After a hearty breakfast, we boarded the bus, and headed to the Egyptian Museum. The generator was up and running, so we congregated in front of the entrance. There were hundreds of us representing various countries and tour agencies all waiting in the hot sun (by now it was about 85 degrees). When the museum opened, there was a great surge of movement, as we were pressed from all sides, like a group of cattle being rounded up to head into the corral. I heard French spoken to my left, Chinese to my right, with Arabic and other languages in the mix around me.
Osama showed us the highlights of the museum, which revolved around the discovery of King Tuts tomb. What fascinated me was the symbolism in the reliefs, furniture, jewelry and sarcophagi of the collection. Every plant, animal and person stood for an idea or had a message to convey, and every ritual, a purpose. During judgement after death, the heart was weighed against a feather. If it was light, the person was sinless, and went to a pleasant afterlife. If it were heavy, his heart was eaten by a jackal, and ceased to exist. They were right about one thing...the state of the heart. We know it's only the blood of Christ that can make us clean.
Although the Egyptians did not worship the one true God, Jehovah, I like the idea of living "with purpose". Come to think of it, the Israelites did just that. They had daily, monthly and yearly rituals that reminded them of their sin, their Holy God, and His gracious acts of kindness and forgiveness.
Our tour now left for the Sinai desert, and on the way, we saw the Suez canal which connects the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean. This saves ships from having to circle the continent of Africa. The Sinai was vast, dry and monotonous, save for a few Bedouin dwellings, large oil storage depots, and luxurious Red Sea Resorts, which seemed out of place. Wouldn't the Children of Israel have loved to stop for a rest at one of those! Date palms, acacias (the ark of the Covenant was made from this wood), and tamarind trees dotted the landscape.
Then, a quick stop at Elim, where the Israelites camped after crossing the Red or Reed Sea. Some experts believe it was a lake only 10 feet deep. If God caused Pharaoh and his army to drown in shallow water, it was an even greater miracle!
By the way, we learned that Moses was placed in a papyrus basket, which Egyptians used for burial. I wondered if Moses mother saw him as a sacrifice, never realizing that the act would bring her son life! The only record of the Israelites being in Egypt was found on a stela during Amenhotep II's reign. It says "the Israelites are no more".
Tonight we have a Bedouin meal under a tent, and at 1am, we will be awakened to take the climb up Mt. Sinai. It is pitch black tonight, and even tho' we will have flashlights, it's still intimidating to think about. I sure hope these Sinai camels are surefooted. Someone told me I will be glad that I can't sense the steepness of the mountain in the dark. Since I am afraid of heights, I'm not sure if that comforts or worries me! We will all appreciate your prayers during the next twelve hours.
I promised to tell you of my interactions with the Arab vendors, but I'll save it for another night. We will try to take a few winks before we reach our hotel...more adventures to follow!
P.S. Because of general security issues, we were required to have a guard with us at all times. When we innocently asked him why he always wore a suit, he told us with a smile,"I carry a big gun." It was true...he carried an M5 under his suit jacket, and sometimes it was exposed! Even tho' I thanked him for keeping us safe, I knew that it was really the Lord.