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The Land of Midian, Vol. 1 by Richard Burton

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his loud-voiced little Hijn,[EN#89] remarkable because it is of
the noble Bishári strain, bred between the Nile and the Red Sea,
he is ever the guide in chief. At last it ends with Nádi Shaykh
Furayj!--"Call Shaykh Furayj"--when anything is to be done, to be
explained, to be discovered. I would willingly have recommended
him for the chieftainship of his tribe, but he is not wealthy; he
wisely prefers to see the dignity in the hands of his cousin
'Alayán, who, by-the-by, is helpless without him. He remained
with us to the end: he seemed to take a pride in accompanying the
expedition by sea to El-Haurá, and by land to the Wady Hamz, far
beyond the limits of his tribe. When derided for mounting a pair
of Government "bluchers," tied over bare feet, with bits of
glaring tassel-string from his camel-saddle, he quoted the
proverb, "Whoso liveth with a people forty days becomes of them."
We parted after the most friendly adieu, or rather au revoir, and
he was delighted with some small gifts of useful weapons:--I
wonder whether Shaykh Furayj will prove "milk," to use Sir Walter
Scott's phrase, "which can stand more than one skimming."

In such wild travel, the traveller's comfort depends mainly upon
weather. Usually the air of Magháir Shu'ayb was keen, pure, and
invigorating, with a distinct alternation of land-breeze by
night, and of sea-breeze by day. Nothing could be more charming
than the flushing of the mountains at sunrise and sunset, and the
magnificence of the windy, wintry noon. The rocky spires,
pinnacles, and domes, glowing with gorgeous golden light, and the
lower ranges, shaded with hazy blue, umber-red, and luminous
purple, fell into picture and formed prospects indescribably pure
and pellucid. But the average of the aneroid (29.19) gave an
altitude of eight hundred feet; and even in this submaritime
region, the minimum temperature was 42 deg. F., ranging to a
maximum of 85 deg F. in the shade. These are extremes which the
soft Egyptian body, reared in the house or the hut, could hardly

Darwaysh Effendi followed suit after Yusuf Effendi; it was a
study to see him swathed to the nose, bundled in the thickest
clothes, with an umbrella opened against the sun, and with a
soldier leading his staid old mule. Bukhayt Ahmar and several of
the soldiers were laid up; Ahmed Kaptán was incapacitated for
work by an old and inveterate hernia, the effect, he said, of
riding his violent little beast; and a sound ague and fever,
which continued three days, obliterated in my own case the last
evils of Karlsbad. We had one night of rain (January 15),
beginning gently at 2.30 a.m., and ending in a heavy
downfall--unfortunately a pluviometer was one of the forgotten
articles. Before the shower, earth was dry as a bone; shortly
after it, sprouts of the greenest grass began to appear in the
low places, and under the shadow of the perennial shrubs. The
cold damp seemed to make even the snakes torpid: for the first
time in my life I trod upon one--a clairvoyante having already
warned me against serpents and scorpions. There were also bursts
of heat, ending in the normal three grey days of raw piercing
norther; and followed by a still warmer spell. Upon the Gulf of
El-'Akabah a violent gale was blowing. On the whole the winter
climate of inland Midian is trying, and a speedy return to the
seaboard air is at times advisable, while South Midian feels like
Thebes after Cairo. The coast climate is simply perfect, save and
except when El-Aylí, the storm-wind from 'Akabat Aylah, is
abroad. My meteorological journal was carefully kept, despite the
imperfection of the instruments. Mr. Clarke registered the
observations during my illness; Mr. Duguid and Násir Kaptán made
simultaneous observations on board the ships; and Dr. Maclean
kindly corrected the instrumental errors after our return to

I had proposed to march upon the Hismá, or sandy plateau to the
east, which can be made from Magháir Shu'ayb without the
mortification of a Nakb, or ladder of stone. Thereupon our
Tagaygát-Huwaytát Shaykhs and camel-men began to express great
fear of the 'Imran-Huwaytát, refusing to enter their lands
without express leave and the presence of a Ghafír ("surety").
Our caravan-leader, the gallant Sayyid, at once set off in search
of 'Brahim bin Makbúl, second chief of the 'Imrán, and recognized
by the Egyptian Government as the avocat, spokesman and
diplomatist, the liar and intriguer of his tribe. This man was
found near El-Hakl (Hagul), two long marches ahead: he came in
readily enough, holding in hand my kerchief as a pledge of
protection, and accompanied by three petty chiefs, Musallam,
Sa'd, and Muhaysin, all with an eye to "bakhshísh." In fact,
every naked-footed "cousin," a little above the average clansman,
would call himself a Shaykh, and claim his Musháhirah, or monthly
pay; not a cateran came near us but affected to hold himself
dishonoured if not provided at once with the regular salary.
'Brahim was wholly beardless, and our Egyptians quoted their
proverb, Sabáh el-Kurúd, wa lá Sabán el-'Ajrúd--"Better (see
ill-omened) monkeys in the morning than the beardless man." As
the corruption of the best turns to the worst, so the Bedawi, a
noble race in its own wilds, becomes thoroughly degraded by
contact with civilization. I remember a certain chief of the Wuld
Ali tribe, near Damascus, who was made a Freemason at Bayrút, and
the result was that "brother" Mohammed became a model villain.

By way of payment for escort and conveyance to the Hismá, 'Brahim
expected a recognition of his claim upon the soil of Magháir
Shu'ayb, which belongs to the wretched Masá'id. He held the true
Ishmaelitic tenet, that as Sayyidná (our Lord) Ádam had died
intestate, so all men (Arabs) have a right to all things,
provided the right can be established by might. Hence the saying
of the Fellah, "Shun the Arab and the itch." Thus encouraged by
the Shaykhs, the "dodges" of the clansmen became as manifold as
they were palpable. They wanted us to pay for camping-ground;
they complained aloud when we cut a palm-frond for palms, or used
a rotten fallen trunk for fuel. They made their sheep appear fat
by drenching them with water. The people of the Fort el-Muwaylah,
determined not to déroger, sent to us, for sale, the eggs laid by
our own fowls. And so forth.

Presently 'Brahim brought in his elder brother, Khizr bin Makbúl,
about as ill-conditioned a "cuss" as himself. Very dark, with the
left eye clean gone, this worthy appeared pretentiously dressed
in the pink of Desert fashion--a scarlet cloak, sheepskin-lined,
and bearing a huge patch of blue cloth between the shoulders; a
crimson caftan, and red morocco boots with irons resembling
ice-cramps at the heels. Like 'Brahim, he uses his Bákúr, or
crooked stick, to trace lines and dots upon the ground;
similarly, the Yankee whittles to hide the trick that lurks in
his eyes. Khizr tents in the Hismá, and his manners are wild and
rough as his dwelling-place; possibly manly, brusque certainly,
like the Desert Druzes of the Jebel Haurán. He paid his first
visit when our Shaykhs were being operated upon by the
photographer: I fancied that such a novelty would have attracted
his attention for the moment. But no: his first question was,
Aysh 'Ujratí?--"What is the hire for my camels?" Finally, these
men threw so many difficulties in our way, that I was compelled
to defer our exploration of the eastern region to a later day.

After a week of washing for metals at Magháir Shu'ayb, it was
time to move further afield. On January 17th, the Egyptian
Staff-officers rode up the Wady 'Afál, and beyond the two
pyramidal rocks of white stone, which have fallen from the
towered "Shigd," they found on its right bank the ruins of a
small atelier. It lies nearly opposite the mouth of the Wady
Tafrígh, which is bounded north by a hill of the same name; and
south by the lesser "Shigd." Beyond it comes the Wady Nimir, the
broad drain of the Jibál el-Nimir, "Hills of the Leopard,"
feeding the 'Afál: the upper valley is said to have water and
palms. After a "leg" to the north-east (45 deg. mag.), they found
the 'Afál running from due north; and one hour (= three miles)
led them to other ruins on the eastern side of the low hills that
prolong to the north the greater "Shigd." The names of both sites
were unknown even to Shaykh Furayj. The foundations of uncut
boulders showed a semicircle of buildings measuring 229 paces
across the horseshoe. They counted eleven tenements--probably
occupied by the slave-owners and superintendents--squares and
oblongs, separated by intervals of from forty-five to
ninety-seven or a hundred paces. On the north-north-east lay the
chief furnace, a parallelogram of some twenty-three paces, built
of stone and surrounded by scatters of broken white quartz and
scoriæ. These two workshops seem to argue that the country was
formerly much better watered than it is now. Moreover, it
convinced me that the only rock regularly treated by the
ancients, in this region, was the metallic Marú (quartz).

I had heard by mere chance of a "White Mountain," at no great
distance, in the mass of hills bounding to the north the
Secondary formations of Magháir Shu'ayb. On January 21st, M.
Marie and Lieutenant Amir were detached to inspect it. They were
guided by the active Furayj and a Bedawi lad, Hamdán of the
Amírát, who on receiving a "stone dollar" (i.e. silver) could not
understand its use. Travelling in a general northern direction,
the little party reached their destination in about three hours
(= nine miles). They found some difficulty in threading a mile
and a quarter of very ugly road, a Nakb, passing through rocks
glittering with mica; a ladder of stony steps and overfalls, with
angles and zigzags where camels can carry only half-loads. The
European dismounted; the Egyptian, who was firm in the saddle,
rode his mule the whole way. We afterwards, however, explored a
comparatively good road, viâ the Wady Murákh, to the seaboard,
which will spare the future metal-smelter much trouble and

The quartz mountain is, like almost all the others, the expanded
mushroom-like head of a huge filon or vein; and minor filets
thread all the neighbouring heights. The latter are the
foot-hills of the great Jebel Zánah, a towering, dark, and
dome-shaped mass clearly visible from Magháir Shu'ayb. This
remarkable block appeared to me the tallest we had hitherto seen;
it is probably the "Tayyibat Ism, 6000," of the Hydrographic
Chart. The travellers ascended the Jebel el-Marú, trembling the
while with cold; and from its summit, some fifteen hundred feet
above sea-level, they had a grand view of the seaboard and the
sea. They brought home specimens of the rock, and fondly fancied
that they had struck gold: it was again that abominable
"crow-gold" (pyrites), which has played the unwary traveller so
many a foul practical joke.

During our stay at Magháir Shu'ayb the camp had been much excited
by Bedawi reports of many marvels in the lands to the north and
the north-east. The Arabs soon learned to think that everything
was worth showing: they led M. Lacaze for long miles to a rock
where bees were hiving. A half-naked 'Umayri shepherd, one Suwayd
bin Sa'íd, had told us of a Hajar masdúd ("closed stone") about
the size of a tent, with another of darker colour set in it; the
Arabs had been unable to break it open, but they succeeded with a
similar rock in the Hismá, finding inside only Tibn ("tribulated
straw") and charcoal. Another had seen a Kidr Dahab ("golden
pot"), in the 'Aligán section of the Wady el-Hakl (Hagul) where
it leaves the Hismá; and a matchlock-man had brought down with
his bullet a bit of precious metal from the upper part. This
report prevails in many places: it may have come all the way from
"Pharaoh's Treasury" at Petra, or from the Sinaitic Wady Lejá. At
the mouth of the latter is the Hajar el-Kidr ("Potrock"), which
every passing Arab either stones or strikes with his staff,
hoping that the mysterious utensil will burst and shed its golden
shower. Moreover, a half-witted Ma'ázi, by name Masá'í, had
tantalized us with a glorious account of the "House of 'Antar" in
the Hismá, and the cistern where that negro hero and poet used to
water his horses. Near its massive walls rises a Hazbah ("steep
and solitary hillock") with Dims or layers of ashlar atop: he had
actually broken off a bit of greenstone sticking in the masonry,
and sold it to a man from Tor (Khwájeh Kostantin?) for a large
sum--two napoleons, a new shirt, and a quantity of coffee. A
similar story is found in the Bádiyat el-Tíh, the Desert north of
the Sinaitic Peninsula. At the ruined cairns of Khara'bat Lussán
(the ancient Lysa), an Arab saw a glimmer of light proceeding
from a bit of curiously cut stone. "This he carried away with him
and sold to a Christian at Jerusalem for three pounds."[EN#91]

Shaykh 'Brahím had also heard of this marvel; but he called it
the Haráb 'Antar ("Ruin of 'Antar"), and he placed it in the Wady
el-Hakl, about an hour's ride south of the Wady 'Afál. Finally, a
tablet in the Wady Hawwayi', adorned with a dragon and other
animals, was reported to me; and the memory of inscriptions
mentioned in the Jihan-numá was still importunate. Evidently all
these were mere fancies; or, at best, gross distortions of facts.
The Bedawin repeat them in the forlorn hope of "bakhshísh," and
never expect action to be taken: next morning they will probably
declare the whole to be an invention. Yet it is never safe to
neglect the cry of "wolf": our most remarkable discovery, the
Temple at the Wady Hamz, was made when report promised least.

Accordingly, on January 24th, I despatched, with Shaykhs Khizr
and 'Brahím as guides, Mr. Clarke and the two Staff-lieutenants
towards El-Rijm, the next station of the pilgrim-caravan. Riding
up the Wady 'Afál, they reached, after an hour and
three-quarters, the ruins known as Igár Muás--a name of truly
barbarous sound. The settlement had occupied both banks, but the
principal mass was on the left: here two blocks, separated by a
hillock, lay to north-east and south-west of each other.
Apparently dwelling-places, they were composed of a
masonry-cistern and of fourteen buildings, detached squares and
oblongs, irregular both in orientation and in size; the largest
measuring eighty by fifty metres, and the smallest five by four.
The material was of water-rolled boulders, huge pebbles without
mortar or cement. There were no signs of a furnace, nor were the
usual fragments of glass and pottery strewed about. To the north
and running up the north-north-eastern slope stood a line of wall
two metres broad and three hundred long: it ended at the
south-western extremity in five round towers razed to their
foundations. It was suggested that this formed part of a street,
laid out on the plan of the Jebel el-Safrá, the hauteville of
Magháir Shu'ayb. On the right bank of the Wady appeared a heap of
stones suggesting a Burj. Fine, hard, compact, and purple-blue
slate was collected in the ruins; and the red conglomerates on
either side of the watercourse suggested that Cascalho had been

After riding their dromedaries some three hours, halts not
included, the travellers were asked why they had not brought
their tents. "Because we expect to return to camp this evening!"
Then it leaked out that they had not reached half-way to the
"closed stone," while the dragon-tablet would take a whole day.
Unprepared for a wintry night in the open, some twelve hundred
feet above sea-level, they rode back at full speed, greatly to
the disgust of the Arabs, who, at this hungry season, rarely push
their lean beasts beyond three and a half to four miles an hour.
Lieutenant Amir, who is invaluable in the field, would have
pressed forward: not so the European.

I did not see Shaykhs Khizr or 'Brahím for many a day; nor did we
attempt any more reconnaissances to the north of Magháir Shu'ayb.

Not the least pleasant part of our evening's work was collecting
information concerning the origin of the tribes inhabiting modern
Midian; and, as on such occasions a mixed multitude was always
present, angry passions were often let rise. As my previous
volume showed, the tribes in this Egyptian corner of
North-Western Arabia number three--the Huwaytát, the Maknáwi, and
the Beni 'Ukbah; the two former of late date, and all more or
less connected with the Nile Valley. Amongst them I do not
include the Hutaym or Hitaym, a tribe of Pariahs who, like the
Akhdám ("serviles") of Maskat and Yemen, live scattered amongst,
although never intermarrying with, their neighbours. As a rule
the numbers of all these tribes are grossly exaggerated, the
object being to impose upon the pilgrim-caravans, and to draw
black-mail from the Government of Egypt. The Huwaytát, for
instance, modestly declare that they can put 5000 matchlocks into
the field: I do not believe that they have 500. The Ma'ázah speak
of 2000, which may be reduced in the same proportion; whilst the
Baliyy have introduced their 37,000 into European books of
geography, when 370 would be nearer the mark. I anticipate no
difficulty in persuading these Egypto-Arabs to do a fair day's
work for a fair and moderate wage. The Bedawin flocked to the
Suez Canal, took an active part in the diggings, and left a good
name there. They will be as useful to the mines; and thus shall
Midian escape the mortification of the "red-flannel-shirted
Jove," while enjoying his golden shower.

I first took the opportunity of rectifying my notes on the origin
of the Huwayta't tribe.[EN#92] According to their own oral
genealogists, the first forefather was a lad called 'Alayán, who,
travelling in company with certain Shurafá ("descendants of the
Apostle"), and ergò held by his descendants to have been also a
Sherif, fell sick on the way. At El-'Akabah he was taken in
charge by 'Atíyyah, Shaykh of the then powerful Ma'ázah tribe,
who owned the land upon which the fort stands. A "clerk," able to
read and to write, he served his adopted father by superintending
the accounts of stores and provisions supplied to the Hajj. The
Arabs, who before that time embezzled at discretion, called him
El-Huwayti' ("the Man of the Little Wall") because his learning
was a fence against their frauds He was sent for by his Egyptian
friends; these, however, were satisfied by a false report of his
death: he married his benefactor's daughter; he became Shaykh
after the demise of his father-in-law; he drove the Ma'ázah from
El-'Akabah, and he left four sons, the progenitors and eponymi of
the Midianite Huwaytát. Their names are 'Alwán, 'Imrán, Suway'id,
and Sa'id; and the list of nineteen tribes, which I gave in "The
Gold-Mines of Midian," is confined to the descendants of the
third brother.

The Huwaytát tribe is not only an intruder, it is also the
aggressive element in the Midianite family of Bedawin; and, of
late years, it has made great additions to its territory. If it
advances at the present rate it will, after a few generations,
either "eat up," as Africans say, all the other races or, by a
more peaceful process, assimilate them to its own body.

We also consulted Shaykh Hasan and his cousin Ahmed, alias Abú
Khartúm, concerning the origin of his tribe, the Beni 'Ukbah.
According to our friend Furayj, the name means "Sons of the Heel"
('Akab) because, in the early wars and conquests of El-Islám,
they fought during the day by the Moslems' side; and at night,
when going over to the Nazarenes, they lost the "spoor" by
wearing their sandals heel foremost, and by shoeing their horses
the wrong way. All this they indignantly deny; and they are borne
out by the written genealogies, who derive them from "Ukbah, the
son of Maghrabah, son of Heram," of the Kahtániyyah (Joctanite)
Arabs, some of the noblest of Bedawi blood. They preserve the
memory of their ancestor 'Ukbah, and declare that they come from
the south; that is, they are of Hejázi descent, consequently far
more ancient than the Huwaytát. At first called "El-Musálimah,"
they were lords of all the broad lands extending southward
between Shámah (Syria) and the Wady Dámah below the port of Zibá;
and this fine valley retains, under its Huwayti occupants, the
title of 'Ukbíyyah--'Ukbah-land. Thus they still claim as Milk,
or "unalienable property," the Wadys Gharr, Sharmá, 'Aynúnah, and
others; whilst their right to the ground upon which Fort
el-Muwaylah is built has never been questioned.

The first notable event in the history of the Beni 'Ukbah was a
quarrel that arose between them and their brother-tribe, the Beni
'Amr. The 'Ayn el-Tabbákhah,[EN#93] the fine water of Wady
Madyan, now called Wady Makná, was discovered by a Hutaymi
shepherd of the Beni 'Ali clan, while tending his flocks; others
say that the lucky man was a hunter following a gazelle. However
that may be, the find was reported to the Shaykh of the Musálimah
(Beni 'Ukbah), who had married 'Ayayfah, the sister of Ali ibn
Nejdi, the Beni 'Amr chief, whilst the latter had also taken his
brother-in-law's sister to wife. The discoverer was promised a
Jinu or Sabátah ("date-bunch") from each palm-tree; and the
rivals waxed hot upon the subject. The Musálimah declared that
they would never yield their rights, a certain ancestor,
'Asaylah, having first pitched tent upon the Rughámat Makná, or
white "horse" of Makná. A furious quarrel ensued, and, as usual
in Arabia as in Hibernia, both claimants prepared to fight it

To repeat the words of our oral genealogist, Furayj: "Now, when
the wife of the Shaykh of the Musálimah had heard and understood
what Satan was tempting her husband to do against her tribe, she
rose up, and sent a secret message to her brother of the Beni
'Amr, warning him that a certain person (Fulán) was about to lay
violent hands on the beautiful valley of El-Madyan. Hearing this,
the Beni 'Amr mustered their young men, and mounted their horses
and dromedaries, and rode forth with jingling arms; and at
midnight they found their opponents asleep in El-Khabt,[EN#94]
the beasts being tied up by the side of their lords. So they cut
the cords of the camels, they gagged the hunter who guided the
attack, they threatened him with death if he refused to obey, and
they carried him away with them towards Makná.

"When the Musálimah awoke, they discovered the deceit, they
secured their beasts, and they hastened after the enemy,
following his track like Azrail. Both met at Makná, when a battle
took place, and Allah inclined the balance towards the Beni 'Amr.
The Musálimah, therefore, became exiles, and took refuge in
Egypt. And in the flow of days it so happened that the Shaykh of
the Beni' Amr awoke suddenly at midnight, and heard his wife, as
she sat grinding at the quern, sing this quatrain:--

'If the handmill (of Fate) grind down our tribe
We will bear it, O Thou (Allah) that aidest to bear!
But if the mill grind the foeman tribe,
We will pound and pound them as thin as flour.'

"Whereupon the Shaykh, in his wrath, seized a stone, and cast it
at his wife, and knocked out one of her front teeth. She said
nothing, but she took the tooth and wrapped it in a rag, and sent
it with a message to her brother, the Shaykh of the Musálimah.
Now, this chief was unable to revenge his sister single-handed,
so he travelled to Syria, and threw himself at the feet of the
great Shaykh of the Wuhaydi tribe, who was also a Sherif.

"The Wuhaydi despatched his host together with the warriors of
the Musálimah, and both went forth to do battle with the Beni
'Amr. The latter being camped in a valley near 'Aynúnah, tethered
their dogs and, some say, left behind their old people,[EN#95]
and lit huge bonfires; whence the name of the place is Wady Umm
Nírán ('the Mother of Fires') to this day. Before early dawn they
had reached in flight the Wady 'Arawwah of the Jibál el-Tihámah.
In the morning the Musálimah and the Wuhaydi, finding that a
trick had been practiced upon them, followed the foe, and beat
him in the Wady 'Arawwah, killing the Shaykh. And the chief of
the Musálimah gave his widowed sister as wife to the Wuhaydi, and
settled with his people in their old homes. The Beni 'Amr fled to
the Hismá, and exiled themselves to Kerak in Syria, where they
still dwell, owning the plain called Ganán Shabíb. There is now
peace between the Beni 'Ukbah and their kinsmen the Beni 'Amr."

The second event in the history of the tribe, the "Tale of Abú
Rísh,"[EN#96] shall also be told in the words of Furayj:--"After
the course of time the Beni 'Ukbah, aided by the Ma'ázah, made
war against the Shurafá, who were great lords in those days, and
plundered them and drove them from their lands. The victors were
headed by one Salámah, a Huwayti who dwelt at El-'Akabah, and who
had become their guest. In those ages the daughters of the tribe
were wont to ride before the host in their Hawádig
('camel-litters'), singing the war-song to make the warriors
brave. As Salámah was the chief Mubáriz ('champion in single
combat'), the girls begged him to wear, when fighting, a white
ostrich feather in his chain-helmet, that they might note his
deeds and chant in his name. Hence his title, Abú Rísh--the
'Father of a Feather.' The Sherifs, being beaten, made peace,
taking the lands between Wady Dámah and El-Hejaz; whilst the Beni
'Ukbah occupied Midian Proper (North Midian), between 'Dámah' and
'Shámah' (Syria).

"Abú Rísh, who was a friend to both victor and vanquished,
settled among the Sherifs in the Sirr country south of Wady
Dámah. He had received to wife, as a reward for his bravery, the
daughter of the Shaykh of the Beni 'Ukbah; and she bare him a
son, 'Id, whose tomb is in the Wady Ghál, between Zibá and
El-Muwaylah. On the Yaum el-Subúh ('seventh day after birth'),
the mother of 'Id followed the custom of the Arabs; and, after
the usual banquet, presented the babe to the guests, including
her father, who made over Wady 'Aynúnah in free gift to his
grandson. Now, 'Id used to lead caravans to Cairo, for the
purpose of buying provisions; and he was often plundered by the
Ma'ázah, who had occupied by force the Wadys Sharmá, Tiryam, and
Surr of El-Muwaylah.

"This 'Id ibn Salámah left, by a Huwayti woman, a son 'Alayán,
surnamed Abú Takíkah ('Father of a Scar') from a sabre-cut in the
forehead: he was the founder of the Tugaygát-Huwaytát clan, and
his descendants still swear by his name. Once upon a time, when
leading his caravan, he reached the Wady 'Afál, and he learned
that his enemies, the Ma'ázah, and the black slaves who
garrisoned El-Muwaylah, were lurking in the Wady Marayr. So he
placed his loads under a strong guard; and he hastened, with his
kinsmen of the Huwaytát, to the Hismá, where the Ma'ázah had left
their camels undefended: these he drove off, and rejoined his
caravan rejoicing. The Ma'ázah, hearing of their disaster,
hurried inland to find out the extent of the loss, abandoning the
black slaves, who, nevertheless, were still determined to plunder
the Káfilah. 'Alayán was apprized of their project; and, reaching
the Wady Umm Gehaylah, he left his caravan under a guard, and
secretly posted fifty matchlock-men in El-Suwayrah, east of the
hills of El-Muwaylah. He then (behold his cunning!) tethered
between the two hosts, at a place called Zila'h, east of the tomb
of Shaykh Abdullah,[EN#97] ten camel-colts without their dams.
Roused by the bleating, the negro slaves followed the sound and
fell into the ambush, and were all slain.

"'Alayán returned to the Sirr country, when his tribe, the
Huwaytát, said to him, 'Hayya (up!) to battle with these Ma'ázah
and Beni 'Ukbah; either they uproot us or we uproot them!' So he
gathered the clan, and marched to a place called El-Bayzá,[EN#98]
where he found the foe in front. On the next day the battle
began, and it was fought out from Friday to Friday; a truce was
then made, and it was covenanted to last between evening and
morning. But at midnight the enemy arose, left his tents pitched,
and fled to the Hismá. 'Alayán followed the fugitives, came up
with them in the Wady Sadr, and broke them to pieces. Upon this
they took refuge in Egypt and Syria.

