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  • Writer's pictureErin Nixon

June 23: Sunrise on Sinai

Location: Dahab, Egypt; Sinai, Egypt; Aqaba, Jordan

We got on the bus at midnight, packed our luggage, and drove for about two hours to Sinai. We got there around 2 am, after passing through 5 security checkpoints. Yay safety.

The entire bus from our hotel hired a guide up the mountain for 5 pounds each. We started walking up the mountain in the dark, with only a few flashlights in our entire group. Sabah, our guide, is a Bedouin that speaks perfect English, and he didn’t need anything to find his way up the really high mountain in the dark.

We took the switchback trail up Sinai, and got to the top of the mountain around 5 am just as daylight was starting to show. Sabah showed us the best places to take pictures from, and we settled down to wait for sunrise. It was so cold. Imagine walking up in the heat, sweating, and then going up 2,200 kilometers where there is cold air and wind blowing. Most of us were freezing.

I got some great pictures of sunrise on Sinai. I really thought about what Dr. McDaniel once said about knowing God. “It’s like standing on a precipice, or a gorge, or a canyon, and looking down. At once there is the feeling that one wants to jump off into the abyss, to be absorbed into the expansiveness of it all, and then there is the very human response of fear of death, of nonexistence, and you pull yourself back to safety.”

We stayed on the top of Mt. Sinai until the sun had come up, and most of the other groups had left. There were a couple hundred people on the mountain, because everyone hikes at sunrise or sunset, because it’s so hot otherwise.

On the way back down our group decided to take the Trail of Repentance. It’s basically 3,000 steps straight down. Think…Lord of the Rings with Gollum, Frodo, and Sam in Mordor, climbing up that wall/mountain. Hardcore. By the time we got back, all our legs were shaking from the constant effort of trying to keep our balance, and stepping down.

We got back on the microbus that brought us to Sinai, and started driving toward Dahab. We were thirty minutes late, because one of the Spaniards in our group decided to wander off and be late, which means that we had to chase down the microbus that was headed toward Neuweba with David in tow. We transferred buses and met up with David again. I started getting sick, I don’t know why, and I felt like I was going to die the entire way to Neuweba. I think that, between the hike, the dehydration, the lack of sleep, and the lack of food, my body finally revolted.

Once we got to Neuweba I started feeling better, and we bought our tickets for the ferry to Aqaba, Jordan, and went to find a restaurant. We took a pickup, because the only car-taxis are in Cairo, and piled in the back as we drove through Neuweba. It was like a southwestern ghost town, because it was the off season for tourism. We ate at a little hotel by the Red Sea, then took another truck back to Port Neuweba to get on the ferry.

We went through passport control and the four of us made the nice man behind the counter laugh, because we were using our Arabic. I don’t think I’d seen anyone in the Egyptian army laugh before…

We stayed in the terminal for a long time. I read Deception Point while David read The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and Nathan and Jacek listened to music/napped. We finally got on board the ship, and settled down at a café on board. Think of the ferry as a small scale cruise ship, with people who are irritated that it takes so long…

I finished Deception Point and David and I spent an hour and a half or so playing “listen to this” with our ipods and my headphone splitter. Lots of good music to be had. Eventually we ran out of random songs to make each other laugh, and David decided to get back to reading The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I took a few pictures of the guys, and David took a picture of me on board the ship, so we can remember the bureaucracy that made this ferry ride so long… …I sat on a ferry that is supposed to take 2 hours to get from Neuweba to Aqaba…for seven hours…

Jacek and I even fell asleep on our suitcases from time to time. Nathan, Jacek and I were all dead on our feet from the lack of sleep, between the snorkeling and hiking up Sinai. At a little past midnight, the ferry finally arrived, and we got off to go through customs. In Jordan, customs = someone looking at your passport to make sure it’s real, x-ray machine over baggage, and then the army deciding that you look American enough to skip the actual search of the luggage. Score.

We got through customs and found a taxi to take us to the hotel area of Aqaba. The guys and I found a little hotel that had a triple room, and a single room. My room is only 18 Jordanian Denar, which equals around $13, and it’s much nicer than the one in Dahab…though…no beach. After we dumped off our stuff, at around 2 am, we all walked to the McDonalds we saw down the street. Okay. No cracks about the American food. It was 2 am, nowhere else was open, and we were about to start chewing our arms off if we didn’t find something to eat.

We came back to the hotel and crashed around 3:30 am or so. So exhausted. Tomorrow we are going to be heading to Wadi Rum, a famous oasis that Lawrence of Arabia loved, and then heading to Petra to stay the night before we see that, the day after tomorrow. Right now, I’m going to sleep.

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