It is worth it if you are visiting Egypt, to take the trip up into the Sinai mountains to visit the historic Monastery of St. Catherine. It is said that the original burning bush is the one that you will see still rooted here. The gardens are full of gorgeous flowers that contrast against the rugged mountains of rock that encase the monastery. Within the walls there is a definite sense of peace as the monks wander about doing their daily work details in elegant medieval robes with intricate embroidery on the hoods. The fragrance that steams out of the kitchen is unbelievably delightful and I am only too sorry that I will not be able to partake in whatever next meal is placed at the table. The guide is waiting and we have a schedule to uphold. The multitude of cats hovering about the kitchen door are much more astute and wait patiently, as it is from experience that they know the kindness of the local chefs.
With all the media links shouting out about the chaos in Egypt, the tragedy that is taking place in the majority of people’s lives is not just loved ones being killed in the streets of Cairo. It is, much more commonly, people losing their livelihoods and no longer being able to care for those most in need like the elderly and the young. While people struggle to feed their families, the animals that were once used to generate income are the first to go. No tourist dollars means that vehicles fall apart, petrol is scarce if you can afford it, and there is no food for the working animals. So while the world is looking at Egypt and the crisis of the revolution. The focus is on the few that are dying in the streets of Cairo but not the many that are suffering all over the countryside. The media was useful in that the world needed to know that a great movement was taking place in Egypt, but now that same vehicle for information is working to sabotage the very thing that the massive people’s movement have worked so hard to achieve. What is not being said is that Egypt is an amazing place with unrivaled beauty, people of strong character, and an energy that is felt to the core. Now more than ever, Egypt is a place to visit.
The Sinai Bedouins enjoy the simple life. Tea by the fire in the desert or on the beach is a priority but not much else is. The children have lives to be envious of. They are able to play in the streets, in the sea, and all over the town within several miles completely independently without adults hovering over their every move. The children will hop onto the back of a pick-up and hitch a ride out to the Blue Hole for a swim or to offer tourists the bracelets that they made, for a little bit of spending money. Some are in charge of the camels as early as seven or eight years old. These children develop relationships, solve problems, earn an income, take care of the household chores, play games in the street, care for younger family members and older family members, care for their animals and all with a freedom that children in more “developed” nations will never know. In this they are building the skills of responsibility and empathy that are fundamental in becoming a citizen of the world. Sometimes surprisingly, the people in these communities often show themselves to be very open-minded and are able to embrace differences among and between people with grace and without judgment. Although very often formal education ends at an early age for these kids, they retain the more valuable skills that relate to being a good person. If given the same opportunities towards formal education of those that are more moneyed we would definitely be in the presence of some strong candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize.