Began with us making our way to Coptic Cairo. Coptic Cairo is the heart of Egypt’s Christian community. The architecture of the many different churches and synagogues were gorgeous. The highlight was The Hanging Church. We were just late for mass but we were able to spend some time in the chapel reflecting on Christ’s goodness and grace. We also visited the Church of Saint Barbara and the Church of Saint Sergius. This one was especially interesting because it was built over a cave, which is now a crypt, were it is believed the Holy Family stayed when traveling through Egypt. We don’t know how certain this belief is, but it was moving to imagine Christ as a child spending time in the very spot we were standing. We then went into a prayer chamber that was apparently off limits and were quickly shooed out like a a couple of children….literally shooed out because the shooer spoke only Arabic so he just made these hissing sounds at us as he waved his hands vigorously towards the exit. So we stole a painting of St. Peter and bolted…or we apologized profusely and exited rapidly and respectfully. We then headed to the Citadel which is located on the eastern edge of Cairo. It sits high up on a plateau so it offers amazing views of the city and the buildings here are impressive. After the Citadel we headed back to Khan Al-Khalili for lunch and shopping. We ate at a little hole in the wall called Al-Almar where cats were constantly trying to climb on our table to get to our plates. The food was great though. We had kofta, kabobs, schwarma, and flat bread. We then spent some time shopping in Khan Al-Khalili and we loved the style of interaction in this market. The merchants were just as pushy as those in the markets we have visited in other countries but here there was a slightly different style of dealing. As you bargained you were offered a nice place to sit and even a glass of hot tea. Regardless of how the sell ended up it always finished with a smile and a “Shukran (thank you), welcome to Egypt!” We don’t know if this is everyone’s experience but ours was good. After shopping we went to Fishawi’s (a 200 year old coffee/tea house) for a glass of mint tea (thanks Lonely Planet). At this point we headed back to the hotel and took it easy for the rest of the evening. We gotta give a shout-out to our good friend Keturah Nipper who grew up in Egypt. She suggested most of the great things we have experienced in Cairo. Thanks Keturah!
We didn’t do much, just made the 7 hour drive through the Sinai desert from Cairo to St. Catherine at the foot of Mt. Sinai. The drive felt extremely long but did offer nice views of the Red Sea and amazing limestone and granite mountains. We arrived at our hotel, Wadi El-Raha, in the late afternoon and relaxed for the rest of the evening taking in the beautiful surroundings, and of course watching a little Champions League soccer with Arabic commentating (did find that gooooaalll is always goooaallll, regardless of language). We called it a night pretty early because we had to be up by 1 a.m. to prepare for our ascent of Mt. Sinai in order to summit for the sunrise.