February 14th. - I LEFT Aleppo at mid-day; and In half an hour came to the miserable village Sheikh Anszary (ﻱﺭﺻﻧﺍﺦﻳﺷ), where I took leave of my Worthy friends Messieurs Barker and Van Masseyk, the English and Dutch Consuls, two men who do honour to their respective countries. I passed the two large cisterns called Djob Mehawad (ﺩﻮﺎﺣﻤ ﺏﺟ), and Djob Emballat (ﻁﻠﺑﻤ ﺏﺠ), and reached, at the end of two hours and a half, the Khan called Touman (ﻥﺎﻤﻮﺘ ﻥﺎﺨ), near a village of the same name, situated on the Koeyk, or river of Aleppo. The Khan is in a bad state; Pashas no longer think of repairing public edifices.
February 15th. - After a march of ten hours and a half, I arrived at Sermein, having had some difficulty in crossing the muddy plain. The neighbourhood of Sermein is remarkable for great numbers of cisterns and wells hewn in the rock: in the town every house has a similar cistern; those in the plain serve to water the peasants’ cattle in the summer, for there are no springs in these parts. On the S.E. side of Sermein is a large subterraneous vault, cut in the solid rock, divided into several apartments, and supported in various places by round pillars with coarsely wrought capitals; near this are several other excavations, all inhabited by the poor peasants. Sermein belongs to the family of Khodsy Effendy of Aleppo.
February 16th. - Half an hour to the left, near our road, is an insulated hill, with the tomb of a saint, called Kubbet Denneit (ﺕﻳﻧﺪ); the plain is here well cultivated, but nothing is sown at present between Khan Touman and Sermein. To the right of the road, on a similar hill, stands Mezar Kubbet Menebya (ﻊﻳﺑﻧﻤ ﺔﺑﻗ ﺭﺍﺯﻣ); and one hour to the right, also upon a Tel, Mezar Tar (ﺭﺍﻄ ﺭﺍﺯﻤ). Half an hour S.E. from Denneit is the village Gemanas.
In two hours and a half from Sermein we reached the town of Edlip (ﺏﻟﺩﺍ), the approach to which is very picturesque; it lies round the foot of a hill, which divides it into two parts; there is a smaller hill on the N. side: the town is surrounded by olive plantations, and the whole landscape put my companion, an English traveller, in mind of Athens and its vicinity. Here again are many wells cut in the rocky soil round the town. This place is called Little Edlip (ﻱﺭﻐﺻﻟﺍﺏﻠ ﺪﺍ). Of Great Edlip (ﺍﺭﺑﻛﻟﺍ ﺏﻟ ﺩﺍ), the name only remains: it stood at half an hour’s distance from the present town, which is of modern date, or about the middle of the seventeenth century. I reckoned the number of its houses at about one thousand. The inhabitants are for the most part Turks; there are only eighty Greek Christian families, and three of Armenian Greeks. They have a church, and three priests, and are under the immediate jurisdiction of the Greek Patriarch of Damascus.
The principal trade of Edlip is in soap; there are some manufactories of cotton stuffs, and a few dyeing-houses. The Bazars are well built, some of them of stone. In the town are several Khans, two of which are destined for the reception of strangers; but the best edifice is the soap manufactory (El Meszbane), a large building. Edlip has no gardens, because there is no water but from wells and cisterns; there are a few orchards of pomegranate and fig trees, and some vine plantations. The place is supplied with vegetables from Rieha, and from Aere, a village two hours distant, lying between Darkoush and Djissr Shogher. There is a single spring in the town of brackish water, which is never used but in seasons of great drought; a man who had cleansed the bottom of the deep well in which the spring issues, told me that he found two openings in the rock, near each other, from the one of which flows sweet water, while that from the other is brackish. I made the tour of the town in thirty-seven minutes; the rocky ground is full of caverns, wells, and pits.
Edlip is held by the family of Kuperly Zaade of Constantinople; but a part of its revenue is a Wakf to the Harameyn, that is to say, it contributes to defray the expenses of the two holy cities Mekka and Medina. The town pays annually to the above family, twenty purses for themselves, and fifteen for the holy cities; the latter sum was formerly sent to Mekka every year with the pilgrim caravan; but it is now paid into the hands of the Kuperlys. The town of Djissr Shogher (ﺭﻐﺷﺭﺴﺟ), distant six hours from Edlip, on the road to Ladikía, belongs to the same family, and is likewise a Wakf attached to the holy cities; it pays fifteen purses to the Kuperlys, and seven to the Harameyn. The revenue arising from thirteen or fourteen villages in the neighbourhood of Djissr Shogher has been assigned to the support of several hospitals which the Kuperlys have built in that town, where a number of poor people are fed daily gratis. Neither Edlip nor Shogher pays any land-tax or Miri, in consequence of their being attached to Mekka; but there is a custom-house at Edlip, where duties are levied on all kinds of provisions, as rice, coffee, oil, raisins, tobacco, &c. the proceeds of which amount to nearly one hundred purses; besides a house tax, which yields twenty purses. The duties levied on provisions at Djissr Shogher amount to twenty purses.
The government of Edlip is in the hands of a Mutsellim, named by the Porte; the real power had been for many years in the rich family of Ayash (ﺶﺎﻳﺍ), till the present chief of that family, Mahmoud Ibn Ayash, a man famous for his hospitality and upright character, had the misfortune to lose all his influence. In 1810 his house became involved in a deadly quarrel with that of Djahya, in consequence of a game of Jerid, which took a serious turn, and in which much blood was shed. Djahya left Edlip, and went to Rieha and Djissr Shogher, where he succeeded in engaging in his interest Seyd Aga and Topal Aly, the rebel chiefs of those towns, who only wanted a pretext to fall upon Edlip; they accordingly stirred up the inhabitants against Mahmoud, who was obliged to fly to Aleppo, and having sent the Mutsellim, Moury Aga, back to Constantinople, they put Abou Shah, the brother-in-law of Topal Aly, in his place, and brought Djahya back to Edlip. After some months the two rebels came to a compromise with Mahmoud, who returned to Edlip, and Djahya, in turn, fled to Aleppo; Mahmoud’s power, however, was now at an end: the two chiefs are at present masters of the town, and share its spoils; but its wealth has much decreased since these events took place. In eighteen months it has paid upwards of six hundred purses; and on the day before our arrival a new contribution of two hundred had spread despair among the inhabitants. A Kadhi is sent here yearly from Constantinople. Sermein bears from hence S.E. by E. There are no dependent villages in the territory of Edlip.
February 11th. - We left Edlip after mid-day. Our road lay through a wood of olive trees, in a fertile uneven plain of red argillaceous soil. In one hour we reached Sheikh Hassan, the tomb of a saint; in an hour and a quarter the insulated hill Tel Stommak (ﻙﻣﺗﺴ), with the village Stommak on its west side. The direction from Edlip S. by W.: this hill seems to be an artificial mound of earth. The Wood of olive trees here terminates. In two hours and forty minutes we arrived at Rieha (ﺎﺣﻳﺭ), which we did not enter, through fear of the rebel Seyd Aga, who occupies it. It contains about four or five hundred houses, is a much frequented market, and has two large soap manufactories. Rieha is situated on the northern declivity of the Djebel Erbayn (ﻥﻳﻌﺑﺮﺍ ﻝﺑﺟ), or the Mountain of the Forty; and belongs to the government of Aleppo; but since the expulsion of Mohammed Pasha, Seyd Aga has been in the possession of it, and governs also the whole mountain of Rieha, of which Djebel Erbayn forms a part. This man is a chief of that kind of cavalry which the Turks call Dehlys. He has about three hundred of them in his service, together with about one hundred Arnaouts; common interests have closely connected him with Topal Aly, the chief of the Dehlys at Djissr Shogher, who has about six hundred under his command, and with Milly Ismayl, another chief, who commands at Kalaat el Medyk. Unless the Porte finds means to disunite these three rebels, there is little probability of its reducing them. They at present tyrannize over the whole country from Edlip to Hamah.
About two hours to the S.E. of Rieha lies the village of Marszaf (ﻑﺎﺻﺭﻣ), and S. of the latter about one hour, the ruined town Benin. We ascended the mountain from Rieha, turned round its eastern corner, and in one hour from Rieha, reached the village of Kefr Lata (ﺔﺗﻻ ﺭﻔﻛ). We were hospitably received at the house of the Sheikh of Kefr Lata, although his women only were at home. A wondering story-teller amused us in the evening with chanting the Bedouin history of the Beni Helal. Kefr Lata belongs to Ibn Szeyaf, one of the first families of Aleppo.
February 18th. - Kefr Lata is situated upon the mountain of Rieha, on the S. side of a narrow valley watered by a rivulet; it contains forty or fifty houses, all well built of square stones, which have been taken from the buildings of a town of the lower empire, which occupied the same site. The remains deserve notice, on account of the vast quantity of stone coffins and sepulchres. The mountain is a barren calcareous rock, of no great hardness. In some places are a few spots of arable ground, where the inhabitants of the village grow barley and Dhourra. On the side of the rivulet are some fruit trees. We were occupied the whole morning in visiting the neighbourhood of the village, which must have been anciently the burying place of all the great families of this district; the number of tombs being too considerable for so small a town as Kefr Lata appears to have been; no such sepulchres, or at least very few, are met with among the ruins of the large cities which we saw afterwards in the same mountain. Beginning on the west side of the village, I counted sixteen coffins and seven caves; the coffins are all excavated in the rock; the largest are nine feet long, and three feet and a half in breadth; the smaller seven feet long, and three feet broad; their depth is generally about five feet. In the greater part of them there is on one side a curved recess, cut in the rock, about four feet in length, and two feet in breadth. All these coffins had originally stone lids of a single block of stone, exactly covering the aperture of the coffin. Only a small proportion of these now remain entire, but there are some quite uninjured. I saw only two or three in which a sculptured frieze or cornice was carried along the whole length of the cover; the generality have only a few ornaments on the two ends; they are all of the annexed shape.
The apertures of the coffins are invariably even with the surface of the ground, and the lids only are seen from without, as if lying upon the surface.
The sepulchral caves vary in their sizes and construction; the entrance is generally through a low door, sometimes ornamented by short pilasters, into a vaulted room cut in the rock, the size of which varies from six to fifteen feet in length, and from four to ten feet in breadth; the height of the vault is about six feet; but sometimes the cave terminates in a flat roof. They all contain coffins, or receptacles for the dead; in the smaller chambers there is a coffin in each of the three sides: the larger contain four or six coffins, two opposite the entrance, and one on each side, or two on each of the three sides: the coffins in general are very rudely formed. Some of the natural caverns contain also artificial receptacles for the dead, similar to those already described; I have seen many of these caverns in different parts of Syria. The south side of the village being less rocky, there are neither caves nor coffins on that side. On the east side I counted twenty-one coffins, and five sepulchral caves; of the former, fourteen are within a very small space; the greater part of them are single, but in same places they have been formed in pairs, upon the same level, and almost touching each other.
Crossing to the N. side of the valley of Kefr Lata, I met with a long wall built with large blocks of stone; to the north of it is an oblong square, thirty-seven paces in length, and twenty-seven in breadth, cut out of the rock; in its walls are several niches. In the middle of it is a large coffin, with the remains of a wall which had enclosed it. To the E. of this is a similar square, but of smaller dimensions. I counted in this neighbourhood twenty coffins and four sepulchral caves, besides several open niches very neatly wrought in the side of the mountain, containing recesses for the dead.
Returning towards the village I passed the source of the rivulet which waters the valley. Over it stands an ancient building, which consists of a vaulted roof supported by four short columns, in a very bad heavy style; it is about thirteen feet in height. A few letters of a Greek inscription are visible on the lower part of the roof: [xxxxx].
We left the village about mid-day, and crossed the mountain in a northerly direction, by the short foot way to Rieha; in half an hour we reached the point of the mountain directly over Rieha. It is this part of the Djebel Rieha which is properly called Djebel Erbayn. In the last century a summer residence was built here just above the town; but it is now abandoned, although a most beautiful spot, surrounded by fruit trees of all sorts, with a copious spring, and presenting a magnificent view over the plains of Aleppo and Edlip. A spring, which here issues from under the rock, collects in front of the building into a large basin, from whence it flows down to Rieha. I here took the following bearings; Edlip N. by E.; Sermein N.E. b. N.; Mount St. Simon N.N.E.; Khan Touman E.N.E.; Djebel el Ala N.; Djebel Akra W.N.W. About one hour N.E. of Rieha lies the village Haleya.
From Djebel Erbayn we continued our road in a S.S.W. direction, on the declivity of the mountain of Rieha. In half an hour we passed a copious spring, enclosed by a square building, called El Monboaa (ﻉﻮﺑﻧﻤﻠﺍ). In the plain to the right we saw the village Kefrzebou (ﻮﺑﺯ ﺭﻔﻛ), and half an hour to the west of it another, called Ourim (ﻡﺮﻮﺍ). We met with several sepulchral caves on our road. Wherever, in these parts, the soil admits of culture, wheat and barley are sown among the rocks. If such spots are distant from a village, the cultivators pitch a few tents for the purpose of watching the seed and crop; such encampments are called Mezraa (ﻉﺮﺯﻣ). In an hour and ten minutes we reached Nahle; two hours and forty minutes the village Meghara (ﺓﺭﺎﻐﻣ), with many remains of ancient buildings. Here I saw a neat sepulchral cave with a vaulted portico supported by two pillars. In three hours we reached the village Merayan (ﻥﺎﻳﻋﺭﻤ); the direction of our route sometimes S.W. sometimes S.S.W. Just by Merayan is a large coffin, cut in the rocky ground, like those of Kefr Lata; and near it a spring, with ancient walls. In three hours and twenty minutes we came to Ahsin (ﻥﻳﺳﺣﺍ), half an hour to the west of which is the village Eblim (ﻡﻳﻠﺑﺍ). The principal produce of all these villages is grapes, which are carried to the Aleppo market, and there sold, in ordinary years, at about nine shillings per quintal; or else they are boiled to form the sweet glutinous extract called Debs, which is a substitute for sugar all over the East. At the end of four hours and a half we reached the village El Bara (ﺍﺭﺎﺑﻠﺍ), where we finished our day’s journey; but we met with a very cold reception, although I had taken the precaution of obtaining a letter of recommendation to the Sheikh of the village from the proprietor of it, Taleb Effendi, of the family Tcheleby Effendi Toha Zade, the first house of Aleppo.
Half an hour N.W. of Bara lies the village Belyoum. A high hill, contiguous to the Djebel Rieha, called Neby Ayoub (ﺏﻮﻳﺍ ﻲﺑﻧ), bears N.W. from El Bara, distant about an hour and three quarters. On its summit is a Turkish chapel sacred to the memory of the prophet Ayoub (Job). Two hours distant from El Bara, S. by W. lies the village Kefr Nebyl.
February 20th. - The mountain of Rieha, of which El Bara forms a part, is full of the ruins of cities, which flourished in the times of the lower empire;1 those of El Bara are the most considerable of the whole, and as I had often heard the people of the country mention them, I thought it worth while to take this circuitous road to Hamah.
The ruins are about ten minutes walk to the west of the village. Directing our researches to that side we met with a sepulchral cave in the immediate vicinity of the town; a broad staircase leads down to the entrance of it, over which I copied this inscription: [xxxxx].
The following figure, in relief, was over it. We saw the same figure, with variations, over the gates of several buildings in these ruins; the episcopal staff is found in all of them. The best executed one that I saw was of this form. On the outside of the town are several sepulchral caves, and a few coffins.
The town walls on the E. side are yet standing; they are very neatly built with small stones, with a square pillar at every six or seven paces, about nine feet high. The ruins extend for about half an hour from south to north, and consist of a number of public buildings, churches, and private habitations, the walls and roofs of some of which are still standing. I found no inscriptions here. The stone with which the buildings are constructed is a soft calcareous rock, that speedily decays wherever it is exposed to the air; it is of the same description as that found in the buildings of the towns about the mountain of St. Simon, and in the ruins of St. Simon, where not a single legible inscription remains, though, as at Bara, traces of them are seen in many places. We surveyed the town in all directions, but saw no building worth noticing, except three tombs, which are plain square structures surmounted with pyramids. The pyramidal summit of one of them has fallen. The interior of these tombs is a square of six paces; on the side opposite the door is a stone coffin; and two others in each of the other two walls; the pyramidal roof is well constructed, being hollow to the top, with rounded angles, and without any interior support. On the outside the pyramid is covered with thin slabs, on each of which is a kind of knob, which gives the whole a very singular appearance. The height of the whole building may be about twenty-four feet. In one of the tombs is a window, the other is quite dark. Two of them stand near together; the third is in a different part of the town. The sides of one of the coffins is carved with a cross in the middle.
The mode of construction in all the private habitations is similar to that which I noticed in the ancient towns of the Haouran, and which, in fact, is still in use in most of the Arab villages in Syria, with this difference, that the latter build with timber and mud instead of stone.
On the N. side of El Bara stands a castle, built in the Saracen or Crusade style, with a spring near it, called Bir Alloun (ﻥﻭﻟﻋﺭﻳﺑ), the only one in the neighbourhood of the ancient town, and which apparently was insufficient to the inhabitants, as we found many cisterns cut very deep in the rock. Turning from the spring towards the present village, we passed the tomb of a Turkish saint, called Kubbet Ibn Imaum Abou Beker, where the son of Abou Beker is reported to have been killed: near it is a cave, with eight receptacles for the dead. I saw there some rocks of the same basaltic tufwacke which I met with in the Djebel el Hasz and in some of the districts of Haouran.
The greater part of the villages of Djebel Rieha belong to the Dehly Bashi, at Rieha. Feteyry belongs to the district of Marra; its inhabitants have often been punished for their rebellious conduct, and their predatory incursions into the neighbouring districts; their spirit, however, is unbroken, and they still follow the same practices. The frontiers of the Pashaliks of Damascus and Aleppo run across the mountain of Rieha, which commences above Rieha, and extends to Kalaat el Medyk, varying in breadth from two to five hours: it is a low but very rocky chain, little fit for culture, except in the valleys; but it abounds in game, especially wild boars; and ounces have sometimes been killed in it.
We left the inhospitable Bara at mid-day, with two armed men, to escort us over the mountain into the valley of the Orontes. In half an hour we passed a ruined stone bridge across a narrow Wady; it rests upon piers, which are formed of immense blocks of stone piled upon one another. In one hour and twenty minutes we came to Kon Szafra, in a fertile valley on the top of the mountain, where a few families live in wretched huts amidst the ruins of an ancient town. N.W. about three quarters of an hour is the village of Mezraa. In an hour and forty minutes we reached the ruined town Djerada, and at the end of two hours and a half, Kefr Aweyt, a small village; Kefr, in the vulgar dialect, means ruins. Here the mountain is much less rocky, and more fit for culture. Our road lay S.W. b. S. The village of Feteyry, lies about one hour and a half south of Aweyt. After travelling three hours we came in sight of the Orontes, and then began to descend. The mountain on this side is rather steep, and its side is overgrown with herbs which afford an excellent pasturage. The plant asphodel (Siris ﺱﻳﺭﻳﺴ) is very common; the inhabitants of Syria, by pulverising its dried roots, and mixing the powder with water, make a good glue, which is superior to that made with flour, as it is not attacked by worms. In the summer the inhabitants of the valley pasture their cattle in these mountains, as do likewise a few tribes of Arabs; among these are the Akeydat, of whom we passed a small encampment.
