Mount Sinai is one of the few places on earth important for followers of three different religions – Christians, Muslims and Jews. It is considered (not without some controversies) as the place where Moses received the Ten Commandments.
Nowadays, this 2285 m (7497 ft) high peak is popular not only among the tourists seeking spiritual experience but many who’re looking for an easily accessible trekking trail, a rare thing in Egypt. The climb also offers quite a unique opportunity to observe the sunrise amidst the beautiful landscape of fiery red colored mountains and hills spreading all the way to the horizon.
As you might expect, seeing the sunrise on top requires you to climb up during the night, starting your climb as early as 1.00 am. It’s quite an exciting experience and taking into consideration the scorching Egyptian sun, it’s also a convenient way to avoid getting burned at least on the way up. However, there is one small shortcoming to it, especially for those who cherish their long sleeping hours– if you’re coming from Dahab, all the sleep you’ll get on the night of the climb has to happen before 11pm as that is the time when a mini-bus comes to pick you up for the 2 hour drive to the place where you start the hike.
Tip: Don’t forget to take with you your passport as there are multiple army/police check points on the way where you have to show that you have a valid visa.
Once you make peace with the idea of a sleepless night, get to the bottom of the mountain and start walking, you’ll soon find out that you’re not the only one who’s decided to climb Mt. Sinai to watch the sunrise. The time we took this trip, there were tens of other tourists of all ages mostly in larger tour groups, climbing with us. I’m told that during peak season the number can even go into hundreds. Initially, I was disappointed with this scenario as you rarely want to be amidst a large crowd while enjoying a peaceful sunrise on a mountain peak, but eventually it didn’t really bug me too much so if you have similar concerns, don’t let it discourage you from taking this trip.
Tip: Carry a torch or a headlamp with you. Though it’s fairly bright with the moonlight; there will still be parts of the trail too dark to walk comfortably.
While the trail itself is quite straightforward and well maintained there is no way you can get off the right path even without a guide, especially with all other tourists in front and behind you. There are numerous Bedouin “cafes” along the way, offering tea, coffee, sodas and sweets. Of course as in any other touristic place all the products they sell are well overpriced (e.g. tea for 10 EGP).
Tip: Take all you want to eat and drink from where you’re coming. A large bottle of water per person and some high glucose snacks is probably a good idea.
If you feel (or even look) tired at any time, there is a good chance that you’ll find a Bedouin waiting just around the nearest turn to offer you a camel ride. Because of our budget restrictions, we didn’t consider it as an option but from what we heard from other tourists, prices for such rides go up to 200 EGP (probably possible to negotiate it down to 100 EGP). But if you’re unfit or not into hiking at all you might want to consider this option, as the climb can be quite tiring.
When you get to the top of the mountain, you’ll probably see many other tourists taking their spots along the eastern rim – that’s when you should probably do the same thing as the seats for this spectacle are not reserved.
Tip: If you don’t want to pay for the blankets distributed by the Bedouins on the top (it gets quite cold and windy up there) do take some warm clothes with you, even during summer. Also carry something to lay on the rock that you’re going to sit on.
So is it really worth all the hassle, sleepless night, preparation, and sweat? I personally think it is. Even if you’re not the kind of person who will appreciate the religious aspect of the site, the thrill of climbing such a high mountain in the night as well as seeing the sunrise in a great scenery like this is definitely worth it!
How to get there: Trips to Mt. Sinai are organized e.g. from Dahab as well as from Sharm el Sheikh. If you’re an independent traveler, you’ll need to find a travel agency to arrange the transport for you or just ask your hotel to set it up. We went there from Dahab and it cost us a total of 115 EGP each, the price included the local Bedouin guide who led us to the top right from place where our mini-bus parked.