In CS Releases, News

By Raymond Ibrahim – Exclusive to Coptic Solidarity –

Local authorities decided to close down the Saint Catherine Monastery in the Sinai Peninsula, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, on January 5 and January 6, when Christmas church services are held according to the Coptic Orthodox calendar.   The general directorate of tourist police further ordered all tourist companies not to lead tours to the historic monastery.

Although the official reason for closing down the building and canceling Christmas is due to the “establishment of a plan for the development of the surrounding area” as befits a World Heritage Site, it is believed that the order came as a precautionary safeguard against Islamic terrorists targeting the site and any foreign tourists visiting it during the Christmas holiday.

Built in the mid fifth century, the Saint Catherine Monastery is one of the oldest monasteries in the world; additionally, it has the oldest continuously operating library in existence, with many precious manuscripts.

Although surrounded by high, thick walls, the Christian site has increasingly come under terror threats, particularly as the Sinai Peninsula is a hotbed if jihadi activity, where Coptic Christians are openly attacked and sometimes slaughtered.

The monastery was targeted last April, when unknown gunmen opened fire on an Egyptian police checkpoint guarding it, killing one policeman and wounding four.  The Islamic State later claimed the attack.

Such is the symbolic importance for the church, and the primary reason tourists have been banned from visiting the historic Christian site on Christmas Eve.

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  • Nabil

    I was working in Sharm El-Sheikh for about 20 years, and I saw with my own eyes that it is not safe at all to drive from Ahmed Hamdi tunnel under the sues channel to Sharm El Sheikh and to Saint Catherine Monastery as well, because of the high slack of security as all what they do is to check the ID’s and ask about the reason of going to Sharm El-Sheikh or Saint Catherine and take the newspapers of the day from the buses drivers and that’s it!!!, which is not enough to secure the road and the whole area of north and south Sinai

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