By: Brandon Dirks
Day 12: Travel day…from Sharm el Sheikh to Cairo…by BUS!
Leaving St. Catherine’s on what I’ve been calling Mt. Sinai was very difficult. I felt something there. (Yes, I can feel things!). The mountains, the remoteness, no TV, no cell phone, no wifi. Just desert, mountains, the Bedouins, and he history of that place. I should take groups here for retreat! Real retreat!
But it wasn’t for everyone. There are some in our group who had a hard time with the “reduced” comfort level, the cold, and the lack of technology. They couldn’t wait to leave. I wanted to stay. I wanted to hike the mountain. The mountain of God. To the peak. Even if the tour left me…I’m sure I could have found a way home.(Ok, Katie, you can breathe. I got on the bus.)
We drove along the Red Sea along the eastern side of Sinai (next to the Gulf of Acaba) to the very southern tip of the Sinai, to the beach resort city of Sharm el Sheikh. Vacationers from all over Europe come here especially to snorkel. Usually this area is packed with people, but since the airplane bombing not long ago, the area looks like a deserted Myrtle Beach. Many people are out of work, hotels are closed, and restaurants are struggling. But I must admit, coming from the Holy Land and Mt. Sinai and coming face to face with the consumerism of modern life was quite a shock to me. I didn’t adjust very well…so I took a dip in the Red Sea!
Driving from Sharm el Sheikh to Cairo along the western side of Sinai and in view of the Gulf of Suez has given me time to reflect. As I’ve met more and more Muslims, I’ve noticed that many of the men have a dark spot on their forehead about the size of two quarters. At first, I thought it was there because of Ash Wednesday, but then I realized…they aren’t Christian! After asking, I discovered that those marks come after years and years and years of daily prayers, 5 times a day, where they kneel and bow their heads all the way to the ground! It made me wonder if my prayer life has “marked” me?
We are traveling part of the route of the Exodus (in reverse), and it is not hard to imagine the large crowd around Moses trekking through this land. We stopped at an Oasis believed to be Mara from Exodus 15, and we sat under a Tamarack tree believed to be the very one Moses sat under. Bedouin women were nearby selling handmade trinkets, that we just had to buy, and we gave our box lunch leftovers to the poor children who begged us for “one dollar.” Honestly, I do not know what to think about it. I refused to take “tourist” pictures of these Bedouin children and women (as many from our bus did), and yet I could be standing on the very ground that God acted to give fresh water to some poor wandering Hebrews several thousand years earlier.
Crossing the Suez Canal tunnel meant that we were crossing from Asia to Africa! In a span of two weeks, I’ve been on three continents!
Cairo is HUGE! I mean H U G E!! 20 million people…3rd largest city in the world…and you feel it! The lines on the roads are not even suggestions! We rushed through the city so we could take a relaxing sailboat ride on the Nile! That’s right…the longest river in the world.
Then, we checked into our 5 star hotel with a view of the pyramids! Tomorrow…we visit them. Can’t wait to show Baxter!