Saturday, March 04, 2006

A Monastery, an Eco-lodge, and A Day of Exploration.‎


We decided to go exploring yesterday. I had read before about the monasteries of Wadi ‎El-Natrun and had always seen the sign to them when traveling to Alexandria. I read that ‎this group of monasteries, 100 km north of Cairo, were the oldest monasteries in the ‎world – dating back to the 4th century AD (the monastic tradition was born there and then ‎later spread to the rest of the world). And since yesterday was a nice and sunny day, it ‎seemed like the perfect day to go and explore the area.‎

We only had time to visit one of the 4 main monasteries, so we went for the oldest and ‎most famous: the Monastery of Anba Bishoy. My first reaction when we reached there ‎was one of surprise. It was much larger than I expected. It was actually a compound ‎with very high walls enclosing three chapels, a castle, a visitors' centre, a gift shop, the ‎monks' quarters and a garden. I had expected something much smaller. I was also ‎surprised from the number of crowds visiting there. Hundreds of Christians, many ‎coming in groups from all over Egypt, were there on pilgrimage. I had expected a quiet ‎and reflective atmosphere. Inside on of the chapels, religious icons lined the walls, as the ‎pilgrims were praying and getting their blessings. As we stood inside, a couple of ‎pilgrims started on a religious chant – the lyrics were posted on the wall for those that ‎didn’t know them. Gradually, more and more people joined them, and before we knew it, ‎there were like 40 to 50 people, all chanting together. It was such a spiritual atmosphere, ‎that we found ourselves chanting with them even though we’re not Christian (couldn’t ‎help but wonder then what some of our more religious relatives would think about this!). ‎Even my 2 year old son was chanting with us! It reminded me so much of the time I was ‎in Tibet and I went into a Buddhist temple there and attended a session of prayers and ‎chants with around 100 monks – another amazingly spiritual experience. You completely ‎lose yourself. I think that there are so many ways and routes to achieve spirituality that ‎it is just too limiting to try to reach God from the way you were taught to do. As they sy, ‎God speaks many languages.

On the way back from the monastery, we found signs on the road leading to an eco-lodge ‎called Al Hammra Eco-lodge. Naturally, we had to check it out.

Turns out it’s a really ‎nice and cozy lodge built close to a salt water lake by an ex army General. His car got ‎stuck there one day, and he loved the place, so he bought the land and built an eco lodge ‎on it! The chalets there are all built from natural materials and we had a great time ‎walking around, enjoying the scenery, chatting with the owner and his guests, and eating ‎some nice home cooked food. I just love eco-lodges. I would take them any day over ‎fancy resorts. Other eco-lodges I recommend in Egypt: Basata in the Sinai, Zad Al ‎Musafir in Tunis (close to Fayyoum), and I hear that Adrere Amellal in Siwa is amazing ‎‎(but still haven’t been there though).‎

It was certainly my kind of day. No plan, no schedule, but you learn and explore and enjoy so much more than you would if you had one.

6 comments:

LouLou said...

Global,

Yes God speaks many languages. I always find church services very moving & spiritual.

And your more religious relatives won't like it. I think you already know that.:)

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