IN returning to Damascus, it was my intention to obtain some further knowledge of the Haouran, and to extend my journey over the mountains to the south of Damascus, where I wished to explore the ruins of Djerash (Gerasa) and of Amman (Philadelphia) in the ancient Decapolis, which M. Seetzen had discovered in his journey from Damascus to Jerusalem. An unexpected change in the government of Damascus obliged me to protract my stay in that city for nearly a month. The news had just been received of the dismissal of Soleiman Pasha, and it was necessary for me, before I set off, to ascertain whether the country would yield quietly to the command of the new Pasha; for, if rebel parties started up, and submission became doubtful, the traveller would run great hazards, would be unable to derive any advantage from the protection of the government, and would be obliged to force his way by the means of endless presents to the provincial chiefs.
As soon as I was satisfied of the tranquil state of the Pashalik, I set out for the Haouran. I took with me a Damascene, who had been seventeen times to Mekka, who was well acquainted with the Bedouins, inured to fatigue, and not indisposed to favour my pursuits; I had indeed reason to be contented with my choice of this man, though he was of little further use to me than to take care of my horse, and to assist in intimidating the Arabs, by some additional fire-arms.
We left Damascus on the morning of the 21st of April, 1812; and as my first steps were directed towards those parts of the Ledja which I had not visited during my first tour, we took the road of El Kessoue, Deir Ali, and El Merdjan, to the description of which in my former journal I may here add the following particulars: the N.E. part of Djebel Kessoue is called Djebel Aadelye (ﻪﻳﻠﺪﻋ). From Kessoue our road bore S.S.E. In one hour and a quarter from that place we passed the small village called Haush el Madjedye (ﻪﻳﺪﺠﺎﻣﻠﺍ ﺵﻭﺤ); Haush being an appellation applied to small villages enclosed by a wall, or rather to those whose houses join, so as to present by their junction a defence against the Arab robbers. The entrance to the Haush is generally through a strong wooden gate, which is carefully secured every evening.
At an hour and three quarters from Kessoue is Deir Ali, to the north of which, upon the summit of Djebel Kessoue, is situated the Mezar el Khaledye (ﻪﻳﺪﻠﺎﺧﻠﺍ ﺮﺍﺯﻤ); Deir Ali is a village inhabited by Druses, who keep the Arabs in great awe, by the reputation for courage which they have acquired upon many occasions. It seems rather extraordinary that the Druses, the known enemies of the Mohammedan faith, should be allowed to inhabit the country so near to the gate of the holy city, as Damascus is called; for not only Deir Ali, but three or four villages, as Artous, Esshera, Fye, and others, at only three hours distant from Damascus, are for the greater part peopled by them. Numbers of them are even settled in the town; the quarters called Bab Mesalla and El Hakle, in the Meidhan, or suburbs of the city, contain more than one hundred Druse families, who are there called Teyamene (ﻪﻧﻤﺎﻳﺗﻠﺍ). In another quarter, called El Khereb, live three or four hundred Metaweli families, or Shiytes, of the sect of Aly; of this sect is the present Mutsellim, Aly Aga. The religious creeds of all these people are publicly known; but the fanatism of the Damascenes, however violent, is easily made subservient to their fears or interests; every religious and moral duty being forgotten when the prospect of gain or the apprehension of danger presents itself.
At three hours and a quarter from Kessoue is the village El Merdjan. When I passed this place in 1810, I found a single Christian family in it; I now found eight or ten families, most of them Druses, who had emigrated hither from Shaara, a well peopled village in 1810, but now deserted. They had brought the fertile soil round El Merdjan into cultivation, and had this year sown eight Ghararas of wheat and barley, or about one hundred and twenty cwt. English.1 The taxes paid by the village amounted to a thousand piastres, or fifty pounds sterling, besides the tribute extorted by the Bedouins. The vicinity of the village is watered by several springs. I was obliged to remain at Merdjan the next day, because my mare fell ill, and was unable to proceed. As I did not like to return to Damascus, I bought a mare of the Sheikh of the village, a Christian of Mount Libanus, who knew me, and who took a bill upon Damascus in payment. This mare I afterwards bartered for a Bedouin horse.
April 23d. - I left Merdjan to examine the eastern limits of the Ledja. We passed the Aamoud Eszoubh (ﺢﺑﺻﻠﺍ ﺪﻭﻣﻋ), or Column of the Morning, an insulated pillar standing in the plain; it is formed of the black stone of the Ledja, about twenty-five or thirty feet high, of the Ionic order, and with a high pedestal. I had been told that there were some inscriptions upon it, but I did not find any. The column is half an hour distant from Merdjan, to the eastward of south. Round the column are fragments of three or four others, which appear to have formed a small temple. The remains of a subterraneous aqueduct, extending from the village towards the spot where the column stands, are yet visible. In one hour from thence we passed a ruined village called Beidhan (ﻥﺎﺿﻳﺒ), with a saltpetre manufactory. Two hours from Merdjan is Berak (ﻕﺍﺮﺒ), bearing from it S.E. b. E. Our road lay over a low plain between the Djebel Kessoue and the Ledja, in which the Bedouins of the latter were pasturing their cattle. Berak is a ruined town, situated on the N.E. corner of the Ledja; there is no large building of any consequence here; but there are many private habitations. Here are two saltpetre manufactories, in which the saltpetre is procured by boiling the earth dug up among the ruins of the town; saline earth is also dug up in the neighbouring plain; in finding the productive spots, they are guided by the appearance of the ground in the morning before sunrise, and wherever it then appears most wet with dew the soil beneath is found impregnated with salt. The two manufactures produce about three Kantars, or fifteen or sixteen quintals per month of saltpetre, which is sold at about fifteen shillings per quintal. The boilers of these manufactories are heated by brush-wood brought from the desert, as there is little wood in the Ledja, about Berak. The whole of the Loehf, or limits of the Ledja, is productive of saltpetre, which is sold at Damascus and Acre; I saw it sold near the lake of Tiberias for double the price which it costs in the Loehf. In the interior of a house among the ruins of Berak, I saw the following inscription: [xxxxx] 2.
On the outside wall of a house, in another part of the town, was the following: [xxxx] 3.
Berak, like most of the ancient towns of the Ledja, has a large stone reservoir of water. Between these ruins and Missema lies the ruined city Om Essoud (ﺪﻭﻌﺳﻠﺍ ﻡﺍ), in the Loehf.
Djebel Kessoue runs out in a S.E. direction as far as the N.E. limits of the Ledja, and consists of the same kind of rock as that district. The other branch of it, or Djebel Khiara, extends towards Shaara. One hour S.W. from Berak, in the Ledja, are the ruins of a tower called Kaszr Seleitein (ﻥﻳﺗﻳﻟﺴ ﺮﺻﻘ), with a ruined village near it. An Arab enumerated to me the following names of ruined cities and villages in the Ledja, which may be added to those mentioned in my former journal: Emseyke (ﻪﻛﻳﺳﻤﺍ), El Wyr (ﺭﻳﻭﻠﺍ), Djedl (ﻝ ﺩﺠ), Essemeyer (ﺭﻳﻤﺯﻠﺍ), Szour (ﺮﻭﺼ), Aasem Ezzeitoun (ﻥﻭﺗﻳﺯﻠﺍ ﻡﺴﺎﻋ), Hamer (ﺭﻤﺎﺤ), Djerrein (ﻥﻳﺭﺠ), Dedjmere (ﺓﺮﻣﺠ ﺪ), El Aareis (ﺱﻳﺭﻌﻠﺍ) El Kastall (ﻝﺗﺳﻘﻠﺍ), Bord (ﺩﺭﺒ), Kabbara (ﺓﺮﺎﺑﻘ), El Tof (ﻑﺗﻠﺍ), Etteibe (ﻪﺑﺗﻠﺍ), Behadel (ﻝﺪﺎﺣﺒ), El Djadj (ﺝﺎﺟﻠﺍ), Szomeith (ﺙﻳﻣﺼ), El Kharthe (ﻪﺛﻭﺧﻠﺍ), Harran (ﻥﺍﺭﺤ), Djeddye (ﻪﻳﺪﺠ), Serakhed (ﺩﺨﺍﺭﺴ), Deir (ﺮﻳﺪ), Dami (ﻲﻣﺍﺩ), Aahere (ﺓﺭﻫﺎﻋ), Om el Aalek (ﻕﻟﻌﻟﺍ ﻢﺍ), Moben el Beit (ﺕﻳﺒﻟﺍ ﻥﺑﻤ), Deir Lesmar (ﺭﺎﺳﻠ ﺮﻳﺪ).
I engaged a man at Berak to conduct me along the Loehf, or limits of the Ledja; this eastern part is called El Lowa, from the Wady Lowa (ﺍﻭﻠ ﻱﺪﺍﻮ), a winter torrent which descends from Djebel Haouran, and flows along the borders of the Ledja, filling in its course the reservoirs of all the ancient towns situated there; it empties itself into the Bahret el Merdj, or marshy ground at seven or eight hours east of Damascus, where the rivers of Damascus also are lost. Our road was S.S.E. In one hour from Berak we passed the Lowa, near a ruined bridge, where the Wady takes a more eastern direction. Some water remained in pools in different places in the Wady, the rains having been very copious during the winter season. In an hour and a half we passed Essowara (ﺓﺮﺍﻭﺳﻠﺍ), a ruined town on our right; we travelled along the fertile plain that skirts the rocky surface of the Ledja, which at two hours took a more southern direction. On our right was El Hazzem (ﻡﺯﺣﻠﺍ), a ruined town; and a little farther, Meharetein (ﻥﻳﺗﺭﺎﺣﻤ), also in ruins. All these towns are on the borders of the Ledja. Their inhabitants formerly cultivated the fields watered by the Lowa, of which the stone enclosures are still visible in some places. At three hours is El Khelkhele (ﻪﻟﺧﻟﺧﻠﺍ), a ruined town, where we slept, in the house of the owner of a saltpetre manufactory.
The Wady Lowa in some places approaches close to the Ledja, and in others advances for a mile into the plain; its banks were covered with the most luxuriant herbage, of which little use is made; the Arabs of the Ledja being afraid to pass beyond its limits, from the almost continual state of warfare in which they live with the powerful tribe of Aeneze, and the government of Damascus; while the Aeneze, on the other hand, are shy of approaching too near the Ledja, from fear of the nightly robberies, and of the fire-arms of the Arabs who inhabit it. The labourers in the saltpetre manufactories are Druses, whose reputation for individual courage, and national spirit, keeps the Arabs at a respectful distance.
April 24th. - Khelkhele, like all the ancient towns in the Haouran, is built entirely with stone. I did not observe any public edifice of importance in the towns of the Lowa; there are some towers of moderate height, which seem to have been the steeples of churches; and a few houses are distinguished from the rest by higher arches in the apartments, and a few rude carvings over their doors. From Khelkhele, S.E. about two hours distant, is a high Tel in the plain; it is called Khaledie (ﻪﻳﺪﻟﺎﺨﻠﺍ ﻝﺘ), and has the ruins of a town on its top; nearly joining to it are the most northern projections of Djebel Haouran, which are distinguished on this side by a chain of low hillocks. To the E. of Khelkhele, about four hours, stands the Tel el Aszfar (ﺭﻔﺻﻻﺍﻝﺗ), farther E. the ruined village of Djoh Ezzerobe (ﺏﺮﺯﻠﺍﺏﺠ), and still further E. about nine or ten hours, from Khelkhele, the ruined village El Kasem (ﻡﺳﺎﻗﻠﺍ), near which is a small rivulet. In the direction of Tel el Khaledie, and to the S.E. of it, are the ruined villages of Bezeine (ﻪﻧﻳﺯﺒ), and Bezeinat (ﺕﺎﻧﻳﺯﺒ).
The direction of our route from Khelkhele was sometimes S.E. sometimes S. following the windings of the Ledja and the Lowa. At half an hour is the ruined village Dsakejr (ﺮﻳﻛﺍﺬ), in the Ledja, which here turns to the E. in the direction of Tel Shiehhan. On its S.E. corner stands the ruined town Sowarat el Dsakejr (ﺭﻳﻛﺍﺬﻠﺍ ﺓﺭﺍﻭﺴ), where we found a party of Arabs Szolout encamped, with whom we breakfasted. In one hour and a quarter we passed Redheimy (ﻲﻣﻳﺿﺮ), where the ground was covered with remains of ancient enclosures. One hour and a half, El Hadher (ﺮﺿﺤﻠﺍ); one hour and three quarters, El Laheda (ﻩﺪﻫﻻﻠﺍ); two hours, Omten (ﻥﺗﻣﺍ); two hours and a half, Meraszrasz (ﺹﺮﺻﻤ); three hours, Om Haretein (ﻥﻳﺗﺮﺎﺤ ﻢﺍ); three hours and a half, Essammera (ﺓﺮﻣﺴﺍ). All the above villages and towns are in ruins, and prove the once-flourishing state of the Ledja. In four hours we reached Om Ezzeitoun (ﻦﻭﺗﻳﺯﻠﺍ), a village inhabited by Druses. The advantages of a Wady like the Lowa are incalculable in these countries, where we always find that cultivation follows the direction of the winter torrents, as it follows the Nile in Egypt. There are not many Wadys in this country which inundate the land; but the inhabitants make the best use of the water to irrigate their fields after the great rains have ceased. Springs are scarce, and it is from the Wadys that the reservoirs are filled which supply both men and cattle with water, till the return of the rainy season. It is from the numerous Wadys which rise in the Djebel Haouran that the population of the Haouran derives its means of existence, and the success of its agriculture.
Om Ezzeitoun is inhabited by thirty or forty families. It appears, by the extent of its ruins, to have been formerly a town of some note. I here copied several inscriptions.
The only ancient building of any consequence is a small temple, of which an arch of the interior, and the gate, only remain; on each side of the latter are niches, between which and the gate are these inscriptions: [xxxxx]. The two last syllables are on the frame within which the inscription is engraved. [xxxx].
Upon a stone lying on the ground near the temple is the following: [xxxxx].4
Upon a long narrow stone in the wall of a court-yard near the temple: [xxxxx].
