Monday, July 25, 2011

Mt. Sinai, Egypt, and getting a little sappy :)

with Professors Morris, Rubenstein, Kaufman, and Feinstein

Our Israel program wrapped up with a stressful and sleepless few days as we all worked furiously on our exams.  After a group farewell dinner it was time to say what felt like an abrupt goodbye.

I had  six days to get from Jerusalem to Amman, so I decided to travel overland into the Sinai peninsula.

Up until this point I had never traveled completely alone so I was a bit nervous, but it was a great decision.  I went online, looked up the bus schedule to get from Jerusalem to the Israeli border in Eilat, and found a hostel I liked in Dahab.

Then I was off!  I crossed the border into Taba, Egypt on foot.  It's incredible how quickly you go from nervousness and uncertainty to feeling comfortable, capable, and independent once you just go out there and do it.  Most or all of your preconceived notions about people or places turn out to be untrue.  I think everyone who possibly has the means should embark on at least one solo adventure!

When I arrived at Bishbishi in the late afternoon, looking forward to nothing but sleeping, the owner Jimmy informed me that the tour for Mt. Sinai was that evening.  For those who don't know, this involves leaving at 10 pm to spend hours climbing the 7,500 foot mountain in pitch blackness, in order to be situated on top of the summit in time for sunrise.  Since of course this sounded like a fabulous idea, I took a quick nap in preparation for yet another sleepless night.

The climb really was not terrible.  The only issue for me was that, per usual, I was suffering from some bronchitis or other similar lung disease for people with stupid immune systems, which had progressed so that I felt quite breathless.  (Fortunately Tommy's mom supplied me with a Z pack before I left Michigan which cleared things up a few days later!)  Other than that, the climb itself was not as strenuous as I had been led to expect, especially in the cool night.

The sky was absolutely amazing, there were more stars than I imagined existed, so many that they were in 3d and I could see the depth between them.

Also, for the first time I saw the Milky Way, an unmistakable huge white streak across the entire sky.  It was mesmerizing.  I so wish that I could have taken a photograph of the night sky!

Out of nowhere an old Incubus song I haven't heard since high school popped into my head and remained for the entire climb.

I dig my toes into the sand
The ocean looks like a thousand diamonds

strewn across a blue blanket
I lean against the wind, 

pretend I am weightless
And in this moment I am happy

I wish you were here

I lay my head onto the sand
The sky resembles a backlit canopy
with holes punched in it
I'm counting UFO's,
I signal them with my lighter
And in this moment I am happy
I wish you were here

The world's a roller coaster and I am not strapped in
Maybe I should hold with care,
my hands are busy in the air
Saying I wish you were here.

On this night I experienced one of those surreal moments that always hit me at spontaneous points while I'm traveling.  I became completely overwhelmed by emotions, the sight of the mountains and the night sky, how hard I worked to get here, how long I waited, and the truth that I am actually here now, in this moment, in Egypt, climbing Mt. Sinai.  It always moves me to tears and to me that is the epitome of feeling alive.

the climb
the Burning Bush

Mt. Sinai is another site of important religious significance; it was here that God gave Moses the Ten Commandments.  At the foot of the mountain lies St. Catherine's Monastery, the oldest working Christian monastery in the world and the home of the burning bush.

I finally arrived back to Dahab in the early afternoon, and slept for the rest of the day and night. :)


Vicki said...


Jordan said...

Amazing, Sibby! When I was younger I went up north with my girlfriends. I remember sitting in a hammock one night and being in complete awe at the number of stars you can see when you get away from the "burbs" and all of the light pollution that comes with it. Ironically, I was listening to the same song at the time. :) So surreal...