## Saturday, April 3, 2010

### Shout it from this mountaintop

http://www.todayonline.com/Traveller/EDC100313-0000051/Shout-it-from-this-mountaintop
By
Charmaine Noronha, traveller@mediacorp.com.sg
05:55 AM Mar 13, 2010

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PHOTO: http://www.bible.ca/archeology/bible-archeology-exodus-mt-sinai-sinai-drawing.jpg
http://thunking.files.wordpress.com/2008/08/mount-sinai.jpg

PHOTO: http://cnarte.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/moises_200x150cm.jpg

It isn't easy following in Moses' footsteps, but the journey's end makes it all worth it.

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In THE Bible, Moses climbs Mount Sinai in Egypt to receive the Ten Commandments.

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PHOTO: http://www.inforum.com/media/full/jpg/2009/04/10/moses.jpg

But he was the chosen one, and I am a mere mortal. Divine intervention seemed unlikely as I stood at the base of the mountain, chilled to the bone at 2am, with only faint light from a spattering of stars and the sliver of moon on the dark rocky terrain.

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Then, out popped our guide, a sprightly young Egyptian man dressed in little more than a galabeya, the traditional long men's shirt. Meanwhile, I felt cold wearing almost all the clothing I brought with me on my trip, including a borrowed jacket and my woolliest socks. His garment billowed in the wind as he led me and a group of travellers from around the world to the summit 2,285m up.

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We walked through the darkness, up the winding trail, over granite crags and slippery rocks.

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For others on the hike, the expedition had deep religious significance. The Bible says this is where God gave Moses two stone tablets inscribed with the commandments. Moses received these laws after leading the Jews out of slavery in Egypt. But Sinai is an important site for Jews, Christians and Muslims alike, and every night, hundreds of pilgrims make the climb.

PHOTO: http://www.chevivi.com/CarsPhoto/Other/3/3/1/30331.jpg

There are two routes for the 7km round trip: The camel path, or a steeper, more direct route of some 3,750 stairs to the top, sometimes referred to as "God's Stairmaster".

For me, the camel route was challenging enough. I could feel my heart pounding through layers of clothes, and the sweat trickling down my forehead felt like a fever chill. Moses made two sojourns here to receive the tablets, spending 40 days on the mountain each time, but we would be up and down in four and a half hours.

PHOTO: http://home.planet.nl/~brouw724/images/Moses-Mount-Sinai.jpg

The hours rolled into each other.

At about 5am, the sky began its slow transformation, turning from black to shades of gray.

As we climbed the last bit to the top, stone silhouettes began to form in the distance. The summit appeared to be blanketed with mummified people tucked in sleeping bags and camel blankets.

As the sun came into view, a group of Romanian pilgrims broke into a hymn. Their booming voices provided an almost eerie soundtrack to the sunrise.

PHOTO: http://www.searchviews.com/wp-content/themes/clean-copy-full-3-column-1/images/plaugue-moses.jpg

The rest of us stared quietly across the Sinai desert as the light began to cast a warm glow, unveiling rocky peaks all around us. The mountains turned crimson, gold and orange, and I felt my spirits lifting with the heat of the sun.

I almost expected the Romanians to start singing "Hallelujah". They didn't, but I did, in my head.
AP

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Tips!
• Mount Sinai can be reached from the Red Sea resort towns of Dahab and Sharm El Sheik (about two hours by car to the mountain). You can join or organise a tour from either of these resort towns, or hire a taxi to drive you out and wait for you, which costs about US$75 ($105). If you don't go with a tour, you can hire a local guide when you arrive for a few US dollars.
• Most hikes take place in the early afternoon to reach the peak for sunset, or more often, in early morning for sunrise, which means you'll be jostling for place at the summit due to the sheer number of like-minded hikers. Bring a sleeping bag and/or blanket to keep warm at the summit, and layer your clothing so you can easily add or remove items as you heat up and cool down.
• St Catherine's Monastery, at the base of the mountain, houses a pictorial story of Moses and a large bush believers identify as the Burning Bush from the Bible.
By Charmaine Noronha, traveller@mediacorp.com.sg

PHOTO: http://01varvara.files.wordpress.com/2009/01/yuri-lysov-moses-20071.jpg

PHOTO: http://files.myopera.com/CyberSpace89/albums/849004/%5Bwallcoo%5D_cg_artwork_dehong_he_02.jpg

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