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Travels in Syria and the Holy Land by John Burckhardt

Part 9 out of 12

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We returned from Wady Osh towards Wady Berah; but leaving the latter,
which here takes a direction towards Wady Feiran, we ascended by a
narrow valley called Wady Akhdhar [Arabic]. Here I again saw some
inscriptions on blocks of stone lying by the road side. A few hours to
the N.E. of Wady Osh is a mountain called Sheyger, where native cinnabar
is collected; it is called Rasokht [Arabic] by the Arabs, and is usually
found in small pieces about the size of a pigeon's egg. It is very
seldom crystallized; but there are sometimes nodules on the surface; it
stains the fingers of a dark colour, and its fracture is in
perpendicular fibres. I did not hear that the Arabs traded at all in
this metal. In Wady Osh are rocks of gneiss mixed with granite. Gneiss
is found in many parts of the peninsula.

After one hour we came to a steep ascent, and descent, called El Szaleib
[Arabic], which occupied two hours. We then continued our descent into
the great valley called Wady el Sheikh [Arabic], one of the principal
valleys of the peninsula. The rocks of Szaleib consist throughout of
granite, on the upper strata of which run layers of red feldspath, some
of which has fallen down and covers the valley in broken fragments. The
Wady el Sheikh is broad, and has a very slight acclivity; it is much
frequented by Bedouins for its pasturage. Whenever rain falls in the
mountains, a stream of water flows through this Wady, and from thence
through Wady Feiran, into the sea. We rode in a S.E. direction along the
Wady el Sheikh for two hours, and then halted in it for the

[p.488] night, after an afternoon's march of four hours. Several Arabs
of the encampment where we slept the preceding night had joined our
party, to go to the convent, for no other reason, I believe, than to get
a good dinner and supper on the road. This evening eight persons kneeled
down round a dish of rice, cooked with milk which I had brought from
Wady Osh, and the coffee-pot being kept on the fire, we sat in
conversation till near midnight.

May 1st.--We continued in a S.E. direction, ascending slightly: the
valley then becomes narrower. At two hours we came to a thick wood of
tamarisk or Tarfa, and found many camels feeding upon their thorny
shoots. It is from this evergreen tamarisk, which grows abundantly in no
other part of the peninsula, that the manna is collected. We now
approached the central summits of Mount Sinai, which we had had in view
for several days. Abrupt cliffs of granite from six to eight hundred
feet in height, whose surface is blackened by the sun, surround the
avenues leading to the elevated platform, to which the name of Sinai is
specifically applied. These cliffs enclose the holy mountain on three
sides, leaving the E. and N.E. sides only, towards the gulf of Akaba,
more open to the view. On both sides of the wood of Tarfa trees extends
a range of low hills of a substance called by the Arabs Tafal [Arabic],
which I believe to be principally a detritus of the feldspar of granite,
but which, at first sight, has all the appearance of pipe-clay; it is
brittle, crumbles easily between the fingers, and leaves upon them its
colour, which is a pale yellow. The Arabs sell it at Cairo, where it is
in request for taking stains out of cloth, and where it serves the poor
instead of soap, for washing their hands; but it is chiefly used to rub
the skins of asses during summer, being supposed to refresh them, and to
defend them against the heat of the sun.

At the end of three hours we entered the above-mentioned cliffs


[p.489] by a narrow defile about forty feet in breadth, with
perpendicular granite rocks on both sides. The ground is covered with
sand and pebbles, brought down by the torrent which rushes from the
upper region in the winter time. In a broader part of the pass an
insulated rock, about five feet high, with a kind of naturally formed
seat, is shewn as a place upon which Moses once reposed, whence it has
the name of Mokad Seidna Mousa [Arabic]; the Bedouins keep it covered
with green or dry herbs, and some of them kiss it, or touch it with
their hands, in passing by. Beyond it the valley opens, the mountains on
both sides diverge from the road, and the Wady el Sheikh continues in a
S. direction with a slight ascent. A little to the east, from hence, is
the well called Bir Mohsen [Arabic]. After continuing in the Wady for an
hour beyond the defile, we entered a narrow inlet in the eastern chain,
and rested near a spring called Abou Szoueyr [Arabic]. At four hours and
a half was a small walled plantation of tobacco, with some fruit trees,
and onions, cultivated by some of the Bedouins Oulad Said. In the
afternoon we crossed the mountain by a by-path, fell again into the Wady
el Sheikh, and at the end of eight hours from our setting out in the
morning reached the tomb of Sheikh Szaleh [Arabic], from which the whole
valley takes its name. The coffin of the Sheikh is deposited in a small
rude stone building; and is surrounded by a thin partition of wood, hung
with green cloth, upon which several prayers are embroidered. On the
walls are suspended silk tassels, handkerchiefs, ostrich eggs, camel
halters, bridles, &c. the offerings of the Bedouins who visit this tomb.
I could not learn exactly the history of this Sheikh Szaleh: some said
that he was the forefather of the tribe of Szowaleha; others, the great
Moslem prophet Szaleh, sent to the tribe of Thamoud, and who is
mentioned in the Koran; and others, again, that he was a local saint,
which I believe to be the truth. Among


[p.490] the Bedouins, this tomb is the most revered spot in the
peninsula, next to the mountain of Moses; they make frequent vows to
kill a sheep in honour of the Sheikh should a wished-for event take
place; and if this happens, the votary repairs to the tomb with his
family and friends, and there passes a day of conviviality. Once in
every year all the tribes of the Towara repair hither in pilgrimage, and
remain encamped in the valley round the tomb for three days. Many sheep
are then killed, camel races are run, and the whole night is passed in
dancing and singing. The men and women are dressed in their best attire.
The festival, which is the greatest among these people, usually takes
place in the latter part of June, when the Nile begins to rise in Egypt,
and the plague subsides; and a caravan leaves Sinai immediately
afterwards for Cairo. It is just at this period too that the dates ripen
in the valleys of the lower chain of Sinai, and the pilgrimage to Sheikh
Szaleh thus becomes the most remarkable period in the Bedouin year.

In the western mountain opposite Sheikh Szaleh, and about one hour and a
half distant, is a fruitful pasturing place, upon a high mountain, with
many fields, and plantations of trees, called El Fereya [Arabic], where
once a convent stood. It is in possession of the Oulad Said.

We continued from Sheikh Szaleh farther S. till at the end of six hours
and a half we turned to our right into a broad valley, at the
termination of which I was agreeably surprised by the beautiful verdure
of a garden of almond trees belonging to the convent. From thence, by
another short turn to the left, we reached the convent, in seven hours
and a half. We alighted under a window, by which the priests communicate
with the Arabs below. The letter of recommendation which I had with me
was drawn up by a cord, and when the prior had read it, a stick tied
across a rope was

[p.491] let down, upon which I placed myself, and was hoisted up. Like
all travellers I received a cordial reception and was shewn into the
same neatly furnished room in which all preceding Europeans had taken up
their abode.

I rested in the convent three days. When I told the monks that I
intended to go to Akaba, they gave me very little encouragement,
particularly when they learnt that I had no Firmahn from the Pasha; but
finding that I was firmly resolved, they sent for the chief Ghafyr, or
protector of the convent, and recommended me strongly to him. The monks
live in such constant dread of the Bedouins, who knowing very well their
timid disposition, take every opportunity to strengthen their fears,
that they believe a person is going to certain destruction who trusts
himself to the guidance of these Bedouins any where but on the great
road to Suez or to Tor. I had been particularly pleased with the
character and behaviour of Hamd Ibn Zoheyr, the Bedouin who had joined
us at Suez; and not being equally satisfied with the guide who had
brought me from Cairo, I discharged him, and engaged Hamd for the
journey to Akaba; he did not know the road himself, but one of his
uncles who had been there assured us that he was well acquainted with
the tribe of Heywat, which we should meet on the road, and with all the
passages of the country; I therefore engaged him together with Hamd.

As no visitor of the convent is permitted to leave it without the
knowledge of one of the Ghafyrs, who has a right to share in the profits
of the escort, I was obliged to give a few piastres to him who is at
present the director of the affairs of the convent in the desert. The
Arabs have established here the same custom which I remarked in my
journey from Tor to Cairo. Every one who is present at the departure of
a stranger or of a loaded camel from the convent is entitled to a fee,
provided the traveller has not passed


[p.492] a line, which is about one mile from the convent. To avoid this
unnecessary company and expense, I stole out of the convent by night, as
secretly as possible; but we were overtaken within the limits by a
Bedouin, and my guides were obliged to give him six piastres, to make
him desist from farther claims. I left my servant and unnecessary
baggage at the convent, and mounted a camel, for the hire of which I
gave five dollars, and I paid as much to each of my guides, who were
also mounted, and were to conduct me to Akaba and back again.

May 4th.--I left the convent before day light, but travelled no farther
to day than to the well of Abou Szoueyr, where we had rested on the
first of May, and where a large company of Arabs assembled when they
heard of our arrival. They quarrelled long with my guides for having
taken me clandestinely from the convent, but were at last pacified by a
lamb which I bought, and partook of with them. In the evening we heard
from afar the songs of an encampment, to which my guides went, to join
in the dance. I remained with the baggage, in conversation with an Arab
who had lately come from Khalyl or Hebron, and who much dissuaded me
from going to Akaba. He assured me that the uncle of Hamd my guide knew
nothing of the Arabs of those parts, nor even the paths through the
country; but I slighted his advice, because I believed that it was
dictated by envy, and that he wished himself to be one of the party. The
result shewed, however, that he was right.

May 5th.--At sunrise we left Abou Szoueyr, and ascended a hilly country
for half an hour. After a short descent, which on this side terminates
the district of Sinai, properly so called, we continued over a wide open
plain, with low hills, called Szoueyry [Arabic], direction N.E. b. E. In
an hour and a half we entered a narrow valley called Wady Sal [Arabic],
formed by the

[p.493] lower ridges of the primitive mountains, in the windings of
which we descended slightly E. b. N. and E.N.E. On the top I found the
rock to be granite; somewhat lower down gruenstein, and porphyry began to
appear; farther on granite and porphyry cease entirely, and the rock
consists solely of gruenstein, which in many places takes the nature of
slate. Some of the layers of porphyry are very striking; they run
perpendicularly from the very summit of the mountain to the base, in a
band of about twelve feet in width, and projecting somewhat from the
other rocks on the mountain's side. I had observed similar strata in
Wady Genne, but running horizontally along the whole chain of mountains,
and dividing it, as it were, into two equal parts. The porphyry I have
met with in Sinai is usually a red indurated argillaceous substance; in
some specimens it had the appearance of red feldspath. In the argil are
imbedded small crystals of hornblende, or of mica, and thin pieces of
quartz at most two lines square. I never saw any large fragments of
quartz in it. Its universal colour is red. The lower mountains of Sinai
are much more regularly shaped than the upper ones: they are less
rugged, have no insulated peaks, and their summits fall off in smooth

The Wady Sal is extremely barren: we found no pasture for our camels, as
no rain had fallen during the two last years, in the whole of this
eastern part of the peninsula. A few acacia trees grew in different
places; we rested at noon under one of them while a cup of coffee was
prepared, and then pursued the Wady downwards until, at the end of seven
hours, we issued from it into a small plain, which we soon crossed, and
at seven hours and a half entered another valley, similar to the former,
where I again saw some granite, of the gray, small-grained species[.]
Our descent was here very rapid, and at the end of nine hours and a half
we reached a lower level, in a broad valley running southwards.


[p.494] From hence the summit of Mount St. Catherine, behind the
convent, bore S.W. by W. Calcareous and sand rocks begin here, and the
bottom of the valley is deep sand. We rode in it in the direction N.E.
by N. and after a march of eleven hours alighted in a plain, at a spot
which afforded some shrubs for our camels to feed upon. The elder of my
two guides, by name Szaleh, soon proved himself to be ignorant of the
road. He might have passed this way in his youth, and have had a
recollection of the general direction of the valleys; but when we
arrived in the plain, he proceeded in various directions, in search of a
road from the east. We had now, about six or eight miles to our left, a
long and straight chain of mountains, the continuation, I believe, of
that of Tyh or Dhelel, mentioned above, and running almost parallel with
our route. The northern side of these mountains is inhabited by the
tribe of Tyaha. Here passes the road which leads straight from the
convent to Akaba, while the one we took descended to the sea, and had
been chosen by my guides for greater security. The upper road passes by
the watering places Zelka, El Ain (the Well), a place much frequented by
Bedouins, and where many date-trees grow, and lastly by El Hossey. It is
the common route from the convent to Khalyl and Jerusalem.

