We went with a group of sixteen from St. George's College, an adult education organization that specializes in tours around the near east. We left by bus for Eilat, the southern most point of Israel, in the Gulf of Aqaba, then to Taba, which is the little town where the Egyptian border starts. The goal of the trip was Jebel Musa (Moses Mountain), the supposed spot where Moses got the ten commandments. After leaving the bus at Taba, we switched to two all terrain vehicles driven by two bedouin. They drove south for a while til just past Nuweiba on the Gulf of Aqaba (just across from Saudi Arabia), when they suddenly took off over the sand driving for nearly an hour through sand-dune covered valleys to a camping spot under the stars.
Dave and Chuck
Mary on the Sinai
The second day we drove to St. Catherine's Monastery, founded in the fourth century CE by Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine, where we overnighted. It was rebuilt in the sixth century, and the walls and church date from that period. At 3:00 am the next day, we got up for a camel ride to a spot just below the summit of Jebel Musa, which took nearly two hours. There we waited for the sunrise and froze a little.
St. Catherine's Monastery
St. Catherine's Monastery

The photo on the left shows the walls of St. Catherine's Monastery, built in 547 by the Roman emperor Justinian.
The photo on the right is a view of St. Catherine's from the roof of the newer building housing the library and the dining rooms. The church has a tin roof, and an 18th century bell tower, but was basically constructed in the sixth century. To the left is a mosque built in the 12th century to accommodate the Muslims in the area.

Father Justin
Sinaiticus

One of the more exciting reasons for me to visit the Monastery was its famous library, containing more than 3,000 handwritten Greek manuscripts (only the Vatican library has a larger collection of ca. 4,000 Greek manuscripts). Father Justin (born in Los Angeles) gave us a tour of the library (pictured above left).

One spectatular find was twelve additional pages of Codex Sinaiticus in an attic in 1975 (pictured above right), a mid-fourth century Greek manuscript of the entire Bible, perhaps one of fifty commissioned by the emperor Constantine. The pages shown are from Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas, appended to the New Testament and indicating that the extent of the canon had not yet been fixed when the manuscript was produced.

Roof of the Library
Finding Shade
Sand Dune
Sand Dune
We then headed back toward Nuweiba on the Gulf of Aqaba where we camped on the sand again, this time a bit more comfortable because I supposed we started to get used to it. In the morning we went on a long hike down a valley filled with enormous sand dunes.
Bedouins making breakfast
Bedouin Kids
Bedouins making breakfast
Bedouin children
Sunrise on the Sinai
Sunrise on the Sinai
David at sunrise on the Sinai
Buying from the Bedouin
Our camping place
Buying from the Bedouin
Our campsite
Click "next" to see the second page of Sinai photos.
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