Difference between revisions of "Mount Sinai"
Revision as of 13:07, 20 July 2009
Mount Sinai is said to be the place where Moses received the Ten Commandments from God; indeed, the Arabic name Gebel Musa means "Mount of Moses". While there is very little archaeological evidence to support this assertion, the mountain is still a popular pilgrimage site and home to the Monastery of St. Catherine, a Greek Orthodox monastery founded in the 6th century, one of the longest-running monasteries in the world and itself at the supposed location of the Burning Bush. The small town of al-Minya, outside the entrance to the valley, has sprung up to cater to tourists.
Your only choice of transport is by road. Dahab is 2 hours and 150 kilometers away, while the trip from Sharm el-Sheikh or Nuweiba is closer to 3 hours. Most visitors arrive on tours that arrive at approximately 1am at the foot of the mountain in order for travelers to climb the mountain overnight and watch the sunrise. Any guesthouse in Sinai can arrange for you to join a tour. There are also several very small Bedouin camps in St. Catherine that serve as accommodations for small groups of pilg mosses
You have two choices for getting around and climbing the mountain: on foot, or by camel. See Do for the full scoop.
The Monastery of St. Catherine,  at the foot of the mountain, is the easier of the two destinations here. Looking more like a fortress than a church, access is through a massive iron gate shut for the night and opened in the morning from 9 AM to 12 AM only (daily except Friday and Sunday). Note that the monastery observes the Greek Orthodox rites and is thus also closed for Christmas and Easter as calculated by the Greek Orthodox calendar.
Climbing Mount Sinai is the main objective for most visitors. There are two routes to choose from, entrances to which are rather poorly signposted, so choose carefully especially if climbing at night. Both paths lead to natural amphitheater known as Elijah's Hollow or the Seven Elders of Israel, where you'll find a teahouse for a break. From there, it's a final 750 steps (30 minutes) to reach the summit.
At the top you will find a small chapel dedicated to the Holy Trinity, constructed in 1934 on the ruins of an older 16th-century church. Better yet, if you timed your ascent right, you can see the sunrise over the parched, rocky expanse of the Sinai.
Note that it will be much cooler at the summit than on the coast, and in the winter at night subzero temperatures and even snow are not unknown. Dress warmly in layers, a flashlight is also a must. Blankets and mattresses can be rented at the top for circa 10 Egyptian pounds per piece, however, their state of cleanliness may be objectionable.
The intense silence of the mountain as well as its spiritual history makes it a popular spot for yoga and meditation groups. The local 'Gebeliya' Bedouin also run silent retreats for visitors, as well as trekking trips .
A local Bedouin woman has set up an exquisite craft shop in the village of St Katherine's. Fansina employs more then 200 local tribeswomen to make traditional hand-woven handicrafts which are unavailable anywhere else in the Sinai.
Eat & Drink
The monastery's hostel serves breakfast, but charges 10 LE (approximately $1.75) for an egg, a slice of bread with fig jam and a tea bag if you're not spending the night.
The only way out from Mt. Sinai is back to the coast.