Traveling through Sinai: From the Fourth to the Twenty-First Century
Edited by Deborah Manley and Sahar Abdel-Hakim
Published by The American University in Cairo Press, 2006
Available from book stores in Cairo. In Dahab, you can find it at Neptune. It is also available from Amazon.com.
While not the most enthralling book, Traveling through Sinai does give interesting glimpses into the history of, well, traveling through Sinai.
The book is a collection of excerpts from the journals of various travelers throughout the years, organized not by chronology, which took some getting used to, but by the editors´ ideas of related topics or themes:
1 – To Sinai and Back
2 – The Place, the People, and the Travelers
3 – Preparations for the Journey
4 – From Cairo to Suez
5 – Routines, Hardships, and Pleasures of the Journey
6 – Crossing to Sinai across the Red Sea
7 – Wide Desert, Deep Wadis, and High Mountains
8 – Episode and Encounters on the Journey
9 – Arriving at the Convent
10 – The Convent and Convent Life
11 – Convent Life and the Traveler
12 – Pilgrimage to Neighboring Holy Places
13 – The Return from Sinai
There is a section of brief biographies of all the travelers, a bibliography, and an index of travelers.
An index of places would have been helpful. A map of Sinai would also have been a welcome addition! I´m glad I had my own to refer to.
Seeing as many of the early travelers were pilgrims, the book is heavy on the convent (St. Catherine´s Monastery). Even section 13 is more about departing the convent than it is about the return route.
But, in general, the chosen excerpts provide a historical look at the places and people of Sinai from the travelers´ perspectives. And, of course, all travelers through Sinai were accompanied by Bedouin guides. Although the writers/editors do not spend a great amount of time on the local guides, I was intrigued to learn about what has changed and what has not. The book made me long to return to exploring the deserts of Sinai but also saddened me to think of what Sinai used to be in terms of natural resources – the rains, floods, fruits, gardens, etc.
It’s probably not a book that you’ll sit and read cover-to-cover, but it’s format does make it possible to simply flip through and read whichever brief entry catches your eye. You’re sure to learn something new about the sites, events, and people of the Sinai peninsula!