Part II Egypt:

a. "Sacred Places and Religious Ceremonies in Alexandria during the Greco-Roman Period" by Yasmine Hussein:

Three main cults were studied by Yasmine Hussein: the dynastic cult, including the worship of Alexander the Great and the Ptolemies, from the early Hellenistic period; the cult of Sarapis established in Alexandria and extended in the entire ancient Mediterranean world; and thirdly, the cult of Isis Pharia, the protector of sailors from the 1st century BCE to the 5th century CE.

  1. The Dynastic cult including Alexander the Great

    The dynastic cult of the Ptolemaic kings of Egypt was built upon the person and body of Alexander the Great, founder of Alexandria. However, the city of Alexandria became an important pilgrimage destination after Ptolemy II Philadelphos transported the body of Alexander, which had previously been buried in Memphis, to Alexandria in 280 BCE. His tomb soon became an important destination of pilgrimage by royalty and notables from near and far. The cult of Alexander however, had become deeply rooted in popular beliefs and the relationship between sacred body of Alexander, the place and the people was so strong that attempts were made to maintain it and reinvent it in new forms. Today, two places in Alexandria are especially are linked to the Soma: the former Church of Saint Athanasius which was converted into the Attarine Mosque after the Arab conquest of Egypt, and the Mosque of Nabi Daniel.  

    [The Attarine Mosque]

    [Mid-nineteenth century reconstruction of Alexander's catafalque based on the description by Diodorus]

    [Head of Alexander, Greco-Roman Museum of Alexandria]

  2. Sarapis cult

    The Sarapeion was Alexandria's most important sanctuary, and one of the most famous pagan sanctuaries of the Greco-roman period. It was also the center of a cult which spread widely across the Mediterranean in the Greco-Roman period. The main concept of this cult is the death and resurrection of Osiris in the body of Apis-bull who became Sarapis in the Ptolemaic period. By the creation of Sarapis and his connection to the royal family, Ptolemies desired to legitimate their rule as Pharaohs of Egypt in front of both the Greek community and the Egyptians. The temple of Sarapis in Alexandria was a main destination for pilgrims from all over the Mediterranean: the believers wanted to see the statue of Sarapis and to witness its miracles.

    [Statue of Sarapis, with his long beard, the five corkscrew curls on his forehead and his modius headdress, Alexandria Greco-Roman Museum]

    [Head of Sarapis, Greco-Roman Museum of Alexandria]

    [General view of the site of the Sarapeion of Alexandria]

  3. Isis Pharia cult

    The most popular foreign deity to be worshipped in Greek cities in the Hellenistic period was the Egyptian Isis. As the mistress of the seas, Isis is the inventor of navigation, the use of the sail and the protector of sailors. Like the lighthouse for seafarers, Isis is a guide for humankind not only in life but also after death. The location of Isis Pharia temple at Pharos is not a coincidence: Isis Pharia is not the goddess of the Lighthouse, she is the Lighthouse goddess.

    [Detailed view of Isis Pharia above the entrance of the Governorate of Alexandria]

    [Coin minted in Alexandria depicting Isis Pharia holding a sail in front of the Pharos]

    [The Isis, a large ship that operated in the Mediterranean]

b. "Christian and Jewish Holy Places in Alexandria and its Environs" by Yasmine Hussein:

In this part Yasmine Hussein presents four figures of Coptic faith deeply connecting to Alexandria and a figure of Jewish saint. It establishes this relation between a saint and a place with a description of ritual practices in the saint feasts.

  1. Saint Mark

    The Coptic Orthodox Church traces its origin to the apostolic mission of Saint Mark, who arrived in Alexandria in around 60 CE and stayed for about seven years. During this time, Mark converted many to Christianity and performed miracles. His body was still honored at Alexandria until the ninth century as the founder of the Christian Church in Egypt.

    [Mosaic showing Saint Mark ordaining Anianus a bishop right before leaving the city, in the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, Saint Mark’s Cathedral, Alexandria]

    [The Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, Saint Mark's Cathedral, Alexandria]

    [A painting of Saint Mark at Alexandria Greek Orthodox Church, telling the story of the saint, showing his arrival to Alexandria, indicated by a depiction of the Pharos, the sea and the boat, his martyrum and the patriarchs]

  2. Saint Menas

    Saint Menas site became the most important pilgrimage destination in Alexandria from the fourth century until nowadays. Menas was Egyptian was the son of a governor and a soldier himself. The fact that he proclaimed his faith publicly, defying authority and taking on the role of a martyr are an accomplishment of the function of a soldier in the service of God. His cult was spread other countries, perhaps by traveling merchants who honored him as their patron.

