in Egypt.
You never know what secrets the sands of Egypt may conceal. Another great discovery happened in Abousir, located between the Giza pyramids and Saqqara: a number of limstone blocks were found. Decorated reliefs found on two of these blocks provided new insights in the significance of the capstone we found in Giza. One of the reliefs shows workmen dragging a capstone, and there is a statement in hieroglyphics that the capstone was cased in gold. The other relief depicts a scene of ladies dancing.
The pyramid's construction was a national project because every household would participate by sending food and workmen to help the king. My interpretation is that, when the Ancient Egyptians finished building the pyramid, the king and government officials cased a capstone with gold and placed it on top of the pyramid. This symbolized completion of the pyramid, and everyone in Upper and Lower Egypt danced and sang because the national project of constructing the pyramid was successfully finished.
Egypt will make a similar offering to the world on December 31, 1999. We are now studying ways to complete the 9m. missing from the top of the Great Pyramid; we plan to construct the first 5m. of this new addition in a way that accommodates lighting, and the last 4m. will consist of a capstone cased in gold. On midnight of December 3 1, the new capstone will be uncovered and lights from the top of the Great Pyramid will shine across the night sky. The monumental event will be broadcast all over the world by television. Mr. Farouk Hosni has chosen Jean Michel Jarre, a French multi-media artist and comp oser, to design a celebration featuring a 12-hour "dream of the sun". At the climax, the capstone will be unveiled--and everyone will celebrate the new millennium in the shadow of the world's most famous monuments. The celebration will take place in the desert south of the third pyramid (Menkaure).
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The Mystery Inside the Pyramid
I believe that everyone all over the world will wait for this moment to see the uncovering of the gold capstone. "I will wait in front of the TV to see this great moment. It is one of a lifetime; I am counting the days," said Julie Holmes, a lawyer from Los Angeles.
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The so-called Secret Door
The second surprise that Egypt will offer the world at the beginning of the year 2000 is to solve the mystery of the so-called "secret door" found inside the Great Pyramid.
When the Great Pyramid was closed for conservation in 1992, a German company headed by Rudolph Gantenbrink was hired to clean what is known as the airshaft inside the pyramid in order to install a new ventilation system. The team sent a 9cm. -tall robot inside the southern shaft of the "Queen's Chamber." The robot found a piece of wood at the entrance to the shaft that either dates back to the time of carving the shaft or was left by adventurers who explored the shaft in the last century. Some say that Carbon-14 dating should be used to determine the age of this piece of wood. However, even if the wood is ancient, we can not use it for dating the pyramid. The robot went about l8m. into the shaft, but was stopped when we found that the shaft does not follow a straight line, as originally thought. Instead, it curves.
The robot also went on a 65m. journey into the northern shaft of the pyramid, and it stopped in front of a "door" with two copper handles. What lies behind that door is unknown, and we still await a proposal from an appropriate expert who can solve this mystery before the year 2001.
The journey of the robot will be broadcast by satellite so people across the globe can see what is behind this door. Some say there is a papyrus scroll hidden behind this door that might contain evidence about the construction of the pyramid. Still others believe that a book written by Khufu could be hidden behind it. I believe this may not be a door at all, but a heavy stone that was pushed and pulled in the shaft to smooth its walls. Supporting this idea, the second room of the pyramid, known as "the Queen's Chamber", was left unfinished. The robot's journey will be very exciting, and the entire world can watch it live from Cairo.
The shafts in the pyramid are not actually air shafts, they are model corridors for the soul of the deceased king, - as the . god Horus, to travel. The northern shaft would allow the king's soul to take the boats in the east for his use in controlling Upper and Lower Egypt. The shaft on the south was used a model doorway for the soul of Khufu as Re, "the sun god," to take his solar boat to travel on his day and night journeys.
The discovery that the southern shaft curves disproves a key element of the much-touted "Orion mystery" because, according to the theory's author, Robert Bauval, its path should be straight.
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The Mysterious "Water-Shaft" of the Sphinx
The alleged water-shaft beneath the Sphinx is the stuff of legends and modern day Internet chat rooms. The shaft opens under the causeway linking the Sphinx to the Pyramid of Khafre at Giza. It descends in several places to a depth of nearly 30m. below the Giza Plateau. The shaft was named for the crystal-clear water that fills the shaft's bottom chamber. The unfinished, water-filled cavern is entered from a higher chamber that contains niches filled with giant stone coffins; one of the niches is empty. A shaft in the doorway leads to a flooded corridor, and, wading into the darkness, one hears the echoes of ground water dripping from rock walls.
I decided to investigate this shaft and we began excavating on the second level, located about 20m. underground. It is divided into six rooms cut from the rock of the plateau. Two large, granite sarcophagi were found in two different rooms, but they were both empty. Excavation of the floor of this room revealed bones and pottery. Studies of the artifacts and style of the sarcophagi give a 500 BC date to this level.