I had intended to sleep at Om Ezzeitoun, but I found the Druses very ill-disposed towards me. It was generally reported that I had discovered a treasure in 1810 at Shohba, near this place, and it was supposed that I had now returned to carry off what I had then left behind. I had to combat against this story at almost every place, but I was nowhere so rudely received as at this village, where I escaped ill treatment only by assuming a very imposing air, and threatening with many oaths, that if I lost a single hair of my beard, the Pasha would levy an avania of many purses on the village. I had with me an old passport from Soleiman Pasha, who, though no longer governor of Damascus, had been charged pro tempore with the government till the arrival of the new Pasha, who was expected from Constantinople. Soleiman had retired to his former government at Acre, but his Mutsellim at Damascus very kindly granted me strong letters of recommendation to all the authorities of the country, which were of great use to me in the course of my journey.
I left Om Ezzeitoun late in the evening, to proceed toward the mountain of Haouran. Our road lay on the N. side of Tel Shiehhan, close to which runs the Ledja; and the Wady Lowa descends the mountain on the west side of it. We proceeded in the direction of Soueida, and in an hour and a quarter from the village stopped, after sunset, at an encampment of the Djebel Haouran Arabs. My companion, and a guide whom I had engaged at Om Ezzeitoun, persuaded me to appear before the Arabs as a soldier belonging to the government, in order to get a good supper, of which we were in great want, that of the preceding night, at the saltpetre works, having consisted of only a handful of dry biscuit. We were served with a dish of rice boiled in sour milk, and were much amused by the sports and songs of the young girls of the tribe, which they continued in the moonlight till near midnight. One of the young men had just returned to the encampment, who had been taken prisoner by the Aeneze during a nightly predatory expedition. He showed us the marks of his fetters, and enlarged upon the mode of treating the Rabiat, or prisoner, among the Aeneze. A friend had paid thirty camels for his liberation. In spring the Arabs of the Djebel Haouran and the Ledja take advantage of the approach of the Aeneze, to plunder daily among their enemies; they are better acquainted with the ground than the latter, a part of whose horses and cattle are every spring carried off by these daring mountaineers.
April 25th. - At half an hour from the encampment is the hill called Tel Dobbe (ﻪﺒﺪﻝﺗ), consisting of a heap of ruins, with a spring. To the N.E. of it, a quarter of an hour, is the ruined village of Bereit, which was inhabited in 1810, but is now abandoned. The Haouran peasants wander from one village to another; in all of them they find commodious habitations in the ancient houses; a camel transports their family and baggage; and as they are not tied to any particular spot by private landed property, or plantations, and find every where large tracts to cultivate, they feel no repugnance at quitting the place of their birth. In one hour we passed Seleim, which in 1810 was inhabited by a few poor Druses, but is now abandoned. Here are the ruins of a temple, built with much smaller stones than any I had observed in the construction of buildings of a similar size in the Haouran. On the four outer corners were Corinthian pilasters. At one hour and a quarter, road S. we entered the wood of oak-trees, which is continued along the western declivity of the Djebel. One hour and a half, in the wood, we passed the Wady Dyab (ﺏﺎﻳﺪ ﻲﺪﺍﻮ), coming from the mountain. One hour and three quarters, passed Wady Kefr el Laha (ﺎﺣﻟﻠﺍﺮﻓﻜ ﻰﺪﺍﻮ). At the end of two hours we reached Aatyl (ﻝﻳﺗﻋ), a small Druse village in the midst of the wood. Here are the remains of two handsome temples; that which is on the N. side, is in complete ruins; it consisted of a square building, with a high arch across its roof; two niches were on each side of the gate, and in front of it a portico of columns, the number of which it is impossible to determine, the ground being covered by a heap of fragments of columns, architraves, and large square stones. This temple is called El Kaszr. From a small stone in its precincts I copied the following letters: [xxxxx].
On the outside wall of the temple is the following inscription in remarkably fine characters. [xxxxx].
On the S.E. side of Aatyl stands the other temple, which is of small dimensions but of elegant construction. It has a portico of two columns and two pilasters, each of which has a projecting base for a statue, elevated from the ground about one-third of the height of the column, like the pillars of the great colonnade at Palmyra. The columns are Corinthian, but not of the best time of that order. The interior of the temple consists of an apartment with several arches without any ornaments; but the gate is covered with sculpture. The two pilasters forming the portico have inscriptions on their bases. On the one is this: [xxxxx]. Near the other pilaster is an inscription upon two broken stones, lying near each other; these stones appear to have been formerly joined, and to have formed part of the base of the pilaster, and the inscription seems to have been a copy of the former. Upon the one I read: [xxxxx]. and upon the other: [xxxxx] [xxxxx].
Near the temple I saw a bas-relief about ten inches square, representing a female bust, with hair in ringlets, falling upon the shoulders; it was lying on the ground; but it was not of such workmanship as to tempt me to take it with me. Upon the wall of one of the largest houses in the village was a long inscription; but too high for me to read.
N.E. of Aatyl, about one hour, up in the mountain, is a ruined tower called Berdj Mabroum (ﻢﻭﺮﺑﻤ ﺝﺭﺒ).
The tobacco of Aatyl is preferred to that of any other part of the Haouran. I here saw a public woman, a Kahirene, who seemed to be kept at the expense of the whole village; I was surprised at this, for manners in the Haouran are generally almost as pure as among the Bedouins: public women are not suffered, and adultery is punished by the death of the woman, while the man is ruined by the heavy penalties exacted by the government in expiation of his guilt. Last year a married Turkish woman at Mohadje, a village in the Loehf, was caught in the embraces of a young Christian; her three brothers hastened to the spot, dragged her to the market place, and there in the presence of the whole community, cut her in pieces with their swords, loading her at the same time with the most horrible imprecations. The lover was fined ten purses.
From Aatyl I pursued my way one hour and a quarter S.S.E. to Soueida, at a short distance from which are the remains of an ancient road. As I had examined the antiquities of this village in 1810, and did not wish to be seen here a second time, I passed on without stopping, in the direction of Aaere, which is two hours and a half distant in a south-westerly direction. In the plain, and at a quarter of an hour to the west of Soueida, is the ruined convent Deir Senan (ﻥﺎﻧﺴﺭﻳﺪ). There is only a small Kurdine village in the road between Soueida and Aaere.
April 26th. - I remained this day at Aaere, in the house of the Druse chief the Sheikh Shybely Ibn Hamdan, where I alighted. The Sheikh appeared to be greatly pleased at my reappearance. Since my former visit, I had cultivated his friendship by letters and presents, which I had sent to him from Aleppo, and by which he was so much gratified, that he would have loaded me with presents in return, had I not thought proper to decline every thing of that kind, contenting myself with some very strong letters of recommendation from him to the authorities in those places which I intended to visit. Shybely is the kindest and most generous Turk I have known in Syria: and his reputation for these qualities has become so general, that peasants from all parts of the Haouran settle in his village. The whole of the Christian community of Soueida, with the Greek priest at their head, had lately arrived, so that Aaere has now become one of the most populous villages in this district. The high estimation in which the Sheikh is held arises from his great hospitality, and the justice and mildness with which he treats the peasants, upwards of forty of whom he feeds daily, besides strangers, who are continually passing here in their way to the Bedouin encampments; the coffee pot is always boiling in the Menzoul or stranger’s room. He may now, in fact, be called the Druse chief of the Haouran, though that title belongs in strictness to his father-in-law, Hossein Ibn Hamdan, the Sheikh of Soueida. In the mosque of Aaere, a low vaulted building, I copied the following inscription from a stone in the wall: [xxxxx].
April 27th. - I now thought that I might visit Boszra, which I had found it prudent to avoid in my former tour. Shybely gave me one of his men as a guide, and we followed the road which I have already described, as far as Shmerrin. At a quarter of an hour beyond Shmerrin, we passed the Wady Rakeik (ﻕﻳﻘﺮ ﻱﺪﺍﻮ).
Boszra (ﺍﺭﺻﺒ), is situated in the open plain, two hours distant from Aaere and is at present the last inhabited place in the south-east extremity of the Haouran; it was formerly the capital of Arabia Provincia, and is now, including its ruins, the largest town in the Haouran. It is of an oval shape, its greatest length being from E. to W.; its circumference is three quarters of an hour. It was anciently enclosed by a thick wall, which gave it the reputation of a place of great strength. Many parts of this wall, especially on the W. side, still remain; it was constructed with stones of a moderate size, strongly cemented together. The principal buildings in Boszra were on the E. side, and in a direction from thence towards the middle of the town. The S. and S.E. quarters are covered with ruins of private dwellings, the walls of many of which are still standing, but most of the roofs have fallen in. The style of building seems to have been similar to that observed in all the other ancient towns of the Haouran. On the W. side are springs of fresh water, of which I counted five beyond the precincts of the town, and six within the walls; their waters unite with a rivulet whose source is on the N.W. side, within the town, and which loses itself in the southern plain at several hours distance: it is called by the Arabs El Djeheir (ﺭﻳﻬﺟﻠﺍ).
The Nahr el Ghazel, which in most maps, and even by D’Anville, is laid down in the immediate vicinity of Boszra, is unknown to the natives; but I was afterwards informed that there is a Wady Ghazel in the direction of Amman (Philadelphia), in the Djebel Belka, which descends from the mountain, and flows into the eastern plains, to the S. of Kalaat el Belka.
The principal ruins of Boszra are the following: a square building, which within is circular, and has many arches and niches in the wall: on either side of the door within are two larger niches, and opposite to the door on the east side of the circle is the sanctuary, formed of low arches supported by Corinthian pillars, without pedestals. Several beautiful sculptured friezes are inserted in the wall, but I was unable to discover from whence they had been taken; in front of the door stand four columns. The diameter of the rotunda is four paces; its roof has fallen in, but the walls are entire, without any ornaments. It appears to have been a Greek church. Over the gate is a long inscription, but it was illegible to my sight.
At a short distance to the west of this edifice is an oblong square building, called by the natives Deir Boheiry (ﻱﺮﻳﺣﺒ ﺭﻳﺪ), or the Monastery of the priest Boheiry. On the top of the walls is a row of windows; on the north side is a high vaulted niche; the roof has fallen in; I observed no ornaments about it. On the side of its low gate is the following inscription in bad characters:
AEL AVREL THEONI LEG
AVGG PR PR COS DESIG
OPTIONES [xx] LEG III KVRenaicae
VENERIANaE GALLIANAE RARISI-
-MO Et PER OMNiA iUStiSSIMO sOCIo
Between these two buildings stands the gate of an ancient house, communicating with the ruins of an edifice, the only remains of which is a large semi-circular vault, with neat decorations and four small niches in its interior; before it lie a heap of stones and broken columns. Over the gate of the house is the following inscription: [xxxxx].
The natives have given to this house the name of Dar Boheiry, or the house of Boheiry. This Boheiry is a personage well known to the biographers of Mohammed, and many strange stories are related of him, by the Mohammedans, in honour of their Prophet, or by the eastern Christians, in derision of the Impostor. He is said to have been a rich Greek priest, settled at Boszra, and to have predicted the prophetic vocation of Mohammed, whom he saw when a boy passing with a caravan from Mekka to Damascus. Abou el Feradj, one of the earliest Arabic historians, relates this anecdote. According to the traditions of the Christians, he was a confidential counsellor of Mohammed, in the compilation of the Koran.
To the west of the abovementioned buildings stands the great mosque of Boszra, which is certainly coeval with the first æra of Mohammedanism, and is commonly ascribed to Omar el Khattab (ﺏﺎﻁﺧﻠﺍ ﺭﻣﻋ). Part of its roof has fallen in. On two sides of the square building runs a double row of columns, transported hither from the ruins of some Christian temple in the town. Those which are formed of the common Haouran stone are badly wrought in the coarse heavy style of the lower empire; but among them are sixteen fine variegated marble columns, distinguished both by the beauty of the material, and of the execution: fourteen are Corinthian, and two Ionic; they are each about sixteen or eighteen feet in height, of a single block, and well polished. Upon two of them standing opposite to each other are the two following inscriptions: 1. [xxxxx] [xxxxx]. 2. [xxxxx].
The walls of the mosque are covered with a coat of fine plaster, upon which were many Cufic inscriptions in bas-relief, running all round the wall, which was embellished also by numerous elegant Arabesque ornaments; a few traces of these, as well as of the inscriptions, still remain. The interior court-yard of the mosque is covered with the ruins of the roof, and with fragments of columns, among which I observed a broken shaft of an octagonal pillar, two feet in diameter; there are also several stones with Cufic inscriptions upon them.
Passing from the great mosque, southwards, we came to the principal ruin of Boszra, the remains of a temple, situated on the side of a long street, which runs across the whole town, and terminates at the western gate. Of this temple nothing remains but the back wall, with two pilasters, and a column, joined by its entablature to the main wall; they are all of the Corinthian order, and both capitals and architraves are richly adorned with sculpture. In the wall of the temple are three rows of niches, one over the other. Behind this is another wall, half ruined. In front of the temple, but standing in an oblique direction towards it, are four large Corinthian columns, equalling in beauty of execution the finest of those at Baalbec or Palmyra (those in the temple of the Sun at the latter place excepted): they are quite perfect, are six spans in diameter, and somewhat more than forty-five feet in height; they are composed of many pieces of different sizes, the smallest being towards the top, and they do not appear to have been united by an entablature. They are not at equal distances, the space between the two middle ones being greater than the two other intervals. About thirty paces distant stands another column, of smaller dimensions, and of more elaborate but less elegant execution. I endeavoured in vain to trace the plan of the edifice to which these columns belonged, for they correspond in no way with the neighbouring temple; it appeared that the main building had been destroyed, and its site built upon; nothing whatever of it remaining but these columns, the immediate vicinity of which is covered with the ruins of private houses. These four large columns, and those of Kanouat, are the finest remains of antiquity in the Haouran. Upon the base of the pilaster in the back wall of the temple is the following inscription, in handsome characters: [xxxxx].
Upon a broken stone in a modern wall near this temple I read: [xxxxx]. Upon another broken stone not far from the former is this inscription, now almost effaced, and which I made out with difficulty: [xxxxx].
The ruin of the temple just described is in the upper part of the town, which slopes gently towards the west; not far from it, in descending the principal street, is a triumphal arch, almost entire, but presenting nothing very striking in its appearance, from the circumstance of the approach to it being choked with private houses, as is the case with all the public buildings in Boszra, except the church first mentioned. The arch consists of a high central arch, with two lower side arches; between these are Corinthian pilasters, with projecting bases for statues. On the inside of the arch were several large niches, now choked up by heaps of broken stones. On one of the pilasters is this inscription:
VLIO IVLIA. . . . . . . . NAR
PRAEF LEG. p ARTHICAE . . .
