Table of Contents
- 1 Why Visitors Usually Travel to the City of Saint Catherine?
- 2 Map of the City of St. Catherine
- 3 Getting There & Away – By Bus
- 4 The Real Side of the City of Saint Catherine Nobody Tells You About
- 5 The People of Saint Catherine City
- 6 Safety in Saint Catherine City
- 7 So What to Expect in the City of Katrina?
- 8 About the Monastery of St. Catherine
- 9 Interesting to Know
- 10 What is the best time to visit?
- 11 Famous Treks/Hikes I Heard About
- 12 How We Spent Our Time in Katrina
- 13 Must Buy Before You Leave
- 14 Your Packing List (depending on the weather)
Why Visitors Usually Travel to the City of Saint Catherine?
When considering a visit to the City of Saint Catherine (a.k.a Katrina), one would only think about climbing Mt. Moses (a.k.a. Mt. Sinai) to witness the sun rise or set, marvel at Sinai mountain ranges with the sun rays reflecting on them, say a prayer at such a blessed place in all religions, then finish it up with a visit to the ancient Monastery of St. Catherine, where lies the Burning Bush, tick it off the bucket list, then go back home or head to another nearby coastal town.
That was the highlight of my first two visits to Katrina, but my third was a completely different story… CONTINUE READING!
Admission to the Monastery is free of charge, but the museum which has a marvellous collection of artefacts costs 80 LE for foreigners, 40 LE for Russian & Roman Orthodox, & 10 LE for Egyptians. Photography is not allowed.
Monastery of St. Catherine in Katerina, South Sinai via pixabay
Map of the City of St. Catherine
Getting There & Away – By Bus
From Cairo to Saint Catherine
There are two East Delta direct buses that leave daily from El-Torgoman then Almazah Stations (there is a third station called El-Mahata El-Dawleya but isn’t as known as El-Torgoman & Almaza)
- Hours: 9:30 AM & 11:30 -both supposedly arrive at 7:30 PM
- Hours: 10:15 AM & 12:15 PM -both supposedly arrive at 7:30 PM
Tickets can be booked from both stations or online through this website (I’ve tried it myself), payment can be done by credit card or via Fawry outlets accross Egypt within two hours of your purchase.
Tickets cost 115 LE per way + Fawry fees around 6 LE, or credit card fees.
Note that; if you pay it via Fawry you will only get a receipt, to get your actual ticket you need to show your receipt at Almaza station.
From Saint Catherine to Cairo
Two East Delta options that pick you up on their way back from Nuweibaa (have to be booked on the spot, or you can ask one of the people at your camp to help you make sure there is a seat for you on your desired departure date);
- 6 AM bus that leaves from St. Catherine city’s main entrance
- 11:30 AM – 12:00 PM bus that leaves from a station 10 KM from St. Catherine’s main entrance (don’t worry everybody will point you to the right direction)
Both buses arrive at Almazah & El-Abbasseya stations, and not El-Torgoman.
Only one East Delta bus goes daily from Nuweibaa to Saint Catherine at 6:00 PM arriving at 7:30 PM.
It’s an almost 2 hours ride, you can go by private car that will cost you something around 700 LE per car per way, or join one of the group trips going to St. Catherine to climb Mt. Moses (you’ll find groups all over the Dahab promenade, but make sure that you agree on the price which varies between 180 to 250 LE, paying it & taking your receipt, telling them that you won’t pay in case of other’s no show, or if the bus is not full)
Dahab’s Laguna by Nesreen El-Molla
The Real Side of the City of Saint Catherine Nobody Tells You About
You’d look at its arid environment, thinking it’s lifeless & dull, that it’s all about rocky mountains, and rough nature hard to survive at, simply because you don’t really know about its flora and fauna.
While walking the valleys you’ll never run out of fresh water
The truth is, what this magnificent city has to offer is much more than that; once you step a foot in, you’d instantly travel back in time where inhabitants -mostly Bedouins or those who moved to the city- belong to another world that wasn’t influenced by city-life/outside world, laid-back, relaxed, with no sense of time, any need to rush or stress about anything at all, they would have mobile phones, Facebook accounts, aren’t disconnected from the world, yet are somehow isolated.
