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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Crossing the Sinai

Spent Sunday afternoon in Luxor in an English pub watching the F1 race on a German TV broadcast. To get back to camp took a horse and buggy as they seem to outnumber taxi cabs. The driver was very talkative and was very proud of his horse which was named Jimmy Carter.....yeah, I know there is a joke in there somewhere.

Early Monday left for a 9 hour drive to Monastery of Saint Paul but never got to see it. Father Joseph met us at a checkpoint 2k away and told us no one could come in during the 55 days prior to Easter. I tried to get him to let me walk partway into take some photos but was told we could not walk in or climb the hills to view it. we were allowed to camp at the checkpoint as he said bush camping would be dangerous due to wild dogs. The next morning I left camp early to walk back to the highway and you could see the Monastery from a distance built on the side of the mountain. Did see three very large dogs that followed along a ridge, was told later they are wolves but not sure Egypt has wolves. The boat captain had told us before that wolves are why we can't sleep on shore when camping.

This Morning drove along the Red Sea to Suez and took the tunnel under the Suez Canal. Strange to watch large ships that seem to be sailing along through the desert. We followed the Red Sea for awhile then turned inland and climbed the mountains to Mount Sinai. Along the Red Sea there are hundreds of developments with tens of thousands of condos all crowded together in several story buildings with the sea to one side and sand as far as you can see on the other. Most of the developments looked unfinished and all seemed deserted and rundown. The other strange site were all white cats with pure black tails we saw at several places along the route. Not just white but very white and so out of place in all the dirt and dust. Read an article once where both Egypt and Turkey claimed to be the origin of cats. Do not know where these fit in.

Later we turned inland and drove to Saint Catherine's Monastery at Mount Sinai. Saint Catherines is the oldest continuously inhabited Christian Monastery in the world, built in AD527 by Emperor Justinian to replace a chapel Empress Helena built in AD337 on the site it was believed Moses saw the burning bush and it is claimed that the bush by the chapel is a direct descendant. The well inside is also said to be the well where Moses met his future wife. Some of the group elected to climb Mount Sinai with the rest of the pilgrims, but having done that before, I stayed below to photograph first and last light on the Monastery from the rocks above. Pilgrims from all over the world climb the mount at night to watch the sunrise but once is enough as it is cold and crowded at the top.

After breakfast we drove 3 hours to Dahab where we are staying a "quaint" hotel near the beach for 4 days while some get there dive certification and others can dive and snorkel at the Blue Hole, a great dive site that goes several hundred feet down right off the shore. The biggest attraction was a shower after two days in the desert.

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