Thursday, August 13, 2009

Day 47- Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt

Another early wake up at 6 am put us on the bus at 7 am for the three hour bus ride to St. Catherine City to visit the St. Catherine monastery. Not everyone chose to go with us today so the 13 who did slept on and off between Eman’s announcements. Eman is our guide for this trip. She said we could call her mom if it was easier for us. She told us this area is sacred because many prophets passed through here; Moses, Joseph, Jesus. At the monastery we saw the cathedral and the burning bush. The burning bush was not burning today, it only burns on Sundays. It was found by Moses who heard the voice of God telling him to go to the pharaoh of Egypt and ask him to believe in God. Moses, who had been rescued by the wife of the pharaoh way back when, did what God asked and then escaped from Egypt. He went to Sinai and married a daughter of Jethro who he met at the well, which is also at the monastery. This information is what Eman told us. What I learned in catholic school all those years was not really in line with her story. She left out the part where the Jews were being held captive by the pharaoh, the plagues, etc. etc. I think that may be due to the different perspectives between Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. Certain things are more important depending on who is telling the story. Anyway, Moses went up on Mount Sinai and got the ten commandments and found his people worshiping a golden calf and then broke the tablets and had to get new ones…I think most people know how it goes.


The monastery is a Greek Orthodox monastery whose patron saint in St. Catherine. St. Catherine lived during the fourth century and was from Alexandria. She was part of a rich, royal, pagan family. Her tutor was a monk who taught her about Christianity and encouraged her to convert. The emperor tried to get her to go back to the old religion because all who converted were killed. St. Catherine was tortured but the next day all her wounds healed so she was ordered to be beheaded. Rumor has it that milk flowed out of her wounds when she was beheaded but that’s about where I stopped listening to Eman.


We were fortunate enough to be shown the library thanks to some connections between the monks and our bodyguard (each tour group has one) Elias. We met Father Justinos who is the only monk here from the United States and only one of two who are not of direct Greek descent. He told us about all the books in the library which is in the process of being rebuilt so most of the books are being packed up. There are thousands of handwritten manuscripts which are written on skins and parchment. There are over 11 different languages in the manuscripts and books but most are in Greek.



After leaving the monastery we went to Dahab which is a few hours away to have lunch at the Hilton. Another buffet with Egyptian food that we are getting tired of, surprisingly. Once we returned to Naama Bay and the Marriott we rested by the pool before showering and having dinner. Most of us decided to go out to Soho Square which is a very popular tourist spot in Sharm El Sheikh. We took a cab there and found the Ice Bar that we had heard about. We bought tickets for 20 Euros (good thing I had some left over). This bar is supposedly one of 6 famous ones although we hadn’t heard of most of them. The ticket is good for warm clothing (as stinky parka with a hood and gloves), 30 minutes in the ice bar, and one free drink. They might as well say one free juice or soft drink because there was no alcohol in those drinks. It was a little awkward because we were the only people in the tiny little room that had ice sculptures of a fish and an eagle. There wasn’t a bar tender and the bottles at the bar were empty. They brought our drinks from the bar outside and the music seemed to be coming from one tiny speaker in the corner. All in all it was a good experience but it wasn’t as spectacular as we had hoped it would be.


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 I was called upon as the resident Catholic to tell the stories behind the sties we saw today. Ms. Betty and crew back in high school should be proud of me!


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God did not speak to me from within the burning bush today. I did, however, get followed by a small child for 15 minutes while he tried to sell me an egg made of stone.


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