Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

miles away.

was a new and a strange sensation, when the stupidity rather than of sagacity, - its early sunset permitted the night rapidly pyramidal lip either hangs down in sullenand silently to gather round us, and when ness or is uplifted in menacing, anger; the the silvery light of the young moon bad ignoble dissatisfied motion of its ungainly dimly lit up the solitary scene, and when, head, its unintelligent melancholy face, the after infinite bustle and chattering on the dull obstinacy of its disposition, deprive it part of the Arabs, our tent lights were ex- of all claims to be a favourite among dotinguished. So truly and utterly was it mesticated animals. It is, among them, a desert; Suez might have been a hundred dull plodding slave. The interest that we

Our sense of solitude was Occidentals feel in it is that which as postdisturbed only by another encampment of diluvians we feel in a megatherium : it is travellers at a short distance from us. I the type of another world than ours, – the walked a little way from the tents. The world of the sun, of primeval antiquity, of Jebel 'Atakah was dimly seen in the dis- romance. It has but little of the patience tance; the undulating waves of the desert ordinarily attributed to it.

It is stupid rolled away on every side. In this sky the rather than patient. It ‘manifests no apfiery piilar shone — these sands reflected it preciation of kindness; it has no home' at- these mountains were lit up by it. Over tections; it is dissatisfied, cantankerous, rethis ground the terrified Israelites crowded pulsive.' Its only manifestations of sagacity onwards, as they discovered the pursuing are discontent when it is loaded, and obstiEgyptians in the distance. Over this nate refusal to go further when it thinks it ground the vengeful chariots and horsemen has gone far enough. As compared with of Pharaoh eagerly rushed, until arrested the quick sensibilities, the intelligent attachby the mysterious pillar of cloud. Now ment, and the agile beauty of the horse, it these look like common spots and things : is not to be named, even in the estimation they give no sign, they bear no impress of the of the Arab. It is the pariah of the brute stupendous miracle; and yet they saw it. world — fit only to carry burdens and eat One feels as if one fain would question ghurkud, and to pace the arid desert at the them, or find some memorial inscribed upon speed of two and a half miles an hour. them; but they are silent as the sphinx, At length we were fairly started, and barren as the commonest part of the earth's soon reached the banks of the ancient canal, surface. The night was intensely cold, al- upon one of which we had to travel norththough we lunched the next day with the wards for a mile or two, in order to find a thermometer at 110° under the shade of passage across the salt marsh which they our umbrellas; even when all our wraps inclosed. Salt is collected here in considerwere utilized, we could scarcely obtain able quantities. We then crossed the imadequate warmth. Our Arabs slept com- aginary line which divides Europe from fortably enough among the legs of their Asia, with the feeling that we had left becamels; neither the drenching dew nor the hind us all the Christianity of the West; a piercing cold, apparently, affecting these civilization too that was older than Greece, children of the sun. The novelty of our or Rome, or Nineveh ; and that we were circumstances, and the excitement of so now the early footsteps of a dispensation many strange thoughts, rendered sleep im- that precedcd Christ. Then, turning southpossible.

wards, we fell into one of the great highOur experience of camel-riding was new, ways of the desert - the caravan route and I dare say we were awkward enough. from Cairo to Tûr, marked by from twenty It is very monotonous, but otherwise not to twenty-five parallel camel tracks, stretchvery disagreeable; the slow swinging ino- ing away, like the lines of a railway, over tion being soothing rather than otherwise : the undulating desert, when not obliterated relief is obtained by the various postures by sand-storms. Even were there no such possible to the rider, who may sit in every tracks, bleached skeletons of camels occur conceivable way upon the platform which often enough to suffice for waymarks. Wo his wraps make, upon the singular frame of observed here some fine efiects of mirage, & camel's saddle; progress is very slow, Suez suddenly assumed the appearance of a averaging two and a half miles an hour. vast fortified town, with castillated walls

