Monday, June 16, 2008

Mt. Sinai

After leaving Egypt, we crossed under the Suez Canal and drove to the bottom of the Suez Peninsula. It was quite a few hours of desolation, but it was a good experience to think about the Children of Israel wandering for 40 years and wondering if I would have complained too! At the point of the peninsula is a city called Sharm El Shiek. (Make sure to practically huck-a-lougie on that 'k' or you'll say it wrong!) It is 100% tourist; no Egyptians can afford it. It's a resort town that lots of Europeans love. We took a boat out on the Red Sea and snorkeled! It was so gorgeous and incredible. 'Finding Nemo' is real! I saw all of those fish! After spending all day in the hot sun, we tried to retire early to prepare to climb MT. SINAI!

We met up around 2 a.m. and went to the base of the mountain. We were met by Arab men who one-by-one took us by the hand and led us off into the darkness to their camel, (talk about an unreal experience!) put us on, and then we began the camel experience. Riding a camel was definitely something I was so looking forward to, but once I got on I was absolutely freaked out! We started up the mountain with our Arab man leading us. It was definitely a lesson in faith because you couldn't see ANYthing except for the stars above you. Trusting that the man and the camel knew the mountain was so unreal to me. Slowly I got used to it and started to enjoy the ride until my camel got ornery, started making really scary noises, walking off the side of the mountain, and finally just sitting down in the middle of nowhere. I was petrified but luckily the owner smacked him a few times and he shaped up. It seriously was the most uncomfortable, most terrifying animal ride I've ever been on, but I would do it again for sure. Camels became my new favorite animal! I love this picture... it looks like he is smiling for me. :)

The camel ride took like 1.5 hours and then we found each other and had a good laff at how terribly uncomfortable riding a camel is. In the picture on the left is one of my tour directors John, me, my roomie and fantastic friend Jen (we met on the tour), and Wagdy our Egyptian tour guide. Just a side note about Wagdy... he was amazing. Not only was he an incredible guide, but the most devout Muslim. He loves Allah so much and loved his wife and children so much. He was such a great friend and I really feel blessed to have met him.

Back to the mountain. The camels only take you to a certain part and then you have to walk the rest. The first part was just a normal hike and then the last part is 750 steps in a row. Fyi... that's a workout. :) We made it to the top about 30 min before the sun rose. It was an INCREDIBLE experience and worth the previous four hours of heck. :)
After watching the sun, our group had a special meeting. We listened to "Redeemer of Israel" and "Come Thou Fount". I was so touched with the spirit of these songs and the realization that I let myself wander in the wilderness too much. The view was so different from the top of mountains that I am used to. You can see behind me that there are no plants. It was FREEZING up top as you can see... I'm only wearing five people's clothing. :) No worries though, by 7 a.m. when we started climbing down it was already 80 degrees! The walk down was an experience, for sure. We walked down over 4,000 monk hand-carved steps. Talk about JELL-O!! We all felt it for a few days. At the bottom of the mountain is the Monastery of St. Catherine. Inside they claim to have the burning bush.
After napping for a couple hours we took off back up the peninsula to cross over into Israel! This fortress was our last view of Egypt. I was floored at the difference as we crossed those few feet. The best way to describe it is by saying it was going from Mexico to America. All of the sudden the streets were clean, we could eat the
fruit, and drink the water (though my body wouldn't suggest it...). The week in Egypt was absolutely fantastic and I'm so glad I went! Now on to the original place I had planned on going... Israel!


Mike and Lisa said...

Wow- seriously amazing trip! You'd never forget something like that! I love the smiling camel picture!

Aloha_Misty said...

I absolutly love hearing about your experiences last year. It looks amazing! We took the pictures on our blog with Greg's friends underwater camera...we have some more we took on a disposable but we are waiting for them to be developed!

Matthew and Hillary said...

Thanks for allowing me to live a little through you. Awesome stuff here! I must agree I love the picture of the camel. Cracks me up every time I look at him.