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Place names
Arabicقصر عين مصطفى كاشف | دير مصطفى كاشف
FrenchDeir Mustafa Kashef | Deir Moustafa Kachef | Deir Mustapha Kâshef | Qasr Ayn Moustafa Kachef | Qasr Moustafa Kachif
EnglishDeir Mustafa Kashif | Ain Mustafa Kashif | Qasr Ayn Mustafa Kashif
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Site information
DEChriM ID17
Trismegistos GeoID59094
Pleiades ID776168
PAThs ID413
Ancient name-
Modern nameDayr Muṣṭafā Kāšif
Date from-200
Date to660
TypologyMonastic settlement
Dating criteria

14C; analysis of the ceramic in the kom to the west of the site.


Dayr Muṣṭafā Kāšif sits on the S-W cliff of Ǧabal al-Ṭayr, located a few hundred meters north of al-Baǧawāt cemetery and 250 meters east of the monastic settlement of Dayr al-Baǧawāt (Ghica 2012: 199). The structure consists of at least three floors encompassed by what appears from the outised as heavily fortified walls that are still standing to a height of around 15 meters in some areas (Lythgoe 1908: 86). No archaeological excavations have been conducted on the site as of yet, with the current corpus of information deriving from architectural and epigraphic studies, as well as radiocarbon analysis. The relative chronology of the site and general interpretation of the construction phases are still in need of refining, but what follows is the most complete chronology to date.

The structure that stands now developed around an initial building of relatively small proportions, understood to have been a temple constructed in the Ptolemaic period (Ghica 2016: 202). An additional, considerably larger structure was then built under the Principate, understood to have had either an administrative or military function (Ghica 2012: 202; 2019: 132 & fig. 9). This Roman structure is located immediately to the east of the Ptolemaic construction, with the two possibly sharing a wall (Ghica 2019: 132 & fig. 9). The initial Ptolemaic construction subsequently underwent a number of modifications between the third and fourth centuries CE. The changes dated to the fourth century have been associated with a hermitic occupation of the Ptolemaic structure (Ghica 2016: 202; 2019: 132). This hypothesis was inferred from the crosses decorating the walls of the temple, and the seemingly independent functioning of the building, with majority of the surrounding constructions of the Dayr Muṣṭafā Kāšif complex being built at later dates.

We must also keep in mind the geographic context of the structure in relation to the known monasteries in the oasis – those of Dayr al-Baǧawāt, ‘Ayn Ǧallāl and ‘Ayn Sa’af-East – and to the hermitages of Ǧabal al-Ṭayr, all of which are situated around Dayr Muṣṭafā Kāšif. This sort of monastic belt to the N-NW of Hibis can hardly be accidental and encourages us to entertain the possibility that Dayr Muṣṭafā Kāšif functioned as the spiritual centre of this monastic cluster and, at least for some time, like an episcopal see (Ghica 2012: 202; 2019: 131). While this theory would require further support, in particular written evidence, the religious character of the Dayr Muṣṭafā Kāšif complex is undeniable, with the presence of a church in the S-E corner of the ‘Roman’ structure, located on the second floor (Ghica 2019 fig. 9). The addition of the church occurred probably sometime during the fifth century, as part of restorations that were carried out in response to fire damage to the building (Ghica 2012: 200). Further testing is necessary in order to secure the date of the construction of this church (Ghica 2012: 200).

The structure was then converted into a monastery sometime between the fifth and seventh centuries (Ghica 2012: 199; 2016: 202; 2019: 132). A number of annexes added to the outside of the Ptolemaic temple/hermitage, near the western entrance, are to be dated prior to and in the seventh century given that the 14C dates acquired from the structure to the west date to the first half of the seventh century (Ghica 2012: 202; 2019 fig. 9). Additionally, these annexes (between the seventh century structure and the Ptolemaic temple/hermitage) have been seen as indicators of the monastery transforming into a place of pilgrimage centered on the veneration of the founding hermit (Ghica 2012: 200). The latter theory is tentative and lacks archaeological evidence, but the notion of Dayr Muṣṭafā Kāšif functioning as a monastery is supported by the numerous Coptic and Greek dipinti and graffiti. These are present on the walls of the rooms in the northern area of Dayr Muṣṭafā Kāšif, which represents the latest phase of the structure, much of which is believed to have been the work of resident monks (Ghica 2012: 200).

