Being desirous to learn some particulars concerning this country, I made myself acquainted with the friars, from whom I had the following information. They told me that Mount Sinai was thirteen small days journey into the land, or about 18 leagues. The mountain is very high, the country around being plain and open, having on its borders a great town inhabited by Christians, into which no Mahometan can enter except he who gathers the rents and duties belonging to the Turks. On the top of the mountain is a monastery having many friars, where the body of the blessed Virgin St Catharine lay buried. According to Anthony bishop of Florence, the body of this Holy Virgin was carried away by the angels from the city of Alexandria and buried on Mount Sinai. They told me farther that about four months before our arrival this most blessed and holy body was carried from the mountain with great pomp, on a triumphal chariot all gilt, to the city of Cairo, where the Christians of that city, which are the bulk of the inhabitants, came out to receive it in solemn procession, and set it with great honour in a monastery. The cause of this strange removal was the many insults which the monastery on Mount Sinai suffered from the Arabs, from whom the friars and pilgrims had often to redeem themselves with money; of which the Christians of Cairo complained to the Turkish governor, and received permission to bring the blessed and holy body to their city, which was done accordingly, in spite of a strenuous opposition from the friars of Mount Sinai. I am somewhat doubtful of the truth of this transportation, suspecting that the friars may have trumped up this story lest we might have taken the holy body from them, as they expected us with an army of 10,000 men. Yet they affirmed it for truth, expressing great sorrow for the removal. These friars told me likewise that several hermits lead a solitary and holy life in these mountains over against the town; and that all through the Stony Arabia, there are many towns of Christians. I asked if they knew where the Jews had passed the Red Sea; but they knew of no certain place, only that it must have been somewhere between Toro and Suez. They said likewise, that on the Arabian coast of the Gulf, two or three leagues short of Suez, was the fountain which Moses caused to spring from the rock by striking it with his rod, being still called by the Arabs the fountain of Moses, the water of which is purer and more pleasant than any other. They said that from Toro to Cairo by land was seven ordinary days journey, in which the best and most direct way was through Suez: But that since the Turkish gallies came to Suez they had changed the road, going two leagues round to avoid Suez, after which they turned to the west.
[Footnote 319: Surely this passage should be only three short days journey.—E.]