November 8th. - ON returning from the preceding tour, I was detained at Damascus for more than a fortnight by indisposition. As soon as I had recovered my health I began to prepare for a journey into the plain of the Haouran, and the mountains of the Druses of the Haouran, a country which, as well from the reports of natives, as from what I heard that Mr. Seetzen had said of it, on his return from visiting a part of it four years ago, I had reason to think was in many respects highly interesting. I requested of the Pasha the favour of a Bouyourdi, or general passport to his officers in the Haouran, which he readily granted, and on receiving it I found that I was recommended in very strong terms. Knowing that there were many Christians, chiefly of the Greek church, I thought it might be equally useful to procure from the Greek Patriarch of Damascus, with whom I was well acquainted, a letter to his flock in the Haouran. On communicating my wishes, he caused a circular letter to be written to all the priest, which I found of greater greater weight among the Greeks than the Bouyourdi was among the Turks.
Being thus furnished with what I considered most necessary, I assumed the dress of the Haouran people, with a Keffie, and a large sheep-skin over my shoulders: in my saddle bag I put one spare shirt, one pound of coffee beans, two pounds of tobacco, and a day’s provender of barley for my horse. I then joined a few Felahs of Ezra, of one of whom I hired an ass, though I had nothing to load it with but my small saddle-bag; but I knew this to be the best method of recommending myself to the protection of my fellow travellers; as the owner of the ass necessarily becomes the companion and protector of him who hires it. Had I offered to pay him before setting out merely for his company on the way, he would have asked triple the sum I gave him, without my deriving the smallest advantage from this increase, while he would have considered my conduct as extraordinary and suspicious. In my girdle I had eighty piastres, (about £4. sterling) and a few more in my pocket, together with a watch, a compass, a journal book, a pencil, a knife, and a tobacco purse. The coffee I knew would be very acceptable in the houses where I might alight; and throughout the journey I was enabled to treat all the company present with coffee.
My companions intending to leave Damascus very early the next morning, I quitted my lodgings in the evening, and went with them to sleep in a small Khan in the suburb of Damascus, at which the Haouaerne, or people of Haouran, generally alight.
November 9th. - We departed through this gate of the Meidhan, three hours before sun-rise, and took the road by which the Hadj annually commences its laborious journey; this gate is called Bab Ullah, the Gate of God, but might, with more propriety benamed Bab-el-Maut, the Gate of Death; for scarcely a third ever returns of those whom a devout adherence to their religion, or the hope of gain impel to this journey. The approach to Damascus on this side is very grand: being formed by a road above one hundred and fifty paces broad, which is bordered on each side by a grove of olive trees, and continues in a straight line for upwards of an hour. A quarter of an hour from Bab Ullah, to the left, stands a mosque with a Kiosk, called Kubbet el Hadj, where the Pasha who conducts the Hadj passes the first night of his journey, which is invariably the fifteenth of the month Shauwal. On the other side of the road, and opposite to it, lies the village El Kadem (the foot), where Mohammed is said to have stopped, without entering Damascus, when coming from Mekka. Half an hour farther is a bridge over a small rivulet: to the left are the villages Zebeine and Zebeinat; to the right the village Deir raye. In another half hour we came to a slight ascent, called Mefakhar; at its foot is a bridge over the rivulet El Berde; to the right is the village El Sherafie: to the left, parallel with the road, extends a stony district called War-ed-djamous (ﺱﻭﻤﺎﺟﻠﺍ ﺭﻋﻮ) the Buffaloes War, War being an appellation given to all stony soils whether upon plains or mountains. Here the ground is very uneven; in traversing it we passed the Megharat el Haramje (ﺔﻳﻣﺭﺤﻠﺍ ﺓﺮﺎﻐﻣ) or Thief’s Cavern, the nightly refuge of disorderly persons. On the other side of the War is a descent called Ard Shoket el Haik, which leads into the plain, and in half an hour to the village El Kessoue; distant from Damascus three hours and a quarter in a S.S.E. direction. El Kessoue is a considerable village, situated on the river Aawadj (ﺝﻭﻋﺍ), or the crooked, which flows from the neighbourhood of Hasbeya, and waters the plain of Djolan; in front of the village a well paved bridge crosses the river, on each side of which, to the W. and E. appears a chain of low mountains; those to the east are called Djebel Manai (ﻉﻧﺎﻤ ﻝﺒﺠ), and contain large caverns; the summits of the two chains nearest the village are called by a collective name Mettall el Kessoue (ﺓﻭﺳﻘ ﻝﻁﻣ). I stopped for half an hour at Kessoue, at a coffee house by the road side. The village has a small castle, or fortified building, over the bridge.
From Kessoue a slight ascent leads up to a vast plain, called Ard Khiara, from a village named Khiara. In three quarters of an hour from Kessoue we reached Khan Danoun, a ruined building. Here, or at Kessoue, the pilgrim caravan passes the second night. Near Khan Danoun, a rivulet flows to the left. This Khan, which is now in ruins, was built in the usual style of all the large Khans in this country: consisting of an open square, surrounded with arcades, beneath which are small apartments for the accommodation of travellers; the beasts occupy the open square in the centre. From Khan Danoun the road continues over the plain, where few cultivated spots appear, for two hours and a quarter; we then reached a Tel, or high hill, the highest summit of the Djebel Khiara, a low mountain chain which commences here, and runs in a direction parallel with the Djebel Manai for about twenty miles. The mountains Khiara and Manai are sometimes comprised under the name of Djebel Kessoue, and so I find them laid down in D’Anville’s map. The summit of Djebel Khiara is called Soubbet Faraoun. From thence begins a stony district, which extends to the village Ghabarib (ﺏﺮﺎﺒﻏ), one hour and a quarter from the Soubbet. Upon a hill to the W. of the road, stands a small building crowned with a cupola, to which the Turks resort, from a persuasion that the prayers there offered up are peculiarly acceptable to the deity. This building is called Meziar Eliasha (ﻊﺷﻳﻠﺍ ﺭﺎﻳﺯﻣ), or the Meziar of Elisha. The Hadj route has been paved in several places for the distance of a hundred yards or more, in order to facilitate the passage of the pilgrims in years when the Hadj takes place during the rainy season.
Ghabarib has a ruined castle, and on the side of the road is a Birket or reservoir, with a copious spring. These cisterns are met with at every station on the Hadj route as far as Mekka; some of them are filled by rain water; others by small streams, which if they were not thus collected into one body would be absorbed in the earth, and could not possibly afford water for the thousands of camels which pass, nor for the filling of the water-skins.
At one hour beyond Ghabarib is the village Didy, to the left of the road: one hour from Didy, Es-szanamein (ﻥﻳﻣﻧﺻﻠﺍ), the Two Idols; the bearing of the road from Kessoue is S. b. E.1 Szanamein is a considerable village, with several ancient buildings and towers; but as my companions were unwilling to stop, I could not examine them closely. I expected to revisit them on my return to Damascus, but I subsequently preferred taking the route of the Loehf. I was informed afterwards that many Greek inscriptions are to be found at Szanamein.
From Szanamein the Hadj route continues in the same direction as before to Tafar and Mezerib; we left it and took a route more easterly. That which we had hitherto travelled being the high road from the Haouran to Damascus, is perfectly secure, and we met with numerous parties of peasants going to and from the city; but we had scarcely passed Szanamein when we were apprised by some Felahs that a troop of Arabs Serdie had been for several days past plundering the passengers and villages in the neighbourhood. Afraid of being surprised, my companions halted and sewed their purses up in a camel’s pack saddle; I followed their example. I was informed that these flying parties of Arabs very rarely drive away the cattle of the Haouran people, but are satisfied with stripping them of cash, or any new piece of dress which they may have purchased at Damascus, always however giving them a piece of old clothing of the same kind in return. The country from Szanamein to one hour’s distance along our road is stony, and is thence called War Szanamein. After passing it, we met some other Haouran people, whose reports concerning the Arabs so terrified my companions, that they resolved to give up their intention of reaching Ezra the same day, and proceeded to seek shelter in a neighbouring village, there to wait for fresh news. We turned off a little to our left, and alighted at a village called Tebne (ﺔﻧﺑﺗ), distant one hour and a half from Szanamein. We left our beasts in the court-yard of our host’s house, and went to sup with the Sheikh, a Druse, at whose house strangers are freely admitted to partake of a plate of Burgoul. Tebne stands upon a low hill, on the limits of the stony district called the Ledja, of which I shall have occasion to speak hereafter. The village has no water but what it derives from its cisterns, which were at this time nearly dry. It consists wholly of ancient habitations, built of stone, of a kind which I shall describe in speaking of Ezra.
November 10th. - We quitted Tebne early in the morning, and passing the villages Medjidel (ﻝﺪﻳﺟﻣ), Mehadjer (ﺭﺠﺣﻣ), Shekara (ﺓﺭﻗﺸ), and Keratha (ﺔﺛﺍﺭﻘ), all on the left of the route, arrived, at the end of three hours and a quarter, at Ezra (ﻉﺭﺯﺍ). Here commences the plain of the Haouran, which is interrupted by numerous insulated hills, on the declivities, or at the foot of which, most of the villages of the Haouran are seated. From Tebne the soil begins to be better cultivated, yet many parts of it are overgrown with weeds. On a hill opposite Manhadje, on the west side of the road, stands a Turkish Meziar, called Mekdad. In approaching Ezra we met a troop of about eighty of the Pasha’s cavalry; they had, the preceding night, surprised the abovementioned mentioned party of Arabs Serdie in the village of Walgha, and had killed Aerar, their chief, and six others, whose heads they were carrying with them in a sack. They had also taken thirty-one mares, of which the greater number were of the best Arabian breeds. Afraid of being pursued by the friends of the slain they were hastening back to Damascus, where, as I afterwards heard, the Pasha presented them with the captured mares, and distributed eight purses, or about £200. amongst them.
On reaching Ezra I went to the house of the Greek priest of the village, whom I had already seen at the Patriarch’s at Damascus, and with whom I had partly concerted my tour in the Haouran. He had been the conductor of M. Seetzen, and seemed to be very ready to attend me also, for a trifling daily allowance, which he stipulated. Ezra is one of the principal villages of the Haouran; it contains about one hundred and fifty Turkish and Druse families, and about fifty of Greek Christians. It lies within the precincts of the Ledja, at half an hour from the arable ground: it has no spring water, but numerous cisterns. Its inhabitants make cotton stuffs, and a great number of millstones, the blocks for forming which, are brought from the interior of the Ledja; the stones are exported from hence, as well as from other villages in the Loehf, over the greater part of Syria, as far as Aleppo and Jerusalem. They vary in price, according to their size, from fifteen to sixty piastres, and are preferred to all others on account of the hardness of the stone, which is the black tufa rock spread over the whole of the Haouran, and the only species met with in this country.
