WISHING to obtain a further knowledge of the mountains to the east of the Jordan, and being still more desirous of visiting the almost unknown districts to the east of the Dead sea, as well as of exploring the country which lies between the latter and the Red sea, I resolved to pursue that route from Damascus to Cairo, in preference to the direct road through Jerusalem and Ghaza, where I could not expect to collect much information important for its novelty. Knowing that my intended way led through a diversity of Bedouin tribes, I thought it advisable to equip myself in the simplest manner. I assumed the most common Bedouin dress, took no baggage with me, and mounted a mare that was not likely to excite the cupidity of the Arabs. After sun-set, on the 18th of June, 1812, I left Damascus, and slept that night at Kefer Souse, a considerable village, at a short distance from the city-gate, in the house of the guide whom I had hired to conduct me to Tabaria.
Kefer Souse (ﻪﺴﻮﺳ ﺮﻔﻛ) is noted for its olive plantations; and the oil which they produce is esteemed the best in the vicinity of Damascus.
June 19th. - In one hour we passed the village Dareya (ﺎﻳﺭﺍﺩ); where terminate the gardens and orchards which surround Damascus on all sides to a distance of from six to ten miles. We found the peasants occupied with the corn harvest, and with the irrigation of the cotton fields, in which the plants had just made their appearance above ground. The plain is every where cultivated. In two hours and three quarters we passed Kokab (ﺐﻛﻮﻛ), a small village on the western extremity of the chain of low hills known by the appellation of Djebel Kessoue. To the left of the road from Dareya to Kokab are the villages Moattamye (ﻪﻴﻤﻃﻌﻣ), Djedeide (ﻩﺪﻳﺩﺟ), and Artous (ﺱﻮﻂﺮﻋ); and to the right of it, El Ashrafe (ﻪﻓﺮﺷﻻﺍ), and Szahhnaya (ﻪﻳﺎﻨﺤﺻ). The direction of our route was W.S.W. Beyond Kokab, a small part only of the plain is cultivated. At three hours and three quarters, to our left, was the village Wadhye (ﻪﻴﺿﺍﻭ), and a little farther the village Zaky (ﻲﻛﺍﺯ). Route S.W. b. W. Four hours and a half, Khan el Sheikh (ﺞﻴﺸﻟﺍ ﻥﺎﺨ), a house for the accommodation of travellers, this being the great road from Akka to Damascus. The Khan is inhabited by a few families, and stands near the river Seybarany (ﻲﻧﺍﺮﺎﺒﻴﺳ), which flows towards the Ghoutta of Damascus. We followed the banks of the river over a stony desert; on the opposite bank extends the rocky district called War Ezzaky (ﻰﻛﺍﺰﻟﺍ ﺮﻋﻭ), mentioned in my former Journal.1 In five hours and three quarters we passed a rocky tract called Om el Sheratytt (ﻄﻴﺗﺍﺮﺸﻟﺍ ﻡﺍ). Several heaps of stones indicate the graves of travellers murdered in this place by the Druses, who, during their wars with Djezzar Pasha, were in the habit of descending from the neighbouring mountain, Djebel el Sheikh, in order to waylay the caravans. The Seybarany runs here in a deep bed of the Haouran black stone. In six hours and a quarter we passed the river, over a solid bridge. At six hours and three quarters is the village Sasa (ﻊﺴﻌﺳ), at the foot of an insulated hill; it is well built, and contains a large Khan, with a good mosque. The former was full of travellers. We slept here till midnight, and then joined a small caravan destined for Akka.
June 20th. - Our road lay over a rocky plain, called Nakker Sasa (ﻊﺴﻌﺳ ﺮﻘﻧ), slightly ascending. In one hour we passed a bridge over the river Meghannye (ﻪﻴﻨﻐﻣ). At the end of three hours we issued from the rocks, and entered into a forest of low straggling oak-trees, called Heish Shakkara (ﺓﺭﺎﻘﺷ ﺶﻴﺣ). Three hours and a half, we passed to the right of an insulated hill, called Tel Djobba (ﻪﺒﺟ ﻞﺗ). The whole country is uncultivated. In four hours we saw, at about half an hour to our right, the ruined Khan of Kereymbe (ﻪﺒﻣﻳﺮﻗ); the road still ascending. Near Kereymbe begins the mountain called Heish el Kanneytra, a lower ridge of Djebel el Sheikh, (the Mount Hermon of the Scriptures), from which it branches out southwards. At five hours Tel Hara (ﻩﺭﺎﺣ ﻞﺗ) was about one hour and a half to the S. of the road, which from Sasa followed the direction of S.W. and sometimes that of S.W. by W. At seven hours is the village of Kanneytra (ﻩﺮﻄﻴﻨﻗ); from Kereymbe to this place is an open country, with a fertile soil, and several springs.
Kanneytra is now in ruins, having been deserted by its inhabitants since the period of the passage of the Visier’s troops into Egypt. It is enclosed by a strong wall, which contains within its circuit a good Khan, a fine mosque with several short columns of gray granite, and a copious spring; there are other springs also near it. On the north side of the village are the remains of a small ancient city, perhaps Canatha; these ruins consist of little more than the foundations of habitations. The caravans coming from Akka generally halt for the night at Kanneytra. We reposed here a few hours, and then continued our journey, over ground which still continues to rise, until we reached the chain of hills, which form the most conspicuous part of the mountain Heish. The ground being here considerably elevated above the plain of Damascus and the Djolan, these hills, when seen from afar, appear like mountains, although, when viewed from their foot, they are of very moderate height. They are insulated, and terminate, as I have already mentioned, at the hill called Tel Faras, towards the plain of Djolan. The Bedouins who pasture their cattle in these mountains retire in the hot season towards the Djebel el Sheikh. The governor of the Heish el Kanneytra, who receives his charge every year from the Pasha, used formerly to reside at Kanneytra; but since that place has been deserted, he usually encamps with the Turkmans of the Heish, and goes from one encampment to another, to collect the Miri from these Arabs.
At the end of seven hours and a half we passed Tel Abou Nedy (ﻲﺪﻧ ﻮﺑﺍ ﻞﺗ), with the tomb of the Sheikh Abou Nedy. At eight hours is a reservoir of water, a few hundred paces to the S. of the road, which the Bedouins call Birket el Ram (ﻡﺍﺮﻟﺍ ﺔﻛﺮﺑ), and the peasants Birket Abou Ermeil (ﻞﻴﻣﺭﺍ ﻮﺑﺍ ﺔﻛﺮﺑ); it lies near the foot of Tel Abou Nedy, is about one hundred and twenty paces in circumference, and is supplied by two springs which are never dry; one of them is in the bottom of a deep well in the midst of the Birket. Just by this reservoir are the ruins of an ancient town, about a quarter of an hour in circuit, of which nothing remains but large heaps of stones. Five minutes farther is another Birket, which is filled by rain water only. The neighbourhood of these reservoirs is covered with a forest of short oak trees. The rock of the mountain consists of sand-stone, and the basalt of Haouran. Beyond the Birkets the road begins to descend gently, and at nine hours and a half, just by the road, on the left, is a large pond called Birket Nefah or Tefah (ﺡﺎﻔﻧ ﺔﻛﺮﺑ or ﺡﺎﻔﺗ) (I am uncertain which), about two hundred paces in circumference: there are remains of a stone channel communicating with the Birket. Some of my companions asserted that the pond contained a spring, while others denied it; from which I inferred that the water never dries up completely. I take this to be the Lake Phiala, laid down in the maps of Syria, as there is no other lake or pond in the neighbourhood. From hence towards Feik, upon the mountains to the E. of the lake of Tiberias, is an open country intersected by many Wadys. At ten hours we passed a large hill to the left, called Tel el Khanzyr (ﺮﻳﺯﻧﺨﻟﺍ ﻞﺗ), the boar’s hill. The ground was here covered with the finest pasturage; the dry grass was as high as a horse, and so thick, that we passed through it with difficulty. At ten hours and a half are several springs by the side of the road, called Ayoun Essemmam (ﻢﻣﺴﻟﺍ ﻥﻮﻴﻋ). Eleven hours and a quarter, are the ruins of a city called Noworan (ﻥﺍﺭﻮﻧ), with a copious spring near it. Some walls yet remain, and large hewn stones are lying about. At thirteen hours is the bridge over the Jordan, called Djissr Beni Yakoub (ﺏﻮﻗﺎﻳ ﻲﻨﺑ ﺮﺴﺟ); the road continues in an easy slope till a quarter of an hour above the bridge, where it becomes a steep descent. The river flows in a narrow bed, and with a rapid stream; for the lake Houle, whose southern extremity is about three quarters of an hour north of the bridge, is upon a level considerably higher than that of the lake of Tiberias. The bridge is of a solid construction, with four arches: on its E. side is a Khan, much frequented by travellers, in the middle of which are the ruins of an ancient square building constructed with basalt, and having columns in its four angles. The Khan contains also a spring. The Pasha of Damascus here keeps a guard of a few men, principally for the purpose of collecting the Ghaffer, or tax paid by all Christians who cross the bridge. The ordinary Ghaffer is about nine-pence a head, but the pilgrims who pass here about Easter, in their way to Jerusalem, pay seven shillings. The bridge divides the Pashaliks of Damascus and Akka. On the west of it is a guard-house belonging to the latter. Banias (Cæsarea Philippi) bears from a point above the bridge N. by E.
The lake of Houle, or Samachonitis, is inhabited only on the eastern borders; there we find the villages of Esseira (ﻩﺮﻴﺴﻟﺍ) and Eddeir (ﺮﻳﺩﻟﺍ); and between them a ruined place called Kherbet Eddaherye (ﻪﻳﺭﻫﺍﺪﻟﺍ).The south-west shore bears the name of Melaha, from the ground being covered with a saline crust. The fisheries of the lake are rented of the Mutsellim of Szaffad by some fishermen of that town. The narrow valley of the Jordan continues for about two hours S. of the bridge, at which distance the river falls into the lake of Tiberias. About an hour and a quarter from the bridge, on the E. side of the river, is the village Battykha (ﻪﺨﻴﻂﺑ); its inhabitants cultivate large quantities of cucumbers and gourds, which they carry to the market of Damascus, three weeks before the same fruits ripen there; the village is also noted for its excellent honey.
June 21st. - We ascended the western banks of the valley of the Jordan, and then continued upon a plain, called Ard Aaseifera (ﺍﺮﻔﻴﺴﻋ ﺽﺭﺍ), a small part of which is cultivated by the inhabitants of Szaffad. There are several springs in the plain. In an hour and a quarter, we began to ascend the chain of mountains known by the name of Djebel Szaffad, which begin on the N.W. side of the lake of Houle, being a southern branch of the Djebel el Sheikh, or rather of the Anti-Libanus. On the steep acclivity of this mountain we passed to the left of the village Feraab (ﺐﻋﺮﻓ). The road ascends through a narrow valley, called Akabet Feraein, and passes by the spring of Feraein (ﻦﻴﻋﺮﻓ ﻦﻴﻋ). In two hours and three quarters from the bridge, we reached the summit of the mountain, from whence the Djebel el Sheik bears N.E. The whole is calcareous, with very little basalt or tufwacke. At the end of three hours and a half, after a short descent, we reached Szaffad (ﺪﻔﺻ), the ancient Japhet; it is a neatly built town, situated round a hill, on the top of which is a castle of Saracen structure. The castle appears to have undergone a thorough repair in the course of the last century, it has a good wall, and is surrounded by a broad ditch. It commands an extensive view over the country towards Akka, and in clear weather the sea is visible from it. There is another but smaller castle, of modern date, with half ruined walls, at the foot of the hill. The town is built upon several low hills, which divide it into different quarters; of these the largest is inhabited exclusively by Jews, who esteem Szaffad as a sacred place. The whole may contain six hundred houses, of which one hundred and fifty belong to the Jews, and from eighty to one hundred to the Christians. In 1799 the Jews quarter was completely sacked by the Turks, after the retreat of the French from Akka; the French had occupied Szaffad with a garrison of about four hundred men, whose outposts were advanced as far as the bridge of Beni Yakoub. The town is governed by a Mutsellim, whose district comprises about a dozen villages. The garrison consists of Moggrebyns, the greater part of whom have married here, and cultivate a part of the neighbouring lands. The town is surrounded with large olive plantations and vineyards, but the principal occupations of the inhabitants are indigo dyeing, and the manufacture of cotton cloth. On every Friday a market is held, to which all the peasants of the neighbourhood resort. Mount Tabor bears from Szaffad S.S.W.
June 22d. - As there is no Khan for travellers at Szaffad, and I had no letters to any person in the town, I was obliged to lodge at the public coffee house. We left the town early in the morning, and descended the side of the mountain towards the lake; here the ground is for the greater part uncultivated and without trees. At two hours and a quarter is Khan Djob Yousef (ﻒﺳﻮﻳ ﺐﺟ ﻥﺎﺧ), or the Khan of Joseph’s Well, situated in a narrow plain. The Khan is falling rapidly into ruin; near it is a large Birket. Here is shewn the well into which Joseph was let down by his brothers; it is in a small court-yard by the side of the Khan, is about three feet in diameter, and at least thirty feet deep. I was told that the bottom is hewn in the rock: its sides were well lined with masonry as far as I could see into it, and the water never dries up, a circumstance which makes it difficult to believe that this was the well into which Joseph was thrown. The whole of the mountain in the vicinity is covered with large pieces of black stone; but the main body of the rock is calcareous. The country people relate that the tears of Jacob dropping upon the ground while he was in search of his son turned the white stones black, and they in consequence call these stones Jacob’s tears (ﺏﻮﻗﺎﻳ ﻉﻮﻣﺩ). Joseph’s well is held in veneration by Turks as well as Christians; the former have a small chapel just by it, and caravan travellers seldom pass here without saying a few prayers in honour of Yousef. The Khan is on the great road from Akka to Damascus. It is inhabited by a dozen Moggrebyn soldiers, with their families, who cultivate the fields near it.
We continued to descend from Djob Yousef; the district is here called Koua el Kerd (ﺩﺮﻘﻟﺍ ﻉﻮﻗ), and a little lower down Redjel el Kaa (ﻉﺎﻘﻟﺍ ﻝﺎﺟﺭ). At one hour and a half from the Djob Yousef we came to the borders of the lake of Tiberias. At a short distance to the E. of the spot where we reached the plain, is a spring near the border of the lake, called Ain Tabegha (ﻪﻐﺑﺎﻁ ﻦﻴﻋ), with a few houses and a mill; but the water is so strongly impregnated with salt as not to be drinkable. The few inhabitants of this miserable place live by fishing. To the N.E. of Tabegha,
between it and the Jordan, are the ruins called Tel Houm (ﻡﻮﺤ ﻞﺗ, which are generally supposed to be those of Capernaum. Here is a well of salt water, called Tennour Ayoub (ﺏﻮﻳﺍ ﺭﻮﻨﺗ). The rivulet El Eshe (ﻪﺸﻌﻟﺍ) empties itself into the lake just by. Beyond Tabegha we came to a ruined Khan, near the borders of the lake, called Mennye (ﻪﻴﻨﻣ), a large and well constructed building. Here begins a plain of about twenty minutes in breadth, to the north of which the mountain stretches down close to the lake. That plain is covered with the tree called Doum (ﻡﻭﺩ) or Theder (ﺭﺪﺛ), which bears a small yellow fruit like the Zaarour. It was now about mid-day, and the sun intensely hot, we therefore looked out for a shady spot, and reposed under a very large fig-tree, at the foot of which a rivulet of sweet water gushes out from beneath the rocks, and falls into the lake at a few hundred paces distant. The tree has given its name to the spring, Ain-et-Tin (ﻦﻴﺘﻟﺍ ﻦﻴﻋ); near it are several other springs, which occasion a very luxuriant herbage along the borders of the lake. The pastures of Mennye are proverbial for their richness among the inhabitants of the neighbouring countries. High reeds grow along the shore, but I found none of the aromatic reeds and rushes mentioned by Strabo.2 The N.W. and S. shores are generally sandy, without reeds, but large quantities grow at the mouths of the Wadys on the E. side.
In thirty-eight minutes from Khan Mennye we passed a small rivulet, which waters Wady Lymoun. At about one hour’s distance from our road, up in the mountain, we saw the village Sendjol (ﻞﺠﻨﺳ), about half an hour to the west of which lies the village Hottein (ﻦﻴﺘﺣ). In forty-five minutes we passed the large branch of the Wady Lymoun. The mountains which border the lake here terminate in a perpendicular cliff, which is basaltish with an upper stratum of calcareous rock; and the shore changes from the direction S.W. by S. to that of S. by E. In the angle stands the miserable village El Medjdel (ﻝﺪﺟﻤﻟﺍ), one hour distant from Ain-et-Tin, and agreeing both in name and position with the ancient Magdala. The Wady Hammam, in which stands the Kalaat ibn-Maan, branches off from Medjdel. Proceeding from hence the shore of the lake is overgrown with Defle (Solanum furiosum), and there are several springs close to the water’s side. At the end of two hours and a quarter from Ain-et-Tin, we reached Tabaria (ﻪﻳﺮﺒﻃ).
June 23d. - There being no Khan for travellers at Tabaria I went to the Catholic priest, and desired him to let me have the keys of the church, that I might take up my quarters there; he gave them to me, but finding the place swarming with vermin, I removed into the open churchyard.
Tabaria, the ancient Tiberias,3 stands close to the lake, upon a small plain, surrounded by mountains. Its situation is extremely hot and unhealthy, as the mountain impedes the free course of the westerly winds which prevail throughout Syria during the summer. Hence intermittent fevers, especially those of the quartan form, are very common in the town in that season. Little rain falls in winter, snow is almost unknown on the borders of the lake, and the temperature, on the whole, appears to be very nearly the same as that of the Dead sea. The town is surrounded towards the land by a thick and well built wall, about twenty feet in height, with a high parapet and loop-holes. It surrounds the city on three sides, and touches the water at its two extremities; but there are some remains on the shore of the lake, which seem to indicate that the town was once inclosed on this side also. I observed, likewise, some broken columns of granite in the water close to the shore. The town wall is flanked by twenty round towers standing at unequal distances. Both towers and walls are built with black stones of moderate size, and seem to be the work of not very remote times; the whole being in a good state of repair, the place may be considered as almost impregnable to Syrian soldiers.
[Map not included] a, The town gate; b, the Serai or palace of the Mutsellim, a spacious building, which has lately been repaired; c, the mosque, a fine building, but in bad condition; d, the Catholic church; e, the gate of the Jews quarter; f, a mosque; g, a range of large vaults; h, a small town-gate now walled up; i, a newly built Bazar. The mosque (f) is a handsome arched building, and was anciently a church. The range of vaults at g, which are close to the sea shore, communicate with each other by cross alleys and have very low roofs, which terminate at top in a point: they are well built with stones joined with a very thick cement, and appear to have been destined for warehouses; in summer they are almost the only cool places in the town. I could not find any inscriptions, that might assist in determining their date.
Tabaria, with its district of ten or twelve villages, forms a part of the Pashalik of Akka. Being considered one of the principal points of defence of the Pashalik, a garrison of two or three hundred men is constantly kept here, the greater part of whom are married, and settled. During the reign of Djezzar a colony of two hundred Afghan soldiers were persuaded by the Pasha to establish themselves at Tabaria; many of them were natives of Kashmir: and among others their Aga, who was sent for expressly by Djezzar. After the Pasha’s death they dispersed over Syria, but I found two Kashmirines still remaining, who gave me the history of their colony in broken Arabic.
