A winding road leads to the Monastery of St Paul, hidden behind lofty walls. St Paul (AD 228-348) was from a wealthy Alexandrian family but became the earliest known hermit when he retreated to the Eastern Desert at the age of 16.
The monastery’s turreted walls were built around the cave where he lived for decades. The main Church of St Paul is painted with murals representing the Virgin and Child, and the archangels. The chapels contain scores of icons while ostrich eggs, a symbol of the Resurrection, hang from the ceiling.
A five-story keep behind the church, supplied with water from a hidden canal, was used to protect the monks from Bedouin raids.