St. Catherine's Monastary, valley at Night. Sinai

St. Catherine's Monastary, valley at Night

One of my most remarkable experiences in Egypt was climbing Mt. Sinai by moonlight. We arrived at St. Catherine's Monastary in the late afternoon one July Fourth weekend. After dining in the monastary we retired to our rooms and tried to sleep. We arose at about one in the morning. After a hurried breakfast began our climb about two. A 3/4 moon had risen with us, and provided excellent illumination. The flashlights we carried we needed only for the deepest shadows. We managed to get in front of the hundered or so hikers there for the same purpose, and had the trail for the mostly to ourselves. The first half of the hike consisted of a pleasantly meandering trail, switching back and forth across the rocky hillside. Camels were available for hire for this first portion of our climb, and several in our group (not me!) took advantage of the luxury. Small huts manned by Bedouins every several thousand feet offered chocolate, hot tea and coffee. After almost two hours of climbing the path we had enjoyed so far intercepted the treacherous 7000 step staircase at it's midpoint. The staircase was constructed by a monk as pennance, for what I don't know but it must've been big! Here the camels and hospitality huts were left behind as the climb took a more vertical tilt. Our group was first to the top, and afforded us a chance to explore the summit where Moses received the Ten Commandments. (see following photos) By sunrise over a hundred pilgrims from all over the planet had gathered to watch the spectacle. The climb down from the summit, over 7000', to the Monastary, at about 3000', was made in daylight and in about the same time as the climb: just over 3 hours. The climb had been made in very pleasant, warm night air while, our descent took us deeper and deeper into the building morning heat. We all slept well on the bus back to Cairo, despite the bumps and the heat.

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Copyright 2002, Ian A. Duncan
Revised - - 11/21/2002