Wadi el-Rayan
Wadi el-Rayan - the remote eastern section of the Western Desert, south west of the Fayoum. The location of a Coptic cave hermitage site, St Macaurius of Alexander

Approximately 100 Kilometers south of Cairo, via the Fayum desert road, one arrives at the city
of Fayum. From this point, passing lake Moeris, drive onto the desert road heading east towards the Wadi el Rayan Conservation area and the wadi el Rayan lakes.

This valley area is approximately 35 meters below sea level, which includes the nearby Wadi al Hitan, or Whale valley, so called due to the profuse invaluable fossil remains of the earliest, and now extinct suborder of whales, Archaeoceti.

A 75 kilometer drive on the desert road, turning to sandy desert tracks, eventually brings you to the little known Wadi el Rayan Cave hermitage site, where approximately 20 Coptic Christian monks live. These monks live an ascetic lifestyle based on the life of St Anthony (3rd/4th Century AD) ‘father of monks’ and known for his desert hermit-style existence.

The area around the cave hermitage has been a Christian refuge since the 5/6th Century AD, and during the mid-late 4th Century a purpose-built monastery was constructed, the remains of which are visible a few hundred meters from the current cave hermitages.
The group of caves, together with a rock hewn church, and other buildings, are known as the hermitage of St.Macarius.

Also located around the area, are several remains of tombs of the Roman Period.

These photographs were taken on our first trip to the area in 2005
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