Mount Sinai – known to the local Bedouin as Jebel Musa or the Mountain of Moses – is considered by many to be one of the world’s holiest mountains; indeed, its summit has perhaps been holy to more people over a longer period of time than any other peak on Earth. This mountain is believed to be the site where the Bible and Qur’an relate that God spoke with Moses, giving him a set of divine laws which later came to be known in Jewish and Christian tradition as the Ten Commandments. Pilgrims have been visiting Mt. Sinai for well over 1500 years, and it remains the most-climbed mountain in the Sinai or anywhere else in Egypt today.
Atop the mountain, hikers will discover a small chapel built in the 20th century from the ruined blocks of an older Byzantine church. Next door is a small mosque, below which you’ll find a hollow in the rocks; tradition reports that Moses took shelter in this hollow during his time here.
The chapel and mosque are just two of many historic sites on the mountain. The Abraham Path’s route across Mt. Sinai will take you off more beaten tourist paths to discover a mountain laced with ancient hermit cells, chapels, wells, and orchards, all relics of a much earlier Christian era when hundreds of ascetics scattered out across this lofty, desolate wilderness.
Mount Sinai might be broadly regarded as the spot where Moses spoke with God, but there hasn’t always been consensus that this particular peak is the true mountain. For many centuries, many scholars believed the true Mt. Sinai to be located at present day Mt. Serbal, a high peak about 60km away. Others regarded Mt. Um Shomar, the Sinai’s second highest mountain, to be the most likely contender. Some even believed the original Mt. Sinai to be a peak in the northern parts of the peninsula, like Mt. Hallal or Mt. Maghara. The current mountain’s status as the holy peak was only secured with the construction of the Monastery of Saint Catherine at its foot in the sixth century; and even today, some scholars continue the debate.