>Genesis of Monasticism
Copts who form the majority of Egyptian Christians are followers of the Coptic Orthodox Church and considered to be part of the descendants of Ancient Egyptians and one of the first peoples to convert to Christianity. In fact, the word "Copt" derives from the Arabic word "Qibt" - or "Gibt" - which derives from the Greek word "Egyptos" meaning "Egypt." The Ancient Egyptian root of the word was "Hikaptah" (Ha-Ka-Ptah), the name Memphis was known by in 3100 BC at the time when it was the first capital of Ancient Egypt.
The Coptic Church traces its spiritual history back to St. Mark, the traditional author of the Gospel of Mark, and considers him to be the founding father of the Coptic Orthodox Church.
The history of the Coptic Church is tied to the history of Christian monasticism. The ancient tradition of monasticism continues to be practiced in Egypt and offers a great opportunity to visit Coptic monasteries, such as the monastery of St Simeon in Aswan, St Anthony and St Paul Monasteries in the Red Sea mountains, and Deir Al-Kashef Monastery, an early Coptic monastery in the Western Desert. Some of Egypt's churches also rank among the oldest Christian landmarks in the world, such as the church of the virgin in Asyut and the Coptic Cathedral of St. Mark in Alexandria.
Several churches and monasteries also mark the Holy Family Journey trail as described in the Bible. Take an angle's advice and "Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt."
A Legacy of the Mamluks & Ottomans
Islam in Egypt flourished during the early dynastic periods such as the Fatimid and the Ayyubid dynasties and established Egypt as a major cultural, political and social power in the Islamic world. In 1250 AD, a military caste known as the Mamluks took control of Egypt and established it as a major Islamic power. In 1798, the arrival of a French expedition led by Napoleon changed the political landscape after Muhammad Ali became the hereditary ruler of Egypt. His reign set Islamic Egypt on the path to modernisation.
The colourful history of Islam in Egypt shaped the culture, art and architecture of modern Egypt. Islamic Egypt has a tremendous wealth of Islamic art and architecture. Visit Al-Mu'izz al-Din Street, El Azhar Street, Darb al-Ahmar Street, El Saliba Street and Salah ad-Din Square in Cairo to see Egypt as it once was during the golden age of Islamic architecture. These restored areas are considered open museums and wonderful to visit at night. There are also dozens of historical mosques, citadels and souks to visit.
The number of Egyptian Jews reached a maximum of 80.000 in the first half of the 20th century, an era that is considered as the golden age of Judaism in Egypt. The massive Jewish exodus to Israel in the mid 20th century made this number decrease drastically to some mere hundreds today. Nevertheless, some greatly preserved Jewish landmarks attest to the Judaic heritage of Egypt in major metropolis such as Cairo and Alexandria.
>Egyptian Deserts & Oases
Take an Egyptian Desert Safari
A desert safari takes you through an endless stunning range of desert landscapes coupled with scenic sunsets and starry night skies. Walk along mud houses and ancient ruins in Egyptian desert oases, shop for locally made crafts and rub shoulders with Bedouins carrying out century old traditions- the Egyptian Desert is one of those mystic places where regular living practices are suspended or absent, a place where water access is everything and land ownership is nothing.
Discover amazing natural landmarks such as the Silica Glass Field and explore prehistoric rock art in the Swimmers Cave or Shaw's Cave in Gilf El-Kebir. You can also experience the amazing thrill of Sand Boarding in the Great Sand Sea, Quad biking in the Western Desert, or dune camping under the desert's starry night.
To go on a desert safari in the Western Desert of Egypt, contact a trusted tour operator. In the Sinai, shorter safaris can be arranged through your hotel or resort or by contacting any tour operator in the major Sinai cities.