in Upper Egypt
At Gabal El Tair

The sail-boat docked at the village of Deir Al-Garnous (the later site of the Monastery of Arganos) 10 kms west of Ashnein el Nassara (a small village near the town of Maghagha). Outside the western wall of the Church of the Virgin there, a deep well is believed to have provided the Holy Family with the water they needed.

They went on from there to a spot later named Abai lssous, “the Home of Jesus”, the site of present-day Sandafa village, east of Al-Bahnassa which, itself, stands some 17KM west of the town of Beni Mazar.

On towards the south they went from Bahnassa to Samalout and crossed the Nile again from that town to the spot on the east bank of the River where the Monastery of the Virgin now stands upon Gabal El-Tair (‘Bird Mountain’) east of Samalout, 2kms south of Meadeyat Beni Khaled.

It is known by this name (Gabal El-Tair) because thousands of birds gather there.

The Holy Family rested in the cave which is now located insideancient church there. Gabal El-Tair is also called Gabal El-Kaf (“Palm Mountain”). Coptic tradition maintains that, as the Holy Family rested in the shade of the mountain, Jesus stretched His little hand to hold back a rock which was about to detach itself from the mountain-side and fall upon them. The imprint of His palm is still visible.

When they resumed their travels, the Holy Family passed a laurel tree a stone’s throw south of Gabal El-Tair, along the pathway flanking the Nile and the Mountain to leading from Nazlet Ebeid and the New Minia Bridge of today. It is claimed that this tree bowed for worship the Lord Christ – glory be to Him – as He was passing. The configuration of the Tree is, indeed, unique: all its branches incline downwards, trailing on the ground, then turn upwards again, covered in a cloak of grain, covered in a cloak of green leaves. They call the tree Al Abed —“The Worshipper”.

At Al Ashmounien town (western bank)

Once more crossing the Nile, back to its west bank, the Holy Family travelled southwards to the town of Al-Ashmounein-or Hermopolis Magna – but it seems that they did not tarry long there. Leaving behind them the rubble of fallen idols, they continued still in a southerly direction, 20 KM or so to Dairout Al-Sharif (which, like Al-Ashmounein, had an alternative Greek name: Philes); and thence to Qussqam (or Qost- Qoussia). Here, too, the recorded events testify that the townsfolk were infuriated when the stone statue of their local deity cracked and fell and evicted the Holy Family from the town. A historically recorded dating to that period refers to the devastation of Qussqam, and Coptic tradition asserts that the ruin that befellthe town was the consequence of its violent rejection of the gentle visitors.

We have an entirely different story in the warm welcome with which the holy refugees were met at their next stop at Meir (or Meira) only 7 KM west of Qoussia. Here, they found only consideration and hospitality wherever they went, for which treatment the town and its people were signally blessed.