Yesterday, I shared my desire to climb Mt Horeb (also called Mt Sinai or Mt Moses), rising up and around St Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt but the only group going was a German group at night. And I was night blind. Besides that, the tour was full. Read HERE if you’d like to know how I jointed that tour.
My story begins today on the mountain with the negotiations between some of the tourists, the guide and the Bedouin camel-owners
TREAD SOFTLY ALONG THE CAMEL TRAIL
I tried to focus my eyes in the 2 a.m. darkness but the shadows crowded around me–shadows mixed with the distorted glare of lightly swaying night lanterns. The voices spoke back and forth in a smooth flow of Arabic as Bedouin guides and our leader bargained for the camels. German and faulty English broke through, sounding harsh and abrupt as impatient climbers stepped in to negotiate for their own camels. I watched the shadowy motion of negotiations, feeling somewhat detached as the shadows lengthened and shortened. I heard the guide call out my name for the ride I would take and was hoisted onto a camel by a lithe, white-turbaned man I assumed came from one of the Bedouin tribes. Once safely on the camel, I turned to inspect my surroundings.
I heard the guide call out my name for the ride I would take and was hoisted onto a camel by a lithe, white-turbaned man I assumed came from one of the Bedouin tribes.”
I realized my luck when I heard the disappointed sighs and groans of the German climbers having to make their way up Mount Horeb on foot. My new friend, the Egyptian tour guide in charge of the German group, had taken care of me just as he promised he would.
Along with four other fortunate camel riders and masters, I waited at the entrance of the large striped tent for the entire group to assemble before heading up the mountain. We shivered in the chilly night air. Someone stuck a glass of shay [pronounced shy] in my hand. I cupped my fingers around the glass, warming my hands and taking gulps of the sweet tea before taking off to go up the mountain. I sat on my camel anxious to begin the journey.
I’d been told the camels would make their way halfway up the mountain but when we reached the steps, carved from stone by first century Christians, we’d all have to continue up on foot. I knew I would conquer Moses’s mountain if the majority of darkness passed while I rode the camel. He would take me where I, myself, could not see to go.
As we started upward, I listened to the clicking sounds the camel herder made to get the camel going at a good pace. Seated comfortably, I felt safe as I was guided around the gently sloping pathways. My backpack, containing only a small bottle of Baraka water, my camera and a long-sleeved shirt to put on when we reached the higher, colder altitude, felt light.
I looked up and noticed a few stars in the sky over the fir trees we passed along the way. It felt just like what I imagined it to be like when the three wise men rode through the night to find the Christ child to present him with their gifts of gold, myrrh, and frankincense. I felt a strong bond of kinsmanship with them, one that transcended biblical times to today. Also, the Bible stories I’d read about Moses seemed so imaginable to me that I could close my eyes and find myself in another day watching Moses stand in the midst of fiery glory at the top of the very mountain where I soon would be seeing the sunrise.
The Bible stories I’d read about Moses seemed so imaginable to me that I could close my eyes and find myself in another day watching Moses stand in the midst of fiery glory at the top of the very mountain where I soon would be seeing the sunrise.”
The trail grew coarser and I was jogged roughly about on the steep turns. The camel herder knew every bend and turn along the way; it was too dark to see. Again, I settled into accustomed to the rhythm of our course, enjoying the peacefulness of the climb. How good God was to enable me this incredible opportunity!
Suddenly, I felt a hand steady my back. It took me a moment to realize that I was sliding to one side of the camel and would have fallen off if this humble camel herder hadn’t been so alert. I tried harder to stay upright. Soon this ride would finish and I’d be making my way up over 3,800 carved steps leading to the summit of Mt. Horeb. I closed my eyes to savor the last of my camel ride.
The journey ended and soon I was lifted off the camel, which had at its master’s bidding lowered itself to the ground as if on bended knee. Several climbers from other nationalities formed groups, gathering around another tent to drink more shay before beginning the last leg of the journey.
I took a deep breath and checked my watch. 4:30 am. A few German climbers passed me up. I needed to get going. I aimed my flashlight just ahead of my feet and made my way up the steep path of stones. I felt fortunate when flat stones appeared, enabling me to catch my breath It got lighter as I climbed so the going wasn’t too difficult. I climbed steadily, carefully feeling my way along the rocks when the beam of my flashlight didn’t reach far enough to the next stone.
“Aiwa,” I called back.
“Good. You need help, you shout me.”
At 5:40, I reached the top of the mountain. Al Humdulilah! Thank God!
I caught sight of the tour guide stretched out over a large boulder nursing a cup of hot tea. I was reminded of the turtle and the hare. I started out on the camel traveling faster than most of the climbers early on but he and others had arrived long before me.
“Shay?” the guide asked, lifting an eyebrow.
“Gladly!” I nodded, warming my fingers on the cup.
I opened my backpack, slipped out my long-sleeved blouse and put it on. Brrrh!
The sunrise came at a few minutes to six that morning. I captured this magical event on film. Looking around, I could feel the strong presence left behind by Moses. I knew if I turned around at just the right moment I would catch him enveloped in smoke, looking down the mountain at his people who were waiting for his message below.
I knew if I turned around at just the right moment, I would catch Moses enveloped in smoke”
God, you are right here with me! You brought me to the peak of Your mountain. You said if we only asked, you would give us the desires of our hearts. And You have this morning! I would never have been able to experience this journey alone in the dark, but You brought it about. I overheard the German tourists talking, met their tour guide and joined their group. Thank you, God! Let me never forget how You speak to us today, maybe not through a burning bush or ancient written tablets, but through our hearts.
I watched a group of Israeli climbers as they linked arms and sang together in the early morning light. Lord, our world is so small. Here we all are—Muslim, Christian and Jewish — on the same mountain. What we see might be different but what You see is the same—hearts that need You.
Here we all are—Muslim, Christian and Jewish — on the same mountain. What we see might be different but what You see is the same—hearts that need You.”
You are at the center of it all, still demonstrating over thousands of years how You love us and bring us together by a shared history of Moses and past dialogue. I am overwhelmed by Your glory. Let me remember this experience forever and share it with others.
As I descended the mountain, I met a Japanese tourist and we began to speak. We compared notes on climbing Mt. Fuji. Suddenly he said, “My legs are wobbly.”That’s when I realized my own legs began to tremble! Oh God. Keep me going. Don’t let me stop or I’m going to fall and injure myself. Slowly. Steady, now.
My Japanese acquaintances and I separated as we both concentrated on making our way down. At 7:30 I reached the bottom of the mountain, my legs feeling curiously rubbery. Just a little bit further, I told myself. As I continued, a scripture came to mind.
Those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not grow faint.” Isaiah 40:31, NLT
Though I continued walking on elasticized legs, my soul started run with God.