May 6th.--We started early, and continued our way over the plain, which
is called Haydar [Arabic]. It appears to follow the mountain of Tyh as
far as its western extremity, and there to join the Seyh, of which I
have already spoken, thus forming the northern sandy boundary of the
lower Sinai chain. As we proceeded, we approached nearer to the
mountain, and at length fell in with the looked for road. The ground is
gravelly but covered with moving sands which are raised by the slightest
wind. To the east the country was open, with low hills, as far as I
could see. Our road lay N.E.1/2 N. At one hour and a half Mount St.
Catharine bore


[p.495] S.W. by W. We now descended into a valley of deep sand covered
with blocks of chalk rock. At one hour and three quarters the valley is
contracted into a narrow pass, between low hills of sand-stone, bearing
traces of very violent torrents. At the end of two hours, route east by
north, we quitted the valley, and crossed a rough rocky plain,
intersected on every side by beds of torrents; and at two hours and
three quarters halted near a rock. One of the guides went with the
camels up a side valley, to bring water from the well Hadhra [Arabic],
(perhaps the Hazeroth [Hebrew] mentioned in Numbers xxxiii. 17), distant
about two miles from the halting place. Near the well are said to be
some date trees, and the remains of walls which formerly enclosed a few

We here met some Towara Bedouins on their way to Cairo with charcoal.
After employing a considerable time in collecting the wood and burning
it into coal they carry it to Cairo, a journey at least of ten days, and
there sell it for three or four dollars per load: so cheap do they hold
their labour, and so limited are their means of subsistence. In return,
they bring home corn and clothes to their women and children.

We started again as soon as the camels returned from the well, but
should probably have gone astray had not the Bedouins above mentioned
pointed out the road we ought to take; for Szaleh, the uncle of Hamd,
although he pretended to be quite at home in this district, gave evident
proofs of being but very slightly acquainted with it. We made many
windings between sand-stone rocks, which presented their smooth
perpendicular sides to the road; some of them are of a red, others of a
white colour; the ground was deeply covered with sand. The traces of
torrents were observable on the rocks as high as three and four feet
above the


[p.496] present level of the plain. Our main direction was E.N.E. At
four hours and three quarters from the time we set out in the morning,
we entered Wady Rahab [Arabic], a fine valley with many Syale trees,
where the sands terminate. Route E. At five hours and a half we entered
another valley, broader than the former, where I again found an
alternation of sand-stone and granite. The barrenness of this district
was greater than I had yet witnessed in my travels, excepting perhaps
some parts of the desert El Tyh; the Nubian valleys might be called
pleasure grounds in comparison. Not the smallest green leaf could be
discovered; and the thorny mimosa, which retains its verdure in the
tropical deserts of Nubia, with very little supply of moisture, was here
entirely withered, and so dry that it caught fire from the lighted
cinders which fell from our pipes as we passed. We continued to descend
by a gentle slope, and at six hours and a half entered Wady Samghy
[Arabic], coming from the south, in which we descended N.E. At the end
of eight hours and a half we left this valley and turned E. into a side
one, called Boszeyra [Arabic]; where we halted for the night, at eight
hours and three quarters.

We had met in Wady Samghy two old Bedouins of the Mezeine tribe, who
belong to the Towara nation: they were fishermen, on their way to the
sea to exercise their profession. One of them carried in a small sack a
measure of meal which was to serve for their food on shore, the other
had a skin of water upon his shoulder; they were both half naked, and
both approaching to seventy years of age. One of them was deaf, but so
intelligent that it was easy to talk with him by signs; he had
established a vocabulary of gestures with his companion, who had been
his fishing partner for ten years, and who was one of the shrewdest and
hardiest Bedouins I had ever seen; in his younger days he had been a
noted robber,

[p.497] and in attempting to carry off the baggage of a French officer
in the Sherkyeh province in Egypt, he was seized, laid under the stick,
and so severely beaten, that his back had from that time become bent;
but notwithstanding this misfortune and his age, he had lost none of his
spirits, and his robust constitution still enabled him to cross these
mountains on foot, and to exert his activity whenever it was required.
These two men partook this evening of my supper; they of course asked me
where I was going, and shook their heads when I told them I was bound
for Akaba. None of my guides knew what business I had there, but they
supposed that I had some verbal message to deliver to the Turkish Aga,
who was at the head of the garrison. Ayd es Szaheny [Arabic], the old
robber, soon found out that my guide Szaleh knew little of the road, and
still less of the Arab tribes before us. He plainly told him that he
would not be able to ensure either my safety or his own, in passing
through their districts, and reproached him for having deluded me with
false assurances. There appeared to be so much good faith and sense in
all the old man said, and I found him so well informed respecting the
country, that I soon determined to engage him to join us; but as we were
to descend the next morning by the same road to the sea-shore, I
deferred making him any overtures till we should arrive there.

The Wady Boszeyra is enclosed by gray granite rocks, out of which the
Towara Arabs sometimes hew stones for hand mills, which they dispose of
to the northern Arabs, and transport for sale as far as Khalyl. It is
very seldom that any Arabs pasture in the district we had traversed,
from Wady Sal. The Towara find better pasturage in the southern and
south-western parts of the peninsula, and as its whole population is
very small, the more barren parts of it are abandoned, and especially
this side, where very few wells are found.


[p.498] May 7th.--From Boszeyra we crossed a short ridge of mountains,
and then entered a narrow valley, the bed of a torrent, called Saada
[Arabic], in the windings of which we descended by a steeper slope than
any of the former; our main direction E. The mountains on both sides
were of moderate height and with gentle slopes, till after an hour and a
half, when we reached a chain of high and perpendicular gruenstein rocks,
which hemmed in the valley so closely as to leave in several places a
passage of only ten feet across. After proceeding for a mile in this
very striking and majestic defile, I caught the first glimpse of the
gulf of Akaba; the valley then widens and descends to the sea, and after
two hours and a quarter we alighted upon the sandy beach, which is here
several hundred paces in breadth; the gruenstein and granite rocks reach
all the way down; but at the very foot of the mountain a thin layer of
chalk appeared just above the surface of the ground. The valley opens
directly upon the sea, into which it empties its torrent when heavy
rains fall. Some groves of date-trees stand close by the shore, among
which is a well of brackish but drinkable water; the place is called El
Noweyba [Arabic]. We now followed the coast in a direction N.N.E. and at
the end of three hours and a quarter halted at a grove of date-trees,
intermixed with a few tamarisks, called Wasta [Arabic], close by the
sea. Here is a small spring at a distance of fifty yards from the sea,
and not more than eight feet above the level of the water; it was choked
with sand, which we removed, and on digging a hole about three feet deep
and one foot in diameter, it filled in half an hour with very tolerable
water. The shore is covered with weeds brought hither by the tide[.]

Here the two Bedouins intended to take up their quarters for fishing,
but I easily prevailed upon Ayd to accompany us farther on. He promised
to conduct us as far as Taba, a valley in sight of Akaba, but declared
that he should not be justified in

[p.499] holding out to me promises of safety beyond that point. This was
all that I wished, for the present, thinking that when we arrived
thither, I should be able to prevail on him to continue farther. Szaleh
now gave me reason to suspect that, from the moment of our setting out,
he had had treacherous intentions. He secretly endeavoured to persuade
Hamd to return, and finding the latter resolved to fulfil his
engagements, he declared that he had now shown us enough of the way,
that we had only to follow the shore to reach Akaba, and that the
weakness of his camel would not allow it to proceed farther. I replied
that he was at liberty to take himself off, but that, on my return to
the convent, I should pay him only for the three days he had travelled
with me. This was not to his liking, and he therefore preferred going
on. Before we left this place Ayd told me that as I had treated him with
a supper last night, it was his duty to give me a breakfast this
morning. While he kneaded a loaf of flour, and baked it in the ashes,
his companion caught some fish, which we boiled, and made a soup of the
broth mixed with bread. The deaf man was made to understand by signs
that he was to wait for the return of Ayd, and we set out together
before mid-day. Before us lay a small bay, which we skirted; the sands
on the shore every where bore the impression of the passage of serpents,
crossing each other in many directions, and some of them appeared to be
made by animals whose bodies could not be less than two inches in
diameter. Ayd told me that serpents were very common in these parts;
that the fishermen were much afraid of them, and extinguished their
fires in the evening before they went to sleep, because the light was
known to attract them. As serpents are so numerous on this side, they
are probably not deficient towards the head of the gulf on its opposite
shore, where it appears that the Israelites passed, when they journeyed
from mount Hor, by the way of the Red sea, to compass the land of

[p.500] Edom," and when the "Lord sent fiery serpents among the
people."[Numbers c. xxi, v. 4, 6. The following passage of Deuteronomy
(viii. 15) in giving a general description of this country, alludes to
the serpents: "Who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness
wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was
no water; who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint. Who fed
thee in the wilderness with manna," &c. Scorpions are numerous in all
the adjacent parts of Palestine and the desert. The Author observes in a
note in another place, that the Arabic translation of the Pentateuch has
"serpents of burning bites," instead of "fiery serpents." Note of the

On the opposite side of the gulf the mountains appeared to reach down to
the sea-side. In the direction S.S.E. and S.E. they are high; to the
northward the chain lowers, and from the point E.S.E. towards Akaba the
level is still lower. We saw at a distance several Gazelles, which, my
guides told me, descend at mid-day to the sea to bathe. At one hour from
Wasta we reached near the sea another collection of palm trees, larger
than the former, and having a well, which was completely choaked up.
These trees receive no other irrigation than the winter rains; each tree
has its acknowledged owner among some of the Towara tribes: those which
I have just noticed belong to some persons of the tribe of Aleygat. Not
the smallest attention is paid to the trees till the period of the date
harvest, when the owners encamp under them with their families for about
a week while the fruit is gathered. The shrub Gharkad also grows here in
large quantities. At one hour and three quarters we came to another
small bay, round which lay the road, the main direction of the shore
being N.E. by N. The mountains approach very near to the water, leaving
only a narrow sloping plain covered with loose stones, washed down from
above by the torrents. The road was profusely strewed with shells of
different species, all of which were empty. The fishermen collect the
shells, take out the animals, and


[p.501] dry them in the sun, particularly that of the species called
Zorombat [Arabic], which I have also seen in plenty on the African coast
of the Red sea, north of Souakin, and at Djidda, where they are much
esteemed by the mariners, and are sold by the fishermen at Tor and Suez.
I here made a rough measurement of the breadth of the gulf: having
assumed a base of seven hundred paces along the beach, and then measured
with my compass the angles formed at either extremity of it, with a
prominent point of the opposite mountain, the result gave a breadth of
about twelve miles. The vegetation appeared to be much less impregnated
with saline particles than I had found it on other parts of the coast of
the Red sea.

At two hours and three quarters we had to pass round the bottom of
another bay, of red and white sand-stone, where steep rocks advance so
close to the water as to leave only a narrow path. At three hours and
three quarters we passed an opening into the mountain, called Wady Om
Hash [Arabic], from whence a torrent descends, which, after its issue
from the mountain, spreads to a considerable distance along the shore,
and produces verdure. The shrub Doeyny [Arabic] grows here in abundance;
it is almost a foot in height, and continues green the whole year. The
Arabs collect and burn it, and sell the ashes at Khalyl, where they are
used in the glass manufactories. We passed on our left several similar
inlets into the mountain, the beds of torrents, but my guides could not,
or would not, tell their names. The Bedouins are generally averse to
satisfying the traveller's curiosity on such subjects; not being able to
conceive what interest he has in informing himself of mere names, they
ascribe to repeated questions of this nature improper motives. Some
cunning is often required to get proper answers, and they frequently
give false names, for no other reason than to have the pleasure of
deluding the enquirer, and laughing at him among themselves behind his


[p.502] At four hours and a quarter we passed Wady Mowaleh [Arabic]; and
at the end of five hours and three quarters reached the northern point
of the last mentioned bay, formed by a projecting part of the mountain,
or promontory, called Abou Burko [Arabic], which means "he who wears a
face veil," because on the top of it is a white rock, which is thought
to resemble the white Berkoa, or face veil of the Arab women, and
renders it a conspicuous object from afar. Noweyba, where we had first
reached the shore, bore from hence S.S.W. We rested for the night in a
pasturing place near the mountain, on the south side of the promontory.
Old Ayd, who carried his net with him, brought us some fish. His dog eat
the raw fish, and his master told me that the dog sometimes passed
several months without any other food.

