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Oct

01

2014

May

31

2015


Ascend Mount Sinai by Cover of Night

Published by Camilla Cheung, Writer

Country: Egypt

The Experience

It was midnight, and our Egyptian driver was impatient as 10 tourists tried to stuff themselves into a rather undersized van. Making sure we had our passports to show for the midnight checkpoints, we were soon en route, sleepy but excited, towards our destination: climbing Mount Sinai by night.

The night route for climbing Mount Sinai is a popular one, undertaken by many in order to bask in the beautiful Sinai sunrise. We were dropped off at the front gate along with hundreds of other travellers making the night trek. Waving flashlights, the Bedouin guides called for their assigned tour groups to make their way through the metal detectors to begin climbing Mount Sinai. Our guide was a friendly, quiet fellow who had an odd knack of suddenly disappearing to go check on those lagging behind in the rear, and then suddenly reappearing again far ahead of us, apparently not the least bit out of breath.

The path to the summit of the mythical mountain was not particularly steep, but I had endured a case of the Egyptian tummy the night before, and having ingested little else but crackers for the past 12 hours, I found myself sweating with exertion as I fought stomach cramps and looked forward to the next rest point. For most people in good health, however, climbing Mount Sinai is easy, and made much more pleasant by the absence of the scorching desert sun.

We reached the top about an hour before the Sinai sunrise, and spent several minutes settling ourselves on the perfect rock outcropping. We stared out into the darkness and tried to make out some of the features of the shadowy landscape. With surprising rapidity, dawn broke over the horizon, and pale gold and rose fingers of light illuminated the spectacular desert mountains. Rocky mountain ranges stretched in every direction as far as the eye could see, as if a giant’s hand had reached out and crumpled the surface of the earth. I imagined the small band of Israelites camped below in Sinai’s shadow, dwarfed by the grandeur of the landscape. The Sinai sunrise was magnificent.

Mount Sinai Egypt is located in the southern part of the Sinai Peninsula, the traditional location of the mountain mentioned in both Biblical/Jewish accounts, and in the Koran. 2,285 meters in height, the mountain currently known as Mount Sinai may or may not be the same mountain described in ancient texts, but it still has great religious and cultural significance. The Monastery of Saint Catherine is located at its foot, and a mosque and Greek Orthodox chapel perched at its peak.

There are two routes for climbing Mount Sinai. The longer, 2.5 km route uses a series of switchbacks to make the climb less steep. A steeper, more direct route is also available, though the difficulty of ascending the 3,750 steps makes it more desirable as a way DOWN after the trek from the top.

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Map

Puzzle

When to Go to Sinai Sunrise

The best time for climbing Mount Sinai is during the winter and spring when the weather is not as hot. However, you can avoid the hectic tourist season by visiting during the summer and fall. Climbing Mount Sinai by night ensures that temperatures are not too high during your hike, making it possible even during the height of summer.

Travelling to Egypt during the holy month of Ramadan has its advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, many restaurants and tourist services are closed, or will close early, and even many tourist sites (such as the Pyramids) will close early without notice. On the other hand, it is certainly interesting to see Egyptian culture during Ramadan, and many cafes stay open late into the night to serve the locals breaking their fast and celebrating.

Odds n' Ends

Tours for climbing Mount Sinai can be booked in neighboring towns, such as the Red Sea resort town of Dahab. Make sure you bring plenty of water and snacks to keep your energy levels up during the climb. A flashlight is also necessary as the majority of the path is not lit up.

Many tours include a visit to the Monastery of Saint Catherine, though if you can book a tour that excludes the monastery visit, do so. The Monastery is both tiny and crowded, and more interesting churches can be found all throughout Egypt.

Bring a hat and sunglasses for the climb down in the morning, as the sun starts to beat down mercilessly even early in the morning.

As usual when travelling, be aware of possible scams and unscrupulous tour operators. Only buy tours from an agency with a good reputation, and do some research on the Web or in travel guides before moving on to your next destination.

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