The part of Djebel Rieha which, beginning at Kon Szafra, extends to the valley of the Orontes, on the one side towards Kalaat el Medyk, on the other towards Djissr Shogher, bears the appellation of Djebel Shaehsabou (ﻭﺑﺎﺳﺣﺷ). The continuation of the same mountain towards Rieha, besides its general name of Djebel Rieha, is likewise called Djebel Zaouy (ﻱﻭﺍﺯ). In four hours and a quarter we reached the plain below, near an insulated hill, called Tel Aankye (ﺔﻳﻗﻧﻋ ﻝﺘ), which seems to be artificial.
The valley bordered on the E. side by Djebel Shaehsabou, and on the W. side by the mountains of the Anzeyry, is called El Ghab (ﺏﺎﻐﻟﺍ). It extends almost due north from three hours S. of Kalaat el Medyk to near Djissr Shogher: its breadth is about two hours, but becomes narrower towards the north; it is watered by the Aaszy (ﻲﺻﺎﻋ), or Orontes, which flows near the foot of the western mountain, where it forms numerous marshes. The inhabitants of El Ghab are a mongrel race of Arabs and Fellahs, and are called Arab el Ghab. They live in winter time in a few villages dispersed over the valley, of which they cultivate only the land adjacent to their villages; on the approach of hot weather they retire with their cattle to the eastern mountains, in search of pasture, and in order to escape the immense swarms of flies and gnats (ﻖﺑ), which infest the Ghab in that season. In the winter the Aaszy inundates a part of the low grounds through which it flows, and leaves many small lakes and ponds; the valley is watered also by numerous springs and by rivulets, which descend from the mountains, especially from those on the east. To the N. of Tel Aankye, on the E. side towards Djissr Shogher, which is eight hours distant from Aankye, are the springs Ayn Bet Lyakhom (ﻡﺧﺎﻳﻠﺕﺑﻥﻳﻋ), Ayn Keleydyn (ﻥﻳﺩﻳﻟﻘﻥﻳﺍ), Shaouryt (ﺕﻳﺭﻭﺎﺸ), Kastal Hadj Assaf (ﻑﺴﺍﺝﺎﺣﻝﺘﺳﻗ), Djob Soleyman (ﻥﺎﻣﻳﻟﺳﺏﺟ), Djob el Nassouh (ﺡﻭﺳﻧﻟﺍﺏﺟ), Djob Tel el Tyn (ﻥﻳﺗﻟﺍ ﻝﺗﺏﺟ).
Having passed to the left of Aankye, where is a small village, we continued our road up the valley due south; we passed near the spring Ayn el Aankye; in a quarter of an hour farther Ayn el Kherbe, and at the same distance farther south, the copious spring Ayn el Howash (ﺵﺍﻭﺣﻟﺍ ﻥﻳﻋ), from whence we turned to the right into the plain, and at the end of four hours and three quarters from El Bara, reached the village Howash, where we alighted at the Sheikh’s house.
February 21st. - Howash is the principal village of the Ghab; it is situated on the borders of a small lake, formed by the rivulet of Ayn el Howash. The surrounding country was at this time for the greater part inundated, and the Arabs passed in small boats from one village to another; in summer the inundation subsides, but the lakes remain, and to the quantity of stagnant water thus formed is owing the pest of flies and gnats abovementioned. There are about one hundred and forty huts at Howash, the walls of which are built of mud; the roofs are composed of the reeds which grow on the banks of the Orontes; the huts in which these people live in the mountain during the summer are formed also of reeds, which are tied together in bundles, and thus transported to the mountain, where they are put up so as to form a line of huts, in which the families within are separated from each other only by a thin partition of reeds.
The Arabs of Howash cultivate Dhourra and wheat, and, like all the Arabs of the Ghab, rear large herds of buffaloes, which are of a small kind, and much less spirited than those I saw in the plains of Tarsous. It is a common saying and belief among the Turks, that all the animal kingdom was converted by their Prophet to the true faith, except the wild boar and buffalo, which remained unbelievers; it is on this account that both these animals are often called Christians. We are not surprised that the boar should be so denominated; but as the flesh of the buffalo, as well as its Leben or sour milk, is much esteemed by the Turks, it is difficult to account for the disgrace into which that animal has fallen among them; the only reason I could learn for it, is that the buffalo, like the hog, has a habit of rolling in the mud, and of plunging into the muddy ponds in the summer time, up to the very nose, which alone remains visible above the surface.
The territory of Djissr Shogher extends as far as Howash; from thence, southward, begins the district of Kalaat el Medyk. The Sheikh of Howash, called Mohammed el Omar, is noted in the adjoining districts for his hospitality; but within these few years he has been reduced from great wealth to poverty by the extortions of Topal Aly of Djissr Shogher, and of Milly Ismayl of Kalaat el Medyk; the troops which are continually passing from one place to another are consuming the last remains of his property. The night we slept at his house, there were at least fifty people at supper, of whom about thirty were poor Arabs of his village; the others were all strangers.
We left Howash early in the morning, and rode along the eastern mountains, in this beautiful valley, which I can compare only to the valley of the Bekaa between the two Libani; the Ghab, however, has this great advantage over the Bekaa, that it is copiously watered by a large river and many rivulets, while the latter, in summer time, has little or no water. At half an hour from Howash we met with several fragments of shafts of columns, on the side of an ancient paved causeway. We followed this causeway for upwards of an hour, although in some places no remains of it were visible; at the distance of a quarter of an hour (at the rate of about three miles and a half an hour), from the first heap of fragments of columns, we met with a similar heap; then at an equal interval a third, and again a fourth; not more than four columns seemed to have stood together in any of these places. We conjectured that this had been a Roman road, and the columns its milliaria. The causeway was traced here and there farther to the south, but without any appearance of stations; it probably followed the whole length of the valley from Apamea to Djissr Shogher. One hour and a quarter from Howash is Ayn Houyeth (ﺙﻳﻭﺣ ﻥﻳﻋ), a copious spring. The Roman road is here about sixteen feet in breadth. To the right, in the plain, is the village of Houyeth, and near it another village, called Ain Uktol (ﻝﺗﻘﺍﻥﻳﻋ). On our right was a perpendicular rock, upon which were patches of rich verdure. Two hours and a quarter is Ayn el Taka (ﺔﻗﺎﻁﻠﺍ ﻥﻳﻋ), a large spring, issuing from near the foot of the mountain, and forming a small lake which communicates with the Orontes. Here are the remains of some ancient walls. The temperature of this spring, as well as of those which we passed on the way from Aankye, is like that of water which has been heated by the sun in the midst of summer: it is probably owing to this temperature, that we observed such vast numbers of fish in the lake, and that they resort here in the winter from the Orontes; it is principally the species called by the Arabs the Black Fish, on account of its ash-coloured flesh; its length varies from five to eight feet. The fishery is at present in the hands of the governor of Kalaat el Medyk, who carries it on, on his own account; the period is from November till the beginning of January. The fishermen, who are inhabitants of the village Sherya (ﻊﻳﺮﺷ), situated on the borders of the lake, at half an hour’s distance from Ayn el Taka, enjoy a partial exemption from the Miri, or land-tax; they fish with harpoons during the night, in small boats, which carry five or six men; and so numerous are the fish, that by throwing the harpoons at random, they fill their boats in the course of the night. The quantity taken might be doubled, if there were a ready market for them. The Kantar, of five hundred and eighty pounds weight, is sold at about four pounds sterling. The fish are salted on the spot, and carried all over Syria, and to Cyprus, for the use of the Christians during their long and rigid fasts. The income derived from this fishery by the governor of Kalaat el Medyk amounts to about one hundred and twenty purses, or three thousand pounds sterling. Besides the black fish, carp are also taken with nets, and carried to Hamah and Homs, where the Turks are very fond of them. The depth of the lake is about ten feet; its breadth is quite irregular, being seldom more than half an hour; its length is about one hour and a half.
One hour from Ayn el Taka, and the lake El Taka, we arrived at the foot of the hill upon which stands Kalaat el Medyk (ﻕﻳﺩﻣﻠﺍ ﺕﻌﻟﻘ), or the castle of Medyk. It probably occupies the site of Apamea: for there can be little doubt that travellers have been wrong in placing that city at Hamah, the ancient Epiphania, or at some ruins situated at four hours distance from Hamah. Notwithstanding our desire to enter the castle, we could not venture to do so. The governor, Milly Ismayl, a man eighty-five years of age, and whose name has been well known in Syria for the last twenty years, was last year, when governor of Hamah, ordered by the Pasha of Damascus to march with his corps of Dehlys towards Ladakie, to join the Tripoli army, then fighting against the Anzeyrys, who inhabit the mountains between Ladakie and Antioch; in passing by Kalaat el Medyk, on his way to Djissr Shogher, he found the castle without a garrison, and took possession of it, thereby declaring himself a rebel. Orders have in consequence been given to strike off his head. Although his strong fortress enables him to defy these orders, his dread of being surprised induces him to try every means in his power to obtain his pardon from the Porte, and he has even sent considerable sums of money to Constantinople.2 Under these circumstances my companion and myself were afraid that he might lay hold of us, in order to make our deliverance subservient to his purposes; we therefore passed by the foot of the hill, while we sent in our attendants to buy some provisions. The castle is built upon an almost insulated hill, communicating on its eastern side only with the mountain called Djebel Oerimy (ﻲﻣﻳﺭﻋ), the southernmost point of Djebel Shaehsabou, which turns off here towards the east, and continues for about three hours in an easterly direction. To the south of Oerimy the undulations of the mountain continue for about three hours, and terminate in the plain of Terimsy, of which I shall speak presently. The castle of Medyk is built of small stones, with several turrets, and is evidently of modern construction. On the E. side, close to the gate, are ruined habitations; and to the S. on the declivity of the hill, is a mosque enclosed by a wall, which forms a kind of out-work to the castle. Within the castle wall are thirty or forty houses, inhabited by Turks and Greek Christians. I was told that the only relic of antiquity is a wall in the governor’s palace, built with large blocks of stone. At the western foot of the hill is a warm sulphureous spring, the water from which forms a pond; on the edge of the pond I found a fragment of a fine fluted Doric column. Near the spring is a large Khan for the accommodation of travellers. On the N. side of the hill are several columns scattered about.
As we wished to follow the valley of the Orontes as far as possible, we continued in the direction S. by W. along the plain, instead of taking the straight road towards Hamah. Half an hour from Kalaat el Medyk is Ayn Djoufar (ﺭﺎﻔﻭﺠ ﻥﻳﻋ), a rivulet flowing down the eastern hills through Wady Djoufar; it runs towards the castle, and empties itself into the pond at the castle spring. Up in the hills, in the direction of Wady Djoufar, are the villages of Keframbouda (ﺓﺩﻭﺑﻣﺍ ﺭﻓﻛ), Kournas (ﺱﺎﻧﺭﻭﻛ), Sheikh Hadid (ﺩﻳﺩﺣ ﺦﻳﺷ), and Djournye (ﺔﻳﻧﺭﻭﺠ), a little beyond Ayn Djoufar we passed the spring Ayn Abou Attouf (ﻑﻭﺗﻋ ﻭﺒﺍ ﻥﻳﻋ). In three quarters of an hour, another rivulet called Ayn el Sheikh Djouban (ﻥﺎﺑﻭﺟ ﺦﻳﺸ ﻥﻳﻋ), whose source is up in the hills. The valley El Ghab continues here of the same breadth as below. In the plain, about three quarters of an hour from Kalaat el Medyk, is a broad ditch, about fifteen feet deep, and forty in breadth, which may be traced for an hour and a half, towards the Orontes; near it is the village El Khandak (or the Ditch.) This ditch is not paved, and may formerly have served for the irrigation of the plain.
After proceeding for two hours from the castle, our two guides refused to go any farther, insisting that it would be impossible to continue longer in the valley; to say the truth, it was in many parts covered with water, or deep mud, for the rains had been incessant during several months, and the road we had already come, from the castle, was with difficulty passable; we were therefore obliged to yield, and turning to our left a little way up the hill, rested at the village of Sekeylebye (ﺔﻳﺑﻟﻳﻗﺳ), situated on one of the low hills, near a rivulet called Wady Sekeylebye. I may here observe that the springs coming from the eastern mountains of the Ghab never dry up, and scarcely even diminish during the height of summer.
From a point over the village, which belongs to Hamah, I took the following bearings: Tel Zeyn Abdein, near Hamah, S.E. Djebel Erbayn, between Hamah and Homs, S.S.E. The gap which separates the Anti-Libanus from the northern chain, to the W. of Homs and Hamah, S. by E. The highest point of Djebel Szoleyb, to the W. of Hamah and Homs, S. Tel Aasheyrne, in the plain, S. by W., Djebel Maszyad S.W. The eastern termination of Djebel Shaehsabou N.E. by E. To the S. and E. of Sekeylebye open the great plains which extend to the desert. To the S. distant one hour, near the borders of the hills which enclose the valley of the Ghab on this side, lies the Anzeyry village of Sherrar (ﺭﺍﺭﺴ), a quarter of an hour from whence is an insulated hill called Tel Amouryn. Two hours southward of Sekeylebye is Tel Aasheyrne, and half an hour farther, Tel el Shehryh. In the valley, about one hour and a half S.W. of Sekeylebye, lies the village El Haourat (ﺕﺍﺭﻭﺣﻟﺍ), with a ford over the Orontes, where there is a great carp (ﻲﻧﺑ) fishery. On the other side of the river is the insulated hillock Tel el Kottra (ﺓﺭﻂﻗﻠﺍ ﻝﺗ). The highest point of the mountain of the Anzeyrys, on the W. side of the Orontes, appears to be opposite to Kalaat el Medyk; it is called Kubbet Neby Metta (ﺎﺗﻣﻲﺑﻧﺔﺑﻘ), and has a chapel upon it, dedicated to the saint Metta, who is held in great veneration by the Anzeyrys. The principal villages in this mountain, belonging to the Anzeyrys, who live there upon the produce of their excellent tobacco plantations, are the following: to the W. of Howash, El Shattha (ﺔﺣﻁﺸﻟﺍ), to the S. of it, Merdadj (ﺝﺍﺩﺭﻣ), farther S. Aanab (ﺏﺎﻧﻋ). To the W. of Kalaat el Medyk, Ayn el Keroum (ﻡﻭﺭﻛﻟﺍ ﻥﻳﻋ), a village whose inhabitants are rebels. To the W. of Ayn Djoban, Fakrou (ﻭﺭﻗﻔ); above Tel el Kottra, Kalaat el Kebeys (ﺲﻳﺑﻘﻠﺍﺕﻌﻟﻘ). The mountain belongs to the government of Ladakie, but is immediately under the Anzeyry chief, El Fakker (ﺭﻘﻔﻟﺍ), who resides in the castle of Szaffytta.
The inhabitants of the Ghab hold the Anzeyrys in contempt for their religion, and fear them, because they often descend from the mountains in the night, cross the Aaszy, and steal, or carry off by force, the cattle of the valley.3
We passed the night in a half ruined house, without being able to get any refreshments, although the village belonged to a particular friend of mine at Hamah; indeed these peasants have scarcely any thing left to keep themselves from starving.
February 22d. - Early this morning we set off in the direction of Hamah, and after a march of an hour and a half over the plain, reached Tel Szabba (ﺔﺑﺻﻝﺗ), an insulated hillock in the plain; half an hour from it lies a lake called Behirat Terimsy (ﻲﺳﻣﻳﺭﺗﺓﺭﻳﺣﺑ), or, simply El Terimsy. Its extent is from S.W. to N.E. about five to six miles long by two or three in breadth; its waters are scarcely any where deeper than five feet; but the depth of mud at the bottom is so great as to render it fatal for any one to enter the lake, at least so I was informed by several peasants who joined us. The water of the lake diminishes considerably in the summer time, but very seldom dries up entirely; the only instance upon record was during the great drought in 1810, when it is asserted that springs were discovered in the bed of the lake. I am not quite certain whether it communicates on the western side with the Orontes; our guides were not unanimous in their answers; the river, however, must at least pass very close to the lake. On the southern borders of the lake are the Tels or mounds of earth, called Telloul el Fedjera (ﺓﺭﺟﻓﻟﺍﻝﻭﻟﺗ); on the E. side is the Tel Waoyat (ﺕﺎﻳﻭﺍﻭ). The soil in the vicinity of the lake is a soft clay; and I had great difficulty in extricating my mare from the swamp as I approached to reconnoitre the lake, which our company had left to the right of the road. In the spring the earth hardens and is then covered with most luxuriant pasturage. In March the peasants and Arabs of all the neighbouring districts and villages, as well as the inhabitants of Hamah, send their horses and mules here to graze under the care of herdsmen, who regularly pitch their tents near the Waoyat, and each of whom receives a piastre a head from the owners. The cattle remain here till April. The best pasture seems to be on the S. and E. sides, the banks of the lake being there lower than on the opposite sides. It was here, perhaps, that the Seleucidæ fed their herds of elephants.
Two hours and a half from Sekeylebye, to the left of the road, is a ruined mosque, called El Djelame; two hours and a half, Tel el Mellah, a hillock in the plain. Our road continued through fertile but uncultivated fields. E. of Tel Mellah about two hours is Tel Szeyad. After three hours and a half slow march we reached the Orontes, near a spot where a large wheel, of the same construction as those at Hamah, raises the water from the river, and empties it into a stone canal, by means of which the neighbouring fields are irrigated. At the end of four hours we came to a bridge over the river, on the other side of which the castle of Seidjar (ﺭﺎﺟﻳﺴ ﺕﻌﻟﻘ) is situated. If I recollect rightly, the bridge rests upon thirteen arches; it is well built, but of modern construction. It is placed at the point where the Aaszy issues from between rugged mountains. On the summit of the range on the left bank stands the castle. To the S.E. of the castle, on the right bank of the river, is the tomb of a Sheikh called Aba Aabeyda el Djerrah (ﺡﺍﺭﺟﻟﺍﺍﺩﻳﺑﻋﺎﺒﺍ), and to the S.E. of the latter, the Turkish chapel El Khudher. The windings of the river in the narrow rocky valley, where no space intervenes between the water and the base of the mountains, resemble those of the Wye in Monmouthshire. At the bridge of Seidjar, it is nearly as large as the Wye at Chepstow. Just by the bridge is a Khan of ancient construction; probably of the period of the crusades. A paved way leads up to the castle, which is at present inhabited by a few hundred families of peasants. It appears from the style of construction that the castle as it now stands, is of the time of the latter Califes; the walls, towers, and turrets, which surround it on the N., W. and S. sides, are evidently Saracen; but it should seem, from the many remains of Grecian architecture found in the castle, that a Greek town formerly stood here. Fragments of columns and elegant Corinthian and Doric capitals lie dispersed about it: amongst them is a coffin of fine marble, nine feet long, but I could find no remains of any ancient building. On the east side the river runs at the foot of a deep precipice. In the south wall a strong well built tower is still in perfect preservation; near it is a deep well, and a subterraneous passage, which, we were informed, leads down to the river side. We searched in vain for Greek inscriptions; on the above mentioned tower is a fine Arabic inscription, but too high to be copied by such short-sighted people as we both happened to be. On the gate of the castle, which leads through an arched passage into the interior, I copied the following, in which many foreign words are mixed with the Arabic: [xxxxx]. Part of the declivity of the hill upon which the castle is built is paved with flat stones, like the castle hills of Aleppo, El Hossn, and Szalkhat. In the plain to the S. and S.W. of the castle are the remains of ancient buildings, which indicate the site of a town; several fragments of columns, wrought stones, and a great deal of rubbish, are lying about. We dug up an altar about four feet and a half high, and one foot and an half square; on one of its four sides was this inscription: [xxxxx]. To the S.W. of the bridge is the tomb of a saint named Sheikh Mahmoud, which is to the W. of a small village called Haourein (ﻥﻳﺭﻭﺣ). The rock of the hills, in the neighbourhood of Seidjar, is calcareous, of considerable hardness, and of a reddish yellow colour; on the S. side of the castle the rock seems to have been cut perpendicularly down almost as low as the river, either for the purpose of adding to the defence of the fortress on this side, or to facilitate the drawing up of water from the river.
