History, Mountains

Through nights Abrahamic…

Saint Catherine's Monastery, Egypt

For a country holding one of the world’s oldest civilizations, and mummies, within its bosom, ‘twas a rather cruel irony to be holed up in a swanky resort town… freshly paved sidewalks, functional fountains and free shuttles… busy doling out rhetoric in another quintessentially exasperating environmental conference proclaiming to be humanity’s (and the planet’s) last hope… an example of hubris, anyone?

The weekend offered a break from work, and I decided to make a break for it… we were in the Sinai peninsula and close to Mount Sinai, and as a devout orophile one simply couldn’t resist hiking up a mountain, even if a close to midnight start wasn’t very good for the circadian rhythm…

Booking a group tour, a bus picked us up from Sharm at 8 pm and dropped us at Saint Catherine’s Monastery around 1 am… after a briefing by the tour bus guide, we were handed over to a couple of Bedouins to take us up the four odd miles to the mountain top… the clear starry night immediately shook off the grogginess as we started walking up a camel trail in the moonlight… the chatter of the crowd slowly died down and they thinned out as the ascent became steeper…

I spent a significant amount of the night photographing the sky, for the objective was to reach the top just before sunrise… the desert landscape brought Edward Abbey’s chronicle to mind and then one drifted away into the cultural richness of this otherwise barren land… a Pamir knot of sorts, from where Abrahamic faiths branch out… Moses receiving the Ten Commandments, a burning bush supposed to kindle humanity but one that seems to be devouring it nowadays, a set of principles steeped in austerity made malleable by the sands of time and polity…

The last bit of climb consisted of around 700 steep steps which formed a bottleneck… fair enough though, one surmised, considering the demographic diversity that was huffing its way up… I reached the 2,285-metre summit around 5:30 am, as the sky filled up with the colours of dawn, the sunrise in itself was not such a unique sight, but the way it lit up the surrounding peaks surely was…

A chapel and a mosque adorn the mountaintop, the former mostly closed while the latter is still functional… a sea of humanity went berserk with their cameras as I packed up for the descent, hoping to catch some birds on the way down of which I found a couple… 7:30 am saw me at Saint Catherine’s Monastery, feeling a lack of sleep, but the refreshing landscape and a warm sun took away most of the weariness… a small fortress, this seemingly random yet significant waypoint in humanity’s quest to find a meaning, or a direction, or anything that would make sense of existence…

The monastery being closed on Sundays meant that we couldn’t take a tour inside, but we were more than ready to hop on to the bus and take a nap anyway… ‘twas an interesting amalgam, this landscape, the emptiness of land contrasted by its religious importance, and marred by modern political sensitivities… 

On the trail to the summit of Mount Sinai, Egypt
There wasn’t much to do on the ascent except gaze at the night sky, which was a feast


On the trail to the summit of Mount Sinai, Egypt
Satellites and shooting stars, there was all to behold


On the trail to the summit of Mount Sinai, Egypt
Desert and the night


Sunrise from the summit of Mount Sinai
Sunrise from the summit


Mount Sinai
The chapel at the summit


View from the summit of Mount Sinai, Egypt
Sunrise brought its set of pastels to the landscape


View from the summit of Mount Sinai, Egypt
A landscape ablaze


View from the summit of Mount Sinai, Egypt
Sunrise panoramas


A Bedouin tribal
A Bedouin’s beat


Trail to the summit of Mount Sinai, Egypt
The trail was dotted with shops and camel stations


Saint Catherine's Monastery, Egypt
Saint Catherine’s Monastery sitting pensive at the base of the gorge


Saint Catherine's Monastery, Egypt
Old annals of Christianity

An excursion to Mount Sinai, Egypt, November 2022

Author: Parth Joshi

Mountain lover ⛰️ | Hiker 🥾| Runner 🏃‍♂️ | Cyclist 🚴 | Photographer 📷... allured by the outdoors, the author is a quintessential lost soul craving nature while suffering in a desk job...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *