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Climbing Mount Sinai For Sunrise

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Are you a spiritual seeker, a religious believer, a nature lover, or a hiking enthusiast? In any case, you should consider climbing Mount Sinai in Egypt. Hiking Mt Sinai is one of the absolutely best things to do in Egypt. Why? Believe me, ecstasy awaits you.

CLIMBING MOUNT SINAI FOR SUNRISE

Find out why Mount Sinai in Egypt is called Moses’ Mountain, where the Burning Bush is, where the oldest manuscript of the Bible was found, how I hiked Mount Sinai for sunrise, and more.

Sunrise from the top of mount Sinai

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Money isn’t everything. Experiences are better than money.

And one of the most memorable experiences of my life was hiking Mount Sinai in Egypt.

What is Mount Sinai and what is the significance of Mount Sinai

Mount Sinai is an impressive 2,285-meter (7,497-foot) mountain of Biblical significance in the Sinai peninsula in Egypt.

Sinai Mountain in Egypt is traditionally known as Moses Mountain. The Sinai mountain is believed to be the Biblical mountain where God spoke to Moses, the mountain that Moses climbed, and where Moses received the Ten Commandments.

The Arabic name of Mount Sinai is Gebel Musa or Jabal Musa which literally means Mount of Moses. For centuries Mt Sinai in Egypt, also known as Horeb Mountain, has been an important religious pilgrimage site for followers of all Abrahamic faiths. Moses, the Holy Bush, and the Ten Commandments are of huge religious and spiritual importance to Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

Mount Sinai in Egypt is a holy place of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam since it is believed to be the ancient holy Mount Sinai and ‘the Mountain of the Ten Commandments’.

Climbing Mount Sinai in Egypt
Egypt Mount Sinai

But, nevertheless, Mt Sinai is a dramatic granite mountain with cruel but jaw-dropping views.

Even more, Mt Sinai is a famous tourist hiking site in Egypt today. Mount Sinai hike is a part of the world-famous Sinai Trail that has been voted as one of the best treks in the World.

Egypt Mount Sinai is one of the oldest mountains in the World. Some parts of the Sinai mountain are about 600 million years old. Furthermore, the Mount Sinai area is one of the richest ecosystems in the Middle East. Mountain Sinai is home to many endemic, rare, and protected plant and animal species, such as Egyptian jackals, Nubian ibexes, hyraxes, foxes, and wolves to name a few. In Mt Sinai, you can find the smallest butterfly in the World, called the Sinai Baton Blue.

When you see Moses mountain, it becomes obvious why Mount Sinai is part of an Egyptian National Park – the St. Catherine Natural Protectorate.

CLIMBING MOUNT SINAI

Moses Mount Sinai

But, let’s go back to Moses and Mount Sinai’s story.

Moses and Mount Sinai are inseparable. After all, the mountain is named after Moses.

Tradition places Moses’ life in the late 14 century BC. But, the story of Moses and Mt Sinai originates from the Book of Exodus written around the 6th century BC. According to the Book, God spoke to Moses at Mount Sinai from a burning bush and told him to take the Israelites from Egypt to the Promised Land. After that event, Moses went back from Sinai to Egypt to convince the pharaoh to release the Israelites from slavery. For the next 40 years, Moses led Israelites out of Egypt, across the Red Sea, the Sinai desert, and Sinai mountain to the Promised Land.

Today’s visitors to St Catherine’s monastery in Sinai can see what’s believed to be a descendant of the Burning Bush. The summit of the mountain is believed to be the place where Moses received the Ten Commandments from God. A Christian church and a Muslim mosque sit at the top of Moses Mount Sinai with respect to that Biblical event.

Climbing Mount Sinai in Egypt

While the legend of Moses has been living for the past 3.500 years, the narrative of the Book of Exodus has been keeping a written track of the legend for the past 2.700 years. Over the centuries Moses has been accepted as a figure of a leader, prophet, and God’s messenger, while the Ten Commandments have become fundamentals of social morality and ethics of the Western civilization.

