Travel Betty

Encouraging Fearless Independent Travel For Women

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In The Footsteps Of Moses and Charelton Heston: Climbing Mt. Sinai

July 1st, 2007 · 1 Comment

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The Story of our Climb as Told to my Mother via Email Sent Wednesday April 26, 2007:

Yesterday we climbed Mt. Sinai. If you’ll note, the word ‘mountain’ precedes ‘Sinai’ which means that you are correct in assuming that Travel Boyfriend and I are both completely exhausted today as well as certifiably insane.

Our Bedouin guide was aptly named Moses. He’s been climbing the mountain 5 days a week for the past twenty years and he said he loves his job.

On a path composed mainly of gravel, dust and camel poop, we started the climb at 1am and it took us about 2 1/2 hours to get to the top. We stopped for short breaks about every half hour and when we were near the top, we took shelter in a small tent where Moses fixed us the most delicious hot cocoa and let us warm up for a bit.

Then we proceeded to the summit where he set up a couple of thin mattresses and two coarse donkey blankets on a ledge facing East.

We watched the sun rise around 5:30am, stayed for about an hour taking pictures and watching a horde of Japanese tourists praying with utter conviction while speaking in tongues (or Japanese, it was hard to tell).

Thinking the worst was behind us, I’d given Travel Boyfriend most of my breakfast, leaving myself only a few slices of pita to munch on.

It turned out that the descent was the hardest part. Supposedly a monk of the nearby St. Catherine’s Monastery built 3,750 stairs in the face of the mountain as penance, but ‘stairs’ is a very generous term for ‘giant sporadic boulders that have absolutely no resemblance to stairs whatsoever.’

Our legs were twisted and shaking by the time we got to the bottom. I kept trying to engage my glutes instead of my knees, but they refused my proposal.

Luckily today the effects are minor. I took about 25,995 Tylenol and then slept like a drunk for the next 12 hours.

After the descent, we waited to get inside St. Catherine’s Monastery to see the Burning Bush. Or at least the offspring of it. Might have been a nice time to reflect on religion in some way if it weren’t for the fact that there were a million people crammed in the tiny courtyard all grabbing at its limbs while pushing and shoving us out of the way.

It’s very telling of a devout Christian who elbows you aside before making the sign of the cross in front of her favorite Saint.


The methodical sound and feel of gravel crunching underfoot. Best described as walking over Cap’n Crunch and peanut brittle.

The dusky outlines of boulders surrounding us in the blackness of night as we climbed. Periodically a few would groan or move and transform themselves from boulders into camels.

Our Bedouin guide, Moses referring to me as ‘sister’ throughout the climb and declaring “God carries us to the top of the mountain.”

My headlamp shining down on Moses’ North Face climbing shoes, which were given to him by a client after a five-day mountain hike because his own shoes had fallen apart.

Listening to Cat Power on my iPod at the summit as I waited for night to shed its thick matted coat.
Cat Power

Finally forgiving Travel Boyfriend for putting Stairway to Heaven in my head as we climbed.
Various Artists - Led Zeppelin Tribute - Led Zeppelin IV 2001 - Stairway to Heaven

Travel Betty Basics

Mt. Sinai
Purported home of the Ten Commandments
Summit 2285 meters high
At the foot of the mountain, St. Catherine’s Monastery sits at an elevation of around 1,200 meters
Translation: total elevation of climb is 1085 meters or 3559 feet
The path to the top is 7 kilometers long

St. Catherine’s Monastery
Purported home of the Burning Bush

If you go, dress for the frigid mountain air and consider bringing a change of clothing. It gets cold up there and once you stop climbing, your sweat will turn to tiny individual ice cubes.

Also, bring toilet paper! And don’t pay anyone to use the bathroom. There will be entrepreneurial folks waiting nearby asking for payment, but you are in a National Park and toilets are free. Just say, “No, it’s a National Park” with conviction and walk away.

Tags: Egypt

Related posts you may enjoy:
  • Slideshow: Mt. Sinai, Egypt
  • 100 % Egyptian Cotton: Bath Towel Artisans of the Middle East
  • Travel Betty’s 30-Second Vacation: The Burning Bush

  • 1 response so far ↓

    • 1 not.a.diva // Apr 11, 2008 at 8:56 pm

      i did this climb too and i think, no – it was/is the most physically challenging thing i have ever done. but to see the sunrise at the top – totally worth it.

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