I am not enamoured of the camel. It is and frowning bastions, having ships in its doubtless one of the most useful of animals; harbours and roads. Frequently, in after but it is one of the most uninteresting and days, like fantastic tricks were played with repulsive, — its odour is not pleasant, – it our deluded vision ; blue lakes and shady does not keep clean teeth, its lustreless groves were its most frequent illusions. We eye and heavy eyelid are expressive of began, after a while, to realize the weary

monotony of an ever-receding horizon, dis- shone with a brilliancy of which, before visappointing our hope of our resting-place, or iting the East, we had scarcely conceived. of some shadow of a great rock' that might For two days we traversed the desert of be a brief protection from the vertical tor- Shur, — the border strip between the mounrent of the sun's fierce rays: but the crown tains and the sea. Passing Ain Howarah of one swelling eminence only brought into and the Wâdy Ghůrundel the Marah and view another; it was unchanging, continu- Elim of the Exodus — on the third day we ous, endless desert, more vividly impressive, entered the highland district of Sinai by a more physically distressing, than on any narrow gorge formed by spurs from the subsequent day. At length we saw a dis- Jebel Råhah meeting the Jebei Hümmâm. tant speck of verdure, and after a little Turning suddenly to the right, we descendwhile joyfully encamped near the Ayûn ed the valley Tayibeh, or the bewildering, Mousa — the Rosherville of Suez. There, to the sea. This is a perfect labyrinth of about two miles from the sea, are nine grotesque and towering mountain forms – brackish fountains, most of them mere holes gloomy, desolate, and magnificent, as if in the sand; one, however, is a regularly scorched and twisted in some great confiabuilt fountain of ancient masonry. The gration, which had left upon them the Arab tradition is, that the Israelites here marks of its blended smoke and flame; wonwanting water, Moses furnished them with derful amphitheatres, terraces, pyramids, a supply by striking the ground with his fortifications, castles, columns, quarries, inrod. These wells give life to a little bit of deed almost every conceivable form and the barren waste, which breaks out in a few freak of nature, presented themselves in palm, and pomegranate, and tamarisk trees, most rapid succession, each at the moment with an undergrowth of shrubs, and vege- photographing itself upon the memory, — a tables, and flowers. The bud of a monthly picture to be distinctly reproluced, when, rose was offered me as the choicest produc- even in old age, these glorious days of travtion of the gardens; it had a pleasant as- el are recalled; and yet so intruding upon sociation of home. The whole is contained and effacing each other, that they leave but in two or three enclosures or gardens, in a confused recollection of a grand pageant which are rude huts for their keepers. of nature. Beneath our feet, ploughed up Hither picnic parties come from and into channels, heaved into sandbanks, and Cairo. His Excellency Sir Henry Bulwer strewn with huge boulders, bearing everyhad been there but two or three days be where the marks of terrific wint-r torrents, fore.

was a glittering surface of whitish mud We were now beyond all donbt on the baked by the sun, so as to be impervious to track of the Israelites. Here, probably, the foot of the camel; and reflecting a glare where the shore forms a gentle bay, the and a beat that were almost intolerable, desert sons of Ishmael were startled by the even when our eyes were protected by colstrange advent of the descendants of Isaac, oured spectacles, and we were elevated upand by their exultant song of triumph on the backs of our camels. Above our awakening echoes never awakened before heads was a cloudless translucent sky of the

even those that slumbered in the distant deepest purest blue, .as the body of heaven sides of Er-Râhah. Here, probably, for in its clearness.' days and weeks, strange spoil would be At the foot of this pass is the encampgathered upon the shell-strewn shore. ment by the sea' where, the provisions Near the Ayûn Mousa we kept our first brought from Egypt being exhausted, mandesert Sabbath, - a grateful rest, and a na and quails were first given to the Israel tent service, in which, while our friends at ites. home were gathering around the Lord's ta- Then across the rocky headland of Zalible, we held holy communion with them. mah and the plain of Mûrkah, until we reWe sang the hymn, .Guide me, I thou enter the mountains by the rocky gorge of Great Jehovah,' then strolled along the the Wâdy Shellâl, “the valley of cataracts;' beach and sat upon the rocks for an hour or which after two hours terminates in a fine two, quietly musing amid these scenes of amphitheatre, over the ridge of which – strange experience and wondrous associa- the Nûkb-el-Bûdrah,' the pass of the tion. Again the almost sudden darkness sword's point'- the path lies. A rugged fell. It was the Sabbath evening; and, in camel track made by Major Macdonald the translucent atmosphere, the moon and makes somewhat easier, what, for thirty censtars seemed to hang down like lamps from turies, must have been an arduous scramble the lofty roof of God's great temple ; clearly up a precipitous bank of débris. defined as if seen through a telescope, they We felt the greatest difficulty in conceiving of a mixed host, like that of the Israel- | ploded upwards, forming peaks and crags of ites, crossing such a pass as this. It is the most daring forms, - ribbed, black, grey, more probable that they entered the Wâdy and red, and of almost perpendicular strata. Feirân by another and much easier route. We felt it a relief from its stifling, oven-like Dean Stanley suggests two alternatives heat when, after a weary searcb, we found “They may have gone, according to the the shadow of a rock under which we might route of the older travellers, - Shaw, Po- rest. cocke, and the Prefect of the Franciscan We then descended rapidly. Our direct Convent, to Tûr, and thence by the Wâdy route lay through the Wâdy Mokatteb; but Hebrân and the Nûkb Hâwy to Jebel we wished to visit the Wady Megârah, or Mousa; or they may have gone according · Valley of the Cave,' which, through a subto the route of all recent travellers, by the lime gorge, opens out on the left. Wâdy Shellâl, the Nûkb Bûdrab, and the For nearly twenty years Major MacdonWâdys Mokatteb, Feirân, and Es-Sheikh, ald has resided in this valley, working its to the same point. The former route is im- famous turquoise mines. · Its magnificent probable, both because of its detour, and sandstone peaks rise to a great height on also because the Wâdy Hebrân is said to be, either band. Among these we wound for and the Nûkb Hâwy certainly is, as diffi- about half an hour before we reached Major cult, if not more difficult, than any pass on Macdonald's hermitage. Bright cultured the route of the Wâdy Feirân.' *

