This video clip is from St. Catherine's Monastery in Egypt. To get there, we took a taxi from Elat, Israel to the Egyptian border crossing at Taba. After paying the usual departure taxes and customs screenings, we walked into Egypt. The Egyptian customs officials pulled us into a side office and grilled us for fifteen minutes. They wanted to know about our video camera. Egypt understands that Hollywood can pump millions of dollars into a local economy. Customs officials are on the lookout for film crews and make sure that you are paying for permits. Of course, we have a tiny budget and no permits. When they figured this out, they let us go.
Taba is a dusty border town. The most lively thing going is the taxi stand. Tourists make their way across the border en route to Egypt’s classy coastal resorts. They also take passengers to Mt. Sinai. After negotiaiting a rate for the three-hour drive to Mt. Sinai and back, we climbed into a ragged old station wagon with our driver, Suleiman, and two Israeli tourists. The shared taxi system is common in Taba.
Soon we were whipping south along the coast road headed for Nuweiba, a resort town, where we dropped off our two Israeli friends. The young men were going on a hiking adventure in the desert.
One of them spoke English. Suleiman, our driver did not. So, from that point on, we had limited communication. The Sinai Desert is amazing. The rugged mountains are ablaze with rich color. Every ten or fifteen kilometers you pass a Bedouin village consisting of a few shacks, some camels, an SUV and a satellite dish. You can count the number of towns in the southern Sinai on one hand. It was a desert when Moses came through. It is a desert now.
We reached Mt. Sinai just before noon - not a good time to be out in the desert sun. Fortunately, the weather was fairly
cool, around 85 degrees. Located at the base of Mt. Sinai is St. Katherine’s Monastery. Christian Emperor Justinian built the monastery here in the 6th Century to honor an early Christian martyr, St. Katharine. Christians believed then, as they do today, that this is the place where Moses received the Ten Commandments from God. St. Katharine’s is a big tourist trap in the middle of a huge desert. You can’t walk five feet without someone trying to give you the hustle.
Still, the old walled monetary is impressive. It looks like some place out of an adventure story. Our plan had been to spend the night at St. Katharine’s, then climb the mountain early the next morning. Unfortunately, Suleiman and the local hotels would only take cash. I didn’t have enough to cover both, so we just took some video footage of the mountain and St. Katharine’s, then headed back to Eilat.