Sinai Peninsula, Sharm El Sheikh, Mt Sinai, St Catherine’s

Sharm El Sheikh is a popular holiday resort on the Red Sea at the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsular.  It is popular with Europeans, the Brits and the Ruskies.  There are no sandy beaches to speak of, but pontoons and massive swimming pools make up for it.  Snorkelling, scuba diving and just lazing around are the main attractions, as well as the inevitable shopping.

Highlight of our stay in Sharm El Sheikh was climbing Mount Sinai, also known as the Moses Mountain.  According to Jewish, Christian and Islamic tradition, the biblical Mount Sinai was the place where Moses received the Ten Commandments.

Getting there was a 3 hour bus trip along dark mountainous roads with a driver who must have thought he was in Melbourne for the F1GP.

The climb is along a shale path, which in the extremely dry climate of the Sinai Desert, was treachoursly slippery.  760 steps of all shapes and sizes took you up the last section.

Our guide from Sharm El Sheikh, Amer and our local Beduoin guide Ahmen were extremely patient and disgustingly agile on the 5km climb.

It is a tough climb from about 1,200 metres to about 2,500 metre and to see the sunrise you set off at about 1:30am!! What sleep?

The air is thin at the top, so for a mild asthmatic like me, the going is slow.  Fortunately there are tea shops along the path, warm and welcoming, offering tea, coffee, water and chocolate bars.

And for those who can’t handle the physical exertion, camels are on offer all the way along the track.  Seriously, I think the chaffing and bouncing on a camel would leave you far more uncomfortable that a few tight muscles and burning feet, and the exhiliration that comes with conquering the mount before sunrise.

We recovered with a visit to St Catherine’s Monastery, which has many claims to fame including:

  • where Moses met his wife at the well
  • where Moses was directed by the burning bush, to climb the mount and retrieve the commandments
  • where Mary, Joseph and Jesus rested whilst fleeing Israel
  • where the relic of the hand of St Catherine of Alexandria the martyr can be found
  • one of the oldest working Christian monasteries in the world