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Collection Coptic Orthodox Liturgical Chant and Hymnody


Deserta Aegypti, Thebaidis, Arabiae, Syriae etc. ubi accurata notata sunt loca inhabitata per Sanctos Patres Anachoretas, created by Matthaeus Seutter. 17??.

Courtesy of the Library of Congress Geography and Maps Division, this Gallery features some maps of Christian Egypt from the end of the seventeenth century to the 1950s, and general maps of Egypt and Cairo until the 1920s. Much like the presentation Timeline that outlines the rise of Coptic music studies, this Map Gallery briefly demonstrates the growing interest in Coptic Egypt by explorers, historians, Egyptologists and, afterward, by Ottoman, French, and British colonial administrators. In this collection, the earliest map from 1693, Les Déserts d'Egypte, de Thébaïde d'Arabie, de Sirie &c., où Sont exactement Marques les Lieux habitez par les Saincts Pères des Déserts, is a mythic representation of dwellings of hermits and saints in the desert. Later, cartographers strived to capture Christian sites such as monasteries and churches that dotted the arid landscape, the dipping valleys, oases, and the path of the Nile River. In 1916, just a few years before Egypt's nominal independence from Great Britain and the onset of the First World War, Bacon's Excelsior Map of Egypt, The Nile Basin and Adjacent Countries illustrated the strong colonial presence in Northeastern Africa that was largely dismantled after the Second World War, and by the time Egypt had gained full independence in 1952.

Finally, detailed maps of Cairo, dating from the 1920s, are also included in this Gallery to highlight some of the areas where Moftah lived, worked, and collected Coptic hymns, areas such as Old Cairo, the Giza district, and the Faggala neighborhood where he grew up.

Map Detail: Les Deserts d'Egypte (1693)

Detail from Les Deserts D'Egypte, De Thabaide D'Arabie, De Sirie, &c : ou Sont exactement Marques Les Lieux Habitez Par Les Saincts Peres Des Deserts -- center, just above "EGY" of "EGYPTE," highlighted area shows S. Macaire. [view full map]

This is a seventeenth-century map of Christian Egypt, which is located at the center left. Above it is Libya and to the right of the Red Sea is the Arabian Peninsula. Throughout Egypt are written hundreds of names of saints and holy men and women who lived in caves, hermitages or monasteries in the desert. From a geographical standpoint this map is hardly accurate according to Meinardus but, artistically, it is quite beautiful.

Note the name of "S. Macaire" just above the letters "EGY" in "EGYPTE" at the center left. This refers to Saint Macarius of Egypt (ca. 300-391) and the monastery he founded in the fourth century has been inhabited continuously by monks since that time. Included in this Web presentation is a 1995 photograph of Ragheb Moftah with Father Kyrillos, an elderly monk at the Anba Macarius Monastery in Wadi al-Natrun.

View Full Map - Les Deserts d'Egypte (1693)

L'Ancienne Thebaide (1738)

Detail from L'Ancienne Thebaide, ou, la Carta generale des lieux habitez par les Ss. peres des deserts -- bottom center, straddling the Nile, the area labeled "THEBAIDE" [view full map]

St. Paul (ca. 228-ca. 341), born in Thebes, and St. Anthony (ca. 251-356), born in Coma in Lower Egypt, are credited with establishing Christian monasticism in Egypt, though other ascetics -- holy men and women -- had already lived isolated in the desert by the second century. Like the map of 1693, this map shows hundreds of sites of hermits and saints scattered in the desert, manifesting the richness of Christianity that extended throughout the country. This map honors Saints Paul and Anthony, in particular, and their biographies, in French, are at the left; fourteen numbered areas of the map are described on the right. Thebes, the birthplace of St. Paul, is at the bottom center of this map, in the area of the Upper Nile. Nicolas de Fer (1645-1720), the engraver of this map, was the Geographer to Louis XIV. He engraved over six hundred maps that were noted especially for the fine ornamentation of the plates. Given the life dates of Nicolas de Fer, this map must have been published posthumously. At the top left, the image of St. Paul has been cut away but that of St. Anthony is at the top right. The image of St. Anthony is signed "Guerard le Fils Fecit." Possibly this was Nicolas Guérard, fils, a French eighteenth-century engraver and publisher. The Geography and Map Division does have another copy of this map with the image of St. Paul at the upper left but the map selected here has a more legible text. It is one of the earliest maps to depict Egypt as it currently looks.

