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Published: September 4th 2008
Wednesday 3rd September
After a leisurely morning at our hotel we were collected by Anwar and Randa at noon for our overnight trip to St Catherines. Anwar continued his racing car driver stunts, somehow he seemed to be able to see an extra lane in the highway that Ron and I couldn’t as we squeezed through the traffic. The drive took around 5 hours, we went under the Suez Canal and then followed the coast before turning inland to travel through the mountains to St Catherines.
We checked in to our hotel at St Catherines in time to have a late diner and then a couple of hours rest before we were to leave at 1am to commence our walk to the top of Mt Sinai.
Thursday 4th September
We met our guide Mustafa who was to accompany us to the top of Mt Sinai. Mark had given me a torch that could be worn as a head lamp that helped us see the path and avoid the camel droppings and rocks that littered the path. It was pitch dark as we started our ascent, for the first hour every few hundred metres a call would come
out of the dark “camel, long way to the top, camel yes?” The guy that called out “taxi” nearly had us accepting his offer.
There were two ways to ascend the mountain, the camel path which was recommended as it winds slowly up or the 3750 Steps of Repentance which are steep and were definitely not recommended. We had decided to walk the camel path, I must admit seeing the outline of people pass on the back of camels made me doubt we made the right decision to walk instead of taking a camel as my legs began to ache and we had been told it would take 3-4 hours walking to reach the top. After an hour of hard slog I wonder where Ron had taken me as I was starting to doubt my ability to reach the summit.
With lots of short breaks we reached the last ascent which was in the form of 700 hundred “steps”, the steps were actually odd shaped boulders roughly shaped into big steps, with Mustafa's encouragement we made a final effort and ended up reaching the top in 2 1/2 hours much to our amazement. As it was still an
hour before sunrise we paid a few dollars to hire a thin mattress and sat with some other climbers awaiting the sunrise.
Ron was a little put out as he had carried a backpack full our coats and jumpers as we had been told it would be freezing at the summit only to find it cool but bearable and we had not required any of the items he had carried up the mountain. The setting was spectacular but the sunrise was almost a non event because of the heat haze. There were people from many nationalities on the summit and everyone seemed moved watching the sunrise, the mountain is an important religious site for christians and muslims alike.
After a couple of hours on the summit it was time to descend. Ron had been keen to take the Steps of Repentance but because I was unsure of my ability to cope with the steep descent and as I was already feeling weary Ron had agreed to descend the camel path. When we reached the point of the path splitting in to the camel path and the Steps of Repentance we both decided to check the steps and see
if we could make them. After all we would probably never get another chance and it may have been a quicker way to the bottom. With a lot of help from Ron giving me a hand and having lots of breaks we descended the steps in and hour and a half, which was an hour earlier than Randa had expected us to return. I found the steps difficult and a little jarring but if you are fit like Ron they wouldn’t be a problem. It was a bonus to reach the bottom by 7.30 before it got too hot.
We finished the morning with a visit to St Catherine’s monastery where we saw the site of the original burning bush. We headed back to Cairo in time to hit the insane peak hour traffic around 5pm. This did not stop Anwar zipping through the traffic and finding alternative ways to get us to our hotel in record time.
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