May 8th.--We set out long before day-break. None of our party was ever
more ready to alight, or to take his supper, than Szaleh, and none more
averse to start. During the whole way he was continually grumbling, and
endeavouring to persuade the others to turn back. We were one hour in
doubling the Abou Burko, a chalky rock, whose base is washed by the
waves. On the other side we passed, at two hours, in the bottom of a
small bay, Wady Zoara [Arabic], where a few date trees grow, and a well
of saltish water is found, unfit to drink. The maritime plain was here
nearly two miles in breadth. Having made the tour of another bay from
Abou Burko, we reached, at three hours and a half, a promontory forming
its northern boundary, and called Ras Om Haye [Arabic], a name derived
from the great quantity of serpents found there, some of which, Ayd told
me, were venemous; we however saw none of any kind. The whole coast of
the AElanitic gulf, from Ras Abou Mohammed to Akaba, consists of a
succession of bays separated from such other by head lands. The Ras Om
Haye forms the western extremity of the mountain of Tyh,


[p.503] whose straight and regular ridge runs quite across the
peninsula, and is easily distinguished from the surrounding mountains.
We halted at the end of five hours in a rocky valley at the foot of Ras
Om Haye, where acacia trees and some grass grow. Ayd assured us that in
the mountain, at some distance, was a reservoir of rain water, called Om
Hadjydjein [Arabic], but he could not answer for its containing water at
this time. He described to Hamd its situation, and the way to it, with a
view of persuading him to go and fetch some water for us; but his
description was so confused, and I thought contradictory in several
circumstances, and withal so pompous, that I concluded it to be all a
story, and told him he was a babbler. "A babbler!" he exclaimed; "min
Allah, no body in my whole life ever called me thus before. A babbler!
I shall presently shew you, which of us two deserves that name." He then
seized one of the large water skins, and barefooted as he was, began
ascending the mountain, which was covered with loose and sharp stones.
We soon lost sight of him, but saw him again, farther on, climbing up an
almost perpendicular path. An hour and a half after, he returned by the
same path, carrying on his bent back the skin full of water, which could
not weigh less than one hundred pounds, and putting it down before us
said, "There! take it from the babbler!" I was so overcome with shame,
that I knew not how to apologize for my inconsiderate language; but when
he saw that I really felt myself in the wrong, he was easily pacified,
and said nothing more about it till night, when seeing me take a hearty
draught of the water, and hearing me praise its sweetness, compared with
the brackish water of the coast, he stopped me, and said, "Young man,
for the future never call an old Bedouin a babbler."

On the opposite side of the gulf the mountains recede somewhat from the
shore, leaving at their feet a sloping plain. A place on

[p.504] the coast, called Hagol [Arabic], bore from hence E. b. S; it is
a fruitful valley by the water side, with large date plantations, which
were clearly discernible. It is in possession of the tribe of Arabs
called Akraba [Arabic]. Behind them, in the mountains, dwells the strong
and warlike tribe of Omran [Arabic]. Hagol is one long day's journey
from Akaba; to the south of it about four hours is a similar cluster of
date trees, called El Hamyde [Arabic], which bore from us S.E. b. E. The
mountains on that coast are steep, with many peaks.

No Arabs live on the western coast, owing to the scanty pasturage; it is
occasionally visited by fishermen and others, who come to collect the
herb from which the soda ashes are obtained, or to cut wood and burn it
into charcoal. The fishermen are very poor and visit the coast only
during the summer months; they cure their fish with the salt which they
collect on the southern part of the coast, and when they have thus
prepared a sufficient quantity of fish, they fetch a camel and transport
it to Tor or Suez. At Tor a camel's load of the fish, or about four
hundred pounds, may be had for three dollars. The fishermen prepare also
a sort of lard by cutting out the fat adhering to the fish and melting
it, they then mix it with salt, preserve it in skins, and use it all the
year round instead of butter, both for cookery and for anointing their
bodies. Its taste is not disagreeable. As the Bedouins prefer the upper
road, this road along the coast is seldom visited, except by poor
pilgrims who have been cut off from the caravan, or robbed by Bedouins,
and who being ignorant of the road across the desert to Cairo, sometimes
make the tour of the whole peninsula by the sea side, as they are thus
sure not to lose their way, and in winter-time seldom fail in finding
pools of water. Ayd told me that he had frequently met with stragglers
of this description, worn out with fatigue and hunger.


[p.505] From hence northwards the shore runs N.E. 1/2 N. Having doubled
the point of Om Haye, we found on the other side, after again passing
round a small bay, at five hours and three quarters, a bank of sand
running into the sea to a considerable distance, and several miles in
breadth; it is called Wady Mokabelat [Arabic], and is the termination of
a narrow Wady in the mountains to our left, from whence issues a torrent
which spreads in time of rain over a wide extent of ground, partly rocky
and partly sandy, where it produces good pasturage, and irrigates many
acacia trees. The view up this Wady or inlet of the mountain is very
curious: at its mouth it is nearly two miles wide, and it narrows
gradually upwards with the most perfect regularity, so that the eye can
trace it for five or six miles, when it becomes so narrow as to present
only the appearance of a perpendicular black line. At six hours and a
half we came again to a mountain forming a promontory, called Djebel
Sherafe [Arabic]. The mountains from Om Haye northward decline
considerably in height. The highest point of the chain appears to be the
summit above Noweyba, where we had descended to the shore.

Beyond Djebel Sherafe we found the road along the shore obstructed by
high cliffs, and were obliged to make a detour by entering a valley to
the west, called Wady Mezeiryk [Arabic]. We ascended through many
windings, entered several lateral valleys, and descended again to the
shore at the end of eight hours and a half, at a point not more than
half an hour distant from where we had turned out of the road. We found
the valley Mezeiryk full of excellent pasture; many sweet-scented herbs
were growing in it, and the acacia trees were all green. Upon enquiry I
learnt that to the north of Djebel Tyh copious rains had fallen during
the winter, while to the south of it there had been very little for the
last two years, and in the eastern parts none.

[p.506] In the whole way from the convent I had not met with the
smallest trace of antiquity, either inscriptions upon the rocks by the
road-side or any other labour of man, until we reached the summit of
Wady Mezeiryk, where, close to the road, is a large sand-stone rock,
which seems, for a small space, to have received an artificial surface.
Upon it I found rude drawings of camels, and of mountain and other
goats, resembling those which I had before seen, and those which I saw
afterwards in the Wady Mokatteb. No inscriptions were visible, but the
annexed figures were drawn between the animals. These were the only
drawings or inscriptions that I met with in the mountains to the E. of
the convent, although I passed many flat rocks, well suited to them. I
am inclined to think that the inscriptions have been written by pilgrims
proceeding to Mount Sinai, and that the drawings of animals which are
executed in a ruder manner and with a less steady hand, are the work of
the shepherds of the peninsula. We find only those animals represented
which are natives of these mountains, such as camels, mountain and other
goats, and gazelles, but principally the two first,[It may be worthy of
mention in this place that among the innumerable paintings and
sculptures in the temples, and tombs of Egypt, I never met with a single
instance of the representation of a camel. At Thebes, in the highest of
the tombs on the side of the Djebel Habou, called Abd el Gorne, which
has not, I believe, been noticed by former travellers, or even by the
French in their great work, I found all the domestic animals of the
Egyptians represented together in one large painting upon a wall,
forming the most elaborate and interesting work of the kind, which I saw
in Egypt. A shepherd conducts the whole herd into the presence of his
master, who inspects them, while a slave is noting them down. Yet even
here I looked in vain for the camel.] and I had occasion to remark in
the course of my tour, that the present Bedouins of Sinai are in the
habit of carving the figures of goats upon rocks and in grottos. Niebuhr
observes, that in the hieroglyphic


[p.507] inscriptions which he saw in the ancient burying ground not far
distant from Naszeb, he found figures of goats upon almost every
inscribed tomb-stone; this animal is not very frequent in the
hieroglyphic inscriptions of Egypt.

From the point where we descended again to the shore, we followed a
range of black basaltic cliffs, into which the sea has worked several
creeks, appearing like so many small lakes, with very narrow openings
towards the sea; they are full of fish and shells. At the end of nine
hours and a half we had passed these cliffs, and reached the plain
beyond, upon which we continued our route near the shore, and rested for
the night at ten hours and a quarter, under a palm-tree, in the vicinity
of a deep brackish well, which we were obliged to excavate, in order to
procure some water for our camels, they having drank none since we
quitted Wasta. From hence the promontory of Om Haye bore S.W. b. S. This
plain, which is the extremity of a valley descending from the western
mountain, is called Wady Taba [Arabic]. Ayd had promised to conduct me
to this spot, but no farther; nor would the new offers which I now made
induce hire to advance. We had already passed beyond the limits of the
Arabs Towara, which terminate on this side of Wady Mokabelat, and we
were now in the territory of the Heywat, who have a very bad reputation.
We had met with nobody on the road, but in Wady Mezeiryk, as well as in
Wady Taba, we saw footsteps, which shewed that some persons must have
passed there a short time before. None of my guides were acquainted with
the tribe of Heywat; had we therefore met any strong party of them, they
would certainly have stripped us, although not at war with the Towara,
for it is a universal practice among Bedouins to plunder all passengers
who are unknown to them, and not attended by guides of their own tribe,
provided they possess


[p.508] any thing worth seizing. Szaleh had completely deluded both
myself and his own nephew Hamd: he had confidently asserted that he knew
the Heywat well, and that the first individual of them whom we should
meet would easily be prevailed upon to join our party, and to serve as
an additional protector. About one hour before us was another
promontory, beyond which we knew that the country was well peopled by
two other tribes, the Alowein and Omran, who are the masters of the
district of Akaba, intrepid robbers, and allies of the Heywat, and who
are to this day quite independent of the government of Egypt. Through
them we must unavoidably pass to reach Akaba, and Ayd could not give me
the smallest hope of being able to cross their valleys without being
attacked. Had I been furnished with a Firmahn from Mohammed Ali Pasha, I
should have repaired at once to the great Sheikh of the Towara, and
obliged him to send for some Heywat or Omran guides, who might have
ensured my safety. But having been disappointed in this respect, I had
no alternative but to turn back. Hamd, it is true, bravely offered to
accompany me wherever I chose to go, though he knew nothing of the road
before us, or the Arabs upon it; but I saw little chance of success, and
knew, from what I had heard during my journey from Kerek to Cairo, that
the Omran not only rob but murder passengers. Ayd had seen on the shore
the footsteps of a man, which he knew to be those of a fisherman, a
friend of his who had probably passed in the course of this day. Had we
met with him he might have served as our guide, but not a soul was any
where to be seen. Under these circumstances I reluctantly determined to
retrace my steps the next day, but, instead of proceeding by the shore,
to turn off into the mountains, and return to the convent by a more
western route.

[p.509] Akaba was not far distant from the spot from whence we returned.
Before sun-set I could distinguish a black line in the plain, where my
sharp-sighted guides clearly saw the date-trees surrounding the castle,
which bore N.E. 1 E.; it could not be more than five or six hours
distant. Before us was a promontory called Ras Koreye [Arabic], and
behind this, as I was told, there is another, beyond which begins the
plain of Akaba. The castle is situated at an hour and a half or two
hours from the western chain, down which the Hadj route leads, and about
the same distance from the eastern chain, or lower continuation of Tor
Hesma, a mountain which I have mentioned in my journey through the
northern parts of Arabia Petraea. The descent of the western mountain is
very steep, and has probably given to the place its name of Akaba, which
in Arabic means a cliff or a steep declivity; it is probably the Akabet
Aila of the Arabian geographers; Makrizi says that the village Besak
stands upon its summit. In Numbers, xxxiv. 4, the "ascent of Akrabbim"
is mentioned, which appears to correspond very accurately to this ascent
of the western mountain from the plain of Akaba. Into this plain, which
surrounds the castle on every side except the sea, issues the Wady el
Araba, the broad sandy valley which leads towards the Dead sea, and
which I crossed in 1812, at a day and a half, or two days journey from
Akaba. At about two hours to the south of the castle the eastern range
of mountains approaches the sea. The plain of Akaba, which is from three
to four hours in length, from west to east, and, I believe, not much
less in breadth northward, is very fertile in pasturage. To the distance
of about one hour from the sea it is strongly impregnated with salt, but
farther north sands prevail. The castle itself stands at a few hundred
paces from the sea, and is surrounded with large groves of date-trees.
It is a square building, with strong walls, erected, as it now

[p.510] stands, by Sultan el Ghoury of Egypt, in the sixteenth century.
In its interior are many Arab huts; a market is held there, which is
frequented by Hedjaz and Syrian Arabs; and small caravans arrive
sometimes from Khalyl. The castle has tolerably good water in deep
wells. The Pasha of Egypt, keeps here a garrison of about thirty
soldiers, to guard the provisions deposited for the supply of the Hadj,
and for the use of the cavalry on their passage by this route to join
the army in the Hedjaz. Cut off from Cairo, the soldiers of the garrison
often turn rebellious; three years ago an Aga made himself independent,
and whenever a corps of troops passed he shut the gates of the castle,
and prepared to defend it. He had married a daughter of the chief of the
Omran, and thus secured the assistance of that tribe. Being at last
attacked by some troops sent against him from Cairo he fled to his
wife's tribe, and escaped into Syria.

