At the foot of Mount Sinai is the Greek Orthodox Monastery of Saint Catherine (Deir Sant Katreen in Arabic). It is considered the oldest Christian monastery in the world, where communities of monks have lived since its foundation. Discover more about Saint Catherine Monastery with Cairo Top Tours!
It was built in the year 527 A.D by the emperor Justinian, on the remains of a chapel erected by the empress Helena in 337 A.D, at the point where tradition has it that Moses saw the burning bush and God speak to him there.
St. Catherine suffered martyrdom in Alexandria in the 4th century. According to the story, she was tortured on the wheel, beheaded, and taken away by angels. The monastery took its name in the 10th century when monks claimed to have found her body intact on the mountain of Saint Catherine, the highest mountain in Egypt (2642 m).
Surrounded by high mountains of red granite, the monastery has remained completely isolated for many years. To get there, pilgrims had to face a long and difficult journey, but today an easily passable road passes through it, connected to the main towns on the coast. It is visited daily by hundreds of people. Consequently, the small village of Saint Catherine is jammed with tourist buses, especially in the morning. The surrounding mountains are of surprising beauty, it is common to walk up to the top of Mount Sinai to enjoy the panorama of the place where according to tradition Moses received the Ten Commandments.
Inside the walled complex, the 6th-century Church ornamented with rock columns surrounded by monumental marble pillars and walls covered with gilded icons and paintings. At the eastern end of the church. At the top of the apse above the altar is one of the most stunning treasures of art, the sixth-century mosaic of the Transfiguration, although it may be difficult to see it through chandeliers and iconic icons. To the left and bottom of the altar, there is the most sacred area in the monastery, the Burning Bush Church, and it is forbidden to the public.
The monastery was visited by pilgrims from all over the world, many of whom defied on very difficult and dangerous journeys to reach the remote and remote site. Today, the paved access road removed the stakes that were accompanying a trip here, and the monastery became a popular daily trip from Sharm El Sheikh and Dahab excursions.
You can also see what is believed to be the descendant of the original burnt-out bush in the monastery complex, and as visitors cut pieces of the bush to take them home as blessings, the surrounding area is now fenced. Near the burning bush is the Musa Well, which is a natural fountain that is supposed to give marital happiness to those who drink from it.
The holiest piece of St Catherine’s Monastery is the Chapel of the Burning Bush, a small chamber behind the altar of the basilica. It is often locked to the public and those who enter must remove their shoes, just as Moses did when he neared the burning bush according to the Holy Qur'an ''And when he came to it, he was called, “O Moses, Indeed, I am your Lord, so remove your sandals. Indeed, you are in the sacred valley of Tuwa, And I have chosen you, so listen to what is revealed [to you]''. (11,12,13 Surah Taha).
The monastery’s library, the second largest in the world, includes a priceless collection of illuminated bibles and ancient manuscripts, including a hand-written copy of the New Testament, and has reopened to the public after three years of restoration.
Just inside the monastery walls, you'll find a gift shop selling replicas of icons. In the wider monastery grounds, outside the thick walls, are the guest home.
The land is rocky there, so monks created the abbey garden by bringing soil from elsewhere. It contains fruit trees including "olives, apricots, and peaches", and produces a variety of vegetables.
When the monks die, they are buried for the first time in the cemetery. After their bodies are decomposed, their bones are extracted and transported to the truck's house. In the charnel house can be seen the bones of thousands of deceased monks, with separate piles for legs, hands, feet, ribs, and skulls. Martyrs and archbishops are in open coffins. Inside the door, dressed in.
Isolation of the Monastery worked to save his oldest icons during the eighth century when the Byzantine Emperor "Leo III" ordered the destruction of any images depicting Jesus or one of the saints. These early icons are natural and devoid of style and rules for subsequent icons.
The most distinctive artistic treasures in the monastery are the mosaic is unusual for " the Transfiguration of Jesus" above the altar of the church, you can see these well-preserved mosaics from the sixteenth century behind the gilded icons dating back to the seventeenth century.
An unusual feature of the monastery complex is the mosque. Originally made in the sixth century as a refuge for pilgrims, it was converted into a mosque in 1106 for the use of local Bedouins.
You can make use of our long experience to customize a short trip to Saint Catherine Monastery and Mount Sinai from Cairo or a long vacation to Egypt including few days in Sharm El Sheikh to explore the Mountain and the whole area, then you may like to have a look at our Egypt Itineraries as well as our great deals and Egypt holidays offers, Egypt Travel Packages as well as some of Egypt Day Tours in Sharm: