Friday, May 27, 2011

Mt. Sinai

I rock. 

All the other tourist on the mountain, but they rode up on camel! Cheaters!!! 

Enjoying the view on Mt. Sinai!! 

BEEBA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This was Beeba's first mountain hike, she was incredible! 

Our first tea break!! 

First glimpse of sun. 

Our awesome hiking group!! 

There are flowers in the Sinai

Just the beginning of the dawn. 

Elijah's cave/area...

St. Catherine's Monastery

In the gardens. 

The view from our room, not too shabby. 

Beeba with "her people" ;-)

The wasteland that is Sinai

One more view from the monastery. 

Our DELICIOUS dinner!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

Into Sinai...

Our driver had a little too much confidence on the roads to St. Catherine's.  I would have preferred to take it a little slower, instead of hanging on in order to not flying out of my seat.  The scenery is quite breathtaking, The first hour is only the Gulf of Aqaba and Saudi Arabia beyond that. But then you turn north to actually get to St. Catherine's, it becomes desolate and mountainous.  On our way, I commented that it was so wonder the Israelites built a golden calf.  If I was stuck in this waste land, I would also have a hard time holding on to my faith.  It was quite a daunting view and I would wish on no one to be stuck there for forty years.

When we arrived at the monastery, I think we were all shocked by the beauty we were greeted with. The flower, garden filled monastery is surrounded by towering mountains, including Mt. Sinai, that we would climb the next morning.  We were showed our rooms, relaxed outside had a tea/coffee and chatted with our new friends. Rupert and Sally are from Wakefield, England. He is a pastor and she seems to be a jack of all trades.  There three children are in university or recently finished, they love to travel and hike. The bottom line is, they are beautiful people and Beeba and I couldn't have been more lucky to have bumped into them.

Beeba and I toured the part of the monastery that was open, the grounds and gardens.  It was lovely and around sunset.  We took a lot of pictures and ran into a group of Indians from Beeba's state. So she talked to them in their native language, which was awesome because I had never heard Beeba speak it before.

We raced back to have dinner, we were starving by then, only to find out there is a hour time change between Israel and Egypt, who knew? So we sat for an hour because we were served our huge dinners. Salad, fresh baked bread, babaganush, pasta and chicken! It was a great meal before our hike.

At 12:30 am, we woke, prepared, and met to start our hike at 1am. Another girl from NYC, Stephanie, had also joined us. We had a Bedouin guide to lead us blindly into the moon lit sky.  And lit it was, we didn't even have to use our flashlights.  The moon was so bright we could see all the rocks, boulders, and stairs in our way. We slowly progressed up the mountain, stopping for tea and snacks on the way.  Around 3:30 am we made it to the last outpost before the final incline to the top (only about 3 minutes more).  We waited there for the dawn to begin and for our sweat to dry so we wouldn't freeze at the summit.

As it began to lighten, we hiked up the last bit to the top. There is a church and a mosque, both securely locked. We saw other hikers who had come the night before the sleep at the top and a few other tourists/pilgrims who had come during the night like us.  

Like all sunrises, it was beautiful and magically, but it wasn't so colorful. But a steady increase in light and then we saw the ball floating in the sky to the east.  It really was majestic.  The expanse of the desert mountains also came into view with the new light.  Whether someone is religious or not, it felt like a holy place indeed.  We explored the summit until our group were the only ones on the mountain. We took one last picture and Rupert said a beautiful pray about hoping that our faith will endure like this mountain, and then we slowly started our descent from the 2300 meter mountain.

Our the way down we took the way of Elijah's cave. There were 3000 stairs to descend, but we did so slowly and taking many pictures on our way.  Breakfast we waiting for us when we arrived. I showered. And not much time after our devoted taxi driver was there to take us back to the border.  We said our goodbyes to our new friends and sank into the seats that we had sat in less than 24 hours before. When we arrived at the border, the same border men were there to welcome us back, and the old man with one yell tooth reassured me that he still loved me...

And then, we were home, back in Israel. Where they made Beeba (and I) sit and wait for two hours. Thanks Israel, it was a nice welcome home. I hope every woman who works at the Taba Border Crossing is fired. Todah. =) 

A Pigeon and a Boy

Although I have an extraordinary amount of Hebrew homework to do, I read the last 100 pages of this book today. I don't ever remember crying after I finished a book, but after I flipped the back cover closed, more tears came. I don't know if I was sad at the ending, sad that the story had come to the end, or sad that there wasn't more for me to read.  This is the fourth Israeli author I have read since I have moved to Israel. I really love him. His descriptions are poetic and I dove into everything is wanted to share with me.  He made me laugh, smile, happy, sad, and cry. He made me look at my life and ponder and think if I am living it as fully as I should. Maybe I am exaggerating, and tomorrow I might forget his words or the way he made me feel when I was reading, but I hope that won't be the case.  

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Pictures from Petra

Me, and the expanse that is Jordan.

Me with a nice little tree in Petra.

The famous treasury. 

There are donkeys and camels everywhere. They want you to pay to ride them. 

The awesome Beeba!!!! 

The monastery.

Beeba and I exhausted after the stairs up to the monastery! 

Bedouin family. There are 100s of Bedouins selling trinkets and donkey/camel rides all over Petra.  

Goodbye camel. 

Beeba and Andrea go to Jordan and Egypt!

Finally, Beeba and I made it on our trip! We left Israel on Thursday and crossed the border into Jordan. We took a taxi to Petra (later we found out there was a bus from Aqaba, but live and learn.) We had a few stops along the way from our very hospitable driver for tea, an over look, etc. We finally made it to the Shahara Mountain hostel, which was clean, but lacked in water pressure.  We ate dinner ate a restaurant down the road at a great place. I ate a half chicken. It was fabulous! We walked around Wadi Musa and went to bed early in order to rise early for our full day in Petra.

We walked down the huge slope that led into Petra.  We were there before 9 in the morning and paid the outrageous entrance fee, almost 50 dollars.  I'm not sure if you can put a price on something that is priceless, but it's hard to say if it was worth 50 dollars.  Although, we did walk around the park for 10 hours, we had to make sure we got our money's worth.

Petra is quite beautiful. It was built out of single slabs of sand stone.  And it's huge. Usually we just see one picture, but park is very expansive. There is a 2km walk to see the treasury, and it's about another hour and 30 minute walk (plus 750) stairs to see the monastery.

We left the park around 5pm, ate a wonderful lentil soup dinner at the same restaurant and went to buy some jewelery. Beeba bought a few presents for people, and we were on our way back to the hotel.

We must had been really worn out from our day in Petra, because I didn't hear the alarm go off.  We slept until two minutes before our taxi was suppose to arrive.  We were both quite flustered, but we managed and we reached the border a little after 9 in the morning. We took a taxi to the central station in Eilat and then a bus to the Taba boarder crossing. We crossed easily. But then we had to take a taxi to the monastery and they wanted to charge us a crazy amount, so we just waited. I refused to pay more than what the man at the monastery told us it would cost. We sat and waited for more than an hour until finally two wonderful people, Sally and Rupert, who we would become very close with in the next day, arrived.  On the spot, they decided that they would also go to the monastery. So we were on our way...

To be cont... =)