Coptic Monastery of St. Simeon near the Aga Khan Mausoleum on the west bank of Nile at Aswan

Coptic Monastery of St. Simeon near the Aga Khan tomb on the west bank of Nile

This abandoned monastery near the Aga Khan Mausoleum on the west bank at Aswan is considered to be notably typical of early Christian Monasteries, and was one of the largest Coptic Monasteries in Egypt, with perhaps thousands of residents. It was begun in the 6th century, but it is believed that most building took place in the 7th century. It was first dedicated to Amba Hadra (Amba Samaan, Anba Hadra) , a bishop of Aswan and saint of the late 4th century. It was said that just after his wedding, he encountered a funeral procession which inspired him to live the remainder of his life as a hermit.

Early Christianity and Monasticism in Aswan and Nubia" was the fifth symposium on Coptic Studies to take place at a monastic centre. Organised by Coptologist Gawdat Gabra, Fawzi Estafanous of the St Mark Foundation for Coptic History Studies, Hani Takla, president of the St Shenouda Society, and under the auspices of Pope Shenouda III and Anba Hedra, archbishop of Aswan, it was held in the new Monastery of St Hatre (still under construction), within walking distance of the ruins of the famous Monastery of St Hatre in the Western Desert -- known for some unknown reason by early archaeologists and travellers as the Monastery of St Simeon.

On the west bank of the Nile is Deir Amba Samaan, this coptic Monastery of St Simeon monastery from the 7th century is already eight centuries unused, but one of the largest and best preserved Coptic monasteries, it was founded in the seventh C. and abandoned in the 13th because of water shortage. The buildings, standing on a rock shelf on two levels, are surrounded by a wall 20-23ft/6-7m high, the lower part of which is constructed of undressed stone, the upper part of sun dried bricks; on the west side the lower part is hewn from the rock.
ruins of the Coptic St. Simeon Monastery
Even though it is technically a pile of ruins, you can still see the internal structure of an oblong, domed Christian church as well as its tower and a large number of tombstones in the monastery cemetery. The fortress wall no longer stands so high but you can still see the stone sections. You can also see remnants of the lower terrace, the Principal Church of the Monastery, the refectory, and a few damaged wall paintings that are believed to very antiquated, perhaps as old as the 11th century.

Situated due south-west of the southern tip of Elephantine, the monastery is named after an anchorite who was consecrated by Patriarch Theophilus, bishop of Syene (Aswan), at the beginning of the fifth century. Can be reached from the river bank on a footpath running up a desert valley opposite the south end of Elephantine; the climb takes 20 minutes.

Ride a camel/ felucca or climb to the ruins of the Coptic Monastery of St. Simeon, originally founded in the 7th century AD. Rebuilt in the 10th century and eventually destroyed by Salah al-Din in 1173, the monastery was a base for missionary monks who converted the Nubians to Christianity. Sit back and enjoy the view of the Egyptian landscape as you make your way to the monastery ruins on a camel. You will be surprised to see that though this Coptic monastery is in ruins, many of its main features like the oblong, domed Christian church, its frescos, the tower, the tombstones and the kilns are well preserved.

Aswan's eastern bank are mosques, bazaars, Ferial Gardens, Nubian Museum , Fatimid Cemetery, Unfinished Obelisk of Queen Hatshepsut , Kitchener's Island & Elephantine Island which is the largest in Aswan. As for its western bank there are tombs of local Pharaonic nobles & dignitaries, tomb of Aga Khan, Coptic Monastery of St Simeon and the Old Aswan dam.

For More Information Visit: Aswan Tourism and Tourist Information

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Last Updated on Sunday 5th December 2010