St. Katherine’s Monastery and Gebel Musa (Mt. Sinai)

An overnight experience not to be missed is a trip to the oldest continuously used monastery in the world, St. Katherine’s, and a hike up to the summit of Gebel Musa (Mt. Sinai). It is here that Muslims, Christians and Jews believe that God delivered the Ten Commandments to Moses. 

It is advisable to begin the hike anywhere between midnight and 3am in order to avoid the heat.  This also allows one to see the shooting stars as one ascends the mountain and then the sunrise over the rugged, brown mountains at dawn.  There are two routes to the summit; the camel trail is easier, and thus recommended for the ascent during the night.  It has a number of stands selling water and coffee and takes about two hours. The more difficult path, the 3,700 Steps of Penance, were laid by one monk as a form of penance and make a beautiful descent through the steep, red canyons.

A cautionary note, your legs will be jelly for about two days after.  This path also passes by the Plain of Cypresses, or Elijah’s Basin, which features a 500 year old cypress tree on the site where the Lord spoke to Elijah and hid him from Jezebel.  A night on the mountain can be very uncomfortable and it is necessary to bring water, food, a flashlight, and warm clothes, as it gets very cold.  You can however rent a mattress and blankets at the top

The monastery is visited by over 50, 000 people a year who come to see the museum, the Church of Transfiguration and its beautiful mosaic, the descendent of the original burning bush, and Moses’ Well, one of several wells supplying the monastery with water and the site where Moses met Jethro’s daughter Zipporah whom he later married.