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Title: A Ride through Syria to Damascus and Baalbec, and ascent of Mount Hermon
Author: Abram, Edward
Language: English
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             A Ride through Syria to Damascus and Baalbec,

                       and Ascent of Mount Hermon



  Palestine in the Time of Our Saviour.
  by W. Hughes F.R.G.S.



                           RIDE THROUGH SYRIA

                                 — TO —

                         DAMASCUS AND BAALBEC,


                        ASCENT OF MOUNT HERMON.


                             EDWARD ABRAM,

                 Author of “A Ride Through Palestine,”
                   “The Seven Churches of Asia,” &c.


                          WITH ILLUSTRATIONS.


                              Published by

                             ABRAM & SONS,



                             ABRAM & SONS,


                          MIDDLE TEMPLE GATE,

                              LONDON, E.C.


                             — CONTENTS. —

                               CHAPTER I.


                  JAFFA TO TIBERIAS                  3

                              CHAPTER II.

                  TIBERIAS TO HASBÊYA               10

                              CHAPTER III.

                  MOUNT HERMON AND THE DRUSES       19

                              CHAPTER IV.

                  DAMASCUS                          27

                               CHAPTER V.

                  THE ANTI-LEBANON                  37

                              CHAPTER VI.

                  BAALBEC AND THE BUKÂA             45

                              CHAPTER VII.

                  BEYRÛT TO BOULOGNE                52

                             CHAPTER VIII.

                  THE BEDAWEEN AND FELLAHEEN        55


                  INDEX                             61



               MAP OF PALESTINE               Frontispiece


               JOPPA, and House of Simon the           5

               MOUNT CARMEL                            9

               TIBERIAS                               26

               DAMASCUS                               33

               DAMASCUS                               35

               BAALBEC—Great Stone and Quarry         42

               DAMASCUS—Street called                 44

               BAALBEC—General View of Ruins          48

               BEYRÛT and the Lebanon                 51

               CYPRUS—Larnaca                         52

               Cedars of Lebanon                      54



          A RIDE



                     CHAPTER I.—JAFFA TO TIBERIAS.


Our “Ride through Palestine” did not exhaust our enthusiasm for the
East; we were not, as some travellers have been, disappointed with “The
Holy Land,” because we did not expect to find it still, as in ancient
days, a “land of milk and honey.” The cisterns are broken and the waters
run to waste, the walls of the vineyards are cast down, the very soil
has disappeared from the once fertile terraced heights, the wine presses
are covered with weeds, the defenced cities are all a ruin; but, in
spite of all this desolation, the Land of our Lord will always have an
overwhelming interest for the thoughtful traveller who wishes to trace
out on the spot the history of the oldest and most interesting people of
the world.

Having on the former occasion travelled by the beaten track, _viâ_
Jerusalem, we this time try a new and unfrequented route. Our objective
points are the plains of Sharon and Esdraelon, sighting that mighty
headland, “the excellency of Carmel,” with its numerous reminiscences of
Elijah, and Baal, that “glory of Lebanon,” Hermon with its _traditional_
snow-clad summit and verdure-vested slopes—the sacred sources of the
Jordan, and of Pharpar and Abana, which one thought “better than all the
rivers of Israel”—onward then to Damascus with its “straight street” and
memories of Abram, Saul of Tarsus, Ananias, and Naaman—then onward again
to the reputed tombs of the early patriarchs, and lastly—Baalbec with
its massive Hivite and beautiful Roman remains. This is a short sketch
of the tour we purpose describing in the following pages.


  JOPPA—_With the House of Simon the Tanner on the Sea shore._

Again we have the good fortune, by the courtesy of the director, to
obtain a passage in the French China Mail, from Marseilles to Port Said,
so arrive in the Holy Land eight and a half days after leaving the
Crusaders’ old haunt in London. Favoured with fine weather, we sail
north of Sardinia, and sighting Elba and Monte Christo, in two days pass
by Ischia into the beautiful bay of Naples. We find the pretty Chiaja
much enlarged, planted, and generally improved, and are pleased to see
the graceful palm trees in thriving condition. In the Museo Nazionale,
ever so interesting, we come to the same conclusion as Solomon as to
nothing being new under the sun, for there, if we mistake not, on
well-preserved fresco, we see our old friend the sea-serpent and a lady,
very much like Britannia ruling the waves on a half-penny. But the sun
is setting on Sorrento, Virgil’s tomb is already in the shade, the
ship’s bell is summoning strangers to depart, and passengers to dress
for dinner, so we must bid adieu to Naples and proceed again _en
voyage_. Capri stands out grandly and gloomily in the twilight; Vesuvius
is quiet, scarcely keeping up appearances: we gaze at it until the giant
form dies away in the dim distance, and then—go down to dinner. Early
next morning we pass Stromboli, and in the Straits of Messina Ætna, but
both are “still and silent as the grave,” in fact on the latter summit,
if we mistake not, we see the dark black lava spotted with bright white
snow. On the far horizon we sight the distant cliffs of Crete, and two
days later find ourselves entering Port Said, where we tranship
ourselves to the Austrian steamer for Jaffa, are off in an hour and
arrive early next morning. We elect to go to Syria by way of Palestine,
but by a different route, in order that we may visit certain interesting
districts which lay out of our line on our former visit.

We commence our ride from Jaffa by a two days journey across the plains
of Sharon and Esdraelon to Nazareth. This route, being very open to the
attacks of predatory Bedouins, is never attempted by travellers, the all
but trackless paths over the vast plains being but little known even to
the native.

We engage a picturesque Bedouin Sheik (“as mild a looking man as ever
cut a throat”) for a guard and guide; two other Arabs join us for
company or safety’s sake. This force a small party of Bedouins would not
care to face, and a large party would not attempt it, as they would be
discovered by their numbers, and vengeance would soon follow, so we pass
the Bedouin camps without any interference.

The ride from Jaffa to Nazareth, _viâ_ Jerusalem, is reckoned three good
days; but by our new route we only take two, and pushing briskly forward
run it in about eighteen hours—hard work rather to begin with, and the
Sirocco blowing hot and dry from the Syrian desert into the bargain. We
vary the monotony of the journey over the dusty plains with several
little races with our Bedouin guard, who does his best to ride us down;
but fails to do so, much to the delight of our old Shikarri (muleteer),
whose face, by-the-bye, was of such an Assyrian type that he seemed to
have started out from the has reliefs of Birs Nimroud. But _á route_ we
ride across the Plain of Sharon, passing many hills crowned with
villages and capped with ruined churches and fortresses mostly mediæval
or Saracenic. It was in this plain that Richard Cœur-de-Lion gained a
great victory over Saladin.

We halt for lunch at El Tireth (from the name, probably once a fortified
town), and, after a ride of eleven hours, halt for the night at a
Mahommedan village called Baka, which probably now for the first time
receives a European guest (as even my guides had not been there before):
the sun being already set, it is the only refuge near us. It is built of
mud on the slope of a hill near an old ruined fountain enclosed in
massive masonry. Most of the wells and fountains we see on the way had
been similarly well cared for in ancient times, but are now fast falling
into decay. We will give you a little idea of an Eastern village:—Place
a honeycomb with the cells perpendicular, cover the top of some of the
cubes to represent a flat mud roof, leave others open to represent small
stable yards for all the domestic animals in creation, camels included,
and you have an Arab village of one-storeyed huts, scarcely
distinguishable at a distance from the hillside on which it is
plastered. The Sheiks’ houses have an additional storey, a guest-chamber
built on the wall. One of these we occupy, not a pane of glass in the
place and quite innocent of any furniture whatever, which is perhaps an
advantage, considering the creeping things innumerable which abound in
Eastern villages. Our guard and other retainers sleep in the open yard
with the horses, and leave their weapons with us for safe custody, so
for the time I am the _custos custodum_, but our quarters are
inviolable, as for the nonce we are the guests of the village. A few
crossed sticks in the corner of the yard form the nearest approach to a

We start early next morning over the low Samarian hills of Manasseh,
which fall into the sea at Carmel, take a hasty glance at El Mahrakah,
or the Rock of Sacrifice, where Elijah slaughtered the Priests of Baal,
and enter the vast plain of Esdraelon, between one of the feeders or
lower sources of Kishon and Megiddo, at which latter place it will be
remembered Barak and his men of Manasseh defeated the hosts of Jabin,
King of Hazor, under Sisera, who fled on foot to the tents of Heber the
Kenite and was treacherously murdered there by Jael. The Kenites’ home
was at Kedes, three days’ journey off in the mountains. It is not
probable that Sisera could have fled on foot so far; it is more probable
that Heber was pasturing his flocks in the fertile plains of Esdraelon,
and that Jabin’s captain took refuge in their tents, then not far off.
At Megiddo also, Ahaziah died of the wounds he received from Jehu, and
near this spot, in modern times, Napoleon inflicted on the Turkish
levies a defeat somewhat similar to that which Barak inflicted on
Sisera, but Sir Sydney Smith, holding Acre in his rear, rendered his
victory of but little value except to secure a safe retreat to the sea.

After traversing the great plain of Esdraelon for some hours, crossing
it in almost a direct line, we leave the level ground again, and
ascending the little hills of Lower Galilee, mount up to Nazareth
(described in our “Ride through Palestine”) and obtain a lodging at the
Latin Monastery, finding in residence the same good Father, quite
pleased at seeing us again, so seldom does he see the same visitor
twice. Next day we leave Nazareth early, taste the waters of the
fountain of the Virgin, at which our Saviour must often have drunk, and
soon _on our left_ see Jiptah or Gath-Hepher, the reputed birth-place of
Jonah, and _on our right_, the battle-field where the Crusaders gained
their last victory over the Saracens. A few hours later on at Kurun,
(the horns of Hattin, we pass the battle-field where shortly after under
Guy of Lusignan in 1187 the Crusaders suffered their last defeat, their
power in Palestine being then for ever crushed by Saladin. In the
meantime, we have also sighted Sepphoris or Sefûrieh, the Apollonia of
Josephus, and ridden through Kefr Kenna (Cana of Galilee) where on a
previous visit, we were shown the miraculous waterpots which must have
been very fortunate indeed to have survived the crash of so many ages.
This is rather a dangerous ride for small parties like ours, and at one
place where the path is very narrow, we think that we shall have to
fight our way through. About six wild Moabite Bedouins, from the other
side of Jordan, had planted themselves each side of the narrow way on a
slight eminence, completely commanding us; we determine to pass through
in Indian file, with the length of a pistol shot between us, so that we
cannot both be attacked at the same time. They, perhaps, were peaceably
disposed, but it is wise in such a wild country to be cautious: anyhow,
they do not molest us. They were all on foot, and seemed quite dead-beat
by the sun, and were without water, which we were unable to give them,
not having any ourselves. Arabs do not give away water when on the
march, as the fountains are so few and far between, and want of water in
the sun-stricken wilderness means weariness, distress, and death, so
graphically described in the pathetic story of Hagar and Ishmael.

