Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A trip to Mount Sinai

Last month I went with Dune Raiders (an Egyptian travel agency that aims for adventurous tourism) on a 36-hour trip to Sinai. 
Ras Shitan Bay
It was mainly for climbing Mount Mousa (known as Mount Sinai) that resides in the area of Saint Catherine. After a 6-hour drive from Cairo, we stopped at heaven on earth, also known as Ras Shitan, a bay that sits between Taba and Nuweiba.

The bay is considered a famous ecolodge destination for those who love relaxation. It really has it all! Sun, water, snorkelling hiking, relaxing and great food! When the sun sets, its sky looks like fireworks of shooting stars. Give your eyes the time to see things in the dark and I promise you a scenery you will never see in your life. After spending some hours of relaxation and eating for the climb, we took the bus and went to Saint Catherine.

Saint Catherine is the name for the whole area including the top of the mountain. The mountains of Sinai are not traditional mountains though. They look like the waves of the sea. Mountains are kilometres long and can have multiple peaks

After a one and half hour drive from Ras Shitan, we reached the area that sits 1,000m above sea level.  This area has culture and history that dates back to the Pharaohs.
The Amazing Sky of Ras Shitan at Night
 They first built it as part of the road from Egypt to Jerusalem. In this area, you can find the famous Saint Catherine Monastery which has tons of religiously important heritage. This area is very important for Muslims, Christians and Jews.

Since you’re already a kilometre high, the weather is really cold up but not quite freezing. You can find friendly bedouins selling stuff you’ll need for the climb, which is great in the extreme case you forgot something.

Burning Bush at Saint Catherine’s Monastery
In Saint Catherine, there are two mounts that can be climbed. The first is called Mount Cathrerine, the second is called mount Mousa, which foreigners also call Mount Sinai. The jews call it Horib and yes, Mount Mousa is the road which the Prophet Moses took when he received the ten commandments. We decided to climb Mount Mousa and thus the trip began.

It begins overnight at 11:00 PM. Its completely dark. Its not really mount climbing per se. Instead, it requires walking down a path up through the mountain for 8 kilometres. The path is rocky and extremely rough but its not dangerous. We took 3 hours to finish the main stage then 1 hour to climb what the bedouins call the stairs. Its not easy at all but its doable.

During the road you find places to rest and camels to ride. Your first enemy is gravity as you climb 2422 metres. Your second enemy is the cold! I was really cold, to say the least. We were all wearing heavy coats but the thing is that during the climb your body becomes sweaty, so whenever you stop you instantly feel the cold in your bones!

We reached the top! After finally reaching the top, we had two hours until sunrise so we took the most uncomfortable nap in the world. Your sweat is freezing inside and you really can’t wear anything else. After waking up extremely tired and cold, I packed my equipment and went for the sunrise. 

Mount Mousa
Sometimes I couldn’t feel the camera in my hands. I wanted to press the shutter button but I couldn’t feel my fingers! Somehow, after managing to warm up, one really begins to see the magic! A sunrise that you will never forget! Stunning sky colours, stunning rock formations; the place really touches your spirit! 

Every single minute that passed, the colours would change and the scenery would too, magically, until you see the sun. Some how you feel all that all of your problems are gone! You instantly become warm and the energy just flows.

We then began our descent, it took around 2-3 hours. It was much much easier than going up and you get to see the magical landscape that you missed at night. The weather also feels perfect this time around. After reaching the bottom of the mount, we went inside the monastery, had lunch and went back to Cairo. It was an experience that I will never forget!
Source: TNN Egypt By Mohamed Hakem 

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