Mount Sinai Egypt

Mount Sinai Egypt

Mount Sinai Egypt

Mount Sinai Egypt – A complete hiking guide to climbing this majestic mountain- in the dark!

Climbing this epic mountain is a bucket list item. Not only is it considered to be one of the most religiously significant Middle East Peaks, but it’s also a jaw-dropping place to watch the sunrise. Also known as Jabal Musa or the Holy Moses Mountain, it is believed that this is where Moses received the Ten Commandments.

Where is Mount Sinai?

The Sinai Mountains are in South Sinai about 31 miles from the Red Sea.  You can take organised trips from Red Sea resorts such as Sharm El Sheikh or Dahab to reach the mountain base in time for an overnight climb. Mount Sinai is the second-highest mountain in Egypt at 2285 meters.

Mount Sinai and Saint Catherine’s Monastery Facts

Mount Sinai, Egypt - Elevation 2285m (7497 ft)

Epic hike - Sunrise and Sunset view points

Climb Mt Sinai 7 days a week - with an official guide only

Total elevation gain on the hike 700m (2296 ft)

St Catherine's Monastery - Open Saturdays & Mon-Thursdays 9am - 11.30am

Monastery is closed on Egyptian Holidays and Feastdays

Reaching the mountain – things you need to know!

Firstly, your home country’s Foreign Office advice for travel to South Sinai may change. When we travelled in April 23, The UK Foreign Office considered it safe to travel in South Sinai but not to North Sinai. Also, check if you need an Egyptian Visa for the trek.  If you are staying within South Sinai then your South Sinai Stamp will be fine, but travelling from other Egyptian locations will require a Visa. It’s essential to have a local guide to climb Mount Sinai, so an organised trek is advisable.  Travel to the mountain base will also usually require a police escort (they didn’t tell me that when I booked!). The escort travels at set time slots, so again travelling with an official group makes this stress free – albeit not your usual way to start an excursion!

Mount Sinai
Bedouin cafe overnight hike
An overnight hike

It’s a little strange arriving for a mountain trek at 2am. The thorough military screening of us and our hiking kit was also a little unique for a trek.  However, the initial path from our drop off point past St Catherine’s Monastery was well lit and paved….until it wasn’t!  Make sure you have a head torch (although our guide did give out small torches between us).  Also consider that although you are in the desert, the mountain night time temperatures can get very cold.

How long is the trek and what is it like ?

The 7km ‘Camel Route’ climb up can take 2- 4 hours depending on your fitness and also the speed of the group you are travelling with. Slow and steady wins the race on this trek. Following a guide makes it easy to stick to the path, however it’s rocky terrain and you need very solid footwear. There are several Bedouin cafes on the way up that offer hot drinks, water and snacks.  Surprisingly you can also find a few ‘toilets’ – but I use that term loosely!

In previous years – 2 routes to the summit were offered.  However, due to frequent trekker accidents, the steeper, Steps of Repentance route is now closed and you have to take the Camel path instead. (A few of our fellow trekkers were disappointed to find this out as some guide books and websites tell you otherwise).

Make the most of the darkness

One of the amazing experiences on this overnight hike was the opportunity to appreciate the vast and dark desert sky.  The stars and Milky Way seemed unbelievably huge, bright and like nothing I’d experienced before.  At one point it even felt that we were looking down on a large crescent orange moon.  

Night desert sky
Camel at Mount Sinai
Camel options

From the base at the Monastery, we were passed by camels and their owners offering us an ‘easy ride’ up the mountain.  I tried not to take offence that maybe they didn’t think I looked the ‘Trek a Mountain’ type!  Two of our party did choose the camel option. Be warned, the camel can’t take you the last 750 steps so you do need to be fit enough for the final ascent. And have you ever ridden a camel? Let’s just say that I wouldn’t use the word comfort and camel in the same sentence!

750 steps

As the camel route came to an end, a final staircase of 750 steps appeared to take us to the summit.  It’s steep and relentless – but it was already getting a little lighter which motivated us to keep our legs pumping.

750 steps Mount Sinai
Sunrise Mount Sinai
Sunrise

We arrived at the mountain top just before 5am, and after buying some coffee and snacks, we found our perfect sunrise spot and settled in.  There were mattresses and warm blankets for hire, although we were lucky to have a cool but not cold night.  Sunrise was unbelievably moving.  The jolt of light bathed the rock formations in warm colours and sunlight moved the shadows at a visible pace. For me, the westerly view was equally stunning, as the warm Sinai mountain range faded layer by layer into the distance.  Time flew too quickly that morning, and with photos taken and hearts filled with gratitude for a magical family adventure, it was time to descend.

