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ICC NOTE: This article may not directly be linked to persecution of Chrisitans in Egypt. However, it is worth noting in the past Egypt had a strong Christian presence, its origins dating before the Muslim faith. This fact sort of flies in the face of the current government and its mandate to promote the values and culture of Islam.

Trail of Tears

Business May 2006 Difficult to visit today because of poor infrastructure, tourism advocates say sites on the ‘Holy Family Trail’ could attract up to six million new visitors per year with a relatively low rate of investment

Blessed be Egypt, my people ” (Isaiah 19:25) According to tradition, this Old Testament chapter foretold the flight of the Holy Family to Egypt, seeking refuge from King Herod of Judea. The Gospel of Matthew and other accounts in the New Testament and Apocrypha tell how the Holy Family spent between three to four years in Egypt, entering through Rafah and stopping at some 20 other locations on the way to Upper Egypt, including Farama (near Port Said), Zagazig, Minya, Wadi El-Natroun, Memphis (in Badrashein, Assiut), Mataria and Giza.

According to the teachings of the Coptic Church, their journey was fraught with hardships ranging from harsh weather to primitive living conditions.

Tourism professionals consider this lineup of sites — dubbed The Holy Family Trail — a major attraction for Christian religious tour groups, yet the country sees a very low volume of devoted pilgrims because, 2,000 years later, visitors to these locations still have to endure the same hardships (Roman persecution excepted, of course).

“Almost all locations [on the trail] are inadequate and lack primary infrastructure and facilities such as restrooms and accommodations,” says Mahmoud El-Kaissouni, chairman of the ecotourism committee at the Egyptian Tourism Federation and a high-profile advocate of reform in the tourism industry.

In addition to a lack of water, gas and electrical facilities, he adds, there is also the problem that few of the sites have the security presence necessary for Westerners visiting Upper Egypt , nor are there proper hotels and restaurants of Western standard. Finally, he says, many roads leading to Holy Family locations in Egypt are either unpaved or too narrow to allow buses to pass.

“These locations can be very appealing to people, but the Ministry of Tourism has to launch a heavy publicity campaign to raise more awareness,” says Yasser Taha, head of public relations at Nile Egypt Melody travel agency. Concerned that, beyond the physical discomforts, the lack of development might actually cause danger to clients, he simply says, “We cannot risk losing our guests.” For the full story…