Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Mt. Sinai

Like a couple of malnourished sadists, we decided to torture ourselves today.  Instead of just basking in the sun on a golden beach, we climbed a mountain, Mt. Sinai.

We had our driver, Hazem, drive us the 2 hours to Mt. Sinai.  On the way there, we passed a number of very intimidating armed checkpoints.  It occurred to me that independent travel in this area would be extremely difficult without an arab speaker or serious papers.  Hazem told me that if I took a picture of the guards, that they would smash my camera.  We told us the guns scared us, and he replied, "no problem, you guys live in Texas, guns...cowboys...hats..."  Oh Hazem.

We rolled pretty hard for most of our trip to the mountain, bumping 50 cent or Ja Rule and dancing in various egyptian and western styles.  "I like this black man," Hazem would say.  "All arabic songs are about romance, but songs in U.S. are about being a pimp? Why?"

We also had to make an emergency pee stop for Kristin, and on the way back Hazem was very surprised that we found no snakes.  We were terrified and reassured all at once.  We also found out that most Egyptian families have many children (6-8), and it is not uncommon to take several wives.  Hazem deadpanned that he would take 4 or 5.  We high fived while Kristin rolled her eyes in the back seat.
While this mountain is no Everest in terms of height, for us, it was an extremely difficult climb.  Due to unequal footing and loose rocks, it is an ankle snapping journey for sure.  We took camels up some of the way, and nearly died during the final ascent which consisted of a lot of steps, a lot of steps.  All of this was done during a race against the sun.  It was slowly setting behind the jagged pinnacles to the west. 

No, seriously, alot of the worst steps ever.

Once upon the peak, the visibility was beyond impressive.  It was truly awe-inspiring stuff.  Hazem, who had never climbed the mountain before, stood with us at the summit and looked out while chattering his teeth.  He claimed it was the coldest he has ever been, and I definitely believed him.  Our guide was a young Bedouin kid.  He took the mountain like a walk to the grocery store, all while smoking.  It made us feel very out of shape.  Here he is, smoking.

The walk down was a different breed of difficult.  While not physically exhausting, two and a half hours in complete darkness is the stuff of psychological carnage.  Before beginning our descent we took tea on the floor of a Bedouin hut with our guide and some locals.  We heard the wind whipping about beyond the entrance and knew we must leave soon.  The walk down consisted of many curses of near ankle sprains and slides.  We luckily had nerdbomb headlamps, but sadly, even technology cannot even help the helpless.  It took us forever to get down.

The stars in the sky defy description.  Kristin and I could not believe how clear and perfect the sky was.  Here is a picture that I took very very carefully.  It is blurry, but you get the point.

Once we climbed down the mountain, Hazem drove us to "Friends" for some drinks and to see our new pal Mohammad.  The ride home was a quiet one.

We are trying to meet young cool people everywhere we go so that we can build out a network for our travel company.  This way, if we were to send someone to somewhere like Dahab, they could meet up with our friend for a more precise lay of the land, tours, info, etc.  Anyways, Mohammad is perfect for this role:  good english, young but a little older, local, and cool.  We discussed it with him and he seemed genuinely excited.  We also came to find out that his girlfriend runs tour groups all around Europe, so our exchange on future ideas also held a huge dose of serendipity as well.

We leave Dahab tomorrow, and I have to say that this place is near perfect.  It made me want to travel back in time and visit during each significant period of my life.  It is that cool.  Dahab is a place that has yet to grow too big for its britches, small enough to walk across quickly, but filled with outdoor restaurants and cafes just inches from the ocean.  These places are filled with cool people, smoking shisha, swapping travel stories, and in general just really chilling out.  I did not meet one wanker.  The music everywhere was sublime.  It seemed like something a very very intelligent person would plan out, and the fact that it occurred organically just makes it that much better.

The road to Mt. Sinai 

These rock formations are everywhere, though not  much else

pee break

I had to change to climb.  This outfit could have been a killer.

Dessert everywhere

On the road 


The climb begins 

Want to buy a camel?

ST. Catherines

Beast of Burden

Climbing the easy part

Atop a camel, FPS view

Our possee

These beasts got really close to the side 

A couple of cheaters, poor Hazem made it all the way himself


Random market

I really felt bad for these camels 

The "steps" BRUTAL

At the top

We had to wait for the set

 Hazem and I 

 The Ten Commandments?  

 Handed down at this site

 More views

 We wanted Hazem to shoot the horizon, but this is a better picture of us anyways

 Kristin snooping around, we hung out at the summit for about 45 minutes

 Hazem, hypothermia?

real cool


 Oob Raeb

 Great visibility, very clean air


 The summit cleared out really quick.  The temperature drops considerably after sundown.



 Our guide, maybe my favorite picture from the trip


 St. Catherine

 Back in Dahab, mastering the star shot

 Our second home in Dahab, Penguin

 The water, a Saudi city in the distance

 Fire pits to stay warm

 Low tide





  1. Dahab looks amazing. If I ever end up in the ME, I will definitely check it out. I would go just to see the Vagrant Cats of Penguin. Also, in that one picture of Hazem, he looks like a member of NWA. Straight Outta Dahab...

  2. Ryan is right--I really like what I see in Dahab. You two should take a job with National Geographic!!