Just after they had lived six months in the place that was to become Dayr al-Muharraq, an angel brought the Holy Family the message that Herod had died and that it was safe to return to Palestine. According to tradition, attested to by medieval manuscripts, they traveled by boat. The manuscript traditions also agree that they did not go farther south than the Monastery of al-Muharraq.
Recent oral tradition, however, maintains that in order to go home, the Holy Family had to journey some fifty kilometers farther south to Lycopolis (present-day Asyut), the closest main Nile port. They found a cave to the southwest of the city where they lodged before finding a boat to take them north. This cave, originally a pharaonic quarry, became the Church of the Holy Virgin in the Monastery of the Holy Virgin at Durunka.
In the 1950s, Bishop Mikha’il of Asyut began to renovate the existing Monastery of the Holy Virgin around the cave and to build accommodations for pilgrims. The annual Feast of the Holy Virgin in the Monastery of Durunka has rapidly become the largest pilgrimage site in Egypt. Since 1968, visitors have been reporting appearances of the Virgin or the miraculous appearance of lights.
These lights are interpreted as signs that the Holy Family blessed this spot. Hundreds of thousands of people visit Durunka during two weeks of August, culminating in the Procession for the Virgin Mary on August 21, the eve of the Feast of the Assumption. From afar, the monastery resembles a gigantic beehive glued to the hills: in order to house the huge number of pilgrims, hundreds of apartment buildings and hotel rooms have been built on the slope of the mountain.