Of course this expedition would not be complete without a journey up, arguably, the most famous sacred mountain in the world. Rising up out of the dry sands of the Sinai desert, higher than the other rocky peaks surrounding it, is the towering Mt Sinai (2285m). İt is locally known as Gebel Musa. Although disputed by archaeologists and historians as the exact place, Christians, Muslims, and Jews all believe that God presented his Ten Commandments to Moses on its summit; a place profoundly sacred to all the world's major monotheistic religions.
We got up at 2AM and walked through the shadows inside the monastery walls toward the beginning of the 3750 steps. After shaking off the enterprising Bedouin guides, we started up the ancient steps. They quickly led up a narrow rock walled gorge, twisting and climbing through small patches of sweet smelling pennyroil and sage. The gorge just got more and more beautiful. Sometimes we would get up onto a wide ledge and see the other rocky peaks, silhouetted with stars, over the gorge walls. We passed a chapel part way, and later through two narrow freestanding stone arches. Something about the narrow steep path, the sweet smelling darkness, and passing through these old doorways, really made the act of climbing Sinai feel like a sacred journey. The path almost glowed with the power of over 1500 years of people making this pilgrimage.
We stepped through the second stone arch and reached a small plateau under the summit. There were two stone chapels, a light wind rustling through an old tree, and a quiet monk selling hot tea. We were one of only two groups of people who took the 3750 steps up. Everyone else took the camel trail, and we were stunned to see how many lights zig-zaged up the last few switchbacks to the summit. It was like a torchlight parade! With the skies windy and hinting of rain, we sat with the monk and enjoyed some sweet tea and simple conversation while watching the lights. So glad we came up this way and not up the boring route with the noisy throng of tourists. And it is not true, this route is not difficult or hard to navigate. It is really the only way to experience this mountain!