Presentation given by Dr Lewis. Sound file. (This is an mp4 file. If you are using a PC you might need to download software to listen to it).

Kit list as provided by Dr Lewis on 10 January 2012.

Here are some things to look at in preparation for the expedition to the Sinai.

Useful website:

This is a very interesting article website about St Catherine's Monastery where we will be visiting.

Areas for Expedition Expertise

I thought it would be a good idea to appoint each boy as an expert of each of the following areas so that they might do some preparation and contribute to our knowledge of the area when we are there.

1. Stars - Karthik
2. The Bedu - Julius
3. The Desert Landscape (Current landscape) - L
4. Camels - Harry
5. Mt Sinai - Miles
6. St Catherine's Monastery - Harry
7. Egypt -
8. Weather and Climate of the Sinai - Armaan
9. Animals and insects of the Sinai Peninsula - Lucas
10. The origins of the Sinai Peninsula (Geology, bedrock, prehistory etc) - Vittorio
11. Photographer - Bruno
12. Arabic (communicator) - Hasnain

Some readings from Wilfred Thesiger about travelling with the Bedu. Interesting reading. I read the book and typed up these excerpts for you.

Here are some quotations I have taken from Wilfred Thesiger’s book, Desert Sands, which is his recount of his travels through Arabia and Africa with the Bedu (Bedouin). These journeys were more than sixty years ago. We will not be travelling in quite the same way has he, although we will be with the Bedu, we will be with camels and we will be sleeping under the stars. Our food and water will be a little better, thankfully. Nevertheless, hopefully this might give you some insight into the world of travelling with the Bedu.

I was restless. For three years I had been planning this journey and now it was over and the future seemed empty. I dreaded a return to civilization, where life promised to be very dreary after the excitements of the last eight months. At Jibuto I played with the idea of buying de Monfried’s dhow. I had read his Adventures de Mer and Secrets de la Mer Rouge and had talked to the Danakil who had sailed with him. I was fascinated by his accounts of a free and lawless life.

I returned, however, to England joined the Sudan Political Service, and then to Khartoum at the beginning of 1935. I was twenty-four. I had spent nearly half my life in Africa, but it was an Africa very different from this. Khartoum seemed like the suburbs of North Oxford dumped down in the middle of the Sudan. I hated the calling and the cards, I resented the trim villas, the tarmac roads, the meticulously aligned streets in Omdurman, the signposts, and the public conveniences. I longed for the chaos, the smells, the untidiness, and the haphazard life of the market-place in Addis Ababa; I wanted colour and savagery, hardship and adventure. Had I been posted to one of the towns I have no doubt that, disgruntled, I should have left he Sudan within a few months, but Charles Dupius, Governor of Darfur, had anticipated my reaction and had asked that I should be sent to his Province.
pp. 30-31.

I spent most of my time on trek travelling with camels. In the Danakil country I had used camels for carrying loads; here for the first time I rode them. District Commissioners usually travelled with a baggage train of four or five camels loaded with tents, camp furniture, and tinned foods. Guy Moore taught me to travel light and eat the local food. I usually travelled accompanied by three or four of the local tribesmen; I kept not servants who were not from the district. Where there were villages, the villagers fed us, otherwise we cooked a simple meal of porridge and ate together from a common dish. I slept in the open on the ground beside them and learnt to threat them as companions and not as servants. Before I left Kutum I had some of the finest riding camels in the Sudan for I bought the best that I could find they whey interested me for more than the two horses I had in my stable. On one of the camels I rode 114 miles in twenty-three hours, and a few months later I rode from Jabal Maidob to Omdurama, a distance of 450 miles in nine days. p 31.

Among the Nuer I had lived in a tent apart from my men, waited on by servants; II had been an English man travelling in Africa, but now I could revert happily to the desert ways which I had learned at Kutum. For this was the real desert where differences of race and colour, of wealth and social standing are almost meaningless; where coverings of pretence are stripped away and basic truths emerge. It was a place where man live close together. Here, to, to be along was to feel at once the weight of fear, for the nakedness of this land was more terrifying than the darkest forest at dead of night. In the pitiless light of day we were as insignificant as the beetles I watched labouring across the sand. Only in the kindly darkness could we borrow a few square feet of the desert and find homeliness within the radius of the firelight, while overhead the familiar pattern of the stars screened the awful mystery of space. p. 36

