The Good Friday Skeletons of Cairo

I’ve been researching for a  project involving mummies in horror fiction. While reading up on the topic of the living dead in Egyptian legend, I came across an interesting tidbit…

The seventeenth-century traveller Jean de Thévenot wrote about a piece of folklore attached to a large cemetery on the bank of the Nile, near Cairo. According to Thévenot, the Christians and Muslims of Cairo all believed that, for a period of three days around Good Friday each year, a macabre miracle would occur (I’ve taken Google Translate as a basis):

[T]he dead are resurrected – that is not to say that the dead walk, but rather that their bones rise from the earth during these three days, and return to the earth when the days have passed. I went to this cemetery on the Good Friday of the Greeks and other Christians who follow the old calendar, to see what the basis was, and I was astonished to find it as heavily populated as a fair… the Turks go there in procession with all their banners, because there is a Sheik buried there whose bones, they say, rise every year like the others, and so they arrive to pray with great devotion.

When I arrived, I saw some skulls and a few bones, and everyone told me that these had just come from the ground. They are so firm in this belief that it is impossible to get them to abandon it.

“I dared not state what I believed, for fear of making myself ill-treated,” remarks the sceptical Thévenot. (He compares the alleged phenomenon to apparitions of the Virgin Mary at an unspecified Greek monastery.)

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