People who have visited Dahab many years ago say a lot have changed, but it is still a very laid back place. There are many cheap hotels in town, but to the south and north bigger and more expensive hotels have been built and are being built. Along the beach there are many nice restaurants where it is easy to spend a whole day, reading a good book, swimming and eating. And around Dahab the diving is excellent. When you travel this is a nice place for to stop at for some days or a week.
If you climb Mount Sinai to see the sunset you will be far from alone. It is actually very crowded at the top as it is a popular excursion from the beach resorts. It can even be hard to find a place to sit down at. But if you come at another hour of the day you might be alone. A Swiss family staying at the Monastery Guesthouse when I did climbed the mountain during the day, and apart from a sleeping policeman they were all alone at the top. When I later during the day sat above the monastery I saw a group of three tourists coming to climb the mountain for sunset. I didn’t see any others, but there might have been a few more. If I was going to climb Mount Sinai again I would do it at another time then sunrise, just to be more alone (but now I have already seen the sunrise and it was really beautiful).
I have only spent an afternoon in Sharm el Sheikh waiting for the ferry. I and Rebecca, who was leaving Dahab on the same day as me, decided to go to Sharm el Sheikh earlier during the day to look around before the ferry to Hurghada took off. We had hoped to leave our bags somewhere , but that was not possible. After buying the tickets at the port we asked if we could leave the bags there. They were not allowed to take them because of security reasons. We asked at a restaurant and they ad the same answer, so in the end we did not walk around but went to an Internet cafe for more than two hours and then to eat at a restaurant by the sea, all the time with our backpacks.
Sharm el Sheikh is more expensive than Dahab. In Dahab Internet was 5 - 6 pounds an hour and in Sharm el Sheikh they wanted to have 15 pound an hour (we did not ask before using it). I guessed someone asked, in Arabic, for the price when he entered and the answer was ashara (10 pounds). When I said I had heard that I got a small reduction in the price.
At the restaurant almost 25 % (tax and service) was added to the price mentioned in the menu (that they didn’t do in Dahab). For spaghetti with pesto and an orange juice and tip I paid 43 pounds (more expensive than Dahab).
I did not see much of Sharm el Sheikh so it is difficult to get a good opinion, but I think I prefer the more laid back atmosphere in Dahab. There is one thing I want to do in Sharm though, and that is to dive at Ras Mohammed.
St Katherine’s Monastery is built on the place where it is believed Moses saw the burning bush. Already in the 4th century a chapel was built here by empress Helena. Two centuries later emperor Justinian had a fortified monastery and a church built. This was to protect the monks and Christian pilgrims.
The name St Katherine comes from a martyr killed for her faith in Alexandria in the 4th century. The legend says angels carried the body to Jebel Katharina (Mount St Katharina), where monks found it centuries later.
Most of the monastery is closed for visitors, but at 9 o’clock in the morning it opens for tourists to visit the church and the museum, and to see the burning bush and the well of Moses.
I liked the museum very much. There there are many beautiful old icons, crosses and bibles.
Mount Sinai is the mountain were Moses is said to have received the Ten Commandments from God. It is very popular to climb the mountain, especially during night to see the sunrise. If you climb at night you will need a torch and a warm sweater, as it can be cold at the top. I started my climb at two in the night and was first walking alone, but I could see the lights of other torches far away. Suddenly, out of the dark, a man called “Camel Madame”. When I looked around in the dark there were several men and camels there. I wanted to walk, but many people chose to ride a camel up the track. For me it took two hours to get to the top. Along the way I passed many people, but was also passed by many others (there were even people running). The hardest bit is the steep steps in the end. Along the way there are a few stands selling tea and snacks. On the top you can rent a mattress and a blanket if you are cold.
There are two paths to take to the top of Mount Sinai, the camel track and the Steps of Repentance. The camel track is the easiest one, and the path most people take, and here you can also ride a camel if you don’t want to walk all way. But even if you walk the camel track you will the last bit have to walk up about 700 steps. To walk this way takes about two hours.
