There are various stories that circulated about the Holy Family during their journey in the land of Egypt in the Egyptian oral heritage. They stories varied between miracles, important events, and the personalities who welcomed or rejected the Holy Family.
The miracle of opening the fortified gates of Al-Farma to the Holy Family
When the Holy Family entered the land of Egypt through the Sinai desert from the direction of Al-Farma, this city was the first city to meet the Holy Family, and night had fallen in the desert and the gates of the city were closed as people were sleeping, so the child Jesus extended his blessed hands to the doors which opened at once.
The people of Al-Farma received the family with the best reception, and God blessed the city of Al-Farma, which then became one of the important eparchies in Egypt. Actually, many churches were built there and they continued to exist until the eighth century AD. Indeed, the largest archaeological cathedrals newly discovered in Egypt so far were built there, with an area of 82m x 42m, and there exists the “Hill of the Churches” because all its churches were built on an elevated area. Also, Hundreds of monks lived in its monasteries throughout the ages. The city of Al-Farma, due to its fame, was the center of a strong bishopric, and one of its most famous bishops in history was Anba Yusab, the bishop of Al-Farma, who attended the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus in 431 AD.
The first martyr in the history of Christianity for the name of Christ in Ashmounin
Saint Wadamon is the first martyr in Christianity. Traditions narrate that Jesus performed many miracles in this city, but the most important event that took place there is what the synaxarium tells about the story of “Wasdamon the Armenian” on the 18th of Misra. It says: “On this day was the martyrdom of St. Wadamon, who was from The city of Armant. One day he was sitting in his house and he had guests of idolaters, and some of them said to each other: “Behold, we have heard that a woman arrived in the country of Ashmounin with a little child who resemble the children of kings.” Others said: “Has this child come to Egyptian Land?” And each of them started talking about the boy. When the people left and each went to his house, Wadamon got up, pulled his mount and rode to reach the city of Ashmounin, and when he saw the child Jesus with his mother Mary, he prostrated to Him.
When the Child Jesus saw him, He smiled in his face and said to him: “Peace be with you, O Wadamon. You exerted yourself and came here to investigate what you were talking about inside your council while you were sitting and talking about Me. Therefore, I will come and stay with you and your house will become my adobe.” Saint Wadamon was astonished and wondered then said: “Sir, I wish that you come to me and live in my house, and I will be your servant forever.” And the Child Jesus said to him: “Your house will be a dwelling place for me and my mother forever, because if you return from here and the idolaters hear that you were with us, they will feel sorry for that and they will shed your blood in your house. Do not be afraid, because I accept you with me in the kingdom of heaven forever, a place of eternal joy that has no end, and you will be the first martyr in Upper Egypt.
Then, the man stood up and worshiped the Lord Christ, Who blessed him, and he went back to his house. When Wadamon returned to Armant, the idolaters heard of his arrival and the word spread in the city that Wadamon had visited Jesus. So the worshipers of the idols came rushing and pointed their swords at him, and he completed his testimony and was martyred. When the worship of idols was abolished and Christianity spread in the country, the Christians built his house as a church after the name of the Virgin Mary and her son, glory be to Him. This church is called Al-Jiushnah, which translates as “the Church of the Neighborhood” in a village called Zaher Armant.
The establishment of the oldest altar in Egypt in “Mount Qusqam”
It was in the place of the Monastery of Muharraq now, and this place was the last station that the Holy Family reached. In this location, St. Joseph the Carpenter built a small house of bricks, and covered the roof with palm branches. They were going up to the upper room by a staircase, and it seems that Joseph was not sure that the upper room should have windows, but with the breath of the Divine Child, a window was opened in the room.
In this area, people rushed to take the Divine Child’s blessing, and they were getting healed from their illnesses and pains.
On the opposite side, there was a well of hard water, and the Divine Child blessed it when He, His mother, and Joseph the Carpenter drank from it. After that, the water of the well became as sweet as the water of the Nile, and whoever drank from this well or bathed with its water, became cured of all his pains.
Sheikh Abu Saleh the Armenian mentioned that there was a basin filled with water, and it turned into wine. In the west of the cave, which later became a church, there is a dome carved into the rock in the western mountain, where the Virgin Mary used to reside sometimes, and this church later became a shrine visited by Christians and non-Christians.
Abu al-Makarem mentioned that there was a basin filled with water in Mount Qusqam, and it turned into wine, as it happened in the wedding at Qana of Galilee, which was the first miracle during the ministry of the Lord Christ that was mentioned in the Gospel of John, chapter two. Perhaps that situation may be a reason for the Virgin Lady asking the Lord Christ to do something for the sake of the people at the wedding in Cana of Galilee, as if she remembered what happened in Mount Qusqam in Egypt!
Before they left the house, the Virgin asked her son to grant a special blessing for the place that housed them in their estrangement; so Jesus answered her request, and told her that this place is sacred, and a church will be built in it. He also told her that this house will be a sanctuary consecrated to God, and sacrifices and vows will be offered in it, and that this place will become a home to holy monks, and everyone who comes to it for the purpose of blessing, healing, and performing miracles will get what he wishes.
Yossi’s house, which turned into Al-Muharraq Monastery
Some historians mention that a man named Yossi, who was from the tribe of Judah and a relative of the Virgin Mary and Joseph the Carpenter, came from the Levant and followed the path of the Holy Family until he reached them on Mount Qusqam. He told them what King Herod had done to the children of Bethlehem, and that he was still looking for the Child Jesus, his mother, and Joseph, and vowed that he wanted to kill them with his own hands.
When the Virgin Mary heard the news, she was troubled greatly; so she hugged her Child and took him to the upper room, and she started looking out the window, fearing that Herod’s soldiers might be following them. The Divine Child looked at her and reassured her, saying, “Do not be afraid, my mother, and do not cry, for your crying grieves me. The time has not yet come for the Son of Man to surrender. The soldiers will not know our place.”
Then, Jesus directed his speech to Yossi, saying: O Yossi, you have labored a lot for our sake, and have endured the hardship of traveling many miles. Your reward is great. He was silent for a while, then said to Yossi: Now you rest, and here you can lie down. So Yossi obeyed, and took a stone and placed it under his head and closed his eyes. It was only a short period until he surrendered the soul, and they buried the body near the house and placed on the grave a square stone with the name of Yossi written on it in Hebrew.
It seems that the story of Yossi was the last event for the Holy Family in Mount Qusquam, as the Holy Family spent six months and ten days alone in Mount Qusquam. Then the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph the Carpenter ordering him to return to Palestine since Herod had died.