A Plague is Stayed

When Ron and the boys first arrived in Hagl, the Saudis were experiencing a terrible plague throughout the compound in which they were held, and numerous men had died. It was easy for Ron to see what he felt had to be the problem- the area was infested with mosquitos. Ron had explained to his captors that he was an anesthetist, which they could only understand when he termed it "sleep doctor". He told them he could help them if they would listen, and with men dying, they did. Ron first wrote prescriptions for antibiotics for all of those sick, which the pharmacy in Hagl honored and filled. Then, he gave them aspirin for their discomfort and to keep their temperatures (fever) below deadly levels. Finally, he asked for massive amounts of olive oil, which he poured into their toilets- the mosqitos were thriving in their archaic plumbing system. They also poured the oil in all standing water in the area, and immediately the plague was arrested. The oil on the surface of the water smothered and killed all the mosquito larvae. No new cases arose and those who were sick when he arrived recovered. Needless to say, this had to have given him and the boys at least a little favor with the local authorities.

Daily Interrogations

Ron and the boys were separately questioned day after day by a group called the Interrogation Team. They each told their story- of their belief and reasons for that belief, that Mt. Sinai was Jabel el Lawz. One Saudi official, Abu Collet, sent men out to the mountain to determine if any evidence was actually there, but the men came back with a negative report, which was sent to the King.

But there were some among the interrogators who believed Ron. One day three Saudis took Ron on a trip in a helicopter to the shore of the Gulf of Aqaba where Ron claimed the great multitude had crossed the sea- Ron's story was being checked out thoroughly because the charge of espionage is a "deadly" serious charge.

The Column on the Beach

The helicopter landed on the beach directly opposite Nuweba, Egypt. It wasn't too difficult to find the right area because Nuweba is easily seen across the 8 mile gulf. Landing there, on the beach they found a Phoenician-style, granite column erected on the shore, with inscriptions in archaic Hebrew. The Saudis took numerous photographs of this column, and Ron suddenly had a little more credibility with his jailers. Archaic Hebrew simply isn't found in Saudi Arabia and here was some very concrete evidence. In fact, it is possible that this column literally saved Ron and the boys' lives. No one in Saudi had known about the column as it was in an extremely remote, uninhabited area. But even this column didn't insure their release. However, it did match the column Ron had found in 1978 on the opposite shore in Egypt- only this one had the inscriptions on it!

The Escape Plan

While Ron's helping stop the plague, and this discovery of the column on the beach may have resulted in their receiving relatively good treatment, their release didn't look too promising to Ron or the boys- due to the nature of the crime they were accused of, they weren't allowed the customary call to their embassy. Ronny, his youngest son, eventually began to "crack" under the isolation. He told Ron and Danny that he was going to make a run for it- he just couldn't stand it any longer. Ron knew Ronny and knew he meant it. They all knew if he was caught, he would be shot on sight. So Ron told him "ok", but they needed to all go together- and they needed to do it when the Moslem holy day began on Thursday night. Ron knew that security would be the loosest at that time. And they formulated their plan.

When Thursday came, there arose a problem- Ali, a guard whom they had become quite fond of, was on duty. He had shown them extreme kindness throughout their ordeal, and Ron explained to Ronny that if they escaped while Ali was on duty, he would be shot. Ronny knew this was true and agreed to wait until the next Thursday. Depressed at the thought of waiting another week, they went to sleep.

The next Wednesday morning- the day before they had agreed to attempt their escape again-, the man in charge came to them: "Halas", he said, which meant "Finished". It was over- they had been cleared and were to be turned over to the Jordanian government. But none of their confiscated film would be returned to them- for all their troubles, they would have no evidence; no pictures of Mt. Sinai. Had Ron been wrong in crossing into Saudi without a visa? Had he been too impatient?

They are Released

In Jordan, they were again held for three days until all the red tape was cleared,- they were questioned even more,- and then they were sent home. Their arrival at the Nashville airport was shown on CBS's "Morning News", and they were interviewed by Bill Kurtis. On nationwide television- Tuesday, April 17, 1984- Ron told why he had "snuck" into Saudi Arabia:

BILL KURTIS: "Three weary Americans came home Monday night; Ronald Wyatt and his sons, Daniel and Ronald, Jr., at the end of an amateur archaeology expedition that landed them in a Saudi Arabian jail. They entered Saudi Arabia illegally, searching for the site of the Biblical Mt. Sinai. Repeated requests for a legal visa were turned down, so the Wyatts slipped across the Jordanian border, only to be arrested by Saudi police as they were heading back. Now what followed was a hair-raising 75 days in custody.

Ronald Wyatt and his sons are with us in the studios of our Nashville affiliate, WTVF, to tell you all about it.

Gentlemen, good morning!

RONALD WYATT AND SONS: Good morning!

BILL KURTIS: Uh, Mr. Wyatt, you there in the middle, your sons on either side, why did you,...uh, I didn't know that Mt. Sinai was in Saudi Arabian territory! Why did you think it was?

RONALD WYATT: We found some chariot parts that looked like the chariots found in King Tut's tomb in the Gulf of Aqaba, west of this Jabel El Lawz. Now, we found these at depths from 60 feet out to 200 feet and over a stretch of about a mile and a half. And we believe that was the crossing site, so in the Biblical narrative, they arrived at Mt. Sinai after crossing the Red Sea. The language in the Bible indicated that they stayed `in' a mountain; enclosed in a mountain. So, an aerial map showed that this Jabel El Lawz had a large valley enclosed in the rim of an ancient volcano. There's about 5,000 acres in there. We felt this was the place. And, in Exodus 24:4 and Leviticus 6:28, 11:33 and 15:12. it tells of some artifacts that were to be found. There would be twelve pillars of stone and an altar and some pottery, and so this is why we looked at that particular mountain.

The frustration Ron suffered at getting so close, yet coming away with no evidence, was intense. It seemed impossible that he would ever be able to return to the site again. After all, he was now quite well known in the area as an accused spy.

continue