. . . PPIANAE DVCI DEVOTI
-S. MO. TREBICIVS CAVOINUS
PRAEF ALAE NOV. EFIRME
Over the gate of another house, in the same neighbourhood: [xxxxx].
Among the ruins in the N.W. part of the town is an insulated mosque, and another stands near the above mentioned Deir Boheiry; in its court-yard is a stone covered with a long and beautiful Cufic inscription, which is well worth transporting to Europe; the characters being very small it would have required a whole day to copy it; it begins as follows: [xxxxx].
Not far from the great mosque is another triumphal arch, of smaller dimensions than the former, but remarkable for the thickness of its walls: it forms the entrance to an arched passage, through which one of the principal streets passed: two Doric columns are standing before it.
In the eastern quarter of the town is a large Birket or reservoir, almost perfect, one hundred and ninety paces in length, one hundred and fifty three in breadth, and enclosed by a wall seven feet in thickness, built of large square stones; its depth maybe about twenty feet. A staircase leads down to the water, as the basin is never completely filled. This reservoir is a work of the Saracens; made for watering the pilgrim caravan to Mekka, which as late as the seventeenth century passed by Boszra. A branch of the Wady Zeid5 empties itself in winter into the Birket. On the south side it is flanked by a row of houses, by some public edifices, and a mosque; and on the west side by an ancient cemetery; the other sides are open.
Upon a broken stone, in the middle of the town, is the following inscription, in characters similar to those which I met with at Hebron, Kanouat, and Aaere. [xxxxx].
I now quitted the precincts of the town, and just beyond the walls, on the S. side came to a large castle of Saracen origin, probably of the time of the Crusades: it is one of the best built castles in Syria, and is surrounded by a deep ditch. Its walls are very thick, and in the interior are alleys, dark vaults, subterraneous passages, &c. of the most solid construction. What distinguishes it from other Syrian castles, is that on the top of it there is a gallery of short pillars, on three sides, and on the fourth side are several niches in the wall, without any decorations; many of the pillars are still standing. The castle was garrisoned, at the time of my visit, by six Moggrebyns only. There is a well in the interior. I copied the following from a small altar-shaped stone lying on the ground within the castle: [xxxxx]. 6
The Boszra is a most important post to protect the harvests of the Haouran against the hungry Bedouins; but it is much neglected by the Pashas of Damascus, and this year the crops of the inhabitants of Boszra have been almost entirely consumed by the horses of the Aeneze, who were encamped on the E. side of the Djebel Haouran.
From a broken stone in the modern wall of a court-yard near the castle I copied the following letters: [xxxxx].
In proceeding from the castle westwards, I arrived, in a quarter of an hour, at the western gate of the town, where the long street terminates. The gate is a fine arch, with niches on each side, in perfect preservation: the people of Boszra call it Bab el Haoua (ﺍﻮﻬﻠﺍ ﺏﺎﺒ), or the Wind gate, probably because the prevailing or summer breezes blow from that point. A broad paved causeway, of which some traces yet remain, led into the town; vestiges of the ancient pavement are also seen in many of the streets, with a paved footway on each side; but the streets are all narrow, just permitting a loaded camel to pass.
Near the Bab el Haoua are the springs above mentioned, called Ayoun el Merdj; with some remains of walls near them. The late Youssef Pasha of Damascus built here a small watch-tower, or barrack, for thirty men, to keep the hostile Arabs at a distance from the water. The town walls are almost perfect in this part, and the whole ground is covered with ruins, although there is no appearance of any large public building. Upon an altar near one of the springs was the following inscription:
. V.. CES CONIVGI
In going northward from the springs, I passed the rivulet Djeheir, whose source is at a short distance, within the precincts of the town. It issues from a stone basin, and was conducted anciently in a canal. Over it seems to have stood a small temple, to judge by the remains of several columns that are lying about. The source is full of small fish. Youssef Pasha built a barrack here also; but it was destroyed by the Wahabi who made an incursion into the Haouran in 1810, headed by their chief Ibn Saoud, who encamped for two days near this spot, without being able to take the castle, though garrisoned by only seven Moggrebyns. The banks of the Djeheir are a favourite encampment of the Bedouins, and especially of the Aeneze.
In going northward from the springs, I passed the rivulet Djeheir, whose source is at a short distance, within the precincts of the town. It issues from a stone basin, and was conducted anciently in a canal. Over it seems to have stood a small temple, to judge by the remains of several columns that are lying about. The source is full of small fish. Youssef Pasha built a barrack here also; but it was destroyed by the Wahabi who made an incursion into the Haouran in 1810, headed by their chief Ibn Saoud, who encamped for two days near this spot, without being able to take the castle, though garrisoned by only seven Moggrebyns. The banks of the Djeheir are a favourite encampment of the Bedouins, and especially of the Aeneze.
The above description comprises all the principal antiquities of Boszra. A great number of pillars lie dispersed in all directions in the town; but I observed no remains of granite. Its immediate invirons are also covered with ruins, principally on the W. and N.W. sides, where the suburbs may have formerly stood.
Of the vineyards, for which Boszra was celebrated, even in the days of Moses, and which are commemorated by the Greek medals of [xxxxx], not a vestige remains. There is scarcely a tree in the neighbourhood of the town, and the twelve or fifteen families who now inhabit it cultivate nothing but wheat, barley, horse-beans, and a little Dhourra. A number of fine rose trees grow wild among the ruins of the town, and were just beginning to open their buds.
April 28th. - I was greatly annoyed during my stay at Boszra, by the curiosity of the Aeneze, who were continually passing through the place. It had been my wish to visit the ruined city of Om El Djemal (ﻝﺎﻣﺟﻟﺍﻡﺍ), which is eight hours distant from Boszra, to the S.; but the demands of the Arabs for conducting me thither were so exorbitant, exceeding even the sum which I had thought necessary to bring with me from Damascus to defray the expenses of my whole journey, that I was obliged to return to Aaere towards mid-day, after having offered thirty piastres for a guide, which no one would accept. None but Aeneze could have served me, and with them there was no reasoning; they believed that I was going in search of treasure, and that I should willingly give any sum to reach the spot where it was hid.
April 29th. - I took leave of my worthy friend Shybely, who would not let us depart alone, but engaged a Bedouin to accompany us towards the western parts of the Haouran; this man was a Bedouin of Sayd, or Upper Egypt, of the tribe of Khelafye, who inhabit to the west of Girge; he had entered the service of the Mamelouks, and had been with one of them to Mekka, from whence he returned to Damascus, where he entered into the Pasha’s cavalry; here he had the misfortune to kill one of his comrades, which obliging him to fly, he repaired to the Aeneze, with whom he found security and protection.
Half an hour from Aaere we passed Wady Ghothe (ﻪﺛﻭﻏﻱﺪﺍﻮ), with the village of Ghothe to our left; route N.W. b. N. One hour and a half, the village Om Waled (ﺩﻟﻮﻡﺍ), one hour and three quarters, the village El Esleha (ﺎﻬﻟﺳﻻﺍ), inhabited principally by Christians. Two hours and a quarter, passed Wady Soueida. Two hours and a half the village Thale (ﻪﻠﺎﺜ), to the west of which, one hour, is Tel Hossein, with the village Kheraba. At three hours and a quarter is the village El Daara (ﻩﺮﺎﻋﺪﻠﺍ), with Wady Daara; here we dined at an encampment of Arabs of Djebel Haouran, who are in the habit of descending into the plain to pasture their cattle, as soon as the country is evacuated by the Aeneze. At four hours and three quarters is Melieha el Aattash (ﺵﻁﻌﻠﺍﻪﺣﻳﻟﻤ), in a direction N.W. from Daara; from thence our route lay W. by N. Not more than one-third of the plain was cultivated, though the peasants had sown more grain this year, than they had done for many years back. S. of Melieha half an hour lies the village Rakham (ﻡﺨﺮ). Five hours and a half the village El Herak (ﻙﺍﺭﺣﻠﺍ). Five hours and three quarters, the village El Hereyek (ﻙﻳﺭﺣﻠﺍ). In all these villages are several reservoirs of water, for the supply of the inhabitants during summer, and which are filled either by the winter torrents descending from the Djebel Haouran, or by rain water, which is conducted into them from every side by narrow channels: they are all of ancient date, and built entirely with the black Haouran stone; but I saw in none of the villages any edifice of magnitude. Near Hereyek we fell in with the encampment of the Damascus beggars, who make an excursion every spring to the Haouran, to collect alms from the peasants and Arabs; these contributions are principally in butter and wool, which they sell on their return to Damascus. They had about a dozen tents, and as many asses, and I saw a good mare tied before the tent of the Sheikh, who is a man of consequence among the thieves and vagabonds of Damascus. His name is El Shuhadein (ﻥﻳﺪﺎﻬﺸ): he invited us to drink a cup of coffee, and take some refreshment; but my companions, who knew him, advised me to keep clear of him. At six hours and a quarter, we passed at a short distance to our left, the village Olma (ﺎﻣﻟﻋ), our route being N.W. About one hour S.W. of Olma lies the village El Kerek. Eight hours and twenty-five minutes, the village Naeme (ﻪﻣﻌﻧ). Most of these villages stand upon, or near, low hillocks or Tels, the only objects which break the monotony of the plain.
It was at Naeme that I saw, for the first time, a swarm of locusts; they so completely covered the surface of the ground, that my horse killed numbers of them at every step, whilst I had the greatest difficulty in keeping from my face those which rose up and flew about. This species is called in Syria, Djerad Nedjdyat (ﺕﺎﻳﺪﺟﻧ ﺪﺍﺮﺠ) or Djerad Teyar (ﺭﺎﻳﻄ ﺪﺍﺭﺠ), i.e. the flying locusts, being thus distinguished from the other species, called Djerad Dsahhaf (ﻑﺎﺣﺬ ﺪﺍﺭﺠ), or devouring locusts. The former have a yellow body; a gray breast, and wings of a dirty white, with gray spots. The latter, I was told, have a whitish gray body, and white wings. The Nedjdyat are much less dreaded than the others, because they feed only upon the leaves of trees and vegetables, sparing the wheat and barley. The Dsahhaf, on the contrary, devour whatever vegetation they meet with, and are the terror of the husbandmen; the Nedjdyat attack only the produce of the gardener, or the wild herbs of the desert. I was told, however, that the offspring of the Nedjdyat produced in Syria partake of the voracity of the Dsahhaf, and like them prey upon the crops of grain. Those which I saw in the Haouran, and afterwards in the gardens of Damascus, fly in separate bodies, and do not spread over a whole district. The young of this species are quite black until a certain age.
The Bedouins eat locusts, which are collected in great quantities in the beginning of April, when the sexes cohabit, and they are easily caught; after having been roasted a little upon the iron plate (ﺝﺎﺴ), on which bread is baked, they are dried in the sun, and then put into large sacks, with the mixture of a little salt. They are never served up as a dish, but every one takes a handful of them when hungry. The peasants of Syria do not eat locusts, nor have I myself ever had an opportunity of tasting them: there are a few poor Fellahs in the Haouran, however, who sometimes pressed by hunger, make a meal of them; but they break off the head and take out the entrails before they dry them in the sun. The Bedouins swallow them entire. The natural enemy of the locust is the bird Semermar (ﺭﻤﺭﻣﺴ); which is of the size of a swallow, and devours vast numbers of them; it is even said that the locusts take flight at the cry of the bird. But if the whole feathered tribe of the districts visited by locusts were to unite their efforts, it would avail little, so immense are the numbers of these dreadful insects.
At eight hours and three quarters from Aaere, and at a short distance to the right, is the village Obta (ﻊﻁﺒﺍ); our route N.W. by N. Nine hours and a quarter, we saw, at one hour to the left, the village El Kherbe (ﻪﺑﺭﺧﻠﺍ). Nine hours and three quarters, Shemskein (ﻥﻳﻛﺳﻣﺸ), one of the principal villages in the Haouran. As we had rode at a very brisk pace, the above distance of nine hours and three quarters may be computed at nearly twelve hours of the common travelling. Shemskein, a village containing upwards of one hundred families, is situated on the Hadj road, on the side of Wady Hareir (ﺭﻳﺭﺤ ﻯﺪﺍﻮ), over which a solid bridge has been built on one side of the village: this Wady comes from the north-east at four or six hours distance, and flows south-west. It is one of the largest torrents of Haouran, and was at this moment full of water, while most of the other Wadys were nearly dried up. The Sheikh of Shemskein has the title of Sheikh el Haouran, and holds the first rank among the village Sheikhs of the country. In the time of Hadj he collects from the Haouran and Djolan about fifteen hundred camels, and accompanies them to Mekka. His income is considerable, as the peasants of the different villages of the Haouran, when engaged in disputes with neighbouring villagers, or with their Sheikhs, generally apply in the first instance to his tribunal.
We alighted at the Sheikh’s house, in the court-yard of which we found almost the whole population of the village assembled: there had been a nuptial feast in the village, and the Nowars or gypsies, were playing music. These Nowar (ﺭﻭﻧ), who are called Korbatt (ﻁﺎﺒﺮﻘ) at Aleppo, are dispersed over the whole of Syria; they are divided into two principal bodies, viz. the Damascenes, whose district extends as far as Hassia, on the Aleppo road; and the Aleppines, who occupy the country to the north of that line. They never dare go beyond the limits which they have allotted to each other by mutual consent; both bodies have an Aga, who pays to the Grand Signior about five hundred piastres per annum, and collects the tribute from his subjects, which in the Damascus territory amounts annually to twenty piastres a head for every full grown male.
April 30th. - As I wished to visit from Shemskein the Mezareib, and to ascend from thence the mountains of Adjeloun, I set out in the company of an old acquaintance of Aleppo, a Janissary, who had entered into the service of the Pasha of Damascus, and was now stationed at Mezareib. Following the Hadj road, in a S.S.E. direction, in an hour and a quarter from Shemskein we crossed the Wady Aar (ﺭﺎﻋ ﻱﺪﺍﻮ), coming from the east. Half an hour to the left of the road is Daal (ﻞﺎﻋﺪ), a considerable village; and between Daal and Mezareib, but more to the eastward, lies the village of Draa (ﻪﻋﺮﻠﺍ), the ancient Edrei. Two hours, Tefas (ﺲﻓﻄ), with a well built mosque.
