Sunday, 11 January 2015

Travel writing in Israel: Ascend to Masada

I wrote this piece after touring around Israel when I was sixteen years old. I found this particular day the most interesting and I hope you find it interesting too!

Just Back: Ascend to Masada 

“Welcome to the Bedouin tents,” our tour leader spoke with haste while off loading us from the stuffy coach. Sweaty and sleepy-eyed teenagers emerged one by one. We had been hibernating in it for the last five hours. The sun beamed down, as if we were being cooked alive by the rays. The scenery housed acres and acres of sand; pillows of fine grains, in a light mustard which softened our heavy steps. The air had a fresh quality to it and smelled like the saltiness of oncoming waves. Not like that of Essex.

Given food and water, much like the camels and donkeys, we trudged on towards our entertainment for the next half hour. My fellow ‘tour members’ had camel rides whilst a girl named Nicole and I sat outside a clothes shack. Her excuse for not taking part was the suffering of the animals, the weight they had to endure every day from tourists. Whereas mine was simply the fact I am allergic to animals and I did not think the Bedouins would have any Piriton.

A man dressed in the traditional oman showed us through a maze of vibrantly coloured and jewelled tents. We were then lead to a tent that was assumed to be, ‘the head tent’; being the biggest and most decorative.  Scarves layered upon homemade materials knotted together to create protection from the outside world.  Ushered inside we all sat in a circle, cross-legged like primary school children, on plumped cushions and waited for our next activity. We were offered sweet tea that represented the women and black coffee for the men, which was a shame, as I prefer drinking coffee. There were also date snacks reeking of a sickly sweetness: “They must grow dates here,” a girl at my side giggled. We sat with full hands and sitting comfortably as a man introduced himself. He informed us he was the son of the owner of this camp and then proudly stated that his grandfather had seven wives. He hoped one day to have as many; sadly he currently only had three. His dark eyes ogled the girls in his audience. Creepy.

We were eventually able to go to bed.  Thinking our beds would be just as luxurious as the Bedouin cushions we had previously sat upon, we relished a good night’s sleep. Instead we had a mattress each as thick as cardboard. I went to sleep next to my friend, Benji and his friend Sam followed. Sleeping in between two snoring boys isn’t as fun as it sounds.

“Get up guys!” was our wake up call, if you could call 4:30am a time to wake up. It was still night outside. I tried to sit up which was impossible, as Sam’s face was pressed up to my hair and Benji’s elbow was trapping the other side of my head. We all eventually got dressed and moaned all the way back to the coach.

Mount Masada was our next destination. So, forty-four hungry, sleepy and non-energized teenagers climbed the gruelling and practically vertical height of Masada. My thighs burned from exercising the muscles I never knew I possessed. After what seemed like hours climbing stairs and paths, which we could easily fall from, we reached the top (in seven minutes, a record timing). Mazel Tov!

Studying the sunrise on Masada, which overlooked the desert, was an eerie yet exquisitely awe-inspiring moment. As if observing a magnificent painting, goose bumps appeared to the skin’s surface and the view was breathtakingly remarkable. It was like a re-enactment of the scene in The Lion King when Simba is born as we listened to The Circle of Life. All I could think about was the Bedouins who see this every day.

Shalom from Yisra’el.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more travel articles :)

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