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surrounded by mountains of a similar kind. The traveller, coming from the north ward, and surmounting one of the lowermost of these adjoining eminences, will suddenly have before him a plain twenty-seven hundred feet wide, now called er-Rahah ; and will see at its opposite side, rising sheer from the edge of the plain to the height of about fourteen hundred feet, a bare, black mountain, set among other mountains, but the most impressive among them all in consequence of its broad massiveness of almost perpendicular front and a seeming greater majesty in its solid, compact, firm strength ; as if it were indeed made, and placed there, to sustain in its singleness, the mightiness of Jehovah's evident presence in his most astounding visitation to man.
No one can look on it, and on the large plain spread out below,--the latter a unique instance among these rugged, crowded mountains,—without feeling that a preparation has seemingly been made here for something wonderful, and grand as wonderful; and the heart is prepared for all that impressiveness, that overwhelming greatness of glory, and that terrific grandeur, which we know were here once exhibited and felt by the cowering millions of Israelites spread over this plain below.
The map will show the reader that several wadys here unite, and that the one called Wady Sheikh is an an unusually wide one; and thus a plain is formed, of which Robinson says: “We may fairly estimate the whole plain at two geographical miles long and ranging in breadth from one to two-thirds of a mile; or it is equivalent to a surface of at least one square mile. This space is nearly doubled by a recess on the west and by the broad and level area of Wady Sheikh on the east, which issues at right angles to the plain, and is equally in view of the front and summit of the present Horeb [Sinai]. . . . The encampment before the mountain must not improbably include only the headquarters of Moses and the elders, and of a portion of the people; the whole remainder, with their flocks were scattered among the adjacent valleys.”
The mountain is a distinct mass of dark granite, and has on its east the narrow Wady Shubeib, in which is the present convent (marked C on the map: its place is designated by a tree on the left hand of the mountain in the view). On the west is Wady el-Leja, beyond which westwardly is Jebel Hûm, terminated at the southern end by Jebel Catherin, the highest peak in this neighborhood.
At the convent a path commences and leads slantingly, by no very difficult ascent, to the top of the mountain ; and the traveller, having gained this summit, will find before him a small plain sprinkled over with grass and shrubs. This is near the central part of the ridge; and from it an easy ascent southwardly conducts to what is called Jebel Mûsa, or Mount of Moses, the highest part of the mountain, which is at its southern end. It is a rounded peak, having an elevation of 7217 feet above the level of the sea. The name of this loftiest portion indicates the nature of the prevailing belief, both among the Arabs and the monks of the convent below, that this is the spot where the Law-giving occurred; but this idea is rejected by both Robinson and Olin, on the ground that its peak is hidden from the plain by the intervening northern summits. Robinson says, “No part of the plain is visible from the summit [Jebel Mûsa], nor are the bottoms of the adjacent valleys; nor is any spot to be seen around it where the people could have been assembled.” After visiting Jebel Mûsa, and finding it so little in accordance with the requirements of the historic events, Dr. Robinson and his companion determined on exploring the northern end of the mountain (the one presented in our picture), with which no one of their monkish or Arab attendants seemed to have any minute acquaintance, and which they had to explore without assistance from others. Commencing at the plain already noticed, midway along on the summit, and proceeding toward the north, they came to a steep ascent; then to a small basin; then to two more similar ascents and basins; and then to a cliff rising about five hundred feet, its highest part about half a mile distant. They could not climb its sides in a direct course, as these were too smooth and precipitous; but they went up by a ravine, and reached the summit. He
1 The highest mountains of the peninsula are, in English feet, above the sea level-Shaumer, 8238; Catharin, 8272; Jebel Mūsa, 7217; Serbal, 6506, or 6342 French feet.
there “ The extreme difficulty of the ascent was well rewarded by the prospect that now opened upon us. The whole plain of erRahah lay spread out beneath our feet, with the adjacent wadys and mountains; while Wady esh-Sheikh on the right and the recess on the left, both connected with, and opening broadly from, er-Rahah, presented an area which serves nearly to double that of the plain.”
“Our conviction,” he adds, “was strengthened, that here, or on some one of the adjacent cliffs, was the spot where the Lord 'descended in fire and proclaimed the Law. Here lay the plain where the whole congregation might be assembled; here was the mount that could be approached and touched, if not forbidden; and here the mountain brow, where alone the lightnings and the thick cloud would be visible, and the thunders and the voice of the trump be heard, when the Lord 'came down in the sight of all the people upon Mount Sinai !”
Rev. Dr. Olin, who had ascended Jebel Mûsa by the usual route, and was also dissatisfied with the result of this visit, determined, in company with a friend, to attempt the direct ascent from er-Rahah to the summit, that is, up the front here presented in the picture. The Arabs, he says, call that northern peak, Sooksafe; and he adds, “Jebel Sooksafe rises from a broad and spreading base into several high and almost perpendicular peaks. It has an aspect of awful and imposing grandeur, and though inferior to the neighboring summit (Jebel Mûsa] in elevation, far surpasses it in effect.” His journal proceeds
March 16th , I spent this day in exploring the summit at the southern extremity of Jebel Mousa (Mûsa), the Sooksafe of the Bedouins. It was an excursion of much interest, but involving great fatigue and anxiety. I left the convent with Mr. C., by the passage leading into the garden, about 9 A. M. ... We proceeded along the narrow valley [Wady Shubeib] to Wady el Raha [er-Raha), and turning to the west, were soon at the base of Sooksafe.
We commenced our ascent along the western side of a low granite ridge, which runs in the proper direction, and found ourselves in due time upon the summit of which this is the base. At first we walked upon fragments of stone that had fallen from the regions above; but soon reached the solid bare rock, of which the mountain is chiefly composed, over which we pursued the largest part of our way to the top. It is slightly disintegrated, presenting a rough surface, which greatly diminished the danger of slipping. A second elevation of a steeper and more laborious ascent was now be
There were no less than four of these cliffs, each of which would, in other localities, be regarded as lofty, standing nearly in a right line with the object of our toil, and forming so many stages of the ascent. The second presented no serious obstacle to our advance, and was soon surmounted. The next was steeper, and the surface of the rock, possessing greater solidity than the masses below, was too smooth to afford a good foothold ; and as the slope near the summit became very steep, our progress was difficult and fatiguing. We were induced by the imposing appearance below us to descend into a narrow gorge lying directly between the last of the minor elevations and the towering form of Jebel Sooksafe, which offered to our view an immense, solid mass of rock, rising to the height of several