vegetation, and cattle feeding thereon, gladOn this it may be remarked - First, that dened our eyes; for by artificial irrigation, the route by the Wady Hebrân would not especially by the construction of ample cisnecessarily involve the difficult pass of the terns, Major Macdonald, on a small scale, Nükb Hûwy: the people might still have has demonstrated how the wilderness might gone round by the Wady Es-Sheikh. And be turned into a fruitful field.' next, that another alternative is possible. Some of his people had announced to him From their encampment at Mûrkah they the approach of travellers; and, in old pamay have proceeded along the shore until triarchal fashion, he had begun to make hosthey came to a valley leading into the Wâdy pitable preparations for our reception by Feiran at its junction with the Wâdy Mo- killing, not a kid of the goats,' but a young katteb, thus avoiding the difficult pass of capricorn, that he might regale us with Búdrah. This was not our route, but we mountain venison. He came a little way to were informed by the Rev. W. Gell, who meet us, and received us very heartily. had just examined it, that it was broad and His dwelling is a kind of rough highland easy, offering no impediments whatever to shieling, a Robinson Crusoe structure, two the passage of a great multitude. On this sides of the apartment in which we dined supposition, there would be no physical dif- being formed by the bare rock ; thick rough ficulty in the entire route from Suez to walls constituted the other two, through Sinai, except the rocky headland of Zali- which small apertures admitted the dim mah, which no one would affirm to be either light. Various trunks and boxes containing insuperable or serious.

stores were arranged round the room. The There was but a slight descent from the rest of the establishment consisted of a kitchtop of the pass of Bûdrah, but the region en, and a couple of tents for the accommodawas a strange one; utterly stern and deso- tion of passing travellers, a little garden, late, it had neither vegetation nor sign of kennels for dogs and pens for goats. AU human presence; it was a defile of calcined supplies have to be fetched from Suez, four rocks and huge boulders, burnt and con- days distant, where also is the nearest posttracted like scoria, with grey molten heaps office. Major Macdonald's Sheikh was just as of boiling mud, as if it were the débris of starting with the letter bag, of which we a cyclopean iron foundry, or the huge crater were glad to avail ourselves. The Major of an extinct volcano. The

very surface of was just recovering from a fever, in which the ground seemed cindery, as if from sub- he had been his own doctor, and during terranean fires. It was a scene of vast and which he must have been very lonesome inutter desolation, such as the plain of Sodom deed. No wonder that a fit of nostalgia had may have been before the Dead Sea covered come upon him, and that he avowed his inthe charred ruins of Sodom and Gomorrah. tention of returning to England. He has In the larger mountains, the dip and colour- acquired great influence over the Arabs, and ing of some of the strata were very remark- has secured their warm attachment. He has able; it was as if huge masses had been ex- no civilized neighbours, yet is he a highly

educated, intelligent, and most hospitable ** Sinai and Palestine,' p. 38.

British gentleman.

