Mount Sinai in Egypt. Description, photos, coordinates.

Mount Sinai – Moses’ Mountain

Mount Sinai, also known as Mount Moses or Mount Horeb, a sacred place for several religious movements. This is where the biblical prophet Moses received the stone tablets with the commandments.

Where is it

Mount Sinai lies in the center of the southern part of the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt.

The nearest settlement is the town of St. Catherine. It is located 3 km north of the top of the mountain and is surrounded by cliffs.

General Description

Mount Moses is located in the desert mountainous region of the Sinai Peninsula. Its altitude is 2,285 meters above sea level. This is one of the highest mountains in the region. Very close (4 km to the south) is the highest peak of Egypt – Mount Catherine (2629 m).

Mount Sinai is often mentioned in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic books. In particular, it is mentioned in the Book of Exodus, the Bible, and the Quran.

Christian settlers came to the vicinity of the mountain in the 3rd century AD. Georgians came to the Sinai Peninsula in the 5th century, and in the 9th century a Georgian colony appeared. The settlers erected churches there. To this day some Georgian manuscripts are preserved in Sinai.

Mount Sinai

Mount Sinai

What is Mount Sinai famous for?

This place has become popular because Christians believe that Moses received the stone tablets with the Ten Commandments, which are mentioned in the Bible, here.

According to the Book of Exodus, Moses first heard the word of God from a burning but unburned thorn bush near Mount Sinai. God commanded him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Moses convinced Pharaoh to let the Israelites go with him.

After a long journey, the people arrived at the foot of Mount Sinai. Thunder and lightning struck, and God called Moses to the top of the mountain. There he stayed in a cave for 40 days and 40 nights. When he returned, he gave the Israelites the 10 commandments God had given him.

Mount Moses

The controversy over the location of Mount Sinai

Although many consider this particular peak to be Mount Sinai, there is speculation that the biblical mountain is actually located elsewhere.

In particular, early Christian sources associated the biblical mountain with Mount Serbal (35 km to the west). A monastery was built at its foot in the 4th century, and in the 6th century this monastery was moved to Mount Catherine.

Some Bible scholars say that the Israelites crossed the Sinai Peninsula to the north by a direct route, not the southern tip. Consequently, Mount Moses must be sought elsewhere. Others argue that God dwelt on Mount Seir in Nabatea in the Jordan.

Sometimes the biblical Sinai is compared to a volcano and attributed to Saudi Arabia. It cannot be attributed to the Sinai Peninsula, as there are no volcanoes there.

Archaeologist Emmanuel Anati says that the true Sinai is Mount Har Karkom in Israel. Here he found the remains of several sanctuaries.

Be that as it may, the vast majority of historians and believers believe that the biblical mountain is exactly Mount Sinai, indicated in the very beginning.

Sinai as a sacred place

In the vicinity of Mount Moses you will find several temples, monasteries, chapels, and a mosque.

St. Catherine Monastery can be seen at the foot of Mount Sinai east of the town of St. Catherine at an altitude of 1,550 meters. This Greek Orthodox monastery is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is even called the oldest active Christian monastery on the planet. However, this title is claimed by the monastery of St. Anthony, located on the other side of the Red Sea, south of Cairo.

St. Catherine Monastery

St. Catherine Monastery

There is a mosque on top of Mount Moses. It is still in use by Muslims. There is also the Greek Orthodox chapel of the Holy Trinity, built in 1934 on the ruins of a 16th-century church. But it is closed to the public.

Holy Trinity Chapel Holy Trinity Chapel – View from the Other Side Bell on Mount Sinai

Mount Sinai in tourism

These places attract not only religious pilgrims but also ordinary tourists.

At the top of the mountain amazing views of the Sinai Peninsula await you. A desert with grand, rugged scenery, mountains, and deep, dry gorges.

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How to get there

The traditional way to get to Mount Sinai is by road.

Prepare yourself, the trip will not be easy, as the mountain is in a remote location. From Sharm el-Sheikh about 230 km from the city of Dahab 140 km from the town of Nouweiba 120 km.