Ezra was once a flourishing city; its ruins are between three and four miles in circumference. The present inhabitants continue to live in the ancient buildings, which, in consequence of the strength and solidity of their walls, are for the greater part in complete preservation They are built of stone, as are all the houses of the villages in the Haouran and Djebel Haouran from Ghabarib to Boszra, as well as of those in the desert beyond the latter. In general each dwelling has a small entrance leading into a court yard, round which are the apartments; of these the doors are usually very low. The interior of the rooms is constructed of large square stones; across the centre is a single arch, generally between two and three feet in breadth, which supports the roof; this arch springs from very low pilasters on each side of the room, and in some instances rises immediately from the floor: upon the arch is laid the roof, consisting of stone slabs one foot broad, two inches thick, and about half the length of the room, one end resting upon short projecting stones in the walls, and the other upon the top of the arch. The slabs are in general laid close to each other; but in some houses I observed that the roof was formed of two layers, the one next the arch having small intervals between each slab, and a second layer of similar dimensions was laid close together at right angles with the first. The rooms are seldom higher than nine or ten feet, and have no other opening than a low door, with sometimes a small window over it. In many places I saw two or three of these arched chambers one above the other, forming so many stories. This substantial mode of building prevails also in most of the ancient public edifices remaining in the Haouran, except that in the latter the arch, instead of springing from the walls or floor, rests upon two short columns. During the whole of my tour, I saw but one or two arches, whose curve was lofty; the generality of them, including those in the public buildings, are oppressively low. To complete the durability of these structures, most of the doors were anciently of stone, and of these many are still remaining; sometimes they are of one piece and sometimes they are folding doors; they turn upon hinges worked out of the stone, and are about four inches thick, and seldom higher than about four feet, though I met with some upwards of nine feet in height.
I remained at Ezra, in the priest’s house, this and the following day, occupied in examining the antiquities of the village. The most considerable ruins stand to the S.E. of the present habitations; but few of the buildings on that side have resisted the destructive hand of time. The walls, however, of most of them yet remain, and there are the remains of a range of houses which, to judge from their size and solidity, seem to have been palaces. The Ezra people have given them the appellation of Seraye Malek el Aszfar, or the Palace of the Yellow King, a term given over all Syria, as I have observed in another place, to the Emperor of Russia. The aspect of these ruins, and of the surrounding rocky country of the Ledja, is far from being pleasing: the Ledja presents a level tract covered with heaps of black stones, and small irregular shaped rocks, without a single agreeable object for the eye to repose upon. On the west and north sides of the village are several public edifices, temples, churches, &c. The church of St. Elias (ﺱﺎﻳﻠﺍ ﺭﺎﻣ), in which the Greeks celebrate divine service, is a round building, of which the roof is fallen in, and only the outer wall standing. On its S. side is a vestibule supported by three arches, the entrance to which is through a short arched dark passage. Over the entrance is the following inscription: [xxxxx] Over a small side gate I observed the fol1owing words: [xxxxx] On the arch of the entrance alley, [xxxxx] On the outer wall, on the north side of the rotunda; [xxxxx] On the south side of the village stands an edifice, dedicated to St. Georgius, or El Khouder (ﺭﺿﺧﻟﺍ), as the Mohammedans, and sometimes the Christians, call that Saint. It is a square building of about eighty-five feet the side, with a semicircular projection on the E. side; the roof is vaulted, and is supported by eight square columns, which stand in a circle in the centre of the square, and are united to one another by arches. They are about two feet thick, and sixteen high, with a single groove on each side. Between the columns and the nearest part of the wall is a space of twelve feet. The niche on the east side contains the altar. The vaulted roof is of modern construction. The building had two entrances; of which the southern is entirely walled up; the western also is closed at the top, leaving a space below for a stone door of six feet high, over which is a broad stone with the following inscription upon it: [xxxxx] 2 Before the temple is a small paved yard, now used as the exclusive burial ground of the Greek priests of Ezra.
In the midst of the present inhabited part of the village stand the ruins of another large edifice; it was formerly applied to Christian worship, and subsequently converted into a mosque: but it has long since been abandoned. It consists of a quadrangle, with two vaulted colonnades at the northern and southern ends, each consisting of a double row of five columns. In the middle of the area stood a parallel double range of columns of a larger size, forming a colonnade across the middle of the building; the columns are of the Doric order, and about sixteen feet high. The side arcades are still standing to half their height; those of the middle area are lying about in fragments; the E. and W. walls of the building are also in ruins. Over the entrance gate are three inscribed tablets, only one of which, built upside down in the wall, is legible; it is as follows: [xxxxx]
Over an inner gate I saw an inscription, much defaced, which seemed to be in Syrian characters.
Adjoining this building stands a square tower, about fifty feet high; its base is somewhat broader than its top. I frequently saw similar structures in the Druse villages; and in Szannamein are two of the same form as the above: they all have windows near the summit; in some, there is one window on each side, in others there are two, as in this at Ezra. They have generally several stories of vaulted chambers, with a staircase to ascend into them.
To the E. of the village is the gateway of another public building, the interior of which has been converted into private dwellings; this building is in a better style than those above described, and has some trifling sculptured ornaments on its gate. On the wall on the right side of the gate is this inscription. [xxxxx]
There are many private habitations, principally at the S. end of the town, with inscriptions over the doors; most of which are illegible. The following I found in different parts of the village, on stones lying on the ground, or built into the walls of houses.
In the evening I went to water my horse with the priest’s cattle at the spring of Geratha, one hour distant from Ezra, N. by E. I met there a number of shepherds with their flocks; the rule is, that the first who arrives at the well, waters his cattle before the others; several were therefore obliged to wait till after sunset. There are some stone basins round the wells, out of which the camels drink, the water being drawn up by leathern buckets, and poured into them: disputes frequently happen on these occasions. The well has a broad staircase leading down to it; just by it lies a stone with an inscription, of which I could make out only the following letters [xxxxx] This well is called Rauad.
November 12th. – I left Ezra with the Greek priest, to visit the villages towards the mountain of the Haouran. I had agreed to pay him by the day, but I soon had reason to repent of this arrangement. In order to protract my journey, and augment the number of days, he loaded his horse with all his church furniture, and at almost every village where we alighted he fitted up a room, and said mass; I was, in consequence, seldom able to leave my night’s quarters before mid-day, and as the days were now short our day’s journey was not more than four or five hours. His description of me to the natives varied with circumstances; sometimes I was a Greek lay brother, sent to him by the Patriarch, a deception which could not be detected by my dress, as the priesthood is not distinguished by any particular dress, unless it be the blue turban, which they generally wear; sometimes he described me as a physician who was in search of herbs; and occasionally he owned that my real object was to examine the country. Our road lay S.E. upon the borders of the stony district called Ledja; and at the end of two hours we passed the village of Bousser (ﺭﺳﻭﺑ) on our left, which is principally inhabited by Druses; it lies in the War, and contains the Turkish place of pilgrimage, called Meziar Eliashaa. Near it, to the S. is the small village Kherbet Hariri. In one hour we passed Baara, a village under the control of the Sheikh of Ezra; and at half an hour farther to our right, the village Eddour (ﺭﻭﺩﻠﺍ). The Wady Kanouat, a torrent which takes its rise in the mountain, passes Baara, where it turns several mills in the winter season; towards the end of May it is generally dried up. At one hour from Baara is the Ain Keratha, or Geratha, according to Bedouin and Haouran pronunciation (ﺔﺗﺍﺭﻘ). At the foot of a hill in the War are several wells; this hill is covered with the ruins of the ancient city of Keratha, of which the foundations only remain: there had been such a scarcity of water this year, that the people of Bousser were obliged to fetch it from these wells. A quarter of an hour E. of them is the village Nedjran (ﻥﺍﺭﺟﻧ), in the Ledja, in which are several ancient buildings inhabited by Druses. In the Ledja, in the neighbourhood of Keratha, are many spots of arable ground. Upon a low hill, in our route, at an hour and a quarter from the Ain or well, is Deir el Khouat (ﺕﺍﻭﺧﻠﺍ ﺭﻳﺩ), i.e. the Brothers’ Monastery, a heap of ruins. From thence we travelled to the south-eastward for three quarters of an hour, to the village Sedjen (ﻦﺠﺳ), where we alighted, at the house of the only Christian family remaining among the Druses of the place. Sedjen is built, like all these ancient towns, entirely of the black stone peculiar to these mountains.
November 13th. - We left Sedjen about noon; and in half an hour came to the spring Mezra (ﻉﺮﺯﻣ), the water of which is conducted near to Sedjen by an ancient canal, which empties itself in the summer time into a large pond; in the winter the stream is joined by a number of small torrents, which descend from the Djebel Haouran between Kanouat and Soueida; it empties itself farther to the west into the Wady Kanouat. Above the spring is a ruined castle, and near it several other large buildings, of which the walls only are standing; the castle was most probably built to protect the water. There is a tradition that Tamerlane filled up the well; and a similar story is repeated in many parts of the Haouran: it is said that he threw quick-silver into the springs, which prevented the water from rising to the surface; and that the water collecting under ground from several sources near Mezerib, at length burst forth, and formed the copious spring at that place, called Bushe. From Mezra to Medjel we travelled E.N.E. one hour. It rained the whole day. On arriving at Medjel I alighted to copy some inscriptions, when the Druse Sheikh immediately sent for me, to know what I was about. It is a general opinion with these people that inscriptions indicate hidden treasure; and that by reading or copying them a knowledge is obtained where the treasure lies. I often combated this opinion with success, by simply asking them, whether, if they chose to hide their money under ground, they would be so imprudent as to inform strangers where it lay? The opinion, however, is too strongly rooted in the minds of many of the country people, to yield to argument; and this was the case with the Sheikh of Medjel. Having asked me very rudely what business I had, I presented to him the Pasha’s Bouyourdi; but of twenty people present no one could read it; and when I had read it to them, they refused to believe that it was genuine. While coffee was roasting I left the room, finished copying some inscriptions, and rode off in a torrent of rain. On the left side of a vaulted gate-way leading into a room in which are three receptacles for the dead is this inscription: [xxxxx] And opposite to it, on the right side of the gate-way, in large characters, [xxxxx] Over the eastern church, or mosque gate, [xxxxx]. On the northern church gate, [xxxxx]. On two stones built into the wall of a house on the side of the road, beyond the village, [xxxxx]. There are two other buildings in the town, which I suppose to have been sepulchral. In one of them is a long inscription, but the rain had made it illegible. We rode on for three quarters of an hour farther to the village Kafer el Loehha (ﺎﺣﻠﻠﺍ ﺭﻓﻘ), situated in the Wady Kanouat, on the borders of the Ledja. I here passed a comfortable evening, in the company of some Druses, who conversed freely with me, on their relations with their own Sheikhs, and with the surrounding Arabs.
November 14th. – the principal building of Kafer el Loehha is a church, whose roof is supported by three arches, which, like those in the private dwellings, spring from the floor of the building. Upon a stone lying near it I read [xxxxx]. Not far from the church, on its west side, is another large edifice, with a rotunda, and a paved terrace before it. Over the gateway, which is half buried, is the following inscription: [xxxxx].
