When you climb Sinai, it’s all about the stars, the songs, the stairs … and the size of your saddle which, if not suitable, can lead to a peculiar gait, particularly for guys!
Peter Hunt described it best when he announced that “riding a camel up mount Sinai is like giving birth: agonizing at the time, but the wonder overcomes it!!”
His wife wasn’t sure it was an exact parallel, but it sufficed. We knew what he meant!
I guess Peter didn’t double-check the saddle size.
They say at the start, “If you’re not comfortable, let your Bedouin camel guide know and he’ll get you a better sized camel.”
But how do you know what comfort on a camel is supposed to feel like?
By the time you’ve straddled widely, climbed aboard, and figured out where to hang your bag and fit your walking stick, the camel raises its hind legs up high, tips you forward past return, then staggers to all four hoofs, swaying like a drunken, cud-chewing sailor on a windy night.
You’re not about to go for a repeat performance! So you sit there.
Discomfort sets in. Silently you ride, wondering if it’s as bad for everyone. Wondering why the heck no-one warned you. Wondering if there’s something you should be doing differently.
You squirm. Shift. Try a straighter back. Wonder if side saddle is an option.
Then you settle in for the long haul. Wondering is pointless. It’s dark. You can’t get down. You can’t bear to even look down because when you do you realize your camel has a precarious habit of craning its neck over the precipice. You resign yourself to no more children. And you ride.
As you ride, as you sway, as the camel caravan gets in sync, the night slips away like a sheet of dark shining satin and stars seem luminously near.
Is there a God in heaven? Do angels dance? Can stars fall and bloom into roses? Are we all made of their dust? Up there, anything seems possible, and real.
We climb. Camels harrumph. Camel drivers turn off their loud Arab music when persuaded, most gently but persistently. The still hush of Sinai descends.
Was it like this for Moses? Did he desert his flocks, herds, fussing people for the wonder of this wild majesty, and stay for 40 days just because? It seems likely. How about Elijah? Fleeing Jezebel, why did he come here?
The mountain draws, envelops into its bosom, hides us in its cracks. We, first on camel and then on foot for the final 750 uneven, narrow, rough and hazardous stairs that take another 2 hours, experience a glowing wonder beyond our wondering.
When the sun rises, all faces shine! Like Moses and Elijah, light and silence transform us, making our inner selves alive with a sacred chemistry.
Peter was right! After pain, wonder has won! Maybe some kind of new birth is our end reward.
Descending the mountain, we pass camels now bright in daylight, robed in colourful blankets. They step jauntily, daring us to even think of riding them down.
Believe me, you don’t want to ride a camel down Mount Sinai! Trust me on this.