Back in internet land again, so time for an update on the last few days.
We left Cairo at 5.30am last Sunday for the 7 hour drive to biblical Mt Sinai by private minivan. After lunch we set off for the climb up Mt Sinai to see the sunset. For those heathens out there, this is where God gave Moses the 10 Commandments. There are a few ways to go up - the 3700 "Steps of Repentance", followed by 700 steps to reach the top (the hard way, but in the shade), the camel track followed by the last 700 steps (easier but in the sun), or take a camel up the track followed by the last 700 steps. We decided as a group to do the steps, mainly because of the shade, while our leader Sarah took the camel (she must have known something!) Our trek was about 2.5 hours of hard slog and boy were we glad to reach the top and sit down to wait for the sunset, which by the way was beautiful but we were occupied having a group photo taken so my sunset photo was taken a bit late. It was quite cool on top of Mt Sinai, probably because we were so sweaty from the climb, and we were glad of our jackets. We had to get a move on after this to get down the 700 steps before it was completely dark, then it was torches out to go down the camel track in the dark and meet up with our minivan again. We were all exhausted when we got back to the hotel and a cold beer was our first stop. The hotel then put on a 5 course meal for us - most of us would have been happy with just the soup we were so buggered but we gave it our best shot.
Early Monday morning we checked out of the hotel and made an early visit to St Katherine's Monastery at the foot of Mt Sinai. This monastery is Greek Orthadox so very strange to see Greek monks in the middle of Egypt. It is the oldest working monastery in the world (so they say) and is famous for the beautiful illuminated manuscripts dating from as early as the 4th century AD. It is built on the site of the burning bush (where God spoke to Moses)and the bush is still growing (not sure if I believe this), as you can see from the photo - bush on the right hand side but note the fire extinguisher left front, just in case! Nice touch.
We arrived at the monastery around 9am along with about 5000 other tourists who all proceeded to enter the monastery through a tiny passageway only wide enough for single file, then it was shoulder to shoulder all the way round. We probably didn't do it justice but we did spend some time looking at the manuscripts and marvelling at the work that went into them. The inside of the monastery is quite plain by Greek Orthadox standards but there were lots of icons painted on wood on display.
St Katherine herself was martyred (she was tied to a wheel, but legend has it that the wheel did not work so she was then beheaded. This is the origin of the catherine wheel fireworks that we know) and her remains were found on the top of nearby St Katherine's mountain. We were told that her little finger is on display in the monastery, apparently a maggoty looking thing, but we must have missed that in the crowds.
After this we settled down for a drink at the cafe, then back onto the bus for a 2 hour trip to Sawa beach camp on the Red Sea near Nuweiba.