Christian Monasticism was born in Egypt. Driven by the will to imitate the pure and ascetic lifestyle of Jesus and other great biblical figures, devouted Christians chose to renounce their former lives and withdraw themselves into the emptiness and hostiliy of the Egyptian Desert.
Especially due to the innovations of St. Anthony the Great, St. Pachomius, St. Paul the Hermit, St. Macarius the Great and other “Desert Fathers”, Christian Monasticism shortly became an acknowledged part of the life of the Christian Church.
With this tour we invite you to discover the origins and early development of Christian Monasticism, to meet the great “Desert Fathers” in texts and paintings, to follow Antony and Paul through the desert and experience the spirituality of the desert’s hostility and emptiness yourself.
Furthermore, the tour covers a wide range of monastic topics, as it also includes a visit to the famous Greek Orthodox Monastery of St. Catherine on the Sinai Peninsula, a full day in the Churches of Coptic Cairo and in the Monasteries of Wadi el-Natroun.
Welcome to Egypt
Upon arrival at Cairo International Airport our representative will meet and assist you with passport control, customs formalities and handling your luggage. Afterwards, transfer to your hotel.
Day 2: Introduction
The origins of Coptic Christianity
In the morning, drive to the Coptic district of Cairo and visit St. Sergius & Bacchus Church and hear about the Holy Family in Egypt (cf. Mt 2,13-14). Together with the constitution of the Coptic Church by St. Mark the Evangelist, the travels of the Holy Family mark the foundation stone of Christianity in Egypt and therefore are the ideal starting point for an exploration of the history of monasticism.
Afterwards, proceed to the very well displayed Coptic Museum and the Ben Ezra Synagogue, which once was a church. Finally, visit the “Hanging Church” and enjoy its catching decorations.
In the late afternoon, board a traditional felucca and enjoy a silent sail along the Nile which will give you time to recall the day and meditate.
Overnight in Cairo.
The Monasteries of Wadi el-Natroun
From the 4th century on, Wadi el-Natroun is considered to be one of the most sacred sites in Coptic Christianity. Once, hundreds of monasteries were erected here of which only four remain; three of them you will visit. Typically, a monk of the respective monastery will be your guide and provide you with a rich insight into daily monastic life and the monasteries’ traditions.
In the Syrian Monastery you will especially study the numerous very rich and colorful wall paintings and hear about the monastery’s foundation and its changing history. Afterwards, proceed to the Monastery of St. Pishoy and discover the monastery’s complex including the Pishoy’s basilica, the keep (tower), old monk’s cells and the refectory. Finally, visit Baramus Monastery, the oldest of the four existing monasteries in Wadi el-Natroun.
Overnight in Cairo.
The Monasteries of St. Antony and St. Paul
In the early morning, head to the Monastery of St. Antony in the Red Sea Hills. Stop for moments of prayer and meditation and listen to those chapters from the “Vita Antonii” describingAntony’s hard times in the desert’s hostility.
Inside the monastery, a monk will be your guide and provide you with first hand information about monastic life and offer another perspective on Antony’s impressive story. Also, there will be time to rest and meditate in the monastery.
Then, take a hike up to Anthony’s cave, which can be reached by some 1200 steps – but imagine him descending and ascending without this comfort!
After a light lunch, drive south to the less visited monastery of St. Paul the Hermit and visit the very place where Paul lived for over 80 years. Afterwards, drive north to the costal resort of Ain Sukhna and enjoy its fine beaches or a dip into the Red Sea – a good chance to relax and recall the experiences of the former days.
Overnight in Ain Sukhna.
With the people of God in the desert & St. Catherine Monastery
In the late morning, cross Suez Canal and drive through the Sinai Peninsula to the St. Catherine, a small city located in close proximity of Mt. Catherine and Mt. Sinai. According to the biblical account and age-old local traditions, Moses led the Israelites through this very region on their way to the promised land. In the early evening, arrive at the Monastery of St. Catherine, have some time to rest in its guesthouse and enjoy dinner.
In sight of the rough mountain range, listen to selected chapters from the Old Testament, telling about the people of God suffering under the Pharaoh’s rule, their flight from Egypt to the promised land and how they eventually reached the mountain of God on the Sinai Peninsula.
Overnight in St. Catherine.
Sinai – The Mountain of God
At around 2 in the morning, start climbing on Mt. Sinai, which is believed to be the very place where Moses received the Ten Commandments and where Israel gathered during the flight from Egypt:
The Lord said to Moses, “Come up to Me on the mountain and be there; and I will give you tablets of stone, and the law and commandments which I have written, that you may teach them.” (Exodus 24,12)
Once upon the summit, have time to rest and recall the biblical account while watching the myriads of stars above. At the time of dawn, watch the sunrise over the peeks of Sinai and let the tenderness of the endless open space extend to your inner soul. A remarkable and spiritual experience!
After your descent, return to the guesthouse for breakfast and some time to rest in your room. Then visit the monastery and hear about its interesting story. During your tour, see some of the masterpieces of the monastery’s treasures incl. early icons, liturgical objects, mosaics and reliquaries. Around noon, drive back to Beni Suef.
In the morning, meet with “Daughters of St. Mary”, an introduction to serving monasticism and projects of the community.After lunch, attend a workshop on “Monasticism: The Origins, Development and Future” including lectures by theologians and researchers as well as a discussion round with Coptic young people to reflect their own perception of monasticism. Overnight in Beni Suef.
After breakfast, be transferred to Cairo International Airport for final departure.
All our tours are private tours including private transportation and private guiding.
- Entrance Visa to Egypt (appr. 12 €)
- 3 night stay in Cairo in a church guest house or in a middle-class hotel, 1 night stay in Ain Sukhna in a middle-class hotel, 1 night stay in St. Catherine in the guest house of St. Catherine Monastery or in a middle-class hotel in St. Catherine City, 2 night stay in Beni Suef in a middle-class hotel or church guest house.
- All mentioned sightseeing tours, including transportation by private modern & tourism-licensed a/c vehicles (according to group size).
- Professional guiding by a qualified & tourism-licensed Coptic guide.
- Guiding by a local monk inside the monasteries of Wadi el-Natroun, St. Anthony and St. Paul (according to availability).
- Chances to meet local Coptic congregations and see projects run by the Coptic Church; a one-day seminary with young Coptic people and Coptic priests on the current situation of monasticism and Coptic spiritual life in Egypt.
- Hiking to the cave of St. Antony and to the summit of Mt. Sinai.
- Local guide on Mt. Sinai.
- ITERU blankets against the cold on Mt. Sinai.
- Extra time for prayer and meditation or group activities in Coptic Cairo, Wadi el-Natroun, St. Antony & St. Paul and St. Catherine.
- Time to rest on the beautiful beaches of Ain Sukhna.
- Full board (excl. beverages).
- Recommended gratuities (app. 25 €).
All prices are inclusive of all mentioned services and valid throughout the year except major holidays during the high season. Please inquire for details.
- Private tour, 1 to 2 people: Please inquire for individual pricing.
- Private tour, 3 to 9 people: 890 €
- Private tour, 10 to 20 people: 650 €
- Private tour, 21 and more: Please inquire for individual pricing.
Customize Your Tour
Please feel free to provide us with your own ideas and preferences about your tour. Our travel professionals will be happy to tailor your personalized tour exactly as you want it to be!