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Report on Mount Sinai (7498ft)
Sunday 14th January 2007

Jacqui, her brother-in-law Calum and I decided to make the trip to climb Mount Sinai in the middle of the night in time to watch the sunrise whilst we were on holiday to Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. Calum was really keen as his colleagues had sponsored him for our charity Asthma UK. Jacqui and I had difficulty fitting in this trip around all our diving commitments but were happy that a day was found that suited us all.

The bus picked us up from our hotel at 9.30pm and we arrived at St Catherine's Monastery just after midnight. This is where you can find the biblical burning bush which was not what I expected. Our party consisted of 12 folk, a Bedouin guide Faroug, our tour guide Mohammed and our group were given the name of Hot Spot. Off we went along a track with torches meeting many more folk from all over the world with the same intention of reaching the summit to watch the sunrise. To some folk this was a pilgrimage but to others like us it was just for the sake of it. The only real difficulty of this climb was avoiding Bedouins with camels and camel shit. The Bedouins charged £8 for a camel ride which took you 3/4 of the way until you reached the bottom of the 3750 Steps of Repentance before the summit. They continually pester you so we lost count the number of times we said la shokran which means no thank you in Arabic.

Whenever one of our party wanted to stop for a breather they shouted Hot Spot and we all stopped. Our guide told us there were 5 cafeterias to the summit which sounds very different from hillwalking in Scotland. When we reached the first we wouldn't exactly describe it as a cafeteria more like a Bedouin bothy with a man making tea, hot chocolate and coffee and selling chocolate bars which looked years out of date! There were stone seats around the walls covered in rugs.

At this point Calum took the chance of a camel ride and off he went into the darkness never to be seen again until we reached cafeteria No 4. Looking back down the mountain there was a stream of torch lights which looked like glow worms in the distance. Our party was now down to 8 with 4 taking camels which was an adventure in itself. Calum was growing quite close to his camel called ADOC which sounded quite appropriate as he was concerned for his health as he was not fit! Calum said the ride was so uncomfortable until they realised that the saddle was the wrong way round!

The higher we climbed the colder it was getting. Only 2 weeks ago we were told there was snow on the summit. Each bothy was more decorative with material on the walls and one even had a covering on the ceiling with Loony Tunes characters on it. They were also selling glittery handbags and purses which seemed odd for up a mountain. We continually had to avoid those big ugly camels which would have knocked us into next week if we weren't alert.

We met up with Calum at bothy No.4 where we saw some strange sights........ a Korean woman wearing a surgical mask expecting bird flu and a Russian woman who got off a camel wearing long leopard skin boots with high heels and a designer white leather jacket! So after another well earned rest we started to climb up the steps. Calum turned back with a few others but Jacqui and I had no intention of giving up. At the last bothy we were given minging blankets to wrap round us which smelled of camels and large mats to carry up to the summit.

Daylight was beginning to break and we headed upwards struggling to carry everything. On the summit there was a small church and hundreds of people vying for a spot to get settled awaiting the sunrise. There was ice and a little snow on top and after a half hour wait Jacqui and I were freezing and looked like a pair of hobos wrapped up in our camel blankets. At exactly 6.30am the sun began to peek through and within 4 minutes the sun had risen. All that for 4 minutes!!!! The views around us were stunning especially as we hadn't seen them on the way up. This was the mountain that Moses received the Ten Commandments so it is special to many folk. There were even priests in long black cassocks who seemed a bit more hardy than us!

After all that effort and wait, the toilet was urgently needed. On the edge of the rock there was a toilet which consisted of a bamboo shack with a pan over a bottomless hole! It certainly was a toilet with a view and as usual there was a man looking for money before you could use it. His job was to stand with his back to the bamboo door holding it up but when I went in he walked away and the door fell off!!

The walk back to the monastery was enjoyable as the sun was now out and the temperature had risen. We still had to watch out for those damn camels all the way back as they would have knocked us down if we didn't get out of their road. At the monastery we met up with Calum again and had an awful breakfast, if you could call it that!

Calum went with the others on a trip round the monastery while Jacqui and I waited at a cafe as we had visited it 2 days before and couldn't face it again. At this point Jacqui wasn't very good company as she would fall asleep mid sentence! Eventually after a wee sleep on the bus we got back to our hotel at 1.30pm and were raring to tell the others we left behind all about our adventure. This certainly was not like a usual Craggy trip!

Irene

beggar on mount sinai
Was it cold?
Mount Sinai sunrise
mount sinai sunrise
oh my !
smelly blanket
view from mount sinai
on mount sinai
Irene ready to spend a penny
descent from mount sinai
Calum's pal
 

Photos: Jacqui Muir and Irene Cahill


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Mountaineering Council of Scotland
Scottish Youth Hostels Association

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