We now crossed the low hills to the south of Seidjar, and entered the plain of Hamah, which is very little cultivated here. We proceeded in a south-easterly direction. In one hour and a half from Seidjar we passed a number of wells cut close to each other in the rocky ground. At one hour and three quarters is a small bridge over a torrent called El Saroudj (ﺝﻭﺭﺎﺳ), which empties itself into the Orontes. In two hours we saw to our left, about half an hour distant, the village Hedjam, on the right bank of the river; in two hours and three quarters, a small village called El Shyhy (ﻲﺣﻳﺷﻟﺍ), was to our right; at three hours, we passed the village El Djadjye (ﺔﻳﺟﺎﺟﻟﺍ), distant from the left of the road a quarter of an hour; and near it the village El Kasa. The fertile soil now begins to be well cultivated. In four hours we reached Hamah, where we alighted, at the house of Selym Keblan, one of the Mutsellim’s secretaries, the most gentlemanly Levantine I had yet known.
Hamah is situated on both sides of the Orontes; a part of it is built on the declivity of a hill, and a part in the plain; the quarters in the plain are called Hadher (ﺭﺿﺎﺣ) and El Djissr; those higher up El Aleyat (ﺕﺎﻳﻟﻋ), and El Medine. Medine is the abode of the Christians. The town is of considerable extent, and must contain at least thirty thousand inhabitants, of whom the Greek families, according to the Bishop’s information, are about three hundred. In the middle of the city is a square mound of earth, upon which the castle formerly stood; the materials, as well as the stones with which it is probable that the hill was faced, have been carried away and used in the erection of modern buildings. There are four bridges over the Orontes in the town. The river supplies the upper town with water by means of buckets fixed to high wheels (Naoura ﺓﺭﻭﻌﻧ), which empty themselves into stone canals, supported by lofty arches on a level with the upper parts of the town. There are about a dozen of the wheels; the largest of them, called Naoura el Mohammedye, is at least seventy feet in diameter. The town, for the greater part, is well built, although the walls of the dwellings, a few palaces excepted, are of mud; but their interior makes amends for the roughness of their external appearance. The Mutsellim resides in a seraglio, on the banks of the river. I enquired in vain for a piece of marble, with figures in relief, which La Roque saw; but in the corner of a house in the Bazar is a stone with a number of small figures and signs, which appears to be a kind of hieroglyphical writing, though it does not resemble that of Egypt. I counted thirteen mosques in the town, the largest of which has a very ancient Minaret.
The principal trade of Hamah is with the Arabs, who buy here their tent furniture and clothes. The Abbas, or woollen mantles made here, are much esteemed. Hamah forms a part of the province of Damascus, and is usually the station of three or four hundred horsemen, kept here by the Pasha to check the Arabs, who inundate the country in spring and summer. Few rich merchants are found in the town; but it is the residence of many opulent Turkish gentlemen, who find in it all the luxuries of the large towns, at the same time that they are in some measure removed from the extortions of the government. Naszyf Pasha, of the family of Adein, who has an annual income of about £8000. sterling, has built a very handsome house here. He is well known for his travels in Europe, and Barbary, and for his brave defence of Cairo, after the defeat of the Grand Vizir by General Kleber near Heliopolis. Being curious to see him, I waited upon him, notwithstanding the rule I had prescribed to myself of mixing as little as possible with Turkish grandees, and presented him a letter of recommendation. We conversed for about half an hour; he was very civil for a Pasha, and made many enquiries concerning Prince Augustus (the Duke of Sussex), whom he had known in Italy.
The government of Hamah comprises about one hundred and twenty inhabited villages, and seventy or eighty which have been abandoned. The western part of its territory is the granary of northern Syria, though the harvest never yields more than ten for one, chiefly in consequence of the immense numbers of mice, which sometimes wholly destroy the crops. I did not see any of these animals.
From a point on the cliff above the Orontes, called El Sherafe, the traveller enjoys a beautiful view over the town. At one hour and a half from it lies the Djebel Zeyn Aabdein (ﻥﻳ ﺩﺑﻋﻥﻳﺯ) in the direction N. by E.; this mountain has two prominent summits, called the Horns of Zeyn Aabdein (ﻥﻳ ﺩﺑﻋﻥﻳﺯ ﻥﻭﺭﻘ); its continuation southward is called Djebel Keysoun, the highest point of which bears E. ½ N.; still farther south it protrudes in a point in the neighbourhood of Salamie, which bears S.E. and is called Djebel el Aala, upon which stands the castle called Kalaat Shemmasye (ﺔﻳﺳﺎﻤﺸﺕﻌﻟﻘ). To the S. of Hamah, two hours distant, lies an insulated chalky mountain, two or three hours in length, from west to east, called Djebel Erbayn; its highest point bearing from Hamah S. ½ E. The Orontes flows on its E. side.
The Aaszy irrigates a great number of gardens belonging to Hamah, which in winter time are generally inundated. Where-ever the gardens lie higher than the river, wheels like those already mentioned are met with in the narrow valley, for the purpose of raising up water to them. In summer the water of the river is quite clear.
February 27th. - We remained five days in the hospitable house of Selym, where a large company of Turks and Arabs assembled every evening; and it was with difficulty that we could prevail upon him to let us depart. The distance between Hamah and Tripoli, by the direct road, is four days, or three days by performing on the first a thirteen hours journey from Hamah to Hossn; but we wished to visit the castle of Maszyad, the seat of the Ismaylys, which is laid down upon most of the maps of Syria, but has rarely been visited by any travellers. We set out about mid-day, and travelling in a S.W. direction came in an hour and a half to the Christian village Kefrbehoun (ﻥﻭﻬﺑ ﺭﻓﻛ); and in two hours, to a hillock in the plain called Tel Afyoun (ﻥﻭﻳﻓﺍﻝﺗ), i.e. the opium-hill, with an ancient well. The number of these insulated mounds of earth in the eastern plain of Syria is very remarkable; their shape is sometimes so regular, that there can be no doubt of their being artificial; in several places there are two standing close together. It is a general remark that wherever there is such a mound, a village is found near it, and a spring, or at least an ancient well. At two hours and a half from Hamah is El Dobbe, a small village near the road: here the ground begins to be uneven, covered with rocks, and little fit for cultivation. At three hours and three quarters is Tel Mowah (ﻉﺍﻭﻣﻝﺗ) upon elevated ground, with the ruins of a considerable village; from hence Tel Afyoun bears W. ½ S., Hamah E.N.E., Homs S.S.E. In four hours and a half we came to considerable heaps of large hewn stones, and ruined habitations, called El Feiryouny (ﻲﻧﻭﻳﺭﻳﻓ), where a few families of Kurdines had pitched their tents. On the side of the road is a large and very neatly cut ancient well. The face of the country is hilly with a rocky soil, here and there cultivated. At the end of five hours and a half we reached Byszyn (ﻥﻳﺻﻳﺑ), a village inhabited by Anzeyrys, where we slept.
February 28th. - One hour and a half from Byszyn is the village of Shyghata (ﺔﺗﺎﻐﻳﺷ). The road ascends, through a rocky country, overgrown with shrubs and low trees. At two hours and a half is a ruined bridge over the winter torrent El Saroudj, which we had passed in the plain below, between Seidjar and Hamah; it was now so much swelled by the heavy rains, that we were trying in vain to cross it in different places, when a shepherd came to our assistance, and shewed us a ford. Considerable as the stream was, it is dried up in summer. We proceeded from the bridge in a W.N.W. direction, and, after a march of an hour and three quarters, during which we crossed several torrents, we reached the castle of Maszyad (ﺩﺎﻳﺻﻣ ﺕﻌﻟﻘ), or, as it is written in the books of the Miri, Meszyaf (ﻑﺎﻳﺻﻣ). The approach to the castle on two sides is across a large moor; to the N. of it are the highest points of the mountain of Maszyad, at the foot of which it stands, upon a high and almost perpendicular rock, commanding the wild moor in every direction, and presenting a gloomy romantic landscape. On the W. side is a valley, where the inhabitants cultivate wheat and barley. The town of Maszyad is built between the castle and the mountain, on the declivity of the mountain; it is upwards of half an hour in circumference, but the houses are in ruins, and there is not a single well built dwelling in the town, although stone is the only material used. The town is surrounded by a modern wall, and has three stone gates, of more ancient construction; on one of them I saw the following inscription: [xxxxx]. The last line, as I was told by a man of Tripoli, contains the names of some of the deities of the Ismaylys. The mosque is now in ruins. There are several Arabic inscriptions in different parts of the town, which are all of the time of El Melek el Dhaher (ﺭﻫﺎﻅﻟﺍﻙﻟﻣﻟﺍ). The castle is surrounded by a wall of moderate thickness; and contains a few private habitations. Near the entrance, which is arched, stands a Corinthian capital, of indifferent workmanship, the only remain of Grecian architecture that I saw here. Within this gate is an arched passage, through which the road ascends to the inner and highest parts of the castle. Upon the vault I read the following inscription in large characters: - ﺔﻁﺴﻘ ﻙﻭﻟﻣﻣﻟﺍ ﻝﻣﻋ - “The deed (or fabric) of the Mamlouk Kosta.” On the top of the rock are some apartments belonging to the castle; which appear to have had several floors. From a Kyosk, which the present governor has built here, there is a beautiful view down into the western valley. Maszyad is remarkable from being the chief seat of the religious sect called Ismayly (ﻲﻟﻳﻌﻣﺴﺍ). Enquiries have often been made concerning the religious doctrines of this sect, as well as those of the Anzeyrys and Druses. Not only European travellers, and Europeans resident in Syria, but many natives of influence, have endeavoured to penetrate the mysteries of these idolaters, without success, and several causes combine to make it probable, that their doctrines will long remain unknown. The principal reason is, that few individuals among them become acquainted with the most important and secret tenets of their faith; the generality contenting themselves with the observance of some exterior practices, while the arcana are possessed by the select few. It will be asked, perhaps, whether their religious books would not unveil the mystery? It is true that all the different sects possess books, which they regard as sacred, but they are intelligible only to the initiated. A sacred book of the Anzeyrys fell into the hands of a chief of the army of Youssef Pasha, which plundered the castles of that sect in 1808; it came afterwards into the possession of my friend Selym of Hamah, who had destined it as a present to me; but he was prevailed upon to part with it to a travelling physician, and the book is now in the possession of M. Rousseau, the French consul at Aleppo, who has had it translated into French, and means to publish it; but it will probably throw little light upon the question. Another difficulty arises from the extreme caution of the Ismaylys upon this subject. whenever they are obliged to visit any part of the country under the Turkish government, they assume the character of Mussulmans; being well aware that if they should be detected in the practice of any rite contrary to the Turkish religion, their hypocrisy, in affecting to follow the latter, would no longer be tolerated; and their being once clearly known to be pagans, which they are only suspected to be at present, would expose them to the heaviest exactions, and might even be followed by their total expulsion or extirpation. Christians and Jews are tolerated because Mohammed and his immediate successors granted them protection, and because the Turks acknowledge Christ and the prophets; but there is no instance whatever of pagans being tolerated.
The Ismaylys are generally reported to adore the pudendum muliebre, and to mix on certain days of the year in promiscuous debauchery. When they go to Hamah they pray in the mosque, which they never do at Kalaat Maszyad. This castle has been from ancient times their chief seat. One of them asserted that his religion descended from Ismayl, the son of Abraham, and that the Ismaylys had been possessed of the castle since the time of El Melek el Dhaher, as acknowledged by the Firmahns of the Porte. A few years since they were driven out of it by the Anzeyrys, in consequence of a most daring act of treachery. The Anzeyrys and Ismaylys have always been at enmity, the consequence, perhaps, of some religious differences. In 1807, a tribe of the former having quarrelled with their chief, quitted their abode in their mountains, and applied to the Emir of Maszyad for an asylum. The latter, glad of an opportunity to divide the strength of his enemies, readily granted the request, and about three hundred, with their Sheikh Mahmoud, settled at Maszyad, the Emir carrying his hospitality so far as to order several families to quit the place, for the purpose of affording room for the new settlers. For several months all was tranquil, till one day, when the greater part of the people were at work in the fields, the Anzeyrys, at a given signal, killed the Emir and his son in the castle, and then fell upon the Ismaylys who had remained in their houses, sparing no one they could find, and plundering at the same time the whole town. On the following day the Anzeyrys were joined by great numbers of their countrymen, which proved that their pretended emigration had been a deep-laid plot; and the circumstance of its being kept secret for three months by so great a number of them, serves to shew the character of the people. About three hundred Ismaylys perished on this occasion; the families who had escaped in the sack of the town, fled to Hamah, Homs, and Tripoli, and their treacherous enemies successfully attacked three other Ismayly castles in the mountain. The Ismaylys then implored the protection of Youssef Pasha, at that time governor of Damascus, who marched with four or five thousand men against the Anzeyrys, retook the castles which had belonged to the Ismaylys, but kept the whole of the plunder of the Anzeyrys to himself. This castle of Maszyad, with a garrison of forty men, resisted his whole army for three months.
In 1810, after Youssef Pasha had been exiled by the Porte, the Ismaylys who had fled to Hamah, Homs, and Tripoli returned, and Maszyad is now inhabited by about two hundred and fifty Ismayly families, and by thirty of Christians. The chief, who resides in the castle, is styled Emir; his name is Zogheby (ﻲﺑﻏﺯ), of the family of Soleiman; he informed me that his family had been possessors of the Emirship from remote times, and that they are recognised as such by express Firmahns from the Porte; Zogheby is a nephew of Mustafa, the Emir who was slain by the Anzeyrys. Some of his relations command in the Ismayly castles of El Kadmous, El Kohf, El Aleyka, and El Merkah, in the mountains towards Ladakie. After what has lately taken place, it extreme: they are, apparently, at peace, but many secret murders are committed: “Do you suppose,” said a handsome young man to me, while his eyes flashed with anger, “that these whiskers shall turn gray before I shall have taken my revenge for a slaughtered wife and two infant children?” But the Ismaylys are weak; I do not think that they can muster eight hundred fire-locks, while the Anzeyrys are triple that number.
The principal produce of the neighbourhood of Maszyad is silk. They have large plantations of mulberry trees, which are watered by numerous rivulets descending on all sides from the mountain into the valley; and as few of them dry up in summer, this must be a delightful residence during the hot season. There are three or four Ismayly villages in the neighbourhood of Maszyad.
From the castle the ruins called Deir Szoleib bear W. distant about two hours and a half. I was told that there are large buildings at that place constructed with immense blocks of stone, and bearing infidel inscriptions; but the natives of these countries are unable to distinguish sculptured ornaments from letters in unknown languages, and travellers are often deceived by reports of long inscriptions, which prove to be nothing more than a few decorations of architecture.
February 29th. - Having been disappointed in our hopes of finding any thing remarkable at Kalaat el Maszyad, we directed our course to Tripoli. We began to fear that the incessant rains would make the torrents impassable, particularly the Saroudj, which we crossed yesterday. The Emir gave us one of his men to guide and protect us through his territories. After travelling for an hour and a half across the moor, along the side of the upper ridge of the mountains of Maszyad, we arrived at the village Soeida, near to which is the Mezar Sheikh Mohammed, with some plantations of mulberry trees. E. of it half an hour is Kherbet Maynye, a ruined village, with some ancient buildings; and in the mountain above it, the ruined castles Reszafa (ﺔﻔﺎﺻﺭ), and Kalaat el Kaher (ﺭﻫﺎﻗﻟﺍ ﺕﻌﻟﻘ). There are several other ruined castles in this district, which appear to have been all built about the twelfth century. At two hours and a half is Beyadhein (ﻥﻳﺿﺎﻳﺑ), a village inhabited by Turkmans; to the E. of it, about half an hour, is a Tel in the plain, with an arched building upon it called Kubbet el Aadera, or the dome of the Virgin Mary, reported to be the work of the Empress Helena. On the summit of a mountain S. of the village, one hour, is the ruined castle Barein (ﻥﻳﺭﺎﺑ). Near Beyadhein we crossed the torrent Saroudj a second time; its different branches inundated the whole plain. Two hours and a half is the village Kortouman (ﻥﺎﻣﻭﺗﺭﻛ), inhabited by Turkmans, from whence Maszyad bears N. by W. Here we passed another torrent, near a mill, and in a storm of heavy rain and thunder reached Nyszaf, three hours and three quarters from Maszyad, the road from Kortouman lying S. by W. for the greater part in the plain.
Nyszaf is a considerable village, with large plantations of mulberry trees. It is inhabited by Turks and Anzeyrys. The mountain to the eastward, on the declivity of which it is built, is peopled by Turkmans, the greater part of whom do not speak Arabic. We dried our clothes at a fire in the Sheikh’s house, and took some refreshment; we then ascended the mountain to the S. of the village, and my guides, who were afraid of the road through the upper part of the mountain, refusing to proceed, we halted for the night at Shennyn (ﻥﻳﻧﺷ), an Anzeyry village halfway up the mountain. The declivity of the mountain is covered with vineyards, growing upon narrow terraces, constructed to prevent the rain from washing away the soil. From the grapes is extracted the Debs, which they sell at Hamah; three quintals of grapes are necessary to make one quintal of Debs, which was sold last year at the rate of £1. per quintal.
As our hosts appeared to be good natured people, I entered, after supper, into conversation with them, with a view to obtain some information upon their religious tenets; but they were extremely reserved upon this head. I had heard that the Anzeyrys maintained from time to time some communication with the East Indies, and that there was a temple there belonging to their sect, to which they occasionally sent messengers. In the course of our conversation I said that I knew there were some Anzeyrys in the East Indies; they were greatly amazed at this, and enquired how I had obtained my information: and their countenances seemed to indicate that there was some truth in my assertion. They are divided into different sects, of which nothing is known except the names, viz. Kelbye, Shamsye, and Mokladjye. Some are said to adore the sun and the stars, and others the pudendum muliebre. The Mokledjye wear in their girdle a small iron hook, which they use when making water; it is also said that they prostrate themselves every morning before their naked mothers, saying (ﻥﻭﻫﺯﻣ ﺍﻭﺩﺑﻌﻧ ﺎﻧﻫﻭ ﺎﻧﺟﺭﺧ), and it is asserted that they have a promiscuous intercourse with their females in a dark apartment every Friday night; but these are mere reports. It is a fact, however, that they entertain the curious belief that the soul ought to quit the dying person’s body by the mouth. And they are extremely cautious against any accident which they imagine may prevent it from taking that road. For this reason, whenever the government of Ladakie or Tripoli condemns an Anzeyry to death, his relations offer considerable sums, that he may be empaled instead of hanged. I can vouch for the truth of this belief, which proves at least that they have some idea of a future state. It appears that there are Anzeyrys in Anatolia and at Constantinople. Some years since a great man of this sect died in the mountain of Antioch, and the water with which his corpse had been washed was carefully put into bottles and sent to Constantinople and Asia Minor.
