Mount Sinai: A Modern Pilgrimage 9781463218454

This timeless travelogue by noted hymnographer and missionary A. Mary R. Dobson recounts her journey to the manuscript-r

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Mount Sinai

Gorgias Historic Travels in the Cradle of Civilization 22

Gorgias Historic Travels in the Cradle of Civilization is a series of reprints of historic travelogues from travelers to regions of high antiquity: North Africa, Western and West-Central Asia. Glimpses into a forgotten world, these journals show us many of the roots of our own present-day civilization.

Mount Sinai

A Modern Pilgrimage

A. Mary R. Dobson

1 gorgias press 2010

Gorgias Press LLC, 954 River Road, Piscataway, NJ, 08854, USA www.gorgiaspress.com Copyright © 2010 by Gorgias Press LLC Originally published in 1925 All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning or otherwise without the prior written permission of Gorgias Press LLC. 2010

c

^

1

ISBN 978-1-60724-243-7

ISSN 1935-3200

This is a facsimile edition of the book by the same title published by Methuen & Co. Ltd., London, 1925.

Printed in the United States of America

PREFACE HEN my cousin, Mary Dobson, suggested that she, with certain possible friends, should join an expedition which I was planning to the Convent of Mount Sinai and the adjacent sanctities, it was an appeal that found an immediate response. There was the lure of kinship, which so often is accentuated as life itself declines, and there were affinities, spiritual and literary, which made it desirable that we should go together to Mount Sinai, I on my last journey (as it would seem), and she on her first and last. An expert traveller is always an addition to a caravan, and she had the experience of much travel in India as a missionary worker ; far, even, as to the frontiers of Tibet. All of us who shared her society in those memorable days realised what it meant to us in the way of personal enrichment. There seems to be something uncanny in the attraction that this troublesome journey to Mount Sinai possesses for women pilgrims.

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You would have concluded, a priori, that it was a man's pilgrimage, and even so, not an everyman's. The days are often wearisome, from one fixed stage to another, and the water supply uncertain, especially after long rainless periods ; in earlier days the roads (if such they could be called) were unsafe. Yet it appears that from very early times Mount Sinai has been a magnet for Christian women. At the end of the fourth century a lady from Southern Gaul (we used to call her Sylvia, but we are told now that her name is ZEtheria, so let her be promoted from the wood to the sky) traversed the whole of the Near East in search of localised sanctity, and made a special study of Sinai. There was then no fortress-convent to protect the monks and the hermits, no splendid library nor lovely garden, but at appropriate station they read to her the proper lessons from the Old Testament, using, perhaps (what an interesting thought!) a certain Codex Sinaiticus destined to be famous in later years and far-off centuries. And /Etheria wrote home to her lady friends in Gaul, and told them of all the wonders she had seen. The text of her travels has become a philologian's asset, for it shows how at that period the Latin language was passing into French.

PREFACE

vii

What /Etheria did in her day many have done since, though few have made a written record of their experiences : women as well as men, from Russia for the most part, and all under the same spell. We ourselves have watched such women toiling on foot across " Arabia's burning sands," and questioned whether Mohammed was not right after all, in making pilgrimage a fourth department of religion, after prayer, fast and alms. Only, we remember that Moslem women do not go on pilgrimage, and the Christian Faith appears to rule out the possibility of a Mecca, either in the mountain or the city. But we were speaking of the line of women pilgrims, and cannot but call to mind the two learned sisters from Cambridge, Mrs. Lewis and Mrs. Gibson, and how one single treasure in the Convent Library led them to make the journey to the Holy Mountain no less than six times, a record, surely, in patient study and endurance : all to elucidate a little the confusion in the text of the New Testament, and, to those who do not know the meaning of discoveries, to make the confusion worse confounded. I think that Mary Dobson had something of the same spirit. She, too, had dreams of

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discoveries that might mean the solution of Biblical perplexities ; she brought with her a working knowledge of Arabic, and spent her days in the Library among that great collection of manuscripts in Arabic, not yet properly evaluated or catalogued. It is difficult to say how much she actually accomplished ; possibly she was disappointed in her work, certainly it was incomplete. All life, as well as all study, is made up of broken arcs, which must be left to the Great Geometer to perfect; 'tis the Centre must complete the Circumferences. RENDEL HARRIS August,

1925

CONTENTS CHAPTER

PAGE

I.

INTRODUCTION

II.

T H E JOURNEY

.

T H E S I N A I PENINSULA

IV. V.

VII. VIII. IX. X. XI.

.

.

.

I 6

III.

VI.

.

.

.

.

.

16

T H E ARRIVAL AT THE CONVENT

.

.

34

T H E CONVENT OF S T . CATHERINE

.

.

T H E LIBRARY T H E BRETHREN OF THE CONVENT

.

T H E BONE HOUSE

.

77 88

T H E BEDAWIN JEBAL M U S A

44 61

98 .

.

SONGS OF THE ANGELS INDEX

.

.

.

. 1 2 1

.

.

.

. 1 3 3 143

ix

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS THE

CONVENT

.

.

.

.

.

Frontispiece Facing page

O N THE M A R C H .

12

A H A L T BY THE W A Y

18

INTERIOR OF THE CHURCH OF THE TRANSFIGURATION

52

T H E CAPSTAN THAT WORKS THE ROPE FROM THE PENTHOUSE

58

T H E LIBRARY

64

D R . RENDEI. HARRIS AND THE LIBRARIAN

.

.

S T . STEPHEN—THE PORTER

74 90

SKULLS IN THE BONE-HOUSE

.

.

.

.

96

TOWARA ARAB AND CAMEL

104

BEDAWIN SHEIKH

116

BEDAWÌN C A M P

118

The illustrations are reproduced, by kind permission, from photographs taken by Dr. Annette Benson and other members of the expedition

xi

MOUNT SINAI : A MODERN

PILGRIMAGE

CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION

T

HE Convent of St. Catherine on Mount Sinai, whose Library of ancient manuscripts is a treasure-house for students, has been the goal of many a pilgrimage, and it was with a view to studying and photographing the manuscripts that the expedition, under the leadership of Dr. Rendel Harris, the well-known Oriental scholar, was planned and started in December, 1922. On a previous expedition Dr. Harris had found a manuscript of great worth, the Apology of Aristides, and he believed that within the Library might be other treasures of early Christian origin which would be of value to the whole Church. With a view to more thorough work in the Library, he invited the co-operation of several 1

2

MOUNT SINAI

scholars and some well versed in photographing manuscripts, so that finally the party consisted of sixteen persons besides our camelmen. Dr. Rendel Harris' knowledge and experience of the way cleared difficulties for us, and opened doors to us which otherwise would have been shut. We shall none of us cease to look back with gratitude to the great privilege vouchsafed to us in being allowed to join a party under his leadership. Dr. Hatch, a member of the Theological Faculty of Harvard University, had a special piece of research in connection with that University. His genial presence and neverfailing good humour did much to enliven our desert life, while the presence of Mrs. Hatch and young Robert Hatch added a touch of family life which is so often wanting in a Camp. Mr. H. G. Wood, the Director of Studies of Woodbrooke, Selly Oak, also had a piece of special research in connection with the lives of certain saints. He also devoted himself to the care of Dr. Harris, for whom the whole expedition was naturally a strain. Mrs. and Miss Norton, of Boston, Mass., came keen on acquiring all the knowledge they could,and added to our enjoymentbyproducing, when least expected, dainty evidences of the

INTRODUCTION

3

civilisation we had left so far behind. Miss Norton had the capacity for riding a camel gracefully, an achievement which one seldom sees in a woman, save in imaginary pictures of Rebekah meeting Isaac. Dr. Annette Benson, formerly the Head Physician of the Cama Hospital, Bombay, was not only the doctor of the party, but also the artist. In the Library of the Convent she copied coloured pictures which could never have been adequately represented by photography. Shall we ever forget her rough-andready dispensary, and her extraordinary spirit of adventure, which made it possible for her to bring back photographs and information which could never have been gained otherwise ? Mrs. Chamberlain, of Toledo, U.S.A., and Miss Cutler, of New York, were both connected with the Young Women's Christian Association, and were both taking the Sabbatical year, which is such a delightful institution in scholastic circles in America. Miss Cutler had specialised in Old Testament exegesis, and was also a good Greek scholar. Both were keen on studying every possible aspect of the Israelitish wanderings for the sake of their work. Mrs. Chamberlain's cheerfulness kept the Camp alive. Miss Mabel Western was the V.A.D. of the

CHAPTER II

OUR JOURNEY

T

HERE are different methods of camping in the East. You may start off, two or three together, with porters to carry your kit, and wander on, sleeping in the open, in sleeping-bags, or under shelter where it offers itself, doing your own cooking, often with eyes smarting from the smoke, over a fire that you have had to coax into existence yourself, and washing up your own dishes in full view of the astonished natives, who gather to see what strange manner of Europeans these may be, who do all their own work ! This method has its advantages, but it has its disadvantages too. To finish a long march and to be unable to eat until you have prepared your own food is often a most exhausting process, and should never be lightly undertaken ; even the comparative liberty of this species of wandering does not atone for its weariness. Or you may travel in a Government Camp, that strange admixture of red-tapeism and 6

THE

JOURNEY

7

almost barbaric freedom, where you have the pomp and circumstance of gorgeously attired attendants, who will prepare you a dinner in the wildest desert, as carefully spread on rough camp furniture, and as carefully served f$om rough camp crockery as if you were in a palace, and who seem determined that as far as in them lies you shall not be allowed to degenerate in your manners and customs as so many people do when camping. This is a very delightful and luxurious way of visiting out-of-the-way parts without any doubt, but it does not often fall to the ordinary civilian. Our first idea in thinking out plans for the Sinai expedition was a sort of happy compromise between the first two methods. As the journey is an expensive one, we felt that, in order to be as economical as possible, we should merely take sleeping-bags, provisions carefully chosen in England, and packed in boxes of the right weight and size for loading on camels, and, with a few selected servants, including cook and tent pitchers, should proceed on our way by camel from T5r. All our minute calculations as to what proportion of tinned butter should keep the human system in health, and how many cupfuls of rice were needed per person per week, were abruptly ended by a cable from Dr. Harris (who was

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MOUNT SINAI

girls receiving a Christian training, and learning English. It was quite cheering to see the good results in the girls' work and the excellent tone of the school. From such work, carried on amid real difficulty, women may ultimately be raised up who will be able to help their own fellow-countrymen and women as no stranger from another land ever could. They had had one little BedawTn girl in the school, but she had grieved so for her own people of the desert, and they for her, that it was impossible for her to stay. But she came back again at times for a reason which struck us at first as extraordinary. At school she had had a bath for the first time in her life, and instead of disliking it, she missed it in the dry, waterless land of her forefathers, and came back, when she could, to beg for one. This fact made us feel as if there were some hope in the inculcating of new and cleanly customs on ignorant tribes and peoples, and also makes the story of Aboo Seer and the King, in the Arabian Nights, seem as if it might be founded on fact. It will be remembered that Aboo Seer visited a certain king who lived at a distance of some twenty days from Alexandria, and initiated the said king into the mysteries of the bath, with which he had been unacquainted up to that time. Painful details, showing how needful

THE JOURNEY

11

such a proceeding was, are given. After a final rinsing in water mixed with rose-water the king emerged, " and his skin was softened, and he experienced a liveliness which in his life he had never known before," and was filled with gratitude to Aboo Seer. At Suez we completed our camping outfit in the native bazaar with the assistance of one of the Mission School girls, who knew the right price, and marched us on to another shop if any merchant was too inclined to argue. This was practically our last touch with civilisation. On the arrival of the Khedivial steamer the whole of the Camp paraphernalia was put on board and we steamed off, catching, as we progressed, on our left-hand side, through the evening sunset light, a full view of 'Ayun Musa (the Wells of Moses), where the Israelites probably camped in starting their journey. We were only one night at sea, and were thus saved several days of waterless desert. This route has only been made practicable since the beginning of the century, as the regular steamers did not stop at Tor, and to go by dhow meant so much uncertainty as to time, and so much discomfort, that the desert route was preferable. The Greek Convent at Tor received us, and provided us with meals; and after a scene of indescribable confusion in the courtyard, during

12

MOUNT

SINAI

which Camels, camelmen and curious spectators all seemed to be waging war with one another, and the old sheikh escorting us stormed as if beside himself, we were all safely mounted and started off on our first short stage, finally camping in a delightful spot between low hills, where we spent our first night in the desert. We afterwards crossed the coast-strip in a north-easterly direction and entered the Sinai range by the Wady Hebran, proceeding finally by the Nakb el-JIawa (the Pass of the Winds) to the Plain of Raha, at the end of which lies the Convent Gorge. This journey took us three and a half days, and was easily accomplished owing to the excellence of our camping arrangements. Even when no water was at hand we were generously supplied, and even hot water seemed always obtainable. As soon as we entered the Sinai range we rose gradually to a height of 5000 feet, which is the altitude at which the Convent stands. The nights here were at times very cold ; sometimes in the early morning the thermometer stood at several degrees below freezing point, and sometimes when Dr. Benson went out sketching the water froze and flashed off her brush in little sparklets, so that it was impossible to accomplish much. We were warned that we

THE JOURNEY

13

should expect snow on Sinai, but fortunately most of us escaped this ; only Dr. Hatch, Mr. Kenepp, and Mr. Lynd, who stayed a few days longer, as they wished to return by the desert route of the children of Israel, narrowly escaped being snowed up. But the valley at night when the stars came out was wonderful, and we were often tempted to get up in the early hours of the morning to see Venus as we had never seen her before, flashing between Jebel Musa and Jebel Moneja. Even in the winter months the sun is hot for a good part of the day in shadeless stretches, and head-gear was a consideration. Some of the men of the party wore the kaffiyeh, which is a good protection for head and neck ; the ladies usually found a light felt hat with some sort of veil to protect the neck quite sufficient. The question of foot-gear also needed thought. The Arabs say that stout dugong sandals last several months, but ordinary English boots are quite inadequate to heavy walking in the Sinai range, and some of us became so disreputable as to the way in which we were shod during our stay in Sinai that even Dr. Harris, who usually drew a veil of charity over all unseemliness, pronounced the extraordinary emergency makeshifts of some of the ladies to be quite unique.

14

MOUNT SINAI

Some of us were provided with excellent talc-sided folding candle-lanterns. These were the greatest comfort, as they stood the proof of many eventualities. Electric lamps are inclined to play tricks, where a good old-fashioned candle, well protected, holds its own. Our Camp Manager had provided an excellent acetylene lamp in our large and roomy dining tent, which enabled all who wished to read there after dinner. Some of us gathered thus day by day, sometimes to discuss the day's adventures, sometimes to listen to a story from Dr. Harris, sometimes to talk out deep problems in which any of us could join freely and fearlessly, for the scholars of the party made this possible by a kindliness which, with the true teacher's instinct, sought not only to impart but also to draw out. The tent, as you entered it at night, made a striking picture ; every part of the beautiful colouring of the embroidered walls was illuminated, while the handsome white sheepskin coats of some of the gentlemen, and the Arab abbas or plain English overcoats of others, combined with the bright scarves and wraps of the ladies, gave the effect of some strange Eastern phantasy, in which the West also was taking part, for the Westerner betrays himself, however much he may assume an Eastern garb ; he

THE JOURNEY

15

has neither the movement nor the attitude of his brother of the East, and even the tanning of the midday sun cannot disguise him. Mr. Wood refused firmly to wear Arab dress of any kind on the ground that he knew neither Arabic nor Arabia, and we respected his decision ; but Eastern garments are very comfortable in Eastern climes and circumstances ; and some of us, for warmth and comfort, would have gone our way in Sinai decked in anything ; we felt there, as we had never felt before, that we were far from fashion and criticism, and, for once, could do exactly as we liked in the way of dress ; and we accordingly did so.

