Up this morning to head to St Catherine's Monastery at the foot of the valley to Mount Sinai.
St Catherine's Monastery was constructed between 527 and 565 AD. It was built around what was thought to be Moses' Burning Bush which has a chapel built atop of it. It has priceless works of art, including Arab mosaics, Greek and Russian icons, western oil paintings , fine sacerdotal ornaments, . It also has one of the largest and most important collections of illuminated manuscripts in the world (the Vatican has the largest). The collection has consists of some 4 500 volumes in Greek, Coptic, Arabic, Armenian, Hebrew, Slavic, Syriac, Georgian and other languages..
St Catherine's has been called the oldest working Christian Monastery and the smallest diocese in the world. St Catherine, whose body was reportedly carried away by angels was discovered 500 years later at the top of the peak that now bears her name. Her relics are now stored in a marble reliquary in the Basilica.
The monastery is also a small fortress. Prior to the 20th century (approx) the only access through the 8 to 35 metre high walls was by a small
THE BURNING BUSH
Not so much hot but painful
door 9 metres high in the wall. Provisions and people were lowered and raised with a pulley system. It has withstood numerous attacks over its 1 400 year existence.
Back to us. Out of respect to the Monks and their religion there is a dress code. From the shoulders to below the knees are to be covered. There were many bus loads of Russian and Polish tourists there. You should have seen what they were not wearing. Many of them had spent time on the Red Sea and this was a day trip, so they were more so dressed for the beach. They were oblivious to the respects of the religion and guards where at the gate handing out sarong type sheets for people to cover up.
We entered the Monastery and headed directly to the Burning Bush. It is a willowy vine looking plant with spikes on it, as Angie found out. Then we entered the Basilica, it is filled with ancient artifacts and has a very spiritual peaceful atmosphere. We sat and took in all that was around us.
Now we are back on the bus and on our way to our Red Sea, Sawa
Beach Camp at Nuweiba, on the north coast of the Bay of Aqaba. About 40 kilometres south of the Israeli border. This area was a huge tourist resort area for the Israelis until the 2005 when a bomb went off in a hotel in Taba about 20km north of Sawa Beach Camp. The Muslim brotherhood took responsibility. Now most of the hotels and beach camps are deserted as the Israelis are too scared to return. The livelihoods of so many Egyptians have been effected by loss of income.
Anyway, we stop at the town and buy supplies of nibblies and a few beers. We drive about 20 minutes and arrive at Sawa. We are given a welcome cocktail of puree fruits. Ice cold and delicious. We are shown to our rooms. We all get our own hut tonight as we are the only guests. Our huts are made of bamboo and the roofs covered in palm fronds. We have mats on the concrete floor and a mosquito net over our mattresses. We walk about 20 metres and we are in the water.
We have time for lunch and head off to our scuba diving lesson. ...............................................
SAWA BEACH CAMP
Sinai - Nuweiba - Red Sea
arrived back at Sawa Beach Camp at about 6pm. It is such a relaxing place to visit. We lounge around in the reception / restaurant / lounge area. There are mats and cushions on the floor to sit or lie around on. A table is set up out on the sand and in the breeze ready for our dinner. The food is great and plenty of it. Fran has calamari and a Greek salad, Angie has fruit salad and a pizza. For dessert we share a sahlab, which is orchid root. It tastes like egg custard and it has a swirl of Nutella through it. Again delicious. We sit around with the group and tell travel stories. Across the Bay of Aqaba (approx 26 km) we see the lights of Saudi Arabia twinkling. We could not see the mountains during the day as there was a sand storm in Saudi. Off to our little huts as we are tired from our diving experience. The rooms are so hot as the night is still and it is difficult to get to sleep eventually. The sleeping area is covered with mosquito netting and this does aid in the relief from the little
OUR PIECE OF PARADISE
Our straw hut on the beach, water lapping at the door, sand between our toes, gentle breezes, that's where we are
We are up at about 7.30 with the lovely fresh sea air. This morning we are only allowed to relax until our departure at 1.30. No time to do another scuba, so we head off into the water to see what else we can discover. The water is only comes up to our knees for about 100 metres. Then there is the reef to go snorkeling on. There is a breeze and the water is a bit choppy and tide is running out. So it is not suitable to snorkel and we just float around for about an hour. We head back to our room and pack up.
After lunch at 1.30pm we are collected by minivan to head to the ferry terminal and immigration for our departure from Egypt. We are heading to Jordan. We have been warned that this can be a lengthy process. Fortunately for us the gods are smiling and we pass through process with ease. We wait in the Bangkok Hilton, this is what our guide calls the ferry terminal. It is hot, usually very crowded, smelly and the toilets are the worst. Today, we are again blessed with
air conditioning and not too many people. However the the 2 minutes bus ride from the terminal to the ferry was a steaming experience. The bus was mostly a standing bus with the height reduced to where standing was only possible with bent heads. The people crowded in and the temperature rose dramatically with little to no air. An added feature to the adventure! Our leader Jess, said this the best that it has ever been. Usually the ferry departs very late and sometimes not at all. They once had to return to the hotel at 3am the next morning as the ferry was cancelled. Today, it is only running 2 hours late and we are on our way. The ferry is a car ferry as they use across the English Channel only smaller. We have comfortable seats and sit back and relax again.
Welcome to Aqaba, Jordan, the terrain is much the same dry high rocky mountains. We board a bus and off we go to our hotel for the night. Aqaba is Jordan's only outlet to the sea. It boasts of 9 months of mild summer and the Jordanian flock here to be by the sea. It
CAN YOU SEA WHAT I SEA
Foot loose & fancy free
also has the 3 tallest flag pole in the world. It is to commemorate the Arab revolt of l917 during WWI. The revolt was led by Lawrence of Arabia and the Arab forces of Sharif Hussein against the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish forces.
There is little to no noise here and the area is much cleaner. The people are just as friendly and also welcome us with a smile. Of course Angie always gets the “I love America” or just “Abeam”.
We went out for a cheap diner of meze which is small dishes of various flavored dips including potato salad, tabouleh, fuul, humus, baba ghanoush,and various things unidentified. Some tasting very good, some hot and some not so good. But a variety enough to make everyone happy.
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