The city of Belbeis
Belbeis is considered to be among the important historical cities in Egypt and it played a major role during the Arab conquest of Egypt in 641 AD. The people living in Belbeis at the time welcomed the Arabs because they wanted to get rid of the cruel Roman emperors who ruled over Egypt for a long period of time.
Belbeis also hosts the first mosque that was ever constructed in Egypt and the African continent as a whole. It was called the Mosque of Sadat Quraish, or the Mosque of the leaders of Quraish, the tribe of the Prophet Mohamed. This small mosque, only consisting of three halls, still survives until today after being reconstructed and restored several times of course.
Belbeis belongs geographically to the governorate of Sharqeya, or the Eastern section of the Nile Delta region of Egypt. The city lies in an important strategical point situated between three major cities; Cairo 50 kilometers to the East, Zaqaziq 20 kilometers to the West, and the 10th of Ramadan city 20 kilometers to the North.
The Climate of Belbeis
The city of Belbeis gets quite cold in the winter, especially during the month of January when the temperature reaches an average of 7 degree centigrade. While in the summer the temperature of Belbeis gets hot, like many other cities in the Nile Delta of Egypt, and it reaches an average of 34 degree centigrade in August.
The average rainfall in Belbeis increases to its maximum during the months of January, December, November, and February while it rarely rains in the city during the summer season.
The People of Belbeis
The people of Belbeis, who are estimated to be more than 600,000 people, are famous for being active workers in many factories, handcrafts workshops, and they also work in cultivating the lands of the city.
Although Belbeis does not host a big number of factories, the same way as other large industrial cities in Egypt like El Mahalla El Kobra for example, many of the residences of Belbeis work in the factories established in the city of the 10th of Ramadan situated only 20 kilometers to the North of the city and Kafer El Dawar, located 18 kilometers away from Belbeis.
A large category of the people living in Belbeis also work in handcrafts like denting cars, creating furniture and other wooden objects, and many other crafts that the city is famous for.
The History of Belbeis
Walking around the streets and the lanes of Belbeis, the guests would sense the long history of the city that was established around 3000 years in the past. It was named "Bel Bes", or the house of the cat goddess Bes, during the reign of the Old Kingdom of the Pharaonic era, as Belbeis was the center of the cult of Bes for a long period of time.
On the land of Belbeis was where the prophet Jacob passed away after he told his sons that he wished to be buried in Palestine beside his father, Prophet Ibrahim.
Many historians claim that Moses was born in Belbeis while some of them believe he was born near the city of Faqous, 40 kilometers to the North of Belbeis. This is why Belbeis has been mentioned in many historical and religious records that were created about Egypt.
During the Roman period and the spread of Christianity in Egypt afterwards, Belbeis became an important Coptic religious center because the city hosted many Christian bishoprics as it was located in the rout of the journey of the holy family to Egypt.
When the Arabs came to conquer Egypt in the 7th century AD, they besieged Belbeis for more than a month and many Arabian soldiers died in the attack of the city against the Roman troops that knew that the falling down of the city could mean that the road is paved for the Arabs to take control of all other regions in Egypt.
Amr Ibn El Aas, the famous Arabian army leader, was able to take control of Belbeis after defeating the Roman troops with the help of the Egyptians whole lived in and around Belbeis.
Ibn El Aas treated all the people, Muslims and Christians, equally the fact that encouraged the inhabitants of other cities in the country to welcome him and then afterwards Egypt became a section of the expanding Arabian kingdom at the time.
Belbeis was also mentioned in many historical records and several diaries of famous travelers throughout history. The city was mentioned in the "Book of Road and Kingdoms" that was written by Ibn Hawqal, the Arabian writer, chemist, and geographer.
Ibn Hawqal noted that during the 10th century, the city was one of the important centers in Egypt and one of the major entrance points to Fustat, the capital of Egypt during the early Islamic reign. The city was also described as a medium sized town, in many historical books, with several mosques, markets, stores, hotels, gardens, and schools.
Many Arabs who lived in the Arabian Peninsula started being fond of Belbeis and many of them immigrated to live in the city that was located near the capital of Egypt and they mingled with the inhabitants of the city creating a new community of Egyptians and Arabians who newly resided in Belbeis.
Moreover, Imam El Busiri, one of the famous Egyptian Sufis poets, lived a large portion of his life in Belbeis where he wrote his famous poem; "The Soneya" where he praised Mohamed, the Moslem passenger of god.
Belbeis in Modern Times
Belbeis remained the capital of the Eastern, or the "Sharqeya" in the Arabic language, governorate for a long period of time until Mohamed Ali, the founder of modern Egypt, relocated the capital from Belbeis to El Zaqaziq, the city which he established in 1832 to become the new capital of the Eastern Delta region of Egypt.
Since that date, the important role that Belbeis once played in the Egyptian history has largely decreased until the Egyptian Air Academy was established in the city during the middle of the 20th century and because of the significant role the city played during the war of the year 1973 between Egypt and Israel, Belbeis started regaining some of its historical glory.
The monuments of Belbeis
In comparison to many other larger cities in Egypt, the city of Belbeis has a relatively small surface area, which is estimated to be around 12 square kilometers. However and despite the destruction and neglecting that Belbeis has witnessed in different periods of the Egyptian history, the city still hosts a number of interesting monuments.
The Mosque of Al Azhar Sheikh
The Mosque and the mausoleum of The Imam of Al Azhar Mosque, El Imam Abdel Halim Mahmoud, which was built in the 20th century, is considered to be among the most important historical sites in Belbeis because of the importance of its owner who was one of the most significant Sufis leaders in Egypt.
El Imam Abel Halim was famous for his vision when he saw the Prophet Mohamed crossing the Suez Canal with the Egyptian army in the war of 1973 against the Israeli forces which was considered as important sign that encouraged the former Egyptian president, Anwar El Sadat, to begin his military operations to regain the Egyptian control over Sinai.
The Mausoleums of the Islamic Figures
It is normal while walking down the streets of Belbeis to see a big crowd of people gathering around a historical mausoleum of one of the famous Islamic figures as it is common among the people of the city and other villages around it to visit these holy places and ask for assistance and blessings from god.
One of the most popular mausoleums is one that belongs to Sa'doun El Setouhy, who is said to be the relative of one of the descendants of prophet Mohamed. Many people from around the city of Belbeis, and several villages around it, gather in this mausoleum in different religious events around the year.
The Christian Monuments of Belbeis
Belbeis has some of the important Christian monuments like the Church of Mari Girgis in the Gamal Abdel Nasser Street. The Church has three altars; the middle one is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the Northern dedicated to the Archangel Michael, while the Southern is dedicated Mari Girgis.
The Church of Mari Girgis in Belbeis has an important significance as the city was on the rout of the holy family during their journey in Egypt. When the holy family left the Eastern section of Cairo, they traveled in the direction of Belbeis and at the entrance of the city, there was a funeral of a baby and his widowed mother was weeping over her dead son. When the Christ touched the hand of the baby, he regained his life and spoke with the people in the funerary the fact that made many people turn into Christianity from Belbeis.