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January 2023

TOUR

Mount Moses (also known as Mount Sinai, Jabal Musa, St Catherine's, Mount Horeb) is a mountain in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt. With its peak standing at 2285m/7500ft, it's a popular hike for those looking for adventure, and also those who want to retrace the steps of Moses.

It is said that Moses climbed to the top of this mountain to receive the Ten Commandments from God.


The most popular hike starts in the middle of the night with the aim of reaching the peak for sunrise. And wow. The sunrise is something else.


Here's my account of a typical night hike with a tour from Dahab to Mount Moses:

We were picked up by a minibus at 10:30pm. After collecting more hikers, we finally left Dahab at 11:30pm. Some fell asleep, saving their energy for the climb later. As we drove towards the mountain, the temperature gradually dropped and I piled on more layers.


We arrived at the car park around 12:30am and as we disembarked, the cold hit us. Jackets, scarves and hats came on. A local guide led us to the start of the trail just before 1am, passing St Catherine's Monastery, and we all began the ascent. We were the only group there. Sections of the path were fairly narrow so it was nice to have the route to ourselves.


Moon (light) Walking


It was dark. But the full moon gave us enough light that many could walk up the trail without the need for a torch. However, as we climbed higher, parts of the path were rocky and my head torch came in very handy.


Our guide led us at the pace of the fastest walkers in our group. Some straggled behind. We were ascending at quite a quick rate. Along the route were several rest stops where you could take a breather, buy a hot drink, and look at the stars.


The last part of the hike is a long set of uneven stone steps. 700 steps to be exact.


It's a steep climb where regular stops, to catch your breath, are definitely needed. At least for me anyway!


At 600 steps there is a rest stop, in the form of a small make-shift cafe, where we wrapped up to wait for sunrise. We'd sped up the mountain so quickly that it was still only 3am. We had another 3 hours to wait for sunrise!


It was slightly warmer than being outside. I ordered a hot tea immediately and warmed my feet by inserting the feet warmers I'd bought from an outdoors store back in the UK. They saved me! I also hand warmers that I used for my fingers.


The Painful Wait for Sunrise


Blankets could be rented for 75LE (approximately £3). I ignored the smell from the blanket and used it to add another layer to keep me warm. This was no time for home comforts!


At around 4:30am my stomach was rumbling so I ordered a pot of instant noodles which helped warm me up. But it also sent me to sleep. As people from the tour buses arrived and squeezed into the hut, I fell asleep in a seated position, head lolling into my jacket. Anyone who had been lying down or taking up too much space were woken and told to scoot up to make room!


At 6am, people started leaving the hut to climb the final 100 rocky steps. Our guide was nowhere to be seen and the cafe owner told us that he had gone to sleep! We were left to climb the steps by ourselves. At this point there was plenty of light from the sun so we weren't in need of guidance and climbed the 100 steps without too many issues.


At the top, huge groups of people were snapping away with their cameras, taking group photos and squeezing into spaces to find the best spot to watch the sunrise.


I spotted a girl from our group perched dangerously on a rock with the perfect view. There was space so I managed to squeeze in next to her.

Ra

(the Egyptian God of the Sun)

At 6:24am, the yellow glow on the horizon became brighter. Rebellious clouds floated just above the sun. As quickly as the sun appeared, it disappeared behind the clouds, disappointing us. We'd hiked all that way for a few seconds of the sunrise view.


However, ten minutes later the sun shone brighter and, together with the clouds, it created the most unique sunrise. Rays of light broke through the clouds and it was, in my opinion, more beautiful than a sunrise on a clear day.


Ra had still gifted us with a special moment.

At this point, the crowds were quickly disappearing. We stayed a little longer to enjoy the view, but then it became so cold that we had to move.


The walk down the uneven steps was tough on the knees and ankles. Even though I wasn't in that much pain, the next day was horrendous on my calves and ankles!


St Catherine's Monastery


Back down at the bottom we had time to visit St Catherine's Monastery before meeting back at the bus at 10:30am.


Recently declared a UNESCO Heritage Site in 2022, the St Catherine's area was named after Catherine of Alexandria. The story tells us of how she became a Christian at the age of 14 and converted hundreds of people to Christianity. Under the rule of Maxentius, she was forbidden to continue, and when she resisted, she was sent to be tortured by the spiked, breaking wheel. However, legend has it, that as she was tied to the wheel, it spun out of control and shattered, injuring onlookers who were cheering for her death.


As it is still a functioning monastery, it is necessary to dress conservatively when visiting.


Back onto the minibus many fell asleep. I couldn't. Not even when I got back to the hostel. A sleepless night on Mount Moses. But most definitely worth it.


 

TOUR OR EXPLORE (independently):


TOUR

Going with a "tour" is definitely more economical than going independently, given the distance between Mount Sinai and Dahab. A guide isn't necessary as the trail up the mountain is fairly clear but in the darkness of the night, it's reassuring to know there is someone to help if needed.

I recommend going from Dahab, if possible, rather than Sharm el-Sheikh, as the journey is shorter. I also recommend booking with Rafiki Hostel, your group will be smaller and you'll avoid the big crowds.


Booking through Rafiki Hostels will only set you back $25. We were picked up early and avoided the crowds. Yes, we got there way too early but it was a lot nicer to hike with the routes to ourselves. I'd recommend booking with them and giving them a shout even if you're not staying with them. The staff are incredibly friendly!


 

What shall I wear to hike Mount Moses?

  • Comfortable footwear. Either hiking shoes or trainers with good grip.

  • Comfortable clothes as you'll be hiking for a few hours.

  • I'd recommend wearing performance clothes. As you climb you're likely to sweat and unless you're changing at the top, wet clothes can make you feel colder in the altitude temperatures.


What do I need to bring to hike Mount Moses?

  • LAYERS! If you're hiking during the winter, take lots of layers. It's very cold at the top and those who didn't bring layers suffered during the wait for sunrise, even after hiring a blanket. A thick jacket, neck buff/scarf, hat, gloves are recommended.

  • I took feet warmers, similar to these, for the wait at the top and they saved my life!

  • A head torch will come in useful for the climb up especially during the rocky parts.

  • Cash/ some change for a hot tea/blanket at the top of the mountain.

  • Sunglasses to protect your eyes from the rays of that gorgeous sunrise/sunset you'll see!

  • Leave alcohol at home. It's a great idea to warm the body up with a bit of whisky at the top. But all bags are searched before entering the site and all alcohol is confiscated.

  • Water. You can buy water on the way up but I took my thermo and filled it with hot water to hydrate and also warm myself up on the climb.


Do I have to hike Mount Moses at night time?


No. You can hike up during the day for day views.


You can also hike to watch the sunset. The only thing is, you'd have to be comfortable hiking back down the mountain in the dark.


Another option is to sleep at the top of the mountain and descend the next morning. I’ve been told that there are a few rooms round the back of one of the shops where people can sleep. They’re not advertised as they don’t want it to become a mobbed tourist site but if you ask the shop owners, they will offer what they have available for the night.


How much does it cost to hike Mount Moses?


Booking through Rafiki Hostel cost me 25USD. If you want to pay in EGP they convert it using the current exchange rate, which at the moment (February 2023) is extremely favourable for us!


Do you need a guide to climb Mount Moses?


A guide is not needed. The path to the top is fairly clear and easy to follow. There’s likely to be other hikers that you can follow too. You just need to arrange transportation to get to the head of the trail.


If you have any questions, send me a message!

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