Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Climbing Mount Sinai, Egypt

I never thought that I'd climb Mount Sinai. But when the opportunity came up, I knew that I did not want to miss out on it.

What an adventure. I took hike w/one of my colleagues from The American University in Cairo along w/her sister and another of their friends.

We started out w/an hour flight to Sharm el Sheikh, a touristy city w/lots of coral reef. I'll do a separate blog post on that alone. We were at Sharm el Sheikh for a day and a half prior to our hike.

View the full screen version of the "Climbing Mount Sinai" slideshow.

The van for the two hour drive to St. Katherine's picked us up at the hotel at 11 p.m. With passports in hand, we started on our trip w/The Sister's Keepers: the trip organizer, the driver as well as a security guard.

We stopped after about an hour at a convenient store. It really was a smoke break for The Sister's Keepers and a bathroom break for us. The thing is, there was a charge to use the bathroom. It's only 2 Egyptian pounds, but still.

After five security check points, we arrived in St. Katherine's at about 2 a.m. and by 2:30 a.m. we were on the trail to Mount Sinai. Our bedouin, Sobhi, was super nice and spoke very good English. We learned that he's only been taking lessons for a month; that's impressive. We used a flashlight for a good portion of the hike and we stopped a few times just to look up at the sky and check out the constellations as well as the crescent moon.. It was gorgeous.

The path was wider than I thought it would be, but it was riddled w/camel poo. I'm not kidding. There were many offers for us to take a camel ride up. We declined opting to take every step for ourselves. The path was very rocky and sandy and occasionally someone would slip, though no one fell.

We made some friends on the way up ... there was a group of guys who ran past us and we asked where they were from ... they were from Togo and they were quiet boisterous. But soon enough, it was back to our own peaceful chatter.

We learned a lot about Sobhi: he's 20 and a Muslim, his father has two wives, he recently lost one of his sisters, his grandfather - in his 90s - knows about a great deal about astronomy. Sobhi also says he studies English from a British instructor three days a week and also studies about two hours a day on his own. He says he can't afford to go to college. We all really like Sobhi and gave him a really fat tip to show it. Not only that, we have his email address and cell phone number and plan to keep in touch w/him.

There are quite a few coffee shop on the path. They sell candy bars, coffee, tea, juices and what not. We took several breaks ... which might explain why it ended up taking is four hours to reach the top. We were doing a bit of clock watching and at one time I was uncertain if we would make it to the top before sunrise.

Climbing the 750 stairs to get to the top of Mount Sinai may have been the most difficult part for me. You can only get to the top by walking these stairs. The camels can go no further than the stairs. Needless to say, there was a lot of stoppage on the stairs.

But my, how breathtaking to get to the top and see that we did not miss the sunrise, but made it just in time. And it was soo serene up top even with so many people. The people began to come alive after the sun came up. It was quite the scene; so many nationalities but one thing in common - having climbed Mount Sinai. We took many of pictures w/our new found friends. Oh, and it was cool at the top. I'd say about 62 degrees or so. I was thankful that I'd carried my small blanket though I only used it for about 30 minutes total.

It's true that what goes up, must come down. And so the descend began. It started out fine, but soon it began to get warm and eventually, it was just flat out hot; something like 92 degrees. We ended up going at different paces on the way down. My friend, Gogo took off out front; I was about a mile behind her and the others even further behind me. There were groans about feet hurting and the heat and how much longer is it before we're done ... by about 10 a.m. we were all at the bottom and dreaming of laying out on the beach later in the day.

It was an invigorating trip and simply put, I plan to do it again.

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At 9:54 PM, Blogger Lori said...

Nice pics, radiogirl. Love the commentary too.


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