"After a time the Beni 'Ukbah returned, and obtained pardon from
'Alaya'n the Huwayti, who imposed upon them six conditions.
Firstly, having lost all right to the land, they thus became
'brothers' (i.e. serviles). Secondly, they agreed to give up the
privilege of escorting the Hajj-caravan. Thirdly, if a Huwayti
were proved to have plundered a pilgrim, his tribe should make
good the loss; but if the thief escaped detection, the Beni
'Ukbah should pay the value of the stolen property in coin or in
kind. Fourthly, they were bound not to receive as guests any
tribe (enumerating a score or so) at enmity with the Huwaytát.
Fifthly, if a Shaykh of Huwaytát fancied a dromedary belonging to
one of the Beni 'Ukbah, the latter must sell it under cost price.
And, sixthly, the Beni 'Ukbah were not allowed to wear the 'Abá
or Arab cloak."[EN#99]

The Beni 'Ukbah were again attacked and worsted, in the days of
Sultan Selim, by their hereditary foe, the Ma'ázah. They
complained at Cairo; and the Mamlúk Beys sent down an army which
beat the enemy in the Wady Surr. They had many quarrels with
their southern neighbours, the Baliyy: at last peace was made,
and the land was divided, the Beni 'Ukbah taking the tract
between Wadys Da'mah and El-Muzayrib. Since that time the tribe
has been much encroached upon by the Huwayta't. It still claims,
however, as has been said, all the lands between El-Muwaylah and
Makná, where they have settlements, and the Jebel Harb, where
they feed their camels. They number some twenty-five to thirty
tents, boasting that they have hundreds; and, as will appear,
their Shaykh, Hasan el-'Ukbi, amuses himself by occasionally
attacking and plundering the wretched Maknáwis, or people of
Makná, a tribe weaker than his own.

Chapter VI.
To Makná, and Our Work There--the Magáni or Maknáwis.

After a silly fortnight at old Madiáma, I resolved to march upon
its seaport, Makná, the of Ptolemy, which the people
call also "Madyan."[EN#100] We set out at seven a.m. (January
25th); and, after a walk of forty-five minutes, we were shown by
Furayj a Ghadír, or shallow basin of clay, shining and bald as an
old scalp from the chronic sinking of water. In the middle stood
two low heaps of fine white cement, mixed with brick and gravel;
while to the west we could trace the framework of a mortared
Fiskíyyah ("cistern"), measuring five metres each way. The ruin
lies a little south of west (241 deg. mag.) from the greater
"Shigd;" and it is directly under the catacombed hill which bears
the "Praying-place of Jethro." A tank in these regions always
presupposes a water-pit, and there are lingering traditions that
this is the "Well of Moses," so generally noticed by mediæval
Arab geographers. It is the only one in the Wady Makná, not to
mention a modern pit about an hour and a half further down the
valley, sunk by the Bedawin some twenty feet deep: the walls of
the latter are apparently falling in, and it is now bone-dry. But
the veritable "Moses' Well" seems to have been upon the coast;
and, if such be the case, it is clean forgotten. True, Masá'íd,
the mad old Ma'ázi, attempted to trace a well inside our camp by
the seashore; but the Beni 'Ukbah, to whom the land belongs, had
never heard of it.

After marching about six miles, we entered a gorge called Umm
el-Bíbán, "the Mother of Gates," formed by the stony spurs of the
Wady bank: the number of birds and trees, especially in the
syenitic valleys, showed that water could not be far off. At
10.10 a.m. a halt was called at the half-way place, a bay or
hollow in the left cliff, El-Humayrah--"the Little Red"--an
overhanging wall of ruddy grit some eighty feet high, with strata
varying in depth from a few lines to as many fathoms, all
differing in colour, and all honeycombed, fretted, and sculptured
by wind and rain. Above the red grit, weathered into a thousand
queer shapes, stood strata of chloritic sand, a pale
yellow-green, and capping it rose the usual dull-brown carbonate
of lime. Large fossil oysters lay in numbers about the base,
suggesting a prehistoric feast of the Titans. Amongst them is the
monstrous Tridacna (gigantea), which sometimes attains a growth
of a yard and a half; one of these is used as a bénitier at the
church of Saint Sulpice, Paris. Amongst the layers were wavy
bands of water-rolled crystals, jaspers, bloodstones,
iron-revetted pebbles, and "almonds," which, in the Brazil,
accompany and betray the diamond.[EN#101] We had no time to make
a serious search; but, when the metals shall be worked, it will,
perhaps, be advisable to import a skilled prospecter from the
Brazil or the Cape of Good Hope.

At noon we met the "heaven-sent, life-sustaining sea-breeze;" and
now the broad and well-marked Wady Makná, with its rosy-pink
sands, narrowed to a gut, flanked and choked on both sides, north
and south, by rocks of the strangest tricolour, green-black,
yellow-white, and rusty-red. The gloomy peak, which had long
appeared capping the heights ahead, proved to be the culmination
of a huge upthrust of porphyritic trap. Bottle-green when seen
under certain angles, and dull dead sable at others, it was
variegated by cliffs and slopes polished like dark mirrors, and
by sooty sand-shunts disposed at the natural slope. Crumbling
outside, the lower strata pass from the cellular to the compact,
and are often metalliferous when in contact with the quartz: at
these Salbandes the richest mineral deposits are always found.
Set in and on the black flanks, and looking from afar like the
gouts of a bloodstone, are horizontal beds, perpendicular spines,
and detached blocks of felsitic porphyry and of rusty-red
syenite, altered, broken, and burnt by plutonic heat. In places,
where the trap has cut through the more modern formations, it has
been degraded by time from a dyke to a ditch, the latter walled
by the ruddy rocks, and sharply cut as a castle-moat. And already
we could see, on the right of the Wady, those cones and crests of
ghastly, glaring white gypsum, which we had called "the Hats."

These gloomy cliffs, approaching the maritime plain, sweep away
to the south, and melt into the "Red Hills" visited on our first
excursion. They are known as the Jebel el-'Abdayn--"of the Two
Slaves:" this, perhaps, is the Doric pronunciation of the Bedawin
for Abdín--"slaves." Presently we sighted the familiar features
of the seaboard, described in my first volume, especially the
Rughámat el-Margas to the north; and westward the Gulf of
'Akabah, looking cool and blue in the Arabian glare. After five
hours and thirty minutes (= seventeen miles and a half) in the
saddle we reached Makná.

I had thought of encamping near the "Praying-place of Moses," a
fine breezy site which storms would have made untenable. As at
Sharmá, camels must turn off to the right over the banks when
approaching the mouth of the Wady Madyan, whose bed is made
impassable by rocks and palm-thicket. We then proposed to pitch
the tents upon the valley sands within the "Gate," but this was
overruled by the Sayyid, who told grisly tales of fever and ague.
Finally, we returned to our former ground, near the old
conglomerates and the mass of new shells, which ledge the shore
of the little harbour. Approaching it, we were delighted to see
the gunboat Mukhbir steaming up, despite the contrary wind, from
Sharm Yáhárr; she was towing the Sambúk, which brought from
'Aynúnah Bay our heavy gear, rations, and tools. This was a
stroke of good luck: already we were on half rations, and provant
for men and mules threatened to run short.

Our week at Makná (January 25--February 2) justified the pleasant
impression left by the first visit, and enabled us to correct the
inaccuracies of a flying survey.

This "Valley of Waters," with its pink and yellow (chloritic)
sands, is bounded on the right near the sea by a sandbank about
one hundred feet high, a loose sheet thinly covering the dykes of
syenite and the porphyritic trap which in places peep out.
Possibly it contains, like the left flank, veins of quartz,
lowered by corrosion, and concealed by the sand-drift spread by
the prevalent western winds. The high-level abounds in detached
springs, probably the drainage of the Rughámat Makná, the huge
"horse" or buttress of gypsum bearing north-east from the
harbour. The principal veins number three. The uppermost and
sweetest is the Ayn el-Tabbákhah; in the middle height is
El-Túyuri (Umm el-Tuyúr), with the dwarf cataract and its
tinkling song; whilst the brackish 'Ayn el-Fara'í occupies the
valley sole. Besides these a streak of palms, perpendicular to
the run of the Wady, shows a rain-basin, dry during the droughts,
and, higher up, the outlying dates springing from the arid sands,
are fed by thin veins which damp the rocky base. Hence, probably,
Dr. Beke identified the place with the "Elim" of the Exodus: his
artist's sketch from the sea (p. 340) is, however, absolutely

The high-level spring and the middle water rise in sandy basins;
course down deeply furrowed beds of grit; and, after passing
through a tangle of vegetation, a dense forest of palms, alive
and dead, and open patches sown with grain, wilfully waste their
treasures in the upper slope of the right bank. This abundance of
water has developed a certain amount of industry; although the
Bedawin tear to pieces the young male-dates, whose tender green
growth, at the base of the fronds, supplies them with a "chaw." A
number of artificial runners has been trained to water dwarf
barley-plots, whose fences of date-fronds defend them from sheep
and goats; and further down the bank are the fruit trees which
first attracted our attention.

The low-level water consists of two springs. The upper is the
'Ayn el-'Aryánah, springing from the sands under the date-trees
which line the right and left sides: apparently it is the
drainage of a gypsum "hat," called El-Kulayb, "the Little
Dog"--in their Doric the Bedawin pronounce the word Galáib.
Further down the bed, and divided by a tract of dry sand, is the
'Ayn el-Fara'i, which also rises from both banks, forms a single
stream, sleeps in deep pellucid pools like fairy baths among the
huge boulders of grey granite, and finally sinks before reaching
the shore. When these waters shall again be regulated, as of old,
they will prove amply sufficient for the vegetable and the
mineral. Anton, the Greek, who everywhere saw the shop, was so
charmed with the spot, that he at once laid out his
establishment: here shall be the hotel; there the billiard and
gambling room, and there the garden, the kiosk, the buvette--in
fact, he projected a miner's paradise.

On the crest of this right bank, above the vegetation, lies the
traditional Musallat Musá ("Moses' Oratory"), of which the
foundations, or rather the base-stones, are in situ. The larger
enceinte measures, without including two walls projecting from
the north-east and north-west angles, an oblong of thirty-seven
by twenty-five feet; and, as usual with Midianite ruins, it has
been built of all manner of material. The inner sanctum opens to
the west, the northern and southern basement-lines only
remaining: the former is composed of eight blocks of gypsum
resembling alabaster, five being larger than the others; and the
southern of three. Upon these the Bedawin still deposit their
simple ex-votos, oyster and other shells, potsherds, and coloured

The left or opposite bank, which wants water, is formed by the
tall conglomerate-capped cliffs, which support the "Muttali'" or
hauteville, and by the warty block called Jebel el-Fahísát. In
"The Gold-Mines of Midian" (Chap. XII.) it is called El-Muzayndi,
an error of my informants for El-Muzeúdi: the latter is the name
of the small red hill north of our camp. I again visited the high
town, which is about a hundred feet above the valley: presently
it will disappear bodily, as its base is being corroded, like the
Jebel el-Safrá of Magháir Shu'ayb. The walls still standing form
a long room running north-south; and the two adjoining closets
set off to the north-east and south-east. This sadly shrunken
upper settlement covers the remnant of the rocky plateau to the
east: there are also traces of building on the southern slopes.
Ruined heaps of the usual material, gypsum, dot and line the
short broad valley to the north, which rejoices in the neat and
handy name, Wady Majrá Sayl Jebel el-Marú. Here, however, they
are hardly to be distinguished from the chloritic spines and
natural sandbanks that stud the bed. The only antiquities found
in the "Muttali"' were a stone cut into parallel bands, and the
fragment of a basalt door with its pivot acting as hinge in the
upper part: it reminded me of the Græco-Roman townlets in the
Haurán, where the credulous discovered "giant Cities" and similar
ineptitudes. Our search for Midianite money was in vain; Mr.
Clarke, however, picked up, near the sea, a silver "Taymúr," the
Moghal, with a curiously twisted Kufic inscription. (A.H. 734).

The 'Ushash or frond-huts of the Maknáwi and the Beni 'Ukbah were
still mostly empty. At this season, all along the seaboard of
North-Western Arabia, the Bedawin are grazing their animals in
the uplands, and they will not return coastwards till July and
August supply the date-harvest. The village shows the
inconséquence of doors and wooden keys to defend an interior made
of Cadjan, or "dry date-fronds," which, bound in bundles, make a
good hedge, but at all times a bad wall. One of its peculiar
features is what looks like a truncated and roofless oven; in
this swish cylinder they pound without soaking the date-kernels
that feed their camels, sheep, and goats. A few youths, however,
who remained in this apology for a "deserted village," assisted
us in night-fishing with the lantern; and they brought from the
adjoining reefs the most delicate of shell and scale fish. The
best were the langoustes (Palinurus vulgaris), the clawless
lobsters called crawfish (crayfish) in the United States, and the
agosta or avagosta of the Adriatic: it was confounded by the
Egyptian officers with "Abú Galambo,"[EN#103] the crab (Cancer
pelagicus). The echinidae of various species, large-spined and
small-spined, the latter white as well as dull-red, were
preserved in spirits.[EN#104] Amongst the excellent fish, the
Marján (a Sciœna) the Sultan el-Bahr, the Palamita (Scomber), the
Makli (red mullets, Mugil cephalus), and the Búri, were monstrous
animals, with big eyes and long beaks like woodcocks; some of
these were garnished with rows of ridiculously big teeth. I
failed to procure live specimens of small turtle, and yet the
huts were full of carapaces, all broken and eight-ribbed. One
species, the Sakar, supplies tortoise-shell sold at Suez for 150
piastres per Ratl or pound; the Bísa'h, another large kind
without carapace, is used only for eating: both are caught off
the reefs and islets. An eel-like water-snake (Marrína = Murœna
Ophis) showed fight when attacked. The Arabs do not eat it, yet
they will not refuse the Shaggah, or large black land-snake.

