During my stay near the lakes, I visited two of the Egypt Coptic convents, that are called the Syrian, and that of St. George; where I could observe no traces of any European traveller, but Baron Thunis, whom the Empress of Russia, had sent, some years before, to negotiate a defection on the part of the Beys; but who having exhibited less prudence than courage, in the promotion of the designs of his mistress, had been privately put to death in Kahira, by order of the Beys, to avoid delivering him to the Porte, as had been required of them. These convents contain each of them several religious, who retain all the simplicity of the primitive ages. They drink water, and eat coarse bread and vegetables; very seldom touching meat, wine, or coffee. They are ignorant indeed, but strangers to vice; and though their time is employed to no useful purpose, to neither is the application of it prejudicial to any.
They have each a small garden, which supplies common vegetables, and a breed of tame fowls, together with a well of water, within the walls; the rest of the necessaries of life are provided them by the voluntary contributions of the Christians of their own persuasion; and as the business of artificers and menials is all performed by the monastics themselves, their expenses are not very extended. The entrance to each is by a small trap-door, against which two great millstones are rolled within. The buildings appear to have lasted several centuries, and the walls are still firm and substantial. No praise is to be given to the religious for cleanliness; but as the lift of their furniture and apparel is very small, they cannot be frequently renewed; human beings more ignorant of mankind and their transactions than some of those whom I conversed with, are scarcely anywhere to be seen. But the superiors in both were in a certain degree intelligent. One of them, when I was admitted, was mending his shoes, and seemed to think little of theological controversies.
Book by William George Browne