Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The Camels of Mt. Sinai!

May 17th, 2007

We awakened around 2:00 A.M., and finally roused ourselves out of bed by 2:15 A.M., in order to be up and ready for our 3:00 A.M. CAMEL RIDE! Meeting Henry outside our B&B room, Moussa and Henry escorted us to "Camel Central," in which we were paired up with a camel driver who led two or three camels, and their riders, up Mt. Sinai. Of course, I had the loudest, most nasal, and most abrasive and thoroughly Egyptian camel driver, right from "Star Wars"! For two hours we rode up Mt. Sinai, following a snaking path up to the top. We went by hundreds of pilgrims going to Mt. Sinai, including South Koreans and students from Australia and Europe. At 4:00 we could hear the bells call the monks to morning prayers.

After two hours, we dismounted from our camels at a wonderfully crowded tea house, where we met a mother and daughter couple from Poland, by way of Washington, D.C. When my camel driver and were about to have our photo taken, a camel stuck his nose into the picture frame, and the driver just whacked the snout of the camel, who let out a dull "ugh"!

We walked up to a bluff just below the top of Mt. Sinai because of all the tourists (hundreds) encamped on the top, waiting for the sun to rise over the east at around 5:15 A.M. After watching shooting stars going up on camel back, now we were given the treat of watching the sun rise over the Sinai on a clear blue-sky day. Amazing.

Like a few days earlier, we celebrated Eucharist, remembering that this is Ascension Sunday, and that a few days earlier we were standing on top of Mt. Tabor, the place of Transfiguration, and now we were on the top of Mt. Sinai, again a place of Transfiguration, in which Moses received the Decalogue, and his countenance was pure light after meeting God. Henry called this the "St. George and School of the Pilgrim Chapel"!

After watching hundreds of tourists skedaddle down from Mt. Sinai, we slowly made our way up to the top of Mt. Sinai, where there was now nary a tourist. We saw two clefts in which Moses could have hidden himself, with a chapel at the top of the summit. From the top we could see a snaking trail that was possibly where the people of Israel followed themselves to Mt. Sinai.

It was here that Henry spoke to my heart, mind, and body: the School of the Pilgrim is happening! This is a land rich in pilgrimage trails, explored and unexplored. Moussa (his name means Moses), knows the Egyptian Coptic trail where the Holy Family fled from their homeland during the killing of the young innocents soon after Jesus' birth: and no one has written or filmed or documented this trek. There are still many "Gospels according to" parchments throughout this area. Stories still need to be written and recorded. The entire way down from the top of Mt. Sinai was taken up with possible new pilgrimages in the future, starting next September 2008, with another full-blown pilgrimage of the School of the Pilgrim in 2009.

That afternoon, we said good-bye to St. Catherine's. Though the museum was closed, which holds the beautifully mysterious icon Christ of the Sinai, Moussa gave me a postcard of the image that now watches me in my office.

That night, we encamp at the Red Sea resort of Nuweiba! Dinner was shared with Henry, Carol, and our motley crew after we had a wonderful swim and freshened up from our morning trek to Mt. Sinai!

Camel-ho!

Pilgrim peace, Brett