It appears that the gulf extends very little farther east than the
castle, distant from which one hour, in a southern direction, and on the
eastern shore of the gulf, lies a smaller and half-ruined castle,
inhabited by Bedouins only, called Kaszer el Bedawy. At about three
quarters of an hour from Akaba, and the same distance from Kaszer el
Bedawy, are ruins in the sea, which are visible only at low water: they
are said to consist of walls, houses, and columns, but cannot easily be
approached, on account of the shallows. This information was not given
to me by my guides, but after my return to Cairo, by some French
Mamelouks, in the army of Mohammed Ali Pasha, who had formerly been for
several weeks in garrison at Akaba; they, however, had never seen the
ruins except from a distance. I enquired particularly whether the gulf
did not form two branches at this extremity, as it has always been laid
down in the maps, but I was assured that it had only a single ending, at
which the castle is situated.

[p.511] To the north of Akaba, in the mountain leading up to Tor Hesma,
is a Wady known by the name of Wady Ithem [Arabic]. I was told that at a
certain spot this valley is shut up by an ancient wall, the construction
of which is ascribed by the Arabs to a king named Hadeid, whose
intention in erecting it was to prevent the tribe of Beni Helal of
Nedjed from making incursions into the plain. By this valley a road
leads eastwards towards Nedjed, following, probably, a branch of the
mountain which extends towards the Akaba of the Syrian Hadj route, where
the pilgrims coming from Damascus descend by a steep and difficult pass
into the lower plains of Arabia. I believe this chain of mountains
continues in a direct and uninterrupted line from the eastern shore of
the Dead sea to the eastern shore of the Red sea, and from thence to
Yemen. Makrizi, the Egyptian historian, says, in his chapter on Aila
(Akaba); "It is from hence that the Hedjaz begins; in former times it
was the frontier place of the Greeks; at one mile from it, is a
triumphal arch of the Caesars. In the time of the Islam it was a fine
town, inhabited by the Beni Omeya. Ibn Ahmed Ibn Touloun (a Sultan of
Egypt), made the road over the Akaba or steep mountain before Aila.
There were many mosques at Aila, and many Jews lived there; it was taken
by the Franks during the Crusades; but in 566, Salaheddyn transported
ships upon camels from Cairo to this place, and recovered it from them.
Near Aila was formerly situated a large and handsome town, called
Aszyoun [Arabic]," (Eziongeber.)

My guides told me, that in the sea opposite to the above mentioned
promontory of Ras Koreye, there is a small island; they affirmed that
they saw it distinctly, but I could not, for it was already dusk when
they pointed it out, and the next morning a thick fog covered the gulf.
Upon this island, according to their statement, are ruins of infidels,
but as no vessels are kept in these parts,

[p.512] Ayd, who had been here several times, had never been able to
take any close view of them; they are described as extensive, and built
of hard stone, and are called El Deir, "the convent," a word often
applied by Arabs to any ruined building in which they suppose that the
priests of the infidels once resided.

The Bedouins in the neighbourhood of Akaba, as I have already observed,
are the Alouein, Omran, and Heywat. They are all three entitled to a
passage duty from the Hadj caravan; the Alouein exact it as owners of
the district extending from the western mountain, across the plain to
Akaba; the Heywat, as the possessors of the country from the well of
Themmed, to the summit of the same mountain; and the Omran as masters of
the desert from Akaba southward as far as the vicinity of Moeleh.
Caravans of these tribes come occasionally to Cairo in search of corn,
but they are independent of the Pasha of Egypt, of which they give
proofs, by continually plundering the loads of the Hadj caravans, and of
all those who pass the great Hadj route through their districts. Their
intercourse with Syria, especially with Khalyl, is much more frequent
than with Cairo.

We had had through the whole of this day a very intense Simoum, or hot-
wind, which continued also during the night. In the evening I bathed in
the sea, but found myself immediately afterwards as much heated as I had
been before. After retiring to sleep we were awakened by the barking of
Ayd's dog, upon which Ayd springing up said he was sure that some people
were in the neighbourhood. We therefore got our guns ready, and sat by
the fire the whole night, for whatever may be the heat of the season,
the Bedouin must have his fire at night. Szaleh gave evident signs of
fear, but happily the morning came without realizing his apprehensions.

May 9th.--Ayd still expressed his certainty that somebody had


[p.513] approached us last night, so much confidence did he place in the
barking of his dog; he therefore advised me to hasten my way back, as
some Arabs might see our footsteps in the sand, and pursue us in quest
of a booty. On departing, Ayd, who was barefooted, and whose feet had
become sore with walking, took from under the date-bush round which we
had passed the night, a pair of leathern sandals, which he knew belonged
to his Heywat friend, the fisherman, and which the latter had hidden
here till his return. In order to inform the owner that it was he who
had taken the sandals, he impressed his footstep in the sand just by,
which he knew the other would immediately recognise, and he turned the
toes towards the south, to indicate that he had proceeded with the
sandals in that direction.

We now returned across the plain to the before mentioned basalt cliffs,
passed the different small bays, and turned up into Wady Mezeiryk. We
had descended from our camels, which Szaleh was driving before him,
about fifty paces in advance; I followed, and about the same distance
behind me walked Hamd and Ayd. As we had seen nobody during the whole
journey, and were now returning into the friendly districts of the
Towara, we had ceased to entertain any fears from enemies, and were
laughing at Ayd for recommending us to cross the valleys as quickly as
possible. My gun was upon my camel, and I had just turned leisurely
round an angle of the valley, when I heard Ayd cry out with all his
might, "Get your arms! Here they are!" I immediately ran up to the
camels, to take my gun, but the cowardly Szaleh, instead of stopping to
assist his companions, made the camels gallop off at full speed up the
valley. I, however, overtook them, and seized my gun, but before I could
return to Hamd, I heard two shots fired, and Ayd's war-hoop, "Have at
him! are we not Towara?" Immediately afterwards I saw Hamd spring


[p.514] round the angle, his eyes flashing with rage, his shirt
sprinkled with blood, his gun in one hand, and in the other his knife
covered with blood; his foot was bleeding, he had lost his turban, and
his long black hair hung down over his shoulders. "I have done for him!"
he exclaimed, as he wiped his knife; "but let us fly." "Not without
Ayd," said I: "No indeed," he replied; "without him we should all be
lost." We returned round the corner, and saw Ayd exerting his utmost
agility to come up with us. At forty paces distance an Arab lay on the
ground, and three others were standing over him. We took hold of Ayd's
arm and hastened to our camels, though we knew not where to find them.
Szaleh had frightened them so greatly by striking them with his gun,
that they went off at full-gallop, and it was half an hour before we
reached them; one of them had burst its girths, and thrown off its
saddle and load. We replaced the load, mounted Ayd, and hastened to pass
the rocks of Djebel Sherafe. We then found ourselves in a more open
country, less liable to be waylaid amongst rocks, and better able to
defend ourselves. Hamd now told me that Ayd had first seen four Bedouins
running down upon us; they had evidently intended to waylay us from
behind the corner, but came a little too late. When he heard Ayd cry
out, he had just time to strike fire and to light the match of his gun,
when the boldest of the assailants approached within twenty paces of him
and fired; the ball passed through his shirt; he returned the fire but
missed his aim; while his opponent was coolly reloading his piece,
before his companions had joined him, Ayd cried out to Hamd, to attack
the robber with his knife, and advanced to his support with a short
spear which he carried; Haind drew his knife, rushed upon the adversary,
and after receiving a wound in the foot, brought him to the ground, but
left him immediately, on seeing his companions hastening to his relief.
Ayd now said that if the

[p.515] man was killed, we should certainly be pursued, but that if he
was only wounded the others would remain with him, and give up the
pursuit. We travelled with all possible haste, not knowing whether more
enemies might not be behind, or whether the encampment of the wounded
man might not be in the vicinity, from whence his friends might collect
to revenge his blood.

Ayd had certainly not been mistaken last night; these robbers had no
doubt seen our fire, and had approached us, but were frightened by the
barking of the dog. Uncertain whether we were proceeding northward or
southward, they had waited till they saw us set out, and then by a
circuitous route in the mountains had endeavoured, unseen, to get the
start of us in order to waylay us in the passes of the Wady Mezeiryk. If
they had reached the spot where we were attacked two or three minutes
sooner, and had been able to take aim at us from behind the rock, we
must all have inevitably perished. That they intended to murder us,
contrary to the usual practice of Bedouins, is easily accounted for they
knew from the situation of the place, where they discovered us, as well
as from the dress and appearance of my guides, that they were Towara
Bedouins; but though I was poorly dressed, they must have recognized me
to be a townsman, and a townsman is always supposed by Bedouins to carry
money with him. To rob us without resistance was impossible, their
number being too small; or supposing this had succeeded, and any of the
guides had escaped, they knew that they would sooner or later be obliged
to restore the property taken, and to pay the fine of blood and wounds,
because the Towara were then at peace with all their neighbours. For
these reasons they had no doubt resolved to kill the whole party, as the
only effectual mode of avoiding all disclosures as to the real
perpetrators of the murder. I do not believe that such atrocities often
occur in the eastern desert,


[p.516] among the great Aeneze tribe; at least I never heard of any; but
these Heywat Arabs are notorious for their bad faith, and never hesitate
to kill those who do not travel under the protection of their own
people, or their well known friends. Scarcely any other Bedouin robbers
would have fired till they had summoned us to give up our baggage, and
had received a shot for answer.

I had at first intended to visit, on my return, the upper mountains, to
which there is a road leading through the Wady Mokabelat; but Ayd
dissuaded me. He said that if the party from which we had just escaped
meant to pursue us, they would probably lay in wait for us in some of
the passes in that direction; as he did not doubt that it would be their
belief, that we were bound for Tor or Suez, the nearest road to which
places lies through the Wady Mokabelat. I yielded to his opinion, and we
returned along the coast by the same road we had come. Hamd's wound was
not dangerous; I dressed it as well as I could, and four days afterwards
it was nearly healed. We travelled a part of the night, and

May 10th,--early the next morning we again reached Noweyba, the place
where we had first reached the coast. We here met Ayd's deaf friend.
Szaleh had all the way, betrayed the most timorous disposition; in
excuse for running away when we were attacked, he said that he intended
to halt farther on in the Wady, in order to cover our retreat, and that
he had been obliged to run after the camels, which were frightened by
the firing; but the truth was, that his terrors deprived him of all
power of reflection, otherwise he must have known that the only course,
to be pursued in the desert, when suddenly attacked, is to fight for
life, as escape is almost impossible.

Having been foiled in my hopes of visiting Akaba, I now wished to follow
the shore of the gulf to the southward; but Szaleh would not hear of any
farther progress in that direction, and insisted upon


[p.517] my going back to the convent. I told him that his company had
been of too little use to me, to make me desirous of keeping him any
longer; he therefore returned, no doubt in great haste, by the same
route we had come, accompanied by the deaf man; I engaged Ayd to conduct
us along the coast, Hamd being very ignorant of this part of the
peninsula, where his tribe, the Oulad Sayd, never encamp.

