St Catherine’s Village and Mount Sinai
St Catherine’s is one of the oldest settlements in South Sinai due to the Monastery and Mount Sinai. People have been coming to visit this region for a long time and wishing to follow the footsteps of Moses up Mount Sinai.
The village or town of St Catherine’s is fairly small and is home to about 2000 people, many work with the Monastery or directly with tourism in the region. The town is set among the high mountains of South Sinai and has a feel completely different from the main tourist towns of South Sinai, due to it being completely surrounded by mountains. Its location is almost directly in the centre of the Sinai peninsular, so it is a fair distance from the sea.
The journey by road to St Catherine’s from Sharm El Sheikh takes almost 3 hours and from Dahab almost 2 hours. Nuweiba is the closet resort town to the region the drive from there is around one hour.
St Catherine’s is home to the Jebeliya Bedouin Tribe, one of the oldest recorded Bedouin tribes in the region, who are of descent from some of the early settlers in the area.
St Catherines is also one of the coldest places in all of Egypt due to its altitude. In summer temperatures are pleasant around 29C, in Winter it can be very chilly there will highs of 10C, and lows of -14C! St Catherines sometimes experiences snow in the mid winter time making it difficult for climbing Mount Sinai.
There is a lot more to the region of St Catherines than just Mount Sinai. You might be surprised to know that there are several chapels and monasteries in this region, many of them are on top of high mountains. It is also worth spending more time in this region to explore the wadi’s (valleys) many of them are home to unique mountain gardens, natural springs and Eco systems.
The St Catherine’s region is a protected area due to its diversity and Eco systems. There is an entrance fee to the region of around 30 Egyptian Pounds or 5$ per person which you pay at a kiosk just before you reach St Catherine’s village.
Accommodation in St Catherine’s Village
St Catherine’s offers various types of accommodation from basic Bedouin camps, up to 4 Star Hotels. You can even stay in the St Catherine’s Monastery Guest House.
Climbing Mount Sinai
The most popular excursion in St Catherines is to climb Mount Sinai you must be reasonably fit and prepared. We recommended if you plan to climb at night time that you have a torch with you. Sensible and comfortable walking shoes are essential. Some warm clothes will be needed when you get to the summit. In winter you will need lots of warm clothes, if you will stay on the summit for sunrise temperatures can dip well below freezing.
You can go two thirds of the way up the mountain by camel, but the last third from Elijah’s basin must be done by foot. It is the hardest section with a few step areas. There are some interesting alternative routes up the Mountain which also lead to Elijah’s basin, where you can visit old chapels and beautiful wadi’s on the way.
Make use if you can of the blanket hire at the summit as this provides income for local families and enjoy stunning views. There are also a few tea and snack stops on the way, the prices are above average but you are here you are at the highest point in Egypt around 2,285 meters above sea level.
St Catherine’s Monastery
The most popular attraction in South Sinai, the Monastery of St Catherine’s is home to the famous burning bush of Moses and also the Greek Orthodox Monastery and a large collection of artifacts, icons and historical manuscripts. It is one of the oldest tourist sights in South Sinai, built around 550AD.
The monastery has strict opening and closing times, the hours are 8am – 12 noon only Sunday – Thursday and Saturdays. (Closed Fridays and Sundays and during Coptic religious holidays).
Bedouina Tours can help you organise your stay, tours and excursions in St Catherines.
Don’t miss these highlights in the area
- St Catherine’s Monastery
- The Burning Bush
- Climbing Mount Sinai
- Camel Trek up Mount Sinai
- Elijah’s Basin
- Wadi Arbain and the Monastery of the Forty Martyrs
- Ramadan’s Garden
- Jebel Safsafa
- Chapel of St Panteleimon
- Chapel of Safsafa
- Chapel El Loza
- Mount St Catherine’s
- Jebel Abbas Basha
- Deir Rahab Monks Monastery in Wadi Talla