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January 29, 2012

From Sinai with love

Dr. Mohamed Elmasry

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First you love, then you express your love, and finally, and sometimes much later, you find out the reasons for your love. I have experienced this with my love for Sinai.

I knew for years that Sinai was more than Sharm El-Sheikh’s resorts on the Red Sea where I frequent but my love for Sinai, the whole of Sinai, was dormant. I recently cultivated that love by organizing and chairing the first international academic multidisciplinary conference on the development of Sinai followed by a field trip to the north, middle and south parts of Sinai.

On the way I found other Sinai lovers and we worked very hard to hold the conference at Cairo University (the main sponsor) and invite hundreds of academics to participate.

Given the events in Cairo in the months and days leading to the conference dates, January 16-18, it was a miracle that we succeeded. At several times we thought to postpone the conference. But we managed to hold the conference with an important invited keynote address on Turkey’s impressive achievements in development in the last 10 years given by Turkish officials and their ambassador to Cairo.

In the months leading up to the conference I got to know a classic 800-page book about the history of Sinai written in Arabic in 1916 by Naum Shoucair Bey.  I was impressed by the research done by the author to write his book, but I was more delighted to be able to buy a copy of the book on our field trip to Sinai, at St Catherin’s Monastery bookshop. I even got the shop keeper Monk Theophilos to sign the book for me.

A week before the conference I went to Cairo’s used book market to find “Return to Sinai,” a book by another lover of Sinai; Lucy Jacob. The 160-page book covers her trip to Sinai following the liberation of Sinai 30 years ago - April 23, 1982.  Sadly, before I managed to send her my congratulations on her excellent narration Jacob passed away on January 7, 2012.

Lucy Jacob was born in Alexandria and held a diploma in journalism. Her love for the Sinai started when she worked at the Almngenz Sinai Company. Later she worked as an editor of a magazine on Arab women. She published a number of books on the Sinai, including short stories, and in 1974 she was awarded the Order of Distinction in the Supreme Council and Literature by Egypt’s Supreme Council for Literature and Arts.

Lucy wrote: “The Sinai people were born again on the sixth of October 1973 (liberation day from the Israeli occupation). The first thing that comes to mind is what is noted in the records and evidence of history: Sinai is one of the areas that are blessed by heaven.  Honored by mountains and valleys. .. Her sand was touched by prophets. Sinai was to see the dawns of three monotheistic religions; Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Abraham was here too. What a purity of sand! To Prophet Moses at Mount Sinai the Lord said that the land that you are standing on is a holy ground. This is the beginning of the sanctity of human Sinai.”

She add, “Love is the slogan and the perfect angels on earth are Sinai monks and hermits. Who are moving to Sinai, seeking closeness to God and singing of love."

And the Woman of Sinai as Lucy Jacob was known wrote, “The development of Sinai today should be a labor of love, linking the land of the Egyptians as tied since ancient times” - I say Amen.

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