Laborde is the first traveller whose visit | importunities to remain the night, we to the Wâdy Megârah is recorded. He and started by moonlight for our encampment almost all travellers speak of its copper in the Wâdy Mokatteb, two hours distant. mines. Mr. Bonar goes so far as to say that The ride was very grand, almost solemn in he picked up here some specimens of cop- its natural magnificence, its dim solitude, per ore.

Major Macdonald distinctly af- and its manifold associations; its excitement firms that, although copper may be found in being heightened by just a soupçon of peril the peninsula, -- and indications of old cop- from marauding Arabs, of whose camp-fires per mines are found near Súrâbit-el-Khâr- we occasionally got a glimpse. We reached dim — there is none in the Wâdy Megârah. our encampment in safety, however, where The mines produce only turquoise, and are we found our servants wondering what had now, according to Major Macdonald, the become of us. only turquoise mines, that are wrought, in In the morning we retraced our steps the world.

some way in order to examine the inscripSome of the excavations from which the tions which we had passed without recogniWally derives its name are very extensive, tion in the dim moonlight. The Wady and very ancient. Among the specimens Mokatteb, or. Written Valley,' is the chief of turquoise which Major Macdonald locality of the Sinaitic inscriptions; they showed us, was one, polished, as large as a occur in great numbers on the sandstone pigeon's egg -- which, had the colour been cliffs, and at no great height. The sides of good, would have been among turquoises the valley are low, broken, and irregular, what the.Koh-i-noor is among diamonds. having a background of granite peaks.

Unable, from the effects of his illness, to Many of the cliffs have fallen, and the accompany us himself, Major Macdonald inscriptions are found upon their fragments. kindly sent his cavass to show us the inscrip- In some parts of the valley, the rocks are tions near the mines, said to be antecedent thickly covered with them ; in others, they to the time of Moses. We clambered a occur more scantily. The number of the considerable height up the side of the whole is not so great as we had anticipated. northern mountain, until we came to the Lord Lindsay and Dr. Robinson speak of entrance of the principal cavern, which thousands; 'Lepsius of “ immense nunbers.' some of our party explored. It is a vast Dean Stanley says that they exist at the excavation, the roof of which is supported most by hundreds or fifties. Our observaby a series of pillars. The chief inscriptions confirm the lower estimate. They are tions are near the entrance of this cavern: almost all written upon the surface of the they consist of hieroglyphics, monograms soft sandstone: very few are found upon the and sentences, — some in Cufic, some in harder granite, and these are but slightly Greek characters, and of roughly drawn scratched. figures and cartoons, apparently relating to These remarkable inscriptions are found mining operations; most of which have in various parts of the Sinaitic peninsula, been copied and published in Europe. Mr. chiefly about Mount Serbal, and extend Bartlett gives drawings and descriptions of eastwards as far as Petra; they are found three of the principal. According to Lep-on Serbål itself, but not on Jebel Mousa. sius, the hieroglyphics belong to the period They were first mentioned by Cosmas Inof the earliest Egyptian monuments, and dicopleustes, who visited Sinai in A. D. 518, represent the triumphs of Pharaoh over his who speaks of them as being then ancient. enemies. One of the cartouches is said to Pococke gave specimens of them.

Niebe that of Cheops, the builder of the Great buhr visited the peninsula for the special Pyramid, 200 years before Abraham.

purpose of examining them, but by the One reason assigned by Major Macdon- mistake of his guide was taken to Surâbitald, why the Israelites were not likely to el-Khârdim. Subsequent travellers have have come by the Nûkb Bûdrah, seemed to copied and published the principal of them, have in it some force — viz., that a strong especially Burckhardt in 1816, Gray in 1820, Egyptian guard was always stationed and Lepsius in 1845. They consist of inscripnear the mines. Moses, who was minutely tions in the Sinaitic character, with some familiar with the district, would hardly, few in Arabic, Greek, and Latin ; rude drawtherefore, have exposed the Israelites to ings of animals of all kinds, chiefly asses, their possible attack. This reasoning horses, dogs, and ibexes, many of them in would have almost equal force, applied to such grotesque forms as to render it imposthe route from the sea to the entrance of sible that they could have had any serious the Wâdy Feirân, above suggested. ineaning; crosses of all kinds, chiefly + and Resisting Major Macdonald's hospitable

standing usually at the beginning of

[ocr errors]

inscriptions. Scarcely any of them require dark mountains, on either side, of splineither ladder or scaffolding of any kind; tered granite and gneiss, deeply veined the highest might have been written, as with porphyry, as if some Plutonic caldron Dean Stanley suggests, by one man stand- had boiled over; and so linking the valley ing upon the shoulders of another. as to form long reaches, or inland lakes,

