Wadi Natrun

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Principal site of Coptic monasteries in Egypt.

Wadi Natrun is an elongated valley in Egypt's western desert near the Cairo-Alexandria road. As many as 500 Coptic monasteries, once housing up to 50,000 monks, were built there beginning in the fourth century, Four are currently in use: Dayr alBaramus, Dayr Abu Maqar (St. Macarius), Dayr Anba Bishoi, and Dayr al-Surian. Dayr Anba Bishoi was the site of the enforced exile of Pope Shenouda III by President Anwar al-Sadat in 1981; he was released in 1985. Dayr Abu Maqar has witnessed a revival of Coptic monasticism since it was reopened by a dozen hermit monks in 1969. Since that date, rising numbers of Egyptian Christians have elected to spend part of their lives at Wadi Natrun's monasteries. Several are also open to tourism.

see also copts; shenouda iii.


Butler, Alfred J. The Ancient Coptic Churches of Egypt, 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon, 1884; reprint, 1970.

Cannuyer, Christian. Coptic Egypt: The Christians of the Nile. New York: Abrams, 2000.

Evelyn-White, Hugh G. The Monasteries of the Wadi 'n Natrun, 3 vols. New York: Arno Press, 1973.

Kamil, Jill. Coptic Egypt: History and Guide. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 1987.

Meinardus, Otto F. A. Two Thousand Years of Coptic Christianity. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 1999.

raymond william baker
updated by arthur goldschmidt