Religious Tours to Egypt
by Jimmy Dunn
Tourists go to Egypt for many reasons. Obviously, there are the classical tours, which visit ancient sites, perhaps even including a few religious monuments. They also go to beaches, or even nature tours, for example. But many such visits, such as beach vacations, require little planning and are not complex. Classical tours require more thought, as do purely religious tours.
Religious tours actually take many different forms. However, we do not usually think of visits to ancient Egyptian temples as a religious tour, but rather classical. Religious tours usually involve visits to Christian, Jewish or Islamic sites. To an extent, Christian and Islamic tours may visit Jewish sites, but rarely will a Christian tour visit an Islamic site, or an Islamic tour visit a Christian site, thought there are exceptions. Mostly, Christian, Jewish or Islamic tours will be composed of tourists related to that specific ideology, but they can visit sites that each might, for one reason or another, be viewed as related to their specific faith. As an example, St. Catherine's Monastery and Mount Sinai can be considered as one site, as most visitors to one also visit the other (one can hardly help but see Mount Sinai when visiting St. Catherine's). Though a Christian monastery, which is highly interesting to most Christians, it also said to contain elements that relate to the Christian Old Testament, which of course would relate to both Jews and Muslims, and while Mount Sinai relates to the Old Testament, for both Jews, Christians and Muslims, it is also specifically holy to the Muslims for other reasons.
Actually, religious oriented visits to and in Egypt can be broken down somewhat more. There are religious tours and what really what might better be described as pilgrimages. Dictionaries define a pilgrimage as "A journey to a sacred place or shrine." A second definition we found was, "The journey of a pilgrim; a long journey; especially, a journey to a shrine or other sacred place." These definitions could really apply to most religious oriented or inspired visits to Egypt, and even to some degree, to classical temples. More realistically, when the term "pilgrimage" is used in regards to Egypt, it is frequently, but not always a visit to one specific site, by people associated with the site by belief, and the visit is usually accompanied by participation in one or more of the religious rites of that belief. Furthermore, the site that pilgrimages visit might not necessarily involve ancient sites. Many more modern sites, so long as there is a holiness associated with them, might also be the destination of a pilgrimage. On the other hand, simple religious tours often visit many sites, all of them ancient, and those visiting the sites may not, and may not even be allowed to, participate in religious rites. For example, Protestant Christians are usually not allowed to receive communion at an orthodox church.
Hence, there are many Coptic Christian, Muslim and even a few Jewish pilgrimages in Egypt which may originate from outside of Egypt, or, with the exception of Jewish pilgrimages, inside Egypt. Most are very specialized, and are frequently conducted by specialist travel companies, though many regular tour operators in Egypt also offer various Islamic pilgrimages because of the dominant presence of the Muslim community in Egypt. It must be mentioned that there is usually little wrong with regular tourists visiting pilgrimage sites, provided that they have some understanding of what is expected from them (such as dress), and are respectful. Many tourists, usually outside of groups, in fact do, particularly if they are interested in local culture.
Last Updated: 12th of October, 2011