If you wish to hike Mount Sinai, check out the tours:
Sunrise at Mount Sinai and St. Catherine monastery. Trip from Sharm el Sheikh (Viator)
Mount Moses Trekking, Sunrise & Monastery Visit From Sharm (Get Your Guide)
Overnight Trip to Saint Catherine Monastery From Cairo (Get Your Guide)
St. Catherine’s Monastery and Mt. Sinai Tour From Dahab (Get Your Guide)

Where is Mount Sinai

Mt Sinai location
Mt Sinai is located near the city of St Catherine in the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. Mount Sinai is a peak of the south-central Sinai peninsula in Egypt. Mount Sinai overlooks the Read Sea and neighboring Jordan and Israel. 

How tall is Mount Sinai

Mt Sinai is 7.497 ft (2.285) tall.
Mt Sinai hikes go from St Catherine monastery which is at 5.249 ft (1.600 m) above sea level to Mount Sinai summit which is at 7.497 ft (2.285 m) above sea level.

Climbing Mount Sinai in Egypt
Stones of Mount Sinai in Egypt

How to get to Mount Sinai in Egypt

Mount Sinai can be easily reached from Nuweiba, Dahab, Sharm El-Sheikh, and Cairo. Popular Mount Sinai bus tours go from Dahab, Sharm-El Sheikh, and Cairo to Mount Sinai.

The St Catherine Monastery in the Sinai peninsula, where Mount Sinai hikes start, is about 274 mi (440 km) away from Cairo, 143 mi (230 km) away from Sharm El-Sheikh, 83 mi (133 km) away from Dahab, and 68 mi (110 km) away from Nuweiba.

A bus ride from Cairo to Mt Sinai takes 9 hours on average. A bus ride from Sharm El-Sheik to Mt Sinai takes 3 hours, and from Dahab to St Catherine monastery 2 hours.

Mount Sinai Egypt tours go to the St Catherine monastery at the foot of Mt Sinai where all hikes to Mt Sinai start.

How to climb Mount Sinai in Egypt

Climbing Mount Sinai in Egypt is allowed only with a local Jebeliya Bedouin guide.
The Jebeliya Bedouins live, control, and protect Biblical Mount Sinai. Moses’ mountain is their home.

Sunrise at Mount Siani tours:
Viator: Sunrise at Mount Sinai and St. Catherine monastery. Trip from Sharm el Sheikh
GetYourGuide: St. Catherine’s Monastery Sunrise Trip from Sharm-El Sheikh

HIKING MOUNT SINAI IN EGYPT

Hiking Mount Sinai is sunrise is a must-have experience in a lifetime.
Popular Mount Sinai hikes go from St Catherine’s monastery, which stands at the foot of Mt Sinai, up to Mount Sinai peak.

Climbing Mount Sinai in Egypt

Two paths for climbing to Mount Sinai summit

There are two ways to reach the summit: the Camel Path and Steps of Repentance. Both of them start next to the St Catherine monastery at the foot of Mount Sinai.

The Camel Path joins the Repentance Path at a place called Elijah Hollow or the Seven Elders of Israel. From there final 750 steps lead to the summit.

1. Camel Path of the Sinai Mountain in Egypt

The Camel Path is a 4.3 mi (7 km) long snake-like path.
Trekking the Camel Path up to the top takes about 2 and a half hours (up to 3 hours) on average. Local Bedouins offer camel rides for 250 EGP (15 USD) along the path.
If you want, you can take a camel ride up the mountain and almost to the peak of Mount Sinai. I am saying ‘almost’, as the camels can go to Elijah Hollow, and from there, there are still 750 steps to climb to the top. There are rest stops along the Camel Path where local bedouins sell water, hot drinks (tea, coffee, chocolate), snacks, and even blankets that are welcomed during cold night climbs.

CLIMBING MOUNT SINAI

2. Repentance Path of the Sinai Mountain in Egypt

If you want to hike the Repentance Path, you need to take 3.750 steps to the top which takes 2 hours on average.
Although the steps are faster, they are uneven, much steeper, and seek constant awareness. As such, they are more difficult to climb than the Camel way. 
The Repentance Steps date back to the 6th – the 7th century AD when a monk carved them out of the mountain.