At the end of three hours, we arrived at El Mezareib (ﺐﻳﺮﺍﺰﻣﻠﺍ), El Mezareib is the first castle on the Hadj road from Damascus, and was built by the great Sultan Selym, three hundred and eight years ago. It is the usual residence of the Aga of the Haouran; but that office is now vacant, the late Aga having been deposed, and no one has yet been appointed to succeed him. The garrison of the castle consisted of a dozen Moggrebyns, whose chief, a young black, was extremely civil to me. The castle is of a square form, each side being, as well as I can recollect, about one hundred and twenty paces in length. The entrance is through an iron gate, which is regularly shut after sunset. The interior presents nothing but an empty yard enclosed by the castle wall, within which are ranges of warehouses, where the provisions for the Hadj are deposited; their flat roofs form a platform behind the parapet of the castle wall, where sixteen or eighteen mud huts have been built on the top of the warehouses, as habitations for the peasants who cultivate the neighbouring grounds. On the east side two miserable guns are planted. Within the castle is a small mosque. There are no houses, beyond its precincts. Close by it, on the N. and E. sides, are a great number of springs, whose waters collect, at a short distance, into a large pond or lake, of nearly half an hour in circumference, in the midst of which is an island. On an elevated spot at the extremity of a promontory, advancing into the lake, stands a chapel, around which are many ruins of ancient buildings. The water of the lake is as clear as crystal, neither weeds nor grass growing in it; its depth in the middle is much more than the height of a man; the bottom is sand, and gravel of the black Haouran stone. It abounds with fish, particularly carp, and a species called Emshatt (ﻁﺎﺷﻤﺍ). In summer time, after the harvests of the Haouran have been gathered in, when the Aeneze approach the more populous parts of the country, the borders of the lake are crowded every evening with thousands of camels, belonging to these Arabs, who prefer filling their water skins here, as they say that the water keeps better than any other. The water of the springs is slightly tepid, and nearly of the same temperature as that of the springs near Kalaat el Medyk, in the valley of the Orontes. According to the Arabs the springs emit a copious steam in the winter mornings. An ancient mill stands near one of them, with a few broken stones around it; but it does not appear that any village or city of note stood here, though the quantity of water seems inviting to settlers. The springs as well as the lake are known by the name of El Budje (ﻪﺟﺒ).
The pilgrim caravan to Mekka collects at the Mezareib, where the Pasha, or Emir el Hadj, remains encamped for ten days, in order to collect the stragglers, and to pay to the different Arab tribes the accustomed tribute for the passage of the caravan through the desert. The warehouses of the castle are annually well stocked with wheat, barley, biscuit, rice, tobacco, tent and horse equipage, camel saddles, ropes, ammunition, &c. each of which has its particular warehouse. These stores are exclusively for the Pasha’s suite, and for the army which accompanies the Hadj; and are chiefly consumed on their return. It is only in cases of great abundance, and by particular favour, that the Pasha permits any articles to be sold to the pilgrims. At every station, as far as Medina, is a castle, but generally smaller than this, filled with similar stores. The Haouran alone is required to deliver every year into the store houses of the Mezareib, two thousand Gharara of barley, or about twenty or twenty-five thousand cwt. English. The town of Damascus has been fed for the last three months with the biscuit stored in the Mezareib for the Hadj.
As far as the Pasha was concerned, the affairs of the great caravan were generally well managed; but there still reigned a great want of economy, and the expenses of the Hadjis increased every year. Of late years, the hire of a single camel from Damascus to Mekka has been seven hundred and fifty piastres; as much, and often more, was to be paid on coming back; and the expenses on the road, and at Mekka, amounted at least to one thousand piastres, so that in the most humble way, the journey could not be performed at less than two thousand five hundred piastres, or £125. sterling. A camel with a litter cost fifteen hundred in going, and as much in coming back. Of the whole caravan not above one-tenth part were real pilgrims, the rest consisted of soldiers, the servants of soldiers, people attached to the Pasha’s suite, merchants, pedlars, camel-drivers, coffee and pipe waiters, a swarm of Bedouins, together with several tents of public women from Damascus, who were so far encouraged, that, whenever they were unable to obtain from their lovers the daily food for their horses or mules, they obtained a supply from the Pasha’s stores.
The greater part of the pilgrims usually contract for the journey with one of the great undertakers, or Mekouam (ﻡﻮﻗﻤ), as they are called; this agreement is only for a beast of transport and for water; as to eating, the pilgrims generally mess together at their own expense, in bodies of about half a dozen. The Mekouam, on agreeing to furnish a beast of burthen, are bound to replace whatever may die on the road, and are therefore obliged to carry with them at least one unloaded camel for every loaded one. It is a general practice with the Mekouam to obtain as large sums as possible on account from the pilgrims who engage with them for the journey; they generally agree among each other upon the sum to be demanded, as well as the moment at which it is to be called for: so that if the pilgrims resist the imposition, the Hadj sometimes remains encamped on the same spot for several days, the Mekouam all refusing to proceed, and feeing the Pasha for his connivance at their injustice. On their return to Damascus, if they have already extorted from the pilgrims in the course of the journey more than the amount of their contract, as often happens, they generally declare themselves to be bankrupts, and then the value of a few camels is all that remains to pay their debts to the pilgrims.
Those pilgrims who do not engage with the Mekouam, as is generally the case with those who come from Armenia and the borders of the Black sea, perform the journey somewhat cheaper upon their own beasts; but they are ill-treated on the road by the Mekouam, are obliged to march the last in the caravan, to encamp on the worst ground, to fill their water skins the last, and are often even avanized by the Pasha. It is difficult to conceive the wretched condition of the greater part of the Hadjis, and the bad conduct of the troops and Arabs. Thieving and robbery have become general among them, and it is more the want of sleep from fear of being plundered, which causes the death of so many pilgrims, than the fatigues of the journey. The Pasha’s troops, particularly those called Howara, which bring up the rear of the caravan, are frequently known to kill the stragglers during the night, in order to strip them of their property. The Pasha, it is true, often punishes such delinquents, and scarcely a day passes without some one being empaled alive; the caravan moves on, and the malefactor is left to be devoured by the birds of prey. The Bedouins are particularly dexterous in pilfering; at night they sometimes assume the dress of the Pasha’s infantry, and thus introduce themselves unnoticed amongst the camels of the rich Hadjis, when they throw the sleeping owner from his mule or camel, and in the confusion occasioned by the cries of the fallen rider, drive off the beast.
The caravan marches daily from Asser, or about three hours after mid-day, during the whole of the night, and till the following morning, when the tents are pitched. It never stops but during prayers. The Arabs of Sokhne, Tedmor, and Haouran, together with the Bedouins who let out their camels, precede or follow the caravan at the distance of one day’s march. They transport the provisions for the Pasha’s troops, of which they steal, and publicly sell at least two-thirds. They march during the day, and encamp in the evening. Their caravan is called El Selma (ﺎﻣﻟﺳﻠﺍ). It passes the great caravan once every two or three days, and then encamps till the latter comes up, when they supply the Pasha’s suite with provisions. The cheapest mode of performing the pilgrimage is to agree for a camel with one of those Arabs; but the fatigue is much greater in following the Selma.
The last year in which the Hadj quitted Damascus, the pilgrims reached the gates of Medina, but they were not permitted to enter the town, nor to proceed to Mekka; and after an unsuccessful negotiation of seven days, they were obliged to return to Damascus. About two hundred Persian Hadjis only, who were with the caravan, were allowed to pass on paying a large sum of money. Ibn Saoud, the Wahabi chief, had one interview with Abdullah Pasha, accompanied by the whole of his retinue, at Djebel Arafat, near Mekka; they exchanged presents, and parted as friends.
Of the seven different pilgrim caravans which unite at Mekka, two only bear the Mahmal, the Egyptian and Syrian; the latter is the first in rank.
We left Mezareib towards the evening, and were obliged to proceed alone along the Hadj route, the fear of the Aeneze rendering every one unwilling to accompany us. In a quarter of an hour we came to a bridge over the Wady Mezareib, called Djissr Kherreyan (ﻥﺎﻳﺭﺨ ﺭﺳﺠ); to the left, near the road, is the ruined village Kherbet el Ghazale (ﻪﻠﺍﺯﻐﻠﺍ ﺔﺒﺭﺨ), where the Hadj sometimes encamps. It often happens that the caravan does not encamp upon the usual spots, owing to a wish either to accelerate or to prolong the journey. Past the Akabe, near the head of the Red Sea, beyond which the bones of dead camels are the only guides of the pilgrim through the waste of sand, the caravan often loses its way, and overshoots the day’s station; in such cases the water-skins are sometimes exhausted, and many pilgrims perish through fatigue and thirst.
At one hour from the Mezareib, following the river that issues from the small lake, are several mills: from thence, south-west, begins the district called Ollad Erbed (ﺩﺒﺮﺍ ﺪﻻﺍ). Half an hour to the right, at some distance from the road, is the village Tel el Shehab (ﺏﺎﻬﺷﻠﺍ ﻝﺘ); forty minutes, Wady Om El Dhan (ﻥﺎﺿﻠﺍ ﻡﺍ), coming from the eastward, with a bridge over it, built by Djezzar Pasha. In winter this generally proves a very difficult passage to the Hadj, on account of the swampy ground, and the peasants of the adjacent villages are, in consequence, obliged to cover the road with a thick layer of straw. At one hour to the right of the road is the village El Torra (ﻩﺭﻃﻟﺍ), on the top of a low chain of hills, forming a circle, through the centre of which lies the road. Here, as in so many other parts of the Haouran, I saw the most luxuriant wild herbage, through which my horse with difficulty made his way. Artificial meadows can hardly be finer than these desert fields: and it is this which renders the Haouran so favourite an abode of the Bedouins. The peasants of Syria are ignorant of the advantages of feeding their cattle with hay; they suffer the superfluous grass to wither away, and in summer and winter feed them on cut straw. In one hour and a quarter we passed Wady Torra; our road lying S.S.E. One hour and three quarters, we came to Wady Shelale (ﻪﻠﻻﺸ ﻱﺪﺍﻮ), a torrent descending from the southern hills, and flowing in a deep bed, along which the road continues for some time. In two hours and three quarters quick walking, we came to Remtha (ﻪﺛﻤﺮ), a station of the Hadj; which encamps near two Birkets or reservoirs formed in the bed of the Wady by means of three high walls built across it. A large tribe of Aeneze were watering their cattle as we passed. The surrounding country is hilly: the village is built upon the summits of several hills, and contains about one hundred families. In its neighbourhood are a number of wells of fresh water. We met with a very indifferent reception at the Sheikh’s house, for the inhabitants of the villages on the Hadj route exceed all others in fanatism: an old man was particularly severe in his animadversions on Kafers treading the sacred earth which leads to the Kaabe, and the youngsters echoed his insulting language. I found means, however, to show the old man a penknife which I carried in my pocket, and made him a present of it, before he could ask it of me; we then became as great friends as we had been enemies, and his behaviour induced a like change in the others towards me. A penknife worth two shillings overcomes the fanatism of a peasant; increase the present and it will have equal effect upon a townsman; make it a considerable sum, and the Mufti himself will wave all religious scruples. Remtha is the last inhabited village on this side of the Haoun: the greater part of its houses are built against the caverns, with which this calcareous country abounds; so that the rock forms the back of the house, while the other sides are enclosed by a semicircular mud wall whose extremities touch the rock.
May 1st. - From Remtha I wished to cross the mountains directly to Djerash, which, I had reason to believe, was not more than seven or eight hours distant. It was with difficulty that I found a guide, because I refused to be answerable for the value of the man’s horse and gun, in case we should be plundered by Arab robbers. A sum of twelve piastres, however, at last tempted one of the Fellahs, and we rode off late in the morning, our road lying toward the southern mountains, in a direction S. by W. Remtha is on the boundary line of the Haouran; which to the south-eastward runs by Om el Djemal and Szamma, two ruined towns. The district bordering upon the Haouran in this part is called Ezzoueit (ﺕﻳﻮﺯﻠﺍ), and stretches across the mountain nearly as far as Djerash. To the E. of Remtha runs a chain of low hills, called Ezzemle (ﻪﻟﻤﺯﻠﺍ), extending towards the S.E. nearly to Kalaat Mefrek, a ruined castle situated on the eastern extremity of Djebel Zoueit. At one hour and a quarter, brisk walking of our horses, we saw to the right, or west, about one hour distant, the ruins of a town called Eszereikh (ﺦﻴﺭﺻﻠﺍ), at the foot of Djebel Beni Obeyd. From thence the village of Hossn bore W. by S. The Kalaat el Mefrek, or, as the Arabs call it, El Ferka, lay in a S.E. direction, distant about three hours. About one hour and a half distant, in a S.W. direction, is the ruined village of Remeith (ﺙﻳﻤﺮ), with several large columns lying on the ground. At two hours and a half from Remtha we passed a Tel, with the ruined village Dehama (ﻪﻤﺎﻫﺪ), on its top; near the foot-way lay several broken shafts of columns. At three hours, on reaching the Wady Warran (ﻥﺍﺮﺍﻮ ﻱﺪﺍﻮ), our route began to ascend. The Wady, which descends from the mountain Zoueit, was at this time dry. Three hours and a quarter brought us to three fine Doric columns lying on the ground. We met several Arabs, but they did not venture to attack three men armed with musquets, and gave us a friendly Salam Aleykum. We now ascended the mountain, which is calcareous with flint, in following the windings of the Wady. Wild pistachio trees abound; higher up oaks become more frequent, and the forest thickens; near the top, which we reached in five hours and a quarter from Remtha, are some remains of the foundations of ancient buildings. The Djebel Kafkafa (ﻪﻓﻗﻓﻘ ﻝﺑﺠ), as this summit is called, commands a beautiful view over the plain of Djerash and the neighbouring mountains of Zerka and Belka. The ruins of Djerash, which were distinctly seen, and the highest points of Djebel Belka behind them, bore S.S.W.; the highest points of Djebel Zerka S. The district of Zoueit terminates at Djebel Kafkafa; and the country called El Moerad (ﺪﺍﺮﻌﻣﻠﺍ), lying S.W. and W. commences: to the S. the Zoueit runs parallel with the Moerad as far as Wady Zerka.
