Published: December 27th 2006December 16th 2006
Moses is awesome. I totally have respect for the guy now. I mean he was old when he climbed Mount Sinai. And there were no tea/coffee shops for him to stop at either. Fantastic.
Starting nice and early in the morning we drove from Cairo to St Catherine, Sinai, stopping to view the Suez Canal and a couple of toilets. For those of you who are concerned, the toilets in Sinai are a distinct improvement on those previously visited. The other sight worth mentioning was the obvious increase in a military/police presence. Whilst in the Nile Valley and Western Desert we had either a police escort or police personnel on board our buses but to see soldiers perched on hills manning machine guns was a bit of an eye opener. This was mostly close to the Suez Canal but there were probably more police checkpoints on the way to St Catherine than we have had anywhere else. Didn't make us feel safer though.
The drive itself was fairly spectacular though. As we drove, the landscape changed from flat desert to rocky escarpment and finally massive mountain ranges. James and I both sat with our faces glued to the window
Climbing Mt Sinai
Peak of Mt Sinai in the background
of the bus, thinking about how great it would be to climb some of those cliff faces and mountain paths. Oh, and to make the scene complete, there were lots of camels and palm trees.
When we got out of the bus at our hostel, we all said variations of 'It is freezing!'. However, we didn't have long to dwell on this as we didn't have long to dump our bags, grab as many warm articles of clothing as we could and jump back on the bus. We were aiming to reach the top of Mt Sinai in time to see the sunset. We drove for about 15 minutes before reaching the entrance to the national park. We hired a Bedouin guide and began the walk.
We hadn't walked for more than 10 metres before the first camel appeared. It was closely followed by a tout who asked if we would like a camel. We politely declined. He continued on to ask every single person in the group. No one took him up on his offer. Normally, someone would give up at this point. There were several other camel drivers who asked the question and left but
I don't think this is the message they wanted
Sign at the St Katherine Monastery on the way up Mt Sinai
not our camel tout. He followed us up the entire route that the camels can go (there are 700 steps to the top that camels can't walk), telling us that we looked tired, or that some of us looked old and would need a camel. Didn't work. He badgered us until the one normally calm and serene member of our group threatened to throw something at him if he didn't leave us alone. He was quiet after that. But not gone. We voted him the most annoying tout in all of Egypt.
The walk up the mountain took about 2 hours. During a walk of that distance we usually stop a couple of times for a breather. Luckily the lovely people of Egypt have built tea and coffee stalls every 20 minutes or so up the mountain. Sigh. We finally reached the steps to the summit. The 700 steps. The 700 uneven steps being buffeted by freezing cold winds. Excellent. Those last 700 steps really took it out of us so we were glad to finally reach the top. Until we saw the market stalls. I mean seriously, is nothing sacred? There were about six or seven stalls set
up selling rocks, carved camels and fake alabaster pyramids (which James purchased, just because he could). And with stalls you get stall owners. Although not as persistant as their Luxor cousins, they still tried their best to get us to hire blankets or buy a rock.
We passed by the stalls and climbed past the chapel to get the best view for the sunset. There were only a few other people up there so it didn't feel overcrowded at all (unlike some other famous Egyptian sites). The view that met us was spectacular. The jagged mountain peaks were slowly turning pink to purple with the setting of the sun. In between trying to layer on more clothing, we were taking as many photos as we could (sorry to those who have committed themselves to sitting through our slideshow). I had a bit of difficulty with changing the settings on my camera as I had lost feeling in the tips of my fingers (despite my beautiful and normally very warm alpaca gloves) and although we were wearing every piece of warm clothing that we owned, we were chilled to the bone. And it got colder as soon as the sun
set. James loaned me his bedouin scarf and we tied it around my head and face in the same way that we had seen the Bedouin guys doing it. It was actually really helpful...until my glasses fogged up.
The 700 steps was much faster on the way down, partially because we wanted to get out of the wind, but mainly because we were losing light fast. At the base of the steps, we donned our trendy head lamps and headed back down the mountain path. By the time we reached the bottom we were warmed up and ready for dinner. Unfortunately, the bus driver was missing in action for about 45 minutes so we lost any warmth we had gained and also moved from hungry status to starving. Maslow's hierachy of needs was totally confused this evening as we were torn between eating and just getting into our sleeping bags. Food won out, even though the dining room was not heated. It wasn't long, however, before we were all cocooned in our sleeping bags and fast asleep.
The following morning, after a HOT shower and breakfast, we left our hostel and headed for Dahab. On the way, we
Dressed for the cold
It got even colder after the sun set
had a leg stretch/toilet break at a camel hire stand. Kind of like a car hire place, but with less comfortable transport. It was basically a camp on the side of the road, where the Bedouin lived and kept their herds of camels. These camels are then hired out to tourists and locals for whatever journey they need. Oh, and of course, there was a person selling curios. James bought a rock. He is now banned from any souvenir purchases, unless written permission is obtained from me.
There are more photos below