The enforced delay at Makná gave us the opportunity of making
careful reconnaissances in its neighbourhood. During the last
spring I had heard of a Jebel el-Kibí't ("sulphur-hill") on the
road to 'Aynúnah, but no guide was then procurable. Shortly after
our return, a Bedawi named Jázi brought in fine specimens of
brimstone, pure crystals adhering to the Secondary calcaire, and
possibly formed by decomposition of the sulphate of lime. If this
be the case we may hope to find the mineral generally diffused
throughout these immense formations; of course, in some places
the yield will be richer and in others poorer. Further
investigation introduced us, as will be seen, to two southern
deposits, without including one heard of in Northern Sinai. All
lie within a short distance of the sea, and all are virgin: the
Bedawin import their sulphur from the "Barr el-'Ajam," the
popular name for Egypt, properly meaning Persia or any non-Arab
land. Thus, in one important article Midian rivals, if not
excels, the riches of the opposite African shore, where for a
single mine thirty millions of francs have been demanded by way
of indemnity.

Betimes on January 26th, a caravan of four camels, for the two
quarrymen and the guide, set off southwards, carrying sacks,
tools, and other necessaries. They did not return till the
morning of the third day; Jázi had lost the road, and the Bedawin
rather repented of having been so ready to disclose their
treasures. Of course, our men could not ascertain the extent of
the deposits; but they brought back rich specimens which
determined me to have the place surveyed. Unfortunately I had
forgotten a sulphur-still; and the engineer vainly attempted to
extract the ore by luting together two iron mortars, and by
heating them to a red heat. The only result was the diffusion of
the sulphur crystals in the surrounding gypsum. This discovery
gave me abundant trouble; the second search-party was a failure;
and it was not till February 18th that I could obtain a
satisfactory plan of the northern Jebel el-Kibrít.

At Makná I was much puzzled by the presence of the porous basalt,
which had yielded to the first Expedition a veinlet of
"electron"--gold and silver mixed by the hand of Nature. The
plutonic rock, absent from the Wady Makná, appears in scatters
along the shore to the north. Our friend Furayj knew nothing
nearer than El-Harrah, the volcanic tract bounding the Hismá on
the east, and distant some five days' march. This was going too
far; querns of the same material, found in all the ruins,
suggested a neighbouring outcrop. Moreover, during the last
spring, I had heard of a mining site called Nakhil Tayyib Ism,
the "Palm-orchard (of the Mountain) of the Good Name," in the
so-called range to the north of Makná.

Lieutenant Amir was despatched (January 27th) to seek for basalt,
with a small dromedary-caravan, under the lead of Shaykh Furayj.
After winding for about two hours along the shore, which is cut
by the broad mouths of many a Wady; and whose corallines, grits,
and limestones are weathered into the strangest shapes; he left
to the right (east) the light-coloured Jebel Sukk. On the
southern side of the Wady (Sukk) which drains it to the sea, a
hill of the porous stone which the Arabs call "Hajar el-Harrah"
appeared. The specimens brought home, si vera sunt exposita, if
they be really taken from an outcrop, prove that volcanic
centres, detached, sporadic, and unexpected, like those found
further north, occur even along the shore. As will afterwards
appear, another little "Harrah" was remarked by Burckhardt
("Syria," p. 522), about one hour and a quarter north of Sinaitic
Sherm. He says, "Here for the first and only time, I saw volcanic
rocks," and he considers that their extension towards Ras Abú(?)
Mohammed may have given rise to the name .

Wellsted,[EN#105] who apparently had not read Burckhardt, makes
the same remark. The many eruptive centres in the limestones of
Syria and Palestine were discovered chiefly by my late friend,
the loved and lamented Charles F. Tyrwhitt-Drake. It would be
interesting to ascertain the relation which they bear to tile
great lines of vulcanism in the far interior, the Haura'n and the
Harrah, subtending the coast mountains. And Dr. Beke, another
friend now no more, would have been delighted to know that his
"True Mount Sinai" was not unconnected with a volcanic outbreak.

Beyond the Wady Sukk, a bad rough path leads along the base of
the Tayyih Ism Mountain; then the cliffs fall sheer into the sea,
explaining why caravans never travel that way. Yet there was a
maritime road, for we know that Abú Sufyán, on his way from Syria
to fight the battle of "Bedr" (A.H. 2), passed by a roundabout
path for safety, along the shore of Midian. Thus compelled, the
track bends inland, and enters a Nakb, a gash conspicuous from
the Gulf, an immense cañon or couloir that looks as if ready to
receive a dyke or vein. Curious to say, a precisely similar
formation, prolonged to the south-west, cuts the cliffs south of
Marsá Dahab in the Sinaitic Peninsula. The southern entrance to
the gorge bears signs of human habitation: a parallelogram of
stones, 120 paces by 91, has been partially buried by a land-slip
(?); and there are remnants of a dam measuring about a hundred
metres in length (?). About three hundred yards higher up, water
appears in abundance, and palm clumps grow on both sides of it.
Here, however, all trace of man is wanting; the winter torrents
must be dangerous; and there is no grass for sheep. The crevasse
now becomes very wild; the Pass narrows from fifty to ten paces,
and, in one section, a loaded camel can hardly squeeze through;
whilst the cliff-walls of red and grey granite (?) tower some two
thousand feet above the thread of path.[EN#106] Water which, as
usual, sinks in the sand, is abundant enough in three other
places to supply a large caravan; and two date-clumps were
passed. Hence, if all here told be true, the "Nakhil
(palm-plantation) Tayyib Ism" reported to the first Expedition.

After covering sixteen miles in five hours, the caravan had not
made more than half the distance to the Bir el-Máshi, where a
small Marsá, or anchorage-ground, called El-Suwayhil ("the Little
Shore") nestles in the long sand-slope between the mountain
Tayyib Ism and its huge northern neighbour, the Mazhafah block.
From this "Well of the Walker," a pass leads to the Wady Marsha',
where, according to certain Bedawin, are found extensive ruins
and Bíbán ("doors"), or catacombs. The whole is, however, an
invention; our Sayyid had ridden down the valley during his
journey to El-Hakl.

On the next day another reconnaissance was made. I had been shown
fine specimens of quartz from the Eastern highlands; moreover, a
bottle of "bitter" or sulphur-water from the Wady Mab'úg, the
"oblique" or "crooked" valley, mentioned in "The Gold-Mines of
Midian,"[EN#107] had been brought to us with much ceremony. Those
who tasted it, indeed, were divided as to whether it smacked more
of brimstone or of ammonia. Accordingly, Mr. Clarke and
Lieutenant Yusuf walked up the Wady Makná, and ascended the
Mab'úg, where the mineral spring proved to be a shallow pool of
rain-water, much frequented by animals, camels included. Search
for the "Marú" was more successful: they found a network of veins
in the sandstone grits (?) of the Jebel Umm Lasaf; and they thus
established the fact that the "white stone" abounds to the east
as well as to the south of Makná.

Meanwhile we were working hard at the Jebel el-Fahísát, the great
discovery of the northern journey. I had been struck by the name
of the watercourse to the north of the hauteville, Wady Majrá
Sayl Jebel el-Marú--"the Nullah of the Divide of the Torrent
(that pours) from the Mountain of Quartz." Moreover, a Makna'wi
lad, 'Id bin Mohsin, had brought in fine specimens of the Negro
or iridescent variety, offering to show the place. Lastly, other
Bedawi had contributed fine specimens of Marú, with the grey
copper standing out of it in veins. On the evening of January
27th we walked up the picturesque mouth of the Makná valley.
After passing the conglomerate "Gate," and the dwarf plantations
on both sides above it, we reached in forty-five minutes the spot
where the lower water, 'Ayn el-Fara'í, tumbles over rocks of grit
and granite. On the left bank, denoted by a luxuriant growth of
rushes, is an influent called Sha'b el-Kázi, or "the Judge's
Pass."[EN#108] Ascending it for a few paces, we struck up the
broad and open Fiumara, which I shall call for shortness "Wady
Majrá." The main trunk of many branches, it is a smooth incline,
perfectly practicable to camels; with banks and buttresses of
green-yellow chloritic sands, and longitudinal spines outcropping
from the under surface. It carries off the surplus water from the
north-western slopes of that strange wavelike formation, the
Jebel el-Fahísát, which bounds the right (southern) bank of the
Wady Makná. Presently we sighted the Jebel el-Maru', the
strangest spectacle. The apex of the gloomy porphyritic trap is a
long spine of the tenderest azure-white, filmy as the finials of
Milan Cathedral, and apparently melting into thin air. Its crest
seems abnormally tall and distant; and below it a huge grey vein,
horizontal and wavy, cuts and pierces the peaklet of red rock;
and is cut and pierced, in its turn, by two perpendicular dykes
of porphyritic trap, one flanking the right and the left
shoulders of the low cone. When standing upon the hauteville
during my first visit, I had remarked this "white Lady" of a
vein, without, however, attaching to it any importance.

After a quarter of an hour's walk up the Wady Majrá, we came to
the sandy base of the rocky Fahísát; and climbed up a
torrent-ladder with drops and stiff gradients, which were
presently levelled for the convenience of our quarrymen. A few
minutes' "swarming" placed us upon the narrow knife-like ridge of
snowy quartz, so weathered that it breaks under the hand: this is
the aerial head which from below appears so far. The summit,
distant from our camp about one direct mile and a quarter, gives
355 degrees to the Gypsum-hill, Ras el-Tárah, on the shore; 358
degrees to the palm-clump nearest the sea, and due north (360
degrees, all magnetic) to the tents, which are well in sight. The
altitude is about six hundred feet (aner. 29.40).

The view from this summit of the Fahísát is charming as it is
extensive. Westward and broad stretching to the north-west lies
the fair blue gulf that shows, on its far side, the broken
mountains of the Sinaitic Peninsula. Northwards, at our feet,
stretch the palm-groves of Makná, a torrent of verdure pouring
towards the shore. A little to the left, sheltered from the
boreal wind by the white gypseous ridge, Ras el-Târah ("the Head
that surrounds"), and flanked at both ends by its triangular
reefs, the Sharm Makná, the past and future port of the mines,
supports the miniature gunboat no larger than a "cock," and the
Sambúk dwarfed to a buoy. Beyond the purpling harbour, along the
glaring yellow shore, cut by broad Wady-mouths and dotted here
and there with a date-clump, the corallines, grits, and
sandstones are weathered to the quaintest forms, giant pins and
mushrooms, columns and ruined castles. These maritime lowlands
are bounded on the north by heights in three distinct planes: the
nearest is the Jebel Sukk, low and white; farther rises Tayyib
Ism, a chocolate-coloured mass studded with small peaks; while
the horizon is closed by the grand blue wall, the Jebel
el-Mazhafah. In places their precipices drop bluff to the sea;
but the huge valley-mouths separating the two greater ridges,
have vomited a quantity of sand, forming the tapering tongue and
tip known as the "Little Shore." Turning to the east and the
south-east we have for horizon the Wady el-Kharaj (El-Akhraj?),
backed by its immense right bank of yellow gypsum, which dwarfs
even the Rughámat Makná, and over it we catch sight of the dark
and gloomy Kalb el-Nakhlah, a ridge which, running parallel with
and inland of the Fahísát, will be worked when the latter is

We at once recognized the value of this discovery when, reaching
the tents, we examined the quartz, and found it seamed and pitted
with veins and geodes containing Colorado, earthy and crumbling
metallic dust, chlorure, iodure, and bromure of silver, with
various colours, red, ochre-yellow, and dark chocolate-brown. It
stained the fingers, and was suspiciously light--n'importe. I
must regret that here, as indeed throughout the exploration, all
our specimens were taken from the surface: we had not time to dig
even a couple of feet deep. The lad 'Id almost fainted with joy
and surprise when the silver dollars were dropped into his hand,
one by one, with the reiteration of "Here's another for you! and
here's another!" This lavishness served to stimulate cupidity,
and every day the Bedawin brought in specimens from half a dozen
different places. But the satisfaction was at its height when the
crucible produced, after cupellation, a button of "silver"
weighing some twenty grammes from the hundred grammes of what the
grumbling Californian miners had called, in their wrath, "dashed
black dust;"[EN#109] and when a second experiment yielded
twenty-eight grammes (each fifteen grains and a half) and ten
centigrammes from 111 grammes, or about a quarter of a pound
avoirdupois. In the latter experiment also, the culot came away
without the litharge, which almost always contains traces of
silver and antimony. Hence we concluded that the proportions were
30:110--a magnificent result, considering that 12-1/2:100 is held
to be rich ore in the silver mines of the Pacific States.[EN#110]
The engineer was radieux with pride and joy. The yellow tint of
the "buttons" promised gold--two per cent.? Three per cent.?
Immense wealth lay before us: a ton of silver is worth 250,000
francs. Meanwhile--and now I take blame to myself--no one thought
of testing the find, even by a blow with the hammer.