On gaining Djebel Kafkafa, our guide discovered that he had gone astray, for it was not our intention, on setting out, to make directly for Djerash, but to rest for the night in the village of Souf, und from thence to visit the ruins on the following morning. We therefore turned more to the westward on quitting the Djebel, and fell in with the road, which continued through a thick wood, till we saw Souf, an hour and a half distant before us, bearing W.S.W. At the end of seven hours and a quarter from Remtha, we reached the spring of Souf, and allayed our thirst, for we had been without water the whole day; there being very few springs in the Djebel Zoueit; though it abounds in luxuriant pasture, and is full of hares and partridges. In seven hours and a half we reached the village of Souf (ﻒﻭﺴ), where I alighted, at the house of the Sheikh El Dendel, an honest and hospitable man.
Souf is situated on the declivity of the mountain, on the western side of a Wady called El Deir, the stream of which, called also El Kerouan (ﻥﺍﻮﺭﻘ), is supplied from three copious springs that issue from under a rock near the village, at a short distance from each other. They bear the names of Ain el Faouar (ﺭﺍﻭﻓﻠﺍ), Ain el Meghaseb (ﺏﺴﺎﻐﻣﻠﺍ), and Ain el Keykabe (ﻪﺑﻗﻳﻗﻠﺍ), and with their united waters the narrow plain of Djerash is irrigated. Souf is a village with about forty families, whose principal riches are some olive plantations on the sides of Wady Deir: it is the chief village in the country called Moerad (ﺪﺍﺭﻌﻤ), in which the following are also situated: Ettekitte (ﻪﺗﻛﺗﻠﺍ), one hour distant from Djerash, and abandoned last year; Bourma (ﻪﻤﺭﻭﺒ); Hamtha (ﻪﺛﻣﺤ); Djezaze (ﻩﺯﺍﺯﺠ); and Debein (ﻥﻳﺒﺪ). It is customary in these mountains for every house to manufacture gunpowder as well for its own consumption, as for sale to the neighbouring Arabs. In every house which I entered I saw a large mortar, which was continually in motion, even when a fire was kindled in the midst of the room: the powder is formed of one part of sulphur, five and a half parts of saltpetre, and one part of the charcoal of the poplar tree (ﻑﺻﻓﺼ); it is not very good, but serves very well the purposes of this people.
I passed a most unpleasant night here. It is the custom, for the sake of saving lamp-oil, to light every evening a large fire, for the supply of which, there is plenty of dry wood in the neighbouring mountain. The room where I lodged was thus soon filled with smoke, which had no other issue than a small door, and even this was shut to keep out the cattle. The peasants seemed to delight in the heat thus occasioned; they took off all their clothes except the Abba, and sat smoaking and laughing till midnight; I wished to imitate them, but did not dare to strip, for fear of shewing the leathern girdle containing my money, which I wore under my clothes. Towards the morning the fire went out, and the company was asleep: I then opened the door to let the smoke out, and slept a few hours under the influence of the morning breeze.
There is an ancient ruined square building at Souf, with several broken columns. From one of them I copied the following inscription, written in very small characters: [xxxxx]. Upon a pillar near it is a fine inscription, but now quite illegible.
At the spring of Ayn Keykebe, which is covered by a small arched building, I copied some characters from a broken stone lying in the water; the following were the ending of the inscription: [xxxxx].
Near the sources are numerous caverns, in which the poor families of Souf reside.
May 2d. - Being impatient to reach Djerash, I left Souf early in the morning, taking with me a guide, who was afterwards to have conducted me towards Szalt, in the Djebel Belka. Our road lay along the mountain on the west side of Wady Deir. On the E. side of the,Wady half an hour from Souf, is the ruined place called Kherbet Mekbela (ﻪﻟﺑﻗﻤ ﺔﺒﺭﺨ). Three quarters of an hour from Souf, in our road, and just over the ruined city of Djerash, are the ruins called Kherbet el Deir, with a Turkish chapel named Mezar Abou Beker. Our road lay S.S.E. In one hour we passed, on the declivity of the mountain, descending towards Djerash, a place which I supposed to have been the burying place of Djerash. I counted upwards of fifty sarcophagi, and there were many more; they are formed of the calcareous stone with which the Zoueit and Moerad mountains are composed. Some of them are sunk to a level with the surface of the ground, which is very rocky; others appear to have been removed from their original position. The largest was ten spans in length, and three and a half in breadth; but the greater part are much smaller, and are not even large enough to contain the corpse of a full grown person. On the sides of a few of them are sculptured ornaments in bas-relief, as festoons, genii, &c. but in a mutilated state, and not remarkable for beauty of execution; I saw only one that was elegantly wrought. The whole of these sarcophagi had flat covers, a few of which still remain. Upon one of the largest of the sarcophagi, and which is one of those first met with in going from Souf, is a long inscription, but so mutilated as to be almost wholly illegible. In the neighbourhood are several heaps of large square stones, the remains of some building.
In an hour and a half from Souf we reached the city walls of Djerash, or Kerash, (ﺵﺭﻜ), the Dj being the Bedouin pronunciation of the letter ﻚ', which in the language of the city corresponds with our K. Djerash was built upon an elevated plain in the mountains of Moerad, on uneven ground, on both sides of Wady Deir, which, besides the name of Kerouan (ﻥﺍﻮﺭﻜ), bears also that of Seil Djerash (ﺵﺭﻜ ﻝﻳﺴ), or the river of Djerash. This river empties itself, at a short distance from the town, into the Wady Zerka (ﺎﻘﺭﺯ ﻱﺪﺍﻮ), probably the Jabock of the ancients. The principal part of the city stands on the right bank of the river, where the surface is more level than on the opposite side, although the right bank is steeper than the other. The present ruins prove the magnitude and importance of the ancient city; and the modern name leads to the belief that it was the ancient Gerasa, one of the principal towns of the Decapolis, although this position does not at all agree with that given to Gerasa from the ancient authorities by D’Anville, who places it to the north-east of the lake of Tiberias, forty miles to the north-westward of this place. The ruins are nearly an hour and a quarter in circumference, following insulated fragments of the walls, which were upwards of eight feet in thickness, and built of square hewn stones of middling size; I could not judge of their original heighth, as the upper parts were every where demolished.
I shall now enumerate the principal curiosities of Djerash, agreeably to the annexed plan, which may give a general idea of the whole; for its accuracy in regard to distances I do not mean to vouch, as I had, at most, only four hours to make my survey, and it was with great difficulty that I could persuade my three companions to wait so long for me. None of them would accompany me through the ruins, on account of their fear of the Bedouins, who are in the habit of visiting this Wady, they therefore concealed themselves beneath the trees that overshade the river. The first object that strikes the attention in coming from Souf, after passing the town-wall, is a temple (a). Its main body consists of an oblong square, the interior of which is about twenty-five paces in length, and eighteen in breadth. A double row, of six columns in each row, adorned the front of the temple; of the first row five columns are yet standing, of the second, four; and on each side of the temple there remains one column belonging to the single row of pillars that surrounded the temple on every side except the front. Of these eleven columns nine are entire, and two are without capitals. Their style of architecture is much superior to that of the great colonnade hereafter to be mentioned, and seems to belong to the best period of the Corinthian order, their capitals being beautifully ornamented with the acanthus leaves. The shafts are composed of five or six pieces, and are seven spans and a half in diameter, and thirty-five to forty feet in heighth. I was unable to ascertain the number of columns in the flanks of the peristyle. The temple stands upon an artificial terrace elevated five or six feet above the ground. The interior of the temple is choaked with the ruins of the roof; a part of the front wall of the cella has fallen down; but the three other sides are entire. The walls are without ornament; on the interior of each of the two side walls, and about mid-way from the floor, are six niches, of an oblong shape, and quite plain: in the back wall, opposite to the door, is a vaulted recess, with a small dark chamber on each side. The upper part of a niche is visible on the exterior of the remains of the front wall, with some trifling but elegantly sculptured ornaments. This ruin stands within a peribolus or large area surrounded by a double row of columns. The whole edifice seems to have been superior in taste and magnificence to every public building of this kind in Syria, the temple of the Sun at Palmyra excepted. On the two sides marked (x) of the colonnade of the peribolus many bases and broken shafts of the inner row of columns are yet standing; on the two other sides there are but few; these columns are three spans and a half in diameter. On the long side (x) forty columns may be traced to have stood, at only three paces distant from each other; on the opposite long side one perfect column is yet standing; on the short side (x) are three in the outer row without their capitals. The corner columns of this peribolus were double, and in the shape of a heart, as in the annexed figure. Of the outer row of the peribolus very little remains; indeed it may be doubted whether any outer row ever existed opposite to the back of the temple, where the ground is rocky and uneven. The number of columns which originally adorned the temple and its area was not less than two hundred or two hundred and fifty.
Proceeding westwards from the above described ruin, through the remains of private habitations, at about two hundred yards distant from it are the remains of a small temple (b), with three Corinthian pillars still standing. A street, still paved in some places, leads from thence south-westwards, to a spot where several small broken columns are lying. Turning from thence to the south-east, I entered a street (c) adorned with a colonnade on either side; about thirty broken shafts are yet standing, and two entire columns, but without their capitals. On the other side of the street, opposite to them, are five columns, with their capitals and entablatures. These columns are rather small, without pedestals, of different sizes, the highest being about fifteen feet, and in a bad taste. Originally there must have been about fifty pillars in this street; a little farther on to the south-east this street crosses the principal street of the town; and where the two streets meet, are four large cubical masses of stone (d), each occupying one of the angles of the intersection, similar to those which I saw at Shohba, and intended, perhaps, to imitate the beautiful pedestals in the middle of the great portico at Palmyra. These cubes are about seven feet high, and about eighteen spans broad; on each side of them is a small niche; three are entire, and the fourth is in ruins. They may have served as pedestals for statues, or, like those at Palmyra, may have supported a small dome upon columns, under which stood a statue. I endeavoured to examine the tops of the cubes, but they are all thickly overgrown with shrubs, which it was not in my power to clear away. There were no traces whatever of statues having stood upon those which I saw at Shohba.
Following the great street, marked (e), south-westwards, I came again to the remains of columns on both sides: these were much larger than the former, and the street, of which some parts of the pavement yet remain, was much broader than that marked (c). On the right hand side of the street stand seventeen Corinthian left, five, seven, and twenty, also with entablatures; the latter twenty are taller than the others, the lower ground on which they stand having required an increased height of column in order to place the whole entablature of the semicircle on the same level. The pillars near the entrance are about fifteen feet in height, and one foot and a half in diameter: they are all of the Ionic order, and thus they differ from all the other columns remaining in the city. The radius of the semicircle, in following the direction of the long street, was one hundred and five paces.
At the end of the semicircle, opposite to the long street, are several basins, which seem to have been reservoirs of water, and remains of an aqueduct are still visible, which probably supplied them. To the right and left are some low arched chambers. From this spot the ground rises, and on mounting a low but steep hill before me, I found on its top the remains of a beautiful temple (g}, commanding a view over the greater part of the town. The front of the temple does not stand directly opposite to the long street and the forum, but declines somewhat to the northward. Like the temple first described, it was adorned with a Corinthian peristyle, of which one column only remains, at the south angle. In front was a double row of columns, with eight, as I conjecture, in each row. They seem to have been thrown down by an earthquake, and many of them are now lying on the declivity of the hill, in the same order in which they originally stood. They are six spans and a half in diameter, and their capitals appeared to me of a still finer execution than those of the great temple. I am unable to judge of the number of columns on the long sides of the peristyle: their broken shafts lie about in immense heaps. On every side of the temple except the front, there appears to have been a large ditch round the temple. Of the cella the walls only remain, the roof, entrance, and back wall having fallen down. The interior of the cella is thirty paces in length, and twenty-four in breadth; the walls within are in a better state than those of the temple (a), which are much impaired. On the outside of each of the two long walls, was a row of six niches, similar to those within the temple (a ).
On entering the temple by the front door, I found on the right a side door, leading towards a large theatre (h), on the side of the hill, and at about sixty paces distant from the temple. It fronts the town, so that the spectators seated upon the highest row of benches, enjoyed the prospect of all its principal buildings and quarters. There are twenty-eight rows of seats, upwards of two feet in breadth: between the sixteenth and seventeenth rows, reckoning from the top, a tier of eight boxes or small apartments intervenes, each separated from the other by a thick wall. The uppermost row of benches is about one hundred and twenty paces in circuit. In three different places are small narrow staircases opening into the rows, to facilitate the ingress or egress of the spectators. In front, the theatre is closed by a proscenium or wall, about forty paces in length, embellished within by five richly decorated niches, connected with each other by a line of middling sized columns; of which two remain with their entablatures, and six without their capitals. Within these was another parallel range of columns, of which five are yet standing, with their entablatures. The entrance to the theatre, was by steps between the two ends of the proscenium and the two extremities of the semicircle. Near the proscenium the steps on both sides are ruined, but in the other parts they are perfect. The town wall runs very near the back of the theatre.
On this side of the town there are no other ruins of any consequence, excepting the south-west gate, which is about five minutes walk from the semicircle of columns: it is a fine arch, and, apparently, in perfect preservation, with a smaller one on each side adorned with several pilasters. I did not examine it closely; meaning to return to it in taking a review of what I had already seen, but my guides were so tired with waiting, that they positively refused to expose their persons longer to danger, and walked off, leaving me the alternative of remaining alone in this desolate spot, or of abandoning the hope of correcting my notes by a second examination of the ruins.
Returning from the theatre, through the long street, towards the four cubic pedestals, I continued from thence in a straight line along the main street (l), the pavement of which is preserved in several places. On the right hand, were first seven columns, having their entablatures; and farther on, to the left, seven others, also with their entablatures; then, on the right, three large columns without entablatures, but with pedestals, which none of those already mentioned have; opposite to the latter, on the left hand side of the street, are two insulated columns. The three large columns are equal in size to those of the peristyle of the temple (a); they stand in the same line with the colonnade of the street, and belonged to a small building (m), of the body of which nothing remains except the circular back wall, containing several niches, almost in complete ruins. On a broken pedestal lying on the ground between two of the columns of this building, is the following inscription: [xxxxx]. There is another stone with an inscription upon it; but I could make nothing of it. The street is here choaked up with fragments of columns. Close to the three columns stands a single one, and at a short distance further, to the left, is a large gateway (n), leading up to the temple (a), which is situated on considerably higher ground, and is not visible from the street. On either side of the gateway are niches; and a wall, built of middling sized square stones, which runs for some distance, parallel with the street. Among a heap of stones lying under the gate I copied the following inscriptions:
From a broken stone: [xxxxx]. The letters of the word OPNHA are five inches in length.
