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Monastery of St Simeon


The fortress-like 7th-century Monastery of St Simeon was first dedicated to the local saint Anba Hedra, who renounced the world on his wedding day. It was rebuilt in the 10th century and dedicated to St Simeon. From here the monks travelled into Nubia, in the hope of converting the Nubians to Christianity. To get there, take a private boat across the Nile then walk up the (mostly paved) desert track, or hire a camel to take you up.

Surrounded by desert sands, the monastery was built on two levels – the lower level of stone and the upper level of mud brick – surrounded by 10m-high walls. At its height, the monastery may have housed as many as 1000 monks, but it was partially destroyed by the troops of Saladin (Salah Ad Din) in 1173. The basilica has traces of frescoes. The cells still have their mastaba (bench) beds. The last room on the right includes graffiti from Muslim pilgrims who stayed here en route to Mecca.

An alternative way to get here is to take the ferry to the Tombs of the Nobles and ride a camel or donkey from there. Remember to bring water.

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