Mount Sinai by camel(report)

I just want to report on the experience I had riding a camel on the trail between Saint Catherine’s Monastery and summit of Mount Sinai. I paid $30 for a round trip and if I did it again I would only pay for the climb and walk the descent which is how I came down, despite having paid for the ride. I am a 60-year old male reasonably good shape but I do not do climbs well.

I can highly recommend doing this climb on the available camels. The trek is made in the dark over a rather rough trail lit only by your torch or headlamp. We passed several people that had injured their legs or ankles that ended their ascent attempts.

The saddle was the best I have ever experienced on a camel ride, quite comfortable and only allowing a limited movement on it which made it a lot less tiring than most. While the hikers kept their eyes exclusively on the ground I witnessed close to a dozen meteors streaking through the night skies. The sky was amazing given the high altitude and lack of any light pollution, featuring countless stars that would normally never be seen. I found I enjoyed the ascent while most merely endured or suffered it while on foot.

There are tea houses along the route for hikers to rest or take in warm drinks. Somebody who was not enjoying their ride could easily end their rides at any one of these. The last stop, where the camel ride ended was 750 feet/stairsteps below the summit. The guides were very willing to help/encourage/push people the rest of the way, it was very important to them to get the guests who wanted to summit to do so. Personally, it was not that important to me so I stayed at the tea house with the guides, camel handlers and tourists who were not inclined to make the final part of the trail. We stayed warm, well hydrated, and napped in a jovial atmosphere while awaiting the sunrise.

At that altitude, looking east over the mountains below us, the sunrise was magnificent! It began as a very small arc on the horizon surrounded by black. That small semi-circle gradually expanded until the sun began to peak over the mountains. At this point, it cast a wonderous orange hue over the higher landscapes and that coloring descended the mountains as the sun climbed higher.

Eventually, it was time to depart for the return trip and that is where I very quickly discovered the very painful downside of the camel trek! The trail at the top is a series of very wide steps and as the camels stepped down from one to another it would come to a jarring stop and my momentum would slide my crotch to an abrupt and painful stop against the saddle horn. In less than 100 meters I told my handler that I wished to dismount and walk down. Unfortunately, it was a further 100 meters until we reached a spot where the camel could lower itself for a dismount. 100 meters of nonstop blows to the groin. Once on the ground, the trail was clearly visible and easy to walk.

I would definitely hire a camel again for this activity but as I said, I would only hire one way. I would aslo tell those who are fit to consider doing so just because you can enjoy the skies that ikers were not even aware of.

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