My Mount Sinai hike

I started the Mount Sinai trip from Dahab, a small town on the coast of the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. I wanted to see a sunrise over the Dead Sea from the top of Mt Sinai and I took a bus tour from Dahab.

The minibus left the town at 11 pm and reached St Catherine monastery 2 hours later. Around 1 am on a dark and cold night in late November my companions from the minibus and I started climbing Mt Sinai along the Camel Path with a local Jebeliya Bedouin guide.
The Jebeliya Bedouins live, control, and protect Biblical Mount Sinai. Moses’ mountain is their home.

Bedouin guide on Mount Sinai in Egypt

The night hike was nothing less than beautiful. Although the night was cold, walking up the mountain warmed us quickly.
Our Mt Sinai night trek was blessed with the light of the full moon. From time to time the mountain hid the moon, but the stars illuminated our way. The sky was full of stars in a way that can be seen only in areas of unspoiled nature with no light pollution. 
On our way up we took breaks a few times and refreshed ourselves by taking some warm tea or coffee at the Bedouins’ rest places.
But as soon as we stopped, we felt the cold and we started shaking in our shirts and jackets which got wet during the hike. Therefore, our breaks never lasted more than a few minutes.

We reached the top around 4 am.
Luckily a Bedouin rest place was just before the final 100 steps where we took a warm shelter.  Refreshed and alert we went up to the top of Moses Mountain a few minutes just before sunrise.

Sunrise from the top of mount Sinai

The sunrise started around 6 am and we were standing on the top of Mount Sinai.
We were on the site where Moses received the Ten Commandments when the big orange ball started coming out of the Red Sea.

The scene seemed like the birth of the Universe. Timeless. Infinite. Eternal.

Sunrise from the top of the Moses Mount in Sinai
Me at Mt Sinai peak at sunrise

At 7 am we started going down to the monastery taking another route – the Repentance Steps.
Taking 3.750 Repentance Steps down was a faster way, but knee-busting. It took us an hour and a half to get back to the monastery.
The scenery all the way down was utterly fascinating. Harsh and dry but bewitching.

The Steps of Repentance in Sinai

We passed by Elijah basin on our way down.

The Elijah basin is a plateau named after the Elijah prophet. According to the legend, the prophet Elijah was hiding there in a cave on Mount Sinai for 40 days running away from Jezebel’s revenge after defeating the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel.

Eljah basin in the Mount Sinai in Egypt
Elijah Basin in Mount Sinai Egypt
Prophet Elijah basin in Mount Sinai
Climbing Mount Sinai in Egypt
Mt Sinai in Egypt

After a short stop at the Elijah basin, we continued our Mount Sinai trekking trip to the St Catherine monastery.

At 9 am we entered the monastery following Moses’ footsteps and standing again on another site where Biblical Moses once stood.

St Catherine monastery and Moses’ Burning bush

Climbing Mount Sinai in Egypt
St Catherine monastery in Sinai (Photo:© World Travel Connector)

The St Catherine Monastery is a 1500-year-old Christian Greek Orthodox in the Sinai peninsula in Egypt.

The official name of the St Catherine Sinai monastery is ‘Sacred and Imperial Monastery of the God-Trodden Mount Sinai’. The monastery was built on the site where what’s believed to be Moses’ Burning Bush was found.

The Burning Bush in Sinai

Empress Helena, the mother of Roman Emperor Constantine who legalized Christianity in the Roman Empire, attended a pilgrimage to the site In the 4th century AD. After the pilgrimage, she protected the bush by building a small chapel on the site.

Later in the early 6th century AD, Roman Emperor Justinian built a huge basilica with a monastery to protect the chapel. Additionally, he built high walls to protect the basilica, chapel, and bush.

Climbing Mount Sinai in Egypt

In the 6th century AD during his life, Prophet Muhammad made several pilgrimages to Mt Sinai. In his letter to the monks of St Catherine monastery in Sinai, he granted a Charter of Privileges – protection of the site, monks, and Christians in the area from religious persecution.

