Go tell it on the Mountain

My short travelogue on Egypt, which was the winning entry for the travel writing contest organised by Little Black Book (LBB), Delhi and RARE Destinations and Experiences on ‘My Rare Vacation’

“It was a balmy Egyptian afternoon and I was musing over how the country maintains a delicate balance between its obvious Pharaonic past and contemporary Arab influence. On arriving, I’d quickly abandoned notions of Cleopatric promiscuity and realized that Egypt wasn’t yellow and gold (thanks for nothing Hollywood). The country had other stories to tell and I decided to follow the one closest to my heart. I packed up and made my way to the Sinai Peninsula, nine hours from Cairo by road. I would climb Mount Sinai, where the Biblical Moses had received the Ten Commandments!

A thousand others and I were ready to trek up the proverbial mountain when we reached at one a.m. Millions of stars shone over a stark and magnificent landscape! We were soon divided into groups and mine was called “Habibi”. I’ll never forget how the Arabic word for “lover” echoed around the sacred mountain when anyone lost the group. Happy thoughts of Charlton Heston as ‘Moses’ soon took over…

Camels and humans trudged up the dirt road. I walked for the love of a story I’d heard growing up. But when we came to three thousand stone steps that had been laid down by a monk, my soul seemed to jump out of itself.

We met the deliciously cold summit at five a.m., humbled and solemn. In four hours, I’d felt the convergence of the past and present, the sacred and profane. I gathered and released them all into the waiting sunrise!”

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The path that Moses must have taken on his way up Mount Sinai
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The chapel on top of Mount Sinai
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The view from the top of Mount Sinai. Imagine the Israelites wandering this landscape for 40 years. This was exactly what I’d visualised on first reading the book of Exodus in the Bible.
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The sun rises over Mount Sinai, tourists sing hymns. The cold nip in the air tempered by all the adrenaline. Wish each morning could be as soul-stirring as this one had been.

 

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Among trigger-happy tourists, believers and trekkers at the summit. We all made it! For the record, this was my first proper trek. I was utterly unprepared gear-wise and physically! On the other hand, the Japanese travellers with their flashlights, trekking poles, fleeces, night and day trekking clothes – and  there I was in my Converse Keds. I could barely look them in the eye.
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My friend Ruby and I make our way down the mountain.
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I’ve always been agnostic but walking down these ‘Three Thousand Steps of Penitence’ would make anyone a believer. Probably the pull of the Mountain or the stronger, more ardent pull in my knees.
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The Monastery of Saint Katherine at the foot of the mountain, still standing since its foundation in approximately the fifth century. This makes it one of the oldest functioning Christian monasteries in the world.
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The monks at the Monastery
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This was a sight for sore eyes and muscles. Sunrise over the Red Sea, back at Dahab.

 

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Finally soaking in some wind, sun, and sea at Dahab
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