502 Route 10. PLAIN OF ER-RAHA. From Suez
This point commands an admirable survey of the broad Wadi, which
is believed by many to have been the camping-place of the Jews,
and is picturesquely enclosed by huge mountains of granite.
Opposite the cliffs of the Safsaf, on the other side of the valley, rise
the red porphyry masses ot the Jebel (pi. Jibal) Fre'a, forming the nucleus
of a labyrinth of other mountains extending towards the N. The S. side
of it is called the Jebel Sona, to which belong the granite slopes com¬
manding the Wadi er-Raha at the traveller's feet and the Wadi ed-Der.
On the right (E.) rises the Jebel ed-Der, and on the left (W.) are seen
numerous cliffs of granite, including the narrow Ughret el-Mehd at the
entrance of the Wddi Leja, and the Jebel el-Ghabsheh. Far below us in
the valley, at the mouth of the ravine above which we stand, rises a
mound of sand with some ruined buildings and a few fruit-trees.
The Plain of Er-Raha, which we here survey, is, according to
the measurements of Capt. Palmer, two million sq. yds. in area.
There is no doubt that this valley is sufficiently extensive to have
been the camping-place of a large multitude like that of the
Israelites. If the Mt. Sinai of the monks, and not Mt. Serbal, is to
be regarded as the mountain where the commandments were given,
the Ras es-Safsaf, and not the Jebel Musa, must have been the peak
ascended by Moses. — If the Jebel Musa alone has been climbed,
and the traveller wishes afterwards to visit the Ras es-Safsaf, he
should ascend with a guide through a cleft immediately behind the
monastery, a little to the W. of the pilgrims' steps. There aTe steps
here also, but the route is not recommended to those who are in¬
clined to dizziness, and it is much more fatiguing than the pilgrims'
route. The descent may be made by a cleft opening into the Raha
plain, but this route is also very rough, and cannot be recommended
for the ascent. Huge masses of rock have fallen into the cleft, and
the path often leads below them.
Those who desire to compare the form of the group of 311. Sinai with
the account given of the 'Mount of the Lord' in the Bible narrative should
keep in mind the following points suggested by Dr. Robinson, which may
also be considered in reference to Mt. Sinai. There must be the summit
of a mountain commanding the camp of the people, and a space con¬
tiguous to the mountain from which a large multitude could witness
the scene on the heights. The camping-place must be so situated with
regard to the mountain, that the people could approach the latter, and
stand upon its lower slopes; there must be the possibility of touching the
mountain, and of placing an enclosure round it to prevent the people
from ascending it, or touching its extremity.
Those who wish to return hence to the monastery, and not to
visit the Wadi Leja and the El-Arba'in monastery (p. 503) at
present, may descend by the ravine called the Sikket Shu'aib. The
route is difficult, and reminds one of the question asked by Recha
of the Knight Templar in Lessing's 'Nathan', whether 'it was really
so much easier to ascend the mountain than to descend it'.
The Wddi el-Leja and the El-Arba'ln Monastery may be reached
even on horseback and without a guide. The whole excursion,
which presents no difficulties, takes 4 hrs. ; numerous sacred spots
are pointed out on the route. Before entering the valley from the
Raha plain, the'place is shown where the earth is supposed to have