Two days later we rode our camels across the stony plain of Jarbib; we passed some cultivation and went on towards Jabal Qarra, which is about tow thousand feet high, and is flanged on either side by much higher mountains which lose in on the sea. Some peculiarity in the shape of these mountains draws the monsoon clouds, so that rain concentrates upon the southern slopes of Jabal Qarra, which are in consequence covered with mist and rain throughout the summer and were now dark with jungles in full leaf after the monsoon. All the way along the south Arabian coast for 1400 miles form Perim to Sur, only these twenty miles get a regular rainfall. The mountains on either side aore often beautiful, especially at dawn and sunset when borrowed colours soften the austerity of rock and sand, but they are seldom touched with green. Usually the few camel-thorns, which throw a thin mesh of shadow over the darkly patinated rock, rustle dryly in the breeze. But on Jabal Qarra the jungle trees are wreathed with jasmine and giant convolvulus and roped together with lianas. Massive tamarinds grow in the valleys, and on the downs great fig-trees rise above the wind-rippled grass like oaks in and English park. p47.

When we had enough water he would cook rice, but generally he made bread for our evening meal. He would scoop out three or four pounds of flour from one of the goatskin bags in which we carried our supplies, and would the damp this, add a little salt and mis it into a tick paste. He would divide the dough into six equal sized lumps, pat each lump between his hands until it had become a disc about half an inch thick, and would then put it down on a rug while he shaped the others. Someone else would have lighted the fire, sometimes with matches but generally with fling ant steel. There was plenty of flint in the desert and the blade of a dagger to use as steel. They would tear small strips off their shirts or head-cloths for tinder, with the result that each day their clothes became more tattered in appearance. Musallim would rake some embers out of the fire to make a glowing bed, and then drop the cakes of dough on to it. The heat having sealed the outside of the cakes he would turn them over almost immediately, and then, scooping a hollow in the sand under the embers, would bury them and spread the hot sand and embers over them. I would watch bubbles breaking through this layer of sand and ashes as the bread cooked. Later, he would uncover the cakes, brush off the sand and ashes and put them aside to cool. When we wished to feed he would give one to each of us, and we would sit in a circle and, in turn, dip pieces of this bread into a small bowl containing melted butter or soup if we happened to have anything from which to make it. p. 61

Eventually Tamtaim, Sultan and Musallim came on with me; the others said they would join us later after feeding their camels. We arrived at the well, unsaddled our camels, watered them and then sat down near the well. No one had yet drunk. I was anxious not to appear impatient, but eventually I suggested we should do so. Sultan handed me a bowl of water. I offered it to old Tamtaim, but he told me to drink, saying that he would wait until the others came, adding that as they were his travelling companions it would be unseemly for him to drink until they arrived. I had already learnt that Bedu will never take advantage over a companion by feeding while he is absent, but this constraint, seemed to me exaggerated. The others did not arrive until five hours later, by which time I was thoroughly exasperated and very thirsty. Though the water looked deliciously cold and clear, it tasted like a strong dose of Epsom salts; I took a long draught and involuntarily spat it out. It was my first experience of water in the sands. p. 65

During the days I was at Mugshin my companions often asked me for medicines. Bedu suffer much from headaches and stomach trouble. SOmetimes my aspirin worked, but if not the sufferer would get someone to brand him, usually on his heels, and would announce a little later that his headache was now gone, and that the old Bedu remedies were better than the Christian’s pills. Bedu cauterize themselves and their camels for nearly every ill. p. 112

I climbed to the summit of the dune and lay peacefully in the sun, four hundred feet above the well. A craving for privacy is something which the Bedu will never understand; something which they will always instinctively mistrust. I have often been asked by Englishmen if I was never lonely in the desert, and I have wondered how many minutes I have spent by myself in the years that I have lived there. It is true that the worst loneliness is to be lonely in a crowd. I have been lonely at school, and in European towns where I knew nobody, but I have never been lonely among Arabs. I have arrived in their towns where I was unknown, and I have walked into the bazaar and greeted a shopkeeper. He has invited me to sit beside him in his shop and has sent for tea. Other people have come along and joined us. They have asked me who I was, where I came from and innumerable questions which we should never ask a stranger. Then one of them has said, ‘Come and lunch’, and at lunch I have met other Arabs, and someone else has asked me to dinner. I have wondered sadly what Arabs brought up in this tradition have thought when they visited England; and I have hoped that they realized that we are as unfriendly to each other as we must appear to be to them. p. 121.

