Flash floods in the Sinai peninsula

Travel in Egypt is sometimes hindered by small amounts of rain. In flat areas such as the delta an inch of rain can flood the area and make automobile travel impossible, or at least impractical. In early March, 2005, Elizabeth and I had remained in Egypt for a few days after the tour group returned home. We planned one day to go to Goshen. That morning when we looked from the hotel window in Heliopolis we observed rain. The guide scheduled to go with us on the excursion arrived, but explained that we would not be able to go due to the 1/2 to 1 inch of rain that had fallen during the night. The annual rainfall in the Cairo area is 1 1/2 to 2 inches. In Upper Egypt years may pass with no rainfall.

Rain in Cairo - March 9, 2005. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Rain in Cairo - March 9, 2005. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Egypt is less prepared for an inch of rain than many southern USA cities are for an inch of snow.

On another excursion we went to Jebel Musa, the traditional Mount Sinai, in the Sinai Peninsula. As we traveled through the Wadi el-Tor (el-Tur or al-Tur) shortly before arriving at Feiran, I noted that there had been a flash flood in the wadi. Our guide explained that this typically happened at least once each winter. He said that the asphalt paved road could be washed out by less than an inch of rain.

Wadi el Tor in the Sinai Peninsula after a flash flood. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Wadi el Tor in the Sinai Peninsula after a flash flood. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Rocks polished by the winter flood were strewn across the wadi. These stones show the different rocks found in the Sinai. The red stones indicate iron. The green is copper. The black is basalt, indicating a volcanic area.

Rocks in the Wadi el Tour in the Sinai Peninsula. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Rocks in Wadi el Tor of the Sinai Peninsula. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Let us recall that the normally dry wilderness (midbar, desert) once flowed with water for the Israelites.

“He led you through the great and terrible wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water; He brought water for you out of the rock of flint. (Deuteronomy 8:15 NAU)

He split the rocks in the wilderness And gave them abundant drink like the ocean depths. (Psalm 78:15 NAU)

3 responses to “Flash floods in the Sinai peninsula

  1. I have seen the event with my own eyes, and so did so many other pilgrims ( some European, some Korean(?)). So did a number of bedouins, who for a change stopped cajoling and haggling with us to accept a camel ride. My sister Farheen is convinced what we saw ws some kind of Hindu black-magic. Allah only knows what we saw.

    I have taken quite a number of pictures too, but don’t know how to put it on your “comment-box” for all to see. Copy and paste doesn’t work. I am not very well versed with using a computer.

  2. Fascinating story. Thanks for writing. Did you witness this event? I will withhold judgment.

  3. On the topic of rain in the Sinai, I had an interesting experience recently.
    On the 5th of March 2010, a group of tourists from India came to the Sinai Mountains near St. Katherine. A few of them climbed Jebel Musa, Mt. Sinai, as part of their pilgrimage. Among them was an Indian man from Bangalore who carried with him, what he described as a “lebbo coin”. After the group had reached the top of Mt. Sinai and were descending towards the monastery, this gentleman stayed back with the Jabalia Bedouins of the area to conduct an experiment on the slopes of Jebel Musa. To the curiosity and amusement of the Bedouins, he opened a small wooden box in which lay a small package held together by strips of rubber. Unwrapping the package, he revealed an oval-shaped coin with strange markings on its surface.
    For about forty five minutes he placed the coin on a rock and observed the sky. As you know, this is the time of the year when the sky is clear and blue without a speck of cloud. By about the fiftieth minute, clouds began gathering, moving in steadily from various directions in the horizon, till it was directly over our heads. The clouds darkened as they gathered, and in another fifteen minutes or so we felt drops of water. To everyone’s astonishment, for at least ten minutes, it began to drizzle over an area of less than one square kilometer. The Bedouins were in a panic, some even turning belligerent suspecting some form of black magic at work. Even the camels around us were uneasy. The gentleman calmly packed the coin and descended to the St. Katherine monastery. He lingered there for sometime after which I lost track of him.

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