ABU SALIH THE ARMENIAN, who wrote in the early thirteenth century, is the only ancient author who mentions Dayr al-Muharraqah. He situated it in Giza near Bunumrus, also known as Abu al-Numrus (Ramzi, 1953-1968, Vol. 2, , p. 3 and p. 39). There is still a village of this name to the south of the pyramid of Licht.
It is clear that the tradition at a very early date fixed the FLIGHT INTO EGYPT at al-Ashmunayn: “We have seen also another holy man of the name of Apollo, in the borders of Hermopolis in the Thebaid, where the Saviour went with Mary and Joseph … we have seen there the temple where, when the Saviour entered the town, all the idols fell down with their faces to the ground” (Festugière, 1971, p. 47). The fifth-century Greek historian Sozomen, in his Ecclesiastical History (5, 21), also spoke of Hermopolis in the Thebaid and of the miracle of the idols.
The Coptic story of the martyrdom of Saints PAESE AND TECLA makes Mary say, “I stayed in the town of Shmun, I and my small child sucking my breast.” (The manuscript in the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York, deriving from al-Hamuli in the Fayyum, dates from 861; cf. Reymond and Barns, 1973, pp. 57 [text], 167 [trans.].)
Other more recent texts report the same tradition: the apocryphal Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, chapter 25; the Arabic Gospel of the Infancy, chapters 24-25; and sermons attributed to THEOPHILUS OF ALEXANDRIA by ZACHARIAS, bishop of Sakha.
In the HISTORY OF THE PATRIARCHS OF THE EGYPTIAN CHURCH the author Yuhanna ibn Sa‘id ibn Yahya ibn Mina, with the surname Ibn al-Qulzumi, who compiled the notices of the patriarchs CYRIL II, MICHAEL IV, and MACARIUS II, provided a list of the places sanctified by the presence of the Holy Family. It is remarkable that he names Qusqam and al-Muharraqah. Hence these two places are different from one another. According to the author, the departure of the Holy Family for Palestine began from al-Muharraqah and took them through Cairo.
The Coptic SYNAXARION mentions the return from al- Ashmunayn via al-Muharraqah and Misr. The Ethiopian Synaxarion follows the Coptic but adds the mention of Dabra Qusqam (Budge, 1928, Vol. 3, p. 925).
It is probable that Dayr al-Muharraqah perpetuates, in the province of Giza, the memory of the passage of the Holy Family.
Budge, E. A. W. The Book of the Saints of the Ethiopian Church, Vol. 3. Oxford, 1928.
Ramzi, M. Al-Qamus al-Jughrafi lil-Bilad al Misriyyah, 3 vols. Cairo, 1953-1968.
Reymond, E. A. E., and J. W. B. Barns. Four Martyrdoms from the Pierpont Morgan Coptic Codices. Oxford, 1973.