A Jabaliya orchard near St. Catherine. Unlike many of the Bedouins in the Sinai, the Jabaliya have had a long history of being “close to the land” and have eschewed the nomadic existence in favor of farming.
A priest with the “Burning Bush” (Rubus sanctus) at St. Catherine’s Monastery.
Jabaliya Bedouin Achmud Mansur, selling local medicinal herbs to tourists at St. Catherine’s Monastery. The Jabaliya are the main inhabitants of the small village that has grown up around the monastery, where they operate many of the kiosks, restaurants, and services offered there since the opening of the region to tourism.
A Bedouin standing at 7,000 feet, south of St. Catherine. About 2,000 Jabaliya Bedouin live near Mount Sinai. “Jabaliya” means “mountaineers” and is often rendered as “people of the mountain,” referring to Mount Sinai. Unlike other tribes, the Jabaliya aren’t Arabs but are descendants of Bosnian and Wallachian serfs brought by the Emperor Justinian during the sixth century to build and service St. Catherine’s Monastery; another theory holds that the Jabaliya are descendants of Romanian and Egyptian slaves.
At right, a member of the Jabaliya Bedouin tribe walks by a cascade of maidenhair ferns near St. Catherine.