It was a magical journey that began with as little as one hour sleep. I’m not sure if I was nervous about the climb but it was my only sleepless night so far during my travels. I think I finally fell asleep at midnight and was awakened by a wakeup call at 1:30am.
We had a guide named Moses – really that was his name! We were fortunate enough to have a full moon that night to guide us up Mount Sinai; one barely needed the light of a headlamp. I wonder if Moses himself was as blessed as we were?
Although some archaeologists and historians dispute Mt Sinai’s biblical claim to fame, it is revered by Christians, Muslims and Jews, all of whom believe that God delivered his Ten Commandments to Moses at the summit. The mountain is as majestic as any pyramid of Egypt. At 2285m, it rises out of the desert and surrounds St. Katherine’s Monastery at the base which is the site of the Burning Bush.
There are two routes – the camel trail and the Steps of Repentance – both meet at about 300m below the summit at a plateau known as Elijah’s Basin. Here, everyone
must climb 750 rocky and uneven steps to reach the summit. We took the camel trail which took us about 2 hours to climb. Along the way were many tea houses which offered a place to rest and blankets to keep you warm at the top. The alternate route, the 3750 Steps of Repentance, was laid by a monk as a form of penance. This is the road we didn’t take.
At the base of the mountain is St. Katherine’s Monastery. This monastery dates back to AD 330, when Byzantine empress Helena built a small chapel and refuge here. At this site is the supposed burning bush where God first had words with Moses. Today there are over 20 Greek Orthodox monks that live there.
When we finally reached the summit, we were in the company of hundreds of other climbers all eager to see the rising sun. Waiting in the moonlight of a full moon was magical as the sun slowly crept over the horizon and changed the landscape with a truly magnificent blend of monochromatic colours. One of the men in our group was so inspired that he proposed to his girlfriend. She said, “Yes!” What a magical
moment for them. The descent was even better than the ascent because then we could finally see the beauty of the mountain ranges that surrounded us as we climbed in the moonlight.
We arrived back to our charming guesthouse at 9am for breakfast tired but satisfied that we had met the challenge and that we were rewarded with an unforgettable and epic sunrise.
This was truly one of my highlights of Egypt and a wonderful way to bid her farewell as we set off later that afternoon on the ferry to Jordan for more adventure and wondrous beauties this world has to offer.
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