Wadi El Natrun
Wadi El Natrun, located in the eastern desert near the delta, is one of Egypt’s most popular destinations for Christian religious tourists. St. Macarius the Great, who retired there in c.330, brought Christianity to the area. Other religious men were attracted to the location, and a loose community grew up. Then, the community got more organized as it grew in size. As a result, a thriving monastic system arose.
The Wadi’s history and significance to the Copts dates back to the 4th century. Anchorites erected monasteries and lived in caverns around the valley. However, following the Arab invasion of Egypt, the Khalifa of Moslems in Arabia granted amnesty to Christian monks in Egypt to practice their faith. As a result, the region became the Coptic patriarch’s formal residence. The patriarch is still chosen by Wadi Natrun monks.
Before being considered a hermit monk, a Coptic monk must wait ten years. After that, he searches the region for caves or digs one for himself. Eventually, the Copts have practiced this ritual for generations. Between the eighth and eleventh centuries, the majority of the monasteries in the area were rebuilt and repaired. Early churches were built in a Roman/Coptic style. On the inside, the monasteries were separated into three areas, with communion, catechism reading, and a basin for sinners to bathe.
Then, the two waves of plague that raced through the Middle East and Europe in the 14th century wiped off the Wadi’s inhabitants. It’s never fully regained. Today, four monasteries exist, each with its own architectural style from the late Middle Ages. The monasteries all have a similar design; they are all enclosed by a high fortified wall, which encloses many churches, living quarters, and a qasr (keep) with the church on its upper story (to fight against Bedouin and Berber raids).
Wadi means valley in Arabic. Because it is a flat region surrounded by ten lakes. Also, this location is referred to be a valley. The majority of the water comes from desert storms’ precipitation. The area is rich in sodium salts and carbonates, which were utilized to mummify ancient Egyptians. This is where the Romans got their silica for glass. As a result, train system was created to transport salt from the valley to Cairo under the British occupation.
The Main 4 Coptic Monasteries of Wadi El Natrun.
- The Monastery of al-Baramus
- (Deir) al-Anba BishoyMonastery
- Monastery of the Syrians (Deir al-Surian)
- Monastery of St. Macarius (Deir Abu Magar, Abu Maker)