Monastery of St. SimeonThe Monastery of St. Simeon is gigantic and the base construction of this fortress-like place goes back to the 7th century. Astonishing, isn’t it? The monastery was earlier dedicated to a local saint, but he renounced the world on his wedding night. After which, the monastery was rebuilt, and this time it was dedicated to St. Simeon. The monastery prepared monks and they travel from all parts to spread their faith. Since the place is not very far from the main location at Aswan, you can take a boat ride to get there, and the monastery is in walking distance from the boarding area.
You also have an option to take a camel ride to get to the monastery after the boat ride.
Important DetailsLocation: West Bank
Entry Price: adult/student LE40/20
Brief HistoryThe history of this monastery is interesting. In the 7th century, the Monastery of St. Simeon was founded by Coptic monks attempting to retreat to the meditative silence to reach spiritual satisfaction. The complex was restored once until it was eventually abandoned in the 13th century; however, it was not used for a very long time, the monastery remains in remarkably good condition. It also serves a great tourist location with some brilliant photogenic places.
During that time, the place of faith was looted a lot by the Bedouin raiders, so the complex was walled to protect the monks from this issue. The wall is built with stone and mud that gives a spectacular sight on approach.
InfrastructureThe entire place is surrounded by dessert, which also paints a beautiful picture of the monastery of St Simeon from a distance. The building was built in two levels: first, the lower level was built with stones and you have the principal church in the area. Second, the upper level was built with mud bricks, and the entire place has a thick 10m (33 ft.) high walls as its parameters. The infrastructure looks beautiful and the place has a certain spiritual vibe. The inside compartments still have the mastaba known as the beds, and some other belongings from the people who went for the pilgrimage to Mecca. The place is huge and it might have housed not less than 1,000 monks under its roof.
The Lower TerraceOn the lower terrace, you will find the original rock caves of the saints, the church with its baptistery, and a spot for pilgrims. The entry gate in this place extends out of the eastern wall of the enclosure under the protective tower. You will also notice a barrel-vaulted ceiling at the entry to the monastery.
The Principal ChurchThe church was built in the first half of the eleventh century, however, people have different opinions about it. They even say it was probably built earlier, in the tenth century. It is also the oldest monastery of its kind in Egypt. However, only the lower portion remains, and it is a significant example of a domed oblong church, a style of the monastery that dates back to the beginning of the Fatimid era in Egypt (969-1173).
The Upper TerraceThe upper terrace of the monastery consisted of the large keep (qasr) also known as the permanent living quarters for the monastic community in the earlier days. The upper terrace can be reached by a stairway along the north wall of the church in the lower portion of the monastery. It is a great place for tourists who love unfolding facts about religious locations.
Things to Do
Aswan has a lot of brilliant temples and religious monuments, but you can definitely take a break from those monuments and visit this incredible monastery of St Simeon. See also 5 Most Famous Temples in Aswan You can enjoy a camel ride in this vintage place, or try out other things. Here are some of the things you can try at the monastery.
• Explore the courtyards and the keep, because the church still graced with partial frescoes and ancient history bursting out of them from all corners.
• You can also take a private half-day tour to St. Simeon Monastery from Aswan.
• You can try the boat ride at the River Nile to the west bank and enjoy some quality time with your friends and family.
• The most interesting would be exploring the monks’ cells and original rock caves of the saints in the monastery.
• The best of them all would be taking a camel ride to the medieval monastery, which is also known as Anba Hatre.
These activities in the monastery wouldn’t be all, because when you are visiting with a local guide, you will be able to explore a couple of things that are more central to the locals, and not that popular on papers.
How to reach?
As far as reaching the Monastery of St. Simeon is concerned, it is situated on the west bank of the Nile, facing Elephantine Island and Aswan. The best way to get there is to charter a ferry, then ride a camel up the slope or you can even walk to this place, or take a cycle. The expense takes about LE 150.
Read more about Aswan Transportation