This section is from the book "A Library Of Wonders And Curiosities Found In Nature And Art, Science And Literature", by I. Platt. Also available from Amazon: A library of wonders and curiosities.
Written Mountains, Mountains of Inscriptions, or Jibbel El Mokatteb. - This is a mountain, or chain of mountains, said to be in the wilderness of Sinai; and the marble, of which it is composed, is reported to be inscribed to a considerable extent with innumerable characters, reaching from the ground sometimes to the height of twelve or fourteen feet. These were mentioned by a Greek author in the third century ; but although some of them have been copied by Pococke, Montague, and other late writers, some have affected to entertain doubts whether even the mountains themselves really exist.
The vast number of these inscriptions, the desert place in which they are found, and the length of time requisite for executing the task, induced a notion that they are the work of the Israelites during their forty years' wandering in the wilderness. Others are of opinion, that they consist merely of the names of travellers, and the dates of their journeys. M. Niebubr, who visited this country in September, 1762, made every attempt in his power, though without success, to obtain a sight of this celebrated mountain. After much vain inquiry, he was at last conducted to some rocks, upon which there were inscriptions in unknown characters. They are most numerous in a narrow pass between two mountains, named Omer-ridstein; and, says M. Niebuhr, "the pretended Jibbel El Mokatteb, may possibly be in its neighbourhood." Some of these inscriptions were copied by our author, but he does not look upon them to be of any consequence. At length, when M. Niebuhr arrived at the mountain to which the shiek had promised to conduct him, he found no inscription; but on climbing up to the top, he discovered an Egyptian cemetery, the stones of which were covered with hieroglyphics. The tomb-stones were from five to seven feet long, some being erect, and others lying flat; and "the more carefully they are examined, (says he,) the more certainly do they appear to be sepulchral stones, having epitaphs inscribed on them." The translator of Volney's Travels ascribes these inscriptions to the pilgrims who have visited Mount Sinai; but they ought surely to have been written in a language which somebody could understand; yet from the copies that have been taken of them by Dr. Pococke and others, it does not appear that they could be explained by any person. When Dr. Clayton, bishop of Clogher, visited this part of the world, about 1723, he expressed the greatest desire to have the matter concerning these written mountains ascertained, and even made an offer of £500 sterling to any literary person, who would undertake the journey, and endeavour to decipher the inscriptions; but no such person appeared.