Sunday, July 26, 2009

Burning Bush and Mt. Sinai climb

The burning bush has a fire extinguisher right beside it! 

We went to see the burning bush at St. Catherine's Monastery in the morning (it closes at noon).  It was really touristy for such a religious place.  We toured the Greek Orthodox church there, and browsed the gift shop, and saw the Skullery (a room with monks skulls and bones piled up in it).

There were sunflowers and a garden here, a welcome change to the usual scenery of bare rock (although it is beautiful rock, there is an awful lot of it).  What was not welcome were the peddlers who were much more aggressive than any we had met in Jordan.  They wanted us to buy books about St. Catherine, or something.  Even dark glasses, hats and putting your right hand up to your left shoulder (which means "thanks but no thanks") didn't seem to work with these few.

We went back to the hotel and had lunch and rested up for our momentous climb.  I sewed the screen shut so we wouldnt have flies bothering us all night.

We started at approx 1500 m and climbed up the 3700 steps on the "Steps of Repentance".  This wasn't the intended path, but we decided that walking behind a camel with people trying to get us to ride them would be less fun than torturing ourselves with a steep and rocky climb.  We were lucky to have Moussa (Moses), who must be part mountain goat, leading us, and our group leader went with the camel riders.  It was a painful climb for me as I kept worrying that lunch would make a return appearance.  It was pretty hot at 4:30 when we started our climb.  We made it up in about 2 hours.  The camel riders didn't get off easy, they still had to climb the last 700 steps with us. 

We watched the sun set from the top of Mt. Sinai (not the tallest peak, but maybe the second highest in Egypt).  It was a beautiful sunset, and it did actually get pretty chilly since we were tired and sweaty and suddenly sitting still.  We all delighted in the chance to wear long sleeves in Egypt!  Some even had hot chocolate at the top.  I saved my money for ice cream at the bottom.

On the way back down we followed the camel path and used our flashlights.  We were feeling a bit wobbly as we walked, but took our time.  I cracked out the glow sticks for this occasion, and gave one to each member of our group.  Moussa was excited.  He had never seen such things before.  I think he quite liked being included in such silliness.  He attached it to his headscarf on the way back down.  I think most of the group had decided to pass on their used glowsticks to Moussa, but we got accosted by tourist police who kept asking for "flash".  They liked the glowsticks too.  I showed them how to spin them around in a circle so the lights change colour, and they were astounded.  I showed Moussa this trick on the bus too (yes, a bus rave in Egypt!).  I hope he found some kids to show it too when he got home.

We celebrated the birthday of one of our group members at the hotel, and then crashed for the night, hoping that walking would be easy the next day.

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