I can afford to make merry on the absurd mistake, which at the
time filled the camp with happiness. The Jebel el-Fahísát played
us an ugly trick; yet it is, not the less, a glorious
metalliferous block, and I am sure of its future.

The rest of our time at Makná was given to the study of this
discovery. The great quartz-wall or vein runs nearly due north
and south, with a dip of 5 degrees west; it has pierced the
syenite, forming a sheet down one peak, spanning a second, and
finally appearing in an apparently isolated knob, that bore from
the apex 215 degrees (mag.) The upper part, like that of the
Jebel el-Abyaz, is apparently sterile: at a lower horizon it
becomes panaché; and at last almost all is iridescent--in fact,
it is the Filon Husayn, still richer in veins and geodes. The
filets and fibrils of dust are exposed to sight in the flanks,
and near the base of the great quartz-vein: we should never have
been able to remove the barren upper capping.

Every day's work brought with it some novelty. The Jebel el-Mará,
the centre or focus of the formation, was found to push out veins
to the north, extending within a few yards of the Wady Makná's
mouth. Here, however, the quartz imbedded in grey granite appears
cupriferous, producing fine grey copper (?); and the same is the
case to the east of the Fahísát block. Other green-tinged veins
were found bearing 205 degrees (mag.) from our camp. There is
also a quartz-hill whose valley-drain, about a mile and a third
long, leads down to the sea, about two minutes' walk south of the
southern clump of "tabernacles" occupied by the Maknáwis. The
dust is richest, as usual, at the walls where the vein is in
immediate contact with the heat-altered granites, whose red
variety, containing very little mica, becomes quasi-syenitic.
Certain of the Expedition thought that the Fahísát showed signs
of having been worked by the ancients: my eyes could see nothing
of the kind. And here, as in other parts of our strange country,
there is a medley, a confusion of different formations.

On February 2nd, the day before we left Makná, the Arabs brought
in heavy masses of purple-black, metalliferous rock, scattered
over the gorges and valleys south of the Jebel el-Fahísát; while
others declared that they could point out a vein in situ. Our
engineer declared it to be argentiferous galena, but it proved to
be magnetic iron. His assays were of the rudest: he broke at
least one crucible per day, lamenting the while that he had been
supplied with English articles, instead of creusets de Bourgogne.
And no wonder! He treated them by a strong blast in a furious
coal-fire without previous warming. His muffle was a wreck, and
such by degrees became the condition of all his apparatus.
However, as we sought, so we found: hardly a Bedawi lad in camp
but unpouched some form of metallic specimens. The Shaykhs
declared that the wealth of "Kárún" must have been dug here; and
I vainly told them that the place of punishment of Korah, Dathan,
and Abiram is still shown by Christians in the Convent of Mount

On January 28th, after a ruddy and cloudy sunset, El-Ayli, the
'Akabah wind, beginning at eleven p.m., gave us a taste of his
quality. These northers are the Tyrants of the Gulf; which,
comparatively unbroken by capes and headlands, allows them all
their own way, carrying a strong swell, and at times huge waves,
to meet the tide inflowing from the Red Sea. The storm began with
a rush and a roar, as if it came from above. The gravel, striking
the canvas, sounded like hail or heavy rain-drops; it then kicked
down at one blow the two large tents: they had been carefully
pitched above the reach of water, when wind only was to be
guarded against. Fortunately most of our goods were packed, in
expectation of embarking on the morrow; but the fall broke all
the breakables that were not under cover, and carried newspapers
and pamphlets, including--again, alas!--the Reseau Pentagonal of
Elie de Beaumont, over the plain southwards till arrested by the
heights of Jebel el-Fahísát. This Bora, as it would be called on
the Adriatic, makes the air exceptionally cold and raw before
dawn: it appears to abate between noon and sunset, and it is most
violent at night: it either sensibly increases or lessens in
turbulence with moonrise; and it usually lasts from three to
seven days. We rigged up one of the native huts with the awning
of a tent, till it looked very like a Gypsy dwelling, and in
patience we possessed our souls, grumbling horridly like Britons.

Poor Captain Mohammed of the Mukhbir, who had already escaped one
shipwreck, was in mortal terror: he at once got up steam, and
kept his weary vigil all night. He was perfectly safe, as the
northern reef, under which the Sambúk Musahhil rode easily as if
in smooth water, and the headland, Ras el-Tárah, formed a
complete defence against the Aylí, while the natural pier to the
south would have protected him from its complement, the Azyab or
"south-easter." But it would have been very different had the
storm veered to the west, and the terrible Gharbi set in. The
port of Makná, which has been described in "The Gold-Mines of
Midian,"[EN#113] can hardly be called safe; on the other hand,
its floor has not been surveyed, and a single brise-lame seawards
would convert it into a dock. I should propose a gallegiante, a
floating breakwater, tree-trunks in bundles strongly bound
together with iron cramps and bands, connected by stout rings and
staples and made fast by anchors to the bottom. And, at any rate,
on the Sinaitic shore opposite, at the distance of thirteen
knots, there is, as will appear, an admirable harbour of refuge.

Next day the cloud-veil lifted; and the mountains of Sinai and
Midian, which before had been hidden as if by a November fog in
London, again stood out in sharp and steely blue. I proposed to
board the gunboat. Afloat we should have been much more
comfortable than ashore in the raw, high, and dusty-laden wind.
The Egyptian officers, however, quoted the unnautical Fellah's
favourite saws, El-barro birr li-Ahlihi--"Earth is a blessing to
those upon her"--Zirtat el-Jimál, wa lá tasbíh el-Samak--"The
roar of the camels and not the prayer[EN#114] of the fish;" and
the sailors' saying, Kalb el-Barr, wa lá Sabá el-Bahr--"Better be
a dog ashore than a lion afloat." The public voice was decidedly
against embarking; so two more days of gale were spent in adding
to our collection of mineralogy. On the other hand, the Sayyid
and the three Shaykhs were anxious for a speedy return to
El-Muwaylah, where the Hajj-caravan was expected on Safar 10 (=
February 11th), and where their presence would be officially

On the last day of January I boated off to the Mukhbir several
tons of the specimens collected during the northern march;
including the iron, the sulphur, and the fine white gypsum,
crystalline and amorphous, which forms the Rughámat Makná
Lieutenant Yusuf and M. Philipin were directed to remain in camp
until they should have collected and placed upon the seashore,
ready for embarkation on our return, one ton of white quartz,
three tons (= one cubic metre) of the iridescent variety, and
four boxes half full of the "silver" (iron) dust whose veins and
pockets seam the Negro. They were also to wash in the cradle two
tons of the pounded Cascalho (conglomerate gravel); one ton of
the green-yellow chloritic or serpentine sand forming the under
surface of the Wady Makná, reduced to four Girbahs or
"water-sacks;" and five tons of the dark metal (not argentiferous
galena). After that they were to visit the northern Sulphur-hill;
estimate its contents, trace, if possible, its connection with
adjoining formations; map the country and prospect for wood,
water, and harbour. Lastly, they were ordered to march with the
whole camp, including our mules, upon El-Muwaylah, and there to
await my return.

The three normal days of El-Aylí had come and gone; still the
Fortuna[EN#115] did not fall. The water, paved with dark slate,
and domed with an awning of milky-white clouds, patched here and
there with rags and shreds of black wintry mist that poured
westward from the Suez Gulf, showed us how ugly the Birkat
'Akabah can look. As in Iceland also, the higher rose the
barometer, the higher rose the norther; the latter being a cold
dry wind is, consequently, a heavy wind. And when the sky was
comparatively clear and blue, the display of cirri was
noticeable. In some places they formed filmy crosses and thready
lozenges; in others the wrack fell into the shape of the letter
Z; and from the western horizon the curl-clouds shot up thin
rays, with a common centre hid behind the mountains of Sinai,
affecting all the airs of the sun.

Before leaving Makná I must give an account of its peculiar
tribe, concerning which "The Gold-Mines of Midian"[EN#116]
contained sundry inaccuracies. These men are not the "pauper
descendants of the wealthy Midianites; they cannot boast of
ancient race or of noble blood; and their speech differs in
nothing from that of the Arabs around them. There can be no
greater mistake than to suppose that they represent in any way
the ancient Nabathæans. In features, complexion, and dress they
resemble the half-settled Bedawin around them; and, like these,
they show a kind of connection with the Sinaitic tribes. The
Magáni,[EN#117] to whom only the southern clump of huts at Makná
belongs, call themselves Fawá'idah, Zubáidah, and Ramázání, after
families of the Juhayni stock; and the Fawá'idah have, by
descent, some title to the name. They are, however, considered to
be Khaddamín ("serviles"), like the Hutaym race, by their
neighbours, who give tile following account of their origin.

An Egyptian silk-seller, who accompanied the Hajj-caravan,
happened to fall asleep at Kubázah, between the stations of
'Aynúnah and Magháir Shu'ayb. His companions went their ways, and
he, like a "bean-eater" as he was, fearing to follow them alone,
made for Makná. Having married and settled there, and seeing in
the fertility of the soil a prospective spec., he sent to his
native country for Fellahín--cultivateurs and peasants--who were
collected from every part of Pharoah-land and its neighbourhood.
The new-comers were compelled to pay one-half of their harvest,
by way of El-Akháwah ("the brother-tax"), in token of
subjugation, to the Beni 'Ukbah, the owners of the soil. They
have gradually acquired Milk ("legal title") to the ground.
According to some, they first settled at Makná in the days of the
Beni 'Amr, whom they subsequently accompanied to the Hismá, when
flying from the victorious Musálimah. After peace was patched up,
they were compelled to make over one-fourth of the date-harvest
as El-Akháwah to the 'Imrán-Huwaytát and to the Ma'ázah; whilst
the Tagaygát-Huwaytát claimed a Bursh, or "mat of fine reeds," as
a poll-tax from every head of man. Under these hard conditions
they are left unmolested; and everything taken from them is
restored by the Shaykhs who receive tribute. They have no chief,
although one Sálim ibn Juwayfili claims the title.

Before 1866 the Magáni numbered about a hundred tents: the Wady
Makná was then, they say, a garden; and its cultivators were
remarkable for their goodness and hospitality to strangers. But
in that year a feud with the Beni 'Ukbah was excited, as often
happens, by the belli teterrima causa; the women quarrelled with
one another, saying,

"Thy husband is a slave to my husband," and so forth. The little
tribe, hoisting two flags of red and white calico with green
palm-fronds for staves, dared the foe to attack it; after a loss
of four killed and sundry wounded, all ran away manfully, leaving
their goods at the mercy of the conqueror. Shaykh Hasan el-'Ukbí
was assisted by the Ma'ázah in looting the Magáni huts, and in
carrying off the camels, while Shaykh Furayj vainly attempted
conciliation. Shortly afterwards the Maknáwis went in a body to
beg aid from Hammád el-Sofi, Shaykh of the Turábín tribe, which
extends from Ghazzah (Gaza) westwards to Egypt. Marching with a
host of armed followers, he took possession of the palm-huts
belonging to the Beni 'Ukbah, when the owners fled in turn,
leaving behind their women and children. Furayj hastened from
'Aynúnah to settle the quarrel; and at last the Sofi said to him,
"Whilst I protect the Magáni, do thou protect the Beni 'Ukbah."
Whereupon the latter returned from their mountain-refuge to
El-Muwaylah. The Magáni at the present time are mostly camped
about 'Aynúnah; and only some fifteen head, old men, women, and
boys, who did not take part in the fight, and who live by
fishing, remain at Makná under the protection of the Beni 'Ukbah.
Hence the waters are waste and the fields are mostly unhoed.

Such is the normal condition of Arabia and the Arabs. What one
does the other undoes; what this creates, that destroys.
Professor Palmer tells us, "Another misconception is that all
Arabs are habitual thieves and murderers."[EN#118] Fear of the
terrible vendetta, the blood feud and the blut-geld, amounting to
about eight hundred dollars, prevents the Bedawin, here as
elsewhere, slaying any but strangers. The traveller's experience,
however, was chiefly of the Towarah or Sinaitic Bedawin, a race
which, bad as bad could be in the early quarter of the present
century, has been thoroughly tamed and cowed by the "fear of
Allah and the Consul." And the curse pronounced by the Jews
against their brother Ishmael, "his hand shall be against every
man," etc., must, as was known even in the days of Gibbon, be
taken with many a grain of salt.

Yet the Bedawin of Midian have till late years been a turbulent
"mixed multitude," and are ready to become troublesome again. It
is only by building forts and by holding the land militarily,
that the civilized can hope to tame this vermin. I repeat,
however, my conviction that the charming Makná Valley is fated to
see happy years; and that the Wild Man who, when ruled by an iron
hand, is ever ready to do a fair day's work for a fair wage
(especially victuals), will presently sit under the shadow of his
own secular vines and fig-trees.

About midnight on February 2nd, the tempestuous northerly gale,
which had now lasted four days and five nights, ceased almost
suddenly: the signs of the approaching calm were the falling of
the mercury, the increased warmth of the atmosphere, and the
shifting of the wind towards the east. All hailed the change with
joy. The travellers looked forward to ending their
peregrinations, while the voyagers, myself included, hoped safely
to steam round the Gulf el-'Akabah, and to trace, as correctly as
possible, the extent, the trend, and the puissance of the
quartz-formations. At Cairo Mr. Consul Rogers told me he had
found them in large quantities veining the red grits of Petra;
and I thought it possible that the "white stone" may extend under
the waters of 'Akabah into the peninsula of Sinai.

