St. Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai

We took a excursion day trip being picked up from Sharm el Sheikh very early in the morning, driving 220km northwest to the monastery which is open once a week to the public. With only a thousand visitors a year and still being inhabited by monks. This was a very special place to discover in an amazing backdrop. We were aware of recent kidnappings and trouble on the Sinai Peninsula but thought it was worth the risk to see this amazing sight. It is about 2 hours from a main road and can be very cold before sunrise as its in the desert so ensure you take something warm to wear. As the sun rised the monastery and surroundings changed colour it was spectacular.

St. Catherine’s Monastery is an Orthodox monastery on the Sinai peninsula at the foot of Mount Sinai in Egypt, at an elevation of about 1600 meters from sea level. It is the oldest functioning, self sufficient Christian monasteries in the world. St. Catherine’s incorporates the burning bush seen by Moses and contains many valuable icons. Above the monastery is Mount Sinai.

ImageThe monastery is surrounded on all sides by a huge wall 2.5 m wide and 11m high. This is the wall provided by Emperor Justinian in the 6th century. It is made of huge dressed granite blocks. Christian symbols, such as crosses and monograms, are carved on the wall in various places. You enter through a smaller gate on the left of the building. There were lots of monks hanging around this area as we were going in. The holiest part of the monastery is the large living shrub that is said to be a direct descendant of the very burning bush that was seen by Moses. The chapel of the burning bush, was built with its altar situated above the roots of the bush and incorporates the 4th-century chapel built by Empress St. Helena. The chapel is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. But these facts are secondary to the wonderful peace that saturates the air when you enter.

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When blending history and the Bible I don’t know if there is anything more thrilling that being in a setting like this. The paintings, the Ancient doors, the small stone rooms that once served as living quarters, monks passing you by. Learning so many interesting facts, the last i had really learnt about the burning bush was in school. We took the tour around the monastery, but the burning bush was the highlight for most, it was behind a fence but overgrown and was hanging down for people to touch. People were holding twigs of the bush and preying. We got to touch it, which was a very special moment.

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This is a must see for all going to seek the amazing sights of Egypt…