A site housing an ancient sycamore tree said to have sheltered the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus has been reopened in Egypt after a painstaking restoration.
The special park dedicated to the holy tree has gone on display again after months of renovation by local antiquities experts.
The Tree of the Virgin Mary, celebrated as one of the most respected memorials of Christianity in Egypt, was greenlit again for visitors from this month (September).
The tree – in Cairo’s Matarya district – was reportedly one of the locations where Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus sheltered on their escape from Judea, now modern-day Palestine.
Before the historical tree withered in the 17th century, several Franciscan monks are said to have managed to retrieve some of its healthier branches and replant them.
The second tree suffered the same fate and its dried-up remnants can now be found on display inside a fenced area in the garden.
Locals then planted generation number three on the porch of the adjacent Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
But about five decades ago a branch sprouting from the original sycamore was replanted at the site of the first.
That same branch reached a height of 10 metres (33 feet) and reportedly continues to bear fruit to this day.
The tourism ministry reported that the site which now includes a visitor centre and information banners should help Egypt highlight its Christian heritage.
In addition, the ministry updated the outer surface of the well with concrete and sandstone and embellished it with colourful statues of the Holy Christian Family.
Beautiful statues of Joseph, the Virgin Mary, and baby Jesus were also placed under the tree, while an obelisk of ancient Egypt’s Pharaoh Senusret I drawn by a teenage Korean artist was set in the background.
Site manager Asmaa Abdel Aziz said: “The Tree of the Virgin Mary is an ancient tree, a sycamore tree, that dates back to more than 2,000 years ago, under which the Holy Family took refuge during their escape to Egypt.”
Major General Hisham Amna expressed his appreciation for the efforts invested in the development and rehabilitation of the site that provided shelter to the Holy Family during their journey.
Amna said in a statement obtained by Newsflash: “Today, after its inauguration, we can confirm that the track line is ready for a global opening of one of the most important heritage and even human landmarks related to our peoples and culture, which Egypt offers again to be added to the balance of the world heritage and to dazzle the world again, as it was dazzled by it in the celebration of the opening of the road.”
Symbolic prices of EGP 10 (GBP 0.46) for Egyptians and EGP 60 (GBP 2.75) for foreigners with students being entitled to a 50 per cent discount are expected to lure many visitors to the site.
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Story By: Georgina Jadikovska, Sub-Editor: Marija Stojkoska, Agency: Newsflash
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