As we walk through the wadis and stare up in awe at the majesty and might of the mountains that surround us, we need to pause and take in the history and the countless stories that these fortresses hold. With a sacred and rich history like that of Sinai, every space holds a story – every mountaintop, every valley, and every path along the way. And while some of these stories find their way to us through the Bedouins that inhabit these spaces and have for generations on end, some are entrenched in the mountains themselves and told through the names the mountains bear. So I suppose here is where we ask ourselves, what's in a name?
GABAL EL BANAT
Via : فالصو
Once upon a time, there was a group of seven girls whose families were forcing them into marriage. The girls did not want to go through with the arranged marriages and so they had no option but to run away. They got to the top of the mountain and decided to end their lives, as an act of rebellion and to seek freedom and liberty from their strict families. How? They braided their hair together so they could jump in unison and end their lives. Six out of the seven girls had long hair and so they braided it easily, but the remaining girl had shorter hair that couldn’t be braided, so she was the only one who lived to tell the story. That's why they call it Gabal El Banat – The Girls' Mountain.
SERABIT AL KHADEMSerabit El Khadim was once an excavation site held by Canaanite prisoners of war during the Pharaonic in which they build Hathor temple in the same area. The Canaanites worshiped Hathor as well, but to them his name was Ba’alat – the feminine version of the Canaanite god Ba'al. Around the area, there are a lot of inscriptions on the sides of the mountain, not just pharaonic engravings. It was said that the stones and the remains stood high with inscriptions on them, which is where the name Serabit came from, and El Khadim comes from the statues standing in the region. Whether you’re looking to see the artifacts or not, this place is sacred in Sinai for holding the only standing temple – Hathor Temple – plus, the nature is beautiful.
MOUNT SAINT CATHERINEThe name of this mountain comes from the story of Saint Catherine – surprise – and the story says that there was once a beautiful girl who came from an aristocratic family in Alexandria at a time when they used to worship statues. Catherine chose to do her own research until she found herself convinced with Christianity, which not only resulted in the disapproval of her family but also of the whole town. Since she was from an aristocratic family that people looked up to, they feared that others may follow in her footsteps. The easy solution? An arranged marriage. But Catherine refused, leading her father to kill her to prove that he values his religion more than he does his own daughter, and he announced to everyone that her dead body will be found on their doorstep. He did kill her and he did lay her body on the doorstep, but when people arrived they didn't see anything.
Three centuries passed and a monk was sleeping in a monastery in Sinai when he dreamt that crows were flying around the mountain; when he woke up and shared the dream with the other monks in the monastery, they discovered that they had all dream the same dream. When they looked at the mountain they saw crows flying over the peak, which led them to climb the mountain where they then discovered a severed arm and head. After some searching they discovered that these parts belong to Catherine; ever since, her remains have been kept in a glass box in the monastery and are brought out every year on St. Catherine's Day. It's said that people bring her gifts and that her remains emit a pleasant aroma. A church and monastery were built atop the mountain and all named after Saint Catherine.
Via: Wikimedia Commons
This is the second highest peak in Egypt after Saint Catherine, but it’s still a very popular destination for hikers and mountain climbers. For the Bedouins and
people living in Sinai, this peak comes with a story that makes it more than just a mountain to be hiked. The legend says that there’s an immortal virgin living on the top of the mountain. She has silky long hair that flutters in the wind and her singing voice echoes through the mountains’ valleys.
There’s another story associated with the hills of this mountain, namely Qareen 3at3out, and it says that the government once had a problem with the Bedouin and sent knights after them. When the Bedouins realized this, they ran away into the mountains where an old lady had a huge storage of wood and kept a large fire burning alive throughout the night. The knights chased the fire throughout the night thinking it belonged to the Bedouin, until almost all the knights died of exhaustion. When the last knight standing arrived at dawn, he found no Bedouin and turned back.
Via : A Little Nomad
Named after the prophet Moses, it’s said that this mountain is where God spoke to Moses after he had left Egypt – where God appeared to him through the burning bush and instructed him how to lead his people out of Egypt. It's these stories, referenced across the Abrahamic religions, that make Mt. Moses a sacred space that's sought after by tourists from across the globe. There's still a bit of debate as to whether or not this is the mountain mentioned in the prophet's story, because some say that the story actually happened on Mount Serbal that is a neighboring mountain, also there is a theory that says that Mount Moses is in Saudi Arabia, though most agree that it is in fact Mount Moses.
ABBAS BASHA MOUNTAIN
Via: Go Tell It on The Mountains
The name behind this mountain dates back to 1835 when King Abbas the First was first diagnosed with asthma and given doctors' orders to stay somewhere where the air was dry – specifically the mountains of Sinai. To make his decision, the king brought out three pieces of meat and left one atop Mount Moses, one atop Mount St. Catherine, and the other atop Mounta Tenya. The piece left on Mount Moses ended up rotting, unlike the other two pieces, and since it was difficult to set up a living space atop St. Catherine, the king decided to live atop Mt. Tenya. The king’s men started building a two-story palace on a land that was 450 square meters, but the king died before they finished and construction on the palace was halted. Until today, the palace remains unfinished atop the mountain that has since been renamed after the late King Abbas.
via : Travel Notes
Serbal, or Ser Ba’al, means the palms of the god Ba’al – a name given to this mountain for the palm-shaped ridges in its foothills. Ba'al is an ancient god for whom people would go on pilgrimage journeys to this mountain, offering sacrifices and leaving gifts for Ba'al. You can still find inscriptions and drawings etched into the mountain with the names of those who'd embark on this pilgrimage regularly until the 3rd century AD.
Via : الحدث العربي
Safsafa is Arabic for willow tree, one of which stands by the foothills of Mount Safsafa. This is the same mountain where Moses stood and received the 10 commandments while his people were in Wadi Al Raha, which is the site of Aaron's grave and where the golden cow was built while Moses was atop the mountain. To this day, the Bedouins go to this area and camp in Wadi Al Raha in the summer, climb to the top of Mount Moses to sacrifice animals, then climb down to eat the sacrifices by their camps in the valley. The next day, they sacrifice camels at the site of Aaron's burial.