The Sinai peninsula


Sunrise on the Gulf of Aqaba


The Sinai Peninsula
Arriving from Jordan by boat, we crossed the Gulf of Aqaba into the Sinai. From the small port of Nuweiba, we headed south along the coast to Dahab where we had planned to learn to dive. On our way there, we visited two of the few touristy places, the coloured canyon and the Sainte Catherine monastery and climbed Mount Sinai !


The coloured Canyon
Similar to what we have seen in Jordan (Petra and Wadi Rum), the "coloured canyon" is a collection of warm colours set in the stone. There weren't any indications to get to the canyon and we were lucky to see another Troopie carrying tourists make a turn into a wide riverbed. It took us 12 km of roads of rock and sand to get there thinking we would have the place almost entirely to ourselves. As it turned out, this is a popular day trip for tourists on the Red Sea resorts and all had come with a Troopie ! After a walk of a few hours in the canyon, we were asked by the drivers to come and have tea. Wonderful hospitality we thought only to be asked to pay 6 Egyptians pounds (US$ 1.50) for this, which we didn't. One of many rip-offs to come in Egypt. 



A collection of Troopies.


Mount Sinai
At 2285m, Mount Sinai is Egypt's second highest point after Mt Catherine at 2642m. Mount Sinai's claim to fame is the belief that God delivered his Ten Commandments to Moses from its summit. We camped in front of the Monastery the night before our "final ascent" only to be woken up by large numbers of coaches vomiting their loads of tourists at 2 am. Tour groups is another aspect of Egypt we would have to get used to. We did the touristy thing of walking up to the top to see the sun rise. It was a fun thing to do despite the traffic jams when reaching the top. There are two ways up the summit : the camel trail and the Steps of Repentance !  The camel trail is a 5 wide "path" that leads to a few hundred meters from the summit on which camel owners desperately try to sell you a ride up. "Camel ? Camel ?". Our greeting to them (marhaba) would not even be answered. Every 5 minutes another one came along with his stinking beast. "Camel ? Camel ?" to which we started to reply "Massage ? Massage ?" Not a single one of them got the joke...


Crowds at the top (left), sunrise from Mount Sinai at 6.18 that morning (centre)



We estimated that there were up to 500 tourists on the mountain that morning ! To have a little peace, we took the steps of repentance going down that have the advantage of stunning views over the monastery. The ancient monastery of St Catherine's has remained active since the 4th century ! Today some 22 Greek Orthodox monks live there. The monastery is rather special in that it has managed to gain protection over the centuries by the people in charge (from one of the earlier caliphs, descendant of Mohamed, to Napoleon Bonaparte). As a result it has retained a incredible collection of icons and old scripts. 



"Un peu de douceur dans ce monde de brutes", blossoming trees in the middle of the Sinai desert, St Catherine Monastery, Sinai


Across the stunning Sinai desert


Dahab and diving the Red Sea
Whilst Christian had learned to dive in Hong Kong, Kathleen had always had a problem with putting on a mask and breathing through the mouth. We had practiced a few times with a snorkel in a pool but the results were not positive. In Aqaba, a month ago, we went to the Royal Jordanian Diving Club where we used the pool and their facilities for a day (remember we need a shower once in a while !) and Christian went for a dive in the Red Sea. Kathleen had another brave and long go with a mask and snorkel in their pool. So long that she nearly started hypothermia because of the cold temperature of the water. Nevertheless, it was a success. Later that afternoon, she went into the sea and, despite the strong waves, saw the underwater marvels for the first time. Later, on the boat to Egypt, we decided NOW was the time to pass the scuba diving test. When we get back to normal lives, spending 3 or 4 days of our short holidays on passing a test will seem like a huge price to pay.



Yes, we are on holiday ! The pool at the Nesima Resort (left), Mohamed (centre), the Red Sea is windy for 310 days a year (right)


Checking your buddy before going to meet the Red Sea's many marvels


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Here are our extra pages on Egypt I : 

The Sinai desert The Western or Libyan Desert 50,000 km since HK


Coming from Jordan Back to Trip page Egypt, part II