HIKE TO MAR SABA MONASTERY IN THE JUDEAN DESERT
Mar Saba monastery in the Judean Desert is a man Orthodox monastery hidden in the mountains. Like a fortress on Mount Arbel, its foundation goes into the walls of the mountain, which once served as the abode of thousands of monks who lived here. Now only 16 monks live in Mar Saba, but on holidays this monastery, reminiscent of a medieval fortress, can host up to 400 people.
HISTORY OF MAR SABA MONASTERY IN THE JUDEAN DESERT
The Sava was born in the 5th century in Cappadocia (Turkey). At the age of 8, he became a novice at the monastery of St. Flaviana, and at 12 he took monastic vows. After several years in novices and life in seclusion, Sava left for the Jordanian desert, where novices soon began to flock to him. In 484 they erected the first of the monastery buildings - a church in a cave. Here was written the monastery charter of the famous monk Sava, which was later adopted throughout the Orthodox East.
There is a funny legend that says that Savva's cell was so impregnable that the Bedouins, who made periodic raids on the monastery, could not get to it. The Sava took pity on them and threw them the ladder. When the Bedouins finally entered his cell and saw how poor he lived, they began to bring him food. By the way, even now the monastery exists largely due to the help of pilgrims. Everything here is so traditional and ascetic that there is not even electricity in the monastery.
By the end of Sava's life, about 5,000 monks lived in Mar Saba Monastery. The monastery contains the relics of both the Sava himself and the monks killed by the Persians in the 7th century. Interestingly, the monastic manuscripts say 10,000 dead, while the remains of 700 were found.
The monastery is open to visits, but its charter prohibits women from entering. At the same time, they say that the monastery's holy water helps women who cannot get pregnant. Everyone who wants to take out the water in a glass. Women can also stay in a separate hotel next to the monastery. During the life of Sava, this was a monastery that he built for his mother.
Of course, I did manage to get inside, and the decoration of the main church, founded in the 6th century, is quite rich: black and white marble floor, gilded altar, walls are decorated with frescoes.
HOW TO GET TO MAR SABA MONASTERY
Finding an excursion to Mar Saba monastery is much more difficult than to Jaffa, Jerusalem, Nazareth, and other tourist places. but I can take you on a tour to Mar Sava Monastery every day!, there is also an excursion to Mar Saba on my site called" Judean desert tour". This time I took a hike and used the local camels provided by the Beduins - more on that below.
As for "under its own power": since the main road leading to the monastery passes through zone A, it is not dangerous driving there by car with Israeli license plates (that is, it is not prohibited, a tour guide official car will do the job). Many people will think twice if it's worth it, but believe me, this is a lifetime experience!. The thing is that 19 years ago it was in this place that a jeep tour was shot, in which there were, of course, Israelis. The case is old, but the locals still remember it.
VISIT MAR SABA WITH A PRIVATE TOUR GUIDE IN ISRAEL
It seems to me that no person in the Israeli community has not heard of The famous tours in the Judean desert. Once upon a time, I found a group on Facebook called " hikers of the desert" and followed what was happening there for a long time before I had the opportunity to guide by myself in the Judean desert.
In case you still don’t know about them or you’re just wondering how it all goes, I’ll tell you. The creators of the group are, judging by the description on their website, professional guides in love with Israel. Every (well, almost every) Thursday and Friday, they arrange free trips to less touristy places in Israel.
What does shareware mean? There is no official set price - at the end of the hike, everyone gives as much as they see fit. There is a guide who leads you along the route but tells you to a minimum, so this is a hike, not a tour. The main thing is that you can get to the meeting point. If you don't have a car, you can find a tremp in the group, therefore the best option to visit a unique place such as the Mar Sava monastery in the Judean desert is definitely with a professional tour guide!
Importantly, on this trip, you don't have to carry tents and sleeping bags, this place can be explored in one single day. as a tour leader in Israel, I agree with the Bedouins to spend the night in their camp(in case you re interested to spend a night in the Judean desert), where they were to transport our things and where makluba (rice with chicken) and hot tea were waiting for us in the evening. Their services cost 20$ for bringing things, overnight stay, and security, and 15$ for dinner.
So, we drove a caravan to the parking lot, which was guarded by the Bedouins. From there we immediately began a steep climb. Fortunately, we started walking at 18:00, when the heat had already subsided. The route is considered easy, but if you, like us, spend most of your weekends on the couch, it can be difficult for you. And it's also scary from habit, especially if you have a fear of heights or such a strange phenomenon as the fear of slipping, which luckily I don't have. This is where I have to say how important it is to invest in good trekking boots. They are comfortable, protect the leg well, and most importantly they do not slip. Better buy a tent and a simpler mattress, but take quality shoes.
SUNRISE OVER MAR SABA MONASTERY
We met at the sunset right in front of Mar Saba. The sun was slowly sinking behind the mountain that served as the walls of the monastery. The view is fabulous, although less spectacular than at dawn when the sun casts a golden light on the monastery. For this view, we got up at 4:30 the next day. By the way, keep in mind that if you want to take a more difficult (but "much more beautiful") route and you are a beginner with a lot of fears, do not see each other! Take your pride away and take an easier route. In the morning we acted differently and went along a "slightly more difficult route". On the other hand, small children (who have no fears) can follow the same route.
We spent the night in a Bedouin camp. Maklyuba was delicious (although how could it be otherwise after 7 km in the mountains?). There were tents in the camp, in which we were allowed to sleep, but it was so stuffy there that we just threw foam and sleeping bags on the ground and spent the night in the open air. We decided not to take the tent counting on tents, and in vain. The moon was shining so strongly that we could not sleep, but hey this is nature!. Also, you need to understand that most people go on hikes for the sake of communication, including at night.
The advantage of these hikes is that they allow you to visit places that you would hardly go to yourself. And the main drawback is that if you are not one of those happy people who can sleep in any place and position, you will most likely have a sleepless night. Plus, on a hike, there will definitely be a couple of people who believe that sleep is for weaklings and the night is given to hang out. On the other hand, if you are one of the people who would happily exchange a night of sleep on a hike for talking around a fire with wine and a guitar, then you will surely find like-minded people and, possibly, new friends.
So, we met the sunrise in front of Mar Saba. Here I usually tell my guests the history of the monastery. Then we headed back to the cars. The descent was easy even before the heat began.
The trek was great and I definitely recommend visiting this place for you. I definitely recommend this format to you if you need to have a tour guide who will tell the story of each stone, and if you are not afraid of the inconveniences of camping life.
Opening hours: from 9.00 (10.00 in winter) to sunset.
Closed on Wednesdays and Fridays (except Christmas, Epiphany, and Holy Week).
Opening hours of the monastery of Mar Saba