Event Report

In the footsteps of the Holy Family...

In August 2007 the curators at the Coptic Museum in Old Cairo organized a workshop for children and teenagers on the topic “The Flight of the Holy Family into Egypt”. For five weeks a group of 24 children and teenagers, at the age of 11 to 17 years, enlivened the Coptic Museum premises. Some of the workshop participants were recommended by a monk of the nearby el-Moallaqa-church. Muslim children and teenagers were also invited to join this summer activity.


“The Flight of the Holy Family into Egypt” has enjoyed a long tradition in the Coptic Church. Evangelist Matthew briefly mentions the sojourn of the Holy Family in Egypt. This biblical narration has inspired local traditions to trace in detail the route that the Holy Family took while travelling through the country. On their way to the south, they also passed by Old Cairo – today a famous pilgrimage site that attracts thousands of foreign and local visitors.

Theoretical lessons were given by the curators to teach the children and teenagers various aspects of Coptic art and heritage: colorful icons, invaluable manuscripts, wooden objects of daily use, stone artefacts, fine pottery, exceptional frescoes and precious textiles. This was then followed by a visit to the oldest churches, the Ben-Ezra synagogue in Old Cairo and to ‘Amr Ibn al-‘Ass mosque – the oldest mosque in Egypt – nearby Fustat. This brought the children and teenagers close to the multireligious atmosphere of the area where believers of three world religions have worshipped next to one another for many centuries.

An art teacher from the Faculty of Art Education - Helwan University, and four assistants gave practical lessons in drawing, painting and working with different kinds of materials, such as plaster and clay. The focus of this practical training unit was on creating a three-dimensional model showing the route of the Holy Family’s travel through Egypt. The workshop participants took great pleasure in forming small figures, houses, monasteries and mountains from styrofoam, gluing separate pieces together and painting their surfaces in different colours. Small palm fronds were made of chicken feathers. A second model was made, representing el-Moallaqa church, the most famous church in Old Cairo, and the interior of this model was furnished with many little details.

At the end of the workshop a celebration was held in honour of the workshop participants. Representatives of national and international cultural institutions, members of the Friends of the Coptic Museum, as well as representatives of the Supreme Council of Antiquities were invited. The art works of the children and teenagers were presented in a small exhibition and Manethon Company – a children’s theatre – and Tala’t Harb Choir performed in the idyllic inner courtyard of the Coptic Museum. 

This workshop was sponsored by the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) in the framework of the “German-Egyptian Year of Science and Technology 2007”, Supreme Council of Antiquities, Centrum für Internationale Migration und Entwicklung (CIM) and the Friends of the Coptic Museum.

Dr. Nadja Tomoum