After a pleasant ride, skirting the plain of El Buttauf, we halt for
tiffin in the pleasant orange grove of Lubieh, where in 1799 the French,
under Junot, held their own against a vastly superior army of Turks, and
succeeded in reaching Tabor just in time to fall on the rear of the
force then pressing hard upon the main body under Napoleon. Soon after,
we catch a glimpse of the little lake of Galilee or Tiberias, at one
time, in the bright sunshine, looking like an emerald in a golden
setting, and at another time, when a passing cloud veils the God of day,
like a jasper diamond set in an agate frame. We put up at the Latin
Monastery in Tiberias or Tabarea, where we are entertained by the Father
Superior hospitably as we were on a former occasion. Before leaving
Tiberias, we trot along the shore to visit the hot Sulphur Springs and
old Roman Baths, which are still greatly used.

The tombs of Jethro and Habbakuk are said to be in the hills above the


  _Mount Carmel._



                    CHAPTER II.—TIBERIAS TO HÂSBEYÂ.


TIBERIAS was our last halting place. After a grateful dip in the buoyant
lake waters we leave early next day for Safed, the highest inhabited
place in Galilee, said to be the “city on a hill that cannot be hid,”
for it is situated so high that it is visible far and wide, but the term
‘city on a hill’ might almost equally well apply to Bethlehem, the “city
of our Lord.” In the distance the snow-white houses of Safed glisten on
the dark mountain side like diamonds set in the breast-plate of a mighty
giant. Leaving the Latin Convent of Tiberias, we ride along the shore of
the Sea of Galilee for about an hour, until we reach Medjil, or Magdala,
the home of the Magdalene, now a collection of wretched mud hovels, then
across the fertile but neglected plain of Gennesaret, in the midst of
which we see a fine stone circular fountain, evidently once the centre
of a great city, considered by some to be Capernaum; it is now overgrown
with vegetation and the centre of a wilderness, no other trace of a town
near. We pause awhile to think of those great cities which in our
Saviour’s time lined the shores of the lake, and see how thoroughly
their doom has been fulfilled. Tyre still exists as a place to dry nets
on, and Sidon as a habitation for fishermen; but Chorazin, Capernaum,
the two Bethsaidas and the other great lake cities—where are they? Their
very sites are not a certainty, and on the lake, where the Romans once
fought a great naval battle with the Jews, are now only three wretched
fishing boats, in one of which we take a voyage. They were “exalted to
heaven,” they are indeed “brought down to hell.” We leave the sites of
these formerly great cities on our right, and soon after pass along
sloping ground where there is much grass (here, in all probability,
Christ miraculously fed the multitude). A mountain near by was in the
middle ages known as Mensa, alluding perhaps to the place where our
Saviour made a table for the multitude in the wilderness. We lunch at
Ain-et-Tabighah, a pleasant spring in the mountains, said to be the site
of Bethsaida (there are ruins near by), and starting again skirt the
Wady-el-Hamân, or Valley of Doves, and soon after find ourselves high up
in the mountains of Naphtali, near Safed; we ascend the hill behind the
city to the ruins of the old Crusaders’ Castle, whence we obtain one of
the finest views of Palestine. To the east we look over the Sea of
Galilee, across Basan and the wild Hauran, almost into the Arabian
Desert, taking in, in the far south-east, the mountains of Moab and
Ammon, with a long stretch of the Jordan Valley—on the south and
south-west we see Carmel and Tabor—on the west the sea-coast—on the
north the view is bounded by the high mountains of Lebanon. We hire a
Moslem house for the night, after, of course, being asked for a month’s
rent; we put our horses in the basement and sleep in the upper room, as
usual without any kind of furniture or glass window, and the floor a mud
one, but the view from it is magnificent. The Jews cook for us, but are
so fanatical that they will not taste the food they themselves have
prepared for us. Our bed is a stone ledge a few feet from the floor, but
better however than we have in many other places; we soon learn the way
of making ourselves as comfortable as circumstances will permit,
sleeping often sounder on our stony couches than many do on down beds.
My dragoman shares my apartment, the others sleep outside in the open.
It is 5 a.m. when the Muzeddin, from the summit of the minaret chants
out the first hour of prayer, and we set about enjoying our frugal
Frühstück, as the Polish Jews here call it, and soon after are in the

SAFED Olim Saphet, one of the four sacred cities of the Jews, is built
on terraces one above the other on the side of the mountain, so that the
flat roofs of one terrace serve very well as promenades for the houses
immediately above, also affording extra facilities for cats and pariah
dogs, jackals, &c., to intrude upon our nocturnal privacy. From Safed we
travel up and down the mountains, having beautiful views of the plain
where Jabin of Hazor gathered together his iron chariots against Joshua;
of the waters of Merom (Lake Huleh), and the swamps and jungles of the
Jordan, with herds of half wild buffaloes almost hidden in the high
rushes. On our left we pass a large khan, built to accommodate the
Circassian cut-throats, exiled for committing the Bulgarian atrocities;
then on our right is a rock-hewn cistern of vast size, evidently made
for some other purpose than to supply a few sheep here in the

DESHUN, an African colony sent from Algeria when the French conquered
that country, is next reached; the people seem to be industrious and
prosperous. We observe that their houses are detached and have sloping
roofs, seldom seen in this country except in European settlements, and
altogether they appear more civilised than the Arab inhabitants around
them. About noon we pass the site of Hazor, whose kings we hear of in
Holy Writ under the common name of Jabin, which was probably the
hereditary title of their kings, as Hazael of Syria, Hiram of Tyre,
Pharaoh of Egypt, &c. After a ride of about 11 miles, we halt for tiffin
in the olive grove of Kedes, (Kadesh Naphtali) one of the cities of
refuge, and the home, it will be remembered, of Barak, as also of Heber
the Kenite. It was one of the royal cities of the Canaanites. There are
great masses of débris and ruins here, and some fine single and double
sarcophagi lying about. The Turkish people are excavating huge trenches
and digging out large quantities of ancient worked stones, not however,
with any love or regard for archæology, for they are at once utilised to
erect modern buildings or burnt for lime. We acquire a very ancient lamp
for about three half-pence. Our zeal for antiquities a Turk or Arab does
not understand; he will sooner build a bizarre new mosque (as at Cairo)
than repair the grand old one next door; if a building goes to ruin, he
says resignedly “Mâshâllah” (God wills it), and leaves it to decay.

LAKE HULEH (Semachonitis), which lies under Mount Hermon, is between
four and five miles long and about four miles broad. Nebu Husha, or the
tomb of Joshua, looks down upon it. The views all along the shores
(where the hills of Naphtali and Basan close upon the lake) and the
vista of the Jordan valley and mountains beyond, especially Hermon, are
very fine. We now, as there is a deal of ground to cover before sundown,
try a short cut into the valley without going by Hunin, the usual way.
We hear of a path from the Bedouin, and after some difficulty find it.
It is not known to the travellers’ guides, and it is just as well that
it should not be, for it is a difficult dangerous descent, and one of
our horses slipping in a bad place, very nearly brings great grief, both
to himself, his rider, and the writer, who suddenly finds himself, with
a frightened horse in front slipping, falling, and struggling, wedged in
a track so narrow and precipitous that it is difficult to find room to
dismount; once off, we do not remount until we reach the plain, and no
greater damage is done than the loss of a bridle, but a halter is almost
as good for an Arab horse. The animal bolted after his fall but we
managed to catch him. The path afterwards, when we could find one, being
little better than a goat track, we have some trouble to get the horses
to face the steep descents. It saves however some hours of time, and is
of immense service to us, as otherwise we should have been benighted in
the difficult, dangerous, rough and swampy country at the head of the
Jordan valley. As it is we are out 11½ hours in an almost tropical
country, and do not get into Banias until after sunset, a bad time to
enter any Eastern town, and then have to look for a lodging. But to go
back a little, we get down into the Jordan valley, near Ain Belat, at
the tents of the Ghawarineh Arabs. “Rob Roy” gives them a bad character,
and says they attacked him, but they give us water and behave civilly.
However we should not trust them too far, nor after dark. We are so glad
to get down to level ground, so severe is the descent, that we think
little of any danger from the wild denizens we drop down on. The scene
here is remarkable, the black Bedouin tents, the dusky herds of
buffaloes roaming among the marshes, the impenetrable jungles, the
almost naked swarthy barbarians, together with the intense heat, make us
imagine ourselves to be in the midst of the dark continent. Our advice
to travellers going from Safed by Kedes to Banias, is to make a two
day’s trip of it, and not one as we did, and then to keep up on the
mountain, and descend by Hunin to the plain.

HUNIN, which we pass under, was the Beth-rehob of Joshua, the limit of
the land searched by the spies, for here Syria may be said to begin on
the slopes of the Anti-lebanon. We now cross the Hasbâny, the most
northerly source of the Jordan, by an old ruined Roman bridge,
Jisl-el-Ghugar, where my men dismount again, but I have more confidence
in my horses hoofs than my own boots, and stop in the saddle, and the
surefooted sagacious animal carries me over the holes and boulders
safely, whereat I score a point against the dragoman, and now after
another rough ride for about three miles over stones and swamps, at
length we reach Tell-el-Kadi, the (fertile) hill of the Judge or Dan,
which in the Hebrew also signifies Judge.

DAN, it will be remembered, was the extreme northern limit of the
promised Land, as Beersheba was the most southern. Its Canaanitish name
was Laish, it was a colony of Sidon, and dated back to the days of
Abraham. The Danites took it easily by surprise, as the inhabitants were
a peaceable people devoted to commerce and the manufacture of pottery.
It was always a “high place” or sacred city with the Phœnicians, who
called it Balinas, or the city of Baal, as later on with Jeroboam, whose
Calf was a venerated idol with the local heathen of that day, as it is
still curiously with the native ignorant Druse peasants at the present
day. When cursed by a Mahommedan they are often called “Sons of a Calf,”
as we ourselves heard: so Jeroboam did not necessarily take his idea
from the golden calf of Mosaic times, but may have simply adopted the
indigenous idolatry; yet “Calfolatry” may have originally come from
Egypt, as Dan, being a city of palm trees and water, was a favourite
trysting place for the Egyptian as well as the Assyrian, being on the
road to Damascus, which was the objective point of every invader,
whether warrior or merchant.

DAN is now a mound some 500 feet or so long, and 40 feet high, visible
for a long distance over the low plain; here, under a fine oak tree,
near a grotto sacred to Pan, is another most copious source of the
Jordan, forming a large stream immediately it springs from the ground,
said to be the largest source of any river in the world, as it forms a
good flowing river at once. It is called by Josephus the Little Jordan,
and is considered by many the chief source, but it is not the most
northerly. We get a grand view here of the great Jordan Valley, looking
down upon a sea of waving corn, spread out in one vast field, almost as
far as the eye can reach. A long ride through lanes and pleasant wooded
country, the road often paved with ruined pillars and old Phœnician
worked stones, brings us at last to Banias, the site of ancient Cæsarea
Philippi, so called Cæsarea by Philip the Tetrarch, in honour of
Tiberius Cæsar, the agnomen Philippi being added by the same gentleman
in honour of himself, and to distinguish it from Cæsarea on the coast
near Jaffa. Agrippa II. called it Neronias in honour of Nero, but in
later times it regained its original name Paneas (which it took from the
Temple of Pan then there), and that was easily corrupted to its present
name Banias. It was once at least visited by Christ (Matt. xvi.).

