Traces of Dacians on the Sinai Peninsula
By Diana Ungureanu/ Chisinau / Moldova.ORG/ -- This article was influenced by the feast that is celebrated by Orthodox Christians – St. Catherine.
The first testimony about Saint Catherine is deeply dug in history of Christianity, which are evident until today. And here we talk about an entire monastery dedicated to the holy martyr Catherine, which is located at the foot of the mountain Sinai or the Mountain of Law Slabs, on the Sinai Peninsula, in Egypt.
The Holy Monastery, located in Sinai (Egypt) is the oldest Christian monastery, where the monastic life were not interrupted, having a seventeen centuries history.
The first cornerstone of the St. Catherine Monastery from the Sinai Mountain was laid by the empress Elena, in IV century BC, when she dedicated to Holy Virgin Mary a chapel built on the place where there was the Burning Pyre revealed to Moses.
The chapel served as a “core” for the monastery, which would rise two centuries later, when the emperor Justinian would build it between 527 and 565 AD.
But something less known about the Holy Monastery is the fact that its destiny is closely connected with that of our ancestors Geto-Dacians. This connection is confirmed by the action of emperor Justinian of ordering for the realization and ensuring the protection of the building to bring and place there “the best garrison” (as recorded one of Justinian’s generals in his writings) – brought from Dacia, from the north of Danube (a zone of the territories conquered by Justinian).
According to the manuscripts, “Justinian replaced a number of 100 soldiers from Wallachia, with their families, ensuring them houses outside the monastery, where they had to live in, and at the same time to guard the monastery and to defend the monks”.
Those about hundred Dacian settlers and their families had the mission, in the first phase, to build the monastery, then to defend it.
The impressive building from the dessert Sinai had been preserved almost intact during the times of emperor Justinian, with its granite walls of a height from 8 to 35 meters.
After the finishing of the building, the Dacian community remained to work at the monastery. At the beginning they were called Bessi – a generic name of Christians from Black Sea, descendants of Dacians. Acknowledging their Latin origin, Arabs called them “llah” – as a derivation from the common name used by others for Romanians: Vlah. Over time, the Christian settlers from Sinai would be recognized as “mountain people”, with the generic names Gebalie or Gebalia (met also as Gebalieh, Jabaliyya or Gabalyya).
About the existence of a community of Dacians on the Egyptian land is said many testimonials of different historians, such as that of the English scientist Lewis Burckardt (1816): “They assert unanimously their descending from Christian attendants, that’s why they are called by others as Bedouins – sons of Christians…
They marry only among them, constituting a distinct community of about a hundred and twenty armed people. They are a hard-working and robust race and their girls have a fame of a superior beauty among the Bedouins.”
Another writing present them in the following way: “The tribe of Bedouins named Gebalia, derived from Dacia, is remarked by diligence and knack; many of them are craftsmen; also, all children from this tribe know reading and writing. Tribe members help and guide other Bedouins in their agricultural and crafts work.”
It is prodigious the resistance of our ancestors on these lands with a relatively strong Islamic influence, and also keeping over the centuries both the primary faith and traditions.
Because of the pressure exerted by the Arabs, over the time, Christian Walachians from Sinai began to take the Muslim customs and religion. Walachians preserved their religion at least until XVIII century. Later, according to the testimonies of the historians and travelers, they gradually turned into Islam, without losing at all the consciousness of their far Christian origins.
Today Sinaian Walachians know their Christian origin, which is handed down orally from generation to generation and are going to continue their secular life near the monastery of St. Catherine, being very attached of their land.