When they spend a couple of days in the city of Katrina where you’d barely hear the engines of 2-3 cars or tourist-buses every couple of hours, they’d want to flee to the mountains to enjoy some “more” peace & quiet, marvel at a million stars sky, walk in the surrounding beautiful valleys, where they find remedy in the endemic herbs & medicinal plants, and disconnect from the whole universe.
Bedouins of Sinai on Mt. Moses via pixabay
The People of Saint Catherine City
Not only but also, you’d meet with locals who are more knowledgable than many of us, you’d be surprised to know that a fairly big number has never been to school or continued their education.
Those are people who are absolutely passionate about their city & surrounding areas, mountains & valleys, proud of their own heritage, eager to share it with you without even asking, as kids; those valleys and mountains are where they used to play hide & seek, this is where their grandparents taught them all about nomadic life; how to become shepherds, how to milk a goat or a camel, the characteristics of all its herbs and medicinal plants; when sick what herb/s should be consumed, and from where to get them, and how some plants grow in valleys and how some others can only grow in high lands, to understand that whatever it is that animals do not eat shouldn’t be consumed by humans too, to also learn about wildlife & survival skills.
Hiking through Katrina’s valleys
Safety in Saint Catherine City
Thanks to corrupt media, rumors & stereotypes, a lot of people mistakenly believe that Katrina is an unsafe place to be, and should better be avoided given its location in the Sinai Peninsula, but in fact, northern Sinai is where some unrest occurs every once in a while -especially in the very northern part of it-, not even the whole of it.
So What to Expect in the City of Katrina?
The sound of silence, the sight of palms trees, almond trees with their white-pinkish flowers, quince fruit, fig, carob, olive trees, of mountain ranges, of scenic valleys & lush greenery, of wild animals -if you got super lucky- such as but not limited to Dorcas gazelles, geckos, hares, foxes, and Nubian ibexes, the taste of slowly cooked on firewood black tea with mixed herbs you wouldn’t imagine how tasty they would be; maramia/marmareya (sage), rosemary, za’tar (oregano leaves), you name it!
White-pinkish Almond trees at Fox Camp
About the Monastery of St. Catherine
St. Catherine area is a National Protectorate and a UNESCO World Heritage Site as of 2002, home to an iconic monastery, dating back to the 6th century, one of the oldest in the world, established by the Eastern Roman emperor Justinian the Great.
The narrative begins with the daughter of Alexandria’s governor -now known as the Great Martyr St. Catherine or Saint Catherine of the wheel- a scholar who converted to Christianity, against the emperor’s will, who killed any follower of Jesus, she was tortured, executed by wheel that broke upon touching her, and finally beheaded, after refusing marriage to the emperor, and announcing devoting her life to Jesus & dying a virgin. After her martyrdom, the Angels transferred her remains to Egypt’s highest peak Mt. Saint Catherine later named after her, that were found by the monks of Sinai Monastery later transferred to St. Catherine Monastery.
Stories say that her body was found untouched -was never on display-, her relics include her left hand & forehead that are still warm, and her hair that still grows, but no longer on display -I’ve seen the hand & the hair, behind glass, and had goosebumps.
Her feast is celebrated in the city of Katrina on November 25th of each year.
Read also about the journey of the Holy Family in Egypt.
Stunning view from the Monastery of St. Catherine
Interesting to Know
Our very cool, well-informed guide, now friend Moussa told us stories about scholars who used to stay in the mountains & valleys of Katrina for several months only to monitor & study the behavior of wild animals, small creatures, plants, herbs, or trees. Some of them would also plant new or endangered plants.
Trees of the valleys
It has been discovered that St. Catherine is home to the smallest butterfly in the world known as the Baton Blue Butterfly, that is no larger than a thumbnail.
You won’t talk to any Bedouin who wouldn’t tell you about Dr. Ahmed Mansour’ a senior experienced practitioner of herbal medicine, who established a school that teaches mainly Bedouins about medicinal herbs, and El-Set -means lady- Amreya or Om El-Saad an old lady who lives on her own in wadi ilt’lah, and has her doors always open to accommodate passers-by.