The date trees of Noweyba belong to the tribe of Mezeine; here were
several huts built of stones and branches of the trees, in which the
owners live with their families during the date-harvest. The narrow
plain which rises here from the sea to the mountain, is covered with
sand and loose stones. Ayd told me that in summer, when the wind is
strong, a hollow sound is sometimes heard here, as if coming from the
upper country; the Arabs say that the spirit of Moses then descends from
Mount Sinai, and in flying across the sea bids a farewell to his beloved

We rode from Noweyba round a bay, the southern point of which bore from
thence S. by W. In two hours and three quarters from Noweyba we doubled
the point, and rested for the night in a valley just behind it, called
Wady Djereimele [Arabic], thickly overgrown with the shrub Gharkad, the
berries of which are gathered in great abundance. Red coral is very
common on this part of the coast. In the evening I saw a great number of
shellfish leave the water, and crawl to one hundred or two hundred paces
inland, where they passed the night, and at sun-rise returned to the

During the last two days of our return from the northward I had found no
opportunity to take notes. I had never permitted my companions to see me
write, because I knew that if their suspicions were once raised, it
would at least render them much less open in their communications to me.
It has indeed been a constant

[p.518] maxim with me never to write before Arabs on the road; at least
I have departed from it in a very few instances only, in Syria; and on
the Nile, in my first journey into Nubia; but never in the interior of
Nubia, or in the Hedjaz. Had I visited the convent of Mount Sinai in the
character of a Frank, with the Pasha's Firmahn, and had returned, as
travellers usually do, from thence to Cairo, I should not have hesitated
to take notes openly, because the Towara Arabs dread the Pasha, and dare
not insult or molest any one under his protection. But wishing to
penetrate into a part of the country occupied by other tribes, it became
of importance to conceal my pursuits, lest I should be thought a
necromancer, or in search of treasures. In such cases many little
stratagems must be resorted to by the traveller, not to lose entirely
the advantage of making memoranda on the spot. I had accustomed myself
to write when mounted on my camel, and proceeding at an easy walk;
throwing the wide Arab mantle over my head, as if to protect myself from
the sun, as the Arabs do, I could write under it unobserved, even if
another person rode close by me; my journal books being about four
inches long and three broad, were easily carried in a waistcoat pocket,
and when taken out could be concealed in the palm of the hand; sometimes
I descended from my camel, and walking a little in front of my
companions, wrote down a few words without stopping. When halting I lay
down as if to sleep, threw my mantle over me, and could thus write
unseen under it. At other times I feigned to go aside to answer a call
of nature, and then couched down, in the Arab manner, hidden under my
cloak. This evening I had recourse to the last method; but having many
observations to note, I remained so long absent from my companions that
Ayd's curiosity was roused. He came to look after me, and perceiving me
immoveable on the spot, approached on tip-toe, and came close behind

[p.519] me without my perceiving him. I do not know how long he had
remained there, but suddenly lifting up my cloak, he detected me with
the book in my hand. "What is this?" he exclaimed. "What are you doing?
I shall not make you answerable for it at present, because I am your
companion; but I shall talk further to you about it when we are at the
convent." I made no answer, till we returned to the halting-place, when
I requested him to tell me what further he had to say. "You write down
our country," he replied, in a passionate tone, "our mountains, our
pasturing places, and the rain which falls from heaven; other people
have done this before you, but I at least will never become instrumental
to the ruin of my country." I assured him that I had no bad intentions
towards the Bedouins, and told him he must be convinced that I liked
them too well for that; "on the contrary," I added, "had I not
occasionally written down some prayers ever since we left Taba, we
should most certainly have been all killed; and it is very wrong in you
to accuse me of that, which if I had omitted, would have cost us our
lives." He was startled at this reply, and seemed nearly satisfied.
"Perhaps you say the truth," he observed; "but we all know that some
years since several men, God knows who they were, came to this country,
visited the mountains, wrote down every thing, stones, plants, animals,
even serpents and spiders, and since then little rain has fallen, and
the game has greatly decreased." The same opinions prevail in these
mountains, which I have already mentioned to be current among the
Bedouins of Nubia; they believe that a sorcerer, by writing down certain
charms, can stop the rains and transfer them to his own country. The
travellers to whom Ayd alluded were M. Seetzen, who visited Mount Sinai
eight years since, and M. Agnelli, who ten years ago travelled for the
Emperor of Austria, collecting specimens

[p.520] of natural history, and who made some stay at Tor, from whence
he sent Arabs to hunt for all kinds of animals.

M. Seetzen traversed the peninsula in several directions, and followed a
part of the eastern gulf as far northward, I believe, as Noweyba. This
learned and indefatigable traveller made it a rule not to be intimidated
by the suspicions and prejudices of the Bedouins; beyond the Jordan, on
the shores of the Dead sea, in the desert of Tyh, in this peninsula, as
well as in Arabia, he openly followed his pursuits, never attempting to
hide his papers and pencils from the natives, but avowing his object to
be that of collecting precious herbs and curious stones, in the
character of a Christian physician in the Holy Land, and in that of a
Moslim physician in the Hedjaz. If the knowledge of the natural history
of Syria and Arabia was the principal object of M. Seetzen's researches,
he was perfectly right in the course which he adopted, but if he
considered these countries only as intermediate steps towards the
exploring of others, he placed his ultimate success in the utmost peril;
and though he may have succeeded in elucidating the history of the brute
creation, he had little chance of obtaining much information on the
human character, which can only be done by gaining the confidence of the
inhabitants, and by accommodating our notions, views, and manners, to
their own. When M. Seetzen visited these mountains, the Towaras were
not yet reduced to subjection by Mohammed Ali; he was obliged, on
several occasions, to pay large sums for his passage through their
country, and the Mezeine would probably have executed a plot which they
had laid to kill him, had not his guides been informed of it, and
prevented him from passing through their territory.

I had much difficulty in soothing Ayd; he remained quiet during the rest
of the journey, but after our return to the convent, the


[p.521] report spread among the Arabs that I was a writer like those who
had preceded me, and I thus completely lost their confidence.

May 11th.--We continued along the coast S.S.W. and at four hours passed a
promontory, called Djebel Abou Ma [Arabic], consisting of granite. From
hence we proceeded S.W. by S. and at seven hours came to a sandy plain,
on the edge of a large sheltered bay. We found here some Bedouin girls,
in charge of a few goats; they told us that their parents lived not far
off in the valley Omyle [Arabic]. We went there, and found two small
tents, where three or four women and as many little children were
occupied in spinning, and in collecting herbs to feed the lambs and
kids, which were frisking about them. Ayd knew the women, who belonged
to his own tribe of Mezeine. Their husbands were fishermen, and were
then at the sea-shore. They brought us some milk, and I bought a kid of
them, which we intended to dress in the evening. The women were not at
all bashful; I freely talked and laughed with them, but they remained at
several yards distance from me. Ayd shook them by the hand, and kissed
the children; but Hamd, who did not know them, kept at the same distance
as myself. Higher up in the Wady is a well of good water, called Tereibe

From hence we went S.W. by S. and at eight hours came to Ras Methna
[Arabic], a promontory whose cliffs continue for upwards of a mile close
by the water side. Granite and red porphyry here cross each other in
irregular layers, in some places horizontally, in others
perpendicularly. The granite of this peninsula presents the same
numberless varieties as that above the cataract of the Nile, and near
Assouan; and the same beautiful specimens of red, rose-coloured, and
almost purple may be collected here, as in that part of Egypt. The
transition from primitive to secondary rocks, partaking of the nature of
gruenstein or grauwacke,


[p.522] or hornstein and trap, presents also an endless variety in every
part of the peninsula, so that were I even possessed of the requisite
knowledge accurately to describe them, it would tire the patience of the
reader. Masses of black trap, much resembling basalt, compose several
insulated peaks and rocks. On the shore the granite sand carried down
from the upper mountains has been formed into cement by the action of
the water, and mixed with fragments of the other rocks already
mentioned, has become a very beautiful breccia.

At the end of eight hours and three quarters we rested for the night, to
the south of this promontory, in a valley still called Wady Methna. From
some fishermen whom we met I bought some excellent fish, of a species
resembling the turbot, and very common on this coast. These with our kid
furnished an abundant repast to ourselves as well as to the fishermen.
The love of good and plentiful fare was one of Ayd's foibles; and he
often related with pride that in his younger days he had once eaten at a
meal, with three other Bedouins, the whole of a mountain goat; although
his companions, as he observed, were moderate eaters. Bedouins, in
general, have voracious appetites, and whoever travels with them cannot
adopt any better mode of attaching them to his interests than by feeding
them abundantly, and inviting all strangers met with on the road to
partake in the repast. Pounds given as presents in money have less
effect than shillings spent in victuals; and the reputation of
hospitality which the traveller thus gains facilitates his progress on
every occasion. My practice was to leave the provision sack open, and at
the disposal of my guides, not to eat but when they did, not to take the
choice morsels to myself, to share in the cooking, and not to give any
orders, but to ask for whatever I wanted, as a favour. By pursuing this
method I continued during the remainder of the journey to be on the best
terms with my companions,


[p.523] and had not the slightest altercation either with Hamd or Ayd.

On the eastern shore of the gulf, opposite the place where we rested,
lies a valley called Mekna [Arabic], inhabited by the tribe of Omran.
Close to the shore are plantations of date and other fruittrees. The
inhabitants of Mekna cross the gulf in small boats, and bring to this
side sheep and goats for sale, of which they possess large flocks, and
which are thus more plentiful in this part of the peninsula than in any
other. The mountains behind Mekna recede from the sea, and further to
the south take a more eastern direction, so as to leave a chain of hills
between them and the shore, rising immediately from the water-side. The
appearance of this gulf, with the mountains enclosing it on both sides,
reminded me of the lake of Tiberias and of the Dead sea; and the general
resemblance was still further heightened by the hot season in which I
had visited all these places.

May 12th.--Our road lay S.S.W. along a narrow sandy plain by the sea
side. In one hour and a half we reached Dahab [Arabic], a more extensive
cluster of date trees than I had before seen on this coast; it extends
into the sea upon a tongue of land, about two miles beyond the line of
the shore; to the north of it is a bay, which affords anchorage, but it
is without protection against northerly winds. Dahab is, probably, the
Dizahab mentioned in Deut. i. 1. There are some low hummocks covered
with sand close to the shore of the low promontory, probably occasioned
by the ruins of buildings. The plantations of date trees ar[e] here
enclosed by low walls, within many of which are wells of indifferent
water; but in one of them, about twenty-five feet deep, and fifty yards
from the sea, we found the best water I had met with on any part of this
coast in the immediate vicinity of the sea. About two miles to the south
of the date groves

[p.524] are a number of shallow ponds into which the sea flows at
hightide; here the salt is made which supplies all the peninsula, as
well as the fishermen for curing their fish; the openings of the ponds
being closed with sand, the water is left to evaporate, when a thick
crust of salt is left, which is collected by the Bedouins. Dahab is a
favourite resort of the fishermen, who here catch the fish called Boury
[Arabic] in great quantities.

The date trees of Dahab, which belong to the tribe of Mezeine and
Aleygat, presented a very different appearance to those of Egypt and the
Hedjaz, where the cultivators always take off the lower branches which
dry up annually; here they are suffered to remain, and hang down to the
ground, forming an almost impenetrable barrier round the tree, the top
of which only is crowned with green leaves. Very few trees had any fruit
upon them; indeed date trees, in general, yield a very uncertain
produce, and even in years, when every other kind of fruit is abundant,
they are sometimes quite barren. We met here several families of Arabs,
who had come to look after their trees, and to collect salt. In the
midst of the small peninsula of Dahab are about a dozen heaps of stones
irregularly piled together, but shewing traces of having once been
united; none of them is higher than five feet. The Arabs call them
Kobour el Noszara, or the tombs of the Christians, a name given by them
to all the nations which peopled their country before the introduction
of the Islam.

We remained several hours under the refreshing shade of the palm trees,
and there continued our road. In crossing the tongue of land I observed
the remains of what I conceived to be a road or causeway, which began at
the mountain and ran out towards the point of the peninsula; the stones
which had formed it were now separated from each other, but lay in a
straight line, so as to afford sufficient proof of their having been
placed here by the


[p.525] labour of man. To the south of Dahab the camel road along the
shore is shut up by cliffs which form a promontory called El Shedjeir
[Arabic]; we were therefore obliged to take a circuitous route through
the mountains, and directed our road by that way straight towards Sherm,
the most southern harbour on this coast. We ascended a broad sandy
valley in the direction S.W.; this is the same Wady Sal in which we had
already travelled in our way from the convent, and which empties itself
into the sea. In the rocky sides of this valley I observed several small
grottos, apparently receptacles for the dead, which were just large
enough to receive one corpse; I at first supposed them to have been
natural erosions of the sand-stone rock; but as there were at least a
dozen of them, and as I had not seen any thing similar in other sand-
rocks, I concluded that they had been originally formed by man, and that
time had worn them away to the appearance of natural cavities.

We left the valley and continued to ascend slightly through windings of
the Wady Beney [Arabic] and Wady Ghayb [Arabic], two broad barren sandy
valleys, till, at the end of four hours, we reached the well of Moayen
el Kelab [Arabic], at the extremity of Wady Ghayb, where it is shut up
by a cliff. Here is a small pond of water under the shade of an
impending rock, and a large wild fig-tree. On the top of a neighbouring
part of the granite cliff, is a similar pond with reeds growing in it.
The water, which is never known to dry up, is excellent, and acquires
still greater value from being in the vicinity of a spacious cavern,
which affords shade to the traveller. This well is much visited by the
Mezeine tribe; on several trees in the valley leading to it, we found
suspended different articles of Bedouin tent furniture, and also entire
tent coverings. My guides told me that the owners left them here during
their absence, in order not to have the


[p.526] trouble of carrying them about; and such is the confidence which
these people have in one another, that no instance is known of any of
the articles so left having ever been stolen: the same practice prevails
in other parts of the peninsula. The cavern is formed by nature in a
beautiful granite rock; its interior is covered on all sides with
figures of mountain goats drawn with charcoal in the rudest manner; they
are done by the shepherd boys and girls of the Towaras.