Chapter VII.
Cruise from Maknáto El-'Akabah.

This "Red Sea in the Land of Edom" (1 Kings ix. 26) is still, as
Wellsted entitles it, "a vast and solitary Gulf." It bears a
quaint resemblance to that eastern fork of the northern Adriatic,
the Quarnero, whose name expresses its terrible storms; while the
Suez branch shows the longer stretch of the Triestine
bifurcation. Yamm Elath or Eloth, as the Hebrews called
El-'Akabah, has, by the upheaval of the land, lost more of its
fair proportions than its western sister. It was at one time the
embouchure of the Jordan, extending up the Wady el-'Arabah to the
Asphaltite Lake (Dead Sea), before the former became, so to
speak, a hill and the latter a hole. This view dates from olden
times. "Si suppone," says Cornelius à Lapide,[EN#119] "che sia un
sollevamento che accadde, mentre un abbassamento formava il Mar
Morto; e che il Giordano si gettasse nel Golfo Elanitico (Yamm
Ailath), ciò é nel Mar Rosso, prima della destruzione di Sodoma."
For the latter date we have only to read, "When a movement of
depression sank the lower Jordan Valley, and its present
reservoirs, the Tiberias Lake and the Dead Sea, to their actual
level." There is nothing marvellous nor unique in the feature, as
it appears to those suffering from that strange malady, "Holy
Land on the Brain." The Oxus and the Caspian show an identical
formation, only the sinking has been on a smaller scale.

Wellsted was unfortunate, both in his weather and in his craft.
To encounter a "sea of breakers" and "northerly gales with a high
and dangerous swell" in a wretched "bugalá" (i.e. Sambúk), and in
that perfect tub, the Palinurus, was somewhat like tempting
Providence,--if such operation be possible. No wonder that "in
this Gulf, in a course of only ninety miles, the nautical mishaps
were numerous and varied." The surveyor, however, neglected a
matter of the highest interest and importance, namely, to
ascertain whether there be any difference of level between the
heads of the Suez and the 'Akabah waters. The vicinity of
continuous maritime chains, varying from six to nearly nine
thousand feet, suggests an amount of attraction (theoretically)
sufficient to cause a sensible difference of plane. It would be
well worth while to run two lines of survey, one from El-'Akabah
to Suez, and the other down the eastern flank of the Sinaitic

The Mukhbir, like the Palinurus, promised a certain amount of
excitement. Her boiler, I have said, was honeycombed; it was easy
to thrust one's fist through it. Mr. David Duguid, the engineer,
who on one occasion worked thirty-six hours at a stretch, had
applied for sixty new tubes, and he wanted one hundred and fifty:
we began with two hundred and forty; we lost, when in the Gulf,
from three to nine per diem, a total of seventy five; and the
work of the engine-room and the ship's carpenters consisted in
plugging fractures with stays, plates, and wedges. Presently the
steam-gauge (manomètre) gave way, making it impossible to
register pressure; the combustion chamber showed a rent of
eighteen inches long by one wide, the result of too rapid
cooling; and, lastly, the donkey-engine struck work. Under these
happy circumstances bursting was not to be expected; breaking
down was, a regular collapse which would have left us like a log
upon the stormy waves. A new boiler might have cost, perhaps,
£900, and the want of one daily endangered a good ship which
could not be replaced for £9000. I therefore determined upon a
"Safer Khoriyyah," that is, steaming by day and anchoring at
night in some snug bay. It was also agreed, nem. con., to tow the
Sambúk El-Musahhil, in order that, should accidents happen, it
might in turn act tug to the steamer; or even, at a pinch, serve
us as a lifeboat.

Nothing becomes Makná better than the view on leaving it. A
varied and attractive picture this, with the turquoise-blue of
the deep water, the purple and leek-green tints of the shoaly and
sandy little port, and the tawny shore dotted by six distinct
palm-tufts. They are outliers of the main line, yon flood of
verdure, climbing up and streaming down from the high, dry, and
barren banks of arenaceous drift, heaped up and filmed over by
the wind, and, lastly, surging through its narrow "Gate," with
the clifflets of conglomerate forming the old coast. Add the
bluff headland of the Ras el-Tárah to the north of the harbour,
and behind it the Rughámat Makná, the greenish-yellow,
flat-backed "horse" of Madyan, which, shimmering in the sunset
with a pearly lustre, forms the best of landmarks. Finish to the
south of the Wady with the quaint chopping outlines of the Jebel
el-Fahísát, resembling from afar a huge alligator lying on the
water; with the similar but lower forms to the north of the
valley, both reflected in the Jibál el-Hamrá (the Red Hills),
whose curtains of green-black trap are broken by sheets of dull
dead-white plaster. Cap the whole with the mighty double quoin of
gypseous Jebel el-Kharaj, buttressing the eastern flank of its
valley, and with the low, dark metal-revetted hills of the Kalb
el-Nakhlah, a copy of the Fahísát. Throw in the background,
slowly rising as you recede from the shore, a curtain of plutonic
peaks and buttresses, cones, quoins, cupolas, parrot-beaks; with
every trick of shape, from the lumpy Zahd to the buttressed and
pinnacled 'Urnub; with every shade of mountain-tint between
lapis-lazuli and plum-purple. Dome the whole with that marvellous
transparent sky, the ocean of the air, that spreads loveliness
over the rugged cheek of the Desert; and you have a picture
which, though distinctly Arabian, you can hardly expect to see in

From the offing, also, we note how the later formations, granite
and syenite, seamed with a network, and often topped by cones, of
porphyritic trap, have upthrust, pierced, and isolated the older
Secondaries. We traced this huge deposit of sulphates and
carbonates of lime from the southern Wady Hamz, through the
islets at the mouth of the Birkat 'Akabah, all along the shore of
North Midian. Here it crosses diagonally the northern third of
the 'Akabah Gulf, and forms the north-eastern base of the
Sinaitic Peninsula; whilst eastward it stretches inland as far as
Magháir Shu'ayb. The general disposition suggests that before the
upheaval of the Gháts, the Jibál el-Tihámah, this vast gypseous
sheet was a plain and plateau covering the whole country, till a
movement of depression, caused by the upheaval of the igneous
mountains, sank in it the Gulf of 'Akabah. At present the surface
is here flat, there hilly like huge billows breaking mostly to
the north, and reaching an altitude of twelve hundred feet above
the surface. Hence the lines stretching north-south, the Fahísát,
the Red Hills, and the Kalb el-Nakhlah, look like so many
volcanic island-reefs floating in a sea of greenish-yellow

Like the old Irish post-horse, the difficulty and danger of our
"kettle" consisted in starting it: two tubes at once burst, and a
new hole yawned in the boiler; moreover, our anchor had been
thrown out in a depth of seventy-three feet. Enfin! At nine a.m.
(February 3rd) we stood straight for the Sinaitic shore, distant
thirteen miles (direct geographical), and in three hours we made
the Sharm, Marsá or Minat el-Dahab--the "Golden Anchorage, Cove,
or Port."[EN#120] Another hour was spent in steaming southwards
to the Dock-harbour, wrongly so called in the charts; the pilots,
and the many Sambúks that take refuge in it, know the place only
as Mínát Ginái (Jinái). The northern baylet, preferred when
southerly winds blow, is simply the embouchure of the Wady Dahab
("Fiumara of Gold"). The name is properly applied to the
sub-maritime section of the valley draining the eastern flanks of
the so-called Mount Sinai. This great watercourse breaks through
the Gháts which, always fringing similar peninsulas, peak to the
south. It reaches the Gulf at a shallow sag marked by a line of
palms, the centre of three: they are fed by their several
Nullahs, and are watered with the brackish produce of sundry
wells. The statio malefida is defended to the north by a short
sandspit and a submerged reef; and southwards by a projection of
sandstone conglomerate. The latter, running from north-east to
south-west, subtends this part of the coast, and serves to build
up the land; after a few years the débris swept down by the
watercourses will warp up the shallows, dividing shore from
outlier. Such, in fact, seems to be the general origin of these
sandspits; beginning as coralline reefs, they have been covered
with conglomerates, and converted into terra firma by the rubbish
shot out by the Wady-mouths.

The southern port, "Ginái," is formed by a bend in the reef which
sweeps round from east to south-west like a scorpion's tail. The
natural sea-wall, at once dangerous and safety-giving, protects,
to the south and south-east, diabolitos of black rock visible
only at high tide: inshore the sickle-shaped breakwater runs by
east to south-west, becoming a "sandy hook," and enclosing a
basin whose depth ranges from seven to twelve fathoms. Its
approach from the south is clean; and the western opening is
protected by the tall screen of coast cliffs, the Jebel el-Ginái,
whose deep-black porphyritic gorge seemingly prolongs that of
Midianite Tayyib Ism. This is a section of the Jibál el-Samghi,
the coast-range which extends as far north as the Wady Wati'r.
The Dock-port, so useful when the terrible norther blows, has an
admirable landmark, visible even from Sináfir Island, and
conspicuous at the entrance of the Gulf. Where the sandy slopes
of South-Eastern Sinai-land end, appears a large white blot,
apparently supporting a block, built, like a bastion, upon a tall
hill of porphyritic trap. We called this remnant of material
harder than the rest, Burj el-Dahab--"the Tower Hill of Dahab." I
have been minute in describing the Golden Harbour: scant justice
has been done to it by the Hydrographic Chart, and it will prove
valuable when the Makna' mines are opened. Ahmed Kaptán vainly
attempted soundings--he was too ill to work. Wellsted's
identification of the site with Ezion-geber (ii. ix.), and the
reef with the rock-ledge which wrecked Jehosaphat's fleet, has
one great objection--no ruins are known to exist near it.[EN#121]

The formation of this part of Sinai, as far as we can see from
the shore, reflects, in wilder forms and more abrupt lines, the
opposite coast of Midian: there is, however, the important
difference that the Secondaries and the quartz-veins, there so
important, are here wanting. The skeletons of mountain and hill
appear as if prolonged under water. The ruddy syenite is dyked
and veined by the familiar network of green-black porphyritic
trap; the filons are disposed in parallels striking north-south,
with a little easting; the dip is westerly (about 35 degrees
mag.), and the thickness extends to hundreds of feet, often
forming a foundation for the upper cliff. The subaerial parts are
the same warty and pimply growth which appears on the other side.
Nothing could be more wearisome to the Alpine climber than such a
country: he would scale the peaks and ridges for fifty feet, to
descend thirty on the other side; and the frequent Wadys,
ankle-deep in loose sand, generally end in steep stony couloirs.
The watercourses, whose broad mouths are scattered with thin
green, contain pebbles and rolled quartzes, including fine
specimens of the crystallized variety.

We landed, after an hour's row in the gig, at the central or main
line of palms; and on the banks of Wady Dahab, here a full mile
wide, we found the works of man, like those of Nature, a copy of
Makná. The date trees and clumps are hedge-closed; two scatters
of 'Ushash (tabernacles) show round towers of rough stone, broken
and patched with palm-frond; and, further north of the Golden
Valley, a few old Arab graves have been weathered into mere heaps
of large stones. These are the Kubur el-Nasárá ("Nazarene's
Graves") of Burckhardt,[EN#122] a name apparently forgotten by
the present generation. We vainly sought and asked after ruins:
of old, however, "Dí'zahab" might have served to disembark cargo
which, by taking the land-route northwards, as the Christian
pilgrims still do from El-Nuwaybi', would avoid the dangerous
headwaters of El-'Akabah. Nor could we believe with
Pococke[EN#123] that the place derived its name from the mica
shining like gold; his theory is stultified by the fact that mica
is by no means a prominent feature, even had the Ancients been so
ignorant as to be deceived by it.

The people were by no means communicative. An elderly man, with a
red turban and sword by side, hurried away from us when we
addressed him, leaving his middle-aged wife to follow with a babe
on shoulder and a boy in hand: she also refused to speak, waving
her hand by way of reply to every question. At last a
semi-civilized being, acquainted with the Convent of St.
Catherine, Selím bin Husayn, of the Muzaynah tribe, satisfied our
curiosity in view of tobacco, and offered a rudely stuffed
ibex-head for a shilling. In the evening our fishermen visited
the reef, which supplied admirable rock-cod, a bream (?) called
Sultan el-Bahr, and Marján (a Sciæna); but they neglected the
fine Sirinjah ("sponges"), which here grow two feet long. The
night was dark and painfully still, showing nought but the
youngest of moons, and the gloomiest silhouettes of spectral

We set out at seven a.m. on the next day, when an Azyab or
south-easterly wind was promised by the damp air, the slaty sea,
and the gloomy nimbi on the hill-tops. A small party landed after
two hours' steaming, in search of quartz, which proved to be
chloritic sandstones and limestones. In the broad valley they
found a few Muzayni families, with their camels, sheep, and
goats. These unfortunates had no tents, sleeping under the trees;
they were desperate beggars, and, although half-starved, they
asked a napoleon for a kid, declaring that such was its price at
the quarantine station of Tor. Here the errors of the
Hydrographic Chart, which have been copied literally by the
latest and best popular books such as Professor Palmer's "Desert
of the Exodus," began to excite our astonishment. For instance,
Ras Kusayr ("the Short One") becomes Ras Arser--what a name for a
headland! A good survey will presently become a sine quâ non.
Unfortunately Ahmed Kaptán was suffering so much that I could not
ask him to make solar observations; while the rest of us had
other matters in hand. It was a great disappointment, where so
much useful work remains to be done.