The Christian church is dedicated to St. Peter, and is said to have been founded on the spot where St. Peter threw his net. It belongs to the community of Terra Santa and is visited annually on St. Peter’s day by the Frank missionaries of Nazaret, who celebrate mass in it on this occasion. In the street, not far from the church, is a large stone, formerly the architrave of some building; upon which are sculptured in bas-relief two lions seizing two sheep.
There are about four thousand inhabitants in Tabaria, one-fourth of whom are Jews. The Christian community consists only of a few families, but they enjoy great liberty, and are on a footing of equality with the Turks. The difference of treatment which the Christians experience from the Turks in different parts of Syria is very remarkable. In some places a Christian would be deprived of his last farthing, if not of his life, were he to curse the Mohammedan religion when quarrelling with a Turk; while in others but a few hours distant, he retorts with impunity upon the Mohammedan, every invective which he may utter against the Christian religion. At Szaffad, where is a small Christian community, the Turks are extremely intolerant; at Tiberias, on the contrary, I have seen Christians beating Turks in the public Bazar. This difference seems chiefly to depend upon the character of the local government. That of Soleiman Pasha of Akka, the successor of Djezzar, is distinguished for its religious tolerance; while Damascus still continues to be the seat of fanatism, and will remain so as long as there are no Frank establishments or European agents in that city.
A Bazar has lately been built at Tabaria, in which I counted about a dozen retail shops. The traffic of the inhabitants is principally with the Bedouins of the Ghor, and of the district of Szaffad. The shopkeepers repair every Monday to the Khan at the foot of Mount Tabor, where a market, called Souk el Khan (ﻥﺎﺧﻟﺍ ﻕﻭﺯ) is held, and where the merchandize of the town is bartered chiefly for cattle. The far greater part of the inhabitants of Tabaria cultivate the soil; they sow the narrow plain to the west of the town, and the declivity of the western mountain, which they irrigate artificially by means of several springs. The heat of the climate would enable them to grow almost any tropical plant, but the only produce of their fields are wheat, barley, Dhourra, tobacco, melons, grapes, and a few vegetables. The melons are of the finest quality, and are in great demand at Akka and Damascus, where that fruit is nearly a month later in ripening. Knowing how fond the Syrians in general are of the early fruits, I sent to my friends at Damascus a mule load of these melons, which, according to eastern fashion, is a very acceptable and polite present. About three hundred and fifty pounds weight English of melons sell at Tabaria for about eight shillings. I was informed that the shrub which produces the balm of Mecca succeeds very well here, and that several people have it in their gardens.4 It was described to me as a low shrub, with leaves resembling those of the vine, the fruit about three inches long and in the form of a cucumber, changing from green to a yellow colour when ripe; it is gathered in June, oil is then poured over it, and in this state it is exposed to the sun, after which the juic[e] forming the balm is expressed from it.
The Jews of Tiberias occupy a quarter on the shore of the lake in the middle of the town, which has lately been considerably enlarged by the purchase of several streets: it is separated from the rest of the town by a high wall, and has only one gate of entrance, which is regularly shut at sunset, after which no person is allowed to pass. There are one hundred and sixty, or two hundred families, of which forty or fifty are of Polish origin, the rest are Jews from Spain, Barbary, and different parts of Syria. Tiberias is one of the four holy cities of the Talmud; the other three being Szaffad, Jerusalem, and Hebron. It is esteemed holy ground, because Jacob is supposed to have resided here, and because it is situated on the lake Genasereth, from which, according to the most generally received opinion of the Talmud, the Messiah is to rise. The greater part of the Jews who reside in these holy places do not engage in mercantile pursuits; but are a society of religious persons occupied solely with their sacred duties. There are among them only two who are merchants, and men of property, and these are styled Kafers or unbelievers by the others, who do nothing but read and pray. Jewish devotees from all parts of the globe flock to the four holy cities, in order to pass their days in praying for their own salvation, and that of their brethren, who remain occupied in worldly pursuits. But the offering up of prayers by these devotees is rendered still more indispensible by a dogma contained in the Talmud, that the world will return to its primitive chaos, if prayers are not addressed to the God of Israel at least twice a week in these four cities; this belief produces considerable pecuniary advantage to the supplicants, as the missionaries sent abroad to collect alms for the support of these religious fraternities plead the danger of the threatened chaos, to induce the rich Jews to send supplies of money, in order that the prayers may be constantly offered up. Three or four missionaries are sent out every year; one to the coasts of Africa from Damietta to Mogadore, another to the coasts of Europe from Venice to Gibraltar, a third to the Archipelago, Constantinople, and Anatolia; and a fourth through Syria. The charity of the Jews of London is appealed to from time to time; but the Jews of Gibraltar have the reputation of being more liberal than any others, and, from four to five thousand Spanish dollars are received annually from them. The Polish Jews settled at Tabaria send several collectors regularly into Bohemia and Poland, and the rich Jewish merchants in those countries have their pensioners in the Holy Land, to whom they regularly transmit sums of money. Great jealousy seems to prevail between the Syrian and Polish Jews. The former being in possession of the place, oblige the foreigners to pay excessively high for their lodgings; and compel them also to contribute considerable sums towards the relief of the indigent Syrians, while they themselves never give the smallest trifle to the poor from Poland.
The pilgrim Jews, who repair to Tiberias, are of all ages from twelve to sixty. If they bring a little money with them the cunning of their brethren here soon deprives them of it; for as they arrive with the most extravagant ideas, of the holy cities, they are easily imposed upon before their enthusiasm begins to cool. To rent a house in which some learned Rabbin or saint died, to visit the tombs of the most renowned devotees, to have the sacred books opened in their presence, and public prayers read for the salvation of the new-comers, all these inestimable advantages, together with various other minor religious tricks, soon strip the stranger of his last farthing; he then becomes dependent upon the charity of his nation, upon foreign subsidies, or upon the fervour of some inexperienced pilgrim. Those who go abroad as missionaries generally realise some property, as they are allowed ten per cent. upon all alms collected, besides their travelling expenses. The Jewish devotees pass the whole day in the schools or the synagogue, reciting the Old Testament and the Talmud, both of which many of them know entirely by heart. They all write Hebrew; but I did not see any fine hand-writing amongst them; their learning, seems to be on the same level as that of the Turks, among whom an Olema thinks he has attained the pinnacle of knowledge if he can recite all the Koran together with some thousand of Hadeath, or sentences of the Prophet, and traditions concerning him; but neither Jews, nor Turks, nor Christians, in these countries, have the slightest idea of that criticism, which might guide them to a rational explanation or emendation of their sacred books. It was in vain that I put questions to several of the first Rabbins, concerning the desert in which the children of Israel sojourned for forty years; I found that my own scanty knowledge of the geography of Palestine, and of its partition amongst the twelve tribes, was superior to theirs.
There are some beautiful copies of the books of Moses in the Syrian synagogue, written upon a long roll of leather, not parchment, but no one could tell me when or where they were made; I suspect, however, that they came from Bagdad, where the best Hebrew scribes live, and of whose writings I had seen many fine specimens at Aleppo and Damascus. The libraries of the two schools at Tiberias are moderately stocked with Hebrew books, most of which have been printed at Vienna and Venice. Except some copies of the Old Testament and the Talmud, they have no manuscripts.
They observe a singular custom here in praying; while the Rabbin recites the Psalms of David, or the prayers extracted from them, the congregation frequently imitate by their voice or gestures, the meaning of some remarkable passages; for example, when the Rabbin pronounces the words, “Praise the Lord with the sound of the trumpet,” they imitate the sound of the trumpet through their closed fists. When “a horrible tempest” occurs, they puff and blow to represent a storm; or should he mention “the cries of the righteous in distress,” they all set up a loud screaming; and it not unfrequently happens that while some are still blowing the storm, others have already begun the cries of the righteous, thus forming a concert which it is difficult for any but a zealous Hebrew to hear with gravity.
The Jews enjoy here perfect religious freedom, more particularly since Soleiman, whose principal minister, Haym Farkhy, is a Jew, has succeeded to the Pashalik of Akka. During the life of Djezzar Pasha they were often obliged to pay heavy fines; at present they merely pay the Kharadj. Their conduct, however, is not so prudent as it ought to be, in a country where the Turks are always watching for a pretext to extort money; they sell wine and brandy to the soldiers of the town, almost publicly, and at their weddings they make a very dangerous display of their wealth. On these occasions they traverse the city in pompous procession, carrying before the bride the plate of almost the whole community, consisting of large dishes, coffee pots, coffee cups, &c., and they feast in the house of the bridegroom for seven successive days and nights. The wedding feast of a man who has about fifty pounds a year, and no Jew can live with his family on less, will often cost more than sixty pounds. They marry at a very early age, it being not uncommon to see mothers of eleven and fathers of thirteen years. The Rabbin of Tiberias is under the great Rabbin of Szaffad, who pronounces final judgment on all contested points of law and religion.
I found amongst the Polish Jews, one from Bohemia, an honest German, who was overjoyed on hearing me speak his own language, and who carried me through the quarter, introducing me to all his acquaintance. In every house I was offered brandy, and the women appeared to be much less shy than they are in other parts of Syria. It may easily be supposed that many of these Jews are discontented with their lot. Led by the stories of the missionaries to conceive the most exalted ideas of the land of promise, as they still call it, several of them have absconded from their parents, to beg their way to Palestine, but no sooner do they arrive in one or other of the four holy cities, than they find by the aspect of all around them, that they have been deceived. A few find their way back to their native country, but the greater number remain, and look forward to the inestimable advantage of having their bones laid in the holy land. The cemetery of the Jews of Tiberias is on the declivity of the mountain, about half an hour from the town; where the tombs of their most renow[n]ed persons are visited much in the same manner as are the sepulchres of Mussulman saints. I was informed that a great Rabbin lay buried there, with fourteen thousand of his scholars around him.
The ancient town of Tiberias does not seem to have occupied any part of the present limits of Tabaria, but was probably situated at a short distance farther to the south, near the borders of the lake. Its ruins begin at about five minutes walk from the wall of the present town, on the road to the hot-wells. The only remains of antiquity are a few columns, heaps of stones, and some half ruined walls and foundations of houses. On the sea-side, close to the water, are the ruins of a long thick wall or mole, with a few columns of gray granite, lying in the sea. About mid-way between the town and the hot-wells, in the midst of the plain, I saw seven columns, of which two only are standing upright; and there may probably be more lying on the ground, hid among the high grass with which the plain is covered; they are of gray granite, about twelve or fourteen feet long, and fifteen inches in diameter; at a short distance from them is the fragment of a beautiful column of red Egyptian granite, of more than two feet in diameter. These ruins stretch along the sea-shore, as far as the hot springs, and extend to about three hundred yards inland. The springs are at thirty-five minutes from the modern town, and twenty paces from the water’s edge; they were probably very near the gate of the ancient town. No vestiges of buildings of any size are visible here; nothing being seen but the ruins of small arched buildings, and heaps of stone.
There are some other remains of ancient habitations on the north side of the town, upon a hill close to the sea, which is connected with the mountain; here are also some thick walls which indicate that this point, which commands the town, was anciently fortified. None of the ruined buildings in Tiberias or the neighbourhood are constructed with large stones, denoting a remote age; all the walls, of which any fragments yet remain, being of small black stones cemented together by a very thick cement. Upon a low hill on the S.W. side of the town stands a well built mosque, and the chapel of a female saint.
The present hot-bath is built over the spring nearest the town, and consists of two double rooms, the men’s apartment being separated from that of the women. The former is a square vaulted chamber, with a large stone basin in the centre, surrounded by broad stone benches; the spring issues from the wall, and flows into the basin or bath. After remaining in the water for about ten minutes, the bathers seat themselves naked upon the stone benches, where they remain for an hour. With this chamber a coffee room communicates, in which a waiter lives during the bathing season, and where visitors from a distance may lodge. The spring which has thus been appropriated to bathing, is the largest of four hot sources; the volume of its water is very considerable, and would be sufficient to turn a mill. Continuing along the shore for about two hundred paces, the three other hot-springs are met with, or four, if we count separately two small ones close together. The most southern spring seems to be the hottest of all; the hand cannot be held in it. The water deposits upon the stones over which it flows in its way towards the sea, a thick crust, but the colour of the deposit is not the same from all the springs; in some it is white, in the others it is of a red yellowish hue, a circumstance which seems to indicate that the nature of the water is not the same in all the sources. There are no remains whatever of ancient buildings near the hottest spring.
People from all parts of Syria resort to these baths, which are reckoned most efficacious in July; they are recommended principally for rheumatic complaints, and cases of premature debility. Two patients only were present when I visited them. Some public women of Damascus, who were kept by the garrison of Tabaria, had established themselves in the ruined vaults and caverns near the baths.
In the fourteenth century, according to the testimony of the Arabian geographers, the tomb of Lokman the philosopher was shewn at Tiberias. Not having been immediately able to find a guide to accompany me along the valley of the Jordan, I visited a fortress in the mountain near Medjdel,5 of which I had heard much at Tabaria. It is called Kalaat Ibn Maan (ﻥﺎﻌﻣ ﻦﺑﺍ ﺖﻌﻟﻗ), the castle of the son of Maan, or Kalaat Hamam (ﻡﺎﻤﺣ ﺖﻌﻠﻗ), the Pigeon’s castle, on account of the vast quantity of wild pigeons that breed there. It is situated half An hour to the west of Medjdel, on the cliff which borders the Wady Hamam. In the calcareous mountain are many natural caverns, which have been united together by passages cut in the rock, and enlarged, in order to render them more commodious for habitation; walls have also been built across the natural openings, so that no person could enter them except through the narrow communicating passages; and wherever the nature of the almost perpendicular cliff permitted it, small bastions were built, to defend the entrance of the castle, which has been thus rendered almost impregnable. The perpendicular cliff forms its protection above, and the access from below is by a narrow path, so steep as not to allow of a horse mounting it. In the midst of the caverns several deep cisterns have been hewn. The whole might afford refuge to about six hundred men; but the walls are now much damaged. The place was probably the work of some powerful robber, about the time of the Crusades; a few vaults of communication, with pointed arches, denote Gothic architecture. Below in the valley runs a small rivulet, which empties itself into the Wady Lymoun. Here the peasants of Medjdel cultivate some gardens.
In returning from the Kalaat Hamam I was several times reprimanded by my guide, for not taking proper care of the lighted tobacco that fell from my pipe. The whole of the mountain is thickly covered with dry grass, which readily takes fire, and the slightest breath of air instantly spreads the conflagration far over the country, to the great risk of the peasant’s harvest. The Arabs who inhabit the valley of the Jordan invariably put to death any person who is known to have been even the innocent cause of firing the grass, and they have made it a public law among themselves, that even in the height of intestine warfare, no one shall attempt to set his enemy’s harvest on fire. One evening, while at Tabaria, I saw a large fire on the opposite side of the lake, which spread with great velocity for two days, till its progress was checked by the Wady Feik.
The water of the lake of Tiberias along its shores from Medjdel to the hot-wells, is of considerable depth, with no shallows. I was told that the water rises during the rainy season, three or four feet above its ordinary level, which seems not at all improbable, considering the great number of winter torrents which empty themselves into the lake. The northern part is full of fish, but I did not see a single one at Szammagh at the southern extremity.6 The most common species are the Binni, or carp, and the Mesht (ﻄﺸﻣ), which is about a foot long, and five inches broad, with a flat body, like the sole. The fishery of the lake is rented at seven hundred piastres per annum: but the only boat that was employed on it by the fishermen fell to pieces last year, and such is the indolence of these people, that they have not yet supplied its loss. The lake furnishes the inhabitants of Tiberias with water, there being no spring of sweet water near the town. Several houses have salt wells.
June 26th. — I took a guide to Mount Tabor. The whole of this country, even to the gates of Damascus, is in a state of insecurity, which renders it very imprudent to travel alone. Merchants go only in large caravans. We ascended the mountain to the west of the town, and in thirty-five minutes passed the ruined vil[lage] of Szermedein (ﻦﻳﺪﻣﺮﺻ), on the declivity of the mountain, where is a fine spring, and the tomb of a celebrated saint. The people of Tabaria here cultivate Dhourra, melons, and tobacco. At the end of one hour we reached the top of the steep mountain, from whence Mount Tabor, or Djebel Tor (ﺭﻮﻃ ﻞﺒﺟ), as the natives call it, bears S.W. by S. From hence the road continues on a gentle declivity, in the midst of well cultivated Dhourra fields, as far as a low tract called Ardh el Hamma (ﻲﻤﻬﻟﺍ ﺽﺭﺍ). The whole district is covered with the thorny shrub Merar (ﺭﺍﺮﻣ). On the west side of Ardh el Hamma we again ascended, and reached the village of Kefer Sebt (ﻄﺒﺳ ﺭﻓﻛ), distant two hours and a half from Tabaria, and situated on the top of a range of hills which run parallel to those of Tabaria. About half an hour to the N.E. is the spring Ain Dhamy (ﻲﻣﺎﺿ ﻦﻴﻋ), in a deep valley. From hence a wide plain extends to the foot of Djebel Tor; in crossing it, we saw on our right, about three quarters of an hour from the road, the village Louby (ﻲﺑﻮﻠ), and a little farther on, the village Shedjare (ﻩﺮﺠﺷ). The plain was covered with the wild artichoke, called Khob (ﺐﺧ); it bears a thorny violet coloured flower, in the shape of an artichoke, upon a stem five feet in height. In three hours and a quarter, we arrived at the Khan of Djebel Tor (ﻥﺎﺨﻟﺍ), a large ruinous building, inhabited by a few families. On the opposite side of the road is a half ruined fort. A large fair is held here every Monday. Though the Khan is at no great distance from the foot of Mount Tabor, the people could not inform us whether or not the Mount was inhabited at present; nor were they hospitable enough either to lend or sell us the little provision we might want, should there be no inhabitants. At a quarter of an hour from the Khan is a fine spring, where we found an encampment of Bedouins of the tribe of Szefeyh (ﺢﻴﻔﺻ), whose principal riches consist in cows. My guide went astray in the valleys which surround the lower parts of Djebel Tor, and we were nearly three hours, from our departure from the Khan, in reaching the top of the Mount.
Mount Tabor is almost insulated, and overtops all the neighbouring summits. On its south and west sides extends a large plain, known by the name of Merdj Ibn Aamer (ﺭﻤﺎﻋ ﻥﺑﺍ ﺝﺮﻣ), the Plain of Esdrelon of the Scriptures. To the S. of the plain are the mountains of Nablous, and to the N. of it, those of Nazareth, which reach to the foot of Mount Tabor, terminating at the village of Daboury. The plain of Esdrelon is about eight hours in length and four in breadth, it is very fertile, but at present almost entirely deserted. The shape of Mount Tabor is that of a truncated cone; its sides are covered to the top with a forest of oak and wild pistachio trees; its top is about half an hour in circuit. The mountain is entirely calcareous. We found on the top a single family of Greek Christians, refugees from Ezra, a village in the Haouran, where I had known them during my stay there in November, 1810. They had retired to this remote spot, to avoid paying taxes to the government, and expected to remain unnoticed; they rented the upper plain at the rate of fifty piastres per annum from the Sheikh of Daboury, to which village the mountain belongs; the harvest, which they were now gathering in, was worth about twelve hundred piastres, and they had had the good fortune not to be disturbed by any tax-gatherers, which will certainly not be the case next year, should they remain here.
