Daily Archives: September 29, 2011

Jebel Musa — the traditonal Mount Sinai

If you have followed this blog for several months you may recall that I had a group leaving Egypt the evening before the Egyptian Revolution began on January 25, 2011. Five members of our party had made arrangements to visit the Sinai peninsula, including a visit to Jebel Musa, the traditional Mount Sinai, following the tour.

The group of five left for Sinai on the morning of January 25 with no knowledge of the situation in Cairo. After one night at Saint Catherine and a visit to Saint Catherine’s Monastery three of the tours members (a couple from Indiana and a single man from Florida) returned to Cairo. The couple went directly to the airport and departed that evening. I am not sure that they had any indication of a problem in Cairo. The younger man had made arrangements to visit Abu Simbel and some other places in Egypt that we had not visited during the tour. My wife and I continued through the Sinai to Taba and crossed into to Israel at Eilat.

The single man, Michael Lusk, was the only member of our party to climb to the top of Jebel Musa. Michael was anxious to get up early and make the two and one half hour climb to the top in time for the sunrise. I don’t recall the temperature that morning, but it was cool at the hotel during the night and early morning. When I climbed the mountain in April of 1986 I wore jeans over pajamas, an undershirt covered by a T-shirt, a flannel shirt, and the thick jacket. By the way, Michael made it out of Egypt on the last Delta flight to leave after the Revolution began. He left his hotel early due to the curfew and spent all night in the airport awaiting the flight.

When I asked Michael, a former student, if he would allow me to run a few of his photos here, he was pleased to do so. This first photo shows Jebel Musa (the Mountain of Moses), traditional Mount Sinai. A small building can be seen on top of the mountain just to the right of center. There has been a small chapel on the summit of the mountain since the 4th century A.D. A church was built here by Emperor Justinian (early 6th century A.D.) and a new chapel was built on the ruins in 1934.

It was here, according to the 1500 year old tradition, that Moses met the LORD and received the Ten Commandments.

The LORD came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain; and the LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. (Exodus 19:20 NAU)

This photo would have been made on the return from the top. Note the camel and rider in the bottom right of the photo.

Jebel Musa, traditional Mount Sinai. Photo by Michael Lusk.

Jebel Musa, traditional Mount Sinai. Photo by Michael Lusk.

The next photo shows one of the camel drivers (leaders) waiting for someone to hire him to take them back to the monastery. It is possible to hire the camel to take you up the winding slope to where the 3,000 granite steps begin. Notice also his heavy clothing for the cold January nights.

A camel waiting to take a tired walker back to the monastery. Photo by Michael Lusk.

A camel waiting to take a tired walker back to the monastery. Photo by Michael Lusk.

Seven hundred and fifty steps below the summit one comes to a site called Elijah’s Basin. This, according to the tradition, is where the prophet Elijah came when he fled from the wrath of Jezebel after the defeat of the prophets of Baal. Here, the prophet received instructions from the LORD to return and complete his work.

So he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God. (1 Kings 19:8 NAU)

Elijah's Basin on Mount Sinai. Photo by Michael Lusk.

Elijah's Basin on Mount Sinai. Photo by Michael Lusk.

This photo shows the morning light beginning to illuminate portions of the mountain peaks. In the basin you will see some snow. I think the red (orange) glow may be caused by the light striking the area.

In a future post we will share, thanks to Michael, the sunrise from the summit.