Flying from Cairo to Sharm el Sheikh, over the Sinai peninsula which geographically is the beginning of Asia, you see below the harsh, inhospitable landscape. Rugged mountainous terrain, valleys filled with rivers of sand, a landscape so untouched and unapproachable that you wonder how this peninsula became the cradle of three of the main religions: Christianity, Islam and Judaism. How did belief systems so powerful rise from the shifting sand and rocks? It's on Mt Sinai, not to far from Sharm el Sheikh, where Moses supposedly received his 10 commandments.
I wondered if the geographical landscape of where a religion originated from had anything to do with its belief system and practice. Christianity, Islam and Judaism are much 'harsher' religions than the more peaceful and calm religions originating in the green lush tropics such as Hinduism and Buddhism. Perhaps there is a correlation there.
Talk about religion ...
We were having breakfast one morning and what was most probably the manager of the restaurant, a senior Egyptian, had a very distinct mark - blotch on his forehead. I was sure it was a birth mark and was trying to persuade Robin to not stare at it so much. Robin was convinced otherwise. He was sure that it was a religious sign that the man had been to Haj. He was ready to ask him about it, while I struggled to keep him quiet. I didn't want to embarrass the man. Well, Robin was right. Nearly. Very devout Muslims here will often get a callous on their forehead from the continuous touching of their forehead to the ground. We were told that this only happens if you have sensitive skin. The mark is worn with pride for it signals that you are a deeply religious man.
I also noticed that several of our waiters had small tattoos of crosses on the thin web part of the skin, between the thumb and the index finger. No cross necklaces, which is more common, just tattoos.
All religions have outward symbols that followers wear, however, I had never seen these two marks before.
As desolate as the landscape is on Sinai, it is still indescribably beautiful in its abandon. I could stare at it for hours from the plane, mesmerized by the beauty.
And with that thought we begin to land.
As your approach Sharm, you can pretty much switch your brain off. There is nothing to do here but laze around tanning, swimming in amazingly clear water, snorkelling and enjoying some of the best diving sites in the world. Sharm is an artificial city, built solely for European tourists in search of the winter sun, and a gaggle of curious Americans. But it delivers on its R&R promise.
Perhaps it's this vegetative state of mind that made some British girls sitting behind us on the plane proclaim, the Sewer Canal?! ... as we explained to them that the canal that you could see in the distance was the Suez Canal.
> Mt Sinai and St Katherine's monastery: this day trip will fulfil your curiosity to see where Moses got his 10 commandments from.
> Tiran Island: a beautiful half-day trip to this deserted island for some amazing snorkeling in crystal clear blue water. Backdrop - stark red mountains.
> weather around the Xmas holidays: Egypt in general has deceptively cold weather during the winter. I'm the first to think ... Egypt, desert, hot. But don't be fooled. The nights are very cold, and the days are warm in the sun. But since the air is cool, in the shade you will still feel a pinch of cold.
> Four Seasons Hotel: it does not get much better than this! This is a very large resort, one of those places where you have no need to leave. Especially since it's very luxurious with amazing service, beautiful design and perfectly manicured grounds. The food at all the restaurants was equally amazing. Four Seasons really has it all together here. It all comes down to the simple things: room service turns the shower head facing down every day, so that when you step into the shower in the morning, still half asleep, you don't get splashed with shockingly cold water. Beware that most rooms are not that private because of the layout. We had room 174 which has a private pool and that allowed us to have a great view of the water in a private setting.