346 PICTURESQUE PALESTINE.
At the mouth of Wady es Sho'eib is a low rocky mound called Harun, " Aaron's Hill,"
where there is a small building consecrated by Arab sacrifices in honour of Moses' brother
on the spot where he set up the golden calf. Passing under this, and beyond the remains of
the barracks of the soldiers of 'Abbas Pasha, the picturesque pile of the convent, built right
against the mountain-side, and rising out from a mass of variously tinted foliage, comes at once
into our view. It is a medley of buildings combining the strength of a mediaeval fortress
with the flimsiest superstructures of an Italian monastery, all built on different levels, in the
midst of which stand, side by side, the mosque and the church with its conspicuous campanile.
The fertility of the convent garden—less beautiful and fertile than the garden at El Arba'in
—affords proof that the neighbourhood of Musa-Katarina is the best-watered in the whole
peninsula. The convent has two copious springs, and there are five or six springs in the
cliffs above Wady ed Deir, besides those in Seil Leja. In Wadies Sh'reich, Leja, T'lah,
and Abu Seileh (to the north of Er Rahah), as well as in Wady Zawatm (" The Valley of
Olive-trees/' coming down from the western slopes of Katarina), are streams of water. Springs
and streams, too, are constantly met with in the surrounding hills and valleys, which must
have always occasioned a certain amount of pasturage. The Deyset Fur'eiah (a mountain
plateau or fershy loved of Bedawin), enclosed by that great ring of granite peaks called El
Fur'eiah, fronting Jebel Musa and Jebel ed Deir on the north, is one of the most extensive
pasture grounds in the country, and abounds in desert herbs and grasses; while the upper
slopes of Jebel Katarina have the appearance of well-clothed downs.
Encamped under Miisa-Katarina the Israelites would have a perennial natural supply of
water and a fair amount of pasturage ; they would be protected, moreover, on the west and
north-west from any renewed attack on the part of the Amalekites by the granite wall to
which we have so often alluded as enclosing this central group of mountains, while the country
to the east would be in the occupation of the friendly Midianites.
The convent, with its church and library and ancient refectory, has been already
described. Let us, therefore, set off on our pilgrimage to the holy places. The basin below
the summit of Jebel Musa may be reached by five tracks or paths.* Along the Sikket Syedna
Musa—worn by the feet of monks and pilgrims for centuries—the lay-brother furnished by
the convent authorities as a guide will lead us. Behind us is Jebel ed Deirt with its rugged
pathless sides ; one little ledge noticeable for a solitary cypress springing up from a heap ol
stones (the ruined convent of St. Episteme), which seems a mere dark green thread against the
glowing grey of the mountain. Before us is a rough flight of steps formed of huge uneven
* i. 'Abbas Pasha's road which zigzags up the south-eastern face of the mountain. 2. Sikket Sho'eib, " Path of Jethro," a sort of scram
from Wady ed Deir to the basin behind Ras Sufsafeh. 3. A path leading up the western cliffs from Wady Sh'reich, which according to ear y
tradition is the path used by Moses. 4. A winding and easier track leading from El Arba'in to the south-western corner of the basin. 5-
well-known Sikket Syedna Musa, ascending immediately above the convent.
f A statement made on page 299 on the authority of Dean Stanley as to Jebel Suna or Sona preserving a vestige of the name Sinai seems
be incorrect. Professor Palmer says the name means " Mount of Artisans," and is derived from a clever artisan who once dwelt there. Je
Deir has several names ; amongst others " Mountain of the Burning Bush," a legend connecting it with the sunbeam which on one day in
darts into the "Chapel of the Burning Bush." Dean Stanley seems to derive its commoner name not from the convent of St. Catherine in
valley, but from the nunnery which once existed on the mountain itself!