Up the Mountain of God

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

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Flag of Egypt  ,
Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I could not sleep a wink. I can't remember when was the last time I was this excited  .  Worried , anxious until  you can't sleep , yes, but excited - not since I was a kid.

Sharp on the the dot, I am dressed and ready to go. Ah, the aroma of the hot coffee is so good on such a cold early morning. We were all set and walked through the monastery to the start of the trail. First stop, camel shopping. After last evening's incident, everyone is amazed that I would still attempt my camel ride. Hey, I am now an experienced camel rider !

The camels don't look good  though, -  skinnier and in the moonlight looks undernourished.  But they were  way  shorter than the ones at the Pyramids. Nora , introduced me to the camel owner and I am off looking for my camel. No blue-eyed camel guide though, just very young Bedouins hardly older than Chris. I finally picked the camel that looked like the shortest and got on it - very carefully this time and  Voila, I'm up without an incident .  

The rest of the group opted for the healthier option -  walking and we would meet at the halfway point. My young bedouin had at least three to four camels he was leading but I had a good steady camel which probably could walk the path blindfolded. It did walk along the edge and wandered off from the pack a few times but it was a very safe and nice ride. The only danger was the sharp edge from the walking stick that this  woman was holding without caring who she might poke into as she rode totally oblivious of the danger that she was posing to fellow riders.

It's a clear night and the moon was full. Totally beautiful and serene despite the throes of crowd that followed. Up on the camel, you can really reflect and enjoy the ride up  without worrying about bumping into the crowd (as everyone was busy avoiding the camel and the poo along theway) .  I  actually felt like the Queen of Sheba. I wondered if riding on a camel with such lovely bright stars and a full moon to keep you company  was like this for  the  three Wise Men  when they were travelling to Bethelhem . I looked back and I see throes of lights bumping in the night and hear an occasional scream  - probably the camel scare.
Nearly 1 1/2 hours later, perhaps shorter, we reach the half way point and more screams as the camels descend - the most exciting part of the ride is the descend. The camels are tall and the descend is a sudden jerk down as they bend their knees and you really have to fight against gravity if you don't want to fall off. Half hour later, the others arrive and Annie needs  to go to the toilet. We look with her in disbelief - we are holding till we get back down to the Monastery because the toilet we were told is somewhere near the rocks where it it pitch black.She disappears into darkness and later we asked what it was like. " A makeshift cubicle on top of a rock" She couldn't make out what it look like because she said ,  she just went in to get the job done and that's it - too dark to see and no time to look around. Raymond looks at her in disgust and muttered " you peed on God's Holy Mountain..."

We moved on and came to the steps. Unfit , overweight and out of breath, I made it mainly because of Mahmud , who encouraged me every step of the way. Asking me to rest whenever I was out of breath and pushing me to just go on whenever I rested too long - he was like my personal trainer.

Hurry , hurry , the sun's coming up - my daughter, Clarissa is pushing me.  Will I ever reach the top? I asked that question many times as I stopped for a breather .  I finally did and we had plenty of time to spare and look for a nice spot . The crowd were all pushing and shovelling for the "best spot" . Not exactly how I would imagine watching the sunrise at Mt Sinai but the scenery made up for it.

Just as we are enjoying this whole experience , we hear screams  from a young bedouin screaming " but it's my job madam , my job". He has been screaming at this young lady who had refused to tip him because she thought that his service to help her up the mountain was complimentary ( naive ????, ) and he kept screaming at her for her refusal. He hounded her to give her his tip and his tenacity and agressiveness in demanding this really killed the holiness of the experience  It scared my kids and certainly scarred them for the rest of the trip ( No going anyway without mummy....) It came to a point that  Mahmud our guide just told him off in Egyptian. I am so proud of Mahmud.

The whole incident however, was quickly forgotten when the we watched the sun slowly peeped through the horizon. Bit by bit, the sun slowly came up to greet us and we thanked God for the early sun rise.

Refreshed, inspired and totally uplifted, I decided to walk down the stairs instead of taking the camel down. Mahmud, good natured smiled and nodded. Going down was torture on my knees and again Mahmud and Raymond as well assisted me all the way down. I am Queen of Sheba again and this time with two attendants to walk me down. I still ended up second last to stroll. I was only spared the humiliation of last place by an old lady who was really struggling . All the way down, I was asking for Mustapha to fly his helicopter to pick me up much to Mahmud's glee. Finally, we reached the monastery, I had my breakfast and went straight back to the room, showered and rested my poor legs. Not even the lure of Burning Bush was enough to get me off the bed. I am so done....
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