Typically, ascent to the top begins at 1 am. This is done so that travelers can get to the top before sunrise. Meeting the sunrise at Mount Sinai is truly an unspeakable experience.

Sunrise at Mount Sinai

Dawn at Mount Sinai

Two paths to the summit

There are two routes to Mt. Moses.

The first involves 3,750 steps of penance carved by monks on the mountainside. As you have realized, this is the most difficult route. You must be mentally and physically prepared for the climb. The view of the valley from this route is magnificent, even at night.

The stone stairs to Mount Moses

3,750 steps of repentance

The second route is the so-called “camel trail”. This is a simpler and easier way to conquer the top of Sinai. Most of this route can be traveled on camelback. At about 1 km from the top you have to dismount and go the rest of the way on your own. You can ride a camel to the top, but it is not comfortable.

Both routes connect at Elijah Gorge, also known as the Seven Elders of Israel. This is a natural amphitheater where you can rest and then traverse the last 750 steps to the summit.

If you time your journey correctly, you will be greeted at the summit by a beautiful, unparalleled view of the sunrise over the Sinai Peninsula.

When is the best time to visit Mount Sinai?

Avoid trips during the winter months (November to February). Minus temperatures and snow are common at the summit during this time. Spring and fall are optimal times to climb. Summer is also a good time, but it can get very hot during the day. The most popular time to start climbing Mount Sinai is 1-2 am.

Keep in mind that even during the warm season there can be a big difference in temperature during the day and at night.

Mount Sinai

Mount Sinai or Mount Moses is sacred to believers of different religions. According to the Bible, Mount Sinai is where the prophet Moses received the stone tablets with the Ten Commandments, which all peoples on earth should follow.

The road to the top of the mountain

Climbing to Mount Sinai

Where is Mount Sinai

Mount Sinai is located in the southern part of the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt among deserts and mountains. Its altitude is 2,285 meters. GPS coordinates of the mountain: 28.539260, 33.974946.

The small village of St. Catherine is located near the hill. At 4 km south of Sinai you can see another peak – Mount Catherine (2629 m) the highest in Egypt.

Flora and fauna of Mount Sinai

The mountain is a block consisting of layered rock with the addition of alabaster, which gives a brown hue. The mountain’s massif includes crystalline shale and granite. The soil here is loamy and sandy loam, diluted with pebbles. There are no rivers and streams on the Sinai, but there is groundwater, which lies close to the surface. Water is taken from springs and wells gushing out of the ground.

Because of the poor water supply, vegetation on the mountain is rather sparse. Lichens, dwarf acacia trees, wormwood, camel’s-thorn and various succulents such as aloe and milkweed can be found here.

Of the fauna on the mountain are only birds, reptiles and insects. Both resident birds and migratory birds nest on the Sinai. Cranes, corncrakes, goldfinches, thrushes and ducks come here for wintering. Pigeons, sparrows, and quail nest on the mountain all year round. Sinai is home to many snakes, lizards and insects: Egyptian cobra, ephea, viper, monitor lizards, geckos, locusts, scorpions, cockroaches and ants.

Bedouins and camels

Camel Hire on Mount Sinai

Climate on the Mountain

The best time to visit Mount Sinai is in the spring and fall. In the summer, it can be very hot. In winter, from November to February, frost, snow, and cold winds are common.

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Going to hike, you should keep in mind that even in summer at the top of the mountain temperature does not rise above 18 ° C. At the foot of Sinai in the daytime from May to September is usually hot. It’s worth bearing in mind that the temperature fluctuations at night and during the day on the mountainside are significant, so should be equipped with warm clothing that can be easily put on and off if necessary.

A few names of the sacred mountain

Mount of God, Moses, Horeb, Tour, or Jebel Tour-Sinai are all Sinai. There are several versions regarding the etymology of the mountain’s official name. They all relate to the Hebrew language.

  1. The first version is associated with the name of the goddess of the moon – Sin, whose sanctuary was located on the mountain, hence the name – Sinai.
  2. Senen – Sin, meaning thorns.
  3. There is another word similar in sound – sen. Literally translated, it means tooth. In their view the rocks of Sinai resemble many sharp teeth.
  4. Sinai is translated from Hebrew as “mountain of many peaks. The Sinai mountain range indeed has many peaks.

