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of a convent enclosed within the mountain. In this last instance the sound is supposed to originate in the rush of sand down the mountain side ; sand, here, as elsewhere, playing the same part as the waters or snows of the north. In the case of Jebel Mûsa, where it is said that the monks had originally settled on the highest peak, but were by these strange noises driven down to their present seat in the valley, and in the case of Um Shaumer, where it was described to Burckhardt as like the sound of artillery, the precise cause has never been ascertained. But in all these instances the effect must have been heightened by the deathlike silence of a region where the fall of waters, even the trickling of brooks, is unknown.
This last peculiarity of the Sinai range brings us to another, which has hardly been sufficiently described in the accounts of the Desert-namely, the valleys or “ Wâdys."
(d) It is by a true instinct that the Bedouins, as a general The
rule, call the mountains not by any distinctive name, Wadys. but after the valleys or wadys which surround them. It is necessary to use this Arabic name, because there is no English word which exactly corresponds to the idea expressed by it. A hollow, a valley, a depression—more or less deep or wide or long-worn or washed by the mountain torrents or winter rains for a few months or weeks in the year-such is the general idea of an Arabian “wady," whether in the Desert or in Syria. The Hebrew word (nachal), which is as nearly as possible the correlative of the Wâdy of the Arabic, is unfortunately confounded in our translation with a distinct word (nahar) under the common version of “river,” though occasionally rendered, with a greater attempt at accuracy, by the name of“ brook'."
For a few weeks or days in the winter these valleys present, it is said, the appearance of rushing streams. A graphic description is given of this sudden conversion of the dry bed of
church-going bell” is unknown in the East; and the nakús is really the rude cymbal or sounding-board used in Greek churches, such as are described further on in the Convent of St. Catherine.
1 The word wady (spelt by the French ouadi), is properly a “hollow between
the Wâdy Mûsa into a thundering mountain torrent, in Miss Martineau's account of Petra. Another such is recorded by Wellsted near Tûr'. The Wâdy Shellâl (the Valley of the Cataracts) both in its name and aspect bears every trace of its wintry cascades. But their usual aspect is absolutely bare and waste; only presenting the image of thirsty desolation the more strikingly, from the constant indications of water which is no longer there.
But so essentially are they, in other respects, the rivers of the Desert, and so entirely are they the only likeness to rivers which an Arab could conceive, that in Spain we find the name reproduced by the Arab conquerors of Andalusia: sometimes indeed fitly enough, as applied to the countless water-courses of southern Spain, only filled like the valleys of Arabia by a sudden descent of showers, or melting of snow; but sometimes to mighty rivers, to which the torrents of the Desert could furnish only the most general parallel. Few who pass to and fro along the majestic river between Cadiz and Seville, remember that its name is a recollection of the Desert far away; the Arab could find no other appellation for the Bætis than that of “The Great Wâdy”—Guad-al-Khebîro.
To these waterless rivers the Desert owes its boundaries, its form, its means of communication, as truly as the countries or districts of Europe owe theirs to the living streams which divide range from range, and nation from nation. Sometimes, as in the Wâdy Taiyibeh and the Wâdy Seyâl, a broad and winding track; sometimes, as in the Wâdy Mûsa, closed
Quoted in Ritter, Sinai, p. 456. ? A still more remarkable instance of this violent adaptation of the scanty nomenclature of the Desert to the varied features of European scenery has been pointed out by M. Engelhardt, in his learned work on the valleys of Monte Rosa. It appears that in the ninth and tenth centuries the valley of Saas was occupied by a band of Saracens ; and M. Engelhardt ingeniously, though in one or two instances fancifully, derives the existing names of the localities in that valley from these strange occupants. Amongst these are the Monte Moro-the Pass of the Moors-the two villages or stations of Almagal, and the mountain of Mischebel; of which the former, by the likeness of its first syllable to the
Arabian article al, the latter of its termination to the word jebel, certainly confirm the hypothesis. But the most curious and the most probable is the name of the huge glacier through which rushes the wild torrent of the Visp. Hardly two objects less like can be conceived than that mass of ice, with its lake reflecting the glaciers in the tranquil water, and the abundant stream gushing from its bosom, on the one hand ; and on the other hand, the scanty rivulet or pool in the hot rocky bed of the Desert, fringed with palm or acacia. But this was the only image which the Arabs had of a source or spring of a river. And "Al-al-'Ain,” accordingly, is the present name of the glacier of their Alpino valley.
between overarching cliffs; sometimes, as in the Wâdy es. Sheykh, leaving a vast margin on each side, such as in a happier soil and climate would afford pasturage for a thousand cattle; sometimes, as in the Wâdy Sidri, expanding into a level space, where, in Switzerland and Westmoreland, the surrounding precipices would descend, not as there on a waste of sand or gravel, but on a bright lake; they yet all have this in common, that they are the high roads of the Desert : the stations, the tribes, the mountains, are as truly along their banks, and distinguished by their courses, as if they were rivers or rail roads. By observing their peculiarities, their points of junction, and their general direction, any one who had once traversed the route from Cairo to Petra, would probably find his way back without any great risk or difficulty. And, as in western countries, amongst a variety of lesser streams there is generally one commanding river which absorbs all the rest, and serves as the main line of communication for the whole region, so it is with the wadys of the Desert. Um Shaumer, St. Catherine, and Serbål, are not more decisively the dominant summits of the Sinaitic mountains, than is the Wâdy es-Sheykh -the “valley of the saint”—the queen of the Sinaitic rivers. The immense curve by which it connects the two great clusters of the Peninsula is as clear in reality as on the map.
