In January of 2008, Tim, Levi and I took a vacation in an area called Ain Sukhna, on the Red Sea. One thing we had to do while we were there was visit St. Antony's Monestary. It is a pretty good drive to the Monestery from where we were staying, but as it is out in the middle of nowhere, we were probably closer than we would ever get to it.
I remember when we drove up to the monestary thinking how beautiful of a place it was, as you can see from the pictures. When we got inside, we were introduced to a man called "Abuna Ruwais". (Abuna means "our father".) This is the man you see in the pictures above. He is one of the monks that live here in this beautiful oasis in the middle of the desert.
St. Antony's Monastery (Deir Mar Antonios), and its neighbor St. Paul's, are both Coptic Christian and are the oldest inhabited monasteries in Egypt. Hidden deep in the Red Sea Mountains and relying on springs for their water supply, both still observe rituals that have hardly changed in 16 centuries.
Today it is a self-contained village with gardens, a mill, a bakery and five churches, the best of which is St. Antony's Church. Egypt monasteries are experiencing a revival, and the monk population of St. Antony's has grown considerably in recent years.
St. Antony's Cave , where he lived as a hermit, is a 2 km hike from the monastery and 680 m. above the Red Sea. It offers stunning views of the mountains and the sea, and the chance to see a wide range of bird life. There is a stair case that leads up to this cave, and if you want, you can climb this and see the cave. The thing is, there are 1,200 stairs. It is quite a climb, but is well worth it. It took our son Levi 20 minutes, Tim 30 minutes, and me 40 minutes to climb. I am glad I did it, but don't know if I would do it again.
The Monastery has exceptional wall paintings of holy knights in bright colors and the hermit founders of the monastery in subdued colors and icons. The oldest paintings date to the seventh and eighth centuries, while the newest are from the thirteenth century.
Visiting a monestery was not really my idea of fun, but I did find it very interesting, and I would definately visit it again, given the chance.