Upon another broken stone near it was this: [xxxxx]. And close to the latter, upon the edge of a large stone, this: [xxxxx].
Continuing along the main street, I came at (q), to a single column, and then to two with entablatures, on the right; opposite to them, on the left, are three single columns. Beyond the latter, for one hundred paces, all the columns have fallen; I then came to an open rotunda (r), with four entrances; around the inside of its and left, conduct into a street running at right angles to the main street. I followed this cross street to my left, and found on the right hand side of it three short Ionic pillars with their entablatures, close to the rotunda. Proceeding in the same direction I soon reached a quadrangle (s) of fine large Corinthian columns, the handsomest in the town, next to those of the temple. To the right stand four with their entablatures, and one single; formerly they were six in number, the fifth is the deficient one: the first and sixth are heart-shaped, like those in the area of the temple (a.) They are composed of more than a dozen frusta, and what is remarkable in a place where stone is so abundant, each frustum consists of two pieces; opposite to the two first columns of the row just described are two columns with their entablatures.
This colonnade stands in front of a theatre (t), to which it evidently formed an appendage. This theatre is not calculated to hold so many spectators as the one already described though its area is considerably larger, being from forty-five to fifty paces in diameter. It has sixteen rows of benches, with a tier of six boxes intervening between the tenth and eleventh rows, reckoning from the top. Between every two boxes is a niche, forming a very elegant ornament. This theatre was evidently destined for purposes different from the other, probably for combats of wild beasts, &c.; The area below the benches is more extensive, and there is a suite of dark arched chambers under the lowest row of seats, opening into the area near the chief entrance of the theatre, which is from the south-east, in the direction by which I entered the colonnade in front of the theatre. There seems formerly to have been a wall across the diameter of the semi-circle, and between this wall and the colonnade there is on both sides a short wall, with a large niche or apartment in it; the colonnade stands upon lower ground than the theatre. Having returned from hence to the rotunda in the long street, I followed it along the colonnade (v) and found the greater number of the columns to have Ionic capitals. On the right side are only two small columns, with their entablatures; to the left, are eight, two, three, two, four, and again three, each set with their entablatures; close to the ruined town -gate (w), near the bank of the river, is a single column.
I shall now describe the ancient buildings, which I observed on the south-west side of the long street. The street which leads from the theatre across the rotunda (r) is prolonged from thence towards the side of the river: it was lined with columns, of which two only, with their entablatures, remain, and it terminates at a vast edifice (u), situated over the river, and extending along its banks forty or fifty paces; it is divided into many apartments, the greater part of which have arched roofs; some of them are very lofty.
I now returned towards the gateway (n), and found, opposite to it, and to the great temple (a), a second cross street running towards the river; it had originally a colonnade, but none of the columns are now standing; it terminates, at about thirty paces from the main street, in a gate, through which I entered into a long quadrangle of columns, where, on the right hand, four, and then three columns, with their entablatures, are still standing. At the end of this place, are the remains of a circular building fronting a bridge (p) across the river: this bridge is of steep ascent, owing to the northern banks being considerably higher than the southern, and it is no longer passable.
Having returned to the four cubical pedestals (d), I followed to the left the continuation of the street (c), by which I had first approached those pedestals, and which having crossed the main street at the pedestals, leads south-westward to the river, where it terminated at a broad flight of steps, leading down to the bridge (k); of the colonnade of this street (i), some broken shafts only are standing. The bridge is fourteen feet wide, with a high centre arch and two lower ones; it is built with great solidity, and its pavement is exactly of the same construction as that which I observed in the streets of Shohba;7 its centre is broken down. An aqueduct is traced from the side of the building (u), passing near the two bridges, towards the southern gate of the town. Such were my observations of the ruins on the right bank of the Wady.
On the left bank little else remains than heaps of ruins of private habitations, and numerous fragments of columns. I must confess, however, that I did not examine the part of the town towards the south gate; but I have reason to believe, from the view which I had of it while on the temple hill, that nothing of consequence, either as to buildings or columns, is there to be met with. The only buildings which I observed to the left of the river are near to it, upon a narrow plain which stretches along its banks. Nearly opposite to the temple (m), are the remains of a building (y) similar in construction to that marked (u), on the right bank. I supposed it to be a bath; a stream of water descends from a spring in the mountain, and after flowing through this division of the town, passes this building, and empties itself into the river. The arched rooms of the building (y) are loftier than those in (u). Near the former stand four columns; two insulated, and two with entablatures; also two broken shafts, the only fluted ones that I saw in the city. On the left bank of the river, nearly opposite to the town-gate (w), is a ruined building (x), which appears to have been a small temple; a single column is standing amidst a heap of broken ones.
Between this spot and the building (y) are the remains of an aqueduct.
Besides the one hundred and ninety columns, or thereabouts, which I have enumerated in the above description, there are upwards of one hundred half columns also standing. I did not see any marks of the frusta of the columns having been joined by iron hooks, as at Palmyra. Of the private habitations of the city there is none in a state of preservation, but the whole of the area within the walls is covered with their ruins.
The stone with which Djerash is built is calcareous, of considerable hardness, and the same as the rock of the neighbouring mountains; I did not observe any other stone to have been employed, and it is matter of surprise that no granite columns should be found here, as they abound in Syrian cities of much less note and magnificence than Djerash.
It had been my intention to proceed from Djerash to the village of Djezaze, in my way to the castle of Szalt in the mountains of Belka, from whence I hoped to be able to visit Amman. After many fruitless enquiries for a guide, a man of Souf at last offered to conduct me to Szalt, and he had accompanied us as far as Djerash; but when, after having surveyed the ruins, I rejoined my companions, he had changed his mind, and insisted on returning immediately to Souf; this was occasioned by his fear of the Arabs Beni Szakher, who had for sometime past been at war with the Arabs of Djebel Belka and the government of Damascus, and who were now extending their plundering incursions all over the mountain. The name of the Beni Szakher is generally dreaded in these parts; and the greater or less facility with which the traveller can visit them, depends entirely upon the good or bad terms existing between those Arabs and the Pasha; if they are friends, one of the tribe may easily be found to serve as a guide; but when they are enemies, the traveller is exposed to the danger of being stripped; and, if the animosity of the two parties is very great, of even being murdered. The Mutsellim of Damascus had given me letters to the chief of the Arabs El Belka, and to the commander of the Pasha’s cavalry, who had been sent to assist them against the Beni Szakher. The allies were encamped in the neighbourhood of Kalaat el Zerka, while the Beni Szakher had collected their forces at Amman itself, a place still famous for the abundance of its waters. Under these circumstances, I determined to proceed first to Szalt, hoping that I might from thence attain Amman more easily, as the inhabitants of Szalt, who are always more or less rebellious towards the government of Damascus, are generally on friendly terms with the Bedouins. The fears of my guide, however, prevented me from executing this plan, and I was most reluctantly obliged to return to Souf, for it would have been madness to proceed alone.
We returned to Souf, not by the road over the mountain, but in following the course of the rivulet in the valley El Deir, which we reascended up to the village; we found the greater part of the narrow plain in the valley sown with wheat and barley by the people of Souf. Half an hour from the town, in the Wady, are the remains of a large reservoir for water, with some ruined buildings near it. This is a most romantic spot; large oak and walnut trees overshade the stream, which higher up flows over a rocky bed; nearer the village are some olive plantations in the Wady. We reached Souf in two hours from Djerash. I enquired in vain for a guide to Szalt; the return of the man who had engaged to conduct me made the others equally cautious, and nobody would accept of the fifteen piastres which I offered. I thought in unnecessary, therefore, to stop any longer at Souf, and left it the same evening, in order to visit Djebel Adjeloun. Our road lay W.N.W. up a mountain, through a thick forest of oak trees. In three quarters of an hour from Souf we reached the summit of the mountain, which forms the frontier between the district of Moerad and the Djebel Adjeloun. This is the thickest forest I had yet seen Syria, where the term forest (ﺵﻳﺤ or ﺵﺮﺤ)is often applied to places in which the trees grow at twenty paces from each other. In an hour and a half we came to the village Ain Djenne (ﻪﻧﺠ ﻥﻳﻋ), in a fertile valley called Wady Djenne, at the extremity of which several springs issue from under the rock.
May 3d. - There are several christian families at Ain Djenne. In the neighbouring mountain are numerous caverns; and distant half an hour, is the ruined village of Mar Elias. When enquiring for ruins, which might answer to those of Capitolias, I had been referred to this place, no person in these mountains having knowledge of any other ruins. An olive plantation furnishes the principal means of subsistence to the eighty families who inhabit the village of Ain Djenne.
We set out early in the morning, and descended the valley towards Adjeloun (ﻥﻭﻟﺟﻋ), which has given its name to the district: it is built in a narrow passage on both sides of the rivulet of Djenne, and contains nothing remarkable except a fine ancient mosque. I left my horse here, and took a man of the village to accompany me to the castle of Rabbad (ﺪﺒﺮﻠﺍ ﺕﻌﻟﻘ), which stands on the top of a mountain three quarters of an hour distant from Adjeloun. To the left of the road, at a short distance, is the village Kefrandjy. From Ain Djenne Kalaat el Rabbad bears W. by N.; it is the residence of the chief of the district of Adjeloun. The house of Barekat, in whom this authority has for many years resided, had lately been quarrelling about it among themselves; the chief, Youssef el Barekat, had been besieged for several months in the castle; he was now gone to the Aga of Tabaria, to engage him in his interests; and his family were left in the castle with strict orders not to let any unknown persons enter it, and to keep the gate secured. I had letters of recommendation to Youssef from the Mutsellim of Damascus; when I arrived at the castle-gate, all the inhabitants assembled upon the wall, to enquire who I was, and what I wanted. I explained to them the nature of my visit, and shewed them the Mutsellim’s letter, upon which they opened the iron gate, but continued to entertain great suspicions of me until a man who could read having been sent for, my letter was read aloud; all the family then vied in civilities towards me, especially when I told them that I intended to proceed to Tabaria.
Kalaat Er-Rabbad is very strong, and, as appears from several Arabic inscriptions, was built by Sultan Szelah-eddyn (ﻥﻳﺪﻠﺍ ﺡﻻﺼ); its date is, therefore, that of the Crusades, and the same as that of many castles in other parts of Syria, which owe their origin to the vigilance, and prudence of that monarch; I saw nothing particularly worth notice in it; its thick walls, arched passages, and small bastions, are common to all the castles of the middle ages. It has several wells; but on the outside, it is distinguished by the deep and broad ditch which surrounds it, and which has been excavated at immense labour in the rock itself upon which the castle stands. Rabbad is two hours distant from the Ghor, or valley of the river Jordan, over which, as well as the neighbouring mountains, it commands a fine prospect. It is now inhabited by about forty persons, of the great family of El Barekat.
I returned from Kalaat Rabbad to Adjeloun, where I rejoined my companions, and after mid-day set out for El Hossn, the principal village in the district of Beni Obeid. Our road lay up the mountain, in the narrow Wady Teis. At half an hour from Adjeloun we passed the spring called Ain Teis (ﺲﻳﺘ ﻥﻳﻋ). At two hours the district of Djebel Adjeloun terminates, and that of Obeid begins. The country is for the greater part woody, and here the inhabitants collect considerable quantities of galls. Our road lay N.E.; the summits of the mountain bear the name El Meseidjed (ﺩﺟﻳﺳﻣﻟﺍ). At three hours and a half is a Birket of rain-water, from whence the road descends over barren hills towards El Hossn, distant five hours and a quarter from Adjeloun.
El Hossn is the principal village of the district called Beni Obeid; it stands on the declivity of the mountain, and is inhabited by upwards of one hundred families, of which about twenty-five are Greek Christians, under the jurisdiction of the patriarch of Jerusalem. I saw nothing remarkable here but a number of wells cut out of the rock. I happened to alight at the same house where M. Seetzen had been detained for eleven days, by bad weather; his hospitable old landlord, Abdullah el Ghanem, made many enquiries after him.
El Hossn is the principal village of the district called Beni Obeid; it stands on the declivity of the mountain, and is inhabited by upwards of one hundred families, of which about twenty-five are Greek Christians, under the jurisdiction of the patriarch of Jerusalem. I saw nothing remarkable here but a number of wells cut out of the rock. I happened to alight at the same house where M. Seetzen had been detained for eleven days, by bad weather; his hospitable old landlord, Abdullah el Ghanem, made many enquiries after him.
May 4th. - I found very bad company at El Hossn. It is usual for the Pasha of Damascus to send annually one of the principal officers of his government to visit the southern provinces of the Pashalik, to exact the arrears of the Miri, and to levy new extortions. The Aga of Tabaria, who was invested this year with the office, had just arrived in the village with a suite of one hundred and fifty horsemen, whom he had quartered upon the peasants; my landlord had seven men and fifteen horses for his share, and although he killed a sheep, and boiled about twenty pounds of rice, for supper, yet the two officers of the party in his house were continually asking for more, spoiled all his furniture, and, in fact, acted worse than an enemy would have done. It is to avoid vexations of this kind that the peasants abandon the villages most exposed to such visits.
We left Hossn late in the morning and proceeded to Erbad (ﺩﺒﺮﺍ), one hour and a quarter N.N.E. from the former. Our road lay over the plain. Erbad is the chief place in the district of that name, likewise called the district of Beni Djohma (ﺎﻣﻬﺠ ﻲﻧﺒ), or of Bottein (ﻦﻳﻂﺒ), from the Sheikh’s being of the family of Bottein. The names of Beni Obeid, and Beni Djohma, are probably derived from Arab tribes which anciently settled here; but nobody could tell me the origin of these appellations. The inhabitants do not pretend to be descendants of those tribes, but say that these were their dwelling places from time immemorial.
