Called by the ancient inhabitants of the Nile valley "The Red Land" , the Eastern Desert is between the Nile and the Red Sea; valuable wares originated from Arabia, Africa, India and elsewhere in the east conveyed across The Red Land. A history dating from Prehistoric to Byzantine time. This vast, desolate area, rimmed by the Red Sea Mountains to the east and the Nile Valley in the west, was once criss-crossed by ancient trade routes and dotted with settlements that played vital roles in development of many of the region's greatest civilizations. Today the Eastern Desert rugged expanses are filled with fascinating footprints of that history, including rock inscriptions, ancient gold and mineral mines, wells, watchtowers, religious shrines and buildings. Time spent here is one of the highlights of any visit to the Red Sea coast; it's a world apart from the commercialized coastline. Join ZARZORA Expeditions in one of the most unforgettable journeys you will ever experience in your lifetime.
Route & Program
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Arrival to Cairo
Cairo – ST. PAUL Monastery – Wadi Qena
Wadi Abu Marwa – Bir Murayr
Om Balad – Deir Al-Atrash
Mons Claudianus – Wadi Atallah
Wadi Hammamat – The Cave of Boats – Didymoi – Wadi Zeydun
Jabal Hadrabah – Wadi Al-Dabah – Wadi Hafafit
Wadi Al-Gemal – The Roman Road
The Roman Road to Berenice (Ancient Roman seaport) – Marsa Alam
Route & Program
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Day 1: Arrival to Cairo
Day 2: Cairo – ST. PAUL Monastery – Wadi Qena
Day 3: Wadi Abu Marwa – Bir Murayr
Day 4: Om Balad – Deir Al-Atrash
Day 5: Mons Claudianus – Wadi Atallah
Day 6: Wadi Hammamat – The Cave of Boats – Didymoi – Wadi Zeydun
Day 7: Jabal Hadrabah – Wadi Al-Dabah – Wadi Hafafit
Day 8: Wadi Al-Gemal – The Roman Road
Day 9: The Roman Road to Berenice (Ancient Roman seaport) – Marsa Alam
Day 10: Departure
The Monastery of Saint Paul the Anchorite in Egypt : is a Coptic Orthodox monastery located in the Eastern Desert, near the Red Sea mountains. It is about 155 km (96 mi) south east of Cairo. The monastery is also known as the Monastery of the Tigers. The Monastery of Saint Paul the Anchorite dates to the fifth century AD. It was founded over the cave where Saint Paul the Anchorite lived for eighty years. The first travel narrative of the monastery was provided by Antoninus Martyr, a native of Placentia, who visited the tomb of Saint Paul the Anchorite between the years 560 and 570 AD. The first monks to occupy the monastery may have been Melkites, but they were followed by Egyptian and Syrian monks. The Syrians may have had a sustained existence at the monastery, for it appears that they also occupied the monastery during the first half of the fifteenth century, after which their presence disappeared. Like most of Egypt's monasteries, this one suffered repeatedly at the hands of Bedouin tribes. The most destructive of their raids was in 1484 AD, when many of the monastery's monks were killed and the library was put to the torch. The monastery was later rebuilt under the patronage of Pope Gabriel VII of Alexandria (1526–69 AD), who sent ten monks from the Syrian Monastery to populate the monastery of Saint Paul the Anchorite. During the second half of the sixteenth century, the monastery was again attacked and ransacked twice by the Bedouins, forcing the monks to finally leave. The monastery remained deserted for the following 119 years, only to be repopulated by a group of monks from the Monastery of Saint Anthony under the patronage of Pope John XVI of Alexandria (1676–1718 AD), who promoted an extensive reconstruction of the monastery in 1701 .
Eastern Desert : Originating just southeast of the Nile River delta, it extends southeastward into northeastern Sudan and from the Nile River valley eastward to the Gulf of Suez and the Red Sea. It covers an area of about 85,690 square miles (221,940 square km). The Eastern Desert consists of a rolling sandy highland that rises abruptly from the Nile valley and merges some 50 to 85 miles (80 to 137 km) east of the Nile into the Red Sea Hills, a series of rugged volcanic, north–south-trending mountain chains that reach a maximum height of 7,175 feet (2,187 metres) at Mount Shaib al-Banat. The desert receives occasional rainfall and is extensively dissected by wadis (dry beds of seasonal streams). Most of the sedentary population lives in small fishing, mining, or petroleum-extracting communities along the Red Sea coastal plain east of the Red Sea Hills. Nomadic desert dwellers live by herding and trading. The Eastern Desert, relatively isolated from the rest of Egypt, is rich in natural resources including Egypt's major oil fields (located both onshore and offshore in the Gulf of Suez) and deposits of phosphate, asbestos, manganese, uranium, and gold.
