Mount Sinai

A frozen sunrise

on the mountain top

the monastery

ST. CATHERINE'S MONASTERY xxxThe hotel clerk woke me at 3:00 A.M. and within the half hour, I was out into the night and on my way to Israel. It has taken me a while to learn this lesson, but when you travel in a country where you don't speak the language, you are bound to have travel complications. I came across my first complication when I went to the subway station and it was closed. I looked for a bus but ended up with a taxi. I very specifically said Tahrir Square, cross the Nile to the Sheridan Hotel. He said he understood and took off with eight passengers -- in the wrong direction, but I didn't expect to be the first passenger delivered. Well, as it turned out, he understood the word "Sheridan". He didn't understand which one I needed to get to. Like I said, there were some complications.

I took a bus back into the city. I had no idea where I was going, but it didn't stop me. I'd read in my guidebook that buses left for St. Catherine's monastery at 10:30. I rearranged my plans, postponed Israel a week, found the bus station, and headed off to the unknown. I survived my complications and headed off for a new adventure.

When the bus stopped at St. Catherine's, two Egyptians guys also stepped off. That's when I met Ahmed and Mohab. They were going to spend the night on top of Mt. Sinai -- I didn't know that was an option. I planned to stay at the monastery. Later that night, when another group climbed the mountain, I stuffed two blankets in my packpack and put on three shirts, very excited about spending the night on top of Mt. Sinai.

I was so struck by the holiness of the place, but the walk was hell! This was long, steep, hard and cold. I seriously considered stopping to sleep on the way up. I would never have made it alone. Eventually the top arrived. There was no joy -- only exhaustion and relief. I went to sleep. Well, I actually did sleep some, but most of the night I was too freezing to sleep.

I had my head covered with the blankets and occasionally peeked out to see if it were still black. When it finally started to get light, I was too tired to care. I had to convince myself to get up for the sunrise. It was a hard hike, and a long night, but I was so glad that I really spent the night there.

Ahmed and Mohab were amazing. They brought tons of food with them. For breakfast we had pizza. The trip up the mountains was a long winding path, but we took the steep steps down that were built by a monk long ago. We toured the monastery and saw what they claimed was the actual burning bush of Moses.

Copyright 2000 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.