About a kilometer (1/2 mile) into the desert from the boat dock on the western bank, the ruins of the monastery of St. Simeon remain 8 centuries after it was officially destroyed by Salah el Din. What you see here, in fact, are the remains of a 10th century A.D. rebuilding of a 7th century A.D. monastery that was dedicated to St. Hadra, Bishop of Aswan. At the height of its power, this fortress-monastery (it was surrounded by a 10m/33-ft.-high wall) housed 300 monks and had guest accommodations for up to 100. Inside, there is a well-preserved church, and on the second floor you can visit the old cells with their rock-hard sleeping benches.

The walk up to the monastery from the dock takes about 30 minutes. On the other hand, you can usually hire a camel and guide at the boat dock and, because they work by the hour, the guides are perfectly happy to take you by various roundabout routes up to the monastery. Getting away from the water a little and approaching the monastery from the desert is a great experience.