heed the warnings of 5th century pilgrims!
EPILOGUE (cf. VIII. 151)
The dangers of journeying to the deserts
In many other parts of Egypt we came across holy men of God of great virtue doing marvellous things, totally filled with the grace of God. We have only mentioned a few of them. To describe them all would be beyond our powers.
We learned only by hearsay of those who are said to live in the upper Thebaid, that is around Syene, but they were held by almost everyone whom we did see to be even greater and more wonderful still. But we were unable to visit them because of the dangers of the journey. All parts of Egypt are infested with robbers, but beyond the city of Lycos you are in danger from barbarians as well. So none of us managed to visit there, though in truth even getting to see those whom we mention above was not without its perils.
We ran into danger seven times in this journey and even in the eighth we suffered no harm, as it is written (Job 5.19), the Lord always protecting us.
Once we wandered for five days and nights in the desert, suffering from thirst and near exhaustion.
Then we went through a valley which exuded a sort of salty liquid which the heat of sun turned into a salty deposit with sharp spikes just like winter hoarfrost turned to ice. The whole area was so rough that our feet were torn and scratched, as were the shoes we wore. Once we had got into this place we only managed to get out of it with great difficulty.
Thirdly, when we notwithstanding persevered onwards into the desert we came to a valley which again discharged a similar sort of liquid, but when we tried to cross through this place full of stones and stinking filth we sank up to our thighs. We were almost about to be covered in it when we cried to the Lord in the words of the psalm "Save me, O God, for the waters have come in even unto my soul. I am stuck in the deep mire where there is no ground" (Psalms 69.1-2).
Fourthly, we suffered danger in the waters left behind after the flooding of the Nile, through which we struggled for three days, and were scarcely able to get through.
Fifthly, we were in danger from pirates when we were travelling by sea. They followed us for ten miles but failed to put us to the sword, but left us to flee almost dead [with fright].
Sixthly, we had an accident in crossing the Nile when we were almost drowned.
Seventhly, in the swamps named after Mary [Maræotis palus, just west of the Cells], a fierce wind cast us up on an island during a terrible storm in the middle of winter. It was during Epiphanytide.
Eighthly, when we were on the way to the monasteries of Nitria we came to a place where the floodwaters of the Nile were still lying, making a sort of bog, in which were a lot of beasts, especially crocodiles. When the sun came out they lay on the shore, seeming dead to us in our ignorance. We went closer in order to see and admire the size of these beasts which we thought dead, but as soon as they heard the sound of our feet they woke up and began to rush towards us. With a great shout and groan we called upon the name of the Lord. who had mercy on us, and the beasts rushing towards us were driven back as if by an angel and cast immediately into the bog. And we continued quickly on our journey to the monastery, giving thanks to God who delivered up from such great perils and showed us such wonders. To him be glory and honour unto the ages of ages. Amen.
Although quite discreet, this police patrol joined our bus on our way to Belbeis and accompanied us from there to Mostorod and Al Matariyah.
We had no problem, but we've been told that this is a mandatory protections measure for tourist visiting the Christian sites located in particular Muslim areas.
- Religious Travel
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