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St. Paul

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Monastery of the first hermit

St. Paul's monastery, Egypt

St. Paul's monastery, Egypt

St. Paul's monastery, Egypt

The monastery of St. Paul is the smaller twin to St. Anthony. Paul, or with his Coptic name, Bolus, was a devout Christian going into hiding out in the desert at the age of 16, is the first known Christian hermit.
It would take some years after Paul's death before a monastery was established here: it was his contemporary Anthony that would cause the first form of monasticism. Paul was 23 years older than Anthony
St. Paul is far smaller than St. Anthony, but still has 4 churches.
There are reportedly more than 70 monks living here permanently. With the guests they receive, the monastery's own water sources are not enough.

Eat and Sleep
If you ask for permission from the church headquarters in Cairo, you can spend the night in the monastery. This appears still to be theoretically, as few independent travellers get such a permission.

The best way of getting out here is by organized trips or with your own vehicle. Travelling by bus, get a bus from Cairo, Beni Suef or Hurghada to Zafarana. At Zafarana there is a road leading to the monastery, about 13 km inland. Expect that a walk out here takes 2 hours each way. Arranging for transport in Zafarana is possible, but not very easy.
There are some adventurous travellers that make a hike across the mountains from St. Paul to St. Anthony. This is not recommended for anyone but those with excellent equipment and much experience. Passing through a landscape without inhabitants, there are nobody to ask for directions. Tourists have died trying to make this journey. The walk is supposed to take 2 full days.

Admission is free. The monatery is open 9.00-17.00, except during Lent and Christmas.

Going Next
80 km west: St. Anthony

By Tore Kjeilen