Mt Sinai

Suez Travel Blog

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Yesterday we drove from Cairo to Mt Sinai, across the desert of the Sinai Peninsula between Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. We crossed the Suez Canal (which opened in 1869, and has allowed the intermingling of Mediterranean and Red Sea aquatic species), but didn't see anything because it is a highly guarded military facility.

There used to be Arabian lions on the Sinai peninsular, but they are now extinct. Herodotus’ description of their mating habits may provide an explanation - it is hard to avoid the belief that divine providence, in the wisdom that one would expect of it, has made prolific every kind of creature which is timid and preyed upon by others, in order to ensure its continuance, while savage and noxious species are comparatively unproductive. Hares, for instance, which are the prey of all sorts of animals, not to mention birds and men, are excessively prolific; they are the only animals in which superfetation occurs. A lioness, on the contrary, the most bold and powerful of beasts, produces but a single cub, once in her life �" for she expels from her body not only the cub, but her womb as well �" or what is left of it. The reason for this is that when the unborn cub begins to stir, he scratches at the walls of the womb with his claws, which are sharper than any other animal’s, and as he grows bigger scrabbles his way further and further through the until by the time he is about to be born, the womb is almost wholly destroyed. In the same way, if adders and the Arabian flying snakes were able to replace themselves naturally, it would be impossible for men to live.

We climbed up Mt Sinai last night, about a 10km uphill walk along the camel track, followed by 750 of the 3000 Steps of Repentence. It was night, but the nearly full moon was enough to see the way. An uncomfortable combination of being icy cold and hot and sweaty from climbing, followed by a cold and uncomfortable night on the top of a church on the mountain. At three in the morning hundreds of people walked up to see the sunrise, singing Christian songs. The sunrise was not very spectacular, and I asked myself again why I climbed the mountain.

The walk down was pleasant though, I took the 3000 steps down (I doubt that there are exactly 3000 steps, the sections I counted were not exact, using the criteria of a rise of 5cm or more in the central third of the path. I guess they may have used alternative criteria, but I think they just decided 3000 was a better number than 'the 2854 steps of repentance'). I may be unrepentant because I only took them down, not up. The desert mountains were very primordial and majestic, and I used the walk down as my justification for the exercise.

I caught a cold yesterday (which may have contributed to the misery of the camp at the summit), and I was very tired, so after the drive to Dehab I had a nap for the entire day rather than dive. I have a reputation for loving naps :)

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photo by: Chokk