Mount Sinai and Moses in Egypt, all information

Mount Sinai

Mount Sinai is located in Egypt, on the Sinai Peninsula. According to biblical legend, on top of it the prophet Moses received from God the stone tablets with the Ten Commandments. The famous sight annually attracts hundreds of thousands of pilgrims and tourists from around the world. There is a paved highway to the legendary Mount Moses from the resorts on the Red Sea.

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Video: Mount Sinai

Highlights

Access to the sacred summit of Mount Sinai is open to everyone year-round. Travelers vacationing in Red Sea resorts will find it convenient to join a full-day group bus tour. A leisurely ascent along the trail and then up the endless stone staircase is accessible to tourists with normal physical fitness. From the top of the mountain one can enjoy unforgettable panoramas of the Sinai Mountains. On a small plateau travelers can see the Christian chapel, a mosque, is also available cave, where the prophet Moses spent 40 days.

A tour of Mount Sinai would not be complete without a visit to the Orthodox monastery of St. Catherine, commonly known as the Sinai Monastery. The ancient complex, built at the foot of the mountain, has been operating for more than a thousand and a half years. Here are stored early Christian icons and manuscripts, in the temples you can see the magnificent Byzantine mosaics. Near the walls of the monastery church greens Neopalimaya Kupina – a mystical bush, from which Moses once heard the voice of the Almighty. At that moment, the branches were engulfed in flames, but not a single leaf was harmed. It is said that the plant is continually reborn from its ever-living root.

In the small town of St. Catherine, near Mount Sinai, you can buy souvenirs and dine at a restaurant. Travelers will find several hotels here.

The History of Mount Sinai

The miraculous story of the encounter between the prophet Moses and God atop Mount Sinai is vividly described in several chapters of the biblical book of Exodus. However, the authors of the Old Testament did not accurately indicate the location of the sacred mountain. Since the first centuries of the spread of Christianity, the church tradition associates with it the peak of Jabal Musa (Moses’ mountain). But some researchers are inclined to identify other peaks of the mountainous Sinai Peninsula and even neighboring Arabia with the place of the fateful event. By the way, Mount Sinai is mentioned in the Muslim Koran, and in the Jewish Torah. But in those holy books did not say exactly where it is located.

In the IV century the righteous Julian of Euphrates built a small chapel on top of Mount Moses. The first written mention of this temple dates back to 380. In the 6th century the Byzantine emperor Justinian the Great ordered a three-nave basilica of hewn stone to be built on a small mountain plateau. This church stood for about 500 years, but at the end of the 11th century it collapsed. An earthquake was probably the cause of the collapse of the walls. The pile of rubble of the temple lies on top of Mount Sinai to this day.

The current chapel in the name of the Holy Trinity was erected on the ruins of an ancient basilica in the 30s of the last century. It is a small stone house with a gable roof. Christian priests accompanying groups of pilgrims often hold liturgical services here, addressing their flock with passionate sermons. The chapel is open to all denominations, and prayers can be heard here in different languages.

Next to the Christian chapel is a Muslim mosque, which is a small cubic building built in the X or XI century. Muslims also deeply venerate the prophet Musa (Moses) and consider the mountain sacred. A cave is hidden under the structure and its walls are covered with ancient drawings.

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Geography and Climate

Mount Sinai lies in the southern part of the Sinai Peninsula, northwest of the resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh on the Red Sea coast. This area is called the Roof of Egypt. The landscape draws impressive mountain ranges and rocky gorges with the beds of long-dried rivers. Oases of date palms can be found in the areas where the underground water comes out. Camels and goats of the local Bedouins roam in the desert rocky valleys, almost devoid of vegetation, in search of scanty grass. The owners of the animals themselves set up traditional tents on the slopes. Lizards and geckos are permanent inhabitants of the mountain massifs, foxes and jerboas occur.

The peak of Mount Moses rises to 2,285 meters above sea level. From the top there is a panoramic view of all four sides of the world. Travelers can gaze across a pristine lunar-like wilderness landscape. At the foot of the mountain is the secluded monastery of St. Catherine, 2 km from the monastery can be seen the cottages of the village of St. Catherine. It is home to about 5000 people, the main activity of the population is the service of tourists. In the town built several hotels and restaurants, there is a gas station, post office, grocery stores, bus station. Through the village passes through the highway that crosses the peninsula from east to west – from the Suez Canal to the Gulf of Aqaba.

The climate on the plateau around Mount Sinai is classified as subtropical desert with extremely low humidity. The region has the coldest nights in Egypt. From December to February on the plateau at Mount Sinai, the temperature is kept between +5. +8 ° C, but sometimes at night falls below zero, there are snowfalls. In March and April the mountain air warms up to +15. +19 °С. Summer lasts from May to October, the daytime temperature comes to +23. +27 ° C, but at night it is cool. The best time to travel to Mount Sinai is autumn and spring.

