Sinai Rose

Trip Start Mar 21, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Egypt  ,
Monday, April 21, 2008

At eleven p.m. Egyptian time the minivan full of Dahab pilgrims came.  I jumped into the vehicle, when then left at high speeds for Mt. Aswan, where we arrived at about two in the morning, passing desert mountains gleaming in the full moon on the way.

Part of the package involved a Bedouin guide, who wasn't really needed, as the trail was plainly obvious with hundreds of people making their way upwards.  He asked us how we should name our group.  I answered "camels." He said "Sinai Rose," which is probably what he uses on all his trips.  Once we began, though, I realized that the group name of "Camel" would have been hilarious.

The full moon lit our path as we climbed.  Hundreds of people were walking towards the summit, along with dozens of others choosing to take a camel ride most of the way.  At times, the scene was frenetic with camels passing on the left and right and people jamming together.  Our guide yelled "Sinai Rose!" to keep us together on the way.  Bedouins lined the trail, calling "camel, camel."  A group named "Camels" definitely would not have worked.

Mt. Sinai on the full moon was popular, and everyone here had the same idea about the romance of climbing under the moon's light to the place where Moses spoke with God.  "Moses! Why did you have to pick this mountain!" cried one Sinai Rose woman as she climbed the steep 750 final steps to the summit.  Maybe he didn't pick this mountain: maybe God picked this mountain or maybe it was another mountain (no one is sure).  Any way you look at it, though, this mountain was the site where profound philosophical and cultural changes occurred.

At around five a.m. Sinai Rose reached the summit.  Slowly, the full moon set as the sky turned rose and blue and pink.  The sun rose and turned the granite peaks of central Sinai bright orange.  The hour around sunrise on Mt. Sinai was striking. 

Here, I finished reading the Bible after six months.  Reading from beginning to end offered some insights not possible if I had read only in sections.  Reading it in the Holy Land added more flavor and context.  The Bible was immense, full of stories and wisdom, rife with symbolism, of the rise and fall of people, the ebb and flow of society and wilderness, and the evolution of the relationship between God and humankind, as written by the fallable hands of men.  One striking thing is that almost two thousand years have passed since words have been added to the Bible, though more prophets--whether you believe or not--have come since then: Mohammad, Bahaullah, Joseph Smith Jr, and many in the orient.

Mt. Sinai, as we know, marked the covenant that brought the Ten Commandments to the people.  At this point, God was still a local god, a god of Israel and Abraham, not a God for Indians or Russians.  Every region and god had the following two things--a creation myth and stories that placed their land at the center of the world.  Israel's god was no different, with victories based on god's contentment with his people and defeat with people's sins.  This was a time of the war of gods, with Israel having the biggest parade: the tent, the ark, the horns striking fear in the hearts of the opponents.  God was quick to anger during these tough times, as Moses found out when God killed him before he reached Israel.

Climbing back down, surrounded by Russian pilgrims, we had a quick view of St. Catherine's Monastery and the burning bush's descendent, actually a bramble, a Rubus, a cousin of the blackberry.  The Greek Orthodox monastery was full of gilded icons, creating light in an otherwise dark church.  A couple of hours later, we were back in Dahab by early afternoon.  The trip was rushed and I would have preferred to stay there a day or two, but the regular public bus was "broken" for a while.

Sinai Rose, in the end was a good choice of words to call across the Bedouin desert, though Camels, Moses, and the Burning Bush were other keywords for this overnight trip to Mt. Sinai.
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