The heat being intense we reposed in the cavern till the evening, when,
after retracing our road for a short distance, we turned into the Wady
Kenney [Arabic], which we ascended; at its extremity we began to descend
in a Wady called Molahdje [Arabic], a narrow, steep, and rocky valley of
difficult passage. Ayd's dog started a mountain goat, but was unable to
come up with it. We slept in this Wady, at one hour and a half from
Moayen el Kelab.

May 13th.--Farther down the Wady widens and is enclosed by high granite
cliffs. Its direction is S. by W. Four hours continued descent brought
us into Wady Orta [Arabic]. The rocks here are granite, red porphyry,
and gruenstein, similar to what I had observed towards Akaba, at nearly
the same elevation above the sea. At the end of six hours we left Wady
Orta, which descends towards the sea, and turning to the right, entered
a large plain called Mofassel el Korfa [Arabic], in which we rode S.S.W.
From the footsteps in the sand Ayd knew the individuals of the Mezeine,
who had passed this way in the morning. The view here opened upon a high
chain of mountains which extends from Sherm in the direction of the
convent, and which I had passed on my return from Arabia, in going from
Sherm to Tor. It is called Djebel Tarfa [Arabic], and is inhabited
principally by the Mezeine. At eight hours the plain widens; many beds
of torrents coming from the Tarfa cross it in their way to the sea. This


[p.527] part is called El Ak-ha [Arabic], and excepting in the beds of
the torrents, where some verdure is produced, it is an entirely barren
tract. At nine hours we approached the Tarfa, between which and our road
were low hills called Hodeybat el Noszara [Arabic], i. e. the hump backs
of the Christians. The waters which collect here in the winter flow into
the sea at Wady Nabk. At ten hours the plain opens still wider, and
declines gently eastwards to the sea. To the left, where the mountains
terminate, a sandy plain extends to the water side. At eleven hours is
an insulated chain of low hills, forming here, with the lowest range of
the Tarfa, a valley, in which our road lay, and in which we halted,
after a fatigueing day's journey of twelve hours. As there were only two
camels for three of us, we rode by turns; and Ayd regretted his younger
days, when, as he assured us, he had once walked from the convent to
Cairo in four days. The hills near which we halted are called Roweysat
Nimr [Arabic], or the little heads of the tiger.

May 14th.--We descended among low hills, and after two hours reached the
harbour of Sherm [Arabic]. This is the only harbour on the western coast
of the gulf of Akaba, which affords safe anchorage for large ships,
though, by lying close in shore, small vessels might, I believe, find
shelter in several of the bays of this gulf. At Sherm there are two deep
bays little distant from each other, but separated by high land, in both
of which, ships may lie in perfect safety. On the shore of the southern
bay stands the tomb of a Sheikh, held in veneration by the Bedouins and
mariners: a small house has been built over it, the walls of which are
thickly hung with various offerings by the Bedouins; and a few lamps
suspended from the roof are sometimes lighted by sailors. Sherif Edrisi,
in his geography, mentions these two bays of Sherm, and calls the one
Sherm el Beit [Arabic], or of the house, and the other Sherm el Bir
[Arabic], or of the well, thus accurately describing both;

[p.528] for near the shore of the northern bay are several copious wells
of brackish water, deep, and lined with stones, and apparently an
ancient work of considerable labour. The distance from Sherm to the Cape
of Ras Abou Mohammed is four or five hours; on the way a mountain is
passed, which comes down close to the sea, called Es-szafra [Arabic],
the point of which bears from Sherm S.W. by S.

Bedouins are always found at Sherm, waiting with their camels for ships
coming from the Hedjaz, whose passengers often come on shore here, in
order to proceed by land to Tor and Suez. The Arab tribes of Mezeine and
Aleygat have the exclusive right of this transport. Shortly after we had
alighted at the well, more than twenty Mezeine came down from the
mountain with their camels; they claimed the right of conducting me from
hence, and of supplying me with a third camel; and as both my camels
belonged to Arabs of the tribe of Oulad Sayd, they insisted upon Hamd
taking my baggage from his camel, and placing it upon one of theirs,
that they might have the profits of hire. After breakfasting with them,
a loud quarrel began, which lasted at least two hours. I told them that
the moment any one laid his hands upon my baggage to remove it, I should
consider it as carried off by force, and no longer my property, and that
I should state to the governor of Suez that I had been robbed here.
Although they could not all expect to share in the profits arising from
my transport, every one of them was as vociferous as if it had been his
exclusive affair, and it soon became evident that a trifle in money for
each of them was all that was wanted to quiet them. They did not,
however, succeed; I talked very boldly; told them that they were
robbers, and that they should be punished for their conduct towards me.
At last their principal man, seeing that nothing was to be got, told us
that we might load and depart. He accompanied us to a short

[p.529] distance, and received a handful of coffee-beans, as a reward
for his having been less clamorous than the others.

These people believed that my visit to Sherm was for the mere purpose of
visiting the tomb of the saint. I had assigned this motive to Ayd, who
was himself a Mezeine, telling him that I had made a vow to thank the
saint for his protection in our encounter with the robbers; Ayd would
otherwise have been much astonished at my proceeding to this distance
without any plausible object. The nearest road from Sherm to the convent
is at first the same way by which we came, and it branches off northward
from Wady Orta; but as I was desirous of seeing as much as possible of
the coast, I suggested to my guides, that if we proceeded by that route
the Mezeine of Sherm might possibly ride after us, and excite another
quarrel in the mountain, where we should find it more difficult to
extricate ourselves. They consented therefore to take the circuitous
route along the shore. Such stratagems are often necessary, in
travelling with Bedouins, to make them yield to the traveller's wishes;
for though they care little for fatigue in their own business, they are
extremely averse to go out of their way, to gratify what they consider
an absurd whim of their companion.

From Sherm we rode an hour and a quarter among low hills near the shore.
Here I saw for the first and only time, in this peninsula, volcanic
rocks. For a distance of about two miles the hills presented
perpendicular cliffs, formed in half circles, and some of them nearly in
circles, none of them being more than sixty to eighty feet in height; in
other places there was an appearance of volcanic craters. The rock is
black, with sometimes a slight red appearance, full of cavities, and of
a rough surface; on the road lay a few stones which had separated
themselves from above. The cliffs were covered by deep layers of sand,
and the valleys at their feet


[p.530] were also overspread with it; it is possible that other rocks of
the same kind may be found towards Ras Abou Mohammed, and hence may have
arisen the term of black [Arabic], applied to these mountains by the
Greeks. It should be observed, however, that low sand hills intervene
between the volcanic rocks and the sea, and that above them, towards the
higher mountains, no traces of lava are found, which seems to shew that
the volcanic matter is confined to this spot.

We issued from the low hills upon a wide plain, which extends as far as
Nabk, and is intersected in several places by beds of torrents. Our
direction was N.E. by N. The plain terminates three or four miles to the
east, in rocks which line the shore. At the end of three hours and a
half we halted under a rock, in the bed of one of the torrents. The
whole plain appears to be alluvial; many petrified shells are found
imbedded in the chalky and calcareous soil. In the afternoon we again
passed several low water-courses in the plain, and, at the end of five
hours Wady Szygha [Arabic]. At six hours and a half from Sherm we rested
in the plain, in a spot where some bushes grew, amongst which we found a
Bedouin woman and her daughter, living under a covering made of reeds
and brush-wood. Her husband and son were absent fishing, but Ayd being
well known to them, they gave us a hearty welcome, and milked a goat for
me. After sunset they joined our party, and sitting down behind the bush
where I had taken up my quarters, eat a dish of rice which I presented
to them. The daughter was a very handsome girl of eighteen or nineteen,
as graceful in her deportment and modest in her behaviour, as the best
educated European female could be; indeed I have often had occasion to
remark among the Bedouins, comparing them with the women of of the most
polished parts of Europe, that grace and modesty are not less than
beauty the gifts of nature. Among these Arabs the


[p.531] men consider it beneath them to take the flocks to pasture, and
leave it to the women.

In front of our halting place lay an island called Djezyret Tyran
[Arabic]: its length from N. to S. is from six to eight miles, and it
lies about four miles from the shore. Half its length is a narrow
promontory of sand, and its main body to the south consists of a barren
mountain. It is not inhabited, but the Bedouins of Heteym sometimes come
here from the eastern coast, to fish for pearls, and remain several
weeks, bringing their provision of water from the spring of El Khereyde
[Arabic], on that coast, there being no sweet water in the island.
Edrisi mentions a place on the western coast, where pearls are procured,
a circumstance implied by the name of Maszdaf [Arabic], which he gives
to it. The name is now unknown here, but I think it probable that Edrisi
spoke of this part of the coast. The quantity of pearls obtained is very
small, but the Heteym pick up a good deal of mother-of-pearl, which they
sell to great advantage at Moeleh, to the ships which anchor there.

May 15th.--We continued over the plain in a direction N. by E. and in two
hours reached Wady Nabk [Arabic], which, next to Dahab and Noweyba, is
the principal station on this coast. Large plantations of date trees
grow on the sea-shore, among which, as usual, is a well of brackish
water. The plain which reaches from near Sherm to Nabk is the only one
of any extent along the whole coast; at Nabk it contracts, the western
chain approaches to within two miles of the shore, and farther northward
this chain comes close to the sea. The promontory of Djebel Abou Ma bore
from Wady Nabk N.N.E 1/2 E. From hence to Dahab, as the Arabs told me,
is about six hours walk along the shore. The highest point of the
mountain upon the island of Tyran bore S.E. by S.

[p.532] The opposite part of the eastern coast is low, and the mountains
are at a distance inland. Near Nabk are salt-pits, similar to those at
Dahab. Except during the date harvest, Nabk is inhabited only by
fishermen; they are the poorest individuals of their tribe, who have no
flocks or camels, and are obliged to resort to this occupation to
support themselves and families. We bought here for thirty-two paras, or
about four-pence halfpenny, thirty-two salted fish, each about two feet
in length, and a measure of the dried shell-fish, Zorombat, which in
this state the Arabs call Bussra. For the smaller kinds of fish the
fishermen use hand-nets, which they throw into the sea from the shore;
the larger species they kill with lances, one of which Ayd carried
constantly with him as a weapon; there is not a single boat nor even a
raft to be found on the whole of this coast, but the Bedouins of the
eastern coast have a few boats, which may sometimes be seen in the gulf.
We saw here a great number of porpoises playing in the water close to
the shore. I wished to shoot at one of them, but was prevented by my
companions, who said that it was unlawful to kill them, as they are the
friends of man, and never hurt any body. I saw parts of the skin of a
large fish, killed on the coast, which was an inch in thickness, and is
employed by these Arabs instead of leather for sandals.

We now turned from Nabk upwards to the convent, and in half an hour
entered the chain of mountains along a broad valley called Wady Nabk, in
which we ascended slightly, and rested at two hours and a quarter from
Nabk under a large acacia tree. In the vicinity were three tents of
Aleygat Arabs, the women of which approached the place where we had
alighted, and told us that two men and a child were there ill of the
plague, which they had caught from a relative of theirs, who had lately
come from Egypt with the disease upon him, and who had died. At that
time they were


[p.533] in a large encampment, but as soon as the infection shewed
itself, their companions compelled them to quit the camp, and they had
come to this place to await the termination of the disorder. My guides
were as much afraid of the infection as I was, and made the women remain
at a proper distance; they asked me for some rice, and sugar, which
latter article they believe to be a sovereign remedy against diseases. I
was glad to be able to gratify them, and I advised them to give the
patients whey which is almost the only cooling draught the Arabs know;
they conceive that almost all illnesses proceed from cold, and therefore
usually attempt to cure them by heat, keeping the patient thickly
covered with clothes, and feeding him upon the most nourishing food they
can afford.

Not far from our halting place, on the ascent of the mountain, is a
reservoir of rain water, where we filled our skins. The acacia trees of
the valley were thickly covered with guin arabic. The Towara Arabs often
bring to Cairo loads of it, which they collect in these mountains; but
it is much less esteemed than that from Soudan. I found it of a somewhat
sweet and rather agreeable taste. The Bedouins pretend, that upon
journeys it is a preventive of thirst, and that the person who chews it
may pass a whole day without feeling any inconvenience from the want of
water. We set out in the afternoon, and at the end of three hours and a
half from Wady Nabk, passed the Mofassel el Korfa, which I have already
mentioned. At four hours and a quarter we crossed Wady el Orta, the
direction of our road N.W. by N., and at the end of five hours and a
quarter we halted in Wady Rahab [Arabic]. All these valleys resemble one
another; the only difference of appearance which they afford, is that in
some places the ground is parched up, while in others, where a torrent
passes during the winter, the shrubs still retain some green leaves.