Deir al-Atrash : (Monastery of the Deaf One), al-Saqqia, and al-Heita. These clearly accommodated traffic coming from the quarries of Mons Porphyrites and its environs and some-those at al-Saqqia, al-Heita, and one other-also serviced traffic from Mons Claudianus.
Mons Claudianus : is at the foot of Jebel Fatira, located about 30 miles from Port Safaga just of the Qena road. This was a Roman Penal Colony of substance, where Quartzy diorite, high quality granite, was mined as building materials for the Roman Empire. This black stone can still be seen in Rome in the portico of the Pantheon, in Hadrian's Villa, and public baths and in the columns and floor of the Temple of Venus. A temple begun by Hadrian but never finished is in ruins, but the staircase leading to it can still be seen. There is also a Roman camp, dwellings, workshops, stables and a dromos. The camp is surrounded by granite walls with rounded defense towers on the corners, to protect it from Bedouin attacks. There are hot springs today, which were used in a complex underground heating system for the sweating baths. The actual quarries are on the opposite side of the wadi. There are fragments of granite, with several ruined artifacts such as a broken column and column slab. Excavations at two quarry sites in the remote Red Sea mountains show that the labourers who worked them and the soldiers in charge had a diet much richer and more varied than was thought. Staples included wheat, lentils, dates, donkey meat and wine, along with luxuries such as artichokes, pine nuts, pomegranate, grapes, watermelon and even black pepper from India. There were also a number of transport cafés along the roads linking the quarries to the Nile Valley.
In Ancient Egypt Hammamat : was a major quarrying area for the Nile Valley. Quarrying expeditions to the Eastern Desert are recorded from the second millennia BCE, where the wadi has exposed Precambrian rocks of the Arabian-Nubian Shield. These include Basalts, schists, bekhen-stone (an especially prized green metagraywacke sandstone used for bowls, palettes, statues, and sarcophagi) and gold-containing quartz. Pharaoh Seti is recorded as having the first well dug to provide water in the wadi, and Senusret I sent mining expeditions there. The site is described in the earliest-known ancient geological map, the Turin Papyrus Map, describing a quarrying expedition prepared for Ramesses IV.
ROCK ART The history of the Wadi Hammamat : extends much further back than pharaonic times. Artifacts from the Badarian period (about 5500-about 4000 BC) and numerous Predynastic petroglyphs (rock carvings), found immediately northeast of the bekhen stone quarries, attest its early importance. From before the era of writing, humans scratched depictions of animals and themselves on rock faces throughout the Eastern Desert. In the prehistoric era, in addition to representations of gazelles, long-horned cattle, giraffes, elephants , ostriches, and other animals, the artists who produced these images also carved sickle-shaped boats, animal traps, and human hunters. This art may represent game that they stalked for food or may embody more magical or religious meanings ; we simply do not know. The richness of wildlife, however, is a strong indication that the Eastern Desert was more abundantly watered in late prehistory than it is today. The style in which these carvings were made, by comparison to designs painted on pottery, allows us to date them to sometime before the late fourth millennium BC.
BERENICE : an ancient seaport of Egypt, on the west coast of the Red Sea. Built at the head of a gulf, the Sinus Immundus, or Foul Bay, of Strabo, it was sheltered on the north by Ras Benas (Lepte Extrema). The port is now nearly filled up, has a sand-bar at its entrance and can be reached only by small craft. Most important of the ruins is a temple; the remnants of its sculptures and inscriptions preserve the name of Tiberius and the figures of many deities, including a goddess of the emerald mines. Berenice was founded by Ptolemy II. (285-247 B.C.) in order to shorten the dangerous Red Sea voyages, and was named in honour of his mother. For four or five centuries it became the entrepot of trade between India, Arabia and Upper Egypt. From it a road, provided with watering stations, leads north-west across the desert to the Nile at Coptos. In the neighbourhood of Berenice are the emerald mines of Zabara and Sakof less than twenty-five centimeters.
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