Hereabouts the sterile horrors of the hideous Sinaitic shore seem
to reach their climax. The mountains become huge rubbish-heaps,
without even colour to clothe their indecently nude forms; and
each strives with its neighbour for the prize of repulsiveness.
The valleys are mere dust-shunts that shoot out their rubbish,
stones, gravel, and sand, in a solid flow, like discharges of
lava. And, as Jebel Mazhafah, on the opposite coast, is the apex
of the visible eastern Gháts, so beyond this point the Sinaitic
sea-chain of mountains begins to decline into mere hills, while
longer sand-points project seawards. Such is the near, the real
aspect of what, viewed from Makná, appears a scene in fairy-land,
decked and dight in heavenly hues of blue and purple and rosy

"Where the bald blear skull of the Desert
With golden mountains is crowned."

The first sign of a change of formation appeared near the "Lower
(southern) Nuwaybi'" ("the Little Spring"), which the chart calls
"Wasit." Here the shore shows blots of dead-white and mauve-red,
in which our engineer at once detected quartz. Seeing it
prolonged in straight horizontal lines, and the red overlying the
white, I suspected kaolin and the normal Tauá (coloured clays):
my conjecture was confirmed on the next day. Hereabouts, Wellsted
(ii. 151) also remarked the colouring of the hills, which
resemble those of "Sherm;" some of a deep-blue tinge, and others
streaked with a brilliant red and violet. We then doubled a long
sandspit running out to sea eastward, and forming, on the north,
a deep bay well protected from the souther; whilst several lines
of reef and shallow to the north defend it from the angry Bora.
This anchorage is known to the pilots as "Wásit;" and it occupies
the southern half of the bay, the northern half and its
palm-groves being called the "Upper Nuwaybi'." About "Wásit" the
date-palms are scattered, and the large sand-drifts ever threaten
to bury them alive. Behind it yawns the great gash, "Wady Watír,"
which shows its grand lines even from the opposite side of the
gulf: this is the route by which Christian pilgrims from Syria
make the Sinai monastery, rounding on camels the northern end of
El-'Akabah. The main valley receives from the north the Wady
el-'Ayn, which can be reached in half a day. From the south,
distant one whole march, comes the Wady el-Hazrah. This is
doubtless the Hazeroth of the Exodus, meaning the fenced
enclosures of a pastoral people; and a modern traveller figures
and describes it as "the most beautiful and romantic landscape in
the Desert." At least, so said the lately shipped guide, Mabru'k
ibn Sulayyim el-Muzayni.

After a run of six hours and thirty minutes (= thirty miles), we
cast anchor off Wásit: there was nothing to see ashore, save some
wretched Muzaynah, two males and three females, helpmates meet
for them, living like savages on fish and shell-molluscs;
drinking brackish water, and sleeping in the "bush," rather than
take the trouble to repair the huts. They have no sheep, but a
few camels; and, by way of boats, they use catamarans composed of
two palm-trunks: their home-made hooks resemble the schoolboy's
crooked pin. Yet these starvelings would not fetch specimens of
the white stuff, distant, perhaps, two direct miles of cross-cut,
seen near Nuwaybi', and still visible. They also refused, without
preliminary "bakhshísh," to show or even to tell where certain
ruins, concerning which they spoke or romanced, are found in
their hills. And yet there are theologians who would raise
Poverty, the most demoralizing of all conditions, to the rank of
an "ecclesiastical virtue."

At 6 30 a.m. on the next day, the Mukhbir stood eastwards to
avoid the northern reef. Presently we passed the "Upper
Nuwaybi'," a creeklet to the north-west of Wásit, with a
straggling line of palms fed by the huge Wady Muzayríj. From this
point to the 'Akabah head all the coast is clean of man. The
Jibál el-Samghi now become the Sinaitic Jibál el-Shafah ("Lip
Mountains"), the latter stretching northwards to the Hajj-road,
and forming the western wall of the 'Arabah valley, whose name
they assume (Jibál el-'Arabah). The scene abruptly shifts. A
mottle of clouds sheds moving shadows over the hill-crests, and
relieves them from the appalling monotony of yesterday. Brilliant
rainbow hues, red, green, mauve, purple, yellow and white clays,
gleam in the lowlands, and form dwarf bluffs; while inland,
peering above the granites, the syenites, and the porphyries of
the coast, pale quoins and naked cones again show the familiar
Secondary formation of Midianitish Makná. We were not surprised
to hear that sulphur had been found in the gypsum of these
eastern Gháts of Sinai, when a Jebel el-Kibí't, approached by the
Wady Suwayr, was pointed out to us. The natural deduction is that
the brimstone formation is, like the turquoise, the copper, and
the manganese, a continuation of the beds that gave a name to
Mafka-land; while the metalliferous strata round, in
horseshoe-form, the head of El-'Akabah, and run down the Arabian
shore, till they become parallel with those subtending the
seaboard of Africa.

The view of the eastern or Midianite coast was even more varied
and suggestive. Far inland, and tinged light-blue by distance,
rose the sharp, jagged, and sawlike crests of El-Sharaf, under
which the Hajj-caravan wends its weary way, thus escaping the
mountains which dip perpendicularly into the sea. Then come the
broad and sandy slopes, here and there streaked with dark ridges,
spanned by the Sultáni or Sultan's high-road, and stretching from
the Gulf to the inner heights. The latter are no longer a double
parallel chain: they bend from south-south-east to
north-north-west, and become the Jibál el-Shará', anciently
"Mount Seir;" in fact, the eastern retaining-wall of the great
Wady 'Arabah. Evidently they are primary, but a white and purple
patch, visible from afar, suggested a Secondary remnant. Several
of the peaks, especially the blue block El-Yitm, appeared to be
of great height; we all remarked its towering stature and trifid
headpiece, apparently upwards of five thousand feet high, before
we had heard the tale attached to it. Abreast of us and on the
shore, lie the large inlet and little islet El-Humayzah: the
surveyors have abominably corrupted it to "Omeider." North of it
a palm grove, lining the mouth of a broad Wady which snakes high
up among the sands and stones, denotes the Hajj-station, El-Hakl
(Hagul), backed by tall arenaceous buttresses.

After six hours (= twenty-two knots and a half), we anchored in
the deep channel, about three-quarters of a kilometre wide, that
separates the Sinaitic mainland from the northern one of the only
two islands known in the 'Akabah Gulf, a scrap of rock crowned
with picturesque grey ruins. The Jezírat Fara'ún of the maps, the
Isle of Pharaoh, concerning whom traditions are still current, it
is known to the 'Akabites only as Jebel el-Kala'h or "Fort-hill:"
hence El-Graa in Laborde, and Jezírat El-Q reieh in
Arconati.[EN#124] Burckhardt alone mentions that the ruins are
known as El-Dayr--"the Convent." This human lair is encircled by
barrier-reefs of coralline, broad to the south-west and large in
scattered places: eastward they form a shallow wall-like ledge,
beyond which blue water at once begins. The island-formation is
that of the opposite coasts, Midian and Sinai, grey granite dyked
with decaying porphyritic trap, and everywhere veined with white
and various-coloured quartzes. The shape is a long oval of about
three hundred and twenty by one hundred and fifty-two metres; a
saddleback with two stony heads, the higher to the north, rising
a hundred feet or so above sea-level. Pommel and cantle are
connected by a low seat, a few yards of isthmus; and the three
divisions, all strongly marked, bear buildings. The profile from
east and west shows four groups: to the extreme north a tower,
backed by the castle donjon, on the knob of granite here and
there scarped; the works upon the thread of isthmus; and the
walls and bastions crowning the southern knob, which, being
lower, is even more elaborately cut to a perpendicular.

We landed upon the eastern side of the islet rock, where the
trunk of a broken mole is covered in rear by a ruined work. Here,
being most liable to attack, the fortifications are strongest;
whereas on the west side only a single wall, now strewn on the
ground, with square Burj at intervals, defends the little
boat-harbour. The latter appears at present in the shape of a
fish-pond, measuring sixty by forty metres; sunk below sea-level,
fed by percolation, and exceedingly salt. To the east of this
water, black cineraceous earth shows where the smith had been at
work: we applied the quarrymen to sift it, without other results
but bits of glass, copper, and iron nails.

The pier leads to a covered way, enabling the garrison safely to
circulate round the base of the islet. Behind it a path, much
broken and cumbered by débris of the walls, winds up the southern
face of the northern hill, which supports the body of the place:
it meets another track from the west, and a small work defends
their junction. Below it, outside the walls, we found a well sunk
about eight feet in the granite, and cemented with fine lime, the
red plaster in places remaining. Above this pit a Mihráb, or
prayer-niche, fronting Meccah-wards (more exactly 175 degrees
mag.) shows the now ruinous mosque: the Bedawi declare that it
was built by a "Pasha." Higher again, upon a terreplein, are
lines of tanks laid out with all that lavishness of labour which
distinguishes similar works in Syria: it is, however, difficult
to assign any date to these constructions. The cisterns were
explored by Mr. Clarke and Lieutenant Amir, who dug into and
planned them. They descended by ropes, although there are two
flights of steps to the west and the south-west. The tanks are
built up from the base with blocks one foot nine inches long:
seven inches deep of rubbish were cleared away before reaching
the floor, composed of black stones bedded in layers of cement
above and below, and resting upon the ground-rock. The diggings
yielded only big pieces of salt fallen from the walls, and a
broken handmill of basalt. The sides are supported by pilasters
of cut stone, and the crown by four pillars in a double row: the
dividing arches, according to the plan, are not symmetrical. Hard
by, measuring twelve metres by twelve, is the quarry whence the
stone was taken; and near it stands the normal Egyptian
pigeon-tower, with its nest-niches.

The donjon or body is defended by an enceinte, opening northwards
upon a large yard, where, doubtless, the garrison mustered, and
whence a flight of steps leads to the wicket. The inside of the
works shows the roofless party-walls still standing; and the
ground is scattered over with the remains of many different
races: there are drums of columns and fragments of marble
pillars, but no sign of an inscription. Even in the upper
ramparts two epochs are distinctly traceable, the mediæval and
the modern. The lower ashlar, mostly yellow grit, is cut and
carefully cemented; the upper part is generally of rough dry
stone, the plutonic formations of the islet heaped up with scanty
care. The embrasures are framed with decaying palm-trunks; the
loop-holes belong partly to the age of archery; and nothing can
be ruder than the battlements placed close together, as if to be
manned by bowmen, while in not a few places there are the remains
of matting between the courses. At the highest part we found
another carefully cemented Sehrij, or underground cistern, with
two sharp-topped arches divided by a tall column, Saracenic
certainly and not Doric:[EN#125] above it a circular aperture,
arched round with the finest bricks, serves to lighten the
superstructure. It communicates to the north with a Hammám, whose
plan is easily traced by the double flues and earthenware tubes,
well made and mortared together. Here we found inscribed on the
plaster, "Arona Linant 22 Mars 1846."

The southern knob of the islet supports similar but inferior
constructions, still more ruinous withal: its quarry is on the
lower slopes, and its granitic base has also been scarped
seawards. Two stout walls, twelve feet thick below and six above,
crossing the length of the rock from north to south, here meet in
a Burj which shows signs of fine tiles on an upper floor; whilst
a third wall forms a southern spine bisecting the tail of the
"Jezírat." The castle is much more dilapidated than when sketched
by Ruppell, the first Frank who visited El-'Akabah, in 1826. His
illustration (p. 214) of Ruinen auf der Insel Emrag shows a
single compact building in good preservation, the towers being
round, when all are square; and it is garnished with the
impossible foreground and background of his epoch; the former,
enlivened with a Noah's-Ark camel, being placed quite close, when
it is distant some ten miles. In the German naturalist's time,
the now desolate island was occupied by die Emradi, a tribe which
he suspected to be Jewish, and of which he told the queerest
tales: I presume they are the 'Imrám-Huwaytát of El-Hakl and the
Hismá. Wellsted's short description (II. ix) is still correct as
in 1838.