[p.534] May 16th.--During the night we had a heavy shower of rain with
thunder and lightning, which completely drenched both ourselves and our
baggage. A beautiful morning succeeded, and the atmosphere, which during
the last three days had been extremely hot, especially on the low coast,
was now so much refreshed, that we seemed to have removed from a
tropical to an alpine climate. We passed through several valleys
emptying themselves into Wady Orta; the principal of these is called
Wady Ertama [Arabic]. Route N.N.W. Although the rain had been heavy, the
sands had so completely absorbed it, that we could scarcely find any
traces of it. We started several Gazelles, the only game I have seen in
the peninsula, except mountain-goats. Hares and wolves are found, but
are not common, and the Bedouins sometimes kill leopards, of one of
which I obtained a large skin at the convent. The Bedouins talk much of
a beast of prey called Wober [Arabic], which inhabits the most retired
parts only of the peninsula; they describe it as being of the size of a
large dog, with a pointed head like a hog; I heard also of another
voracious animal, called Shyb [Arabic], stated to be a breed between the
leopard and the wolf. Of its existence little doubt can be entertained,
though its pretended origin is probably fabulous, for the Arabs, and
especially the Bedouins, are in the common practice of assigning to
every animal that is seldom met with, parents of two different species
of known animals. On the coast, and in the lower valleys, a kind of
large lizard is seen, called Dhob [Arabic], which has a scaly skin of a
yellow colour; the largest are about eighteen inches in length, of which
the tail measures about one-half. The Dhob is very common in the Arabian
deserts, where the Arabs form tobacco purses of its skin. It lives in
holes in the sand, which have generally two openings; it runs fast, but
a dog easily catches it. Of birds I saw red-legged partridges in great
numbers, pigeons, the Katta, but not in such large flocks as I


[p.535] have seen them in Syria, and the eagle Rakham. The Bedouins also
mentioned an eagle whose outspread wings measure six feet across, and
which carries off lambs.

After four hours and a half we reached Wady Kyd [Arabic], and rested at
its entrance under two immense blocks of granite, which had fallen down
from the mountain; they form two spacious caverns, and serve as a place
of shelter for the shepherdesses; we saw in them several articles of
tent furniture and some cooking utensils. On the sides figures of goats
are drawn with charcoal; but I saw no inscriptions cut in the rock. The
blocks are split in several places as if by lightning. We followed the
Wady Kyd, continuing on a gentle ascent from the time of our setting out
in the morning. The windings of the valley led us, at the end of five
hours and a half, to a small rivulet, two feet across, and six inches in
depth, which is lost immediately below, in the sands of the Wady. It
drips down a granite rock, which blocks up the valley, there only twenty
paces in breadth, and forms at the foot of the rock a small pond,
overshadowed by trees, with fine verdure on its banks. The rocks which
overhang it on both sides almost meet, and give to the whole the
appearance of a grotto, most delighful to the traveller after passing
through these dreary valleys. It is in fact the most romantic spot I
have seen in these mountains, and worthy of being frequented by other
people than Arabs, upon whom the beauties of nature make a very faint
impression. The camels passed over the rocks with great difficulty;
beyond it we continued in the same narrow valley, along the rivulet,
amidst groves of date, Nebek, and some tamarisk trees, until, at six
hours, we reached the source of the rivulet, where we rested a little.
This is one of the most noted date valleys of the Sinai Arabs; the
contrast of its deep verdure with the glaring rocks by which it is
closely hemmed in, is very striking, and shews that wherever water
passes in these districts, however


[p.536] barren the ground, vegetation is invariably found. Within the
enclosures of the date-groves I saw a few patches of onions, and of
hemp; the latter is used for smoking; some of the small leaves which
surround the hemp-seed being laid upon the tobacco in the pipe, produces
a more intoxicating smoke. The same custom prevails in Egypt, where the
hemp leaves as well as the plant itself are called Hashysh. In the
branches of one of the date-trees several baskets and a gun were
deposited, and some camels were feeding upon the grass near the rivulet,
but not a soul was to be seen in the valley; these Bedouins being under
no fear of robbers, leave their goods and allow their beasts to pasture
without any one to watch them; when they want the camels they send to
the springs in search of them, and if not found there, they trace their
footsteps through the valleys, for every Bedouin knows the print of the
foot of his own camel.

Notwithstanding its verdure, the Wady Kyd is an uncomfortable halting-
place, on account of the great number of gnats and ticks with which it
is infested. Beyond the source of the rivulet, which oozes out of the
ground, the vegetation ceases, and the valley widens. We rode on, and at
seven hours entered Wady Kheysy, a wild pass, in which the road is
covered with rocks, and the sides of the mountains are shattered by
torrents. We ascended through many windings, in the general direction of
W.N.W. until we found the valley shut up by a high mountain, called
Djebel Mordam [Arabic]. The rocks are granite and porphyry; in many
parts of the valley grow wild fig-trees, called by the Arabs Hamad; here
also grows the Aszef [Arabic], a tree which I had already seen in
several of the Wadys; it springs from the fissures in the rocks, and its
crooked stem creeps up the mountain's side like a parasitic plant; it
produces, according to the Arabs, a fruit of the size of a walnut, of a
blackish colour, and very sweet to the taste. The bark of the tree


[p.537] is white, and the branches are thickly covered with small
thorns; the leaves are heart-shaped, and of the same shade of green as
those of the oak. This Wady, as well as the Kyd, is inhabited by
Mezeine; but they all return in summer to the highest mountains of the
peninsula, where the pasture is more abundant than in these lower

We ascended the Mordam with difficulty, and on the other side found a
narrow valley, which brought us, at the end of eleven hours, to a spring
called Tabakat [Arabic], situated under a rock, which shuts up the
valley. The spring is thickly overgrown with reeds and sometimes dries
up in summer. Above the rock extends a plain or rather a country
somewhat more open, intersected with hills, and bounded by high
mountains. The district is called Fera el Adlial [Arabic], and is a
favourite pasturing place of the Arabs, their sheep being peculiarly
fond of the little berries of the shrub Rethem [Arabic], with which the
whole plain is overspread. In order to take the nearest road to the
convent, we ascended in a N. direction, the high mountain of Mohala
[Arabic], the top of which we reached at the end of eleven hours and
three quarters; from hence the convent was pointed out to me N. b. E. On
the other side we descended N.E. into a narrow valley on the declivity
of the mountain, where we alighted, after a long day's march of twelve
hours and a quarter. This mountain is entirely of granite; but at
Tabakat beautiful porphyry is seen with large slabs of feldspath,
traversed by layers of white and rose-coloured quartz.

May 17th.--The night was so cold that we all lay down round the fire, and
kept it lighted the whole night. Early in the morning we continued to
descend the mountain, by a road called Nakb[A steep declivity is called
by the Bedouins Nakb, the plural of which (Ankaba [Arabic]) is often
used by them synonymously with Djebal [Arabic], mountains.]


[p.538] Abou el Far [Arabic], and in half an hour reached the Wady Ahmar
[Arabic], which, below, joins the Wady Kyd. Ascending again in this
Wady, we came in an hour to the springs of Abou Tereyfa [Arabic],
oozing, like that of Tabakat, from below a rock which shuts up the
narrow valley. On the declivity of the mountains, farther on, I saw many
ruins of walls, and was informed by my guides, that fifty years ago this
was one of the most fertile valleys of their country, full of date and
other fruit trees; but that a violent flood tore up all the trees, and
laid it waste in a few days, and that since that period it has been
deserted. At the end of two hours and a half, we descended into a broad
valley, or rather plain, called Haszfet el Ras [Arabic], and perceived
at its extremity an encampment, which we reached at three hours and a
quarter, and alighted under the tent of the chief; he happened to be the
same Bedouin who had conducted me last year from Tor to Cairo, and who
had also brought the from Cairo to the convent. I knew that he was angry
with me for having discharged him on my arrival at the latter place, and
for having hired Hamd to conduct me to Akaba; he was already acquainted
with my return, and that I had gone to Sherm, but little expected to see
me here. He, however, gave me a good reception, killed a lamb for my
dinner, and would not let me depart in the afternoon, another Arab
having prepared a goat for our supper. We remained therefore the whole
day with him, and, in the evening, joined in the dance and songs of the
Mesamer, which were protracted till long after-midnight, and brought
several other young men from the neighbouring encampments. The stranger
not accustomed to Bedouin life can seldom hope to enjoy quiet sleep in
these encampments. After the songs and dances are ended he must lie down
in the tent of his host with a number of men, who think to honour him by
keeping him company; but who, if the tent is not very large,


[p.539] lie so close as to impart to him a share of the vermin with
which they are sure to be infested. To sleep in the open air before the
tent is difficult, on account of the fierce dogs of the encampment, who
have as great an aversion for townsmen as their masters have; the
Bedouins too dislike this practice, because a sight of the female
apartment may thus be obtained. I found the women here much more
reserved than among other Bedouins; I could not induce any of them to
converse with me, and soon perceived that both themselves and their
husbands disliked their being noticed; a fastidiousness of manners for
which they are no doubt indebted to the frequent visits of their
husbands to the capital of Egypt.

We had another shower in the night; flying showers are frequent during
the summer, but they are never sufficiently copious in that season to
produce torrents.

May 18th left the tent before dawn, and proceeded along a Wady and then
N.W. up an ascent, whose summit we reached in two hours. From thence a
fine view opened upon a broad Wady called Sebaye [Arabic], and towards
the mountain of Tyh. We crossed Wady Sebaye, and then ascended the
mountain which commands the convent on the south side, and descending
again, reached the convent at the end of three hours and a half. Our
march during the whole of this journey had been slow, except on the day
of our flight from the robbers; for our camels were weak and tired, and
one of us usually walked. There is a more northern road from Sherm to
the convent, which branches off from that by which we came, at Wady
Orta; it passes by the two watering places of Naszeb [Arabic], and Ara-
yne [Arabic]; the former, which is in a fruitful valley, where date-
trees grow, must not be confounded with the western Naszeb, already

Hamd, afraid of being liable to pay the fine of blood, if it should
become known that the robber had fallen by his hand, had


[p.540] made us all give him our solemn promise not to mention any thing
of the affair. When I discharged him and Ayd at the convent, I made them
both some presents, which they had well deserved, particularly Hamd;
this he was so imprudent as to mention to his uncle Szaleh, who was so
vexed at not receiving a present, that he immediately divulged all the
circumstances of our rencounter. Hamd in consequence was under the
greatest apprehensions from the relations of the robber, and having
accompanied me on my return to Cairo, he remained with me some time
there, in anxious expectation of hearing whether the robber's blood was
likely to be revenged. Not hearing any thing, he then returned to his
mountain, four months after which a party of Omran, to whose tribe the
men had belonged, came to the tent of the Sheikh of the Towara to demand
the fine of blood. The man had died a few days after receiving the
wound, and although he was a robber and the first aggressor, the Bedouin
laws entitled his relations to the fine, if they waved the right of
retaliation; Hamd was therefore glad to come to a compromise, and paid
them two camels, (which the two principal Sheikhs of the Towara gave him
for the purpose), and twenty dollars, which I thought myself bound to
reimburse to him, when he afterwards called on me at Cairo. This was the
third man Hamd had killed in skirmish; but he had paid no fine for the
others, as it was never known who they were, nor to what tribe they

Had Hamd, whom every one knew to be the person who had stabbed the
robber, refused to pay the fine, the Omran would sooner or later have
retaliated upon himself or his relations, or perhaps upon some other
individual of his tribe, according to the custom of these Bedouins, who
have established among themselves the law of "striking sideways."[See my
remarks on the customs of blood-revenge, in the description of Bedouin

[p.541] The convent of Mount Sinai is situated in a valley so narrow,
that one part of the building stands on the side of the western
mountain, while a space of twenty paces only is left between its walls
and the eastern mountain. The valley is open to the north, from whence
approaches the road from Cairo; to the south, close behind the convent,
it is shut up by a third mountain, less steep than the others, over
which passes the road to Sherm. The convent is an irregular quadrangle
of about one hundred and thirty paces, enclosed by high and solid walls
built with blocks of granite, and fortified by several small towers.
While the French were in Egypt, a part of the east wall which had fallen
down was completely rebuilt by order of General Kleber, who sent workmen
here for that purpose. The upper part of the walls in the interior is
built of a mixture of granite-sand and gravel, cemented together by mud,
which has acquired great hardness.