We eventually reached the third level, which was covered with water, and we saw a sarcophagus submerged in water with its lid thrown at the entrance to the room. We secured two men with ropes and lowered them into the water to examine the depth of the water and to collect artifact from the shaft. This truly was thrilling!
Herodotus, Father of History, visited Egypt in the 5h century BC and bequeathed to us many stories about the pyramids. He wrote that he saw Khufu was buried inside a large sarcophagus and that there was water near the Great Pyramid. Of course Herodotus would never have gone 25m. into this shaft, but guides who lived in the plateau likely told him about this shaft with much exaggeration. Nonetheless, people have always wondered about Herodotus' statement, and now, for the first time, we know what he was talking about.
We continued excavating the third level and pumped the water out. It was one of the most difficult excavations I have ever done. We found the remains of four limestone pillars surrounded by masonry-built walls. Inside the pillars was an empty sarcophagus encompassed by water on three sides. On the eastern side of the sarcophagus we found the hieroglyphic sign pr, meaning "house", engraved in the ground. We know that the Giza Plateau was known in the New Kingdom, around 1550 B.C., by a name meaning 'the house of Osiris, Lord of the underground tunnels.' Therefore, the word "house" is engraved in the ground, and the sarcophagus surrounded by water symbolically represents Osiris, ruler of the underworld, where Khufa, Khafre, and Menkaure were buried. Osiris, God of the underworld and vegetation, protects the great kings of the 4h dynasty. Therefore, I believe that the third level of the shaft dates back to about 3000 years ago.
In later periods, the Egyptians wanted to know if there is a tunnel leading from this shaft to the Sphinx and the pyramids. They started cutting a tunnel about 3m. long on the western side of the room. We sent a boy into this tunnel, but he could not go through. We still do not know if the tunnel extends farther than we can see, and we plan to send a camera into the tunnel to find out exactly to what length it reaches.
Of course, Osiris is not buried inside this tomb; this is a symbolic structure or cenotaph for the god Osiris, similar to the Osirion in Abydos in Upper Egypt.
Osiris was the god of vegetation and ruler of the underworld. Osiris was represented in mummified form, and holds a scepter and hagellum; he also wears a white crown with plumes and horns. Osiris has been connected with the Giza pyramids since the New Kingdom, around 1550 B.C. The Giza plateau was called prwsir nb rastaw, meaning, "the place of Osiris, Lord of rastaw." The word "rastaw" refers to underground tunnels....
Are there any tunnels connecting the shaft to the sphinx and the pyramids?....
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Theories About the Sphinx and the Pyramids Should Be Answered
There are many bizarre theories about the Sphinx and the pyramids, most of which should be completely ignored. But the ideas presented by Graham Hancock, Robert Bauval, and John Anthony West should be discussed, especially after their belated announcement that the pyramids were, indeed, built by the Egyptians. Now they disagree with Egyptologists only on the actual function of the pyramids, the reasons why they were erected in the first place.
"The Orion Mystery"
Bauval and Gilbert say that the Abu-Roash, Zawiyet el-Aryan, Abusir and the Dahshur pyramids of Sneferu complete the match of the 4h Dynasty pyramids to the constellations Orion and Taurus.
This suggestion has been criticized by scholars who have some competence in ancient astronomy. For example, Robert Chadwick, who has studied ancient Assyrian, Babylonian and Egyptian astronomy, pointed out that the supposed "match" leaves out some of the brightest stars in Orion for the convenience of their theory. Furthermore, Bauval and Gilbert math the 5 th Dynasty pyramids at Abusir to stars, but not the other 5th or 6d' Dynasty pyramids. Chadwick points out that if you actually superimpose the pattern of Orion onto the three Giza Pyramids, the other stars in the constellation do not match at all the pyramids of Abu-Roash and Zawiyet el-Aryan. The discovery that the southern shaft from the second chamber of the pyramid is curved rather than straight ftu-ther refutes their theory.
While "the Orion Mystery" seems to apply scientific analysis to the so-called "mystery of the pyramids", and the author's theory has been featured in a variety of television documentaries, unhappily for the authors, their theory doesn't hold up under scrutiny. They make many errors in their interpretation of ancient Egyptian civilization, which also undermine their arguments. Basically, however, they try to draw an apparently perfect correlation between three stars in the belt of Orion's constellation and the three major pyramids of Giza.
