Sing: Go Down, Moses, UMH 448
Our bus, bus driver, and guide could not go with us into Egypt so we grabbed our luggage and left them all behind with a fond, “Farewell and thank you.” The border crossing was relatively quick and painless and our buses and Egyptian guides were waiting for us on the other side.
Taba is Egypt’s border city. We got to see a bit more of Taba than we had planned. We missed our escort (the American embassy has asked the Egyptian government to provide escorts for every American tour group) and had to wait about two hours for the next escort. At first we were going to wait at a very small shopping center but then our guides made a few phone calls and we were taken to the Taba Hilton. The Taba Hilton is a very nice seaside resort. It is too bad that we could not get to our swim suits but our time will come.
Pharaoh’s Island is the location of a Crusader fortress built by Baldwin I, the King of Jerusalem, around 1116 AD. The fortress was originally named Ile De Graye Castle. At various times while in Crusader hands, it was used to collect taxes on Arab merchants, and sometimes to attack Arab shipping, while at the same time protecting pilgrims traveling between Jerusalem and Mount Sinai.
Pharaoh’s Island was captured by Salah ad-Din al Ayyubi (Saladin) in about 1170. He was the founder of the Ayyubid dynasty and is one of the greatest sovereigns in the history of Islam. Most of the business end of this fortress is on the eastern side, as the water is too restricted for attacks to have occurred on the mainland side. It is also notable that T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) made a somewhat daring and unauthorized visit to the island during his Wilderness of Zin survey in June 1914. This fortress would undoubtedly draw much larger crowds of tourists were it located in a more accessible location, but tourists who make an effort to visit the fort will usually have the island mostly to themselves.
Climbing Mount Sinai
As we were approaching our overnight stop our guide told us that we had the option of climbing Mount Sinai. This would involve getting up and leaving the hotel at about midnight and making the climb of over 2,200 feet during the night. We would get to watch the sunrise and then head back down the mountain to reconnect with our group by 9am. We would have Bedoin guides and later I found that you can hire a camel to ride up the mountain. We chose not to go. It was a long day of traveling but I get to wake up in the mountains in the morning!