St. Catherine Travel Guide
The Way To St. Catherine
Modern visitors reach Sinai by the road that passes from Cairo through Suez. The road passes through Ras Sudr, the place where Moses turned the bitter waters into sweet. It continues through Abu Samina and the Valley of Wadi Garandil to Abu Rudeis, where the road divides.
The road to the south leads to el-Tur (ancient Raitho), and on to the modern resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh. The road to the east passes by Mount Serbal and the Oasis of Pharan, and from there to Tarfa, and the Monastery of Sinai.
In earlier times, it was also common for pilgrims to reach the monastery from Jerusalem, traveling south through Joppa (modern Jaffa) or Gaza, and from Eilat, down to the coast of the Gulf of Aqaba, and then to the West to the Monastery of Sinai.
Saint Catherine is among the most different and distinguished destinations in Sinai, and in Egypt in general.
While all the major cities in Sinai, like Sharm El Sheikh, Dahab, and Taba, are located on the shores of the Aqaba Gulf to the East and the Suez Gulf to the West, Saint Catherine is located in middle Sinai on a high plateau which is 1600 meters above sea level.
The city is also surrounded by some of the highest mountains in Egypt like the Saint Catherine Mountain, the Mountain of Moses, and much more. This fact made the city possess weather conditions that unparalleled in Egypt where it is moderate in the summer and very cold in the winter.
Up to a thousand visitors come to visit St. Katherine’s Monastery, the oldest continuously inhabited monastery in the World built on the site where Moses (Prophet Musa) talked to God in the miracle of the Burning Bush, and to climb Mt. Sinai (the Biblical Mt. Horeb, known locally as Jebel Musa) where Moses has received the Ten Commandments.
Most visitors arrive on organized coach tours from the Red Sea resorts of Sharm El-Sheikh, Taba and Dahab in the evening, have dinner and maybe a couple of hours sleep in a hotel, climb the mountain at dawn, visit the Monastery in the morning and return to the resort. St. Catherine and Mt. Sinai can be visited independently as well, avoiding the busy times on the mountain and discovering the rest of what this unique region offers.
The region is a UNESCO World Heritage Area for its natural and cultural importance, and in fact, you could spend weeks to explore it. There are over 200 religious places and other important monasteries and churches, ruins of Byzantine monastic settlements, the highest mountains in Egypt with spectacular views, amazing rock formations, and landscape.
It is a unique high-altitude desert eco-system with many endemic and rare species, there is a whole range of medicinal plants used by locals for centuries which are not found elsewhere, there are water-pools, springs, creeks, narrow canyons and wide valleys.
In the valleys of the high mountains, called wadis, everywhere you go there are beautiful Bedouin gardens unique to this area only. Its original inhabitants, the kind and friendly Jebeliya (Gebeliya) Bedouin are expert gardeners and camel herders, and if you take your time you might have a glimpse into their closed, traditional, albeit slowly changing the way of life and culture that has been around for more than 1400 years.
For visitors, this site contains practical and background information about the city, the region and its people. For local businesses, projects and the community in general, it provides a web-presence: all listings are free, but entries must be related to the area or its people.