The convent contains eight or ten small court-yards, some of which are
neatly laid out in beds of flowers and vegetables; a few date-trees and
cypresses also grow there, and great numbers of vines. The distribution
of the interior is very irregular, and could not be otherwise,
considering the slope upon which the building stands; but the whole is
very clean and neat. There are a great number of small rooms, in the
lower and upper stories, most of which are at present unoccupied. The
principal building in the interior is the great church, which, as well
as the convent, was built by the Emperor Justinian, but it has
subsequently undergone frequent repairs. The form of the church is an
oblong square, the roof is supported by a double row of fine granite
pillars, which have been covered with a coat of white plaster, perhaps
because the natural colour of the stone was not agreeeble to the monks,
who saw granite on every side of them. The capitals of the columns are
of different designs; several of them bear a resemblance to palm
branches, while others

[p.542] are a close but coarse imitation of the latest period of
Egyptian sculpture, such as is seen at Philae, and in several temples in
Nubia. The dome over the altar still remains as it was constructed by
Justinian, whose portrait, together with that of his wife Theodora, may
yet be distinguished on the dome, together with a large picture of the
transfiguration, in honour of which event the convent was erected. An
abundance of silver lamps, paintings, and portraits of saints adorn the
walls round the altar; among the latter is a saint Christopher, with a
dog's head. The floor of the church is finely paved with slabs of

The church contains the coffin in which the bones of saint Catherine
were collected from the neighbouring mountain of St. Catherine, where
her corpse was transported after her death by the angels in the service
of the monks. The silver lid of a sarcophagus likewise attracts
attention; upon it is represented at full length the figure of the
empress Anne of Russia, who entertained the idea of being interred in
the sarcophagus, which she sent here; but the monks were disappointed of
this honour. In a small chapel adjoining the church is shewn the place
where the Lord is supposed to have appeared to Moses in the burning
bush; it is called Alyka [Arabic], and is considered as the most holy
spot in Mount Sinai. Besides the great church, there are twenty-seven
smaller churches or chapels dispersed over the convent, in many of which
daily masses are read, and in all of them at least one every Sunday.

The convent formerly resembled in its establishment that of the Holy
Sepulchre at Jerusalem, which contains churches of various sects of
Christians. Every principal sect, except the Calvinists and Protestants,
had its churches in the convent of Sinai. I was shewn the chapels
belonging to the Syrians, Armenians, Copts, and Latins, but they have
long been abandoned by their owners; the church of the Latins fell into
ruins at the close of

[p.543] the seventeenth century, and has not been rebuilt. But what is
more remarkable than the existence of so many churches, is that close by
the great church stands a Mahometan mosque, spacious enough to contain
two hundred people at prayers. The monks told me that it was built in
the sixteenth century, to prevent the destruction of the convent. Their
tradition is as follows: when Selim, the Othman Emperor, conquered
Egypt, he took a great fancy to a young Greek priest, who falling ill,
at the time that Selim was returning to Constantinople, was sent by him
to this convent to recover his health; the young man died, upon which
the Emperor, enraged at what he considered to be the work of the
priests, gave orders to the governor of Egypt to destroy all the
Christian establishments in the peninsula; of which there were several
at that period. The priests of the great convent of Mount Sinai being
informed of the preparations making in Egypt to carry these orders into
execution, began immediately to build a mosque within their walls,
hoping that for its sake their house would be spared; it is said that
their project was successful and that ever since the mosque has been
kept in repair.

This tradition, however, is contradicted by some old Arabic records kept
by the prior, in which I read a circumstantial account how, in the year
of the Hedjra 783, some straggling Turkish Hadjis, who had been cut off
from the caravan, were brought by the Bedouins to the convent; and being
found to be well educated, and originally from upper Egypt, were
retained here, and a salary settled on them and their descendants, on
condition of their becoming the servants of the mosque. The conquest of
Egypt by Selim did not take place till A.H. 895. The mosque in the
convent of Sinai appears therefore to have existed long before the time

[p.544] of Selim. The descendants of these Hadjis, now poor Bedouins,
are called Retheny [Arabic], they still continue to be the servants of
the mosque, which they clean on Thursday evenings, and light the lamps;
one of them is called the Imam. The mosque is sometimes visited by
Moslim pilgrims, but it is only upon the occasion of the presence of
some Mussulman of consequence that the call to prayers is made from the

In the convent are two deep and copious wells of spring water; one of
them is called the well of Moses, because it is said that he first drank
of its water. Another was the work, as the monks say, of an English
Lord, it bears the date 1760. There is also a reservoir for the
reception of rain water.

None of the churches or chapels have steeples. There is a bell, which, I
believe, is rung only on Sundays. The usual mode of calling the monks to
morning prayers is by striking with a stick upon a long piece of
granite, suspended from ropes, which produces a sound heard all over the
convent; close by it hangs a piece of dry wood, which emits a different
sound, and summons to vespers. A small tower is shewn which was built
forty or fifty years ago for the residence of a Greek patriarch of
Constantinople, who was exiled to this place by the orders of the
Sultan, and who remained here till he died.

According to the credited tradition, the origin of the convent of Mount
Sinai dates from the fourth century. Helena, the mother of Constantine,
is said to have erected here a small church, in commemoration of the
place where the Lord appeared to Moses in the burning bush, and in the
garden of the convent a small tower is still shewn, the foundations of
which are said to have been laid by her. The church of Helena drawing
many visitors and monks to these mountains, several small convents were
erected in different

[p.545] parts of the peninsula, in the course of the next century, but
the ill treatment which the monks and hermits suffered from the Bedouins
induced them at last to present a petition to the Emperor Justinian,
entreating him to build a fortified convent capable of affording them
protection against their oppressors. He granted the request, and sent
workmen from Constantinople and Egypt, with orders to erect a large
convent upon the top of the mountain of Moses; those however to whom the
work was entrusted, observing the entire want of water in that spot,
built it on the present site. They attempted in vain to cut away the
mountain on each side of the building, with a view to prevent the Arabs
from taking post there and throwing stones at the monks within. The
building being completed, Justinian sent from Constantinople some
slaves, natives of the shores of the Black sea, to officiate as servants
in the convent, who established themselves with their families in the
neighbouring valleys. The first prior was Doulas, whose name is still
recorded upon a stone built into the wall of one of the buildings in the
interior of the convent. The above history is taken from a document in
Arabic, preserved by the monks. An Arabic inscription over the gate, in
modern characters, says that Justinian built the convent in the
thirtieth year of his reign, as a memorial of himself and his wife
Theodora. It is curious to find a passage of the Koran introduced into
this inscription; it was probably done by a Moslem sculptor, without the
knowledge of the monks. A few years after the completion of the convent,
one of the monks is said to have been informed in his sleep, that the
corpse of St. Catherine, who suffered martyrdom at Alexandria, had been
transported by angels to the summit of the highest peak of the
surrounding mountains. The monks ascended the mountain in

[p.546] procession, found the bones, and deposited them in their church,
which thus acquired an additional claim to the veneration of the Greeks.
Monastic establishments seem soon after to have considerably increased
throughout the peninsula. Small convents, chapels, and hermitages, the
remains of many of which are still visible, were built in various parts
of it. The prior told me that Justinian gave the whole peninsula in
property to the convent, and that at the time of the Mohammedan
conquest, six or seven thousand monks and hermits were dispersed over
the mountains, the establishments of the peninsula of Sinai thus
resembling those which still exist on the peninsula of Mount Athos. It
is a favourite belief of the monks of Mount Sinai, that Mohammed
himself, in one of his journeys, alighted under the walls of the
convent, and that impressed with due veneration for the mountain of
Moses, he presented to the convent a Firmahn, to secure to it the
respect of all his followers. Ali is said to have written it, and
Mohammed, who could not write, to have confirmed it by impressing his
extended hand, blackened with ink, upon the parchment. This Firmahn, it
is added, remained in the convent until Selim the First conquered Egypt,
when hearing of the precious relic, he sent for it, and added it to the
other relics of Mohammed in the imperial treasury at Constantinople;
giving to the convent, in return, a copy of the original certified with
his own cipher. I have seen the latter, which is kept in the Sinai
convent at Cairo, but I do not believe it to be an authentic document.
None of the historians of Mohammed, who have recorded the transactions
of almost every day of his life, mention his having been at Mount Sinai,
neither in his earlier youth, nor after he set up as a prophet, and it
is totally contrary to history that he should have granted to any

[p.547] Christians such privileges as are mentioned in this Firmahn, one
of which is that the Moslems are bound to aid the Christian monks in
rebuilding their ruined churches. It is to be observed also that this
document states itself to have been written by Ali, not at the convent,
but in the mosque of the Prophet at Medina, in the second year of the
Hedjra, and is addressed, not to the convent of Mount Sinai in
particular, but to all the Christians and their priests. The names of
twenty-two witnesses, followers of Mohammed, are subscribed to it; and
in a note it is expressly stated that the original, written by Ali, was
lost, and that the present was copied from a fourth successive copy
taken from the original. Hence it appears that the relation of the
priests is at variance with the document to which they refer, and I have
little doubt therefore that the former is a fable and the latter a
forgery. Notwithstanding the difficulties to which the monks must have
been exposed from the warlike and fanatical followers of the new faith
in Syria, Arabia, Egypt, and the Desert, the convent continued
uninjured, and defended itself successfully against all the surrounding
tribes by the peculiar arms of its possessors, patience, meekness, and
money. According to the statement of the monks, their predecessors were
made responsible by the Sultans of Egypt for the protection of the
pilgrim caravans from Cairo to Mekka, on that part of the road which lay
along the northern frontiers of their territory from Suez to Akaba. For
this purpose they thought it necessary to invite several tribes, and
particularly the Szowaleha and the Aleygat to settle in the fertile
valleys of Sinai, in order to serve as protectors of this road. The
Bedouins came, but their power increasing, while that of the monks
declined, they in the course of time took possession of the whole
peninsula, and confined the monks to their convent. It appears from the
original copy of a compact between the monks and the

[p.548] above Bedouins, made in the year of the Hedjra 800, when Sultan
Dhaher Bybars reigned in Egypt, that besides this convent, six others
were still existing in the peninsula, exclusive of a number of chapels
and hermitages; from a writing on parchment, dated in the A.H.1053, we
find that in that year all these minor establishments had been
abandoned, and that the great convent, holding property at Feiran, Tor,
and in other fruitful valleys, alone remained. The priests assured me,
that they had documents to prove that all the date valleys and other
fertile spots in the gulf of Akaba had been in their possession, and
were confirmed to them by the Sultans of Egypt; but they either could
not or would not shew me their archives in detail, without an order from
the prior at Cairo; indeed all their papers appeared to be in great

Whenever a new Sultan ascends the throne of Constantinople, the convent
is furnished with a new Firmahn, which is transmitted to the Pasha of
Egypt; but as the neighbouring Bedouins, till within a few years, were
completely independent of Egypt, the protection of the Pashas was of
very little use to the monks, and their only dependance was upon their
own resources, and their means of purchasing and conciliating the
friendship, or of appeasing the animosity of the Arabs.

At present there are only twenty-three monks in the convent. They are
under the presidence of a Wakyl or prior, but the Ikonomos [Greek], whom
the Arabs call the Kolob, is the true head of the community, and manages
all its affairs. The order of Sinai monks dispersed over the east is
under the control of an Archbishop, in Arabic called the Reys. He is
chosen by a council of delegates from Mount Sinai and from the
affiliated convent at Cairo, and he is confirmed, pro forma, by the
Greek patriarch of Jerusalem. The Archbishop can do nothing as to the
appropriation of the funds without the unanimous vote of the council.

[p.549] he lived in the convent; but since its affairs have been on the
decline, it has been found more expedient that he should reside abroad,
his presence here entitling the Bedouins to great fees, particularly on
his entrance into the convent. I was told that ten thousand dollars
would be required, on such an occasion, to fulfil all the obligations to
which the community is bound in its treaties with the Arabs. Hence it
happens that no Archbishop has been here since the year 1760, when the
Reys Kyrillos resided, and I believe died, in the convent. I was
informed that the gate has remained walled up since the year 1709, but
that if an Archbishop were to come, it must be again opened to admit
him, and that all the Bedouin Sheiks then have a right to enter within
the walls.

Besides the convent at Cairo, which contains a prior and about fifty
monks, Mount Sinai has establishments and landed property in many other
parts of the east, especially in the Archipelago, and at Candia: it has
also a small church at Calcutta, and another at Surat.

The discipline of these monks, with regard to food and prayer, is very
severe. They are obliged to attend mass twice in the day and twice in
the night. The rule is that they shall taste no flesh whatever all the
year round; and in their great fast they not only abstain from butter,
and every kind of animal food and fish, but also from oil, and live four
days in the week on bread and boiled vegetables, of which one small dish

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