Down isn’t always easy

The route back down felt like an entirely separate trip – the ability to see both the path and the views being the main change!  It also only took about half the time to descend, and there was less pressure to keep together as a group. But don’t be fooled, as down isn’t always easy! The more graveled sections can give way under foot and I was grateful for my trekking poles to stop me from slipping.

Camel at Mount Sinai
Saint Catherine's Monastery courtyard
St Catherine’s and home…

Wandering into St Catherine’s Monastery at the end of a trek was like walking into a desert oasis.  A shady, calm courtyard and a small cafe/shop were a welcome pit stop! On some days you can take a guided tour of this UNESCO world Heritage site.  From here we strolled back to our minibus, ready for a sleep on the 3 hour return trip to our hotel.  Tired but totally elated by a magical mountain sunrise experience.

Saint Catherine’s Monastery Facts

This monastery was built by Roman Emperor Justinian in the 6th-century and is said to house the Biblical Burning Bush.  It is also the oldest continuously inhabited Christian monastery in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A few highlights are the Church of the Transfiguration, The Sacred Sacristy museum, and the 11th-century Monastery Mosque. There is a shady courtyard, somewhere to buy snacks and some much nicer toilets. Here’s a link to the Monastery website where you can check opening days and times – St Catherine’s Monastery

It is possible to climb Mount Sinai to watch sunset instead of sunrise.  High daytime temperatures would make the trek up less pleasant but it’s possible to arrange if you don’t want to miss a night of sleep.   

I’ve put together a small kit list to make the adventure a bit more comfortable!

Packing list for an overnight hike:

  • Walking boots or shoes
  • Warm clothes – especially in the Winter months
  • Headtorch
  • Phone / Camera
  • Sunscreen & Sunglasses for the descent
  • Water (bring your own but you can buy water and hot drinks en route)
  • Snacks (some are on offer en route)
  • Toilet paper (there is a toilet hole but no paper)
  • Trekking poles (optional)
  • Small change if you would like to tip your guide and the local Bedouin children (you can only buy Egyptian currency once you arrive in Egypt).
Tori at Mount Sinai

This was the first overnight or mountain trek I’d undertaken with my family – and I am so glad we gave up a night of our holiday for this adventure.  From start to finish, the whole trek was really unique and watching the sunrise from the top of this majestic and significant mountain top was truly unforgettable.  

 

Why Choose A Charity Trek?

Why Choose A Charity Trek?

Why choose a charity trek?

Why choose a charity trek? Well, a charity trek from start to finish is a learning adventure! I learnt so much from the whole experience, from fundraising and how to train, through to dealing with the highs and lows of the physical and emotional adventure.

So, what did I learn most?

In Spring 2022 I undertook a charity trek across the Jordanian desert into the ancient city of Petra to raise funds for the Salisbury hospital charity, ‘The Stars Appeal’. We covered more than 106km over 6 days, climbing over 2700m, descending 2500m and in average daily temperatures of 38 – 40 °C. At night we camped in 2-man tents with no running water and the wild toilet was preferable to the one Portaloo. It was an adventure of a lifetime, physically brutal, but totally amazing.

There’s no one ‘right’ reason to take a charity trek

Almost everyone on our trek had a different reason for taking on the challenge. For some it was to give back to the hospital who had helped them through Cancer or other illnesses. Some worked at the hospital and knew the benefits the charity funds could bring. A few were doing it to honor a lost loved one. And for some of us, it was more about the personal challenge, and an opportunity to mark the beginning of a new chapter, like becoming an empty nest Mum!

 

Don’t let the fundraising put you off

I had to raise a certain amount of money (as well as self funding the trip) to join the trek. Honestly, I nearly let the fundraising element put me off. I didn’t like the idea of asking for donations or sponsorship. Equally I didn’t want to spend hours on end making, baking or organising events. But then I considered one thing – would I really let the fundraising total put me off this big adventure ? NO.

So get creative – ask previous trekkers or the charity for ideas, search online, think about your skill set and how you could turn that to fundraising. Can you ask for donations in lieu of payment for some extra work / jobs / produce or handmade goods? Could you ask for donations instead of birthday or Christmas presents.

Set your mind to the task in hand and just push on…

 

A charity trek really does change you

From personal experience the trek made me braver, and stronger both mentally and physically.

