3750 steps to sunrise

Trip Start Oct 22, 2010
Trip End Nov 10, 2010

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Flag of Egypt  , Red Sea and Sinai,
Monday, November 8, 2010

So – everyone told us we had to walk up Mount Sinai for the sunrise one morning. Every "mountain" we've seen to date has been more like a foothill so we thought – what the heck.  The morning before we leave we book the round trip tour (including mountain guide) scheduled to leave at 11pm. 

Prior to our cat nap at 6pm, we thought we’d look up a little info about Mount Sinai… 2285m above sea level, evening temperatures around freezing, and let’s not forget the 2.5 hours of hiking in the dark!  Let’s just say that we decided last minute to do some extra packing.  We each brought 2 pairs of pants, several layers and our towels as blankets. 

Once we arrived we realized that we were in a bit of trouble.  We should have brought flashlights!  Brad had his blackberry flashlight which actually worked better than everyone else’s combined, however it gave up in the last 30 minutes for our final 700 step climb to the summit.  The flashlight they provided me barely lit up anything and up we stumbled.

There are two paths up – 3750 “steps” of repentance or “the camel path.”  We went up the camel path and spent a lot of time yelling “CAMEL.”  I felt like it was Egyptian road hockey.  I didn’t realize how big camels were until I had one climbing uphill on my left and another climbing downhill on my right… on a path sometimes only 3 or 4 feet wide!  To make matters more interesting, we were climbing with up with about a 1000 other people, all leaving at the exact same time.  Did I mention the camels.  Oouf. 

There were two fabulous things about this hike. 1) You had no idea how bad the incline was because you couldn’t see 2 feet in front of you and 2) the stars… you could see millions of them.  I almost wiped out a couple times because I kept looking up (and then almost got run over by a camel).  The sunrise came and both the Jens (there was another in our tour group) agreed that the trip up wasn’t worth it! 

We were fortunate enough that it was only 10 degrees… the good news?  Our sleep pattern was totally messed up again so it might make it easier for us when we get home and we got to experience some cold weather to reacclimatize ourselves.

Our group then decided to take the 3750 steps down the mountain.  These were all hewn by a penitent monk.  He must have felt extremely guilty about some sins, because it would have taken a lifetime to do.  The climbing time is roughly the same, but more direct, MUCH fewer people and NO CAMELS.  We got to the monastery about a half hour before it opened.  When we finally got inside there was a CRUSH of people.  The four of us that ventured inside together took a quick picture of the “burning bush” and got out.  This would be the infamous burning bush where Moses was supposed to hhave heard the Lord speak to him.  We skipped the mosque and church because there was just way too many people.  The only reason the whole experience was worthwhile is because Jen overheard some man say “The bush isn’t even burning?”  Yup, some people are just that stupid.

Overall verdict for the day?  If people recommend this hike to you, it’s because they either haven’t done it or because they don’t like you.  Tip: if you ever do still insist on doing this tour, sunrise is the only time to go.  I swear we both could have broken our legs coming down in the dark.  Bring the best possible flashlight you can!  This was the third sunrise we have witnessed in Egypt, and three is enough!

Looking forward to our visit with Thelma tomorrow!
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