"Nefasit: The Gateway to Debre Bizen Monastery" Nefasit by hunwagner
Nefasit Travel Guide: 7 reviews and 10 photos
The nondescript little town along the road between Asmara and Massawa is of most interest as the starting point of the long hike up to the hill-top monastery of Debre Bizen.
This is probably the most impressive and accessible of Eritrea's ancient Orthodox Christian monasteries - at least if you are a man, as women are strictly banned even from setting out on the trail up there, let alone entering the monastery itself. An English-language sign reminds them of this near the trail-head.
Debre Bizen was founded in 1361, and at its peak housed 900 hundred monks. Though the number of monks has now fallen to just over 100, they still follow an austere lifestyle in strict isolation.
The monastery is also famous for its large collection of ancient manuscripts - what no one tells you before you actually climb up there is that you will neither be allowed to see those, nor to enter any of the churches.
As one young monk said "The churches are for us to communicate with our Lord, not for tourists to see". I can only agree - except that the Orthodox Church Headquarters in Asmara should also tell you this before charging you 70 Nakfas for a permit to visit.
Such disappintments aside, a visit to this fascinating monastery is still well worth it just for the general atmosphere, the chance to hike on a well-marked trail, and for the splendid views that await you up there.
Well, the views alone make a visit here worthwhile. On a clear day, you could see all the way down to the Red Sea coast... more travel advice
This is the main complex of buildings inside. After arrival, you are invited to a reception room where an old monk... more travel advice
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