Climbing Mount Sinai, Egypt. (10 Commandments site)

In 1973 Egypt's Mount Sinai was in the occupied territory of Israel. My family was living there at the time. We loaded up the camping gear into the old VW Microbus and headed out into the desert to explore the Sinai Peninsula. It was an epic adventure that we were lucky to get to experience.

Mount Sinai is where the Bible says Moses received the 10 commandments. It is far from anything man made and crossing the desert in a personal vehicle is a risky prospect to say the least. We couldn't wait to take on the challenges of the open desert.

Saint Catherine's Monastery lies some 60 plus miles from any road. We had to find an unmarked post on the side of the road at a specified distance from somewhere and take a right into the desert and drive. The VW Bus was a great adventure wagon and it didn't blink an eye at a windshield full of open desert.

The instructions we had was to drive till we found a big valley emptying into the desert. Then follow that at break neck speeds to stay on top of the sand. If you slow down, it's game over with no way out.

Every now and then we would hit a dead end canyon and have to spin around and go back to find a different canyon until we found the passageway. Full size charter busses run in and out and are a welcome sight screaming across the sand letting you know you are on the right path. They run hard and fast set up for the off road service with huge metal planks hung on each side to lay across the soft sand if they bog down.

Everyone was on lookout for the busses cause they traveled at highway speeds and will run your ass over before they slow down and risk getting stuck. At one point we came across a stranded couple whose car was buried to the frame in the sand. They were both in the IDF and on leave vacationing.

They jumped in with their gear and we rolled on. We stumbled upon an arab kid on a camel with bottles of water for sale. We threw him a few Liras for the welcome drinks, had him point to a heading on the horizon and pressed on. It very much felt like we were on a boat out in the rough ocean trying to hold a course with no compass.

Before it was over we hit a sand storm that almost left us lost in the desert for good. We had zero visibility until it passed. All traces of bus tracks were erased. It was brutal. The adventure was on the edge of disaster.

We eventually rolled up on the monastery and scoped out a place to set up camp. As soon as I stepped out of our van I was face to face with one of my army training instructors. He was chaperoning one of the tour busses. In Israel everyone serves and boot camp is tied to high school one day a week. Out in the middle of nowhere and I knew someone...

Saint Catherine's Monastery is the oldest continuously inhabited Christian monastery in the world. The monastery predates the divisions of the Christian world. It's library has volumes of the oldest manuscripts in the world, second only to the Vatican. It has the oldest known surviving roof truss in the world. The main entrance features a large wooden door over 1400 years old. The doors near the alter were made in the 11th century by the Crusaders.

Once settled in we explored the monastery. It was run by some serious dudes. When the Monks die they are be buried for a bit then dug up. Their bones are separated, cleaned and categorized. There is a separate building to store the dead.

The bones are stacked like firewood. One section was sculls, one area has leg bones, another arm bones etc. It was creepy place but apparently that's how Moses likes it... There's well over a thousand years of Monks stacked up in there.

We learned the plan is to start climbing the mountain around 2AM so we would be on top for the sunrise. My dad, sister and I crawled out into the cold desert from those warm sleeping bags to find bus fulls of blurry eyed zombies rallying for the climb. My mother was staying back at the base camp with my little brother.

My dad was sitting in our van warming up and called me over to the window to talk. As we talked he rolled forward a bit putting the tire right on top of my foot. It took a few seconds for him to realize what had happened before he pulled forward off my now throbbing foot.

Even though the smart move was to stay behind and nurse my foot I was not having it. I was afraid my foot was broken and if I took off my boot the swelling would not let my boot go back on. I decided to leave the boot on and man up for the hike. I wasn't missing this adventure and a broken foot wasn't going to stop me.

We packed snacks and water into my army backpack and off I hobbled into the dark and cold, flashlight in hand. We following the rest of the people from the two tour busses quietly soldering along in the middle of the night.

The path was rugged and rocky. The steeper section of the climb had ancient stone steps carved into the rock and you could see the wear from centuries of people climbing this thing starting with Moses. It was damp and miserable but the anticipation of the crowd was growing as we climbed. A couple of hours later and we were on top of the mountain. It was still dark and a thick misty fog was sitting on us from the low clouds we were sitting in.

There is a small stone chapel built on top. I found it amazing that anyone could be dedicated enough to haul stone blocks up here and build it. It's not like they could drive past Home Depot and hire a pickup bed full of Mexicans. These guys had to be fanatics.

The weather wasn't letting up and we were freezing. My sister and I found a small grotto to squirrel into out of the wind. There we sat watching 30 or 40 people huddled up wet and cold waiting for the sunrise so we could get the hell back down to the warm desert floor.

After what seemed like forever someone yelled out they could see the sun. It was well up in the sky already by the time it peeked through the clouds and touched us. We were robbed of the sunrise we were all there waiting for.

The sun finally fully broke out on the walk back down the mountain. At one point in the bright sunshine a small rain cloud passed and drizzled on us. People were going crazy declaring it a "Miracle from God". One guy was running up and down the stairs in a complete wild eyed melt down over this common weather phenomenon. It was crazy. People were waving their arms and calling to the sky....

We finally made it back and broke camp. The two tour busses rolled out immediately and we packed up and tried to get out in time to follow their tracks. I welcomed getting my boot off and stretching out in the van. A lot of swelling but no known broken bones. Well worth the adventure.