Climbing to the summit

For travelers, climbing Mt. Sinai is an unforgettable adventure! At about 02:00-02:30 in the dead of night tour buses take sightseeing groups to the foot of the Sinai Mountain where a 7 km long, challenging hiking route begins by moonlight.

In the VI century the monks of Sinai monastery dug in the steep slope of the mountain about 3750 steps. Many of them are up to 1 meter high and some are crumbling, so it would be tiring to climb them. Usually it takes 2-3 hours to get to the shrine. This ascent is called the Penitential Steps.

In the 19th century, Egyptian ruler Abbas Pasha ordered the local Bedouins to pave an alternative camel trail down the slope of Mount Sinai, and the builders fulfilled his wish. The relatively gentle, stony serpentine path up the mountain became longer, but less tiring. Below the summit, however, the path leads to the same stairs. From here, the last section of 750 of the steepest steps remains to be climbed.

At the top of the mountain

The culmination of the adventure is an epic sunrise over the Sinai horizon, opening at one hundred kilometers. The valley at the foot of the mountain is still covered by the night dusk, but the many rocky peaks are already painted with the first rays, weaving a lace of light and shadow.

The sunset is no less picturesque for observers. To capture this stunning spectacle, tourists head to the summit in the afternoon. After sunset, romantics, who have brought sleeping bags, stay overnight at the ruins of the ancient Basilica of Justinian, the pilgrims spend the night in prayer.

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The main holy sanctuary of Mount Sinai is considered a cave, where, according to legend, the prophet Moses spent 40 days. Its entrance faces east. There is a staircase of 5 steps leading to the entrance. There are two pylons made of hewn stones taken from the ruins; on the lintel under the arch there is a bronze bell. The grotto is not deep, about 2 meters. On the walls of the grotto can be seen half-erased inscriptions in Greek and Armenian.

Dawn on Mount Moses

Practical information

There are group bus tours to Mount Sinai from resort hotels on the Red Sea coast. Tours cost $30-40 per person. Departing from the warm coast, you should remember that on the mountain plateau at night will be very cool. You should bring a sweater and light jacket. The careless tourists who forget about this advice risk freezing on the peak in the wee hours of the morning. However, the cautious Bedouins offer cloaks and blankets of dubious freshness for the frozen travelers. The cost of renting such clothes is 5-10 Egyptian pounds. Experienced tourists recommend taking a cap and gloves and a change of jacket to the mountain.

Beach flip-flops should be left in your room – you should wear sturdy walking shoes on the excursion to Mount Sinai. You can take a walking stick or Nordic walking sticks. Flashlight will come in handy, or you can light the way with your smartphone. Not out of place will be a thermos with a hot drink or a bottle of water. Prepare small bills in Egyptian pounds or dollars, you’ll need them to pay with local guides and camel jockeys. Make sure that the batteries of your gadgets are charged.

Where to Eat

There are a number of kiosks offering sandwiches, snacks, and beverages all along the trail leading up to the top of Mount Sinai. Even at the top you can run into peddlers serving unpretentious snacks and lemonade jars. However, they charge exorbitant prices for their goods, so it’s wise to bring snacks and drinks with you. Tell the receptionist at the hotel that you are going on a trip to Mount Sinai and they will provide you with packed dry breakfasts.

About 3 km northeast of the foot of Mount Moses is the Beirut Lebanese Restaurant. The menu features Lebanese cuisine. As everywhere else in the Sinai, prices here will be higher than average. The restaurant is open from 12:00 to 23:00.

Restaurants and cafes can also be found in local hotels.

Where to stay

Pilgrims and unpretentious travelers can look forward to sleeping in the Sinai Monastery Guesthouse, located outside the walls of the monastery. The ancient stone building of St. Catherine’s Monastery Guesthouse offers five small, clean rooms with private bathrooms. There are no TVs in the rooms, but Wi-Fi is available, and the rooms are air-conditioned. There is a dining room in the courtyard. Rates start at $24 per night, with light breakfasts and dinners included. The demand for this hostel is very high, book in advance on the monastery’s website.

In the village of St. Catherine, located a couple of kilometers from Mount Sinai, there are several hotels. When checking in, check to see if the advertised price includes taxes and tourist fees. When calculating these hidden surcharges may significantly increase daily room rates.

Hotel Daniela Village is lined with two-story cabins and has a total of 74 rooms. The daily rate starts at $54. The hotel has a currency exchange, a restaurant and a bar. Breakfast is included (buffet).

