I was in Eqypt backpacking in the year 1999. That was the time I took 1 year sabbatical. So, I thought I will want to cover as many of the 7 wonders of the world as possible. The pyramids of Giza happens to be one of the 7 wonders.
For the past 18 years, I have enjoyed myself at the foot of some of the world's greatest sites, (there are many more, in the meantime, this is the list) :
- The Great Wall of China
- Angkor Wat in Cambodia
- Taj Mahal in India
- Eiffel Tower in Paris
- Niagara Falls in America
- Grand Canyon in America
- Stonehenge in England
- Machu Picchu in Peru
- Nasca Lines in Peru
- Mount Fuji in Japan
- The Red City in Jordan
- The Blue Mosque of Turkey
- The Parthenon in Greece
- Fatima, Portugal
- Lourdes, France
- Cape of Good Hope in South Africa
- The Serengeti wilderness in Kenya
- Prince Siddharta's birth place, Lumbhini, Nepal
- Rocky Mountain, Canada
- Sydney Opera House, Australia
- Mount Cook & Milford Sound, New Zealand
- Picasso-Sammlung, Der Stadt, Luzern, Switzerland
- The original Picasso paintings in Madrid, Spain
- The hanging graves in Sulawesi, Indonesia
- Sun Moon Lake, Tai-Chung, Taiwan
- Cheju Island, Korea
I happen to browse through some of my photo collection and found 2 pictures of my trek up Mount Sinai (or Mount Moses, as some would call it.) Apparently, the massif rock face of Mount Sinai looked like the place where Moses parted the Red Sea, crossed it and received the 10 commandments.
As usual, I don't know there exist a Mount Sinai in Eqypt. It was the first trip oversea that I bought the Lonely Planet. I bought the book about travelling in Eqypt because I wanted to read about the Temples and the Palaces to get a better understanding of its structures and its history. So, I read about Mount Sinai when I was in a renowned seaside resort town, Hurghada. This is a place where the Europeans will spend their summer vacation or to escape from the cold of the winter months. You will get to see many European tourists flying directly into Hurghada for sea sport, the attraction here is of course, diving in the Red Sea. The Red Sea has one of the richest marine sites in the world, that makes it one of the best diving spot too.When I was in Hurghada, I have 2 ways to go to Mount Sinai. One is to go back to Cairo, by bus, it will take me a whole day. Or cross the Red Sea into Shal-al-Sheikh, a little town hitch at the bottom of the Sinai peninsula. And to cross the Red Sea, I can either take a fast catamaran or a slow 4 engine (or was it less??) fishing boat. Of course, I chose the cheaper version - the fishing boat. I think it cost me less that USD10.
That turned out to be my worst boat trip ever - it almost went down with the wave!!!
It was blue skies and expectedly, everything nice. No clouds in sight. Yes, it was a true blue yonder. I di not rain for months, so having blue skies is normal. So, that being true, I hopped on the boat and went a sailing. Never have I imagined that the sea can be so rough under a deep blue sky.
The waves slapped the boat so hard, it rocked the boat to cut the sea upwards, then slid back like being sucked into the ocean but because of its bouyancy, bounced back strongly to repeat the pendulum swing. I could not even balance myself. So, I lied down on the bench, closed my eyes. All the acids in my stomach was already churning out the gas, so strong it pushed pass my gallbladder to reach my throat. I shivered in its pungent regurgitation, the feeling reached the tip of my tongue. But nothing was thrown out, instead I swallowed back the air that almost escaped my tightly clenched teeth. I was in a state of twirling nauseaness, I could not open my eyes to see. I thought if anything happen to the boat, I will sink into Napolean's cuddle.
I laid in that position unmoved, suffering from acute stomach discomfort and distorted mental condition. I thought this will be my last trip. I stayed there feeling like forever. When was it going to reach the shore of Sharm-al-Sheikh. I think the boat swung in the Red Sea for more than 4 hours. Until to my relieave, I heard screams of seafarers calling for the dock. I still kept my eyes closed, worrying that if I opened them, my stomach will pour out from my mouth in one gulp-full.
Finally, I passed through a check point, got my rugsack. I took a van to a place called St Katherine in the middle of a (what would you expect?) desert. It was a small little place, probably only a few hundred people lived here. There were bunkers built of clay and mud but with uneven plastered white wall.
