WADI AL-RAYYAN (Fayyum)
A valley (wadi) connected to the great depression of the Fayyum, of which it forms an extension to the southwest with Wadi al-Muwaylih, where DAYR ANBA SAMU’IL of QALAMUN is situated. There are three wells and a small grove of palms; it is frequented by the camel caravans that link the Fayyum with the oasis of al-Bahriyyah.
The wadi seems to have been inhabited and cultivated in the Roman period, as is attested by remains of brick walls with plaster. Caves, either natural or dug in the eastern face of the part of the Libyan plateau called Munqar al-Rayyan, were used by hermits, as is shown by crosses and Coptic graffiti traced on the walls of one of them (Meinardus, 1966, fig. 7-9); unfortunately they are not dated.
The Coptic Life of Samuel reports that the founder of the monastery of Qalamun often withdrew to the oasis of Piliheu, west of the monastery, returning to the monastery once every three months. The Churches and Monasteries of Egypt specifies that the place was called al-Rayyan. It is therefore probable that Samuel lived in one of these caves.
Numerous European travelers have visited the site, and geological studies have been published, notably on the possible utilization of the depression as a reservoir for water (Meinardus, pp. 299-301).
From 1960 to 1969 these caves were reoccupied by a dozen hermits led by P. Matta al-Miskin; they were later asked to restore the DAYR ANBA MAQAR in Wadi al-Natrun.
- Fakhry, A. “Wadi al-Rayan.” Annales du Service des antiquités de l’Egypte 46 (1947):1-19.
- Meinardus, O. “The Hermits of Wadi Rayan.” Studia Orientalia Christiana Collectanea 11 (1966):293-317.
- . “The Caves of the Wadi Rayan.” Christian Egypt, Ancient and Modern, 2nd ed., pp. 468-82. Cairo, 1977. (Same text as preceding article, without map or plates.)
MAURICE MARTIN, S.J.