After several assignments to cold-weather locations in 2017, journalist Mark Jenkins decided he was sick of winter.
He’d been to both Tibet and Alaska on assignment, so he started looking at Africa as a destination for warm-weather climbing.
After doing a little research, Jenkins discovered a climbing destination in the southern part of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, a remote desert region located between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. He said the red granite walls were similar to those at Vedauwoo.
“But they’re five times taller,” Jenkins said.
With the destination in mind, Jenkins called three Wyoming climbers he knew — Micah Rush of Casper and Kyle Duba and Kyle Elmquist of Lander — to see if they wanted to join him for a month or so.
All three said yes, and the group left the following week.
While the Sinai Peninsula has attracted attention for an ongoing conflict between Islamist militants and Egyptian security forces, Jenkins said the violence is limited to the northern part of the peninsula. In the south, he found what he called an “oasis of peace.”
“We tend to think all of the Middle East is a mess, but there are all these oases of harmony and beauty and kindness, and that’s where we went,” he said.
A presentation about the trip, “Camels, Climbing and St. Catherine: An Expedition to Egypt,” is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday at the University of Wyoming Arts and Sciences Auditorium. Admission is free.
Jenkins, UW writer in residence and field staff writer for National Geographic, is planning to take the talk to Cody, Gillette, Jackson, Powell and Sheridan next month as part of the UW Center for Global Studies’ “World to Wyoming Series with Mark Jenkins.”
The South Sinai is an important region for the three Abrahamic religions — Christianity, Judaism and Islam — as it was where Moses saw the burning bush and received the Ten Commandments, according to the Old Testament.
The group traveled with a group of Muslim Bedouins to reach their climbing destination, hiked to the summit of Mt. Sinai and visited St. Catherine’s Monastery, which was built in 565 at the site of the burning bush.
The monastery is home to 25 monks as well as about 100 Bedouins who work there. It’s the only Christian monastery in the world with a mosque inside.
“It’s an example of tolerance and how to get along with people of different faiths and different ethnicities, but who still have the same human values,” Jenkins said.
At the top of Mt. Sinai, they met pilgrims from all three religions.
“There’s been peace between Muslims and Christians and Jews (here) for a long time,” he said.
Meanwhile, the climbers also put up new routes on red granite walls a thousand feet high.
“There’s something very special about being in this incredibly remote place, just the four of you together on a granite wall, and you’ve got to take care of each other,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins said he’s preparing an article about the expedition for National Geographic Traveler magazine.
“We simply explored one of the more remote places to go rock climbing in the world, and we were treated with kindness and generosity everywhere we went,” he said.