A final remarkable feature of Dayr Muṣṭafā Kāšif are the high walls, which appear from the ouside as being fortified, an illusion which has led several to call into question the religious nature of the building. Guy Wagner, for example, proposed that it was a Byzantine fortress rather than a fortified convent, specifically the kastron of Hibis (κάστρα Ἳβεως of O. Douch 220, 3; Wagner 1987: 171, 362). Wagner’s hypothesis has been refuted, however, with others identifying the kastron of Hibis with Umm al-Ġanā’im (Ghica 2012: 201). Instead, these fortifications can perhaps be explained in relation to the incursions of the Noubades and Maziques, which prompted inhabitants to develop defensive, or at least dissuasive, architecture (Reddé 1999: 379, 383; Grossmann 2002: 352; Ghica 2012: 200).

Archaeological research

No archaeological excavations have been conducted on the site as of yet. A number of architectural and epigraphic studies have been carried out, as well as radiocarbon analyses, by Institut français d’archéologie orientale (V. Ghica: 02.2007, 03.2007, 09.2007, 12.2008, 01.2012, 12.2019; M. Wuttmann / SKOS: 12.2008).


• Bagnall, R. S. 2001a. “The Camp of Hibis.” In Essays and Texts in Honour of J. David Thomas, edited by T. Gagos and R. Bagnall, 3-9. Oakville: American Society of Papyrologists.
• Bagnall R. S. 2001b. “A Coptic Graffito from the Valley Building at Deir Mustafa Kashef.” In Essays and Texts in Honour of J. David Thomas, edited by T. Gagos and R. Bagnall, 263.
Oakville: American Society of Papyrologists.
• de Bock, W. 1901. Matériaux pour servir à lʼarchéologie de lʼÉgypte chrétienne. 34-37. Saint Petersberg: Eugéne Thiele.
Ghica, V. 2012. “Pour une histoire du christianisme dans le désert Occidental d’Égypte.” Journal des savants 2: 189-280.
• Ghica, V. 2016. Vecteurs de la christianisation de l’Égypte au IVe siècle à la lumière des sources archéologiques.” In Acta XVI Congressus Internationalis Archaeologiae Christianae, Rome 22-28.9.2013, edited by Olof Brandt and Gabriele Castiglia, 242. Città del Vaticano: Pontificio Istituto di Archeologia Cristiana.
Ghica, V. 2019. “L’archéologie du monachisme égyptien au IVe siècle: État de la question.In Nag Hammadi à 70 ans, qu’avons-nous appris? Nag Hammadi at 70: What Have We Learned? Colloque international, Québec, Université Laval, 29-31 mai 2015, edited by Eric Crégheur, Louis Painchaud and Tuomas Rasimus, 131-132. Leuven, Paris, Bristol: Peeters.
Grossmann, P. 2002. Christliche Architektur in Ägypten. Leiden, Boston, Cologne: Brill.
• Lythgoe, A. M. 1908. “The Egyptian Expedition.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, vol. 3, 5 (May): 83-86.
Müller-Wiener, W. 1963. “Christliche Monumente im Gebiet von Hibis (el-Kharga).” Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts Kairo 19: 121-140.
Reddé, M. 1991. “l’ouest du Nil: une frontière sans soldats, des soldats sans frontière.In Roman Frontier Studies 1989. Proceedings of the XVth International Congress of Roman Frontier Studies, edited by V.A. Maxfield and M.J. Dobson, 485-493. Exeter: University of Exeter Press
Reddé, M. 1999. “Sites militaires romains de l’oasis de Kharga.” Bulletin de l’Institut français d’archéologie orientale 99: 377-396.
• Wagner, G. 1987. Les Oasis d’Égypte à l’époque grecque, romaine et byzantine d’après les documents grecs: Recherches de papyrologie et d’épigraphie grecques. Cairo: Institut français d’archéologie orientale.

Rhiannon Williams, Victor Ghica, 2020
Suggested citation
Rhiannon Williams, Victor Ghica, 2020, "Dayr Muṣṭafā Kāšif", 4CARE database - Fourth-Century Christian Archaeological Record of Egypt,
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© V. Ghica 2018, after Müller-Wiener 1963
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