I entered. There were no beds but a row of mattresses on an elongated concrete slab. It was dusty. People there were mostly locals who are staying a night, then move on in their journey.
It was quite an early morning, so I thought I will leave my backpack there while I look around, have my breakfast and try to find out where Mount Sinai is situated. While I was having breakfast, I checked the location and found out that I can go up and come down and back to town, all in a day. Great, I thought. I might as well carry all my things with me, since it is going to be so easy, I will come back before dusk and take the next ride out of this small village to a more decent dorm eslewhere.
I swing my rucksack on my shoulder and started to walk towards the direction to Mount Sinai.
There are only 2 ways to go up to the summit, one is : take a ride on a camel, or two : Walk. I chose to walk. I am a very experience trekker anyway. It took about 3 hours - all the way up. There were no trees, not a single plant, only some little shoots that found their growing place in the huge massif fiery rocks. So, don't expect to look at greens, there are none. All the way, I see only brown and earth-red tone. Some treks are slippery, not because there is water, there are lots of loose stones and rocks, so when my legs were weary and wobbly, once I stepped on them, I lose my balance. To be careful with my 10kg rucksack, I walked slowly and took rest as and when I wanted to. I have all the time in the world anyway.
It was an exhilarating trek. Many times, awe-inspiring. The massif face really looked like the place where the lightning strikes and chiseled out the Ten Commandments, I could imagine Moses, with its unwavering robe flapping with the strong wind, reached out and collected God's words. The more I looked, the more I felt the great power beyond any human condition that made all these possible. Using John Lloyd Stephens words : "among all the stupendous workds of nature, not a place can be selected more fitting for the exhibition of Almighty power".
On the way up to the summit, I came to a depression, while I stand in-between the depression, I could see what is called Elijah's hollow. Here is where Elijah heard God's voice. The little chapel is about 30 feet below where I stood, so it looked like a valley.
From here I continued to walk, I took a much longer time because I was enjoying every minute of it. So, after almost 7 years, I could still recall the details.
I reached the summit after nearly 3 hours of walking. At the peak, there stood a small chapel. It was locked. There were just a handful of tourists who came up by taking the camel-ride. There was a small little zinc-roof make-shift shop selling mineral water and chocolate bars, manned by a small boy who also slept there.
After a few hours, dusk sets in. I didn't have the intention of going down to the village to stay the night, so looking at the sky, which is miles and miles of blue sky without a single cloud, I decided to sleep at the summit - all alone!!
I walked down a little from the chapel, took a turn at a rock face and came to an opening that overlook the ravine that roll down to the base which is more than 1,000m below where I stood. As I looked down, it was dark and far. The wind that swept up from the base into the ravine swoosh and push up a gush that turns into a strong breeze that I could feel playing with my hair. I chose a protruding rock face that was reliably flat, but I know if I roll over, I will fall over too. But that was the best spot to spend the night. The setting sun over the massive rock face, in its crimson bright glow, was too beautiful and enchanting that it oveshadowed all these possible fears.
I did not have anything to eat except some bars of chocolate because I was not prepared to sleep at the summit. I only had my sleeping bag, good for tropical jungle. I was lucky I packed my jumper along. So, I stretched out my sleeping bag, put on my track bottom, cover myself as cosy as possible to keep myself warm..........then, the most amazing scene unfold right in front of me............I looked up and saw the moon illuminated the sky. It came on immediately after the sun set. Because there was not a single cloud in sight, it was shining so brilliantly bright, I could see everything, I don't even need to turn on my torch. That was the most thrilling scene I have ever experienced in my trekking life. And I need to cover my eyes with my eye-mask to sleep, imagine how bright the moon was. Mount Sinai was just amazing!!! Never mind the empty stomach, never mind no shower, never mind no toilet, all these experiences were enough to cleanse the physical body and raise the illuminated soul.
That was an experience I cherished, what a way to live, wasn't it?
And if you happen to be there, do go into St Catherine Monastery, which is at the base of the mountain. You will see the Moses's Burning Bush, Moses's Well, and many artifacts of this church which dates back to 337AD.
My life is so blessed, all the time, all day long. In grace and gratitude, I say "Thank You".
Lets do more.................I am ready and I receive!!