We are given a little over an hour to either shower and pack (if, like me, one hasn’t done so already) or explore the monastery further on our own.
While there are a few more things I would like to see inside the monastery itself, I select a third option and follow the camel trail out of the monastery to the red slick-rock beyond.
The tourist books all have pictures that show the full monastery set out before the mountains. I want to see that view and those rocks seem to be where you have to go to see it.
There are a few other people clambering about out here, but in the heat of late morning, I mostly have the area to myself. That means I can take my time, both in order to climb to a good view point without slipping and to have time to absorb the scene before me.
And a stunning scene it is, with the whole monastery complex and surrounding mountains falling away from me.
Despite the lack of tourist, there are vendors out here. As I carefully pick my way across the rock, vendors continually pitch their goods. Most commonly, they offer me rocks from Mt. Sinai.
Rocks? I’m into rocks and I’ve hauled a lot of rocks home in my day, but I usually don’t pay for my rocks and I’m not usually collecting rocks if I have to transport them home by air.
Exasperated, I tell one of the vendors I do not want any rocks because I have to fly home and rocks are too heavy to take with me!
“Oh no”, they insist “these rocks are not heavy!” Soon the vendor’s child is at my side, having scampered over the stone I’ve so carefully picked my way across, his arms full of rocks. Each has been split in half to show-off the hollow inside. “Here. See it weighs nothing!” He hands me a chalky white set that forms a complete sphere. It is nearly weightless in my hand.
I buy one and hurry back toward the monastery as the bells begin to toll the noon hour.
Time to pack.