Richard Lepsius.

Letters from Egypt, Ethiopia, and the peninsula of Sinai online

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Arabs one and all protested in the most decided manner
against attempting it, and poured forth the most violent
curses upon Selim. He was in a difficult position. He had
evidently not known the difficulties of this pass ; the roads
that are passable, though it is true they are very circuitous,


lead either by Xecuel Delfa, eastward, or by Schaib el
Benat, westward of this spot. To strike iuto one of these
two roads now, would liave at least cost us two more days,
and ha we had already lost a great deal of time at Gebel
Fatlreh, we sliould have run iuto still greater danger of a
deficiency of water, as our supply had been calculated very
exactly, and between Hamamat and Gebel Zeit we had ouly
the prospect of one single spring, which was said to be
eitunti'd lu-ar Gebel Dochan. I tlierefore gave orders, and
carried my point in spite of the most violent protestations
to the contrary, that all the camels should be unloaded on
the height, and that the whole of the baggage should be
carried down on tlie shoulders of the Arabs. My own ser-
vants had to bfgin, and we all set to work together. Chests
and trunks were taken singly from one point of rock to
another; wo had most difiicidty in managing the great
water-casks, which could only be moved by three or four
people at once'. The unloaded beasts were then carefully
led down, and thus the bold enterprise terminated success-
fidlv witlunit any accident or injury, amid loud and fervent
apiH-als to Abd el Qader, the sacred patron of the camel.
After tliree toilsome hours, all was over, and the beasts were
again loaded.

Sotni after, liowever, we were to encounter a far more
serious danger. 1 was as usual riding in advance with Max
and some of the servants, and liad charged the caravan to
follow the footmarks of my ass in the sand. Towards mid-
day we .saw Gkuel DocuAy, "the Smoking Mountain," on
our left hand, rising deep blue beyond the Munfieh chain, and
several hours afterwanls, when we emerged from the higher
mountains into an undulating and more open country, on the
farther side (d* the wiilc plain, and beyond the sea, we, for the
first time, saw the distant mountains of Tor, like rising mist,
mountains, stretchiug"aloDg the sea-coast, which we traversed

GEBEI zt:iT. 289

by a valley nmninnj diagonally across them. An abimdnat
Bpring hen' came to the surface, whose rippling waters ac-
companied us for a long T while. It might be considered
the Fons Tadnos of Pliny, as its water has only recently be-
come brackish and undrinkable, from the bed of natron on
the surface. We left the ruins of Abu Schae, the ancient
My 08 hormos or Philofei'as partus, on our right, and en-
camped on the peninsula of (ttmscheh, which is called by
the Arabs, Ki:nBTT, from the sulphur which is there obtained.

Yesterday morning we rode to the Bay of Gebel Ze'it, be-
tween the Enned mountains and the sea-shore. The Eange
of Tor, which floated before sunrise in a milky blue colour
over the surface of the sea, stood out faintly from the sky ;
its outline only disappeared with the rising sun.

After mid-day we arrived at Gebel Zeit, the oil moun-
tain. Our vessel, which had been appointed to meet us
from Kosser, made the voyage from thence in six days, and
had already waited four days for our arrival. The camels
were dismissed here, and returned the same evening.

One quarter of an hour north of our anchorage were the
Zeitieh ; such is the name given to five or six pits, hollowed
out in the sandy shore, or in the rock, and which fill with
blackish-brown naphtha, like syrup. A few years ago re-
searches were set on foot by Em Bey, who was in hopes of
finding coal beneath, though hitherto they have had no suc-

Yesterday evening it was a perfect calm. It was only
during the night that a light wind rose from the north, which
wo immediately availed ourselves of, for setting sail. "With
the wind in our lavour we might have accomplished the pas-
sage across in one night ; but now the day is again drawing
to a close, and we have not yet reached the port. The ship
of burden scarcely stirs, though the long oars have been at
length set in motion.

The sailors of this sea are very different from those on the
Kile. Their deportment is more reserved, less sly and sub-


290 TOE.

servient. Their songs, which commence at the first stroke of
the oar, consist of fragmentary short lines, which are sung
first by one, and are taken up by another, while the re-
mainder utter short and deep grunting sounds, as an accom-
paniment, at equal intervals. The Rais, on an elevated seat,
rows along with the others. He is a negro, as well as several
others among the sailors, but one of the handsomest and
strongest Moors that I ever saw — a real Othello ; when
making his athletic movements, he rolls his yellow-white
eyes, shows his dazzling teeth, and gives the tone to the song,
leading it for a length of time, with a shriD, piercing, but
sldlful voice.


