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St. Katherine / Catherine Monastery Mount Sinai, Greek, Justinian , Orthodox Christian
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Saint Katherine / Catherine’s Monastery:
A 90 km drive West of Dahab and Nuweiba arrives at a picturesque scene of Mount Sinai’s red granite peaks proudly piercing the peninsula’s blue skies… while gently embracing a humble monastery lying serenely at its foot. The monastery is known, as “Saint Catherine” (St. Katherine) or “the Monastery of Transfiguration” and is the oldest operating Greek monastery in the world. Saint Katherine / Catherine’s Monastery rests in an area of ideal isolation for solely peace and monks to co-exist. Hence, the peacefulness of its location explains why such an awe-inspiring setting has been of profound religious significance: as the Old Testament records that at Mount Horeb: overlooking the monastery – locally known as Jebel Musa- Moses received the Ten Commandments from God. In 527AD, a Roman emperor named Justinian built Saint Catherine’s Monastery as a fortress to protect Sinai’s sacred mountain passes from external invasions. The monastery was constructed to replace a chapel built by Empress Helena in 337AD. It was constructed on the same sacred site, where Moses was believed to have seen the Burning Bush- a currently existing bush from which God instructed Moses to lead his people out of Egypt to the promised land- (hence, some text books refer to the monastery as “The Monastery of the Burning Bush”). It was not until the ninth or tenth Century, when the monastery’s name was changed to Saint Catherine after monks claimed to have found the intact body of the saint on a nearby mountain. Today, Saint Catherine’s Monastery is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is a major highlight of a visit to Sinai. Busloads arrive to the isolated site for visitors to explore the sacred monastery and hike Mount Katherine / Catherine- Egypt’s highest mountain- for adventurous travelers to ultimately enjoy the spectacular views captured from a height of 8,666 feet. The less adventurous can still enjoy discovering the monastery open daily from 9am –12noon (except for Friday and Sunday). Visiting the monastery in winter is a matchless experience, as the surrounding mountains are un-usually covered with snow, and the monastery transforms into a white pearl, crowning Sinai’s gold desert. Admission is free of charge and around 20 Greek monks reside in the monastery, and are always delighted to tale their serene sanctuary’s fascinating stories.

Who was Saint Katherine / Catherine?
As early as the 4th Century, a valiant child named Katherine / Catherine was born in a wealthy family from Alexandria. Catherine grew to become an Orthodox Christian at a time, where paganism sheltered the country, and where believers were brutally tortured. Katherine / Catherine announced her religious conviction bravely, and consequently, the pagan emperor ordered to have her spun to death on a spiked wheel. Surprisingly, Catherine survived the brutal torture, and so was sentenced to death and beheaded. Legends record that Katherine / Catherine was a Christian martyr, and so angles carried her remains to Mount Sinai, marking the monastery as a favored pilgrimage site. 600 years after her death, monks claimed to have found her intact body on a nearby mountain, at a time where Egypt was a Muslim country. Consequently, the Christian monastery used an Egyptian saint from Early church to draw Christian believers from all over the world. Today, the monastery’s church contains two silver caskets, which are said to enclose Saint Katherine / Catherine’s sacred remains.

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