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. This is an iconic biblical destination, said to be the location where Moses received the Ten Commandments from God. Local Bedouins refer to this mountain as Jebel Musa, or the Mountain of Moses.

We did this hike back in 2009. We haven’t shared this unique travel experience on this blog yet, so we thought today was as good as any to take a trip back in time. 

It is a popular pilgrimage 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 the photo above. That is a lot of people.

Hiking to the Mount Sinai Summit

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.

Read more posts from Egypt here. 

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 us most was that camel shepherds, tour guides and souvenir merchants were allowed to walk around the metal detector. No questions asked? Literally dozens of people flowed past the check point without so much as a look. However, the bus loads of foreign tourists where required to pass through this outdoor metal detector? It’s such a strange process.

The hike to the summit took about 3 hours.

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. As you can guess from the name, there are lots of camels on this path. These camels kick up dust as they transport those who are 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, you will find more small huts serving hot tea and renting blankets and pillows to sit on.

It’s quite cold at the summit, especially since you’ve been sweating for a few hours. It’s wise to bring a change of clothes, sweater, hat and pants.

Orange glow from the sunrise. The views on top of Mount Sinai are incredible.

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.

Saint Catherine’s Monastery

The hike concluded at Saint Catherine’s Monastery (pictured above. This Greek Orthodox monastery was built in the 6th century and is the location of the legendary Burning Bush from the Bible. It’s now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the longest-running monasteries in the world.

Have you visited Mount Sinai? What did you think?

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