The Mt Sinai Fiasco
Trip Start Aug 25, 2008
7Trip End Sep 15, 2008
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As it turned out, if there was a plot it worked, since we did end up paying for a tour from our hostel (only because it was the cheapest, same reason we do anything at our hostel...). These tours follow a very rigid, slightly stupid itinerary, involving climbing the mountain in the middle of the night, getting effectively no sleep, then, as soon as you see the sunrise, rushing down, doing a whistle-stop tour of the monastery then getting back on the bus by 10am. I really don't see much point in climbing a bloody mountain at 3 in the morning - you don't see anything and it means you get no sleep at the top. As it turned out, sleep was pretty much out of the question, since about 500 Russians plus assorted Brits, Germans, French etc had been bussed in (mainly from Sharm) and all planned on cramming themselves onto the summit to catch those first rays of sunlight. The Russians were the funniest - most of the women were hilariously inappropriately dressed (a) for climbing the mountain (plenty of them were wearing basically high heels) and (b) for touring round a monastery (plenty of slightly overweight Slavic women in sequined boob tubes and tight leopardskin-effect miniskirts).
The whole thing was a total circus - the whole path up the mountain was a procession of sweaty-faced package tourists puffing their way up and waving their bloody torches in my eyes whenever I tried to overtake them
The sunrise itself was crazy too - everyone was jostling to get as close as possible to the edge of the stone walls around the chapel at the summit, holding their cameras in the air trying to get a shot of the sun just as it was rising. I found it was much more interesting to take pictures of the crowd, which included a lot of orthodox Russians, some nuns who sang as the sun came up and one guy who everybody was muttering about - he had short bleached-blonde hair, a long black leather trenchcoat with a black shirt underneath, round purple sunglasses and an iron cross round his neck. He was universally referred to as 'the Nazi', though I don't think he was that bothered by the looks he was getting, since he mostly just stood nonchelantly listening to his iPod and nodding his head.
As the sun came out more fully, most of the crowd actually started to head down, whilst at the same time the view got a lot better
The bus ride back was stupid hot - opening the window actually made things worse since the air coming off the scorched desert was like a hairdryer. The desert landscape that we'd missed on the night drive up was pretty spectacular though.
Well, now I'm shattered - I've had no sleep last night and we're about to take the night bus to Cairo, then on to Alexandria if I can make it through.