From Kafer el Loehha we rode N. forty minutes, to a village called Rima el Loehf, (ﻑﺣﻟﻟﺍ ﺔﻣﻳﺭ) inhabited by only three or four Druse families. At the entrance of the village stands a building eight feet square and about twenty feet high, with a flat roof, and three receptacles for the dead; it has no windows; at its four corners are pilasters. Over the door is this inscription: [xxxxx] The walls of this apartment are hollow, as appears by several holes which have been made in them, in search of hidden treasure. Beneath it is a subterraneous apartment, in which is a double row of receptacles for the dead, three in each row, one above the other; each receptacle is two feet high, and five feet and a half long. The door is so low as hardly to allow a person to creep in. I copied the following from a stone in an adjoining wall: [xxxxx] This village has two Birkets, or reservoirs for water, which are filled in winter time by a branch of the Wady Kanouat; they were completely dried up this summer, a circumstance which rarely happens. Near both the Birkets are remains of strong walls. Upon an insulated hill three quarters of an hour S.E. from Rima, is Deir el Leben (ﻥﺑﻟﻠﺍ ﺭﻳﺩ), i.e. Monastery of Milk; Rima is on the limits of the Ledja; Deir in the plain between it and the mountain Haouran. The Deir consists of the ruins of a square building seventy paces long, with small cells, each of which has a door; it contained also several larger apartments, of which the arches only remain. The roof of the whole building has fallen in. Over the door of one of the cells I read the following inscription: [xxxxx] 3
Half an hour E. of Deir el Leben lies a ruined, uninhabited village upon a Tel, called Doubba (ﺔﺑﻮﺪ); it has a Birket and a spring. To the N.E. of it is the inhabited Druse village Bereike (ﺔﻳﺭﺑ). We advanced half an hour E. to the village Mourdouk (ﻕﺩﺭﻣ), on the declivity of the Djebel Haouran; it has a spring, from whence the Druses of Rima and Bereike obtain their daily supply of water. From the spring we proceeded to the eastward on the side of the mountain. At our feet extended the Ledja from between N.E b. N. where it terminates, near Tel Beidhan, to N.W. by N. its furthest western point, on the Haouran side. Between the mountain and the Ledja is an intermediate plain of about one hour in breadth, and for the greater part uncultivated. Before us lay three insulated hills, called Tel Shiehhan, Tel Esszoub, which is the highest, and Tel Shohba; they are distant from each other half an hour, the second in the middle. One hour and a half to the S.E. of Tel Shohba is one of the projecting summits of the mountain called Tel Abou Tomeir.
From Mourdouk our road lay for an hour and a half over stony ground, to Shohba (ﺔﺑﺣﺷ), the seat of the principal Druse Sheikhs, and containing also some Turkish and Christian families. It lies near the foot of Tel Shohba, between the latter and the mountain; it was formerly one of the chief cities in these districts, as is attested by its remaining town walls, and the loftiness of its public edifices. The walls may be traced all round the city, and are perfect in many places; there are eight gates, with a paved causeway leading from each into the town. Each gate is formed of two arches, with a post in the centre. The eastern gate seems to have been the principal one, and the street into which it opens leads in a straight line through the town; like the other streets facing the gates, it is paved with oblong flat stones, laid obliquely across it with great regularity. Following this street through a heap of ruined habitations on each side of it, where are many fragments of columns, I came to a place where four massy cubical structures formed a sort of square, through which the street runs; they are built with square stones, are twelve feet long by nine high, and, as appears by one of them, which is partly broken down, are quite solid, the centre being filled up with stones. Farther on to the right, upon a terrace, stand live Corinthian columns, two feet and a quarter in diameter, all quite entire. After passing these columns I came to the principal building in this part of the town; it is in the form of a crescent, fronting towards the east, without any exterior ornaments, but with several niches in the front. I did not venture to enter it, as I had a bad opinion of its present possessor, the chief of Shohba, who some years ago compelled M. Seetzen to turn back from hence towards Soueida. I remained unknown to the Druses during my stay at Shohba. Before the above mentioned building is a deep and large reservoir, lined with small stones. To the right of it stands another large edifice of a square shape, built of massy stones, with a spacious gate; its interior consists of a double range of vaults, one above the other, of which the lower one is choaked up as high as the capitals of the columns which support the arches. I found the following inscription upon an arch in the upper story: [xxxxx].
Beyond and to the left of this last mentioned building, in the same street, is a vaulted passage with several niches on both sides of it, and dark apartments, destined probably for the reception of the bodies of the governors of the city. Farther on are the remaining walls of a large building. Upon two stones, close to each other, and projecting from the wall, I read the following inscriptions: On the first, [xxxxx]. On the second, [xxxxx].
To the west of the five Corinthian columns stands a small building, which has been converted into a mosque; it contains two columns about ten inches in diameter, and eight feet in height, of the same kind of fine grained gray granite, of which I had seen several columns at Banias in the Syrian mountains.
To the south of the crescent formed building, and its adjoining edifice, stands the principal curiosity of Shohba, a theatre, in good preservation. It is built on a sloping site, and the semicircle is enclosed by a wall nearly ten feet in thickness, in which are nine vaulted entrances into the interior. Between the wall and the seats runs a double row of vaulted chambers one over the other. Of these the upper chambers are boxes, opening towards the seats, and communicating behind with a passage which separates them from the outer wall. The lower chambers open into each other, those at the extremities of the semi-circle excepted, which have openings towards the area of the theatre. The entrance into the area is by three gates, one larger, with a smaller on either side; on each side of the two latter are niches for statues. The diameter of the area, near the entrance, is thirty paces; the circle round the upper row of seats is sixty-four paces; there are ten rows of seats. Outside the principal entrance is a wall, running parallel with it, close to which are several small apartments.
To the S.E. of Shohba are the remains of an aqueduct, which conveyed water into the town from a spring in the neighbouring mountain, now filled up. About six arches are left, some of which are at least forty feet in height. At the termination of this aqueduct, near the town, is a spacious building divided into several apartments, of which that nearest to the aqueduct is enclosed by a wall twelve feet thick, and about twenty-five feet high; with a vaulted roof, which has fallen in. It has two high vaulted entrances opposite to each other, with niches on each side. In the walls are several channels from the roof to the floor, down which the water from the aqueduct probably flowed. On one side of this room is an entrance into a circular chamber fourteen feet in diameter; and on the other is a similar apartment but of smaller dimensions, also with channels in its walls; adjoining to this is a room without any other opening than a very small door; its roof, which is still entire, is formed of small stones cemented together with mortar; all the walls are built of large square stones. The building seems evidently to have been a bath.
On a stone built in the wall over the door of a private dwelling in the town, I copied the following: [xxxxx]. To the margin of the third line the following letters are annexed: 4.
The inhabitants of Shohba fabricate cotton cloth for shirts and gowns. They grow cotton, but it is not reckoned of good quality. There are only three Christian families in the village. There are three large Birkets or wells, in two of which there was still some water. There is no spring near. Most of the doors of the houses, are formed of a single slab of stone, with stone hinges.
November 15th. – Our way lay over the fertile and cultivated plain at the foot of the Jebel Haouran, in a north-easterly direction. At a quarter of an hour from the town we passed the Wady Nimri w-el Heif (ﻑﻳﺣﻠﺍﻮ ﻱﺭﻣﻧ), a torrent coming from the mountain to the S.E. In the winter it furnishes water to a great part of the Ledja, where it is collected in cisterns. There is a great number of ruined mills higher up the Wady. Three or four hours distant, we saw a high hill in the Djebel, called Um Zebeib (ﺏﻳﺑﺯ ﻢﺍ). Three quarters of an hour from Shohba we passed the village Asalie (ﺔﻳﻠﺎﺳﻋ), inhabited by a few families; near it is a small Birket. In one hour and three quarters we came to the village Shakka (ﺔﻘﺷ); on its eastern side stands an insulated building, consisting of a tower with two wings: it contains throughout a double row of arches and the tower has two stories, each of which forms a single chamber, without any opening but the door. Upon the capital of a column is: [xxxxx].
Adjoining the village, on the eastern side, are the ruins of a handsome edifice; it consists of an apartment fourteen paces square opening into an arcade, which leads into another apartment similar to the first. In the first, whose roof has fallen down, there are pedestals for statues all round the walls. On one side are three dark apartments, of which that in the centre is the largest; on the opposite side is a niche. The entrance is towards the east. To the south of these ruins stood another building, of which the front wall only is standing; upon a stone, lying on the ground before the wall, and which was probably the architrave of the door, I found the following inscription: [xxxxx]. Opposite to these ruins I copied the following from a stone built in the wall of one of the private dwellings: [xxxxx] and this from a stone in the court-yard of a peasant’s house: [xxxxx].
On the north side of the village are the ruins also of what was once an elegant structure; but nothing now remains except a part of the front, and some arches in the interior. It is thirty paces in length, with a flight of steps, of the whole length of the building, leading up to it. The entrance is through a large door whose sides and architrave are richly sculptured. On each side is a smaller door, between which and the great door are two niches supported by Ionic pilasters, the whole finely worked. Within are three aisles or rows of arches, of which the central is much the largest; they rest upon short thick columns of the worst taste.
At some distance to the north of the village stands a small insulated tower; over its entrance are three inscriptions, of which I copied the two following; the third I was unable to read, as the sun was setting before I had finished the others: [xxxxx]. There are several similar towers in the village, but without inscriptions.
The inhabitants of Shakka grow cotton; they are all Druses, except a single Greek family. To the S.E. of the village is the spring Aebenni (ﻲﻧﺑﻋ), with the ruined village Tefkha, about three quarters of an hour distant from Shakka. E. b. N. from Shakka one hour lies Djeneine (ﺔﻧﻳﻧﺠ), the last inhabited village on this side towards the desert. Its inhabitants are the shepherds of the people of El Hait. Half an hour to the north of Djeneine is Tel Maaz (ﺯﻌﻣ ﻝﺗ), a hill on which is a ruined village. This is the N.E. limit of the mountain, which here turns off towards the S. behind Djeneine. At three quarters of an hour from Shakka, N.N.W. is El Hait, inhabited entirely by Catholic Christians. Here we slept. I copied the following inscriptions at El Hait:
From a stone in one of the streets of the village: [xxxxx] From a stone over the door of a private dwelling: [xxxxx].
Upon a stone in the wall of another house, I found the figure of a quadruped rudely sculptured in relief.
On the wall of a solid building are the two following inscriptions: [xxxxx] On the wall of another building: [xxxxx] East of El Hait three quarters of an hour lies the village Heitt (ﻂﻳﺣ).
November 16th. - We returned from Hait, directing our route towards Tel Shiehhan. In one hour we passed the village of Ammera.
From Ammera our way lay direct towards Tel Shiehhan. The village Um Ezzeitoun lay in the plain below, one hour distant, in the borders of the Ledja. Upon the top of Tel Shiehhan is a Meziar. Tel Szomeit (ﺕﻳﻣﺼ), a hill in the Ledja, was seen to the N.W. about three hours distant; Tel Aahere (ﺓﺭﻫﺎﻋ), also in the Ledja, to the west, about four hours distant. The Tel Shiehhan is completely barren up to its top: near its eastern foot we passed the Wady Nimri w-el Heif, close to a mill which works in the winter time. From hence we passed between the Tel Shiehhan and Tel Es-Szoub; the ground is here covered with heaps of porous tufa and pumicestone. The western side of the Tel Shohba seems to have been the crater of a volcano, as well from the nature of the minerals which lie collected on that side of the hill, as from the form of a part of the hill itself, resembling a crater, while the neighbouring mountains have rounded tops, without any sharp angles.
