Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/844

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1·2 inch, while in Upper Egypt the precipitation of moisture is far less; there are adults who say they have never seen rain.

I noticed, on the other hand, unmistakable signs of recent rains, such as dried mud-puddles, rain-drop prints, etc., at several points, near Cairo, east of Thebes (Wadi Bab-el-Molook), and in the peninsula of Sinai, and I was impressed with the belief that more rain falls in Egypt than is usually supposed. A local shower passing over a sandy, gravelly region, makes but little impress on it; and there is no corps of trained observers, outside of Cairo and Alexandria, to record the phenomenon. On visiting the Khedivial Astronomical Observatory just out of Cairo, I was cordially received by the director, Mr. T. Esmatt, a graduate of the École Polytechnique of Paris, and for three years an assistant in the Naval Observatory at Washington. I take pleasure in mentioning his politeness and courtesy, but I can not omit pointing out a weakness: he took me to the roof of the building to see the meteorological instruments, and I noted that the rain-gauge was quite full of water; this again gave me reason to regard Egypt as a rainy country. (The last shower fell one month previously.)

During my journey in the desert (March 13th to April 8th) rain fell three times in my vicinity: twice the fall was insignificant, lasting only two or three minutes, but on March 19th rain fell abundantly in Wadi Feirân, from 7.15 a. m. to 9.30 a. m. Heavy mists had obscured the peaks bordering this extensive valley nearly all the preceding day; the temperature during this rainfall was 52°, elevation about nineteen hundred feet.

That heavy falls of rain and even of snow occur in December and January in the Sinai region, is reported by many travelers; in the defile of Nakb-el-Hawi (five thousand feet), crossed by pilgrims en route for the sacred mountain, the winter rains make veritable torrents; in 1867 the water rose to such a height in the valley adjoining, Wadi Selâf, as to wash away a camp of Bedouins, causing a loss of forty lives and of numerous cattle (Baedeker). Captain Palmer describes also a sudden precipitation so copious as to fill the bottom of Wadi Feirân to the depth of several feet, causing the party to seek high ground. That the Oasis of Feirân was once the site of a village of anchorites and monks sufficiently important to become an episcopal see, is known to students of history; this was in the second to the sixth century a. d. A few cut stones, the capital of one column, and ruined sites, alone remain to indicate the locality.

Powerful winds sweep across the plains and through the valleys of Arabia Petræa, with a violence and continuity that I have not elsewhere experienced. In the spring months the prevailing wind in the desert is from the north and northwest, down