Monasticism is considered Egypt’s greatest gift to the world. It is a life of solitude, prayer, contemplation, charitable deeds and manual labour. It is being one with God, where the monastic focuses all their life on being with God and doing His will. Monasticism is built on three basic principles: poverty, obedience and chastity. Monasticism was founded by the Egyptian Saint Antony who was granted the title ‘father of monasticism’.

Other important names in monasticism are Saint Macarius and Saint Pachomius, both from Egypt. It was Saint Pachomius who began to constitute monastic rules and innovated the concept of communal monastic living; an innovation that is based on monastic life today. Benedictine Monasticism in the West based its monastic rules on those of Saint Pachomius. Many visitors came from the west in the early years of monasticism to learn from the simple Egyptian monks. People such as Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Jerome, Saint John Cassian and Saint Palladius wrote many books about the lives and sayings of the desert monks of Egypt as they experienced them.

Monasticism is still thriving today, thanks to a revival led by His Holiness Pope Shenouda III. Many young men and women who were all well educated have chosen to leave the world in exchange for monastic life. There are many inhabited monasteries and convents in Egypt as well as new monasteries being established abroad in the diaspora, such as in Europe, the USA and Australia.