Inside the Capitol

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

10-10 Stomping Around the Land of Moses

FRI, 10-10-08

ON THE RED SEA - During the past four days, we have been tromping through the deserts of Egypt and Jordan, retracing the footsteps of ancient history.
We began in the Sinai Desert at St. Catherine's Monastery, built by Emperor Justinian in 530 A.D., at the location of the burning bush from which God spoke to Moses, commanding him to return to Egypt and lead his people to the Promised Land.
St. Catherine's is said to be the world's oldest monastery. It is built over halfway up Mt. Sinai. Many visitors spend the night at a nearby motel so they can follow Moses' footsteps to the top, where he received the stone tablets from God.
Because of the heat much of the year, the three-hour round trip usually is taken in the early morning hours, timed to reach the summit at sunrise. There is little danger of losing one's way in the dark. The monks are reported to have laid 3800 steps from the monastery to the top.
Also at the monastery is the well, which Moses used during the many years he spent in the area before returning to Egypt. The well is only a few feet from the burning bush, which has been growing now for some 3,500 years.
The bush obviously isn't still burning but we are told that scientists have no idea what kind of bush it is so they just call it the burning bush. It is very large and hangs over a ledge. It has very small leaves and brittle stems with thorns.
Many young men jumped to snap off a piece. That didn't seem right to me but I did reach up to feel the bush. Thorns dug into both my thumb and forefinger. It clearly was a message from above.
Egypt's Old Kingdom reigned during the time of Moses. They built the pyramids near Cairo in the North. Because the Nile flows from south to north, Cairo is in Lower Egypt.
Since tomb raiding was rampant, Egyptians quit building pyramids and started hiding their royal burial sites underground far to the south, near Luxor, in the Valley of the Kings, during the middle and new kingdoms.
Even though the burial sites were quite well hidden, the tomb raiders weren't foiled. That's because most of the raiding was an inside job. One of the highlights of that trip was a spacious hotel room with a perfect view of the Nile.
Shore tours in Egypt are guarded by private security and Tourist Police. There usually are long distances to be traveled through rugged desert. This evidently invites hijackings and hostage situations.
Those in charge are reluctant to talk and tend to leave the impression it is outside forces. But the truth seems to be that the threat is from within. Egypt is unstable, with numerous dissident groups while it moves from a socialist state to a republic. Tourism is one of their few industries and they don't want anything to disrupt it.
Every direction we traveled was rugged and completely barren desert. All the guides contended that Moses and his people had wandered in the area they were showing us. New books have appeared in recent years attempting to locate biblical places. Most are controversial but worth taking a look at, especially if you plan to visit the area.
Bruce Feiler's books, culminating with "Where God Was Born," were written from a Jewish perspective and argued that God wanted everyone to get along. Our guide in Jordan urged us to read "The Bible Came From Arabia," by Kamal Salabi. He places the Promised Land in Yemen.
While in Jordan, we also visited Petra, one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. Its buildings were cut into the rock cliffs some time before Christ. It is featured in "Indiana Jones: The Last Crusade." Arabs say Moses visited there and his brother, Aaron, is buried at Petra.

Stay up to date on your PC, the Web, and your mobile phone with Windows Live. See Now


Post a Comment

<< Home