On the top of Mount Tabor are found the remains of a large fortress. A thick wall, constructed with large stones, may be traced quite round the summit, close to the edge of the precipice; on several parts of it are the remains of bastions. On the west side a high arched gate, called Bab el Haoua (ﺍﻮﻬﻟﺍ ﺏﺎﺒ), or the gate of the winds, is shewn, which appears to have been the principal entrance. The area is overspread with the ruins of private dwellings, built of stone with great solidity. There are no springs, but a great number of reservoirs have been cut in the rock, two of which are still of service in supplying water. The Christians consider Mount Tabor a holy place, in honour of the Transfiguration, but the exact spot at which it took place is not known; and the Latins and Greeks are at variance upon the subject. The Latins celebrate the sacred event in a small cavern, where they have formed a chapel; at about five minutes walk from which, the Greeks have built a low circular wall, with an altar before it, for the same purpose. The Latin missionaries of the Frank convent of Nazareth send annually two fathers to celebrate a mass in their chapel; they generally choose St. Peter’s day for making this visit, and arrive here in the morning, in order that they may read the evening mass in the church of St. Peter at Tabaria. The Greek priests of Nazareth visit their chapel of Mount Tabor on the festival of the Virgin, on which occasion several thousand pilgrims repair to the mountain, where they pass the night under tents with their families, in mirth and feasting.
During the greater part of the summer Mount Tabor is covered in the morning with thick clouds, which disperse towards mid-day. A strong wind blows the whole of the day, and in the night dews fall, more copious than any I had seen in Syria. In the wooded parts of the mountain are wild boars and ounces. I lodged with my old acquaintance the Arab of Ezra, who had taken up his quarters in one of the ruined habitations.
June 27th. — After mid-day we returned to Tabaria by the same road. On entering the church-yard of St. Peter’s, my old lodgings, I was not a little surprised to find it full of strangers. Mr. Bruce, an English traveller, had arrived from Nazareth, in company with several priests of the Frank convent, who intended to celebrate mass at night, this being St. Peter’s day. I was easily prevailed on by Mr. Bruce to accompany him on his return to Nazareth the following morning, the more so, as I there hoped to find a guide for the valley of the Jordan; for no person at Tabaria seemed to be inclined to undertake the journey, except in the company of an armed caravan.
June 28th. — We left Tabaria two hours before sun-rise. There are two direct roads to Nazareth; one by Kefer Sebt and El Khan, the other by Louby. We took a third, that we might visit some spots recorded in the New Testament. In one hour from Tabaria we passed a spring called Ain el Rahham (ﻢﺣﺮﻟﺍ ﻦﻴﻋ). At two hours and a half, the road leads over a high uncultivated plain, to Hedjar el Noszara (ﺍﺭﺎﺻﻨﻟﺍ ﺭﺎﺠﺣ), the Stones of the Christians, four or five blocks of black stone, upon which Christ is said to have reclined while addressing the people who flocked around him. The priests of Nazareth stopped to read some prayers over the stones. Below this place, towards the N.E. extends a small plain, called Sahel Hottein (ﻦﻴﺘﺣ ﻞﻫﺎﺳ). The country is intersected by Wadys. About one hour distant from the stones, upon the same level, stands a hill of an oblong shape, with two projecting summits on one of its extremities; the natives call it Keroun Hottein (ﻦﻴﺘﺣ ﻥﻭﺮﻗ), the Horns of Hottein. The Christians have given it the appellation of Mons Beatitudinis, and pretend that the five thousand were there fed. We travelled over an uneven, uncultivated ground, until we arrived at Kefer Kenna (ﻪﻨﻛ ﺮﻔﻛ), four hours and a quarter from Tabaria, a neat village with a copious spring surrounded by plantations of olive and other fruit trees, and chiefly inhabited by Catholic Christians. This is the Cana celebrated in the New Testament for the miracle at the marriage feast; and the house is shewn in which Our Saviour performed it. We rested under an immense fig-tree, which afforded shelter from the sun to a dozen men and as many horses and mules. From hence the road ascends, and continues across chalky hills, overgrown with low shrubs, as far as Naszera (ﻩﺭﺼﺎﻧ) or Nazareth, eight hours from Tabaria, by the road we travelled. I alighted at the convent belonging to the missionaries of Terra Santa. Here Mr. Bruce introduced me to Lady Hester Stanhope, who had arrived a few days before from Jerusalem and Akka, and was preparing to visit the northern parts of Syria, and among other places Palmyra. The manly spirit and enlightened curiosity of this lady ought to make many modern travellers ashamed of the indolent indifference with which they hurry over foreign countries. She sees a great deal, and carefully examines what she sees; but it is to be hoped that the polite and distinguished manner in which she is every where received by the governors of the country, will not impress her with too favourable an opinion of the Turks in general, and of their disposition towards the nations of Europe.
Naszera is one of the principal towns of the Pashalik of Akka; its inhabitants are industrious, because they are treated with less severity than those of the country towns in general; two-thirds of them are Turks, and one-third Christians; there are about ninety Latin families; together with a congregation of Greek Catholics and another of Maronites. The house of Joseph is shewn to pilgrims and travellers; but the principal curiosity of Nazareth is the convent of the Latin friars, a very spacious and commodious building, which was thoroughly repaired, and considerably enlarged in 1730. Within it is the church of the Annunciation, in which the spot is shewn where the angel stood, when he announced to the Virgin Mary the tidings of the Messiah; behind the altar is a subterraneous cavern divided into small grottos, where the Virgin is said to have lived: her kitchen, parlour, and bedroom, are shewn, and a narrow hole in the rock, in which the child Jesus once hid himself from his persecutors; for the Syrian Christians have a plentiful stock of such traditions, unfounded upon any authority of Scripture. The pilgrims who visit these holy spots are in the habit of knocking off small pieces of stone from the walls of the grottos, which are thus continually enlarging. In the church a miracle is still exhibited to the faithful; a fine granite column, the base and upper part of which remain, has lost the middle part of its shaft. According to the tradition, it was destroyed by the Saracens, ever since which time, the upper part has been miraculously suspended from the roof, as if attracted by a load-stone. All the Christians of Nazareth, with the friars of course at their head, affect to believe in this miracle, although it is perfectly evident that the upper part of the column is connected with the roof. The church is the finest in Syria, next to that of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem, and contains two tolerably good organs. Within the walls of the convent are two gardens, and a small burying ground; the walls are very thick, and serve occasionally as a fortress to all the Christians of the town. There are at present eleven friars in the convent.
The yearly expenses of the establishment amount to upwards of £900. sterling, a small part of which is defrayed by the rent of a few houses in the town, and by the produce of some acres of corn land; the rest is remitted from Jerusalem. The whole annual expenses of the Terra Santa convents are about £15,000. They have felt very sensibly the occupation of Spain by the French, and little has been received from Europe for the last four years; while the Turkish authorities exact the same yearly tribute and extraordinary contributions, as formerly;7 so that if Spain be not speedily liberated, it is to be feared that the whole establishment of the Terra Santa must be abandoned. This would be a great calamity, for it cannot be doubted that they have done honour to the European name in the Levant, and have been very beneficial to the cause of Christianity under the actual circumstances of the East.
The friars are chiefly Spanjards; they are exasperated against France, for pretending to protect them, without affording them the smallest relief from the Pasha’s oppressions:8 but they are obliged to accept this protection, as the Spanish ambassador at Constantinople is not yet acknowledged by the Porte. They are well worth the attention of any ambassador at the Porte, whose government is desirous of maintaining an influence in Syria, for they command the consciences of upwards of eighty thousand souls.
When the French invaded Syria, Nazareth was occupied by six or eight hundred men, whose advanced posts were at Tabaria and Szaffad. Two hours from hence, General Kleber sustained with a corps not exceeding fifteen hundred men, the attack of the whole Syrian army, amounting to at least twenty-five thousand. He was posted in the plain of Esdrelon, near the village of Foule, where he formed his battalion into a square, which continued fighting from sun-rise to mid-day, until they had expended almost all their ammunition. Bonaparte, informed of Kleber’s perilous situation, advanced to his support with six hundred men. No sooner had he come in sight of the enemy and fired a shot over the plain, than the Turks, supposing that a large force was advancing, took precipitately to flight, during which several thousands were killed, and many drowned in the river Daboury, which then inundated a part of the plain. Bonaparte dined at Nazareth, the most northern point that he reached in Syria, and returned the same day to Akka.
After the retreat of the French from Akka, Djezzar Pasha resolved on causing all the Christians in his Pashalik to be massacred, and had already sent orders to that effect to Jerusalem and Nazareth; but Sir Sidney Smith being apprized of his intentions reproached him for his cruelty in the severest terms, and threatened that if a single Christian head should fall, he would bombard Akka and set it on fire. Djezzar was thus obliged to send counter orders, but Sir Sidney’s interference is still remembered with heartfelt gratitude by all the Christians, who look upon him as their deliverer. “His word,” I have often heard both Turks and Christians exclaim, “was like God’s word, it never failed.” The same cannot be said of his antagonist at Akka, who maliciously impressed the Christians, certainly much inclined in his favour, with the idea of his speedy return from Egypt. On retreating from Akka he sent word to his partizans at Szaffad and Nazareth, exhorting them to bear up resolutely against the Turks but for three months, when, he assured them upon his honour, and with many oaths, that he would return with a much stronger force, and deliver them from their oppressors.
The inhabitants of Nazareth differ somewhat in features and colour from the northern Syrians; their physiognomy approaches that of the Egyptians, while their dialect and pronunciation differ widely from those of Damascus. In western Palestine, especially on the coast, the inhabitants, seem in general, to bear more resemblance to the natives of Egypt, than to those of northern Syria. Towards the east of Palestine, on the contrary, especially in the villages about Nablous, Jerusalem, and Hebron, they are evidently of the true Syrian stock, in features, though not in language. It would be an interesting subject for an artist to pourtray accurately the different character of features of the Syrian nations; the Aleppine, the Turkman, the native of Mount Libanus, the Damascene, the inhabitant of the sea-coast from Beirout to Akka, and the Bedouin, although all inhabiting the same country, have distinct national physiognomies, and a slight acquaintance with them enables one to determine the native district of a Syrian, with almost as much certainty as an Englishman may be distinguished at first sight from an Italian or an inhabitant of the south of France.
The Christians of Nazareth enjoy great liberty. The fathers go a shooting alone in their monastic habits to several hours distance from the convent, without ever being insulted by the Turks. I was told that about thirty years ago the padre guardiano of the convent was also Sheikh or chief justice of the town, an office for which he paid a certain yearly sum to the Pasha of Akka; the police of the place was consequently in his hands, and when any disturbance happened, the reverend father used to take his stick, repair to the spot, and lay about him freely, no matter whether upon Turks or Christians. The guardian has still much influence in the town, because he is supposed, as usual, to be on good terms with the Pasha, but at present the chief man at Nazareth is M. Catafago, a merchant of Frank origin, born at Aleppo. He has rented from the Pasha about twelve villages situated in the neighbourhood of Nazareth and the plain of Esdrelon, for which he pays yearly upwards of £3000.9 His profits are very considerable, and as he meddles much in the politics and intrigues of the country, he has become a person of great consequence. His influence and recommendations may prove very useful to travellers in Palestine, especially to those who visit the dangerous districts of Nablous.
It happened luckily during my stay at Nazareth, that two petty merchants arrived there from Szalt, to take up some merchandize which they sell at Szalt on account of their principals at this place. Szalt was precisely the point I wished to reach, not having been able to visit it during my late tour in the mountains of Moerad; on their return therefore I gladly joined their little caravan, and we left Nazareth at midnight, on the 1st of July.
July 2d. — Our road lay over a mountainous country. In two hours from Nazareth we passed a small rivulet. Two hours and a half, the village Denouny (ﻲﻨﻮﻧﺩ), and near it the ruins of Endor, where the witch’s grotto is shewn. From hence the direction. of our route was S.S.E. Leaving Mount Tabor to the left we passed along the plain of Esdrelon: meeting with several springs in our road; but the country is a complete desert, although the soil is fertile. At five hours and a half is the village of Om el Taybe (ﻪﺒﻴﻂﻟﺍ ﻡﺍ), belonging to the district of Djebel Nablous, or as it is also called Belad Harthe (ﻪﺛﺭﺎﺣ ﺩﻼﺑ). The inhabitants of Nablous are governed by their own chiefs, who are invested by the Pasha. It is said that the villages belonging to the district can raise an army of five thousand men. They are a restless people, continually in dispute with each other, and frequently in insurrection against the Pasha. Djezzar never succeeded in completely subduing them, and Junot, with a corps of fifteen hundred French soldiers, was defeated by them. The principal chief of Nablous at present is of the family of Shadely (ﻲﻟﺩﺎﺷ). In six hours and three quarters we passed the village of Meraszrasz (ﺹﺮﺻﺮﻣ), upon the summit of a chain of hills on the side of Wady Oeshe (ﻪﺸﻋ), which falls into the Jordan. At about half an hour to the north of this Wady runs another, called Wady Byre (ﻩﺮﻴﺑ ﻱﺩﺍﻭ), likewise falling into that river. Between these two valleys are situated the villages of Denna (ﻪﻨﺩ) and Kokab (ﺐﻛﻮﻛ). Beyond Meraszrasz we began to descend, and reached the bottom of the valley El Ghor in seven hours and three quarters from our departure from Nazareth. We now turned more southward, and followed the valley as far as Bysan, distant eight hours and a quarter from Nazareth.
The two merchants and myself had left the caravan at Meraszrasz, and proceeded to Bysan, there to repose till the camels came up: but the drivers missed the road, and we continued almost the whole day in search of them. Bysan (Bethsan, Scythopolis) is situated upon rising ground, on the west side of the Ghor, where the chain of mountains bordering the valley declines considerably in height, and presents merely elevated ground, quite open towards the west. At one hour distant, to the south, the mountains begin again. The ancient town was watered by a river, now called Moiet Bysan (ﻥﺎﺴﻴﺑ ﺀﺎﻣ), or the water of Bysan, which flows in different branches towards the plain. The ruins of Scythopolis are of considerable extent, and the town, built along the banks of the rivulet and in the valleys formed by its several branches, must have been nearly three miles in circuit. The only remains are large heaps of black hewn stones, many foundations of houses, and the fragments of a few columns. I saw only a single shaft of a column standing. In one of the valleys is a large mound of earth, which appeared to me to be artificial; it was the site perhaps of a castle for the defence of the town. On the left bank of the stream is a large Khan, where the caravans repose which take the shortest road from Jerusalem to Damascus.
The present village of Bysan contains seventy or eighty houses; its inhabitants are in a miserable condition, from being exposed to the depredations of the Bedouins of the Ghor, to whom they also pay a heavy tribute. After waiting here some time for the arrival of the caravan, we rode across the valley, till we reached the banks of the Jordan, about two hours distant from Bysan, which bore N.N.W. from us. We here crossed the river at a ford, where our companions arrived soon afterwards.
The valley of the Jordan, or El Ghor (ﺭﻮﻐﻟﺍ), which may be said to begin at the northern extremity of the lake of Tiberias, has near Bysan a direction of N. by E. and S. by W. Its breadth is about two hours. The great number of rivulets which descend from the mountains on both sides, and form numerous pools of stagnant water, produce in many places a pleasing verdure, and a luxuriant growth of wild herbage and grass; but the greater part of the ground is a parched desert, of which a few spots only are cultivated by the Bedouins. In the neighbourhood of Bysan the soil is entirely of marle; there are very few trees; but wherever there is water high reeds are found. The river Jordan, on issuing from the lake of Tiberias, flows for about three hours near the western hills, and then turns towards the eastern, on which side it continues its course for several hours. The river flows in a valley of about a quarter of an hour in breadth, which is considerably lower than the rest of the plain of Ghor; this lower valley is covered with high trees and a luxuriant verdure, which affords a striking contrast with the sandy slopes that border it on both sides. The trees most frequently met with on the banks of the Jordan are of the species called by the Arabs Gharab (ﺏﺮﻏ) and Kottab (ﺏﺎﺘﻛ)10.
The river, where we passed it, was about eighty paces broad, and about three feet deep; this, it must be recollected, was in the midst of summer. In the winter it inundates the plain in the bottom of the narrow valley, but never rises to the level of the upper plain of the Ghor, which is at least forty feet above the level of the river. The river is fordable in many places during summer, but the few spots where it may be crossed in the rainy season are known only to the Arabs.
After passing the river we continued our route close to the foot of the eastern mountain. In half an hour from the ford we crossed Wady Mous (ﺱﻮﻣ ﻱﺩﺍﻭ), coming from the mountains of Adjeloun. In one hour and a quarter we passed Wady Yabes, and near it, the Mezar, or saint’s tomb called Sherhabeib (ﺐﻴﺒﺣ ﺮﺷ). In two hours we came to a stony and hilly district, intersected by several deep but dry Wadys, called Korn el Hemar (ﺭﺎﻤﺤﻟﺍ ﻥﺮﻗ), the Ass’s Horn. Our direction was alternately S. and S. by W. Here the Jordan returns to the western side of the valley. The Korn el Hemar projects into the Ghor about four miles, so that when seen from the north the valley seems to be completely shut up by these hills. From thence a fertile tract commences, overgrown with many Bouttom (ﻢﻃﺑ) or wild pistachio trees. Large tracts of ground were burnt, owing probably to the negligence of travellers who had set the dry grass on fire. At the end of six hours, and late at night, we passed to the right, the ruins of an ancient city standing on the declivity of the mountain and still bearing its original name Amata (ﻪﺘﻣﺍ). My companions told me that several columns remain standing, and also some large buildings. A small rivulet here descends into the plain. In six hours and a half we reached the Mezar Abou Obeida (ﺍﺪﻴﺒﻋ ﻮﺑﺍ), where we rested for two hours. The tomb of the Sheikh is surrounded by a few peasant’s houses; but there are no inhabitants at present, except the keeper of the tomb and his wife, who live upon the charity of the Bedouins. It appears from the account given by the great Barbary traveller, Ibn Batouta, that in the sixteenth century this part of the Ghor was well cultivated, and full of villages.
The valley of the Jordan affords pasturage to numerous tribes of Bedouins. Some of them remain here the whole year, considering it as their patrimony; others visit it only in winter; of the latter description are the Bedouins who belong to the districts of Naszera and Nablous, as well as those of the eastern mountains. We met with several encampments of stationary Bedouins, who cultivate a few fields of wheat, barley, and Dhourra. They are at peace with the people of Szalt, to many of whom the greater part of them are personally known; we therefore passed unmolested; but a stranger who should venture to travel here unaccompanied by a guide of the country would most certainly be stripped.11
July 3d. — We departed from Abou Obeida long before sun-rise, proceeding from thence in a more western direction. In a quarter of an hour we passed the northern branch of the river El Zerka, near a mill, which was at work. In one hour we passed the principal stream, a small river, which empties itself into the Jordan about one hour and a half to the S.W. of the spot where it issues from the mountain. Its banks are overgrown with Defle (Solanum furiosum). On the other side of the Zerka we ascended the mountain by a steep acclivity, but the road, from being much frequented, is tolerably good. The mountain consists of calcareous rock, with layers of various coloured sand-stone, and large blocks of the black Haouran stone, or basalt, which forms a principal feature in the mineralogy of Eastern Syria. In two hours and three quarters we arrived at the top of the mountain, from whence Abou Obeida bore N.N.W. Here we had a fine view over the valley below.
