By any other standards, Mt. Sinai would be just another barren peak lost among the martian landscape of Southern Sinai. It is neither the highest mountain in the region, nor the most dramatic; there is no soaring, heaven-reaching apex, and it is rare to see anything resembling a divine shroud of clouds hugging its peak. Were it not for a single, overwhelming belief that has endured for over fifteen centuries, Mt. Sinai would probably be a topographical footnote.
But this is the mountain where God spoke to Moses. That, at least, is the overwhelming belief, and the belief itself has drawn pilgrims for over a thousand years. Although no archeological evidence of Moses' presence on the mountain exists, there are abundant relics of faith throughout the eons. Ancient chapels and structures honoring saints and the Virgin Mary appear all along the main route, called Sikket Saydna Musa ("The Path of Moses"), including a stone-hewn arch where, long ago, a monk once sat and heard confession from the pilgrims. Nearing the summit, one encounters the natural amphitheater where the 70 wise men waited while God spoke with Moses, then finally a small chapel and mosque at the top.
It seems strange, almost, to speak of a mountain like Mt. Sinai in clinical terms. There is so much mystery surrounding the mountain, so much spiritual projection and adulation, that one can easily forget that it is, after all, a mountain, and climbing it requires an individual to be in moderate shape. It takes about 3 hours to climb the 7,498-foot peak following the Path of Moses, a stairway of nearly 4,000 steps. There is a longer, less strenuous route up the opposite side, though it is less scenic. In both cases, one should bring good hiking shoes and plenty of water.