Mt Sinai is a great overnight trip (or day trip) if you are in the Sinai region in the East of Egypt. It is on the Asian side of the Suez Canal so technically it is in Asia, not Africa.
It has a long interesting history and features in several religions.
There are two main options when planning to go up Mt Sinai; you can head up to see the sunset or to see the sunrise.
I went up to see the sunrise as I thought that it would be horrendously hot to hike up during the middle of the day to see the sunset – even though it was winter when I was there.
I think that I was right, it would have been horribly hot. What I didn’t quite comprehend at the time was how cold it would be to go up for sunrise.
For sunrise, your van picks you up in Dahab around 11pm, if you are in Sharm el-Sheikh then you will be picked up earlier around 10.
You start climbing at 1am and are at the top around 5:30 to 6am.
There are two routes up the mountain. One is a wide with a fairly gentle gradient that zigzags for ages (called the Camel Path) until it comes to the steeper narrow part and meets up with the other route.
The other route comprises of 3750 stairs and is called the Steps of Penitence . It should not be attempted unless you have strong legs.
If you want to pay about 300 Egyptian Pounds extra, you can have a camel take you up the wide route to where the path narrows and both routes meet up.
I decided to spare my legs and take a camel, but my camel was deceptively evil. It was so slow that every gust of wind would get me and freeze me a little more.
A backpacker at the hostel I was staying at had warned me about the cold, so I was wearing my thick thermal jeans.
Unfortunately, I was only wearing thin ankle socks, and high up on the camel every gust of icy wind kept on getting the gap between my shoe and my trousers. Ahhh!
With every single gust of wind (and there were many such gusts) I could almost hear my cells crystallizing.
The camel was also fond of lumbering right to the edge of every corner and making me feel like I was going to fall off.
Maybe two thirds of the way up, I got off the the stupid camel and walked.
It was much better for a while, but as I gained altitude the wind picked up.
If it was not windy then I think it would have probably been fine, but the further up the mountain I got, the more frozen I became.
I was wearing thick thermal jeans, a jumper, a ski jacket, gloves and a woolly hat I’d bought at the base of the mountain (I’d sent the ones I had in Italy home in the hopes of reducing the load had stupidly packed.) I was still freezing.
There were huts to shelter in at various points along the route. You can hire mattresses and blankets for around 10 Egyptian Pounds each. I hired several blankets to try and stay warm.
You can also buy water and sweets.
At the top there are miraculously areas that are really well sheltered, and you can wait for the sunrise there. I didn’t believe my groups guide when he said that. It was so windy that it just seemed too surreal that there would be anywhere without wind on the mountain.
The sunrise was really pretty, as was the surrounding area now that we all could see it.
I took the 3750 Steps of Penitence down – I was glad that I hadn’t taken them up. Seriously don’t take this route if you don’t go walking regularly.
At the bottom we all went into St Catherine’s Monastery, which is one of the longest running monasteries in the world. The church was built in 551. You can see St Catherine’s finger bone, the well where Moses is supposed to have met his wife and you can touch the Burning Bush.
It was a great trip, if I went back in time to tell my younger self whether or not to do it, then I would definitely say, “do it! you can’t miss Mt Sinai! – but wear warmer socks.” Would I do it a second time? I’d probably rather not freeze or be fried depending which trip option I took. I’d stay Dahab and scuba dive.