Simeon Monastery

On the uninhabited west bank of the Nile at Aswan, the desert stretches right up to the waters edge. There is little in terms of development along this shoreline, but there are several small attractions that make it worth the ferry ride across the river.

The Monastery of St. Simeon was established in the 7th century by Coptic monks seeking to escape to the meditative quiet of the desert. The complex was rebuilt at least once before it was finally abandoned during the 13th century; however, the monastery remains in surprisingly good shape given it long disuse.

The complex was walled to protect the monk from Bedouin raiders and other threats and the stone and mudbrick walls make for an impressive sight on approach. It engenders thoughts of a medieval fortress more than a religious institution. Inside are the remains of a church, a stable, and other buildings vital to the simple lives of these medieval monks.

If you make the trip to St. Simeon, it is worth also visiting the Tombs of the Nobles. These tombs cut into the riverside cliffs near Kitchener’s Island are the burial places of Old and Middle Kingdom dignitaries of the ancient town of Swenet that stood on Elephantine Island. There are also tombs from much later during the Roman era here.

 

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