A most significant pilgrimage center of the Late Antique period. It is located about 45 kilometers southwest of Alexandria near Lake Mareotis, where the tomb of St. Menas was venerated from the fourth century onward. According to a tradition, St. Menas was an Egyptian recruit in the Roman army who was martyred because of his Christian faith. When a spring of healing water appeared at the tomb site, pilgrims flocked to his shrine. Byzantine emperors erected splendid buildings there.
The huge pilgrimage center flourished from the fourth to the eighth century. Its vestiges include churches, colonnaded avenues, arches, streets, several public buildings, hostels, baths, markets, and presses for both wine and oil. The shrine of St. Menas became the Lourdes of ancient times.
People came from all over the world, taking home the famous Menas flasks, which were found not only in Egypt but also in Europe. The flasks are decorated with St. Menas between two camels.