Saint Paul of Thebes (also known as Saint Paul the Anchorite) made his way into the desert to live as a hermit in the 4th century, after a wealthy upbringing in Alexandria. It was his fellow penitent Anthony who revealed his sainthood to him. The monastery was built in the 5th century, after the saint's death. Following several raids about a thousand years later, the monastery was abandoned. Again Anthony came to Paul's aid: monks from the Monastery of Saint Anthony eventually reopened Saint Paul's.
A 7-km (4-mi) drive west from the Red Sea Coast highway twists through the rugged mountains and deposits you near the entrance of Saint Paul's Monastery. The high walls of the monastery are surrounded by a village, which has a bakery, mills, and a few surrounding fields. The buildings of the monastery are believed to encompass the cave in which Saint Paul lived for nearly 80 years. In the Church of Saint Paul, paintings of the Holy Virgin cover the walls.
To experience the ascetic life of the monastery, you can overnight in guesthouses here; women lodge outside the walls, men inside. For permission to lodge here, and for information on open days and hours, contact the monastery residence in Cairo.