Mount Sinai travel tips
The snaps above were taken at dawn after a chilly night atop Mount Sinai, the peak of which covers little more than the area of a house block.
A tiny church and a mosque have been built on the peak by worshippers.
There's something very memorable about spending a night alone at the top of Mount Sinai.
The still of the cold Sinai desert air is often broken in the early morning by the wailing of pilgrims climbing the mountain to worship where Man is said to have been touched by the hand of God.
The Mount Sinai trek usually takes less than three hours and sunrise climbers are rewarded with spectacular views over the Red Sea to the distant mountains of Saudi Arabia.
The peak of Mount Sinai is also home to the 500-year-old cypress tree where the prophet Elijah is said to have heard the voice of God.
St Katherine's monastery is at the base of the mountain and you might be able to arrange accommodation or a guided tour while you're there.
When you find yourself at the top of Mount Sinai and think about the history and destiny associated with this spot, you'll never forget it.
St Katherine's monastery was built in 550AD by order of the Emperor Justinian.
Mt Sinai travel tips
Egypt's Sinai Peninsula is a triangular wedge of rugged and beautifully sparse terrain jutting into the northern end of the Red Sea.
The north of the peninsula is mostly sandy desert and the south is filled with jagged mountains, the whole region covered with shifting dunes and enclosed within a fringe of fantastic beaches and coral reefs.
The reefs often drop more than 30 metres into the clear gulf waters, which are usually warm.
If you have your airfares to Egypt and plan travel through the Sinai, it's wise to take and wear a pair of sunglasses or glasses as the dust can be terrible and you need to protect your eyes.
The first settlers of the Sinai peninsula were thought to be miners who dug the region's rich copper, gold and turquoise deposits about 8,000 years ago.
The pharaohs of Egypt had seized the Sinai and its mineral wealth by 3000 BC and the peninsula became known as the Land of Turquoise.
This historic wedge of Egypt has seen battles waged by the armies of Cleopatra and Alexander the Great.
The Sinai has a total coastline of more than 750 kilometres and is dotted with fresh, warm water springs. The northern coast is blanketed with palm trees.
Mount Sinai holiday tips
The Blue Desert is a quirky stopover between St Katherine's monastery and Dahab. Belgian artist Jean Berame used ten tons of blue paint in 1980 to paint a bizarre landscape covering more than six kilometres of rock installations, some as tall as nine metres. The blue rocks create a vivid contrast with the deep reds and yellows of the desert, and the artwork stands as a memorial to the declaration of peace between Israel and Egypt.
The Coloured Canyon near Nuweiba is a stunning crevice of walls coloured and shaped by sea waters which covered the Sinai peninsula millions of years ago. The canyon is about 700 metres long and the dramatic wall shapes and hues are the result of water eroding a mixture of sandstone and limestone. The canyon can be reached by car.
Dahab is one of the Sinai's major tourist hideaways on the Red Sea coast, a town which retains its beatnik feel despite infrastructure growth in recent years. >Dahab is 85 kilometres north of Sharm el-Sheikh near the southern tip of the Sinai on the Gulf of Aqaba. Dahab means "gold" in Arabic, almost certainly a reference to its soft yellow beach sands. The main part of Dahab is Assalah, a small Bedouin village with shops, campgrounds, hotels and restaurants on the shores of Ghazla Bay. Dahab boasts dry, hot weather, plenty of palm trees, fantastic beach sands, alluring nearby wadis, camel treks, excellent windsurfing, sailboarding and fantastic water for swimming or diving. Nearby Blue Hole is one of the best diving spots in the Sinai. Dahab still offers cheap accommodation right on the beach and there are daily buses to Cairo, Sharm el-Sheikh and Suez. Daily buses also travel from Mt Katherine to Sharm el-Sheikh and Cairo. Swimming, snorkelling and windsurfing are superb in the two bays of Dahab and the town has a very laid-back character.
Feiran Oasis is the wadi where Moses is said to have struck his staff upon a rock, bringing forth a spring of water for his people to drink, and where the Hebrews camped in their battle with the Amelecites. This biblical heritage has for thousands of years made Feiran a religious centre for pilgrims. The wadi is peppered with dozens of ancient church ruins, some dated to the 4th Century AD. Known as the Pearl of Sinai, the wadi itself is a stunningly picturesque oasis with four kilometres of luxuriant palms and spectacular cliff walls.
Na'ama Bay is just north of Sharm el-Sheikh and in recent years has become a tourist hotspot in the Sinai, thanks mostly to its stunning coastal location at the mouth of the picturesque Wadi el-Aat, its resort hotels and shops, pulsating nightlife, and proximity to excellent dive sites.
Nuweiba is a Sinai port and beach resort about 85 kilometres north of Dahab. The southern port area within the bay provides daily ferry trips to Aqaba on the Jordan coast, boasts several resorts and tourist villages with great beaches and coral reefs, and is home to the glorious oasis of Neweiba Muzeina. On the northern side of the bay is Nuweiba el-Tarabin, another gorgeous beach area which is the home of the Tarabin bedouin tribe. This stretch is less developed than Muzeina but has the ruins of a great 16th Century fortress. Nuweiba and Dahab have similar features and a quiet ambience.
Rad Mohammed National Park at the southern tip of the Sinai is well worth visiting if only to soak up the dramatic views from its arid promontory looking out over rich coral reefs which protect some of the most abundant marine life in the Red Sea. Much of Rad Mohammed, declared a national park in 1983, is the legacy of a giant coral reef which drained away tens of thousands of years ago, leaving an array of limestone outcrops littered with marine fossils.
Sharm el-Sheikh was made internationally famous by its superb diving reefs and has developed in recent decades to boast dozens of hotels and resorts. Sharm el-Sheikh is close to the wonderful sights of the Sinai's southern desert, has great fishing and even boasts sulphur springs considered curative for people suffering rheumatic and skin diseases. Sharm el-Sheikh is mostly a tourist dive town but many people go there just to soak up the sun. The choice of Sharm el-Sheikh facilities varies from the Hilton resort to McDonald's to The Hard Rock Cafe.
St Katherine has been a centre of religious pilgrimage for more than 15 centuries, nestled as it is beside the mountain where Moses is believed to have received the 10 Commandments from God. The monastery houses a vast treasure of ancient religious manuscripts, icons and structures. St Katherine is the oldest unrestored basilica in continuous use and has a 6th century church said to lie directly atop the site of the Burning Bush.
Taba is a small and pretty beach town on the northern edge of the Gulf of Aqaba just two kilometres from the Israeli border. Taba's beach has warm, still waters filled with bright corals and teeming fish, and is a great place to just put your feet up and get a suntan.
Dozens of people were killed and injured in terrorist bombings at the Taba Hilton resort hotel and south along the Sinai's Red Sea coast at the Ras Shaitan backpacker resort on October 7, 2004. Thousands of Israelis fled north to the safety of Israel.
The Egypt State Information Service page provides a wealth of background information. You can also check updated travel advice via the US Department of State Consular Information Sheet concerning Egypt Travel.
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