All versions are understandable and seem plausible, but which of them is true – the researchers have to guess.

The history of Mount Sinai

Mentions of the mountain are found in Christian, Islamic, and Jewish scriptures. About her told in the Koran, the Bible, the Book of Exodus.

In the Bible, Sinai is also mentioned under the name Horeb. The mountain became popular because it was there that God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, which became the main laws of mankind. Before this, God ordered the prophet to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Moses long persuaded Pharaoh to give the Jewish people freedom. Only after 10 executions fell on Egypt did Pharaoh become frightened and set the Jews free. Moses led the people through the desert for a long time, but one day God called Moses to go up to Mount Sinai. The prophet stayed in the mountain cave for 40 days and came down to his people with the stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments were carved.

Moses first encountered God at the mountain while tending the sheep of his father-in-law, the local priest Jethro. Then Moses saw the Burning Bush, a burning bush, from which God’s voice was heard.

According to the Bible, the prophet Elijah climbed to the top of the mountain to offer his prayers. In the Qur’an, Sinai is mentioned in surahs At-Tin and al-Mu’minun.

As early as the second century A.D. monks were looking for the place where the prophet met with God. They found a cave on Mount Sinai and a magical thorn bush at its foot. However, to this day there is still controversy about the location of Mount Sinai. Some argue that the Bible was talking about the hill Serbal, which is 35 km to the west, while others say that Moses met with God on Mount Seir, located in Jordan. There is speculation that the legendary Mount Sinai is in northwest Saudi Arabia. We are talking about Mount Jabal al-Lawz.

IT’S INTERESTING . If you go up to Sinai at dawn and with the first rays of the sun to offer a prayer, you can receive from above the remission of all sins and come down to earth a renewed man.

People built settlements near Sinai in the III century AD. In 330 BC the monks built a small church and a tower near the mountain. In the fifth century the representatives of the Georgian nationality came here. They erected their temples in the vicinity, so until now some manuscripts in the Georgian language are kept in local museums.

Two centuries later a monastery was founded here, later named after St. Catherine. Even Russian tsars donated funds to the monastery.

Holy Trinity Chapel

The northern wall of the chapel of the Holy Trinity in Sinai

Muslims Sinai was also considered a sacred mountain, so on top of it in the IX century was built a mosque. In the XV century it was visited by the Russian monk Varsonophy.

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IT IS INTERESTING. The method of scientific research was established the approximate age of the legendary blackthorn. The result is striking – Neopalimaya Kupina exists already almost 6,000 years. Thus scientists cannot give a reasonable explanation to this fact.

The version about the aliens

There is a version that aliens from outer space came to Mount Sinai. In the 1970’s, foreign newspapers published photos taken by the American writer of Russian origin, Zechariah Sitchin. Flying over Sinai in a helicopter, he captured a white object in the shape of a disk on his camera. The journalist suggested that the object might have been a spaceport. However, the investigators who decided to check this version did not find anything of this kind on the mountain.

How to get to Mount Sinai

You can reach Mount Moses by road, but the attraction is located far from the major population centers. It is 120 km to the nearest town Nuweiba, Sharm el-Sheikh – 250 km. You can order a cab from the hotel to Sinai, or go there with an organized tour. While in Hurghada you can order a private tour to the mountain, because this city does not offer organized tours to Sinai. The following route is also possible: a sea ferry Hurghada – Sharm el-Sheikh, then a standard excursion to the sacred mountain through a local travel agency. However, please note that the schedule of ferry service between the cities has not yet been regulated.

From Sharm el-Sheikh and Cairo to Sinai sometimes runs public transport. But to use it you need to know the schedule. Moreover, the bus doesn’t take you to the mountain itself, but stops 10 kilometers away, in St. Catherine. The trip will take about 9 hours.

The ascent to Mount Sinai

Sinai is part of the Sinai Range. The tradition of pilgrimage to the mountain has been going on since ancient times. Today, every year it is climbed by up to several hundred people. Among them are both pilgrims and tourists. More, of course, are travelers who come to the mountain out of curiosity. Many of them arrive as part of organized groups from Sharm el-Sheikh.

