"Sunrise at the top of Mount Sinai is one of the most beautiful experiences I have ever had in the mountains."
From a young age, I heard from my mother about the desert, that real sandy biblical desolation on the Sinai Peninsula in the land of Egypt. And so, when I first set out for Sinai, I didn’t care how I experienced it. Every time she talked about Sinai my mother Neda would shed a tear not to mention how she cried when I told her I was going down to Sinai. Her mother, my grandmother Maria, died in the Sinai desert, and my mother told me about it for a long time, suffering that she never found out about her grave somewhere in El Khatatba, Egypt. She could never forget fleeing from Croatia to the Sinai desert. In that exodus, there were almost 40,000 Croats, mostly from Dalmatia, who went by ship, with the help of the Allies, to Egypt, to the camps of El Khatatbu, Tolumbat, and the largest among them, El Shatt.
I first found myself in Sinai when I was doing stories about the world’s holiest mountains. There is Mount Sinai, which rises above the desert over which, according to biblical myth, Moses led his people out of Egyptian slavery. My idea was to follow the path of Moses, from Egypt to the banks of the Jordan River.
Along with me and cameraman Joško Bojić, our underwater cameraman and friend Tonći Najev traveled with us, with whom we filmed the series Depths. We were still impressed by our underwater gatherings, so we organized a dive in the Red Sea, along the very edge of the desert, near the famous resort of Sharm El Sheik. It was a fantastic diving experience in which we spent 5 days hanging out with various species of exotic fish and visiting some of the most beautiful desert areas of Sinai. We could not see El Shat Cemetery at the time because we arrived by plane from Cairo to Sharm El Sheik.
From Sharm El Sheikh via Dahab at night we reached the monastery of St. Catherine at the foot of Mount Sinai. Under the walls of the monastery, we were greeted by Bedouins with camels and offered to ride to the floor almost to the very top as they call it Gebel Musa (Moses' Mountains). We continued on foot though with backpacks on our backs that had warm clothes needed to welcome the dawn at the top. All the way, through the darkness, we were overtaken by camels led by Bedouins. Some camels were ridden by pilgrims for whom the height of the mountain was too heavy a bite. Along the way, Bedouins in small shacks, lit by lanterns, offered us hot tea. Beneath the very top, there are a dozen slightly larger shacks where it is possible to buy in addition to tea and blankets for a more comfortable wait for the sunrise.
As we waited next to the church at the top, we were suddenly surrounded by thick clouds. I thought there would be nothing from the famous sunrise. We put on everything we had and waited for dawn. It was cold because the height is 2285 meters. When the day finally began to dawn the peak was still in thick fog, actually a cloud. I began to shrug, accepting that there would be nothing from the shooting. But suddenly, the fog began to blush and swirl even more. We rose, and the clouds, as if by some miracle, began to part. The sun's rays, such as I had never seen before, began to shine under a veil of red and gray clouds. A gentle reddish light spread across the valley, washing the dark red peaks of the Sinai Mountains. It seemed to me, as I stood on the edge of the cliff, at the top of Mount Sinai, as if listening to a thunderous voice from a thick, dark red cloud.
Sunrise at the top of Mount Sinai is one of the most beautiful experiences I have ever had in the mountains. So I decided to come to this peak a few more times. And after two years, I came with my wife Vera and experienced a fantastic outing again, but without the clouds.
Story by: Stipe Božić, professional mountaineer and Himalayan climber