With our 30-year anniversary right around the corner, our minds turn nostalgically to our very first tour and one of our favourite sites of all time—Upper Egypt’s Saint Simeon Monastery. Not only is this a unique and fascinating place, the overall experience is further enhanced by our preferred means of accessing it—the venerable ‘Ship of the Desert’—the regal and iconic camel. We are also very pleased to be working with the descendants of the same local family, the Magdis, who have supplied camels to our groups since 1987!
While visitors and archaeologists call it St. Simeon, it was actually called Anba Hatre by Coptic Christians and Arabic people.
Anba Hatre was an anchorite (religious recluse) who became a bishop of Syene (which is now Aswan). The consecration of Anba Hatre was performed by Patriarch Theophilus (385-412 AD).
Anba Hatre was married at age 18 and, as the story goes, soon after his wedding he was inspired by a funeral procession to preserve his chastity. He later became one of Saint Baiman’s disciples. Under Saint Baiman’s supervision, and eight long years of ascetic practices, Anba Hatre retired to the desert, where he dedicated himself to studying the life of Saint Antony.
Unfortunately the upper levels of Saint Simeon have disappeared, having been constructed of mud bricks, but the lower levels, having been constructed of stone, are mainly intact. One can see paintings and icons inside the monastery in a small church. The walls are decorated with brightly coloured paintings of angels and apostles, in a Byzantine style. Sadly, many of the frescoes in the complex were purposely defaced by invading Muslims.
All of our tours of Egypt include an excursion to this special place. Ever wanted to ride a camel? Here’s your chance!
For 2017, all of our tours that include Egypt have been discounted! Check out our full list of Egypt tour deals, and visit the Tour Leader & Staff section of this newsletter for a special 30th Anniversary tour led by Martin Charlton.
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