In 1997 Hilary and I were backpacking through the Sinai peninsula in Egypt, for just a couple of days holiday from Israel. We had just enough money to get us to mount Sinai and back on a bus and taxi. The journey was dreadful. We waited for hours in the blazing heat for a taxi to take us to Dahab, from where we'd get another taxi to Mount Sinai later that night. But this was midday and we had to wait for enough other tourists to come along wanting to go to Dahab before we could afford to share the cost of a taxi with them.
Eventually enough backpackers turned up, and we headed off into the desert with a dirver who spoke no english, in 40 C heat, trusting entirely that he was taking us to the right place. The taxi broke down in the middle of nowhere. We crawled to a small house on it's own, where the driver proceeded to bang the engine until it started working again. Eventually we got to Dahab.
We wandered round the hippie culture of Dahab, had some pancakes which was about we could afford, and went to find a taxi to Mount sinai. We'd been told to go to s certain place at a certain time to get a taxi for say 100 egyptian pounds. When we went back there to price had rocketed and we couldn't afford it. Eventually we bartered them down to leave us exactly enough for the bus fair home the next day. They took us to Mount sinai at midnight. Into the pitch black we left the taxi and couldn't even see the mountain it was so dark. But we saw a little sign saying which way it was so we started walking. Then we couldn't see anything and we stopped, and around us this deep groaning started up. I got my torch out and saw around us this herd of camels which we'd walked into the middle of. We carried on walking through them and came upon a lady hiring a camel from a guide who was going to take her up the mountain. So we hung back a bit and followed at a short distance, hoping they at least would know where they were going. They did, and after a couple of hours of climbing we got to the top of mount sinai.
When we got there the top of the mountain was packed with people. We were there just in time for sunrise, at which point of course the clouds came over and we could hardly see anything. But we at least made it to see dawn of some sort from the top of Sinai.
Hilary and I were so tired by now that we slept on the top of the mountain. When we woke up a few hours later the crowds had all gone, leaving us alone on top of the mountain.
Now there's a good reason why they'd all gone - the egyptian desert gets dangerously hot when the sun comes up. The last place you want to be is up the top of a mountain when the sun is in the sky. You just burn to death very quickly. Where were we? Yep, up the top of a mountain with the sun rising higher and higher in the sky.
At the bottom of the mountain is St Catherine's monastary. We really wanted to go there to see what it was like and to get some water. Because out in the desert the one thing you need the most is water, and they don't really have any taps. But we knew from our guidebook that the monastry closes at midday. It was now gone 9am and the climb down was at least a couple of hours, if not more. We were going to be very tight for time, but we had to make it to the monastry or we wouldn't get water and we'd be in real trouble.
So we set off as quickly as we could. We were so hot by now. And we were so tired. We had to keep stopping for rest in any shelter we could find. Eventually we got to the bottom and we could see the monastry a little way off in the distance. When we got there it had gone midday and the monastry was shut tight. We weren't going to get any water from there today. And all our water had run out. We were in trouble.
We looked at the map and saw that there was a village a few miles away, but in the heat, and with us being so tired we really didn't know if we would make it or not. We'd already climbed up and down a mountain with a big rucksack and virtually no food or water. So we prayed. In the blazing hot sunshine of the egyptian desert, we prayed. We simply asked God for water.
Within a minute or two this guy walks out from the side of a cliff, just following a path round the corner to us. We don't know who he was or where he came from. I went up to him and said in perfect english which I didn't know if he would understand or not "excuse me, we're in trouble and we really need some water. Do you know where we can get some please?". He told us to wait there. Went back the way he'd come and within a few minutes returned with two large ice cold bottles of water.
Now, maybe there was a house round there which we couldn't see. I don't know. But what I do know is that we prayed, and God provided. I like to think that man was in fact an Angel, sent by God, to care for us and help us out.
God is very good.