To Summit Mount Sinai...
Updated: Mar 22, 2021
Being born and raised on the flat lands, I've never envisioned myself as a mountain climber and still don't. However, coming from the flat lands made summiting Mt. Sinai more of an adventure than it may have otherwise been to a more fit individual.
There are two parts to Mount Sinai: the physical mountain itself and the spiritual mountain. The two are inextricable intertwined. The satisfaction of completing the spiritual pilgrimage is much more meaningful having completed an arduous, yet accomplishable task.
The physical mountain is 2285m (7497ft) tall. The air is thin and it is cold enough to see snow fall in the winter and at night.
The spiritual mountain is one of the most important sacred places in the Jewish, Christian and Islamic religions. According to the Bible it is the location where Moses received the Ten Commandments from God. It is also one of a few locations were God took upon himself a physical form, which in this case was a burning bush that was not consumed.
The Monastery of St. Catherine completed in 565AD can be found at the base of Mt. Saini and is home of (a descendent) the burning bush through which God spoke.
There are two popular ways to climb the mountain. The first way is up the 3750 Steps of Repentance and the second is to ride a camel 80% of the way up and then only climb the final 750 steps to the summit. Both ways require the mandatory hiring of a local Bedouin guide and a climb all the way back down the mountain. We chose to ride the camels which was an awesome experience albeit a literal pain in the ass.
The first step is a selection of your camel and then away you go. There are stops enroute that offer toilet facilities and a welcome hot cup of tea.
The final 750 steps that take you 300m higher to the summit are rough, uneven and steep.
At the top you are greeted by a small Greek Orthodox chapel, an even smaller mosque and a spectacular 360 degree panoramic view.
The hardest part of the climb may just be the 3750 steps back down to the monastery. It is challenging to negotiate the stairs when you are cold and your legs feel like rubber. On the way down you pass several notable sites including Elijah's Basin, two arches and a couple of medieval churches.
All in all, it was a deeply gratifying experience and definitely bucket list worthy.
A few last notes. The mountain is about a 3 hour drive from where most of the hotels are located. The most popular way to climb the mountain is to be picked up from your hotel around 9:00PM so you can begin your ascent around midnight, in the dark, so you can witness the sun rise from the summit. You are then hustled down so that you can visit the monastery before it closes at noon and return to your hotel.
That didn't seem like much fun for us so we chose a much less popular and more difficult to arrange option. We chose to be picked up from our hotel at 6:00AM, visit the monastery when it opened at 9:00 AM and then climb and descend the mountain in the afternoon in full daylight, returning to our hotel around 6:00PM.
Choose whichever option you like, but I would assert that we did it much more comfortably.