Wednesday, December 1, 2004

Adventures in Egypt - Day 12 Mount Sinai and Cairo

Our day began very early with a 3:00 a.m. start time at the foot of Mount Sinai so we could be to the top by sunrise.  The climb is a little over 6,000 feet up a very narrow trail shared by walkers and camels with their riders...all along the way, you are watching for camel droppings and rocks while fending off the camel jockeys (their actual names) trying to get you to ride their camel.  I was well equipped with my Brookstone headlight so I didn't have to carry a flashlight...my travel buddies laughed at first but then saw the wisdom in my headlight.  We were fortunate to have full moon for our journey so the path was nicely lit.

Egyptian government law prohibited any guides with the exception of the nomads of the mountain to accompany climbers.  A fabulous idea but in theory a little challenging as our guide did not speak any English which was problematic about three quarters of the way up when I pulled muscle and could not move at anything faster than a snail's pace.


Just before the last leg of the climb is the third tea tent which is where I spent the next 2 hours with new friends...the tent owner and two camel jockeys.  Once again, the generosity of the Egyptian people and the kindness of strangers made my visit even more memorable.  The tent owner would not permit me to pay for my tea and offered me a bench inside the tent so I could rest until my buddies came back down the mountain.  I pulled out a snack from my backpack and offered to the owner and jockeys but the only thing that seemed to truly interest them was the ziploc bag containing my snack.  They were so excited when I offered them a couple ziploc bags...funny the things we take for granted mean a great deal to others. 

At long last, the sun began to rise over Mt. Moses.  The feeling of standing where Moses once stood was indescribable and one I will never forget.






Once the sun began to light the path back down the mountain, those that made the pilgrimage began descending.  Seeing how far we came in the light of day as well as the steep cliffs we maneuvered was pretty unbelievable.

                     


By the time we reached the bottom of the mountain, St. Catherine's Monastery (official name is The Sacred and Imperial Monastery of the God-Trodden Mount of Sinai).  While walking around the monastery, Lee and I ran into Me and Ro (the couple from Belgium on our trek through the White Canyon)...proving that no matter where Southerners may go, they always make friends and see them again along the way!

After touring the monastery, we began the six hour ride back to Cairo.  Pretty cool part of the journey was taking the tunnel through the Suez Canal.

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