Saint Catherine is a monastery that is set on a site believed
to be the place where God delivered His Ten Commandments to
Moses and the place of the burning bush.
The monastery was initially founded by Empress Helena (mother
of Constantine the
Great, the first Roman Christian emperor) at the site of
the burning bush.
The present basilica was built by orders of Emperor Justinian
in the 6th century AD who fortified the place with walls to
protect monks against raiding Bedouins. This enclosed Helena's
first chapel. In the 11th century the mosque was added to the
monastery probably by stern Moslem rulers.
The monastery takes its name from an Egyptian Christian martyr
called Saint Catherine. She was born in Alexandria
at the end of the 3rd century of a wealthy powerful family.
The well-educated youth converted to Christianity and publicly
declared her faith at the time of Roman Emperor Maximinus. Maximinus,
however, had her tortured and finally beheaded her. As tradition
tells, her body vanished and was transported by angels to the
site of the monastery where monks, guided by a vision found
her body few centuries later, so they buried her in a basilica
that bears her name.
Despite being isolated, the monastery is one of the major tourist
attractions. There are restrictions on visits since the monastery
is still functioning so some parts of the monastery are not
accessible to visitors.
It is currently managed by Greek Orthodox monks who are actually
very few in number.
Built in the 6th century by Emperor Justinian. The main building
are the original one but the ceiling, floor, iconstasis date
to the 17th-18th century. The narthex
has interesting display of part of the monastery's icons.
The monastery's rich library has very rare books and manuscripts
but unfortunately inaccessible to the public and only experts
can access it by petitioning monks in charge.
Mount Sinai (Gabal Musa):There are two routes leading to the apex: the camel trail
and the Steps of Repentance. The camel trail is recommended
for climbing, as it is easier and the latter for descending.
It will take you almost two hours to get to the summit and
you'll usually find refreshment stands on your way up.
Mount Sinai is often called as Gabal Musa (or Mount Moses).
It is 2285 meters (7500 ft) high. You can climb this mountain,
as it's really very interesting and adventurous. Begin your
hike 3 hours before sunset (2-3 am) in order to catch sunset
at the summit and you'd better take a torch, as parts of the
mounting routes are difficult.
Whether on summer or winter, take heavy winter clothes to
wear them at the summit because it's getting extremely cold
up there even in the hot summer. Take sufficient food and
drinks also. However try to avoid heat of the day as you climb
You can take a sleeping bag if you want to take a rest, as there
is no space to pitch a tent, nevertheless it won't be easy to
sleep with much frequent crowds. On the summit also there is
a small Greek Orthodox chapel built in 1930s but it is usually
The Steps of Repentance are recommended for descending. The
steps were laid by a pious monk who pledged repentance. The
steps are precipitous so take care.
On your way down the steps you'll find a site marked by a 500-year-old
cypress tree. It's where Biblical Prophet Elijah heard the voice
of God (See Lithograph 3).
Mount Catherine (Gabal Katreen):
Reaching the height of 2650 meters (8700 feet), Mount Catherine
is the highest peak in Egypt. It is steeper than Mount Sinai
but challenging and the path is better. At the mountain's
peak there is the site where remains of Saint Catherine were