Saint Catherine's Monastery
South of the oasis, approached more easily up the Wadi 'Aleayat, rises the peak of the Jebel Serbal. At 2070 metres (7000 ft) it is not high for the Sinai range, but its isolation makes the view from its summit extensive. One school of Biblical speculators claims it as the true Mount Sinai.
From Feiran the road climbs into an open plain and after 32 km reaches the settlement of Saint Katherine. Here there are numerous hotels, a campsite and a bus stop. The famous monastery sits in a wadi between Jebel Musa (Mount Sinai) and Jebel El Deir just up the hill to the south.
The Roman emperor Justinian ordered the building of a fortress monastery on the site in 537 AD in order to protect the Sinai passes against invasion. Originally dedicated to the transfiguration of Christ, the church built within the fortress was renamed after St. Katherine (a 4th century Alexandrian martyred for her derision of Roman idol-worship), after her body miraculously appeared atop the Sinai's highest peak, apparently looking none the worse for wear. This miracle, coupled with the Crusaders' occupation of nearby Palestine, ensured the support of Christian rulers. The monastery's fame spread, so much so that by the 14th century up to 400 monks lived here, as the grisly collection of skulls attests. In recent centuries Russia was the chief benefactor. The monastery, with some 20 resident monks, remains the property of the Greek Orthodox Church.
United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organization
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