Adventure into Silence
The award-winning writer Sara Maitland travelled to South Sinai with Wind Sand & Stars as part of her research for the widely acclaimed A Book of Silence (Granta 2008). Afterwards we created the Adventure into Silence, a non-denominational retreat to explore the unique desert silence and Sara has been guest speaker on this popular annual retreat ever since.
Francesca is Professor of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Religion at the University of Exeter. Alongside her research she has made many media appearances (including Bible’s Buried Secrets, a BBC documentary series) and regularly speaks on the roles of the Bible, religion, and atheism in ancient and contemporary societies. She first visited Sinai on a school trip with Wind Sand & Stars in the 1990s, an experience that inspired her curiosity in biblical traditions and she went on to study Theology at the University of Oxford.
St Catherine Retreat
Father Laurence Freeman OSB is a Catholic priest and a Benedictine monk. He is the Director of the World Community for Christian Meditation and of its Benedictine oblate community. He lead group meditations each day during the St Catherine Retreat in April 2018 and hopes to return with another group in 2020.
Professor in Theology and Religious Studies and Fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge, Janet is the author of Sisters of Sinai: How Two lady Adventurers Found the Hidden Gospels. Janet was our guest speaker for our Historical Odyssey journeys across South Sinai in 2011 and 2012, tracing the footsteps of the intrepid Scottish twin sisters who made one of the most important manuscript finds of the nineteenth century – an early copy of the gospels which lay hidden in the Monastery of St Catherine.
Ethiopia's Orthodox History
John Binns is an authority on eastern Christianity with a particular interest in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, with its distinctive scholarship and enduring oral traditions, with its complex and fascinating culture of poetry rooted in early Christian allegory. John is Vicar of Great St Mary’s University Church Cambridge, Chair of Trustees of Partners for Change Ethiopia, Visiting Professor at the Institute of Orthodox Christian Studies at Cambridge leading a project on Ethiopian Christianity, and author of several books and articles on eastern Christianity.
Icons of St Catherine's
A professional iconographer for nearly 40 years, Aidan has worked with a wide range of media, egg tempera panel painting; fresco; mosaic; stone and wood carving; illuminated manuscript painting; church furniture design.
From 1988 to 2000 Aidan tested his vocation as a monk, including spending a total of two years on Mount Athos and six as a hermit in Shropshire, UK. This intense life of prayer had a profound effect on his work. He is now married with two children.
Now a successful writer, lecturer and teacher, Aidan has had numerous articles published on the subjects of iconography, ecology and Orthodox spirituality. In 2015 he was elected a Fellow of the Temenos Academy.
Aidan has published three books: Festal Icons: History and Meaning (2022); Techniques of Icon and Wall Painting (2011, 2015, also in Polish), the most extensive work on the subject, and Beauty Spirit Matter (2014), a collection of essays.
Artist and storyteller
Rosalind’s interest and expertise in calligraphy and textiles as a present witness to the creative process of Beauty.
She longs to see the manuscripts and icons and connect with the spiritual significance, and she plans to take this inspiration forward into creative expression through writing, stitch, colour and form. Rosalind will be running practical workshops in St Catherine’s Monastery, introducing and guiding those who’d like to learn and discover more about these artforms.
“I was privileged to be guest speaker with Wind Sand & Stars for some twenty years. The bible has its languages – the essential keys which open up the scriptures to our deeper understanding. But there is one such language which is learned not in the classroom or study, but in a jeep or on your feet. It is the topography of the bible. A trip with Wind Sand & Stars will facilitate the learning of this so important language. You will discover something of that language and the people whose it was and whose it is today. You will see contrasts; but, more importantly, you will see large and exciting continuity.” The Reverend Dr Andrew Macintosh, Fellow & Dean Emeritus of St John’s College, Cambridge
Our highly acclaimed expert guest speakers include members of the clergy, academics and specialists and they are invited to journey with us and share their expert knowledge and enthusiasm. Their scholarly insights and anecdotes create a truly unique shared experience that brings to life hidden elements of a region’s history, culture and environment. Our guest speakers, past and present, include:
A unique experience and a privilege to share the Bedouin’s way of life, for a short time.
Guest, Sinai Summits, April 2019
It was the most wonderful trip, so glad I took up this opportunity. All beautifully organised – well done.
Icons of St Catherine’s Guest November 2022
Enthralling and beyond my hopes, it was a deeply spiritual experience at many levels. I am still raving about it all to anyone who crosses my path!
Icons of St Catherine’s Guest November 2022
“The whole trip was AMAZING – thank you so much.”
Francis Burkitt, St Catherine tailor made, August 2017
We got more out of our adventure than we had ever hoped for, thanks to a country of huge diversity and historical interest and to a very special guide.
Cunningham family, Jordan, April 2017
So many thoughts about our wonderful trip to St Catherine’s; the fantastic warmth of welcome from the Egyptians, Fathers Justin and Nilus, and the unique history which we felt privileged to be given access to. In my book, how could one not enjoy and be inspired!
Julia Palmer, St Catherine’s Retreat, February 2017
“Huge thanks to all at Wind, Sand & Stars for an amazing trip. John’s passion for Ethiopia fires his erudition and he gave us more insights into the country, past and present, than we could ever have gained from local guides.”
Christine Dunmow, Exploring Ethiopia’s Orthodox History with John Binns 2016