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St Catherine's monastery and Nuweiba Beach camp

EGYPT | Thursday, 1 July 2010 | Views [1913]

The legendary Burning Bush - apparently the only place this particular plant grows in Sinai

The legendary Burning Bush - apparently the only place this particular plant grows in Sinai

The following morning we walked back to St Catherine’s monastery, where we spent an hour or so exploring. St Catherine was martyred for her beliefs, in the process converting many people to Christ, and it is said that her body was found intact at the top of Mount Sinai 300 years after being beheaded. Apparently her body has been moved to a crypt in the monastery though no-one can be sure as the monks jealously guard it. The monastery is one of the oldest functioning monasteries in the world, and was protected through the ages despite the many invasions of Sinai. One can see a copy of a treaty of protection signed by the prophet Mohammed. The library apparently rivals that of the Vatican when it comes to religious scrolls. We also got to see what is believed to be the legendary “Burning Bush” where God spoke to Moses telling him to climb Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments (now I can appreciate the climb!) Apparently it is the only bush of it’s kind growing in Sinai and all attempts to transplant it have failed. There is also a ‘bone room’ where the skulls and separated bones of past monks are kept as there is not enough land (or it’s too hard to dig) to bury all of them. So the practice is to bury the latest dead guy, and then dig his bones up, separate them, and place them in the bone room. Bit morbid. The girls and I decided it was inappropriate to take photos, especially after seeing some tourists hogging the doorway to take multiple photos on their mobile phones.

We then hustled into the van to reach the Weiba Red Sea beach camp before the other Intrepid groups in order to get the huts closest to the sea. Sam had already called ahead to hook us up – yet another advantage of a local guide! We arrived to a very windy but beautiful beach with huts as far as the eye could see. A little bit desolate, but then again I’ve been so spoilt with Aussie and NZ beaches that it takes a lot to impress me.

We immediately threw our togs on and walked the long trek into the sea to get deep enough for a swim. Shaun went snorkeling with Jen keeping him company (i.e. making sure he didn’t drown) while we lazed on the beach like basking whales. Soon Jen was staggering out of the sea holding her hand – our first casualty of the trip. She’d put her hand down on a sea urchin and, coming from Australia, immediately thought the worst and wondered how long she had to live. Sam and I took turns trying to dig out the spikes, which had turned her finger purple in places, but it turned out to be only bruising and bleeding. So no deaths today.

The rest of the day was hectic, consisting of alternately reading or sleeping. Oh, and beer, lots of beer (I think they were a bit shocked when we rocked up with 3 slabs – well, there were 4 Aussies and a Kiwi!). A delicious dinner was followed by our own private campfire complete with marshmallows provided by our awesome guide. It turned into a bit of a heart-to-heart after “20 Questions” took a serious turn, so Shaun, Jen & Carly ended up wandering off and making friends with the local crazy Bedouin neighbour. Eventually I went to find Jen to get the hut key off of her and ended up getting dragged into his hut by Carly in order to have a photo taken with him while all the girls yelled, “Don’t grope her!” Charming. Finally we managed to beat a hasty retreat to the safety of our (lockable) huts.

Tags: beach camp, nuweiba, red sea, st catherines monastery

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