Travels in Syria and the Holy Land, by John Lewis Burckhardt

Appendix No. V.

A Route to the eastward of the Castle El Hassa.

FROM Kalaat el Hassa, towards E.S.E. continues the already mentioned Wady el Hassa. Passing the Tel Esshehak, two days journey from it, you meet with a great number of Tels, in the midst of which there is a well of good spring water called Byr Bair (ﺑﺎﻳﺮ ﺑﻴﺮ); near it is a tombstone, said to be the burial place of the son of Sultan Hassan. From Bair eastwards the Wady and its vicinity are called the district of Hudrush (ﻫُﺪﺭُﺵ ﺩﻳﺮﺓ); it is without water, with the exception of the rain water which collects in the low grounds. The Hudrush extends for two days, as far as the country called Ettebig (ﺍﻟﺘﺒﻴﻚ). From the beginning of Hudrush the Wady makes a bend to the N. and describing a half circle, again returns in the Tebig to its original direction. To the N. from Hudrush and Tebig the plain takes the name of Szauan (ﺻﻮﺍﻥ), (i.e. flint) and extends for two days till it borders upon the Wady Serhhan. The plain Szauan is covered so thickly with small black flints, that the Arabs, whenever they are about to light a fire there, cover the ground with earth, which they carry with them, in order to prevent the splinters of the flint heated by the fire, from flying about and hurting them. There is but one spring in the Szauan: it is about two hours from Wady Serhhan, and at the same distance from Hudrush and Tebig, and is called Byr Naam el aatta Allah (ﷲ ﺍﻟﻌﻄﺎ ﻧﻌﻢ ﺑﻴﺮ), in honour of a Christian travelling merchant, who about sixty years ago lying upon the flint, heard the noise of the water under his head, and thus discovered the spring. On the western side of the Szauan, nearer to the Wady Serhhan than to the Hudrush, is a castle called Kaszr Amera (ﻋﻤﺮﺍ ﻗﺼﺮ), and at a quarter of an hour from it, on the foot of a hill, the ruins of a village. Between the Kaszr and the village is a low ground where the rain water collects, and forms a small lake in winter half an hour in length. Before the castle is a well more than thirty feet deep, walled in by large stones, but without water. Over the well are four white marble columns, which support a vaulted roof or Kubbe, such as are often seen at wells in these countries. The castle is built of white square stones, which seem not to have been cemented together. Its dimensions are thirty-six or forty feet from W. to E. and twenty-five from S. to N. The entrance door, which is only about three feet high, is on the S. side, and leads into an apartment half the size of the whole building. In the middle of the western wall of this apartment is another door, as low as the former, leading to a second apartment of the same size as the former, except that one corner is partitioned off to form a third chamber. Each of the two latter have a window in the western wall. The roof of the apartments are vaulted below, and flat above. The walls which divide the apartments are two yards in thickness; in the two first rooms there is a stone pavement, in the small room the Arabs have taken up the pavement to dig for treasures; but they found nothing underneath, except small pieces of planks and some rusty iron. The ceiling of all the three apartments is chalked over, and looks quite new. In the small room it is painted all over with serpents, hares, gazelles, mares, and birds; there are neither human figures nor trees amongst the paintings. The colour of the paintings is red, green, and yellow, and they look as bright and well preserved, as if they had been done a short time ago. There are no kinds of niches, bas-reliefs, or inscriptions in the walls.

From Hudrush branches out a Wady towards Wady Serhhan, called Chadef (ﻏﺪﻑ ﻭﺍﺩﻱ). Four days beyond Tebig you arrive at a Byr called El Sheben or Szefan (ﻭﺍﻟﺼﻔﺎﻥ ﺍﻟﺸﺒﻦ), situated upon a small ascent. According to my informant the Byr is two hundred yards in depth. To the north of that well the desert is called Beseita (ﺑﺴﻴﻄﻪ). For two days farther the earth is covered to the depth of six inches with small black gray stones, looking like flints. The plant Samah (ﺳﻤﺢ) grows there, which is collected by the people of Djof. From the end of the Beseita to the Djof is one day’s journey farther, and the Beseita ends in the Dhahi.

All the Arabs along this road from El Hassa, are Sherarat, the Aeneze do not come this way.

Between Tebig, Szauan, Hudrush, and to the S. of these places, are a quantity of wild asses, which the Arabs Sherarat hunt, and eat (secretly). Their skins and hoofs are sold to the wandering Christian pedlars, and in the towns of Syria. Of the hoofs rings are made, which the Fellahs of eastern Syria wear on the thumb, or tied with a thread round the arm-pit, to prevent, or to heal rheumatic complaints. I may here make a general remark that there is an infinity of names of places in the desert. Every Tel, every declivity, or elevation in a Wady, every extent of plain ground, where a particular herb grows, has its name, well known to the Arabs. The Khabera (ﺧَﺒَﺮﻩ), or places where the rain.water collects in, winter. time, are generally distinguished by the name of some well known Sheikh who once pitched his tent near them; as Khabera Ibn Ghebein (ﻏﺒﻴﻦ ﺍﺑﻦ),the watering places of Ibn Ghebein.

The side of a Wady where the Arab descends is called by him Hadhera (ﺣﺎﺿﺮﻩ), the opposite side, where he re-ascends Sende (ﺳَﻨﺪﻩ).

A Ghadir (ﻏﺪﻳﺮ) is distinguished from a Wady, the two sides of the latter are hills which rise above the surface of the adjacent plain; the Ghadir on the contrary is only a hollow in the plain. The Wady is seen from afar, the Ghadir only on arriving near the descent.

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