CHAPTER III

THE SINAI PENINSULA

I

N order to have a complete understanding of what concerns the Convent of St. Catherine, it is almost a necessity to know something of the geography, natural characteristics and past history of that part of the globe where it is situated. The Sinai Peninsula is bounded on the east by the Gulf of 'Akaba, and on the west by the Gulf of Suez, both gulfs being branches of the Red Sea. On the north is the limestone tableland of the Tih, which extends right down into the Peninsula in almost semicircular form. The triangle consisting of the land enclosed by the two gulfs named and a line drawn straight across from their two most northerly points over the desert of the Tih is, strictly, what constitutes the Peninsula. It lies thus between Egypt on the west and Arabia on the east, while the desert of the Tih slopes to the north to the Mediterranean, forming the coast-strip which, since the days of the Great War, when General 16

T H E SINAI PENINSULA

17

Allenby constructed his temporary railway as he brought his troops along, has become, in a special sense, the highway from Egypt to Palestine. Across the Desert of the Tih itself runs the Haj road, along which the pilgrimage to Mecca passes annually from Egypt. South of the limestone mountain range which bounds the Desert of the Tih is the Djebbet es Ramleh, a belt of pure sand, with sandstone hills massed on either side of it. Succeeding this sandstone belt is the triangular mountain range of Sinai, formed mainly of granite, porphyry and gneiss. The most famous peaks of the range are Serbal, 6750 feet high, to the south-west of the sandstone group; Jebel Musa, 7600 feet high, with Jebel Katerina, 8540 feet high, slightly south-west of i t ; while further again to the south-west of this last group is Umm Shomar, 8000 feet high, and at the extremity of the great triangular mass rises Umm Khesyn in all its grandeur. The beauty of the mountain gorges in this granite district is remarkable. The rose and flame tints, alternating with softest greens and purples, are so rich in their colouring that the verdure that clothes the hills in other countries is scarcely missed. One gorge that we passed in the Wady Isleh on our return journey will never be forgotten : a fiery red cliff rose sheer 2

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MOUNT SINAI

above us on one side ; from top to bottom was a broad, straight streak of purple-black, which looked like a mighty door that might suddenly roll back, showing the hidden treasures of the heart of the mountain. The very pebbles we often trod underfoot— jasper, agate and crystal of various kinds—were so sparklingly attractive that we longed to carry away innumerable specimens, and were only deterred from doing so by the difficulty of porterage. The Sinai Peninsula is a happy huntingground for geologists, for it is in some ways unique in its products and formation. On each side of the mountainous mass which forms the Peninsula is a strip of gravelly sea-coast, the coral formation of which is very evident; shells and fossils abound here and in the sandstone range. The old childish ideas which made us imagine the people of Israel as toiling over tawny, stinging sand until they reached a high mountain, towering in awful solitude before their astonished eyes—a mountain which was to become the centre of their national life—are as delusive as are most of our immature ideas. Without entering into lengthy discussion as to the route of the liberated Israelites, discus-

THE SINAI PENINSULA

19

sion of which can grow very weary, it is enough to state that it is probable that after crossing the Red Sea they started from 'Ayun Musa (the Wells of Moses), two miles from the Gulf of Suez, and then came down the coast-strip, passing Wady Amarah (Marah), and entering the limestone range at the end of the Tih by the fertile valley of Gharandel, which is supposed to be Elim. Thence they probably went by the sandstone range to Paran (now called Feiran), where they made their first long stop. Feiran, the most beautiful oasis of the Peninsula, was the scene of their fight with Amalek, Rephidim being by many scholars located there. They finally passed on by the central, winding valley of the Sinai range, the Wady es-Sheikh, to the plain of Raha and Sinai, the Mountain of God. Many of their wanderings were amid steep and inaccessible heights, where even the valleys are often at an elevation of several thousand feet. In order to avoid the difficulties met in taking this overland route from Suez, we had come by sea from Suez to Tor, situated on the Ka'a, which is the name given to the coast-strip directly west of the Sinai range. A great deal of the business of the Peninsula passes through this little seaport. After crossing the Ka'a, we mounted steadily, until we reached the place

20

MOUNT

SINAI

where the Convent is situated at the end of the Plain of Raha, on the slope of Jebel Musa. The mineral wealth of the Peninsula largely lies in the sandstone belt; there is evidence that iron, copper and turquoise were formerly worked there. A t Wady Maghareh and Serabit el-Khadim, in the western sandstone group, the remains of some of these mines are found. Sir Flinders Petrie, in his book Researches in Sinai, gives an exhaustive account of both places. The earliest monument in the Peninsula is found in Maghareh ; it belongs to the ist dynasty, about 5300 B.C., and refers to the seventh king of that dynasty, Semerkhet, who in one of the representations is slaying an Arab chief. A monument of Sanekht, the founder of the third dynasty, was placed over an early mine, and was the first record of the mining industry. There are also sculptures and inscriptions of Sneferu (3rd dynasty), about 4750 B.C., and also of Sahura (5th dynasty), and others. It was at Maghareh that a certain Major Macdonald spent years in the endeavour to find turquoise. He built himself a house, and he and his wife and son lived there for years. Travellers who visited him speak of the abundant hospitality he offered to them, and tell of

THE SINAI PENINSULA

21

the garden he had managed to bring into existence in the desert. After living first in Maghàreh and then in Serablt, Major Macdonald retired to Cairo, where he died of a broken heart at the failure of his enterprises. He was most careful of guarding the inscriptions, and took impressions of many, which are now in the British Museum. At Serablt el-Khâdim, the mountain of red and white sandstone, are the remains of more mines and the famous temple of Hat-hor, the mistress of turquoise, apparently identical with Ishtar, the Semitic goddess of Arabia ; the original shrine was merely a cave, to which buildings were later added. The temple is very ancient and purely Semitic in origin ; it is quite probable that when Moses requested that the children of Israel might go three days' journey into the wilderness to worship, Pharaoh understood that this was the place they wished to visit, as it was so well known to the Egyptians, who, through their mining industries had, with the notable flexibility of their day, adopted the worship of the goddess of the country in which they were working, ultimately worshipping their own gods side by side with her in the temple of Serabït. In the vicinity of the temple are rings of stones, some of which have upright steles from

22

MOUNT SINAI

five to twelve feet in height, bearing inscriptions placed in them. The most perfect of these steles is inscribed as follows : " A royal offering to Hat-hor, Lady of Turquoise for the ka of the chief chamberlain, Sebek-her-heb for the ka of the seal-bearer, deputy of the overseer of the seal-bearers, Kemnaa, born of Kahotep." Sir Flinders Petrie considers it quite likely that the rings of stones were sleeping-places prepared near the temple in the hope of receiving revelation by dream from the deity, the stele being set up when such vision was granted. This idea illuminates the story of Jacob who, having had his revelation, set up the stone on which his head had rested, for a pillar, and anointed it. The idea was evidently a Semitic one adopted, again, by the Egyptians in the desire to propitiate the deities of the country in which they were labouring. One point of deep interest also deserves notice. Some of the broken rocks by the mines at Serabit are inscribed with an unknown script, reading from left to right, unlike most Egyptian and later Semitic writing. It seems likely that these writings were the work of Syrian workmen employed by the Egyptians. The writing dates from the 18th dynasty, says Sir Flinders Petrie, and proves " that common Syrian work-

THE SINAI PENINSULA

28

men . . . were familiar with writing at 1500 B.C., and this a writing independent of hieroglyphics and cuneiform. It finally disproves the hypothesis that the Israelites who came through this region into Egypt and passed back again could not have used writing. Here we have common Syrian labourers possessing a script which other Semitic peoples of this region must be credited with knowing." The mining expeditions seem to have been wonderfully well organised. One inscription states that 734 men came in one party under the Egyptians. The remains of miners' huts are still to be seen in these ancient mining centres. Traces of copper mining have been found at Serabit, where an almost perfect crucible was found, and in a workshop of the temple there two copper chisels were discovered. Copper smelting also evidently went on at one time in the Wady Ahmar and elsewhere. Early in the present century a company was formed to work the turquoise mines, which were an entire failure, and in which much money was lost. Added to everything, those in charge of the miners took no care at all of the inscriptions, which were in many cases defaced and spoiled. In the Wady Mukatteb, which leads from the western sandstone range to the beautiful oasis

24

MOUNT SINAI

of Feiran, north-west of the granite Sinai range, there are innumerable inscriptions, often accompanied by rough representations of animals. A certain number of these writings are in Latin, Greek and Arabic, where the cross at times appears, and a great many are in an unknown tongue, some letters of which look like Hebrew. The simple and credulous traveller Cosmas (a merchant of Alexandria who had become a monk and visited the Peninsula early in the sixth century) was inclined to believe his Jewish travelling companions when they told him that the inscriptions in this wady dated back to the day of the Israelitish wanderings, and that they noted the arrival and departure of different tribes. Professor Palmer, however, declared that the work was merely done by idle loungers, and the modern opinion is that they date from early Christian centuries, and that the unknown tongue is a lost Aramean dialect. The explanation of the aforesaid loungers (whom you would not expect according to present conditions to find in such a place) is that in early Christian days Feiran was an important centre, with its own see and bishop ; some idea of its magnitude may be gathered from the remains of stone buildings, which still may be seen on the hill of El Maharrad, where are also hermitages and graves, and

THE SINAI PENINSULA

25

nawamis or small circular stone erections with an entrance on one side. Feiran then being practically a city is mentioned as large and prosperous as late as the fourth century ; there must have been much coming and going, and travellers seized the opportunity, just as they do nowadays, to perpetuate their memory ; the inscriptions in the Wady Mukatteb are the result. There are other inscriptions, on the way up to Serbal, in the Nakb el-IIawa, by St. Catherine's Mountain, in the Wady el-Leja, and elsewhere. We saw some of these as we journeyed; the inscriptions on the granite are not deeply scratched and, in most cases, appear to have been made by pilgrims to the sacred spots. We also saw now and again nawamis of the description mentioned above. The probable uses of these peculiar little edifices were much discussed by scholars of bygone days. The meaning of the word as it stands is " gnats," and there was an idea that they were built to shield from such pests. It is, however, now perfectly clear that they are tombs, in which the dead were buried in a crouched position. It has been suggested that the real origin of the word is an Arabic word meaning rest-houses. It is within the realm of possibility that the more ordinary word, with a meaning under-

26

MOUNT SINAI

stood by the common people, was substituted for the original word as time went on, and so the " gnat " legend came into being. The Wády es-Sheikh, the main central valley of the Peninsula, emerges from the Wády Feiran, making an angle to northward, and then turning south-west to Sinai. The Christian pilgrims from Palestine come by the Valley of Arabah (to the north of the Gulf of 'Akaba) and turn into this valley to reach Sinai at the Wely Saleh, the tomb of Neby Saleh, a prophet whose history is somewhat obscure, but he is the patron saint of the whole southern part of the Peninsula. Rain falls in the Peninsula of Sinai during the winter months and snow at the higher altitudes, though during our visit nearly everything looked dry and parched in the valleys, since no rain had fallen for about eleven months. But it came after we had started homeward from Mount Sinai; and from Tor, on our return journey, we watched the towering peaks we had left far behind wrapped in clouds and mist. In time of rainfall the valleys can be extremely dangerous. When about to enter the Wády Hebran, on our way up, the clouds seemed to be gathering, and the old Sheikh implored us to hurry on, as he said that our lives were in danger if the rain caught us in the gorge. It

THE SINAI PENINSULA

27

appears that, after even one short shower of rain, the water often collects and rushes down the valleys in a sort of spate, sweeping all before it. The Rev. F . W. Holland, in 1867, witnessed a flood like this in the Wady Solaf ; the whole of an Arab encampment was, on that occasion, swept away, with camels, cattle and sheep, while forty human beings lost their lives. It was, therefore, scarcely surprising that the Sheikh was agitated at the thought of our going through the wady during rainfall. As regards vegetation, date palms grow in parts ; the Wady Feiran is famous for its date harvest, and round about Tor these trees are found, as well as in other parts. The whiteblossomed broom (the juniper of Scripture), the acacia or shittim tree of the Israelitish wanderings, and the delicate, feathery tamarisk are found wherever there is water. The gumlike exudation of the tamarisk is called by the Arabs " mann," and the Convent authorities presented us with small tins of the same. The exudation is caused by the action of a small insect, which punctures the tree, and the sticky substance which oozes out is much relished by the Arabs, who eat it as we eat jam or butter. This manna does not, however, fulfil the conditions given in the Bible in describing the food with which Israel was fed from heaven, however

28

MOUNT SINAI

much people may try to prove that this is what was meant. Charcoal has always been considered a product of the Peninsula, strangely enough, considering how few trees there are. In order to secure this export the Arabs cut the trees that do exist in the most barbaric and ruthless way. There is little doubt that in olden days the Peninsula was much more thickly wooded than it is now ; indeed it seems as if only knowledge and labour were needed to make this land, which is usually described as " barren," blossom as a rose, for there appears to be water fairly near the surface, practically everywhere. There are still a good many low shrubs in the wadys ; our camels constantly stopped, when we least wished them to, in order that they might nibble at the yellow-flowered abeithiran ; another thorny bush, commonly found, is the gharked. Colocynth gourds, mandrakes with purple blossoms, the thorny blue-hued silleh, all these were to be seen as we journeyed. The kirdhy, with its golden blossoms, we gathered for table decorations on great occasions in Camp. The lasaf, probably the hyssop of Scripture, the ser, or myrrh, and many other fragrant herbs of the order thymacese abound, though they are often so dried up that, except for their noble quality of giving out their fragrance to

THE SINAI PENINSULA

29

the world in tribulation as well as prosperity, their existence would sometimes pass unnoticed. Many places in the Peninsula have apparently taken their names from these precious products of the wilderness ; thus Serbal probably is so called from the ser or myrrh which grows upon it, Sufsafeh from the willows which are found in its wady, and Sinai itself from the seneh, or acacia, which was apparently plentiful there in old days.1 Maidenhair fern grows in caves in the oases ; a great cluster of roots, brought down by an enthusiast for the beautiful in our party from a high cave near to Sinai, to serve as a tablecentre, caused us constant joy. We actually managed to get the cluster to England alive, though the roots seemed to need almost as much care as young infants in transit. There is pasture for flocks in the higher parts of the Peninsula in the rainy season, and the Arabs take up their live stock at such times. It is otherwise a puzzle to know how the flocks are fed at all; the sheep and goats, whenever we saw any, looked half-starved. As regards the fauna of the Peninsula, the ibex, gazelle, hyrax, hare, jerboa and hyena are 1 I find on excellent authority that the name Sinai, together with Sin or Zin (Exodus and Numbers), all date back to Sin, a name of the moon god in ancient Babylonia.

30

MOUNT SINAI

common. Panthers and bears are occasionally found. The ibex, above mentioned, is the " wild goat " of Scripture. While camping by Jebel Musa the flesh of this animal (rather to the regret of some of us) formed part of our menu. The ibex is a timid creature, and is not easily seen. The hyrax or coney of the Bible has in reality nothing in common with the rabbit family, the word " coney " being merely a wrong translation of the Hebrew shaphan. The strange animal is actually distantly related to the elephant. It burrows, and we saw plentiful traces of its existence, though we never saw the little beast itself. Indeed, during the whole of our travelling we did not, with one exception, set eyes on a single wild animal, owing perhaps to the fact that we had not what they sometimes call " jungle sight " ; wild creatures are so skilled at hiding and adapting themselves to their surroundings that travellers often have this experience. The one exception referred to was that once when a member of the party was waiting alone, at dusk, on a mountainplain for the rest to come up, something ran out suddenly from the mountain side and disappeared ; it looked about the size of a fox ; but the clear air of Sinai is so deceptive that she would not venture to make any definite

THE SINAI PENINSULA

31

assertion as to what she saw or what its actual size was ; the fact of knowing that there were living things about made her realise that it would be better to light a lantern as the darkness was gathering. Dr. Edward Hull in Mount Seir, Sinai and Western Palestine speaks of the many and varied footprints they came across in one valley further north, those of the gazelle being the most numerous, and others being evidently those of hyenas and large felines, probably leopards ; he says that the conclusion to be drawn was that during the night the whole surface of the valley in question was alive with wild animals which had emerged in search of food and water. The same sort of thing would be true elsewhere, and we regretted that we did not see some of our gentler and more harmless animal companions. Burckhardt speaks of sea-snakes as abounding near the northern part of the Gulf of 'Akaba ; he stated that their trails crossed and recrossed each other on the sea-sand. The cerastes and other snakes are occasionally found, but we came across none in our journeying. As regards birds, a small species of partridge is common in parts, but we saw none of these, as they are not easily distinguishable from the ground on which they move ; this was perhaps again owing to our lack of jungle sight.

