Saint Sabas (Arabic: Mar Saba) monastery, in the Judean desert on the southern cliffs of the Kidron creek.

©Nayef shaer/500px

Mar Saba Monastery

Top choice in Bethlehem

A must-see on any journey through the Holy Land is Mar Saba Monastery, a bleak and beautiful 20km drive east of Bethlehem (beyond Beit Sahour).

Women must view the phenomenal cliff-clinging copper-domed hermitage, founded in 439 CE, from the opposite slope, but men are permitted inside, where tours are available with one of the 15 monks in residence.

Also residing here (rather more eternally) are the remains of 5th-century ascetic St Saba, whose body lies in the church’s second chapel, and the skulls of some 120 monks massacred here in 614 CE.

If you're driving, the monastery is well signposted from Beit Sahour. Otherwise, you’ll need to take a private taxi out to Mar Saba from Bethlehem; plan on around a three-hour journey, costing 120NIS to 150NIS.

Be aware that the monastery closes between noon and 1pm for the monks to have lunch.

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