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Journey through Sinai peninsula

Updated on April 19, 2015
We Completed our journey through Israel, crossed the border at Taba and followed the route marked in violet through Sinai peninsula to reach Cairo. Our next destination was Catherine monastery located at the foot hills of Sinai mountain.
We Completed our journey through Israel, crossed the border at Taba and followed the route marked in violet through Sinai peninsula to reach Cairo. Our next destination was Catherine monastery located at the foot hills of Sinai mountain.

We are on our way to Egypt, a 14 hours continuous drive started early morning from Jerusalem and halted for our break fast in a restaurant near Dead sea. Our Guide Mr. Fahdi and the driver Mr. Mahmood who arranged our entire tour in Jerusalem are all the way with us and they will accompany us until the border of Israel and from there another Egyptian team will take over our tour. Good arrangements by the tourism companies. Our next destination is Taba, the border crossing point between Israel and Egypt.

Statue of a "Kapthan"  placed out side the restaurant on the banks of Dead sea, where we had our break fast.
Statue of a "Kapthan" placed out side the restaurant on the banks of Dead sea, where we had our break fast.

Taba border crossing point

After an exhaustive long drive we reached Israeli side of border crossing point at Taba located between Israel and Egyptian administered Sinai peninsula. Our bus left us at a point earlier and we had to walk in a single line one behind the other all the way with our baggage almost half a kilometer through the pavement. Photography was not permitted beyond this point. Security was pretty tight here. Red light indicates to wait until you are called upon. You better strictly follow these rules unless looking for troubles. Black uniformed young female commandos manage the entire immigration and customs control at Taba, very smart females and I was amazed to see their professionalism.

Once we have come out of Israeli clearing point after the formalities, we had to go to the Egyptian immigration at the same place for the entry formalities to their country. A representative from the Egyptian touring company received us at the Egyptian immigration building and helped us out. As we came out of Egyptian immigration, bus arranged by tourist company of Egypt was waiting for us with a beautiful lady guide on board.

When you come out of border control, Egypt welcomes you at Taba border in Sinai
When you come out of border control, Egypt welcomes you at Taba border in Sinai

Sinai Peninsula

This triangular piece of land is situated between Mediterranean sea on the north, Red sea on south and Gulf of Suez on to the west with Gulf of Aqaba being on to the east (Requested to refer the location map of Sinai Peninsula above). The peninsula remains under the control of Egypt from the first Egyptian dynasty until today. However It was under Ottoman Empire occupation, and then with United Kingdom. Later occupied by Jews but based on 1979 peace treaty Jews with drew from the last territory of Sinai Peninsula which is Taba.

As seen when the bus speed up through Sinai desert road heading for Catherine monastery
As seen when the bus speed up through Sinai desert road heading for Catherine monastery

Our journey continued through the planes of peninsula after leaving Taba border control and next destination being Catherine Monastery at the foot hills of Sinai mountain located south of Sinai. Though bit tired of journey started since morning, I was enjoying the long distant view of unpolluted purity of Sinai yellow sand dunes visible through partially opened curtaines of the Bus window.

Wow, what a beautiful shot I got of this copper rich scales of the Mount Sinai. Bedouin children sells these rocks in egg shaped form near Catherine monastery for a dollar each. Next time you shouldn't forget to take some sold in different colors.
Wow, what a beautiful shot I got of this copper rich scales of the Mount Sinai. Bedouin children sells these rocks in egg shaped form near Catherine monastery for a dollar each. Next time you shouldn't forget to take some sold in different colors.

As the bus sped through Sinai desert, the young lady guide Normeen was explaining about Moosa Nabi (Moses) and how he happened to reach her land of Egypt and she was indeed very proud in giving her explanation. I kept memorizing the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy in bible and the possible difficulties Israelite must have come across in the desert in a period almost 3000 yrs ago.