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Eagles seem to abound ; many a time we watched them soaring and poising among the mountain peaks. On several occasions we saw them lying dead, with nothing to account for their condition. In the oases tiny wagtails strutted up and down with their usual dandified air without uttering any sound ; a dainty black and white creature with a clear robin-like note and a friendly disposition (usually alone) watched us inquisitively, while sandpipers seemed to collect in flocks. The ubiquitous sparrow, having apparently adapted himself to his surroundings by a slight lengthening of his tail and a greener tingeing of his coat, held his own cheerfully wherever habitation was possible for him, as indeed he does all the world over. Sir John Mandeville, that delightful romancer of the fourteenth century, who seems to rejoice in the extraordinary and bizarre, notes that rooks and other fowls fly about the Convent of St. Catherine in great numbers " as they should make pilgrimage in their manner, and ilk ane of them brings in their nebbe " (beak) " instead of offering, a branch of olive, and leaves them there, and on that wise there is great plenty of olives left to be the sustenance of the house." We saw no larger birds of this description save some black birds in flight which seemed

T H E SINAI PENINSULA

83

to be of the curlew tribe, and the legend would be more understandable were it connected with Ararat instead of Sinai. The soft blue-green olive trees of the monastery garden keep the brethren and their visitors well supplied with oil for all purposes.

CHAPTER IV THE

ARRIVAL

W

E came slowly, on our camels, across the Plain of Raha. Straight before us rose, in a precipitous grandeur, Sufsafeh, the steep end of the range of Horeb, to which, tradition says, Moses descended to deliver the law to the people of Israel, after receiving it from the hand of the Lord on the higher peak of Jebel Musa. On the very plain we were crossing the tents of the people of God were once pitched. Here, as the shadows fell, they would perhaps watch from their tent doors, when the day's activity was over, the growing radiance in the mighty pillar of cloud until, through the darkness it shone out like living, consuming fire ; awful, yet beautiful; terrible, yet a constant and reassuring sign of the presence among them of Jehovah, Whose Almighty power had brought them out of the land of bondage, and Who was, withal, their Shepherd, merciful and gracious, 34

THE ARRIVAL

35

an Eternal Watcher by night and day, Who neither slumbered nor slept. It seemed impossible to realise that we were on this holy ground at last; we moved on in silence, the " speaking silcnce of a dream." The sunlight of the late afternoon mellowed and transfigured everything ; the low shrubs, half-withered in appearance, which dotted the plain, the smaller herbs dried up for lack of rain, and even sweeter in their dying than in their living, all these caught the radiance and shone through a golden mist; the darkest and most rugged mountain on which the sunset glory was reflected seemed clothed with an adorning more beautiful than the softest velvetgreen verdure. Then, suddenly, as we passed on, we caught sight of a cross, set up on the height of Horeb ; clear it stood against the sky, as if to show that love had conquered, and that none could ever come again in fear to " the mount that burned with fire." At last the Convent of St. Catherine was in sight in the gorge by Jebel Musa ; we could see its cypresses and its walled enclosure ; it looked (as it ever looks to travellers who approach it) like a strange anomaly, a garden in the desert, a house of habitation set amid bare, barren

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SINAI

mountain ranges ; to those of us who now saw it for the first time it far surpassed our highest expectations in its strong, solitary beauty and impressiveness. Every moment the darkness was growing. We began to hope that the Convent would not be shut, for we had read vivid accounts of one set of travellers who reached the place after sundown and who, even though they had no tents with them, were not permitted by the Convent authorities to enter its actual precincts owing to some rule of their Order, and were consequently forced to spend the night in an open courtyard without fitting means for keeping themselves warm or for sleeping. We felt that we might share a like fate, and we were all so tired that it struck a chill to our hearts to think of such a reception. We were indeed merely an advance party, for some of the expedition had gone from the last camping-place to see Feiran, the most beautiful oasis of the Sinai Peninsula, and they were to follow the next day. We, meanwhile, had gone straight on, as we were anxious to get to the Convent as soon as possible to begin work in the Library. At the foot of the last pass, leading to the Plain of Raha, the old Sheikh, who had escorted us from the coast, had informed us that our

THE ARRIVAL

37

tents and heavy baggage must all go round by the central valley of the Peninsula, the Wady es-Sheikh, and that only very lightly laden camels could go up the Nakb el-IIawa (the Pass of the Winds) ; indeed he insisted that human beings could not ride up the pass at all on camels, and did his best to persuade us to go round the longer way. This led to long, vociferous and stormy discussion, during which our camelmen grew so excited, and screamed so long and loud, that persons uninitiated in Eastern methods might have thought the matter could end in nothing but some desert tragedy. But the word-storm was at last ended by definite action on the part of the expedition ; Dr. Rendel Harris turned his camel's head firmly in the direction of the forbidden pass, announcing to the Sheikh as he did so that he was going that way and none other, whatever anyone else did 1 We naturally followed our leader, and by a sort of compromise the camels, laden with tents and heavier baggage, took the long route. It was owing to all this that we were arriving at St. Catherine's without our complete travelling paraphernalia. We learned various lessons in the Pass of the Winds, one being that an Arab can oc-

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casionally speak the truth without a hidden motive. " ' Try not the pass,' the old man said," and, in this special case, the old man was quite right as regarded the danger of our attempting to ride up the gorge. Rock-climbing is impossible for camels, and several of us had misadventures owing to our poor beasts slipping and hesitating in their fear ; in the end we all dismounted and toiled up the pass on foot. We also learned in the Pass of the Winds that if you have first-aid appliances with you at all it is more sensible to have them actually on your person. One of the party had a rather bad collapse, resulting from the exertion of the steep ascent. The doctor was far ahead, and even in the confusion of that sudden emergency it was impossible not to feel dismayed amusement at the fact that, after all our preparation and thought regarding medical apparatus for rough travelling, it should transpire, now that the need actually arose, that everything in the way of restoratives was carefully packed away on a camel that had also outdistanced us. We learned as well that a roundabout, unprepossessing-looking camp cook, in very primitive attire, and a sturdy guide who sometimes tried us on other occasions by his lack of cere-

THE ARRIVAL

39

mony, could be as angels of light when any disaster threatened any one of the party; their tender care of the sufferer was quite a revelation. But all these adventures had been rather exhausting, added to the turmoil of feeling at really reaching Mount Sinai, so that, as we actually approached the Convent we were in no mood for further excitement. The evening dimness had increased as we entered the gorge ; the rocks on either side assumed fantastic shapes ; gigantic, sardonic faces seemed to watch us and gibe at us as we passed. It was as if, suddenly, by some strange manner of means, we had been transported into the midst of a tale from The Arabian Nights, a wonderful tale, full of mystery. Then the Convent loomed above us, a grim and apparently inaccessible fortress, with no sign of life about it. We came to a stop before the fast-closed gate, and dismounted from our camels to prepare for whatever awaited us. Our tired beasts, having knelt for us to descend, rose again and stood immovable, silent and patient, for once, at a halt; their red necktrappings showed clear through the gathering darkness ; they were thin and shaggy beasts of the desert, but at this moment they were clothed

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with the glamour of the situation. We forgot, as we looked at them, their wayward and perverse antics on the march ; they seemed to us, as they stood there, like some picture of the camels of the wise men who followed the star in the east. We, too, were on a starry quest, and this was part of it. Dr. Rendel Harris, in his rough white sheepskin Arab coat, leaned quietly against the wall by the Convent door ; he looked like some kindly magician from a land of long ago who was going to win a way for us into the treasurecastle. We knocked and called loudly, almost thinking, when no response came, that we should not even have the shelter of the courtyard, but be forced to spend the night on the rocks. But at last there was a sign of life ; black-robed figures, with the tall head-dress of the Greek priest, appeared on the battlements and peeped over. Dr. Harris addressed them in Greek, while those of us incompetent to communicate in like manner reiterated the name of " Rendel Harris " in chorus at every fitting opportunity, that there should be no mistake as to the identity of one of the party at any rate. Our united efforts had the desired effect. The black-robed phantoms slipped away one by one ; sounds were heard within ; there was

T H E ARRIVAL

41

a fumbling at the door before which we stood, then it was flung wide open, and we, with our camels and camelmen, passed into the open courtyard of the Convent. There the camels and men stayed, while the rest of us were taken further. We followed our guides through a narrow doorway where we had almost to stoop to enter ; we went on by winding passages up flights of stairs until, almost dazed, we reached a large reception-room, where we were invited to sit down, while three black-robed brethren, with a gracious courtesy, played the hosts in a way they considered fitting to the dignity of their principal guest, of whose coming they had been informed by the Archbishop of Sinai, resident in Cairo, but whom they had not expected so soon. Dr. Harris presented the letters of recommendation from the Archbishop ; these seemed to give unbounded satisfaction to our hosts, who waxed so eloquent in their greetings that the speeches seemed unending. Trays were handed round on which were tiny glasses of arrack, larger glasses of water with which to dilute the spirit, and jam to be eaten with spoons. One of our ladies (not expecting anything stronger than water or lemonjuice in a Convent, and not wishing to seem to find any fault with fare so courteously offered

CHAPTER V

THE CONVENT OF ST. CATHERINE OW the Convent of St. Catherine came into being in the heart of the wilderness, is explained by the religious history of the Peninsula of Sinai. Since the very early days of the Christian era Sinai was a spot where hermits, disgusted with the wickedness of their age, and longing to know more of the truth of God, took up their abode. The region where the Almighty had revealed Himself in so marvellous a manner to the children of Israel, was considered by such as one of the most sacred on earth, and happy was the one who could actually ascend into the hill of the Lord, and stand in His holy place. And not only did recluses take up their abode in Sinai, but constant streams of pilgrims visited the Peninsula with the hope of spiritual gain. The discussion1 as to which was really the 1

For other results of modern research see A History of Sinai, by L. Eckenstein. S.P.C.K. 44

CONVENT OF ST. CATHERINE

45

mountain of the law has almost worn itself threadbare ; some scholars have insisted that Serbal was the place, others have chosen Mount Hor as the Mount of revelation ; but, many still consider the Range of Horeb to be the Sinai of Scripture, with Jebel Musa and Sufsafeh as the Mountain of Moses, and " the mountain which burned with fire," and the stretching Plain of Raha as the campingground of Israel. There is indeed nothing surprising in the fact that both Serbal and Hor should have been famous places of pilgrimage, and bear the marks that show the fact to this day. Both have sacred associations. It was on Hor that Aaron was buried, and his reputed tomb there is still visited by Jewish and Mohammedan pilgrims. From Paran, the modern Feiran, " God shined forth," and the power of Jehovah in saving Israel from Amalek was displayed in the same place, hence it was scarcely strange that Serbal, the mountain dominating the oasis, should have been counted sacred. It is now also wellknown that Serablt el-Ivhadim, in the sandstone mountains north of Feiran, was a place connected with religious Semitic worship long before Israelite days, as has been already stated. Serbal was, in any case, an easier place for pilgrimage from Egypt, owing to its proximity to

46

MOUNT SINAI

that country, and also owing to the prosperous settlement in Feiran. It appears without doubt to have been the more popular place of pilgrimage for a considerable time, and pilgrims ascended Serbal believing it to be Sinai, the Mount of God. The statement that the sacred sites around Jebel Musa only date from the time of Justinian does not seem an entirely correct one, for, to give one example, St. Silvia (or as she seems to be more correctly called, St. Etheria), who travelled in Sinai probably about A.D. 460, mentions in her account various sacred spots by Jebel Musa, showing that in the fifth century the tradition was the same as it is now. She speaks of " Faran " as " distant thirtyfive miles from the Mount of God." " Meanwhile," she says, " as we walked we arrived at a certain place where the mountains, between which we were passing, opened themselves out and formed a great valley, very flat and extremely beautiful; and beyond the valley appeared Sinai, the holy Mount of God. . . . At the fourth hour we arrived at the peak of Sinai, the holy Mount of God where the law was given. . . . In that place there is now a church—not a large one because the place itself, the summit of the mountain is not large ; but the church has in itself a large measure of grace.

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47

. . . It was furthermore necessary to go out at the head of the valley because there were there many cells of holy men, and a church where the Bush is ; this bush is alive to the present day and sends forth shoots. This is the Bush I spoke of above which God spoke to Moses in the fire, which is the place where there are many cells, and the church at the head of the valley. Before the church there is a very pleasant garden with abundance of good water, in which garden the Bush is. . . . We took a light meal there in the garden before the Bush with the holy men. They also pointed out the place where the calf was made ; a great stone is fixed in that place to this day." Who this St. Silvia was is not perfectly clear, but it is somewhat of a relief to think, after reading her charming account of her travels, that scholarship has finally decided that she was not St. Silvia of Aquitaine concerning whom the painful fact is extant that she had never washed, save the tips of her fingers, before communicating, and this alarming statement she made at the age of sixty. Silvia of Sinai, or Etheria, lived later than her namesake of Aquitaine, and was evidently a lady of quality, quite unused to rough travelling without every comfort and appliance to make it easy, whereas the unwashed Silvia, it is stated, never rode in a litter in her life.

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Some scholars have asserted that most likely a later scribe inserted the parts in Etheria's narrative that make Jebel Musa and its surroundings fit in with the requirements for the site of Sinai, but this is certainly not proven. Again, it is often forgotten that when the Lord appeared to Moses in the Burning Bush, the future leader of the children of Israel was told that this should be the sign to him : " Y e shall serve God upon this mountain." The site of the Burning Bush is very ancient; and certainly the mountain on which the vision was given, and none other, was the mountain on which the people of God were to worship. There has never been any Burning Bush tradition in Serbal. One of the first references made to Sinai in the Christian era is by Dionysius of Alexandria about A.D. 250 ; he states that Egyptian Christians fled for refuge to these stern peaks in times of persecution. In the fourth century, as far as can be ascertained, quite a number of anchorites had collected round and on Jebel Musa. These hermits lived in the solitude of their caves and cells from Monday till Saturday ; they then met in the Church at the foot of the mountain and spent the night in prayer till Sunday morning, when they received the Sacrament and returned each to his lonely exist-

CONVENT

OF

ST.

CATHERINE

49

ence. One of the first hermits actually known by name was the Abbot Silvanus, an Egyptian, who went to live on Jebel Musa about A.D. 365. Ammonius, a monk of Canopus, visited the place about A.D. 373, and witnessed the terrible assault of the Saracens on the tower which had been already built for refuge in times of difficulty. When hope was almost gone and the holy men were about to fall into the hands of their enemies the summit of Jebel Musa seemed wrapped in flame, and the enemy fled in terror. Forty anchorites were slain on this occasion, a fact which very likely gave the Church of the Forty Martyrs (el-Arb'ain), in the Wady el-Leja, its name. T h e number of monks and hermits resident in the Jebel Musa district at the time of the Mohammedan invasion was about six thousand. It was, however, early in the sixth century that the recluses of Sinai, worn out with the harassing of their Saracen tormentors, petitioned Justinian the Emperor to build them a central convent where they could take refuge from their enemies ; the tower they had long since built, enclosing the Church of St. Mary close to the traditional site of the Burning Bush and the well of Jethro, was inadequate to their needs. Justinian, to whom the thought of such a fortress appealed, granted their request, and 4

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Sir John Mandeville, who would have us believe that he actually visited the place, tells the gruesome story of the stirring of the bones, and the oil thereby produced, which was presented to distinguished pilgrims ; and he adds other horrible details which show how firmly the fantastic story was believed in the fourteenth century ; every grim particular he gives has an origin in the commonly received traditions of the death of the saint, who, according to the latest research, is an entirely fictitious character.1 The Convent was originally built to accommodate some hundreds. In the middle of the fourteenth century it is recorded that four hundred monks, including lay brethren with the Archbishop and prelates, were in residence. On the occasion of our visit there were only twenty-two monks in residence. Within the actual Convent precincts lie, besides the numerous cells, chapels, living and reception rooms and Library, the Church of the Transfiguration, and side by side with it a mosque. Burckhardt, who visited the Convent in 1816, writes, concerning the chapels, that there were twenty-seven of them, and that daily 1 Compare A New Christian Apology, by Dr. Rendel Harris, reprinted from The Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, Vol. V I I , No. 3. Longmans, Green & Co. i s . 6 d .

