Friday, December 21, 2007

Qalaat al Gindi

Towards the end of the year it turned out that Jurriaan's work offshore had progressed better than expected and that we could take a few weeks holiday around Eid al Adha, Christmas and New Year. We decided to start with five days surfing at Moon Beach, followed by Christmas at Al Gouna, New Year in Luxor, and driving back to Cairo along the Nile. More on the rest of this trip later.

We borrowed wet suits from friends, as it can get a bit nippy in the Gulf of Suez in December. One day the weather was bad for beach and surfing: no wind, no sun and the occasional drizzle, so we decided to explore the Sinai. We went to Qalaat al Gindi, the ruins of the 12
th century Fortress of Salah ad-Din or Saladin, built in strategic location where three caravan routes converge. The fortress was originally built to protect pilgrims making their haj from Africa to Mecca and trade caravans from Africa to Asia. Saladin had planned to use the fortress as a base to launch attacks on the crusaders who had reached Jerusalem at the time. However, Saladin managed to chase the crusaders out of Jerusalem before the fortress was finished.

Qalaat al Gindi on Google Earth

We knew about it through a website of a colleague, who had left Egypt before we arrived. This is actually the second attempt to go to Qalaat al Gindi. In February 2007 we went also, but is was rainy and the paths were too slippery to go up safely. This time it was dry (only just), and we climbed up the steep route (bottom middle on the Google Earth picture).

panorama shot of Qalaat al Gindi

When we reached the top of the plateau there were more ruins to see than we expected. We saw some old Arabic texts cut in rock.

old Arabic text above a window arch

Even though it was not such a clear day we had beautiful views all around from this strategic location. Most of the walls and some large vaulted rooms are still standing.

Corine enjoying the view on the impressive outer wall

We walked around the outer walls to get a good feel for the scale of the complex.

Jurriaan walking around the the northwestern wall of the complex

The next day the weather was sunny and windy again and we enjoyed the last surfing of the year.

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