March 1st. - The weather having cleared up a little, we set out early, and in an hour and a half reached the top of the mountain, from whence we enjoyed a beautiful view to the east over the whole plain, and to the W. and S. towards Hossn and the Libanus. Hamah bore E.N.E. and Kalaat Maszyad N. by E. The castle of Hossn bore S.S.W. This part of the mountain is called Merdj el Dolb (ﺏﻟﺿﻟﺍﺝﺭﻣ) or Dhaheret Hadsour (ﺭﻭ ﺫﺎﺣﺓﺭﻬﻅ). On the top there is fine pasturage, with several springs. To the left, half an hour, is the high point called Dhaheret Koszeir, where is a ruined castle; this summit appears to be the highest point of the chain. The summit, on the western declivity, is the copious spring called Near Ayn Kydrih (ﺢﻳﺭ ﺩﻳﻛ ﻥﻳﻋ). In two hours we came to the village Hadsour, on the western side of the mountain, with the Mezar Sheikh Naszer. The country to the west of the summit belongs to the government of the district of Hossn. We now descended into the romantic valley Rowyd (ﺩﻳﻭﺭ), full of mulberry and other fruit trees, with a torrent rolling in the bottom of it. At the end of two hours and three quarters is the village Doueyrellin (ﻥﻳﻟﺭﻳﻭﺩ), on the E. side of the Wady; on its W. side, in a higher situation, stands the village El Keyme; and one hour farther, to the S. of the latter, on the same side, is the village El Daghle (ﺔﻟﻏﺩ).We crossed the Wady at the foot of the mountain, and continued along its right bank, on the slope of the mountain, through orchards and fields, till we arrived at the foot of the mountain upon which Kalaat el Hossn is built. Our horses being rather fatigued, we sent them on to Deir Djordjos, (the convent of St. George), where we intended to sleep, and walked up to the castle, which is distant six hours and a half from Shennyn. It is built upon the top of an insulated hill, which communicates on its western side only, with the chain of mountains we had passed. Below the walls of the castle, on the east side, is the town of Hossn, consisting of about one hundred and fifty houses. The castle is one of the finest buildings of the middle age I ever saw. It is evidently of European construction; the lions, which are carved over the gate, were the armorial bearings of the Counts of Thoulouse, whose name is often mentioned in the history of the crusades. It is surrounded by a deep paved ditch, on the outside of which runs a wall flanked with bastions and towers. The walls of the castle itself are very regularly constructed, and are ornamented in many places with high gothic arches, projecting several feet from the wall. The inner castle, which is seventy paces in breadth, and one hundred and twenty in length, is defended by bastions. A broad staircase, under a lofty arched passage, leads up from the gate into the castle, and was accessible to horsemen. In the interior we particularly admired a large saloon, of the best Gothic architecture, with arches intersecting each on the roof. In the middle of a court-yard we noticed a round pavement of stones elevated about a foot and a half above the ground, and eighteen paces in diameter; we could not account for its use; it is now called El Sofra, or the table. There are many smaller apartments in the castle, and several gothic chambers, most of which are in perfect preservation; outside the castle an aqueduct is still standing, into which the rain water from the neighbouring hills was conducted by various channels, and conveyed by the aqueduct into the castle ditch, which must have served as a reservoir for the use of the garrison, while it added at the same time to the strength of the fortress. Figures of lions are seen in various places on the outer wall, as well as Arabic inscriptions, which were too high to be legible from below. In other places, amidst half effaced inscriptions, the name of El Melek el Dhaher is distinguished. I saw no Greek inscriptions, nor any remains of Grecian architecture. The following is upon a stone at the entrance of one of the peasants’ huts, of which there are about fifty within the castle and on the parapets: [xxxxx]. There are roses sculptured over the entrance of several apartments.
If Syria should ever again become the theatre of European warfare, this castle would be an important position; in its neighbourhood the Libanus terminates and the mountains of northern Syria begin; it therefore commands the communication from the eastern plains to the sea shore. El Hossn is the chief place of a district belonging to the government of Hamah; the Miri is rented of the Pasha of Damascus, by the Greek family of El Deib, who are the leading persons here. There is an Aga in the castle, with a few men for its defence. Having examined Hossn, we descended to the convent of Mar Djordjos (St. George), which lies half an hour to the N.W. and there passed the night. In the Wady towards the convent chestnut trees grow wild; I believe they are found in no other part of Syria. The Arabs call them Abou Feroue (ﺓﻭﺭﻓﻭﺑﺍ), i.e. “possessing a fur.”
March 2d.- The Greek convent of St. George is famous throughout Syria, for the miracles which the saint is said to perform there. It is inhabited by a prior and three monks, who live in a state of affluence; the income of the convent being very considerable, passengers of all descriptions are fed gratis, and as it stands in the great road from Hamah to Tripoli, guests are never wanting. The common entertainment is Bourgul, with bread and olives; to Christians of respectability wine is added. The convent has large vine and olive plantations in its neighbourhood; it collects alms all over Syria, Anatolia, and the Greek islands, and by a Firmahn of the Porte, is declared to be free from all duties to the Pasha. Youssef Pasha of Damascus, however, made them pay forty thousand piastres, on the pretence that they had built a Khan for poor passengers without his permission. The prior, who is chosen by the brotherhood of the convent, is elected for life, and is under the immediate direction of the Patriarch of Damascus. Caravans generally stop at the Khan, while respectable travellers sleep in the convent itself. A spring near the convent is said to flow only at intervals of two or three days. The prior told me that the convent was built at the same time with the castle of Hossn.
We left Mar Djordjos in a heavy rain, descended into the Wady Mar Djordjos, and after two hours slight descent reached the plain near a spring called Neba el Khalife (ﺔﻓﻳﻟﺧﻟﺍ), round which are some ancient walls. A vast plain now opened before us, bordered on the west by the sea, which, however, was not yet distinguishable; on the N. by the mountains of Tartous, on the E. by the Anzeyrys mountains, and on the south by the Djebel Shara (ﺓﺭﺎﺷ), which is the lower northern continuation of the Djebel Libnan and Djebel Akkar. To the right, distant about three hours, we saw the castle of Szaffytta (ﺔﻁﻳﻓﺻ), the principal seat of the Anzeyry, where their chief El Fakker resides. It is situated on the declivity of the Anzeyry mountains; near it stands an ancient tower, called Berdj Mar Mykhael, or St. Michael’s Tower. About seven hours from Szaffytta, towards Kalaat Maszyad, are the ruins of a temple now called Hassn Soleiman, which, according to all reports, is very deserving of the traveller’s notice; as indeed are all the mountains of Szaffytta, and the whole Anzeyry territory, where are the castles of Merkab, Khowabe, Kadmous, El Aleyka, El Kohf, Berdj Tokhle, Yahmour, Berdj Miar, Areyme, and several others. It would take ten days to visit these places.
We continued along the foot of the hills which form the Djebel Shara; they are inhabited by Turkmans and Kurdines. We passed several torrents, and had great difficulty in getting through the swampy soil. After a march of five hours and a half, we came to a rivulet, which had swollen so much from the rain of last night and this day that we could not venture to pass it. We found several peasants who were as anxious to cross it as ourselves, but who could not get their mules over. As the rain had ceased, we waited on the banks for the decrease of the waters, which is usually as rapid as their rise, but it soon appeared that the rain still continued to fall in the mountains, for the stream, instead of decreasing, became much larger. In this difficulty we had to choose between returning to the convent and sleeping in the open air on the banks of the rivulet; we preferred the latter, and passed an uncomfortable night on the wet ground. By daylight the waters had so far decreased, that we passed over without any accident.
March 3rd. - On the opposite side we met with another and larger branch of the same stream, and at the end of an hour and a quarter reached the Nahr el Kebir (the ancient Eleutherus), near a ruined bridge. This is a large torrent, dangerous at this period of the year from its rapidity. The Hamah caravans have been known to remain encamped on its banks for weeks together, without being able to cross it. On the opposite side stands a Khan, called Ayash, with the tomb of the saint, Sheikh Ayash (ﺵﻌﻳﻋ ﺦﻳﺷ), which is usually the third day’s station of the caravans from Hamah to Tripoli. Having crossed the river we followed the northern swellings of the mountain Akkar in a S.W. direction, having the plain all the way on our right. In one hour and a quarter from the Khan, we passed at half an hour’s distance to the S. an insulated hillock in the plain, on which are some ruined buildings called Kella (ﻊﻟﻗ), and to the east of it half an hour, another hillock called Tel Aarous (ﺱﻭﺭﻋﻝﺗ); and at the same distance S.E. of the latter, the village Haytha (ﺔﺛﻳﺎﺣ).
At two hours and a quarter from the Khan Ayash we passed the torrent Khereybe, coming down the Wady of that name, on our left, and the castle and village Khereybe, at a quarter of an hour from the road. Two hours and three quarters, is the village Halbe, on the declivity of the mountain. Three hours and a half, an old mosque upon the mountain above the road, with a village called El Djamaa (ﻊﻣﺎﺟﻟﺍ the mosque). Near to it, and where the mountains runs out in a point towards the north, is a hill called Tel Arka, which appears by its regularly flattened conical form and smooth sides to be artificial. I was told that on its top are some ruins of habitations, and walls. Upon an elevation on its E. and S. sides, which commands a beautiful view over the plain, the sea, and the Anzeyry mountains, are large and extensive heaps of rubbish, traces of ancient dwellings, blocks of hewn stone, remains of walls, and fragments of granite columns; of the latter I counted eight, six of which were of gray, and the other two of fine red granite. Here then must have stood the ancient town of Arca, where Alexander Severus was born: the hill was probably the citadel, or a temple may have stood on its top. On the west side of the hill runs the deep valley Wady Akka, with a torrent of the same name, which we passed, over a bridge near a mill. From thence the direction of our road continued W.S.W. From an elevated spot, at four hours and a half, Sheikh Ayash bore N.E. b. N. In five hours we reached the sea-shore; the sea here forms a bay extending from the point of Tartous as far as Tripoli. We now turned round the mountains on our left, along the sea-beach, and passed several tents of Turkmans. Five hours and a half, at a short distance to the left, is an ancient tower on the slope of the mountain, called Abou Hannein (ﻥﻳﻧﺣ ﻭﺑﺍ). Five hours and three quarters is Khan el Bered, with a bridge over the Nahr el Bered, or cold river. At six hours and a half is the village Menny, to the left, at the foot of the mountain, the road lying through a low plain half an hour in breadth, between the mountain called Torboul and the sea; that part only which is nearest to the mountain is cultivated. In nine hours we arrived at Tripoli, and alighted at the house of the English agent Mr. Catziflis.
This city, which is called Tarábolos by the Arabs, and Tripoli by the Greeks and Italians, is built on the declivity of the lowest hills of the Libanus, and is divided by the Nahr Kadisha 4 into two parts, of which the southern is the most considerable. On the N. side of the river, upon the summit of the hill, stands the tomb of Sheikh Abou Naszer, and opposite to it, on the S. side, the castle, built in the time of the crusades; this castle has often been in a ruined state, but it has lately been put into complete repair by Berber Aga. Many parts of Tripoli bear marks of the ages of the crusades; amongst these are several high arcades of gothic architecture, under which the streets run. In general the town is well built, and is much embellished by the gardens, which are not only attached to the houses in the town, but cover likewise the whole triangular plain lying between it and the sea. Tripoli stands in one of the most favoured spots in all Syria; as the maritime plain and neighbouring mountains place every variety of climate within a short distance of the inhabitants. The Wady Kadisha, higher up than Tripoli, is one of the most picturesque valleys I ever saw. At half an hour from the town is an aqueduct across the Wady, built upon arches; the natives call it Kontaret el Brins (ﺱﻧﺭﺑﻟﺍ ﺓﺭﻁﻧﻗ), a corruption, perhaps, of Prince. It conveys the water used for drinking, into the town, by means of a canal along the left bank of the Kadisha. A few yards above the aqueduct is a bridge across the stream.
I estimate the inhabitants of Tripoli at about fifteen thousand; of these one-third are Greek Christians, over whom a bishop presides. I was told that the Greeks are authorized, by the Firmahns of the Porte, to prevent any schismatic Greek from entering the town. This may not be the fact; -it is however certain, that whenever a schismatic is discovered here, he is immediately thrown into prison, put in irons, and otherwise very ill-treated. Such a statement can be credited by those only who are acquainted with the fanatism of the eastern Christians. There is no public building in the town deserving of notice. The Serai was destroyed during the rebellion of Berber. The Khan of the soap manufacturers is a large well built edifice, with a water basin in the middle of it.
Ten minutes above the town, in the Wady Kadisha, is a convent of Derwishes, most picturesquely situated above the river, but at present uninhabited. At half an hour’s walk below the town, at the extreme angle of the triangular plain, is El Myna, or the port of Tripoli, which is itself a small town; the interjacent plain was formerly covered with marshes, which greatly injured the air; but the greater part of them have been drained, and converted into gardens. The remains of a wall may still be traced across the triangular plain; from which it appears that the western point was the site of the ancient city; wherever the ground is dug in that direction the foundations of houses and walls are found; indeed it is with stones thus procured that the houses in the Myna are built.
From the Myna northward to the mouth of the Kadisha runs a chain of six towers, at about ten minutes walk from each other, evidently intended for the defence of the harbour; around the towers, on the shore, and in the sea, lie a great number of columns of gray granile; there are at least eighty of them, of about a foot and a quarter in diameter, lying in the sea; many others have been built into the walls of the towers as ornaments. To each of the towers the natives have given a name. The most northern is called Berdj Ras el Nahr, from its being near the Kadisha; those to the south are Berdj el Dekye, Berdj el Sebaa (ﻉﺎﺑﺴ ﺝﺭﺑ), or the lion’s tower;5 Berdj el Kanatter (ﺭﻁﺎﻧﻗﻟﺍ ﺝﺭﺑ); Berdj el Deyoun (ﻥﻭﻳ ﺩﻟﺍ ﺝﺭﺑ), and Berdj el Mogharabe (ﺔﺑﺭﺎﻐﻣﻟﺍ ﺝﺭﺑ).
The harbour of Tripoli is formed by a line of low rocks, stretching from the point of the Myna about two miles into the sea, towards the north; they are called by the natives Feitoun (ﻥﻭﻟﻳﻓ). On the north the point of Tartous in some measure breaks the impetuosity of the sea; but when the northern winds blow with violence, vessels are often driven on shore. In a N.N.W. direction from the harbour extends a line of small islands, the farthest of which is about ten miles distant from the main land. They are named as follow: El Bakar (ﺭﻗﺑﻟﺍ), which is nearest to the harbour, Billan (ﻥﻻﺑ), about half a mile in circumference, with remains of ancient habitations, and several deep wells; there are several smaller rocks, comprised under the general name of El Mekattya (ﻊﻳﻁﺎﻗﻣ), whose respective appellations are, ﻪﻟﻳﻣﺭﺍ. ﻪﻘﺮﻏ. ﻪﻟﺎﻧ. ﺱﻗﻭﻟ. ﻪﻟﻳﻭﻁ. ﺱﺍﺭﺎﺗ - next is Sennenye (ﻪﻳﻧﻧﺳ), Nakhle, or El Eraneb (ﺏﻧﺭﻻﺍ ﺎﻳ ﻝﺧﻧ), with several palm trees, formerly inhabited by a great number of rabbits; El Ramkein (ﻥﻳﻛﻣﺭﻟﺍ), and Shayshet el Kadhi (ﻲﺿﺎﻗﻟﺍ ﺔﺷﻳﻌﺷ).
The inhabitants of the Myna are chiefly Greek sailors or ship-wrights; I found here half a dozen small country ships building or repairing. There is also a good Khan. On the southern side of the triangular plain is a sandy beach, where the sand in same places has formed itself by concretion into rocks, in several of which are large cisterns. In the bottom of the bay formed by the plain and by the continuation of the shore to the south, is a spring of sweet water, and near it large hillocks of sand, driven up from the shore by the westerly winds. The sea abounds in fish and shell fish; the following are the names of the best, in French and Arabic; they were given to me by a French merchant, who has long resided in Tripoli; Dorade (ﺞﻳﺟﻔ), Rouget (ﻡﻳﻫﺍﺭﺑﺍ ﻥﺎﻁﻟﺳ), Loupe (ﻕﺍﺭﺑ), Severelle (ﺭﻭﺧﺍﺭﺗ), Leeche (ﺱﺎﻳﺗﻧﺍ), Mulaye (ﻱﺭﻭﺑ), Maire noir (ﺵﻔﺣ), Maire blanc (ﺱﻗﻭﻟﻗ), Vieille (ﻕﻴﻟﺷ); these are caught with small baskets into which bait is put; the orifice being so made that if the fish enters, he cannot get out again. It is said that no other fish are ever found in the baskets. The names of some others fit for the table are Pajot (ﻪﻧ ﺩﻳﺭﻗ or ﺎﻳﺭﻋ) . ﻲﻧﺭﻓﺻﺍ. ﺭﻳﺯﻧﺧ. ﻝﺍﺯﻏ.
Half an hour north of Tripoli, on the road we came by, is the tomb of Sheikh El Bedawy, with a copious spring near it, enclosed by a wall; it contains a great quantity of fish, which are considered sacred by the Turks of Tripoli, and are fed daily by the guardians of the tomb, and by the Tripolitans; no person dares kill any of them; they are, as the Turks express it, a Wakf to the tomb. The same kind of fish is found in the Kadisha.
The commerce of Tripoli has decreased lately, in proportion with that of the entire commerce of Syria. There are no longer any Frank establishments, and the few Franks who still remain are in the greatest misery. A French consul, however, resides here, M. Guys, an able antiquary, and who was very liberal in his literary communications to us. He has a very interesting collection of Syrian medals. Mr. Catziflis, who is a Greek, is a very respectable man, and rendered considerable services to the English army during the war in Egypt. He is extremely attentive and hospitable to English travellers.
The principal commerce of Tripoli is in silk produced upon the mountain, of which it exports yearly about 800 quintals or cwt., at about £80. sterling per quintal. Formerly the French merchants used to take silk in return for their goods, as it was difficult to obtain money in the Levantine trade; it is true that they sold it to a disadvantage in France; yet not so great as they would have done had they insisted on being reimbursed ready money, upon which they must have paid the discount. The silk was bought up at Marseilles by the merchants of Barbary, who thus procured it at a lower rate than they could do at Tripoli. This intercourse however has ceased in consequence of the ruin of French trade, and the Moggrebyns now visit Tripoli themselves, in search of this article, bringing with them colonial produce, indigo, and tin, which they buy at Malta. The sale of West India coffee has of late increased greatly in Syria; the Turks have universally adopted the use of it, because it is not more than half the price of Mokha coffee; a considerable market is thus opened to the West India planters, which is not likely to be interrupted, until the Hadj is regularly re-established, the principal traffic of which was in coffee.
The next chief article of exportation is sponges; they are procured on the sea shore; but the best are found at a little depth in the sea. The demand for them during the last two years has been very trifling; but I was told that fifty bales of twelve thousand sponges each might be yearly furnished; their price is from twenty-five to forty piastres per thousand. Soap is exported to Tarsous, for Anatolia and the Greek islands, as well as alkali for its manufacture, which is procured in the eastern desert. It is a curious fact, that soap should also be imported into Tripoli from Candia; the reason is that the Cretan soap contains very little alkali; here one-fourth of its weight of alkali is added to it, and in this state it is sold to advantage. The other exports are about one hundred or one hundred and twenty quintals of galls from the Anzeyry mountains: of yellow wax, from Libanus, about one hundred and twenty quintals, at about one hundred and fifty piastres per quintal; of Rubia tinctorum (ﺓﻭﻗ), which grows in the plains of Homs and Hamah, about fourteen hundred quintals, at from twenty to twenty-four piastres per quintal; of scammony, very little; of tobacco, a few quintals, which are sent to Egypt.
