St. Catherine city guide
Say Saint Catherine and you say Mount Sinai. The holiest of mountains lies in the middle of the highest range in Egypt, flanked by Mount Catherine, the highest peak in the country.
With a population of around 5000 people, St. Catherine is quite a small village. But it is the biggest tourist site in the whole of Sinai! Every day hundreds of tourists descend on St. Catherine to ascend Mount Sinai to see the sun rise. Most stay only for a brief moment and bus it back to either Sharm El-Sheikh or Dahab, but it is worth staying and enjoying the relaxed Bedouin atmosphere.
Saint Catherine is one of the newest cities in Egypt, with all amenities of a modern place: there are several schools, including a high school, a hospital, police and fire brigade, a range of hotels, post office, telephone centre, bank and all other important establishments.
The city's oldest settlement is Wadi El Sybaiya, east of the city's monastery, where the Roman soldiers, whose descendants the Jebeliya bedouins are, were accommodated. It started growing into a city after the tarmac road was completed in the 1980s and the tourist trade begun. Many of the nomad Bedouins moved to small settlements around the city's monastery, which collectively make up St. Catherine's city. The districts of El Milga, Shamiya, Raha and Nabi Harun form the core of the city -Saint Catherine's downtown, at the end of the tarmac road where the valleys of Wadi el Arbain (Wadi El Lega), Wadi Quez, Wadi Raha, Wadi Shrayj and Wadi el Deir connect to the main valley, Wadi Sheikh. There are settlements in Wadi Sheikh before the town and other smaller ones in the valleys.
The city's monastery lies in Wadi el Deir, opposite Wadi Raha (Wadi Muka’das, the Holy Valley). Mt Sinai (Jebel Musa) can be reached from the monastery or, alternatively, from Wadi el Arbain where the Rock of Moses (Hajar Musa) and the Monastery of the Forty Martyrs are.
The highest mountains ranges in Egypt literally surround the city with many smaller valleys leading from the basin to the mountains in all directions. The high altitude of the city itself and the high ranges of mountains which embrace it provide a pleasant climate, with refreshing cool summer nights and excellent spring, while winter days are pretty cold and the nights could reach -14 C.
Saint Catherine is considered to be one of the coldest cities in Egypt with Nekhel and many other cities especially in mountainous Sinai. Snowfalls in Saint Catherine take place regularly in winter months December, January and February, yet it is also occurs occasionaly in autumn and spring. (Wikipedia - Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0)
133 km west of Dahab
122 km west of Nuweiba
233 km north of Sharm El-Sheikh (via Dahab)
322 km south-east of Suez
170 km north-east of El-Tor
There are a few camps in town; a string of upmarket hotels and you can spend the night at the monastery guesthouse. It might be usefull to read some reviews of the accommodation on offer first; not all are up to scratch...
Sheikh Mousa Bedouin Camp - lovely camp in the centre of the quiet village of St. Catherine. They offer treks and can arrange alternative sleeping spots in the mountains (like El Freish, Baraka Gardens and the eco-lodges in the region). They offer rooms with en-suite or shared bathroom, dorm beds and you can put your tent up in the garden area. Price range: 15 - 150 LE. Free Wifi.
Fox Desert Camp - providing a variety of accommodation for individuals and groups. Rooms, dorm and camping and caravaning posibilities. Price range 15 - 100 LE.
Olive Garden Camp - right smack in the middle of town, this newly build camp provides cheap, but clean and comfortable accommodation. Next to the restaurant, serving staple Egyptian food. 50LE per night for a double twith ensuite bathroom.
Safari Moonland Camp - provides rooms and camping options.
Monastery Guesthouse - rooms and dorm beds available for those who want to spend the night next to the oldest, continuously inhabited, monastery in the world. Prices are a bit higher than the camps in town; single rooms 200LE, double 350LE, triple 440LE on half board basis (incl. breakfast and dinner).
Diana Village - If you don't want to stay in one of the camps or the guesthouse, we'd recommend Diana Village Hotel. It gets the best reviews of all the proper hotels in St. Catherine.
There are a few souvenir shops near 'the mall', but besides that you can only buy basic fruit, vegetables and household goods in small shops. There is a bakery, a bank with ATM, a post office and a petrol station in the heart of town.
For more on what to do in St. Catherine, check out the Bedouin Bus website ; it has a list of interesting activities in the region.
Eating & Drinking
Food is available in all of the accommodation mentioned above and there are a few small restaurants in the shopping area near the mosque and in Shamia (towards the big hotels). As far as I know, only Diana Village Hotel AND the monastery serve alcohol. You can buy cans of beer from them for 20LE each.
There are no bike shops or bike parts available in town. The nearest, good bike shop is in Cairo.