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Tuesday, 30 June 2015

I Survived Mt. Sinai! (barely)

Written by Jill Dobbe
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On the way to the Red Sea on the Sinai Peninsula we drove through the long underground passageway that ran beneath the Suez Canal.  We stepped onto the beach and rushed toward the water catching hazy glimpses of Saudi Arabia far off in the distance. The white sand beach was secluded except for the few camels that strolled languidly by.  As we lounged on fat pillows that lay beneath a traditional Bedouin tent our peaceful atmosphere was momentarily interrupted.  Word got out that foreigners had arrived. Soon sun-wrinkled Bedouin women plopped down next to us and unloaded their cheap plastic trinkets. 

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Mt. Sinai, Egypt, where Moses was believed to have received the Ten Commandments, was just a short distance from the beach. A popular trek for pilgrims and tourists, my husband, Dan, was anxious to climb it. Hesitant at first, I let him talk me into it.

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 “You must experience the top of the mountain at sunrise,” people exclaimed, “It’s a fantastic experience!”

Never having any strong desire to climb a mountain, I wasn’t sure what I was getting into, but nevertheless got carried away in the excitement.  Early to bed that night we slept a few hours before rising at midnight to begin the journey. Still half asleep, we dressed quickly and stuffed our minimal climbing gear into backpacks. My only climbing shoes were black Converse tennis shoes and I put them on without a second thought. As the rest of the hotel guests slept peacefully, we left our rooms and hopped onto a minivan that idled in front of the hotel. Wide awake now and feeling exhilarated, we drove down dark, secluded roads until coming to a stop near the base of Mt. Sinai.  

We strode quickly past small groups of camels wearing multicolored tassels and grunting loudly. Their handlers enticed us to ride up on camelback however, the last time I rode a camel was in the flat desert and my body shook with fright at being up so high. I couldn’t imagine sitting on one of those bouncy animals as they clopped along the narrow paths that were way too close to bottomless inclines. ‘No, thanks,’ I thought to myself. 

We learned there were two paths to take up the mountain. I chose the shorter path hoping it was also the easiest. As we began our ascent, we passed by tourists, young and old, chatting in multiple languages. Most climbers, I observed, seemed much better equipped, making me wonder if I was being a touch naïve about the difficulty of the climb. 

With our flashlights illuminating the way it was onward and upward. An hour into our climb, we came upon stairs chiseled into the mountain supposedly built by a local monk. It wasn’t long before those small, rough steps became extremely tortuous to climb and my feet throbbed and my knees ached. About this time I also realized I made a huge mistake wearing those Converse tennis shoes. 

It remained dark and cold for several more hours as we continued our slow arduous climb. The surrounding darkness made it difficult to see other climbers until we were right on their heels. Even more grueling were the camels that barreled past us forcing us to move way over to the very edge of the trail while stepping over their piles of poop.


It wasn’t long before I was sick to death of climbing. The end was nowhere near and my enthusiasm was long gone. One hour passed, then two, and each time I asked Dan if we were near the top he shook his head ‘no’ promptly dashing my hopes. As I huffed and puffed he began to worry asking me often if I was okay. So beyond tired I could barely croak out a response, thinking to myself, ‘if he asks me one more time how I’m doing, I will literally push him off this mountain!’

Earlier I hoped to witness the spectacular sunrise that everyone raved about, but right then I could have cared less. Each time I thought we were getting close I looked up only to realize we were still nowhere near the top of the godforsaken mountain. Three and a half hours later as the sky began to lighten I was ready to give up. The climb was killing me. Veering hastily off the path, I located a large, flat rock and promptly plunked my aching body down hoping never to get up again.

“I refuse to go any further. You go ahead and I will wait right here,” I calmly announced to Dan. 

“But you can’t stop now we are almost there!” he shrieked.

“Oh, YES I can, AND I will! I AM SICK OF CLIMBING THIS EFFING MOUNTAIN! I keep thinking the end is near and it NEVER COMES! I AM SICK OF IT! YOU GO!” I bristled. 

“Okay. Then, I will stay here with you.” Dan stated as he sat down on the rock with me.


I was sure that we were bound for divorce right there on holy Mt. Sinai. I cried, I screamed, I begged, but Dan absolutely refused to go on without me no matter how many swear words I lobbed at him. 

Feeling remorseful, I finally stood up and started climbing again. Dan followed right behind not uttering a single word. I stepped onto the very top of Mt. Sinai just as the sun peeked out in all its glory. With wobbly legs I crab-walked over the sharp rocks to an open spot. From there I observed breathtaking views as I caught one last glimpse of the heavenly sunrise. I sat there on top of the world amazed and thankful that I actually made it to the very top. 

And as I sat there contemplating Moses and the majestic views around me, I soon realized I eventually had to get back down the mountain.

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©Jill Dobbe

Jill Dobbe is author of Here We Are & There We Go: Teaching and Traveling with Kids in Tow. You can buy it here.



Last modified on Tuesday, 30 June 2015