    [Relief of Saint Menas from the fifth century shows him dressed as a Roman soldier between the two camels and holding up his hands in prayer, Greco-Roman Museum of Alexandria]

    [Saint Menas’ flask bearing his image dressed as a Roman soldier between two camels. It contained the miracle water that pilgrims took with them as a souvenir of their pilgrimage, Greco-Roman Museum of Alexandria]

    [The wooden church in the historic site of Saint Menas]

  3. Pope Kyrillos VII

    Pope Kyrillos VI laid the first stone of the Monastery of Saint Menas near Alexandria in 1959. There was a strong relation between Pope Kyrillos VI and Saint Menas. The feast of Pope Kyrillos VI has take place on 9 March every year in the re-established monastery. Copts from all over Egypt organize pilgrimages to attend his feast which has become the more important saint’s feast for the modern Coptic faith. Pope Kyrillos VI was highly regarded by both Christians and Muslims of Egypt; he brought the Coptic Church into a new era of renewed faith and high spirituality. Many Egyptians considered him as a living saint.

    [Pilgrims pray in front of the tomb of Pope Kyrillos VI]

    [Offering room with all sorts of items for the Saint]

    [Pope Kyrillos VI]

    [The feast of Pope Kyrillos VI]

  4. Father Bishoy Kamel

    Father Bishoy Kamel was considered to be a saint during his life as was Pope Kyrillos VI. Alexandria was the center of his life's work as a teacher and as a priest. He instituted many churches in Alexandria in Egypt as well as in Europe, Australia and the United States. As he provided Alexandria with a number of new churches, and endowed the people with spirituality, Father Bishoy Kamel also offered the city a holy space for devotion during his feast in Saint George’s church, Sporting. He personified the modern sense of sanctity and engagement of the holy in everyday life.

    [The tomb of Father Bishoy in Saint George’s Church, Sporting, Alexandria]

    [The Church of Saint George in Sporting, Alexandria, founded by Father Bishoy Kamel]

    [Father Bishoy Kamel]

  5. The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and all Africa by Kyriakos Savvopoulos

    The Saint Sabba Church was built in the seventh century. Since then, it has functioned as the seat of the Orthodox Patriarchate, a hospitalion (hospital), a training center for clergy, the Maritime Consular’s office and a cemetery. The 19th-20th century revival of Greek Orthodoxy in Alexandria made the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate and Saint Sabba particularly part of a triangular route of religious tourism in Egypt, including the Saint George in Cairo and Saint Catherine in Sinai.  

    [Saint Sabba, after its most recent renovations]

    [The Façade of Evangelismos Cathedral, Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria]

    [The Greek Orthodox Epitaph ceremony]

    [The Greek Orthodox Epitaph ceremony in Evangelismos Cathedral, 2009]

  6. Jewish Pilgrimage Sites

    Some Jews with Alexandrian origins occasionally visit the Eliahou Hanabi synagogue in search of the records kept in the archives and the 50 Torah scrolls collected from other synagogues. Some of the pilgrims also attend the moulid of rabbi Abu Hassira at Izbat Damtiouh, close to Alexandria.  

    [The Eliahou Hanabi Synagogue]

c. "Sufi Moulids in Modern Alexandria " by Azzura Sarnataro and Ayman Al Gohary:

This part deals with the moulids or the Islamic saints’ feasts in Alexandria, their origin, the practices, the popular beliefs, and the most important moulids in the city.

  1. Moulid between sacred and profane

    Moulids are celebrations held in honor of a saint in Egypt and other Arab countries. The origin of this practice goes back to the period of the Fatimid dynasty in Egypt. The development and institutionalization of Egyptian Sufism, especially during the Medieval period, has led to the phenomenon as it is practiced today. In Alexandria, moulids are held mostly during the summer, where the Sufi belief that a saint, or wali, is blessed by God and his shrine is a place of enlightenment is part of popular folk culture.

    [Reading Quran and dhikr in tents outside the mosque]

    [the sweets of the moulid]

    [Popular ritual of the moulid Burhan Al-Din Abu Al-Ikhlas]

    [The mourid of he moulid Burhan Al-Din Abu Al-Ikhlas]

    [Dhikr in moulid Burhan Al-Din Abu Al-Ikhlas]

    [The procession of moulid Abu Al-Abbas Al-Mursi]

  2. Connection between the cult of the saint and popular aspects of Sufism

    It is important to make a distinction between Sufism and the popular aspects of Sufism. Al-Sayed Burhan Al-Din Abu Al-Ikhlas, known to have been one of the most recent walis in Alexandria, blessed with karamat that were evident to his murideen and to everyone else who sought him for enlightenment, is the clearest example.

    [Murid of Al Sayed Burhan Al Din Abu Al-Ikhlas]

    [Popular aspect of the procession of Abu Al-Abbas Al-Moursi]

    [A woman who follows the moulid everywhere and collects the flags of all the orders]

  3. Main Moulid in Alexandria

    The most important moulids in Alexandria are Abu El Abbas El Mursi, Sidi Bishr, Sidi Kamal, Sidi Mohamed El-Rahal and Sidi Jabir. Most of these holy men were influential personalities of the Sufi Shazleya order founded in Alexandria by Ali Abu Hasan El Shazly during the thirteenth century.

    [The shrine of Sidi Bishr]

    [The mosque of Abu Al-Abbas Al-Moursi]

    [The order of Al-Shazleya in the procession]

    [Moulid Abu Al-Abbas Al-Moursi]

    [The procession of moulid in honor of the Prophet Mohamed PBUH]