The castle of Erbad stands upon a low hill, at the foot of which lies the village. The calcareous rock which extends through Zoueit, Moerad, Adjeloun, and Beni Obeid, begins here to give way to the black Haouran stone, with which all the houses of Erbad are built, as well as the miserable modern walls of the castle. A large ancient well built reservoir is the only curiosity of this place; around it lay several handsome sarcophagi, of the same kind of rock, with some sculptured bas-reliefs upon them. Part of the suite of the Aga of Tabaria, consisting of Moggrebyns, was quartered at Erbad. From hence I wished to visit the ruins of Beit el Ras (ﺱﺍﺭﻠﺍ ﺕﻳﺒ), which are upon a hill at about one hour and a half distant. I was told that the ruins were of large extent, that there were no columns standing, but that large ones were lying upon the ground. From Beit el Ras I intended again to cross the mountain in order to see the ruins of Om Keis, and from thence to visit the Djolan.
We were shewn the road from Erbad, but went astray, and did not reach Beit el Ras. One hour and a half N. by W. of Erbad we passed the village Merou (ﻮﺭﻤ); from thence we travelled W.N.W. to El Hereimy (ﻲﻣﻴﺭﺣﻠﺍ), two hours from Erbad; and from El Hereimy N.N.W. to Hebras (ﺱﺍﺭﺑﺤ), three hours from Erbad. Hebras is the principal village in the district of Kefarat, and one of the largest in these countries. It is inhabited by many Greek Christian families. One hour and a half to the N.E. of it are the ruins of Abil (ﻝﺒﺍ), the ancient Abila, one of the towns of the Decapolis; neither buildings nor columns remain standing; but I was told that there are fragments of columns of a very large size.
May 5th. - I took a guide from hence to shew me to Om Keis, which, I was told, was inhabited by several families. I there intended to pass the night, and to proceed the next day to Feik, a village on the E. side of the lake of Tabaria. In half an hour from Hebras we passed the spring Ain el Terab (ﺐﺭﺗﻠﺍ ﻥﻳﻋ), in a Wady, which farther to the north-westward joins the Wady Szamma, and still lower down unites with the Wady Sheriat el Mandhour. At one hour and a quarter to our right was the village Obder (ﺮﺩﺒﺍ), on the banks of Wady Szamma, which runs in a deep ravine, and half an hour farther north-west, the village Szamma (ﻪﻣﺼ). The inhabitants of the above villages cultivate gardens of fruit trees and all kinds of vegetables on the side of the rivulet. The villages belong to the district of Kefarat. To the left of our route extends a country full of Wadys, called the district of Serou (ﻮﺭﺴ), to the southward of which begins that of Wostye (ﻪﻳﻂﺳﻮ). At one hour and a half to our left, distant half an hour, we saw, in the Serou, the village Faour (ﺮﻭﻔ). Between Hebras and Szamma begins the Wady el Arab (ﺏﺮﻌﻟﺍ ﻱﺪﺍﻮ), which continued to the left parallel with our route; it is a fertile valley, in which the Arabs Kelab and others cultivate a few fields. There are several mills on the water-side. Our route lay W. by N. and W.N.W. across the Kefarat, which is uneven ground, rising towards the west, and is intersected by many Wadys. At the end of three hours and a quarter we reached Om Keis (ﺱﻳﻜ ﻢﺍ).
Om Keis is the last village to the west, in the district of Kefarat; it is situated near the crest of the chain of mountains, which bound the valley of the lake of Tabaria and Jordan on the east. The S. end of the lake bears N.W. To the N. of it, one hour, is the deep Wady called the Hieromax of the Greeks and Jarmouk of the Israelites.
To the south, at the same distance, flows the Wady el Arab, which joins the Sheriat in the valley of El Ghor, not far from the junction of the latter with the Jordan. I am doubtful to what ancient city the ruins of Om Keis are to be ascribed.9
At Om Keis the remains of antiquity are very mutilated. The ancient town was situated round a hill, which is the highest point in the neighbourhood. To the east of the hill are a great number of caverns in the calcareous rock, some of which have been enlarged and rendered habitable. Others have been used as sepulchral caves. Great numbers of sarcophagi are lying about in this direction: they are all of black stone, which must have been transported from the banks of the river below: the dimensions of the largest are nine spans in length by three in breadth; they are ornamented with bas-reliefs of genii, festoons, wreaths of flowers, and some with busts, but very few of them are of elegant wor[k]manship. I counted upwards of seventy on the declivity of the hill. On the summit of the hill are heaps of wrought stones, but no remains of any important building: on its west and north sides are the remains of two large theatres, built entirely of black stone. That on the W. side is in better preservation than the other, although more ruined than the theatres at Djerash. The walls and the greater part of the seats yet remain; a tier of boxes intervenes between the rows of seats, as at Djerash, and there are deep vaulted apartments beneath the seats. There are no remains of columns in front of either theatre. The theatre on the north side of the hill, which is in a very dilapidated state, is remarkable for its great depth, caused by its being built on a part of the steepest declivity of the hill; its uppermost row of seats is at least forty feet higher than the lowest; the area below the seats is comparatively very small. From these two theatres the principal part of the town appears to have extended westwards, over an even piece of ground at the foot of the hill; its length from the hill was at least half an hour. Nothing is at present standing; but there are immense heaps of cut stones, columns, &c. dispersed over the plain. A long street, running westward, of which the ancient pavement still exists in most parts, seems to have been the principal street of the town. On both sides there are vast quantities of shafts of columns. At a spot where a heap of large Corinthian pillars lay, a temple appears to have stood. I here saw the base of a large column of gray granite. The town terminates in a narrow point, where a large solid building with many columns seems to have stood.
With the exception of the theatres, the buildings of the city were all constructed of the calcareous stone which constitutes the rock of every part of the country which I saw between Wady Zerka and Wady Sheriat. In Djebel Adjeloun, Moerad, and Beni Obeid, none of the basalt or black stone is met with; but in some parts of El Kefarat, in our way from Hebras to Om Keis, I saw alternate layers of calcareous and basaltic rock, with thin strata of flint. The habitations of Om Keis are, for the greater part, caverns. There is no water but what is collected in reservoirs during rains; these were quite dried up, which was the occasion, perhaps, of the place having been abandoned, for we found not a single inhabitant.
My guide being ignorant of the road to Feik, wished to return to Hebras; and I was hesitating what to do, when we were met by some peasants of Remtha, in the Haouran, who were in their way to the Ghor, to purchase new barley, of which grain the harvest had already begun in the hot climate of that valley. I joined their little caravan. We continued, for about half an hour from Om Keis, upon the high plain, and then descended the mountains, the western declivity of which is entirely basaltic. At the end of two hours from Om Keis, we reached the banks of the Sheriat el Mandhour, or Sheriat el Menadhere (ﺭﻭﺿﻧﻣﻠﺍ ﻪﻌﻴﺭﺸ or ﻩﺭﻀﺎﻧﻣﻠﺍ), which we passed at a ford. This river takes the additional name of the Arabs who live upon its banks, to distinguish it from the Sheriat el Kebir (Great Sheriat), by which the Jordan is known. The Sheriat el Menadhere is formed by the united streams of the Nahr Rokad (ﺪﺎﻘﺮ), which flows from near Ain Shakhab, through the eastern parts of Djolan; of the Hereir, whose source is in the swampy ground near Tel Dilly, on the Hadj route, between Shemskein and El Szannamein: of the Budje, which comes from Mezareib, and after its junction with the Hereir, is called Aweired (ﺪﺮﺍﻭﻋ), and of the Wady Hamy Sakkar, besides several other smaller Wadys. The name of Sheriat, is first applied to the united streams near Szamme. From thence it flows in a deep bed of tufwacke; and its banks are cultivated by the Arabs Menadhere (sing. Mandhour), who live under tents, and remove from place to place, but without quitting the banks of the river. They sow wheat and barley, and cultivate pomegranates, lemons, grapes, and many kinds of fruit and vegetables, which they sell in the villages of the Haouran and Djolan. Further to the west the Wady becomes so narrow as to leave no space between the edge of the stream, and the precipices on both sides. It issues from the mountain not far from the south end of the lake of Tabaria, and about one hour lower down is joined by the Wady el Arab; it then empties itself into the Jordan, called Sheriat el Kebir, at two hours distant from the lake; D’Anville is therefore wrong in making it flow into the lake itself. The river is full of fish, and in the Wady its course is very rapid. The shrub called by the Arabs Defle (ﻪﻟﻔﺪ), grows on its banks; it has a red flower, and according to the Arabs is poisonous to cattle. The breadth of the stream, where it issues from the mountains, is about thirty-five paces, its depth (in the month of May) between four and five feet.
We had now entered the valley of the Ghor (ﺮﻭﻏ), which may be compared to the valley of the Bekaa, between the Libanus and Anti-Libanus, and the valley El Ghab of the Orontes. The mountains which enclose it are not to be compared in magnitude with those of the Bekaa; but the abundance of its waters renders its aspect more pleasing to the eye, and may make its soil more productive. It is one of the lowest levels in Syria; lower than the Haouran and Djolan, by nearly the whole height of the eastern mountains; its temperature is hotter than I had experienced in any other part of Syria: the rocky mountains concentrating the heat, and preventing the air from being cooled by the westerly winds in summer. In consequence of this higher degree of heat, the productions of the Ghor ripen long before those of the Haouran. The barley harvest, which does not begin in the upper plain till fifteen days later we here found nearly finished. The Haouran, on the other hand, was every where covered with the richest verdure of wild herbage, while every plant in the Ghor was already dried up, and the whole country appeared as if in the midst of summer. Volney has justly remarked that there are few countries where the changes from one climate to another are so sudden as in Syria; and I was never more convinced of it than in this valley. To the north was the Djebel El Sheikh, covered with snow; to the east the fertile plains of Djolan clothed in the blossoms of spring; while to the south, the withered vegetation of the Ghor seemed the effect of a tropical sun. The breadth of the valley is about an hour and a half, or two hours.
From the ford over the Sheriat we proceeded across the plain in a N.W. direction; it was covered with low shrubs and a tree bearing a fruit like a small apple, very agreeable to the taste; Zaarour (ﺮﻮﺭﻋﺯ)is the name given to it by the inhabitants of Mount Libanus; those of Damascus call it Zaaboub (ﺏﻭﺑﻋﺯ); and the Arabs have also another name for it, which I forget. In an hour and upwards, from the ford, we reached the village Szammagh (ﻎﻣﺼ), situated on the most southern extremity of the lake of Tabaria; it contains thirty or forty poor mud houses, and a few built with black stone. The Jordan issues out of the lake about a quarter of an hour to the westward of the village, where the lake ends in a straight line, extending for about forty minutes in a direction nearly east and west. From hence the highest point of Djebel el Sheikh bears N.N.W.; the town of Szaffad N. by E. Between the lake and the first bridge over the Jordan, called Djissr el Medjami, at about two hours and a half from hence, are two fordable passages across the river.
Excepting about one hundred Fedhans around Szammagh, no part of the valley is cultivated in this neighbourhood. Somewhat lower down begin the corn fields of the Arabs el Ghor, who are the principal inhabitants of the valley: those living near Szammagh are the Arabs el Sekhour, and the Beshaatoue. The only villages met with from hence as far as Beysan (the ancient Scythopolis), are to the left of the Jordan, Maad (ﺪﺎﻌﻤ), at the foot of Djebel Wostye, and El Erbayn (ﻦﻳﻌﺒﺮﻻﺍ).From Szammagh to Beysan the valley is called Ghor Tabaria. I swam to a considerable distance in the lake, without seeing a single fish; I was told, however, that there were privileged fishermen at Tabaria, who monopolize the entire fishery. The beach on this side is a fine gravel of quartz, flint, and tufwacke. There is no shallow water, the lake being of considerable depth close in shore. The only species of shell which I saw on the beach was of the smallest kind, white, and about an inch and a half long. There are no kinds of rushes or reeds on the shores in this neighbourhood.
May 6th. - The quantities of mosquitos and other vermin which always by preference attack the stranger accustomed to more northern climates, made me pass a most uncomfortable night at Szammagh. We departed early in the morning, in order to visit the hot wells at the foot of the mountain of Om Keis, the situation of which had been pointed out to me on the preceding day. Returning towards the place where the Sheriat issues from the Wady, we followed up the river from thence and in one hour and three quarters from Szammagh, we reached the first hot-well. The river flows in a deep bed, being confined in some places on both sides by precipices of upwards of one hundred feet in height, whose black rocks present a most striking contrast with the verdure on their summits. For several hundred yards before we arrived at the hot-well, I perceived a strong sulphureous smell in the air. The spring is situated in a very narrow plain, in the valley, between the river and the northern cliffs, which we descended. The plain had been covered with rich herbage, but it was now dried up; a great variety of shrubs and some old palm trees also grow here: the heat in the midst of the summer must be suffocating. The spring bubbles up from a basin about forty feet in circumference, and five feet in depth, which is enclosed by ruins of walls and buildings, and forms below a small rivulet which falls at a short distance into the river. The water is so hot, that I found it difficult to keep my hand in it; it deposits upon the stones over which it flows a thick yellow sulphureous crust, which the neighbouring Arabs collect, to rub their camels with, when diseased. Just above the basin, which has originally been paved, is an open arched building, with the broken shaft of a column still standing; and behind it are several others, also arched, which may have been apartments for the accommodation of strangers; the large stones forming these structures are much decayed, from the influence of the exhalations. This spring is called Hammet el Sheikh (ﺦﺷﻠﺍ ﺔﻣﺤ), and is the hottest of them all. At five minutes distance, ascending the Wady, is a second of the same kind, but considerably cooler; it issues out of a basin covered with weeds, and surrounded with reeds, and has some remains of ancient buildings about it; it is called Hammet Errih (ﺢﻴﺭﻠﺍ ﺔﻣﺤ), and joins the waters from the first source. Following the course of the river, up the Wady, eight more hot springs are met with; I shall here mention their names, though I did not see them. 1. Hammet and Ettowahein (ﻥﻳﺤﺍﻭﻂﻠﺍ ﺩﻧﻋ ﺔﻣﺤ), near some mills; 2. Hammet beit Seraye (ﻪﻳﺍﺭﺴ); 3. Hammet Essowanye (ﻪﻳﻧﺍﻭﺳﻠﺍ ﺔﻣﺤ); 4. Hammet Dser Aryshe (ﻪﺷﻴﺭﻋ ﺮﺬ ﺔﻣﺤ); 5. Hammet Zour Eddyk (ﻙﻴﺪﻠﺍ ﺮﻮﺰ ﺔﻣﺤ); 6. Hammet Erremlye (ﻪﻳﻟﻣﺭﻠﺍ ﺔﻣﺤ); 7. Hammet Messaoud (ﺪﻭﻌﺳﻤ ﺔﻣﺤ); 8. Hammet Om Selym (ﻡﻳﻟﺴ ﻢﺍ ﺔﻣﺤ); this last is distant from that of El Sheikh two hours and a half. These eight springs are on both sides of the Wady, and have remains of ancient buildings near them. I conceive that a naturalist would find it well worth his time to examine the productions of this Wady, hitherto almost unknown. In the month of April the Hammet el Sheikh is visited by great numbers both of sick and healthy people, from the neighbourhood of Nablous and Nazaret, who prefer it to the bath of Tabaria; they usually remain about a fortnight.
