Mount Sinai, also called Mountain of Moses or Mount Hareh, is a granitic peak of the south-central Sinai Peninsula. It is renowned as the exact site of divine revelation in Jewish history. God appeared to Moses and gave him the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20; Deuteronomy 5). According to Jewish tradition, God revealed the decalogue and the entire biblical text and interpretation corpus to Moses on Sinai. Traditionally known as Jabal Musa, Mount Sinai is a sacred mountain on the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula. The mountain is also holy in both the Christian and Islamic traditions.
Scholars differ in the route of the Israelite exodus from Egypt, and they cannot identify the place names in the scriptural in terms of present sites. Thus, the actual location of biblical Mount Sinai is negotiable. However, Mount Sinai itself is traditionally accepted as the site in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam traditions.
Geography of Mount Sinai
Mount Moses is a 2,285-metre (7,497 ft) moderately high mountain near the city of Saint Catherine in the region known today as the Sinai Peninsula. Higher peaks surround it in the mountain range of which it is a part. For example, it lies next to Mount Catherine, the highest peak in Egypt at 2,629 m or 8,625 ft.
Geology of Mount Sinai
Mount Sinai’s rocks were formed during the late stage of the evolution of the Arabian-Nubian Shield. Mount Sinai displays a ring complex that consists of alkaline granites intruded into diverse rock types, including volcanic. The granites range in composition from seen granite to alkali feldspar granite. The volcanic rocks are alkaline to peralkaline, represented by subaerial flows, eruptions, and subvolcanic porphyry. Generally, the nature of the exposed rocks in Mount Sinai indicates that they have different depths from one another.
In the early Christian era, hermits frequently used the area, and in 530 CE, they built the monastery of St. Catherine at the northern foot of the mountain. Still inhabited by a few monks of the autonomous Orthodox Church of Mount Sinai, it is probably the world’s oldest continuously inhabited Christian monastery. Its library of ancient biblical manuscripts has been invaluable in reconstructing the text of the Bible. It included the famous 4th-century Greek Codex Sinaiticus, which is now in the British Museum.
The mount summit has a mosque still used by Muslims, and a Greek Orthodox chapel, constructed in 1934 on the ruins of a 16th-century church, is not open to the public. The chapel encloses the rock, which is the source for the biblical Tablets of Stone. At the summit also is Moses’ cave, where Moses waited to receive the Ten Commandments.
The Jabal Musa has an association with the Islamic prophet Musa. In particular, numerous references to Jabal Musa exist in the Quran in different names Ṭūr Sīnā, Ṭūr Sīnīn, and aṭ-Ṭūr and al-Jabal (both meaning “the Mount”). The adjacent Wād Ṭuwā (Valley of Tuwa) is sacred and is called “The Blessed Place”. It is the place where Musa spoke to his Lord.
The mountain was under Israeli administration from the Six-Day War of 1967 until 1979, when Egypt received it back. Further, it has become an important pilgrim and tourist site.
Ascent and summit
There are two principal routes to the summit. The steeper, more direct route (Siket Sayidna Musa) is up the 3,750 “steps of penitence” in the ravine behind the monastery. The longer, shallower route, Siket El Bashait, takes about 2.5 hours on foot, though pilgrims can use camels.