times this peninsula was better supplied with water, and that more land was cultivated, and in
turn made capable of cultivation, than now.
Through the whole journey in the peninsula, or in the " Desert of the Wanderings," is
noticeable in the clear luminous air the deep silence. The Arabs conducting the distinguished
Niebuhr declared that their voices could be heard from shore to shore of the Gulf of 'Akabah.
Exaggeration doubtless, but exaggeration of a fact—that in these silent regions the human
voice travels a long way. Noticeable also is the fragrance of the Desert. Most of the low
shrubs, which seem more dead than alive on one's stony path, are aromatic. But notice-worthy
beyond everything is the desolation and mountain confusion. Most desolate, most barren- for
the little oases of verdure we have mentioned are lost out of sight in any general view of the
mountains—these hills of Sinai are the " Alps unclothed." A naked Switzerland, even though
its glaciers and snows should remain, seems inconceivable; but Sinai is naked as to any
verdure of forest tree, or fir, or pine, or moss, or flowery pasture. Strange lichens grow on the
boulders and rocks in some parts, as weird in form as vivid in colouring. Such a path as
that which leads up Jebel Katharina is all the world over much the same as a Swiss mountain-
path, but the illusion vanishes when one looks for the shade of the trees which beguile the way
up a ravine in Switzerland. Then the confusion-— the intricate complication of peak and ridge !
One traveller (Sir Frederic Henhiker) says of the view from Jebel Musa, that it is as if
" Arabia Petraea were an ocean of lava, which, whilst its waves were running mountains high,
had suddenly stood still."
" The very nakedness of the rocks," says Professor Palmer (" Desert of the Exodus," page
27), " imparts to the scene a grandeur and beauty peculiarly its own. For as there is no vegetation
to soften down the rugfgfed outlines of the mountains or conceal the nature of their formation,
each rock stands out with its own distinctive shape and colour as clearly as in some gigantic
geological model map. In some wadies the mountain-sides are striped with innumerable veins
of the most brilliant hue, thus producing an effect of colour and fantastic design which it is
impossible to describe. These effects are heightened by the peculiar clearness of the
atmosphere and the dazzling brightness of the sunlight. One part of a mountain will glow
with a ruddy or golden hue, while the rest is plunged in deepest shade. Sometimes a
distant peak will seem to blend with the liquid azure of the sky, while another stands out
in all the beauty of purple or violet tints; and, with what would seem the mere skeleton of a
landscape, as beautiful effects are produced as if the bare rocks were clad with forests and
vineyards, or capped with perpetual snows. Nature, in short, seems here to show that in her
most barren and uninviting moods she can be exquisitely beautiful still."
But the joy at the nearness of water to drink is experienced by the camels as well as by
one's self. Their pace has quickened, they move their heads and long necks from side to side,
and when at last we come to the palms and tamarisks they hardly wait to be unloaded before
they go to the water. Of course there is an abundance of noise, and shouting, and gesticulation,
and argument; so while the Arabs fill the water-skins and load again we may rest our cramped