Mount Sinai (and Saint Catherine Monastery) was the last stop in our Egypt tour. When I first found out that climbing Mt. Sinai was part of the trip, I quickly obliged. I was all up for it. It’s nothing close to what Moses did, but to experience the same the mountain that he conquered at God’s command is quite an adventure.
The Lord descended to the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain. So Moses went up.
— Exodus 19:20
On the bus to Morgenland Village, Fr. Arlo oriented us about the climb. He made it sound like it’s an easy quest. Thinking that it was just a leisure climb up a significant mountain in the bible, I imagined it at first as a relaxed walking tour while marveling at the rich vegetation of the mountain and encountering various creatures I’ve only seen in pictures and on TV. Totally wrong. Mount Sinai is a rocky mountain or a huge rock mountain. Plants were rare and the only animals I saw were camels! Climbing wasn’t easy at all. It required physical strength and endurance to tread on rocky paths, and the patience to wait hours until we reach the top.
We stayed at Morgenland Village. The place is huge yet simple with its wooden furniture. They have a swimming pool (which we didn’t get to enjoy due to time constraints) and the mountains that serve as the backdrop of the whole place added the needed spectacle.
We woke up at around 2:00 in the morning to start our climb. My roommate Andrew and I were the last ones to meet with the rest of the group. With all the traveling that we’ve been doing during our trip, sleep was the only thing in our minds. We met with our Bedouin guide Fawzi (which means winner in Arabic), and all the other climbers at the hotel lobby and had some coffee to keep us awake. That’s actually the first challenge – to wake up in the wee ours of the morning and to stay awake.
With only flashlights to light the path, we started our journey to the top of Mount Sinai. Without any source of light, it was pitch dark. We could hear the steps of camels without seeing them. The riders would have to shout “camel” as warning.
Here’s a tip: A camel ride is $20 per person. If you just want to reach the top, ride the camel. It’s worth the $20. It will help you get there faster, but ride one when you’re about halfway through the climb. But of course, it’s still a different experience to go all the way by foot.
It took me a while before I got to use my camera. I didn’t bring flash so I had to wait for ample amount of sunlight to actually take decent pictures.
We had moments to rest, use the restrooms, have tea, coffee, and refreshments, and decide wether to ride the camel or not, at camel stops or shops like this:
We thought that a camel ride was too much for $20 so we decided to keep going by foot. Besides, Fawzi kept on telling us that we were near the top. We shouldn’t have listened. Just kidding. Some of our companions decided to stay at the stops. We just reunited with them on the way down.
As we progressed, the sun started to rise and I was able to take pictures of the beautiful view.
We were told, also by Fr. Arlo, that the best place to view the sunrise was at the top of Mt. Sinai. So, when we were almost at the last camel stop, which also starts what they call “the hundred steps” to the top, some of us decided to rush to get to the peak in time for the sun rise. I decided to go at my own pace with my parents and just enjoyed whatever sunrise greeted me.
For me, this is the best shot I took at Mt. Sinai. This view is even better than what I’ve seen at the top. The rock formation adds drama to the scene.
My parents decided to stay at the camel stop, while I chose to go on. It was a good decision for them to stay because it was really difficult going up the last leg of the climb.
I went on my way to the hundred steps. It was VERY steep and I realized that it was a good thing my parents decided to stay. I was gasping for breath and my throat was drying up. There were Bedouins selling bottled water, but my biggest mistake was not bringing money along with me. I was navigating the steps alone with no one to borrow money from. The other climbers went ahead and were able to reach the top already.
At that moment, I had two options. It’s either I retreat and wait with my parents at the camel stop or I continue the climb not knowing how long it will still take me to reach the top. Seeing that there are people going down, those who have reached the top much earlier, I thought it wouldn’t take me long to reach my destination. I can’t remember how long it took me to go through all those steps, but thank God I’ve reached the top of Mount Sinai!
Surprisingly, there were already a lot of people at the top. We found out that they’ve started their climb much earlier and stayed there overnight. Some were singing praises and others were praying. It was really an ideal place of worship and reflection. I was just so happy I reached the top.
After enjoying the view and taking pictures, it was time for our descent. Going down, I couldn’t count the number of times I almost slipped. To go down was actually more difficult than to go up. In fact, a rock left a souvenir on my lens. Thankfully, only the filter was dented.
I can’t explain the feeling after having climbed Mt. Sinai! It’s such a wonderful experience that you just get that positive energy and the fulfillment that you have accomplished something that not everyone is given the chance to do.
After our successful descent, we went back to the Morgenland Village to have breakfast and to leave our things in the bus. But before we headed to Tabah border, we visited St. Catherine Monastery where the burning bush was.