|Today was a looong 8 hour drive from Cairo to Mt Sinai, leaving at 6am in a rather cramped little minibus. Things are not looking good for group bonding so far. During the entire 8 hour drive there was no conversation at all, except between myself, Mike and Nikki (a British couple who I have been travelling with already in Egypt). It’s a decidedly motley crew and no one has anything in common with anyone else it seems. I am hoping the group dynamics will improve but I really don’t think so, despite my best efforts. None the less I am really enjoying the middle east so the company, or lack thereof, won’t make much difference at all.
After arriving at the Mt Sinai hotel and having a late lunch we headed out to the mountain itself to commence a hot and sweaty 3 hour climb to the top. Mt Sinai has great religious significance as it is where Muslims, Jews and Christians collectively believe that the Ten Commandments were revealed to the Moses at the summit. There are two ways to summit; the less physically demanding camel trail or the taxing ‘3750 Steps of Repentance’, in which the steps of roughly hewn rock, slippery and uneven in many places, were all laid by a single monk as an act of penance. Both routes meet about 300m from the summit at a plateau known as Elijah’s Basin. From there everyone has to take the same steep series of 750 rocky and uneven steps to the top.
The climb was the most arduous thing I have done in weeks but it was well worth it with the summit providing the perfect vista of a glorious desert sunset and the serenity and magnificence of the Sinai mountain region is clearly evident. We left the summit immediately after sunset and darkness fell very quickly as we made our way down. It took about 2 hours to get back down to the foot of the mountain, and most of that was in darkness guided only by my headlight, slipping and sliding down the marginally safer and less treacherous camel track.