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Jasmine Dispatch

A Sacred Journey
December 11

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The Sun setting on the Sinai Desert
Caption
It was like a scene from a Lethal Weapon movie, just after Mel Gison and Danny Glover explode out of some building on a downtown avenue. The traffic in Islamic Cairo was backed up in every direction reaching as far back as Central Cairo. For once I was glad to be walking! It was at a complete stand still for miles and miles, and by the time we had arrived at the main square (and the source of the traffic jam) on Sharia al-Muizz li-Din Allah the problem was immediately apparent. It was an amazing sight! Tour busses clogged the streets, but not with tourists. The busses were filled with local Egyptians all kissing and crying, waving to one another and packing onto the busses. What was all of the commotion about? Where were they going? A local store keeper explained that these busses were taking the lottery winners to Mecca to make the Haj. Most Muslims save up all their lives. to make this sacred pilgrimage to the Holy Land in Saudi Arabia at least once in their lives.

Today, the constant polluted commotion of Cairo days are distant memories faded in the desert sunset. It was just last week, but in that week's time I too made a sacred pilgrimage; not to Mecca but to Mount Sinai. Now after returning from that mountain top experience, a peaceful calm surrounds me as I sit on the coast of the Red Sea engulfed in yet another magical sunset. I can literally see Saudi Arabia in the distance, only 30 kilometers across the water from here. And I can picture the millions of people there making the Haj.

Vocabulary Box

pilgrimage - a journey made to a sacred place as an act of devotion
peculiar - strange, uncommon, or unusual
denomination - a religious
relinquish - to give up or let go

This desert is a far cry from the overcrowded Cairo streets, but that's not what amazes me. What's more is the deeper understanding I've gained, not of Cairo where many of the pilgrims in Mecca came from, but of the importance of such a journey itself. Before now I could only imagine the serenity of a pilgrimage, feeling the energy of a sacred land, to walk and to pray on Holy ground. It was unforgettable, absolutely awesome - I've never experienced anything like it!

The way the arms of the Red Sea stretch up to cradle and protect the desert here in the Sinai peninsula is the first clue that this is an especially peculiar place. This desert links Africa and Asia and has been well- traveled for centuries. Still it's best known to Muslims, Christians, and Jews as the land on which Mt. Sinai, the sacred mountain where Moses received the 10 Commandments, peaks up into the heavens. Talk about a sacred journey, Moses leader of the Israelites and follower of God, according to the sacred text of the Bible, is said to have wandered here in this very desert for 40 years before the Iraelites were led into the promised land in Cannan (the place we know today as Israel and the Palestinian territories). The Israelites had just been freed from bondage and were making a mass exodus from Upper Egyptian a land then called Goshen. They miraculously escaped the clutches of the Egyptian Pharaoh in 1446 BC, on dry ground when Moses, through the power of God, parted the Red Sea.

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This is a nice enough place to sleep tonight
Caption

My pilgrimage, though not as eventful as that of the Israelites included a few days of wandering in the desert, and trekking over reddish-brown mountains of the Sinai peninsula but not until Monica and I first made our way up the steep slopes of Mt.Sinai itself. By moonlight we hiked to the top, and once there immediately attempted to find a warm place to sleep until sunrise. I slept in a cave and Monica out on a cliff, where we lay looking down on the clouds and up into the heavens until we grew numb enough to the chill to fall asleep. In the mean time I read , by the light of the fire, the passage of biblical scripture in Exodus that talks about Moses on the Mountain. to a Muslim guy who asked me what was so significant about Moses and this Mountain. We were awakend around 4:30am by the chanting and singing of church groups who climb the mountain as a group to pray and sing praises. What a blessing - all kinds of people, all races, and denominations, Muslims, Christians, and Jews singing and praying together.

There is a small church built on top of the mountain, a Greek Orthodox Church, hundreds of years old built by the monks...We passed a Beduoin on our way down to the Monastery. She was walking her mule up the last 3000 Steps of Repenatnce built by the Monks. She lives in the valley there, and the mules hall stuff up to the little shops along the way. It was a long way to go.

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Bringing food to the monastery
Caption

In addition to its religious significance, Sinai, because it is a strategically positioned gateway, has been subject of many religious and political confrontations to come. These political and religious tensions persisted well up into this century, and are the impetus of the unrest we'll all witness first-hand as the team moves into Israel and the Palestinian territories in less than a week. After Pharonic and ancient Biblical days, Sinai found itself under Greek rule as Alexander the Great marched over her desert sands to conquer Egyptian 332 BC. Some nine hundred years later, the Arab ruler, General Amr then brought Islam to Africa when his armies parade through the Sinai desert to conquer Egypt in 639 AD. His invasion was followed by a series of battles between the Christian Crusaders and the Mamluk and Turkish Muslims, each attempting to gain control over this region, along with the rest of Egypt. The French under Napoleon's leadership and the British under Allenby entered the struggle over the peninsula.

After that the battle was fought between Egypt and Israel. During which Israel briefly seized control over Sinai in 1948. International pressure forced them to relinquish control and it would be another 30 years before Peace Talks would begin. But I'm getting a little ahead of myself. You'll have to stay tuned for more on this topic when we arrive in Tel Aviv. We'll also make a few more sacred journeys, there's Jerusalem, the most Holy city of Israel the birthplace of Jesus Christ; there's the Holy Mount Hebron, the Sea of Galilee where Jesus walked on water, and much much more!

Jasmine

p.s. - Please e-mail me at ...worldtrekker@internettreks.org

 

Jasmine - Dam, You Sunk My Homeland
Monica - No One in Manshiet Nasser is Saying Adieu to ADEW
Team - Going once… Going twice… Sold! (For absolutely nothing)
Team - Jihad: Defense of the Heart, Tongue, Hand and Sword
Team - Alert! Our Friends Are in Danger!

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