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At 6 km from Moses Mountain, in picturesque rocky landscapes there is a comfortable hotel Morgenland Village 4*. Two-storey buildings with wide loggias surround the swimming pool. The guests are offered a restaurant and a bar. The price range for accommodation is $192-202.

Tourists are enchanted by the exotic budget hotel Sheikh Mousa Bedouin Camp, stylized as a nomadic village. The houses are made of stone, 32 guest rooms with all the amenities are decorated in the national spirit. In the middle of the complex planted a garden with a large Bedouin tent. In the evening there is live music. The hotel has a restaurant, nearby stores and cafes, and an ATM machine. There is a mosque a stone’s throw away. There’s a bus station in St. Catherine village, a 5-minute walk away, and buses run to Cairo and the resort’s seaside towns. Rooms at the hotel “Sheikh Musa Bedouin Camp” can be rented very inexpensively, for $ 15-28 dollars a day.

Transportation

Regular buses from Cairo and seaside resorts stop at the bus station in the village of St. Catherine, about 6 km from Mount Sinai. Shuttles (unscheduled) run to the foot of the mountain from the village during the day. cabs or a private car may also be taken.

How to Get There

Travelers usually arrive at Mount Sinai by sightseeing buses or rented cars. The cost of renting a passenger car in the resort villages of the Sinai Peninsula starts at $20 a day.

In a straight line distance from the Red Sea coast to Mount Moses is less than 70 km. But the roads along the Sinai Peninsula are paved to bypass the mountain ranges. For example from Sharm El Sheikh to Mount Sinai you will travel about 217 miles and the trip will take approximately 3 hours. 30 min. A cab will cost about $150-170. Usually passengers share this amount, and it turns out significantly cheaper.

You can hire a private driver to go to the tourist attraction. He will wait for you for a few hours at the parking lot and take back to the hotel at the agreed time. The cost of this service is fixed.

On the trail at the foot of Mount Sinai tourists are waiting for the owners of camels, donkeys and horses. You can ride part of the way on horseback, paying about $10 to the mahout, but the ascent of steep stone steps is unavoidable, you will have to overcome them on your own.

Sinai

Sinai – Pilgrims and tourists daily climb the mountain in Egypt to meet the sunrise in the Holy Place. Here Moses received from God the stone tablets with the 10 commandments.

Mount Moses has more than one name. From the stories of numerous pilgrims and tourists we can hear: the Holy Mountain, Mount Sinai, Mount Horeb, Har Sinai. The presence of several names is due to one important feature. Three religions intersect here: Christian, Jewish and Muslim.

The geography of Sinai

From the point of view of Jewish scholars of religious history the exact location of Mount Moses is lost. There is a theory that its location may be the Negev Desert (Israel).

Traditional Christian and Muslim teachings determine the location of Mount Sinai in Egypt the southern part of the Sinai Peninsula. Christians recognized the mountain as biblical in the early fourth century.

Moses on Mount Sinai.

Old Testament, describes the reasons why Moses withdrew to Mount Sinai.

The people of Israel, rejected by the Egyptian gods, the dignitaries, followed Moses, the representative of the royal family. Pharaoh’s armies, seeking to destroy the Jews, drove them toward the desert. Many died. Some found it difficult to accept Moses’ instructions, continuing their secret worship of the Egyptian gods. Three months after the exodus from Egypt, they reached the foot of the mountain.

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A thick fog thickened, a thunderstorm rumbled, and the voice of God inspired fear. After temporarily leaving his Jewish people, Moses spent 40 days and 40 nights on Mount Sinai, fasting and waiting to speak to God. His wait was not in vain. The giving of the Torah took place. God Himself wrote the “heart of the Torah,” that is, the 10 commandments, on stone tablets.

During Moses’ absence, the people began to worship the “golden calf,” an idol created with their own hands. When Moses returned, angered by this fact, he broke the tablets of stone at the foot of Sinai, but he persuaded God not to destroy the Jewish people for idolatry. After repenting, he went up to God again and wrote down the Ten Commandments, which have been an unshakable foundation of morality for the entire world for several millennia.

An interesting fact. The Muslim religion also claims that Mount Sinai is the holy place where Allah gave the covenant to the prophet Musa.

St. Catherine Monastery

The flow of those wishing to make a pilgrimage to one of the main holy places of Christianity does not decrease. Tourists have to travel a long way to get there, because the place where the mountain is surrounded by desert for tens of kilometers.

An interesting fact. Legend has it that he who meets the sunrise at the top of the mountain of the Bible, saying the words of prayer, will find remission of sins and return a renewed man.

