We missed the train to Alexandria so we've got to go somewhere out of Cairo so we chose Wadi El Natrun. It may not be on the top list of must-see sights in Egypt but we were amazed by the kindness of the monks in the monastery of St. Pishoy there.
The most popular one was founded by Saint Pishoy in the 4th century AD. The bodies of the two saints - St. Pishoy and St. Paul of Tammah - were at the monastery of Saint Pishoy lying in the main church of the Coptic Orthodox Monastery of Saint Pishoy. We took a taxi to the main turgoman terminal in Cairo but unfortunately the bus to wadi el natrun no longer run from there instead we took another taxi to a smaller station that was written on a piece of paper by the police at the gate of turgoman station – in Arabic - which we handed over to the taxi. We bought the EGP11 ticket for the old aircon bus and went on to a 2-hour trip to the wadi. We were dropped along a highway where a smaller bus/van were waiting and we crammed inside it for EGP2 along with local families and dropped us off the main town square and we then hired ar tuktuk (tricycle) for EGP15 for the whole tricycle to the monastery of St. Pishoy.
About half kilometer from the monastery of St. Pishoy is the Syrian monastery. In fact, there are 4 monasteries in the wadi, though it was very late in the afternoon already and we failed to see it all.
There are a lot of Egyptian tourists on buses and cars visiting the monastery, mosgtly Christians. The monks at the monastery of St. Pishoy were so accommodating. There was this monk named Father Joaquim who were so kind and took us for a tour around the area and showed us various chambers inside the monastery, he took us on a private tour and gave us the history of the place, esp. those ones which aren’t generally open to the public. He carries the key to the chambers so we were luckily let in. Really a great treat. He even treat us for a fuul and bread snack at their soup kitchen.
The best part did not end there. When we were buying some stuff at the souvenir shop and about to hunt or hitch a ride back to Cairo, another monk inside his car motioned us to come near and asked us where we’re heading and we told him Cairo – God-sent! he said he’s heading to Cairo and he did take us along with him. With his minimal English we did had fun with Father Cherubim in his car - during the 2-hour or so trip back to Cairo, he’s a very cool monk. In fact the Coptic monks in the monastery are really cool. It erased all my perception about monks – that they’re very ecclesiastical, quiet, priestly, etc. Those monks there are amazingly kind and welcoming to tourists.
There are currently about 700 monks in the monastery of St. Pishoy according to Father Joaquim. We’ve learned a lot about the history of the place from him, and new stuff like I’ve learned that there are so many Coptic churches along the Nile river upto Aswan – some still functioning, some remain just structures.
It is believed that the holy family visited Wadi El Natrun during their flight to Egypt.
The trip to wadi was well worth it. It's a different experience.
Entry is free of charge, but anonymous donation would help the monastery with all their charity work. I hope to be back again there in the future, the monks at Wadi El Natrun are truly one of the nicest bunch of people you’ll come across in Egypt.
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