Convent on Mount Sinai, the 24ih March, 1845.
Easter Monday.

On the evening of Good Friday we landed in Tor by
moonlight. The harbour is now so much sanded up, that
our vessel was obliged to lie off several hundred paces, and
we were landed in a boat. We were met on shore by the
old Greek Nicola Janni, who had before received Eheen-
BERGf, Leon de Laborde, Euppell Isenbeeg, and other
well-known travellers ; and he had favourable testimonials to
produce of the reception they had met with from him. After
long negotiations TN-ith the insolent Arabs, who, when they
discovered we were in a hurry, and that they were indis-
pensable to us, endeavoured in all ways to overreach us, we
started early the day before yesterday from Tor, limiting
ourselves to what was absolutely necessary for the land
journey ; and we sent the vessel to await us at Cape Abtj

Our road led in a due northerly direction to the mouth
of Wadi Hebean, across the plain of El G'e'ah, which,
being five or six hours broad, is situated between the sea



aud mountain. On first starting, however, I made a digres-
sion to the hot springs of Gebel Hammam. They are
situated at tlie southern end of the isolated line of moun-
tains, which, commencing one hour to the north of T6r,
extends to the sea-shore. I again met the caravan at the
well of El Hai, which is pleasantly situated, on the direct
road, between gardens of palm-trees. The ground gradually
rises from the sea-coast to beyond this well. As soon as we
got an open prospect over the whole plain, and to the lofty
range which descends towards the south-west in a steep and
regularly declining chain to the extremity of the Peninsula,
I took the points of the compass, with reference to all the
places of any note, the mouths of valleys, and summits of
mountains, which the guides were able to name. About
half-past five I reached the foot of the mountain range.
Here already, at the entrance of the valley, I observed the
first SiNAiTic Inscription on the black blocks of stone. A
little farther on we came to the small piece of water shaded
by some palm-trees, where we spent the night.

Yesterday we traversed the AYadi Heeran, which sepa-
rates the group of Serbal from the principal range of Gebel
Musa, crossed over Nakb el Egatji, which forms the
water-shed between the west and east, and turning from
this point southwards, over Nakb el Hatji, the wind-saddle,
we reached the Convent on Easter Sunday, as the sun was
setting. AYe were drawn, like other travellers, up the high
wall of the fortification, to the entrance, although there is
another entrance through the convent garden, or more level
ground, but which they are only in the habit of using from
within. The ao;ed and worthy prior, who is mentioned by
Kobinson, had died that year in Cairo, and had been replaced
by another, Demetrius Nicodemus, who is said to hold the
rank of a bishop.

As it is a Greek convent, instead of Easter rejoicings we
came to a strict season of fasting. But independently of
that, the whole life and habits of the four priests and twenty-
one lay brothers made by no means such an edifying im-

u 2


pression as "we might have expected to witness in this spot.
A gloomy spirit of wearisome sloth and ignorance hangs like
a cloud of mist over their discontented countenances. Yet
these fugitives from this world of cares are wandering
beneath an ever cheerful sky of moderate temperature, are
alone able, of all the inhabitants of this sultry wilderness, to
refresh themselves beneath the dark shade of the cypress,
palm, and olive-tree, and have besides in their possession a
library of 1500 volumes, not in the smallest degree consider-
ing the best purpose for which they are intended — viz., a
larpciov \//'ux^?-*

To-day we ascended Gebel Musa. In my own imagina-
tion, and by the descriptions of former travellers, it formed
the actual centre of the whole range ; but this is not the
case. Both in elevation and in the planimetrical projection
of the whole mass of the primitive range, it forms part of
the north-eastern slope. The convent in a direct line is
three times as near the eastern border of the range as the
western. Even Gebel Katherin, situated immediately to the
south, is loftier than the almost concealed summit of Gebel
Musa, which is invisible to tlie whole of the surrounding

Online LibraryRichard LepsiusLetters from Egypt, Ethiopia, and the peninsula of Sinai → online text (page 25 of 54)