St Catherine’s Monastery, Mount Sinai

Janet Soskice, Jurgen Gottschlich

St Catherine’s Monastery at Mount Sinai is a sight to behold for all travellers who set their eyes on it for the first time.

I visited it way back in 1990. Like the pilgrims and travellers of ancient times, I went by land route from Cairo.

Hoping to board a bus from Tahrir Square direct to St Catherine’s to my horror I found that the time for departure stated in my Lonely Planet Guide was wrong. The bus had departed!

So, my architect friend KJ Lam and I boarded a bus to Sharm El-Sheikh. The journey took us from 10 am to about 5 pm.

From the bus terminal, we hired a taxi and arrived at St Catherine’s at 8 pm.

There was no hotel then. We just paid SGD 20 for grub food and a bunk in a storeroom to sleep on. I recall I slept in a wooden box.

Over dinner, I chatted with a Dutch group. They were going to climb up Mount Sinai the next morning. I asked if I could join them. They agreed.

At 3. 30 am I heard noises of people moving. Those days I travelled quite lightly. Not even with an alarm clock. We quickly got up and joined them.

The climb was tough and cold. We had no gloves. A fellow traveller taught us to use our socks as gloves!

Fortunately, there were tea vendors on the way up. The costs for a cup of hot tea were not exorbitant. Fortunately, then, they had not learned the art of slaughtering innocent tourists.

We crawled our way up and arrived at the summit at about 6.30 am, long past the sunrise.

At the summit, is a small Chapel. After exploring, we descended.

The sight of St Catherine’s Monastery from the summit of Mount Sinai is so beautiful.

We explored the grounds. We saw the site of the Burning Bush. We saw many skulls in a storeroom. We missed exploring the famous library.

Towards noon, we shared a taxi with a French girl back to Cairo. The return trip was uneventful compared to our arrival.

This trip is highly recommended.

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