We repassed Ain Mourdouk, and continued our way on the sloping side of the mountain to Saleim, a village one hour from the spring; it has been abandoned by its former inhabitants, and is now occupied only by a few poor Druses, who take refuge in such deserted places to avoid the oppressive taxes; and thus sometimes escape the Miri for one year. They here grow a little tobacco. In the village is a deep Birket. At the entrance of Saleim are the ruins of a handsome oblong building, with a rich entablature: its area is almost entirely filled up by its own ruins. Just by is a range of subterraneous vaults. The Wady Kanouat passes near the village. The day was now far gone, and as my priest was afraid of travelling by night, we quickened our pace, in order to reach Soueida before dark. From Saleim the road lies through a wood of stunted oaks, which continues till within one hour of Soueida. We had rode three quarters of an hour when I was shewn, E. from our road, up in the mountain, half an hour distant, the ruins of Aatin (ﻥﻳﺗﻋ), with a Wady of the same name descending into the plain below. In the plain, to the westward, upon a hillock one hour distant, was the village Rima el Khalkhal, or Rima el Hezam (ﻡﺍﺯﺣﻠﺍ ﺔﻣﻳﺭ ﺎﻳ ﻝﺧﻟﺧﻟﺍ ﺎﻣﻳﺭ) (Hezam means girdle, and Khalkhal, the silver or glass rings which the children wear round their ankles.) Our road from Saleim lay S. by E. over a stony uncultivated ground, till within one hour of Soueida, where the wood of oaks terminates, and the fields begins, which extend up the slope of the mountain for half an hour to the left of the road. From Saleim to Soueida is a distance of two hours and three quarters.
Soueida is situated upon high ground, on a declivity of the Djebel Haouran; the Kelb Haouran, or highest summit of the mountain, bearing S.E. from it. It is considered as the first Druse village, and is the residence of the chief Sheikh. To the north, and close to it, descends the deep Wady Essoueida, coming from the mountain, where several other Wadys unite with it; it is crossed by a strong well built bridge, and it turns five or six mills near the village. Here, as in all their villages, the Druses grow a great deal of cotton, and the cultivation of tobacco is general all over the mountain. Soueida has no springs, but there are in and near it several Birkets, one of which, in the village, is more than three hundred paces in circuit, and at least thirty feet deep: a staircase leads down to the bottom, and it is entirely lined with squared stones. To the S. of the village is another of still larger circumference, but not so deep, also lined with stone, called Birket el Hadj, from the circumstance of its having, till within the last century, been a watering place for the Hadj, which used to pass here.
To the west of Soueida, on the other side of the Wady, stands a ruined building, which the country people call Doubeise: it is a square of thirteen paces, with walls two feet thick, and ornamented on each side with six Doric Pilasters, sixteen spans high, and reaching to within two feet of the roof, which has fallen down, and fills up the interior. No door or opening of any kind is visible. On the wall between the pilasters are some ornaments in bas-relief.
Soueida was formerly one of the largest cities of the Haouran; the circuit of its ruins is at least four miles: amongst them is a street running in a straight line, in which the houses on both sides are still standing; I was twelve minutes in walking from one end to other. Like the streets of modern cities in the East, this is so very narrow as to allow space only for one person or beast to pass. On both sides is a narrow pavement. The great variety seen in the mode of construction of the houses seems to prove that the town has been inhabited by people of different nations. In several places, on both sides of the street, are small arched open rooms, which I supposed to have been shops. The street commences in the upper part of the town, at a large arched gate built across it; descending from thence I came to an elegant building, in the shape of a crescent, the whole of whose front forms a kind of niche, within which are three smaller niches; round the flat roof is written in large characters: [xxxxx]. On a stone lying upon the roof [xxxxx]. Continuing along the street I entered, on the left, an edifice with four rows of arches, built with very low pillars in the ugly style already described.
Upon a stone, built upside down in one of the interior walls, was this; [xxxxx]. 5 At the lower end of the street is a tower about thirty feet high, and eighteen square.
Turning from the beginning of the street, to the south, I met with a large building in ruins, with many broken pillars; it seems to have been a church; and it is joined to another building which has the appearance of having once been a monastery.In the paved area to the S. of it lies a water trough, formed of a single stone, two feet and a half in breadth, and seven feet in length, ornamented with four busts in relief, whose heads have been knocked off.
In a stony field about three hundred yards S. of the Sheikh’s house, I found engraved upon a rock: [xxxxx]. Round a pedestal, which now serves to support one of the columns in the front of the Sheikh’s house, is the following: [xxxxx]. On the side of the pedestal is a figure of a bird with expanded wings, about one foot high, and below it is a man’s hand grasping at something.
Near the Sheikh’s house stands a colonnade of Corinthian columns, which surrounded a building, now entirely in ruins, but which appears to have been destined for sepulchres, as there are some small arched doors, quite choaked up, leading to subterraneous apartments.
November 17th. - We rode to the ruined city called Kanouat (ﺙﺍﻭﻧﻘ), two hours to the N.E. of Soueida; the road lying through a forest of stunted oaks and Zarour trees, with a few cultivated fields among them. Kanouat is situated upon a declivity, on the banks of the deep Wady Kanouat, which flows through the midst of the town, and whose steep banks are supported by walls in several places. To the S.W. of the town is a copious spring. On approaching Kanouat from the side of Soueida, the first object that struck my attention was a number of high columns, upon a terrace, at some distance from the town; they enclosed an oblong square fifteen paces in breadth, by twenty-nine in length. There were originally six columns on one side, and seven on the other, including the corner columns in both numbers; at present six only remain, and the bases of two others; they are formed of six pieces of stone, and measure from the top of the pedestal to the base of the capital twenty-six feet; the height of the pedestal is five feet; the circumference of the column six feet. The capitals are elegant, and well finished. On the northern side was an inner row of columns of somewhat smaller dimensions than the outer row; of these one only is standing. Within the square of columns is a row of subterraneous apartments. These ruins stand upon a terrace ten feet high, on the N. side of which is a broad flight of steps. The pedestals of all the columns had inscriptions upon them; but nothing can now be clearly distinguished except εκ των ιδιων ανεθηκεν upon one of them.
Two divisions of the town may be distinguished, the upper, or principal, and the lower. The whole ground upon which the ruined habitations stand is overgrown with oak trees, which hide the ruins. In the lower town, over the door of an edifice which has some arches in its interior, and which has been converted in modern times into a Greek church, is an inscription, in which the words [xxxxx] only, were distinguishable.
A street leads up to this building, paved with oblong flat stones placed obliquely across the road in the same manner which I have described at Shohba. Here are several other buildings with pillars and arches: the principal of them has four small columns in front of the entrance and an anti-room leading to an inner apartment, which is supported by five arches. The door of the anti-room is of one stone, as usual in this country, but it is distinguished by its sculptured ornaments. A stone in this building, lying on the ground, is thus inscribed: [xxxxx].
The principal building of Kanouat is in the upper part of the town, on the banks of the Wady. The street leading up to it lies along the deep bed of the Wady, and is paved throughout; on the side opposite to the precipice are several small vaulted apartments with doors. The entrance of the building is on the east side, through a wide door covered with a profusion of sculptured ornaments. In front of this door is a vestibule supported by five columns, whose capitals are of the annexed form. This vestibule joins, towards the north, several other apartments; their roofs, some of which were supported by pillars, have now all fallen down. The abovementioned wide door opens into the principal apartment of the edifice, which is twenty-two paces in breadth by twenty-five in length. From each side of the entrance, through the middle of the room, runs a row of seven pillars, like those described above; at the further end, this colonnade is terminated by two Corinthian columns. All the sixteen columns are twenty spans high, with pedestals two feet and a half high. In the wall on the left side of this saloon are three niches, supported by short pillars. To the west is another vestibule, which was supported by five Corinthian columns, but four of them only are now standing. This vestibule communicates through an arched gate with an area, on the W. side of which are two Corinthian pillars with projecting bases for statues. On the S. side of the area is a large door, with a smaller one on each side. That in the centre is covered with sculptured vines and grapes, and over the entrance is the figure of the cross in the midst of a bunch of grapes. I observed similar ornaments on the great gate at Shakka, and I have often seen them since, over the entrances of public edifices. In the interior of the area, on the E. side, is a niche sixteen feet deep, arched at the bottom, with small vaulted rooms on both its sides, in which there is no other opening than the low door. On the S. and W. sides, the building is enclosed by a large paved area.
At a short distance from thence is another building, whose entrance is through a portico consisting of four columns in front and of two others behind, between two wings; on the inner sides of which are two niches above each other. The columns are about thirty-five feet high, and three feet and a half in diameter. Part of the walls only of the building are standing. In the wall opposite the entrance are two niches, one above the other. Not far from this building, toward its western side, I found, lying upon the ground, the trunk of a female statue of very inelegant form and coarse execution; my companion the priest spat upon it, when I told him that such idols were anciently objects of adoration; by its side lay a well executed female foot. I may here mention for the information of future travellers in these parts, that on my return to Soueida, I was told that there was a place near the source of spring water, where a great number of figures of men, women, beasts, and men riding naked on horses, &c. were lying upon the ground.
Besides the buildings just mentioned, there are several towers with two stories upon arches, standing insulated in different parts of the town; in one of them I observed a peculiarity in the structure of its walls, which I had already seen at Hait, and which I afterwards met with in several other places; the stones are cut so as to dovetail, and fit very closely.
The circuit of this ancient city may be about two miles and a half or three miles. From the spring there is a beautiful view into the plain of the Haouran, bounded on the opposite side by the mountain of the Heish, now covered with snow. There were only two Druse families at Kanouat, who were occupied in cultivating a few tobacco fields. I returned to Soueida by the same road which I had come.
November 18th. – After having made the tour of the city, I took coffee at the house of the Sheikh, whose brother and sons received me very politely, and I visited some sick people in the village, - for I was continually pressed, wherever I went, to write receipts for the sick, - I then left Soueida, with the intention of sleeping the following night in some Arab tent in the mountain, where I wished to see some ruined villages. The priest’s fear of catching cold prevented me from proceeding according to my wishes. Passing the Birket el Hadj, we arrived in an hour and a quarter at a miserable village called Erraha (ﺎﺣﺭﻟﺍ); twenty minutes farther we passed the Wady el Thaleth (ﺙﻟﺎﺛﻟﺍ ﻱﺩﺍﻮ), so called from three Wadys which, higher up, in the mountain unite into one. Here were pointed out to me, at half an hour to the N.E. on the side of the Wady in the mountain, the spring called Ain Kerashe, and at half an hour’s distance, in the plain, the Druse village Resas. In a quarter of an hour from Thaleth, we reached Kherbet Rishe, a ruined village, and in one hour more Ezzehhoue (ﺓﻭﺣﺯﻟﺍ), where my companion insisted upon taking shelter from the rain.
