Reuters gives us a bit of history in Modernity Meets Monasticism in Egypt’s Desert, a visit to St. Anthony’s Monastery, “considered by many to be the world’s oldest active Christian monastery.” Founded in 356 A.D., St. Anthony’s “has survived Bedouin raids, the Islamic conquest of Egypt, and wars between Egypt and Israel that turned the area into a combat zone. It welcomes those seeking God in silence.”
Described as the earliest Christian monk, St. Anthony set off into the desert around the year 280 A.D. and settled in the mountain caves around this desert oasis.
He is considered to be one of the first Christians to withdraw completely from society, living in the desert with only animals for company.
… At the monastery, bearded monks in black robes lead visitors through narrow paths between stone churches, monk cells, an ancient refectory monks say was built by the Roman emperor, Justinian, and a library containing over 1,700 manuscripts.