Gebel Musa (the mountain of Moses)

500 year old tree on Gebel Musa (the mountain of Moses)

Gebel Musa (the mountain of Moses) is one destination that should not be missed, especially if you’re visiting the Saint Catherine Monastery. It’s worthy of note that it is believed that Gebel Musa is Mount Horeb from the bible. The climb up to the top is about 2,286 meters (7,498 feet) and will take about 3 hours to complete. At 1,570 meters (5,150 feet) above sea level, situated in a valley at the bottom of Gebel Musa, The Monastery of Saint Catherine is one of the top destinations for Sinai visitors.

There are two trails to get to the top; Sikket Sayedna Musa (the path of Moses), and Sikket El-Basha (the path of the Pasha). Generally, people climb up through Sikket El-Basha, and down Sikket Sayedna Musa.

Sikket Sayedna Musa is believed to be the one Moses used to climb up the mountain. Consisting of a long stairway (about 3,700 steps) chiseled within the rocks by monks.

You have two options, either you take the track that goes up in parallel with the southern walls of the monastery, or you take the track that diverges from the main wadi track, aligned with two small stone buildings on the left.

After climbing up for 30 minutes, you’ll pass the “Spring of Moses” pouring out into a small cave then streaming along a chapel devoted to the Virgin Mary.

Beyond that point, you’ll reach the Gate of Confession and the Gate of Saint Stephen.

The Gate of Confession is a point where ancient time’s monks used to hear pilgrims’ confessions, so that they can climb up the holy mountain cleansed of their sins.

The Gate of Saint Stephen, at about 3,000 steps up, will take you to a striking plateau surrounded by granite peaks, called the “Amphitheater of the Seventy Wise Man of Israel” after the 70 wise men who accompanied Moses on his journey, but stopped at his point, since only Moses was allowed to be in the presence of God at the top of the mountain. (Exodus 24, 1 – 11)

Shaded by cypresses and olive trees within the amphitheater, you’ll find a spring and the home of Saint Stephen, and on mountaintops a little down south, you’ll find two chapels dedicated to Moses and the Prophet Elijah.

At this point you’ll find another trail passing by chapels dedicated to Saint John the Baptist, Saint Ann, Saint Joachin, and the Virgin Mary, and finally leading you to the top of Ras Safsafa.
At the bottom of Gebel Musa is Saint Catherine’s Monastery in the Mount Sinai, also known as Mount Horeb, Mount Musa, Gebel Musa or Jabal Musa (Moses Mountain) by the Bedouins
Once you climb the northeast wall of the amphitheater, you’ll reach a crossroad with the second route, and the beginning of the last set of stairs (700 steps) leading up the summit of Gebel Musa.

Once back on the stairway, you’ll find an oddly shaped mark on the granite wall that looks exactly like a camel’s paw print. This peculiar shape is named Athar Nagat El-Nabi (Paw print of the She-Camel of the Prophet) by local Bedouins, but no one knows exactly which prophet is made reference to.

Once you reach the top of Gebel Musa, you’ll find yet another chapel devoted to the Holy Trinity, and legend states that this is the point where God appeared to Moses in the shape of a cloud of fire and spoke to him (Exodus 24, 15 – 18).

Rebuilt in 1934 on top of ruins of an old chapel dating back to the fourth or fifth century, the chapel is rich with decorative frescoes, depicting the life of Moses.

Right beside the chapel, a mosque was recently built on top of the cave where hypothetically Moses has spent forty days and where God appeared to the prophet Elijah (Exodus 24, 5 – 18; Kings, 9, 8 – 13).

Once you reach this spot, you’ll be speechless by the awe-inspiring view. The ideal time to experience such magnificence is at dawn, when the early sunlight gently caresses the landscape, slowly lighting it up.

If you’re lucky and the sky was clear, you can see as far as the Gulf of El Aqaba.

The second route, Sikket El-Basha has been named after pasha Abbas I, as it was built during his sovereignty. Although it is longer than Sikket Sayedna Musa, it’s easier, and can mostly be done on a camel ride.

Taking about 500 meters (1,640 feet) along the bed of Wadi El-Deir, squeezed in between Gebel Musa and Gebel Moneiga, climbing uphill, zigzagging along the walls of Gebel Musa, taking you up to the Amphitheater of the Seventy Wise Men of Israel, where it connects to the first route, Sikket Sayedna Musa.

In order to enjoy the spectacular sunrise at the top of the mountain, it is advised that you start your hike 3 hours before dawn. So make sure you’re equipped with flashlights for your climb up, as well as good hiking boots and warm clothes as the temperature drops sharply once you reach the top, and the strong wind makes it even harder to stay warm.

Gebel Musa History

Also known as Mount Horeb, Mount Musa, Gebel Musa or Jabal Musa ("Moses' Mountain") by the Bedouins, is the name of a mountain in the Sinai Peninsula. At 2,285 metres high, it is the second highest mountain in the Sinai, after Mount St. Catherine, and is in a mountain range in the southern part of the peninsula. It is near a protruding lower bluff known as Ras Sasafeh (Sufsafeh), and rises almost perpendicularly from the plain. The Monastery of St. Catherine is sited at the foot of the mountain, at an elevation of around 1,200m. There are two principal routes to the summit, only one of which may be ascended at night. By the longer and less steep track known as Siket El Bashait, is possible to ascend either on foot or by camel hired from the Bedouin along the way - approximate time on foot two and a half hours. The steep, more direct route (Siket Sayidna Musa) ascends the 3,750 "steps of penitence" directly up the ravine behind the monastery and may not be ascended by night.

The summit of the mountain has a mosque and a Greek Orthodox chapel (which was constructed in 1934 on the ruins of a 16th century church) neither of which are open to the public. The chapel supposedly encloses the rock from which God made the Tablets of the Law. At the summit also is "Moses' cave" where Moses is supposed to have waited to receive the Ten Commandments.

Last Updated on Saturday 15th January 2011