Amid the high mountains of Egypt's southern Sinai Peninsula stands Jebel Musa, "Mount Moses," revered by most Christians and Muslims as Mount Sinai. (Jewish tradition holds that Mount Sinai should remain terra incognita, unlocated, and does not associate it with this mountain.) In this fascinating study, Joseph Hobbs draws on geography and archaeology, Biblical and Quranic accounts, and the experiences of people ranging from Christian monks to Bedouin shepherds to casual tourists to explore why this mountain came to be revered as a sacred place and how that very perception now threatens its fragile ecology and its sense of holy solitude.
After discussing the physical characteristics of Jebel Musa and the debate that selected it as the most probable Mount Sinai, Hobbs fully describes all Christian and Muslim sacred sites around the mountain. He views Mount Sinai from the perspectives of the centuries-long inhabitants of the region--the monks of the Monastery of St. Katherine and the Jabaliya Bedouins--and of tourists and pilgrims, from medieval Europeans to modern travelers dispirited by Western industrialization.
Hobbs concludes his account with the recent international debate over whether to build a cable car on Mount Sinai and with an unflinching description of the negative impact of tourism on the delicate desert environment. His book raises important, troubling questions for everyone concerned about the fate of the earth's wild and sacred places.
No one has ever verified the location of the holy mountain where God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. For Jews, it is not the mountain but the message that is important, and the mountain remains unlocatable. For Muslims as well, there is no tradition indicating the mountain's whereabouts. However, since the third century A.D., popular Christian belief has identified Jebel Musa (Bedouin for Mount Moses), in Egypt's mountainous southern Sinai Peninsula, as the biblical site. Hobbs, an associate professor of geography, draws on a wealth of sourcestourists and pilgrims, from medieval Europeans to U.S. Congressman Les Aspinfor a leisurely history of Mount Sinai up to the present controversy, wherein Egyptian authorities, seeking to garner more tourist dollars, plan to erect a host of tourist amenities, including not only a casino but also a tramway to take tourists to the summit. Hobbs begins with a full description of Sinai's geographical features, flora and fauna. With biblical quotations, he retells Moses' story, the exodus from Egypt and journey across the desert to the holy mountain. Hobbs describes the sacred sites, including the monastery of St. Katherine, that attract visitors. The negative impact of those visitors, who now come by the thousands, has not only intruded on the monks' solitude, but raised serious concerns about the desert environment. Hobbs's book faithfully evokes the natural beauty and religious impact of this exotic locale. Photos not seen by PW. (June)
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Table of Contents
Conversions and Transliteration
One. "A Terrible And Waste-Howling Wilderness"
Two. "You Will Worship God On This Mountain"
Three. The Heavenly Citizenship
Four. The Monastery Of Saint Katherine
Five. The Christian Landscape
Six. The People Of The Mountain
Seven. The Bedouin Way Of Life
Eight. The Pilgrim
Nine. The Traveler
Ten. The Tourist
Eleven. The New Golden Calf