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SINAI (See also wiki article Sinai.)

SINAI - The triangular tongue of land intercepted between the limestone plateau of the Tih desert in the N., and the Gulfs of Suez and 'Aqaba, at the head of the Red Sea, on the SW. and SE. It is a rugged and waste region, little watered, and full of wild and impressive mountain scenery. Except at some places on the coast, such as Tor, there is but little of a settled population.

This region was always, and still is, under Egyptian influence, if not actually in Egyptian territory. From a very early period it was visited by emissaries from Egyptian kings in search of turquoise, which is yielded by the mines of the Wadi Magharah. There sculptured steles were left, and scenes engraved in the rock, from the time of Semerkhet of the 1st Dynasty, and Sneferu of the 3rd - dated by Professor Petrie in the 5th and 6th millennia BC. These sculptures remained almost intact till recent years; till a party of English speculators, who came to attempt to re-work the old mines, wantonly destroyed many of them (see Petrie, Researches in Sinai, p. 46). What these vandals left was cut from the rock and removed for safety, under Professor Petrie's direction, to the Cairo Museum. A remarkable temple, dedicated to Hathor, but adapted, it would appear, rather to Semitic forms of worship, exists at Serabif el-Khadim, not far from these mines. It was probably erected partly for the benefit of the parties who visited the mines from time to time.

Geologically, Sinai is composed of rocks of the oldest (Archaean) period. These rocks are granite of a red and grey colour, and gneiss, with schists of various kinds ?hornblende, talcose, and chloritic?overlying them. Many later, but still ancient, dykes of diorite, basalt, etc., penetrate these primeval rocks. Vegetation is practically confined to the valleys, especially in the neighbourhood of water-springs.
[Article: Dictionary of the Bible, J.Hastings, 2nd Ed., T&T.Clark, 1963 - R.A.S.M.]