The desert peninsula that lies between Egypt and Israel is home to Mt. Sinai, where Moses received the Ten Commandments. For thousands of years pilgrims have climbed to the summit of this remote peak. The surrounding landscape is both bleak and beautiful, particularly at dawn and evening when its harsh terrain glows with an almost unearthly light.
At the base of the mountain, St. Catherine’s Monastery is home to a small community of Greek Orthodox monks. Visitors enter through massive stone walls built in the sixth century to protect the monastery from attack. Winding through a narrow passageway, they enter the Basilica of the Transfiguration, which dates back to AD 527 when the Emperor Justinian ordered that a church be built here on the remains of an even older chapel. Inside, Byzantine icons line the church’s walls and an ornate icon screen separates the altar from the sanctuary. The adjoining library is home to a priceless collection of icons, paintings, mosaics, altar pieces, and illuminated manuscripts.
Did You Know? In the courtyard outside the basilica, pilgrims reach up to touch a plant that is said to have descended from the Burning Bush from which the voice of God spoke to Moses.
For more information see Holy Sites in the Sinai Desert
Next site: Jerusalem, Israel
Lori Erickson is one of America’s top travel writers specializing in spiritual journeys. She’s the author of the Near the Exit: Travels With the Not-So-Grim Reaper and Holy Rover: Journeys in Search of Mystery, Miracles, and God. Her website Spiritual Travels features holy sites around the world.