Crossroads senior web editor Judy Koutsky arrived in Cairo Jan.
29 to begin a two-week adventure in Egypt, sponsored by Wild Women
Adventures. Armed with a laptop and digital camera, she is
sending on-site reports and photographs back to Crossroads' New
Jersey headquarters on a daily basis (or whenever she can get an
Internet connection). Agents who have questions or advice for Judy
during her trip can send email to [email protected]
SHARM AL-SHEIKH, Egypt -- The top tourist attraction on the
Sinai Peninsula, which separates Islamic Egypt from Israel, is a
Christian monastery, St. Catherine's. The monastery, located at the
foot of what is believed to be Mount Sinai, is occupied by Greek
Orthodox monks and has been the destination of pilgrimages since
the fourth century. It is considered to be the oldest continuously
inhabited monastery in the world.
The journey to St. Catherine's is three hours each way from Sharm
Al-Sheikh. There is some fantastic scenery to take in during the
ride. Despite its isolated location, the monastery and Mount
Sinai a great numbers of tourists and pilgrims.
Within its walls, visitors can see the bush that is believed to
be the burning bush from which God spoke to Moses. The thorny bush
was transplanted to the back of the church, where visitors can see
it flourishing. Also at the monastery is a collection of over 2,000
icons, nearly 100 of which are exhibited in the Icon Gallery.
Monks can be seen strolling the grounds, and a beautiful
courtyard of olive trees completes the picture. In the distance,
crosses can be seen on top of the surrounding mountains.
Outside the monastery, visitors can walk to the top of Mount
Sinai, where it is believed that Moses received the Ten
Commandments. Instead of taking the three-hour walk, visitors can
go to the top via camel. Many begin the journey up the mountain at
3 a.m. so they can arrive in time to see the sun rise over St.
Catherine's. While we did not undertake this journey, I'm told by
those who have that it is more than memorable. Considering the
religious and historic significance, and taking into account that
Christians, Jews and Muslims alike make this trek, St. Catherine's
is a can't-miss for clients visiting the region.
The monastery is closed Fridays, Sundays and Orthodox holidays.
On other days, it is open only from 9 a.m. to noon. Visitors should dress modestly,
covering knees and shoulders.
After visiting the monastery, we drove to a bedouin settlement
where we rode camels guided by the bedouin people. The bedouins are
nomads that roam the Sinai with their camels, goats and sheep.
For these people, wealth is measured in camels and children, but
they gradually are becoming open to the earning potential of
tourism. The bedouins served us tea and bread in their village and
offered us a glimpse into their daily lives. We were expected only
to buy jewelry in exchange for their hospitality. The jewelry is
handmade and very inexpensive; I bought two bracelets for less than
The rest of the afternoon was spent driving back to our hotel. The visit to St. Catherine's, was well worth
the six-hour bus ride, but clients based in Sharm Al-Sheikh should
be made aware that it is a full day's excursion. The bedouins were
very gracious hosts, and meeting them was another invaluable
opportunity to appreciate Egypt's diverse population.
Wild Women Adventures: 107 N. Main Street,
Sebastopol, CA 95472. Phone: (800) 992-1322. Web: www.wildwomenadv.com. Email: [email protected]