One of the activity organized during our time in Sinai was to hike Mt Sinai (2285m) – better known as the place where Moses received the Ten Commandments from God. It’s a pretty big deal, and Christians, Jewish and Muslims pilgrimage to the mountain every day. Because Sinai is a desert, and it gets pretty hot in the desert in the summer, people usually hike the mountain at night with the goal of making it to the summit for sunrise. The whole group was game for it, except Travis who decided to stay behind and sleep instead.
We left our resort at 11 PM, and made the two-hour drive to the St Katherine Protectorate, the national park where Mt Sinai is located. There, we were made to hire a guide (to ensure that we wouldn’t get lost – it would be really hard to get lost) and got on our way.
By 1 AM we were on the “camel trail”, the leisurely trail up the mountain. We passed camels after camels, with everyone trying to get us to ride a camel up the mountain instead of hiking. We were intent on doing the hike though, so we continued on.
The trail was rocky, as was everything around us. The area is pretty much just that – rocks. There is no plants really, and under the moonlight the whole place felt out of this world. Hiking in the dark (we turned off our headlamp, which was a great decision as the moon was so bright) under the blanket of stars, I felt alone yet comforted. There were people around, but it still felt quiet enough. The place was just so beautiful, magical – it was by far one of the coolest thing I did on our trip thus far.
I took a few long exposure shots of what it looked like in the dark. The pictures look better seen bigger, or even in little ambient light. To see them better, I recommend opening the images in Flickr: once there, you can click on the image to see a bigger version on a black background.
Eventually we lost our guide, and our group split into two based on ascension speed. We reached the Elijah’s Basin just as the very first light started to show on the horizon – from there we had the hardest part our our hike ahead to reach the summit: 750 uneven steps.
We arrived to the summit with time to spare, but a little late for the best sunrise spots. The summit was packed solid (as we were expecting) with tourists and pilgrims with hymn books, wrapped in blankets waiting for the sun to rise. It took its time coming up, first colouring the sky and creating perfect little silhouettes out of the surrounding mountains. Then it became much brighter, so much so that we thought that the sun had rose behind the layer of mountains and haze and we had missed it. Then, suddenly a big, orange ball rose up from behind the mountains and we captively watched it, reminding ourselves of where we were and of our accomplishment.
We still had to go back down though, and we had to move quickly if we wanted to beat the heat. We made it down the stairs and came back down the way we came, using the camel trail. It was easier coming down, but by then we were tired and hungry and so it felt like a different challenge.
Eventually my camera’s battery died, but luckily I had my iPod with me so I was able to take a few extra shots of our hike down the mountain. By the time we arrived at the bottom, it was just before 9 AM and already the heat was scorching.
We piled up in our van and tried to sleep on our way back to the resort. By 11 AM I was in bed and fast asleep, counting on Travis to wake me by 2 PM. Our long day wasn’t over – in a few hours we would have to be back on a bus, heading to Cairo.
During our hike we saw no burning bush nor did we find any new tablets, but we had a great time. I am so glad that I did the hike, and I don’t think that I will ever forget it. Now, would I ever do it again? I don’t know… It might be hard to beat this first experience.