How Egypt can become a hub for spiritual and religious tourism
The spiritual soul of Egypt flows like an underground river. Beyond the bustle of its cities and crowded streets, there is a powerful life force that keeps different communities together in difficult times.
While religious tourism is often associated with places like India, according to the Global Spirituality Index, there is also potential for Egypt to become a key destination for spiritual travelers. More than just a center of major religious civilizations, such as the Coptic civilization and the Islamic civilization, Egypt also has a long history of ancient spiritual practices and beliefs that are unique to its geographical landscape and natural environment.
For example, the study and exploration of the relationship between heaven and earth has always been rooted in the culture of the ancient Egyptians. Egyptologist Regine Schulz Noted that the ancient Egyptians once believed that the gods traveled across the skies of heaven in boats, reflecting the ancient Egyptians’ reliance on the Nile and their deep connection to it.
The sun also dominates the landscape and environment of Egypt, which is why it was also considered an important spiritual symbol that reflected the journey of life from birth to death. Desert spirituality in ancient Nubia and Upper Egypt is also said to have influenced spiritual practices in the desert by Christian monks as well as modern wellness gurus.
Although not much is known about the influence of the ancient spiritual practices of Egypt on our world today, glimpses of the many historical texts and religious sites can reveal an inexhaustible sea of spiritual knowledge that are waiting to be discovered.
As Egypt has always been a hub for various religious sites and activities, Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Khaled El-Anany Noted in an interview he feels optimistic about the potential for religious tourism in Egypt this year. Among other projects, Egypt is ready to announce the completion of the revival of the Holy Family route in Egypt. In 2021, three restoration projects of the route that would have been taken by the Holy Family through Egypt have been completed in Samanoud, Gharbeya, Sakha, Kafr El-Sheikh and Tal Basta, Sharqeya. A number of restoration projects have also been carried out at Christian monuments and Jewish synagogues, such as the Ben Ezra Synagogue.
Religious and spiritual journey around the world
religious trip kept growing over the years, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the most famous destination being India, which has allowed thousands of tourists to experience various expressions of spirituality and faith. Religious tourism has the potential to create employment opportunities for local communities, while promoting religious tolerance. This, however, is subject to the condition that the local traditions and cultural heritage of these destinations are respected.
In times of upheaval, spiritual journeys can offer moments of peace, calm and reflection. Spiritual tourism covers many different activities and has no strict definition; this may include spiritual festivals, events, visits to sacred sites, wellness and spa tourism, and meditation.
A number of research at UNWTO report also pointed out that religious and spiritual tourism cannot take place without the contribution of local communities, as cultural values and natural landscapes are generally attached to local communities who protect, preserve and promote these values and landscapes. Religious and spiritual tourism has also enabled communities to change their awareness of ecosystems and the environment, as well as shift work structures from agriculture to tourism.
Harnessing modern spirituality as well as ancient pilgrimage sites, Egyptian Streets has compiled a list of key locations that offer insight into Egypt’s growing potential to become a premier spiritual and religious travel destination.
Desert spirituality in Siwa and Sinai
Desert spirituality has gained wide popularity among modern spiritual and wellness movements, which involve meditation and yoga in the desert. For any yogi or meditation lover, the desert landscapes of Egypt can easily be ranked among the most spiritual places in the world and have a the story to be a famous place of meditation for the ancient monks.
The fascinating salt lakes of the Siwa Oasis in northwest Egypt are believed to provide profound healing and relaxing benefits to many travellers. There are also pristine sand dunes near the oasis which can be a great place for silent meditation and yoga retreats.
In the Sinai Peninsula in eastern Egypt, there are several breathtaking mountain views for spiritual travelers, from Saint Catherine, Jebel Al Ahmar and Um Hadabat. The Red Sea Mountain Trail was classroom as one of the 52 Best Places in the World to Visit in 2022 by The New York Times.
The Great Transfiguration Project at Sainte-Catherine
Located in South Sinai, St. Catherine’s celestial beauty is unmatched and is famous for being the site of St. Catherine’s Monastery and the pristine Mount Sinai, which dominates its landscape.
Egypt has announced plans to explore the Great Transfiguration at St. Catherine project this year, which focuses on the development of St. Catherine’s Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The project aims to establish a spiritual sanctuary in the mountains surrounding the Holy Valley and will connect the city to the extended coastal area between the cities of El-Tor, Sharm el-Sheikh and Dahab.
The monastery library, which contains the the largest collection of ancient religious manuscripts in the world, is also being restored. This is happening alongside restoration work on the churches inside the monastery, such as the Churches of St. John and St. Stephen. The project also aims to improve the city’s urban environment by creating cycle and pedestrian routes, as well as supporting planting plans for plants such as olive trees.
Village of Deir Al-Maymoun
Deir al-Maymun is one of the few almost entirely Christian villages in the country. It is said that the village was founded by Saint Anthony the Great, who isolated himself after the death of his parents, gave away all his wealth and began to walk east until he reached a small cave higher on the Galala Qeblia mountain near the Deir al -Village Maymun in Beni Suef.
In search of spiritual renewal, far from the hectic life of crowded cities, he decides to adopt a pharaonic temple as a place of isolation. This temple later became the Saint Anthony Monastery.
The village of Deir al-Maymun is surrounded by lush palm trees and spectacular mountain views, offering tourists the opportunity not only to delve deeply into the spiritual energies of the place, but also to interact with the community and understand their religious and cultural values.
Renovation of Jewish Synagogues
Egypt is also currently carrying out a renovation project for the Ben Ezra Synagogue, considered to be the oldest synagogue in Egypt. The temple is known to contain a collection of historical documents known as the Cairo Geniza, which describe the history and transactions of Cairo’s Jewish community from the 11th century to the 19th century.
In 2020, Egypt also reopened the Eliahu Hanavi Synagogue in Alexandria after its restoration. This synagogue is included on the World Monuments Fund 2018 list of monuments in danger, described on the site as “a symbol of the historical plurality of Egypt, when various national and religious communities lived and worked together in a spirit of conviviality and religious freedom”.
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