Belbeis is an important historical city in Egypt. It played a major role during the Arab conquest of Egypt in 641 A.D. At the time, the people living in Belbeis welcomed the Arabs because they wanted to get rid of the cruel Roman emperors who had ruled over Egypt for a long period of time.
Belbeis also has the first mosque ever constructed in Egypt and on the African continent as a whole. It is called the Mosque of Sadat Quraish, or the Mosque of the leaders of Quraish, the tribe of the Prophet Muhammad. This small mosque, only consisting of three halls, still survives today after being reconstructed and restored several times of course.
Geographically, Belbeis belongs to the governorate of Sharqeya in the eastern section of the Nile Delta region of Egypt. The city lies in an important strategical point situated between three major cities; Cairo 50km to the east, Zaqaziq 20km to the west, and the 10th of Ramadan City 20km to the north.
The Climate of Belbeis
The city of Belbeis gets quite cold in the winter, especially during January when the temperature reaches an average of 7 degrees Celsius. In the summer the temperature of Belbeis gets very hot, like many other cities in the Nile Delta and it reaches an average of 34 degrees Celsius 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 Economy of Belbeis
The people of Belbeis, who are estimated to be more than 600,000 strong, are famous for being hard workers in many factories, handicrafts workshops, and farms around the city. Although Belbeis does not have a large number of factories, in the same way as other large industrial cities in Egypt like El Mahalla El Kobra for example, many of the residents of Belbeis work in the factories established in the city of the 10th of Ramadan situated only 20 kilometers to the north of Belbeis. They also work in Kafer El Dawar, located 18 kilometers away from Belbeis. Many people living in Belbeis also work in handicrafts like repairing cars, creating furniture, and other handcrafted wooden objects for which they are well-known.
The History of Belbeis
Walking around the streets and the lanes of Belbeis, visitors will sense the long history of the city that was established around 3,000 years ago. It was named "Bel Bes", or the house of the cat goddess Bes, during the reign of the Old Kingdom of the Pharaonic era, because 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 (RA). Many historians claim that Moses was born in Belbeis, while some of them believe he was born near the city of Faqous, 40 kilometers north of Belbeis. This is why Belbeis has been mentioned in many historical and religious records.
During the Roman period and the spread of Christianity in Egypt afterward, Belbeis became an important Coptic religious center. The city was home to many Christian bishoprics as it was located along the route of the journey of the Holy Family to Egypt.
When the Arabs came to conquer Egypt in the 7th century A.D., they besieged Belbeis for more than a month and many Arabian soldiers died in the attack against the Roman troops defending the city. The Romans knew that losing control of the city would mean the road was open 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 who lived in and around Belbeis. Ibn El Aas treated people of all ethnicities and religions, Muslims, and Christians, equally. This fact encouraged the inhabitants of other cities in the country to welcome him and Egypt soon became part of the expanding Arabian kingdom of the time.
Belbeis is 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" which was written by Ibn Hawqal, the Arabian writer, chemist, and geographer. Ibn Hawqal noted that during the 10th Century, Belbeis 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 era. 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 becoming fond of Belbeis and many of them immigrated to live in the city that was located near the capital of Egypt. 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 most famous Egyptian Sufis poets, lived a large portion of his life in Belbeis where he wrote his famous poem; "The Soneya" in which he praised the Prophet Muhammad.
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 Egyptian history started to decrease. That changed when the Egyptian Air Academy was established in the city during the middle of the 20th century. 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, despite the destruction and neglect that Belbeis has witnessed in different periods of Egyptian history, the city still hosts a number of interesting monuments and historical locations, and artifacts.
The Mosque of Al Azhar Sheikh
The Mosque and Mausoleum of The Imam of Al Azhar Mosque, El Imam Abdel Halim Mahmoud, was built in the 20th century and 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 in which he saw the Prophet Muhammad crossing the Suez Canal with the Egyptian army in the war of 1973 against the Israeli forces. His vision was considered an important sign and encouraged the former Egyptian president, Anwar El Sadat, to begin his military operations to regain Egyptian control over Sinai.
The Mausoleums of 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. This is because it is common among the people of the city and other villages nearby to visit these holy places and ask for assistance and blessings from God.
One of the most popular mausoleums is the one that belongs to Sa'doun El Setouhy, who is said to be the relative of one of the descendants of the Prophet Muhammad. Many people from around the city of Belbeis and several villages around it gather in this mausoleum at different religious events around the year, and to pray for help and guidance.
The Christian Monuments of Belbeis
Belbeis has some very important Christian monuments like the Church of Mari Girgis on 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 and the southern one is dedicated to Saint George (Mari Girgis).
The Church of Mari Girgis in Belbeis has an important significance as the city was along the route 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 Christ touched the hand of the baby, the baby regained his life and spoke with the people in the funerary. This miracle caused many people in Belbeis to become Christian.