BANIAS is beautifully situated on a spur of Hermon, on the direct road
to Damascus, which we do not intend to take, preferring to go two days
longer journey round to visit the less frequented parts of Syria. We are
received into a Mahommedan house, and have, as usual, the upper chamber
allotted to us; and have, what is not usual, the daughter of the house
to attend upon us. Veils are dispensed with in this establishment,
except by the mother, who after a while thinks it proper to drape up the
lower part of her face which somewhat improves her appearance. The
accommodation is the same old story, four bare walls. It is quite an
Oriental scene at night. The moon shines brightly on the one-storeyed
flat mud-roofed huts. On the top of each are the members of the various
families sleeping al fresco. Some more fastidious or important
personages rig themselves up a leafy bower on four supports about three
or four feet from the roof—a cool retreat undoubtedly, forming little
tents such as might have been seen in ancient Jerusalem during the feast
of Tabernacles. A cat or two of course come in through the paneless
windows during the night in search of our saddle bags, but a heavy boot
well shot at an Oriental cat helps him out quite as quickly as it would
one of our own domestic favourites. One time, however it misses the mark
and alights on our sleeping dragoman. It was at Banias, by-the-bye, that
Titus celebrated with gladiatorial games the capture of Jerusalem, and
many thousand prisoners perished in the “Sports.”

Early next morning we visit the massive ruins of the old gate, the
grotto of Pan, which gave the name to the city, and the Banias fountains
of the Jordan. The rocks just above the latter are sculptured with
shrines and niches in which statues once stood; there are also Greek
inscriptions which are not very legible.

We now leave Banias by the old western gate, and riding over a slope of
Hermon enter Syria proper. The whole country including Palestine is
often described as Syria, and was all under one Pashalic so called until
lately—Palestine originally included only the country of the
Philistines. We breakfast in a poplar grove in the prosperous Christian
village of Rasheyat el Fûkhar, celebrated for its pottery, which it
supplies to the whole of the northern part of Palestine and Syria, as
far as Damascus. It is refreshing to come across an industrious
manufacturing population, so rare in Palestine except at Gaza and Ramleh
in the south, where jars and lamps are made, and at Nablous (ancient
Shechem), where a coarse native soap is made of olive oil, and exported
as far as Egypt. The Germans at Caifa (under Mount Carmel) are
cultivating this industry also, and turn out a much finer article, which
finds a sale in America, but has not yet made a market in Palestine,
which prefers its native make to that of the Feringhee. We next descend
the mountains by a precipitous path, a new one not tried before by our
guide, down which we with great difficulty drag our horses to
Hibberiyeh, prettily situated in one of the western gorges of Hermon:
here we visit a very ancient well-preserved temple built of Phœnician
bevelled stones principally, but curiously with pilasters and columns
having Ionic capitals—an old Sidonian shrine to Baal probably (as it
faced his temple on the summit of Mount Hermon) altered by the Greeks to
accommodate one of their own deities. The valley is remarkably a Valley
of Rocks; some isolated ones seem to have been formerly sculptured to
imitate the human form divine. The ascent up the other side of the
valley we find very laborious, having again to lead or rather drag our
horses, until at length we arrive at Hâsbeyâ, our quarters for the
night, of which more in our next. The shortest way to Damascus is that
through the wilderness of Damascus by which St. Paul travelled; but the
most beautiful road is that we select, which leads round the slopes of






HASBÊYA is a small town beautifully situated some 2,000 feet above the
sea, on the western side of Hermon, in an amphitheatre of hills well
cultivated and inhabited by Maronite Christians, Druses and Moslems, all
very fanatical, hating and fearing each other intensely, and not, as far
as the Christians are concerned, without cause, for here they were
treacherously massacred by the Druses in 1860. They were decoyed into
the Konak, or Governor’s Castle, by the Turkish commander under pretence
of protection, induced to part with their arms, and then the Druses
being admitted men women and children were massacred without mercy. The
French army of the Lebanon avenged these cowardly murders partially, and
but for the milder (and doubtfully humane) counsels of the English,
would have done so effectually. We saved the Druse scoundrels from their
just fate then, and consequently they are quite ready to repeat the
crime now. This our rulers would do well to remember that maudlin
sentimentality is often another name for weakness and not true mercy
which is frequently obliged “to be cruel to be kind.” Orientals do not
practice and do not understand undeserved clemency. The Christians in
the Anti-Lebanon feel the effects of a too lenient policy, and are
periodically in a panic about their ruffianly neighbours, and the Moslem
feeling too is often inflamed against Christians, the old rumour that
the five kings of Europe (as the great powers are called) are about to
depose the Sultan and upset Islamism, being for fanatical purposes often
revived. This rumour was one of the causes which led to the rebellion of
Arabi in Egypt. If Arabi had not been crushed, there would probably have
been a general rising of Arabic Islam against the Ottoman Caliphate and
European interference—and it may come yet. The Ottomans are no longer a
nation—they are quite effete—but the Arabs are as vigorous a race as
they were in the days of Alexander the Great and Mahomet. The Arabs and
the Jews, the children of Abram’s two sons, are destined to endure for
ever distinct races in the midst of a heterogeneous world, everlasting
monuments of the truth of the Bible story.

HASBÊYA is thought by many to be the Hermon and Baal-Gad of the Bible,
but others identify the latter with Baalbec. We will not attempt to
decide that on which many doctors differ. We lodge in one of the best
houses at the head of the valley, near the Konak. A sort of stretcher,
much resembling an oriental bier, is hastily run up for us as a place to
sleep on. Round the room and in the courtyard below we see ranged a
number of immense jars, each large enough to contain one of the “forty
thieves,” some in fact could have accommodated two. We find them to be
mostly full of new wine, which is rather too rich and luscious to take
much of. Just as the day is dawning an oriental maiden enters our room
and makes for one of the jars (to get something out of it) and we are
forcibly reminded that we are in the land of the “Arabian Nights.” Next
day, after about three hours toiling over mountain paths, we pass the
mouth of the Wady-et-Teim, in which is the source of the Hasbâny, the
highest and most northerly source of the Jordan, the Banias and Dan
branches of which it joins just above the waters of Merom, or Lake
Huleh, after running almost parallel with them for some distance. We
crossed this stream lower down by an old Roman bridge on our way from
Kadesh to Dan and Banias.

                              THE DRUSES.

THE DRUSES make the Hasbâny Valley their religious centre, as their
prophet, Ed Darazi, is supposed to have been born there. Their religious
books having been lost (or rather stolen by the Egyptians), their
religion, which is of more recent origin than Mahometanism, is
traditional only, and it is difficult to say what it really is, but it
seems to have been founded on an ancient form of freemasonry. It
consists of several degrees. The Druses hate Moslem and Christian pretty
equally, but are more tolerant of the former, with whom they often
associate for the purpose of plunder, but they would murder either
without compunction. At the same time, with an appreciable regard to
expediency, their religion allows them to live under whatever creed is
supreme. They have, since the 1860 massacres, migrated in large numbers
from the Lebanon to the Hauran, east of Jordan, which they hold
practically independent of any Government whatever, although nominally
subject to the Turkish Sultan. They are distinguished by white turbans.
Lebanon being now a separate pashalic, under a Christian governor with a
native Christian army, the Druses would find it more difficult to occupy
that district now than they did in 1860; but in Anti-Lebanon they are
more formidable. When a fanatical Mahommedan wishes to annoy a Druse (as
was done by our muleteer in our presence) he calls him “a worshipper of
the calf.” This is curious, as the golden calf set up at Dan was only a
day’s march from here. The Druses have no mosques or temples, but
worship in a room outside a village, and only the higher initiated
members are admitted to the whole performance or allowed to learn what
is known of their sacred records, which are imparted by oral instruction
only, and never reduced to writing. Very few indeed are acquainted with
all the mysteries of their religion, and to the higher degrees no man
under 30 is ever admitted, the women, we think, never. The most sacred
shrine of the Druses is a secluded cave half-way up Hermon, and there
only the most secret rites are performed. A pretty ride of about six
hours brings us to Rashêya.

RASHÊYA, the Syrian Heliopolis, or City of the Sun, is finely and
healthily situated high up on the slope of Hermon. I have never been
mobbed in any Eastern town as I was here, a European being quite a _rara
avis_. Men women and children cluster round me, and even crowd into my
little room to stare at me and touch my clothes, prompted, I suppose, by
either curiosity or superstition or both; many seem to think me a
medicine man, and bringing sick children ask me to touch them; but
unfortunately I am not a doctor. A few of the younger women, having
confidence in their good appearance, beg of me to draw their portraits,
but my first sketch soon puts the other fair candidates to flight. Two
or three enterprising young ladies, clasping my hand in theirs, entreat
me to take them back with me to England and make them members of my
family. I have to explain to them that the social system of the West
does not allow of any such extensive adoption as that of the East. We
have often been asked by mothers to take their children and bring them
up as Feringhees, but think that in most cases this is done to frighten
the children. The Rashêya folk are strong healthy-looking people, but
have a barbarous habit of tattooing their bodies (which is seldom seen
in the East), the hands especially with stripes looking like the seams
of gloves. We have, as usual, the floor only to sit and sleep on. We are
beginning to be quite clever at squatting à la Turc, but must admit that
we think chairs, tables and beds more comfortable. The Rashêya
Christians in 1860, were, as in Hasbêya, decoyed into the castle by the
Turks, and by them basely betrayed to the Maronite Druses, who massacred
man, woman and child.

MOUNT HERMON, we believe, has not been ascended to the summit by any
Englishman for some years. It is called by the Arabs the Snowy Mountain:
misled probably by this the text books on the subject boldly assert that
its summit is perpetually covered with snow, but this is not the case,
nor is it so even with the loftier peaks of Lebanon, on the opposite
side of the plain. From Hermon the snow disappears some two months at
least, and although we find it cold there is not a trace of snow
anywhere. The bare white limestone sides of mountains are often mistaken
at a distance for snow, but few travellers ever attain the summit, and
hence the perpetuation of the perpetual snow fable.

                        ASCENT OF MOUNT HERMON.

HERMON, being isolated from the Anti-Lebanon, and the three peaks rising
abruptly some 3,000 feet above the lower ridges, has an apparent
altitude much greater than many higher mountains. The grandeur of the
Matterhorn, for instance, although a monarch of mountains, is diminished
by the magnitude of its mighty neighbours, Monte Rosa and the Breithorn
(which latter we ascended a few years since, so can judge from
experience). The Matterhorn is a giant among giants, a king of kings;
but Hermon stands alone in its glory—is, as it were, a sturgeon amongst
minnows, and owes its prestige, not to its height, which is under 10,000
feet, but to its isolated position and abrupt elevation; and the same
may be said of Carmel, which Swiss travellers would scarcely dignify
with the name of a mountain at all.

