I woke up at 10pm because of voices from the street. The Egyptian people are preparing to leave with heavy loaded cars. We collected our stuff and we prepared for departure.
Because I wanted to exchange money we went to the town of Nuweiba, (taking the road to Cairo) a small tourist destination, but with no luck. Back in the hotel there was the only bank in the region.
Leaving behind the Nuweiba, we took the south path to follow the signs to Sarm el Sheih and St. Katerine. The route was easy and without traffic. The landscape is unique and unprecedented. We passed through naked and precipitous mountains. There was no vegetation. The fine and golden sand reminds me desert ...
After 35km. we had come to the junction for St. Katerine (80km). We spent the routine checking passports and we continued west, meeting a most impressively «geographical scene»! Vast areas of golden sand, forming sand dunes, and large rocks in dark red shades kept us company along the route. Often stopped for photos and enjoy this unique landscape!
Approximately 10km from the monastery we found a petrol station. It was a good opportunity to refuel and make a stop for coffee in a small restaurant. After driving, for the last 10km we reached the premises of the St. Catherine Monastery. «Welcome», «Restaurant,« Cafe, »were the first inscriptions that we saw. The time was approximately 3 pm. and, as we were informed-the monks pray. So we decided to rest in the coolness offered by the bower of the cafe.
During 4pm we started to visit the monastery. Surrounded by the imposing wall was a small door. Initially the only mode of entry was via small hand cranes. The reason was the protection of the monastery. When we said that we were Greeks they welcomed us with a smile.
Inside the monastery was so silent. Following the path we reached the central church of Saint Catherine. We had the afternoon running course in Greek! In the end, when the monks understood that we were Greeks, welcomed us and invited us willingly and gave us a tour of the church.
The monastery is Greek for the last 17 centuries! The church contains a unique collection of images from all historical periods. It is decorated with sacred vessels made by Greeks, Arabs and Russian craftsmen. It is amazing the effect resulting from the combination of Western and Eastern art of different eras!
The most important heirloom that hosts the monastery is the «hand», the «skull» and Larnaca of Saint Catherine. The monk showed us and gave us a «blessed» silver ring with the initials of the monastery. The tour continued in the sanctuary of the Church made restoration projects. Behind the temple there is a small place in which-as-say was the place where Moses saw the «burning» Cane.
Just back from the church is a bramble, coming as they say-by-branch of «incinerate». The monastery has the 2nd largest library, after that the Vatican and an amazing museum with relics value. Unfortunately it was closed (open: 8-12 daily).
The Monastery of St. Catherine has more than 1,000 visitors daily. Most are Italians, Germans, French, Russians and Greeks of course.
We thanked the monk for the tour. We wonder around for a while even in places where access was permitted. During the 6.30mm we sit in the cafe and began working on scenarios for the rest day.
A popular activity that was related in part to the monastery is to visit the peak (2.300m) of Mountains of Moses, in the point-as-was believed where he took the 10 Commandments from God. The site is visited 24 hours/day, depending on whether you like watching the sunrise or sunset. Most tourists who come, bus start at the monastery at 2pm in the morning to catch up to reach the top before sunrise. Others prefer the sunset. Each option has its advantages and disadvantages.
We chose to start in the afternoon and following the path the camels take (about 3.5 hours comfortable walking) to get to the top to the camp. The next day, we would return from the path-steps-of Moses.
After about 2 hours huts arrived in the Bedouin-shops. Some operate 24 hours a day. We sat in the penultimate (before the final steps) to eat (supplies were taken from the monastery) and to rest. Unfortunately tourism has a significant influence on the authenticity of local Bedouin making them smart and-perhaps-sometimes greedy.
Continuing just-below-700 we found the last steps before the top. These can not be avoided, whichever path you follow. The steps were not clearly visible in all parts of the path.
At the top-after last-hut we found the small church and mosque. Several people were inside with sleeping bags and blankets (who rent the Bedouin). Tents are not allowed. The wind and cold made their presence felt, forcing us to wear thick clothes. Inflates the mattress and joined in a sleeping bag. Enjoyed the amazing night until we get to sleep.
Next day ...
The sleep-although so sweet despite the adverse conditions did not last for long. After 2-3 hours to awaken the laughter and voices of two Chinese (!). But not only were they ... More than 200 tourists had accrued trying to get a «good» able to enjoy the «notorious» east. Of course with so many people were easy to «lost» the magic landscape ... I tried to forget the people and enjoy the scenery, as colored by the first sun lights ... The result was impressive!
Pleasant surprise was the acquaintance with a couple of young Greeks who had come for the sunset. And caught the conversation without being aware, after a short time-we realized that the area was empty! Tourists who came with the sun took the direct way back ... ... flock together!
We took the return path which has about 4.000 steps. The route was amazing and we needed approximately 1.5 hours to get to the monastery. The steps were constructed irregularly. Arriving at the monastery, I went to look the part of the path ... I could not believe it was in a great landslide of rocks!
When we returned to the monastery, the decision was taken to camp in the guest house " XENONAS" (60$/double bed & breakfast, lunch), which was outside the walls of the monastery. The monastery hosts men only after consultation with the monks.
We wanted to visit the museum. Because of the visit of an Israeli school, were banned for security reasons-the-other entrance to the monastery.
The exhibits were impressive and included images, vestments, old religious books, jewelry and utensils hieratic script and crosses. Some of them are dating from the 6th century AD, silver and precious stones decorating many of the exhibits, made by Greeks, Arabs and Russian craftsmen.
The monastery has the 2nd largest library in the world after the Vatican!
Before going to rest we had the opportunity to have a brief discussion with priest "father"-Paisio. We talked about their daily lives, the history of the monastery, in their relations with the Bedouin, but the problems and how tourism has affected the authenticity of the site and the local people.
The afternoon we rest until 19.30pm and then we had dinner (included in room price). The dinner had macaroni with minced meat, salad, Greek “Tzatziki” and a wonderful soup ... the best at that time!
The evening dew was the best to relax and to rest the «sore» our bodies. We sat enjoying the absolute silence starriness under the sky. We had already begun to experience the journey, to feel more. We had forgotten from where we came and where we wanted to go…