Saturday, October 16, 2010

climbing up and falling down mount sinai

 Today has been a very very long day, so I'm sorry if lots of this blog post doesn't make much sense. I just need to get it all out of my head before I fall asleep.

We met in the lobby last night at 10 o'clock to take a bus to Mt. Sinai, which of course meant that we didn't leave for almost an hour after that. The bus ride itself wasn't bad, except the sunburn I managed to get from being at the beach all day was starting to hurt a bit.
We got to the base of the mountain, and after using the facilities (one pound for toilet paper!), split up into smaller groups to make keeping track of us a little bit easier. My group was all girls, including my two roommates from the hotel, three Egyptian girls, and our RA fearless leader.
The hike didn't start badly at all, the only annoying part was the total darkness and random rocks jutting up through the sandy path waiting to trip us. It was about 12:30 am at this point, and we were just starting our climb. On the way up the mountain, we took frequent breaks, stopping at small coffee shacks to sit and catch our breath for a while. These coffee shacks, for lack of a better term, sold hot and cold drinks, candy bars, and other snacks. I didn't buy anything, because I didn't want to eat on the go, but I was pretty tempted by the Twix.
About every ten feet or so along the path, we'd come across a man standing next to a few camels. The camels would ignore us, while their owner would smile and say, 'Camel? Camel? Camel ride? You want camel?' over and over again. None of us took them up on their offers, which persisted more than half way up the mountain.
While we hiked, we were frequently passed by groups of old people with canes, who were obviously much more dedicated to the climb than we were.
I wish that I could have taken pictures of the starry sky above us. I haven't seen that many stars ever before in Egypt, because the city gives off so much light pollution. I found all my favorite constellations, but couldn't really see the Milky Way stretching across the sky.
I should mention our tour guide at some point, I suppose. I never caught his name, but he wore a bright red vest and was very energetic. Due to some kind of mixup between our group name (AUC) and the name of one of our RAs (Adam), we were called group Adam all the way up the mountain. 'Adam! Group Adam! Over here, Group Adam!' It got to be pretty funny after a while, although that might have just been the sleep deprivation.
Finally, we got to the last leg of the climb: the stairs. A flight of 650 stone steps led up to the last coffee shack, and after that, 100 more steps to the summit of the mountain. Imagine climbing stairs in pitch blackness with only a small flashlight to show your way, while surrounded by strangers and having to move only at the pace set by the person in front of you, at 3 o'clock in the morning. If you're imagining correctly, you'll understand why it took us until 4:30 ish to reach the summit. By that point, the flashlights were no longer necessary, although the sun hadn't quite risen yet. Unfortunately, we were fairly late to get a good view of the sunrise, but we made it work. Watching the mountains around us get lighter and lighter with the dawn was amazing.
Unfortunately, it was freezing cold, and after a while, all we wanted to do was start climbing back down the mountain. It took 45 minutes to get all of Group Adam back together, and we finally set off back down the stairs, which were crowded with people, and a little bit scarier in the light, now that we could see just how far we had to fall if we lost our footing.
I wish the stairs had been the most difficult part of the climb down, but unfortunately, they weren't. It was the sandy, rocky paths all the way down that really got to me. Between dodging camels, their owners, other hikers, and trying to keep up with the group, it was surprisingly difficult to keep my footing. At last count, I twisted my right ankle three times, my left ankle four or five times, and fell straight down on my knees four times. About halfway down the path back to the bus, when I fell for the second time, I also hit my emotional exhaustion point, which did not make the rest of the hike any more fun. I made it eventually, though, just in time to use the scary pit toilets at St. Catherine's monastery, and take a quick tour of the monastery where I got to see Moses' actual burning bush! Wow. It didn't really look like a bush to me, though, let alone one that had been on fire.
Then it was time to get back on the bus, get breakfast, then head back to Cairo. Breakfast was actually decent, a buffet at a Sinai restaurant near the mountain. I had hardboiled eggs, which were delicious, and which I hadn't eaten for a long time. Then we started the bus ride home.
About an hour into it, our resident coordinator man informed us that we were lucky enough to get to stop twice on the way home to see various interesting things along the way, including something called 'Moses' Eyes'. I didn't get out of the bus for either of them, and neither did about half our group.
We made it back to New Cairo around 6:30, and back to Zamalek about 7:40, which was actually much earlier than I thought we'd get back, which was good, because I still had homework to do. That's all done now, though, and so is this blog. I promise I'll add pictures to this post tomorrow, and also post at least one of my missed blogs from the weekend. Now it's time for me to examine my giant purple bruises from falling down on Mount Sinai more closely, and go to sleep for a full night for the first time in three days. Lovely.
what we saw while climbing the mountain
sunrise! and a man who should pay me for this picture
i have no idea why he's glowing. moses?
stupid people, getting in the way of my mountain picture 
happy at the top of the mountain
misty mountains that reminded everyone of mordor.
we were just like hobbits climbing to mount doom!
emily and me (gotta represent the gaucho locos!)
so many people on one small mountain top
maybe my favorite picture ever.
sums up the whole experience perfectly.
some of the 750 stairs down off the mountain
so cute. i want one.
camel, camel? want camel? no.
a way-too-friendly feral cat
the burning bush, in all its glory.
yeah, it didn't look like a bush to me either.
and, finally, the bruises. impressive, no?


  1. That's so awesome! I assume you brought back a new set of holy laws back with you.

  2. Considering the alternative, I think that paying an Egyptian pound for toilet paper is a good investment. (Was the 11th commandment, "Thou shalt bring thine own toilet paper?)

  3. haha, you guys and your ten commandments jokes. so funny. :P

  4. After looking at pictures of Mt. Sinai I thought "Won't that be a fun thing to climb in the middle of the night in the dark?" Since you didn't break any bones, then I'd say you did quite well. I hope your bruises get better soon. Maybe next time you want camel?

    "Moses' actual burning bush!" makes me laugh a lot. It sounds funny. =P Too bad you haven't seen any other objects burned by magical holy fire you could compare it to. =/

  5. the thing about the burning bush was that it actually looked pretty healthy. No burn marks or anything... Disappointing!

  6. That's because it was holy fire Elise! The bush was fine. I think you might need to read you some Exodus. ;)

    DONKEY!!! <3 <3

  7. lol (so what if im not alseep! =P )

    the pictures are gorgeous and that guy should seriously pay you for that picture cus its damn epic!

    Oh and just like poor Sam and Frodo you made it to the top of "Mount Doom" but came back with a few battle wounds

    you know thinking about it Mount Doom may be a fitting name for Mount Sinai...i mean Moses did come back down with a set of rules. Thars pretty doom filled in my book. Haha xD