The territory of Tripoli extends over the greater part of Mount Libanus. The Pashalik is divided into the following districts, or Mekatta (ﻊﻁﺎﻗﻣ), as they are called: viz. El Zawye (ﻪﻳﻭﺍﺯﻟﺍ), or the lower part of Mount Libanus to the right of the Kadisha, - Djebbet Bshirrai (ﺓﺭﺷﺑﺔﺑﺟ), which lies round the village of that name near the Cedars. – El Kella (ﻊﻟﻗﻟﺍ), - El Koura (ﺓﺭﻭﻗﻟﺍ), or the lower part of Mount Libanus to the left of the Kadisha. - El Kattaa (ﻊﻁﺎﻗﻟﺍ), or the mountains towards Batroun; - Batroun (ﻥﻭﺭﺘﺎﺑ), - Djebail (ﻝﻳﺑﺟ), - El Fetouh, over Djebail, as far as Kesrouan. - Akkar (ﺭﺎﻗﺍ), the northern declivity of Mount Libanus, a district governed at present by Aly Beg, a man famous for his generosity, liberality, and knowledge of Arabian literature. - El Shara (ﺓﺭﺎﺷﻟﺍ), also under the government of Aly Beg. - El Dhannye (ﻪﻳﻧﻅ). - The mountains to the N. and N.W. of Bshirrai. - El Hermel (ﻝﻣﺭﻬﻟﺍ), towards Baalbec, on the eastern declivity of the Libanus; Szaffeita (ﻪﺗﻳﻓﺎﺻ), and Tartous (ﺲﻭﺗﺭﺎﺘ). The greater part of the mountaineers are Christians; in Bshirrai they are all Christians; in Akkar, Shara, and Koura, three-fourths are Christians. The Metawelis have possessions at Djebail, Dhannye, and Hermel. About eighty years since the latter peopled the whole district of Bshirrai, El Zawye, Dhannye, and part of Akkar; but the Turk and Christian inhabitants, exasperated by their vexatious conduct, called in the Druses, and with their assistance drove out the Metawelis. Since that period, the Druses have been masters of the whole mountain, as well as of a part of the plain. The Emir Beshir pays to the Pasha of Tripoli, for the Miri of the mountain, one hundred and thirty purses, and collects for himself upwards of six hundred purses. The duties levied upon the peasants in this district are generally calculated by the number of Rotolas of silk which the peasant is estimated to get yearly from his worms; the taxes on the mulberry trees are calculated in proportion to those on the silk. The peasant who rears silk-worms is reckoned to pay about twenty or twenty- five per cent. on his income, while he who lives by the produce of his fields pays more than fifty per cent.
I obtained the following information respecting the modern history of the Pashas of Tripoli.
Fettah Pasha, of three tails, was driven out of Tripoli by the inhabitants, about 1768, after having governed a few years. He was succeeded by Abd-er-rahman Pasha, but the rebels still maintained their ascendancy in the town. He had formerly been Kapydji for the Djerde or caravan, which departs annually from Tripoli to meet the Mekka caravan on its return. He made Mustafa, the chief of the rebels, his Touenkdji, and submitted to his orders, till he found an opportunity of putting him to death at Ladakie, whither he had gone to collect the Miri. The town was at the same time surprised, the castle taken, and all the ring-leaders killed. Abd-er-rahman Pasha governed for about two years.
Youssef Pasha, the son of Othman Pasha of Damascus, of the family of Adm, governed for eight or ten years, and was succeeded by his brother,
Abdullah Pasha, who remained in the government upwards of five years, and was afterwards named Pasha of Damascus. He is at present Pasha of Orfa.
Hassan Pasha, of the family of Adm, remained two years in office.
Hosseyn Pasha was sent with the Djerde, to kill Djezzar, who was on his way back from Mekka; but Djezzar poisoned him, before he could execute his design.
Derwish Pasha governed two years. One of the chiefs of his troops, Hassan Youssef, usurped the greater part of the authority until he was killed by the Pasha’s orders.
Soleiman Pasha, now Pasha of Acre, governed at Tripoli about 1792, while Djezzar was at Damascus.
Khalyl Pasha, son of Abdullah Pasha, was driven out by the rebellious inhabitants, during the invasion of Syria by the French. One of the ring-leaders, Mustara Dolby, took possession of the castle, and reigned for two years. He was succeeded by Ibrahim Sultan, who was driven away by Mustafa Aga Berber, a man of talents and of great energy of character. He refused to pay the Miri into the hands of Youssef Pasha of Damascus, who had also been invested with the Pashalik of Tripoli, and having fortified the castle, he boldly awaited with a few trusty adherents the arrival of Youssef, who approached the town with an army of five or six thousand men. All the inhabitants fled to the mountain, except the French consul, a secret enemy of Berber. The army of Youssef no sooner entered the city, than they began plundering it; and in the course of a few months they completely sacked it, leaving nothing but bare walls; every piece of iron was carried off, and even the marble pavements were torn up and sold. The son of the French consul gained considerable sums by buying up a part of the plunder. The castle was now besieged, and some French artillerymen having been brought from Cyprus, a breach was soon made, but though defended by only one hundred and fifty men, none had the courage to advance to the assault. After a siege of five months Soleiman Pasha of Acre interceded for Berber, and Youssef Pasha, glad of a pretext for retreating, granted the garrison every kind of military honours; the remaining provisions in the castle were sold to the Pasha for ready money, and in February, 1809, Berber, accompanied by the officers of Soleiman Pasha, left the castle and retired to Acre. He was again named governor of Tripoli, when
Soleiman Pasha of Acre and Damascus was, in 1810, invested with the Pashalik of Tripoli.
Seid Soleiman, Pasha of Damascus, received the same charge in 1812.
During our stay at Tripoli, Berber was in the neighbourhood of Ladakie, making war against some rebel Anzeyrys; the castle of Tripoli was intrusted to the command of an Aga of Arnaouts, without being under the orders of Berber. It is very probable that Berber may yet become a conspicuous character in Syrian affairs, being a man of great spirit, firmness, and justice. The town of Tripoli was never in a better state than when under his command.
March 12th. - Having spent ten days at Tripoli very pleasantly, I took leave of my companion, who went to Ladakie and Antioch, and set out with a guide towards Damascus, with the intention of visiting the Kesrouan, and paying my respects to the chief of the mountain, the Emir Beshir, at Deir el Kammar. On the way I wished to visit some ruins in the Koura, which I had heard of at Tripoli. I therefore turned out of the great road, which follows the sea shore as far as Beirout. We set out in the evening, ascended the castle hill to the S. of the town, and arrived after an hour and a half at Deir Keiftein (ﻥﻳﺘﻓﻳﻛﺭﻳ ﺩ), where I slept. The road lay through a wood of olive trees, on the left bank of the Kadisha; over the lowest declivities of the Libanus. It is a part of the district El Koura, the principal produce of which is oil. The Zawye, on the other side of the Kadisha, also produces oil, and at the same time more grain than the Koura. Every olive tree here is worth from fifteen to twenty piastres. The soil in which the trees grow is regularly ploughed, but nothing is sown between the trees, as it is found that any other vegetation diminishes the quantity of olives. The ground round the stem is covered to the height of two or three feet with earth, to prevent the sun from hurting the roots, and to give it the full benefit of the rains. We met with a few tents of Arabs Zereykat and El Hayb, who were pasturing their sheep upon the wild herbs by the road side.
At half an hour’s distance to the right runs the Djebel Kella (ﻊﻟﻗ) in a north-easterly direction towards the sea; this mountain is under the immediate government of Tripoli, the Emir Beshir, to whom the whole Libanus belongs, not having been yet able to gain possession of it. The following are the principal villages of the Kella: Deyr Sakoub, Diddy, Fya, Kelhat, Betouratydj, Ras Meskha, Bersa, Nakhle, Beterran, Besh, Mysyn, Afs Dyk.
Keiftein is a small Greek convent, with a prior and two monks only; a small village of the same name stands near it. In the burying ground of the convent is a fine marble sarcophagus, under which an English consul of Tripoli lies buried. A long English inscription, with a Latin translation, records the virtues of John Carew, Esq. of Pembrokeshire, who was fifty years consul at Tripoli, and died the 5th of May, 1747, seventy-seven years of age.
March 13th. - Our road lay through the olive plantations called El Bekeya (ﻊﻳﻗﺑ), between the Upper Libanus and the Djebel Kella. Half an hour to the right of the road, upon the latter mountain, is the village Nakhle, below it, Betouratydj, farther up the hill Fya, then, more to the south, Bedobba, and lastly, Afs Dyk; these villages stand very near together, although the Kella is very rocky, and little fit for culture; the peasants, however, turn every inch of ground to advantage. Half an hour from Keiftein is the village Ferkahel (ﻝﻫﺎﻗﺭﻓ), on the side of the river; we saw here a few old date trees, of which there are also some at Nakhle. The inhabitants of the Koura are for the greater part of the Greek church; in Zawye all the Christians are Maronites. At one hour from Keiftein is the village Beserma (ﻪﻣﺭﺴﺑ). One hour and three quarters, continuing in the valley between the Libanus and the Kella, is the village Kfer Akka; we here turned up the Libanus. Half an hour from the Kfer Akka, on the side of the mountain, is a considerable village called Kesba, with the convent of Hantoura (ﺓﺭﻭﺗﻧﻫ). At the same distance S. of Akka, is the village Kfer Zeroun (ﻥﻭﺭﺯﺭﻓﻛ). Two hours and a quarter from Keiftein, on the declivity of the mountain, is the convent of St. Demetrius, or Deir Demitry. I here left my mare, and walked up the mountain to see the ruins of which I had been informed at Tripoli. In twenty minutes I reached the remains of an ancient town, standing on a piece of level ground, but with few houses remaining. These ruins are called by the people of the country Naous or Namous, which name is supposed to be derived from the word ﺱﻭﺎﻧ, i.e. a burying-place; but I think its derivation from the Greek Ναοςmore probable. On the S. side stand the ruins of two temples, which are worth the traveller’s attention. The smaller one is very much like the temple of Hossn el Forsul, near Zahle, which I had seen on my way to Baalbec; it is an oblong building of about the same size; and is built with large square stones. The entrance is to the east. The door remains, together with the southern wall and a part of the northern. The west wall and the roof are fallen. In the south wall are two niches. Before the entrance was a portico of four columns, with a flight of steps leading up to it. The bases of the columns and fragments of the shafts, which are three feet in diameter, still remain. At about forty paces from the temple is a gate, corresponding to the door of the temple; a broad staircase leads up from it to the temple. The two door-posts of this outer gate are still standing, each formed of a single stone about thirteen feet high, rudely adorned with sculpture. At about one hundred and fifty yards from this building is the other, of much larger dimensions; it stands in an area of fifty paces in breadth, and sixty in length, surrounded by a wall, of which the foundation, and some other parts, still remain. The entrance to this area is through a beautiful gate, still entire; it is fourteen feet high and ten feet wide, the two posts, and the soffit are each formed of a single stone; the posts are elegantly sculptured. At the west end of this area, and elevated four or five feet above its level, stood the temple, opposite to the great gate; it presents nothing now but a heap of ruins, among which it is impossible to trace the original distribution of the building. The ground is covered with columns, capitals, and friezes; I saw a fragment of a column, consisting of one piece of stone nine feet in length, and three feet and a half in diameter. The columns are Corinthian, but not of the best workmanship. Near the S.W. angle of the temple are the foundations of a small insulated building.
In order to level the surface of the area, and to support the northern wall, a terrace was anciently raised, which is ten feet high in the north-west corner. The wall of the area is built with large blocks of well cut stone, some of which are upwards of twelve feet in length. It appears however to have undergone repairs, as several parts of the wall are evidently of modern construction; it has perhaps been used as a strong-hold by the Arabs. The stone of the building is calcareous, but not so hard as the rock of Baalbec. I saw no kind of inscriptions. The Naous commands a most beautiful view over the Koura and the sea. Tripoli bears N.
I descended to the convent of Mar Demitry, in which there is at present but one monk; and turning from thence in a S.W. direction, reached in half an hour the wild torrent of Nahr Beshiza (ﺓﺯﻳﺷﺑ ﺭﺣﻧ); which dries up in summer time, but in winter sometimes swells rapidly to a considerable size. When Youssef Pasha besieged Tripoli, intelligence was received at a village near it, that a party of his troops intended to plunder the village; the inhabitants in consequence fled with their most valuable moveables the same evening, and retired up the Wady Beshiza, where they passed the night. It had unfortunately rained in the mountains above, and during the night the torrent suddenly swelled, and carried away eight or ten families, who had encamped in its bed; about fifteen persons perished. On the right bank, near the stream, lies the village Beshiza, and at ten minutes from it to the S.E. the ruins of a small temple bearing the name at present of Kenyset el Awamyd (ﺩﻳﻣﺍﻭﻌﻟﺍ), or the church of the columns. The principal building is ten paces in length on the inside, and eight paces in breadth. The S. and W. walls are standing, but the E. has fallen down; the S. wall has been thrown out of the perpendicular by an earthquake. The entrance is from the west, or rather from the N.W. for the temple does not face the four cardinal points; the northern wall, instead of completing the quadrangle, consists of two curves about twelve feet in depth, and both vaulted like niches, as high as the roof, which has fallen in. In the S. wall are several projecting bases for statues. The door and its soffit, which is formed of a single stone, are ornamented with beautiful sculptures, which are not inferior to those of Baalbec. Before the entrance was a portico of four Ionic columns, of which three are standing; they are about eighteen feet high, and of a single stone. Opposite to each of the exterior columns of this portico is a pilaster in the wall of the temple. There are also two other pilasters in the opposite or eastern wall. Between the two middle columns of the portico is a gate six feet high, formed of two posts, with a stone laid across them; this is probably of modern date, as the exterior of the northern wall also appears to be; instead of forming two semicircles, as within, it is polygonal. Between the door and the pilaster, to the northward of it, is a niche. The entablature of the portico is perfect. In the midst of the building stands a large old oak tree, whose branches overshadow the temple, and supply the place of the roof, rendering the ruin a highly picturesque object. I saw no inscriptions.
Half an hour to the west of Beshiza lies the village of Deir Bashtar (ﺭﺎﺗﺷﻌﺑ ﺭﻳ ﺩ). From the temple we turned N.-eastward, and at the end of half an hour passed the village Amyoun (ﻥﻭﻳﻣﺍ), the chief place in the district of El Koura, and the residence of Assaf Ibn Asar, the governor of that province; he is a Greek Christian, and a collector of the Miri, which he pays into the hands of the Emir Beshir. Many Christian families are governors of provinces and Sheikhs of villages in the mountains: in collecting the Miri, and making the repartitions of the extraordinary demands made by the Emir, they always gain considerable sums; but whenever a Sheikh has filled his purse, he is sure to fall a victim to the avidity of the chief governor. These Sheikhs affect all the pomp of the Turks; surpass them in family pride, and equal them in avarice, low intrigue, and fanatism. The governor of the province of Zawye is also a Christian, of the family of Dhaher.
Instead of descending towards the sea shore, which is the usual route to Batroun, I preferred continuing in the mountain. At an hour and a quarter from Amyoun, after having twice passed the Beshiza, or, as it is also called, the Nahr Aszfour, which runs in a very narrow Wady descending from the district of Laklouk, we reached the village of Keftoun, where is a convent. Above it lies the village of Betaboura, and in its neighbourhood Dar Shemsin and Kferhata. West of Amyoun is the village of Kfer Hasir (ﺭﻳﺳﺣﺭﻓﻛ). The industry with which these mountaineers cultivate, upon the narrow terraces formed on the steep declivity of the mountain, their vines and mulberry trees, with a few acres of corn, is really admirable. At two hours the village of Kelbata was on our right; a little farther, to the right, Ras Enhash. (ﺵﺎﻬﻧﺍ ﺱﺍﺭ); below on the sea shore, at the extremity of a point of land, is a large village called Amfy (ﻲﻓﻣﺍ), and near it the convent Deir Natour. It is with great difficulty that a horse can travel through these mountains; the roads are abominable, and the inhabitants always keep them so, in order to render the invasion of their country more difficult. The direction of Batroun, from the point where the road begins to descend, is S.W. b. W.
We descended the mountain called Akabe el Meszabeha, near the Wady Djaous, which lower down takes the name of Nahr Meszabeha. Two hours and a half from Amyoun, on the descent, is a fine spring, with a vaulted covering over it, called Ayn el Khowadja (ﻪﺟﺍﻭﺧﻟﺍ ﻥﻳﻋ). At the end of three hours we reached a narrow valley watered by the last mentioned river, and bounded on the right hand by Djebel Nourye, which advances towards the sea, and on the left by another mountain; upon the former stands the village Hammad, and on the point of it, over the sea, the convent of Mar Elias. At three hours and a quarter, and where the valley is scarcely ten minutes in breadth, a castle of modern construction stands upon an insulated rock; it is called Kalaat Meszabeha (ﻪﺣﺑﺎﺻﻣ ﺕﻌﻟﻗ), its walls are very slight, but the rock upon which it stands is so steep, that no beast of burthen can ascend it. This castle was once in possession of the Metaweli, who frequently attacked the passengers in the valley. Near it is a bridge over the Wady. At three hours and three quarters, where the valley opens towards the sea, is the village Kobba (ﻪﺑﻗ), at the foot of the Djebel Nourye, with an ancient tower near it. At the end of four hours and a quarter we reached Batroun (ﻥﻭﺭﺗﺑ), where I slept, in one of the small Khans which are built by the sea side.
Batroun, the ancient Bostrys, contains at present three or four hundred houses. Its inhabitants are, for the greater part, Maronites; the rest are Greeks and Turks. The town and its territory belong to the Emir Beshir; but it is under the immediate government of two of his relations, Emir Kadan and Emir Melhem. The principal man in the town is the Christian Sheikh, of the family of Khodher. The produce of Batroun consists chiefly in tobacco. There is no harbour, merely an inlet capable of admitting a couple of coasting boats. The whole coast from Tripoli to Beirout appears to be formed of sand, accumulated by the prevailing westerly winds, and hardened into rocks. An artificial shelter seems to have been anciently formed by excavating the rocks, and forming a part of them into a wall of moderate thickness for the length of one hundred paces, and to the height of twelve feet. It was probably behind this wall that the boats of Bostrys anciently found shelter from the westerly gales. I saw but one boat between the rocks of Batroun.
