at Mount Qussqam (Assiut)

Al Muharraq Monastery

Now it was time for the Holy Family to set out for what is, arguably, the most meaningful destination of all in the land of Egypt, the place where there would be “an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt”. Cabal (Mount) Qussqam, which takes its name from the town nearby that was lid waste, is 327 KM south of Cairo, and stands in the Governorate of Assiut. The Monastery of Al-Muharraq nestles against the western foothills of the Mountain.

It was built around the area where the Holy Family remained just over six months. Their time was spent mainly in a cave which became, in the Coptic era, the alter of the Church of Virgin Mary, built at the western end of the Monastery compound. The alter stone was the resting place of the Child Jesus during the months he dwell there.

The whole area-the Monastery and its surroundings – is redolent of the Coptic Christian ethos. So hallowed are its intimations, that the Copts of Egypt named it the Second Bethlehem. It was here, at the very spot where Al-Muharraq Monastery stands, that the Angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, and said “Arise, and take the young Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for they are dead which sought the young Child’s life” (Matthew 2:20 & 21)