"the 11th commandment" the diary entry for ...

Trip Start Apr 06, 2001
Trip End Oct 02, 2001

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Flag of Egypt  ,
Monday, June 4, 2001

"The 11th Commandment"

The diary entry for the 4th June 2001....

As Mike and Freddy continued on their quest for the Advanced PADI Scuba Diving Certification, Chris and I are petering at the onslaught of boredom. We are officially over Dahab! The simple pleasure of doing absolutely nothing, meandering under the shelter of palm trees - the most difficult act of contemplation is whether it's time for a soak in the red sea or possibly another banana thick shake - has catapulted us past the realms of complete relaxation to the brink of extreme agitation. If it's possible to reach that state of mind, we somehow stumbled across it many days ago.

Two months of constant travel, endless rides on dodgy transport - without so much as a break - we have arrived at the unexpected conclusion that we have succumbed to the delights of utopia, DAHAB! Definitely way too much of a good thing. We were unselfishly greedy. So the decision is made, its time to climb Mt Sinai and pack the kit and move onwards. So tonight must be the night, as we have booked the hellish overnight bus to Luxor that departs tomorrow afternoon.

Although some archaeologists and historians dispute Mt Sinai's biblical claim to fame - known to the locals as Gebel Musa - Christian's, Muslim's and Jews revere it alike. Of whom, they believe that god delivered the Ten Commandments to Moses' from its summit. But enough of the history lesson.........

We arrived at St Katherine's monastery sometime after midnight as a chill still lingers in the air. For one of the pleasantries of Middle Eastern transport, we have endured two hours of a roller coaster ride across the Sinai Peninsula, as our mini bus misplaced its shocks many moons ago. As I briefly recovered from the giddiness that I have suffered since leaving Dahab, it's not before long that I find myself limbering up as the body winches at the thought of the onslaught that lies ahead.

With the rush of adrenalin pulsating through our veins - or could that possibly be the lingering effect of the mini bus - we hastily embark on the two-hour climb to the summit of Mt Sinai, perched 2285m above sea level. With three girls from Sydney in tow - Jane, Audrey and Sally - one could only hope that the company of the girls would make the journey somewhat easier.

The climb up, what would turn out to be a camel infested track, was brutal. Although I was to soon discover, the pain in my now languid body would momentarily vanish. For I had successfully managed to scare the absolute shit out of a camel that was asleep about an hour's climb up Mt Sinai. Unfortunately, as I couldn't see the beast's silhouette in the darkness of the night, it reciprocated the favour and lunged at my torso and consequently gave me one a hell of a fright!

The last 20 minutes or so was the climb from Elijah's basin - dominated by a strange looking 500 year old cypress tree - marking the spot where prophet Elijah supposedly heard the voice of God. I must point out that the climb appeared to be endless torture. Certainly the hardest aerobic exercise I have ever endured. If I wasn't walking up to the gates of heaven, it certainly bloody felt like it!

Finally at 3.30am, I collapse on the summit of Mt Sinai as a bitter wind blasts itself up from the now moonlit valley floor. We sensibly hire a mattress and blanket, and scatter around the precipice looking for a place to rest before the hoards start to arrive. I perch my quivering body on a rocky outcrop and decide wisely to make camp for the little time of darkness that is left. I find it hard to sleep, but the blankets are a godsend (pardon the pun), cutting the howling wind away from my now depleted remains. My mind collapses into unconsciousness, dozing off to sleep for what appears only the minuscule of moments, but in truth is approaching an hour. That's what my watch tells me, and it has never lied before.

I'm awoken by a contingent of annoying and arrogant Frenchmen, noisily ascending the mountain and belching "Wakey" "Wakey". Obviously eager to obtain a decent view of the sunrise, they disturb the poor souls who have already staked out the better real estate. Which just so happens to be my hard-earned ledge. Well I'm not a morning person at the best of times as my family can attest, so my first reaction is to tell the bloke to come over here as I slowly rose from my slumber, I will give you some "Wakey" "Wakey" you annoying little bastard.

Amongst the commotion, it's no sooner that the sun has imploded across the rugged landscape and the masses that had developed have disappeared down the mountain, so we decided to chill out - or for that matter thaw out - under the morning rays. The summit offers spectacular views of the surrounding bare, jagged mountains and plunging valleys. Throughout the day I'm told that the rocks and cliffs change colour as if they were stone chameleons, but unfortunately I have an appointment in Luxor so I quite possibly will never know.

So the stragglers descend down the alternate path to St Katherine's, the "3000 Steps of Repentance", which was laid down by one monk as a form of penance. Well... Well... I think I did enough repentance that day so that the next time this boy has to go to confession, Father Cattell should have long finished his stint in the slammers.

Unexpectedly we staggered across St Katherine's Monastery, built on the very spot where God is said to have first spoken to Moses from the burning bush. I cannot pass judgement, but I must say the bush has recovered handsomely compared to the pine tree I incinerated at the footsteps of my house as a young whipper snapper.

There are twenty-two Greek Orthodox monks living in the ancient monastery. The monastic order was founded in the 4th century AD by the Byzantine empress Helena, who had a small chapel built beside what was believed to be the "burning bush". The chapel is dedicated to St Katherine, the legendary martyr of Alexandria, who was tortured on a spiked wheel and beheaded for her belief in Christianity. In the 6th century AD, Emperor Justinian ordered the building of a fortress, with a basilica and a monastery, as well as the original chapel, to serve as a secure home for the monks and as a refuge for the Christians of southern Sinai.

Hours later, in a mystified daze, I collapse on my lumpy bed at the Bish Bishi camp in Dahab. My mind wanders over the events over the previous night & day, and I try to comprehend the journey over the previous twelve or so hours. What an experience, definitely a task to be crossed of the list, never to be attempted again.

Although disappointed - I was half expecting the man from above to speak to me and deliver my own Ten Commandments - I suppose I will just have to be satisfied with the 11th Commandment I recited atop Mt Sinai.

11. THOU SHALL HAVE 7 BLONDE WIVES, one for each day of the week.

Certainly has an Egyptian feel to it.

Yeah baby!

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