The Sinai Peninsula and Red Sea Coast Sights

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Jabal Moussa (Mt. Sinai)

Jabal Moussa (Mt. Sinai) Review

From the base of Mount Sinai, any fellow hikers who have preceded you look like dots 7,504 feet ahead of you, and the prospect of reaching the top begins to assume biblical proportions. As you step up to the mountain, only passersby and the odd camel driver seeking your patronage disturb the serenity of the surrounding hills. Stop every now and then to notice how the clean desert mountain air awakens your senses. The dusty-rose tone of the granite mountains and the absolute peace make it no surprise that this land has fostered so many religious expeditions and revelations. New Age advocates also believe there are ley lines of gravitational energy running through the landscape here. Whatever you believe, it's truly a humbling place.

Mount Sinai rises above Saint Catherine's Monastery to the spot where Moses is supposed to have received the Ten Commandments. Scholars have debated the legitimacy of this claim for millennia now and have resolved nothing. Other locations have been suggested for the biblical Mount Sinai, but the mountain's position on the chief ancient trade route and the accounts in the journals of pilgrims do seem to substantiate the claim for this mountain.

In 1934, a small chapel dedicated to the Trinity was built on the summit of Jabal Moussa, covering the ruins of a previous Justinian temple. Looking southeast from the peak, you'll have a crystal-clear view of the top of Mount Catherine, which is the highest point on the Sinai Peninsula at 8,652 feet. With granite mountains in all directions, it may feel as if you're at the center of the earth.

There are two routes up the mountain, and two essential times of day at which to start. The climb takes between 2½ and 3 hours. For a very steep climb, take the 3,750 steps that begin behind the monastery and lead directly to the summit. Please note that this is not exactly a proper staircase, and if you have knee problems, this will only exacerbate them. There is another route that is also a camel track; its last 230 feet consist of 700 steps. If you take this route, you can bet that drivers will ask—repeatedly—if you want a ride. If you opt for the camel, ask around for the going rate, then haggle. Expect to pay around £E70. The camel ride isn't the easy option it might first appear. Riding a camel can be somewhat strenuous and put pressure on your knees, especially on the descent. And some people get motion sickness because the camel does sway like a ship as it moves.

The climb is strenuous, and you'll need to take along water and a snack to eat at the top (bring a backpack if you can). Many visitors begin this climb around 2 am to arrive at the summit at sunrise. If you are here during January, February, or March, it won't be too hot for a midday trip (which is much less crowded); at other times, it will be. If you're going to do the night hike, take long pants, because it gets cold, and a good flashlight, and wear layers that you can take off and put back on as you warm up and cool down. A solid pair of shoes (preferably hiking boots) is also essential.

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