1902 Encyclopedia > Arabia > Arabia - Sinaitic Peninsula. Arabia - Geology

(Part 3)


(3) Arabia - Sinaitic Peninsula. Arabia - Geology.

Sinaitic Peninsula

Beginnings from the north-west, the first district we met with is that of the Sinaitic peninsula, a small triangle having its apex on the Red Sea, its base on Palestine, and its sides formed by the Gulf of Suez on the west, and that of Akabah on the east. It is a mere collection of naked rocks and craggy precipices, intersected by long narrow defiles and sandy valleys, in which tamarisk bushes, dwarf acacias, thorny shrubs, and some kinds of euphorbia, are almost the only vegetation; in a few favoured spots a cluster of wild date-palms may occasionally be met with; and the scanty soil after the spring rains becomes sprinkled over with thin blades of grass that the summer suns soon wither. Running water, except a few rivulets, the result of the spring or autumn rains, none of which outlast the summer, there is none; but in its stead the traveler meets with a stagnant and brackish pool here and there under the shelter of some overhanging rock, or a not less brackish well. In the center of this dreary district rises the famous mountain group, one particular summit of which, though not the highest, is conjectured to have been the Biblical Sinai. At its foot lies Wadi Feyran, a valley several miles in extent, and the only tolerably fertile piece of ground in the whole region. The climate, allowing for the increase of heat consequent on a southerly latitude, resembles in the main that of Syria,-rainy in the winter and early spring, with passing storms in autumn; at other times it is uniformly dry and clear. The summer temperature reaches in the valleys, and particularly in the great desolate gully called the "Ghowr," which is a continuation of the Dead Sea hollow, a height of 118° Fahr. in the shade; during the night it often falls to 70° , or even lower. Winter is cold, but ice and snow seldom occur except upon the heights, where the Sinai group in particular becomes snow-capped every year for a period varying from a few days to over two months. The atmosphere is healthy, except in autumn and in early spring.

Geology of Arabia

Between the gulfs of Akabah and Suez the geological formations are almost exclusively plutonic or volcanic,- the latter occupying in general a lower range than the former; metamorphic belts, chiefly of gneiss and slate, are also to be met with. Basalt and greenstone are the most usual volcanic forms, and the subterraneous action that once produced them does not yet seem to be wholly exhausted, for hot springs are of frequent occurrence throughout the region, and earthquakes, accompanied by loud underground noises, are by no means uncommon. The hot wells near Suez, called "Eyoon Moosa," or the "Fountains of Moses," are well known; as also are those entitled "Hammam Pharaoon," or the "Bath of Pharaoh," the waters of which resemble in their constituents those of the Dead Sea. These volcanic phenomena cease, however , in the zone to the east of Akabah, where rises the great and barren mountain in range of Shera (the "Seir" of the Bible), a system wholly Jurassic in it composition, though its strata lie at various and often at abrupt angles.

The plants and animals tenanting this district are, with slight modifications, common to the next, where, however, they in general obtain a fuller development, and under which they may accordingly be more appropriately described.

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