Mount Sinai (also called Jebel Musa or Mount Moses) on the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt is the traditional site where Moses received the Ten Commandments from God. There are some small chapels at the summit, from which there are spectacular sunrise views. The starting point for the climb, and an unmissable sight in itself, is St. Catherine's Monastery at the base of the mountain.
In the Bible
Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up.... When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, "Moses! Moses!" And Moses said, "Here I am."
"Do not come any closer," God said. "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground." Then he said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. The Lord said, "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt.... So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt."
Moses said to God, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' Then what shall I tell them?" God said to Moses, "I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'" (Exodus 3:1-14, NIV)
In the third month after the Israelites left Egypt—on the very day—they came to the Desert of Sinai. After they set out from Rephidim, they entered the Desert of Sinai, and Israel camped there in the desert in front of the mountain.
Then Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain and said, "This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: 'You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites."
And God spoke all these words: "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. "You shall have no other gods before me...." (Exodus 19; the Ten Commandments are given at Exodus 20:1-17)
The geographical locations of these biblical events are not known and a wide variety of theories have been offered by scholars. No particular evidence supports the site on which the monastery is built nor for the peak identified as Mount Sinai. However, the attachment of early Christian monks to these sites is not without significance.
What to See
From St. Catherine's Monastery, it is an uphill hike or camel ride to the summit of Mount Sinai (2285m). This is identified as the mountain where Moses received the Tablets of the Law from God. The main route to the summit is known as the Path of Moses (Arabic: Sikket Sayidna Musa) and is lined with remains of various chapels. This is a very popular place from which to watch the sunrise, which is spectacular.
There is both a mosque and a chapel at the summit of Mount Moses. The Chapel of the Holy Trinity was built in 1934 using the remains of the chapel built by Justinian in the 6th century. Justinian's chapel itself replaced an earlier chapel, built in 363.
Clearly visible from the mountain is the village of St. Catherine, located some distance from the Monastery on the El Raha plain. It is an old settlement that has received considerable development in recent years.
Quick Facts on Mount Sinai
|cat:||Sacred Mountains; Biblical Sites|
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|Coordinates:||28.539833° N, 33.974308° E (view on Google Maps)|
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Map of Mount Sinai
Below is a location map and aerial view of Mount Sinai. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.
- Reviews of St. Catherine's Monastery - TripAdvisor member reviews and tips
- The Icons of St. Catherine's Monastery - TourEgypt
- St. Catherine's Area - UNESCO World Heritage List
- Helen C. Evans, St. Catherine's Monastery, Sinai, Egypt.
- 360° panorama of St. Catherine's - World Heritage Tour
- Corinna Rossi, The Treasures of the Monastery of St. Catherine.
- Mount Sinai - Go Historic
- Photos of Mount Sinai - here on Sacred Destinations
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