Mount Sinai

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Mount Sinai (Ṭūr Sīnāʼ)
Mount Moses.jpg
The summit of Mount Sinai
Highest point
Elevation2,285 m (7,497 ft)
Prominence332 metres (1,089 ft)
LocationSinai, Egypt

Mount Sinai (Hebrew: הַר סִינַי, Har Sinai; Arabic: طُور سِينَاء‎, translit. Ṭūr Sīnāʼ or Egyptian Arabic: جَبَل مُوسَىٰ‎, translit. Jabal Mūsā, lit. 'Mountain of Moses'; Classical Syriac: ܛܘܪܐ ܕܣܝܢܝ‎ or Classical Syriac: ܛܘܪܐ ܕܡܘܫܐ‎; Greek: Όρος Σινάι; Latin: Mons Sinai), also known as Mount Horeb or Gabal Musa, is a mountain in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt that is a possible location of the biblical Mount Sinai, which is considered a holy site by the Abrahamic religions. Mount Sinai is mentioned many times in the Book of Exodus and other books of the Bible,[1] and the Quran.[2] According to Jewish, Christian, and Islamic tradition, the biblical Mount Sinai was the place where Moses received the Ten Commandments.


Mount Sinai is a 2,285-metre (7,497 ft) moderately high mountain near the city of Saint Catherine in the Sinai region. It is next to Mount Catherine (at 2,629 m or 8,625 ft, the highest peak in Egypt).[3] It is surrounded on all sides by higher peaks of the mountain range.


Mount Sinai's rocks were formed in the late stage of the Arabian-Nubian Shield's (ANS) evolution. Mount Sinai displays a ring complex[4] that consists of alkaline granites intruded into diverse rock types, including volcanics. The granites range in composition from syenogranite to alkali feldspar granite. The volcanic rocks are alkaline to peralkaline and they are represented by subaerial flows and eruptions and subvolcanic porphyry. Generally, the nature of the exposed rocks in Mount Sinai indicates that they originated from differing depths.[citation needed]

Religious significance[edit]

Mount Sinai depicted on late medieval Georgian manuscript.
A Greek Orthodox Chapel at the top of Mount Sinai at night
A Greek Orthodox Chapel at the top of Mount Sinai
A mosque at the top of Mount Sinai

The biblical Mount Sinai is one of the most important sacred places in the Jewish, Christian and Islamic religions.

According to the Hebrew Bible,[5] it was the mountain where God gave laws to the Israelites. However, the earliest Christian traditions place this event at the nearby Mount Serbal, at the foot of which a monastery was founded in the 4th century; it was only in the 6th century that the monastery moved to the foot of Mount Catherine, following the guidance of Josephus' earlier claim that Sinai was the highest mountain in the area.[citation needed]

The earliest references to Jebel Musa as Mount Sinai or Mount Sinai being located in the present-day Sinai peninsula are inconclusive. There is evidence that prior to 100 CE, well before the Christian monastic period, Jewish sages equated Jebel Musa with Mount Sinai. Graham Davies of Cambridge University argues that early Jewish pilgrimages identified Jebel Musa as Mount Sinai and this identification was later adopted by the Christian pilgrims.[6][7] R. K. Harrison states that "Jebel Musa . . . seems to have enjoyed special sanctity long before Christian times, culminating in its identification with Mt. Sinai."[8]

Christians settled upon this mountain in the third century AD. Georgians from the Caucasus moved to the Sinai Peninsula in the fifth century, and a Georgian colony was formed there in the ninth century. Georgians erected their own churches in the area of the modern Mount Sinai. The construction of one such church was connected with the name of David The Builder, who contributed to the erection of churches in Georgia and abroad as well. There were political, cultural, and religious motives for locating the church on Mount Sinai. Georgian monks living there were deeply connected with their motherland. The church had its own plots[clarification needed] in Kartli. Some of the Georgian manuscripts of Sinai remain there, but others are kept in Tbilisi, St. Petersburg, Prague, New York City, Paris, or in private collections.[citation needed]

View down to the Saint Catherine's Monastery from the trail to the summit.

Some modern biblical scholars[who?] now believe that the Israelites would have crossed the Sinai peninsula in a direct route, rather than detouring to the southern tip (assuming that they did not cross the eastern branch of the Red Sea/Reed Sea), and therefore look for the biblical Mount Sinai elsewhere.[citation needed]

According to some scholars[who?], the Song of Deborah suggests that God dwelt at Mount Seir, so many scholars[who?] favour a location in Nabatea (modern Arabia). Alternatively, the biblical descriptions of Sinai can be interpreted as describing a volcano, and so a small number of scholars[who?] have considered equating Sinai with locations in northwestern Saudi Arabia, such as Jabal al-Lawz, as there are no volcanoes on the Sinai peninsula.[citation needed]

Saint Catherine Area
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Katharinenkloster Sinai BW 2.jpg
Saint Catherine's Monastery
CriteriaCultural: i, iii, iv, vi
Inscription2002 (26th Session)
Area60,100 ha

Saint Catherine's Monastery[edit]

Saint Catherine's Monastery (Greek: Μονὴ τῆς Ἁγίας Αἰκατερίνης) lies on the Sinai Peninsula, at the mouth of an inaccessible gorge at the foot of modern Mount Sinai in Saint Catherine at an elevation of 1550 meters. The monastery is Greek Orthodox and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. According to the UNESCO report (60100 ha / Ref: 954) and website hereunder, this monastery has been called the oldest working Christian monastery in the world – although the Monastery of Saint Anthony, situated across the Red Sea in the desert south of Cairo, also lays claim to that title.


Sunrise on Mt. Sinai

There are two principal routes to the summit. The longer and shallower route, Siket El Bashait, takes about 2.5 hours on foot, though camels can be used. The steeper, more direct route (Siket Sayidna Musa) is up the 3,750 "steps of penitence" in the ravine behind the monastery.[9]


view from the summit of Mount Sinai
The last few meters of the climb up Mount Sinai.

The summit of the mountain has a mosque that is still used by Muslims. It also has a Greek Orthodox chapel, constructed in 1934 on the ruins of a 16th-century church, that is not open to the public. The chapel encloses the rock which is considered to be the source for the biblical Tablets of Stone.[10] At the summit also is "Moses' cave", where Moses was said to have waited to receive the Ten Commandments.

A panoramic view from the summit of Mount Sinai

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Joseph J. Hobbs, Mount Sinai (University of Texas Press) 1995, discusses Mount Sinai as geography, history, ethnology and religion.
  2. ^ "Tafsir Ibn Kathir". 2002-10-26. Retrieved 2015-01-30.
  3. ^ "Sinai Geology".
  4. ^ Hanaa M. Salem and A. A. ElFouly, "Minerals Reconnaissance at Saint Catherine Area, Southern Central Sinai, Egypt and their Environmental Impacts on Human Health". ICEHM2000, Cairo University, Egypt, September 2000, pp. 586–98
  5. ^ Exodus 19
  6. ^ Davies, Wilderness (1979) pp. 23–24
  7. ^ Mount Sinai, Joseph J. Hobbs, University of Texas Press, Feb 19, 2014. Social Science
  8. ^ Bible Encyclopedia, R. K. Harrison; J. K. Hoffmeier
  9. ^ "Mount Sinai".
  10. ^ "Mount Sinai, Egypt". Places of Peace and Power.

External links[edit]