St. Catherine’s an isolated town, nestled in between a range of majestic mountains that reflect the light of each passing hour with a different scheme of color. Weather is moderate round the year, a bit cold in Winter days.
Saint Catherine bares lot of natural attractions amongst which are the; Colored canyon which is indeed, one of the natural wonders of Sinai. A walk in between the dramatic sandstone canyon walls that reaches up to 40 meters in some place, marked with melting yellow, purple, red, and gold colors are unforgettable. Day trips to the Color Canyon can be arranged from Dahab, Nuweiba, or Taba.
Another site worth a visit is Ein Umm Ahmed which means the ” spring of the mother of Ahmed”; inhabited by welcoming local Bedouins who will always try to welcome you with a nice cup of tea made by their special way. T his oasis stretches along a valley filled with life, fruit trees bearing lemons, olives, figs and dates, as well as a vegetable garden containing fresh tomatoes, basil, and mint. That in addition of the existence of rare species of flora, fauna and birds. The scenery is overwhelming in this oasis found in the core of the desert
N ot far from the road linking St Katherine with Nuweiba and Dahab, lays Ein Khudra or the Green Oasis, the name perfectly describes this attractive environment in that oasis, where fresh water springs nourish the date palm gardens. Not only natural significance but Ein Khudra has historically significant as well. It acted as an important stopover for pilgrims traveling through and from the St Katherine-Jerusalem route. Ancient writing and drawings on the nearby rock of inscriptions testify that Greeks, Romans, Byzantines and Christians of the Crusader period passed through that way.
Passing by on your way to face the Blue Desert”; a magnificent valley. Massive granite sculptures and golden rocks cover the desert floor along with beautiful pink flowers dotting the plains. The Blue Desert is a great place for climbing, taking pictures or just relaxing and walking. Located between Dahab and St Katherine, a must to see place during your trip. In addition, it is a great place for camping.
St. Catherine is rich with its historical one of a kind attractions, among which is Mount Moses , Also, known as Mount Sinai, & in Arabic as Gabal Mussa, is honored by the three great monotheistic religions.
Lies to the south of the Monastery of St Katherine. Known for its great religious importance to Jews, Christians and Muslims. According to the Old Testament this is where Moses received the Ten Commandments from GOD.
It’s an overwhelming belief that has drawn pilgrims for over a thousand years. Ancient chapels and structures honoring saints and the Virgin Mary appear all along the main route, called Sikket Saydna Musa or “The Path of Moses”, including a stone arch where, a monk once sat and heard confession from the pilgrims. Nearing the summit, one encounters the natural amphitheater where the 70 wise men waited while God spoke with Moses, then finally a small chapel and mosque at the top. Climbing the mount requires a moderate body, it takes about 3 hours to climb the 7,498-foot peak following the Path of Moses, a stairway of nearly 4,000 steps. Recommended to have a good hiking shoes and plenty of water.
St. Catherine Monastery
Lies at the foot of mountain Moses. Saint Catherine Monastery has been one of the world’s great centers of religious pilgrimage for over fifteen centuries. Within its imposing walls rests a citadel like no other, incredibly rich in important religious and historical structures. Among its treasures is a library of ancient manuscripts and icons, and a 6th century church reputed to lie directly on the site of the Burning Bush. Quite simply, the monastery is a defining feature of the Holy Land .
The Basilica; the physical heart of St. Catherine’s monastery is its Byzantine-style basilica, which was built along with the protective walls in 527 A.D. There are many lamps hanging from the ceiling in a glittering, silver color, these are considered to be one of the most distinctive pieces of the monastery. A sarcophagus lying next to the main alter, supposedly holds the remains of St. Catherine herself.
Chapel of the Burning Bush; the monastery’s spiritual heart is the Chapel of the Burning Bush. A few feet away from the Chapel is the reputed bush itself, , where GOD spoke to Moses, the burning bush is a rare species of a rose family called Rubus Sanctus. The bush is said to have been relocated in the tenth century, when the chapel was given a roof. Today, it is very large in size, and many monks and scholars agree that the bush’s presence is the very reason St. Catherine’s Monastery developed in the first place. Charnel House; Over the centuries, thousands of monks have lived and died within the walls of St. Catherine Monastery. Because the monastery’s small cemetery is not enough to accommodate their remains, the monks bones where then placed in a vault or tomb beneath the Chapel of St. Trifonio, that place is also known as the Charnel House. It worth a visit to the monks vault and see the piles of skulls buried there.
The Fountain of Moses; an underground spring that supplies the monastery with water, is said that is sits on the very spot where Moses met his future wife, after protecting her and her sisters from an aggressive group of local shepherds. According to the monks, the well never dries up, and it is the monastery’s main source of water.
Justinian’s Wall; In 527 A.D., the Byzantine emperor Justinian ordered the construction of two of the monasteries defining features, the wall and the basilica. The imposing wall was meant to defend the inhabitants of the monastery from the local Bedouin tribes, and it reaches up to 9 ft in thickness and sixty ft in height. In 1801, emperor Napoleon ordered their restoration.
The Library and Gallery of Icons; the library at St. Catherine is extraordinary. It r epresents one of the richest collections in the world. It bares about 6000 manuscripts; 3000 of them are ancient, & some of them older than the monastery itself. These manuscripts are written in Greek, Arabic, Hebrew, Syriac, Armenian Georgian, Coptic, Polish and Slavic, the manuscripts deal with theological, scientific, liturgical and historical issues.
Was said that in year 1844, a German scholar was visiting the library then they discovered that possibly stole the Codex Sinaitic, an extremely important 4th century version of the Bible that now rests in the British Museum . Similar incidents throughout the years have forced the monastery to allow access only to visitors who have obtained written permission from the Archbishop of Cairo.
Attached to the library is the Gallery of Icons, which houses over 2,000 of these ancient treasures. Preserving the world’s richest collection of icons. In 730 Emperor Leo banned and ordered the destruction of all images of worship, since it was offending against the second of the Ten Commandments, unfortunately that resulted in destroying countless icons.
The Mosque; St. Catherine’s Mosque was built in 1106 during the era of Caliph Hakim to protect the Monastery from the unpredictable destructive passion of Caliph Hakim. On special occasions, the mosque is still used by the local Bedouins, who have helped maintain the monastery grounds for centuries. One of the mosque’s most significant features is a “minbar” or the pulpit which remains the only one of its kind.
After Islam entered the country, it was said that a delegation of monks once visited the Prophet Muhammad asking for his protection. After his visit to the monastery he granted in a document:” .. I shall be his protector against every enemy. it is not allowed to move . a priest from his religion, nor a hermit from his cell.”
In addition to the previous historical monuments, there are more tourist sites to be visited; P haraoh’s Island , also called Coral Island or Geziret Faroun, lies eight kilometers south of Taba and 250 meters off the coast. The Phoenicians were the first to make use of this island’s fine natural harbor during the 10th century BC to encourage trade with Egypt . Later on, the island became under Byzantine control.
E arly in the 12th century the Crusaders built a fortress there to protect pilgrims traveling between Jerusalem and the Monastery of St Katherine and to annoy Arab trade. Sultan Salah El Din (Saladin) evicted the Crusaders from the island and significantly strengthened the fortress later in the 12th century. The Mammlukes and Ottomans probably further fortified it when they became the dominant force of the region. T oday you can follow in the footsteps of the legendary Lawrence of Arabia and explore the fully renovated fortress of medieval character with its towers, arched doorways, sleeping quarters, baths and kitchens.
Nawamis; Can be seen just, in southern and eastern Sinai are several mysterious prehistoric structures known as Nawamis. Between 2 to 2.5 m high and 3 to 6 m in diameter, within these structures archaeologists have revealed shell bracelets, colored beads, flint tools, tiny jugs as well as bone and copper tools. These items were most likely funeral offerings. Many have been dated to the Copper Stone Age period (4000-3150 BC). Though the Nawamis were probably ancient burial chambers, the identity of the people buried here is still a mystery.
Serabit el Khadim; about 40 kilometers east of Abu Zenima is one of Sinai’s most important archaeological sites.
Pharaohs of the 3rd Dynasty (2670-2570 BC) began the long tradition of dispatching mining expeditions to this remote and desolate area to extract turquoise. Ancient Egyptians were not only fond of carving scarabs out of this opaque sky-blue gemstone, but they also used pulverized turquoise as pigment to color statues and other objects.
Feiran Oasis; about halfway between the Monastery of St Katherine and the Gulf of Suez , is one of the earliest Christian centers in Sinai. The ruins of many ancient churches testify to the importance this oasis once held as a religious hub through the centuries from as early as the 2nd century.