Travel to Cairo/St Katherine Monastery/Suez Canal/Cairo

We were told that the bus journey from South Sinai to Cairo was going to be a long one, and to be on the bus by 8am. So we started on October 25th, the route was along the coastline of the Red Sea and the last part would be the Gulf of Suez. We would then cross the Canal through the tunnel to enter into Cairo. Our only stop on the way was to be a place which is commonly known to Christians as St.Katherine where there is a monastery and a church built centuries ago over the burning bush that Moses had seen, and was given the Ten Commandments. We had to be transported by taxis and vans to this church, ostensibly the reason was there was not enough of maneuvering room for a full size bus to drive up to the site more likely it could be that the localers were trying to make an extra buck by providing us the transportation to the site.

We did see a bush, purportedly from the seeds of the original bush, and the inevitable sales of rocks which surrounded the spot, again symbolic for the faithful. The significance of St.Katherine’s monastery is more historical than is common knowledge, and I am one of them who read up after the fact about it’s long history and the true nature of this UNESCO site. The books, parchments, palimpsests( ancient manuscripts which have been overwritten by scraping or washing off the original text) a treasure trove for religious historians as they house some of the oldest Christian manuscripts, second only to the ones in the Vatican.

After spending about two hours we were back again on the bus and were informed by our guide Mehmood that we were going to stop by a wayside restaurant. The food was quite basic, grilled chicken and a salad with some kind of yogurt mix with rice and the Egyptian flat bread. There is a realization when making trips such as these especially in foreign countries, that wayside restaurants are going to be basic and in many cases one has to bite the bullet vis-à-vis the standard of food offered.

After a few hours of traveling we found that the coastline had changed from the Red Sea to the Gulf of Suez, and were told that close to Cairo, maybe 2 hours away we would travel under the famous Suez Canal road tunnel. The tunnel was a short one by most standards and many of us were asleep when passing through it to finally reach the outskirts of Cairo.

We drove past what is now called New Cairo, which has modernistic buildings and from what our guide Mehmood explained the rich and famous have started moving into this area.

It was well after dark when we reached Cairo and were taken to a restaurant for dinner, again typical Egyptian fare with a choice of fish, chicken and assortment of vegetable dishes. There was some dissension among our group as to why we were still being served local fare when the choices in Cairo were much wider, Indian or Continental was supposedly within reach. To most of us, the type of food, even if not completely satisfactory, was given the circumstances, okay.

The hotel in Cairo Le Meridian of the Pyramids, we all found to be a good accommodation. A few of us got together and enjoyed some whiskey purchased in a duty free shop in Jordan and that of course stimulated conversation and companionship before settling in for the night.

St.Katherine’s, a UNESCO site and  where a monastery has been built over the burning bush

An oasis enroute to Cairo, tradition states that this was the resting spot for Joseph, Mary & baby Jesus while fleeing to Egypt after Herod’s dictum to execute male children some of the palms date back to that age.

Standing in front of the well where the Samaritan woman drew water for Christ.

Enroute to Cairo – a shot of the horizon, Western Suez.

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