On the 17th I woke up pretty early to go on my first run of the trip along a winding desert road. It was still cool but very, very dry. I enjoyed looking out in to the nothingness beyond the town. I got back to the room, packed an overnight bag for Sinai, went down to enjoy the most incredible breakfast buffet of all time, and then we set off into the desert.
|Ben having a snooze at the Bedouin camp|
We arrived at the monastery and walked to the base of Mt. Sinai which is also a Bedouin camp. Our guide bargained with the camel owners for a few minutes and then Ben and I mounted up and started the trek. Riding a camel is very uneven. You have to learn to fall into their rhythm and sit correctly in the saddle. They were very obedient and docile though mine was a whiner and was always groaning. I enjoyed watching their feet because they are squishy and spread out into the sand, not like regular feet. The first thing that came to mind was those squish balls filled with silicon gel that were so popular a long time ago. This is what their feet looked like in the sand. It was nice to be able to sit and enjoy the scenery while the camels carried us 2/3rds of the way up. Mount Sinai just kept getting closer and closer. I couldn’t believe I was going to stand and walk where Moses walked. We rode camels up to the bottom of a 700-step staircase that leads to the top. The camels cannot go any further than this so we said goodbye and started the climb. It took about 25 minutes and we passed Elijah’s oasis (the spot where he hid when God walked by him) which was pretty incredible too. Prince of Egypt was on in our hotel room today and we were looking at the animated scenery thinking “yeah, that looks about right…”. We reached the top and looked out on the surrounding mountains. Sinai is different from all of them because it has a flat top and is encircled by the others so that it is hidden from view until you are right in front of it. The flat top has not been explained by scientists other than they say there must have been an extraordinary pressure exerted on it at one point in time to make it so different from all the rest. *
|Riding camels up the mountain|
|Climbing the stairs up to the top|
After we had looked around and rested a little, taken it all in, we started the climb back down the steps. In the waning light the mountains of red granite seemed to glow, casting their color into the atmosphere and tinting everything a hazy rose. We passed the bottom of the steps and continued on the foot path picking up rocks with plant fossils in them and enjoying the scenery, trying to imagine what it must have been like in Moses’ time.
|Narrow steps up - Red Granite Path|
|Mohammad, Ben and I at the top of the mountain|
The next morning we woke up, got breakfast at a buffet that paled in comparison to the others we have had, and then headed to St. Catherine’s monastery to see the chapel that houses Moses’s burning bush and also one of the oldest working monasteries in the world. It has survived the crusades, numerous political and religious conquests and has gained the protection of many figures ranging from Napoleon to the prophet Mohammed. It houses and extensive collection of ancient icons, dating back to the 6th century. There is a room that you see from behind iron bars that holds the bones of all the monks and bishops that have ever lived and worked there; piles of skulls, arms, legs and ribs, in a storage room.
St. Catherine's Monastery
We wandered through the museums and around the monastery a little bit more, trying to comprehend the scope of its history and its importance, but really only succeeding in becoming more awestruck. After we left the monastery we drove a little while on asphalt, then we suddenly turned off the road and started plowing through sand.
|Rock of Inscriptions|
|Beautiful fruit juice.|
|Chatting seaside with Mohammad.|
Everything is tailor made for us. We only have two nights left. Tomorrow we are doing an all-day diving trip which I am really looking forward too. But it’s also our last full day in Egypt. Thursday night we leave, very very late at night. It’s hard to believe it’s all coming to a close and that I will be home on Saturday. I still have two days left to enjoy.