Culturissima
Culturissima
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The copy opposite was commissioned by the United Kingdom's leading cultural tours company for inclusion in their annual travel brochure and on their website. Over ten years, Culturissima has devised, written and researched nearly 900 tours for the Cambridge-based company.

Coptic Egypt: A Cultural and Historical Tour

Modern Copts are the living descendants of the ancient Egyptians, heirs to a unique patrimony. From Mediterranean Alexandria to the monasteries of the Libyan Desert, from Old Cairo to the distant settlements of the Nile Valley, this study tour will uncover the heartlands of Christian Egypt, a world of fascinating archaeological remains and flourishing monastic communities.

Our investigations into 2,000 years of Coptic Christianity will begin on a desert hillside in the Fayoum Oasis, where the 6th century Monastery of the Archangel Gabriel shelters a superb array of mediaeval frescoes inside an extensive monastic settlement. In and around Assyut we will visit the Burnt Monastery and twin complexes near Sohag: the White Monastery, once the site of Coptic Egypt's greatest library, and the Red Monastery, which still serves the Coptic communities of the surrounding villages.

The Kharga Oasis, erstwhile refuge for Christian church leaders, now beckons before we drive further into the Western Desert to the early Christian necropolis at al-Bagawat, where over 260 mud-brick chapels present a stunning series of Coptic murals.

At Aswan a felluca - a traditional sailing boat - will transport us across the Nile to the southern tip of Elephantine Island: here the basilica of the abandoned monastery of St Simeon still bears traces of frescoes of the Apostles. After flying to Cairo we will travel through the desert to Wadi al-Natrun, site of four active Coptic communities with a millennium-old Coptic tradition. Here, in one of Christianity's most sacred spots, we will stay at a traditional guest house run by the Coptic church and enjoy a privileged tour of the Monastery of the Syrians.

Soon we arrive in Alexandria, where St Mark is revered as the founder of the Christian church in Egypt. Not far away lies the World Heritage site of Abu Mina, a late antique pilgrimage centre - including a church, baptistery, basilicas, public buildings, monasteries, houses and workshops - constructed around the tomb of Menas of Alexandria, an Egyptian-born Roman legionary.

In Cairo we will absorb the splendours of the Hanging Church and delve into the engrossing collections of the Coptic Museum. We then make our way through the Eastern Desert to one of Egypt's oldest inhabited monasteries, hidden deep in the mountains near the Red Sea coast, as we follow in the footsteps of the great hermit St Antony, considered by many to be the father of monasticism.