March 14th. - Our road lay along the rocky coast. In three quarters of an hour we came to a bridge, called Djissr Medfoun (ﻥﻭﻓﺩﻣ ﺭﺳﺟ), which crosses a winter torrent. The territory of Batroun extends to this bridge; its northern limits begin at the village of Hammad, upon the Djebel Nourye, which terminates the district of Koura; beyond the bridge of Medfoun is the village Aabeidat (ﺕﺍﺩﻳﺑﻋ) to the left. The mountain reaches quite down to the sea shore. The direction of our road was S. b. W. At two hours, upon a hill to the left of the road, called Berdj Reihani (ﻲﻧﺎﺣﻳﺭﺝﺭﺑ), stands a ruined arched building; on the road below it are three columns of sand stone. Up in the mountain are the Greek villages of Manszef (ﻑﺻﻧﻣ), Berbar (ﺭﺎﺑﺭﺑ), Gharsous (ﺱﻭﺳﺭﻏ), and Korne (ﻪﻧﺭﻗ). In three hours and a quarter we passed a Wady, without water, called Halloue (ﺓﻭﻟﺣ ﻱﺩﺍﻭ). At every three or four miles on this road small Khans are met with, where refreshments of bread, cheese, and brandy are sold. Close to the sea shore are many deep wells, with springs of fresh water at their bottom. Three hours and a half is Djebail (ﻝﻳﺑﺟ), the ancient Byblus. Above it, in the mountain, is the convent Deir el Benat, with the village Aamsheit (ﺕﻳﺷﻣﻋ). I passed on the outside of Djebail without stopping. The town is enclosed by a wall, some parts of which appear to be of the time of the crusades. Upon a stone in the wall I saw a rose, with a smaller one on each side. There is a small castle here, in which the Emir Beshir keeps about forty men. A few years ago Djebail was the residence of the Christian Abd el Ahad; he and his brother Djordjos Bas were the head men of the Emir Beshir, and in fact were more potent than their master. Djordjos Bas resided at Deir el Kammar. The district of Djebail was under the command of Abd el Ahad, who built a very good house here; but the two brothers shared the fate of all Christians who attempt to rise above their sphere; they were both put to death in the same hour by the Emir’s orders; indeed there is scarcely an instance in the modern history of Syria, of a Christian or Jew having long enjoyed the power or riches which he may have acquired: these persons are always taken off in the moment of their greatest apparent glory. Abd el Hak, at Antioch; Hanna Kubbe, at Ladakie; Karaly, at Aleppo; are all examples of this remark. But, as in the most trifling, so in the most serious concerns, the Levantine enjoys the present moment, without ever reflecting on future consequences. The house of Hayne, the Jew Seraf, or banker, at Damascus and Acre, whose family may be said to be the real governors of Syria, and whose property, at the most moderate calculation, amounts to three hundred thousand pounds sterling, are daily exposed to the same fate. The head of the family, a man of great talents, has lost his nose, his ears, and one of his eyes, in the service of Djezzar, yet his ambition is still unabated, and he prefers a most precarious existence, with power, in Syria, to the ease and security he might enjoy by emigrating to Europe. The Christian Sheikh Abou Nar commands at Djebail, his brother is governor or Sheikh of Bshirrai.
Many fragments of fine granite columns are lying about in the neighbourhood of Djebail. On the S. side of the town is a small Wady with a spring called Ayn el Yasemein (ﻥﻳﻣﺳﻳﻟﺍﻥﻳﻋ). The shore is covered with deep sand. A quarter of an hour from Djebail is a bridge over a deep and narrow Wady; it is called Djissr el Tel (ﻝﺗﻟﺍﺭﺳﺟ); upon a slight elevation, on its S. side, are the ruins of a church, called Kenyset Seidet Martein (ﻥﻳﺗﺭﻣﺕﺩﻳﺳ). Up in the mountains are two convents and several Maronite villages, with the names of which my Greek guide was unacquainted. In half an hour we came to a pleasant grove of oaks skirting the road; and in three quarters of an hour to the Wady Feidar (ﺭﺍﺩﻳﻔ), with a bridge across it; this river does not dry up in summer time. A little farther to the right of the road is an ancient watch-tower upon a rock over the sea; the natives call it Berdj um Heish (ﺵﻳﻫ ﻡﺍ ﺝﺭﺑ) from an echo which is heard here; if the name Um Heish be called aloud, the echo is the last syllable “Eish,” which, in the vulgar dialect, means “what?” (ﺵﻳﺍ for ﺵﻱﺍ). Many names of places in these countries have trivial origins of this kind. At two hours and a half we crossed by a bridge the large stream of Nahr Ibrahim, the ancient Adonis. Above us in the mountain is the village El Djissr. The whole lower ridge of mount Libanus, from Wady Medfoun to beyond Nahr Ibrahim, composes the district of El Fetouh (ﺡﻭﺗﻓﻟﺍ), which is at present under the control of Emir Kasim, son of the Emir Beshir, who resides at Ghadsir in Kesrouan; he commands also in Koura. At two hours and a half, and to the left of the road, which runs at a short distance from the sea, is the convent of Mar Domeitt (ﻁﻳﻣﻭﺪ ﺭﺎﻣ), with the village of El Bouar (ﺭﺍﻭﺑﻟﺍ). The soil is here cultivated in every part with the greatest care. In three hours and a quarter we came to a deep well cut in the rock, with a spring at the bottom, called Ayn Mahous (ﺱﻭﺣﺎﻣ ﻥﻳﻋ). At three hours and a half is a small harbour called Meinet Berdja (ﻪﺟﺭﺑ ﺔﻧﻳﻣ), with a few houses round it. Boats from Cyprus land here, loaded principally with wheat and salt. To the right of the road, between Meinet Berdja and the sea, extends a narrow plain, called Watta Sillan (ﻥﻻﺴ ﻪﻁﺍﻮ); its southern part terminates in a promontory, which forms the northern point of the Bay of Kesrouan. Near the promontory stands an ancient tower, called Berdj el Kosszeir (ﺭﻳﺿﻗﻟﺍ ﺭﺑ). In four hours and a quarter we reached Djissr Maammiltein (ﻥﻳﺗﻟﻣﻌﻣ ﺭﺳﺟ), an ancient bridge, falling into ruins, over a Wady of the same name. The banks of this Wady form the boundary of separation between the Pahaliks of Saida and Tripoli, and divide the district of Fetouh from that of Kesrouan.
The country of Kesrouan, which I now entered, presents a most interesting aspect; on the one hand are steep and lofty mountains, full of villages and convents, built on their rocky sides; and on the other a fine bay, and a plain of about a mile in breadth, extending from the mountains to the sea. There is hardly any place in Syria less fit for culture than the Kesrouan, yet it has become the most populous part of the country. The satisfaction of inhabiting the neighbourhood of places of sanctity, of hearing church bells, which are found in no other part of Syria, and of being able to give a loose to religious feelings and to rival the Mussulmans in fanatisim, are the chief attractions that have peopled Kesrouan with Catholic Christians, for the present state of this country offers no political advantages whatever; on the contrary, the extortions of the Druses have reduced the peasant to the most miserable state of poverty, more miserable even than that in the eastern plains of Syria; nothing, therefore, but religious freedom induces the Christians to submit to these extortions; added perhaps to the pleasure which the Catholics derive from persecuting their brethren of the Greek church, for the few Greeks who are settled here are not better treated by the Maronites, than a Damascene Christian might expect to be by a Turk. The plain between the mountain and the sea is a sandy soil; it is sown with wheat and barley, and is irrigated by water drawn from wells by means of wheels. At five hours and a quarter is Ghafer Djouni (ﻲﻧﻭﺟ ﺭﻓﻏ), a market place, with a number of shops, built on the sea side, where there is a landing place for small boats.
The Beirout road continues from hence along the sea coast, but I wished to visit some convents in Kesrouan, and therefore [ turned up the mountain to the left. At the end of five hours and three quarters I came to a wood of firs, which trees are very common in these parts; to the right is the village Haret el Bottne (ﻪﻧﻁﺑﻟﺍ ﺓﺭﺎﺣ). Six hours and three quarters Zouk Mykayl (ﻝﻳﺎﻛﻤ ﻕﻮﺯ), the principal village in Kesrouan, where resides the Sheikh Beshera, of the family of Khazen, who is at present the governor of the province. The inhabitants of Zouk consist, for the greater part, of the shopkeepers and artizans who furnish Kesrouan with articles of dress or of luxury. I observed in particular many makers of boots and shoes. Seven hours, is Deir Beshara; a convent of nuns. At the end of seven hours and a quarter, I arrived at Antoura, a village in a lofty situation, with a convent, which formerly belonged to the Jesuits, but which is now inhabited by a Lazarist, the Abbate Gandolfi, who is the Pope’s delegate, for the affairs of the eastern church. I had letters for him, and met with a most friendly reception: his intimate acquaintance with the affairs of the mountain, and of the Druses, which his residence of upwards of twelve years, and a sound understanding, have enabled him to acquire, renders his conversation very instructive to the inquisitive traveller.
March 15th. - I left Antoura in the evening, to visit some convents in a higher part of the mountains of Kesrouan. Passed Wady Kheredj (ﺝﺭﺧ), and at three quarters of an hour from Antoura, the ruined convent of Bekerke (ﻪﻛﺭﻛﺑ), once the residence of the famous Hindye, whose history Volney has given. Now that passions have cooled, and that the greater part of the persons concerned are dead, it is the general opinion that Hindye’s only crime was her ambition to pass for a saint. The abominable acts of debauchery and cruelty of which she was accused, are probably imaginary: but it is certain that she rigorously punished the nuns of her convent who hesitated to believe in her sanctity, or who doubted the visits of Jesus Christ, of which she boasted. Hindye died about ten years since in retirement, in the convent of Seidet el Hakle. At one hour and a half from Antoura, on the top of the mountain, is the convent of Harissa, belonging to the Franciscans of Terra Santa, and inhabited at present by a single Piedmontese monk. On the breaking out of the war between England and the Porte, Mr. Barker, the Consul at Aleppo, received from the Emir Beshir an offer of this convent as a place of refuge in his territory. Mr. Barker resided here for two years and a half, and his prudent and liberal conduct have done great credit to the English name in the mountain. The French consuls on the coast applied several times to the Emir Beshir, by express orders from the French government, to have Mr. Barker and his family removed; but the Emir twice tore their letters in pieces and returned them by the messenger as his only answer. Harissa (ﻪﺳﻳﺭﻫ) is a well built, large convent, capable of receiving upwards of twenty monks. Near it is a miserable village of the same name. The view from the terrace of the convent over the bay of Kesrouan, and the country as far as Djebail, on one side, and down to Beirout on the other, is extremely beautiful. The convent is situated in the midst of Kesrouan, over the village Sahel Alma.
March 16. - I slept at Harissa, and left it early in the morning, to visit Ayn Warka. The roads in these mountains are bad beyond description, indeed I never before saw any inhabited country so entirely mountainous as the Kesrouan: there are no levels on the tops of the mountain; but the traveller no sooner arrives on the summit, than he immediately begins the descent; each hill is insulated, so that to reach a place not more than ten minutes distant in a straight line, one is obliged to travel three or four miles, by descending into the valley and ascending again the other side. From Harissa I went north half an hour to the village Ghosta (ﻪﺗﺳﻏ), near which are two convents called Kereim and Baklous. Kereim [ is a rich Armenian monastery, in which are twenty monks. The silk of this place is esteemed the best in Kesrouan. A little farther down is the village El Basha. One hour and a quarter Ayn Warka (ﻪﻗﺭﺍﻮ ﻥﻳﻋ), another Maronite convent. I wished to see this place, because I had heard that a school had lately been established here, and that the convent contained a good library of Syrian books; but I was not so fortunate as to see the library; the bishop, although he received me well, found a pretext for not opening the room in which the books are kept, fearing, probably, that if his treasures should be known, the convent might some day be deprived of them. I however saw a beautiful dictionary in large folio of the Syriac language, written in the Syriac character, which, I suppose, to be the only copy in Syria. Its author was Djorjios el Kerem Seddany, who composed it in the year 1619. Kerem Seddany is the name of a village near Bshirrai. This dictionary may be worth in Syria eight hundred or a thousand piastres; but the convent would certainly not sell it for less than two thousand, besides a present to the bishop.
The school of Ayn Warka was established fifteen years since by Youssef, the predecessor of the present bishop. It is destined to educate sixteen poor Maronite children, for the clerical profession; they remain here for six or eight years, during which they are fed and clothed at the expense of the convent, and are educated according to the literary taste of the country; that is to say, in addition to their religious duties, they are taught grammar, logic, and philosophy. The principal books of instruction are the Belough el Arab, (ﺏﺪﻻﺍ ﻥﻓ ﻲﻔ ﺏﺭﻌﻟﺍ ﻍﻭﻟﺒ ﺏﺎﺗﻜ), and the Behth el Mettalae (ﻊﻟﺎﻁﻣﻟﺍ ﺙﺣﺒ), both composed by the bishop Djermanous (ﺏﻟﺣ ﻲﻔ ﻥﺍﺭﻁﻤ ﺱﻭﻧﺎﻣﺭﺠ ﺕﺎﺤﺭﻔ). At present there is only one schoolmaster, but another is shortly expected, to teach philosophy. The boys have particular hours assigned to the different branches of their studies. I found them sitting or lying about in the court-yard, each reading a book, and the master, in a common peasant’s dress, in the midst of them. Besides the Arabic language they are taught to speak, write, and read the Syriac. The principal Syriac authors, whose books are in the library, are Ibn el Ebre (ﺓﺭﺑﻻﺍ ﻥﺑﺍ), or as the Latins call him, Berebreo, Obeyd Yeshoua (ﻉﻭﺷﻴ ﺩﻳﺑﻋ), and Ibn el Aassal (ﻝﺳﻌﻟﺍ ﻥﺑﺍ), their works are chiefly on divinity. The bishop is building a dormitory for the boys, in which each of them is to have his separate room; he has also begun to take in pupils from all parts of Syria, whose parents pay for their board and education. The convent has considerable landed property, and its income is increased by alms from the Catholic Syrians. The boys, on leaving the convent, are obliged to take orders.
From Ayn Warka I ascended to the convent of Bezommar (ﺭﺎﻣﺯﺒ), one hour and a quarter distant. It belongs to the Armenian Catholics, and is the seat of the Armenian patriarch, or spiritual head of all the Armenians in the East who have embraced the Catholic faith. Bezommar is built upon the highest summit of the mountain of Kesrouan, which is a lower branch of the southern Libanus. It is the finest and the richest convent in Kesrouan, and is at present inhabited by the old patriarch Youssef, four bishops, twelve monks, and seventeen priests. The patriarch himself built the convent, at an expense of upwards of fifteen thousand pounds sterling. Its income is considerable, and is derived partly from its great landed possessions, and partly from the benefactions of persons at Constantinople, in Asia Minor, and in Syria. The venerable patriarch received me in his bed, from which, I fear, he will never rise again. The Armenian priests of this convent are social and obliging, with little of the pride and hypocrisy of the Maronites. Several of them had studied at Rome. The convent educates an indefinite number of poor boys; at present there are eighteen, who are destined to take orders; they are clothed and fed gratis. Boys are sent here from all parts of the Levant. I enquired after Armenian manuscripts, but was told that the convent possessed only Armenian books, printed at Venice.
I left Bezommar to return to Antoura. Half an hour below Bezommar is the convent Essharfe (ﻪﻓﺷﻟﺍ), belonging to the true Syrian church. The rock in this part is a quartzose sand-stone, of a red and gray colour. To the left, still lower down, is the considerable village Deir Aoun (ﻥﻭﻋ ﺭﻳ ﺪ), and above it the Maronite convent Mar Shalleitta (ﻪﻁﻳﻟﺸ ﺭﺎﻤ). I again passed Mar Harissa on my descent to Antoura, which is two hours and a half distant from it.
March 17th. - The district of Kesrouan, which is about three hours and a half in length, from N. to S. and from two to three hours in breadth across the mountains, is exclusively inhabited by Christians: neither Turks nor Druses reside in it. The Sheikh Beshara collects the Miri, and a son of the Emir Beshir resides at Ghazir, to protect the country, and take care of his father’s private property in the district. The principal and almost sole produce is silk; mulberry trees are consequently the chief growth of the soil; wheat and barley are sown, but not in sufficient quantity for the consumption of the people. The quantity of silk produced annually amounts to about sixty Kantars, or three hundred and thirty English quintals. A man’s wealth is estimated by the number of Rotolas of silk which he makes, and the annual taxes paid to government are calculated and distributed in proportion to them. The Miri or land-tax is taken upon the mule loads of mulberry leaves, eight or ten trees, in common years, yielding one load; and as the income of the proprietors depends entirely upon the growth of these leaves, they suffer less from a bad crop, because their taxes are proportionally low. The extraordinary extortions of the government, however, are excessive: the Emir often exacts five or six Miris in the year, and one levy of money is no sooner paid, than orders are received for a fresh one of twenty or thirty purses upon the province. The village Sheikh fixes the contributions to be paid by each village, taking care to appropriate a part of them to himself. Last year many peasants were obliged to sell a part of their furniture, to defray the taxes; it may easily be conceived therefore in what misery they live: they eat scarcely any thing but the worst bread, and oil, or soups made of the wild herbs, of which tyranny cannot deprive them. Notwithstanding the wretchedness in which they are left by the government, they have still to satisfy the greediness of their priests, but these contributions they pay with cheerfulness. Many of the convents indeed are too rich to require their assistance, but those which are poor, together with all the parish priests and church officers, live upon the people. Such is the condition of this Christian commonwealth, which instead of deserving the envy of other Christians, living under the Turkish yoke, is in a more wretched state than any other part of Syria; but the predominance of their church consoles them under every affliction, and were the Druse governor to deprive them of the last para, they would still remain in the vicinity of their convent.
Contributions are never levied on the convents, though the landed property belonging to them pays duties like that of the peasant; their income from abroad is free from taxes. Loans are sometimes required of the convents; but they are regularly reimbursed in the time of the next harvest. The priests are the most happy part of the population of Kesrouan; they are under no anxiety for their own support; they are looked upon by the people as superior beings, and their repose is interrupted only by the intrigues of the convents, and by the mutual hostilities of the bishops.
The principal villages in Kesrouan, beginning from the north, are Ghadsir (ﺭﻳﺫﻋ), Djedeide (ﺓﺩﻳﺩﺠ), Aar Amoun (ﻥﻭﻤﺍ ﺭﺎﻋ), Shenanayr (ﺭﻳﻌﻧﺎﻧﺸ), Sahel Alma (ﻪﻣﻟﻋ ﻝﻫﺎﺴ), Haret Szakher (ﺭﺧﺼ ﺕﺭﺎﺤ), Ghozta (ﻪﺘﺯﻏ), Deir Aoun (ﻥﻭﻋ ﺭﻳ ﺪ), Ghadir (ﺭﻳ ﺩﻏ), Zouk Mikayl (ﻝﻴﺎﻛﻤ ﻕﻭﺯ), Djouni (ﻲﻧﻭﺠ), Zouk Meszbah (ﺢﺑﺻﻤ ﻕﻭﺯ), Zouk el Kherab (ﺏﺍﺭﺧﻟﺍ ﻕﻭﺯ), and Kornet el Khamra (ﺓﺭﻣﺧﻠﺍ ﺔﻧﺭﻘ).
March 18th. - I left my amiable host, the Abate Gandolfi, and proceeded on my road to Deir el Kammar, the residence of the Emir Beshir. One hour from Antoura is Deir Lowyz (ﺯﻳﻭﻠﺭﻳﺪ). Between it and the village Zouk Mikayl lies the village Zouk Meszbah, with Deir Mar Elias. South of Deir Lowyz half an hour is the village Zouk el Kharab; half an hour E. of the latter, Deir Tanneis (ﺱﻳﻧﻄﺭﻳﺪ), and about the same distance S.E. the village Kornet el Khamra. From Deir Lowyz I again descended into the plain on the sea shore. The narrow plain which I mentioned as beginning at Djissr Maammiltein, continues only as far as Djouni, where the country rises, and continues hilly, across the southern promontory of the bay of Kesrouan, on the farther side of which the narrow plain again begins, and continues as far as the banks of the Nahr el Kelb. I reached this river in half an hour from Antoura, at the point of its junction with the sea, about ten minutes above which it is crossed by a fine stone bridge. From the bridge the road continues along the foot of the steep rocks, except where they overhang the sea, and there it has been cut through the rock for about a mile. This was a work, however, of no great labour, and hardly deserved the following magnificent inscription, which is engraved upon the rock, just over the sea, where the road turns southward:
IMP CAES M AVRELIVS
ANTONINV S. PIVS. FELIX. AVGVSTVS
PART. MAX. BRIT. MAX. GERM. MAXIMVS
LICO FLVMINI CAESIS VIAM DELATAVIT
PER. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The last line but one has been purposely erazed. Below the frame in which the above is engraved, is this figure.
