The Desert of the Exodus: Journeys on Foot in the Wilderness of the Forty Years' Wanderings; Undertaken in Connection with the Ordnance Survey of Sinai and the Palestine Exploration Fund

By E. H. Palmer | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER IX.
FEIRÁN.

Burial-ground of Sheik Abu Shebíb. Date-palms and Gardens. El Maharrad. Ruins of the ancient Convent. Monkish Tombs. Jebel Serbál. Wády 'Aleyát. Treasure-finders again. A Storm. Jebel Moneijáh. Death in the Arab Camp. Wády 'Ajeleh. Ascent of Serbál. The Summit. Beacon-fires. Meaning of the name Serbál. Abu I'Hosein, the Fox. Visit to Sheik Hassan. A heavy Dinner. An Arabian Night's Entertainment.

NEAR our camp, in the midst of the palm-grove, was a diminutive Arab village, consisting of a few wooden huts, the residents in which make a scanty livelihood by growing tobacco and selling it to the Bedawín who pass that way. Our own Arabs used the place as an hostelry when waiting for orders about the camels, and on such occasions made night hideous by the monotonous and unseasonable music to which the sons of the desert are addicted.

Here, too, is a burial-ground, with several nicely kept graves, one of them ornamented with a white marble headstone carved in a pretty lily pattern, a relic of the ruined convent church close by. This cemetery, as usual, contains a "Weli," the tomb of Sheik Abu Shebíb, the patron saint of the district. It is a small stone building, rather neatly kept for a Bedawí institution, and the cenotaph in the centre is actually covered with a kisweh, or cotton pall. A powerful odor of sanctity pervades the place, and is believed to be particularly pernicious to false swearers, so that, if a person suspected of any crime consent to "swear by the tomb of Abu Shebíb," it is considered as a conclusive proof of his innocence. The Peninsula of Sinai is divided into so many districts, each of which has its own private saint. In every "parish" an acacia (or shittim) tree is consecrated, and is not mutilated by having its branches

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