Sunday, August 16, 2009

things get churchy

One of the first indications that old Cairo is old is that you have to go down a flight of steps to get there. I love that old cities that have been here for centuries have built on top of themselves. There are a series of Coptic churches built on top of places where the holy family stayed while they were hiding out in Egypt. One church had a well that they had used. I find it interesting that flight to Egypt is a recurring theme in the bible. Abraham and Sarah go, I think Rebekah and Isaac go, the entire Jewish people go, and the holy family goes. I'm sure I could find a ton to read on about this. Almost all of the churches there are the church of St. George, because they are built on top of the Roman prison in which St. George was held prisoner and tortured. I'm pretty sure this happened after he slew his dragon. The biggest and most oppulent church is actually a Greek owned and run church. There was also a beautiful Synagoge.

The next trip we made was my favorite so far this visit. We drove out to the Sinai Peninsula to St. Katherine's. We drove under the Suez Canal and through miles and miles of empty desert. The first stop we made was at the plave of Moses' bitter wells. There were Bedoine womenpedaling handmade beaded ware and other such things for cheap. As we continued we watched the red sea, or the bit that leads up to the Suez canal go by. There were tons and tons of resorts on the water. It was interesting to see the desert meet the sea. No trees of any life to greet the ocean. First desert, then water. Not even a dune. We drove to a place that Wahied called the bath of the Pharaohs. There were hot springs that flowed out from under the rocks straight into the sea. There was a cave that you could go into that was like a sauna. I walked up and down the beach, enjoying the sea, and collecting a few shells. Mostly the ride was unremarkable desert that slowly gained rocky mountains. We did drive through an oasis though where there was a Bedoine village. THey had a date farm and plenty of goats running about. Finally reaching the hotel was a relief. We were in the mountains where it wasn't as hot, the air was not polluted, and there was a huge beautiful pool waiting in the evening sun.

As I hopped into the pool I quickly realized that 100% of the other tourists there were Italian! For once I was the one of our tiny crew that could understand the chatter all around me. We ate our dinner with gusto, then went straight to bed. We all had to wake up at 12:30 to head to Mount Sinai to beat the sun to the top. We climbed the mountain in the dark with a Bedoine guide and a pliveman. (all Americans and Israelis are escorted by the secret police or whatever). The Bedoine guide played prayers all the way up and down the mountain on his phone. Presumeable asking for a safe passage. The policeman was a nice guy who joked with us. He however felt license to grab my hands at certain points. If I were in the US it wouldn't have mattered because it was to guide me away from camels or over rockes, but here it is not ok to touch women, so I was not so pleased. The walk was not too hard at all, and even going very slowly to wait for Marc with his bad knees and his huffing and puffing, we made it up with nearly two hours to wait for sunrise.

(sidenote: Marc had just earlier been telling us how he was in good shap for a 55 year old man, but my parents, who granted are not yet 55, would have scampered up hyst as fast as I did. Well, perhaps Mom a little slower, but she has little legs.)

At the top there are two little chaples, everyone sits in the cold waiting for the sun to rise. The sun rises a lit faster here near the equator tha it does in the north, so when the sun did rise it just popped right up! The mountain rock formations are different than anywhere I've ever seen. Infact I had seen biblical paintings of Sinai and aasked myself what sort of mountains they were since I hadn't ever seen the like. They are dramatic, yet rounded. I don't know how else to describe them. The walk down was uneventful, but obviously much better for taking pictures.

After a hot shower and breakfast we went to St. Katherine's Monestary, built some time in the 3rd century. There is a teeny church, a mosque and the burning bush. They say that that bush is the only one of it kind on all of Sinai. The drive back was a brutal one for the drivemer. Imem is a really good natured, handsome young man, my guess is that he is perhaps 22. Everyone else slept in the car, but I stayed awake and made facces at him in the rearview mirro to keep him company. The poor kid was exhausted when we got home. So was I and all I had done was sit...and climb a mountain at one in the morning I guess...

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