Higher up in the road are several other places in the rock, where inscriptions have been cut, but the following one only is legible:
ANTONIN FELIX AUG
MV.. IS NISIM6
According to the opinion of M. Guys, the French consul at Tripoli, which seems well founded, the Emperor mentioned in the above inscriptions is not Antoninus Pius, but Caracalla; as the epithet Britannus cannot be applied to the former, but very well to the latter. Opposite to the bridge is an Arabic inscription, but for the greater part illegible.
The road continues for about half an hour through the rock over the sea, above which it is no where higher than fifty feet. At the southern extremity is a square basin hewn in the rock close by the sea, called El Mellaha, in which the salt water is sometimes collected for evaporation. On the summit of the mountain, to the left of the rocky road, lies the Deir Youssef el Berdj (ﺝﺭﺑﻟﺍ ﻑﺳﻭﻴ ﺭﻴﺪ); half an hour south of it, in the mountain, is the village Dhobbye (ﻪﻳﺑﻀ), and behind the latter the village Soleima (ﻪﻣﻳﻠﻭﺴ), with a convent of the Terra Santa. The road from El Mellaha continues for an hour and a half on the sandy beach; about three quarters of an hour from the basin we passed the rivulet Nahr Antoun Elias, so called from a village and convent of that name, to the left of the road. Near the latter lies the village of Abou Romman (ﻥﺎﻣﺮ ﻭﺒﺍ), in the narrow plain between the mountain and the sea, and a little farther south, El Zeleykat (ﺕﺎﻗﻳﻠﺰ). The district of Kesrouan (ﻥﺍﻮﺭﺳﻜ ﺾﺮ ﺍ), extends, to the south, as far as a small Khan, which stands a little beyond the Mellaha; farther south commences the Druse country of Shouf (ﻑﻭﺸ). At the termination of the sandy beach are seen ruins of Saracen buildings, with a few houses called Aamaret Selhoub (ﺏﻭﻬﻟﺴ ﺓﺮﺎﻣﻋ).
We now left the sea shore to our right, and rode across the triangular point of land on the western extremity of which the town of Beirout is situated. This point projects into the sea about four miles beyond the line of the coast, and there is about the same distance in following that line across the base of the triangle. The road we took was through the fine cultivated plain called El Boudjerye (ﻪﻳﺭﺠﻭﺑﻟﺍ), in a direction S. by W. Two hours and three quarters from El Mellaha is the village Hadded (ﺪﺩﺤ). Before we came to it, we crossed the Nahr Beirout, at a place where I saw, for the first time, a grove of date trees. Beyond the river the country is called Ard el Beradjene, from a tower by the sea side called Berdj el Beradjene (ﻪﻧﺠﺍﺭﺑﻟﺍ ﺝﺭﺒ); the surrounding country is all planted with olive trees. In three hours and a quarter we crossed the Wady Ghadiry (ﻱﺭﻴ ﺩﻏ), on the other side of which lies the village Kefr Shyna (ﻪﻧﻳﺸ ﺭﻓﻜ). Upon the hills about three quarters of an hour S.E. of the place where the Ghadiry falls into the sea, stands the convent Mar Hanna el Shoeyfat. At the end of three hours and a half, the road begins to ascend: the Emir Beshir has had a new road made the greater part of the way up to Deir el Kammar, to facilitate the communication between his residence and the provinces of Kesrouan and Djebail. At the end of four hours is a fine spring, with a basin shaded by some large oak trees; it is called Ayn Besaba (ﻪﺒﺎﺳﺒ ﻥﻳﻋ). At four hours and a half, the road still ascending, is the village Ayn Aanab (ﺏﺎﻧﻋ ﻥﻳﻋ), remarkable for a number of palm trees growing here at a considerable elevation above the sea. The mountain is full of springs, some of which form pretty cascades. On the front of a small building which has been erected over the spring in the village, I observed on both sides two figures cut upon the wall, with open mouths, and having round their necks a chain by which they are fastened to the ground. Whether they are meant for lions or calves I could not satisfy myself, nor could I learn whether they have any relation to the religious mysteries of the Druses.
The country from Kefr Shyna is wholly inhabited by Druses. The village of Aanab is the hereditary seat of the family of Ibn Hamdan, who are the chiefs of the Druses in the Haouran. At five hours and a half is the village Ayn Aanoub (ﺏﻭﻧﻋ ﻥﻳﻋ); a little above it the road descends into the deep valley in which the Nahr el Kadhi flows. The mountain is here overgrown with fine firs. Six hours and a half, is a bridge (Djissr el Khadhi) under which the Nahr flows in a rocky bed. The Franks on the coast commonly give to the Nahr Kadhi the name of Damour, an appellation not unknown to the natives. On the other side of the bridge the road immediately ascends to the village Kefrnouta, on the N. side of the river, where it turns round the side of the mountain to Deir el Kammar, distant seven hours and a quarter from El Mellaha. I rode through El Kammar, without stopping, and proceeded to the village of Beteddein, where the Emir Beshir is building a new palace.
The town of Deir el Kammar is situated on the declivity of the mountain, at the head of a narrow valley descending towards the sea. It is inhabited by about nine hundred Maronite, three hundred Druse, and fifteen or twenty Turkish families, who cultivate mulberry and vine plantations, and manufacture all the articles of dress of the mountaineers. They are particularly skilful in working the rich Abbas or gowns of silk, interwoven with gold and silver, which are worn by the great Sheikhs of the Druses, and which are sold as high as eight hundred piastres a piece. The Emir Beshir has a serai here. The place seems to be tolerably well built, and has large Bazars. The tombs of the Christians deserve notice. Every family has a stone building, about forty feet square, in which they place their dead, the entrance being always walled up after each deposit: this mode of interment is peculiar to Deir el Kammar, and arose probably from the difficulty of excavating graves in the rocky soil on which it is built. The tombs of the richer Christian families have a small Kubbe on their summit. The name of this town, signifying the Monastery of the Moon, originates in a convent which formerly stood here, dedicated to the Virgin, who is generally represented in Syria with the moon beneath her feet. Half an hour from Deir el Kammar, on the other side of the valley, lies Beteddein (ﻥﻳﺪﺗﺒ), which in Syriac, means the two teats, and has received its name from the similarity of two neighbouring hills, upon one of which the village is built. Almost all the villages in this neighbourhood have Syriac names.
March 19th. - The Emir Beshir, to whom I had letters of recommendation, from Mr. Barker at Aleppo, received me very politely, and insisted upon my living at his house. His new palace is a very costly edifice; but at the present rate of its progress five more years will be required to finish it. The building consists of a large quadrangle, one on side of which are the Emir’s apartments and his harem, with a private court-yard; two other sides contain small apartments for his people, and the fourth is open towards the valley, and Deir el Kammar, commanding a distant view of the sea. In the neighbouring mountain is a spring, the waters from which have been conducted into the quadrangle; but the Emir wishes to have a more abundant supply of water, and intends to bring a branch of the Nahr el Kadhi thither; for this purpose the water must be diverted from the main stream at a distance of three hours, and the expense of the canal is calculated at three thousand pounds sterling.
The Emir Beshir is at present master of the whole mountain from Belad Akkar down to near Akka (Acre), including the valley of Bekaa, and part of the Anti-Libanus and Djebel Essheikh. The Bekaa, together with a present of one hundred purses, was given to him in 1810, by Soleiman Pasha of Acre, for his assistance against Youssef Pasha of Damascus. He pays for the possession of the whole country, five hundred and thirty purses, of which one hundred and thirty go to Tripoli and four hundred to Saida or Acre; this is exclusive of the extraordinary demands of the Pashas, which amount to at least three hundred purses more. These sums are paid in lieu of the Miri, which the Emir collects himself, without accounting for it. The power of the Emir, however, is a mere shadow, the real government being in the hands of the Druse chief, Sheikh Beshir.7 I shall here briefly explain the political state of the mountain.
It is now about one hundred and twenty years since the government of the mountain has been always entrusted by the Pashas of Acre and Tripoli to an individual of the family of Shehab (ﺏﺎﻬﺸ), to which the Emir Beshir belongs. This family derives its origin from Mekka, where its name is known, in the history of Mohammed and the first Califes; they are Mussulmans, and some of them pretend even to be Sherifs. About the time of the crusades, for I have been unable to ascertain the exact period, the Shehabs left the Hedjaz, and settled in a village of the Haouran, to which they gave their family name;8 it is still known by the appellation of Shohba; and is remarkable for its antiquities, of which I have given some account, in my journal of a tour in the Haouran. The family being noble, or of Emir origin, were considered proper persons to be governors of the mountain; for it was, and still is thought necessary that the government should not be in the hands of a Druse. The Druses being always divided into parties, a governor chosen from among them would have involved the country in the quarrels of his own party, and he would have been always endeavouring to exterminate his adversaries; whereas a Turk, by carefully managing both parties, maintains a balance between them, though he is never able to overpower them completely; he can oppose the Christian inhabitants to the Druses, who are in much smaller numbers than the former, and thus he is enabled to keep the country in a state of tranquillity and in subjection to the Pashas. This policy has long been successful, notwithstanding the turbulent spirit of the mountaineers, the continual party feuds, and the ambitious projects of many chiefs, as well of the Druses as of the reigning house; the Pashas were careful also not to permit any one to become too powerful; the princes of the reigning family were continually changed; and party spirit was revived in the mountain whenever the interests of the Porte required it. About eighty years ago the country was divided into the two great parties of Keisy (ﻲﺳﻳﻘ), whose banner was red, and Yemeny (ﻲﻧﻣﻴ), whose banner was white, and the whole Christian population ranged itself on the one side or the other. The Keisy gained at length the entire ascendancy, after which none but secret adherents of the Yemeny remained, and the name itself was forgotten. Then arose the three sects of Djonbelat, Yezbeky, and Neked. These still exist; thirty years ago the two first were equal, but the Djonbelat have now got the upper hand, and have succeeded in disuniting the Yezbeky and Neked.
The Djonbelat (ﺕﻻﺑﻧﺠ) draw their origin from the Druse mountain of Djebel Aala, between Ladakie and Aleppo: they are an old and noble family, and, in the seventeenth century, one of their ancestors was Pasha of Aleppo; it forms at present the richest and most numerous family, and the strongest party in the mountain.
The Yezbeky (ﻲﻛﺒﺯﻴ), or as they are also called, El Aemad (ﺩﺎﻣﻋ ﺕﻳﺒ), are few in number, but are reputed men of great courage and enterprize. Their principal residence is in the district of El Barouk, between Deir el Kammar and Zahle.
The Neked, whose principal Sheikh is at present named Soleiman, inhabit, for the greater part, Deir el Kammar; seven of their principal chiefs were put to death thirteen years ago in the serai of the Emir Beshir, and a few only of their children escaped the massacre; these have now attained to years of manhood, and remain at Deir el Kammar, watched by the Djonbelaty and the Aemad, who are united against them.
The Djonbelat now carry every thing with a high hand; their chief, El Sheikh Beshir is the richest and the shrewdest man in the mountain; besides his personal property, which is very considerable, no affair of consequence is concluded without his interest being courted, and dearly paid for. His annual income amounts to about two thousand purses, or fifty thousand pounds sterling. The whole province of Shouf is under his command, and he is in partnership with almost all the Druses who possess landed property there. The greater part of the district of Djesn (ﻥﺳﺟﻠﺍ ﻡﻳﻟﻗﺍ) is his own property, and he permits no one to obtain possesions in that quarter, while he increases his own estates yearly, and thus continually augments his power. The Emir Beshir can do nothing important without the consent of the Sheikh Beshir, with whom he is obliged to share all the contributions which he extorts from the mountaineers. It is from this cause that while some parts of the mountain are very heavily taxed, in others little is paid. The Druses form the richest portion of the population, but they supply little to the public contributions, being protected by the Sheikh Beshir. It will be asked, perhaps, why the Sheikh does not set aside the Emir Beshir and take the ostensible power into his own hands? Many persons believe that he entertains some such design, while others, better informed perhaps, assert that the Sheikh will never make the attempt, because he knows that the mountaineers would never submit to a Druse chief. The Druses are certainly in a better condition at present than they would be under the absolute sway of the Sheikh, who would soon begin to oppress instead of protecting them, as he now does; and the Christians, who are a warlike people, detest the name of Druse too much ever to yield quietly to a chief of that community. It is, probably, in the view of attaching the Christians more closely to him, and to oppose them in some measure to the Druses, that the Emir Beshir, with his whole family, has secretly embraced the christian religion. The Shehab, as I have already mentioned, were formerly members of the true Mussulman faith, and they never have had among them any followers of the doctrines of the Druses. They still affect publicly to observe the Mohammedan rites, they profess to fast during the Ramadhan, and the Pashas still treat them as Turks; but it is no longer matter of doubt, that the greater part of the Shehab, with the Emir Beshir at their head, have really embraced Christianity: that branch only of the family which governs at Rasheya and Hasbeya continue in the religion of their ancestors.
Although the Christians of the mountain have thus become more attached to their prince, their condition, on the whole, is not bettered, as the Emir scarcely dares do justice to a Christian against a Druse; still, however, the Christians rejoice in having a prince of their own faith, and whose counsellors and household are with few exceptions of the same religion. There are not more than forty or fifty persons about him who are not Christians. One of the prince’s daughters lately married a Druse of an Emir family, who was not permitted to celebrate the nuptials till he had been instructed in the doctrines of Christianity, had been baptized, and had received the sacrament. How far the Shehab may be sincere in their professions, I am unable to decide; it is probable that if their interests should require it, they would again embrace the religion of their ancestors.
In order to strengthen his authority the Emir Beshir has formed a close alliance with Soleiman Pasha of Acre, thus abandoning the policy of his predecessors, who were generally the determined enemies of the Turkish governors; this alliance is very expensive to the Prince, though it serves in some degree to counterbalance the influence of the Sheikh Beshir. The Emir and the Sheikh are apparently on the best terms; the latter visits the Emir almost every week, attended by a small retinue of horsemen, and is always received with the greatest apparent cordiality. I saw him at Beteddein during my stay there. His usual residence is at the village of Mokhtar (ﺮﺎﺗﺧﻤ), three hours distant from Beteddein, where he has built a good house, and keeps an establishment of about two hundred men. His confidential attendants, and even the porters of his harem, are Christians; but his bosom friend is Sheikh el Nedjem (ﻡﺟﻧﻠﺍ ﺦﻳﺸ), a fanatical Druse, and one of the most respected of their Akals. The Sheikh Beshir has the reputation of being generous, and of faithfully defending those who have put themselves under his protection. The Emir Beshir, on the contrary, is said to be avaricious; but this may be a necessary consequence of the smallness of his income. He is an amiable man, and if any Levantine can be called the friend of an European nation, he certainly is the friend of the English. He dwells on no topic with so much satisfaction as upon that of his alliance with Sir Sidney Smith, during that officer’s command upon this coast. His income amounts, at most, to four hundred purses, or about £10.000. sterling, after deducting from the revenue of the mountain the sums paid to the Pashas, to the Sheikh Beshir, and to the numerous branches of his family. His favourite expenditure seems to be in building. He keeps about fifty horses, of which a dozen are of prime quality; his only amusement is sporting with the hawk and the pointer. He lives on very bad terms with his family, who complain of his neglecting them; for the greater part of them are poor, and will become still poorer, till they are reduced to the state of Fellahs, because it is the custom with the sons, as soon as they attain the age of fifteen or sixteen, to demand the share of the family property, which is thus divided among them, the father retaining but one share for himself. Several princes of the family are thus reduced to an income of about one hundred and fifty pounds a year. It has constantly been the secret endeavour of the Emir Beshir to make himself directly dependent upon the Porte, and to throw off his allegiance to the Pasha; but he has never been able to succeed. The conduct of Djezzar Pasha was the cause of this policy. Djezzar, for reasons which have already been explained, was continually changing the governors of the mountain, and each new governor was obliged to promise him large sums for his investiture. Of these sums few were paid at the time of Djezzar’s death, and bills to the amount of sixteen thousand purses were found in his treasury, secured upon the revenue of the mountain. At the intercession of Soleiman Pasha, who succeeded Djezzar at Akka, and of Gharib Effendi, the Porte’s commissioner (now Pasha of Aleppo), this sum was reduced to four thousand purses, of which the Emir Beshir is now obliged to pay off a part annually.
By opposing the Druse parties to each other, and taking advantage of the Christian population, a man of genius and energy of the Shehab family might perhaps succeed in making himself the independent master of the mountain. Such an event would render this the most important government in Syria, and no military force the Turks could send would be able to overthrow it. But at present the Shehab appear to have no man of enterprise among them.
The Shehab marry only among themselves, or with two Druse families, the Merad (ﺪﺍﺭﻤ), and Kaszbeya (ﻪﻳﺑﺻﻘ). These and the Reslan (ﻥﻻﺴﺮ), are the only Emir families, or descendants of the Prophet, among the Druses. These Emirs inhabit the province called El Meten. Emir Manzour, the chief of the Merads, is a man of influence, with a private annual income of about one hundred and twenty purses.
I shall now subjoin such few notes on the Druses as I was able to collect during my short stay in the mountain; I believe them to be authentic, because I was very careful in selecting my authorities.
With respect to the true religion of the Druses, none but a learned Druse can satisfy the enquirer’s curiosity. What I have already said of the Anzeyrys is equally applicable to the Druses; their religious opinions will remain for ever a secret, unless revealed by a Druse. Their customs, however, may be described; and, as far as they can tend to elucidate the mystery, the veil may be drawn aside by the researches of the traveller. It seems to be a maxim with them to adopt the religious practices of the country in which they reside, and to profess the creed of the strongest. Hence they all profess Islamism in Syria; and even those who have been baptised on account of their alliance with the Shehab family, still practise the exterior forms of the Mohammedan faith. There is no truth in the assertion that the Druses go one day to the mosque, and the next to the church. They all profess Islamism, and whenever they mix with Mohammedans they perform the rites prescribed by their religion. In private, however, they break the fast of Ramadhan, curse Mohammed, indulge in wine, and eat food forbidden by the Koran. They bear an inveterate hatred to all religions except their own, but more particularly to that of the Franks, chiefly in consequence of a tradition current among them that the Europeans will one day overthrow their commonwealth: this hatred has been increased since the invasion of the French, and the most unpardonable insult which one Druse can offer to another, is to say to him “May God put a hat on you!” Allah yelebesak borneita (ﺔﻳﻧﺮﻭﺒﻙﺳﺑﻟﻴﷲ).
Nothing is more sacred with a Druse than his public reputation: he will overlook an insult if known only to him who has offered it; and will put up with blows where his interest is concerned, provided nobody is a witness; but the slightest abuse given in public he revenges with the greatest fury. This is the most remarkable feature of the national character: in public a Druse may appear honourable; but he is easily tempted to a contrary behaviour when he has reason to think that his conduct will remain undiscovered. The ties of blood and friendship have no power amongst them; the son no sooner attains the years of maturity than he begins to plot against his father. Examples are not wanting of their assailing the chastity of their mothers, and towards their sisters such conduct is so frequent, that a father never allows a full grown son to remain alone with any of the females of his family. Their own religion allows them to take their sisters in marriage; but they are restrained from indulging in this connexion, on account of its repugnance to the Mohammedan laws. A Druse seldom has more than one wife, but he divorces her under the slightest pretext; and it is a custom among them, that if a wife asks her husband’s permission to go out, and he says to her “Go;” without adding “and come back,” she is thereby divorced; nor can her husband recover her, even though it should be their mutual wish, till she is married again according to the Turkish forms, and divorced from her second husband. It is known that the Druses, like all Levantines, are very jealous of their wives; adultery, however, is rarely punished with death; if a wife is detected in it, she is divorced; but the husband is afraid to kill her seducer, because his death would be revenged, for the Druses are inexorable with respect to the law of retaliation of blood; they know too that if the affair were to become public, the governor would ruin both parties by his extortions. Unnatural propensities are very common amongst them.
