Monday, November 29, 2010

The Bates motel at Mt Sinai

Dear reader, you are lucky. I seem to be getting more picture-happy with each post. I remember when I used to upload one or two pics for each entry, but with the fast internet here I can't help but upload 13 or 14! The above picture is one of my favorites from this entire vacation. Of course someone else took it, Portuguese George from the camera club. Thanks, George!

Next on our itinerary was Mt Sinai and St Catherine's monastery. St Catherine was a martyr who was tortured and thrown to the top of a mountain in the spokes of a wheel. Monks apparently found her body and entombed it. There is a very famous monastery there and some very famous religious artifacts, plus the one descendant of the burning bush:

This is the only kind of this particular bush. They tried to plant it in other places, but it died. People more familiar with bible stories can correct me on this stuff...

St Catherine's monastery. One thing that has really surprised me about the Sinai peninsula is how mountainous it is. Dry mountains everywhere! I don't know what I was expecting:

Brett, Sharon and Isabel took camels while the rest of us took a two hour (very vertical) climb to the top of Mt Sinai. Here is George, Kathryn and Helen sharing a laugh and Marie Antoinette in the background:

Husam #2, "Sam":

My God, it was exhausting. We kept asking Sam how far we were, and he kept saying "2%" or "4%". Thou shalt not lie, Sam!

At the top were a few stores selling fanta and candy bars. Not exactly a hypoglycemic's ideal, but I had some kebab-flavored chips in my bag!

This man, named Sala, made me hot chocolate for 10 egyptian pounds (about $1.75). He had a daughter named Sara. So far in Egypt, I have met 5 people who either have a daughter or niece named Sara(h). A good Egyptian name! they all tell me.

Me at the top. I like this picture. I was happy and it shows my contentment with the day and the trip in general:

We stayed until sunset, where the camera club had a field day. My little kodak easyshare did a sufficient job. Then walked down a different way (more switchbacks, less steps) in the dark with flashlights.

After this exhausting climb, most of us went for a buffet down the street. This is a SMALL town. Sam arranged for a restaurant to make a big dinner for us. It was delicious! I love the one salad they have everywhere - it's a version of greek salad. Middle eastern tomatoes are so delicious, red and sweet. We were alone in the restaurant and they put on some lite rock (i.e. Celine Dion) for us. Far more popular than Celine was "I want it that way" by the backstreet boys, which inspired a little impromptu sing-along when it came on.

We only had one more day - a 7 hour bus ride to Cairo where the trip ends. Because I have one more week, I told Sam that I was coming back to Dahab and he told me it was completely crazy for me to backtrack all the way back to the peninsula. I could save a 7 hour bus trip and a $100 plane ticket by just having his friend drive me the 1.5 hours to Dahab. So I decided to ditch the last day of the trip and just do that, making this my final night with the intrepid tour people. Here is the room I shared with Helen, on the very end. I put a diet coke outside the door, knowing it would be cold enough to enjoy in the morning. Note how deserted it is:

The group was picked up at 5AM, so that they could have a long afternoon in Cairo. It is dark until almost 6AM. I woke up along with everyone and bid them goodbye. I was really sad to see them go. Then, I walked back in the dark to my room at the end of the corridor, where I was the only one now staying at the motel. Cue horror movie music. EEE! EEE! EEE! EEE!

There was no moon, no stars, no lights, just creepy silence. If I heard anything, it would be a tumbleweed blowing across the dirt yard. There is no feeling like being alone in the dark in an Egyptian motel you don't know the name of, at the edge of a town you aren't entirely sure the name of, with a promise that a guy named Ali is "coming to get you at 8". I turned my light on and tried to read, giggling at the absurdity. Then I heard shuffling outside the door. The Egyptian Norman Bates? I was still groggy so my imagination was working overdrive. I peeked outside the door when I felt it was safe. Egyptian Norman had stolen my diet coke! When it was finally light outside, I walked outside to find the coke thief. Instead of Norman Bates, I just found a friendly guy named Mohammed who apologized profusely for taking my coke. And he has a daughter named Sara. Good Egyptian name! Here is Mohammed's office:

Ali came right on time. He drove me to Dahab while he listened to classical music.

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