Retreat at St Catherine's Monastery

Retreat at St Catherine’s Monastery

25th – 31st March 2019

Now running for the third time, this week of retreat and exploration based at the Monastery of St Catherine has become an annual event.

The programme is co-ordinated by Liz Edmunds, who was inspired to return after visiting St Catherine’s Monastery with Wind Sand & Stars at the end of a week in the South Sinai desert in 2014. The Retreat is open to all but may appeal to those with an interest in meditation, in study and in Art.

Journey overview

Saint Catherine’s Monastery or the Sacred Monastery of the God-Trodden Mount Sinai lies at the foot of Mount Sinai where the Bible says that Moses received the Ten Commandments. The monastery is built on the site where it is said that Moses saw the Burning Bush. A Chapel on the site of the Burning Bush was built by order of Helena, mother of Constantine I. A fortified Greek Orthodox Monastery was built to protect the Chapel at the order of the Emperor Justinian (527-568). It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One of the oldest working Christian monasteries in the world, it has the world’s oldest continually operating library housing a vast and unique collection of early codices, manuscripts and books in the world, only outnumbered by the Vatican Library. It contains Greek, Arabic, Armenian, Coptic, Hebrew, Georgian and Aramaic texts and amongst its treasures was the home of the Codex Siniaticus until it was brought to the West. The library has been extensively restored and now includes a purpose-built reading room which is available for specialist study under the direction of Father Justin, the librarian. Many of these marvellous works are now being made available on line.

The Monastery houses irreplaceable works of art: mosaics and the best and largest collection of icons in the world dating from as early as the 6th Century. There are also marvellous liturgical objects, chalices and reliquaries of note. The oldest icon on an Old Testament theme is preserved there, as well as the oldest known surviving example of the icon of Christ Pantocrator. A project to catalogue the collections has been ongoing since the 1960s.

For Liz Edmunds and her party in 2017 & 2018, the wonders of the Monastery were a marvel but the treasure that had the most profound and lasting effect was the atmosphere of a holy place where there has been uninterrupted worship for so long, where Moses and Elijah trod and which pre-existed even those great souls. This is where the Desert Fathers went to find God in the stillness and silence and where the Monastic life still led there shares the same search for God. It is a truly special place for anyone seeking to touch that same space.


Day 1: Fly via Cairo

We fly from London Heathrow to Cairo, arriving in the evening and we will stay overnight in a nearby hotel (there is an optional departure one day earlier to include a day of sightseeing in Cairo, details below).
Overnight 4* hotel, Cairo

Day 2: Arrival in South Sinai and journey to St Catherine’s Monastery

It is a one-hour internal flight to Sharm el Sheikh and from here we travel through the beautiful eastern sandstone desert towards St Catherine’s Monastery, stopping on the way to view rock inscriptions carved by early pilgrims as they journeyed from Jerusalem to St Catherine. We can take in the stunning view of the nearby oasis of Ayun Khudra as we enjoy sweet Bedouin tea, before we continue to the spectacular granite mountains of Sinai’s interior, where the Monastery lies at the foot of Mount Sinai. Built in the 6th century by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian, its towering outer walls, built to protect the monks from marauding tribes, still stand. During the afternoon we will have time for introductions and orientation, with our first group meditation in the evening.

Days 3 – 6: Retreat at St Catherine’s Monastery *

We will spend the next four days based at the Monastery. The Monastery is open to visitors each morning from 9am-12pm, while the afternoons will offer us time for retreat and reflection. A flexible daily programme will begin with a morning meditation together, followed by time alone for retreat and reflection or study. There will be optional excursions to the local village of St Catherine and walks to some nearby hermitages and viewpoints, or simply time to absorb the special atmosphere. We gather together again in the evening for review and group meditation.

Inside the monastery we can visit the magnificent Basilica and also spend time viewing the rare collections of icons and early manuscripts in the museum. We may be invited to attend afternoon Vespers. There will be an optional ascent of Mount Sinai on one day, a steady uphill walk for 2-3 hours along the traditional camel path (with camels available for hire), then up steep Byzantine steps carved into the rocks to the summit. Below lies the Garden of Elijah, where it was told that Elijah hid from God on the mountain.
O/n each night St Catherine’s Monastery guesthouse

*All activities are optional and the final programme will depend on the group, local conditions and to allow for Monastery opening times.

Day 7: Depart

We return to Sharm el Sheikh and our flight home.

Optional additional day

Depart London 24th March and stay overnight in a 4* hotel in Cairo. Enjoy a day of sightseeing in Cairo on the 25th March, to include Pyramids and Sphinx and the Egyptian Museum, meeting up with the main group on their arrival in the evening.

Please note all desert itineraries are subject to change.


Land arrangements £1,025 / £160 optional additional day in Cairo

Flight £550 – £650 approximately (depending upon time of booking)

Minimum number 10

 Cost Includes

  • All local transport and accommodation
  • Full board at the Monastery Guesthouse and B&B at 4* hotel in Cairo
  • Qualified Wind Sand & Stars group leader in Sinai
  • English-speaking Egyptian guide
  • St Katherine’s National Park fee and Museum entrance fee
  • Comprehensive travel insurance

Cost Excludes

  • Egyptian Visa (US$25)
  • Gratuities £50 (invoiced)
  • Single Supplement per person £220 / £45 optional additional day in Cairo (invoiced)
  • Hire of camel up Mt Sinai (approximately £10, optional)
  • Soft drinks and any other personal expenses


Please note a visa is required for this itinerary and can be obtained on arrival in Cairo. If you do not hold a British or EU passport please refer to the Egyptian Consulate for guidance.

ATOL protection

The air holidays and flights in this brochure are ATOL Protected by the Civil Aviation Authority. Our ATOL number is 6382. For further information, visit the ATOL website at

Get in touch

“The whole trip was AMAZING – thank you so much.”

Francis Burkitt, St Catherine tailor made, August 2017

“We got more out of our little adventure than we had ever hoped for, thanks to a country of huge diversity and historical interest and to a very special guide.”

Cunningham family, Jordan tailor made, April 2017

“So many thoughts about our wonderful trip to St Catherine; the fantastic warmth of welcome from the Egyptians, Fathers Justin and Nilus, and the unique history which we felt privileged to be given access to. In my book, how could one not enjoy and be inspired!”

Julia Palmer, St Catherine Retreat, February 2017

“Huge thanks to all at Wind, Sand & Stars for an amazing trip. John’s passion for Ethiopia fires his erudition and he gave us more insights into the country, past and present, than we could ever have gained from local guides.”

Christine Dunmow, Exploring Ethiopia’s Orthodox History with John Binns 2016

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Richard Ames-Lewis, Adventure into Silence, October 2014

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