HERMON, the Sirion of the Sidonians, and Shenir of the Amorites, is
called by the Arabs, Jebel el Sheikh, the Monarch of Mountains; it was
once encircled by shrines to the Sun God, Baal, all facing the great
central temple on the summit of the southern peak; there is only one of
these remaining now, between Banias and Hasbêya, which we have already

BAAL, literally interpreted Lord, was probably applied first to the
greatest hero, then to the favourite deity of the day. We hear of it as
Bel applied to Nimrod; and we trace it in many other names, such as Bel
Shazzar, which means King under the Lord Baal, a sort of divine right we
suppose. The Phœnicians generally patronised the Sun, the Israelites
probably called their golden calf Baal. After the Greek conquest, Baal
and the other Gods were very much mixed up, and the Romans later on, to
appease the conquered Syrians, identified their Jupiter with Baal, and
their Venus with Astarte, or Ashtaroth. It may be interesting to note
here that a memorial of Sun worship survives in Scotland in the Bel tane
(Bel’s fire) fair still held at Peebles. It is commemorated on May-day
morning. Our actual ascent of the mountain is without much interest,
except that on the way we pass a very well-preserved wine press, hewn
out of the solid rock. The horses are at the door at four a.m., but not
until six can we venture out, for Hermon is veiled in dark cloud, and
over the Rashêyan Valley bursts a terrific thunderstorm, the thunder
reverberating grandly among the mountains. A continuous bombardment by
the biggest guns ever launched from Woolwich would have been infants’
rattles compared to it. At six a.m. a ray of sunshine breaks through the
black firmament above, and we set out briskly, and in about four hours
scramble up to the southern—the highest peak—where we find extensive and
massive remains of two temples, dedicated to Baal, also a large cave in
which we tiffin. Time and space would fail to describe the grand
panoramic picture displayed from this sacred summit, no high peaks near
to intercept the view. During the ascent, to the summit, which is some
5,000 feet above Rashêya, we have a fine sight of the coast from Carmel
to Tyre, but on the summit, the greater part of Palestine and Syria are
opened out as a map—to the west, the Mediterranean coast; to the north,
the ranges of the Lebanon stand boldly out; the plain of Damascus,
bounded by the six day’s desert, flanked by Abana and Pharpar, is in the
extreme north-west; Dan, Cæsarea Philippi, Kadesh Naphtali, Safed, &c.,
nestle beneath on the near south-east; further south the broad waters of
Merom, and the silver streak of the Jordan glisten in the noon-day sun,
and in the far east the lofty plains of Basan and the Mountains of Moab
bound the distant horizon; on the south, Mount Tabor raises its
beautifully wooded crest over Nazareth; Gilboa near by seems lost in the
plains of Esdraelon; and further west, in the dim distance on the coast,
Carmel slopes away to the sea. We enjoy the view only a short time, as a
blinding hailstorm comes down and causes us to beat a very precipitate
retreat; but as the black thunder clouds gather above and beneath us,
and the sun at intervals shines through and upon them, the _mélange_ of
earth and sky, sunshine and cloud, gold and colour, is grand in the
extreme. Mountain and meadow bathed in black and gold, here and there
mellowed with the most delicate tinges of purple green and orange, form
an effect, which if fixed on the canvas, would be called an impossible
picture, and we could now well understand and feel that enthusiastic
praise so often in the Bible bestowed on Hermon, “that Tower of Lebanon
which looketh towards Damascus.” The ascent is neither difficult nor
dangerous to a careful and vigorous climber, but extremely laborious,
being a steady steep and continuous scramble over loose stones, on which
it is difficult to retain a footing; there is no defined path to the
summit, and it should not be attempted without a _local_ guide, as the
clouds gather round and envelope Hermon very quickly, and sleet or snow
may come on suddenly, in which case there would be but little chance for
any but the most experienced guides. Hermon is thought by some to have
been the scene of the transfiguration as Banias, where our Saviour
started from, is near by. On our way up we try to track a bear, but
fortunately fail to find him. If our curiosity had been gratified, we
probably should not have written this account.





                         CHAPTER IV.—DAMASCUS.


RASHEYA is again our resting place after our descent from Hermon, and
next morning we make an early start for Damascus. In about 40 minutes we
arrive at Rûkleh where there are ruins of temples, and a mountain ride
of another two hours brings us to Deir-el-Ashair, where again, on a
small elevated plateau, we see extensive and massive remains of ancient
temples with fragments of Ionic columns. After a short ride we now reach
the French diligence road, the only decent bit of road in Syria, over
this the French have a monopoly of wheeled traffic and transport for
nearly 99 years, riding horses pass free, but all pack animals and
caravans have to pay, which however the native caravans evade by still
using the old track up and down the mountains which runs almost
parallel. The ride through the Abana, or Barada Valley, for the last
three hours is very pleasant, being well watered, wooded, and sheltered
from the sun—a most agreeable contrast to the dreary desert of Sahira,
through which we have to ride some two hours to reach it. We may here
remark that Sahira in the Koran is the Arabic term used for Hell, and
anyone who has been in the burning desert at noontide (the hot dry wind
making the skin like parchment and drying up all moisture in the lips
and body) will have an idea that any kind of Hell must be a most
uncomfortably hot place, life being in the burning desert a burden
almost unbearable. The first sight of Damascus, unlike that of
Jerusalem, realises all we have heard of it, it is indeed magnificently
situated in the midst of an extensive plain, intersected in all
directions by the rills of the rivers Pharpar and Abana, which mæander
through and round the whole city, and finally lose themselves in the
meadow lakes beyond.

We see the Wali, or Governor, Hallett Pasha, sitting alone on a chair by
the river side enjoying otium _sine_ dignitate; his guards at a distance
standing by their horses ready to look after him, if necessary. He
politely returns our passing salute in true Parisian style. Like all
other Turkish Pashas he will have to make hay while the sun shines and
be sharp about it. His predecessor, Midhat Pasha (of mournful memory)
did not enjoy the sunshine long, and Hallett’s may be a similarly short
summer. It costs money to be a Damascus Pasha, some £4000 has to be
first found for the Palace Cabal at Stamboul. The official pay of the
appointment is under £3000 a year, so the moment a Pasha gets to his
government he has to set to squeezing; he squeezes backsheesh out of the
higher officials, and they squeeze the lower and the public, who are
fair game for all. Justice, not at all blind here, is continually
looking out for the dollars. But to return to Damascus. The plain in
which it is situated is surrounded on three sides by mountains, Lebanon,
Anti-Lebanon and Hermon; on the east it is bounded by the Syrian desert,
in the midst of which is the city of palm trees, Palmyra, the ancient
Tadmor, the city of Zenobia, the Boadicea of the Syrians. Well might the
Moslem, arrived in this ever-verdant plain, after six days dreary riding
across the desert, when he came across this city embosomed in beautiful
gardens and orchards, when he saw the rills of living water flowing in
all directions and rising in fountains in the very court-yards of the
houses, well might he imagine that he had lighted at last upon the
Garden of Eden. We find comfortable quarters at Demetri’s, the only
Frank hotel, and are glad again to see some signs of western

My flying visit here without tents, traversing the country by little
known paths, creates some curiosity, even among the Europeans, who wish
to know if I am travelling under diplomatic orders; a negative answer to
such a question is not, of course, worth much. The Turkish police give
vent to their curiosity by visiting me in my bedroom and cross-examining
my dragoman as to my intents and purposes, position in life, &c., &c.
Things are rather strained here. The attitude of the allied Powers to
Turkey makes this fanatical people never well disposed to Christians,
now still less so, and to make matters worse, Arab placards have been
posted here and at Beyrût in the Bazaars, summoning the natives to
revolt against the Turks, asking reasonably what common interest the
Arabs have with their now imbecile and insolent conquerors, the Osmanli
usurpers of the Khalifate, who monopolise all place and power, using
them only to oppress the people, whose language they do not even
understand, and whose lives, liberties, and properties they either
cannot or do not care to protect. This is a sign of the times—a writing
on the wall to warn the feeble despots of Stamboul of their doom. This
movement has since developed into an organised Arab League, following
the example of the Albanians. An Armenian League probably is not far
behind. The collapse of the rule of the Osmanlis is merely a matter of
time. They may retain Asia Minor for the present (if England does not
seize it to save it from Russia), but they will have to clear out of
Europe, and Syria, Lebanon and Palestine must ere long be like Egypt,
semi-independent vice-royalties under European protection, or they will
become Russian and French appanages. The Turkish Government have
authorised their postmasters in Syria to detain telegrams and open
letters at their pleasure. A remedy for that is to give the letters to
the Consul who forwards them in his bag. The Consul here lives in a
hired house liable to a notice to quit at any moment. What a pity that
our Government does not buy itself a consular residence in such an
important post as this? It is so undignified for an English Consul to
have to turn out at the bidding of a Moslem landlord, and troublesome in
the extreme to have to move all the archives every few years; and in
case of an intrigue, which is not uncommon in these parts, we might find
it difficult to find a suitable place for the Consul at all. In one of
the squares we see a crowd and several soldiers looking at the dead body
of an Arab. This poor fellow was, with others, in charge of a caravan of
camels, some Druses swooped upon them within only a few hours of
Damascus, all ran except the murdered man, who stuck to his post; they
of course soon killed him and cleared off with the camels. This is the
security for life and property which Turkey provides for its subjects in
the neighbourhood of a great city. We will now take a stroll through
this thoroughly Eastern city, where the far East and the far West meet
more than in any other city in the world, more so even than in Tanjiers
and Tunis. Here we see English tourists in tweed suits, black-coated
Americans in tall hats, Bedouins in dirty bornous, Druses with white
turbans and blood-stained hands, Turks in officials fezzes, orthodox
Moslems in flowing robes and showy green turbans, Circassians with
breast full of cartridges (murderous looking rascals), Kurds in rough
sheep skin cloaks, Persians, Afghans, Pariahs and Parsees, slipshod
veiled Eastern women, gorgeous Jewesses and smartly dressed Parisian
dames, all these meet together in this metropolis of the East, jostling
each other in the narrow unpaved bazaars. Camels also, and mules, horses
and donkeys, with perhaps a drove of long-tailed sheep, from the far
steppes of Turkestan, press on amidst this motley crew, “Oua garda”—take
care, take care, get out of the way quickly! A pack mule is no respecter
of persons, he cares not for your Consul, and over you go if you do not
get out of his way, unless by a vigorous shove you send him over, just
as in self-defence we were obliged to do once. A pack mule on his back,
legs up in the air, is a helpless, pitiable spectacle.

METROPOLIS did I call Damascus? Indeed it is rightly so called, for is
it not the mother of all cities, the oldest living city in the world?
(not even excepting Hebron), for here Abraham’s steward Eliezer lived;
these streets the patriarch himself must often have traversed as a
trader in flocks and herds, and through these lanes, once at all events,
he drove the Hivite Kings of Hermon before his avenging spear, for near
here he rescued Lot and the King of Sodom from their Syrian captors. It
was conquered by David after a protracted struggle, but recovered its
independence in the reign of Solomon. It was subsequently subdued by the
Assyrians. Rome may call itself, Damascus is the Eternal City, founded
probably soon after the flood by a Semitic grandson of Noah. Damascus
has never ceased to exist as a great city, and from its unique position,
probably never will. The prey of every ambitious conqueror, it has seen
the rise and survived the fall of every great empire. Assyrian, Persian,
Greek, Roman, Crusader and Saracen, each in turn have dominated the
garden city—and died—but Damascus still lives and has out-lived all its
rivals of every age. Sidon, Tyre, Antioch and Tarsus survive only as
uninteresting towns, Babylon, Palmyra and Nineveh are no more, but
Damascus is still the “Head of Syria” as it was in the days of
Abraham—Damascus a green island in the midst of a golden sea of sand,
bounded by the desert, surrounded by its rivers, has always been and
must for ever remain the mother city of the world.

