Gabra, Gawdat 1947-

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Gabra, Gawdat 1947-


Born 1947, in Luxor, Egypt; married Martha Malaty; children: Nefert (daughter). Education: Cairo University, lic. in Egyptian antiquities, 1967; Münster University, Ph.D.




Coptic Museum, Cairo, Egypt, director, 1985-c.1999; St. Mark Foundation for Coptic History Studies, chief editor; Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, CA, visiting lecturer.


International Association for Coptic Studies; International Association for Nubian Studies; Association for Coptic Studies; National Specialized Councils-Heritage branch.


Untersuchungen zu den Texten über Pesyntheus: Bischof Von Koptos (569-632), R. Habelt (Bonn, Germany), 1984.

Cairo: The Coptic Museum and Old Churches, Egyptian International Publishing (Dokki, Cairo, Egypt), 1993.

Der Psalter im oxyrhynchitischen (mesokemischen/mittelägyptischen) Dialekt, Heidelberger Orientverlag (Heidelberg, Germany), 1995.

(Editor and author of introduction) William Lyster, Cornelis Hulsman, and Stephen J. Davis, Be Thou There: The Holy Family's Journey in Egypt, American University in Cairo Press (New York, NY), 2001.

(With Tim Vivian) Coptic Monasteries: Egypt's Monastic Art and Architecture, American University in Cairo Press (New York, NY), 2002.

Christian Egypt: Coptic Art and Monuments through Two Millennia, American University in Cairo Press (New York, NY), 2002.

Tarikh al-Masihiyah Wa-atharuha fi Aswan Wa-al-Nubah, Mu'assasat al-Qiddis Murqus li-Dirasat al-Tarikh al-Qibti (Egypt), 2003.

Christianity and Monasticism in the Fayoum Oasis, American University in Cairo Press (New York, NY), 2005.

(With Marianne Eaton-Krauss) The Illustrated Guide to the Coptic Museum and Churches of Old Cairo, American University in Cairo Press (New York, NY), 2007.

Historical Dictionary of the Coptic Church, Scarecrow Press (Lanham, MD), 2008.

Coeditor, The Popes of Egypt. Contributor of numerous articles to periodicals.


Former director of the Coptic Museum in Cairo, Egypt, Gawdat Gabra has written extensively on the history and art of Egypt's Christian people, most of whom are Coptic and of ancient Egyptian rather than Arab descent. In Coptic Monasteries: Egypt's Monastic Art and Architecture, to which Tim Vivian contributed text, Gabra provides an overview of monasticism in Egypt through an examination of the country's surviving monasteries. Coptic monks, led by Saints Anthony and Pachomius, established a strong monastic tradition in Egypt as early as about AD 356. Religious communities attracted both male and female members, and some monasteries grew so large that they operated as self-contained cities, producing their own food and goods. When Arab Muslims invaded Egypt in the AD 700s, however, Christians were often persecuted or pressured to convert, and the monasteries lost considerable support. Nevertheless, some were able to survive despite adverse circumstances. Modern Copts often endure discrimination in Egypt, and their church leader has faced political persecution. Gabra alludes to some of these contemporary problems in the book, but his main subject is the architecture and art of Coptic monasteries. As Benet Exton observed in a Rambles review, the art found in the monasteries' chapels "could be considered national treasures." "Gabra is strong on the archaeology and iconography" of these monasteries, according to British Orthodox Church Web site reviewer Abba Seraphim. In the Middle East Journal, Sam Brannen praised Coptic Monasteries as an engaging "guidebook to the remaining treasures" of early Christianity in Egypt.

Gabra explores a story central to Coptic identity in Be Thou There: The Holy Family's Journey in Egypt. According to the Bible, shortly after the birth of Jesus, King Herod—fearing the prophecy that a recently born child would become king of the Jews—ordered that all male infants in his realm be killed. Joseph and Mary escaped into Egypt with their baby son. Though the Bible does not specify their route, Coptic Christians developed traditional lore about where this holy family traveled. The book, which Gabra edited and for which he wrote the introduction, examines what textual information does exist about the journey, as well as the more extensive oral tradition surrounding it. According to Be Thou There, the holy family entered Egypt from Gaza, stopping at Tel Basta and then proceeding up the Nile River to upper Egypt in the southern part of the country. Tradition holds that the infant Christ created a holy well at a spring in Tel Basta; numerous other sacred sites are also associated with the holy family's journey. The book, as a writer for Publishers Weekly pointed out, does not attempt to verify the oral tradition associated with the journey in Egypt, but does provide an "informative discussion of the persistence of those legends" as well as their significance to the Coptic church.



Library Journal, October 15, 2001, Edward K. Owusu-Ansah, review of Be Thou There: The Holy Family's Journey in Egypt, p. 98.

Middle East Journal, autumn, 2001, review of Be Thou There, p. 711; spring 2003, Sam Brannen, review of Coptic Monasteries: Egypt's Monastic Art and Architecture, p. 360.

Publishers Weekly, September 24, 2001, review of Be Thou There, p. 61.


Al-Ahram Weekly Online, (February 14, 2008), Jill Kamil, interview with Gawdat Gabra.

Al Jadid, (February 14, 2008), Carel Bertram, review of Be Thou There.

Ambilac-UK, (February 14, 2008), "Coptic Research."

British Orthodox Church Web site, (February 14, 2008), Abba Seraphim, review of Coptic Monasteries.

Coptic Museum Web site, (February 14, 2008), Gawdat Gabrah staff profile.

Institute for Antiquity and Christianity Web site, (February 14, 2008), Gawdat Gabra profile.

Rambles, (June 4, 2005), Benet Exton, review of Coptic Monasteries.