Tuesday, December 11, 2012

St Katherine's Monestary

I was tired as I started the descent down the mountain.

The combination of physical exertion, a lack of sleep and my as yet unresolved jet lag were all conspiring to crush me.  It wasn't over though.  I still needed to get back to the start.

Walking down the mountain was far easier than the walk up to the top.  It gave me a fantastic perspective of what I had done during the night.
And what I had done during the night was to nearly kill myself on multiple occasions.
I was completely astounded by just how dangerous some of the paths I had taken had been.  They were rocky, they were steep and they often dropped off on either side.  Walking up the mountain in the middle of the night, you are completely unaware of this danger.  Instead, the darkness of the night had left me in a sweet bliss, aware only of the ground ahead of me one step at a time.
I was trying to absorb as much of what was around me.  The sheer enormity of my surroundings was quite incredible and I felt a slight rush of insignificance being in the middle of it.  Every rock seemed to grow out of the mountain side, and each crevice seemed to be a reflection of the deep scars in the sides of the hill.  Nothing was by itself unique, as it was constantly magnified and repeated over and over again.
The sun began to rise further and the desert began to show its other face.  The heat began a slow creep up that quickly accelerated.
I quickened my pace (with the near disastrous results of slips and close calls) and made it to the bottom of the mountain.  Now I was ready for the final leg of this trip.  I was going to go into St Katherine's monastery and I was going to see the famous (alleged) burning bush of Moses.

At least I thought I was.

Instead, I was accosted by the smiling Yasser.  He brought a small group of us to the front of the monastery and sat us in front, tormenting and tempting us with our goal being just out of reach.  Yasser then decided to tell us bible stories.  I could understand the need to properly inform the tourists of the significance of our surroundings, but I was less than impressed by his need to tell us the stories in minute detail and to tell them incorrectly.  Every moment I felt that Yasser was close to his conclusion, he would ramble on.  He then began to describe in detail the inside of the monastery, yet would not let us go in.

Eventually I had enough.  I stood up and I walked in.  As I began walking in, he screamed out that I would only have 15 minutes inside as our bus was waiting for us.  This was too much.  I turned around with a look of pure loathing, realising that he had sat us in front of the monastery for 45 minutes telling us incorrect bible stories in order to reduce our time inside the monastery (and for what reason, I will never know).  He responded with an idiotic grin.
Once inside, I raced.  I went to see as many of the things that I had wanted to see as quickly as possible.  There was no lingering possible.  There was no time to stand in front of the sights and to embrace the history of the locale.  This was a tour that was about efficiency.
I ran quickly to the burning bush.  It was nice enough, but I was fairly certain it was just a bush and had nothing to do with the actual burning bush that Moses had once stood before.
It was a nice monastery.  Even at my rapid pace around the courtyard, it was very clear to me that this lonely outpost in the middle of the desert would have been an incredible place for contemplation and reflection.  The silence of the surroundings and starkness of the desert would have sharpened the mind, forcing one to contemplate nothing but the thoughts in your own head.
I left the monastery reluctantly.  However, I comforted myself knowing that there would be some breakfast in the monastery kitchens before we boarded the bus for the journey back to Sharm El Shaikh.

Once again, I had been fooled by Yasser though.  He looked at our group with his increasingly tiresome grin and told us that the monastery had run out of breakfast.  Apparently we had taken too long.  I wonder what could have delayed us for 45 minutes?  He had probably pocketed the money.

Instead, Yasser took us out to a decrepit hotel on the outskirts of town.  It was a sad and dusty hotel that looked as though it had been half finished and then abandoned, only to have been reclaimed by squatters who decided to make an attempt at the hotel business.  There I ate my stale bread and drank my lukewarm tea and hoped that the rumbling in my stomach wasn't the beginnings of a food poisoning from the boiled egg I had decided to chance my luck on.

Once we had all finished, we were once again made to wait as Yasser was nowhere to be found.

I really hate you Yasser.  Wherever you are.

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