Sara Maitland: desert silence

In Christian Century (March 2012 issue) author Sara Maitland (A Book of Silence, 2010; How to Be Alone, 2014) has written of her annual journey to the Sinai desert seeking meditative silence. From the article:

I feel a strong spiritual affinity for deserts. For the last six years I have lived as a semihermit on a moor in southern Scotland, which is isolated, wild and, to me, extraordinarily lovely. However, it is not a desert, so every fall I go to Sinai for a week. In order to be able to afford this—silence not being very profitable in the 21st century—I am employed by a travel company to introduce other people to desert silence. The company, which hires members of the Bedouin tribe as hosts, has a serious ecological commitment and a deep, predominantly Christian spiritual agenda. The expedition I work on, however, is not a standard retreat but a nondenominational exploration of silence itself. One consequent privilege is to have travelers from a wide range of traditions—including Muslims, Buddhists, Jews and people without any explicit religious affiliation, as well as Christians from across the spectrum.


“Heritage of the Desert Fathers” project

“The Heritage of he Desert Fathers” is a project based in Slovenia that intends to document historical and material sites of ancient Christian desert hermits in Egypt and Sudan. The site describes the project:

The Heritage of the Desert Fathers research project aims at mapping and photographic surveying of the locations of hermitages in the deserts around monasteries in Egypt and in the Sudan (the ancient Christian kingdoms of Nubia), in addition to the study of the ancient and modern eremetical traditions in their different psychological, theological as well as philosophical aspects.

The website includes lists of project participants, some articles to date, and a photo gallery of hermitages as well as of desert environs where the project crew works. The project holds the promise of greatly furthering knowledge and appreciation of this unique example of eremitism on such a large historical scale.