I’m Sameh and in this article I will be sharing tips for hiking Mount Sinai. So what is my background? Well, I’m a travel and portraits photographer based in Cairo. I have loved photography since I was a teenager growing up in downtown Cairo. Photography has always drawn my attention and naturally I love to capture life, scenes and moments around me.
More than six years have passed now since I took my first photos on my smartphone. Many things have changed over the years, but my passion for photography has continued to grow to new heights. I love learning new skills and techniques, and telling stories about people living out everyday life. It could be something as simple as kids playing on the street or a local Egyptian fisherman cleaning his net. There is a story in every scene.
Egypt is one of the best places to be a photographer. My country is full of dazzling attractions and fascinating people. We have pyramids, temples, tombs, the Nile, bustling markets, coral reefs, beautiful beaches and unique places like Siwa Oasis, the White Desert and Mount Sinai.
I have explored a lot of areas in Egypt but there is always more to see. Places on my bucket list are Siwa Oasis, Luxor and Aswan. One epic place that I experienced recently was Mount Sinai. I wanted to head somewhere where I could find solitude and to soak in the vibe of a historic place – Mount Sinai is famous for Moses and the Ten Commandments.
After more than three hours of hiking, you get to the top of the mountain and have the chance to forget your worries and enjoy the view that will leave you speechless. Everything is up close and real on this mountain. There are no filters at Mount Sinai, just you out there with nature.
My Third Hiking Experience up Mount Sinai
When you hike up Mount Sinai, you are walking on land that is cherished by the Abrahamic religions – Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions all speak of this place. All of these religions tell stories of Moses and how he crossed the Red Sea and delivered the Ten Commandments on top of the mountain – which is why it’s referred to as the “Mountain of Moses”.
You can choose to hike this mountain independently or join a tour. Many of the tours start at night to enable you to arrive at the top of the mountain for sunrise, which is considered a breathtaking and spiritual experience. This follows in the footsteps of Moses himself as he was believed to have been up there for sunrise. The trail can get crowded but it’s worth it.
I began my hike up early in the morning (5am) with a group of hikers. We took it slow. I walked behind a guide – his name is Ali and is only 11 years old! We ended up leaving Ali because he was waiting for lots of people and by that stage I already knew the way. I continued up the mountain with my friend, Hossam. This was his first time up the mountain and he struggled a bit. So I ended up completing it with some other friends.
Their names are Hamed and Omar, both of whom live in Cairo. Another friend also joined us. His name is Ahmed, from Aswan. The trail was shrouded in darkness with only the twinkles of the stars guiding us. The slippery rocks were a challenge. Unfortunately, we were late and missed the sunrise. But I have seen it twice before, so that was no big deal for me.
The hike to the top begins at Saint Catherine’s Monastery. On the way up, you can see scenic views of the mountains and the snow that covers them (only during certain times of the year). The sky above was illuminated with stars. It was a journey I will never forget. The hike took us about three and a half hours to climb, so it’s no walk in the park that’s for sure.
Spiritual Moments at the Top of Mount Sinai
Reaching the summit for the third time was just as special to me as the other two times. Mount Sinai is a place that you never get tired of. I had sacrificed my sleep to hike up this mountain – and the reward was nothing short of spectacular. I remember the last stretch of the hike, literally the last 200 metres or so, being quite hard on my body. My knees in particular.
At the top, people find their own spot to enjoy the views. On my first two hikes up, when I saw the sunrise, I recall the most amazing colors. I remember seeing a slow movement of color illuminating the horizon, with the mountains coming into sight. During sunrise on Mount Sinai travelers often do a spiritual prayer, meditation or just have a moment of silence to appreciate the beauty and magnitude of this place. It’s a cleansing of sorts.
And then when the light of day fully surrounds the area, you can walk around and take photos with your friends. The way down is the same as the way up for hiking Mount Sinai. However, the daylight makes it much easier. Not to mention, you will be walking downhill this time around!
The most challenging part of the hike up is the cold temperatures when you go during winter (December – March). Also, the small rocks that accompany you on the way down can be slippery. So it’s important to choose your month wisely and to buy proper hiking shoes to give you grip.
Need to Know Before you Go
If this is your first time hiking up Mount Sinai you should get a guide. You don’t necessarily need one but this adds more to the experience because if you get a knowledgeable guide they will inform you on everything – from the fastest way up, to interesting facts about the mountain.
As mentioned, get yourself some decent hiking boots/shoes. This can make or break your experience. Do your best to make it to the top for sunrise. This is just such a remarkable experience and you will kick yourself if you miss it. Like all hikes, bring plenty of water and snacks to consume on the way up.
Bedouin tents can be found along the trail, and they sell tea and all sorts of other items, but they tend to charge premium prices. You can still support them though by buying some tea. For the early morning hike in the dark, bring a headlight or torch. You will thank me later for that piece of advice!
Many tours also stop at Saint Catherine’s Monastery, which is situated at the bottom of the mountain. It’s here where you can see the Burning Bush told in the Book of Exodus. I recommend visiting this monastery because it’s a fascinating addition to your Mount Sinai trip.