Basing yourself at Egypt’s stunning coastal resort of Sharm el Sheikh this winter? Many of you will plan your Sharm el Sheikh holidays around the undersea shipwrecks and shifting coral habitats that make this part of the Sinai Peninsula such a hit with the scuba diving and snorkelling community. However, set aside a few days to explore the surrounding area, and you’ll find a few gems of the land-based kind.
St Catherine’s Monastery, or Santa Katarina, is one of the most-visited sites in the region. Nestled at the base of Mount Sinai, it is a place of religious significance to many people with so many stories to tell. When holidaying in Sharm El-Sheikh, here’s why you should take the three-and-a-half-hour journey inland and pay it a visit.
Why go to St Catherine’s Monastery?
Built on the orders of Byzantine Emperor Justinian, St Catherine’s Monastery is a UNESCO World Heritage site dating all the way back to both the 4th and 5th century. Head here to admire its chapel, church and fortified walls while fully immersing yourself in the years of history, particularly those that connect this ornate complex to the stories of Moses, an important figure for Christianity, Islam and Judaism. It is said that Moses received the Ten Commandments from God at the top of Mount Sinai, while the chapel is built on the site of the ‘Burnish Bush’ where Moses is said to have first heard the voice of God.
What is there to see at St Catherine’s Monastery?
Of course, most make a beeline for the Burning Bush (a thorn bush relocated when the chapel was built and said to be descended from the original) once inside the monastery complex. The Chapel of the Burning Bush itself isn’t always open to visitors, however you can still pass by and look at the 19th-century bell tower and its impressive Neo-Classical stonework.
Furthermore, the Byzantine basilica of St Catherine’s Church looms against its mountain backdrop, while gold-tinged murals decorate the interior ceilings with Bible scenes — for many this is the highlight of the experience.
Spend some time exploring the early Medieval walls, stroll the Gothic arcades and examine the illuminated manuscripts and icons of the Monastery Museum and see which treasures you can uncover.
The mountain at Sinai can also be ascended via the same route that Moses supposedly took to the top. No matter what your beliefs are, the ruined chapels alongside the stone steps and the jaw-dropping views of the surrounding desert peaks are a must-see.
Plan your trip to St Catherine’s Monastery
Mount Sinai and St Catherine’s Monastery are available as day tours from Sharm el Sheikh, as well as nearby Red Sea resorts like Hurghada. You can usually organise one to pick you up from your hotel and guides are often included to take you around the site and relate the history of the buildings. Sunrise and sunset tours are a popular option for climbing Mount Sinai when it’s bathed in spectacular natural light.
Is St Catherine’s Monastery on your bucket list? Check out our range of Sharm el Sheikh holidays to start planning your Sinai trip…