The sun was setting low. Bin Kabina was still asleep. I touched him to wake him, and in one movement he was on his feet with his dagger drawn. I had forgotten that to touch a sleeping Bedu is to jerk him awake ready instinctively to fight for his life. p. 122

The next afternoon we found a little parched herbage on the flank of a high dune. We let our camels graze for two hours and then continued until dark. Throughout the day my companions had gathered any plants they had seen, to feed their camels as they went along; it did not matter how high up on a dune a plant was growing, someone was sure to dismount, scramble up, and collect it. They always did this, however long or tiring the march might be. Were we camped, the dunes were very big whale-backed massifs, rising above white plains of powdery gypsum. There was no warmth in this sterile scene. It was bleak and cheerless and curiously arctic in appearance. Twice I woke during the night and each time I saw Sultan brooding over the fire. p. 127

Among the people arguments frequently became impassioned, but usually the excitement dies away as quickly as it arises. Men who were screaming at each other, ready apparently to resort to violence, will sit happily together a short while later drinking coffee. As a rule Bedu do not nurse a grievance, but if they think that their personal honour has been slighted they immediately become vindictive, bent on vengeance. ... It is easy for strangers to give office without meaning to do so. I once put my hand on the back of bin Kabina’s neck and he turned on me and asked furiously if I took him for a slave. I had no idea that I had done anything wrong. p. 163

Next morning while we were leading our camels down a steep dune face I was suddenly conscious of a low vibrant hum, which grew in volume until it sounded as through an aeroplane were flying low over our heads. The frightened camels plunged about, tugging at their head-ropes and looking back at the slope above us. The sound ceased when we reached the bottom. This was the ‘singing of the sands.’ The Arabs describe it as a roaring, which is perhaps a more descriptive word. During the five years that I was in these parts I only heard it half a dozen times. It is caused, I think, by one layer of sand slipping over another. Once I was standing on a dune crest and the sound started as soon as I stepped onto the steep face. I could on this occasion that I could start it or stop it at will by stepping on or off this slip-face. p. 166

Feeling thoroughly ill-tempered I lay down to sleep, but this was impossible. The others, excited by this meeting with their fellow-tribesmen, talked incessantly within a few yards of my head. I wondered irritably why Bedu must always shout. Gradually I relaxed. I tried the old spell of asking myself “Would I really wish to be anywhere else?” and having decided that I would not, I felt better. I pondered on this desert hospitality and, compared it with our own. I remembered other encampments where I had slept, small tents on which I had happened in the Syrian desert and where I had spent the night. Gaunt men in rags and hungry looking children had greeted me, and bade me welcome with the sonorous phrases of the desert. Later they had set a great dish before me, rice, heaped round with a sheep which they had slaughtered, over which my host poured liquid golden butter until it flowed down onto the sand; and when I protested, saying ‘Enough, Enough!’ had answered that I was a hundred times welcome. Their lavish hospitality had always made me uncomfortable, for I had known that as a result of it they would go hungry for days. Yet when I left them they had almost convinced me that I had done them a kindness by staying with them. p. 167

Information about the Bedouin Tribes in the Sinai.
The Bedunine Tribes as of Today There are about 11-13 tribes to be distinguished in Sinai, depending on how to define clans and tribes. They are mostly living in tents so that they can leave the place again easily. Others are already living in smaller "wall-surrounded areas" where they usually stay. The boundaries of the Beduines tribes are indistinct. However, they are understood by a long tradition, each area has been known and respected most of the time. In the past tribal raiding was evident, the history of these movements, alliances and eventual extinction in some cases is fascinating. Aleiqat: This tribe was one of the first that has settled in Sinai (at the time of the Islamic conquest of Egypt). Their territory is now on the west coast of Sinai. Aquila: This quite small tribe lives on the Mediterranean coast, right between the Sawarka and the Laheiwat. Awarma (Suwalha): In South Sinai this is one clan of the overall tribe Suwalha. Awlad Said (Suwalha): In South Sinai this is one clan of the overall tribe Suwalha. Ayaida: North Sinai, next to the Channel of Suez. Gebeleya: These are the people of the mountains. As probably only about 1,500 people they have a very small tribal territory around Mt. Sinai. They are not of Arab descent but are descendants of Macedonian people sent by Emperor Justinian to build, protect and serve the Monastery in the sixth century AD. Haweitat: The Haweitat have their origin in the Hijaz mountains of northern Arabia. They occupy a triangular area southeast of Suez. Laheiwat: This tribe is split into 3 geographical areas: one in South Sinai (east), one at the Mediterranean Sea, and another one right next to the Channel of Suez. Muszeina: this is the largest tribe in Sinai. These Beduines are living in the most southern part of Sinai and visitors of Sharm El Sheik will most probably see them on their visit to Sinai. Qararsha (Suwalha): In South Sinai this is one clan of the overall tribe Suwalha. Tarabin: The Tarabin, who have tribal territories, or dirha, in both North and South Sinai, are of Palestinian origin Tiyaha: This tribe occupies an enormous territory in central Sinai; they origine - just as the Tarabin - from Palestine Suwarka: 
The Suwarka are the most numerous ones, They live in the north of Sinai, at the Mediterranean coast centred on Al Arish.