St.Katherine National Park

St.Katherine National Park, Sharm El Sheikh

The lofty peak of Mount Sinai, or Gebel Musa, lies within the Saint Katherine Protectorate, which covers 4300 km2 of the high South Sinai mountains. Management of the Saint Katherine Protectorate began in 1996.

The Protectorate aims to conserve the natural and cultural feature, while allowing the local Bedouin people to continue their lifestyle and visitors to experience some of the things that make this region unique. The Protectorate contains numerous sites of archaeological, religious and cultural interest, the best known of which are the Monastery of Saint Katherine and Mount Sinai. It also includes the highest mountains in Egypt. This unique high altitude ecosystem contains a surprising diversity of plants and animals, some found nowhere else in the world.

The Monastery of Saint Katherine was built over 1400 years ago by the Roman Emperor Justinian to protect the monks and hermits residing in the area. It is the oldest Christian monastery in continuous existence and belongs to the Greek Orthodox Church. The Monastery is located near the base of Mount Sinai where it is said God spoke to Moses.

The Monastery's name comes from the martyr Saint Katherine, who lived in the 3rd century AD, and whose relics were found at the summit of Mount Katherine (Gebel Katherine) The Monastery is primarily a religious site where monks follow a life of prayer and devotional work. As a result, visiting hours are limited to between 9 am and 12 noon each day except Friday, Sunday and feast days.

The Monastery has a great tradition of hospitality, which continues today, but the pressure of tourism has the potential to change this tradition. Remember that you are a guest. Please respect the Monastery and the religious site around it. Seven Bedouin tribes live in or around the Protectorate. They are traditional people who maintain a rich culture and have an enviable reputation for their hospitality. The Bedouin have a profound knowledge of the land and they play a vital role in managing the Protectorate.

One group, the Gebeliya Bedouin, have played an integral part in monastic life since the beginning. The Gebeliya are descendants of Slavic peoples from Europe who were brought to Saint Katherine to assist in the construction and protection of the Monastery in the sixth century AD. Through the ages, the Monks and the Gebeliya have established a partnership which benefits both groups.
St.Katherine National Park, Sinai Mountain, South Sinai
The granite and basalt mountains of Saint Katherine receive more rainfall than the surrounding dry plains. This precious water supports plant species which in turn support a variety of animals. The observant visitor can see a variety of birds such as the brightly colored Sinai rosefinch and the Tristrams grackle. A rich diversity of Lizards and snakes inhabit the Protectorate, like the blue-headed Sinai agama, often seen sunning on rocks. Rock Hyrax, a rabbit-size relative of the elephant can be seen in the rocky valleys near the Monastery. Those visitors who hire a local guide and spend time in the mountains may be fortunate and see the Nubian ibex (a type of mountain goat), Dorcas gazelle or even predators such as hyena or wolf. All these animal are rare or endangered. The 4350 km2 St. Katherine Protectorate offers superb opportunities for trekking through some of the most spectacular scenery in Egypt that is best experienced when on foot or traveling by camel.

The high south Sinai mountains are home to Bedouin people as well as wildlife, rugged mountain vistas, shady palm-lined wadis, hidden gorges, chasms and water pools; the area also has a rich religious history. Unfortunately, many of these beautiful places, particularly around St. Katherine, are being damaged by thoughtless trekkers and guides. It is up to all visitors and guides to do the right thing and halt the deterioration of this special area.

Please obey the simple guidelines listed and encourage others to do the same to help keep the St. Katherine area beautiful for your own sake and that of others.

  1. Look after water -Do not pollute water sources with soap, oils, food scraps or anything else -Do not camp within at least 100m of water sources- wildlife needs to drink to and will be disturbed by your presence.! -Do not go to the toilet within 1 00 meters of a watersource
  2. Manage your waste -Crush tin cans and plastic bottles and any other waste and CARRY IT OUT with you -Burn your used toilet paper and then bury your bodily waste including sanitary items -You may bum paper items and feed vegetable waste to the camels with the owners permission
  3. Respect local culture -Respect the traditions and culture of resident Bedouins -Ask permission before using wells as these usually are private property. -Only enter private gardens if invited to do so by the owner. -Ask permission before taking photographs of local people
    • Its the LAW St. Katherine Protectorate was declared by Prime Ministerial decree under Law 102 of 1983 It is prohibited to remove any object from the Protected Area including rocks, plants and animals - It is prohibited to disturb or harm any animals or birds -It is prohibited to paint graffiti, cut or carve tree trunks Please respect the sanctity of the land and the local cultures
    • Dress conservatively and act responsible when visiting the Monastery and Bedouin areas; encourage other visitors and guides to do the same .
    • Ask permission of local people before taking their photographs
    • Take all your litter with you or use the bins * Ensure water sources remain clean and accessible
    • Remember that everything has a role in this complex ecosystem - please do not remove or damage animals, plants or rocks
Last Updated on Saturday 15th January 2011