The monasteries we have been visiting are all located in an area referred to as Wadi Natrun, a low spot in the Western Desert northwest of Cairo where underground water from the Nile supports a series of small lakes.This area was important in Pharaonic Egypt because the naturn found here was used in the mummification process. (Naturn is described as a naturally occurring combination of sodium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate that forms in the lakes, which I think means it is a type of salt.)
It has been an important monastic center since the 4th century, and even today new churches and other religious buildings are under construction.
There is a busy little town here today, with a few fancy modern homes, plenty of small dilapidated structures, and a large variety of modest residential and commercial buildings.
Above it all tower a mosque’s slender twin minarets.
I wish I could spend more time looking around here.