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The True Age of the Sphinx
John Anthony West and Robert Schoch contend that weathering of the second strata of limestone from which the Sphinx was carved indicates that the world's most recognizable statue was built between 5000 and 7000 BC. As we published in before in Archaeology Magazine, if Egyptologists tend to ignore West and Schoch it is because the two tend to ignore the evidence of the Old Kingdom Egyptian society that surrounds the Sphinx. They conclude that the monument must be the remnant of a much older civilization, otherwise unknown to the science of archaeology. They do not explain how their "lost civilization" disappeared from the archaeological record nor why the Old kingdom society of Khufu, Khafre, and their cohorts is so abundantly represented in that record, instead. Nor do they explain what happened to this "lost civilization" during the thousands of years between the construction of the mysterious Sphinx and the Old Kingdom (2575-2134 BC).
In some of the West-Schoch photographs we see West standing inside one of the larger fissures in the walls of the ditch around the Sphinx. He would have us believe that it is a major piece of evidence for rainwater erosion that occurred after the Sphinx was created. We are apparently supposed to believe that the other joints are also surface features created by torrents of rainwater running over the sides of the Sphinx and into its ditch. In their film, "Mystery of the Sphinx", there is a graphic showing the Sphinx's layers entirely unblemished by any vertical fissures. Rainwater then pours over the edge of the rock wall and gouges out vertical gullies, suggesting that this is how the fissures were created. In fact, the joints existed in the rock long before the ancient quarrymen ever fashioned the Sphinx and its ditch.
That this film scenario may look convincing testifies more to the power of animated video graphics than to bedrock reality. Schoch is aware of the technical studies that discuss how these fissures were formed - he cites them in his articles. But in the unabridged Mystery of the Sphinx, he points to a fissure on the South wall of the Sphinx ditch, "clearly formed by water running down he wall, pecking out weak spots."
They claim that the angularity between recessed and protruding layers on the facade of the tomb of Debehen indicates that it was constructed by the wind. The rounded profile of the Sphinx, he contends, resulted from water erosion and proves that the sculpture is much older. Archaeologists believe both the tomb and the Sphinx were carved during the 4th Dynasty. The tomb facade - originally the western side of the Khufu quarry, 459 yards west of the Sphinx and 74 to 141 feet above it, is carved in bedrock higher in the geological sequence than those of the Sphinx. The different weathering profiles reflect differences in the physical properties of the rocks, not the age of the monuments.
There is much evidence to dismiss their theory, such as the channel that exists in the north of the causeway, and the similarity between the architecture of the Sphinx Temple and the valley temple of Khafre.
Not a single piece of material culture - not one object or piece of an object has been found at Giza that can be interpreted to come from a lost civilization. Instead, we find an abundance of tombs, bodies, ancient boats, hieroglyphic inscriptions, pottery, bakeries, and so on from the Egyptian culture of the 41h Dynasty, dating to about 2,500 BC. Theories and speculations about a lost civilization seem to excite people more than the discovery of the culture that we actually did find at Giza and elsewhere in Egypt. This was a culture of Egyptians of whose existence we are certain. It was a great culture. Why do people need to look for another in its place?
I believe that we already know the truth of these issues and nothing will be uncovered in the year 2000 at Giza to link the pyramids with a lost civilization. We must salute this man who lived 4,600 years ago, Khufu the Greatest of the Great. He was a man whom Egyptians have remembered throughout their history, and many tales were told about him. Even today-, the spiritual aspect of the pyramid and its builder touches our hearts and causes us to make a plaintive cry over the long quest for immortality.BACK TO CONTENTS
The Route of the Holy Family
Dr. Mamdouh El Beltagui, Minister of Tourism, is very proud to announce to the world the conservation plan for twenty-four sites along the route of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in Egypt during their wanderings in Egypt. On this subject, he has published a beautiful book in several languages called The Holy Family in Egypt. The book can now be obtained from every Egyptian tourist office as well as from the office of the minister himself.
As Mr. Adel Abdou El Aziz, Chairman of the Tourist Organization Authority, said, "the whole world is interested and anxious to attend the millennium in Egypt. Therefore, we are promoting the stops along their route as something of religious significance to people all over the world."
Seeking refuge from the infanticidal fury of King Herod, the Holy Family had to pursue unknown paths through the hidden valleys of Sinai. According to sources documented by the Coptic Church, the Holy Family started the trip from Bethlehem to Gaza and after that to El-Zarania, located about 3 7km west of EI-Arish, and then through northern Sinai to the town of Farma.
One can now visit the ruins of ancient monuments of Farma, located east of Port Said. It has the ruins of a church and the site of Tal EI-Kanaes (The Hill of the Churches).
The Holy Family also reached Tel Basta, a site constructed in a zigzag formation. Here Jesus caused a water spring to well up from the ground and his presence caused the pagan idols to crumble. They then headed southward to Mostorod, located only 101an from Cairo, then to Belbeis and Samanoud. Likewise at Mostorod, they caused a spring to gush forth from the earth that still flows even today. Very much worth noting is the warmth of the ancient Egyptians to their distressed sacred visitors, and how local citizens received the Holy Family with love.