On the west side of the Jordan, between the river and the mountains of Nablous, I remarked a chain of low calcareous rocky heights which begin at about three hours north of Abou Obeida, and continue for several hours distance to the S. of that place on the opposite side of the river. The highest point of Djebel Nablous bore N.W.; the direction of Nablous itself was pointed out to me as W.N.W. On the summit where we stood are some large heaps of hewn stones, and several ruined walls, with the fragments of three large columns. The Arabs call the spot El Meysera (ﺍﺮﻴﻤﻟﺍ). The Zerka, or Jabock of the Scriptures, divides the district of Moerad from the country called El Belka (ﺎﻘﻠﺒﻟﺍ). The highest summit of the mountains of Moerad seems to be considerably higher than any part of the mountains of Belka. From Meysera the road continues over an uneven tract, along the summit of the lower ridge of mountains which form the northern limits of the Belka. We had now entered a climate quite different from that of the Ghor. During the whole of yesterday we had been much oppressed by heat, which was never lessened by the slightest breeze; in the Belka mountains, on the contrary, we were refreshed by cool winds, and every where found a grateful shade of fine oak and wild pistachio trees, with a scenery more like that of Europe than any I had yet seen in Syria. In three quarters of an hour from Meysera we passed a spring. I was told that in the valley of the Zerka, at about one hour above its issue from the mountains into the plain, are several hills, called Telloul el Dahab (ﺐﻫﺬﻟﺍ ﻞﻮﻠﺘ) (the Hills of Gold), so called, as the Arabs affirm, from their containing a gold mine. In one hour and a quarter we passed the ruined place called El Herath (ﺙﺎﺮﻬﻟﺍ). The Arabs cultivate here several fields of Dhourra and cucumbers. My companions seeing no keepers in the neighbouring wood carried off more than a quintal of cucumbers. About one hour to the S.E. of Herath are the ruined places called Allan (ﻥﻼﻋ), and Syhhan (ﻥﺎﺤﻴﺳ). At the end of two hours we reached the foot of the mountain called Djebel Djelaad and Djebel Djelaoud (ﺩﻮﻌﻠﺟﻭ ﺩﺎﻌﻠﺟ), the Gilead of the Scriptures, which runs from east to west, and is about two hours and a half in length. Upon it are the ruined towns of Djelaad and Djelaoud. We ascended the western extremity of the mountain, and then reached the lofty mountain called Djebel Osha, whose summit overtops the whole of the Belka. In three hours and a quarter from Meysera we passed near the top of Mount Osha (ﻊﺷﻭﺍ ﻞﺒﺟ), our general direction being still S.S.E. The forest here grows thicker; it consists of oak, Bouttom, and Balout (ﻂﻮﻟﺎﺑ) trees. The Keykab is also very common. In three hours and three quarters we descended the southern side of the mountain, near the tomb of Osha, and reached Szalt (ﻄﻠﺼﻟﺍ), four hours and a half distant from Meysera. Near the tomb of Osha was an encampment of about sixty tents of the tribe of Abad (ﺩﺎﺒﻋ); they had lately been robbed of almost all their cattle by the Beni Szakher, and were reduced to such misery that they could not afford to give us a little sour milk which we begged of them. They were still at war with the Beni Szakher, and were in hopes of recovering a part of their property; but as they were too weak to act openly, they had encamped, for protection, in the neighbourhood of their friends the inhabitants of Szalt. They intended to make from hence some plundering excursions against their enemies, for they had now hardly any thing more to lose in continuing at war with them. I alighted at Szalt at the house of one of my companions, where I was hospitably entertained during the whole of my stay at this place.
The town of Szalt is situated on the declivity of a hill, crowned by a castle, and is surrounded on all sides by steep mountains. It is the only inhabited place in the province of Belka, and its inhabitants are quite independent. The Pashas of Damascus have several times endeavoured in vain to subdue them. Abdulla Pasha, the late governor, besieged the town for three months, without success. The population consists of about four hundred Musulman and eighty Christian families of the Greek church, who live in perfect amity and equality together: the Musulmans are composed of three tribes, the Beni Kerad (ﺩﺍﺮﻛ ﻲﻨﺑ), the Owamele (ﻪﻠﻣﺍﻮﻋ), and the Kteyshat (ﺕﺎﺸﻴﺘﻗ), each of which has its separate quarter in the town; the principal Sheikhs, at present two in number, live in the castle; but they have no other authority over the rest than such as a Bedouin Sheikh exercises over his tribe. The castle was almost wholly rebuilt by the famous Dhaher el Omar,12 who resided here several years. He obtained possession by the assistance of the weakest of the two parties into which the place was divided, but he was finally driven out by the united efforts of both parties.
The castle is well built, has a few old guns, and is surrounded by a wide ditch. In the midst of the town is a fine spring, to which there is a secret subterraneous passage from the castle, still made use of in times of siege. In a narrow valley about ten minutes walk from the town, is another spring called Ain Djedour (ﺭﻮﺪﻴﺟ ﻦﻴﻋ), the waters of both serve to irrigate the gardens and orchards which lie along the valley. Opposite to Ain Djedour is a spacious sepulchral cave cut in the rock, which the people affirm to have been a church. In the town, an old mosque is the only object that presents itself to the antiquary. The Christians have a small church, dedicated to the Virgin, where divine service is performed by two priests, who each receive annually from their community about £4. They are not very rigid observers either of their prayers or fasts; and although it was now the time of Lent with the Greeks, I daily saw the most respectable Christians eating flesh and butter.
The greater part of the population of Szalt is agricultural, a few are weavers, and there are about twenty shops, which sell on commission for the merchants of Nazareth, Damascus, Nablous, and Jerusalem, and furnish the Bedouins with articles of dress and furniture. The prices are at least fifty per cent. higher than at Damascus. The culture consists of wheat and barley, the superfluous produce of which is sold to the Bedouins; vast quantities of grapes are also grown, which are dried and sold at Jerusalem. The arable fields are at least eight miles distant from Szalt, in the low grounds of the neighbouring mountains, where they take advantage of the winter torrents. In the time of harvest the Szaltese transport their families thither, where they live for several months under tents, like true Bedouins. The principal encampment is at a place called Feheis, about one hour and a half to the S.E. of Szalt.
In addition to the means of subsistence just mentioned the inhabitants of Szalt have several others: in July and August they collect, in the mountains of the Belka the leaves of the Sumach, which they dry and carry to the market at Jerusalem, for the use of the tanneries; upwards of five hundred camel loads are yearly exported, at the rate of fifteen to eighteen piastres the cwt. The merchants also buy up ostrich feathers from the Bedouins, which they sell to great advantage at Damascus.
The food and clothing of the Szaltese are inferior in quality to those of the peasants of northern Syria. Their dress, especially the women’s approaches to that of the Bedouins: their language is the true Bedouin dialect. The only public expense incurred by them is that of entertaining travellers: for this purpose there are four public taverns (Menzel, or Medhafe), three belonging to the Turks and one to the Christians; and whoever enters there is maintained as long as he chooses, provided his stay be not prolonged to an unreasonable period, without reasons being assigned for such delay. Breakfast, dinner, and supper, with a proportionate number of cups of coffee, are served up to the stranger, whoever he may be. For guests of respectability a goat or lamb is slaughtered, and some of the inhabitants then partake of the supper. The expenses incurred by these Menzels are shared among the heads of families, according to their respective wealth, and every tavern has a kind of landlord, who keeps the accounts, and provides the kitchen out of the common stock. I was told that every respectable family paid about fifty piastres per annum into the hands of the master of the Menzels, which makes altogether a sum of about £1000. spent in the entertainment of strangers. Were the place dependent on any Turkish government, more than triple that sum would be extorted from its inhabitants for the support of passengers. Besides the Menzels every family is always ready to receive any acquaintances who may prefer their house to the public inn. It will readily be conceived, that upon these terms the people of Szalt are friends of the neighbouring Bedouins; who moreover fear them because they have a secure retreat, and can muster about four hundred fire-locks, and from forty to fifty horses. The powerful tribe of Beni Szakher alone is fearless of the people of Szalt; on the contrary, they exact a small yearly tribute from the town, which is willingly paid, in order to secure the harvest against the depredations of these formidable neighbours; disputes nevertheless arise, and Szalt is often at war with the Beni Szakher.
While I remained at Szalt I was told of a traveller of whom I had also heard in the Haouran; he was a Christian of Abyssinia, whose desire it was to end his days at Jerusalem; he first sailed from Massoua to Djidda, where he was seized by the Wahabi, and carried to their chief Ibn Saoud at Deraye, where he remained two years. From Deraye he crossed the desert with the encampments of wandering Bedouins, in the direction of Damascus, and last year he reached Boszra in the Haouran, from whence he was sent by the Christians to Szalt, where he remained a few days, and then proceeded for Jerusalem. When he arrived at the Jordan, he declared to his companions that he was a priest, a circumstance which he had always kept secret; he continued two days on the banks of the river fasting and praying, and from thence made his way alone to Jerusalem. He never tasted animal food, and although he had experienced no sickness on the road, he died soon after his arrival in the holy city.
It was not my intention to tarry at Szalt; I wished to proceed by the first opportunity to Kerek, a town on the eastern side of the Dead sea; but the communications in these deserted countries are far from being regular, and the want of a proper guide obliged me to delay my departure for ten days; during this delay I had the good fortune to see the ruins of Amman, which I had not been able to visit in the course of my late tour in the Decapolis. But before I describe Amman I shall subjoin some notes on the neighbourhood of Szalt.
A narrow valley leads up from Szalt towards the Mezar Osha, which I have already mentioned. Half way up, the valley is planted with vines, which are grown upon terraces as in Mount Libanus, to prevent their being washed away by the winter torrents. The Mezar Osha is supposed to contain the tomb of Neby Osha, or the prophet Hosea, equally revered by Turks and Christians, and to whom the followers of both religions are in the habit of offering prayers and sacrifices. The latter consist generally of a sheep, to be slain in honour of the saint, or of some perfumes to be burnt over his tomb. I was invited to partake of a sheep presented by a suppliant, to whose prayers the saint had been favourable. There was a large party, and we spent a very pleasant day under a fine oak-tree just by the tomb. The wives and daughters of those who were invited were present, and mixed freely in the conversation. The tomb is covered by a vaulted building, one end of which serves as a mosque; the tomb itself, in the form of a coffin, is thirty-six feet long, three feet broad, and three feet and a half in height, being thus constructed in conformity with the notion of the Turks, who suppose that all our forefathers were giants, and especially the prophets before Mohammed. The tomb of Noah in the valley of Cœlo-Syria is still longer. The coffin of Osha is covered with silk stuffs of different colours, which have been presented to him as votive offerings. Visitors generally throw a couple of paras upon the tomb. These are collected by the guardian, and pay the expenses of illuminating the apartment during the summer months; for in the winter season hardly any body seeks favours at the shrine of the saint. In one corner stands a small plate, upon which some of the most devout visitors place a piece of incense. A wooden partition separates the tomb from the mosque, where the Turks generally say a few prayers before they enter the inner apartment. On the outside of the building is a very large and deep cistern much frequented by the Bedouins. Here is a fine view over the Ghor. Rieha, or Jericho, is visible at a great distance to the southward. About half an hour to the N.W. of Osha, on the lower part of the mountain, is the ruined place called Kafer Houda (ﺍﺩﻮﻫ ﺮﻔﻗ).
As pilgrimage in the east is generally coupled with mercantile speculations, Osha’s tomb is much resorted to for commercial purposes, and like Mekka and Jerusalem, is transformed into a fair at the time of the visit of the pilgrims. The Arabs of the Belka, especially the Beni Szakher, bring here Kelly or soap-ashes, which they burn during the summer in large quantities: these are bought up by a merchant of Nablous, who has for many years monopolized the trade in this article. The soap-ashes obtained from the herb Shiman, of the Belka, are esteemed the best in the country, to the S. of Damascus, as those of Palmyra are reckoned the best in northern Syria. They are sold by the Arabs for about half a crown the English cwt., but the purchaser is obliged to pay heavy duties upon them. The chief of the Arabs of El Adouan, who is looked upon as the lord of the Belka, although his tribe is at present considerably weakened, exacts for himself five piastres from every camel load, two piastres for his writer, and two piastres for his slave. The town of Szalt takes one piastre for every load, the produce of which duty is divided among the public taverns of the town. The quantity of soap-ashes brought to the Osha market amounts, one year with another, to about three thousand camel loads. The Nablous merchant is obliged to come in person to Szalt in autumn. According to old customs, he alights at a private house, all the expenses of which he pays during his stay; he is bound also to feed all strangers who arrive during the same period at Szalt; in consequence of which the Menzels remain shut; and he makes considerable presents on quitting the place. In order that all the inhabitants may share in the advantages arising from his visits, he alights at a different house every year.
In descending the narrow valley to the south of Szalt, the ruins of a considerable town are met with, consisting of foundations of buildings and heaps of stones. The Arabs call the place Kherbet el Souk (ﻕﻮﺴﻟﺍ ﺔﺑﺮﺧ). Near it is a fine spring called Ain Hazeir (ﺮﻳﺯﺎﺣ ﻦﻴﻋ) (perhaps the ancient Jazer), which turns several mills, and empties itself into the Wady Shoeb (ﺐﻌﺷ ﻱﺩﺍﻭ). The latter joins the Jordan near the ruined city of Nymrein (ﻦﻴﺭﻤﻧ). In a S.W. direction from Szalt, distant about two hours and a half, are the ruined places called Kherbet Ayoub (ﺏﻮﻳﺍ ﺔﺑﺮﺧ), Heremmela (ﻪﻠﻣﺮﻫ), Ayra (ﺍﺮﻴﻋ), one of the towns built by the tribe of Gad, and Yerka (ﻪﻛﺮﻳ). East of Szalt, about one hour, are the ruins called El Deir (ﺭﻴﺪﻟﺍ).
I found it impossible at Szalt to procure a guide to Amman; the country was in a state which rendered it very dangerous to travel through it: the Beni Szakher were at war with the Arabs of Adouan, with the government of Damascus, and with the Rowalla, a branch of the Aeneze; and we heard daily of skirmishes taking place between the contending parties, principally near the river Zerka. Amman being a noted spring, was frequented by both the hostile parties; and although, the people of Szalt were now at peace with the Beni Szakher, having concluded it on the day of my arrival, yet they were upon very indifferent terms with the Adouan and Rowalla. I had once engaged four armed men to accompany me on foot to the place, but when we were just setting out, after sunset, their wives came crying to my lodging, and upbraided their husbands with madness in exposing their lives for a couple of piastres. Being equally unsuccessful in several other attempts, and tired of the exaggerations of my land-lord, who pretended that I should be in danger of being stripped, and even killed, I at length became impatient, and quitting Szalt in the evening of the 6th, I rode over to Feheis, where the greater part of the Szaltese were encamped, for the labours of the harvest, and where it was more likely that I should meet with a guide. On my way I passed the deep Wady Ezrak (ﻕﺭﺯﺍ), where is a rivulet and several mills.
El Feheis is a ruined city, with a spring near it; here are the remains of an arched building, in which the Christians sometimes perform divine service. Below Feheis, upon the top of a lower mountain, is the ruined place called El Khandok (ﻕﺪﻧﺨﻟﺍ), which appears to have been a fort; it is surrounded with a wall of large stones, and the remains of several bastions are visible. From a point near Khandok, the Dead sea, which I saw for the first time, bears S.W. b. W.
At Feheis I was so fortunate as to find a guide who five years ago had served in the same capacity to Mousa, the name assumed by M. Seetzen. As he was well acquainted with all the Bedouins, and on friendly terms with them, he engaged to take me to Amman, in company with another horseman.
July 7th. — We set off before sunrise. On leaving Feheis we crossed a mountainous country, passed through a thick forest of oak trees, and in three quarters of an hour reached the Ardh el Hemar, which is the name of a district extending north and south for about two hours. Here are a number of springs, which have rendered it a favourite place of resort of the Bedouins: the valley was covered with a fine coat of verdant pasture. From hence the road ascended through oak woods and pleasant hills, over flinty ground, till we reached, after a march of two hours and a half, an elevated plain, from whence we had an extensive view towards the east. The plain, which in this part is called El Ahma (ﺎﻣﺤﻻﺍ), is a fertile tract, interspersed with low hills; these are for the greater part crowned with ruins, but they are of irregular forms, unlike the Tels or artificial heights of the Haouran, and of northern Syria. Just by the road, at the end of three hours, are the ruins called El Kholda (ﻩﺪﻠﺨﻟﺍ). To the left are the ruins of Kherbet Karakagheish (ﺶﻳﻐﻗﺮﻗ ﺔﺑﺮﺧ); and to the right, at half an hour’s distance, the ruins of Sar (ﺭﺎﺳ), and Fokhara (ﻩﺭﺎﺨﻓ). At about one hour south of Sar begins the district called Kattar (ﺭﺎﺘﻛ) or Marka (ﻪﻗﺮﻣ). The ruins which we passed here, as well as all those before mentioned in the mountains of Belka, present no objects of any interest. They consist of a few walls of dwelling houses, heaps of stones, the foundations of some public edifices, and a few cisterns now filled up; there is nothing entire, but it appears that the mode of building was very solid, all the remains being formed of large stones. It is evident also, that the whole of the country must have been extremely well cultivated, in order to have afforded subsistence to the inhabitants of so many towns. At the end of three hours and a half we entered a broad valley, which brought us in half an hour to the ruins of Amman, which lies about nineteen English miles to the S.E. by E. of Szalt. The annexed plan [not included] will give an idea of the situation and ruins of Amman, one of the most ancient of the cities recorded in Jewish history.
The town lies along the banks of a river called Moiet Amman, which has its source in a pond (a), at a few hundred paces from the south-western end of the town; I was informed that this river is lost in the earth one hour below the pond, that it issues again, and takes the name of Ain Ghazale (ﻪﻟﺍﺰﻏ ﻦﻴﻋ); then disappears a second time and rises again near a ruined place called Reszeyfa (ﻪﻔﻴﺻﺭ); beyond which it is said to be lost for a third time, till it reappears about an hour to the west of Kalaat Zerka, otherwise called Kaszr Shebeib (ﺐﻴﺒﺷ ﺮﺼﻗ), near the river Zerka, into which it empties itself. Ain Ghazale is about one hour and a half distant from Amman, Kalaat Zerka is four hours distant. The river of Amman runs in a valley bordered on both sides by barren hills of flint, which advance on the south side close to the edge of the stream.
The edifices which still remain to attest the former splendour of Amman are the following: a spacious church (b), built with large stones, and having a steeple of the shape of those which I saw in several ruined towns in the Haouran. There are wide arches in the walls of the church. — A small building (c), with niches, probably a temple. — A temple (d), of which a part of the side walls, and a niche in the back wall are remaining; there are no ornaments either on the walls, or about the niche. —— A curved wall (e) along the water side, with many niches: before it was a row of large columns, of which four remain, but without capitals, I conjecture this to have been a kind of stoa, or public walk; it does not communicate with any other edifice. — A high arched bridge (f) over the river; this appears to have been the only bridge in the town, although the river is not fordable in the winter. The banks of the river, as well as its bed, are paved, but the pavement has been in most places carried away by the violence of the winter torrent. The stream is full of small fish. On the south side of the river is a fine theatre, the largest that I have seen in Syria. It has forty rows of seats; between the tenth and eleventh from the bottom occurs a row of eight boxes or small apartments, capable of holding about twelve spectators each; fourteen rows higher, a similar row of boxes occupies the place of the middle seats, and at the top of all there is a third tier of boxes excavated in the rocky side of the hill, upon the declivity of which the theatre is built. On both wings of the theatre are vaults. In front was a colonnade, of which eight Corinthian columns yet remain, besides four fragments of shafts; they are about fifteen feet high, surmounted by an entablature still entire. This colonnade must have had at least fifty columns; the workmanship is not of the best Roman times. Near this theatre is a building (h), the details of which I was not able to make out exactly; its front is built irregularly, without columns, or ornaments of any kind. On entering I found a semi-circular area, enclosed by a high wall in which narrow steps were formed, running all round from bottom to top. The inside of the front wall, as well as the round wall of the area, is richly ornamented with sculptured ornaments. The roof, which once covered the whole building, has fallen down, and choaks up the interior in such a way as to render it difficult to determine whether the edifice has been a palace, or destined for public amusements. Nearly opposite the theatre, to the northward of the river, are the remains of a temple (k), the posterior wall of which only remains, having an entablature, and several niches highly adorned with sculpture. Before this building stand the shafts of several columns three feet in diameter. Its date appears to be anterior to that of all the other buildings of Amman, and its style of architecture is much superior. At some distance farther down the Wady, stand a few small columns (i), probably the remains of a temple. The plain between the river and the northern hills is covered with ruins of private buildings, extending from the church (c) down to the columns (i); but nothing of them remains, except the foundations and some of the door posts. On the top of the highest of the northern hills stands the castle of Amman, a very extensive building; it was an oblong square, filled with buildings, of which, about as much remains as there does of the private dwellings in the lower town. The castle walls are thick, and denote a remote antiquity: large blocks of stone are piled up without cement, and still hold together as well as if they had been recently placed; the greater part of the wall is entire, it is placed a little below the crest of the hill, and appears not to have risen much above the level of its summit. Within the castle are several deep cisterns. At (m) is a square building, in complete preservation, constructed in the same manner as the castle wall; it is without ornaments, and the only opening into it is a low door, over which was an inscription now defaced. Near this building are the traces of a large temple (n); several of its broken columns are lying on the ground; they are the largest I saw at Amman, some of them being three feet and a half in diameter; their capitals are of the Corinthian order. On the north side of the castle is a ditch cut in the rock, for the better defence of this side of the hill, which is less steep than the others.
