From Africa into Asia - a trip to Mt Sinai

Trip Start Nov 09, 2008
Trip End Nov 19, 2008

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Flag of Egypt  ,
Tuesday, November 11, 2008

We were warned that the drive to St Catherine Monastery , Mt Sinai was long and so we set off early the next morning.  We were going to cross the Suez Canal back into Asia. Totally excited and in anticipation of what was ahead - crossing the Suez Canal, and a climb up  Mt Sinai, we were up and ready.The van arrived with Mustapha , our driver and Mahmoud , a new guide who didn't speak English and Nora , of course - 3 guides for just five of us. We felt extremely privileged and a reminder  that the country  wasn't too safe and were glad that we had arranged the trip with a local agency like Mona Travels.  After packing everything on top of the van. we set off . As we headed eastwards out of the city, the desert landscape became more dominant with obvious signs of  modern development breaking the scenery - malls, hotels, condominium interspered with the occasional abandoned old car right in the middle of nowhere. A Bedouin makeshift home , I was told. What an interesting use of old car !

We stopped for a coffee break  just before entering the Suez Canal.  I was rather disappointed because we had driven along a deep trench guarded by armed soldiers hovering at the top .Then we crossed a long dark tunnel without a sight of the canal , Red Sea or the two continents . Nevertheless , with that crossing, we went from Africa into Asia - how cool is that!!!  

Our itinerary included a surprise stop for us - an old abandoned Israeli camp. 
 We totally didn't expect that as it was not in our travel itinerary given by our travel agent. The bunkers, artillery, trenches, abandoned mine field looked llike  something we only read in war comics.  An Egyptian soldier took us around and we ended with a walk up to the shaded top of the hill where we could see the view of the Red Sea - the peace and calmness surrounding the camp was so unreal. 

We then had a lunch break  with more bread, hummus dips and barbequed quail then continued on. As we drove on towards St Catherine Monastery, the  wild desert landscape gets even more beautiful. The extreme blue sky without a single cloud contrasts with  the stark golden mountains at the background. There is no green trees or grass in sight. Occasionally, palm trees , shrubs or rather a small oasis breaks this vast stark picture. This is totally different from our thick , dense rainforest filled Malaysia. I started to imagine what  what it was like for Moses and his people to be wandering in the Sinai while trying to make it to  the promised Land. 

The quietness and its almost nil traffic can be extremely boring but somehow, it wasn't for me. The journey has been  long - we have been travelling since 9 am and it's almost sunset now , yet St Catherine is still not in sight. The frequent military checkpoints ordinarily would have scared me especially with the young kids but somehow I feel safe. I'm going to God's Mountain and I need not fear.  

 We arrived at the Monaster but it's completely dark and I can't see how it looks like.   We check into the rooms, its sparse but very comfortable. The guys had a room that didn't have the heater working - they were screaming that it was cold. We showered and got ready for dinner. As we waited for dinner time , we meditated and prayed with the  bible verses I had prepared . The quiet time was just so apt in the monastery. Dinner was a hot meal - roast chicken with a lovely hot gravy. We ate quickly and took a stroll around . The monastery is actually run by Greek priests and so you can see  heavily  bearded man in black robe walking around. We Malaysian love to shop and so a natural stop is the little souvenir shop which had books, posters and religious ornaments. Happy with the purchases, we retired early  as we needed to wake up at 2 am for our midnight hike.
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Where I stayed
St Catherine Monastery
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