by Adam Delezenne
It is brisk at the top of Mt. Sinai. This is not a thought that had ever occurred to me in my reading of the biblical story of Moses on the mountain or while watching film renditions of the same. That is a small piece of reality I discovered in experiencing legendary places. These places are surprisingly real. It gets hot and cold there. It rains. People live and work next door to them. On Mt. Sinai, for example, our guides to the top of the mountain live in the valley below it. It’s a tiny village as old as the practice of pilgrimage to the mountain itself, and populated by those who serve pilgrims as guides, camel drivers, and snack sellers.
I took part in a travel seminar to Egypt this past january. Sixteen of us from McCormick spent the better part of the month touring the country and learning from our hosts. This was an academic course taught by Dr. Sarah Tanzer and Dr. Ted Hiebert in cooperation with the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo. Our partners on this journey were a dozen Egyptian students taking the course along with us, responsible for the same reading and writing that we were. Through Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor and Mt. Sinai we saw Egypt along with them. For some this was their first time visiting the ancient sites that were just (relatively) down the street. Or down the Nile.
As amazing as it was to experience those many legendary places like the Great Pyramids, the (New) Library at Alexandria, Mt. Sinai, the tombs of the Kings, Hapshepsut’s Temple and a lot more, my experience of the people we met will endure in my mind longer and more vividly - those serving as our guides and protectors but even more so the seminary students with whom we traveled for three weeks. They claim a heritage as old as the Pharoahs, and we felt and saw that weight all around us every step in the way. They face the challenge of making sense of their Christian tradition in a Muslim nation that is often not their ally.
We are committed to sharing this experience with the whole McCormick family. Immediately, you can flip through pictures of the trip online. But we are working on pulling together papers and journals from the course as well as some moving photography, which we will publish as the third volume of Transforming Traditions. Transforming Traditions is a journal series funded by the work of students in the classroom. We hope that through our insights and stories you will be able to experience this amazing trip with us.