Friday, October 30, 2009

Climbing Sinai

This is Mount Moses, also known as Mount Sinai. Mount Moses is the traditional site where Moses received the ten commandments from God more than 3,000 years ago. Climbing the mountain was not just a touristic experience, but also a spiritual one. Moses' story is a tale of how God gives direction to, and provides for those who believe in him. I rely on his direction and his provision every day.

We hired a driver from Sharem El-Sheikh to take us to the foot of Mount Moses, the traditional site where Moses received the ten commandments from God more than three thousand years ago. We left Sharem at 11:30 PM. The drive was 2.5 hours, and the climb up was 3 hours more. Our climb was tiring, but the experience was more than worth it. I have never seen the sunrise from a mountain top. This is the most beautiful sight I've beheld since coming to the Middle East.

I am sorry that my camera could not capture a photo of the night sky. Millions of stars lit up the night sky as we climbed. I cannot remember a time when I have seen so many - certainly not at KAUST - the night lights only allow me to see three or four stars on campus.

Our guide was good natured and overall pretty cool. He is one of the many "Bedouin" who have given up on a migratory lifestyle to extort money from travelers to Mount Moses. I think that tourists are more profitable than sheep farming in the desert. The "Bedouin" are guides on a very well-marked and smooth trail, they also offer camel rides, tea and coffee, and other services to weary hikers for a price. Using the bathroom at the top of the mountain cost me more money that all of the water I drank on the way up.
Comercialization aside, the natural landscape of Sinai was absolutely amazing. Here is a small group of successful climbers gazing at the sunrise.

Stars melted away as the sunlight flooded over the horizon. We did not have a proper view of the surrounding mountain range until the sun illuminated the world that morning.

Most of the central penensula is rock without trees or grass, but this desolate mountain range is strangely beautiful.
Shadows retreated further and further, and we blinked at bright light and a perfectly blue sky.

On our way down we passed some pack animals hauling up another day's supply of tea and snacks for the tourists.
Camels were everywhere! Climbing up and down were surreal experiences in part because our path had to be shared with these big creatures. Imagine how you would feel if a camel snuck up on you in the dark. We got used to it and even enjoyed the company of these obstinate animals and their bossy drivers.

More blue sky and more mountains.

And more camels. : )

This is the beginning of the trail up the mountain which we are climbing back down. At the very bottom is a monastery which is shared by Catholic and Eastern Orthodox monks. We didn't have a chance to visit because they were closed in the morning for prayer, and all of us were too tired from the night climb to stick around for the opening.

There are some who say that the monks have it wrong, because the historical location of Mount Moses is not really known. Some historians believe that Mount Sinai is actually in Jordan, or Israel, or even in Mount Jabal al-Lawz in Saudi Arabia. Still I would recommend the journey. For me, climbing Mount Moses was a wonder-filled and spirit-filled experience; one I will not soon forget.


  1. Wow, I want to see this! Great photos and story!

  2. This looks like an amazing experience. I think I'm going to have to add it to my "bucket list."