The Holy Family moved northeastward to Belbais where they rested in the shade of what was afterward called the Virgin Mary's Tree. They then set off northwestward to Meniel-Sarnannoud. There is a large granite block in Sarnannoud that the public believes the Virgin Mary used for kneading dough and a well for water which the Christ Child himself made hallow.
All these sites are now completely ready to receive tourists from all across world. "It will be a once-in-a-lifetime trip", said Dr. El-Beltagui.
The family continued their trip to Sakha, in the lake-district of Burullus. Jesus' footprint was marked here in bas-relief on a rock that was preserved and unearthed only 13 years ago.
They moved south into Wadi El Natroun in the western desert after crossing the Nile to the western Delta. In the earliest decades of Christianity, the desert of Wadi el Natroun became the site of many monasteries in spiritual commemoration of the Holy Family's passage through the region. There you can visit the Aub Beshay Monastery, the tree of St. Ephrem, and the Al-Baramose Monastery.
Once again, they crossed the Nile to its eastern bank and headed for Matarujah and Aim Shams, two adjacent districts in Cairo. In Matarujah the tree of St. Mary still stands to this day and is regularly visited, for the Family is believed to have rested in its shade. We are now preparing a conservation plan for this site. Also, the Church of Virginia Mary is at Zeitoun.
The Holy Family then set out towards Old Cairo, also known as Misr El Qadima, one of the most key locations visited by the Family. They took shelter in a cave, above which the Church of Abu Serga was built in later years. The Fort of Babylon is also a destination of pilgrimage for Christians from around the world. Old Cairo is also the home of most of the city's beautiful ancient and medieval Coptic heritage, including the Church of St. Mercurious, and is near to other Coptic sites in mid-Cairo.
The Holy Family proceeded southward to the site of Maadi, where they boarded a boat to carry them up the Nile to southern Egypt. The Church of the Virgin Mary was built upon the spot from which they embarked. On the I 2th of March, 1976, a Holy Bible of unknown provenance was carried by the ripples of the Nile to the bank below the Church. It was open to the page of Isaiah declaring: "Blessed be Egypt my people." The Bible is now on display in the sanctuary of the Virgin Mary Church for all to see.
The sailboat was docked at the village of Deir Al-Garnos. Outside the Virgin Mary Church there, a deep well is believed to have provided the Holy Family with water. On towards the south, they went to Samalout from whence they crossed the Nile to its east bank where the Monastery of the Virgin now stands upon Gabal ElTair. Crossing the Nile again to its western bank, the Holy Family traveled southward to Al-Ashmounein, then to Dairout Al-Sharif, and thence to Qussqam and Meir.
From Meir, the Family set out for their most meaningful destination in Egypt. The Monastery of A Moharraq nestles against the western foothills of Gabal (Mount) Qussqam. It was built where the Holy Family stayed for just over six months, mostly in a cave. One stone from the cave, the place of the Child Jesus during his stay there, became in the Coptic era the altar of the Virgin Mary Church built at the western end of the Monastery complex. It was at this cave that the Angel of God appeared to Joseph in a dream and asked him to take the Child and His Mother back to their homeland, for those who sought to kill the Holy Child were dead.
Their return journey took them to Mount Dronka, southwest of Assiut, and their blessing of the place was commemorated in the Christian era by the building of the Monastery of Dronka. Eventually they arrived again at Old Cairo, then Matarujah and on to Mostorod, retracing their steps across Sinai to Palestine. The entire journey from their initial flight from Bethlehem to their return to Nazareth lasted over three years and covered about 20OOkm.
These are the sites of the route of the Holy Family. Of course, you will not want to visit only these sites, for you can also see the magic of the pyramids and the silence of the Valley of the Kings, and-of course--you need to relax at serene Aswan, with its scenic islands and cataracts in the Nile.
People will be coming from all over the world to join our celebration of the milleimium. As a true example of Egyptian hospitality, General Mohamed Fahim. Rayan, Chairman of Egypt Air, will fly several hundred invited guests to Egypt for the celebration.
Egypt indeed has magic and mystery. "We do enjoy the beauty of the countryside, the wonderful archaeological sites, the museums, and the shores of the Red Sea, but we appreciate even more the kind hospitality and love of the Egyptians," said Mark Linz.
The night of the 12-hour of the dream of the sun in the shadow of the pyramids, and along the route of the Holy Family, is a great gift from Egypt to the world. Egypt signed the first peace treaty 3,000 years ago, and we continue to offer peace to all. This is the message from President Hosni Mubarak to everyone as the earth revolves into our next millennium.
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