November 19th. - A rivulet passes Ezzehhoue, called Ain Ettouahein (ﻥﻳﺣﺍﻭﻁﻟﺍ ﻦﻳﻋ); i.e. the Source of the Mills, which comes down from Ain Mousa, the spring near Kuffer, and flows towards Aaere. Ezzeihhoue is a Druse village, with a single Christian family. I was not well received by the Druse Sheikh, a boy of sixteen years, although he invited me to breakfast with him; but I was well treated by the poor Christian family. When I left the village there was a rumor amongst the Druses, that I should not be permitted to depart, or if I was, that I should be waylaid on the road, but neither happened. The people of the village make coffee mortars out of the trunks of oak trees, which they sell at twenty and twenty-five piastres each, and export them over the whole of the Haouran. At three quarters of an hour from Ezzehhoue, to the left of our route, is the Tel Ettouahein, an insulated hill in the plain, into which the road descends at a short distance from the village. Near the hill passes the Wady Ezzehhoue, a winter torrent which descends from the mountain. Two hours from Ezzehhoue is Aaere (ﺓﺭﺎﻋ), a village standing upon a Tel in the plain.
Aaere is the seat of the second chief of the Druses in the Haouran: he is one of the most amiable men I have met with in the East, and what is still more extraordinary, he is extremely desirous to acquire knowledge. In the conversations I had with him during my repeated visits at Aaere, he was always most anxious to obtain information concerning European manners and institutions. He begged me one day to write down for him the Greek, English, and German alphabets, with the corresponding sound in Arabic beneath each letter; and on the following day he shewed me the copy he had taken of them. His kindness towards me was the more remarkable, as he could not expect the smallest return for it. He admired my lead pencils, of which I had two, but refused to accept one of them, on my offering it to him. These Druses, as well as those of Kesrouan, firmly believe that there are a number of Druses in England; a belief originating in the declaration of the Christians in these countries, that the English are neither Greeks, nor Catholics, and therefore not Christians.
Upon a stone in the village I copied the following; [xxxxx].
November 20th. - Being desirous of visiting the parts of the Haouran bordering upon the desert, of crossing the Djebel Haouran, or mountainous part of the district, and of exploring several ruined cities which I had heard of in the desert, I engaged, with the Sheikh’s permission, two Druses and a Christian, to act as guides. As there was considerable risque of meeting with some hostile tribe of Arabs on the road, I gave my purse to the Greek priest, who promised to wait for my return; he did not keep his word, however, for he quitted Aaere, taking my money with him, no doubt in the view of compelling me to follow him to his village, from whence he might again have a chance of obtaining a daily allowance, by accompanying me, though he well knew that it was my intention to return to Damascus by a more western route; nor was this all, he took twenty piastres out of my purse to buy straw for his camels. On his repeatedly confessing to me, afterwards, his secret wishes that some Frank nation would invade and take possession of the country, I told him that he would by no means be a gainer by such an event, as a trick such as that he had played me would expose him to be turned out of his living and thrown into a prison. “You must imprison all the people of the country then,” was his reply; and he spoke the truth. I have often reflected that if the English penal laws were suddenly promulgated in this country, there is scarcely any man in business, or who, has money-dealings with others, who would not be found liable to transportation before the end of the first six months.
Our road lay over the plain, E.N.E. for three quarters of an hour; we then began to mount by a slight ascent. In an hour and a quarter we came to two hills, with the ruins of a village called Medjmar (ﺭﺎﻣﺟﻣ), on the right of the road. At a quarter of an hour from thence is the village Afine (ﺔﻧﻳﻓﺍ), in which are about twenty-five Druse families; it has a fine spring. Here the ascent becomes more steep. At one hour from Afine, E. b. S. upon the summit of the lower mountain, stands Hebran (ﻥﺍﺭﺑﺣ). Here is a spring and a ruined church, with the foundations of another building near it. Withinside the gate is the following inscription: [xxxxx]. On the eastern outer wall: [xxxxx]. In a ruined building, with arches, in the lower town; [xxxx]. Upon a stone over a door, in a private house: [xxxxx].
The mountain upon which Hebran stands is stony, but has places fit for pasturage. The plain to the S. is called Amman, in which is a spring. That to the E. is called Zauarat, and that to the S.W. Merdj el Daulet; all these plains are level grounds, with several hillocks, and are surrounded by mountains. There are a few families at Hebran.
Proceeding from Hebran towards the Kelb (dog), or, as the Arabs here call it, Kelab Haouran, in one hour we came to Kuffer (ﺭﻓﻘ), once a considerable town. It is built in the usual style of this country, entirely of stone; most of the houses are still entire; the doors are uniformly of stone, and even the gates of the town, between nine and ten feet high, are of a single piece of stone. One each side of the streets is a foot pavement two feet and a half broad, and raised one foot above the level of the street itself, which is seldom more than one yard in width. The town is three quarters of an hour in circumference, and being built upon a declivity, a person may walk over it upon the flat roofs of the houses; in the court-yards of the houses are many mulberry trees. Amongst several arched edifices is one of somewhat larger dimensions, with a steeple, resembling that at Ezra; in the paved court- yard lies an urn of stone. In later times this building had been a mosque, as is indicated by several Arabic inscriptions. In the wall within the arched colonnade is a niche elegantly adorned with sculptured oak-leaves.
We dined in the church, upon the Kattas (ﺎﻂﻘ) which my guides had killed. These birds, which resemble pigeons, are in immense numbers here; but I found none of them in the eastern parts of the Djebel Haouran.
To the N.E. of Kutfer is the copious spring already mentioned, called Ain Mousa, the stream from which, we had passed at Ezzehhoue. There is a small building over it, on which are these letters: [xxxxx].
We arrived, after sunset, in one hour from Kuffer, at an encampment of Arabs Rawafie, immediately at the foot of the Kelab; and there took up our quarters for the night. The tent of our host was very neat, being formed with alternate white and black Shoukes, or cloth made of goat’s hair. I here found the Meharem to the right of the man’s apartment. We were treated as usual with coffee and Feita. I had been rather feverish during the whole day, and in the evening the symptoms increased, but, cold as the night was, and more especially on the approach of morning when the fire which is kept up till midnight gradually dies out, I found myself completely recovered the next day. This encampment consisted of ten or twelve tents, in the midst of the forest which surrounds the Kelab.
November 21st. – The Kelab is a cone rising from the lower ridge of the mountains; it is barren on the S. and E. sides, but covered on the N. and W. with the trees common to these mountains. I was told that in clear weather the sea is visible from its top, the ascent to which, from the encampment, was said to be one hour. The morning was beautiful but very cold, the whole mountain being covered with hoar frost. We set off at sun-rise, and rode through the forest one hour, when we breakfasted at an encampment of Arabs Shennebele, in the midst of the wood. From thence I took two Arabs, who volunteered their services, to guide me over the mountains into the eastern plain. We soon reached the termination of the forest, and in half an hour passed the Merdj el Kenttare (ﺓﺭﻂﻧﻘﻟﺍ ﺝﺭﻣ), a fine meadow (where the young grass had already made its appearance), in the midst of the rocky mountain, which has no wood here. A rivulet called El Keine (ﺔﻧﻳﻘﻟﺍ), whose source is a little higher up in the mountain, flows through the meadow. Three quarters of an hour farther, and to the right of the road, upon a hill distant half an hour, are the ruins of the village El Djefne; to the left, at the same distance, is Tel Akrabe. We passed many excellent pasturing places, where the Arabs of the mountain feed their cattle in the spring; but the mountain is otherwise quite barren. Half an hour farther, descending the mountain, we passed Wady Awairid (ﺩﺭﻳﻭﻋ ﻱﺩﺍﻭ), whose torrent, in winter, flows as far as Rohba, a district so called, where is a ruined city of the same name, on the eastern limits of the Szaffa.6 Our route lay to the north-east; we descended by the banks of the Wady into the plain, and at a short distance from where the Wady enters it, arrived at Zaele (ﺔﻟﺍﺯ) in two hours and three quarters from the Arab encampment where we had breakfasted.
Zaele owes its origin to the copious spring which rises there, and which renders it, in summer time, a much frequented watering place of the Arabs. The ruined city which stands near the spring is half an hour in circuit; it is built like all those of the mountain, but I observed that the stone doors were particularly low, scarcely permitting one even to creep in. A cupola once stood over the spring, and its basin was paved. I found the following inscription upon a stone lying there: [xxxxx]. And another above the spring, upon a terrace adjoining the ruins of a church: [xxxxx] The spring of Zaele flows to the S.E. and loses itself in the plain. One hour and a half to the eastward of Zaele stands Tel Shaaf (ﻑﻌﺷ), with a ruined city. E. four hours, Melleh (ﺢﻟﻣ), a ruined city in the plain; and upon a Tel near it, Deir el Nuzrany. The plain, for two hours from Zaele, is called El Haoui. Towards the E. and S.E. of Zaele are the following ruined places: Boussan (ﻥﺎﺳﻭﺑ),at the foot of the mountain; Khadera (ﺓﺭﺿﺎﺧ); Aans (ﺱﻧﻋ), Om Ezzeneine (ﺔﻧﻳﻧﺯﻟﺍ ﻡﺍ); Kherbet Bousrek (ﻙﺭﺳﻭﺑ ﺔﺑﺭﺧ); Habake (ﺔﻛﺑﻫ).
The great desert extends to the N.E.E., and S.E. of Zaele; to the distance of three days journey eastward, there is still a good arable soil, intersected by numerous Tels, and covered with the ruins of so many cities and villages, that, as I was informed, in whatever direction it is crossed, the traveller is sure to pass, in every day, five or six of these ruined places. They are all built of the same black rock of which the Djebel consists. The name of the desert changes in every district; and the whole is sometimes called Telloul, from its Tels or hillocks. Springs are no where met with in it, but water is easily found on digging to the depth of three or four feet. At the point where this desert terminates, begins the sandy desert called El Hammad (ﺩﺎﻣﺣﻟﺍ), which extends on one side to the banks of the Euphrates, and on the other to the N. of Wady Serethan, as far as the Djof.
I wished to proceed to Melleh, but my Druse companions were not to be prevailed upon, through fear of the Arabs Sheraka, a tribe of the Arabs Djelaes, who were said to be in that neighbourhood. We therefore recrossed the mountain from Zaele, and passed its south-eastern corner, on which there are no trees, but many spots of excellent pasture. In two hours from Zaele we came to a spring called Ras el Beder (ﺭﺩﺑﻟﺍ ﺱﺍﺭ), i.e. the Moon’s Head, whose waters flow down into the plain as far as Boszra. From the spring we redescended, and reached Zahouet el Khudher (ﺭﺿﺧﻟﺍ ﺓﺭﻫﺯ), a ruined city, standing in a Wady, at a short distance from the plain. One hour from these ruins a rivulet called Moiet Maaz (ﺯﺎﻌﻣ) passes through the valley, whose source is to the N.W. up in the mountain, one hour distant, near a ruined place called Maaz. This is a very romantic, secluded spot; immediately behind the town the valley closes, and a row of willows, skirting both banks of the rivulet in its descent, agreeably surprise the traveller, who rarely meets in these districts with trees raised by the labour of man; but it is probable that these willows will not long withstand the destroying hands of the Arabs: fifteen years ago there was a larger plantation here, which was cut down for fire wood; and every summer many of the trees share the same fate.
