Postcards from Egypt: Crossing the Burning Desert

Everyone knows Egypt. Even before the Revolution started in 2011, everyone I talked to about Egypt would almost immediately say “I have always wanted to go there”. There is something about Egypt that draws you in. It could be the history, the people or the fact that it is one of the ONLY countries that has been the same since before Biblical times. People may not always agree on religions but there is one story they all share. The Jews, the Christians and the Muslims all share the same history of Moses and his brother Aaron and their escape from the Pharaoh by the Power of God.  Most that live here really aren’t impressed with the Pyramids or the Red Sea or with much of the history here, as they see it every day and the culture it represents; sun worship, cat worship and other gods and rituals, all go against what most here believe in. But they all know of Mosa (how Moses is pronounced in Arabic) and his mountain (Mount Sinai). I got the amazing gift to get to go to the Red Sea.

The drive is relatively short; a mere 200 miles give or take a few depending on where in Cairo you leave from. But what a drive! As my husband and his friend chatted aimlessly I was in awe. It was during the week when Redding saw its first real high heat wave, and we weren’t far behind. It was around 100 to 105 in the desert and praise be to God, we have A/C in our car. I don’t know if it was exactly where Moses and the people crossed, but it had to be close. I remember from the Bible that when the Pharaoh was coming upon them the people were so angry because they felt Moses led them to their deaths. Hemmed in by the mountains on one side, the Sea in front and Pharaoh and his armies coming up fast….I never understood this as I always pictured Egypt as flat sand. However it reminded me a lot of Southern California around Hemet. Huge rock mountains out of flat nothingness, immense and bare and beautiful.

I really don’t think I can come close to imagining what it must have been like back then. If any of you has ever tried to cross the sand going to the beach on a hot California day, you can start to imagine trudging through the soft, deep burning sand, with no trees, no shade, just the unrelenting sun pounding down on your body as it feels like you’re moving at a snail’s pace. Carrying your children, your belongings, your animals, along with food and water across 200 miles of scorching sand, hell on Earth is all I can think of. Yet they did it, with the help of God.

So I have finally been able to go to the Red Sea. I was only at the very tip that goes up to Suez, and you can see the Sinai Peninsula across it, but it’s still breath taking. Really I never was great in History, and really only did well once because I really thought my teacher was “cute”. However I LOVE living history. To know I stood where the children of Israel stood, where Moses stood and most importantly where the pillar of fire from God seared the sands. Totally indescribable.

The small town we visited is a typical Egyptian town. Along the way are many “vacation” rentals and homes and hotels that are so beautiful. Farther down past where we stopped is Hurghada, a famous vacation spot for tourists (we had over 13,000 tourists show up there this past weekend, praise be to God, as many of these people rely solely on tourism to feed their families. However these areas are still very safe, as it’s not so far out as Sinai near the border of Egypt and Israel.

The beach we went to reminded me so much of California’s southern beaches. Looking out across the water and seeing oil platforms like leeches that would have otherwise made such a beautiful scene made me feel like I was still there. You could see the traces of leaks from them along the beaches where white shells where speckled black. But it’s still beautiful, and the water is crystal clear. The fish swam around my feet, and I almost stepped on a large crab while it was eating a dinner of hermit crab. We caught a smaller one which my husband proceeded to kill and eat raw (YUCK).

We came home with partial tans (my face and his left “driving” arm), a bunch of coral and shells and lots of sand on the floor boards of the car. It was a beautiful day trip and I finally can say I stood where God parted the Red Sea for Moses and the people escaped the Pharaoh and slavery. Once things settle down I will go, God willing, to Mount Sinai and see St. Catherine’s (a castle at the base of the mountain that contains a Church, a Masjid (Mosque) and a Synagogue where all faiths come together to worship, all praise be to God). Can’t wait to share it with you, God willing.

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Robyn (Asmaa) Payne was born travelling with her parents all over California and to New Zealand until they settled down in Redding, California. This instilled a sense of wanderlust in her. She graduated from Central Valley High School in 1988 and has since lived and moved all over the U.S. She moved in October 2010 to Cairo, Egypt, where she has lived and learned many things about the country she loves and now calls home. She has been remarried for a year to an Egyptian and spends her time with him, his son and family. Her parents, four children and grandchildren reside on the West Coast. She has been working as an English/Art teacher for an international school and will instruct preschoolers in the next school year. 

Robyn writes periodic “Postcards from Egypt” for anewscafe.com. Click here to read her other posts.

Robyn Payne

Robyn (Asmaa) Payne was born in Weaverville, California and was raised in Mountain Gate where her family still lives. She graduated from C.V.H.S. in 1988 and has lived all over the country since then but always ended up back in Redding. In October of 2011 she left Redding once again and now lives in Cairo, Egypt, with her Egyptian husband and step son. She loves to write and is looking forward to sharing more of her new country and the people and places she loves here.

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