I still haven’t met any of them, but will share my experience once I do, especially that I’d love to spend some time to learn about medicinal herbs & plants.
What is the best time to visit?
It seems like every season has its very own charm;
- In springtime: you will see all the trees blooming
- In summertime: where it doesn’t get any higher than 30 degrees Celsius during the day & is never humid, more trees will bloom, fruits will be ready for collection and consumption, and swimming in water springs and sources is available
- In the fall & beginning of winter: you could see snow in the city, and some more on the mountain peaks, probably some waterfalls too
The black lines mean there was water flowing
Famous Treks/Hikes I Heard About
Gabal or jabal means mountain, & wadi means valley.
- Mt. Moses (a.k.a. Mt. Sinai) – Gabal Moussa
- Mt. Saint Catherine – Gabal Sant Katreen
- Wadi El-Arbe’in -currently closed 🙁
- Wadi Eltalah
- Bab El-Donya
- Gabal Abass
- El-Gabal El-Ahmar
- Wadi Jebal
- Wadi Feiran
Posing in front of a water source
How We Spent Our Time in Katrina
As mentioned before, this was my 3rd time in the city of St. Catherine, but this time we had no plan, I considered climbing Mount St. Catherine, while my friend considered Mt. Moses, and then we thought in this “no pressure” atmosphere we should really go with the flow, which made us;
spend the first night stargazing from Mt. Hamdy -a mountain named after the manager of Fox Camp, haha-, sitting around a bonfire inside the main tent listening to my playlist of chill-out music,
Those palm trees give you the oasis kind of feeling
a whole day chilling around the camp, enjoying the sounds “no sound” of nature, talking to locals, meeting with visitors of the camp -among which was Ben Hoffler, co-founder, and one of the organizers & ambassadors of the Sinai Trail Egypt’s first long-distance hiking trail, stretching from the Gulf of Aqaba to the Rooftop of Egypt, & the Red Sea Mountain Trail is mainland Egypt’s 1st long-distance hiking trail through the highlands of Hurghada- while drinking plenty of Bedouin tea, only to go for more stargazing at night near the camp,
Our genius guide Moussa taking stunning photos of us
the next day we went for a stunning hike in Wadi I’tlah, Wadi Tala’, Sad Daoud, Wadi Jebal, Ayn Eshkaya, Kharazet El-Shag, Wadi El-Tofah & Abou Jifa, that required some rock-crawling/spider-man skills.
Kharazet El-Shag (overlooking Mt. Katrina) – this is drinkable water
Must Buy Before You Leave
- Herbs (hand-picked or bought)
- Olive Oil
- Honey -as I heard but haven’t tried
Your Packing List (depending on the weather)
- Sunscreen (the sun is always strong even in winter time)
- Day comfy pants to hang around the camp for women —buy here & for men —buy here
- Thermals for women —buy here, for men —buy here
- A hat
- Gloves —buy this pair in case you need touchscreen gloves, or this one if you want to disconnect from the world
- Salomon Hiking boots -my all-time favorite
- Sleeping bag (I always have one just in case I decided to camp somewhere, also for hygiene & warmth purposes I’d rather be sandwiched inside a sleeping bag) — fore extreme weather —buy here, but for warm weather —buy here
Pack the right layers so you wouldn’t look like me, hehe
- Breathable shirts for women; buy here –> quick dry sun UV protection convertible long sleeve shirts, merino wool pullover hoodie breathable anti-odor suitable for the 4 seasons, and merino wool light breathable quick dry t-shirt
- Breathable shirts for men –buy here: merino wool pullover hoodie breathable anti-odor suitable for the 4 seasons, quick dry breathable long sleeve anti-rip shirt, and merino wool light breathable quick-dry t-shirt
- Refillable water bottle
- Multi-use Buff that could cover your nose, neck, head or be used as hair or head band
*All images without credits are taken by me, photos of me are taken by my friend Dina Fawzy, and photos of me and my friend are taken by our guide Moussa
**Special thanks goes to our phenomenal guide Moussa for the juicy info he shared with us without even asking. Without his guidance I wouldn’t have been able to put this handy introduction to the city of Saint Catherine.
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