Sevcik's Blog

A year in Cairo Egypt

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Red Sea and Mount Sinai adventure

Wow, what a weekend we had! After spending 16 long hours in Arabic class this week, we were rewarded with an amazing trip to Mount Sinai with our language school, Dar Camboni, and 20 some other students and their families. Going on this trip helped us get through the week of class, and planning for it turned out to be a lot of fun. Like usual, I brought the greatest number of bags full of stuff. (Globalities, you know me!) Mount Sinai gets pretty cold at night since it’s at a higher elevation in the windy desert, so I had one big bag of warm clothes—tights, sweatpants, jacket, hat, gloves, etc. In another bag I had beach gear—swimsuit, towel, sunscreen. In another bag I had foodstuff—fresh breadsticks and fig bread rolls, grapes, apples, crackers, nuts, cheese. And of course there was my backpack with my purse, books, 3 bottles of water, study materials (I never looked at), etc. And how amazing is Carole? She made us fresh mango nut bread and chocolate chip cookie bars—YES! J
We were off! Friday morning we loaded into the Dar Camboni bus and traveled for a few hours to the Red Sea where we spent 6 hours lounging on the beach and eating lunch. Despite finding a lot of trash on the beachfront, the Red Sea is beautiful! And SALTY! Of course with salt it’s easier to float, but it was so salty I couldn’t spend more than a half an hour at a time out there. The moment any of water got into my mouth or nose it would burn the back of my throat and became hard to breathe. Between the salty sea and the desert sun and wind, it sucked all the moisture out of our bodies and we came away very dry and very thirsty. Loading back into the bus we downed bottles of water and attempted to watch the movie “Kingdome Come” as we traveled another 4-5 hours to Mount Sinai. (FLBC staff—as I was floating in the sea I kept thinking of the song Pharaoh Pharaoh! and doing the dead man’s float! How surreal to be swimming in the sea I’ve been learning about since I was a child!)
We arrived at the base of Mount Sinai just before midnight. At this point we had our passports checked for the second time, took our last bathroom break, and prepared ourselves mentally and physically for the climb ahead. Although you can climb Mount Sinai any time of the day, our group has a history of climbing in the middle of the night to avoid the heat of the day and be ready to witness an amazing sunrise in the morning. Needless to say, I was pumped. More than pumped. The peak is at ~7500 feet and I believe our climb was going to be a 2500 ft elevation. Although it has only been just over a month since I’ve hiked a mountain, I’ve certainly been craving it. Beyond that, here we are in the Egyptian Sinai getting ready to climb the mountain Moses and the Isrealites had escaped to, the same mountain Moses received the 10 Commandments and listened to God speak through a burning bush. Wowzer! J
We were off again! Just before 1:00am our group of 40+ people started climbing the mountain with our young Egyptian guide. To be honest, I really didn’t want to climb the mountain with the group. It felt so artificial and touristy to have a mob of people small-talking and carrying flashlights up the mountain. Being in such a spiritual place all I wanted to do was be alone in silence and experience the climb. The moon was half full and it gave the perfect amount of light for us to climb without flashlight, although most people wouldn’t know it. After a few hundred meters Heidi (a volunteer with the Mennonite Central Committee [MCC] whose in my Arabic class), Stephen, and I decided to climb faster and get ahead of the group. Within 20 minutes we were far enough ahead of the clan to avoid the annoying flashlights and talk, and I felt so much peace. Throughout the climb Egyptian men with camels were hiking down the mountain yelling out, “Camel! For you!” It reminded me of a staggered cross country ski race—every 5 minutes or so another Egyptian would begin his “race” and approach our group to encourage the easy way up the mountain on camel. There were little shops along the way as well, all selling bottles of water and pop and candy galore for ridiculous prices. Just before reaching the peak, a group of men rented mattresses and blankets for 20 lbs, and this time we definitely stopped.
Heidi, Stephen, and I reached the peak in about 2 hours and spent an hour enjoying the silence, the stars, and the soft glow of the shops along the paths below us. After searching for quite a while I found the “bathroom”; a hole in the floor surrounded on 3 sides with 2 ½ feet of stone bricks. The hole didn’t actually go into the ground, but emptied down the side of the mountain. Hmmm…
We found a great spot to “sleep” and set up camp. Thanks to our teacher Ashraf we brought a bed sheet with us to serve as a layer between ourselves, the mattress, and the blanket. The blanket felt so dirty and soiled I nearly refused to touch it and whenever I did I would immediately use Purell. At this point Andrea (another MCC volunteer) had reached the top so the four of us huddled together in our layers of clothes to chat and sleep. Even though I had been sweating in the desert heat only hours before, now I was cold with a hat and gloves!
We never did sleep, at least not more than ½ hour. Starting around 4am more and more people were arriving at kept shining flashlights in our faces. Around 5am, just as I was falling asleep, a group of German tourists circled our area and received a loud lecture from their guide, who decided to stand only a few feet from our heads and was smoking. Yuck. By 6am the sun was starting to rise and the mountain was packed. A desert sunrise is incredible. Due to the vast amount of sand in the air, the colors spread and blend beautifully as the sun starts to warm the barren rocky massif and red sandy plains. After many photos, we started our descent. On our way down the mountain we could choose the way we had climbed up, or go down the 3000 steps monks have carved centuries ago. I bypassed the stairs…it was hard enough to walk down without them! At the base of the mountain we toured St. Catherine’s Monastery, built in the sixth century. Inside you find the famous burning bush (?) and the well where Moses met his wife.
The ride home was long…we were all exhausted but it was hard to sleep well on a bus. Luckily I was able to curl into a tight ball in my seat and ended up sleeping for most of the trip. Otherwise Jen and I were listening to stand-up comedy from Stephen’s IPOD and munched on whatever food was leftover. As we were coming back into Cairo I felt that sense of “Ah…yes, we are home!” It struck me to recognize I feel comfortable enough here to have the warm feeling when returning to “home” in Cairo. What a wonderful trip and great memories!


  • At 9/28/2005, Anonymous Ben's mom in Longwood said…

    I am thoroughly enjoying and devotedly following your blog....I am on the Mission Ministry team at my church (St. Stephen Lutheran in Longwood, FL) and we are supporters of Pastor Clifford Lewis and I ran across your blog while trying to find info on Lutheran Ministries in Egypt for our newsletter. You are a wonderful writer, I get amazing mental pictures from your descriptions. Have a blessed journey and never forget this experience!

  • At 10/12/2005, Blogger Sarah said…

    Thank you so much! Getting your comment really means a lot to me, and it's great to know that this blogger has some use--it's helped me stay motivated to share my story! Pastor Clifford is so wonderful--and those boys! They are a riot! What a great family. I hope you continue to enjoy the blog.

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