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Off the beaten track – Coptic heritage at Djebel Qattar

Pierre-André Jean Denereaz guided us to a fantastic mountainous area of the Eastern Desert, to the Granite Mountains of Djebel Qattar, an area full of history and mystery. Our target was to find the hermit caves where Christians hid from their Roman enemies 1700 years ago.

Sheikh Abdel Zaher, the oldest sheikh of the Kushman Clan drove the Land Rover direction El Gouna, and headed in the direction of Djebel Qattar just before reaching the city. After a short stop at the Bedouin Camp we journeyed to the Naggat Canion where the real adventure began. As the road became narrower and difficult to pass with our 4WD we discovered ancient rock drawings from a time when the desert was green and covered by trees, showing giraffes, an Ibex, herds of cows, people, a lion and even a boat on the Nile. Amazing!

The exploration continued with a trek up the mountains, and we reached a pond created by water stored in the mountain and dripping down the rocks.  After enjoying this fantastic place we followed the trail to the top of the mountain in search for the houses of the Christian eremites.

Some of the five caves were very difficult to spot. Atop the mountain was a monastery built in the fourth century that overlooked the valley. Enjoying the view from the “balcony” of one of the stone houses we could imagine why the Christians have chosen this magical area to meditate, and how the water nearby made it possible to stay there for decades. The caves were inhabited for more than 300 years, from 300 till 630 AD.


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