Deir El Sourian

Cairo Outskirts & the Nile Delta

About 500m northwest of Deir Anba Bishoi, Deir El Sourian is the most picturesquely situated of the monasteries. It is named after wandering Syrian monks who bought the monastery from the Copts in the 8th century, though the Copts took it back in the 16th century. Its Church of the Virgin contains 11th-century wall paintings and older icons with the eyes scratched out, including one saint in a distinctly Pharaonic-looking robe.

The church was built around the 4th-century cave where St Bishoi resided and tied his hair to the ceiling to keep himself awake during prayers. Elsewhere in the compound is a second ancient church, the tamarind tree of St Ephraim, allegedly sprung from the Syrian holy man’s cane, and some slightly unfortunate mannequins of monks illustrating daily life at the monastery.

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