Various theories of their origin and of course waterless, stern, torrid, and imcharacter have been propounded. Cosmas pressive in their molten sublimity. Unlike and his fellow-travellers affirmed that they other mountainous countries, the bottoms of were Hebrew in character and origin. Pro- the Sinaitic valleys are flat, forming an fessor Beer thought them the passing angle with the sides, like that of water: records of Christian pilgrims - this is also they are alluvial deposits ; that of the Wady the opinion of Lepsius. Professor Tuch Feirân is roughly corrugated by fierce torthinks them the work of Pagans, either pil- rents, and occasionally dotted with boulders. grims or residents. Ritter connects them Our ride through the endless twistings of with the idolatrous worship of the Amale- this waterless river was hot and wearying, kites. Mr. Forster has labored very hard to almost distressing: the sun poured down his prove them contemporary records of the perpendicular streams of fire, fiercely radiIsraelites. Dean Stanley, mainly from the ated from the iron granite of the mountains, occurrence of the numerous crosses, can and the glassy sand of the valley ; every • hardly imagine a doubt that they are the breath of cooling breeze was inexorably work for the most part of Christians, shut out. The water in our zemzemias was whether travellers or pilgrims.' Chevalier of a very doubtful character, but this did Bunsen thinks that they are of mixed not prevent our having frequent recourse origin, — Pagan, Jewish, and Christian,- to them. which is probably nearest the truth. In 1839, Here, if Feirân be Rephidim, the poor Dr. Beer of Leipsic constructed an alpha- panting Israelites might well murmur for bet for the interpretation of the Sinaitic char- water: our realization of their distress was 'acter, which is given by Bunsen in his Table very, vivid. It is no presumption against of Semitic Alphabets,* and with such suc- this identification that, four or five hours cess that Professor Tuch could not alter a farther on in the valley, abundant water single letter. He tested the inscriptions on flows through luxuriant groves of palmthe assumption that the alphabet would trees. resemble the Phænician, and that the lan- We looked out very eagerly for the palm guage would be a dialect of the Arabic ; and groves of Feirân. Our hope was long deeverywhere he found good Arabic, and ferred, as one after another only the monotgood sense. After his death, Professor onous links of the huge granite chain preTuch applied it to above two hundred addi- sented themselves. At length we came in tional inscriptions, and with equal success. sight of the little village of Huseiyeh, to The results of their investigation are — which some of our Arabs belonged. *The that the dialect is Arabic, with some pecu- people greeted us kindly, and gave us liarities of form; that the inscriptions are handfuls of the Liliputian apples of the Pagan, with some Christian intermixed; Nûbk tree, which, to our parched and that they are the work of pilgrims, and thirsty palates, were very grateful. The consist chiefly of the greetings and names black tents of Kedar' now dotted the sides of of travellers.

the valley ; we had exchanged the solitude Leaving the Wâdy Mokatteb, we en- and sterility of the desert for the fertile habitered the Wâdy Feirân just where it opens tations of men. Half an hour later we westward to the sea. At this point we reached our encampment at the entrance again struck the route of the Israelites. of the palm grove of Feirân : this extends The entrance to the Wâdy Feirân is two or three miles up the valley, and conguarded by a singular sandstone cliff, sists of an extensive plantation of three or shaped like a huge fortification, round the four thousand palm trees, together with eastern side of which we wound. The val- tamarisks, acacias, and other shrubs. It is ley is the most fertile, and next to the the • Bedouin Paradise.'. No wonder that Wâdy Sheikh the most extensive, in the the old Amalekites tried to defend it. Its peninsula; we were about eight hours in fertility is caused by a stream of water, traversing the first section of it. Like all some three or four feet broad, which flows the larger valleys of Sinai, it is very pictur- from a perennial spring at the upper end of esque and grand. The section of it north the valley, and after traversing the entire of Parán is utterly sterile and desolate : length of the grove is lost in a cleft of the

*'Philosophy of History,' vol. i., p. 255. rock a short distance below Huseiyeh.

« VorigeDoorgaan »