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Ancient Pilgrimage to Abu Mena

Ancient Pilgrimage to Abu Mena

About 31 miles southwest of Alexandria, Egypt, sits the ancient ruins of one of the earliest Christian cities, Abu Mena. It was built as a shrine for the martyr Menas of Alexandria, who died in 296 A.D. Soon after, it became one of the biggest Christian pilgrimage centers in the world. Most of the city is in ruin, with only a couple of buildings in relatively good condition. However, because of their historical and cultural value, especially its importance in early Christianity, UNESCO designated it a World Heritage site in 1979. Today, the site still welcomes pilgrims and other visitors who want to see its remains.

The City Ruins

Inside the city of Abu Mena are the remains of a church, baptistry, basilicas, public buildings, streets, monasteries, houses, and workshops.

Bedouin raids and marble pilfering, as well as natural decay and an ill-conceived agricultural irrigation project nearby, have all contributed to the city’s ruin.

The outline of the vast basilica remains intact, though. A small wooden chapel was built over the original altar. A cabinet nearby houses a piece of St Mena’s body.

Abu Mena Is In Danger, But Tourists Can Still Visit

Due to the changing water tables, which have hurt the city’s excavations, UNESCO has labeled Abu Mena an endangered site.

The site is still reachable via a dirt road that is accessible to ordinary traffic. The city is along the road to the south of the Monastery of St Mena.

It’s best to avoid visiting Abu Mena during November through February due to the high rains and thunderstorms that the area gets. It’s also best to avoid visiting during the month of Ramadan because everything is closed.

The sweltering summer months aren’t great either.

The best time to visit Abu Mena is September to November, and the spring, mainly March through April. There are many things to explore in the areas around the ancient city, too, including Alexandria.

Whichever time of the year you decide to visit, Abu Mena is definitely worth the journey. The city tells the story of early Christianity and what role Egypt had in the early days of the religion.

Just let us know when you want to make your pilgrimage, and we’ll handle all the rest.

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