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53

masses were read in many of them and in all of them at least every Sunday. The original idea seems to have been that different Christian sects should worship in them. Their number varies with different travellers, some stating that there were over thirty. The Church is sometimes attributed to Justinian, and there are medallions usually considered to represent him and Theodora in the old mosaics in the apse ; Professor Palmer, however, believed these to be representations of Christ and His mother. The Transfiguration, from which the Church took its name, is also depicted in these mosaics. The whole building is most impressive, with its mighty granite pillars with lotus-headed capitals and its Byzantine windows. It is hung with six great chandeliers and many smaller ones, all in silver and gold of the most exquisite design and workmanship. Ostrich eggs in abundance hang from the roof. The presentday green colouring of the pillars and walls is painful to modern taste, and the fact that on the walls, side by side with wonderful old paintings, hang gaudy and worthless ones has offended the aesthetic taste of some travellers. But nothing can rob the place of its old-world dignity ; it remains, as long as it stands, a marvel of the desert, a silent testimony to the

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SINAI

ings from the Gospels, and processions round the church. A table placed in the nave near the west door bore a beautiful large porcelain bowl, and also a cross, candles, censer and incense, and bunches of sweet basil. Presently many were grouped at the table, and water was poured into the bowl and blessed, and a small crucifix and the herbs were dipped together into i t ; then the larger cross was sprinkled, and afterwards the groups of those who stood round on the right hand and on the left. Finally others came near, one by one, with bent heads, and so received the sprinkling from the wet basil. On leaving the church we were taken to the reception-room and entertained. T h e usual large tray was handed round with a compdt (a delicious quince jelly on this occasion), and glasses of water and arrack, followed by coffee. T h e two chief archimandrites wore their splendid gold chains and jewelled crosses, and all were most friendly and hospitable. T h e y gave us sprigs of the sweet basil, grown in pots— (and old petrol tins)—on the roof. F r o m the roof, outside the room we were in, we could see the monk in the bell-tower with the ropes gathered in his hand, his hair flying out f r o m his head as his body swayed to peal the bells, while another man on the lower story of the tower struck the horizontal wooden beam. With regard to the Mosque that stands side by side with the Church, legend is fruitful. T h e story goes that Mohammed, some hundred

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57

years after the building of the Convent, came here as a camel-boy and spent a night in the place. It is said that on this occasion he gave to the Convent a letter of protection which he signed himself with a black mark, as he could not write. In recognition of this supposed fact a special charter has been signed for the monks by each successive Sultan of Constantinople ; they showed us a copy of the last, in the Library, during our stay. On the mountain side you may see what people now tell us is the mark of the foot of Mohammed's dromedary in the rock. But no weight can be attached to any of these stories of the prophet of Arabia, for there is, unfortunately, strong probability that the tales arose, as time went on, born of the desire of the inhabitants of the Convent to have the shelter of his name in an isolated spot, surrounded only by his adherents, from whom the Christians had suffered much in the past. The ordinary call to prayer to the brethren is made by striking a curved bit of iron ; there are other like contrivances of wood and granite which each fulfil their appointed functions ; the sound of the striking of the wooden beam in the bell-tower, to which reference has already been made, often broke rudely upon the quiet of the Library as we worked. On great occa-

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sions when (as has been already described) the Convent guns were used with the bells the effect was extraordinary. The ethereal and unearthly sound of the chimes mingled with the echoes of the heavy concussions and echoed and re-echoed along the valley and over the plain ; it was a unique and exquisite medley of sound only to be heard to advantage in the unusual circumstances in which we found ourselves at Sinai, a dream-phantasy which will always linger in the memory. The original Convent has the appearance of a fortress, with its sturdy towers and scarped south-eastern wall. It was restored by Kleber, when the French troops occupied Egypt in the time of Napoleon, as a tablet records. On the great granite blocks of the time of Justinian on the western side of the Convent there are strange carvings, in which the cross and crescent and star are combined. Until fairly recent times visitors to the Convent were drawn up into the building through a penthouse about thirty feet from the ground on the north-eastern side ; now visitors are admitted by the big gates which lead to the courtyard on the north-west side of the original house, and they enter to the Church and Library by the low armoured door which we used on our arrival. Close to this door is a

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walled-up entrance, the gate of the Archbishop of Sinai, Abbot of the Convent. This gate was apparently closed up because of the strange understanding that the Archbishop would, if he passed through the gate and took up residence in the Convent, be responsible for the maintenance of all the desert-dwellers round for six months. The Archbishop in actual fact resides permanently in Cairo, but the old tradition of his never visiting the Convent has worn itself out. On one of Mrs. Lewis's visits she reports that he was in residence, and had been for a year, to overlook alterations, and other travellers have found him there since. Beyond the courtyard lie the walled-in Convent gardens, making of the whole premises a straggling quadrilateral enclosure. Within the gardens it was hard to realise that we were in the heart of the desert; olives, vines, pear trees, orange trees, laden with golden fruit, all drank of the hidden springs of the gorge and flourished. The almond trees were in flower while we were there; their delicate blossoms looked strangely out of keeping with the rugged mountain slopes, but were the more beautiful for the contrast; they seemed to have a bluish tinge, which made them appear less hardy than the blooms of more normal surroundings ; but the

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almonds which we constantly enjoyed were delicious, only showing any traces of a battle with circumstances by clothing themselves with harder shells than almonds usually wear. We would not go as far as one traveller, who asserted that the garden of St. Catherine's Convent is the most beautiful in the world, but we shall certainly always look back to it as a most delightsome spot.

CHAPTER VI T I I E LIBRARY

D

R. R E N D E L HARRIS, Dr. Hatch and Mr. Wood, the official members of the expedition, were conducted to the Library the morning after our arrival at the Convent. Three others of the party were also most anxious to gain admittance for regular work : Dr. Benson, for the sake of copying any ancient paintings and illuminations that she could; while two of us, including Miss Edna Emerson, wished to examine the Arabic manuscripts. It was a chance whether Dr. Harris would be able to win a way in for ladies, but he did ; and it was a great joy to us to find ourselves installed at regular desks for work during our stay, and to find that the Librarian seemed to take the presence of women in the Library as a matter of course ; we owed more perhaps to the traditions of Mrs. Lewis and Mrs. Gibson than we realised at first. T h e Library is close to the Church, reached by a rather steep stair, so steep indeed that we

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were not surprised to hear from the account of a past expedition that one of the archimandrites had a bad fall there in the excitement of welcoming his guests, and was obliged to attend them in a much-bandaged condition in consequence. The Library itself is a very different place from what it was fifty, or even thirty, years ago. Time and experience have taught the monks the importance of preserving, cataloguing and knowing the contents of their manuscripts and books. Carefully constructed grills now guard the precious treasures of antiquity from prying eyes and over-eager hands, while the august Librarian is the only means of access to any volume or parchment on the shelves. In addition to all this, exacting rules are now posted up in a conspicuous place at the entrance ; visitors are thereby informed that they may only have access to the place for a certain number of days, and that, moreover, they may only work for a certain number of hours during those days. Together with all these limitations stands a strict injunction that no photographs at all may be taken, a proviso which struck chill to our hearts, for there were two skilled photographers in the party, and we had hoped to bring back untold treasures in the way of manuscript photographs.

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After a rather desperate review of the situation it was finally decided to send a special messenger down to Tor to telegraph to the Archbishop of Sinai fo permission to carry out the original intentions of the expedition as regarded photography. We waited, then, several days in some anxiety, until the reply telegram was brought up again by our messenger. It was a favourable one. The Archbishop said, most graciously, that, in consideration of his friendship with Dr. Rendel Harris, perfect liberty was to be granted. This liberty the friendly archimandrites interpreted in the most generous manner ; they allowed us to remain in the Library over the prescribed time, and did all they could to facilitate the photographic arrangements. The whole atmosphere was a pleasant one in which to work ; Dr. Harris sat as a sort of final appeal at one desk, a picture of benevolent patience. Ilis last visit to the Convent had been some thirty years ago, and he constantly came across the results of his own work of that time, as he rapidly scanned manuscript after manuscript. Sometimes there would be a few minutes of suppressed excitement when one or other of the workers thought a find had been made ; too often, on closer examination, it proved to

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be nothing ; but when one takes up manuscript research of any kind, in a place so full of possibilities, which has already yielded up priceless treasure, one begins to understand the fever of the diamond miner who stakes out his claim and toils in it, carried through untold trouble and exertion by his living hope. To be allowed to touch, handle and decipher manuscripts hundreds of years old, to read Christian treatises dating from the early centuries of the Christian era, crystal-clear in their faith and theology, and yet unknown to the Christian world at large, this, even in the Arabic section, was our experience. We felt as if we had got away, near to the root of things, beyond the commentaries which, as someone once tersely said, " so often cast a gloom over passages otherwise perfectly clear.'5 It was an experience which those of us who underwent it for the first time will never forget. I think some of us got finally to that stage where we did not care to look at a paper manuscript of the thirteenth or fourteenth century as long as there were still vellum or parchment copies to be examined, and as we saw how, throughout the ages, from the time of the founding of the Convent, the monks had guarded these works and laboured at copying them, it was impossible not to feel that the early monasteries served a distinct

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purpose and bestowed a lasting benefit on the Christian world by their conscientious care of the Word of God and the writings of the early Christian fathers. Every morning we took up coffee in a thermos, with cups, to the Library that at a seasonable moment we might break our labours and have a coffee party with the Librarian or any other archimandrite present; this pleased the brethren very much, and made a pleasant little interlude, though the monks of long ago might have been shocked at such levity in so grave a place. It may be as well to give some little account of the treasures found in the Library in the past. The best known, perhaps, is the Codex Sinaiticus, brought to light by Tischendorf. With regard to this manuscript he tells how, when visiting the Convent in 1844, he saw, in the middle of the great hall, a basket full of old parchments, and was told that two similar heaps had been burned. On examining the manuscripts he found, to his astonishment, a number of sheets of a copy of the Old Testament in Greek which bore evidence of great antiquity. He was allowed by the Convent authorities to take away about forty-five of these sheets, which he published as the Codex 5

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Friderico-Augustanus in honour of his German patron. He returned to the place in 1853 with but little result, but when he went once more, in 1859, with a commission from the Emperor of Russia, he found nearly the whole of the remainder of the manuscript. It was shown him just before he was leaving by one of the stewards of the Convent, who had it in his cell wrapped in a red cloth. Tischendorf says of this Codex :— It contains the Old and New Testament, and is written with four columns to a page. The New Testament is perfect. T o the twentyseven books of the New Testament are appended the Epistle of Barnabas complete and part of the Shepherd of Hermas. We are led by all the data upon which we calculate the antiquity of manuscripts to assign the Codex Sinaiticus to the middle of the fourth century. It is not even impossible that the Sinaitic Codex . . . formed one of the fifty copies of the Bible which in the year 331 the Emperor Constantine ordered to be executed for Constantinople under the direction of Eusebius, the Bishop of Csesarea, best known as a Church historian. In this case it must be understood that the Emperor Justinian, the founder of the Sinaitic monastery, sent it as a present from Constantinople to the monks at Sinai.

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He thus concludes the story :— On the 27th of September I returned to Cairo. The monks and archbishops then warmly expressed their thanks for my jealous efforts in their cause, and the following day I received from them under the form of a loan the Sinaitic Bible to carry to St. Petersburg and there to have it copied as accurately as possible. I set out from Egypt early in October, and on the 19th of November I presented to their Imperial Majesties in the Winter Palace at Tsarkoe-Selo my rich collection of old Greek, Syrian, Coptic, Arabic and other manuscripts in the middle of which the Sinaitic Bible shone like a crown. If the monks and archbishops were grateful to the great critic at the time, they certainly were not afterwards. The manuscript was only lent to be copied, but they never set eyes on it again; they were practically forced to sell it to the Emperor. It was only after long argument that they consented to part with it on the Emperor's terms, which included a large sum of money and a silver shrine for the bones of St. Catherine. Dr. Stoughton, in his " Days in the Desert" (Sunday at Home, 1868), gives an account of the matter, which perhaps throws light on a subject which certainly has its painful side when it is looked at from the point of view of the Convent. He says :—

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It was here (the Convent of St. Catherine) that the valuable manuscript published by Tischendorf was obtained. The story of the way by which he obtained it is very curious, as related by himself to Dr. Rosen, who repeated it to us when we met him at Jerusalem. Tischendorf visited Sinai three times. On one of these occasions the critic, before visiting the monks, procured a letter to facilitate his researches; but finding out by some means that the letter was intended to guard the brethren against the learned visitor, he burned it before he reached the Convent. He had previously discovered part of a most precious manuscript, and now lighted upon a further part which he longed to obtain. It happened that the office of Oikonomos was vacant, and he proceeded to turn the circumstance to his own account. Two parties were formed, each wishing its own candidate to gain the situation. Tischendorf joined the weaker party, talked to the leader about the manuscript, and promised to use his influence with the Emperor of Russia in favour of the aspirant, who otherwise stood no chance. The Emperor of Russia, as head of the Greek Church, could do great things with the Patriarch of Sinai; but to secure the imperial patronage it would be necessary to make a present, and the manuscript of the Gospels would be a suitable one, and might be bestowed for that purpose. The plan prospered, and after a good deal of diplomacy the treasure was secured and the at first hopeless competitor for the office

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found himself at last installed as Oikonomos. But that does not end the curious story, for the manuscript proved incomplete, and the rest of it was marvellously discovered by the same learned investigator in the possession of a Greek merchant, who held it as a sort of heirloom and would part with it for no money. The promise of some title in the gift of the Russian Emperor at last proved more effectual than gold, and Tischendorf carried off his prize in triumph. We have never seen this story in print, but it is not inconsistent with the account published by Tischendorf, and we give the outline as well as we can remember it. It is indeed always difficult to get at the real truth of things, and people are fond of excusing doubtful acts on the ground of expediency ; but it is a matter for regret that, in connection with so holy a volume, there should have been so much of apparent intrigue and diplomacy of a doubtful nature. In the Convent they still call Tischendorf " the thief," and nothing seems to take from the authorities that heritage of distrust and suspicion handed down to them by their brothers of sixty years ago ; they consider that they were, as a community, ruthlessly robbed, and will not in consequence leave any student in the Library alone for a minute. They possess a facsimile of the Codex Sinaiticus sent by the Czar to help to heal the

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lacerated feelings of the Convent community. We looked at it on one occasion, with the Librarian, thrilled by contact with even a copy of the famous volume. We all laughed simultaneously as we looked ; we were doubtless thinking the same thing, and the Librarian was, despite his hilarity, perhaps saying again in his heart, " the thief." Indeed there have been other strange occurrences that have made the brothers careful. Dr. Harris found in the Library this time, to his great surprise, the Books of the Maccabees in Syriac. It was about this very work that Mrs. Lewis had a law-suit on one occasion in Cairo. It was offered to her for sale by a dealer, and she instantly recognised it as belonging to the Convent at Sinai, for Dr. Harris himself had photographed part of it. The dealer was accordingly called into Court, but Mrs. Lewis lost her case merely through a question of technicalities in the proving of the identity of the photograph. The question that puzzled Dr. Harris was how the books got back into the Library, since the monks professed entire ignorance of the matter. Equally important from one point of view, and yet not as widely known or appreciated as the Codex Sinaiticus, is the Syriac version of the Gospels found by Mrs. Lewis and Mrs. Gibson, the well-known twin-

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sisters, while visiting St. Catherine's Convent in February, 1892. " It was shown to me," says Mrs. Lewis, " by the late Librarian, Galaktion, amongst a number of other Syriac manuscripts, and I was attracted by its look of venerable antiquity, also still more by the fact that as nearly all its leaves were glued together my eyes were undoubtedly the first which had gazed intelligently on it for centuries. On separating the leaves with my fingers I saw that it was a palimpsest, that the upper or later writing was a martyrology or collection of lives of women saints, and that the under or earlier one contained a good portion of the Synoptic Gospels." This is a fourth century manuscript, representing a version in Syriac of the second century, Syriac being the vernacular of the people of the time of Our Lord and the first language into which the Gospels were translated from the Greek. A good number of Syriac versions are in existence, but none as old as this, which brings us into a more living contact with the thought and speech of the time of Christ than any other version could. The sisters brought back photographs of the whole work, and a special expedition consisting of Professor Bensly, Mr. Burkitt and Dr. Rendel Harris accompanied them back to Sinai

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to transcribe the manuscript. A t the cost of enormous labour and trouble the discovery was finally given to the world. T h e actual manuscript was proudly shown to us by the Librarian, enclosed in a carved box of Spanish mahogany, made in Cambridge, and specially sent by Mrs. Lewis for the purpose. Some of the most interesting readings of this version are as follows :— We have seen his star from the east. (Matt, ii. 2.) Joseph to whom was betrothed Mary the Virgin begat Jesus who is called the Christ, and she bore to him a son and he called his name Jesus. (Matt, i. 16.) Which will ye that I release unto you, Jesus Bar Abba, or Jesus that is called Christ. (Matt, xxvii. 17.) Anna was seven days with a husband after her virginity. (Luke ii. 36.) With regard to the second quotation, the account of the supernatural birth of Our Lord in Matthew i. is given, so that it is quite evident that this statement merely gives the legal standing of Our Lord with regard to Joseph. Mrs, Gibson and Mrs. Lewis, who were given the L L . D . of St. Andrews and the Litt.D. of Dublin in recognition of their fruitful labours, visited Sinai no less than six times ;

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on every hand we reaped the benefit of their toil; they had catalogued and copied, making enlightening notes, and in every way smoothing the path for those who should follow. Another great treasure of the Library is the Book of the Gospels, a lectionary [supposed] of the time of Theodosius the Third, A.D. 766, with its untarnished gold uncials and its sternly beautiful pictures, in colour, of Our Lord and the evangelists. Most of it looked as fresh as if it had been illuminated but yesterday. Indeed, it is difficult to stop when asked to enumerate the most important volumes of the Library, so varied, so beautiful are some of the manuscripts. But one deserves mention, side by side with these weightier tomes. In 1889 Dr. Rendel Harris found here the Syriac version of the Apology of Aristides, Aristides being a philosopher of Athens in the early part of the second century ; the Apology itself claims to have been addressed to the Emperor Hadrian (A.D. 117 to 138). Until this was found, the existence of the Apology had only been known by a fragment from it in Armenian. Living with the force and power of a great conviction, and clear in its testimony to the truth of Christ, the Apology came forth again to the world in the nineteenth century, to finish the work it had begun so long before.

