Footsteps of Moses- Mount Sinai
Mount Sinai, or Jebel Musa (Mount Moses) is of enormous spiritual significance in the shared Judaeo-Christian and Muslim Old Testament heritage, for it is here that Moses is supposed to have received the Ten Commandments. The local Bedouins have deep reverence for the sanctity of their land and for over 1,500 years pilgrims have journeyed here to make obeisance. Perched on the summit are both a Greek Orthodox chapel and a Muslim shrine. The 6th century St Catherine’s Monastery, supposedly built around the Burning Bush, stands at the foot.
There are two routes up the 2,285-m (7,500-ft) high mountain. The Siket Sayidna Musa (Path of Our Lord Moses) – 3,750 Steps of Penitence hewn out of stone by the monks of St Catherine’s – lead directly up a steep ravine to the summit. Or you can take a gentler, more winding path, the Siket El Bashait (Camel Path) either on foot or by camel. Most tourists are herded up the latter track, as likely as not having first been cajoled onto the back of a camel by persuasive Bedouins. The ease of this route is the only thing to recommend it. It is much less scenic and far more crowded. The two paths meet at Elijah’s Basin, a sandy hollow where visitors can camp overnight before climbing the final 750 steps to the mountain summit.
As you tread the Steps of Penitence, you cannot help but be moved by its mystical connotations. From the summit, the view over Sinai is breathtaking. Wrinkled folds and ridges of red- and green-hued granite extend to the horizon in ‘an ocean of petrified waves’. Even for the most sceptical, it is almost enough to stir some sort of faith in the supernatural.
On foot or on a camel
WHEN TO GO:
October to March
TIME IT TAKES:
One to three hours, depending on your pace.
St. Catherine’s Monastery – UNESCO World Heritage site containing the largest collection of early manuscripts outside the Vatican, irreplaceable works of religious art, mosaics and Icons.
Shrive (Confession) Gate – stone hewn arch where pilgrims could have their sins forgiven.
Elijah’s Basin – a 500-year-old cypress tree marking the spot where Elijah Is said to have heard the voice of God.
The view from the summit.
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
wear good hiking shoes and take plenty of water with you. The climb is a long one but Is quite easy for anybody reasonably fit. Tourists are usually persuaded to climb Mount Sinai by night in order to greet the sunrise from the summit. Far better to forego the dawn view, which Is accompanied by freezing cold and hordes of other trippers, for the sake of seeing all the amazing scenery on the way and having more space to yourself to contemplate the view