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sorta outta exodus – adventures in sinai

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As a break from scuba diving in Dahab, Egypt this past Easter, I took a one day trip into Sinai to visit the St. Catherine monastery and climb Mt. Sinai, also known as Mt. Moses around the local parts.  My only previous encounters with Sinai came in Sunday School as a child: sitting in a chair, legs swinging, and reading aloud about the great and terrible events of Moses and the Israelites from the Bible.  I don’t know about you, but those stories made a pretty powerful impression!  Burning bushes, deadly plagues, giant bodies of water parting etc.  I also don’t think it hurt to come of age right as ‘The Prince of Egypt’ hit movie theatres. (Hot Moses! Strong women characters! Val Kilmer as the voice of God! And it’s Christian folks!)

Thus, although not professing to be nearly as religious in my adulthood, I approached the day with expectations of serious reflection, reverence, and a bit of awe…

While touring St. Catherine’s, I viewed the recently trimmed burning bush pouring out of its planter with a conveniently placed fire extinguisher nearby.  I spent 3.5 hours climbing Mt. Sinai with a bedouin guide who had the trots from bad chicken at lunch. (I’ve never been more grateful to be a vegetarian.) There was a lot of “Go! Go! I catch up!” as he ran behind a rock and I meandered my way up the trail.  And looking forward to a quiet, meditative experience at the Orthodox chapel at the top of the mountain, I managed to summit with a large group of Indonesian pilgrims who decided to hold a public (and very loud!) praise meeting full of keening, praising/moaning, and speaking in tongues.  Not knocking the Pentecostals among us, but it certainly wasn’t what I pictured at the top of Mt. Sinai!

This is what I love most about traveling; how places are never what you expect them to be, yet always more. More lively, more human, more funny, more real. I love looking at these pictures and being reminded of my extraordinary day in Sinai.

*Featured in part in the pictures below is Mt. Sinai, the burning bush (and fire extinguisher), the St. Catherine Monastery (reported as the oldest operating monastery in the world), Meribah, the rock that Moses struck to give water to the quarreling Israelites in the Biblical books of Exodus and Numbers, and the Greek orthodox chapel that sits at the top of the mountain.

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