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" Now the Christians reckon their race from the Lord Jesus Christ," says the philosopher, " and he is confessed to be the Son of God most high. Having by the Holy Spirit come down from heaven and having completed his wonderful dispensation, he was pierced by the Jews and after three days he revived and went up into heaven. And the glory of his coming thou canst learn O king from that which is called among them the Evangelistic Scriptures if thou wouldst read it." We saw the very room (one used as a kind of lumber-room at that time) where, guided, without doubt, by the Spirit of Truth, Dr. Harris opened an old book of tracts put into his hands by the Librarian, and realised, at a glance, that he had in his hands the complete Apology which so many had sought but which none, till that moment, had found. One other book of the Library should be noticed, as it has evidently been a favourite picture-book of the monks for many generations ; the marks of their eager fingers are seen all over the vellum ; this is the book written by Cosmas Indicopleustes, the Alexandrian merchant of the sixth century who afterwards became a monk and travelled extensively. The good man's ideas of geography, astronomy and history are strangely at fault, but his sincerity

DR. RENDEL HARRIS AND THE LIBRARIAN HOLDING UP THE GOT DFN LECTIONARY OF THEODOSIÜS, IN THE LIBRARY

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and simplicity must appeal to all ages. The manuscript is an eleventh century one, and the plentiful illustrations are full of charm ; a young sunny-faced Abel guards a skipping, happy flock ; Elijah ascends to heaven in a chariot drawn by fire-red horses ; the children of Israel journey, and are fed by manna from the hand of God, seen in a cloud above ; a grim personification of Thanatos flies from Enoch ; all these subjects and many others delighted us, as they have delighted the monks of St. Catherine for so many centuries. Dr. Benson, to the great interest of the brothers, copied many of these pictures, as photographs could not convey their actual charm or colour ; her corner of the Library was always popular, as they had evidently not realised that pictures could be so exactly reproduced. There is little doubt that St. Catherine's Convent has proved a veritable treasure-house to the Church of Christ. Is it perhaps that God has His law of compensations ? There is a tradition that when Christ returns to earth His Throne will be set up on the very spot where He was crucified—the place of death will become the place of immortal love and life. Once on Sinai God revealed His judgments

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to Israel so that they quaked and feared exceedingly; now, till these latter days, His Gospel has been preserved there in a marvellous way, to show forth His love and truth, and high on the mountain which once burned with fire stands the cross.

CHAPTER VII

T H E BRETHREN OF T H E CONVENT HE Convent of St. Catherine was, apparently, in olden days considered as a sort of penal settlement, where monks guilty of criminal offences, those troublesome to the Church by reason of unorthodox opinions, or lunatics were sent, to keep them safely out of the way. This is no longer the case ; and though it is possible that, in cases of religious disagreement or difficulty, the Convent may still be a convenient place of banishment for the individual causing the complication, it gives to those who visit it no impression of being either a prison or an asylum for the insane. The Archbishop of Sinai, Abbot of the Convent, resides at Cairo, and he therefore governs by proxy, four archimandrites being in authority on the spot. An old legend tells how at one time each monk in the Convent had a lamp which went out of itself when the Abbot died, and how, finally, the lamp of the one worthy to succeed 77

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him lighted of itself and so the new Abbot was chosen. A miraculous happening was also said to take place when a prelate died, for the one who sang his High Mass would find the name of the man who should succeed him on a scroll on the altar. It would have been impossible to question the monks on these points ; they were reticent even in the fourteenth century, when Sir John Mandeville tried to get to the bottom of the matter, for he felt that they should " not hide God's miracle and His grace, but publish . . . and show it." It is probable that nowadays more prosaic methods for the election of officials are in vogue. The monks are usually Greeks, speaking ordinary modern Greek, and not troubling to learn much of the tongue of the country in which they live. " There," says Stanley, " in the midst of the desert, the very focus of the pure Semitic race, the traveller hears once again the accents of the Greek tongue ; meets the natives of Thessalonica and of Samos ; sees in the gardens the produce, not of the desert or of Egypt, but of the isles of Greece ; not the tamarisk, or the palm, or the acacia, but the olive, the almond tree, the apple tree, the poplar and the cypress of Attica and Corcyra." The Convent could hold two or three hun-

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dred in emergency, but at present there are only twenty-two monks in residence, with a certain number of the Jebeliyah servants who apparently live on the premises. Our first sight of the archimandrites on the evening of our arrival filled those of us who had not had much close contact with the Orthodox Greek Church with awe ; they were such giants in stature, and looked so imposing in their tall black head-dresses and robes ; added to all else there was the sense of restraint which always exists where fluent conversation is impossible, and where one's strongest means of communication is a continued smile. But, despite all difficulties, we ladies got our chance of close touch with the monks fairly soon, and it came through the fact that there was a medical woman among us. One day, in the Library, one of the archimandrites informed Dr. Benson that a young monk was ill, and asked if she would visit him. Owing to the fact that one of us, in order to relieve the doctor from undue strain, had undertaken all administering of remedies to the sick, and that another knew Arabic well colloquially, it seemed imperative that two other ladies should accompany Dr. Benson, and we were accordingly, the three of us, conducted

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into the very heart of the Convent to the sick monk's room. It was a neat, bright apartment, hung with vivid-coloured pictures of the young man's favourite saints, while his books were neatly arranged on the table. Whether the monks of the time of Justinian would have agreed with a monk's living in such fashion it is doubtful; to our astonished eyes it was a revelation of liberty and order. Perhaps we were the more surprised because of what we had seen when, during the first two nights of our stay, we were actually resident in the Convent building. Our room was one of a new set, built against an old wall of the Convent ; fairly high up on this wall was a small door, which was a little open. Thinking it was a window, we opened it fully. To our great surprise it was an oblong hole right through the thick wall, about the size of a rather big coffin ; at the end was a grated window, and a small pillow lay at the end where the door opened, which looked as if it had been recently used. Whether it was the bed of a monk, used in penance, it was impossible to know and we did not at that time know our servitor, the gentle Christoferos, well enough to ask inquisitive questions ; we found exactly the same thing in the next room to ours, where Dr. Benson was

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sleeping, and were left with an uncomfortable impression that the monks suffered unknown horrors in secret, and that their sturdy exteriors and cheerful faces perhaps hid from us hairshirts and aching hearts. The sick brother whom we had been called to visit had at any rate a clean and comfortable bed. He was a lusty, fine-looking young fellow with whom we were well acquainted, and though he was really not ill enough to be laid low, he had felt apparently that a visit from a real doctor demanded prostration, and had therefore deposited himself on his bed. He did not seem in the least abashed at the introduction of three ladies into his room, and described his symptoms with harrowing exactness, so harrowing indeed that we had the greatest difficulty not to laugh. The remedy was an obvious and simple one ; the doctor promised to send up suitable medicine, and we were preparing to retire discreetly, when the archimandrite who had introduced us insisted on our sitting down, and we were presented, then and there, with the usual spirits, jam and glasses of water, during which proceeding the sick man got quite cheerful, and our conductor and others who had wandered in to see what was happening consulted the doctor about their special ills, and grew more 6

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and more confidential. As we went out poor old " Custard," the cook, met us and asked for help ; he was very stout and evidently painfully rheumatic. The medicines, when sent up, bore stranger inscriptions than ever issue from ordinary dispensaries; between us all we remembered the various people, but had not their names ; each dose bore in Arabic the description of the person for whom it was meant. " For the sick monk " ; " For the man we met in the sick monk's room " ; " For Custard the cook," and so on ; and as we saw them all afterwards in apparently good health we gathered that the right physic had reached the right person. It was on this memorable occasion that the archimandrite who had conducted us took us to his own room to show us his treasures. He had two rooms leading one out of the other. His supper was ready for him in the front one, consisting of pickled fish of some kind. His books were carefully and tidily arranged on shelves. We thought of Teschendorf's wonderful version, discovered on the steward's shelf wrapped in a red handkerchief, but no such joy met us here ; the archimandrite's books were very many of them quite modern, and, side by side with his saints, he had pasted up illustrations cut from newspapers, utterly

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heedless of any incongruity. He presented us with nuts, and seemed delighted to have us visit his domain. Perhaps during the time of war the monks have missed the coming and going of Russian pilgrims in that part, for in pre-war times, despite the long horror of the journey by land, sea and desert, it was a favourite place of pilgrimage for such. The monks were then quite accustomed to their coming and going, and allowed them, men and women, to camp in the Convent court, and generally oversaw them. The pilgrims brought with them a human touch which must have been good for the brethren of the Convent, and their passionate earnestness, misguided though it may be, makes the one who witnesses it pause to think, almost invariably. Our visitation of the sick in the Convent gave us a better idea of its innermost workings than anything else, and seemed to complete the adoption of the ladies of the party as friends of the fraternity. An old retired archimandrite, who looked pale and feeble enough to be his own ghost, came one day to the Library, and interrupted all scholastic thought and scheming by consulting Dr. Benson as to his bodily ills at the top of his old voice. A careful prescription was prepared for him, and he appeared in the Library

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a few days later, giving thanks, in equally public fashion, for the improvement of his health. He was brimming over with gratitude, and laid his hand on Dr. Benson's head in blessing for what she had done. He also presented her with a stupendous parcel 'of nuts from the garden. At the time of the Feast of the Epiphany we invited the four archimandrites to dinner with us in Camp, and this was a great occasion, when the tent was decorated with oranges suspended from a rope above the centre table, and sprays of the most lovely shrubs and plants in the Convent garden, while the beautifully painted name-cards prepared and put round the table by Miss Norton made you feel as if you were at some aesthetic gathering in London or New York, instead of in the heart of the wilderness. The conversation was in Greek and Arabic, that being the only unusual feature of the feast; we had all been trying to learn ordinary Greek terms for ordinary objects ; and to this day some of our party in consequence might tell you cheerfully that a Kariothrapsis was a title given to certain archimandrites, instead of being the word you should use if you wished for a nutcracker to crack your almonds. A little knowledge may be a dangerous thing, but it is at times an unfailing source of amusement as well. We had prepared certain gifts for the archi-

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mandrites on this occasion, but Mr. Lynd, our Camp Manager, who had a good knowledge of the country, begged us not to give some of them cases of tools, for example, as the archimandrites, he assured us, never did anything with their hands, and would be insulted at such gifts ; we therefore only gave them handkerchiefs and books, including a copy of Hole's beautiful pictures on the Life of Christ, into which we had pasted the Greek version, side by side with the English text. The archimandrites looked at this later after dinner, and their delight was unbounded as they recognised story after story, and found the explanation in their own tongue. The rejected gifts were sent later to the Convent for those lesser brethren who understood the blessedness of working with their own hands, as their Master worked, long ago, in the shop at Nazareth. We were all entertained at lunch at the Convent later on, and the archimandrites excelled themselves in hospitality. They had turned out one of their largest rooms to fit us all in, and the table was loaded with nuts, fruits, and wine in beautiful old Venetian bottles. The four archimandrites sat down with us, while the younger monks were " nervously in attendance," as someone put it. The meal ended with speeches. The head archimandrite spoke

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in what even those who could not understand could see were moving terms of our visit and the pleasure it had caused. Dr. Harris replied impressively, and we all smiled our appreciation of everything, at the archimandrites and the nervous brothers. A great presentation followed ; we were treated as true pilgrims, and to each of us was given a copy of the pilgrimcertificate and a tiny tin of manna, which some of us found a problem later, for the so-called manna exuded from the tin as it did from the tamarisk tree which originally produced it, and spoiled what it came in contact with, and we still ponder as to whether it shall find a home in a dustbin or the British Museum. The formal hospitality of the brethren continued until a few minutes of our departure from Sinai. Just as the caravan was about to start we were summoned to the Convent by the archimandrites ; last words, pompous as on all such set occasions, but genuine in their affectionate friendliness, prefixed the bestowing of little silver rings in honour of St. Catherine ; the rings for the ladies were, with a quaint effort at discrimination, made with a tiny heart upon them, the men's were plain. And Christoferos, our first attendant, was at the gate as we went off, his quiet, beautiful face like a saint's on a stained-glass window, was a benediction to us

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at our departure as it had been on the night of our arrival. We shall not lightly forget them all, these monks of the desert. With all their methods and their beliefs it was impossible to agree, but we look back to them with a feeling of warm friendship and realise that it is good to have known them.