The castle is evidently European, built during the days when the
Crusaders held El-'Akabah; but it probably rests upon Roman
ruins; and the latter, perhaps, upon Egyptian remains of far
older date. It protected one section of the oldest overland
route, when the islet formed the key of the Gulf-head. It
subsequently became an eyrie whence its robber knights and
barons--including possibly "John, the Christian ruler of 'Akabah"
(A.D. 630), and, long after him, madcap Rainald de Chatillon
(A.D. 1182)--could live comfortably and sally out to plunder
merchants and pilgrims. The Saracenic buildings may date, as the
popular superstition has it, from the reign of Saláh el-Dín
(Saladin) who, in A.D. 1167, cleared his country of the Infidel
invader by carrying ships on camel-back from Cairo. Later
generations of thieves, pirates, and fishermen naturally made it
their refuge and abode. I hardly anticipate for it great things
in the immediate future, although it has been proposed for a

After a day given to tube-tinkering with tompions, stays, plugs,
plates, and wedges, to the distraction of the ship's carpenter
and blacksmith, steam was coaxed up; and, at 9.15 a.m. (February
7th), we ran northwards through the deep narrow channel, rounding
the upper end of the Pharaohnic islet. Here the encircling wall
is defended by two square Burj, to the north-east and to the
northwest, flanking what is probably the main entrance. On the
Sinaitic mainland to port, the broad mouth of the Wady el-Masri
leads to the Nakb, the rocky Pass which, so much dreaded till
repaired by Abba's Pasha, is popularly said to be described in
El-'Akabah--"the Steep." The Bedawin, however, declare that the
locale is so called because the Gulf here "heels" (Ya'kkab
el-Bahr), that is, comes to an end. At the head of the sea, the
confused mass of the Sinaitic mountains range themselves in line
to the west, fronting its sister wall, the grand block El-Shará'
(Seir); while in the middle lies the southern section of the
"Ghor," the noble and memorious Wady el-'Akabah, supposed to have
given a name to Arabia.[EN#126] The surface-water still rolls
down it after rains; and the mirage veiling the valley-sole
prolongs the Gulf-waters far to the north, their bed in the old
geologic ages. The view was charming to us; for the first time
since leaving Suez we saw the contrast of perpendicular and
horizontal, of height and flat. Nothing could be more refreshing,
more gladdening to the eye, after niente che montagne, as the
poor Italian described the Morea, than the soft sweeps and the
level lines of the hollow plain: it was enjoyable as a heavy
shower after an Egyptian summer. On the next day also, the play
of light and shade, and the hide and seek of sun-ray and
water-cloud, gave the view a cachet of its own. I am sorry to see
that scientific geologist, Mr. John Milne, F.G.S.,[EN#127]
proposing to cut through the two to five hundred feet of
elevation which separate the Gulf from the Dead Sea, some
thirteen hundred feet below water level. Does he reflect that he
simply proposes to obliterate the whole lower Jordan? to bury
Tiberias and its lake about eight hundred feet under the waves?
in fact, to overwhelm half the Holy Land in a brand-new
nineteenth-century deluge, the Deluge of Milne?

All were delighted at having reached our northernmost point,
without another visit from El-Ayli'. After one hour and
thirty-five minutes (= seven miles) the Mukhbir anchored, in
twelve fathoms of water, a couple of hundred yards off the fort
and its dependent group of brown-grey mud buildings, half
concealed by the luxuriant palms. The roads are safe enough: here
the north wind has not yet gained impetus; the south-easter is
bluffed off by a long point; and in only the strongest Gharbí
("westers") ships must run for refuge under the cliffs of Sinai.

This is not the place to enter into the history of Elath, Ailat,
Ailah, Ælana, 'Akabah, or 'Akabat-Aylah: Robinson (i. 250-254)
and a host of others give ample and reliable details. Suffice it
to say that the site is mentioned in the Wanderings (Deut. ii.
8), which must not be confounded with the Exodus. It is
subsequently connected with the gold-fleet (I Kings ix. 26,
etc.); and, conquered by Rezin, king of Syria (B.C. 740), it was
permanently lost to the Jews (2 Kings xvi. 6). Under the Romans,
this great station upon the "Overland" between the southernmost
Nabathæan port, Leukè Kóme, and Petra, the western capital, was a
Præsidium held by the Tenth Legion; and a highway connected it
with Gaza (Ghazzah), measuring one hundred and twenty direct
miles, when the Isthmus of Suez numbers only ninety-five. In
Christian times it had a prince and a bishop; and, under Mohammed
and the early Moslems, it preserved an importance which lasted
till the days of the Crusaders. El-Makrízi describes its ruins,
and here places the northern frontier of the Hejaz: in his day
"Madyan" was thus a section of the Tihámat el-Hejaz, the maritime
region of the Moslems' Holy Land.

A group of camels had gathered on the shore; and inland lay a mob
of pilgrims, the Hajj el-Magháribah, numbering some three
thousand North-West Africans; an equally large division had
already preceded them to Suez. Letters from Egypt assured us that
cholera had broken out at Meccah and Jeddah, killing in both
places ninety-eight per diem. Here the pilgrims swore by their
Allah that all were, and ever had been, in perfect health; it is
every man's business to ignore the truth, to hide the sick, and
to bury the dead out of sight. Hard swearing, however, did not
prevent the Hajj undergoing a long quarantine before entering
Suez. The English journals had reported another disaster: "Now
that the Sultán's power is collapsing, the most powerful Bedaween
tribes are rising because their subsidies are withheld. For weeks
the great pilgrim-traffic of autumn (? add the other three
seasons) was arrested by them; and even between Medina and Mecca
the road is unsafe." Of this I could hear nothing.

We awaited, on board, the departure of the pauper and infected
"Mogrebbins:" when the place was clear we fired a gun, and, after
an answer of three, I received the visits of the fort officials.
They were civility itself; they immensely admired our two
"splendid buttons" of poor iron; and they privily remarked, with
much penetration, that the colour was that of brass: they were,
in truth, far wiser than we had been. With them came Mohammed ibn
Jád (not Iját) el-'Alawí (of the 'Alawlyyin-Huwaytát), who styles
himself "Shaykh of El-'Akabah:" he is remarkable for frank
countenance, pleasant manners, and exceeding greed. He was
gorgeously arrayed in an overall ('Abáyah) of red silk and gold
thread (Gasab), covering a similar cloak of black wool: besides
which, a long-sleeved Egyptian caftán, striped stuff of silk and
wool, invested his cotton Kamís and Libás ("bag-breeches"). To
his A'kál or "fillet" of white fleecy wool hung a talisman; his
Khuff ("riding-boots") were of red morocco, and his
sword-scabbard was covered with the same material. The Arab ever
loves scarlet, and all varieties of the sanguine hue are as dear
to him as to the British soldier.

We held sundry long confabs with Shaykh Mohammed, who seemed to
know the neighbourhood unusually well. He declared that there
were ruins but no trees at 'Ayn el-Ghadya'n, distant one day's
march up the Wady el-'Arabah, and lying near the western wall.
This is the place first identified by Robinson, who says nothing
about the remains, with Ezion-geber, while Dean Stanley ("Sinai,"
etc., p. 85) opines that we have no means of fixing the position
of the "Giant's shoulder-blade."[EN#128] Josephus ("Antiq.,"
viii. 6, 4) places it near Ælana; and the present distance from
the sea, like that of Heroopolis (Shaykh el-Ajrúd?) from Suez,
may show the rise of the Wady el-'Arabah within historic times.
The Shaykh assured us that "Marú" was to be found everywhere
among the hills east of El-'Akabah, and Mr. Milne (Beke, p. 405)
brought from the very summit of the "true Mount Sinai" (Jebel
el-Yitm) a "fine piece of quartz, the same kind of stone as the
Brazilian pebbles of which they make the best spectacles." We
carried off a specimen of native copper from the Sinaitic Jebel
and Wady Raddádí, some six hours to the north-west of the fort:
it is found strewed upon the ground but not in veins (?). The
stone looked so new that we concluded it to be the work of later
generations; and the traces of smelting furnaces at old Elath
confirmed the idea.

Shaykh Mohammed, who boasted that his tribe could mount five
hundred horses--by which understand five--offered his safeguard
to the Hismá, three easy marches, without pass or climax, up the
Wady Yitm to the east, and behind the range El-Shará'. He made
the region begin northwards at one day south of El-Ma'án, the
fort lying to the east-south-east of Petra; and he confirmed the
accounts of Mabrúk, the guide, who was never tired of expatiating
upon its merits. The fountains flow in winter, in summer the
wells are never dry; the people, especially the Huwaytát, are
kind and hospitable; sheep are cheap as dirt. At Jebel Saur a
Maghrabi magician raised a Kidr Dahab ("golden pot"); but, his
incense failing at the critical moment, it sank before yielding
its treasures.

Pointing north-eastwards to the majestic pile in the Shara" or
Seir Mountains, the Jebel el-Yitm,[EN#129] a corruption of
El-Yatim, the Shaykh told us a tale that greatly interested us.
It appears, I have said, a remarkable formation from whose group
of terminal domes and pinnacles the tomb of Aaron on Mount Hor
is,[EN#130] they say, visible; and it is certainly the highest
visible peak of the grand wall that forms the right bank of the
Wady Yitm. Thus it is but one of a long range; and the Bedawin
visit it, to make sacrifice, according to universal custom, at
the tomb of a certain Shaykh Bákir. Here, some years ago, came an
old man and a young man in a steamer (Erin) belonging to his
Highness the Khediv: the former told the Arabs that in his books
the height was called the Jebel el-Núr ("Mountain of Light"), a
title which apparently he had first applied to the Jebel el-Lauz;
and the latter climbed to the mountain-top. After that they went
their way.

I quite agree with my lamented friend, Dr. Beke, that it is an
enormous blunder to transfer Midian, the "East Country," to the
west of El-'Arabah, and to place it south of the South Country
(El-Negeb, Gen. xx. I). I own that it is ridiculous to make the
Lawgiver lead his fugitives into a veritable cul-de-sac, then a
centre of Egyptian conquest. Evidently we have still to find the
"true Mount Sinai," if at least it be not a myth, pure and
simple. The profound Egyptologist, Dr. Heinrich Brugsch-Bey,
observes that the vulgar official site lies to the south of and
far from the line taken by the Beni Israil, and that the papyri
show no route leading to it; whilst many have remarked that the
Sinai of the Exodus is described as a single isolated mountain or
hill, not as one projection from a range of heights.[EN#131] I
would also suggest that the best proof of how empirical is the
actual identification, will be found in the fact that the
Jews--except only the Rev. Jos. Wolff (1821)--have never visited,
nor made pilgrimages to, what ought to be one of their holiest of
holy places. This crucial point has been utterly neglected by the
officers of the Ordnance Survey of Sinai. It is evident that
Jebel Serbal dates only from the early days of Koptic
Christianity; that Jebel Musá, its Greek rival, rose after the
visions of Helena in the fourth century; whilst the building of
the convent by Justinian belongs to A.D. 527. Ras Sufsafah, its
rival to the north, is an affair of yesterday, and may be called
the invention of Robinson; and Jebel Katerina, to the south, is
the property of Ruppell. Thus the oft-quoted legends of the
Sinaitic Arabs are mere monkish traditions, adopted by
Ishmaelitic ignorance. The great Lawgiver probably led his horde
of fugitive slaves over the plains of El-Negeb and El-Tih, north
of the so-called Sinaitic mountain-blocks, marching in small
divisions like those of a modern Bedawi tribe; and we know from
the latest surveys that the land, now alternately a fiery or
frozen wilderness, was once well supplied with wood and water.
The "true Mount Sinai" is probably some unimportant elevation in
the Desert named by moderns after the Wanderings.

Dr. Beke, I am persuaded, is right in denying that Mount Sinai
occupies the site at present assigned to it; but I cannot believe
that he has found it in the Jebel el-Yitm, near El-'Akabah. His
"Mount Bárghir" is evidently a corruption of the "Wali" on the
summit, Shaykh Bákir--a common Arab name. His "Mountain of Light"
is a term wholly unknown to the Arabs, except so far as they
would assign the term to any saintly place. The "sounds heard in
the mountain like the firing of a cannon," is a legend applied to
two other neighbouring places. All the Bedawin still sacrifice at
the tombs of their Santons: at the little white building which
covers the reputed tomb of Aaron, sheep are slaughtered and
boiled in a huge black cauldron. The "pile of large rounded
boulders" bearing "cut Sinaitic inscriptions" (p. 423) are
clearly Wusúm: these tribal-marks, which the highly imaginative
M. de Saulcy calls "planetary signs," are found throughout
Midian. The name of the Wady is, I have said, not El-Ithem, but
El-Yitm, a very different word. Lastly, the "Mountain Eretówa,"
or "Ertówa" (p. 404), is probably a corruption of El-Taur
(El-Hismá), the "inaccessible wall" of the plateau, which Dr.
Beke calls Jebel Hismá. My old friend, with his usual candour and
straightforwardness, honestly admitted that he had been
"egregiously mistaken with respect to the volcanic character of
(the true) 'Mount Sinai."' But without the eruption, the "fire
and smoke theory," what becomes of his whole argument?[EN#132]
Save for the death of my friend, I should have greatly enjoyed
the comical side of his subject; the horror and disgust with
which he, one of the greatest of geographical innovators, regards
a younger rival theory, the exodist innovation of Dr. Heinrich
Brugsch-Bey. The latter is the first who has rescued the "March
of the Children of Israel" from the condition of mere guesswork
described by the Rev. Mr. Holland.

Under the guidance of our new acquaintances, we rowed to the site
of Elath, which evidently extended all round the Gulf-head from
north-east to north-west. Linant and Laborde ("Voyage de l'Arabie
Petrée," etc., Paris, 1830) confine it to the western shore, near
the mouth of the Wady el-'Arabah, and make Ezion-geber to face it
as suggested by the writings of the Hebrews. Disembarking at the
northern palm-clump, we inspected El-Dár, the old halting-place
of the pilgrim-caravan before New 'Akabah was founded. The only
ruins[EN#133] are large blocks under the clearest water, and off
a beach of the softest sand, which would make the fortune of a
bathing-place in Europe. Further eastward lies an enclosed
date-orchard called El-Hammám: the two pits in it are said to be
wells, but I suspect the treasure-seeker. Inland and to the north
rise the mounds and tumuli, the sole remains of ancient Elath,
once the port of Petra, which is distant only two dromedary

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