Deir Abu Makar

Cairo Outskirts & the Nile Delta

Deir Abu Makar was founded around the cell where St Macarius spent his last 20 or so years. Although structurally it suffered more than other monasteries at the hands of raiding Bedouin, it has been carefully restored and the monks here give excellent tours of the complex for visitors. Deir Abu Makar is famous as most of the Coptic popes have been selected from among its monks, and most are buried here.

Inside the main Church of St Macarius, an intricately carved 10th-century sycamore door leads into the apse (kept locked but your guide will usually open it up for you), which you can peek into to see the domed roof and a surviving 7th-century cherub fresco in one corner. In the nave, a trapdoor reveals the crypt, discovered during restoration works, where the monks found relics claimed to be of St John the Baptist. The tiny and stark original monk cells are also possible to visit, along with a small square-domed chapel, the refectory and the impressively restored fortress.