Zahouet el Khudher was formerly visited by the Christians of the Haouran, for the purpose of offering up their prayers to the Khudher, or St. George, to whom a church in the bottom of the valley is dedicated. The Turks also pay great veneration to this Saint, so much so that a few goats-hair mats, worth five or six piastres, which are left on the floor of the sanctuary of the church, are safe from the robbers. My Druse guides carried them to a house in the town, to sleep upon; but returned them carefully on the following morning. The Arabs give the name of Abd Maaz to St. George. The church has a ruined cupola. On the outer door is this inscription: [xxxxx]. On an arch in the vestibule [xxxxx].
Upon elevated ground on the W. side of the Wady stands the small ruined town of Zahouet, with a castle on the summit of the hill. I could find no legible inscriptions there.
We had reached Zahouet after sunset; and the dread of Arabs, who very frequently visit this place, made us seek for a night’s shelter in the upper part of the town, where we found a comfortable room, and lighted a still more comfortable fire. We had tasted nothing since our breakfast; and my guides, in the full confidence of meeting with plenty of Kattas and partridges on our road, had laid in a very small provision of bread on setting out, but had brought a sack of flour mixed with salt, after the Arab fashion. Unluckily, we had killed only two partridges during the day, and seen no Kattas; we therefore had but a scanty supper. Towards midnight we were alarmed by the sound of persons breaking up wood to make a fire, and we kept upon our guard till near sun-rise, when we proceeded, and saw upon the wet ground the traces of men and dogs, who had passed the night in the church, probably as much in fear of strangers as we were ourselves.
November 22d. - I took a view of the town, after which we descended into the plain, called here Ard Aaszaf (ﻑﺻﺎﻋ ﺽﺭﺍ), from a Tel named Aazaf, at half an hour from the Khudher. The abundant rains had already covered the plain with rich verdure. Our way lay S. At the end of an hour and a quarter we saw to our left, one mile distant from the road, a ruined castle upon a Tel called Keres (ﺱﻳﺭﻗ); close to our road was a low Birket. To the right, three or four miles off, upon another Tel, stands the ruined castle El Koueires (ﺱﺭﻳﻭﻗﻟﺍ). From Keres to Ayoun (ﻥﻭﻳﻋ), two hours distant from Zahouet el Khudher, the ground is covered with walls, which probably once enclosed orchards and well cultivated fields. At Ayoun are about four hundred houses without any inhabitants. On its west side are two walled-in springs, from whence the name is derived. It stands at the eastern foot of the Szfeikh (ﺦﻳﻓﺻ), a hill so called, one hour and a half in length. I saw in the town four public edifices, with arches in their interior; one of them is distinguished by the height and fine curve of the arches, as well as by the complete state of the whole building. Its stone roof has lost its original black colour, and now presents a variety of hues, which on my entering surprised me much, as I at first supposed it to be painted. The door is ornamented with grapes and vine leaves. There is another large building, in which are three doors, only three feet high; over one of them are these letters: [xxxxx]. Over an arch in its interior is this: [xxxxx].
From Ayoun ruined walls of the same kind as those we met with in approaching Ayoun extend as far as Oerman (ﻥﺎﻣﺭﻋ), distant one hour and a half, in the open plain. Oerman is an ancient city, somewhat larger than Ayoun. In it are three towers, or steeples, built in the usual mode, which I have described at Kuffer. On the walls of a miserable building adjoining the S. side of the town are the following six inscribed tablets, built into the wall; the second is inverted, a proof that they have been placed in this situation by modern barbarians as ornaments: [xxxxx]. [xxxxx].
Between the first and second inscriptions is a niche in the wall, about four feet high; resembling the annexed figure: [xxxxx].
Over a door in the western part of the town is the following: [xxxxx].
Oerman has a spring; but my guides, afraid of prolonging our stay in these desert parts, denied its existence when I enquired for it. I was informed afterwards that a large stone, on which is an inscription, lies near it. There are also several Birkets.
From Oerman we proceeded one hour and a quarter, to the town and castle called Szalkhat (ﺕﺧﻟﺻ): the intermediate country is full of ruined walls. The soil of the desert, as well here as between Zahouet and Oerman, is black; and, notwithstanding the abundant rains, the ground was intersected in every direction by large fissures caused by the summer heat. The castle of Szalkhat is situated upon a hill at the southern foot of the Szfeikh. The town, which occupies the south and west foot of the castle hill, is now uninhabited; but fifteen years since a few Druse and Christian families were established here, as well as at Oerman: the latter retired to Khabeb, where I afterwards saw them, and where they are still called Szalkhalie. The town contains upwards of eight hundred houses, but presents nothing worthy of observation except a large mosque, with a handsome Madene or Minaret; the mosque was built in the year 620 of the Hedjra, or A.D. 1224, as appears from an inscription upon it; the Minaret is only two hundred years old. But even the mosque seems to have been nothing more than a repaired temple or church, as there are several well wrought niches in its outer walls: and the interior is vaulted, with arches supported by low pillars similar to those which have been before described. Several stones are lying about, with Greek inscriptions; but all so much defaced as to be no longer legible. Within the mosque lies a large stone with a fleur-de-lis cut upon it. In the court-yards of the houses of the town are a great number of fig and pomegranate trees; the former were covered with ripe fruit, and as we had tasted nothing this day but dry flour, we made a hearty dinner of the figs. There is no spring either in the castle or town of Szalkhat, but every house has a deep cistern lined with stone; there is also a large Birket.
The castle stands upon the very summit of the hill, and forms a complete circle; it is a very commanding position, and of the first importance as a defence of the Haouran against the Arabs. It is surrounded by a deep ditch, which separates the top of the hill from the part immediately below it. I walked round the outside of the ditch in twelve minutes. The upper hill, except in places where the rock is firm, is paved with large flat stones, similar to those of the castle of Aleppo: a number of these stones, as well as parts of the wall, have fallen down, and in many places have filled up the ditch to half its depth. I estimated the height of the paved upper hill to be sixty yards. A high arched bridge leads over the ditch into the castle. The wall of the castle is of moderate thickness, flanked all round by towers and turrets pierced with numerous loop holes, and is constructed of small square stones, like some of the eastern walls of Damascus. Most of the interior apartments of the castle are in complete ruins; in several of them are deep wells. On entering I observed over the gate a well sculptured eagle with expanded wings; hard by, on the left of the entrance, are two capitals of columns, placed one upon the other, each adorned with four busts in relief projecting from a cluster of palm leaves. The heads of the busts are wanting; the sculpture is indifferent. A covered way leads from the inside of the gateway into the interior; of this I took a very cursory view, as the day was near closing, and my companions pressed me very much to depart, that we might reach a village three hours distant; there being no water here for my horse, I the more readily complied with their wishes. Over the entrance of a tower in the interior I read these two lines:
ﺭﻳﻣﻻﺍ ﺝﺭﺑﻟﺍ ﺍﺫﻫ ﺓﺭﺎﻣﻌﺑ ﺭﻣ ﺍ ﻡﻳﺣﺭ ﻥﻣﺣﺭ ﻩﻻﺍ ﻡﺳﺑ
ﺭﻣﻛﺗ ﻭﺑﺍ ﻥﻳ ﺩﻟﺍ ﺩﻌﺳ ﻝ ﺩﺎﻌﻟﺍ ﻚﻟﻣﻟ ﺍ ﻡﺎﻳ ﻲﻔ …
“In the name of God, the merciful and the munificent. During the reign of the equitable king Saad-eddin Abou-takmar, the Emir --- ordered the building of this castle;” which makes it probable that it was erected for the defence of the country against the Crusaders. In one of the apartments I found, just appearing above the earth, the upper part of a door built of calcareous stone, a material which I have not met with in any part of the Haouran: over it is the following inscription, in well engraved characters: [xxxxx]. Upon the architrave of the door, on both sides of the inscription, are masques in bas-relief.
In an apartment where I saw several small entrances to sepulchres, and where there are several columns lying about, is this: [xxxxx]. And, on a stone in the wall of the same apartment: [xxxxx].
The hill upon which the castle stands consists of alternate layers of the common black tufwacke of the country, and of a very porous deep red, and often rose-coloured, pumice-stone: in some caverns formed in the latter, salt-petre collects in great quantities. I met with the same substance at Shohba.
S.W. of Szalkhat one hour and a half, stands the high Tel Abd Maaz, with a ruined city of the same name; there still remain large plantations of vines and figs, the fruit of which is collected by the Arabs in autumn. Near Abd Maaz is another ruin called Deffen. S. one hour is Tel Mashkouk (ﻕﻭﻗﺷﻣ), towards which are the ruins Tehhoule (ﻪﻟﻭﺣﺗ), Kfer ezzeit (ﺕﻳﺯﻟﺍ ﺭﻓﻗ), and Khererribe (ﻪﺑﺭﺭﺧ).
We left Szalkhat towards sunset, on a rainy evening, in order to reach Kereye, a village three good hours distant. In one hour we passed the ruined village Meneidhere (ﻩﺭﺿﻳﻧﻣ), with a copious spring near it. Our route lay through a stony plain, and the night now becoming very dark, with incessant rain, my guides lost their way, and we continued for three hours uncertain whether we should not be obliged to take up our night’s quarters in the open plain. At length, however, we came to the bed of a Wady called Hameka, which we ascended for a short distance, and in half an hour after crossing it reached Kereye, about ten at night; here we found a comfortable Fellah’s house, and a copious dish of Bourgul.
November 23d. - Kereye is a city containing about five hundred houses, of which four only were at this time inhabited. It has several ancient towers, and public buildings; of the latter the principal has a portico consisting of a triple row of six columns in each, supporting a flat roof; seven steps, extending the whole breadth of the portico, lead from the first row up to the third; the capitals of the columns are of the annexed form; their base is like the capital inverted. Behind the colonnade is a Birket surrounded with a strong wall. Upon a stone lying upon the upper step, in the midst of which is an excavation, is this inscription: [xxxxx].
To the S. and E. of Kereye are the ruins called Ai-in (ﻥﻳﻳﻋ), Barade (ﻩﺩﺭﺎﺑ), Nimri (ﻱﺭﻣﻧ), Bakke (ﻪﻗﺑ), Hout (ﺕﻭﺣ), Souhab (ﺏﺣﻭﺳ), Rumman (ﻥﺎﻣﺭ), Szemad (ﺩﺎﻣﺻ), and Rafka (ﺎﻗﻓﺭ). Kelab Haouran bears from Kereye N.S.E. Kereye is three hours distance from Boszra (ﺓﺭﺻﺑ), the principal town in the Haouran, remarkable for the antiquity of its castle, and the ancient ruins and inscriptions to be found there. I wished very much to visit it, and might have done so in perfect safety, and without expense; but I knew that there was a garrison of between three and four hundred Moggrebyns in the town; a class of men which, from the circumstance of their passing from one service to another, I was particularly desirous of avoiding. It was very probable that I might afterwards meet with some of the individuals of this garrison in Egypt, where they would not have failed to recognize my person, in consequence of the remarkable circumstance of my visit to Boszra; but as I did not think proper to state these reasons to my guides, who of course expected me to examine the greatest curiosity in the Haouran, I told them that I had had a dream, which made it advisable for me not to visit this place. They greatly applauded my prudent determination, accustomed as they had been to look upon me as a person who had a secret to insure his safety, when travelling about in such dangerous places. We therefore left Kereye in the morning, and proceeding N.E. reached in three quarters of an hour Houshhoush (ﺶﻬﺷﻫ), after having crossed the Wady Djaar (ﺭﺎﻌﺟ), which descends from the mountain. Houshhoush is a heap of ruins, upon a Tel in the plain, and is famed over all the Haouran for the immense treasures said to be buried there. Whenever I was asked by the Fellahs where I had been, they never failed to enquire particularly whether I had seen Houshhoush. The small ancient village contains nothing remarkable except a church, supported by a single arch which rests on pillars much higher than those generally seen in this country. At the foot of the hill are several wells. We found here a great number of mushrooms; we had met with some at Szalkhat; my guides taught me to eat them raw, with a morsel of bread. The quantity of Kattas here was beyond description; the whole plain seemed sometimes to rise; and far off in the air they were seen like large moving clouds.
