Saint Catherine the Greatest Transcendence City
South Sinai Governorate, Egypt
Saint Catherine city is situated amid a mountain range in the South Sinai Governate of Egypt. It is the eminent destination for visitors to Mount Sinai, Saint Catherine Monastery and the Burning Bush, Mount Catherine, Egypt’s highest point reaching 2,642 meters (8,668 feet) above sea level, and the unique Fatimid Mosque that lies in the NW sector of Saint Catherine’s monastery built around 1106 AD.
Mount Sinai, the only site for the greatest manifestation, stands 2285.7 meters (7,497ft) above sea level where God appeared to Moses on its peak. Saint Catherine monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is situated on Mount Sinai more than 1,500m (5,000 feet) above sea level. According to tradition, Catherine of Alexandria, is one of the most popular early Christian martyrs. It contains the world’s oldest continually operating library and preserves the second largest collection of early codices and manuscripts in the world.
Sites International is entrusted to develop and design the master plans for Saint Catherine city, land of peace, and for the New Saint Catherine city, 3.5 km from the old city, as a global destination for spiritual, environmental and heritage tourism adapting an ecologically sustainable approach for landscape and urban design through the principles of natural & visual resources reservation. The design creates a place of contrasts, encompassing both the very old and the very new in total synchrony.
The design strategy is to accommodate a larger number of visitors, and provide accommodations and services for them in the city and neighboring areas while upgrading and modifying existing buildings and structures in the area. The flow of visitors and traffic to the city is transformed. Expanded regional roads link the city with the rest of the extended coastal area between El-Tor, Sharm El-Sheikh, and Dahab, very popular tourist destinations, while preserving the provincial roads with their spectacular scenic views. The nearby airport will, as well, be expanded to receive the planned increase in visitors.
Internally city traffic is transformed. A framework of networks encompasses a variety of transportation modes including vehicles, 11 km of cycle and pedestrian paths, and visitor-carrying camels. The circular-shaped Visitor Center, with a small reflective pool, occupies a prominent central location with a built-form perfectly in sync with the terrain and within short distance to major sites.
The new Mountain Hotel, 150 rooms capacity, and the new Eco-Lodge, 196 room capacity, will provide accommodations and services to the visitors including sophisticated bazaars, restaurants, and high-end stores to display Sinai products. The new Peace Plaza, where a museum is housed, will host celebrations and festivities. Underground, the Plaza offers an auditorium with 500 capacity, lectures halls and a variety of shops to serve visitors. All new built appropriately fits the surrounding natural slopes that appear as large steps moving through the landscape down the hill. The design emphasis is to create a meditation space, an awe-inspiring place to pray and be alone with God.
Zaytouna, the New Saint Catherine City, is located 3.5Km from the old city. It offers a combination of tourist and residential housing, investment opportunities in retail and housing to generate greater work opportunities for local residents. The tourist area includes terraced units, town houses, and chalets for a total of 1,848 units with all the expected services and entertainment opportunities for visitors. The housing area offers 700 family units.
All renovations and restorations preserve the local Bedouin character in the old city center. Local construction and finishing materials are used to adapt to the surrounding environment and reduce construction cost, but most importantly respecting seasonal flood routes and exists to protect current residences as is planned for all new building constructions.
The overall city’s architectural design character is consistent with distinctive desert and mountain’s nature with landscape planting true to sustainable environment. Indigenous and semi-indigenous palettes of plants, trees, and ground cover is used. Treated water and efficient water conservation irrigation system ensures the protection of the surrounding environment with the minimal of changes.
The overall project design creates a space that draws the behavior of the people in this region towards the holiness and solitude of the surrounding mountains. It focuses on the ‘essence’ of a spiritual space distancing itself from surrounding distractions and burdens. Truly a place of tranquility and transcendence.