View Full Map - L'Ancienne Thebaide (1738)

Deserta Ægypti (1700-1750)

Detail from Deserta Aegypti, Thebaidis, Arabiae, Syriae etc. ubi accurata notata sunt loca inhabitata per Sanctos Patres Anachoretas -- Egypt, center left, area labeled "DESERTUM SCETIS" and above it "DESERTUM NITRAE" [view full map]

This map from the first half of the eighteenth century again shows the dwelling places of the Desert Fathers in Egypt and Thebes at the left as well as the sites of other hermits in Palestine, Syria and the Arabian Peninsula on the right. The details shown here are the Desertum Scetis and the Desertum Nitriae in Egypt. The name of the Scetis Desert may derive from the Greek word askētēs, meaning monk or hermit. In Coptic, it was called Shee-Hyt, meaning balance or measure of the hearts. It was in the Scetis Desert and the Nitrian Desert to the northeast that so many saints lived. Today this valley is still a holy place, Wadi Al-Natrun, where several monasteries are located. This map was engraved by Matthaeus Seutter (1678-1756) after a drawing by Gottfried Rogg (1669-1742). Both artists were from Augsburg. Rogg was a draughtsman and engraver known for his city views. Seutter was a draughtsman, engraver, geographer and art publisher who also engraved coats of arms and portraits. Note that there are several 1995 photographs of Ragheb Moftah at two monasteries in Wadi Al-Natrun -- three taken at the Anba Bishoy Monastery, and one taken at the Anba Macarius Monastery.

View Full Map - Deserta Ægypti (1700-1750)

Egypt, Arabia Petraea & S. Turkey (1882)

Detail from Egypt, Arabia Petraea and Southern Turkey (1882) -- Just above lower right corner of full map, Nile delta on Mediterranean Sea. [view full map]

This map dates to 1882, the year in which the British took over Egypt. At the top are small scenes and inset maps of the following: Citadel, Cairo; Grand Square in Alexandria, scene of massacre 11 June 1882; Great Pillar at Alexandria; and small maps of Cairo, Babylon, Petra, Africa, Egyptian Empire; and Alexandria. The bottom half of the map consists of "Powell's Illustrated Pyramid Map of Egypt, Arabia, Petraea & Southeast[er]n Turkey" which includes Mesopotamia, the Nile Delta, and the Suez Canal.

View Full Map - Egypt, Arabia Petraea and Southern Turkey (1882)

Egypt, Arabia, Petraea, Abyssina (1885)

Detail from Egypt, Arabia, Petraea, Abyssina (1885) -- Center left in complete map, Nile River highlighted. [view full map]

This is a delicately colored map which shows Lower, Middle and Upper Egypt, Nubia, Darfur and Sudan, with the Nile Delta and Suez Canal at lower right. It comes from Black's General Atlas of the World. New and revised edition. Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black, 1885, plate 37. Call number: G1019.B6 1885

View Full Map - Egypt, Arabia, Petraea, Abyssina (1885)

Bartholomew's New Map of Egypt (1897)

Detail from Bartholomew's New Map of Egypt (1897) -- showing Nile delta down to Cairo. [view full map]

This large foldout map shows the lower Nile and its delta at the left and the upper Nile at the right. The Nile is in blue, with fertile lands on each side in green, flanked by beige deserts. Each major city is underlined in red. There are small inset maps: at left: Alexandria; in center: Cairo and entire Nile; at right: the Upper Nile toward its source further south; at lower left is a list: "Etymology of Arabic Place Names."

View Full Map - Bartholomew's New Map of Egypt (1897)

The Nile Valley including Egypt ... [ca. 1910]

Detail from The Nile Valley including Egypt ... [ca. 1910] -- Delta showing cities on Mediterranean, Cairo, Gizeh, and Suez. [view full map]

This map dates just before World War I and shows almost all of northeastern Africa as colonial possessions with each country, including Darfur and Sudan, delineated in pastel colors. The map is finely detailed with many cities indicated.

View Full Map - Bartholomew's New Map of Egypt (1897)

Bacon's Excelsior Map of Egypt [1916?]

Detail from Bacon's Excelsior Map of Egypt [1916?] -- full map shown. [view full map]

This is a map of northeastern Africa dating to World War I and, like the map dating to ca. 1910, each country is indicated as a colonial possession.

View Full Map - Bacon's Excelsior Map of Cairo [1916?]

