Sinai Ascension

Mount Sinai

Inspiration. How can I be struggling to find inspiration after all I have seen and experienced in the past couple days? Perhaps a bit affected by the hectic schedule, every single moment has proved to be a rather life altering experience.

This past week I visited some remaining sites around Cairo: Coptic Cairo, Islamic Cairo and Khan el-Khalili Bazaar. Coptic Cairo, a stronghold for Christianity in Egypt until the Islamic era, is a secluded part of the city built around narrow streets filled with Christian/Orthodox churches. Due to such religious mixture (a synagogue can also be found within Coptic Cairo grounds), this site is highly recommend for a peaceful afternoon walk – walled away from the intense honking and constant traffic of the city.

Khan el-Khalili Bazaar, part of the Islamic district of Cairo, is an open street market packed with businesses selling a wide variety of local goods – ranging from touristic T-shirts to dried food. As locals and tourists walk through this narrow and long street, local salesmen demonstrate their finest selling techniques through tempting prices and promising deals. Yet, bargaining skills are an essential retaliation in this quest for even cheaper prices.

Fridays are holy days in Muslim countries; hence, the first day of the week is Sunday, whilst Thursday being the last. And although Cairo has been a great ally for the project, I decided to get a breath of fresh air for the weekend and headed into the desert. Destination: St. Katherine City (Mount Sinai) followed by Dahab, a small village along the Red Sea coast.

This weekend getaway has not happened solo. At my hostel in Cairo, I met Bruno Sokolowicz who is currently traveling around the world and avoiding the use of any air transportation. Hence, cars, buses, trains or cargo ships for longer distances are the only methods of transportation used in his travel (more information can be found on his website).

Thursday night, we left the hotel and headed to St. Katherine City, a UNESCO World Heritage Area for its natural and cultural importance. The city is located at the foot of the Mount Sinai – the name speaks for itself. We arranged to have a tour guide to drive us to St. Katherine and later Dahab. The drive itself should have been pretty mellow; long and straight roads crossing the desert. Yet, Yahya definitely made it much more thrilling than necessary: driving almost at 100 mph, while either pouring tea in a cup, talking on the phone, trying to fix a broken mp3 player or dancing – and an eventual combination of all actions.

As we drove through the night, I rolled down the window, closed my eyes and allowed the dry air to wash away any apparent apprehensions. Luckily, we safely arrived and around 2:30 AM, we started the hike to the summit of Mount Sinai – approximately lasting 2.5 hours. The star-filled skies and a bright new moon guided every ascending step, contributing to the mystical atmosphere of this place.

After several stops to appreciate the surrounding beauty, we reached the very top of the mountain. Since we were one of the firsts, we had the privilege of choosing a perfect location to watch the sunrise. And there we sat and waited, along with hundreds of others: some preaching, some singing, others simply quiet. Still, the sun rose equally for every one of us, warming the souls of different individuals, fortunate to see the light for yet another day.

Right now, I stare at the far away lights from Saudi Arabia, with the Red Sea separating these two nations. The warm and pristine water of the Sea is just another reason to visit the city of Dahab – less known than the other popular touristic destinations along the Egyptian coast. And with so much beauty within such a short period of time, I finally realize that the Mount Sinai clearly stands as a metaphor to any life goal.

Although the dark night toughened the ascension, the uncountable stars provided just enough light to follow the right path. The summit was reached after much effort, and yet provided the greatest sight. As the light slowly brightened the surroundings, the spectacle compensated every sweat dropped along the way. And as all pilgrims descended the mountain, still moved by the experience, the warm feeling lingered; providing just enough force for the next climb.

For more pictures:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/fernandosapelli/sets/72157623554071916/