Dayr Nahya (Giza)


A monastery that enjoyed an extraordinary renown even among the Muslims. It was situated near the village of the same name (Nahya), to the northwest of at the foot of the Jabal Abu Ruwash.

According to The Churches and of Egypt, it was founded by a merchant who came from the west before DIOCLETIAN.

In the seventh century some monks from Scetis, fleeing from the of the Melchite patriarch Cyrus (631-644), took refuge at Nahya (Evelyn-White, 1932, pp. 255-56; Cauwenbergh, 1914, p.132) and in the tenth century one could still see the cells in which they lived (p. 185, n. 3). The HISTORY OF THE PATRIARCHS, under the Patriarch KHA’IL (744-767), mentions the monastery as the residence of Moses, bishop of Wasim. The Caliph al-Mu‘izz (972-975) is said to have camped with his troops before the walls of the monastery. The monastery is described by al-Shabushti (end of the tenth or beginning of the eleventh century; 1939, pp. 17 and 26). The Caliph al-Hakim (996-1021) set fire to the monastery and afterward reconstructed it.

The imam bi-Ahkam Allah (1101-1130) visited the monastery and gave 1000 dirhams to the monks; he also gave about thirty feddans (acres) for cultivation, which remained the property of the monks until the arrival of the Ghuzz and the Kurds. Another biographer (1100-1130) in the History of the Patriarchs had as informants John, abbot of the monastery of Nahya, as well as his brother.

In 1330 the patriarch II, returning from the monastery of Saint Macarius, where he had gone for the consecration of the CHRISM, stopped on the way at the monastery of Nahya (Evelyn-White, 1932, p. 396).

The historian al-MAQRIZI (d. 1441) contented himself with copying al-Shabushti, and laconically added that the monastery was destroyed in 1354-1355 at the same time as that of other churches in Cairo.

This monastery must have been very rich and possessed a good library. Biblical manuscripts from this library are today preserved in the Freer Collection, Washington (Sanders, 1909, pp. 130-41).

The site was excavated at the beginning of the twentieth century by the Institut français d’Archéologie orientale (Palanque, 1902, pp.163-70; see also Crum, 1890-1909, p. 15; Daressy, 1917, pp. 274-76). According to some authors, the name “monastery of the vine- dresser” (Dayr al-Karram) is another name for the monastery of Nahya (Daressy, 1917, pp. 203-204).


  • Cauwenbergh, P. van. Etude sur les moines d’Egypte. Paris, 1914. Crum, W. E. Christian Egypt (Archaeological Report 1890-1909). London, 1908-1909.
  • Daressy, G. “Indicateur topographique du ‘Livre des Perles Enfouies et du mystère précieux.'” Bulletin de l’Institut français d’Archéologie orientale 13 (1917):175-230.
  • . “ Couvent de Nahyeh.” Annales du Service des  de l’Egypte 17 (1917):274-76.
  • Evelyn-White, H. G. The of the Wadi n Natrun, pt. 2, The History of the of Nitria and of Scetis. New York, 1932.
  • Palanque, C. “Rapport sur les fouilles d’el-Deir, 1902.” Bulletin de l’Institut français d’Archéologie orientale 2 (1902):163-70.
  • Sanders, H. A. “Age and Ancient Home of the Biblical Manuscripts in the Freer Collection.” American of Archeology 13 (1909):130-41.
  • Shabushti, al-. “Some Egyptian Monasteries,” ed. A. Atiya. Bulletin de la Société d’archéologie copte 5 (1939):1-28.