Al-Ahram Weekly Online   2 - 8 April 2009
Issue No. 941
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875


By Mohamed El-Hebeishy

IF SINAI is the gem of Egypt, then St Catherine's Monastery is the gem of Sinai. While the monastery is the focal point of visiting pilgrims and tourists alike, the peninsula has many more alluring sites, as Mohamed El-Hebeishy discovers.

Gabal Moussa, also known as Mount Sinai, might be the most famous of the peninsula's highest peaks -- after all, this is where Moses received the Ten Commandments -- but there is another interesting mountain not far away. Jethro's Mountain, or Gabal Al-Munajah, is more of a hill than a mountain and is believed to be where Jethro (Moses's father-in- law) and his daughters lived at the time, when the prophet first sought refuge in Sinai.

Nothing here reminds us of the biblical story, however, a beautiful white church adorns its top. The small church is dedicated to St Theodore the Commander and St Theodore the Tyro. Both are former Roman soldiers who lost their lives defending their faith.

Another intriguing site is Aaron's Hill, of peculiar interest since it is home to an Islamic shrine as well as a Christian chapel. Both are dedicated to the same man -- Prophet Aaron. Oral tradition assumes that this is the very hill where the Golden Calf was set and worshipped. And if you are wondering where the Israelites found the mould for their statue, take a good look at the surrounding rocks -- or perhaps the photograph opposite.

Photo: Mohamed El-Hebeishy

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