The ruins of Amman being, with the exception of a few walls of flint, of calcareous stone of moderate hardness, have not resisted the ravages of time so well as those of Djerash. The buildings exposed to the atmosphere are all in decay, so that there is little hope of finding any inscriptions here, which might illustrate the history of the place. The construction shews that the edifices were of different ages, as in the other cities of the Decapolis, which I have examined.
I am sensible that the above description of Amman, though it notices all the principal remains, is still very imperfect; but a traveller who is not accompanied with an armed force can never hope to give very satisfactory accounts of the antiquities of these deserted countries. My guides had observed some fresh horse-dung near the water’s side, which greatly alarmed them, as it was a proof that some Bedouins were hovering about. They insisted upon my returning immediately, and refusing to wait for me a moment, rode off while I was still occupied in writing a few notes upon the theatre. I hastily mounted the castle hill, ran over its ruins, and galloping after my guides, joined them at half an hour from the town. When I reproached them for their cowardice, they replied that I certainly could not suppose that, for the twelve piastres I had agreed to give them, they should expose themselves to the danger of being stripped and of losing their horses, from a mere foolish caprice of mine to write down the stones. I have often been obliged to yield to similar reasoning. A true Bedouin, however, never abandons his companion in this manner; whoever, therefore, wishes to travel in these parts, and to make accurate observations, will do well to take with him as many horsemen as may secure him against any strolling party of robbers.
About four or five hours S.S.W. from Amman are the ruins called El Kohf (ﻒﻬﻜﻟﺍ), with a large temple, and many columns. About eight hours S.S.E. is the ruined city of Om el Reszasz (ﺹﺎﺻﺮﺍ ﻡﺍ), i.e. the Mother of Lead, which, according to all accounts, is of great extent, and contains large buildings. In my present situation it was impossible for me to visit these two places. I hope that some future traveller will be more fortunate.
We returned from Amman by a more northern route. At one hour and three quarters, we passed the ruined place called Djebeyha (ﻪﺤﻴﺒﺟ); in two hours the ruins of Meraze (ﻩﺯﺍﺮﻣ). The hills which rise over the plain are covered to their tops with thick heath. At two hours and a half are the ruins of Om Djouze (ﻩﺯﻮﺟ ﻡﺍ), with a spring. Sources of water are seldom met with in this upper plain of the Belka, a circumstance that greatly enhances the importance of the situation of Amman. At three hours and a half is Szafout (ﺖﻭﻓﺎﺻ), where are ruins of some extent, with a spring; the gate of a public edifice is still standing. To the north and north-east of this place, at the foot of the mountain on which it stands, extends a broad valley called El Bekka (ﻪﻌﻘﺒﻟﺍ); it is extremely fertile, and is in part cultivated by the people of Szalt, and the Arabs of the Belka. The Beni Szakher had burnt up the whole of the crops before they concluded peace with Szalt. In the Bekka is a ruined place called Ain el Basha (ﺎﺸﺎﻟﺍ ﻥﻳﻋ), with a spring.
From Szafout we returned by Ardh el Hemar to Feheis, which we reached in four hours and a half from Szafout. Near the springs of Hemar we found a cow that had gone astray from some Bedouin encampment; my guides immediately declared her to be a fair prize, and drove her off before them to Feheis, where she was killed, to prevent the owner from claiming her, and the encampment feasted upon the flesh for two days. N.E. from Szafout, distant about two hours, is a ruined city, with several edifices still standing, called Yadjoush (ﺵﻭﺠﺎﻳ). N. of Amman, two hours, is a ruined building called El Nowakys (ﺱﻳﻘﺍﻭﻨﻠﺍ), on the interior wall of which are some busts in relief, according to the report of one who had seen them, but whose veracity was rather doubtful.
On my return to Szalt I was obliged to remain there several days longer, for want of a guide; for the road to Kerek is a complete desert, and much exposed to the inroads of the Arabs. At last I found a man who engaged to serve me, but his demands were so exorbitant, that I was several days in bargaining with him. Mousa, (M. Seetzen), he said, had paid his guide twenty-five piastres for the trip from hence to Kerek, and he would not, therefore, go the same road for less than twenty-three; this was an enormous sum for a journey of two days, in a country where an Arab will toil for a fortnight without obtaining so great a sum. My principal objection to paying so much was, that it would become known at Kerek, which, besides other difficulties it might bring me into, would have obliged me to pay all my future guides in the same proportion. My landlord, however, removed this objection by making the guide take a solemn oath that he would never confess to having received more than six piastres for his trouble. There was no other proper guide to be got, and I began to be tired of Szalt, for I saw that my landlord was very earnest in his endeavours to get me away; I resolved therefore to trust to my good fortune, and to set out with no other company than that of an armed horseman. In the evening I returned to Feheis, from whence we departed early the next morning.
July 13th. — We passed Ardh el Hemar, in the neighbourhood of which are the ruined places El Ryhha (ﺎﺤﻳﺮﻟﺍ), Shakour (ﺭﻮﻌﻘﺷ), Meghanny (ﻲﻨﻐﻣ), and Mekabbely (ﻲﻟﺒﻘﻣ); and at a short distance farther on in the wood, we met two men quite naked. Whenever the Bedouins meet any other Arabs in the desert, of inferior force, and who are unknown to them, they level their lances, and stop their horses within about ten yards of the strangers, to enquire whether they are friends or not. My guide had seen the two men at a great distance among the trees; be called to me to get my gun ready, and we galloped towards them; but they no sooner saw us than they stopped, and cried out, “We are under your protection!” They then told us that they were peasants of a village near Rieha or Jericho; that they had been carried away from their own fields by a party of Beni Szakher, with whom their village happened to be at war, as far as Yadjoush, where the latter had encampments; that after being required to pay the price of blood of one of the tribe slain by the inhabitants of their village, they had been beaten, and stripped naked; but that at last they had found means to escape. Their bruises and sores bore testimony to the truth of their story; instances of such acts of violence frequently occur in the desert. In one hour and three quarters we came to the ruins of Kherbet Tabouk (ﻕﻮﺑﺎﺘ ﺔﺑﺭﺧ), which seems to have been a place of some importance. Many wild fig-trees grow here. The direction of our road was S. b. E. Here the woody country terminates, and we found ourselves again upon the high plain called El Ahma, which has fertile ground, but no trees. At two hours and a quarter is a ruined Birket, or reservoir of rain water, called Om Aamoud (ﺩﻮﻤﻋ ﻡﺍ), from some fragments of columns, which are found here. In two hours and a half we passed, on our right, the Wady Szyr (ﺮﻴﺻ ﻱﺩﺍﻭ), which has its source near the road, und falls below into the Jordan. Above the source, on the declivity of the valley, are the ruins called Szyr. We continued to travel along a well trodden road for the greater part of the day. At three hours were the ruins of Szar, to our left. At three hours and a half, and about half an hour west of the road, are the ruins of Fokhara, on the side of the Wady Eshta (ﻪﺘﺷﺍ ﻱﺩﺍﻭ), which empties itself into the Jordan. Here are a number of wild fig-trees. The whole of the country to the right of the road is intersected with deep Wadys and precipices, and is overgrown in many parts with fine woods. We had at intervals a view of the Ghor below. To the left of the road is the great plain, with many insulated hillocks. In three hours and a half we passed a hill called Dhaheret el Hemar (ﺭﺎﻤﺤﻟﺍ ﺕﺮﻬﻇ), or the Ass’s Back. At three hours and three quarters, to the right, are the ruins of Meraszas (ﺺﺼﺮﻣ), with a heap of stones called Redjem Abd Reshyd (ﺩﻴﺷﺭ ﺪﺒﻋ ﻢﺟﺭ), where, according to Bedouin tradition, a wonderful battle took place between a slave of an Arab called Reshyd, and a whole party of his master’s enemies. Here terminates the district El Ahma. To the left are the ruins called Merdj Ekke (ﻪﻛﺍ ﺝﺮﻣ). The soil in this vicinity is chalky. Last year a battle was fought here between the troops of the Pasha of Damascus, and the Beni Szakher, in which the former were routed. At four hours and a half, and about three quarters of an hour to our right, we saw the ruins of Naour (ﺭﻮﻌﻧ) on the side of a rivulet of that name, which falls into the Jordan opposite Rieha, or Jericho, driving in its course several mills, where the Bedouins of the Belka grind their corn. On both sides of the road are many vestiges of ancient field-enclosures. From Naour our road lay S. At five hours and three quarters are the ruins of El Aal (ﻞﻌﻟﺍ), probably the Eleale of the Scriptures: it stands upon the summit of a hill, and takes its name from its situation, Aal meaning “the high.” It commands the whole plain; and the view from the top of the hill is very extensive, comprehending the whole of the southern Belka. From hence the mountain of Shyhhan (ﻥﺎﺤﻴﺷ), behind which lies Kerek, bears S. by W. El Aal was surrounded by a well built wall, of which some parts yet remain. Among the ruins are a number of large cisterns, fragments of walls, and the foundations of houses; but nothing worth particular notice. The plain around is alternately chalk and flint. At six hours and a quarter is Hesban (ﻥﺎﺒﺴﺣ), upon a hill, bearing S.W. from El Aal. Here are the ruins of a large ancient town, together with the remains of some edifices built with small stones; a few broken shafts of columns are still standing, a number of deep wells cut in the rock, and a large reservoir of water for the summer supply of the inhabitants. At about three quarters of an hour S.E. of Hesban are the ruins of Myoun (ﻥﻮﻌﻴﻣ), the ancient Baal Meon (ﻦﻮﻌﻴﻤﻠﻌﺑ ﻥﺼﺣ), of the tribe of Ruben.
In order to see Medaba, I left the great road at Hesban, and proceeded in a more eastern direction. At six hours and three quarters, about one hour distant from the road, I saw the ruins of Djeloul (ﻝﻮﻠﺟ), at a short distance to the east of which, are the ruined places called El Samek (ﻚﻣﺎﺴﻟﺍ), El Mesouh (ﺡﻮﺴﻤﻟﺍ), and Om el Aamed (ﺪﻣﺎﻌﻟﺍﻡﺍ), situated close together upon low elevations. At about four hours distant, to the east of our road, I observed a chain of hills, which begins near Kalaat Zerka, passes to the east of Amman, near the Kalaat el Belka, (a station of the Syrian Hadj, called by the Bedouins Kalaat Remeydan (ﻥﺍﺩﻳﻣﺭ), and continues as far as Wady Modjeb. The mountains bear the name of El Zoble (ﻪﻠﺑﺯﻟﺍ); the Hadj route to Mekka lies along their western side. At seven hours and a quarter is El Kefeyrat (ﺕﺍﺮﻴﻔﻜﻟﺍ), a ruined town of some extent. In seven hours and a half we came to the remains of a well paved ancient causeway; my guide told me that this had been formerly the route of the Hadj, and that the pavement was made by the Mohammedans; but it appeared to me to be a Roman work. At the end of eight hours we reached Madeba, built upon a round hill; this is the ancient Medaba, but there is no river near it. It is at least half an hour in circumference; I observed many remains of the walls of private houses, constructed with blocks of silex; but not a single edifice is standing. There is a large Birket, which, as there is no spring at Madeba might still be of use to the Bedouins, were the surrounding ground cleared of the rubbish, to allow the water to flow into it; but such an undertaking is far beyond the views of the wandering Arab. On the west side of the town are the foundations of a temple, built with large stones, and apparently of great antiquity. The annexed is its form and dimensions. A part of its eastern wall remains, constructed in the same style as the castle wall at Amman. At the entrance of one of the courts stand two columns of the Doric order, each of two pieces, without bases, and thicker in the centre than at either extremity, a peculiarity of which this is the only instance I have seen in Syria. More modern capitals have been added, one of which is Corinthian and the other Doric, and an equally coarse architrave has been laid upon them. In the centre of one of the courts is a large well.
About half an hour west of Madeba (ﺎﺑﺩﺎﻣ), are the ruins of El Teym (ﻢﻴﺘﻟﺍ), perhaps the Kerjathaim of the Scripture, where, according to my guide, a very large Birket is cut entirely in the rock, and is still filled in the winter with rain water. As there are no springs in this part of the upper plain of the Belka, the inha[bi]tants were obliged to provide by cisterns for their supply of water during the summer months. We returned from Madeba towards the great road, where we fell in with a large party of Bedouins, on foot, who were going to rob by night an encampment of Beni Szakher, at least fourteen hours distant from hence. Each of them had a small bag of flower on his back, some were armed with guns and others with sticks. I was afterwards informed that they drove off above a dozen camels belonging to the Beni Szakher. They pointed out to us the place where their tribe was encamped, and as we were then looking out for some place where we might get a supper, of which we stood in great need, we followed the direction they gave us. In turning a little westwards we entered the mountainous country which forms the eastern border of the valley of the Jordan, and descending in a S.W. direction along the windings of a Wady, we arrived at a large encampment of Bedouins, at the end of ten hours and a half from our setting out in the morning. The upper part of the mountains consists entirely of siliceous rock. We passed on the road several spots where the Bedouins cultivate Dhourra.
We were well received by the Bedouins of the encampment; who are on good terms with the people of Szalt: one of the principal Sheikhs of which place is married to the daughter of the chief of this tribe. They belong to the Ghanemat, whose Sheikh, called Abd el Mohsen (ﺕﺎﻤﻨﻐﻟﺍﺦﻴﺷﻦﺴﺤﻤﻟﺍﺪﺒﻋ), is one of the first men in the Belka. The chief tribe in this province, for many years, was the Adouan, but they are now reduced to the lowest condition by their inveterate enemies the Beni Szakher. The latter, whose abode had for a long space of time been on the Hadj road, near Oella (ﻼﻋ), were obliged, by the increasing power of the Wahabi, to retire towards the north. They approached the Belka, and obtained from the Adouan, who were then in possession of the excellent pasturage of this country, permission to feed their cattle here, on paying a small annual tribute. They soon proved, however, to be dangerous neighbours; having detached the greater part of the other tribes of the Belka from their alliance with the Adouan, they have finally succeeded in driving the latter across the Zerka, notwithstanding the assistance which they received from the Pasha of Damascus. Peace had been made in 1810, and both tribes had encamped together near Amman, when Hamoud el Szaleh, chief of the Adouan, made a secret arrangement with the Pasha’s troops, and the tribe of Rowalla, who were at war with the Beni Szakher to make a united attack upon them. The plot was well laid, but the valour of the Beni Szakher proved a match for the united forces of their enemies; they lost only about a dozen of their horsemen, and about two thousand sheep, and since that time an inveterate enmity has existed between the Beni Szakher and the Adouan. The second chief of Adouan, an old man with thirteen sons, who always accompany him to the field, joined the Beni Szakher, as did also the greater part of the Arabs of the Belka. In 1812, the Adouan were driven into the mountains of Adjeloun, and to all appearance will never be able to re-enter the Belka.13
The superiority of the pasturage of the Belka over that of all southern Syria, is the cause of its possession being thus contested. The Bedouins have this saying, “Thou canst not find a country like the Belka.”— Methel el Belka ma teltaka (ﻲﻘﺘﻟﺗﺎﻣﺎﻘﺒﻠﺍﻞﺜﻣ); the beef and mutton of this district are preferred to those of all others. The Bedouins of the Belka are nominally subject to an annual tribute to the Pasha of Damascus; but they are very frequently in rebellion, and pay only when threatened by a superior force. For the last two years Abd el Mohsen has not paid any thing. The contribution of the Adouan is one-tenth of the produce of their camels, sheep, goats, and cows, besides ten pounds of butter for every hundred sheep.14 The Arabs of the Belka have few camels; but their herds of cows, sheep, and goats are large; and whenever they have a prospect of being able to secure the harvest against the incursions of enemies, they cultivate patches of the best soil in their territory. In summer they remain in the valleys on the side of the Ghor, in the winter a part of them descend into the Ghor itself, while the others encamp upon the upper plain of the Belka.
July 14th. — We left the encampment of Abd el Mohsen early in the morning, and at one hour from it, descending along a winding valley, we reached the banks of the rivulet Zerka Mayn (ﻦﻴﻌﻣ ﺎﻗﺭﺯ), which is not to be confounded with the northern Zerka. Its source is not far from hence; it flows in a deep and barren valley through a wood of Defle trees, which form a canopy over the rivulet impenetrable to the meridian sun. The red flowers of these trees reflected in the river gave it the appearance of a bed of roses, and presented a singular contrast with the whitish gray rocks which border the wood on either side. All these mountains are calcareous, mixed with some flint. The water of the Zerka Mayn is almost warm, and has a disagreeable taste, occasioned probably by the quantity of Defle flowers that fall into it. Having crossed the river we ascended the steep side of the mountain Houma (ﻪﻣﻮﺣ), at the top of which we saw the summit of Djebel Attarous (ﺱﻭﺭﺎﺘﻋ), about half an hour distant to our right; this is the highest point in the neighbourhood, and seems to be the Mount Nebo of the Scripture. On its summit is a heap of stones overshaded by a very large wild pistachio tree. At a short distance below, to the S.W. is the ruined place called Kereyat (ﺕﺎﻳﺮﻗ). The part of the mountain over which we rode was completely barren, with an uneven plain on its top. In two hours and a half we saw at about half an hour to our right, the ruins of a place called Lob, which are of some extent. We passed an encampment of Arabs Ghanamat. At the end of three hours and three quarters, after an hour’s steep descent, we reached Wady Wale (ﻪﻟﺍﻭ ﻱﺩﺍﻭ); the stream contains a little more water than the Zerka Mayn; it runs in a rocky bed, in the holes of which innumerable fish were playing; I killed several by merely throwing stones into the water. The banks of the rivulet are overgrown with willows, Defle, and tamarisks (ﺀﺎﻓﺮﻃ), and I saw large petrifactions of shells in the valley. About one hour to the west of the spot where we passed the Wale are the ruins of a small castle, situated on the summit of a lower ridge of mountains; the Arabs call it Keraoum Abou el Hossein (ﻦﻴﺴﺣ ﻮﺑﺍ ﻡﻮﻋﺮﻗ).
