Egypt - Monastery of St. Simeon

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 San 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 Magdi’s, who have supplied camels to our groups since 1987!

The monastery itself is located near the town of Aswan, and is one of the largest and best- preserved Coptic monasteries of all Egypt. The monastery was given the name St. Simeon by archaeologists and travellers, but earlier Arabic and Coptic sources called it Anba Hatre, after an anchorite who was consecrated a bishop of Syene (now Aswan) by Patriarch Theophilus (AD 385-412). Anba Hatre married at the age of eighteen; tradition provides that just after the wedding, he encountered a funeral procession which inspired him to preserve his chastity and later become a disciple of Saint Baiman. After eight years of ascetic practices under the supervision of his teacher, he retired to the desert and applied himself to the study of the life of Saint Antony.

Nowadays, the lower level of stone is mostly intact, but the upper level of mud-brick has vanished. Inside the monastery there is a small church where icons and paintings are still visible. The walls are painted with pictures of the apostles and angels in bright colours and Byzantine style but many of the frescoes were deliberately defaced by the Muslim invaders.

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! Click here for the full list, and visit the ‘Tour Leader & Staff’ section of this newsletter for a special 30th Anniversary tour led by Martin Charlton.

Andrew Boycott

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