Trekking Mount Sinai

Written by Kenneth Karl Nielsen on . Posted in Article, Stories

Over 2000 years ago, Moses is alleged to have trekked to the summit of Mount Sinai and received ten stone tablets containing the ethical core of humanity from God. This of course adds a special historical-mythical atmosphere for trekking Mount Sinai, but Sinai offers many alternative transcendent experiences.

Our trip to Mount Sinai began in a crowded mini-bus from Dahab, on the coast of the Red Sea, late at night. We arrived at the base of Mount Sinai at past midnight.

There are two good reasons for climbing the mountain in the middle of the night. One is to experience the sunrise over the Sinai chain of mountains, the other is that the temperature rises dramatically late in the morning.

You can climb Mount Sinai via two different routes. One goes up along well kept, well marked paths. The other route is much more (in)famous. It consists of 3.000 steps -all carved by a repentant friar.

Trekking Mount Sinai

Halfway asleep, we began our climb by the convent of St. Caterina along the easy route. The journey upwards is along sound paths, but you should regularly take your bearings in order to find your way easily in darkness. Remember a flashlight!

During the climb, the mountains around us brooded as big, colourless shadows. This perspective changed dramatically as the sun started peeping out.

It’s a good idea (if not essential) to supply yourself with drinks before starting the climb. There are several small shops on the climb up, but their prices are characteristic of the few competitors.

The trek to the summit is not particularly exhausting and can easily be done in a few hours at a moderate tempo.

At the Summit

We probably didn’t expect to be alone at the summit, but we were somewhat taken aback at the already more than 20 people there.

The summit offers nothing special. There’s a Greek Orthodox chapel with paintings, ornaments and a small mosque. Yet here we experienced something for the first time in Egypt – freezing. It may be hot during the day at sea level, but in the middle of the night, in a height of 2.285 metres, it’s freezing cold, so we did the only rational thing. We claimed a good space, rented a blanket, set the alarm clock for 20 minutes before sunrise, and slept.

It seemed we awoke in the middle of Cairo because there were people swarming everywhere. However we found a comfortable spot and sat down to wait for the sunrise.

Sunrise over Sinai

Slowly dawn approached and the sun climbed ceremoniously above the mountains on the horizon. Such mountains, black shadows during our climb, now in shades of red, yellow and brown. It was an incredibly beautiful sight that can neither be described nor captured by any media bar experience. This sight alone is worth the trip to the summit, and our sleepiness fled like dew from the sun.

Down the “Repentant Steps”

During the descent from Mount Sinai we were both relieved that the climb had taken place during the cold night. Morning was hot, very hot. But it was also well worth it.

For some reason most people choose to descend along the easy route. So we had the famous steps almost to ourselves. The further we descended the mountain, the more impressed we were by the friar’s achievement. The 3.000 steps are beautifully carved into the rock and spiced up with some marvellous stone gates.

During the final part of the descent, you can have a ‘Gods-eye’ view of the St. Caterina convent, which you can visit at the end of the trek. Furthermore we discovered that the muddle of different tourist shops selling all varieties of souvenir junk simply mushroomed.
After the trek we rested in the shade before being packed once more into the mini-bus, and we rattled back to Dahab to get some well earned sleep

Author: Kenneth Karl Nielsen  •  Co-Author: Peter Vejrum Terp

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Kenneth Karl Nielsen

I am one of the founders of Backpacker Planet - I left on my first backpacking trip in 1994 and have kept backpacking around the world ever since.