To brace ourselves up for our rambles, we now take a bath in the waters
of the Abana, which are, as its Syrian name Barada indicates, remarkably
cool and pleasant. Having tried Jordan too, we must endorse Naaman’s
opinion, that the bathing in the former is decidedly the best. In the
midst of the city, we are shown a sycamore tree, 42 feet in girth;
certainly a curiosity in any city, but especially so in a Mahommedan
one, where the process of destruction is carried on by man and that of
re-construction or re-placement left to “Allah.” We also see another
tree in the horse market close by, used as a gallows, but public
executions are very rare in Turkey. A good Moslem is peculiarly
sensitive—he does not object to strangle a wife or two quietly at home
if they are annoying, but he objects to a fellow male Moslem being
publicly executed even for a murder. We look into the great mosque; in
its courtyard are the remains of a small ancient temple to the sun—it
was once a Roman temple, then a Greek basilica, and was in more ancient
times probably the site of the very temple in which Naaman bowed the
knee to Rimmon, when his master worshipped there. We found it easier to
enter St. Sophia at Stamboul, the mosque of Omar at Jerusalem, and the
grand mosque at Cairo, than this, the people being so fanatical. St.
Sophia, in fact, we got into by only paying a few francs to the
door-keeper, but here it costs a lot to get in. We are next shown the
tomb of the great Saladin, who died 1193, but as it is very sacred,
cannot view the interior. We now come to the street called “Straight,”
above a mile long, running through the city east to west, and on our way
we call at the traditional house of Ananias, now a small Latin Church;
then just outside the east gate we pass the reputed house of Naaman, now
appropriately a leper hospital, and come upon that part of the wall from
which it is said St. Paul was let down in a basket at the time when
Aretas, the Petræan ruler of Arabia, was King. Aretas was the name of
the dynasty, like, Ptolemy and Pharaoh of Egypt, Candace of Ethiopia,
&c. The conversion of St. Paul is said to have taken place just outside
the city—the spot is shown: bright indeed must have been the light
before which an eastern sun at mid-day paled. A walled up gate is also
shewn as that by which St. Paul entered the city.



THE BAZAARS are very interesting, here is to be found merchandise
collected by caravans from all corners of the earth; Merchants from
Manchester, Paris, Vienna, Constantinople, Aleppo, Bagdad, Persia,
Afghanistan, India, Egypt, Nubia, and Arabia as far as Mecca, crowd its
exchanges. The native manufactures are chiefly silk, leather and metal
work; the population is principally Moslem. We of course pay a visit to
old Abu Antika (father of antiquities), and possess ourselves of a
Damascus blade. A friend of ours, an artist, was about to give 100
francs for one at Cairo, we asked to look at it, and saw engraved on it
“warranted best steel.” We asked the old Arab swindler what language it
was; he unblushingly answered “Arabic”! my answer induced him to hastily
put away the Damascus blade and my friend put his 100 francs back into
his pocket. Tricks are sometimes played upon travellers. We see in old
Abu Antika’s booth an English Countess wasting a lot of money on
spurious antiquities, we did not know her then so could not interfere,
but she introduced herself to us later on and was a very pleasant and
intelligent fellow traveller. The houses of the rich Damascenes are very
handsomely fitted up; on visiting one, we enter by an archway into a
great open courtyard, with a fountain in the centre and trees and plants
all around. A divan, roofed in, but open to the courtyard at one end, is
fitted with a luxurious lounge; this serves as a public reception room.
On each side of the court is a large room, one used as a Summer and the
other as a Winter sitting room, according to the seasons. All are
magnificently decorated with marble and mirrors. The sleeping rooms are
on the first floor and are entered from a verandah above. Running water
from the Abana flows through all the best houses. The public buildings
and barracks built during the Egyptian occupation are very good for a
Turkish city, and the citadel, an old mediæval castle, is interesting,
but access is not allowed to it. Abdel-Kader, who so long kept the
French at bay in North Africa, lived in Damascus, and had a quarter
allotted to him and his Algerian fellow exiles. Damascus is not the
dirty city it once was. Midhat Pasha greatly improved it in that
respect, and also in other ways, for we see a large quarter of Damascus
in ruins and are told that it was set fire to by Midhat Pasha (after the
fashion of Nero) to make room for a new wide street. This is a much
shorter and more economical way (to the government) of making street
improvements than that we have in England, but as no notice of the
contemplated improvement is given, it must be rather inconvenient to the
inhabitants. Damascus is called by the Arabs El Sham, and in the eyes of
the Moslem world is second in sanctity only to Mecca.





                      CHAPTER V.—THE ANTI-LEBANON.


DAMASCUS must now be left behind, adieu, we wish we could say _au
revoir_ to its lovely lanes and pleasant orchards, its curious motley
crowded bazaars, its marble palaces and murmuring waters, and its grand
associations with all time—for did not through Damascus pass those
archaic caravans whose descendants colonised the four quarters of the
globe? Shem probably here said goodbye to Ham on his way to Africa, and
both bade God-speed to Japhet, in quest of a new world farther north;
and Noah himself—did not he pass here on his way to leave his bones as
near as possible to Eden; and are we not shown his tomb, and that of
Adam, Abel and Seth, _cum multis aliis_ near here even to this day?
Adieu also to the comfortable hotel of Demetri, an oasis in the desert
of barbarism we pass through. We follow back the diligence road a few
miles as far as Dummar, and then start upon the upper road to Baalbec,
_viâ_ Zebedâni, one of the prettiest rides in Syria; but first to get a
zest for better things we pass across the arid desert of Sahrâ. We see
on the way several rock-cut tombs, and soon enter the upper part of the
Abana watershed, which might well be called the “Happy Valley,” in this
part of the world where there is so much desert and wilderness. We pass
several Mohammedan villages having a clean prosperous appearance, the
women looking better and healthier than any we have yet seen. We now
enter the narrow gorge of the Abana, a very romantic looking defile, and
soon after about five hours from Damascus, come upon Ain El Fijeh (one
of the principal tributaries of the Barada), a little river which
springs up suddenly from the earth so abundantly as at once to form a
large stream, which, although not broad, is very deep. It must be, we
should think, the shortest river in the world. Over these springs,
half-hidden by the beautiful foliage of the fig and pomegranate, rise
the massive remains of two temples, one across the stream, one in it,
all around is a grand luxurious grove; this is a fine halting spot and a
good place for a bath. Fruit trees of all kinds—walnut, fig and orange,
mulberry, vine and lemon line the banks of this most lovely little
stream, and where its crystal current mixes with the turbid Barada,
there is a “Meeting of the Waters,” more beautiful even than the
“_Moore_” famed meeting of the Avonbeg and Avonmore in the once
picturesque Vale of Avoca. Here the giant poplar, the graceful palm, the
spreading sycamore, the sombre cypress and the stately oak, are found
forming little forests wherever a rill of living water can force its
way. If the ruined aqueducts of Tyrian and Roman times were only, and
they could easily be, reformed, the whole land would again laugh and
sing, and paradises as of old, would replace the present deserts. God
made the land a garden of Eden, man, by neglecting the watercourses, has
turned it into a wilderness. We continue our journey, following the
course of the Barada for some two hours, having a succession of pretty
woodland views until we come to Sûk Wady Barada, supposed to be the site
of the ancient Abila, the chief town of the district of Abilene, of
which (according to St. Luke) Lysanias was tetrarch in the reign, of
Tiberius Cæsar.

ABILA is said to derive it name from Abel, who according to tradition
was here slain by Cain. A Wely on an overhanging height (Neby Hâbyl) is
pointed out as Abel’s tomb. This first murder, according to tradition
was avenged by Lamech, who slew Cain on Mount Carmel, not far from
Mahrakah the rock of sacrifice, where Elijah slaughtered the prophets of
Baal. We now reach the narrowest part of the Barada gorge, where the
river descending in small cataracts is spanned by a very tumbledown
bridge, attributed by some writers to Zenobia, but more probably the
work of the Roman engineers who built the aqueducts and cut out the
_corniche_ roads.

In the cliff above—now inaccessible—we see numerous rock-cut tombs,
tunnels which once contained an aqueduct, and the remains of a
high-level mountain road, works well worthy the finest engineering of
the West. Here by the stream, near a murmuring waterfall we spread our
carpet for tiffin, the lofty overhanging cliffs, the rushing eddying
waters, the greensward and cool shade of trees (all so uncommon at this
season in the East), combining to make it a very delightful resting
place. On resuming our ride we pass some fine waterfalls and ruined
bridges, and then enter the mountain-girt grass plain of Zebedâni, one
of the most fertile in the land, well watered and well cultivated; then,
after passing some more ruins, we ride through some pretty English-like
lanes to the town, which is the half-way halting place between Damascus
and Baalbec. The population is chiefly Moslem, but there are many
Maronites also. We lodge with the chief priest. We may here remark that
the Maronites are a primitive community of Christians who acknowledge
the Roman Pontiff as their nominal head, but cannot be called orthodox
Roman Catholics, for they are really ruled by their own patriarch and do
not carry out the Roman ritual. They might almost equally well
acknowledge the Archbishop of Canterbury as their chief. The Maronite
women are distinguished by a black band on the forehead.

ZEBEDÂNI is a small town, finely situated in the midst of most luxurious
vegetation, and almost surrounded by mountains. It boasts a small
Bazaar. Its low mud houses are built closely together, only one or two
having a first floor; most have a small courtyard, into which the goats
and cattle are driven at night. The low flat roofs of the houses are
used much more for getting about the village than the dark, dirty
ill-paved lanes; and, as in other villages, the people sleep in the open
on the roof; and when in the early morning sleeper after sleeper raised
his or her head from beneath the coverlet, gave a yawn and a stretch and
tried to escape from dreamland, the effect was comical in the extreme.
All turned out at dawn of day—lodgers on the cold ground are as a rule
early risers. The room we have is clean, contains the usual curtained
recesses in the walls for cupboards, and a wooden ledge round top of
room for stores, and, what is the only piece of furniture ever seen in
these parts, a large damasceened chest for the valuables of the
household. The mural decorations consist of English willow pattern
plates cemented into the walls—this is a decided improvement on hanging
them up by wires, as they are not liable to be broken by domestic
dusting. We have seen the outside as well as the inside of dwellings
decorated in this manner, and our Western sisters are long forestalled
in this kind of mural ornaments by their barbaric sisters in the East.
Our worthy host is rather nervous about being massacred by Druses, and
we try to reassure him by saying that times are changed since 1860, and
that there is not any occasion to fear; but we should not like to back
this opinion too heavily, for we believe that the fanatical Moslems and
Druses are as bloodthirsty against Christians as ever they were; soon
after writing above there was a collision between Moslems and Christians
at Beyrût, and several of the latter were massacred. There was also an
attack on Christians in the Hauran by the Druses. A Turk only recently
said to me what FROUDE said in September, 1880, in his admirable article
on Ireland: “The idea of Government had almost ceased to exist, and that
every one had to look after his own immediate interest,” and in the case
of a collapse of Turkish rule (not unlikely), Arabs would swarm in from
the desert like locusts, murder all round, and in all probability
permanently occupy the whole country. When we mount our horses at
daybreak the summits of the hills are brightly gilded with the rising
sun. No poetical expression, no fancy pen-picture this gilding of the
hills—far too beautiful to be expressed in language, far too bright to
be pictured in painting, is the grand _mise-en-scène_ of black and gold
set in silver frame produced by the rays of the rising sun mingling with
the disappearing darkness. We have seen it also on many former
occasions; once notably when after sleeping 10,000 feet high in the
Théodule hut under the Matterhorn we saw the Italian mountains literally
bathed in the brightest gold as the sun climbed up to the summits of the
highest peaks and crept down the opposite sides into the valley.