Each night on our trek ‘Letters from Home’ were read out. These were powerful stories written by people who had benefited from the charity’s work. Those letters help put life in perspective – instead of thinking about the blisters or heat-rash you focused on how blessed you are to be physically able to take on a challenge and to be on this adventure right now!

Become part of a team, even if you didn’t think you were a ‘group person’

I was a self admitted non-group person – I generally prefer one on one conversations to big girls groups out and a small dinner at home with friends rather than a big party. So the ‘Group’ thing was a bit of an issue for me – whilst for others the sociability was a huge plus. But something about trekking, eating, laughing and crying together, bonds you as a group on a level I have never experienced before – but hope to again. By the end of the trek, I was loving the ‘family party’ vibe and loved spending time as a big group, all together. We went as 38 individuals and we truly came back a family.

Why choose a charity trek?

The highs are high –  and the lows are low

This is a reality – You feel like a helium balloon – one minute so full of life, adventure and adrenalin and the next popped and dropping to the floor. BUT the highs and lows make you feel so alive. Then there’s the realisation in knowing you are never alone in what you feel – if you feel on a low, someone else does too. In those low moments just remember that you can be the pressure cooker lid that keeps group morale low or you can pop that lid with a joke, a deflective story or by simply pulling out the giant packet of sweets. Before you know it, the team of balloons are flying high again.

A break from normal life does you good

Initially I felt guilty going on this trek – selfish even – until my daughters asked how going on a ‘Charity Trek’ could possibly be selfish? But for me I wasn’t able to play my normal wife / mum / work / daughter role. For once I couldn’t be the usual family organiser and coordinator. Guess what? The family not only survived but in fact thrived! My husband had to be Mum and Dad – and both he and our girls loved those extra conversations, planning opportunities and quality time moments. There was even some food in the fridge when I got home! (although the laundry basket was pretty full).

A trek is an opportunity to find the real YOU in you.

It’s about the journey not the destination

At the end of the trek we spent a day at a Dead Sea Hotel and it was wonderful to sit in the shallows of a swimming pool together reminiscing. We took turns reflecting on our personal high day and low day moments. Last to speak was our doctor who said it was seeing us all crossing the Petra finish line that was his high day – and then it dawned on me…not one of us actual trekkers had said either the finish line or visiting Petra was our high day! It really was about the journey.

A break from technology does you even more good

No surprise here – it turns out that of the 100’s or 1000’s of texts, whats app chat group notifications or emails – almost none of our trek group felt they’d missed anything important!

Having no technology is liberating and it allows you to be fully present. A charity trek is an amazing opportunity to really live in the moment and the adventure of it all. 

You don’t need as much kit as you think

You can read the packing list, scan websites and discover all that Go Outdoors or REI stores have to offer – but I guarantee you will not need everything you take. So think carefully about what you buy and pack. When you have to pack and repack every day – a simple, organised bag or rucksack is going to be your best friend.

Rucksack 1080 x 608

A wild toilet experience isn’t as bad as you think

On day two the portaloo got tipped upside down (before being emptied) while moving to the next camp. After this, the portaloo was named ‘The Orange Cupboard of Doom.’ But after that first wild poo experience you realise it isn’t that bad. In fact you will find the most amazing views from toilet locations. Just be prepared that the mantra – ‘Leave nothing behind’ is a real thing – so go armed with dog poo bags or nappy sacks, toilet paper and toilet wet wipes.

Orange Portaloo

Trek lag is a real thing

It turns out that coming back to reality after such a huge adventure is really hard and quite honestly a bit dull. You don’t expect trek lag, but almost all of our group experienced it.

However here are some cures…

  • If you haven’t already – create a group chat and continue the banter and stories.
  • Find a way to share group photos – enjoy searching out those prize moments.
  • Organise an event to show family / friends/ sponsors and donors your epic adventure stories and photos – it’s a great way to say thank you for their support and a lovely way to keep the trek living on.
  • Plan something for the night you get home – my tent buddy and I organised a fish and chip and bubbly night for our two families the night we got home. It was fantastic to jointly share our trip with loved ones and the stories seemed funnier when told as a duo.
  • Plan your next adventure!

So why choose a charity trek

I hope by now you are in no doubt… a charity trek is an opportunity for you to have an adventure of a lifetime AND to make a positive difference to others all at the same time. So dig out, or go and buy those walking boots!

Hiking boots

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