CLIMBING ON MT. SINAI / EGYPT

Why is a secular person like me trekking on the mythological Mt. Sinai (Arabic: Gebel Musa, 2,285 m) in October 1985, the Moses mountain being situated in the heart of a mountainous desert on the peninsula with the same name? Well, I really have to strain my brain and memory, as no diary has been written by me during this self-organized 4-week-journey through all Egypt long time ago. At least the analog photos do still exist and must serve as a quite triggering and facilitating guide.

In the 80s of the last century travelling was much more exciting and unpredictable than today. All I did in preparation for my journey to Egypt was booking a flight-ticket to Cairo, reading a little bit in advance and taking with me a travel-guide for orientation which led me reliably to the most important sites in the country. I never had a problem to find accomodation whereever, just looking and asking while speaking sometimes simply with hands and feet. I did not speak Arabic, and in Egypt not everybody spoke English especially in the more rural areas.

“Many stone inscriptions have been found in Southern Sinai, dating from the 15th century B.C. They are written in pictograms, signs representing the initial consonants of words whose meaning had been previously conveyed by a picture – a crucial stage between pictorial representation and phonetic writing. Pictograms are generally hieroglyphics but these read as Canaanite not Egyptian. So the Canaanite alphabet was the result of a conscious creative act.”

Jean Starcky / Pierre Bordreuil, 1975, “L’Invention de l’alphabet”

I reached the Sinai with the bus going from Cairo to Suez, there I took a shared taxi, an old Peugeot, being driven with great pride by a local Bedouin. The driver stopped from time to time in the Sinai desert where Bedouins settled in tents for a small talk or just waving his right hand. The left hand may not be used for greeting or eating subject to reasons I do not like to explain in detail. The only thing I can advise in this regard to have always paper tissues with you as toilet paper quite often was not available, instead just a bottle of water. The shared taxi brought me finally completely secure to the centre of Sinai and the Greek Orthodox St. Catherines Monastery (see photo hereunder).

The monastery is a quite busy place in the middle of the desert at the mouth of a gorge being situated at the foot of Mt. Sinai as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The building is one of the oldest working Christian monasteries in the world and was built between 548 and 565. The monastery provides also the oldest continually operating library in the world. The name originates to antique tradition telling the history of Catherine of Alexandria, a Christian martyr, sentenced to death on the breaking wheel. When this failed to kill her, she was beheaded. The Christian mythology says that angels took her remains afterwards to Mt. Sinai where monks from the Sinai Monastery found her remains around the year 800. So a lot of Christian pilgrims do visit this place, and the monastery offers accomodation to them and everybody else who decides to be here and/or climb on Mt. Sinai like Moses long time ago.

So being here in a spectacular desert scenery with all these old stories and expectations implies a quite special experience. As far as I can remember I spent two nights at the monastery and one very early morning at around 4 a.m. when all was still completely dark and mysterious, I and all the others staying there (around 40 persons) started climbing on Mt. Sinai. At that time it is cool and fine in the desert, so marching to the top required only around 2.5 hours on a not too difficult path. Shortly before sunrise we reached the top of Mt. Sinai, at that moment all surrounding other mountains were immersed in a surreal blue and green (see photo above and hereunder). There was a big group of pilgrims from Austria who after singing a Christian song chanted with great pathos the hymn of their homeland Tyrole. This made it even more irreal because in the background Egyptian merchants were loudly shouting: “Chai. Hot tea.” And you would normally not expect so much life early in the morning in a desert at Alpine heights. So no, I have really not found any kind of enlightenment on top of Mt. Sinai but the magical mountainous scenery was really worth a visit. The desert is a very puristic place but risky, it can clean your mind or kill you. A lot of Europeans have a romantic view on it as visualized in films like Lawrence of Arabia. Every Bedouin prefers to stay in an oasis with water and green as a simple question of survival. The sun has an incredible drying strength and heat even in October, so moving down Mt. Sinai in the early morning for nearly 2 hours was indeed less pleasant and instead arousing a thirst.

The Sinai desert allows a lot of discoveries like canyons of all colour, prehistoric temples or the visit of an old oasis. After my visit of Mt. Sinai I spent some time at the Red Sea on the other hand, first in the quite touristic Sharm El-Sheikh and afterwards in the more Hippie-like Dahab with simple straw huts and hosted by Bedouins at the beach. There in Dahab life was easy and relaxed those days, a real welcomed and nice memory to this special and amazing land called Sinai.

