Saint Catherine (also spelled: St. Katrine; Egyptian Arabic: سانت كاترين pronounced [ˈsænte kætˈɾiːn]) is a city in the South Sinai Governorate. It is located at the outskirts of the El Tur Mountains at an elevation of 1,586 m (5,203 ft), 120 km (75 mi) away from Nuweiba, at the foot of Mount Sinai and Saint Catherine’s Monastery. As of 1994, its population was 4,603. Saint Catherine is a UNESCO world heritage site, officially declared in 2002.
Although Saint Catherine was not established as a city at that time, it was always part of the Egyptian Empire throughout history and it was part of the province of “Deshret Reithu”.
In the 16th century BC, the Egyptian pharaohs built the way of Shur across Sinai to Beersheba and on to Jerusalem. The region provided the Egyptian Empire with turquoise, gold and copper, and well preserved ruins of mines and temples are found not far from Saint Catherine at Serabit el-Khadim and Wadi Mukattab, the Valley of Inscription. They include temples from the 12th Dynasty, dedicated to Hathor, goddess of love, music and beauty, and from the New Kingdom dedicated to Sopdu, the god of the Eastern Desert.
Roman and Byzantine
Located at the foot of Mount Sinai, Saint Catherine’s Monastery was the start of the city, it was constructed by order of the Emperor Justinian between 527 and 565.
Saint Catherine City is one of the newest townships in Egypt. There are several schools including a high school, a hospital, police and fire brigade, a range of hotels, post office, telephone center, bank and other important establishments.
The township’s oldest settlement is Wadi El Sybaiya, east of the city’s monastery, where the Roman soldiers, whose descendants are the Jebeliya, were accommodated. It started growing into a town after the tarmac road was completed in the 1980 and the tourist trade began. Many of the nomad Bedouins moved to small settlements around the city’s monastery, which collectively make up St Katherine’s Town. The districts of El Milga, Shamiya, Raha and Nabi Harun form the core of the town — Saint Katherine’s downtown, at the end of the tarmac road where the valleys of Wadi El Arbain (Wadi El Lega), Wadi Quez, Wadi Raha, Wadi Shrayj and Wadi El Dier connect to the main valley, Wadi Sheikh. There are settlements in Wadi Sheikh before town and other smaller ones in the valleys.
Saint Catherine is the capital of the Municipality of Saint Katherine, which includes these outlying areas as well. The town’s monastery lies in Wadi el Deir, opposite Wadi Raha (Wadi Muka’das, the Holy Valley). Mount Sinai can be reached from the monastery or, alternatively, from Wadi El Arbain where the Rock of Moses (Hagar Musa) and the Monastery of the Forty Martyrs are.