We returned from the Hamme by the same road we came; on reaching the plain of El Ghor we turned to our right up the mountain. We here met a wild boar of great size; these animals are very numerous in the Ghor, and my companions told me that the Arabs of the valley are unable to cultivate the common barley, called here Shayr Araby (ﻲﺒﺮﻋ ﺭﻳﻌﺸ), on account of the eagerness with which the wild swine feed upon it, they are therefore obliged to grow a less esteemed sort, with six rows of grains, called Shayr Kheshaby (ﻰﺑﺎﺷﺨ ﺭﻳﻌﺸ), which the swine do not touch. At three quarters of an hour from the spot where we began to ascend, we came to a spring called Ain el Khan, near a Khan caned El Akabe, where caravans sometimes alight; this being the great road from the Djolan and the northern parts of the Haouran to the Ghor. Akabe is a general term for a steep descent. In one hour we passed a spring called Ain el Akabe, more copious than the former. From thence we reached the summit of the mountain, one hour and a quarter distant from its foot, where the plain commences; and in one hour and three quarters more, entered the village of Feik, distant about four hours and a half from Szammagh, by the road we travelled.
One hour to the E. of Szammagh, on the shore of the lake, lies the village Kherbet Szammera (ﻩﺭﻣﺼ ﻪﺒﺭﺨ), with some ancient buildings: it is the only inhabited village on the E. side of the lake, its site seems to correspond with that of the ancient Hippos. Farther north, near the shore, are the ruined places called Doeyrayan (ﻦﺎﻴﺍﺭﻴﻭﺪ), and Telhoun (ﻦﻭﺣﻟﺘ). Three quarters of an hour to the N. of Khan el Akabe, near the summit of the mountain, lies, the half ruined, but still inhabited village of Kefer Hareb (ﺐﺮﺎﻫ ﺭﻓﻜ).
The country to the north of the Sheriat, in the direction of Feik, is, for a short distance, intersected by Wadys, a plain then commences, extending northwards towards the Djebel Heish el Kanneytra, and eastwards towards the Haouran.
Feik is a considerable village, inhabited by more than two hundred families. It is situated at the head of the Wady of the same name, on the ridge of a part of the mountain which incloses the E. shore of the lake of Tabaria, and it enjoys a fine view over the middle part of the lake. The rivulet of Feik has three sources, issuing from beneath a precipice, round the summit of which the village is built in the shape of a crescent. Having descended the hill for three quarters of an hour, a steep insulated hill is met with, having extensive ruins of buildings, walls, and columns on its top; they are called El Hossn, and are, perhaps, the remains of the ancient town of Regaba or Argob.
Feik (ﻕﻳﻔ), although situated in the plain of Djolan, does not actually belong to that district, but constitutes a territory of itself; it forms part of the government of Akka, and is, I believe, the only place belonging to that Pashalik on the E. side of the Jordan; it was separated from the Pashalik of Damascus by Djezzar Pasha. There being a constant passage through Feik from the Haouran to Tabaria and Akka, more than thirty houses in the town have open Menzels for the entertainment of strangers of every description, and supply their cattle, gratis. The landlords have an allowance from the government for their expenses, which is made by a deduction from the customary taxes; and if the Menzel is much frequented, as in the case of that of the Sheikh, no Miri at all is collected from the landlord, and the Pasha makes him also an yearly allowance in money, out of the Miri of the village. The establishment of these public Menzels, which are general over the whole country to the S. of Damascus, does great honour to the hospitable spirit of the Turks; but it is, in fact, the only expense that the government thinks itself obliged to incur for the benefit of the people of the country. A peasant can travel for a whole month without expending a para; but people of any distinction give a few paras on the morning of their departure to the waiter or watchman (ﺭﻭﺘﺎﻧ). If the traveller does not choose to alight at a public Menzel, he may go to any private house, where he will find a hospitable landlord, and as good a supper as the circumstances of his host can afford.
I observed upon the terraces of all the houses of Feik, a small apartment called Hersh (ﺶﺭﺤ), formed of branches of trees, covered with mats; to this cool abode the family retires during the mid-day heats of summer. There are a few remains of ancient buildings at Feik; amongst others, two small towers on the two extremities of the cliff. The village has large olive plantations.
May 7th. - Our way over the plain was in the direction N.E. by E. Beyond the fields of Feik, the district of Djolan begins, the southern limits of which are the Wady Hamy Sakker, and the Sheriat. Djolan appears to be the same name as the Greek Gaulanitis; but its present limits do not quite correspond with those of the ancient province, which was confined to a narrow strip of land along the lake, and the eastern shore of the Jordan. The territory of Feik must have formed part of Hippene; the mountain in front of it was mount Hippos, and the district of Argob appears to have been that part of the plain (making part of Djolan), which extends from Feik northwards for three or four hours, and which is enclosed on the east by the Djebel Heish, and on the west by the descent leading down to the banks of the lake.
Half an hour from Feik we passed, on our left, a heap of ruins called Radjam el Abhar (ﺭﻬﺒﻻﺍ ﻢﺠﺭ). To the S.E. at about one hour distant, is the village Djeibein (ﻦﻴﺒﻴﺟ); to the left, at three quarters of an hour, is the ruined village El Aal (ﻝﺎﻌﻟﺍ), on the side of the Wady Semak (ﻙﻤﺳ ﻱﺩﺍﻭ), which descended from the Djebel Heish: there is a rivulet of spring-water in the Wady, which empties itself into the lake near the ruined city of Medjeifera (ﻩﺮﻔﻴﺠﻣ), in this part the Wady is full of reeds, of which the people make mats. On the other side of the Wady, about half an hour distant from it, upon a Tel, is the ruined city called Kaszr Berdoweil (ﻝﻳﻭﺑﺩﺮﺑ ﺮﺼﻗ) (Castle of Baldwin). The plain here is wholly uncultivated, and is overgrown with a wild herb called Khob (ﺐﺧ), which camels and cows feed upon. At one hour and three quarters is a Birket of rain water, called Nam (ﻡﺎﻧ ﺔﻛﺮﺑ), with a spring near it. At two hours and a quarter are the extensive ruins of a city, called Khastein (ﻦﻴﺘﺴﺧ), built with the black stone of the country, but preserving no remains of any considerable building. Two hours and three quarters, on our left, is Tel Zeky (ﻲﻗﺯ ﻞﺗ), to the left of which, about one hour and a half, is the southern extremity of the Djebel Heish, where stands a Tel called El Faras. The Djebel Heish is separated from the plain by a stony district, of one hour in breadth, where the Arabs of the country often take refuge from the extortions of the Pasha. In three hours we passed Wady Moakkar (ﺮﻘﻌﻣ), flowing from the mountain into the Sheriat. Here the direction of our road was E.S.E. The Arab who accompanied me presented me with a fruit which grows wild in these parts, and is unknown in the northern parts of Syria, and even at Damascus; it is of the size of a small egg, of the colour of the Tomato or love-apple, of a sweet agreeable taste, and full of juice. It grows upon a shrub about six inches high, which I did not see, but was told that its roots were three or four feet in length, and presented the figure of a man in all its parts. The fruit is called by the Arabs Djerabouh (ﺡﻮﺑﺍﺮﺟ).
At three hours and a quarter, at a short distance to our left, was the ruined village Om el Kebour (ﺭﻮﺒﻘﻟﺍ ﻡﺍ). In three hours and a half we passed Wady Seide (ﻩﺪﻴﺳ ﻱﺩﺍﻭ); and at the end of three hours and three quarters reached the bridge of Wady Hamy Sakker We met all the way Arabs and peasants going to the Ghor to purchase barley.
The bridge of Hamy Sakker (ﺮﻘﺳ ﻰﻣﺎﺣ ﺮﺴﺟ) is situated near the commencement of the Wady, where it is of very little depth; lower down it has a rapid fall, and runs between precipices of perpendicular rocks of great height, until it joins the Sheriat, about two hours and a half from the bridge. The bridge is well built upon seven arches. At four hours we reached a spring called Ain Keir (ﺮﻴﻗ ﻦﻴﻋ), and a little farther another called Ain Deker (ﺮﻛﺫ ﻦﻴﻋ). The rocky district at the foot of Djebel Heish extends on this side as far as these springs. In five hours we passed Wady Aallan (ﻥﻻﻋ ﺩﺍﻭ), a considerable torrent flowing towards the Sheriat, with a ruined bridge; and in five hours and a half Tseil, (ﻞﻴﺴﺗ), an inhabited village. Here the plain begins to be cultivated. There are no villages excepting Djeibein to the south of the road by which we had travelled, as far as the banks of the Sheriat. The inhabitants of the country are Bedouins, several of whose encampments we passed. Tseil is one of the principal villages of Djolan, and contains about eighty or one hundred families, who live in the ancient buildings of the ruined town; there are three Birkets of rain water belonging to it. The only building of any size is a ruined mosque, which seems to have been a church. In coming from Feik the soil of the plain is black, or gray; at Tseil it begins to be of the same red colour as the Haouran earth.
After dinner we continued our route. In half an hour from Tseil we passed on our left Tel Djemoua (ﻉﻮﻤﺟ ﻞﺗ). The greater part of the plain was covered with a fine crop of wheat and barley. During the years 1810 and 1811, the crops were very bad all over Syria; the rains of last winter, however, having been very abundant, the peasants are every where consoled with the hopes of a good harvest. It was expected that the Haouran and Djolan would yield twenty-five times the quantity of the seed sown, which is reckoned an excellent crop. Half an hour north of Tel Djemoua lies Tel Djabye (ﻪﻴﺑﺎﺟ), with a village. At one hour and three quarters from Tseil is the village Nowa (ﻱﻮﻧ), where we slept. This is the principal village in the Djolan, and was formerly a town of half an hour in circumference. Its situation corresponds with that in D’Anville’s map of Neve. There are a number of ruined private dwellings, and the remains of some public edifices. A temple, of which one column with its entablature remains, has been converted into a mosque. At the S. end of the village is a small square solid building, probably a mausoleum; it has no other opening than the door. Beyond the precincts of the village, on the N. side, are the ruins of a large square building, of which the sculptured entrance only remains, with heaps of broken columns before it. The village has several springs, as well as cisterns. The Turks revere the tomb of a Santon buried here, called Mehy eddyn el Nowawy (ﻲﻮﺍﻮﻧ ﻥﻴﺩﻠﺍ ﻲﺣﻤ).
May 8th. - Our route lay N.E. At two hours from Nowa is the village Kasem (ﻡﺴﺎﻘ), which forms the southern limits of the district of Djedour, and the northern frontier of Djolan; some people, however, reckon Djolan the limits of Nowa. One hour E. b. S. of Kasem stands the village Om el Mezabel (ﻝﺒﺎﺯﻤ); one hour and a half E.N.E. of Kasem. the great village Onhol (ﻝﺣﻧﺍ). In two hours and a half from Nowa we passed, to the left, distant about half an hour, the Tel el Hara (ﻩﺮﺎﺣﻠﺍ), with the village of the same name at its foot; this is the highest Tel in the plains of Haouran and Djolan. Three hours and a quarter is the village Semnein (ﻥﻳﻧﻣﺴ); and three hours and three quarters, the village Djedye (ﻪﻴﺩﺠ). The plain was badly cultivated in these parts. From hence our road turned N.N.E. At five hours is Kefer Shams (ﺱﻣﺸ ﺭﻓﻜ), with some ancient buildings; all these villages have large Birkets. At five hours and three quarters is Deir e Aades (ﺲﺩﻌﻠﺍ ﺭﻳﺪ), a ruined village in a stony district, intersected by several Wadys. Six hours and a quarter, Tel Moerad (ﺪﺍﺭﻌﻤ); eight hours Tel Shak-hab (ﺐﺎﻬﻗﺸ), a village with a small castle, and copious springs; it lies about an hour and a half to the west of Soubbet Faraoun. The cattle of a large encampment of Naym wa spread over the whole plain near Shak-hab. At eight hours and three quarters, there was on our left a rocky country resembling the Ledja; it is called War Ezzaky (ﻲﻜﺍﺯﻠﺍ ﺮﻋﻭ), and has a ruined Khan called Ezzeiat (ﺖﺎﻴﺯﻠﺍ); the millstones for the supply of Damascus are hewn in this War, which consists of the black Haouran stone. In ten hours we reached Khan Denoun; and in ten hours and three quarters, long after sun-set, the village El Kessoue.
May 9th. - We arrived early in the morning at Damascus.
1 The Gharara of Damascus is eighty Muds, at three and a half Rotola per Mud, or twenty pounds.
2 “The tenth of Peritius of the eighth year.” Peritius was one of the Macedonian months, the use of which was introduced into Syria by the Seleucidæ. It answered to the latter part of December and beginning of January. Ed.
3 Απελλαίου; Apellæus was another Macedonian month, and answered to half October and half November. This inscription is within a tablet of the usual form. Ed.
4 μαρτύριον. Ed.
5 See p. 105.
6 Legionis tertiæCyrenaicæ. Ed.
7 Mebrak (ﻙﻛﺭﺑﻤ) means the spot where a camel couches down, or a halting-place.
8 See page 70.
9 It was probably Gamala, which Josephus describes as standing upon a mountain bordered by precipices. Gadara appears from the authorities of Pliny and Jerom to have been at the warm baths, mentioned below, on the north side of the Sheriat el Mandhour; Gadara Hieromiace præfluente. Plin. Nat. Hist. 1.i.c.18. Gadara, urbs trans Jordanem contra Scythopolin et Tiberiadem, ad orientalem plagam, sita in monte, ad cujus radices aquæ calidæ erumpunt, balneis super ædificatis, - Hieron. in Topicis.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:05