Jerusalem sits on the edge of the Judean desert which make exploring this area a great day trip. It’s a fun adventure to take a jeep and drive off road where all you see is a barren landscape and suddenly bump into camels or have a a cluster of buildings come into view over the hill. It’s also a great place for a photo shoot.
Christian monks came to the quiet of the Judean desert in the early 4th century identifying with Moses, Elijah, Jesus and others who spent time here. Mar Saba, who lived at Euthymius for 12 years before receiving permission to live alone in the desert, found the spring and caves in the Kidron valley. Some 15 years later, in 483CE he built a laura, a cluster of caves for hermits around the monastery, that bears his name to this day.
This is the largest monastery complex in the Judean desert, multiple buildings enclosed by a wall and tower for protection. He directed it for 50 years. At its peak it accommodated hundreds of monks, today there are about 20 monks who live there. Women are not allowed inside the monastery, the closest they can get is to view the complex from the Women’s Tower; interesting that meat and apples are also prohibited.
As a guide, I can take you to experience the desert and discover that isolated monastery in the Kidron valley.
For more information about Mar Saba, including photographs inside the compound see the entry at the excellent BibleWalks site http://www.biblewalks.com/sites/MarSaba.html
It’s worth combining a visit with other sites in the area, the monastery of St. George tucked into the cliff in Wadi Qelt, the monastery of Euthymius and Martyrius, in the midst of an Industrial park and housing project respectively, museum of mosaics at the Inn of the Good Samaritan and Qasr el Yahud, the site on the Jordan River where according to tradition John baptized Jesus.