W. of Houshhoush half an hour, in the plain, are Tel Zakak and Deir Aboud; the latter is a building sixty feet square, of which the walls only are standing; they are built with small stones, and have a single low door. From this place W.S.W. three quarters of an hour is Tahoun el Abiad (ﺽﻳﺑﻻﺍ ﻥﻭﺣﻁ ) i.e. the White Mill, the ruins of a mill on the banks of the Wady Ras el Beder, which I noticed in speaking of Zahouet el Khuder. S.W. from Tahoun, three quarters of an hour, is the ruined village Kourd (ﺩﻭﺭﻛ), and W. from it one hour, the village Tellafe (ﻪﻓﻻﺗ). Our way from Deir Aboud lay W.S.W.; at one hour and a half from it is the considerable ruined village Keires (ﺱﺭﻳﻗ), on the Wady Zedi, the largest of all the Wadys which descend from the mountain into the plain. The soil of this uncultivated district is of a red colour, and appears to be very fertile. From hence I proceeded towards Boszra, which I observed at the distance of half an hour, from the high ground above Keires. The castle of Boszra bore W.S.W. that of Szalkhat E.S.S., and the Kelab Haouran N.E.; I was near enough to distinguish the castle, and the mosque which is called by the Mohammedans El Mebrek, from the lying down of the Caliph Othman’s camel.
Turning from hence, in a N.W. direction, we came to the ruined village Shmerrin (ﻥﻳﺭﻣﺷ), about three quarters of an hour from Keires. Over a door in the village I read: [xxxxx]. Near the village stands an insulated tower, with an Arabic inscription , but so high that I could not copy it; above it in large characters is [xxxxx]. The Wady Zedi passes close to this village, where a bridge of three arches is built over it; I was told that in winter the waters often rise over the bridge. Farther to the west this Wady joins that of Ghazale.
From Shmerrin we travelled to the northward; about an hour and a half to our left was the village Kharaba. We were now upon the Hadj route formerly pursued by the pilgrims from Damascus through the Ledja to Soueida and Boszra. The road is still marked by stones scattered over it, the remains, probably, of its pavement.
Thee quarters of an hour from Shmerrin, close to the right of the road, stands Deir Esszebeir (ﺭﻳﺑﺹﻟﺍ ﺭﻳ ﺩ), a ruined village with a building like a monastery. At sunset we reached Aaere, two hours and a quarter from Shmerrin.
November 24th and 25th. - I remained at Aaere these two days, during which the Sheikh continued his friendly behaviour towards me. It was my wish to make an excursion towards the western parts of the plain of the Haouran, in order to visit Draa, and the ruins of Om Edjemal and Om Ezzeroub, distant one day’s journey from Draa, which, judging from all the information I had received, seemed to be well worth seeing. I offered to any person, or company of men, who would undertake to guide me to the spot, thirty piastres, a large sum in these parts, but nobody was to be found. The fact was that the road from Aaere to Draa, as well as that from thence to Om Edjemal, was infested by a party of Arabs Serdie, the brother of whose chief had recently been killed by the Pasha’s troops; and besides these, it was known that numerous parties of Arabs Sheraka made incursions in the same direction I was therefore obliged to give up my project, but with the intention of executing it at a future period.
November 28th. - I left Aaere in the company of a Druse; at parting the Sheikh made me promise that I would again visit his village. The direction of our route was to the N.W. In an hour and a quarter, over a plain, in most parts cultivated, we reached El Kenneker (ﺭﻛﻧﻛﻟﺍ), a solid building upon a hill, with a few habitations round it; all the villages in this part are inhabited; we saw the traces of the Wahabi in a burnt field. E. from hence one hour is Deir Ettereife (ﻪﻓﻳﺭﻁﻟﺍ ﺭﻳ ﺩ). N.E. half an hour, the village Hadid (ﺩﻳﺩﺣ); half an hour farther passed Ousserha (ﻪﻫﺭﺳﻭ), a village with a copious spring. One hour and a half E. we saw Walgha (ﺎﻐﻟﻭ). Just before we reached Ousserha we passed the Wady El Thaleth, which I have mentioned between Soueida and Zahouet. Continuing on the side of the Wady for three quarters of an hour, we came to Thaale (ﻪﻟﻌﺛ), where there is a Birket: here we stopped to breakfast. It is inhabited by Mohammedans only.
In a building now used as a mosque, within which are four arches, and three short pillars in the vestibule, I copied the two following inscriptions placed opposite each other. [xxxxx]7. On a long wall of a building entirely in ruins: [xxxxx].
From Thaale one hour S.W. is Tel Sheikh Houssein, with the village Deir Ibn Kheleif; to the W. of which is El Kerak. We proceeded from Thaale in a W. direction, half an hour, to Daara (ﺓﺭﺎﻋﺩ), a village with a Birket. On the wall of the mosque I read as follows: [xxxxx].
One hour to the W. of the village is Rakham. Travelling from Daara N.W. we reached in one hour and a quarter the village Melihat Ali, to the S. of which, half an hour, stands Melihat el Ghazale. In one hour and a quarter from Melihat Ali we reached Nahita (ﻪﺗﻳﻬﻧ), where we slept. On the S. side of the village, near a well, now filled up, stands a small square tower, built with large stones; there is a long inscription over its entrance, but illegible.
November 27th. - In a ruined arched building I copied the following: [xxxx]. and over a door as follows: [xxxxx]. This village has a large Birket, and contains a ruined tower, with vaulted buildings adjoining.
We proceeded one hour to Melihat el Hariri, so named from its Sheikh being generally of the family of Hariri; the proper name of the village is Melihat el Atash. I there copied the following, over a door: [xxxxx].
From thence, in one hour and a quarter, I reached Ezra, and alighted at the house of the priest. I again endeavoured to visit Draa, but no body would undertake to act as my guide except a peasant, in whose company I did not think that I should be sufficiently secure; for it had been a constant rule with me, during this tour, not to expose myself to any hazard, well knowing that this was not the place, where duty and honour obliged me to do so; on the contrary, I felt that I should not be justified in risking my life, in this quarter, destined as I am to other, and it is hoped, more important pursuits.
November 28th. - I left Ezra this morning with the priest, to visit some villages in the northern Loehf, and if possible to enter the Ledja. We rode one hour to Keratha, close to which is a spring. From Keratha, in an hour and a quarter, we came to Mehadje, whence I saw Tel Shiehhan bearing E.S.E. To the east of the road from Ezra to Mehadje on the Ledja are the ruins of Sour and Aazim. From Mehadje we entered the Ledja, and continued in it, at half an hour’s distance from the cultivated plain, in the direction N.E., till we reached Khabeb (ﺏﺑﺧ), at the end of two hours. Between Tebne and Khabeb lies the village Bossir. From Khabeb the Kelab Haouran bears S.S.E. This is a considerable village, inhabited for the greater part by Catholic Christians, who, as I have mentioned above, emigrated from Szalkhat. The Sheikh is a Druse. I met here a poor Arab, a native of the country three days journey from Mekka; he told me that the Wahabi had killed four of his brothers; that he fled from home, and established himself at Dael, a village in the Haouran, which was ransacked last summer by the same enemies, when he lost the whole of his property. This man corroborated what I have repeatedly been told, that a single person may travel over the Wahabi dominions with perfect safety.
November 29th. - I here took two Druses to conduct me into the interior of the Ledja. The Arabs who inhabit that district pay some deference to the Druses, but none whatever to the Turks or Christians of the neighbouring villages. In one hour we passed the two ruined cities Zebair (ﺭﻳﺎﺑﺯ) and Zebir (ﺭﻳﺑﺯ), close to each other. At the end of two hours and a quarter, our road lying in the direction of the Kelab Haouran, we came to the ruined village Djedel (ﻝﺩﻳﺟ). Thus far the Ledja is a level country with a stony soil covered with heaps of rocks, amongst which are a number of small patches of meadow, which afford excellent pasture for the cattle of the Arabs who inhabit these parts. From Djedel the ground becomes uneven, the pasturing places less frequent, the rocks higher, and the road more difficult. I had intended to proceed to Aahere, where there is a fine spring; but evening coming on we stopped near Dhami (ﻲﻣﺎﺿ), three hours and three quarters from Khabeb, and two hours distant from Aahere. It appears strange that a city should have been built by any people in a spot where there is neither water nor arable ground, and nothing but a little grass amidst the stones. Dhami may contain three hundred houses, most of which are still in good preservation. There is a large building whose gate is ornamented with sculptured vine leaves and grapes, like those at Kanouat.
Every house appears to have had its cistern; there are many also in the immediate vicinity of the town: they are formed by excavations in the rock, the surface of which is supported by props of loose stones. Some of them are arched. and have narrow canals to conduct the water into them from the higher grounds. S.E. of Dhami half an hour is Deir Dhami (ﻲﻣﺎﺿ), another ruined place, smaller than the former, and situated in a most dreary part of the Ledja, near which we found, after a good deal of search, an encampment of Arabs Medledj, where we passed the night.
November 30th. - These Arabs being of a doubtful character, and rendered independent by the very difficult access of their rocky abode, we did not think it prudent to tell them that I had come to look at their country; they were told, therefore, that I was a manufacturer of gunpowder, in search of saltpetre, for at Dhami, and in most of the ruined villages in the Ledja, the earth which is dug up in the court-yards of the houses, as well as in the immediate vicinity of them, contains saltpetre, or as it is called in Arabic, Melh Baroud, i.e. gunpowder salt.
The Ledja, which is from two to three days journey in length, by one in breadth, is inhabited by several tribes of Arabs; viz. Selman (ﻥﺎﻣﻟﺳﻠﺍ), Medledj (ﺞﻠﺩﻤ), Szolout (ﻁﻭﻟﺼ), Dhouhere (ﻩﺮﻫﻭﻀ), and Siale (ﻪﻠﺎﻳﺴ); of these the Szolout may have about one hundred tents, the Medledj one hundred and twenty, and the others fifty or sixty. They breed a vast number of goats, which easily find pasturage amongst the rocks; a few of them also keep sheep and cows, and cultivate the soil in some parts of the Ledja, where they sow wheat and barley. They possess few horses; the Medledj have about twenty, and the Szolout and Dhouhere each a dozen. But I shall have occasion to speak of these Arabs again in describing the people of the country.
The tent in which we slept was remarkably large, although it could not easily be perceived amidst the labyrinth of rocks where it was pitched; yet our host was kept awake the whole night by the fear of robbers, and the dogs barked incessantly. He told me next morning that the Szolout had lately been very successful in their nightly depredations upon the Medledj. Our host having no barley, gave my horse a part of some wheat which he had just brought from the plain, to bake into bread for his family.