Some adventurist trekkers climb the mountain by them selves privately, you can notice a couple making their effort in the picture
Some adventurist trekkers climb the mountain by them selves privately, you can notice a couple making their effort in the picture

As we reached closer to the monastery the geography of the land was completely changing and was looking entirely different at this high land area of Sinai. It was mountainous region instead of desert and yellow sand. It was not rocky but mineral rich flaky mountains on either sides of the road. We reached the junction on the main road from where there is an off shoot ascending towards south going to the monastery. you can choose to walk, use pick ups or donkey service given by Bedouin community living in the desert. I decided walking to stretch and give exercise to legs sitting immobile for long and also enabling me to shoot some beautiful pictures from the area.

Catherine monastery
Catherine monastery

Catherine Monastery

St. Catherine's Monastery is an Orthodox monastery on the Sinai peninsula at the foot of Mount Sinai in Egypt. One of the oldest Christian monasteries in the world, St. Catherine's incorporates the burning bush seen by Moses and contains many valuable icons. Above the monastery is Mount Sinai, where Moses received the Ten Commandments from God. Because God spoke to Moses in these places, this area is sacred to three world religions: Christianity, Islam and Judaism.

Behind the bell tower you can notice the minaret of the mosque for Muslims. The monastery is a sacred place for Muslims and Jews as well. The church wall is seen on to the left hand corner
Behind the bell tower you can notice the minaret of the mosque for Muslims. The monastery is a sacred place for Muslims and Jews as well. The church wall is seen on to the left hand corner

The monastery is a UNESCO world heritage site. According to the UNESCO report this monastery is one of the oldest working Christian monasteries in the world. Christian orthodoxies settled upon this mountain in the third century and they built the monastery during the 4th century. Monastery is surrounded on all sides by a massive wall 2.5 m wide and 11m high. This is the wall provided by Emperor Justinian in the 6th century.

Burning bush of Moses at the Monastery

The holiest part of the monastery is the large living shrub that is said to be a direct descendant of the very burning bush that was seen by Moses at Mount Sinai. In the early 4th century, St. Helena, mother of Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, built the Chapel of the Burning Bush at the site where Moses is supposed to have seen the miracle.

Burning bush
Burning bush

Well of Moses

In the premises of Catherine monastery also locates a well, traditionally believed as the well of Moses at this sight. A continued supply of fresh water is provided to the monastery by the Well of Moses, which taps an underground spring. According to tradition, this stands on the very spot where Moses met his future wife, Zipporah, after protecting her and her sisters from an aggressive group of local shepherds (Exodus 2:16-21).

Jethro was the priest of Midian and Moses' wife Zipporah was the one of the seven daughters of the priest Jethro. (Read Bible Exodus 18)

Well of Moses
Well of Moses

Charnel House

Skulls of the monks who lived here in the monastery is preserved at the monastery. Next to the garden is the Cemetery and Charnel House. When the monks die, they are first buried in the cemetery, then after decay their bones are disinterred and deposited in the Charnel House (a crypt beneath the Chapel). Visitors are able to view the great pile of thousands of skulls of past monks.

Charnel House
Charnel House

Mount Sinai

Mount Sinai is 2285 meter (7497 feet) high near St. Catherine Monastery in Sinai region - Egypt. According to books of Exodus and Deuteronomy in bible, after leaving Egypt and crossing the Red Sea, the Israelite arrived at the foot of mount Horeb and gathered there in anticipation of the words of God. Moses was called in by the God to go by the cliff of this holy mountain to receive the "Ten Commandments" for Israelite to follow with out fail. Mount Horeb is another name of mount Sinai.

The summit of Mount Sinai
The summit of Mount Sinai

People from different parts of the world arrive Sinai and start their climb early morning at 1'o clock for enjoying the fabulous view of sun rise and also they camp themselves there for not to miss the beauty of sun emerging above the mountain. Mystic formation of mount Sinai itself is an exotic view, you may see the picture shot from the top of the mountain.

