Cairo has completed work on the first stops on the Holy Family Trail, a path connecting locations believed to have been visited by the Holy Family 2,000 years ago while fleeing King Herod’s soldiers.
Marking the occasion of Egyptian Copts’ traditional January Christmas celebrations on Jan. 5, the country’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities ceremoniously opened the first stop on its much-anticipated Holy Family Trail, a long-distance route tracing the locations thought to be visited by Jesus, Mary and Joseph 2,000 years ago during their flight into Egypt. The project has been under development since 2013 and is now ready for visits by international tourists.
The stop is located in Samannoud, a small city in Gharbeya governorate where according to the Virgin Mary is believed to have prepared bread and Jesus to have blessed bread for a local woman. The development works in Samannoud included the conservation and enhancement of St. Abba Noub Church, the surrounding landscape and a nearby square and commercial area. Signposts provide information about the history of the place, its location along the trail and different Christian points of interest.
“The rest of the stops on the trail will be opened during this month,” said Adel Gendy, national coordinator for the trail project and the general manager for international relations and strategic planning at the government-affiliated Tourism Development Authority. Gendy told Al-Monitor, “The main target of this phase was the development of the infrastructure and the facilities for all the sites to be available to international tourists,” he added.
The Holy Family Trail runs through 11 Egyptian governorates that, according to the tradition of the Coptic Orthodox Church, witnessed their journey in Egypt, starting in North Sinai and heading south to Asyut. Many of the places where the Holy Family is said to have stayed have become churches and monasteries. Gendy says that the 3,500-kilometer (2,175-mile) trail is the world’s longest pilgrimage route in a single country.