Christian Religious Tourism to Egypt and Internships

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Wed, 2019-03-06
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Egypt has been trying to promote Christian religious tourism for many years. Since the late 1990s much attention has been given to the Holy Family tradition which is in line with Matthew 2, the flight of Jesus to Egypt.


Groups are coming but for the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Egyptians working in the tourism industry, this is insufficient. They would like to see these numbers increase. Yet, the image of Egypt in much of Western media is not positive. Incorrectly so!


The Center for Arab-West Understanding seeks to change this image and received between January 28 and February 8 a Dutch church delegation including two pastors of the PKN Church (the largest Protestant church in the Netherlands), a professor of philosophy from the Catholic University in Tilburg, and a representative of an Oecumenical church in Amsterdam where Catholics and Protestants experiment with the renewal of Christian tradition.


It is the policy of the Center for Arab-West Understanding to ask our visitors if our interns can join them during their visit, which is an enrichment for both the visitors and the interns. The Dutch delegation agreed and German intern Melina Aboulfalah and Spanish intern Joan Cabrera Robles were able to join.


Sammar Sheasha [Samar Shīʿshaʿ] of Channel 2 of Egyptian TV interviewed us at the Monastery of St. Sama’an el-Karas [Samʿān al-Kharrāz] at the foot of the Muqattam Mountains in Cairo. This interview was broadcasted yesterday which resulted immediately in positive phone calls regarding what people had seen. You can watch this video production here:

Interview with Cornelis Hulsman


I explained in the film that our Center for Arab-West Understanding facilitates internships. We would wish to see more foreigners discover Egypt, not just through tourism, but through interactions with Egyptians. It is safe to visit Egypt (of course with the exception of northern Sinai). The delegation members will advise members from their churches and university to visit Egypt as well. The delegation members were hosted in the guesthouse of H.G. Bishop Marcos of Shubra al-Khayma. The bishop introduced us to some of his priests who are working on youth work. In Europe, youth are leaving churches, but in Egypt they remain active in church life.


Following the meeting with Bishop Marcos the delegation visited the monasteries in Wadi al-Natroun [Wādī al-Natrūn] and were hosted by Bishop Thomas in the Coptic retreat center Anaphora. The delegation then visited the monasteries of St. Anthony and St. Paul in the Red Sea area.


TV anchor Sammar Shaesha interviewed two Canadian visitors to the St. Sama’an el-Karas monastery. They had seen the photos online and decided to come, explaining that the enormity of these cave churches is much better to see in person than online.


Rev. Dirk Neven, pastor of the Nicolai church in Utrecht, the Netherlands, said the visits to the monasteries are good for the rejuvenation of one’s soul. “These are good places to be in contact with God.”


Sammar Shaesha asked how long they had been in Egypt. Coen answered 11 days, to which Sammar asked if they considered this to be enough time. Coen responded that “no, we should have stayed longer if we could.”  Sammar was surprised that they visited this monastery to which Rev. Dirk Neven responded that he had never heard of this place before, but that I had told them about this location. He was impressed that such a wonderful place was made by the hard working garbage collectors. Coen “this gives hard working people a place for spirituality.”

Interview with Mr. Coen Glaser and Rev. Dirk Neven


Rev. Dirk Neven expressed the hope that more Egyptians will get to know about the Coptic traditions since Christians are part of Egyptian life. This helps better mutual understanding between people of all religions.


Delegation meeting with our interns in our office


Melina Aboulfalah explained she studies Arabic and Islamic studies and has many Muslim friends. Knowing different religious traditions can prevent misunderstandings through education and knowledge she explained, and this is what had brought her to intern for a period of three months at the Center for Arab-West Understanding. Joan Cabrera Robles is Spanish and has been living in Egypt for two years, but yet came to the Center for Arab-West Understanding to learn more about Muslim-Christian relations in Egypt. Melina stressed that knowledge does not just come from studying books, but also from personal experiences, which is what makes this internship so valuable for her; engaging with different people who adhere to different religious traditions. For this Egypt is the ideal country to visit.


Rev. Dirk Neven was extremely pleased with the work of Sammar Shaesha and calls this film “impressive.” We hope you enjoy this too.



Cairo, March 6, 2019


Cornelis Hulsman,

Editor-in-chief Arab-West Report