Beautiful shot of colored canyons of Sinai mountain and the early birds camping at the right spot for viewing the sun emerging out from mountains
Beautiful shot of colored canyons of Sinai mountain and the early birds camping at the right spot for viewing the sun emerging out from mountains

There are people traveling by midnight from Taba and reaching the climbing point of mount Sinai at 3 in the morning. They start hiking ASAP to occupy the best viewing point at the summit of the mountain. It is cold out there and it is 7 km steep climb through very ruff terrain. Not recommended for children and disabled,

Sun rising above the mountains of Sinai
Sun rising above the mountains of Sinai

However hiking of Sinai mountain is a highlight and very inspiring since it is part of pilgrimage and when mind is filled with knowing how Moses did went up the mountain to receive God. There are donkey service provided by Bedouin community and they also provide tea, biscuits and other eatable in small huts erected on the way.

Colored canyons of Sinai mountain and open path found almost at the summit
Colored canyons of Sinai mountain and open path found almost at the summit

Believe it or not there is a chapel at the pinnacle of mount Sinai owned by Greek Orthodox Church. You can see the passage which takes you to the cliff. The main route to the summit is known as the Path of Moses. This photograph is shot from the summit where the Holy Trinity Church is located.

Passage generally used by the pilgrims to reach the trinity church built at the summit of the mountain. Shot is taken from the church back drop so that you can notice its compound wall
Passage generally used by the pilgrims to reach the trinity church built at the summit of the mountain. Shot is taken from the church back drop so that you can notice its compound wall

Chapel of the Holy Trinity

The summit of the mountain has a Greek Orthodox chapel, constructed in 1934 on the ruins of a 16th century church, and it is not open to the public. The chapel encloses the rock which is considered to be the source for the biblical Tablets of Stone. The summit also has the "Moses' cave", where Moses was said to have waited to receive the Ten Commandments.

Rear side view of Holy trinity church at the summit of Sinai Mountain
Rear side view of Holy trinity church at the summit of Sinai Mountain

Pilgrims on their way of descend after viewing the sun rise from the cliff and after making their tribute to the church atop. This little hut you see is just below the Greek orthodox church situated at the summit

Pilgrims on descend after viewing sun rise and taking  birds eye view of Sinai mountain range from the summit. The huts seen sells tea and biscuits etc run by Bedouins.
Pilgrims on descend after viewing sun rise and taking birds eye view of Sinai mountain range from the summit. The huts seen sells tea and biscuits etc run by Bedouins.

We walked our way in company of our guide back to the bus waiting down hill. it was late in the evening, as soon as we all got in, the bus took its momentum for our night stay in a hotel on our way. We had a hot shower in our hotel room and rushed for a full course dinner. Returned to room had a nice sleep and after an early break fast we pushed off to Suez canal for crossing to the main land of Egypt.

Journey through Sinai peninsula thus became a fond memory to cherish for a life time. Recommend you to undertake this inspiring journey.

Our guide Normeen and daughter Asha accompanied me for the tour
Our guide Normeen and daughter Asha accompanied me for the tour

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    • profile image

      asha sunil 2 years ago

      A very good nd informative read dad. Truly inspired...

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      V T Thomas 2 years ago

      Now I am taking rest after a cataract surgery and hence glanced through without reading and hope to follow through later.Wish you all the best and looking forward for more and more informative articles of this kind.

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      Sangeetha Menon 2 years ago

      Uncle, that is a really good description of your trip. In fact, just this morning my husband and I were talking about Jerusalem and said that we must make a trip there. Then I told him that you and Asha had been there and that I'd get all the details from you! Hoping you make many more trips and enlighten us about them! Take care, Uncle!

    • geophil profile image
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      George philip 2 years ago from India

      That is beautiful Sangeeta, happy to note that my blog is descriptive enough so you liked it. I have a couple of them already published and mostt of them are well read and good comments i receive. Thank you very much. I recommend you to take a tour to these places you will enjoy, one need not be religious to visit any of these area. Have a nice time.

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      Abraham Zachariah 2 years ago

      Dear Achenkunjachayan,

      Really wonderful.Recommended to watch.

    • geophil profile image
      Author

      George philip 2 years ago from India

      Hey John Mathai, thank you for your comments. I am having a couple of them in this series. Three are already posted on my fb status pl see them and make your comments. I will post others too as you have shown interest. I am not using any heavy cameras, Nikon is my fav brand from ages, now i use cool pix P510 with 42 times optical zoom, fairly good small and easy for handling during journey.

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