The highlight and zenith of our trip
Mount Sinai Travel Blog› entry 8 of 13 › view all entries
Climbing Mt. Sinai was Ed's idea. From the US it seemed like a great idea, until the day - or night - arrived. We left Dahab on a particularly windy, cool day and arrived at St. Catherine's about 4pm. It was no longer cool, but downright cold in the mountains and our hotel was unheated in the communal areas. We had heaters in our rooms, which took hours to heat up. By the time we woke from our naps at 1am to start the hike, the rooms were toasty warm, which made it all the harder to go out in to the cold.
We hired a Bedouin guide named Adil - you don't really need a guide, nor is it required, but we had heard it was recommended to put money back into the local economy. So, why not. We paid him LE 100, which he seemed very happy with (there were four of us).
It took us 2.5 hours to get to the top. It wasn't difficult, but definitely long. Flashlights are a necessity as is tolerance for the multitude of camels and their pushy drivers. We were followed almost all the way to the top continually asked "camel? camel?" When we hit the 750 steps at the top, the camel drivers were replaced by helpful lads asking "help? help?"
We'd heard that on some days there were as many as 1000 pilgrims making their way to the top. On our day, there were probably only about 300. A mix of nationalities and fitness levels - we actually saw some Russian women who climbed in heels and furs! (you go girls!) Most of these pilgrims bus in for the hike and don't stay in the local hotels.
We left the entrance to the hike (where security checked everyone's backpack) at 2am. We arrived before 5. Sunrise wasn't till 6 - so we could have slept for another hour, but we weren't sure how long it would take so we played it safe. We had heard some folks could do it in an hour and others took up to 4 - so we fell right in the middle. At the penultimate top there are several huts that sell tea & snacks and also rent blankets. There's a 5LE toilet there too which is very picturesque and surprisingly clean.
The final few steps to the zenith are easy but jam packed with people. At the very tippy top there's a church but you can see the sunrise from any vantage point along the way - so pick the least crowded. We had a fantastic view below the church and enjoyed the sunrise at 7,500 feet with the desert spread below us. There were also a few religious ceremonies taking place, but most of the crowd is just interested in the view. Luckily, as soon as the sun shows up, the crowds begin the descent, which allowed us to hang out at the top and take photos. The view is astounding, the thought that you are treading where Moses tread is amazing, and being with my three friends was the best.
The hike down is great because you can SEE what you missed on the way up - and it's much quicker going down.
If you do stay locally, take the time to tour the Monastery - it's only open till noon so easy to see on your hike out. Also visit Fan Sina, a Bedouin women's cooperative in the town center, which has loads of beautiful handicrafts for sale. Lots of hiking and jeep safaris to do also in the area, although we found the hotels near the Sea much more comfortable to use as a base.
We worked with our hotel for all transportation (Daniela) and found it rather expensive. Try to go right to the locals for the best deals.