Day 7 – Catherine’s Church
We drive to St. Catherine’s Church in the Mount Sinai region. Catherine was born to the pagan King of Alexandria and converted to Christianity in her teens. She was beautiful and incredibly intelligent. She remained unmarried having famously stated that she would marry if she found someone who was more beautiful and intelligent than her. When she began spreading Christianity in the region, the Roman ruler of the time had her executed. The story goes that a monk from the Sinai monastery had a vision where he was told that angels has carried her mortal remains to Mount Sinai. The monk found relics which included the skull, fingers and a crown. The relics were preserved. The church, built by Roman ruler Justinian is also called the Sacred Monastery of the God-Trodden Mount Sinai.
Moses is supposed to have a spent a lot of time with the children of Israel in the region and it is not difficult to see why. The area around the monastery is verdant and has several trees so it’s easy to surmise that this would have been an oasis and they would have tarried here. The monastery looks like a fort and has a walled off section outside where Moses saw the burning bush. This is where he heard a voice that asked him to take off his sandals as the place he was standing on was holy. When Moses asked who was speaking, Jehovah is said to have uttered, ‘I am, that I am’. Moses was entrusted with the task of delivering the Israelites from Egypt at this spot. A green bush is visible and tradition says it’s the same bush that Moses saw. There is a glassed well outside called the Moses well. The church is managed by Greek Orthodox. There is a mosque within the compound of the monastery, a symbol of the closeness between the Bedouins and the Church here.
A short drive out is the tomb of Aaron. Aaron was Moses’ older brother who grew up with his Israelite parents while Moses grew up in the palace of the Pharaoh. Aaron spoke on behalf of Moses when Moses went to ask the Pharaoh for the Israelites’ freedom. Later, on Jehovah’s instructions Moses ordained him as a Priest, said to the first High Priest of Israel.
Near the site of the tomb there is a board that says ‘Golden Calf’. Our guide shows us a formation on the rock
face that looks like a calf and told us that this was where the Israelites made the golden calf out of their ornaments to worship when Moses went to Mount Sinai to pray. The spot where Moses received the Ten Commandments is on Moses’ Mountain around the same area.
We drove for 10 hours past the Suez Canal to reach Cairo that night. The canal connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea and is 190 kms long and took ten years to complete. I imagine how long a project like this would have taken in India especially in Bangalore. (The Richmond Road flyover which is hardly 500 Mrs long took more than 3 years to complete.) That apart there are a lot of similarities between Egypt and India. Downtown Cairo is just like suburban Mumbai with pedestrians, buses, taxis and autorickshaws!!! I was told they are imported from India. The wifi connectivity in the hotel is worse than back in India – five minutes per mail to exit from my inbox. There’s more place like home…..