At Zebedâni, by-the-bye, we have a good opportunity of seeing the Syrian
sheep, remarkable for their tremendous tails, and watch the women
stuffing the vine leaves down the sleepy animals’ throats, for the
purpose of creating the enormous quantity of fat, which flies to the
tail and is used to fatten the frugal dish of sour milk and rice, which,
with a salad of olives, fruit and vegetables, all jumbled together into
one great hotch-pot, form their staff of life called (as our German
friends would say aptly) Leben. To this meat is added in times of
plenty. We soon leave the lovely valley of Zebedâni behind, and passing
under Bludàn, the summer residence of the European Consuls, arrive at
the upper source of the Barada, near the watershed of the Anti-Lebanon,
the streams now flowing towards Damascus south-east, and towards the
Bukâa and Lebanon north-west. The first fountain on the northern slope
is that of Eve, in whose transparent waters the mother of all was,
according to poetical tradition, admiring herself when her future lord
and master (as he is euphemistically called) first caught sight of her.
We infer from the Bible description that the Garden of Eden was by no
means a small one, and must have included all Syria Mesopotamia,
Palestine and Egypt, if not the whole of the world. As we are soon
leaving Anti-Lebanon, we may observe that this mountain range extends
from Banias, at the head of the Jordan Valley, to the plains of the
Bukâa, in which is Baalbec. Hermon is sometimes reckoned as part of it,
but on account of its almost isolated position, is often considered to
be as a mountain in business for itself. On our way we cross two Roman
bridges, now on their last legs, but they have done well to have lasted
1800 years.


  BAALBEC—_The Great Stone in the Quarry_.

Between Rashêya and this place we have seen two ancient wine presses,
hewn out of the solid rock; they date over 2,000 perhaps 3,000 years
back; they enable one to understand what building a wine press meant,
and what a terrible loss and disappointment it would be to the builder,
if, when he “looked for grapes, he found but wild grapes.” The Cactus
hedges too, with which the vineyards are surrounded to keep out the
“little foxes that spoil the vines,” also take great trouble and many
years before they form that impenetrable barrier through which even the
wild boar cannot break his way. We pass through Surghaya and halt for
lunch in the Wady Yafûfeh, on the banks of the Saradah, which we cross
by a single arched Saracenic bridge, and on resuming our journey leave
on our left Nadu Shays, the reputed tomb of Seth. Ham is said to be
buried a little further east. A beautiful panorama of Lebanon now bursts
upon our view, separated from us by the great plain of the Bukâa, or
valley of the Litany (the accursed river). We next pass near the village
of Brêethen, thought to be the Beroshai of Samuel, and soon come in
sight of the many-rilled orchard gardens and grand Acropolis of Baalbec,
the great ancient shrine of Baal in Phœnicia, the Heliopolis, or City of
the Sun of the Greeks and Romans, and the Baal-gad, according to many,
of Joshua, formerly a station like Palmyra on the great caravan road
from Tyre to India, which we may mention was the original overland
route, and if history repeats itself will be so again. What shorter
route to India can there be than rail to Brindisi, steamer to Corinth
through the canal now being made to Piræus, across the Ægean, to Smyrna,
and thence all the way by rail through the iron gates of Cilicia, _viâ_
the two Antiochs, Syria, Mesopotamia, Persia and Afghanistan, to
India—there are no difficulties which modern engineers could not
overcome. But perhaps we are waiting for the French or Germans to show
the way.[1] Before entering the town we visit the ancient quarries out
of which were hewn the enormous Cyclopean stones which formed the very
ancient Phœnician or Hittite foundation. One block lies there already
hewn but not quite separated from the quarry, it is about 70 feet long,
14 feet wide and 14 high, weighing some 10,000 tons; other large stones
are seen lying about partially hewn—why they were thus left unfinished
in the workshop—whether it was an Assyrian or Persian invader who made
the busy mason so suddenly throw away the gavel to seize the sword will
now never be known. We put up at a small hotel facing the ruins, and
find it fairly comfortable; but are quite alone in our glory until late
in the evening, when an English countess and her niece come in with two
Turkish guards as guides, with whom they can only converse in the
primitive language of signs—the result being that when next morning they
want to see the ruins, they are taken from them, to a hill some miles
off, where they see them—from a distance—a fine effect probably, but not
what was wanted. However, we coming to the rescue, they get a closer
inspection in the afternoon, and having previously gone through it all
ourselves, are quite eloquent in dragomanic descriptions. Their guides,
if not useful as Cicerones, were we must admit extremely picturesque and
pleasant barbarians. The younger lady has we believe by this time
immortalized them and the ruins on canvas, and we hope with supreme
effect, for we planted the fair artist on a high pinnacle of the Temple
from which the _coup d’oeil_ was magnificent.

Footnote 1:

  Since writing the above we hear that the Porte are about to grant a
  firman to make a railway from Ismid to Bagdad.

Soon after, we see another instance of the inconvenience of having a
guide whose language is unintelligible. On our way to Beyrût we meet a
man and his horse at cross purposes, endeavouring in vain to find out
the reason from his Arab guide. He appeals to us; “Well,” we say, “you
and your horse certainly do not appear to be friends.” “No,” the
traveller replies, “he does not understand me, and I do not understand
my guide, who only speaks Arabic; my horse is a brute.” “Not so, my
friend,” we rejoin, “you are riding him with an Arab bridle in English
fashion.” He was, in fact, unknowingly the greater brute of the two, for
he was torturing the poor beast, and the injured animal might, if he had
been so gifted as the Scriptural ass, have appropriately replied, “Tu
quoque _brute_.” The Arab bit is in the shape of a gridiron (minus
interior bars), a ring hangs from the flat broad end of it, in which the
lower jaw of the animal is placed the handle of the gridiron is in the
mouth, and by a pull of the reins is forced up into the roof of the
mouth, causing considerable pain; the reins are bunched in the hand, and
the animal is guided by laying the left rein across the neck when
wishing to go to the right, and _vice versâ_. Pulling the rein English
fashion would simply hurt and puzzle the animal. We explain the process
and leave the man and his beast better friends; they now understand each
other. (How many of us would also like each other better if we were less
impatient, and took more trouble to understand). Horse and rider now go
on their way as reconciled to one another as Balaam to the ass after the
departure of the Angel.


  _A Street called “Straight,” Damascus._



                          CHAPTER VI.—BAALBEC.


BAALBEC, more correctly, we believe, Baalbak, is situated about
forty-five miles north of Damascus but slightly to the west, on the
lowest slope of Anti-Lebanon, near the source of the Leontes or Litany.
The Litany and Orontes rivers rise six miles west from Baalbec within
one mile of each other. The Litany runs west down the Bukâa or
Cœlesyria, and falls into the sea between Sidon and Beyrût. The Orontes,
El Asi or rebellious river, so called because it changes its course in a
remarkable manner, flows north and falls into the Gulf of Antioch.
Baalbec is the point where the great roads from Damascus, Tyre, Beyrût
and Tripoli converge, hence probably its great ancient importance, and
it was also the entrance gate to Padan Aram or Upper Syria where Terah
lived, whence Abram emigrated and whither Jacob went to seek a wife
among the daughters of his uncle Laban, who was also his cousin and
subsequently his father-in-law, a very mixed up series of relationships;
even more puzzling than that which befell the proverbial American who
married his stepmother’s mother, and was driven to despair, insanity and
death, because he never could make out what relation he was to himself.

The ancient city of Baalbec must have been between two and three miles
in circumference. Some learned writers attribute its foundation to
Solomon, arguing that the colossal stones used in the substructure, of
which we will speak more in detail hereafter, are similar in size and
bevel to those in the temple foundations at Jerusalem. They identify it
with Baalath, which Solomon is recorded in I. Kings, IX., to have built
at the same time as Tadmor (by them supposed to be Palmyra), in the
wilderness. Now it must be noted that Solomon lost Damascus to the
Syrians, which David his father had taken from them. It is not likely
that having so lost Damascus, he held Baalbec to the north of it, and
built Palmyra six days journey in the desert beyond it, neither would he
if he dominated the cedar country have troubled Hiram to send him cedars
for the Temple. We may also observe that Baalaath and Tadmor are
described as being built along with Gezer, Megiddo, and other cities in
the land, _i.e._, Solomon’s own land of Israel, where these last cities
undoubtedly were, in the plain of Esdraelon, &c. Baalaath is more likely
to have been Banias, and as for Tadmor, the city of palms, there are
plenty of palm trees and wildernesses in Palestine without locating
Tadmor in the great Syrian desert, then held by the hostile kings of
Syria; and further, we are informed that Solomon gave Hiram, king of
Phœnician Tyre, certain Galilean cities which he named “Cabul,” Solomon
could surely have much better spared, if he had had them to give,
Baalbec and Phœnician cities, further beyond his base of operations, but
equally conveniently situated for Hiram and much more acceptable to him.
Baalbec was probably a Hittite fortress anterior to the time of Hiram,
who however might have added to it. The similarity of some of the stones
to those in Jerusalem is easily explained by the historical fact that
Solomon employed Hiram’s Phœnician workmen to prepare the Temple
materials, the woodwork of which was undoubtedly, and the stonework
perhaps too, obtained from the Anti-Lebanon mountains of Tyre, and
floated down along the coast on rafts to Joppa. But we will now visit
the celebrated ruins, the grandest probably in the world, only
approached in sublimity of position, but not equalled by those on the
Acropolis at Athens. We first see just outside the village a beautiful
little Temple of Venus, called by the natives Barbara el Ahkah, quite a
gem of architecture, semicircular in shape, the architraves, cornices,
&c., richly ornamented with the fair goddess, doves, and flowers. It has
a peristyle of eight Corinthian columns, each made of a monolith. It was
last used as a Greek church, to which era the trace of frescoes still
remaining must be attributed. Near by are the remains of a large mosque,
which looks very like having been built from the ruins of Constantine’s
basilica and other temples previously existing—the capitals and columns
being terribly mixed up, one or other being always too large or too
small. Some of the porphyry pillars must have been very fine.

