Of Bedouins and Bedrock: Life in the Sinai Desert, Egypt
If you want to see an ancient tribe of people and the incredibly difficult environment in which they live, go to the Sinai Desert in Egypt. As a biologist, I searched the terrain at the base of Mt.Sinai for any signs of plant or animal life. I saw a couple of species of birds, but I could barely find a plant of any kind amongst the rock and stone that lay as far as the eye could see. There is a tribe of people who live in this austere environment—the Bedouins. Young girls tended a small flock of goats as they scampered effortlessly over the boulder-strewn landscape looking for a plant on which to browse near where I was searching. They yelled at me in their high-pitched trill with face fully covered in a black burka. Yet again, the phrase about not being in Kansas anymore came to mind.
St. Catharine's Monastery
At the base of Mt.Sinai is one of the planet’s most incredible landmarks—St. Catharine’s Monastery (see video below). This is the world’s oldest continuously-occupied Christian monastery; it has been staffed by priests of the Greek Orthodox church since the 6th century. The monastery is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Enclosed within the grounds of the monastery is the “burning bush” of biblical fame. I stood in front of the bush with one of England's foremost botanists who explained to me that the bush was a shrub in the genus Rubus. That’s right, it is a raspberry bush. The gallery of art inside contains some of the oldest icons in existence (photos not allowed); they are well over 1,000 years old. The site is considered sacred to Jews, Christians, and Muslims.
The hike up Mt.Sinai is not that strenuous, or you can ride a camel up. We only had time to go half way, but the views of the Sinai Desert below were breathtaking. Of course, this is the mount on which Moses supposedly received the 10 commandments from God. Regardless of your religious beliefs, the antiquity that emanates from the entire area generates a sincere respect for the history represented.
All photos by DrTom. For great travel deals, see DrTom's Travel Shoppe.
Good stuff when you travel
- Bedouin - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Description of these interesting people found in deserts of the Middle East.
- Saint Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Detailed history and description of this monastery.
- Sinai Peninsula
History and geography of this fascinating peninsula.
- Mount Sinai
Description of site and its location.
- St. Catherine's Monastery, Egypt
St. Catherine's Monastery: History, description, photos and visitor information for St. Catherine's Monastery, Sinai Peninsula, Egypt.