In the 11th century, a mosque was built next to the church in the monastery complex. In fact, the mosque was made out of the original monastery refectory. The mosque’s minaret stands just opposite the monastery bell.

Bedouin in Mount Sinai 1 1
A Jebeliya bedouin in front of St Catherine monastery in Sinai in Egypt

Indigenous Bedouins of Mt Sinai called the Jebeliya Bedouins, which literally means ‘Mountain Bedouins’, have been guarding the monastery for centuries.

Although the early chapel was named after Empress Helena, later the monastery was renamed after St Catherine of Alexandria who was a Christian martyr and whose body, according to a legend, was mysteriously found on a summit next to Mt Sinai.

The 8.668 ft (2.629 m) St Catherine summit in the Sinai peninsula is the highest peak in Egypt. St. Catherine’s church and monastery are located on the foot of Mount Sinai.

St Catherine Monastery in Sinai is one of the famous Egypt landmarks

The Sinai St Catherine’s monastery is the oldest continuously active Christian monastery in the World.

The Codex Sinaiticus or Sinai Bible – the earliest manuscript of the Bible, written in Greek and dating back to the 4th century was found in the monastery. Today the British Museum holds the Codex Sinaiticus.
The Library of the Sinai monastery, which is today a museum, holds an impressive collection of holy manuscripts and iconography – over 3.000 manuscripts, over 5.000 early printed books, and over 2.000 icons from the 6th to the 18th century. Only the Vatican Library in Rome has a larger collection of holy books than the library of Saint Catherine Monastery.

2002 UNESCO listed St Catherine’s Monastery Sinai as a World Heritage Site, documenting that all of St Catherine’s area is a sacred place to three World’s religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

The main sites of the St Catherine monastery complex:

  • Church of the Transfiguration – the main church of the complex
  • The Sacred Sacristy – a museum with a number of treasures like the Ladder of Divine Ascent and pages from the Codex Sinaiticus
  • Monastery Mosque – the 11th-century mosque
  • The Burning Bush – a descendant of the Old Testament’s burning bush.

Opening hours of St Catherine Monastery: 10 am – 12 pm (noon); Fri, Sun closed; Greek Orthodox holidays closed
Entrance to Mount Sinai Monastery: free
Entrance to Museum of Saint Catherine Mount Sinai monastery: 20 EGP

10 Essential tips for climbing Mount Sinai, Egypt

1. Decide whether you’d hike Mount Sinai for sunset or sunrise

The Mt Sinai hiking tours go at sunset and sunrise.
The sunset from the mountaintop can be spectacular, but you will need to get down the mountain at night which might not be easy.
Hiking Mount Sinai down in dark is much more dangerous with a higher possibility to fall down than in the daylight. Keep in your mind that going down 3.750 uneven Steps of Repentance on the Mount Sinai trek is not an easy task at all!

2. Join a tour

Climbing Mount Sinai in Egypt is allowed only with a local Jebeliya Bedouin guide. So, join a tour for your Mount Sinai hike:
Sunrise at Mount Sinai and St. Catherine monastery. Trip from Sharm el Sheikh (Viator)
Mount Moses Trekking, Sunrise & Monastery Visit From Sharm (Get Your Guide)
Overnight Trip to Saint Catherine Monastery From Cairo (Get Your Guide)
St. Catherine’s Monastery and Mt. Sinai Tour From Dahab (Get Your Guide)

3. Check the weather forecast for Sinai

Temperatures on the foot and the top of the Sinai Mount vary between 5 – 10ºC on average

4. Take a flashlight

A flashlight is a useful tool for climbing Mount Sinai during the night or early in the morning.

5. Wear good hiking shoes

Wear good hiking shoes, or good sneakers at least –  be aware of the rocky terrain. Mount Sinai climb requires good hiking shoes. RELATED READ: 15 Best Hiking Boots for Women

6. Dress in layers

During your Mount Sinai hike you will be sweating a lot, but also getting cold a lot. Be smart and dress in layers!