In the valley of Wale a large party of Arabs Sherarat was encamped, Bedouins of the Arabian desert, who resort hither in summer for pasturage. They are a tribe of upwards of five thousand tents; but not having been able to possess themselves of a district fertile in pasturage, and being hemmed in by the northern Aeneze, the Aeneze of the Nedjed, the Howeytat, and Beni Szakher, they wander about in misery, have very few horses, and are not able to feed any flocks of sheep or goats. They live principally on the Hadj route, towards Maan, and in summer approach the Belka, pushing northward sometimes as far as Haouran. They are obliged to content themselves with encamping on spots where the Beni Szakher and the Aeneze, with whom they always endeavour to live at peace, do not choose to pasture their cattle. The only wealth of the Sherarat consists in camels. Their tents are very miserable; both men and women go almost naked, the former being only covered round the waist, and the women wearing nothing but a loose shirt hanging in rags about them. These Arabs are much leaner than the Aeneze, and of a browner complexion. They have the reputation of being very sly and enterprising thieves, a title by which they think themselves greatly honoured.
In four hours and a half, after having ascended the mountain on the S. side of the Wale, we reached a fine plain on its summit. All the country to the southward of the Wale, as far as the Wady Modjeb, is comprised under the appellation of El Koura, a term often applied in Syria to plains: El Koura is the “Plains of Moab” of the Scripture; the soil is very sandy, and not fertile. The Haouran black stone, or basalt, if it may be so called, is again met with here. The river El Wale rises at about three hours distance to the E. of the spot where we passed it, near which it takes a winding course to the south until it approaches the Modjeb, where it again turns westwards. The lower part of the river changes its name into that of Seyl Heydan (ﻥﺍﺪﻴﺣ ﻞﻴﺳ), which empties itself into the Modjeb at about two hours distant from the Dead sea, near the ruined place called Dar el Ryashe (ﻪﺷﺎﻳﺮﻟﺍ ﺭﺍﺩ). The Wale seems to be the same called Nahaliel in D’Anville’s map, but this name is unknown to the Arabs; its source is not so far northward as in the map. Between the Wady Zerka Mayn and the Wale is another small rivulet called Wady el Djebel (ﻞﺒﺠﻟﺍﻱﺩﺍﻭ). At the end of six hours and a half we reached the banks of the Wady Modjeb, the Arnon of the Scriptures, which divides the province of Belka from that of Kerek, as it formerly divided the small kingdoms of the Moabites and the Amorites. When at about one hour’s distance short of the Modjeb I was shewn to the N.E. of us, the ruins of Diban (ﻥﺎﺒﻴﺩ), the ancient Dibon, situated in a low ground of the Koura.
On the spot where we reached the high banks of the Modjeb are the ruins of a place called Akeb el Debs (ﺲﺑﺪﻟﺍ ﺐﻘﻋ). We followed, from thence, the top of the precipice at the foot of which the river flows, in an eastern direction, for a quarter of an hour, when we reached the ruins of Araayr (ﺮﻳﺎﻋﺮﻋ), the Aroer of the Scriptures, standing on the edge of the precipice; from hence a foot-path leads down to the river. In the Koura, about one hour to the west of Araayr, are some hillocks called Keszour el Besheir (ﺮﻴﺸﺒﻟﺍﺭﻮﺼﻗ). The view which the Modjeb presents is very striking: from the bottom, where the river runs through a narrow stripe of verdant level about forty yards across, the steep and barren banks arise to a great height, covered with immense blocks of stone which have rolled down from the upper strata, so that when viewed from above, the valley looks like a deep chasm, formed by some tremendous convulsion of the earth, into which there seems no possibility of descending to the bottom; the distance from the edge of one precipice to that of the opposite one, is about two miles in a straight line.
We descended the northern bank of the Wady by a foot-path which winds among the masses of rock, dismounting on account of the steepness of the road, as we had been obliged to do in the two former valleys which we had passed in this day’s march; this is a very dangerous pass, as robbers often waylay travellers here, concealing themselves behind the rocks, until their prey is close to them. Upon many large blocks by the side of the path I saw heaps of small stones, placed there as a sort of weapon for the traveller, in case of need. No Arab passes without adding a few stones to these heaps. There are three fords across the Modjeb, of which we took that most frequented. I had never felt such suffocating heat as I experienced in this valley, from the concentrated rays of the sun and their reflection from the rocks. We were thirty-five minutes in reaching the bottom. About twelve minutes above the river I saw on the road side a heap of fragments of columns, which had been about eight feet in height. A bridge has been thrown across the stream in this place, of one high arch, and well built; but it is now no longer of any use, though evidently of modern date. At a short distance from the bridge are the ruins of a mill. The river, which flows in a rocky bed, was almost dried up, having less water than the Zerka Mayn and Wale, but its bed bears evident marks of its impetuosity during the rainy season, the shattered fragments of large pieces of rock which had been broken from the banks nearest the river, and carried along by the torrent, being deposited at a considerable height above the present channel of the stream. A few Defle and willow trees grow on its banks.
The principal source of the Modjeb is at a short distance to the N.E. of Katrane, a station of the Syrian Hadj; there the river is called Seyl Sayde15 (ﻩﺪﻴﻌﻣ ﻞﻴﺳ), lower down it changes its name to Efm el Kereim (ﻢﻴﺮﻗﻟﺍ ﻢﻓﺍ), or, as it is also called, Szefye (ﻪﻴﻔﺻ). At about one hour east of the bridge it receives the waters of the Ledjoum, which flow from the N.E. in a deep bed; the Ledjoum receives a rivulet called Seyl el Mekhreys (ﺲﻳﺮﺨﻤﻟﺍ ﻞﻴﺳ), and then the Baloua (ﻉﻮﻟﺎﺑ), after which it takes the name of Enkheyle (ﻪﻠﻴﺨﻨﻟﺍ). Near the source of the Ledjoum is the ruined place called Tedoun (ﻥﻭﺪﺘ); and near the source of the Baloua is a small ruined castle called Kalaat Baloua. The rivulet Salyhha (ﻪﺤﻴﻠﺳ), coming from the south, empties itself into the Modjeb below the bridge.
Near the confluence of the Ledjoum and the Modjeb there seemed to be a fine verdant pasture ground, in the midst of which stands a hill with some ruins upon it, and by the side of the river are several ruined mills. In mounting the southern ascent from the Modjeb, we passed, upon a narrow level at about five minutes from the bridge, the ruins of a small castle, of which nothing but the foundations remains: it is called Mehatet el Hadj (ﺞﺤﻟﺍ ﺖﺗﺎﺤﻣ), from the supposition that the pilgrim route to Mekka formerly passed here, and that this was a station of the Hadj. Near the ruin is a Birket, which was filled by a canal from the Ledjoum, the remains of which are still visible. This may, perhaps, be the site of Areopolis. My guide told me that M. Seetzen had been partly stripped at this place, by some Arabs. We did not meet with any living being in crossing the Wady. Near the ruins is another heap of broken columns, like those on the opposite bank of the river; I conjecture that the columns were Roman milliaria, because a causeway begins here, and runs all the way up the mountain, and from thence as far as Rabba; it is about fifteen feet broad, and was well paved, though at present in a bad state, owing to a torrent which rushes along it from the mountain in winter time. At twenty-eight minutes from the Mehatet el Hadj are three similar columns, entire, but lying on the ground. We were an hour and three quarters in ascending from the bridge to the top; on this side the road might easily be made passable for horses. In several places the rock has been cut through to form the path. The lower part of the mountains is calcareous; I found great numbers of small petrified shells, and small pieces of mica are likewise met with. Towards the upper part of the mountain the ground is covered with large blocks of the black Haouran stone,16 which I found to be more porous than any specimens of it which I had seen further northward. On the summit of this steep southern ascent are the ruins of a large square building, of which the foundations only remain, covered with heaps of stone; they are directly opposite Araayr, and the ruins above mentioned are also called Mehatet el Hadj. I believe them to be of modern date.
We had now again reached a high plain. To our right, about three quarters of an hour, was the Djebel Shyhhan, an insulated mountain, with the ruined village of that name on its summit. To our left, on the E. side of the Ledjoum, about two or three hours distant, is a chain of low mountains, called El Ghoweythe (ﻪﺜﻳﻮﻐﻟﺍ), running from N. to S. about three or four hours. To the south of El Ghoweythe begins a chain of low hills, called El Tarfouye (ﻪﻳﻮﻓﺮﻃﻟﺍ), which farther south takes the name of Orokaraye (ﻪﻳﺮﻗﻭﺭﺍ); it then turns westward, and terminates to the south-west of Kerek. From the Mehatet el Hadj we followed the paved road which leads in a straight line towards Rabba, in a S.W. direction; in half an hour, we met some shepherds with a flock of sheep, who led us to the tents of their people behind a hill near the side of the road. We were much fatigued, but the kindness of our hosts soon made us forget our laborious day’s march. We alighted under the tent of the Sheikh, who was dying of a wound he had received a few days before from a thrust of a lance; but such is the hospitality of these people, and their attention to the comforts of the traveller, that we did not learn the Sheikh’s misfortune till the following day. He was in the women’s apartment, and we did not hear him utter any complaints. They supposed, with reason, that if we were informed of his situation it would prevent us from enjoying our supper. A lamb was killed, and a friend of the family did the honours of the table: we should have enjoyed our repast had there not been an absolute want of water, but there was none nearer than the Modjeb, and the daily supply which, according to the custom of the Arabs, had been brought in before sun-rise, was, as often happens, exhausted before night; our own water skins too, which we had filled at the Modjeb, had been emptied by the shepherds before we reached the encampment. This loss was the more sensible to me, as in desert countries where water seldom occurs, not feeling great thirst during the heat of the day, I was seldom in the habit of drinking much at that time; but in the evening, and the early part of the night, I always drank with great eagerness.
July 15th. — We left our kind hosts, who belonged to the Arabs Hamaide, early in the morning, and continued our route along the ancient road. At half an hour from the encampment we passed the ruined village El Ryhha (ﺎﺣﻳﺮﻟﺍ), in one hour and a half we arrived at the ruins of an ancient city called Beit Kerm (ﻡﺮﻗ ﺖﻴﺑ), belonging to which, on the side of the road, are the remains of a temple of remote antiquity. Its shape is an oblong square, one of the long sides forming the front, where was a portica of eight columns in antis: the columns, three feet in diameter, are lying on the ground. Within the temple, a great part of the walls of which are fallen, there are fragments of smaller columns. The stones used in the construction of the walls are about five feet long, and two feet broad. At one hour and three quarters is the ruined village of Hemeymat (ﺕﺎﻤﻴﻤﺣ). This district, which is an even plain, is very fertile, and large tracts are here cultivated by the inhabitants of Kerek, and the Arabs Hamaide. At two hours and a half is Rabba (ﺎﺑﺭ), probably the ancient Rabbath Moab, where the ancient causeway terminates. The ruins of Rabba are about half an hour in circuit, and are situated upon a low hill, which commands the whole plain. I examined a part of them only, but the rest seemed to contain nothing remarkable. On the west side is a temple, of which one wall and several niches remain, by no means distinguished for elegance. Near them is a gate belonging to another building, which stood on the edge of a Birket. Distant from these ruins about thirty yards stand two Corinthian columns of middling size, one higher than the other. In the plain, to the west of the Birket, stands an insulated altar. In the town many fragments are lying about; the walls of the larger edifices are built like those of Heit Kerm. There are many remains of private habitations, but none entire. There being no springs in this spot, the town had two Birkets, the largest of which is cut entirely out of the rocky ground, together with several cisterns. About three quarters of an hour to the S.E. of Rabba, are two copious springs, called El Djebeyba (ﻪﺒﻴﺒﺟ), and El Yaroud (ﺩﻭﺭﺎﻳ). From Rabba our road lay S. by E. At four hours are the ruins of Kereythela (ﻪﻠﺜﻳﺭﻗ). At the end of five hours we entered a mountainous district, full of Wadys; and after a march of six hours we reached the town of Kerek.
I hesitated where I should alight at Kerek, and whether I should announce myself as a Turk or a Christian, for I knew that the success of my progress southward depended upon the good will of the people of this place. I had a letter of recommendation to the Sheikh of the town, given to me by a Turkish gentleman of Damascus, whose wife was a native of Kerek, and he had mentioned me in such terms as led me to anticipate a good reception; but as I knew that I should be much harassed by inquisitive visitors, were I to take up my lodgings at the Sheikh’s house, I determined to alight at some Christian’s, and then consult upon my future proceeding with the Greek priest, whom I knew by report. I no sooner entered the north gate of the town, where is the quarter of the Christians, than I was surrounded by several of these hospitable people, who took hold of the bridle of my horse, every one insisting upon my repairing to his dwelling; I followed one, and the whole neighbourhood was soon assembled, to partake of the sheep that was slaughtered in honour of my arrival; still no one had asked me who I was, or whither I was going. After some conversation with the priest, I thought it expedient to pay a visit of ceremony to the Sheikh, in order to deliver my letter; I soon however had reason to repent: he received me very politely; but when he heard of my intention of proceeding southward, he told me that he could not allow of my going forward with one guide only, and that as he was preparing to visit the southern districts himself, in a few days, I should wait for him or his people to conduct me. His secretary then informed me, that it was expected I should make some present to the Sheikh, and pay him, besides, the sum which I must have given for a guide. The present I flatly refused to make, saying that it was rather the Sheikh’s duty to make a present to the guest recommended to him by such a person as my Damascene friend was. With respect to the second demand, I answered that I had no more money with me than was absolutely necessary for my journey. Our negotiations on this point lasted for several days; when seeing that I could obtain no guide without an order from the Sheikh, I at last agreed to pay fifteen piastres for his company as far as Djebel Sherah. If I had shewn a disposition to pay this sum immediately, every body would have thought that I had plenty of money, and more considerable sums would have been extorted; in every part of Turkey it is a prudent rule not to grant the Turks their demands immediately, because they soon return to the charge. Had I not shewn my letter to the Sheikh, I should have procured a guide with little trouble, I should have had it in my power to see the borders of the Dead sea, and should have been enabled to depart sooner; but having once made my agreement with him, I was obliged to wait for his departure, which was put off from day to day, and thus I was prevented from going to any distance from the town, from the fear of being left behind. I remained therefore at Kerek for twenty successive days, changing my lodgings almost every day, in order to comply with the pressing invitations of its hospitable inhabitants.
The town of Kerek (ﻙﺮﻛ), a common name in Syria, is built upon the top of a steep hill, surrounded on all sides by a deep and narrow valley, the mountains beyond which command the town. In the valley, on the west and north sides, are several copious springs, on the borders of which the inhabitants cultivate some vegetables, and considerable plantations of olive trees. The principal of these sources are, Ain Sara (ﻩﺭﺎﺳ ﻦﻴﻋ), which issues from the rock in a very romantic spot, where a mosque has been built, now in ruins; this rivulet turns three mills: the other sources are Ain Szafszaf (ﻑﺎﺼﻔﺻ ﻦﻴﻋ), Ain Kobeyshe (ﻪﺸﻴﺒﻗ ﻦﻴﻋ), and Ain Frandjy (ﻲﺠﻨﺮﻓ ﻦﻴﻋ), or the European spring, in the rock near which, as some persons told me, is an inscription in Frank characters, but no one ever would, or could, shew it me.
The town is surrounded by a wall, which has fallen down in several places; it is defended by six or seven large towers, of which the northern is almost perfect, and has a long Arabic inscription on its wall, but too high to be legible from the ground; on each side of the inscription is a lion in bas-relief, similar to those seen on the walls of Aleppo and Damascus. The town had originally only two entrances, one to the south and the other to the north; they are dark passages, forty paces in length, cut through the rock. An inscription on the northern gate ascribes its formation to Sultan Seyf-eddin (ﻦﻳﺪﻟﺍ ﻒﻴﺳ). Besides these two gates, two other entrances have been formed, leading over the ruins of the town wall. At the west end of the town stands a castle, on the edge of a deep precipice over the Wady Kobeysha. It is built in the style of most of the Syrian castles, with thick walls and parapets, large arched apartments, dark passages with loop-holes, and subterraneous vaults; and it probably owes its origin, like most of these castles, to the prudent system of defence adopted by the Saracens against the Franks during the Crusades. In a large Gothic hall are the remains of paintings in fresco, but so much defaced that nothing can be clearly distinguished. Kerek having been for some time in the hands of the Franks, this hall may have been built at that time for a church, and decorated with paintings. Upon an uncouth figure of a man bearing a large chain I read the letters IONI, painted in large characters; the rest of the inscription was effaced. On the side towards the town the castle is defended by a deep fosse cut in the rock; near which are seen several remains of columns of gray and red granite. On the south side the castle hill is faced with stone in the same manner as at Aleppo, El Hossn, Szalkhat, &c. On the west side a wall has been thrown across the Wady, to some high rocks, which project from the opposite side; a kind of Birket has thus been formed, which formerly supplied the garrison with water. In the castle is a deep well, and many of the private houses also have wells, but their water is brackish; others have cisterns, which save the inhabitants the trouble of fetching their water from the Wady below. There are no antiquities in the town, excepting a few fragments of granite columns. A good mosque, built by Melek el Dhaher, is now in ruins. The Christians have a church, dedicated to St. George, or El Khuder, which has been lately repaired. On the declivity of the Wady to the south of the town are some ancient sepulchral caves, of coarse workmanship, cut in the chalky rock.
Kerek is inhabited by about four hundred Turkish, and one hundred and fifty Christian families; the former can furnish upwards of eight hundred firelocks, the latter about two hundred and fifty. The Turks are composed of settlers from all parts of southern Syria, but principally from the mountains about Hebron and Nablous. The Christians are, for the greater part, descendants of refugees from Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Beit Djade. They are free from all exactions, and enjoy the same rights with the Turks. Thirty or forty years ago Kerek was in the hands of the Bedouin tribe called Beni Ammer, who were accustomed to encamp around the town and to torment the inhabitants with their extortions. It may be remarked generally of the Bedouins, that wherever they are the masters of the cultivators, the latter are soon reduced to beggary, by their unceasing demands. The uncle of the present Sheikh of Kerek, who was then head of the town, exasperated at their conduct, came to an understanding with the Arabs Howeytat, and in junction with these, falling suddenly upon the Beni Ammer, completely defeated them in two encounters. The Ammer were obliged to take refuge in the Belka, where they joined the Adouan, but were again driven from thence, and obliged to fly towards Jerusalem. For many years afterwards they led a miserable life, from not being sufficiently strong to secure to their cattle good pasturing places. About six years ago they determined to return to Kerek, whatever might be their fate; in their way round the southern extremity of the Dead sea they lost two thirds of their cattle by the attacks of their inveterate enemies, the Terabein. When, at last, they arrived in the neighbourhood of Kerek, they threw themselves upon the mercy of the present Sheikh of the town, Youssef Medjaby, who granted them permission to remain in his district, provided they would obey his commands. They were now reduced, from upwards of one thousand tents, to about two hundred, and they may at present be considered as the advanced guard of the Sheikh of Kerek, who employs them against his own enemies, and makes them encamp wherever he thinks proper. The inhabitants of Kerek have thus become formidable to all the neighbouring Arabs; they are complete masters of the district of Kerek, and have great influence over the affairs of the Belka.
The Christians of Kerek are renowned for their courage, and more especially so, since an action which lately took place between them and the Rowalla, a tribe of Aeneze; a party of the latter had on a Sunday, when the men were absent, robbed the Christian encampment, which was at about an hour from the town, of all its cattle. On the first alarm given by the women, twenty-seven young men immediately pursued the enemy, whom they overtook at a short distance, and had the courage to attack, though upwards of four hundred men mounted on camels, and many of them armed with firelocks. After a battle of two hours the Rowalla gave way, with the loss of forty-three killed, a great many wounded, and one hundred and twenty camels, together with the whole booty which they had carried off. The Christians had only four men killed. To account for the success of this heroic enterprise, I must mention that the people of Kerek are excellent marksmen; there is not a boy among them who does not know how to use a firelock by the time he is ten years of age.
