The abandoned Monastery of St. Simeon is one of the largest and best preserved Coptic monasteries of all Egypt. The monastery is located on a hill on the west bank near the Aga Khan Mausoleum in Aswan and was once inhabited by thousands of residents.
The construction of the monastery begun in the 6th century, but it’s believed that it was not completed until the 7th century. It was first dedicated to Amba Hadra, a bishop of Aswan and a saint who lived in the fourth century. It is said that Amba Hadra, on the day after his wedding, encountered a funeral procession which inspired him to live the remaining years of his life as a hermit.
Originally, the monastery had walls ten meters high and towers which were used as lookout posts against enemies. From its point on the top of the hill, the monks could see for kilometres in all directions, and any approach to attack the monastery would be uphill in soft sand.
The monastery was rebuilt in the 10th century, but destroyed in 1173 by Saladin, who feared that it might serve as a refuge of Christian Nubians who made forays into southern Egypt.
Inside the monastery there is a small church where icons and paintings are still visible. The walls are painted with pictures of the apostles and angels in bright colours and Byzantine style. Many of the frescos were deliberately defaced by the Muslim invaders.