MONASTERIES OF THE EASTERN DESERT
“Eastern desert” refers to all of Egypt between the fertile valley of the Nile and the Red Sea. Perhaps because the watering places and the regular caravan routes are less numerous there, the hermitages and monasteries are few. Two centers should be pointed out: one to the north formed by DAYR ANBA ANTUNIYUS and Saint Paul DAYR ANBA BULA with the hermitages that cluster or clustered around them.
The wadis that debouch on the Wadi ‘Arabah where the Dayr Anba Antuniyus is situated—the Wadi Natfah and the Wadi Hanneba, which come down from the Jabal al-Jalalah al- Bahriyyah, at ‘Ayn Bardah and Bir Bakhit (sometimes called Abu Khit)—were inhabited by hermits. ‘Ayn Bardah is situated near a well, as its name (the cold spring) indicates, half-way between the valley of the Nile and the monastery of Saint Antony.
The best known is the group of hermitages with its center, a small monastery called DAYR ABU DARAJ, situated on the road that runs along the Red Sea about 42 miles (68 km) south of Suez.
The second monastic center in the eastern desert is farther south and near the Red Sea, not far from the road that today links the town of Qena to the Red Sea, the Mons Porphyrites, so called in the Hellenistic period because of its prophyry quarries, today called the Jabal Abu Dukhkhan (mountain of the father of smoke) and quite close to the JABAL QATTAR. Leading to the first and its porphyry quarries is the Wadi Qattar, which still retains traces of its occupation by Christian hermits, of which numerous texts speak.
- Bissey, F., and R. Chabot-Morisseau. “Notes de voyage sur l’ouadi Arabah. Ruines de constructions chrétiennes dans les branches est et ouest de l’ouadi Hanneba.” Bulletin de la Société d’etudes historiques et géographiques de l’Isthme de Suez 5 (1953-1954):155-60.
- Fontaine, A. L. “Exploration dans l’ouadi Arabah, Ayn Barda, ses vestiges d’habitats anciens.” Bulletin de la Société d’etudes historiques et géographiques de l’Isthme de Suez 5 (1953-1954):59#86.
- . “Le monachisme copte et la montagne de St. Antoine.” Bulletin de l’Institut d’etudes coptes 1 (1958):3-30.
- Fourteau, R. “Voyage dans la partie septentrionale du désert arabique.” Bulletin de la Société de géographique d’Egypte 5 (1900):517ff.