The Sheikh of Kerek has no greater authority over his people than a Bedouin Sheikh has over his tribe. In every thing which regards the Bedouins, he governs with the advice of the most respectable individuals of the town; and his power is not absolute enough to deprive the meanest of his subjects of the smallest part that prevails prevents the increase of wealth, and the richest man in the town is not worth more than about £1000. sterling. Their custom of entertaining strangers is much the same as at Szalt; they have eight Menzels, or Medhafe (ﻪﻓﺎﻀﻣ), for the reception of guests, six of which belong to the Turks, and two to the Christians; their expenses are not defrayed by a common purse: but whenever a stranger takes up his lodging at one of the Medhafes, one of the people present declares that he intends to furnish that day’s entertainment, and it is then his duty to provide a dinner or supper, which he sends to the Medhafe, and which is always in sufficient quantity for a large company. A goat or a lamb is generally killed on the occasion, and barley for the guest’s horse is also furnished. When a stranger enters the town the people almost come to blows with one another in their eagerness to have him for their guest, and there are Turks who every other day kill a goat for this hospitable purpose. Indeed it is a custom here, even with respect to their own neighbours, that whenever a visitor enters a house, dinner or supper is to be immediately set before him. Their love of entertaining strangers is carried to such a length, that not long ago, when a Christian silversmith, who came from Jerusalem to work for the ladies, and who, being an industrious man, seldom stirred out of his shop, was on the point of departure after a two months residence, each of the principal families of the town sent him a lamb, saying that it was not just that he should lose his due, though he did not choose to come and dine with them. The more a man expends upon his guests, the greater is his reputation and influence; and the few families who pursue an opposite conduct are despised by all the others.
Kerek is filled with guests every evening; for the Bedouins, knowing that they are here sure of a good supper for themselves and their horses, visit it as often as they can; they alight at one Medhafe, go the next morning to another, and often visit the whole before they depart. The following remarkable custom furnishes another example of their hospitable manners: it is considered at Kerek an unpardonable meanness to sell butter or to exchange it for any necessary or convenience of life; so that, as the property of the people chiefly consists in cattle, and every family possesses large flocks of goats and sheep, which produce great quantities of butter, they supply this article very liberally to their guests. Besides other modes of consuming butter in their cookery, the most common dish at breakfast or dinner, is Fetyte, a sort of pudding made with sour milk, and a large quantity of butter. There are families who thus consume in the course of a year, upwards of ten quintals of butter. If a man is known to have sold or exchanged this article, his daughters or sisters remain unmarried, for no one would dare to connect himself with the family of a Baya el Samin (ﻦﻤﺴﻟﺍ ﻊﻳﺎﺑ), or seller of butter, the most insulting epithet that can be applied to a man of Kerek. This custom is peculiar to the place, and unknown to the Bedouins.
The people of Kerek, intermarry with the Bedouins; and the Aeneze even give the Kerekein their girls in marriage. The sum paid to the father of the bride is generally between six and eight hundred piastres; young men without property are obliged to serve the father five or six years, as menial servants, in compensation for the price of the girl. The Kerekein do not treat their wives so affectionately as the Bedouins; if one of them falls sick, and her sickness is likely to prevent her for some time from taking care of the family affairs, the husband sends her back to her father’s house, with a message that “he must cure her;” for, as he says, “I bought a healthy wife of you, and it is not just that I should be at the trouble and expense of curing her.” This is a rule with both Mohammedans and Christians. It is not the custom for the husband to buy clothes or articles of dress for his wife; she is, in consequence, obliged to apply to her own family, in order to appear decently in public, or to rob her husband of his wheal and barley, and sell it clandestinely in small quantities; nor does she inherit the smallest trifle of her husband’s property. The Kerekein never sleep under the same blanket with their wives; and to be accused of doing so, is considered as great an insult as to be called a coward.
The domestic manners of the Christians of Kerek are the same as those of the Turks; their laws are also the same, excepting those relating to marriage; and in cases of litigation, even amongst themselves, they repair to the tribunal of the Kadhy, or judge of the town, instead of submitting their differences to their own Sheikhs. The Kadhy is elected by the Sheikhs. With respect to their religious duties, they observe them much less than any other Greeks in Syria; few of them frequent the church, alleging, not without reason, that it is of no use to them, because they do not understand one word of the Greek forms of prayer. Neither are they rigid observers of Lent, which is natural enough, as they would be obliged to live almost entirely on dry bread, were they to abstain wholly from animal food. Though so intimately united with the Turks both by common interests and manners, as to be considered the same tribe, yet there exists much jealousy among the adherents of the two religions, which is farther increased by the Sheikh’s predilection for the Christians. The Turks seeing that the latter prosper, have devised a curious method of participating in the favours which Providence may bestow on the Christians on account of their religion: many of them baptise their male children in the church of St. George, and take Christian godfathers for their sons. There is neither Mollah nor fanatic Kadhy to prevent this practice, and the Greek priest, who is handsomely paid for baptising, reconciles his conscientious scruples by the hope that the boy so baptized may perhaps die a Christian; added to this, he does not give the child entire baptism, but dips the hands and feet only in the water, while the Christian child receives total immersion, and this pious fraud sets all his doubts at rest as to the legality of the act. The priests pretend nevertheless that such is the efficacy of the baptism that these baptised Turks have never been known to die otherwise than by old age.
Kerek is the see of a Greek bishop, who generally resides at Jerusalem. The diocese is called Battra (ﻩﺮﻃﺎﺑ) in Arabic, and Πέτρας in Greek; and it is the general opinion among the clergy of Jerusalem, that Kerek is the ancient Petra;17 but it will be seen in the sequel of this journal that there is good reason to think they are mistaken; Kerek therefore is probably the Charax Omanorum of Pliny. The bishop’s revenue is about six pounds sterling per annum; he visits his diocese every five or six years. During my stay, a Greek priest arrived from Jerusalem, to collect for his convent, which had been at a great expense in rebuilding the church of the Holy Sepulchre. The Greeks delivered to him in sheep to the value of about fifteen pounds sterling.
The Kerekein cultivate the plains in the neighbouring mountains and feed their cattle on the uncultivated parts. One-third of the people remain encamped the whole year at two or three hours distant from the town, to superintend the cattle; the rest encamp in the harvest time only. During the latter period the Christians have two large camps or Douars, and the Turks five. Here they live like Bedouins, whom they exactly resemble, in dress, food, and language. The produce of their fields is purchased by the Bedouins, or exchanged for cattle. The only other commercial intercourse carried on by them is with Jerusalem, for which place a caravan departs every two months, travelling either by the route round the southern extremity of the Dead sea, which takes three days and a half, or by crossing the Jordan, a journey of three days. At Jerusalem they sell their sheep and goats, a few mules, of which they have an excellent breed, hides, wool, and a little Fowa or madder (Rubia tinctorum), which they cultivate in small quantities; in return they take coffee, rice, tobacco, and all kinds of articles of dress, and of household furniture. This journey, however, is undertaken by few of the natives of Kerek, the trade being almost wholly in the hands of a few merchants of Hebron, who keep shops at Kerek, and thus derive large profits from the indolence or ignorance of the Kerekein. I have seen the most common articles sold at two hundred per cent. profit. The trade is carried on chiefly by barter: and every thing is valued in measures of corn, this being the readiest representative of exchange in the possession of the town’s-people; hence the merchants, make their returns chiefly in corn and partly in wool. The only artizans in Kerek who keep shops are a blacksmith, a shoemaker, and a silversmith. When the Mekka caravan passes, the Kerekein sell provisions of all kinds to the Hadj, which they meet at the castle of Katrana. Many Turks, as well as Christians, in the town, have negro slaves, whom they buy from the Bedouins, who bring them from Djidda and Mekka: there are also several families of blacks in Kerek, who have obtained their liberty, and have married free black women.
The houses of Kerek have only one floor, and three or four are generally built in the same court-yard. The roof of the apartment is supported by two arches, much in the same way as in the ancient buildings of the Haouran, which latter however have generally but one arch. Over the arches thick branches of trees are laid, and over the latter a thin layer of rushes. Along the wall at the extremity of the room, opposite to the entrance, are large earthen reservoirs of wheat (Kowari ﻱﺭﺍﻮﻗ). There is generally no other aperture in these rooms than the door, a circumstance that renders them excessively disagreeable in the winter evenings, when the door is shut and a large fire is kindled in the middle of the floor.
Some of the Arab tribes in the territory of Kerek pay a small annual tribute to the Sheikh of Kerek, as do likewise the peasants who cultivate the shores of the Dead sea. In order, however, to secure their harvests against any casualties, the Kerekein have deemed it expedient to pay, on their, part, a tribute to the Southern Arabs called El Howeytat, who are continually passing this way in their expeditions against the Beni Szakher. The Christians pay to one of the Howeytat Sheikhs one Spanish dollar per family, and the Turks send them annually about fifteen mule loads of carpets which are manufactured at Kerek. Whenever the Sheikhs of the Beni Szakher visit the town, they receive considerable presents by way of a friendly tribute.
The district of Kerek comprises three other villages, which are under the orders of the Sheikh of Kerek: viz. Ketherabba (ﺎﺑﺮﺜﻛ), Oerak (ﻕﺍﺮﻋ), and Khanzyre (ﻩﺮﻳﺯﻧﺧ). There are besides a great number of ruined places in the district, the principal of which are the following; Addar (ﺭﺩﺍ), Hedjfa (ﻪﻔﺠﺣ), Hadada (ﻩﺩﺍﺪﺣ), Thenye (ﻪﻴﻧﺛ), three quarters of an hour to the S. of the town; Meddyn (ﻦﻳﺪﻣ), Mouthe (ﻪﺛﻮﻣ), Djeldjoun (ﻥﻮﺠﻠﺟ), Djefeiras (ﺱﺍﺮﻴﻔﺟ), Datras (ﺱﺍﺮﺗﺍﺩ), about an hour and a half S.E. of the town, where some walls of houses remain; Medjdelein (ﻦﻴﻟﺪﺠﻣ), Yarouk (ﻕﻭﺭﺎﻳ), Seraf (ﻪﻓﺮﺳ), Meraa (ﻪﻋﺮﻣ), and Betra, where is a heap of stones on the foot of a high hill, distant from Kerek to the southward and westward about five hours.
Several Wadys descend from the mountains of Kerek into the plain on the shore of the Dead sea, and are there lost, either in the sands or in the fields of the peasants who cultivate the plain, none of them reaching the lake itself in the summer. To the S. of Modjeb is the Seyl Djerra (ﻩﺮﺟ ﻞﻴﺳ), and farther south, Wady Beni Hammad (ﺩﺎﻤﺣ ﻲﻧﺑ ﻱﺩﺍﻭ). In the valley of this river, perhaps the Zared of Scripture, are hot-wells, with some ruined buildings near them, about five hours from Kerek, in a northern direction. Next follow Seyl el Kerek, Wady el Draah (ﻪﻋﺭﺬﻟﺍ ﻱﺩﺍﻭ), Seyl Assal (ﻞﺴﻋ ﻞﻴﺳ), perhaps Assan, which rises nearer Ketherabba; El Nemeyra (ﻩﺮﻴﻤﻧﻟﺍ), coming from Oerak; Wady Khanzyre (ﻩﺭﻴﺯﻧﺧ ﻱﺩﺍﻭ), and El Ahhsa, a river which divides the territory of Kerek from the district to the S. of it, called El Djebel.
Not having had an opportunity of descending to the borders of the Dead sea, I shall subjoin here a few notes which I collected from the people of Kerek. I have since been informed that M. Seetzen, the most indefatigable traveller that ever visited Syria, has made the complete tour of the Dead sea; I doubt not that he has made many interesting discoveries in natural history.
The mountains which inclose the Ghor, or valley of the Jordan, open considerably at the northern extremity of the Dead sea, and encompassing it on the W. and E. sides approach again at its S. extremity, leaving only a narrow plain between them. The plain on the west side, between the sea and the mountains, is covered with sand, and is unfit for cultivation; but on the E. side, and especially towards the S. extremity, where it continues to bear the appellation of El Ghor (ﺭﻮﻐﻟﺍ), the plain is in many places very fertile. Its breadth varies from one to four and five miles; it is covered with forests, in the midst of which the miserable peasants build their huts of rushes, and cultivate their Dhourra and tobacco fields. These peasants are called El Ghowárene (ﻪﻨﺭﺍﻮﻏ), and amount to about three hundred families; they live very poorly, owing to the continual exactions of the neighbouring Bedouins, who descend in winter from the mountains of Belka and Kerek, and pasture their cattle amidst the fields. The heat of the climate of this low valley, during the summer, renders it almost uninhabitable; the people then go nearly naked; but their low huts, instead of affording shelter from the mid-day heat rather increase it. At this period violent intermittent fevers prevail, to which, however, they are so much accustomed, that they labour in the fields during the intervals of the paroxysms of the disease.
The principal settlement of the Ghowárene is at the southern extremity of the sea, near the embouchure of the Wady el Ahhsa; their village is called Ghor Szafye (ﻪﻴﻓﺎﺻ ﺭﻮﻏ), and is the winter rendezvous of more than ten large tribes of Bedouins. Its situation corresponds with that of Zoar. The spots not cultivated being for the greater part sandy, there is little pasturage, and the camels, in consequence, feed principally upon the leaves of the trees.
About eight hours to the N. of Szafye is the Ghor el Mezra (ﻩﺭﺯﻤﻟﺍ ﺭﻮﻏ), a village much frequented by the people of Kerek, who there buy the tobacco which they smoak. About the middle of the lake on the same eastern shore, are some ruins of an ancient city, called Towahein el Sukkar (ﺮﻜﺴﻟﺍ ﻦﻴﺣﺍﻮﻃ) i.e. the Sugar Mills. Farther north the mountains run down to the lake, and a steep cliff overhangs the sea for about an hour, shutting out all passage along the shore. Still farther to the north are the ruined places called Kafreyn (ﻦﻴﺮﻔﻛ), and Rama (ﻪﻣﺍﺭ), and in the valley of the Jordan, south of Abou Obeida, are the ruins of Nemrin (ﻥﻳﺮﻤﻨ), probably the Bethnimra of the Scriptures. In the vegetable productions of this plain the botanist would perhaps discover several unknown species of trees and plants; the reports of the Arabs on this subject are so vague and incoherent, that it is almost impossible to obtain any precise information from them; they speak, for instance, of the spurious pomegranate tree, producing a fruit exactly like that of the pomegranate, but which, on being opened, is found to contain nothing but a dusty powder; this, they pretend, is the Sodom apple-tree; other persons however deny its existence. The tree Asheyr (ﺮﻴﺸﻋ), is very common in the Ghor. It bears a fruit of a reddish yellow colour, about three inches in diameter, which contains a white substance, resembling the finest silk, and enveloping some seeds. The Arabs collect the silk, and twist it into matches for their fire-locks, preferring it to the common match, because it ignites more readily. More than twenty camel loads might be annually procured, and it might perhaps be found useful in the silk and cotton manufactories of Europe. At present the greater part of the fruit rots on the trees. On making an incision into the thick branches of the Asheyr a white juice exsudes, which is collected by putting a hollow reed into the incision; the Arabs sell the juice to the druggists at Jerusalem, who are said to use it in medicine as a strong cathartic.18
Indigo is a very common production of the Ghor; the Ghowárene sell it to the merchants of Jerusalem and Hebron, where it is worth twenty per cent. more than Egyptian indigo. One of the most interesting productions of this valley is the Beyrouk honey, or as the Arabs call it, Assal Beyrouk (ﻕﻭﺮﻴﺑ ﻞﺴﻋ). I suppose it to be the manna, but I never had an opportunity of seeing it myself. It was described to me, as a juice dropping from the leaves and twigs of a tree called Gharrab (ﺏﺮﻏ), of the size of an olive tree, with leaves like those of the poplar, but somewhat broader. The honey collects upon the leaves like dew, and is gathered from them, or from the ground under the tree, which is often found completely covered with it. According to some its colour is brownish; others said it was of a grayish hue; it is very sweet when fresh, but turns sour after being kept two days. The Arabs eat it like honey, with butter, they also put it into their gruel, and use it in rubbing their water skins, in order to exclude the air. I enquired whether it was a laxative, but was answered in the negative. The Beyrouk honey is collected only in the months of May and June. Some persons assured me that the same substance was likewise produced by the thorny tree Tereshresh (ﺵﺮﺸﺮﺗ), and collected at the same time as that from the Gharrab.
In the mountains of Shera grows a tree called Arar (ﺭﺍﺮﻋ), from the fruit of which the Bedouins extract a juice, which is extremely nutritive. The tree Talh (ﺢﻠﻂ), which produces the gum arabic (ﻎﻤﺻ), is very common in the Ghor; but the Arabs do not take the trouble to collect the gum. Among other vegetable productions there is a species of tobacco, called Merdiny (ﻲﻨﻴﺩﺮﻣ), which has a most disagreeable taste; but, for want of a better kind, it is cultivated in great quantity, and all the Bedouins on the borders of the Dead sea are supplied with it. The coloquintida (ﻝﺩﻨﺣ or ﻝﺩﻤﺣ), grows wild every where in great quantities. The tree Szadder (ﺮﺪﺻ), which is a species of the cochineal tree, is also very common.
As to the mineral productions of the borders of the Dead sea, it appears that the southern mountains are full of rock salt, which is washed off by the winter rains, and carried down into the lake. In the northern Ghor pieces of native sulphur are found at a small depth beneath the surface, and are used by the Arabs to cure diseases in their camels. The asphaltum (ﺮﻤﺣ), Hommar, which is collected by the Arabs of the western shore, is said to come from a mountain which blocks up the passage along the eastern Ghor, and which is situated at about two hours south of wady Modjeb. The Arabs pretend that it oozes from the fissures in the cliff, and collects in large pieces on the rock below, where the mass gradually increases and hardens, until it is rent asunder by the heat of the sun, with a loud explosion, and falling into the sea, is carried by the waves in considerable quantities to the opposite shores. At the northern extremity of the sea the stink-stone is found; its combustible properties are ascribed, by the Arabs, to the magic rod of Moses, whose tomb is not far from thence. The stones are thrown into the fires made of camel’s dung, to encrease the heat.
Concerning the lake itself, I was informed that no visible increase of its waters takes place in winter time, as the greater part of the torrents which descend from the eastern mountains do not reach the lake, but are lost in the sandy plain. About three hours north of Szaffye is a ford, by which the lake is crossed in three hours and a half. Some Arabs assured me that there are spots in this ford where the water is quite hot, and where the bottom is of red earth. It is probable that there are hot springs in the bottom of the lake, which near the ford is nowhere deeper than three or four feet; and generally only two feet. The water is so strongly impregnated with salt, that the skin of the legs of those who wade across it soon afterwards peels entirely off.
The mountains about Kerek are all calcareous, with flint; they abound with petrified shells, and some of the rocks consist entirely of small shells. Fine specimens of calcareous spath, called by the Arabs Hadjar Ain el Shems (ﺲﻤﺸﻟﺍ ﻦﻴﻋ ﺮﺠﺣ), the Sun’s eye, are found here. Ancient coins of copper, silver, and even of gold are found in the fields near Kerek; in general they are bought by the silversmiths, and immediately melted. I procured a few of copper upon which was the Greek legend of ΠΕΤΡΑΣ.
The direction of Jerusalem from Kerek, as pointed out to me several times, is N. by W. The direction of Katrane, a station of the pilgrim caravan to Mekka, is E.S.E. distant about eight hours. That of Szaffye, or the S. point of the Dead sea, is W. by S. distant about twelve hours. The Dead sea is here called Bahret Lout, the Sea of Lot. August 4th. — After having remained nearly three weeks at Kerek, waiting from day to day for the departure of the Sheikh, he at last set out, accompanied by about forty horsemen. The inhabitants of Kerek muster about one hundred horsemen, and have excellent horses; the Sheikh himself possessed the finest horse I had seen in Syria; it was a gray Saklawy, famous all over the desert.
