Al-Ahram Weekly Online   4 - 10 February 2010
Issue No. 984
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875


COMBINING the Red Sea Coast with Luxor for your vacation is not the most common itinerary. However, it is quite easy to do with Qusseir being less than a three-hour drive away from Luxor, as Mohamed El-Hebeishy finds out

Qusseir has a well earned reputation as a seaside vacation destination, where you can enjoy quality relaxation time without having to head to the beach first thing in the morning to reserve a lounger. Nonetheless, there is more here than meets the eyes since this destination offers more than just pristine beaches to lure its visitors.

One of my favourite sites to visit in this sleepy coastal town is St Barbara's Church. It was first built in 1920 by an Italian company which owned a major phosphate mining operation there. The church was initially built to serve Catholic worshippers before changing hands and name in 1964, when it became an Orthodox church and renamed Virgin St Mary. Finally, in 1995 the two names were integrated and since then it has been officially called Virgin St Mary and St Barbara's Church.

Having suffered much neglect after the Italian company left Qusseir, it was entirely rebuilt in 2008. It has regained much of its lost glory, and you can still see a number of genuine Italian icons which date back to 1932. Another exquisite Italian touch is clearly seen in the church's glass painted windows.

Virgin St Mary and St Barbara's Church may not be one of Egypt's most visited sites, but it makes a beautiful side attraction one afternoon during a relaxing vacation in Qusseir. The church is open during the day with no admission fees; modest dress code is highly appreciated.

photo: Mohamed El-Hebeishy

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