December 1st.- We departed at sunrise, the night having been so cold that none of us was able to sleep. We found our way with great difficulty out of the labyrinth of rocks which form the inner Ledja, and through which the Arabs alone have the clue. Some of the rocks are twenty feet high, and the country is full of hills and Wadys. In the outer Ledja trees are less frequent than here, where they grow in great numbers among the rocks; the most common are the oak, the Malloula, and the Bouttan; the latter is the bitter almond, from the fruit of which an oil is extracted used by the people of the country to anoint their temples and forehead as a cure for colds; its branches are in great demand for pipe tubes. There are no springs in any part of this stony district, but water collects, in winter time, in great quantities in the Wadys, and in the cisterns and Birkets which are every where met with; in some of these it is kept the whole summer; when they are dried up the Arabs approach the borders of the Ledja, called the Loehf, to water their cattle at the springs in that district. The camel is met with throughout the Ledja, and walks with a firm step over the rocky surface. In summer he feeds on the flowers or dry grass of the pasturing places. In the interior parts of the Ledja the rocks are in many places cleft asunder, so that the whole hill appears shivered and in the act of falling down: the layers are generally horizontal, from six to eight feet, or more, in thickness, sometimes covering the hills, and inclining to their curve, as appears from the fissures, which often traverse the rock from top to bottom. In many places are ruined walls; from whence it may be conjectured that a stratum of soil of sufficient depth for cultivation had in ancient times covered the rock.
We had lost our road, when we met with a travelling encampment of Medledj, who guided us into a more open place, where their companions were pitching their tents. We breakfasted with them, and I was present during an interesting conversation between one of my Druse companions and an Arab. The wife of the latter, it appeared, had been carried off by another Arab, who fearing the vengeance of the injured husband, had gone to the Druse Sheikh of Khabeb, and having secured his Dakhil (ﻝﺨﺪ), or protection, returned to the woman in the Ledja. The Sheikh sent word to the husband, cautioning him against taking any violent measures against his enemy. The husband, whom we here met with, wished to persuade the Druses that the Dakhil of the Sheikh was unjust, and that the adulterer ought to be left to his punishment. The Druse not agreeing with him, he swore that nothing should prevent him from shedding the blood of the man who had bereft him of his own blood; but I was persuaded that he would not venture to carry his threat into effect; for should he kill his enemy, the Druses would not fail to be revenged upon the slayer or his family.
The outer Ledja is to be distinguished from the inner, on this side as well as on that by which we entered it, the former being much less rocky, and more fit for pasturage than the latter. On the borders of the inner Ledja we passed several places where the mill-stones are made, which I have mentioned in a former part of my journal. The stones are cut horizontally out of the rocks, leaving holes of four or five feet in depth, and as many in circumference; fifty or sixty of these excavations are often met with in the circumference of a mile. The stones are carried to be finished at Ezra, Mehadje, Aeib, Khabeb, and Shaara. In one hour and a half from the borders of the Ledja, we came to Kastal Kereim, a ruined village, with a Birket; half an hour from it, Kereim, a Druse village. Between Kereim and Khabeb in the Loehf, is Aeib (ﺏﻳﺍ), a Druse village, in which is a powder manufactory; there is another at Khabeb. Half an hour from Kereim is Kalaat Szamma (ﻪﻣﺼ ﺔﻌﻟﻘ), a ruined village, with several towers. One hour and a half, Shaara, a village inhabited by about one hundred Druse and Christian families. We travelled this day about eight hours and a half. Shaara was once a considerable city; it is built on both sides of a Wady, half an hour from the cultivated plain, and is surrounded by a most dreary barren War. It has several large solidly built structures, now in ruins, and amongst others a tower that must have been about forty-five feet high. In the upper town is an ancient edifice with arches, converted into a mosque: over its door is this inscription: [xxxxx].
There is a salt-petre manufactory in the town; the earth in which the salt-petre is found, is collected in great quantities in the ruined houses, and thrown into large wooden vessels perforated with small holes on one side near the bottom. Water is then poured in, which drains through the holes, into a lower vessel, from whence it is taken, and poured into large copper kettles; after boiling for twenty-four hours, it is left in the open air; the sides of the kettles then become covered with crystals, which are afterwards washed to free them from all impurities. One hundred Rotolas of saline earth give from one to one and a half Rotola of salt-petre. I was told by the Sheikh of the village, who is the manufacturer on his own account, that he sends yearly to Damascus as much as one hundred Kantars. Here is also a gunpowder manufactory.
December 2d. - The Greek priest, who had not ventured to accompany me into the Ledja, I found again at Shaara. I wished to see some parts of the northern Loehf, and particularly the ruins of Missema, of which I heard much from the country people. I therefore engaged a man at Shaara, to conduct me to the place, and from thence to Damascus. We set out in the morning, proceeded along the limits of the War, in an easterly direction, and in three quarters of an hour came to the sources of water called Sheraya (ﺎﻳﻋﺭﺸ); they are five or six in number, are situated just on the borders of the War, and extend as far as Missema, watering all the plain before them. Here, in the spring, the people of Shaara grow vegetables and water melons, and in summer the Arabs of the Ledja sometimes sow the neighbouring fields with wheat; but the frequent passage of the Bedouins renders the collection of the harvest somewhat precarious. Missemi, or Missema, is situated in the Ledja, at one hour and a half from Shaara; it is a ruined town of three miles in circuit. Over the door of a low vaulted building I read the following inscription in well executed characters: [xxxxx].
The principal ruin in the town is a temple, in tolerable preservation; it is one of the most elegant buildings which I have seen in the Haouran. The approach to it is over a broad paved area, which has once been surrounded by a row of short pillars; a flight of six steps, the whole length of the façade, leads up to the portico, which consists of seven Doric columns, but of which three only are now standing. The entrance to the temple is through a large door in the centre, on each side of which is a smaller door; over the latter are niches. There are no sculptured ornaments on any part of the great door: the temple is sixteen paces square within. Four Corinthian columns standing in a square in the centre of the chamber support the roof. About two feet and a half under their capitals is a ring; their pedestals are three feet and a half high. Opposite the entrance is a large semicircular niche, the top of which is elegantly sculptured so as to resemble a shell. On either side of the niche is a pilaster, standing opposite to one of the columns. At the door are two pilasters similarly placed, and two others upon each of the side walls. Projecting from the bottom of each of these side walls, are four pedestals for busts or statues. The roof is formed of several arches, which, like the walls, are constructed with large stones. On either side of the interior niche is a small dark room. The door of the temple faces the south, and is almost completely walled up with small stones. Over the pedestals of two of the remaining columns of the portico are the following inscriptions: [xxxxx]. Over the great door: [xxxxx] [xxxxx]. In larger characters immediately under the former. [xxxxx] 8. On one of the jambs of the door; [xxxxx]. Upon a broken stone in the portico: [xxxxx]. [xxxxx]. On the pedestal of a statue in the temple: [xxxxx]. On another pedestal: [xxxxx]9. Under the niche to the left of the great door: [xxxxx]. Under that to the right: [xxxxx].
There are several other public buildings at Missema; but in no way remarkable for their architecture. I had been told that in one of these buildings was a large stone covered with small Greek characters. I sought for it in vain. Missema has no inhabitants; we met with only a few workmen, digging the saline earth: there are no springs here, but a number of cisterns. E. of Missema are no inhabited villages, but the Loehf contains several in ruins.
From Missema our way lay N.N.W. over the desert plain, towards Djebel Kessoue. This route is much frequented in the summer time by the Aeneze, who pass this way to and from the Haouran. The plain is intersected in every direction by paths formed by camels, called Daroub el aarb (ﺏﺭﻌﻠﺍ ﺏﻭﺮﺪ). At the end of two hours we saw to the left, in the mountains, the ruined village Om el Kezour; and one hour eastward from thence, in the plain, an insulated pillar called Amoud Esszoubh (ﺢﺑﺻﻠﺍﺪﻭﻣﻋ), i.e. the Column of the Morning, on which, as I was afterwards told, are several inscriptions. Our road now turned N. and we reached, after sunset, in three hours and a quarter from Missema, the ruined village Merdjan, where we found some men who had come to sow a few acres of ground, and partook of a frugal supper with them.
December 3d.- The small village of Merdjan is picturesquely situated on a gentle declivity near the foot of the mountain, and is surrounded by orchards, and poplar trees, which have escaped the rapacious hands of the Arabs: hard by flows a rivulet, which irrigates the adjacent grounds. We left Merdjan early in the morning. Twenty minutes north is Ain Toby (ﻲﺑﻄ ﻥﻳﻋ), or the spring of the gazelle, consisting of several wells, round one of which are the remains of a well built wall. At one hour and a half is Soghba (ﻪﺑﻐﺴ), a few houses surrounded by a wall; three quarters of an hour from thence is Deir Ali (ﻲﻟﻋ ﺮﻳﺪ), a village at the western foot of Djebel Mane; before we came to the village we crossed the Moiet Deir Ali, a rivulet whose source is in the neighbourhood. Half an hour from Deir Ali is Meshdie (ﻪﻳﺪﺷﻤ), a small village, in the valley between Djebel Mane and Djebel Khiara, which is about three hours in breadth. The ground is here for the greater part cultivated. Our route was N.N.W. from Deir Ali, from whence, in two hours, we reached El Kessoue, and towards sunset we entered Damascus.
1 The variation of the compass is not computed in any of the bearings of this journal.
2 A.D. 410. This was the third year of the Emperor Theodosius the younger, in whose reign the final decrees were issued against the Pagan worship. It appears from the inscription that the building upon which it is written was an ancient temple, converted into a church of St. George. Editor.
3 Hence it appears that Rima has preserved its ancient name. Ed.
4 Legionis Decimæ Flavianæ Fortis. Ed.
5 The fourteenth Legion was surnamed Gemina. See several inscriptions in Gruter. Ed.
6 The Szaffa (ﺎﻔﺻﻟﺍ) is a stony district, much resembling the Ledja, with this difference, that the rocks with which it is covered are considerably larger, although the whole may be said to be even ground. It is two or three days in circumference, and is the place of refuge of the Arabs who fly from the Pasha’s troops, or from their enemies in the desert. The Szaffa has no springs; the rain water is collected in cisterns. The only entrance is through a narrow pass, called Bab el Szaffa, a cleft, between high perpendicular rocks, not more than two yards in breadth, which one ever dared to enter as an enemy. If a tribe of Arabs intend to remain a whole year in the Szaffa, they sow wheat and barley on the spots fit for cultivation on its precincts. On its E. limits are the ruined villages of Boreisie, Oedesie, and El Koneyse. On its western side this district is called El Harra, a term applied by the Arabs to all tracts which are covered with small stones, being derived from Harr, i.e. heat (reflected from the ground.)
7 A.D. 683, the twenty-third year of the Emperor Heraclius.
8 Legionis tertiæ Gallicæ. Ed.
9 Tribunum (Χιλίαρχον) Legionis Flaviæ firmæ. This was the 16th legion, as appears from the two following inscriptions. The 16th has the same title in an inscription in Gruter (p. 427). Ed.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:51