Hike to the Summit of Mount Sinai, Egypt
Today we’d like to share our story from a night trek to the summit of Mount Sinai, an iconic biblical destination said to be the place where Moses received the Ten Commandments from God. The local Bedouins refer to the mountain as Jebel Musa, or the Mountain of Moses.
We did this hike back in 2009, but we haven’t talked about it on the blog yet, so we thought today was as good as any to take a trip back in time.
It’s a popular pilgrimage site for Jews, Christians and Muslims, as evidenced by the never-ending stream of hikers that can be seen walking down the 3,750 Steps of Penitence (see photo above).
You need to hire a guide to do the hike, even though the trail is well marked and not very difficult. Most people will book a tour that departs from either Dahab or Sharm el-Sheik and includes transportation and a personal guide. You can also hire a guide or camel right at the park entrance.
We left our hotel, located in the seaside town of Dahab, at around 11:00 PM and arrived at the base of Mount Sinai around 1:00 AM. The drive included several military check points along the way. The fact that it was the middle of the night and nobody was around for miles made the experience a little intimidating.
We hiked throughout the night in order to witness the sunrise over the sandstone mountains of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. It’s recommended to do the sunrise or sunset hike because it’s too hot to hike up the desert mountain during the day.
That, and the views are much more spectacular with a splash of colour.
A bizarre thing happened right before we began the hike.
Just beyond the parking lot, near the park entrance, we had to pass through a metal detector, along with the other 200 tourists and pilgrims that intended to reach the summit that morning.
Try to picture this for a moment. In the middle of a dusty path stood a dimly lit metal detector, like the one you’d see at an airport. I assume that this makeshift ‘security check’ was designed prevent people from bringing weapons on the trail?
But what confused me the most was that all of the camel shepherds, tour guides, merchants and even the souvenir touts were allowed to walk around the metal detector without question. Literally dozens of people flowed past the check point without so much as a look, yet the bus loads of tourists where subjected to pass through this outdoor metal detector? It was so strange.
The hike to the summit took us about 3 hours, if I remember correctly.
We hiked up the Camel Path, which is an easier path that snakes its way up to the summit. It’s a relatively easy hike, but you’ll work up a sweat and your legs will get a good burn.
The path was quite sandy and dirty and, as you can guess from the name, there were lots of camels kicking up dust as they transported those unwilling or unable to make the climb.
Along the way, there were many rest stops with small huts that sell drinks and snacks. At the summit, there are several huts that serve hot tea and provide blankets and pillows to sit on.
It’s quite cold at the summit, especially since you’ve been sweating for a few hours, so it’s best to bring a change of clothes, sweater, hat and pants.
We descended down the Steps of Penitence, a shorter but much steeper path down the mountain. The rocky desert mountain landscapes are incredible. It’s become one of the most memorable hikes from our travels.
We completed our hike at Saint Catherine’s Monastery (pictured above), a Greek Orthodox monastery that was built in the 6th century and the supposed location of the Burning Bush. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the longest-running monasteries in the world.
Here are a few more good reads…
- When in the Canadian Rockies, you MUST visit THIS place
- Why You Should Visit the Mosel Valley in Germany
- 40 Epic Adventures by Travel Bloggers in 2014
- The Golden Round Trip to the Peak of Mount Pilatus
Have you visited Mount Sinai in Egypt? What did you think?
Share your experiences in the comments section below, we’d love to read about them!
See map below to find out where this photo taken.