The Akal are those who are supposed to know the doctrines of the Druse religion; they superintend divine worship in the chapels or, as they are called, Khaloue (ﻩﻭﻟﺨ), and they instruct the children in a kind of catechism. They are obliged to abstain from swearing, and all abusive language, and dare not wear any article of gold or silk in their dress. Many of them make it a rule never to eat of any food, nor to receive any money, which they suspect to have been improperly acquired. For this reason, whenever they have to receive considerable sums of money, they take care that it shall be first exchanged for other coin. The Sheikh El Nedjem, who generally accompanies the Sheikh Beshir, in his visits to the Emir, never tastes food in the palace of the latter, nor even smokes a pipe there, always asserting that whatever the Emir possesses has been unlawfully obtained. There are different degrees of Akal, and women are also admitted into the order, a privilege which many avail themselves of, from parsimony, as they are thus exempted from wearing the expensive head-dress and rich silks fashionable among them.
A father cannot entirely disinherit his son, in that case his will would be set aside; but he may leave him a single mulberry tree for his portion. There is a Druse Kadhi at Deir el Kammar, who judges according to the Turkish laws, and the customs of the Druses; his office is hereditary in a Druse family; but he is held in little repute, as all causes of importance are carried before the Emir or the Sheikh Beshir.
The Druses do not circumcise their children; circumcision is practised only in the mountain by those members of the Shehab family who continue to be Mohammedans.
The best feature in the Druse character is that peculiar law of hospitality, which forbids them ever to betray a guest. I made particular enquiries on this subject, and I am satisfied that no consideration of interest or dread of power will induce a Druse to give up a person who has once placed himself under his protection. Persons from all parts of Syria are in the constant practice of taking refuge in the mountain, where they are in perfect security from the moment they enter upon the Emir’s territory; should the prince ever be tempted by large offers to consent to give up a refugee, the whole country would rise, to prevent such a stain upon their national reputation. The mighty Djezzar, who had invested his own creatures with the government of the mountain, never could force them to give up a single individual of all those who fled thither from his tyranny. Whenever he became very urgent in his demands, the Emir informed the fugitive of his danger, and advised him to conceal himself for a time in some more distant part of his territory; an answer was then returned to Djezzar that the object of his resentment had fled. The asylum which is thus afforded by the mountain is one of the greatest advantages that the inhabitants of Syria enjoy over those in the other parts of the Turkish dominions.
The Druses are extremely fond of raw meat; whenever a sheep is killed, the raw liver, heart, &c. are considered dainties; the Christians follow their example, but with the addition of a glass of brandy with every slice of meat. In many parts of Syria I have seen the common people eat raw meat in their favourite dish the Kobbes; the women, especially, indulge in this luxury.
Mr. Barker told me that during his two years residence at Harissa and in the mountain, he never heard any kind of music. The Christians are too devout to occupy themselves with such worldly pleasures, and the Druses have no sort of musical instruments.
The Druses have a few historical books which mention their nation; Ibn Shebat, for instance, as I was told, gives in his history of the Califes, that of the Druses also, and of the family of Shehab. Emir Haidar, a relation of the Emir Beshir, has lately begun to compile a history of the Shehabs, which already forms a thick quarto volume.
I believe that the greatest amount of the military forces of the Druses is between ten and fifteen thousand firelocks; the Christians of the mountain may, perhaps, be double that number; but I conceive that the most potent Pasha or Emir would never be able to collect more than twenty thousand men from the mountain.
The districts inhabited by Druses in the Pashalik of Saida are the following. El Tefahh, of which one half belongs to the Pasha. El Shomar (ﺮﺎﻤﻭﺷﻟﺍ), belonging for the greater part to the Pasha. El Djessein, one half of which belongs to the Porte. Kesrouan. El Metten. El Gharb el Fokany. El Gharb el Tahtany; in which the principal family is that of Beit Telhouk (ﻕﻭﺣﻟﺘ ﺕﻳﺒ). El Djord (ﺩﻭﺟﻟﺍ), the principal family there is Beit Abd el Melek. El Shehhar (ﺭﺎﺣﺸ); the principal family Meby el Dein (ﻥﻳﺪﻟﺍﻲﺣﻤ ﺕﻳﺒ). El Menaszef, under Sheikh Soleiman of the family of Abou Neked (ﺩﻛﻧ ﻭﺒﺍ). El Shouf (ﻑﻭﺸ), the residence of the Sheikh Beshir. El Aarkoub (ﺏﻭﻘﺮﻌﻟﺍ), or Ard Barouk (ﻙﻭﺭﺎﺒ ﺽﺮﺍ), belonging to the family of Aemad; and El Kharroub (ﺏﻭﺮﺨ), belonging to the Djonbelat.
In 1811, the Druses of Djebel Ala, between Ladakie and Antioch, were driven from their habitations by Topal Aly, the governor of Djissr Shogher, whose troops committed the most horrible cruelties. Upwards of fifteen hundred families fled to their countrymen in the Libanus, where they were received with great hospitality; upwards of two hundred purses were collected for their relief, and the Djonbelat assigned to them convenient dwellings in different parts of the mountain. Some of them retired into the Haouran.
March 21st. - It was with difficulty that I got away from Beteddein. The Emir seemed to take great pleasure in conversing with me, as we spoke in Arabic, which made him much freer than be would have been, had he had to converse through the medium of an interpreter. He wished me to stay a few days longer, and to go out a hunting with him; but I was anxious to reach Damascus, and feared that the rain and snow would make the road over the mountain impassable; in this I was not mistaken, having afterwards found that if I had tarried a single day longer I should have been obliged to return along the great road by the way of Beirout. The Emir sent one of his horsemen to accompany me, and we set out about mid-day. Half an hour from Beteddein is the village Ain el Maszer (ﺭﺻﺎﻣﻠﺍ ﻥﻳﻋ), with a spring and many large walnut trees. To the left, on the right bank of the Nahr el Kadhi, higher in the mountain, are the villages Medjelmoush (ﺵﻭﻣﻟﺟﻤ) and Reshmeyia (ﻪﻳﻳﻣﺸﺮ). At one hour is the village Kefrnebra (ﺍﺭﺑﻧﺮﻓﻜ), belonging to the Yezdeky, under the command of Abou Salma, one of their principal Sheikhs. The road lies along the mountain, gradually ascending. At one hour and a quarter are the two villages Upper and Lower Beteloun (ﻲﻧﺎﺗﺣﺗﻟﺍﻮ ﻲﻧﺎﻘﻭﻓﻠﺍ ﻥﻮﻟﺗﺒ). One hour and three quarters, the village Barouk (ﻙﻭﺮﺎﺒ), and near it the village Ferideis (ﺱﻳﺪﻳﺮﻔ); these are the chief residence of the Yezdeky, and the principal villages in the district of Barouk. They are situated on the wild banks of the torrent Barouk, whose source is about one hour and a half distant. The Sheikh Beshir has conducted a branch of it to his new palace at Mokhtar; the torrent falls into the sea near Saida. From Barouk the road ascends the steep side of the higher region of the mountain called Djebel Barouk; we were an hour and a half in ascending; the summit was covered with snow, and a thick fog rested upon it: and had it not been for the footsteps of a man who had passed a few hours before us we should not have been able to find our way. We several times sunk up to our waists in the snow, and on reaching the top we lost the footsteps, when discovering a small rivulet running beneath the snow, I took it as our guide, and although the Druse was in despair, and insisted on returning, I pushed on, and after many falls reached the plain of the Bekaa, at the end of two hours from the summit; I suppose the straight road to be not more than an hour and quarter. The rivulet by which we descended is called Wady Dhobbye (ﻪﻳﺑﻀﻱﺪﺍﻮ). We had no sooner entered the plain than it began to snow again, and it continued to rain and snow for several days. Small caravans from Deir el Kammar to Damascus pass the mountain even in winter; but to prevent the sharp hoofs of the mules from sinking deep into the snow, the muleteers are accustomed in the difficult places to spread carpets before them as they pass.
We reached the plain near a small village, inhabited only during the seed time. From thence the village of Djob Djennein bore S. by E. and the village of Andjar, in the upper part of the Bekaa, which I visited in the year 1810, from Zahle, E.N.E. From the foot of the mountain we were one hour in reaching the bridge over the Liettani, which has been lately repaired by the Emir Beshir, who has also built a Khan near it, for the accommodation of travellers. At twenty minutes from the bridge lies the village Djob Djennein (ﻥﻳﻧﺠ ﺏﺠ), one of the principal villages of the Bekaa; it is situated on the declivity of the Anti-Libanus, where that mountain begins to form part of the Djebel Essheikh. The Anti-Libanus here advances a little into the valley, which from thence takes a more western course.
The Emir Beshir has seven or eight villages about Djob Djennein, which together with the latter are his own property; but the whole Bekaa, since Soleiman succeeded to the Pashalik of Damascus in 1810, is also under his command. The villages to the north of Djob Djennein will be found enumerated in another place;9 those to the south of it, and farther down in the valley, are Balloula (ﻻﻭﻟﻌﺒ), El Medjdel (ﻝﺪﺟﻣﻠﺍ), Hammara (ﺓﺮﺎﻣﺤ), Sultan Yakoub, (ﺏﻭﻘﺎﻴ ﻥﺎﻁﻟﺴ) El Beiry (ﻱﺭﻳﺑﻠﺍ), El Refeidh (ﺽﻳﻔﺮﻠﺍ), Kherbet Kanafat (ﺕﺎﻔﺎﻧﻘ ﺔﺒﺮﺨ), Ain Arab (ﺏﺮﻋ ﻥﻳﻋ), and Leila (ﻻﻳﻠ). Having one of the Emir Beshir’s men with me, I was treated like a great man in the house of the Sheikh of Djob Djennein; this I may be allowed to mention, as it is the only instance of my receiving such honours during my travels in Syria.
March 22nd. - Caravans reckon two days journey between Djob Djennein and Damascus; but as I was tolerably well mounted, and my guide was on a good mare of the Emir Beshir’s, I resolved on reaching it in one day; we therefore pursued our route at a brisk walk and sometimes at a trot. We crossed the plain obliquely, having the projection of the Anti-Libanus, which ends at Djob Djennein, on our right. At thirty-five minutes from Djob Djennein, to the right, is the village Kamel el Louz (ﺯﻭﻟﻠﺍ ﻝﻣﺎﻜ), where are many ancient caves in the rocky mountain which rises behind it. In three quarters of an hour we reached the foot of the Anti-Libanus. On the summit of the mountain on our left, I observed a singular rock called Shekeik el Donia (ﺎﻳﻧﺪﻠﺍ ﻕﻳﻗﺸ), or Hadjar el Konttara (ﻩﺮﻂﻧﻗﻟﺍ ﺮﺧﺤ); my guide told me that the time would certainly arrive when some Frank nation would invade this country, and that on reaching this rock they would be completely routed. After a short ascent the road lies through a narrow plain, and then up another Wady, in the midst of which is the village of Ayty (ﻲﺗﻳﻋ), two hours distant from Djob Djennein; it belongs to Sheikh Hassan, the brother of Sheikh Beshir, a very rich Druse, who is as avaricious as the latter is generous; he has however built a Khan here for the accommodation of travellers. There is a fine spring in the village; the inhabitants manufacture coarse earthen ware (ﺭﺎﺧﻔ), with which they supply Damascus.
At the end of two hours and three quarters we reached the summit of the Anti-Libanus, where the heavy rains had already melted the greater part of the snow; here are some stunted oaks, and numerous springs. In three hours and a quarter we descended into a fine plain watered by the Wady Halloue (ﺓﻭﻟﺤ ﻱﺪﺍﻮ), which we followed into a narrow valley, and on issuing from it passed a ruined Khan, with a spring, called Khan Doumas (ﺱﺎﻤﻮﺪ ﻥﺎﺨ), which is five hours and a quarter from Djob Djennein. We left the village Doumas, which is half an hour from the Khan on our right, and at the end of six hours reached a high uneven plain, situated between the Anti Libanus and the chain of hills which commence near Katana; the plain is called Szakhret el Sham (ﻡﺎﺸﻟﺍ ﺓﺭﺧﺼ). Seven hours and a half, the ruined Khan Meylesoun (ﻥﻭﺴﻟﻳﻤﻥﺎﺨ). Eight hours and a half brought us to the termination of the Szakhret, from which we descended into the Ghouta, or plain of Damascus. At nine hours, the village Mezze (ﺓﺯﻤ), among the gardens of Damascus; and at the end of nine hours and three quarters we entered the city, which is generally reckoned fourteen hours journey from Djob Djennein.
Between Kesrouan and Zahle, I am informed that in the mountain, about six hours from the latter, are the ruins of an ancient city called Fakkra or Mezza. Large blocks of stone, some remains of temples, and several Greek inscriptions are seen there.
Between Akoura and Baalbec is a road cut in the rock, with several long Greek inscriptions, and near the source of the rivulet of Afka, near Akoura, are the ruins of an ancient building, which I unfortunately did not see during my passage through that village in 1810, although I enquired for them.
1 The following are the names of other villages and ruined towns, situated upon the mountain of Rieha from the information of a man or El Bara: viz. Medjellye (ﺔﻳﻟﺟﻣ), Betersa (ﺎﺳﺮﺘﺑ), Baouza (ﺓﺯﻮﻌﺑ), Has (ﺱﺎﺣ), El Rebeya (ﺎﻳﺑﺮﻠﺍ), Serdjelle (ﺔﻟﺟﺭﺳ), El Djerada (ﺓﺩﺍﺮﺠﻠﺍ), Moarrat Houl (ﻝﻭﺣ ﺕﺮﻌﻣ), Moarrat Menhas (ﺱﺣﻧﻤ ﺕﺮﻌﻤ), Beshelle (ﺔﻟﺷﺒ), Babouza (ﺓﺯﻮﺒﺒ), El Deir (ﺮﻳﺪﻠﺍ), El Roweyha (ﺔﺣﻳﻭﺮﻠﺍ), with extensive ruins; Zer Szabber (ﺭﺑﺼﺮ ﺬ), Zer Louza (ﺓﺯﻭﻟﺯ ﺫ), Moar Bellyt (ﺕﻳﻟﺑ ﺮﻌﻣ), Moar Szaf (ﻑﺎﺼ ﺭﻌﻣ), Serdjeb Mantef (ﻑﻃﻧﻣ ﺏﺠﺮﺴ), Nahle (ﺔﻟﺣﻧ), El Rama (ﺔﻣﺍﺭﻟﺍ), Kefr Rouma (ﺔﻤﻭﺮ ﺮﻔﻜ), Shennan (ﻥﺎﻧﺷ), Ferkya (ﺔﻳﻘﺭﻔ), Belshou (ﻭﺷﻟﺒ), Ahsarein (ﻥﻳﺭﺎﺳﺣﺍ), Moarrat Maater (ﺭﺗﻌﻣ ﺕﺭﻌﻣ), Djebale (ﺔﻟﺎﺑﺟ), Kefrneba (ﺔﺑﻧﺭﻓﻛ), Beskala (ﺔﻟﻗﺳﺑ), Moarrata (ﺔﺗﺍﺭﻌﻣ), Djousef (ﻑﺳﻭﺟ), El Fetteyry (ﻱﺭﻳﻂﻔﻟﺍ), El Ahmeyry (ﻱﺭﻳﻣﺣﻻﺍ), Erneba (ﺔﺑﻧﺭﺍ), El Arous (ﺱﻭﺭﻻﺍ), Kon Szafra (ﺓﺭﻓﺻ ﻥﻛ), El Mezra (ﺍﺭﺯﻣﻠﺍ), Aweyt (ﺕﻳﻭﻋ), Kefr Shelaye (ﺔﻳﻻﺷ ﺭﻓﻛ), Szakhrein (ﻥﻳﺭﺧﺼ), Benames (ﺱﻣﺎﻧﺑ), Kefr Djennab (ﺏﺎﻧﺟ ﺭﻓﻛ), Szankoul (ﻝﻭﻗﻧﺻ).
2 Damascus. April 28, 1812. - In the latter end of March, Milly Ismayl went to Hamah on some private business, and during his absence with his troops Topal Aly quietly seized upon the castle. The former now lives in retirement at Hamah, while the power and reputation of Topal have been thus considerably increased in the northern parts of Syria.
3 A peasant of Sekeylebye enumerated to me the following villages belonging to the government of Hamah, and situated to the N. and W. of that town. Beginning east-wards of his own village, he first mentioned El Sohhrye, then Setouhh, El Deyr, Kfer Djebein, Um Kaszr, Kassabye, Um el Aamed, Kferambouda, Kornas, El Djeleyme, El Mogheyer, El Habyt, Kefer Sedjen, Maar Zeyt, Maart Maater, Kefr Ayn, Kadhyb el Ban, Tel Aas, Kefr Zeyty, El Lattame (ﺔﻣﺎﻁﻻﻠﺍ, the principal village of the district of Hamah), Khan Shiehoun, Maryk, Howeyr, Tel Berran, Wady Edjfar, Wady Daurat, Maszyn Latmein, Tel Faes, Besseleya, Meskyn, Tayebe, Um Tennoura, El Hammamye, El Seyh, Seidjar, Khattab, Meharabe, Helfeya, Bellata, Kefr Behon, Zauran, Mardys, Maar Shour, El Djadjye, Zeyn Abdein, El Oesher. East and south-east of Hamah are the ruined villages: Kefr Houn, Ekfer Tab, Um Sedjra, Altouny, Kefr Eydoun, Sahyan, Marhatal, Heish, Moaka, Wady el Fathh, (ﺢﺗﻔ ﻱﺩﺍﻭ), Kefr Baesein, El Tahh, El Djofer Djerdjenaes, El Ghatfa, Mart Arab, Aar (ﺭﺎﻋ), Seker, Turky, Etleyl el Szauan, El Temaanaa, El Taamy, El Sheteyb, El Beleyl, Um Harteyn, El Zekeyat, El Hamra, Kfer Dadein, Maar Zelem, Naszab, Tel Faes, El Medjdel, Howeyr, Aatshan el Gebeybat, Sydy Aaly, Djaafar, Berdj el Abyadh, Berdj el Assuad, Kalaat el Ans, Stabelt Antar, Deh lubby.
4 Kadisha, in the Syrian language, means the holy (ﺱﺩﻘﻟﺍ), the proper name of the river is Nahr Abou Ali.
5 The natives say, that on the shield carved above the gateway of this tower two lions were formerly visible. - These were the arms of Count Raymond de Thoulouse. I saw at Tripoli a leaden seal of the Count, with a tower, meant probably for the Berdj el Sebaa, on the reverse.
6 In the year 1697 Maundrell read this inscription as follows: Invicte Imp. Antonine P. Felix Aug. multis annis impera. Ed.
7 Beshir is a proper name borne by many people in the mountain. The accent is on the last syllable: the sound would be expressed in English by Besheer.
8 A branch of the family is said to inhabit some mountains in Mesopotamia, under the command of Emir Kasem.
9 See page 31.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:05