|Justin, Bill, Joan, Larry, Syd, Rufus, and Donna got a wake-up call at 1:00 AM for their trip to the top of Mt. Sinai (where Moses received the Ten Commandments) while everyone else slept. The peak of the mountain is 7497 feet high. Here one can find the Chapel of the Holy Trinity, built in 1934 on the site of the original chapel, built in 363 AD.
We met our Bedouin guide, Joseph, and walked about 20 minutes uphill past the St. Catherine Monastery to our camel stable. Joseph assigned us a number between 1 and 7 and brought a local Egyptian to each of us in turn. Remember that this is nighttime and the only lights are the glowing ends of the cigarettes the locals are smoking. My turn came and an Egyptian motioned for me to follow him. We walked in the dark between about 3 dozen other Egyptians into the night. I almost ran into my camel when we reached it, and I was unceremoniously thrown on the saddle. Calling it a saddle is a bit of an embellishment, it’s more of a wooden seat with a peg in the front to keep you from falling forward and a peg in the back to keep you from doing the same backwards.
I’ve learned three rules about camel riding: Holding on tight and leaning back is your only defense; never ride a camel unless it is absolutely necessary; and if you must ride a camel, do so in pitch black darkness.
We started our 90 minutes long journey on our camels in the dark. I discovered that if you shout “Joan” loudly, your camel will immediately turn around and run for home. I didn’t shout anything else for the rest of the trip. The camels will go from side to side on the paths looking for the softest part of the path for their feet. This will occasionally result in your heading directly for what looks to be a very sharp drop off adjacent to the path. This can be discomforting unless you obey Justin’s rule #3 of camel riding.
After 90 minutes of my being certain of never walking or having any more children, we left our camels behind and began our accent on foot. There are approximately 750 stone steps to the top of Mt. Sinai. The three ladies with us made it up about 30 before they noticed a pretty good view of the sunrise from the coffee shop at the camel drop off. The four men soldiered on, stopping about every 50 steps to get our breathing back under control. We arrived about 300 feet from the top at 4:45 local time. Sunrise was scheduled for 5:45 so we stayed about 15 minutes at the last coffee shop. We would have stayed longer but it gets tiring to have people come up to you and ask if you would like coffee, tea, chocolate, a blanket, a helping hand up the mountain…all for a price.
Once we reached the top, we settled up against an old wall that was built just below the summit. Our view was excellent. Verizon wireless had just a smidgen of service and I tried to send a text but no luck.