The poem “Sinai at http://www.verse-virtual.com/sofia-kioroglou-2016-february.html
of the Ten Commandments
The Holy Mountain of Moses
THE BEDOUIN AND THE HOLY MONASTERY OF SINAI
The term “bedouin” in the Arabic language refers to one who lives out in the open, in the desert. Eutyches, the ninth century Patriarch of Alexandria, writes that when Justinian built the monastery, he settled next to it with some two hundred families brought from the Pontos of Anatolia, and from Alexandria, in order to guard, defend, and assist the monks. The modern-day bedouin are considered to be the descendants of those families that were converted to Islam in the seventh century, and that today form the Sinai bedouin families that make up the Jebeliya tribe. Its members to this day trace their lineage to these soldiers, and are proud of their Greek and Roman origins, as well as of this denomination and cultural identity.
The monastery has become an integral part of their lives as they care for it, due to the fact that the monastery has always respected their rights and sought for solutions to their various difficulties. They are peace-loving and cultivated, and they are courteous, joyful, frugal, and hospitable in spite of their poverty. They consider the monastery and the Archbishop of Sinai as the traditional administrative and judiciary authority of their tribe. They are linked with the monastery in that they work for it, taking part in its everyday life and activities. Now, thanks to the great interest shown by the contemporary Egyptian state for them as well as for the whole of the South Sinai, their living conditions have been greatly improved.
The bedouin inhabitants of the region, of old, and up to this day, honor the Holy Monastery of Sinai, the trustee of the seventeen centuries long spiritual and cultural tradition of the South Sinai area, as well as the recipient of the honor and respect that are due to its patron, Saint Catherine. The inclusion of the Holy Monastery of Sinai and its surrounding area in the UNESCO catalogue of World Heritage Monuments, further guarantees the maintenance of the physical environment in which the bedouin live.
The unobtrusive as well as the humble conduct that characterizes the Sinai fathers’ way of life across the ages has greatly contributed to the fact that the pilgrim sites of the Sinai area are held in great respect, while the fathers’ prayers continue to be exercised without any hindrance to such an extent that at various periods this ministry has been sustained by great historic leaders who have placed the Holy Monastery of Sinai under their protection. Indeed, in our days, this tradition is continued by contemporary leaders as well as by important persons both within and without the Arab Republic of Egypt, and who, with great zeal, aid the monastery so that under the present conditions it might continue in the exercise of its spiritual, philanthropic, and cultural tradition.
The initial appeal not only of the simple people, of the anchorites or of the bedouin, but even that of great religious and political leaders for the blessing of the Most Holy Virgin of the Burning Bush and from a certain period and onwards the taking recourse to the protection of Saint Catherine creates an important tradition in the seventeen centuries long life of the Holy Monastery of Sinai, regardless of the fact that it might be situated in a remote area of the South Sinai. Parallel with this, the outstanding spiritual and cultural tradition of the holy monastery, combined with the great reverence that is reserved for Saint Catherine, particularly in the Western world, have contributed to the fact of everyone wishing either to proceed with the offering of precious ex votos or with participating in various efforts aiming at the safeguarding of the holy monastery’s pilgrimage sites. In this field, of a tantamount importance has been the factor that the holy monastery represents a point of encounter not only for the faithful of the Christian world, but also for Jews and Moslems.
From the summit, the views of the surrounding mountains and valleys are great! The climb is certainly worth the effort.
When to do it. Seeing sunrise or sunset from the top is traditional, but we chose to climb to the summit during the day, missing the crowds at sunrise and sunset, and really enjoyed the experience.
Geology of the mountain. The mountain is made of granite.
The summit is not visible from the Monastery, but the ascent up the mountain is visible off the northwest corner of the Monastery. The stone step path that rises to the summit was likely constructed in the sixth or seventh century.
Summit altitude of 2,285 meters. This amounts to a 685 meter climb, given an altitude of 1,600 meters at the gates of St Catherine’s.
Climbing to the summit. You can take two different routes to the top:
The camel track (ascent takes 2.5-3 hours up). This is a less taxing route and certainly riding a camel reduces the climbing strain, but probably not the riding sores. 😉
The 3700 steps (ascent takes 1.5-2 hours, descent takes 1 hour). We would definitely recommend this route (we went up and down this route). It is much prettier, not to mention faster, plus it is the “historical” route taken by pilgrims up the mountain. Although many guidebooks warn about this being a brutal ascent, with some steps over a meter high, we did not find it difficult and certainly did not encounter any meter-high steps! We would recommend taking a flashlight (for each person) if you are going to undertake this at night or during the early morning.
Further, no matter which route you select, certainly bring a jacket because the wind really blows at the top.
The photos are from my visit to Sinai Monastery on St.Catherine’feast day last year. Only 16 daring Greeks defied the gloomy mumbo-jumbo on TV about the dangers lurking regarding this trip. Yeah, sure there is strife but the monastery is revered by everyone in the region.Believe me the experience is unbeatable and the climb to the summit simply amazing.