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“Not to be missed”
Review of Mar Saba Monastery

Mar Saba Monastery
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$250.00*
and up
Private Day Tour: St. George's Monastery, Wadi...
Ranked #2 of 35 things to do in Bethlehem
Certificate of Excellence
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Owner description: Founded in the 5th century, this Greek Orthodox monastery is considered the oldest and one of the strictest in the Holy Land.
Reviewed October 21, 2013

It was like entering a time capsule, bringing us back to those days when people lived in caves and roamed the deserts . The caves looked well-preserved but not accessible to tourists (that probably why they have been preserved).. And the monastery, it was so intriguing. We were not able to enter it and that heightened the mystery of it. We could only imagine how life inside was. Maybe those inside were also viewing us. I hope we did not disturb them.

The view was breathtaking. It was just our second day in the Middle East so it was our first time to see a desert. We took lots of photos of the desert, only to see more deserts in the following days on our way to Masada and the Dead Sea, Eilat and Petra.

Thank nottheusualtourist
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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"judean desert"
in 7 reviews
"mount athos"
in 2 reviews
"peaceful site"
in 2 reviews
"breathtaking views"
in 3 reviews
"monastic life"
in 2 reviews
"worth the trip"
in 4 reviews
"quiet place"
in 2 reviews
"dead sea"
in 6 reviews
"awe inspiring"
in 2 reviews
"men and women"
in 2 reviews
"beit sahour"
in 2 reviews
"west bank"
in 6 reviews
"greek orthodox"
in 4 reviews
"day tour"
in 2 reviews
"olive wood"
in 2 reviews
"monk"
in 6 reviews
"tower"
in 8 reviews
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Reviewed August 21, 2013

I was amazed at the scenary here and how secluded the monastery is. I was staying with a friend in Bethlehem so managed to get a lift in the car but otherwise I think this is a bit off the beaten track for me to have accessed alone.

Thank Fatafeat
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 24, 2013

Unfortunately, we visited it on a Friday. It was thus closed. But even during opening days and hours, women are not allowed. It looks like ruins but one should go beyond this first impression.

Thank Nicolas V
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 16, 2013

I lived in Israel for four years and have visited countless times over the years. I thought I had visited every major site, but until I visited Mar Saba Monastery in July 2013, my list was indeed incomplete.

Here's how I did it on my own. First, I took Bus 21 at the bus station across from the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem. It was about a 12 minute walk from my hotel, The David Citadel. The bus runs all day and into the evening every half hour, and I boarded at 8am. The price was 7.3 shekels, a far better deal to go to Bethlehem. The bus terminates at the Baab Ziqaaq. Walk back in the direction the bus came from to the corner and turn left on to Paulus VI street. Stay on this as it goes up the hill and then down all the way to Manger Square. It is about a km from the bus stop to this point, and about half of it passes through the Old City.

As you enter Manger Square, immediately turn right and go to that corner of the square. There is an official tourist center there (not to be confused with private tourist offices), and they have countless maps of Bethlehem and environs as well as many West Bank cities, including Hebron, Nablus, Ramallah, etc. The young lady behind the counter spents lots of time answering all my questions and giving advice. She was spot on as things turned out, and I returned at the end of my day to offer her my sincerest thanks.

Per her advice, I walked about 50 meters to the main road beyond Manger Square to find a taxi to take me to sites outside of Bethlehem. We agreed on 150 shekels after much haggling to visit four sites (which took about 2 and half hours). I understand that the going rate is 70 shekels per hour, so this was a sweet deal. In addition, the young man, Amir was delighted to have an opportunity to practice his English, such as it was.

Our route took us first to the Shepherd's Fields Francisan church. This is modeled after a tent, and has a long history and wonderful site. It's worth 20 minutes or so, depending on how much time you may want to spend at the various grottoes. We then drove a good 45 minutes to get to Mar Saba, which seems in the middle of nowhere in the Judean Desert. But oh...what an unforgetting setting.

There is far too much to write about Mar Saba here, so I suggest you google it, as I did. But let me restate: it is one of the most stunning desert monasteries I have ever visited, and one can feel what these amazing individuals must have done to create this. CAUTION: Only men are allowed inside the monastery. There are absolutely no exceptions. I still suggest women visit as they can get some feel for the splendor and uniqueness of the site. But there is so much more men can see and feel inside.

We retraced our steps to nearby town of Al Obeidiyah, and stopped at the monastery of St. Theodosius. Normally, only Russians, Romanians and Greeks are permitted entry, but I happened to arrive just as a tour group from Greece was entering. I slid right into the group. The compound is lovely, with the church frescoed every square millimeter.

Next we stopped at the Shepherd's Field Greek Orthodox Church. The gate is always closed, so we simply said we were pilgrims. No further identity. The gate was buzzed open. This site is truly special, as there is a cave on the compound beyond the church which contains a chapel at the burial site of the shepherds. There are other artifacts and an archeological site. All in all, a wonderful visit.

I returned to Manger Square, and visited the sites I had been to many times over the years: the Church of the Nativity and the Milk Grotto. I don't recommend the latter except to pilgrims, although for those looking for olive wood carvings, especially nativity sets, walk all the way to the Grotto and explore the shops. I consider the workmanship and prices far better here than in Jerusalem. (By the way...the same goes for the baklava. Ask the tourist center lady for the best baklava shop. She will point it out.)

As for the Church of the Nativity, a very special tip: go to the left of the altar and enter the door going down to the site of Christ's birth. If you go to the right, the line is long and so is the wait. I entered immediately when I went to the left. Of course, that is the exit, but no one is there to say no.

6  Thank Anthony-Susan
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed May 6, 2013

very old and we wre
ere shown around the top floor view of Bethleham was breathtaking library impressive corridors and map ofholyland informative. the top floor parap[et wall had a bullet embedded reminder of ongoing troubles there

Thank anon187062
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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