At the top of Sinai travelers have amazing views of the desert and mountain ranges with gorges.

The path to the summit begins near the monastery of St. Catherine. There is also a store where you can stock up on food and water. There is also a police checkpoint and a toilet. All hikers must pass a metal detector search. Without a guide, hikers are not allowed on the trail so that they do not get lost.

USEFUL INFORMATION . Be sure to bring your passport, as it will often be checked.

To get to the top by sunrise, the organized climb to the mountain begins at 1:00 a.m. There are two official routes to the mountain:

  1. The first route is more difficult, but it has less mileage. It consists of 3,750 penitential steps made by monks all the way up the slope. The first route is usually climbed by pilgrims.
  2. The second route is longer, it is called the Camel Trail – this road is easier. You can ride a camel or a donkey for most of the route. However, you will have to do the last 1000 m on your own. The total length of the route is 6 km. Every 1.5 km you will find bio-toilets and stores. There is a fee for toilets, but there is one free stall at the top.

Both routes connect at Elijah Gorge. Here you can rest before the last dash to the summit. There are 700 steps that connect the two trails. This part of the route is called the Monk’s Staircase. If you time the ascent correctly, you can meet the sunrise at the summit. The mountain has three peaks and the hiking trails lead to the middle peak. From the highest point of Sinai, there are amazing views of the Sinai range, from the north-eastern side you can see the peak of St. Epistemias, from the south-western side you can see the highest mountain in Egypt – St. Catherine.

There is very little vegetation on the mountain, especially near the summit. Having been exposed for centuries to the processes of weathering and erosion, the rocks have taken on a bizarre shape. They have a beautiful red-gold color that reveals itself in the light of the rising sun.

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Most of the tourists go up the long way at night, and after meeting the dawn in the daylight they go down the first short road.

On the way to the summit there are temples of various religions, most of which are closed. You can only enter them if accompanied by a monk or arrange to be given the keys.

IT’S INTERESTING . In Sinai you can see samples of ancient Georgian and Armenian inscriptions.

In the vicinity of the mountain the remains of ancient temples have been found. Now at its foot there are monasteries, chapels, mosques and churches.

Recommendations for Visiting

While climbing, you should not hurry up, but rather walk at a measured pace. The section before the top is the most difficult, so you need to save strength to overcome it.

On the way to the summit, Bedouins will constantly offer to rent a camel or donkey. They call the animals “camel,” which means camel in English. Only one-humped dromedaries are offered for tourists; there are no two-humped camels. You can bargain with them, because the initial price for renting the animals is always inflated.

At the foot of the mountain, Bedouins may come up to you and offer to take you to the summit by a shorter route. You should not agree to this, as it may be dangerous.

At night on the mountain is quite cold and windy, so be sure to bring warm clothes. Along the way there are places to rent blankets and ponchos.

The nearby village of St. Catherine has a large selection of souvenirs and interesting items. There are many balms, teas, and potions made according to the recipes of the Bedouin tribe. Tourists can rent lodging and spend the night if they want.

Going to climb the mountain, it is recommended to have a few tens of dollars for incidental expenses:

  • To pay tips to the guide;
  • renting a donkey or camel;
  • buying water or food;
  • a donation for the temple;
  • souvenirs.

Among the items of souvenirs popular with tourists is the Sinai stone, the surface of which is marked with a beautiful drawing of a plant theme.

We suggest you watch a video about climbing Mount Sinai:

The tragic accident on the mountain

Despite the fact that there are organized routes to the top of the mountain, conducted tours, observing the necessary safety precautions, on the ascent of accidents happen. Thus, in the spring of 2009 there was a tragedy on the slope of Sinai. On April 15, a young man of Russian nationality Boris Maksimov went missing. His body was only discovered by enthusiastic searchers on the seventh day in a deep crevice 300 meters from a hiking trail.

According to the Egyptian authorities, the student had climbed the mountain together with a tourist group. He deviated from the route and went on his own to explore the surrounding area. Most likely, the guy stumbled near the gorge, fell down from a great height and crashed.

