Conservation Heritage News Egypt

Mount Sinai monks threatened with deportation

An Egyptian ex-army general wants to tear down Saint Catherine’s monastery and expel its mostly Greek monks as a threat to national security

Saint Catherine’s monastery was founded in the sixth-century and was made a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2002

An Egyptian ex-army general has called for a monastery in Sinai to be destroyed and the monks who live there to be deported—because he says they are a threat to national security.

According to Egyptian news source Ahram, Ahmed Ragai Attiya has filed suit to demolish Saint Catherine’s with the city of Ismailiya’s administrative court. Although the monastery was founded in the sixth-century and was made a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2002, Attiya says that most of the buildings that comprise the complex were built in 2006 and so cannot be classed as historic, which would protect them from destruction.

Saint Catherine’s, named after the Christian martyr, is located at the foot of Mount Sinai, purportedly on the spot where god spoke to Moses through a burning bush. It is famous for its collection of early Christian manuscripts, as well as its Byzantine architecture, and is one of the earliest Christian monasteries to survive intact.

Attiya says that the monks who live at the monastery, most of whom are Greek, pose a threat to national security. He has also accused them of trying to hide Moses’ Well, where Moses is meant to have met his wife, and of raising the Greek flag on Egyptian soil. A panel of experts is investigating Attiya’s claims, which have been denied by the monastery’s lawyer.

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8 May 14
22:14 CET


This would have been a laughable suggestion a decade ago. How frightening to see the difference a few years of political instability can make. How terrifying that the outcome of this situation depends entirely on the influence of General Attiya.

30 Apr 14
22:59 CET


I hope & pray that St. Catherine's Monastery will continue to be a holy place of prayer as it has been for several centuries.

29 Apr 14
17:39 CET


Greece has enough problems to solve, rather than posing a national insecurity to other countries. People like the ex-General, had a "reason" to annihilate the 5m Jews, attempt to destroy the Sphinx, the Buddhist sites in Afghanistan, the US Twin Towers, and now, are blood thirsty for St Catherine Monastery! But, on a sincere note, if the monks are, actually, are raising a Greek flag in Egypt, BIG MISTAKE!

24 Apr 14
18:10 CET


This (lighthearted) account in a Cairo equivalent of Time Out seems to present this as the rantings of a not too dangerous nutter:

24 Apr 14
15:12 CET


It seems the ex-general who wants to do this is 76 and probably not entirely sane, but the very fact that the authorities feel they have to seem to take his mad allegations seriously is rather sinister. The surrounding tribes people are indignant and say they have been protecting the monastery for hundreds of years and no one should mess with the monks. Good for them.

23 Apr 14
17:44 CET


Who knows anything about this man? is he an irrelevant crank or is this serious and supported by public opinion? a dreadful suggestion in any case.

23 Apr 14
17:44 CET


This is outrageous! One of the oldest and surely the most famous monastery. Other than the fact that it houses the greatest collection of icons in the world, it is a symbol of what a monastery initially was: an oasis of faith in the most inhospitable environment.

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