Two roads lead from the foot to the summit:

  • “The Ladder of Repentance” is a 3100 cut stone steps, a short but steep, difficult path for the physically unprepared person. The traditional pilgrim path can only be traversed on foot during the day.
  • “Camel trail”, a longer, not as difficult climb, laid out with the possibility of overcoming part of the way on camels. Locals provide animals for tourists for 15 USD – 20 USD, but it is recommended to haggle and reduce the price. There are places to rest, offering warm blankets. Sell food, local sweets and drinks. In terms of time, the ascent to a height of 2285 meters takes about 3 hours.

The last 750 steps are the connection of both roads, a common path for all. This section is the most difficult, it is necessary to pass it with extreme caution. And only the thought that at the top is the holy place where the Lord and Moses met, gives strength to resist the temptation to return.

Advice for tourists. Despite the fact that Egypt is one of the hottest countries, at night the temperature in the desert often drops below zero, so tourists should prepare for climbing in advance, take warm clothes, as well as comfortable shoes, without which it is impossible to climb.

In addition to meeting the dawn, tourists see the sights located on the slopes:

  • The Orthodox Church of the Prophet Elijah;
  • The spring “Water of Moses;
  • the cave in which Moses waited for the Voice of God;
  • The Orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity; the chapel, which has preserved frescoes depicting scenes of Moses’ life, a mosaic depicting the Virgin Mary and the baby Jesus;
  • a mosque;
  • St. Catherine Monastery (height 1575 meters) near Neopalimaya Kupina. On the territory of the monastery there is a well dug by Moses and the relics of St. Catherine. It was erected in honor of the canonized Saint Catherine, who refused the marriage proposal of the ruler of Egypt, Maximine. Unable to convince her beloved to refuse to serve a god, Maximinus ordered her execution. The eighteen-year-old beauty was executed, but she remained faithful to her faith. Her body was hidden by the Sinai monks. Now visitors to the monastery can see the relics of Catherine.

An interesting fact. Scientists have examined the bush (Neopalivaya Kupina), applying isotopic method. It was found that it is about 6,000 years old. But modern science can’t explain the uniqueness of this long-lived plant.

Admission is available at St. Catherine’s Monastery (5 USD). The rest of the structures are closed, viewed only from the outside. In the monastery there is a museum, the exposition of which contains thousands of years of manuscripts. There are no more icons like the monastery’s in the world.

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How to get to Sinai

Streams of tourists and pilgrims flock to Sinai from different directions:

  • From Sharm el-Sheikh to the village of El Migla (St. Catherine), it takes 3 hours to get by tourist bus. The fare is 10 USD – 20 USD.
  • From Cairo by bus for 10 USD for 7,5 hours.
  • From Hurghada tourists take a ferry to Sharm El Sheikh, and then by bus.
  • A large number of pilgrims from Israel are buying pilgrimage tours, which cost more than 200 USD.

The tour departure time is calculated in such a way as to have time to overcome the difficult path and see the mountain sunrise.

The place of the tour Average cost
Sharm el Sheikh 35 USD
Taba 35 USD (more time)
Hurghada 200 USD

The cost of the excursions includes:

  • travel,
  • entrance tickets,
  • lunch,
  • guide (Russian-speaking).

Before the start of the tour you must go through the post of the tourist police, which performs a search using a metal detector. It is forbidden to go without a guide, because those who do not know the way can get lost.

In the village of El Migla (St. Catherine) tourists have the opportunity to buy souvenirs, teas, balms, potions based on recipes Bedouin tribe Jabaliya. An independent tourist or pilgrim can take advantage of the hospitality and hospitality of the local population, staying overnight for 10 USD – 12 USD / day.

Large additional sums are not required for this trip. However, you should anticipate some expenses and have a few tens of dollars with you:

  • To pay tips to the guide;
  • If it will be necessary to rent a camel (it is believed that when you make the ascent using an animal, sins will be absolved from the animal, and not the person who traveled);
  • If you do not have water or food with you, there will be a stop on the way up where you can buy anything you need from Bedouins (be sure to haggle, for example, 1 plastic cup of tea costs 1 USD – 4 USD);
  • There is a hotel, cafe (coffee – 10 USD, tea – 4 USD) behind the walls of Catherine’s monastery;
  • If you wish, you can leave a donation for the maintenance of the temple (candles on the altar are placed free of charge);
  • In the church shop you can buy souvenirs with the monastic symbols;
  • As a memento of visiting the mountain, tourists buy a Sinai stone, the surface of which is decorated with an original plant pattern (the cost of about 1 USD);
  • the accompanying operator with a camera can be ordered a commemorative video, which can be paid at the hotel.

Despite the restrictions on the sale of tours to Egypt, tourists and pilgrims continue to visit the country and Mount Moses. Telling about Sinai, they remember the feeling of a rush of joy, eyes filled with tears, the realization of being part of the world and history.

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