DAYR ABU DARAJ
About 45 miles (68 km) to the southwest of Suez and about 160 yards from the police station known as Bi’r Abu Daraj, and 18 miles (28 km) from ‘Ayn Sukhnah—that is to say, on the road that runs along the Red Sea—are the ruins of the Dayr Abu Daraj. These include several elements of different age and origin. There are, first of all, Nabataean traces, this road being the one taken by the Nabataeans, and the square tower appears to be of Roman and military origin.
Some authors have wished to see here Ptolemaic ruins. Hermits seem indeed to have installed themselves there, and there is no doubt that several hermitages were grouped around a well and a church. The renown of Saint Antony, whose monastery is not far distant (about 37 miles, or 60 km, as the crow flies), and the water supply attracted the hermits. A small monastery or center for the assembly of the hermits on Saturdays and Sundays was constructed there.
In 1717, C. Sicard (1982; his source is unclear) saw there the Monastery of John Climacus (daraj means “steps,” whence the association with the saint’s work, by the title of klimax, for klimax means “ladder”; Vol. 1, p. 42). It was in the twentieth century that archaeologists became interested in the site and described it. Wilkinson mentioned it in 1823, but his notes were not to be published until more than a century later (Littmann, 1953, p. 27). The site is described by several authors: Scaife (1936, pp. 63-64), Meredith (1952, p. 106), Fontaine (1955-1956, pp. 53-83), Martin (1966-1971), and Meinardus (1965, pp. 364-65; 1977, pp. 509-510)
- Fontaine, A. L. “Les Ruines du bir Abou Darag sur le golfe de Suez.” Bulletin de la Société d’etudes historiques et géographiques de l’isthme de Suez 6 (1955-1956):55-83.
- Littmann, E. “Nabatean Inscriptions from Egypt.” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 15 (1953):1-28.
- Martin, M. P. “Les Ermitages d’Abou Darag.” Bulletin de la Sociéte d’Archéologie copte 18 (1966):139-45.
- . “Abou Darag dans la montagne de Saint Antoine.” Bulletin de l’Institut français d’Archéologie orientale 70 (1971):173-89.
- Meinardus, O. Christian Egypt, Ancient and Modern. Cairo, 1965; 2nd ed., 1977.
- Meredith, D. “The Roman Remains in the Eastern Desert of Egypt.” Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 38 (1952):94-111.
- Scaife, C. H. O. “Further Notes on Myos Hormos . . . and Some Ruins at Abou Darag.” Bulletin of the Faculty of Arts (Cairo) 4 (1936):63-64.
- Sicard, C. Oeuvres, 3 vols., ed. M. Martin and S. Sauneron. Bibliothèque d’étude 83-85. Cairo, 1982.
MAURICE MARTIN, S.J