The Steps of Repentance are 3750 steps leading from St Catherine’s Monastery to the top. Walking the steps can be very trying for your legs, but there is a nice view over the monastery when you walk down. To see the great view I had decided to take the steps down, but changed my mind in the morning when it was time to walk down and took the easier camel track down as well. As I was staying at the Monastery Guesthouse I could first have breakfast, visit the monastery and sleep for some hours, before walking up the steps behind the monastery to admire the view.
Visiting St. Catherine Village was an alternative to a good and deserved rest after the long drive from Cairo to St. Catherine and a plane that landed at 3 a.m.
Considering the tiredness it was quite a tough decision to make but everything around look so interesting that we couldn't resist to a deeper exploration of the area.
We've been "smart" enough too take the long way (on our way back we discovered a short one which actually was half of the first one), walking from our hotel to the village (probably a couple of km) but it was an interesting experience.
St. Catherine is indeed a village, with poor Bedouin houses, donkeys, camels, a huge "elegant" toilet centrally located, a cemetery, grocery and souvenirs shops, a post office and a "coffe shope" (see my Restaurants tips).
Mt. Sinai, also called Horeb Mountain or Jebel Musa (Moses Mountain), lies on the south part of St. Catherine Monastery and is 2.285 m high.
On this mountain God spoke to Moses and gave him to stone tables with the 10 Commandments.
Mt. Sinai is considered sacred both for Christians and Muslims and is the centre of an important pilgrimage destination that includes St. Catherine Monastery, Elijah Plateau and ar-Raaha plain near the mountain.
No matter how much you'll read before going to Egypt about climbing Mt. Sinai, I think everyone's experience is new and special.
After waking up around 1 a.m. and the luggage control at the entrance at the Monastery, the adventure starts at 1,500 m and follows on the "Horeb staircase" up to 2,244 m.
I may be not as brave as other travelers passing through this experience or there were the only two hours of sleeping in the two nights before, but to me this was a really challenging experience.
But I finally made it and arrived at the top at 5:30am, just in time to catch a good place and don't miss the wonderful sunrise.
On our way to St. Catherine we stopped for a while at the point where the camions are embarked on the ferry for passing on the other side of the Suez Channel.
It may not be the best point for understating the importance of the Suez Channel but at least you can make an idea.
Unfortunately you are not allowed to take pictures as this is a military site, but I had some old pictures taken by my husband when he passed the Suez Channel with his ship on their way to South Africa.
The church of St Katherine (Basilica of the Transfiguration) dates back to the 6th century. It is not allowed to take photos inside, but there you will see many beautiful icons and paintings. Visitors are not allowed behind the iconostas (from the 17th century).
The Arabic name for Mount Sinai is Gebel Musa. It is 2285 metres high, but not the highest mountain around. The highest mountain in Egypt Gebel Katarina is nearby, and can be seen from the top of Mount Sinai. The view from the top over the bare mountains around is magnificent and absolutely worth the effort to climb the mountain.
The steps are the last part of the climbing and the most difficult one.
If up to the stairs you can also take a camel and facilitate the climbing, from now on it's only up to you to arrive to the top.
For the ones traveling alone, an "experienced" guide can be "rented". The experience consists in pushing or drawing you up to the stairs and the ones who speak a bit of English can also encourage you.
A pocket lamp is mandatory, although, if you are lucky, the moon is a good companion.
Fara'ûn was recommended to us as an "off the beaten path" destination, but I think that most of the groups on the way to Mt. Sinai stop here to see this strange natural wonder.
The key of these springs is the hot water springing from the mountain and flowing to the sea.
Considering also the burning sun and also the deserted landscape, by putting your feet into the water you experience a really bizarre sensation when you feel the extremely hot water.
On the top of Mt. Sinai is a small Christian chapel but this one cannot be visited.
Most of the times is closed and I've heard that it is opened only once a year for religious pilgrimages.
I've been told that the best place to sit for enjoying the best view of the sunrise is on the right side of the chapel but I think that at the end the sunrise can be seen from almost all the points on the top.
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