CHAPTER VIII T H E BONE HOUSE

I

T is natural to shrink from any unnecessary association with death, and having heard a good many disagreeable details concerning the Convent Bone House, some of us were not particularly anxious to visit it. It was perhaps, at the last, a feeling that we should look foolish if we arrived home from St. Catherine's without having seen so famous a place that made us conquer our unwillingness and pass one day with the archimandrites from the light and peace of the Convent garden, its soft blue-grey olive groves and radiant orange trees, into the dark, close and chilly atmosphere of the vault-like chambers where the bones of the Convent dead, after many vicissitudes, are laid to rest. The place is divided into two chambers, one where the priests are placed, the other where the lay brethren are deposited. The bones of the departed are only brought here after a period of interment, and they certainly are an 88

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amazing sight. In horrifying heaps the skulls grin at y o u ; ribs, arms and legs, carefully sorted, are piled in separate heaps ; skeleton hands seem to wave to you from their appointed places ; " Dust thou art, to dust returnest " was written over it all. But the spectacle which most arrests, and almost horrifies the visitor on entering, is the clothed skeleton which sits between the vault of the lay brothers and that of the priests ; it is the earthly remains of St. Stephanos the porter, who sits and guards the Bone House as he once guarded the way up to Jebel Musa, by the archway now called the Gate of St. Stephen, examining the pilgrims before they are allowed to pass on to the Confessors at the second gateway close to the chapels of Elijah and Elisha. His purple skull-cap, his rosary and staff, all are there. He sits with his head slightly inclined, while the light seems to fall into the lifeless sockets, and gives a strange appearance of living intelligence. The Russian pilgrims have always taken a deep interest in St. Stephen, perhaps because of his connection with the pilgrims in days gone by ; they have even provided new clothing for him as necessity arose. He died in 580, and has sat in the same spot during the centuries since. Dr. Benson got a photograph of him in a

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rather strange way. She was wandering in the Convent garden, painting and gathering impressions, when she saw the Bone House door open. She did not know what the place was, but being a persona grata owing to her medical attention to the monks, she knew she could have free access to any chapel or memorial house in the garden, so went in, to find herself confronted by the ghastly apparition which looked exactly as if it had come out of a mediseval Dance of Death. She saw then where she was, and remembered hearing of the porter who even after death sat to watch in the Bone House. She therefore determined to seize her opportunity, and set up her camera opposite the grim thing, returning in an hour's time. The result speaks for itself ; it is very likely the first time that St. Stephen of the Bone House was ever photographed. The archimandrites, as they conducted us round the vaults, seemed painfully accustomed to the whole, and instructed us with meticulous minuteness as to the life-history of the persons represented there. They removed the lids of certain boxes to show Us the remains of those who were special saints. " Look," said the gentle, courtly Librarian, as he opened a coffin, and there lay before our astonished eyes two skeletons, still fastened

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together by a chain, which told the story without further words. These were the famous brothers who lived in a cave above the Convent, chained together in life as in death. There has been some difference of opinion as to their identity, for Professor Palmer says that they were Indian princes, while another story gives fuller details of the two strange, sad lives. They were brothers from Provence, who, having yielded to passion and murdered their uncle, were as a penance forced to visit the three sacred places—Rome, Jerusalem and Sinai; in the latter place they spent the rest of their days and died. The chain, as we looked at it, seemed to express a wealth of remorse and sorrow. " The Holy Nilus," said the archimandrite, opening another box. You almost felt as if you did not wish to look ; when relics mean nothing to you it becomes a sort of prying into the private life of an individual to stare at his bones in this way. But the name set you thinking. Of St. Stephen the porter and the chained brethren not much seems to be recorded, but the name of Nilus is well known as that of a saint who had a wide-reaching influence, and whose gentleness won its way where nothing else could. Nilus was born of good parentage, and him-

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self held a high position in Constantinople, He had a devoted wife and one son and one daughter. What exactly influenced him it is hard to say, but about A.D. 420, at the heyday of his career, he heard the call of the great solitudes, and resolved to seek the desert in order to give himself up to the contemplation of God. He broke the news of his determination to his wife, and she, though wellnigh heart-broken, obeyed him, as she ever had, and with her daughter retired to a Convent in Egypt, while Nilus with his young son made his way to Sinai, where both lived as hermits in a cave in that region. According to the custom of the anchorites, they would all assemble on stated occasions to worship in the Church in the valley built over the Burning Bush. On one of these occasions at twilight the Saracens suddenly swooped upon the little settlement, first raiding and plundering their stores and then attacking the worshippers in the Church. T h e priest was first dragged out and left for dead, while others were ruthlessly done to death. The son of Nilus was torn from him and carried off by the invaders, while Nilus himself with the survivors escaped up the mountain, stealing down later, when no return of the enemy seemed possible, to bury their dead.

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T h e priest they found to be still living, and his faith in the last hour of his mortal suffering rose above all the horror of the things that were. He bid his friends look back and remember the patience of Job, unmoved by any adversity ; such were these men of the desert. But in Nilus, notwithstanding his ascetic desires, the fire of human love had not burned low ; he was a father, and his agony for his son was so intense that he was wellnigh beside himself. He set out for Pharan, where the flourishing colony prospered, to beg for help in getting his son out of the hands of the Saracens, only to be plunged into deeper woe by a dream he had, and by the arrival of a fugitive on whose face were evident the marks of horror and anguish. This man told a strange story. He had been among those carried off by the Saracens, and another prisoner, who understood the tongue of these wild men of the desert, had overheard a plan they had made and communicated it to him. The Saracens, being Sabaean in their worship, were accustomed to worship an idol in honour of the morning star on one of the peaks of Sinai. They had now resolved to offer up Theodulus, son of Nilus, and the fugitive who told Nilus the talc,

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to the Morning Star, and had prepared an altar for the awful rite on which the wood was already placed. Terror-stricken at the news, the victimto-be told the one who was to suffer with him, and showed him that their only chance of life lay in flight. But Theodolus met his terror with a faith as calm as that of the dying priest. God could preserve him anywhere ; he was as safe in the enemy's camp with a death sentence passed upon him as he would be flying in a waterless desert; nothing would, in short, induce him to accompany the one with whom he had been cast into such extraordinary circumstances. The story of this man, the signs of what he had suffered, moved Nilus to a frenzy of sorrow from which he only recovered through the ministrations of an unknown saint, a woman living in Pharan. This woman had passed through much tribulation herself, for her son had previously been killed by the Saracens, but she had been comforted by God, and was able to comfort Nilus in the hour of his sorrow. She exhorted him to faith in God to such effect that he took heart again and set out with an armed deputation from Pharan to treat with the Saracens. This deputation met with difficulty, for they ran short of water and wandered long, parched

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with thirst, seeking for a spring. Nilus himself went off alone to try to find a water source, and actually found one, but around it were encamped the Saracens. He went straight on alone, thinking that if his son were there and he himself were taken prisoner also he would at least be with him. The Saracens rose and seized him, but immediately caught sight of the men of Pharan armed, and advancing over the desert. Panicstricken, they left their prisoner and took to their heels, and once more Nilus, sick with longing, was forced to possess his soul in patience. After treating with the Saracens, it transpired that Theodulus had not been sacrificed, but had been sold as a slave to a citizen of Elusa. To Elusa, therefore, Nilus bent his steps, going first to the house of the Bishop. And in the house of the Bishop he found his son, who had been rescued by some manner of means by that dignitary. Of that meeting between father and son one pathetically human detail still lives ; the rough hermit's dress which Nilus wore was wet on the border with the boy's tears of delight at meeting his father again. The Bishop, thinking perhaps sorrowfully of the murdered priest and the many monks and anchorites to whom the ministry of such as

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he was precious, admitted both Nilus and his son to the priesthood before they left him. And together they turned their steps to the desert to spend the rest of their earthly days in the cave on Sinai. The writings of Nilus still remain with us, quoted again and again by theologians. They bear the mark of the man who has counted all but dross for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ; and his life story, as he has written it, stirs hearts as only the inner story of a storm-tossed soul who finds the rest of God can. Such was Nilus, and perhaps there were many more like him. There on Sinai we saw and knew more actually what it really meant in the days of old to live in that desolate desert. The hermits came there, driven in many cases by the horror of the sinfulness of a degenerate age, longing to attain to a better knowledge of God ; and yet in one sense their conception was a wrong one, for to flee for ever from an angry and sinful world was not what their Master taught. They came from one hopelessness to another. " God forgives the sins of the city, but not the sins of the desert" is inscribed on one famous desert monastery of the East; the statement is untrue, and yet born most evidently of the pitiful knowledge that many who

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fled from the devil and all his works in the crowded marts, corrupt courts and licentious religiosity amid which they had lived met the evil one again in the horrifying temptations of solitude. One felt in the Bone House the sorrowfulness of it all, and wondered why it should have been. But we found that the men of the past had discussed somewhat the same question. One day in the Library we found in a strange little Arabic psalter—tucked away at the very end— a story copied by some monk of long ago. There was a merchant, it said, and he had two sons to whom he left great wealth. One of them gave all that he had to the poor and went away into the desert as a hermit to pray for the world. The other held open house, and entertained all who were in need, using his wealth to the glory of God for the help of man. Pages followed in which the matter was discussed from many points of view. The question to be sifted out was—which of the two brothers was the greater saint ? The recorder gave the long, weary arguments, and then abruptly ended his story—" In Paradise," he said, " I saw both."

7

CHAPTER IX

THE BEDAWlN S to the Bedawin," said one of our party in conversation, " I have had experience of them ; they are miserable, half-starved creatures, without sufficient to keep body and soul together ; they steal everything on which they can lay hands, so we must never leave boxes unlocked in our tents, or our things will disappear ; and we must be most careful never to let our camelmen ride our camels if we are not on them, for the Arabs are perfectly filthy." The speaker had had a somewhat unusual experience in Syria and Mesopotamia, and so this report of the sons of Ishmael seemed trustworthy, and our hearts had sunk at the thought of the many horrors to be faced in being escorted to Sinai by such wild, terrible and dirty creatures; moreover, we added, mentally to the description by recollections of the tragic end of Professor Palmer; the treachery that could murder him cold-blooded

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was more to be feared than the natural predatory instincts or uncleanly habits of the wanderers of the desert. The whole subject had been much in our minds before setting out, but once on our way we, to a great extent, forgot the serious warnings we had received, and in the wonder of the desert journey there was no room for fear, so that in many respects we did exactly what we had been told not to do. We left our things about in our tents quite shamelessly ; we were often too tired or too hurried to see to them ; but we never once missed anything. We let our men ride our beasts when we were not on t h e m ; it would have seemed the height of meanness not to do so, when we were on such friendly terms through the vicissitudes of the march ; but we did not suffer for it in the painful manner that some travellers in like circumstances have described so graphically. We did, some of us, hold our breath when we saw that young Robert Hatch, aged twelve, who was travelling with his parents, Dr. and Mrs. Hatch, had lent his beautiful little Arab sheepskin coat to his camel-boy, who was strutting along in it as if, for a short period at least, he realised what it was to be an amir. I believe that Robert explained that he thought the boy might as well wear it as carry it, and there was a certain

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amount of reason in the argument. The episode at any rate caused unbounded joy to one small Arab boy, and perhaps it was worth the risk. As far as trusting our Arabs, instinct seemed to lead us fairly safely. We ladies, who (in some cases at least) had felt distrust of our guides beforehand, lost all sense of misgiving as we went o n ; one or other of us was constantly left in a howling wilderness with a solitary camelman, but we had each grown to look upon our special escort as a true knight, whose one duty it was to bring us safely through, and all, unfailingly, lived up to that ideal. The fact is that Arabs, in common with other races, differ in different parts, and it is impossible to generalise about them. The Towara tribes of the districts we had to traverse are now a quiet and inoffensive people, very different from the wilder tribes in the more northern regions of the Peninsula. There seems little doubt that their relations with the Convent of St. Catherine, and their consequently freer touch with civilisation, have left their mark upon them, and mellowed their touch with Europeans of any kind, though even in Burckhardt's time the hostility and contention of the Bedawln caused constant trouble.

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The Arab tribes inhabiting the Sinai Peninsula may be roughly divided into two sections, the Tiyaha, or those belonging to the plateau of the Tih, and the Towara, or those that inhabit the Sinai mountainous district south of the Tih. These two main divisions have each different tribes belonging to them, who differ in their characteristics. Since much has been said on the subject of Professor Palmer's death, and indeed sometimes carelessly said, we pause to give a short account of what took place. It was during the rebellion of Arabi Pasha that Professor Palmer and his four companions, Captain Gill, Lieutenant Charrington, and two Arabs were murdered by Tiyaha Arabs at Wady Sudur, about a day's march from 'Ayun Musa towards the north of the Gulf of Suez. Palmer had been sent to negotiate with the tribes of Tih, and on his way up a valley met some of the Pasha's adherents, who made known their warlike intentions at once. All the Professor's arguments and persuasions were in vain, and the ghastly tragedy took place. In an appendix to Hull's Mount Seir, Sinai and Western Palestine is given Major, afterwards Lord, Kitchener's account of the matter as received from an Arab of the Haiwat tribe. The Major says he gives the story for what it is worth, because

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" Arabs, as everybody knows who has had to do with them, have a remarkable facility for making up a story to meet the supposed occasion." This facility, however, as one learns more and more, is not confined to Arabs, and the account, even if it has to be taken cum grano salts, gives a good idea of the Arab mind. " Arabi Pasha," said the Arab, " directed by the Evil One . . . sent to his lordship the Governor of Nakhl to tell him that he had utterly destroyed all the Christian ships of war at Alexandria and Suez ; also that he had destroyed their houses in the same places, and that the Governor of Nakhl was to take care if he saw any Christians running about in his country like rats with no holes, that the Arabs were to finish them at once. On hearing this news a party of Arabs started to loot 'Ayun Musa and Suez. Coming down Wady Sudur they met the great Sheikh Abdullah and his party ; they thought they were the Christians spoken of by Arabi Pasha, running away, so they surrounded them in the wady. But the Arabs ran away from the English, who defended themselves in the wady. All night they stopped round them, but did not dare to take them till just at dawn, when they made a rush on them from every side and seized them all. The Arab Sheikh who had come with the party ran away with the money. The Arabs did not know

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Sheikh Abdullah, and did not believe his statement, and when he offered money his own Sheikh would not give it, so they believed the party were running away from Suez and they finished them there. Afterwards the great Colonel came and caught them and they were finished at Zag ez Zig." Major Kitchener goes on to say that Sir Charles Warren's energetic action in the bringing to justice of the perpetrators of the crime created a deep impression, and that he found Professor Palmer's death greatly regretted by the people, and his memory still warm in the hearts of his Arab friends in the country ; many, he states, came unsolicited to express their sorrow at his loss ; he believed himself that there was some amount of truth in the Haiwat Arab's story. The murder, at any rate, took place in unusual circumstances, and this should always be borne in mind. T o the Plateau of the Tlh belong the Terabin, the Tiyahah and the Haiwat tribes. To the Sinai Range, south of the Till Plateau, belong:— (x) The Sawalihahy who include other tribes within themselves, namely the Dhuheiry, the 'Awarimeh, and the Koreshy, whose Sheikh

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conducts all foreign business for the Towara; the Koreshy are said to be descended from fugitives from the Hejaz. (2) The 'Aleikat. (3) The Inuzimy, later comers to the Peninsula. (4) The Aulad Suleiman, living near Tor. (5) The Bent Wasel. Of these Towara tribes certain tribes of the Sawalihah and 'Aleikat are considered as Ghafirs or protectors of the Convent and have the exclusive right of conducting travellers to and fro, as well as other privileges. There also exists a fifth section among the Towara, which is considered as their lowest tribe, namely the Jebeliyah, although, indeed, the Arabs scarcely acknowledge them, because they are of different descent from themselves. They are the descendants of one hundred Wallachians and one hundred Egyptians sent by the Emperor Justinian at the time of the building of the Convent to do the rougher work for the priests. Burckhardt, from whose full account most of these facts are taken, says they are not to be distinguished in features or manner from other Bedawln, but they looked to us a distinctly different type, and their girls are recognised to be the most beautiful in the

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Peninsula. The Jebeliyah are the only Arabs allowed within the Convent, where they work in different capacities, and have their sleeping quarters in the gardens and elsewhere on the mountain sides. They take charge also of the gardens and plantations belonging to the Convent in the Sinai range. Most of the Jebeliyah became Mohammedan as time passed ; the last Christian woman in their number died in 1750, and was buried in the Convent garden. We became well acquainted with some of these Convent servants as we went in and out; " the gnome," so called because his face suggested the appellation ; the cook, whose name sounded like " Custard " to our untutored ears, and so was always known in camp by that name ; the stout, vigorous man who fired the cannon on festival days, or took a photograph for us with the same tremendous importance and deliberation ; these, and many others, we shall not easily forget, nor shall we forget the pleasure which our daily greeting seemed to afford them as we met. As far as religious belief and observance goes the Towaras profess to be Mohammedans, but they are certainly not strict in their views ; long experience in Mohammedan countries

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on the subject is full of anachronism. There is a likelihood that he was the eloquent prophet spoken of in the Koran, who was supposed to have set forth the truths of Islam before the prophet of Arabia ever lived. Every year, in the month of May, the Towara hold a perfect orgy at this wady in honour of their forbear. Sacrifices are offered, and the walls of the little building sprinkled with the blood of camels and sheep ; races, riotous feasts and games complete the proceedings, which are finally closed by a general procession to the summit of Jebel Musa where special rites in honour of Moses are performed. Another festival, though not on such a large scale, is held after the date harvest. The Towara Arabs usually wear a long white skirt, with pointed sleeves, a leather belt and sandals, often made of the skin of the dugong, or sea-cow, which is found in the Red Sea. They wear as an outer cloak the abeyah (abba), and, on their heads, the kafEyeh, or head-cloth, which is kept in place by a double circle of thick cord ; some wear, instead of this latter head-dress, a fez with a turban wrapped round it. We had with us at Sinai two Sheikhs, one of whom wore the turbaned fez, and the other the kaffiyeh. The women dress in dark blue, with a large

