Lady Eleanor Brown, St John’s Malone, reflects on a pilgrimage earlier this year which followed in the footsteps of Moses and the Exodus.
On April 17 2012 a group of 18 pilgrims from St John’s Malone left Belfast for Egypt and Jordan.
We arrived in Cairo the following evening and drove through the teeming, busy urban sprawl to our hotel. Our pilgrimage, which was to follow the Children of Israel on their journey to the Promised Land, had started.
In Cairo we saw relics of Ancient Egypt – the Pyramids, ancient Memphis and Saqqara, as well as the Archaeological Museum on Tahrir Square, an area that we were familiar with from our television scenes over the past year or so. We also visited some of the Coptic churches, and I managed to meet up with an Egyptian friend who was able to give me her views on the Arab Spring.
Because of a large demonstration in Tahrir Square during our time in Cairo, our itinerary had to be adjusted and we left for Sinai – once more following in the steps of Moses – a day later than planned and with a longer journey due to road closures in Sinai.
At Mount Sinai we felt that we were true pilgrims as most of us got up very early on the Sunday to climb the mountain, some doing part of the journey by camel. Others were physically assisted up the steps by locals.
Afterwards we celebrated Holy Communion and spent a relaxing afternoon, some of us later sampling Bedouin tea round a campfire.
The following day we visited St Catherine’s Monastery and saw part of its world–famous collection of icons. We then travelled to Jordan and spent a couple of nights near Petra, which is a truly inspiring place to visit.
Onward to Amman, stopping at Kerak, Madaba and Mount Nebo along the way. At Mount Nebo we saw a very early mosaic map of the world. Here we celebrated Holy Communion and were able to gaze across the Dead Sea to the Promised Land as Moses had done.
From Amman we travelled northward visiting two of the cities of the Decapolis, Umm Qais (Gadara) and Jerash, the latter with its particularly impressive Roman remains. On the return to Amman we stopped at the River Jabbok, where Jacob had wrestled with the Angel.
On our final day we visited Bethany Transjordan, where Jesus was baptised, and returned to Amman for a tour of the city.
Our pilgrimage was ably led by the Very Reverend John Mann, Dean of Belfast and organised by McCabe’s Pilgrimages.