Mt. Sinai & St. Catherine
June 02, 2010
A normal sleep and a normal(ish) wake up time of 6.30! Off downstairs to farewell Jess, Sean, Andrew and Rachel as they catch a taxi off to the airport. A small breakfast, then farewell to the rest, Anzia, Danielle & Tom. Susanne had left last night to stay with her friend in Cairo. At 7.30 Madeline, Carson, Christine and myself headed off on our bus to St. Catherine and Mt. Sinai, which we had decided on Hassaan's recommendation, to climb in the evening. A few stops along the way, together with the most expensive piece of microwaved chicken I've ever had (40 pounds!), and 7 hours later we were at our hostel in St. Catherine, near the foot of Mt. Sinai, or 'Moses Mountain'. We left shortly after we arrived to head to the mountain and started climbing around 5pm. Susanne stayed at the hostel, as she'd injured her back and wasn't up to the 700 steps which are at the end of the climb to the peak.
On the bus to the foot we stopped at the 'golden calf'. Hassaan wasn't overly familiar with the story and neither were we, but it's believed that after Moses came down from receiving the comandments up on Mt. Sinai, he came back down to discover his people converted to another religion, and eating a calf. Moses was so angry he kicked the calf so hard, it left an imprint in the cliff face. It did take a bit of imagination to see this calf however.
At the mountain, near the foot of the climb there is a small monastery, unfortunately we could only see it's external wall which wasn't particularly exciting, as it is only open in the mornings until midday, but the location was superb. Our local Bedowan guide led us up, playing arabic songs on his mobile as we went, and stopping occasionally for rests at little cafes staffed by the Bedowan's. Over a small saddle and we were in Elias' Basin, a small valley about 50 meters down from the path we were on, with a couple of small houses and gardens. Our path led upwards however, 700 odd steps to the peak. At the top a small church and a mosque have been built, and together with about 20 other people we watched the sunset over Mt. Sinai, and Mt. Catherine next to us (actually a bit taller than Moses Mountain). The pictures really speak for themselves.
Stuff here We commenced our decent in the twilight and our guide skipped on ahead like a hare, leaving us plodding along in his wake. As it got darker, Carson and Madeline pulled out their head lamps and me, my LED torch and caught up to him at one of the cafe's we'd left Hassaan at (understandably he didn't want to climb the 700 steps as he'd done it many times before). There we had some home grown tea, and discovered that I apparently have a very low tolerance for hot drinks still, left with a full one when the others were nearly finished. It was quite nice once I could avoid burning my lips however.
As we continued down the stars began to come out, the first time we'd really seen them all trip, due to the haze, and city lights. It was a little strange, and I couldn't actually recognise any of the constellations, but then the only one I can really pick out reliably which would be visible in the north is Orion, which seemed to be below the horizon. We got back to the hostel at 9.30, very late for dinner, and chowed down before heading to bed. I did toss up the option of having a swim in the ginormous pool, and I believe Carson did, but I decided to save that treat for the next morning.