Next Egyptian tour: Alexandria (end of August)

Report on Abu Simbel: https://transmutation.me/2018/06/13/oriental-spotlights/

 

linked to:   Restless Jo’s Monday Walks

https://travelsandtrifles.wordpress.com/2018/09/22/lens-artists-challenge-12-path/

 

 

 

DESERT-FEELINGS IN EUROPE

Sunshine all the time makes a desert. (Arabic proverb)

 

Since mid of April a real wave of heat has struck wide parts of Europe leading to a real drought. It is obvious that the climate change is something real happening just now and here, and landscapes may change then very quickly their general appearance without water and rain.

A meadow then turns out to be a steppe within some weeks, and the rapidness of such a development is quite astonishing.The legacies of the last Ice Age are still to be found everywhere in form of erratics, lakes or glacial valleys, but now other objects come into the common focus insistingly.

The photos here reflect some sandy descriptive impressions in this regard picked up during the last hot weeks revealing a dominant brown colour.

 

 

 

ABANDONED DREAMINGS

In the desert nearly everywhere you easily risk to loose your way in a more or less forbidden zone vanished in the unpredictable stream of time. Here or there does not really matter distinctively because a lost place like this offers a special poetry of past developments and decay, sometimes a bit dangerous but in any case thrilling and amazing.

Since the times of the Romantic people are fascinated by such forgotten locations like old church ruins or dilapidated castles scattered over the countries. Certainly these are objects and artefacts without use, hence not useless at all while this confrontation with the past opens a wide space for dreams of another future.

The deindustrialization of modern metropoles has nowadays created a lot of postmodern ruins like closed factories from the 19th century or no longer required railway facilities. But nature covers again very quickly also former military installations with impenetrable thickets and trees. Legacies of former inhabitants and colorful tags of passers-by can there be found anyway.

By first glance such places seem to be a dead-end leading to nowhere and it takes some energy to find a secure path sometimes, however astonishingly people leave even here professions of profound love in a wild maze of pure neglection.

 

Thanks for following this short expedition to the contemporary abysmal maelstroms of daily life – to be continued.

 

The Daily Post  Weekly Photo Challenge – Twisted

WATER AMBITIONS OF TUNISIA

In the desert each drop of sweet water is just more worth than a sack of gold.

Water is our cool elixir being unfortunately not everywhere in the world, and we are also mainly consisting of water together with some other elements, thus we really deserve it for being. However, with the ongoing climate change the desert and semi-arid areas will expand even more globally while water shortages even occurr today in countries like Spain or Italy during the summer.

So the question of water will become an elemental challenge and possible crisis trigger of the 21st century. The following photos of Tunisia shall allow not only a short glimpse on this nice North-African country, but may also give an idea what can be the result of fundamental climate changes while this area used to be very fertile only 2,000 years ago when serving also as the breadbasket of the Roman Empire.

Water reservoir Barrage-Sidi-el-Barrak in the still green North near Nefza

This water reservoir is a complete non-touristic place but during this moment of a late afternoon the sentiment and interaction of light, clouds and water revealed something else.

Small paradise with tiny water fountain near Douz, Sahara

Oasis areas in the endless width of the great Sahara desert are often to be found in geological break zones and depressions such as here.

Death zone of the huge salt lake Chott-el-Jerid after sunset, Sahara

The tremendous salt lake Chott-el-Jerid can be traversed today safely on a solid dam with street which is also connecting the oasis areas Nefzaoua and Tozeur. In former times such travel turned out to be a real dangerous adventure.

All photos were made on a self-organized roundtrip through Tunisia in 2006 with a rather simple, but already digital camera.

linked to  Dutch goes the Photo / Tuesday Photo Challenge Water

 

THE DESERT IS ALIVE

cropped-placeofhope_sahara_south-tunisia20021.jpgI made this photograph long time ago with analog technique in the Sahara of Southern-Tunisia during an oasis trip from Tozeur to Tamerza – still one of my favourite travel remembrances showing a single bush in an area of burst soil most likely due to more heavy rainfalls some time ago. When ever I watch this photograph again, the quite bizarre scenery reminds me of the power and resilience in life and nature against all the odds.