THE GREAT TRILITHON TEMPLE, the Acropolis of Baalbec, and its massive,
mighty ruins are now before us—they have been so often pictured by the
painter that their external appearance must be familiar to many. We
enter from the east, where once was the principal entrance, a noble
flight of steps ascending to a colonnade supported by twelve mighty
columns. This grand approach was destroyed by the Turks when they
converted the Acropolis into a fortress. Passing under this, through a
portico, we find ourselves in a long lofty corridor, richly ornamented;
facing us are three large doors, the centre, 23 feet wide, brings us
into an outer court of hexagonal form about 190 feet long and 240 wide;
three gates again from this leading to the grand court, about 440 feet
long and 370 wide; on the north and south sides are vast somewhat
semicircular alcoves, with three Exedrae, rectangular recesses on each
side with arched roofs, but open to the central court; these are
elaborately decorated with niches, Corinthian pillars, shrines, &c., the
various designs of ornament on the latter scrolls, birds, flowers, &c.,
being very beautiful and still in fine preservation, so numerous and
varied that it has been said that it would take an artist a lifetime to
copy them in detail. This court leads us up to what was once the great
Temple, at first dedicated to Baal and then to all the gods, so as not
to offend any. The only remains of this Temple are six magnificent
columns of the peristyle, each 60 feet high and 7½ feet in diameter;
they are visible at a great distance in the plain below, and have a very
grand impressive effect, especially when seen from below at a distance
standing out boldly in an evening sky.


  BAALBEC—_General View of Ruins._

This temple was probably about three hundred feet long, and stood upon
the old Phœnician foundation, built of Cyclopean masses of stone, many
of which are thirty feet long and ten feet thick; but there are three
stones (which gave the name of Trilithon to the Temple) each over sixty
feet long, thirteen feet high, and as many thick. How they could have
been carried from the quarry, and raised to the height they now occupy,
it is difficult to explain, unless they were hauled up great inclined
planes of earth which were afterwards carted away, as represented in the
bas reliefs of Birs Nimroud. To the left of the great Temple, on a
somewhat lower level, having formerly an approach of its own from the
plain, probably a noble flight of steps, is the Temple of the Sun (by
some called that of Jupiter), one of the best preserved and finest ruins
in the world; the ornamentation somewhat florid, but very beautiful and
varied. It was surrounded by forty-six columns, about sixty-five feet
high and six feet in diameter; the portico, twenty-five feet deep, was
supported by a double row of columns; the door itself was forty-two feet
high and twenty-one broad, and on each side of it were lofty hollow
pillars containing spiral staircases leading to the roof. The cornices
are rich in design and elaborate in execution, the Cella or interior is
in fair preservation, and at the end of it is a raised platform where
the altar stood. Underneath the altar was a vault whence concealed
priests sent up Delphic responses to unsuspecting votaries who imagined
that they were listening to the voice of inspiration. The symbol of the
Syrian Eagle, sacred to the Sun as the bird which flies highest and is
supposed to be able to look at the Sun unflinchingly, predominates
everywhere about these ruins. The temple area is undermined by vast
vaulted corridors, now used as approaches in the same way as the Temple
platform at Jerusalem. The emperors Constantine and Theodosius converted
the great Temple into a Basilica; at the Moslem conquest it was used as
a fortress. When some five hundred years later the tide turned again in
favour of Christianity, it was converted back by the Crusaders into a
church, and when the Saracens under Saladin wrested it from them, it
became again a fortress, and it probably remained so until its final
decay in about the 15th century, when it was destroyed by Tamerlane the
Tartar when he raided through Syria. While at Baalbec, we witness an
extraordinary hailstorm, the stones being larger than pigeons’
eggs—almost as large as a walnut; very pretty elliptical in shape, the
centre about the size of a large pea was cloudy ice, then a large,
clear, crystal-looking ring, the outer ring again cloudy ice. The storm
lasts about an hour, and the stones do not melt for some time; it is
accompanied by a sharp thunderstorm. We now bid farewell to Baalbec, and
wend our way across the plain of the Bukâa, bound for Beyrût.

The BUKÂA, supposed to be the Bikath Aven of the Hebrews (_Amos_ i, 5),
is a long plain extending about one hundred miles between the Lebanon
and the Anti-Lebanon mountains, leading down to the Jordan valley, and
the Mediterranean. It was anciently called Cœlesyria or Hollow Syria,
and was the natural highway of the invading armies of Egypt, Persia,
Assyria, &c., from all time. It is mentioned in the Bible as the
“entering in of Hamath,” but was only for a short time in the possession
of the Kings of Israel. Along this plain commander Cameron projected a
railway between Damascus, _viâ_ Baalbec, Homs, Hamah and Aleppo
northwards, with a branch from Homs to Tripoli westwards, and to
Jerusalem along the western side of the Jordan valley—all possible
enough to make, but scarcely probable to pay. The railway was to be
commenced at Tripoli, taking a détour to Damascus to avoid the
mountains. This enterprising project was to embrace, eventually, a
Euphrates valley line to Bombay, _viâ_ the Persian Gulf, and to Northern
India, _viâ_ Persia and Afghanistan, and the system was to be connected
with Constantinople by a line through Asia Minor, _viâ_ Diarbekir to
Ismid, where it would join the railway to Scutari and the Bosphorus,
opposite Stamboul. It is a pretty project on paper, a magnificent
prophecy of the future, and we hope that commander Cameron will live to
see his great scheme a paying reality. Soon after leaving Baalbec we
come across an isolated ruin, the shrine of some Moslem saint reared
evidently out of the ruins of the Acropolis.


  BEYRÛT—_and The Lebanon_.

THE BUKÂA plain is fertile, but the absence of trees renders a journey
through it rather monotonous for some hours. We lunch at a small Arab
Khan, and passing several villages reach at length that of Kerak Nûh,
where we are shown the tomb of Noah, one hundred feet long, eight feet
wide and three deep, very like a length of an ancient aqueduct, so this
ante and post diluvian patriarch must have been slightly out of
proportion. How he was accommodated in his own ark, which was smaller
than the Great Eastern, only about fifty feet high, and then divided
into three decks, my Moslem guide did not inform me. Noah’s ark,
by-the-bye, is said to have been built at Jaffa, where we first entered
the Holy Land. The next largest ship of ancient times spoken of by
Lucian is that of Ptolemy Philadelphus, and was probably about 1,100
tonnage—it seems however soon to have come to grief. According to Moslem
tradition, Hezekiah is said to be buried near Noah. We next pass through
MULAKA, a prosperous Moslem town, full of Manchester prints, which is
almost joined to ZAHLEH, a large Maronite Christian town on the frontier
of the Lebanon; it is a manufacturing town, finely situated at the
entrance of the Sannin gorge, in an amphitheatre of high mountains; it
was the headquarters of the Druses during the 1860 massacres. We now
ride through many miles of vineyards and mulberry trees to Shtôra, the
principal station on the Damascus diligence road, and put up for the
night at the little inn there. Our last day’s ride is to Beyrût, about
nine hours along the diligence road over the Lebanon. We soon have to
take our last look at Hermon, the Baalbec plain and the Anti-Lebanon,
and ascending to the summit of the pass catch a first glimpse of the
sea. The Lebanon mountains here are nearly 7,000 feet high, and Beyrût
shrouded in pine forest, lies nestled at the foot of them on the low
coast line.




                    CHAPTER VII.—BEYRÛT TO BOULOGNE.


BEYRÛT, the ancient Berytus (within twelve hours sail of Cyprus and
about twenty-four of Port Said), has a considerable population, and is a
pleasant place to stay at, especially in the Winter time. It is
beautifully situated with the Lebanon range in the background, and
boasts two fair hotels and many good bazaars. The fruit of Paradise—the
banana—is plentiful, and considered finer and sweeter than that of any
other region of Syria. The mountains above the town are favourite health
resorts and are associated in our mind with the late Gordon Pasha, who
consulted us as to visiting Syria after his return from the Cape. We
discussed Syria over a pipe, and in the end the General expressed his
intention of resting there. He went shortly after, but his noble
restless nature could not rest in retirement. He unfortunately remained
there only a short time, coming back to undertake the romantic mission
to the Soudan, where, to the lasting disgrace of the Liberal Government
which sent him on a mad mission and then deserted him (only sending a
relieving force when too late), he nobly ended a noble life.



CYPRUS, by-the-bye, is easily visited from Beyrût; we made the journey
some years ago, about the time that Sir Garnet Wolsely took possession
of the island. Without the English and Indian troops who were then there
we should not think Larnaca a very lively place, but the Island, as a
whole, is a very valuable possession, the gem of the Mediterranean, and
has a climate and soil which would produce almost anything. It is a pity
that our Government does not develope its resources and pay the Turk a
lump sum and get rid of this phantom suzerainty—as a crown colony like
Ceylon it would be much more prosperous. We think that if the island
were properly explored some very interesting archæological discoveries
would be made, as from its position it must have been a house of call
for all the great civilised nations of antiquity. The Egyptian,
Assyrian, Tyrian, and Roman galleys must all at some time or other have
sought shelter in its harbours and occupied its towns.

We now bid adieu to Beyrût, with its cedar clad hills, its orange, lemon
and banana groves, its curious bazaars, its bustling lanes and its busy
quays, and embark on board an Austrian steamer for Port Said, where we
find the Peninsula and Oriental Southampton steamer, _Venetia_, which
lands us at MALTA, off which interesting island we see a remarkable
sight—five waterspouts in a row in full swing; they are very fortunately
a long distance off. After a day’s rest there we cross over to Sicily,
to SYRACUSE, still infamous for deeds of blood, as of old, and
celebrated for its ruined theatre, where Æschylus, before 20,000
sympathetic listeners, was wont to recite his immortal tragedies. Here
also is the rock-hewn “Ear of Dionysius,” where a penny popgun goes off
with the report of a pistol. It was visited by St. Paul on his way from
Malta to Rome. Arriving before dawn, we are glad to get a little loaf of
bread for breakfast, and find it well worthy of the lovely island of
Ceres, moist and wholesome, so that we can comfortably swallow it
without the coffee we cannot get. We next come to Catania, famous for
its sulphur and nitre mines, the starting point for the ascent of Etna;
and then pass the Scagli-de-Cyclopi—the rocks flung fruitlessly at
Ulysses by the once one-eyed, but then blind cannibal giant Polyphemus,
who, however, took better aim at the unlucky lover of Galatea, whose
blood still poetically flows in the little river in memory of him, the
Acis which we soon after pass, and then we come to that beautiful
Sicilian Ehrenbreitstein Taormina.

TAORMINA, the ancient Tauromenium, is but little known to the ordinary
Italian tourist; but it is rich in ancient remains. Its ruined theatre
was one of the largest in the world. It began its history by
successfully resisting the Syracusan tyrant, Dionysius, and for 1,400
years was an important town until destroyed by the Saracens. It is now
little more than a large village, but its situation is magnificent,
scarcely to be equalled in the world. Soon after leaving Taormina, we
find ourselves at Messina, where we embark on an Italian steamer for
Naples, whence the train takes us to Rome, Florence and Turin, and
through the Mount Cenis tunnel to Paris, Boulogne and home.


