CAIRO: Egypt hopes to attract 30,000 new tourists through packages that highlight sites believed to have hosted Jesus and his family on their flight to Egypt, Adel Farid, the head of the Religious Tourism Committee at the Ministry of Tourism told The Cairo Post Tuesday.
Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou celebrated Tuesday the launch of the packages, that took place at the Coptic Museum and was attended by Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab, Pope Tawadros II of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria along with an array of high officials and dignitaries.
“Egypt, the cradle of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, has been blessed by the presence of prophets as Abraham, Jacob and Moses, who lived parts of their religiously enlightening experiences in Egypt. The Virgin Mary and Jesus, the messenger of peace, fled to Egypt and stayed for almost 4 years,” said Mahlab.
According to Christian tradition, Jesus and his mother Mary fled to Egypt in the first century fearing persecution by King Herod I, a Roman client king of Judea in what is now Palestine and Israel. During their four-year stay in Egypt, they crossed the Sinai Peninsula and visited several spots in Upper and Lower Egypt.
“During the past 20 years, several Egyptian and international tour operators have been organizing the Holy Family tour packages, which includes the Coptic holy sites in Jordan and Egypt but still so many people in the world do not know about it due to inadequate marketing,” Zaazou said.
According to Zaazou, the proposed trip, which will take from 5-7 days, will follow the path where the Holy Family reportedly traveled to, and will start from North Sinai’s town of Arish through the Eastern Delta and Wadi Natroun Monastery and ends at Al-Muharraq Monastery in Upper Egypt’s governorate of Asyut.
The ministry will coordinate with the Tourism Promotion Authority and the Tour Guides syndicate to update information related to the new proposed tour, said Zaazou, who added that the ministry is also coordinating with local and international travel agencies to operate the tour.
Pope Tawadros II said he agreed to grant access to churches and monasteries that are included in the trip to tourist groups for an entrance fee, “In order to prepare the priests and the monks in the said holy sites, training sessions and Coptic history lectures will be held to keep them updated and ready for any inquiries from tourists.”
Since most of the sites listed in the new trip are not popular touristic destinations and some of them were closed before the launch of the trip, police personnel will be deployed and security measures will be intensified and revised around these sites, Head of Antiquities and Tourism Police Dept., Major General Momtaz Fathy told the Cairo Post Tuesday.
“All travel agencies have been instructed to inform the department with the exact time, date and route of any tourist groups or individuals scheduled to conduct the tour. There will be a security convoy escorting the tourists to and from each site,” said Fathy.