Live always at the edge of poetic possibilty, even in the face of severe prose. - Walter Bruggemann

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

St. Catherine's Monastary - The Second Day

As the sun rose over the Gulf of Aqaba and the Mountains of Saudi Arabia the air was hot and dry. The sky was not clear which, at first, I was disappointed. But later in the day the sandy haze proved to be blessing in disguise.
Behind the hotel at sunrise.
I really hate when donkeys cross the road when you're trying to get somewhere! They're in no hurry, our driver, Mahmoud, was very patient. Photo taken through the windshield.
At least it wasn't the camel caravan crossing the road.
Mahmoud really was a very patient man. He stopped whenever we yelled, 'look'! We wanted to take a photo of a scenic overview and these Bedouin girls popped out of nowhere. They wanted money or lipstick.
She was very beautiful...certainly needed no lipstick.
This boy was at the entrance to St. Catherine's Protectorate. St. Catherine's lies at the foot of Mount Sinai where it is said that Moses received the 10 Commandments. St. Catherine's is the oldest continuing monastery in the world and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is Greek Orthodox and contains some of the oldest icons in the world dating back to the 5th and 6th century.
The official name of this site is The Sacred and Imperial Monastery of the God-Trodden Mount of Sinai. It was built by Emperor Justinian I between 527 and 565. It encloses the Chapel of the Burning Bush where St. Helena, Constantine's mother, ordered it to be built.
The site is associated with Catherine of Alexandria, a Christian martyr. Her relics were purported to be transported there by an angel.
Bedouin cab drivers waiting for a fare. They will drive you a distance to get to St. Catherine's Monastery. We preferred to walk.
I was surprised at how little commercialization there was at St. Catherine's. Only six or seven shops, all with the same buyers it seemed, were selling souvies.
After Donna and I paid our Egyptian pound to get into the WC we saw this sign hanging on the wall above the washstand. Alot of good it did for those poor people without mong. I didn't have mong but still had to pay! Seriously though, we were miffed that every time we had to go we had to pay. But then again we were in the middle of the Sinai where water is not so abundant....neither was toilet paper.
Across from the Monastery are these beautiful rock formations.

St. Catherine's with Mt. Sinai in the background.
It was very crowded inside of the church itself. In fact, we were herded by Bedouin through very quickly. The inside was uniquely, kitschy beautiful. Icons, lanterns, gold and glitz everywhere. We were only allowed in the church that day, the rest was closed off due to the upcoming Greek Orthodox Easter on April 27.
The entrance to the church. No photo's, no talking once you cross the threshold.

Monastery in its entirety. Last ditch effort to sell us some alabaster items. This blog entry is the first half of the first full day. Check back tomorrow for the second half of our first day. Lot's more to come.

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