I guess, at some stage, most of us expect to tick Egypt off the list of “travel destinations” worth a visit. After all, it is one of the most visited countries in the world. The ancient land of pyramids and temples, Nile cruises and Arab markets most certainly tossed up a number of surprises. Notably the warm and engaging people with a great sense of humour, delicious food of a wide variety, bustling and busy yet extremely safe but most surprising of all was the experience of climbing up Mount Sinai.

landscape | rock - Sinai, Egypt [© 2011 Pulse Africa - pulseafrica.com]    St Catherine Monastery - St Catherine's Monastery, Sinai, Egypt [© 2011 Pulse Africa - pulseafrica.com]    

When my travelling companion, consultant Robynne Fleming, first broke the news of this midnight excursion I was rather expecting to be transported in true Pulse Africa style to the top of the mountain - a private, air-conditioned vehicle would have been just fine - I had no idea I was going to be climbing 725 steps to reach the summit at sunrise. Let alone spend two hours perched on the back of a camel called Ferrari only to reach the first step. Was she crazy? We ought to be tucked up in bed in the middle of the night, surely?

It turned out to be the highlight of our trip. And yes, it is an excursion that starts just before midnight and ends at midday the following day. It is a time I shall never forget, a spiritual time, punctuated by truly memorable moments. The silence of the night, as we wandered, by the light of the moon, up the valley of Moses on what we hoped were sure footed camels, the invitation to join our Bedouin guide in his home for sweet tea and homemade feta, watching the landscape come to life as the sun rose over the Sinai  Desert and finally the long, hard decent into St Catherine's Monastery. A haven of cool tranquillity in an otherwise harsh environment.

The Monastery of St. Catherine is the oldest continuously inhabited monastery in the World and its library has the largest religious collection after the Vatican. It was built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian in the 6th century AD on the site of a church built in 330 AD by the Empress Helena where stood the burning bush. Byzantine Orthodox monasticism has even earlier roots, and the area is sacred to all three monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

After spending about an hour in the Monastery we headed back to Sharm el-Sheikh , arriving in time for lunch. A long day but well worth it.
Entrance into St Catherine's Protectorate - USD 3 per person
Full trip ex Sharm el-Sheikh approximately US$ 60 per person - can't be bad!

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