Monday, October 13, 2008

St. Catherine's Monastery Part One

On Tuesday, we left Cairo early in the morning and headed east. After about an hour of driving, we went through a tunnel under the Suez Canal to reach the Sinai peninsula. The Suez is technically the boundary between Africa and Asia so this was actually an inter-continental vacation. A friend of mine here who had never been out of the U.S. before this trip has now visited a total of two countries on three continents. Wrap your head around that!

After the six hour drive we arrived at St. Catherine’s around 1 PM, dropped our stuff off and wandered over to the famous monastery. For those (most) of you thinking, “what famous monastery?” here is a quick history lesson.
The monastery was built sometime around the middle of the 6th century and sits at the base of Mt. Sinai, in an area sacred to both Christianity and Islam. According to Wikipedia, the full name of the monastery is “The Sacred and Imperial Monastery of the God-Trodden Mount of Sinai” which you have to admit is pretty bad-ass.

The monastery holds the second largest and most important early codices and manuscripts in the world (with only the Vatican Library holding a more important collection). The head of the university press knows the monk in charge of the library so we got to see some of these and we also got to see an old manuscript about Genghis Khan with amazingly detailed illustrations. I couldn’t take pictures inside the library though.

here is the side entrance to the monastery

you can see the full wall of the monastery from this angle

this is the inside of the church, which had amazing paintings and decorations and ancient lamps hanging from every corner of the ceiling. Im not religious but I got chills lighting a candle inside this place. I had to put the fill light to the max in picasa to get anything to show up in this picture which explains the quality.

a view down the hill from the monastery
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