Thursday, July 22, 2010

3,750 Steps of Repentance

We started climbing Sinai at 2am- the normal time in order to get to the top before sunrise. I successfully convinced 10 people from my group that taking the 3,750 Steps of Repentance over two mountains was way cooler than taking the lazy camel path.These steps were laid by a monk in repentance for a sin he committed. You climb this pathway (this is only part of it) for about an hour straight up over the mountain until you reach the archway- the sign of the halfway point. Climbing in darkness is an adventure in and of itself. Treacherous, difficult and beautiful, this hike took us into a part of the mountain where the view of the stars is like staring into the heart of the universe. Everything shines as bright with constellations scattered throughout the night sky- the only sound you hear is the sound of your own breath trying to catch up before continuing up the stairs. Quiet a workout out, a couple people in our group got dizzy and had to turn around and go back down. But the rest of us finished the hike together though we could hardly feel our quadriceps. We reached the top and settled in for a wait before the throngs of people arrived from the Camel Path. We made it to the top around 4am and the sun wasn't supposed to rise until 5:45. Luckily we had some good music, warm clothes and an amazing view of the surrounding peaks. Misty and windy, sitting on top of Mt. Sinai felt...well, a little touristy. There were so many people, less than the last time I was there, but I didn't feel the spiritual connection I expected the second time around. The sun actually didn't rise in front of us, but rather was obscured by sand storms in the region scattering the light particles. It was kind of a bummer but the sun finally make its grand appearance around 6am. There was no show of colors but rather a sudden appearance of a white shining ball. I have never been able to see the sun so clearly, nor that white before. We made our way down in the day light. All the old people tourists were taking their sweet time walking down the stairs, quite understandably. But unfortunately for them, I didn't have a lot of patience because I determined to make it down to the monastery to lay down, shower and relax before breakfast. No such luck. Even descending quickly, passing everyone in my group, I made it down only 15 minutes before breakfast. I ended up running into an old friend in the monastery from the American University in Cairo. I also got a chance to revisit the burning bush and enter the relics museum at the Monastery. While the relics were impressive and the paintings and decorations well preserved, I was more focused at reading the inscriptions/descriptions of the pieces first in Arabic and then in English to check my comprehension. I thought it was the coolest thing.

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