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blue cloak covering everything. Their most distinguishing feature is their hair, which is gathered up into a great knot in front of their foreheads. Their faces, with the exception of the eyes, are hidden by a face-covering, thick with coins. The young unmarried girls have a fringe of hair over their foreheads, and usually wear the shebeikah, a red cloth ornament, decorated with mother-of-pearl. The relations between the two sexes among the Towara seem to be fairly free. We watched one day a meeting between the Sheikh who brought us from Tor and a woman of his tribe, whom he met on the way ; they shook hands with both hands, and she talked as loudly and joyfully as he ; indeed, except for the fact that her face was covered, the meeting and greeting was such as might have taken place anywhere between two friends, and was somewhat of a revelation, since we had not supposed that Bedawln women could be so emancipated. The only way in which they seemed to show any reticence was that they refused, firmly, to be photographed, and most of our snapshots of them had to be got by guile. We are not clear whether this was a matter of conscience or whether they expected large payments for each sitting ! But it is impossible to say more about the

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Arab without making reference to his inseparable companion, the camel. Few writers have a good word for this unfortunate beast, and certainly intimate acquaintanceship often only increased one's distrust of the species. For example, what is to be made of a creature who not only protests with loud and fearful groanings when he is loaded, but also, almost invariably, when the process of unloading is going o n ; leaving or arriving in camp was, owing to this fact, the noisiest and most disagreeable process possible. It was only at the end that we began to wonder whether there were any chance that the uncouth quadruped ever expressed pleasure by these untoward sounds ! Not long ago a small child said of his tiny sister, who had " no language but a cry " and often wailed long and loud : " Perhaps it is her way of saying ' All things bright and beautiful.' " It may be so, and perhaps we misjudge the camel, but the fact remains, whatever the animal may wish to express, its utterings are nerve-racking. His peculiar loose-jointedness, the superciliousness of his proudly-held head, the fact that he is often given to biting unexpectedly, and that he does not consider any friendly overtures, all these things make one fight shy of him. His habit of bubbling (which is mostly

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in the breeding season) almost inspires horror when one first hears it, and more so when one sees it, for he apparently turns his throat inside out in the process. But the camel is made for the desert, and desert journeying would be impossible without him. His stomach, with its four compartments fitted with cells in which he stores water, opening the cells as need arises and so knowing no dependence on new draughts, makes him able to go where horses cannot. He is a necessity to the wandering Arab ; the man and his camel seem part of one another, the only apparent acknowledgment of the relationship being kicks, blows, and curses on the part of the master, and groaning protests on the part of the beast. But, despite all this, master and beast understand each other ! On our way up to Sinai we learned this. Mrs. Hatch was quietly going along one day on her camel, when, without the least warning, the creature sat down, nearly throwing her off, as she was totally unprepared for such an eventuality. Not once, but six times did this alarming performance take place, and we were in despair. But at last the explanation was forthcoming. The owner of the camel had been with him at first and had had to go back for

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something ; the camel would not go on without him. Once the man appeared on the scene again there was perfect peace, and the beast continued his journey in the most wellconducted way. And they have natural affection for their young. Many a time we watched a mothercamel in the party ; her anxious looks for her offspring were almost human in their intensity ; she was not at ease unless the queer, shambling little creature was actually beside her. One of the prettiest sights we came across in the desert unexpectedly, on one occasion, was a camel with a little one only a few days old. Both stood quietly to be snapped without showing any alarm at having three or four cameras levelled at them. We heard of one single case where affection between man and camel was clearly expressed ; one of our party, who had a Sheikh who used to accompany him on long expeditions to Mount Sinai, told us how the camel would rub his face against his master's face and muzzle in his beard ; a perfect comradeship seemed to exist in this case, but it was exceptional. The Sinai camels are not such a good breed as those seen elsewhere ; they bear the mark of the poverty of the people, a poverty which is

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so great that work had to be carefully allocated by the Sheikhs, that as many as possible might benefit from our expedition. In consequence, the same camelmen were not allowed to take us back, and the man who had for his duty, in our camp at Sinai, the seeing to the fire and the hot-water supply was changed every few days. Many travellers have written of the happy songs sung by their Arab guides around their camp fires, but we did not hear much singing at any time. Indeed, we sometimes wondered whether the War had left its mark on these people of the wilderness as it has on so many elsewhere, for they saw something of the horror of it even in Sinai. There was an engagement at Tor, the evidences of which we saw in trenches dug out on the seashore there, and one of the camelmen, in conversation one day, graphically drew his finger across his throat, and then expressed the firing of a rifle in equally dramatic fashion, to show what they had witnessed when the struggle was in progress. On one occasion, while resting at noontide in an oasis, we were able to see the making of reedpipes, perhaps just such ones as Moses may have used as he wandered in these parts with the flocks of Jethro. A few sweet, clear notes drew our steps to 8

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a group of our camelmen who were resting, and we found that, having cut shoots from the bamboos growing there in great clumps, they were actually making flutes on the spot; a free reed, slit in a small bit of bamboo, was inserted into a length of larger bore, in which holes were made at regular intervals to produce the different notes. That was a happy day for the head flute-maker, for he received almost more orders than he could well execute, and piped away joyfully at all available times to show off his wares ! Certainly, on the whole, these Arabs were a light-hearted race ; a very little pleased them, and it was a revelation to see how they enjoyed a joke. For example, one day Mr. Kenepp, one of the specialists in photography, hid the long pipe belonging to the Sheikh, who often went with him on his long expeditions ; he found the pipe by chance on the path and tucked it up his sleeve. The old man guessed he had taken it, and pursued him, almost helpless with laughter ; for the moment, in his glad hilarity, he seemed to forget all the respectful dignity with which he usually treated any of the party ; he caught the thief of his goods, and fairly shook the pipe out of him. One realised that a free, artless merry camaraderie, when used aright, does far more with Arabs than any

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amount of conversation in the most correct Arabic. Some of the Arabs we met we shall never forget : the Sheikh, for example, who brought us from T o r and oversaw our camelmen. In undress, as we occasionally saw him, meandering across the camp, he looked half-fed and insignificant ; in his best abeyah and kafeyah, with his sword at his belt, he might have been one of the patriarchs ! Once, when one of our party was left alone on a difficult path with him and her camelman, some trouble took place with the camel, which would not allow the would-be rider to mount. The Sheikh promptly drew his sword upon the camelman, and gave him to understand that if he could not manage his camel properly it would be the worse for him. Before this extreme measure, however, he was careful to wink meaningly at the lady he was championing, lest she should be alarmed. Indeed, he usually seemed to be acting a part more or less, and at last we got to know that his mad gesticulations and frantic shrieks at the camelmen when the caravan was starting were all mere bluster, though he doubtless considered verbal castigation as much part of his contract with us, as the actual arranging of the camel-transport ; how, without such demonstration, should

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we know the full extent of his careful solicitude for us all! When actually on the march we saw few people besides those of our own caravan, but the camp was almost a village in itself, and when the camelmen gathered in little groups, at night, round blazing fires to eat their frugal meal, those of us who ventured out among the resting camels saw them at their best, for they were comfortable and happy. And they told stories round their camp-fires—stories the point of which our western minds could not always discern, but which afforded them endless satisfaction. We had with us illustrated books and gospels in Arabic, and where one in a group could read, they were delighted to have them. But it was the exception to find one who was able to read ; the lack of education is lamentable, the only school available for Towara Arabs being the one at Tor. Our closest touch with Bedawln life came while we were camped at Sinai. The Sheikh met us one day on the mountain path, and asked if we would go up and visit an Arab who was very ill in the Camel Khan behind the Convent. We went accordingly, and found the family camped in a place which looked to us very much like what the stable-cave of the Nativity must have been. The main part of

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the building, built against the rock, had mangers for the camels who came and went in those parts. At the end was built a raised platform, where the family we were to visit were camped. The poor man lay helpless, evidently dying; his faithful wife crouched beside him on the floor. Between the customary horn of hair on her forehead and the covering embroidered with coins that hid the lower part of her face, her pleading eyes, bleared and inflamed with ophthalmia, looked wistfully at us. A boy of about three years nestled under her cloak, while a pretty girl of eight or nine stood by curious to see what we were going to do. We saw, then, that there was no hope, and Dr. Annette Benson, who came up with us later, only confirmed what we had feared ; the man's days were numbered. All that remained for us to do was to try to make his last hours more bearable by taking him suitable food, drugs, and any other little comforts that could ease him. Mr. Kenepp warned us that there might be danger in administering medicine. He had learned this in Transjordania when one of his Arabs had had a bad accident and severely injured his leg. He had, on that occasion, administered first-aid most effectually, and the Arab acknowledged it later in a distinctly

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original fashion. " My leg is better," he said ; " but woe to you if it had not healed ! " Even in face of this extraordinary, but perfectly true, story, it would have been inhuman not to do what we could for one in such sore need, specially when we had been asked to. The sick man, who grew daily weaker, showed some agitation one day, and kept repeating the word " nuts." " You must not eat nuts," said a lady of our party rather severely ; but the man only repeated the word again and again, and it then dawned on his wife what he meant. From the innermost recesses of the heap of their worldly goods she produced a small bundle of nuts—their great treasure ! We were to have them for what we had done for them. We took one or two each ; it was impossible to refuse, entirely, so intensely pathetic a gift. Sabah, the small boy, had bad eyes as well as his mother, and she was anxious that we should doctor them for him ; but nothing would induce the child to let us touch them. His mother went through the trying ordeal herself to show how easy it was, but this only made matters worse, and, despite his dying father, Sabah roared at the very sight of us, whenever we appeared on the scene. Not even Mr. Harlow, an adept in eyes, who came

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final farewells to the mourning widow, she uttered a few words with a great and solemn emphasis, and we knew that she had invoked upon us the highest blessing that a woman of the East can invoke upon a fellow-woman.

CHAPTER X JEBEL

F

MUSA

OR many centuries pilgrims have toiled over the desert to visit Jebel Musa, and the traditional sites in its vicinity. Sir John Mandeville refers to them, these men and women of spiritual desire, so lost in wonder and adoration that they could look beyond the sordid nastiness of the ceremony of the stirring of the supposed bones of St. Catherine and receive with thankfulness the oil exuding from them. Burckhardt, in his account of the Convent of St. Catherine, which he visited in 1816, states that the place was seldom visited then, save by inhabitants of Tor in the summer, but that in the eighteenth century regular caravans of pilgrims used to come from Cairo as well as from Jerusalem ; the Convent, he said, actually had a record of the arrival of eight hundred Armenians from Jerusalem in a single day, and at another time of five hundred Copts from Cairo. The regular number of pilgrim visitors 121

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annually at the time he was there was sixty to eighty in a year. There are always also a certain number of Mohammedans who visit Jebel Musa. But since Burckhardt's time the Russians have apparently turned their attention Sinai-wards, and travellers of the nineteenth century have many stories of them. We had no opportunity of studying the Russian pilgrims at Sinai, for, owing to worlddisturbance, no pilgrims had been there for a long while, but some of us had seen them in the Holy Land, and shall not easily banish the memory of them from our minds. Who could forget the pathetic sight of the old woman enveloped in voluminous petticoats who sat down suddenly on the tessellated pavement of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, exhausted with the spiritual excitement of all she was experiencing, and produced from the innermost recesses of her being a bit of old mouldy bread, which she proceeded to eat, then and there, in the heart of the sanctuary ? That unpalatable meal told its own tale, for the Russian pilgrims save their bread for months in order to have food for the way on the great and wonderful journey. And shall we ever forget the tiny Russian woman with her cloth tied over her head whom we saw in the same place, lost in devotion before a shrine, so lost indeed that she

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went against all the custom of her Church and in her solitary ecstasy sang a high, shrill song of praise ? The Russian pilgrim has the simplicity of a child ; he believes not only what he cannot prove, but also what has been proved to be absolutely untrue ; if he is told that some spot was ever visited by a saint, he will with a tearful reverence fall on his knees and kiss everything that could have known a holy contact, and travellers who have seen them at Sinai toiling up the steep ascent to Jebel Musa singing Psalm xxiv, or prostrate in adoration in the Church of the Transfiguration, have been deeply impressed with the sight. If the story of the Russian merchant who had in his possession as an heirloom the missing pages of the Codex Sinaiticus be true, it is probable that they came into his possession through one of his ancestors who made the great pilgrimage. Every pilgrim who comes to the Convent is presented with the pilgrim certificate, which is a most interesting document. It has grown more elaborate as the years have gone on, but gives an excellent idea of the events supposed to have taken place on and near Jebel Musa throughout the ages. Three mountain peaks are shown: Jebel Katerina, Jebel Musa,

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and Jebel Moneja. At the summit of Jebel Katerina two angels are laying Catherine to rest; on Jebel Musa, Moses receives the tables of the law from the hand of the Lord, while near the head of Jebel Moneja stands the oncefamous Convent of St. Episteme. Beyond the peaks of the mountains the sea is seen, and on the foothills Moses tends his flocks. Various other events besides are expressed as taking place on the three great peaks; and, with a curious disregard of geography, scenes, such as Elijah fed by ravens on Jebel Moneja, are depicted. At the foot of the picture is the old Convent fortress, foursquare, out of which rises the Burning Bush ; its flaming foliage encloses the Holy Child with His Mother. The pent-house with a descending basket is also shown; and, while Arabs are aiming their crossbows at the building, a party of ecclesiastical officials proceed in state from the great door on the other side. To study the many details of tfie occurrences on the mountains portrayed on the certificate certainly gives a good idea of the many events connected with Jebel Musa and its vicinity. The traditional sites, even when manifestly incorrect, have their own interest; and while in Sinai we followed in the footsteps of the pilgrims of many ages, and shared not only their

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weariness, but their eagerness, and at times their enthusiastic joy. The monks call Jebel Musa the " Godtrodden Mount," and it is the most beautiful name ever given to it. There are two main routes up to its summit, one by the Valley el-Leja, and another straight behind the Convent, which is called Sikket Syedna Musa, or the Path of Our Lord Moses, and consists of about three thousand rough steps ; by this path the pilgrims have, for many centuries, gone up chanting their psalms. After passing the Spring of Moses on this route, the Chapel of the Virgin is reached. It was here, says tradition, that on one memorable occasion, when the monks were meditating flight from the Convent to establish themselves elsewhere, as the place was uninhabitable owing to vermin, the Virgin met them, promising them immunity in the future from such trouble. The monks returned in answer to the vision, and were never afterwards plagued in this disagreeable fashion. The steps go onward from this point to two archways at a short distance from each other. At the first of these once sat Stephen the porter, hearing the confessions of the pilgrims and giving them passes which were to be shown to the Confessors at the second gateway, which is

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the entrance to the plain on which stands the Church of Elijah, which is supposed to be built over the cave where that prophet once hid himself from Jezebel. There is here a tall solitary cypress tree beside a stone tank in which the winter rains collect. The real object of pilgrimage is, however, still higher; another half-hour of stiff climbing brings the traveller to the summit of the mountain, where two buildings are found, the Chapel of Moses and a Mohammedan mosque, supposedly built over the cave where Moses lived during his wonderful forty days and forty nights of vision. Near the Chapel is the rock where Moses hid himself from the glory of God ; this rock is supposed to bear still the impress of the body of Moses, for the legend says that, in his fear he fled with such precipitancy that the form of his body imprinted the rock, and the imprint was miraculously preserved. The place where the ten commandments were delivered to the great lawgiver is also shown close by. The little mosque has, in times past, been a great place of pilgrimage for Moslems. The Bedawin still sacrifice sheep here on certain occasions and entreat the intercession of Moses. The Arabs have, according to Burckhardt, a tradition that the tables of the law are con-

