The recent wave of torrential rains sweeping vast areas of Egypt’s northern regions has led to the flooding of the 4th century monasteries in Wadi al-Natroun in the Western Desert.
Since many of the old churches, which are mainly mudbrick structures, are lower than the ground level of the monasteries, several of them were inundated in rainwater. The Wadi Natroun region is home to the four monasteries of Abu-Maqar (St Macarius), Anba Bishoi, the Surian (Syrian) monastery of the Holy Virgin, and the Baramos.
According to a report by the Ministry of Antiquities which sent over a delegation to assess the damages, the dome above the nave in the old church of Surian monastery has suffered extensive architectural damage, but it is a dome that has no ornamentation or decorative elements. A portion of the modern wall between the Surian monastery and Anba Bishoi’s caved in. Other than that, the Ministry’s report said, Abu Maqar’s, Anba Bishoi’s, and al-Surian monasteries, walls, keeps, churches and monk cells were intact after pumping out the water. The church of the Holy Virgin at al-Baramos, however, was totally inundated; the water was 1.5m to 3m high in several spots in the monastery. Over some 17 hours, the water was pumped out, but the walls and floor of the building is still wet.
Antiquities Minister Mamdouh al-Damati said all necessary measures to conserve and protect the historic sites are being taken.
Other than that, the monks at Anba Bishoi’s said that several of their livestock had died, being swept away by the rainwater. They also complained of losses in their fishery and beehives. They said the heavy rains were unprecedented, and that not much could have been done to avert the damages.
6 November 2015