General Map of Cairo [1920]

Detail from General Map of Cairo (1920) -- showing El Faggala, birthplace of Moftah. [view full map]
Detail from General Map of Cairo (1920) -- showing Semiramis Hotel (East side of Nile). [view full map]

This map, just after World War I, is a very detailed map of Cairo, with streets, landmarks and gardens indicated on either side of the blue Nile. Several areas are of special interest in this map. 1) Just below the train terminal at the upper center is El Faggala in Cairo, where Ragheb Moftah was born. 2) In the late 1920s and mid-1930s, Moftah moored his houseboat on the eastern shore of the Nile near the Semiramis Hotel, just above Garden City. It was on this houseboat that the great cantor Batanūnī sang Coptic hymns while Ernest Newlandsmith transcribed them. This area on the eastern side of the Nile below the Kasr El Nil Bridge and the Semiramis Hotel was formerly known as the Kasr El Dobarah area (Dobarah Palace). Ragheb Moftah recalled vividly the first time he heard Batanūnī chant on his houseboat, saying: "We were on a Golden ship in the Nile in front of the El-Dobara Palace [Kasr el-Dobarah]. Under us, still water of the Nile flew in peace and we were surrounded by wonderful gardens on both banks." (This information was kindly provided by Laurence Moftah, citing an article written by Ragheb Moftah, "The History of Recording Coptic Hymns & the History of Moalem Mikhail [al-Mu'allim Mikhail]" in El-Kezara Magazine, 1975. (view full article online External) -- accessed 2 July 2009.

View Full Map - General Map of Cairo (1920)

Cairo & Environs (1925)

Detail from Cairo and Environs (1925) -- showing El Giza on Nile and, moving lower left (southwest) on red line to Mena House Hotel near the Pyramids. [view full map]

This map shows Cairo as it is situated in the Nile delta with deserts on each side. It is a good general view of Cairo and the area around it, the landscape colored in oranges, greens and beiges on either side of the blue Nile. The pyramids are at the lower left (in the brown desert just beyond the green area). In 1996, when Ragheb Moftah was in his late nineties, he recalled in an interview the demonstrations in Cairo on January 26, 1952. That day, Moftah had been at the Higher Institute of Coptic Studies in Anba Ruweiss in the Abbassiyah area of Cairo. All transportation in the city had been disrupted, but he apparently found some means to get to Giza. From Giza, Moftah walked to his home near the Mena House Hotel in the Pyramids District, a distance of about 15 kilometers, or nearly 10 miles. (This information was kindly provided by Laurence Moftah on July 1 and 2, 2009, citing Ragheb Moftah's interview with Raymond Stock at the Library of Congress, videotape 3, conducted November 19, 1996.)

View Full Map - Cairo & Environs (1925)

Map of Christian Egypt (1955)

Detail from Carte de l'Égypte chrétienne: évêchés et couvents -- Center, just left of delta, monasteries including Anba Bishoi (sometimes also spelled Bishoy). [view full map]

This is a very large, beautiful map with the Christian sites marked with a red cross, and monasteries marked as domed buildings, such as the four monasteries just to the west of the Nile delta: Deir el Baramûs, Deir Suriani, Deir Anbâ Bishoi, and Deir Abû Makar. Various other details are indicated such as camel routes, oases, palm trees and fishes. The map extends from the Nile delta on the Mediterranean to Aswan in Upper Egypt. It is a folded map, actually a brochure, and on the verso is the title of the brochure and texts in English and French indicating "Historic Dates in Egypt -– From the first century A.D. to the Arab conquest in 640 A.D," that is, from 50-58 A.D to 639 A.D. Housed with this map in the Geography and Map Division are two brochures: One, written by O.H.E. Burmester, describes seventeen Coptic bishoprics within Egypt (in 1955), far fewer than the many historic monasteries indicated on this map. The second brochure has Angel Gabriel on the front and St. Mark on the back. It opens to an image of double doors to a church. When opened further, the doors reveal four panels with the Sphinx in yellow at the top and inset photographs of churches in Old Cairo in blue: upper left: Church of the Holy Virgin, known as "The Suspended" in Old Cairo; lower left: High Altar of the Church of Abû Sargah in Old Cairo; upper right: Interior view of the Church of the Holy Virgin in Old Cairo; lower right: Ivory cross inlaid in ebony, Abu Seifen. When the brochure is fully opened, it contains all yellow photos of monasteries or scenes from Old Cairo. Among the photos are: Anba Bishoi [sometimes also spelled Bishoy] in Wadi al-Natrun; St. Paul's Monastery on the Red Sea; Al-Baramûs Monastery in Wadi al-Natrun and its dome; view of Old Cairo; and the Virgin's Tree at Matariya. Note that there are several 1995 photographs of Ragheb Moftah at two monasteries in Wadi Al-Natrun -- three taken at the Anba Bishoy Monastery, and one taken at the Anba Macarius Monastery.

View Full Map - Map of Christian Egypt (1955)

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