  _The Cedars of Lebanon._





The BEDAWEEN are rough but picturesque looking fellows, armed often with
very long lances, spear at one end, spike to stick in the ground at the
other, some such kind of weapon as that with which Abner killed Asahel,
whom he smote with the _hinder_-part of the spear while being pursued;
long guns with a short range, antique pistols and knives stuck into the
girdle, making up a formidable looking martial equipment. Their horses
are small, but swift and hardy. They live in tents still as in days of
yore, as black as those of Kedar; are robbers by trade, but not
naturally cruel, and they do not care to kill unless resistance is made.
They rarely attack unless pretty sure of being able to overpower, and
when on mere robbery bent, generally go about in small bands of three
and four, keeping close together. If the travellers keep also close
together they will probably get the worst of it, as the Bedaween are
quick in attack, and seizing the reins, unhorse the rider in an instant.
They seldom leave the traveller with more than one garment, and of
course take the horses too. They do not attack large parties like Cook’s
caravans. As we have only one guide with us, we have to keep a very
sharp look-out in dangerous districts, travelling with about the
distance of a pistol shot between us, so that if one is attacked, the
other may have time to draw a revolver, which Bedaween will seldom face,
as their game is to rob defenceless travellers, and not to risk their
own lives. Three of them, mounted, dodged myself and dragoman for some
time on the open plains of Esdraelon, and doubled upon us, but seeing
that we were on the alert and not to be surprised, at last to our great
relief left us. It is only the small bands that need be feared. A tribe
on the march or in camp in Syria would never touch a traveller, as it
would soon be known what tribe was near at the time, and vengeance would
follow, as they cannot move _en masse_ quickly, and for this reason
(even in unsafe districts) it is safer in the neighbourhood of their
camps than far from them. If two Bedaween of different tribes are coming
in opposite directions in a lonely district, they will not meet face to
face, but one goes to the right and the other in the contrary direction,
in order that one shall not get behind the other, for if there were a
blood feud between the tribes, and either could murder the other without
risk, it would surely be done. They are so afraid of being taken
unawares, that if two travellers were to meet three Bedaween, and one
were to go straight up the road, and the other off the road to one side
so as to get in their rear, they would not attack the traveller left
alone. We know a case in which a party of three (with only one gun
between them) escaped in this manner. They are nominally subject to the
Sultan, but his tax gatherer does not trouble them much. They have a
nasty knack of reaping what others have sown, swooping down from a
distance in the middle of the night and clearing away before morning
with half the harvest of a village—not very difficult to do when it is
lying in heaps on the threshing floor ready for market.


                             THE FELLAHEEN.

The FELLAHEEN, or aboriginal peasants, mostly of Philistine or Phœnician
descent, fear the Bedaween as much as the passing traveller does. They
frequently carry for defence either a rather artistic looking kind of
battle-axe (probably a remnant of Crusader times), a knob-stick
something like a Zulu war-club, or a rusty old musket and knife—they
sometimes do a bit of pillage and murder on their own account; one
unfortunately occurred while we were in the country, and a young friend
of ours was cruelly murdered by them a few years ago near Nazareth in an
oak forest we had recently passed through. His murderers were discovered
and thrown into prison and kept there without trial, and their
non-execution created an impression here that to murder an Englishman is
the same as to murder a native, and simply to pay as blood-money a part
of the plunder back if the crime is found out. It may interest our
readers to know how capital punishment is carried out in this country.
First of all the public crier cries, “Who will behead so-and-so for
(say) five napoleons?” Some poor needy wretch undertakes the horrid
office. On one occasion the man, an amateur, lost his nerve, and
butchered his victim; we will not relate the circumstances. Before the
execution takes place, the chief officer at the execution cries out,
“Who will buy this man’s soul?” and an auction goes on for it. If a
sufficient sum of money is bid to satisfy the murdered man’s relations
(and they generally will accept blood-money in satisfaction), then the
culprit is not executed, but sent to prison nominally for life; but he
generally gets out after ten or fifteen years. At Jerusalem, criminals
are generally executed outside the Jaffa Gate, where probably, and not
on the site of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, our Saviour was
crucified. In the case of Arabs, especially, it is usual to carry them
to the place of execution on a donkey—a high born Bedawi thinking it the
greatest disgrace to ride that homely and patient animal which he
generally keeps for the women and children. Recently a Bedawi brigand
was executed outside Jerusalem, he was a villain, but a plucky fellow;
his last words were “Loose my hands and give me a sword, and with all
your guards I will not be hung to-day.” He was given the rope; he placed
one end round his neck and tied the other to a tree, stood on the
donkey, kicked it aside and was his own executioner. This soul was put
up for auction, but there was not a bid; not even the most merciful
Mahommedan could make an offer for the life of a man who had sent so
many souls to death without even offering them at auction. As if the
country were not unsafe enough, the Sublime Porte banished to Palestine
some time since, thousands of the Circassian cut-throats, who committed
the Bulgarian atrocities. A few nice tales could be told about them—they
are likely however to die out, as the natives are against them, and they
do not all die natural deaths, but often meet the fate they are so ready
to deal out to others.

A few remarks about the general tenure of land in Palestine may be
interesting. It is somewhat similar to the ancient land settlement of
England before the days of feudal tenure. Each village has so much
pasture, tillage or woodland belonging to it as common property; this is
year by year allotted to individual heads of families, in quantity
according to the number of the family. The allotments are divided from
each other only by rows or heaps of stones, which, as they can be easily
moved, explains the reason of the Levitical curse against him who
removed his neighbour’s land mark. The land is not of course highly
cultivated, as the tenure of it is so uncertain, no tenant being
absolutely sure of the same land the next year. Tithes are taken by the
government, the tax gatherers come down at harvest time, when the grain
is heaped upon the threshing floor, and seize what they consider their
share of the produce. A similar summary procedure is adopted with the
flocks and herds of sheep, camels and goats. A communistic land tenure
is not here at least an unmixed blessing; but it is not altogether
unsuitable for a primitive and not very settled people.



And now a word for the followers of the prophet. We can learn at least
one lesson from the Mahometan, he is not ashamed of his religious faith;
he is not ashamed to be seen reading his Bible or saying his prayers,
even during business hours in his bureau—like alas! too many good
Christians are. Mahomet is better obeyed by a Mahometan, even the most
ragged one, than Christ is by many a highly respectable Christian. We
may mention here that Christ is venerated by the Mahometans, who believe
as we do that He will judge the world at the last day. This judgment
according to them is to take place outside Jerusalem. A thin rope will
be stretched from the minaret of the Temple Mosque on Mount Moriah to
the Mount of Olives opposite. All will have to cross on this tight rope.
The righteous will accomplish the journey in safety; but the wicked will
fall off into the Valley of Hinnom below. Mahomet, originally a heathen
idolater, made up his religion from the Christian and Jewish sacred
books, grafting it upon the old heathen customs, in the same way as did
many of the Roman church missionaries in the dark ages, when they mixed
up Christianity with Paganism, and allowed their converts to retain
their idol images, only re-christening Jupiter St. Peter, Juno and Luna
Diana, Lady Mary, &c., throwing in the Saints as minor deities.

We now conclude the account of our “RIDE THROUGH SYRIA.” We have shown,
we think, that it is not a very difficult matter now-a-days to make a
pilgrimage to the once distant Holy Land and be back again to work in a
few weeks within the compass, in fact, of an ordinary vacation. Taken as
a temporary change of scene only, it is a glorious one, but looked at in
a more serious light, it is a tour never to be forgotten, and affords
food for reflection for the whole of an after lifetime. The Bible
henceforth becomes a more and more interesting book as we learn better
to understand it. We can follow the footsteps of Christ with rather more
than the eye of faith after we have trod the very paths He trod, sailed
on the lake waters over which He walked, and climbed up the mountain
from which He ascended into Heaven. We journeyed alone with a dragoman
without tents, putting up at the peasants’ huts and monasteries, and so
saw the inner life of the country, but anyone wanting to travel
luxuriously in the Holy Land had better take tents and avoid all trouble
or risk by confiding himself to the fatherly care of tourist agents like
Cook and Gaze, whose arrangements appear to be as perfect as possible.
We hope in a future volume to give an account of our travels in Asia
Minor to the sites of “THE SEVEN CHURCHES OF ASIA.”






 Abana, or Barada, 27, 32, 37, 41

 Abel’s Tomb and Abila, 38

 Abner and Asahel, 55

 Abraham, 41, 45

 Acis and Galatea, 54

 Anti-Lebanon, 36, 42

 Arabi, 20

 Arabian Nights, 20

 Baal, 15, 24

 Baalbec, 42, 45

 Baalath, 46

 Baal-Gad, 20, 42

 Banias (Baalath), 16, 46

 Barak, 7, 13

 Bedaween, 5, 55

 Bethsaida and the Lake Cities, 11

 Beyrût (Berytus), 52

 Bludàn, 41

 Bukâa, or Cœlesyria, 42, 45, 49

 Cæsarea Philippi (Banias), 16

 Cana of Galilee, 8

 Cain, 38

 Calfolatry, 15, 21

 Capernaum, 10

 Carmel, 7, 9, 25, 38

 Cyprus, 52

 Damascus, 28 to 35, 44

 Dan, 15

 Druses, 15, 19, 21, 23, 39

 Eden, Garden of, 41

 Elijah, 7, 38

 Esdraelon, Plain of, 7

 Eve, 41

 Fellaheen, 57

 General Gordon, 52

 Hasbêya, (Baa-lgad), 19

 Hermon, 23

 Hibberiyeh, 18

 Hiram of Tyre, 46

 Hunin (Beth-rehob), 14

 Jaffa, or Joppa, 5

 Jordan, 14, 15, 16, 21

 Kenites and Kedes, 7, 13

 Land Tenure, 58

 Mahometans, 59

 Maronites, 38

 Merom, Waters of (Lake Huleh), 12, 13, 21

 Naaman the Syrian, 33

 Naples, 4

 Napoleon, 8, 9

 Noah, 36, 50

 Overland Route, 42, 50

 Palmyra, 46

 Pharpar and Abana, 27, 28, 32

 Phœnicians, 18

 Rasheya, 22

 Saracens and Saladin, 6, 7, 8, 32, 49

 Safed, the City on a Hill, 10, 12

 Seth, 42

 Sharon, Plain of, 6

 Shenir and Sirion (Hermon), 24

 Sisera, 7, 12

 Solomon, 46

 St. Paul, 18, 33, 53

 Street called Straight, 32, 44

 Syracuse, 53

 Taormina, 54

 The Transfiguration, 26

 Tiberias, 9, 10, 26

 Trilithon Temple (Baalbec), 47

 Wine Press, 41

 Zahleh, 57

 Zebedâni, 38, 39


                              A CATALOGUE


                   Some  ⸫ Old  ⸫ Books  ⸫ Published

                                —AT THE—



THE DEVOUT CHRISTIAN’S COMPANION, BY _Archbishop Tillotson, Bishop Kenn,
&c._ 1709


THEOPHRASTUS, from the Greek—_M de la Bruyère_ 1709















FLAVIUS JOSEPHUS—_Translated by Sir Roger L’Estrange_ 1709


A GENERAL HISTORY OF ALL VOYAGES, from the French of _M. de Perrier_,


 ● Transcriber’s Notes:
    ○ Missing or obscured punctuation was silently corrected.
    ○ Typographical errors were silently corrected.
    ○ Inconsistent spelling and hyphenation were made consistent only
      when a predominant form was found in this book.
    ○ Text that was in italics is enclosed by underscores (_italics_).

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