is located 100 km (62 miles) from Cairo off the Cairo-Alexandria road.
This area was once important to the ancient Egyptians. It was
providing them with carbonated sodium required for the mummification
process, because the area was very rich with its salts.
In the Coptic Christian times, the area became a sanctuary for
Christians who were fleeing the systematic Roman persecution
in the 4th century and there they started to develop a monastic
The area was once flourished by tens of monasteries of which
only four survived the time. The common thing these have in
common is their strong fortification emphasized by the high-thickened
wall. This was to protect monks against the raiding Berbers
and Bedouins though without avail in some cases.
The monasteries were built to be autarkic as possible. A monastery
usually has churches, storehouses, bakeries, plantation, ranch,
dining halls, monk's cells and a keep (stronghold) to which
monks were seeking protection if Berbers succeeded in breaking
in the monastery.
Aside from the monastery, monks who sought hermitry go to the
nearby desert and occupy caves or even dig their own, a tradition
that is still maintained to the moment.
If you want to spend an overnight in a monastery and explore
more about the Coptic faith you have to get permission from
the Patriarchate at Cairo.