These photos are from a collection of almost 100 pictures, shared by the Bedouin in St. Katherine, whose forefathers are captured on the images. It documents a journey to Mt. Sinai that took place around the beginning of the 1900s, organised by the American Colony in Jerusalem. The group probably arrived from Cairo by car as far as Wadi Feiran and started from there by camels. On one of the photos you can see a good road in Wadi Feiran (at the mouth of Wadi Aliyat): probably this is how far it came, and probably it was built by the mining companies active in the area at the time. The photographers had to carry a very big camera, a separate camel was needed just for this purpose. There was a lot of water in Wadi Feiran at the time, and the vegetation was much thicker. An expedition or a pilgrimage those days was very much like a trek or camel safari today, and once you got to the Monastery of St. Katherine, it seems guides and cameleers were already standing there waiting for customers. After visiting the Monastery, the group didn’t head up straight to the peak of Mt. Sinai – first they explored the Safsafa basin, looking down to different gullies. Apart from the landscape, they captured several photos of the people, including a group of monks, a sheikh (Sheikh Abdel-Ftih ?) and others.
The exact origin of the images cannot be verified, but according to some photos they were taken by the American Colony in Jerusalem and published by Underwood & Underwood, a US company. As far as we understand they are copyright free.
Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States:
The American Colony in Jerusalem
“The American Colony was a colony established in Jerusalem in 1881 by members of a Christian utopian society led by Anna and Horatio Spafford. The society engaged in philanthropic work amongst the people of Jerusalem regardless of religious affiliation, gaining the trust of the local Muslim, Jewish, and Christian communities. Around 1900, Elijah Meyers, a member of the American Colony, began taking photographs of places and events in and around the city of Jerusalem. Meyers’s work eventually expanded into a full-fledged photographic division within the Colony, including Hol Lars (Lewis) Larsson and G. Eric Matson. Their interest in archaeological artifacts and the detail of their photographs led to widespread interest in their work. The collection was later donated to the Library of Congress.”
More information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Colony,_Jerusalem
Underwood & Underwood
“The company was founded in 1881 in Ottawa, Kansas, by two brothers, Elmer Underwood (1859 – 1947) and Bert Elias Underwood (1862 – 1943). By 1897, the company had a number of full-time staff and free lance photographers. Around 1900, Underwood & Underwood introduced boxed sets, with specific themes, such as education and religion, and travel sets depicting popular tourist areas of the world.”
More information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Underwood_%26_Underwood