Sights of Mount Sinai

In the vicinity of Sinai you can see many interesting sights. On the way to the summit, tourists pass by the following historical sites:

  1. The Church of Our Lady of Iconossa. It was installed in the place where the Virgin Mary was seen by one of the abbots of the monastery.
  2. Two stone arches standing on a road with narrow passages. It is said that once there were ten of them, near each monk stood and took penance from the people.
  3. The Church of the Prophets Elisha and Elijah, built in the 11th century, stands at an altitude of 2,137 meters. Its creator, King David the Builder of Georgia, wanted to build the church on the site of the cave, where, according to legend, Elijah the prophet left his prayers. In the Middle Ages in the caves of the mountain there was a monastery, where the Georgian monks lived. Nearby there is a well of Elijah with clean drinking water.
  4. Temple of St. Anna.
  5. Temple of Saint Panteleimon.
  6. Temple of the Deposition.
  7. Chapel of the Holy Trinity. It was built by Greek Orthodox Christians at the very top in the 1930s of the XX century on the ruins of an ancient church with the same name.
  8. Cave, where Moses prayed before giving him the Ten Commandments.
  9. Mosque commemorating the Prophet Muhammad’s visit to Sinai.
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The Chapel of the Holy Trinity has ancient frescoes depicting the life of Moses. There is also a 4th century mosaic depicting the Virgin Mary with Jesus in her arms and the prophets Moses and Elijah standing beside her.

Before descending from the top, you can see the mosque of the early twelfth century, it was built on the foundations of an older religious structure – a basilica during the reign of Justinian the Great, the Byzantine emperor. Not far from the mosque there is the cave of Moses, where he spent 40 days waiting for the tablets.

St. Catherine Monastery

Tourists are offered special tours to Sinai, which include not only climbing, but also visiting the Monastery of St. Catherine. If desired, you can spend the night at the monastery and attend a morning service.

St. Catherine Monastery is built between Mount Sinai and St. Epistemias at an altitude of 1550 meters. It is the most famous religious building in Sinai and is protected by UNESCO. It is the oldest active Christian monastery in the world.

In the fourth century a small church was built on the place where the sacred thorn bush was growing. In the VI century high monastery walls were built near the church. At the same time the basilica of Transfiguration was attached to the wall of the church of Neopalimaya Kupina and became later the center of the monastic complex. During its construction cypress rafters were used, granite walls were erected and massive columns were put up. Particularly interesting are the internal doors of the temple that have been preserved in good condition since the VI century. They are made of Lebanese cedar, the wood of which has always been famous for its high durability. The altar beautiful mosaic of the Transfiguration is of the same age. The iconostasis with the crucifixion was made in 1612 on the island of Crete. A few years later it was covered with gilding.

To the right of the altar is the reliquary with the relics of St. Catherine the Great Martyr. In the wall of the southern side-altar are immured particles of martyrs killed in Sinai and Raifa.

In 1871 a four-tiered bell tower was built near the basilica.

To the north of the Basilica of the Transfiguration there is the Moses well. It was located here long before the foundation of the monastery. It is considered that near the well the prophet met the daughters of Rahuel.

St. Catherine Monastery

Ancient monastery is built on the slope of mountain.

To the west of the Basilica of the Transfiguration is a 14th century mosque. Muslim pilgrims come here to pray on their way to Sinai.

IT’S INTERESTING . In 1789, when Egypt was invaded by Napoleon’s troops, one of the generals sent workers to rebuild the monastery walls. At that time a round tower was built on the east side.

Another temple of the monastery, the Chapel of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is located in front of the entrance to the monastery. The main attraction of the temple is the basement crypt where the skulls of the monks are kept. According to Greek tradition, the dead were buried in a grave dug in the garden. After a few years, the bones were taken out, washed in wine and oil and placed in a communal crypt. Interestingly, the skulls and bones are kept separate.

Where to stay near Sinai

People travel to Sinai from the nearby resort towns of Nuweiba and Sharm el-Sheikh. You can choose a place to stay in one of them. If the purpose of tourism – exactly Mount Sinai, experienced travelers are advised to stay in the nearby village of St. Catherine. There are hotels and hotels of different categories to suit all tastes.

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