"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.

  • Intro Updated Sep 19, 2006
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Reviews (7)

Comments (8)

  • Elisabcn's Profile Photo
    Apr 1, 2009 at 7:50 AM

    Selamat Siang Laszlo! I (virtually) enjoyed this hike to Debre Bizen Monastery. Nice views! Back home or still in Africa? :-) Cheers, Elisa

  • Peter_DK's Profile Photo
    Mar 6, 2007 at 9:43 AM

    Thanks for the very good tips! I really enjoy you pages! Keep them coming!

  • Aurorae's Profile Photo
    Sep 19, 2006 at 4:14 AM

    This was on the VT home page now, and again, the lng awaiting Eritrea! Hope to fit it in among my plans somewhere soon! (Still in Montenegro, btw!)

  • Feb 10, 2006 at 7:58 AM

    Wow! This place does look fantastic! Thank you for sharing. Greetings from Cape Town!

  • RoyJava's Profile Photo
    Feb 2, 2006 at 12:05 AM

    Great to see you around,... amazing VT Nefasit pages, unbelievable where you've been, greetzzz RoyJava

  • leonik's Profile Photo
    Nov 21, 2005 at 1:38 PM

    shucks.. so you didn't manage to get in even after paying 70 nakfas?! great scenery anyway!

  • ukirsari's Profile Photo
    Apr 26, 2005 at 11:05 AM

    keren abisssssssssssssssssss deh!!!! like somewhere at top of the world :)

  • sachara's Profile Photo
    Apr 1, 2005 at 4:00 AM

    Impressive page of this monastery and its mountaineous area. I visited the Debre Damo about 100 KM away from here in Ethiopia. Here I was allowed to walk the path to the rock, where only men were allowed to go up ... with ropes !


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