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cealed underneath the Chapel, and have continually excavated to find them, thus weakening and destroying the building. Burckhardt tells in full in his Travels in Syria, the strange legend current among the Arabs in connection with this site. They believe that the rainfall in the Peninsula is controlled by Moses, and that the Convent authorities possess the Tourat, a book given to him from heaven, the opening and shutting of which decides the rainfall. The monks encouraged the idea by praying for rain on the summit of Jebel Musa, but they did so somewhat to their own cost, for the Arabs counted a time of drought as caused by them also, and apparently even used violence at times to make them resort to the mountain for prayer. On one occasion when they had forced the hands of the brethren in this way there was a terrible flood in the Peninsula, and a furious Arab who had in consequence lost his all went to the Convent and fired, saying in explanation, " You have opened the book so much that we are all drowned." How much this foolish tradition actually influences the Arabs of today it is impossible to say, but the stories are still current. Burckhardt is careful to point out that, on another hand, a Sheikh who had never had a

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son became the sworn ally of the Convent, because, in answer to the prayers of the brethren, a healthy boy was born to him; so there are two sides to the question of the efficacy of these more spiritual dealings of the Convent Community with the people of the land. The other but more difficult route to the summit of Jebel Musa is by the Wady el-Leja. To go this way Sufsafeh is skirted and various points of interest passed. Aaron's Hill, a small prominence not far from the Convent gorge, surmounted by a little white building, is supposed to be the place where Aaron assembled the seventy elders, or, according to others, the spot from which he viewed the orgy resulting in the camp from his own wrongdoing. A large well-built and deep, dry well, partly choked with rubbish, is shown as Jethro's well. That wise and courtly Sheikh must have dug more than one in this case, for other wells bear his name. The Arabs also showed us on this route the stone in which the head of the golden calf was moulded, which certainly bore some resemblance to the mould of a gigantic bovine head, and could not have been the headstone described by travellers in the past, who remarked on the stupidity of the Arabs in showing a solid

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stone somewhat in the shape of a cow's head, and in no sense a mould. Perhaps the scorn heaped on them by these same travellers had effect, and they wisely chose another stone for future use. Just before the entrance of the Valley el-Leja, on the left hand, lies the ruin of a Convent, el-Bostan, surrounded by beautiful gardens watered from el-Leja. Still skirting Sufsafeh you turn the corner of its great quadrilateral into the Wady el-Leja itself, which is one of the most charming spots in the Peninsula ; its clear flowing waters, its trees and birds seem like a little paradise as you turn into the valley from the heat of the plain. There are various points of interest here ; the cave of Cosmas and Damian, the twin doctor-saints, is high up on one side of the valley ; there was at one time a Convent near by in their honour, but it is now in ruins. The reason that these saints of the early fourth century are so much in evidence in Sinai is, perhaps, that Justinian was himself supposed to have been cured from severe illness by their intercession, and erected a magnificent Church in their honour ; this story would, of course, be known to the monks of the Convent of St. Catherine, and would turn their thoughts to 9

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a suitable acknowledgment of the saints supposed to have cured their patron. The famous Rock of Moses is found along the valley ; it inclines forward, and has a number of slits or mouths which the Arabs count as twelve. They pay tremendous reverence to the stone, and stuff grass into the fissures as a sort of offering. Stanley points out that this stone is evidently the one referred to in the Koran as the rock with the twelve mouths for the twelve tribes of Israel, and that the tradition that it is the Rock of Moses is a very ancient one. But Christians, too, have stooped to drink of the clear singing water of the Leja valley, coming to them as if from the very hand of God, and have gazed reverently on the great stone, carving their crosses upon it. At the end of the valley stands the Convent of the Forty Martyrs, sometimes supposed to be a commemoration of the Forty Martyrs of Cappadocia exposed on the ice in the reign of Maximin—sometimes said to be built in memory of forty monks slaughtered by Saracens. This is a three-storied building, built round a courtyard, and is surrounded by beautiful groves of olive and other trees. The place is usually only in the charge of Jebellyah, but on the occasion when our party visited it a monk came from the Convent of St. Catherine, and

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prepared a most sumptuous feast of nuts and fruits. Not far from the Convent of the Forty Martyrs (el-Arb'ain) are the ruins of the Convent of the Twelve Apostles, in memory of twelve saints of the district killed by Saracens. From the Convent of the Forty Martyrs, Jebel Musa can be ascended on the western side to the Chapel of Elijah. Jebel Katerina lies to the south-west of Jebel Musa, and is not so often ascended. When there has been a normal rainfall, this mountain is covered with verdure. It culminates in a great smooth block of granite, on the summit of which was once a small roughly-built chapel. The floor was the rock in which angels are supposed to have placed the body of the Saint. The view from the mountain-top is magnificent. Jebel el-Deir (the Mount of the Convent) and Jebel Moneja (the Mount of Conversation) lie on the opposite side of the Convent gorge. On Jebel el-Deir once stood the nunnery called after its first abbess, St. Episteme, and in this mountain is the strange hole which pierces it through, and by which, once a year, the sun's rays penetrate, falling at such an angle that they shine through the window of the Chapel of the Burning Bush. The Mount of Conversation has many legends

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connected with Elijah, the prophet. On the pilgrim's certificate, he is represented as being fed by ravens here. But the most remarkable thing connected with the Mount of Conversation we have not found noted in any book. Sitting on one occasion to rest, just below the summit, we caught sight of the formation of the rocks on the heights of Jebel Musa opposite. As seen from that point, they took the form of a gigantic human figure seated, with a great block or upright table on either side. The effect was astounding; it was as if the great lawgiver sat there, between his tables of stone, immovable through the ages, to bear witness to the eternal truth which he received from the very hand of God.

CHAPTER XI

SONGS OF THE ANGELS NY pilgrim who at length visits a place he has long desired to see, and who, in that place, meditates long on the events which are in his own soul connected therewith, comes, at last, to the point where he feels as if he belonged to that spot in a special manner, and as if that part of the globe were an intrinsic part of him. He even comes to instinctive conclusions, the reasons for which he cannot give fully to the world, but which are often perfectly right; and these things happened to some of us during our stay on Sinai, as we roamed the mountain-sides and heard great sounds, and saw great sights, which only those who go to Sinai can ever hear and see. Amid the awful solitude and the massive grandeur of the mountain peaks, sometimes so stern and uncompromising, and at other times, when the sunlight called out their rainbow hues, so gentle and inviting, we began to wonder whether this strange, sequestered, and

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mysterious wilderness was specially prepared for Israel, enfeebled by years of bondage, and therefore in need of a particular schooling and training. There are, at any rate, few places so well suited to such a purpose as the southern parts of the Peninsula. It affords campingsites for large multitudes on the plateaux among its towering peaks, while even the drawbacks, through isolation and deficiency of watersupply and vegetation in parts (drawbacks which prevented other wandering tribes from seeking a habitation there for long), became advantages when remedied by the manna and water from the hand of God, so that the wilderness " where no man could dwell," was a healthful and sufficiently secluded trainingground for a people who needed time, quiet, and teaching to recover from the effects of a long and awful oppression. The scenes that took place in the great march from Egypt seemed to us, sometimes, almost too tremendous to realise. By day along the astonished lands The cloudy pillar glided slow ; By night Arabia's crimsoned sands Returned the fiery column's glow. Then rose the choral hymn of praise, And trump and timbrel answered keen, And Zion's daughters poured their lays, With priest and warrior's voice between.

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Certainly, in the mountain stillness, our thoughts turned rather to individuals than to the people of God as a whole. We could picture Moses, after the passionate act which seemed to have lost him his influence in Egypt and wrecked his career as a liberator of his people, living through the strange, long interlude in his life, when he fed the flocks of Jethro here. Over these mountains and plains he wandered, learning, with his well-trained mind and highlydeveloped instincts, the lessons which can only be learned by a shepherd of sheep who is a seeker after God. Here it was that the vision of God, the shechinah light, which he was to see so often in the days to come, flamed out unexpectedly from the desert bush, and he was told that the lesson, bitter with painful remembrance, that he had had to learn so long in the silence, was finished at last; pastoral simplicity had refined his earthly knowledge from its dross; the love of wife and children had taught him patient forbearance, and, while he cared for his sheep, the Shepherd of Israel had led, guided, and taught him, so that he would never lightly again try to execute vengeance for the Almighty, but would rather wait, knowing that the Judge of all the earth would do right. Now, at length, he was fit to bring about, under God, what had only been re-

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tarded by him before, the deliverance of his fellow-countrymen from bondage : on the very mountain where he stood, they should serve God. It was on Jebel Musa, says the tradition, that, when leader of the hosts of Israel, he communed with God forty days and forty nights, and descended to the plain with his face shining with the reflection of the glory of the Lord, so that the people, with minds dulled by sin, could not look upon him unveiled. Small wonder was it that in later years Elijah, after his time of awful spiritual temptation and desolation, should set his face in the strength of the Most High, toward the region where, in times gone by, God had revealed Himself to the great lawgiver ; it was here, on one of these rugged peaks, that the despairing prophet passed through the horror of the fire, wind, and earthquake to hear at length, through the silence, the still, small voice of God. The great representative of the prophets was prepared here, too, in the hour of his despair, to continue his untiring campaign against debased heathenism and wickedness in high places. And surely it must have been here, too, that the mightiest of the exponents of the gospel of Jesus Christ was fitted for the unprecedented difficulty of the work that lay before him. Is

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there not a strong likelihood that Paul, the great apostle to the Gentiles, came here after he had met Christ on the road to Damascus ? " I went into Arabia," he says, and afterwards he speaks of Mount Sinai " in Arabia," as if he knew the part well. Did he seek the place with the thought that Moses and Elijah before him had fasted there forty days, and because he was at that time a marked character, and so could not find seclusion nearer at hand ? We can picture him alone on these bare, naked peaks, sometimes tempted to a mental scourging of his conscience for the grievous wrongs he had wrought, in his ignorance, on the people of God, pouring out his soul in an unquenchable sorrow as he thought again of Stephen, and, at other times, lost in rapture as he heard again, by the Spirit of the Lord, the words of comfort which, in the house of Judas, in the Street Straight in Damascus, had brought him bodily and spiritual sight. Perhaps it was here on Jebel Musa that he met Christ face to face and received from Him the divine teaching and revelation of which he spoke afterwards with a holy pride : " I neither received it of man," he says, " neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ." Of these we thought, and of many others who, from the earliest days of the Christian

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era, had come here in their search after God. Many a time as we watched the sunset hues change the dullest gorge to a sea of molten gold and amethyst, or as we saw the darkest peak lit up with the climbing glory of sunrise, we wondered if, of old, these men had seen and rejoiced at the same sight. Many a time, when, in the blue-blackness of the night sky, we watched the crystal shining of the rising morning star, we wondered if braver, purer eyes than ours had seen the same marvel, and had looked beyond it all to what only anointed eyes can see, the vision of the city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. For we are not as these men of old in their passionate devotion ; the business and unfaith of the twentieth century has made our spiritual sight and hearing dull; few of us see the heavenly vision, few of us hear the angels sing ! But we caught one echo of the songs of the angels on the slopes of Jebel Musa. We found in the Library, in one of the Arabic books, an ill-written manuscript which gave the account of a vision seen by a saint of long ago on Mount Sinai. The name of the saint was Thomas, but there was nothing to say when he lived, except the fact that the vision was vouchsafed to him in the Church of Moses at the top of the Mountain of the Law, hence he must have

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lived after the Church was built. " He spake, and saw, and heard," says his recorder, " by the eye of the spirit and the purity of his heart, as the Lord said in the Holy Gospels,' Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.' " And the vision that was granted to him was concerning the angels in heaven, their ranks, their hymns, and the order of their prayers. Nine separate armies did he hear, and they sang their song of praise in turn, in accordance with their special work. And the first rank sang a song of praise to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then rose the pfean of the second rank, and they were those who had touch with earth, and were sent as messengers to help man ; they praised Messiah because He was both human and divine—" of the heaven and of the earth." " We have all served Him in heaven and on earth," they said, in their exultant joy, " and we have shown forth and declared to the prophets among men the conceiving of the Holy One and His incarnation and birth by the Holy Spirit from the Virgin Mary." And the third army of heaven sang a threefold " hallelu " to the true God the Trinity, sitting on the throne of His glory, while the fourth sang a trisagion to the one Whose power is for ever; then rose the song of the fifth, who

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praised the Lord of power, and the sixth army sang again a three-fold " hallelu " for the greatness of the majesty of God. So, rank after rank, they took up their song, and, as each rank was nearer the Most High, it seemed to know less of earth and its sorrows. " Peace in heaven, and glory in the heights," sang the seventh rank of angels ; they had never visited earth to sing the song of goodwill to the shepherds ; perhaps they had known of war in the heavenly places, and so concerning that they sang ; but theirs was, in part, the triumph-shout of the disciples when they caught a brief glimpse of the coming glory of Christ before His passion : " Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord ; peace in heaven and glory in the highest," they said, as the Redeemer, riding on the ass, came to the descent of the Mount of Olives. And the eighth and the ninth ranks were those of the Seraphim and Cherubim ; " the Seraphim, the beautiful ones with six wings, and the Cherubim, beautiful with many eyes and four faces " ; so Thomas the saint described them. And he saw in his vision that the Cherubim were the nearest to God in heaven and that they praised Him with the voice of the eagle, the ox, the lion, and the man. " The story of the nine ranks of angels is

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finished, praise to God," says the recorder abruptly when the praise of the Cherubim has ceased. He adds no comment ; when a human being has heard even an echo of the songs of the angels a silence falls upon his spirit. And verily the songs of the angels never cease ; as we read the vision they seemed to ring softly through the musty Library, and our eyes seemed to catch the flash of angel wings, while our hearts knew, as never before, that we were not come to the mount . . . " that burned with fire, nor unto blackness and darkness and tempest, but unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem and to an innumerable company of angels." And the words that the old recorder wrote concerning the saint to whom the vision was vouchsafed, live still in our hearts, through all the stress and strain of modern world-restlessness :— " He spake and saw and heard by the eye of the spirit and the purity of his heart, as the Lord said in the Holy Gospels—' Blessed are the pure in heart : for they shall see God.' "

INDEX Aaron's Hill, 128 Aaron's rod, 54 Abbot Silvanus, 49 Ammonius, 49 Apology of Aristides, 1, 73 Archbishop of Sinai, 41, 77, 106 'Ayün Müsa, 11, 19 Birds of the Peninsula, 31 ff. Bone-House of Convent, 88 Book of the Gospels, 73 Book of the Maccabees, 70 Cave of Cosmos and Damian, 129 Chapel of the Burning Bush, 54> 131 Chapel of Moses, 126 Chapel of the Virgin, 125 Choice of new Abbot, 78 Church of the Transfiguration, 52 Codex Sinaiticus, 65, 69, 70, 123 Convent of the Forty Martyrs, 130 Convent of St. Catherine, 20, 35. 42. 52. 58 Convent Gorge, 12 Convent Library, 52, 61

Cosmas, 24 Cosmos Indicopleustes, 74 Fauna of Sinai Peninsula, 29 if. Feiran, 19, 34, 36 Ilat-hor, 21, 22 Hor, 45 Horeb, 34 Inscriptions on granite, 25 Jebel Katerina, 17 Jebel Musa, 17, 121, 136 Jethro's well, 128 Justinian, Emperor, 49 Kaffiyeh, 13, 108 Maghareh, 20 Mosque adjoining Church of Transfiguration, 56 Mount of Conversation, 131 Nawamis, 25 Neby Saleh, 26 Nilus, 91 Palimpsest, Lewis, 71 Peninsula of Sinai, 16,18,26

143

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Penthouse, 58 Pilgrim certificate, 123 Palmer, Professor, 101 Ramleh, 17 Readings from Palimpsest, 72 Relics of St. Catherine, 54,

55

Rock of Moses, 130 Saint Catherine, 51 Sanekht, 20 Serabit, 2 1 , 23, 45 Serbai, 45 Silvia of Sinai, 46 ff. Sinai Range, 12 Site of giving of Ten Commandments, 126 Spring of Moses, 125 Stephen the Porter, 89, 125

Stone of Golden Calf, 128 Theodolus, 94 Theodosius, 73 T!h, 16 Tiyaha Tribes, 101 Tor, 7, 1 1 , 1 1 3 Tourat, 127 Towara Tribes, 100, 107 Tribes of Sinai Range, 103 Vegetation of Sinai Peninsula, 27 ff. Vision of St. Thomas, 138 Visit of Mohammed to Convent, 56 Umm Shomar, 17 Wady el-Leja, 25, 49, 128 Wady Mukatteb, 23