Thus the general character of the wädys, as well as of the The Vege- mountains of Sinai, is entire desolation. If the mountation ; tains are naked Alps, the valleys are dry rivers. But there are exceptions in both instances. There is nearly everywhere a thin, it might almost be said a transparent coating of vegetation. There are occasional spots of verdure, which escape notice in a general view, but for that very reason are the more remarkable when observed. It is said that travellers, on arriving at Lisbon from Madrid, after crossing the bare tableland of central Spain, are asked, “Do you remember that tree you passed on the road ? ” The same feeling is more strongly experienced in the passage of the Desert. Not perhaps every single tree, but every group of trees, lives in the traveller's recollection as distinctly as the towns and spires of civilised countries. Accordingly, both the valleys, and (where they are not named directly from the valleys) the mountains also are usually named from the slight vegetation by which they are distinguished from each other. The highest peak of the whole range is known by no other name than the trivial appellation of Um Shaumer," the mother of fennel," doubtless from the fennel which Burckhardt describes as characteristic of the Peninsula. The Râs Sufsâfeh, which represents, according to Dr. Robinson's view, the Horeb of Moses, is the “willowhead,” from the group of two or three willows which grow in the Wady Sŭfsâfeh, in its recesses. Serbál is possibly so called from the ser, or myrrh, which creeps over its ledges up to the very summit. And (judging by this analogy) the most probable origin even of the ancient “Sinai " is the seneh or acacia, with which, as we know, it then abounded. The Wâdy Abû. Hamad—the “father of fig-trees ”—is from the old fig-tree in its deep clefts; the Wâdy Sidri from its bushes of wild thorn'; the Wady Seyal from the acacia; the Wady Taiyibeh, from the “goodly” water and vegetation it contains'.
The more definitely marked spots of verdure, however, are the accompaniments not of the empty beds of winter The torrents, but of the few living, perhaps perennial Springs. springs, which by the mere fact of their rarity, assume an importance difficult to be understood in the moist scenery of the West and North. These springs, whose sources are for the most part high up in the mountain clefts, occasionally send down into the wâdys rills of water, which however scantyhowever little deserving of the name even of brooks-yet become immediately the nucleus of whatever vegetation the desert produces. Often their course can be traced, not by visible water, but a track of moss here, a fringe of rushes there,
1 See Ritter, Sinai, pp. 346, 748.
2 The names of the Alps are, for the most part, derived from some peculiarity of the mountain-the Wetterhorn, Silberhorn, the Jungfrau, Mont Blanc, and the like. But one of the most striking has received its name, like those Arabian hills, from the vegetation of the valleys at its foot. The marvellous peak of “the Matterhorn" is so called, not from its extraordinary formation and shape, but from the fact that the first view of it usually obtained brings it before us in connection with the green pastures and soods of Matt or Zer-Matt, above which
it rises ; “Matt” being the provincial
Rüppell notices four perennial brooks: 1. The Wâdy el-'Ain. 2. The Wady Salaka. 3. The Wady Feirån. 4. The Wady Hibrân. I only saw the first and third. See Part II. vi. vii. xii.
a solitary palm, a group of acacias-which at once denote that an unseen life is at work. Wherever these springs are to be found, there, we cannot doubt, must always have been the resort of the wanderers in the Desert; and they occur at such frequent intervals, that, after leaving Suez, there is at least one such spot in each successive day's journey. In two of the great wadys which lead from the first beginnings of the Sinai range to the Gulf of Suez-Ghůrúndel, and Useit with its continuation of the Wady Taiyibeh--such tracts of vegetation are to be found in considerable luxuriance. In a still greater degree is this the case in all the various wadys leading down from the Sinai range to the Gulf of 'Akaba- of which the Wâdy el-'Ain is described by Rüppell and by Miss Martineau; the Wâdy Súmghy by Dr. Robinson; and the Wâdy Kyd by Burckhardt -in all of which this union of vegetation with the fantastic scenery of the desolate mountains presents a combination as beautiful as it is extraordinary. In three spots, however, in the Desert, and in three only so far as appears, this vegetation is brought by the concurrence of the general configuration of the country to a still higher pitch. By far the most remarkable collection of springs is that which renders the clusters of Jebel Mûsa the chief resort of the Bedouin tribes during the summer heats. Four abundant sources in the
mountains immediately above the Convent of St. The Oases.
Catherine must always have made that region one of the most frequented of the Desert. The two other exceptions are of a different character. It has been already observed that, in order fully to understand the geography of Sinai, we must combine it with the geography of the neighbouring countries. Every one has heard of the Oasis of Ammon, in the western desert of the Nile. What that oasis is on a great scale may be seen on a small scale elsewhere; namely, deep depressions of the high table-land, which thus become the receptacles of all the rain and torrents, and consequently of the vegetation and the life, of the whole of that portion of the Desert. These oases, therefore, are to be found wherever the waters from the different wadys or hills, whether from winter-streams, or from such living springs as have just been described, converge to a common reservoir. One such oasis in the Sinaitic desert