7. Don’t forget a warm jacket

Take a warm jacket. You will need it at the top for sure. The wind at the top can be fairly strong!

8. Use hiking poles

Take hiking sticks . If you are fit, hiking sticks are not necessary but will make your Mount Sinai trek much easier. And, going down the 3.750 uneven Steps of Repentance on Mount Sinai is knee-busting!

9. Stay hydrated and bring some snaks

Take your water bottle and pack some light snacks – do not overpack your bag. You can always buy more from the Bedouins at the rest stops along the Mount Sinai hike.

10. Bring your passport with you

Don’t forget to take your passport with you. You will need to go through several police checkpoints on your way to St Catherine. The police will ask for your identification documents.

CLIMBING MOUNT SINAI IN EGYPT – Facts

  • Starting point: St Catherine monastery at the foot of Mount Sinai
  • The highest point: The summit of Mount Sinai in Egypt at 2,285 m (7,497 ft) above sea level
  • Hiking Distance: 11.5 km (7.15 mi) return
  • Duration: 4 hours on average (a return hike)
  • Elevation: 700 m (2,296 ft) total elevation gain | 2,285 m (7,497 ft) max elevation
  • Difficulty: Easy-moderate

Best time to climb Mount Sinai

The best seasons to climb Mount Sinai are spring and autumn.

Summer in Mount Sinai can be too hot. Daily temperatures in summer rise often above 40ºC (1o4ºF).

Winter in the Sinai can be too cold. Winter night temperatures often go around -10 ºC (14ºF) with the snow on top. From December to March, temperatures in Mt Sinai go below zero, and usually, the snow is on the top.

The best months to climb Mt Sinai are April, May, September, October, and November. From September to November nights are not too cold and are more favorable for climbing Mount Sinai in Egypt.

Q&A

How high Is Mount Sinai In Egypt?

Mount Sinai in Egypt is  2,285 m (7,497 ft) above sea level.

Where did Moses receive the 10 commandments?

Mount Sinai in the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt is believed to be the Biblical mountain where God spoke to Moses and where Moses received the Ten Commandments.

How long does it take to climb Mt Sinai?

It takes about 2 hours and a half on average to reach the summit.

What is the highest peak in Egypt?

The 8.668 ft (2.629 m) St Catherine summit in the Sinai peninsula is the highest peak in Egypt.

Milijana
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suzanne clair

Wednesday 27th of October 2021

Wonderful account! Thank you! How fit do you need to be to climb? Is there the option of the camel hire in the nightime along the Camel Path?

Milijana

Wednesday 27th of October 2021

Thank you, Suzanne!

I was suprised to see many older people doing their pilgrimage and climbing Mount Sinai during the night. Many of them used hiking sticks, but some of them used the help and hands of their guides who were walking side by side along the path. Pilgrim's spirit overcomes every obstacle, I believe.

I would say an average level of fitness is needed.

And yes, I saw people on the camels during the night along the Camel Path. It's possible to hire a camel.

Thank you for reading my blog and many happy trails!

Milijana

kamree

Tuesday 8th of January 2019

Hiking mount Sinai would be an incredible experience. The view is absolutely stunning, Egypt is on our bucket list-so when we go we will make sure to do this together! xo - Kam

Lisa

Tuesday 8th of January 2019

Wow! What an awesome range of wildlife that lives on Mount Sinai - I'd love to see the Sinai Baton Blue! 😍 A hike up the mountain also sounds fantastic, espically the night hike ✨ Your photos are all amazing!!

Medha Verma

Tuesday 8th of January 2019

The terrain for the hike looks a little tough so I wonder what it must be like to hike Mt Sinai at night! Having said that, it must be gorgeous in the moonlight I am sure. And to catch that beautiful sunrise must be nothing less than magical! I haven't been to Egypt yet and I had never thought that I'd hike Mt Sinai if I were to go but it seems like an intriguing and unique experience!

Elaine Masters

Tuesday 8th of January 2019

What a magical journey. I don't imagine that I'll ever be able to do this but how wonderful to see those valleys, monasteries and that spectacular sunrise. Thanks so much for sharing