We descended into the valley of Ain Frandjy, and ascended the mountain on the other side, our road lying nearly S.S.W. In one hour and a half from Kerek we reached the top of the mountain, from whence we had a fine view of the southern extremity of the Dead sea, which presented the appearance of a lake, with many islands or shoals covered with a white saline crust. The water is very shallow for about three hours from its south end. Where narrowest, it may be about six miles across. The mountain which we had passed was a barren rock of flint and chalk. We met with an encampment of Beni Hamyde, where we breakfasted. At the end of two hours and a half we reached, on the descent of the mountain, Ain Terayn (ﻦﻳﻋﺮﺗ ﻦﻴﻋ), a fine spring, with the ruins of a city near it. The rivulet which takes its rise here joins that of Ketherabba, and descends along a narrow valley into the Ghor, which it reaches near the ruined place called Assal, from which it takes the name of Wady Assal. Near the rivulet are some olive plantations. At two hours and three quarters is Ketherabba (ﺎﺑﺮﺜﻛ), a village with about eighty houses. Many of its inhabitants live under tents pitched in the square open spaces left among the houses of the village. The gardens contain great numbers of large fig trees. The mountains in the neighbourhood are cultivated in some parts by the Beni Ammer. The village of Szaffye in the Ghor bears from hence W.
August 5th. — We left Ketherabba early in the morning. Our road lay through a wild and entirely barren rocky country, ascending and descending several Wadys. In one hour and a quarter we came to Oerak (ﻕﺍﺮﻋ), a village of the same size as the former, very picturesquely situated; it is built at the foot of a high perpendicular cliff, down which a rivulet rushes into the Wady below. Many immense fragments have separated from the cliff, and fallen down; and amongst these rocks the houses of the village are built. Its inhabitants cultivate, besides wheat, barley, and dhourra, olives, figs, and tobacco, which they sell to advantage. We rested here the greater part of the day, under a large Kharnoub tree. Our Sheikh had no pressing business, but like all Arabs, fond of idleness, and of living well at other people’s expense, he by no means hastened his journey, but easily found a pretext for stopping; wherever we alighted a couple of sheep or goats were immediately killed, and the best fruits, together with plenty of tobacco, were presented to us. Our company increased at every village, as all those Arabs who had horses followed us, in order to partake of our good fare, so that our party amounted at last to eighty men. At two hours and a quarter is a fine spring; two hours and a half, the village Khanzyre (ﻩﺮﻴﺯﻨﺧ), which is larger than Oerak and Ketherabba. Here we stopped a whole day, our Sheikh having a house in the village, and a wife, whom he dared not carry to Kerek, having another family there. In the evening he held a court of justice, as he had done at Ketherabba, and decided a number of disputes between the peasants; the greater part of these were concerning money transactions between husbands and the families of their wives; or related to the mixed property of the Arabs in mares, in consequence of the Bedouin custom of selling only one-half, or one-third of those animals.
August 6th. ——— Khanzyre is built on the declivity of one of the highest mountains on the eastern side of the Dead sea; in its neighbourhood are a number of springs whose united waters form a rivulet which irrigates the fields belonging to the village, and an extensive tract of gardens. The villages of this country are each governed by its own Sheikh, and the peasants are little better than Bedouins; their manners, dress, and mode of living are exactly the same. In the harvest time they live in the mountains under tents, and their cattle is entrusted during the whole year to a small encampment of their own shepherds. In the afternoon of this day we were alarmed by loud cries in the direction of the opposite mountain. The whole of our party immediately mounted, and I also followed. On reaching the spot from whence the cries came, we found two shepherds of Khanzyre quite naked; they had been stripped by a party of the Arabs Terabein, who live in the mountains of Hebron, and each of the robbers had carried off a fat sheep upon his mare. They were now too far off to be overtaken; and our people, not being able to engage the enemy, amused themselves with a sham-fight in their return home. They displayed superior strength and agility in handling the lance, and great boldness in riding at full speed over rugged and rocky ground. In the exercise with the lance the rider endeavours to put the point of it upon the shoulder of his adversary, thus showing that his life is in his power. When the parties become heated, they often bear off upon their lances the turbands of their adversaries, and carry them about with insolent vociferation. Our Sheikh of Kerek, a man of sixty, far excelled all his people in these youthful, exercises; indeed he seemed to be an accomplished Bedouin Sheikh; though he proved to be a treacherous friend to me. As I thought that I had settled matters with him, to his entire satisfaction, I was not a little astonished, when he took me aside in the evening to announce to me, that unless he received twenty piastres more, he would not take charge of me any farther. Although I knew it was not in his power to hinder me from following him, and that he could not proceed to violence without entirely losing his reputation among the Arabs, for ill-treating his guest, yet I had acquired sufficient knowledge of the Sheikh’s character to be persuaded that if I did not acquiesce in his demand, he would devise some means to get me into a situation which it would have perhaps cost me double the sum to escape from; I therefore began to bargain with him; and brought him down to fifteen piastres. I then endeavoured to bind him by the most solemn oath used by the Bedouins; laying his hand upon the head of his little boy, and on the fore feet of his mare, he swore that he would, for that sum, conduct me himself, or cause me to be conducted, to the Arabs Howeytat, from whence I might hope to find a mode of proceeding in safety to Egypt. My precautions, however, were all in vain. Being satisfied that my cash was reduced to a few piastres, he began his plans for stripping me of every other part of my property which had excited his wishes. The day after his oath, when we were about to depart from Ayme, he addressed me in the presence of the whole company, saying that his saddle would fit my horse better than my own did, and that he would therefore change saddles with me. Mine was worth nearly forty piastres, his was not worth more than ten. I objected to the exchange, pretending that I was not accustomed to ride upon the low Bedouin saddle; he replied, by assuring me that I should soon find it much more agreeable than the town saddle; moreover, said he, you may depend upon it that the Sheikh of the Howeytat will take your saddle from you, if you do not give it to me. I did not dare to put the Sheikh in mind of his oath, for had I betrayed to the company his having extorted from me so much, merely for the sake of his company, he would certainly have been severely reprimanded by the Bedouins present, and I should thus have exposed myself to the effects of his revenge. All the bye-standers at the same time pressed me to comply with his request: “Is he not your brother?” said they. “Are not the best morsels of his dish always for you? Does he not continually fill your pipe with his own tobacco? Fie upon your stinginess.” But they did not know that I had calculated upon paying part of the hire of a guide to Egypt with the value of the saddle, nor that I had already handsomely paid for my brotherhood. I at last reluctantly complied; but the Sheikh was not yet satisfied: the stirrups he had given me, although much inferior to those he had taken from me, were too good in his eyes, to form part of my equipment. In the evening his son came to me to propose an exchange of these stirrups against a pair of his own almost unfit for use, and which I knew would wound my ankles, as I did not wear boots; but it was in vain to resist. The pressing intreaties of all my companions in favour of the Sheikh’s son lasted for two whole days; until tired at length with their importunity, I yielded, and, as had expected, my feet were soon wounded. I have entered into these details in order to shew what Arab cupidity is: an article of dress, or of equipment, which the poorest townsman would be ashamed to wear, is still a covetable object with the Bedouins; they set no bounds to their demands, delicacy is unknown amongst them, nor have they any word to express it; if indeed one persists in refusing, they never take the thing by force; but it is extremely difficult to resist their eternal supplications and compliments without yielding at last. With regard to my behaviour towards the Bedouins, I always endeavoured, by every possible means, to be upon good terms with my companions, whoever they were, and I seldom failed in my endeavours. I found, by experience, that putting on a grave face, and talking wisely among them was little calculated to further the traveller’s views. On the contrary, I aspired to the title of a merry fellow; I joked with them whenever I could, and found that by a little attention to their ways of thinking and reasoning, they are easily put into good humour. This kind of behaviour, however, is to be observed only in places where one makes a stay of several days, or towards fellow travellers: in passing rapidly through Arab encampments, it is better for the traveller not to be too talkative in the tents where he alights, but to put on a stern countenance.
We left Khanzyre late in the evening, that we might enjoy the coolness of the night air. We ascended for a short time, and then began to descend into the valley called Wady el Ahsa. It had now become dark, and this was, without exception, the most dangerous route I ever travelled in my life. The descent is steep, and there is no regular road over the smooth rocks, where the foot slips at every step. We had missed our way, and were obliged to alight from our horses, after many of us had suffered severe falls. Our Sheikh was the only horseman who would not alight from his mare, whose step, he declared, was as secure as his own. After a march of two hours and a half, we halted upon a narrow plain, on the declivity of the Wady, called El Derredje (ﻪﺟﺭﺩﻟﺍ), where we lighted a fire, and remained till day-break.
August 7th. — In three quarters of an hour from Derredje, we reached the bottom of the valley. The Wady el Ahsa (ﺎﺴﺣﻻﺍ), which takes its rise near the castle El Ahsa, or El Hassa, on the Syrian Hadj road, runs here in a deep and narrow bed of rocks, the banks of which are overgrown with Defle. There was more water in the rivulet than in any of those I had passed south of Zerka; the water was quite tepid, caused by a hot spring, which empties itself into the Ahsa from a side valley higher up the Wady. This forms the third hot spring on the east of the Dead sea, one being in the Wady Zerka Mayn, and another in the Wady Hammad. The valley of El Ahsa divides the district of Kerek from that of Djebal (plur. of Djebel), the ancient Gebalene. In the Ghor the river changes its name into that of Kerahy (ﻲﺣﺍﺮﻗ), and is likewise called Szafye (ﻪﻴﻓﺎﺻ). This name is found in all the maps of Arabia Petræa, but the course of the river is not from the south, as there laid down; Djebal also, instead of being laid down at the S.E. extremity of the lake, is improperly placed as beginning on the S.W. of it. The rock of the Wady el Ahsa is chiefly sand-stone, which is seldom met with to the N. of this valley; but it is very common in the southern mountains.
We ascended the southern side of the valley, which is less steep and rocky than the northern, and in an hour and a half reached a fine spring called El Kaszrein (ﻦﻳﺭﺼﻘﻟﺍ) surrounded by verdant ground and tall reeds. The Bedouins of the tribe of Beni Naym, here cultivate some Dhourra fields and there are some remains of ancient habitations. In two hours and a quarter we arrived at the top of the mountain, when we entered upon an extensive plain, and passed the ruins of an ancient city of considerable extent called El Kerr (ﺮﻘﻟﺍ), perhaps the ancient Kara, a bishopric belonging to the diocese of Rabba Moabitis;19 nothing remains but heaps of stones. The plain, which we crossed in a S.W. by S. direction, consists of a fertile soil, and contains the ruins of several villages. At the end of two hours and three quarters we descended by a steep road, into a Wady, and in three hours reached the village of Ayme (ﻪﻤﻴﻋ), situated upon a narrow plain at the foot of high cliffs. In its neighbourhood are several springs, and wherever these are met with, vegetation readily takes place, even among barren sand-rocks. Ayme is no longer in the district of Kerek, its Sheikh being now under the command of the Sheikh of Djebal, whose residence is at Tafyle. One half of the inhabitants live under tents, and every house has a tent pitched upon its terrace, where the people pass the mornings and evenings, and sleep. The climate of all these mountains, to the southward of the Belka, is extremely agreeable; the air is pure, and although the heat is very great in summer, and is still further increased by the reflexion of the sun’s rays from the rocky sides of the mountains, yet the temperature never becomes suffocating, owing to the refreshing breeze which generally prevails. I have seen no part of Syria in which there are so few invalids. The properties of the climate seem to have been well known to the ancients, who gave this district the appellation of Palæstina tertia, sive salutaris. The winter is very cold; deep snow falls, and the frosts sometimes continue till the middle of March. This severe weather is doubly felt by the inhabitants, as their dress is little fitted to protect them from it. During my stay in Gebalene, we had every morning a fog which did not disperse till mid-day. I could perceive the vapours collecting in the Ghor below, which, after sun-set, was completely enveloped in them. During the night they ascend the sides of the mountains, and in general are not entirely dissipated until near mid-day. From Khanzyre we had the Ghor all the way on our right, about eight or ten hours distant; but, in a straight line, not more than six hours.
August 8th. — At one hour and a quarter from Ayme, route S. b. W. we reached Tafyle (ﻪﻠﻴﻔﻃ), built on the declivity of a mountain, at the foot of which is Wady Tafyle. This name bears some resemblance to that of Phanon or Phynon, which, according to Eusebius, was situated between Petra and Zoara.20 Tafyle contains about six hundred houses; its Sheikh is the nominal chief of Djebal, but in reality the Arabs Howeytat govern the whole district, and their Sheikh has lately constructed a small castle at Tafyle at his own expense. Numerous springs and rivulets (ninety-nine according to the Arabs), the waters of which unite below and flow into the Ghor, render the vicinity of this town very agreeable. It is surrounded by large plantations of fruit trees: apples, apricots, figs, pomegranates, and olive and peach trees of a large species are cultivated in great numbers. The fruit is chiefly consumed by the inhabitants and their guests, or exchanged with the Bedouin women for butter; the figs are dried and pressed together in large lumps, and are thus exported to Ghaza, two long days journey from hence.
The inhabitants of Djebal are not so independent as the Kerekein, because they have not been able to inspire the neighbouring Bedouins with a dread of their name. They pay a regular tribute to the Beni Hadjaya, to the Szaleyt, but chiefly to the Howeytat, who often exact also extraordinary donations. Wars frequently happen between the people of Djebal and of Kerek, principally on account of persons who having committed some offence, fly from one town to seek an asylum in the other. At the time of my visit a coolness had existed between the two districts for several months, on account of a man of Tafyle, who having eloped with the wife of another, had taken refuge at Kerek; and one of the principal reasons which had induced our Sheikh to undertake this journey, was the hope of being able to bring the affair to an amicable termination. Hence we were obliged to remain three days at Tafyle, tumultuous assemblies were held daily, upon the subject, and the meanest Arab might give his opinion, though in direct opposition to that of his Sheikh. The father of the young man who had eloped had come with us from Kerek, for the whole family had been obliged to fly, the Bedouin laws entitling an injured husband to kill any of the offender’s relations, in retaliation for the loss of his wife. The husband began by demanding from the young man’s father two wives in return for the one carried off, and the greater part of the property which the emigrant family possessed in Tafyle. The father of the wife and her first cousin also made demands of compensation for the insult which their family had received by her elopement. Our Sheikh, however, by his eloquence and address, at last got the better of them all: indeed it must in justice be said that Youssef Medjaly was not more superior to the other
mountaineers in the strength of his arm, and the excellence of his horsemanship, than he was by his natural talents. The affair was settled by the offender’s father placing his four infant daughters, the youngest of whom was not yet weaned, at the disposal of the husband and his father-in-law, who might betrothe them to whomsoever they chose, and receive themselves the money which is usually paid for girls. The four daughters were estimated at about three thousand piastres, and both parties seemed to be content. In testimony of peace being concluded between the two families, and of the price of blood being paid, the young man’s father, who had not yet shewn himself publickly, came to shake hands with the injured husband, a white flag was suspended at the top of the tent in which we sat, a sheep was killed, and we passed the whole night in feasting and conversation.
The women of Tafyle are much more shy before strangers than those of Kerek. The latter never, or at least very seldom, veil themselves, and they discourse freely with all strangers; the former, on the contrary, imitate the city ladies in their pride, and reserved manners. The inhabitants of Tafyle, who are of the tribe of Djowabere (ﻩﺮﺍﻮﺟ), supply the Syrian Hadj with a great quantity of provisions, which they sell to the caravan at the castle El Ahsa; and the profits which they derive from this trade are sometimes very great. It is much to be doubted whether the peasants of Djebal and Shera will be able to continue their field-labour, if the Syrian pilgrim caravan be not soon re-established. The produce of their soil hardly enables them to pay their heavy tribute to the Bedouins, besides feeding the strangers who alight at their Menzels: for all the villages in this part of the country treat their guests in the manner, which has already been described. The people of Djebal sell their wool, butter, and hides at Ghaza, where they buy all the little luxuries which they stand in need of; there are, besides, in every village, a few shopkeepers from El Khalyl or Hebron, who make large profits. The people of Hebron have the reputation of being enterprising merchants, and not so dishonest as their neighbours of Palestine: their pedlars penetrate far into the desert of Arabia, and a few of them remain the whole year round at Khaibar in the Nedjed.
The fields of Tafyle are frequented by immense numbers of crows; the eagle Rakham is very common in the mountains, as are also wild boars. In all the Wadys south of the Modjeb, and particularly in those of Modjeb and El Ahsa, large herds of mountain goats, called by the Arabs Beden (ﻥﺪﺑ), are met with. This is the Steinbock, or Bouquetin of the Swiss and Tyrol Alps they pasture in flocks of forty or fifty together; great numbers of them are killed by the people of Kerek and Tafyle, who hold their flesh in high estimation. They sell the large knotty horns to the Hebron merchants, who carry them to Jerusalem, where they are worked into handles for knives and daggers. I saw a pair of these horns at Kerek three feet and a half in length. The Arabs told me that it is very difficult to get a shot at them, and that the hunters hide themselves among the reeds on the banks of streams where the animals resort in the evening to drink; they also asserted, that when pursued, they will throw themselves from a height of fifty feet and more upon their heads without receiving any injury. The same thing is asserted by the hunters in the Alps. In the mountains of Belka, Kerek, Djebal, and Shera, the bird Katta21 is met with in immense numbers; they fly in such large flocks that the Arab boys often kill two and three at a time, merely by throwing a stick amongst them. Their eggs, which they lay in the rocky ground, are collected by the Arabs. It is not improbable that this bird is the Seloua (ﻩﻮﻠﺳ), or quail, of the children of Israel.
The peasants of Tafyle have but few camels; they till the ground with oxen and cows, and use mules for the transport of their provisions. At half an hour south of Tafyle is the valley of Szolfehe (ﻪﺤﻔﻠﺻ). From a point above Tafyle the mountains of Dhana (which I shall have occasion to mention hereafter) bore S.S.W.
August 11th. — During our stay at Tafyle we changed our lodgings twice every day, dining at one public house and supping at another. We were well treated, and had every evening a musical party, consisting of Bedouins famous for their performance upon the Rababa, or guitar of the desert, and who knew all the new Bedouin poetry by heart. I here met a man from Aintab, near Aleppo, who hearing me talk of his native town, took a great liking to me, and shewed me every civility.
We left Tafyle on the morning of the 11th. In one hour we reached a spring, where a party of Beni Szaleyt was encamped. At two hours was a ruined village, with a fine spring, at the head of a Wady. Two hours and three quarters, the village Beszeyra (ﻩﺮﻴﺼﺑ). Our road lay S.W. along the western declivity of the mountains, having the Ghor continually in view. The Wadys which descend the mountains of Djebal south of Tafyle do not reach the lowest part of the plain in the summer, but are lost in the gravelly soil of the valley. Beszeyra is a village of about fifty houses. It stands upon an elevation, on the summit of which a small castle has been built, where the peasants place their provisions in times of hostile invasion. It is a square building of stone, with strong walls. The villages of Beszeyra, Szolfehe, and Dhana are inhabited by descendants of the Beni Hamyde, a part of whom have thus become Fellahein, or cultivators, while the greater number still remain in a nomadic state. Those of Beszeyra lived formerly at Omteda, now a ruined village three or four hours to the north of it. At that time the Arabs Howeytat were at war with the Djowabere, whose Sheikh was an ally of the Hamyde. The Howeytat defeated the Djowabere, and took Tafyle, where they constructed a castle, and established a Sheikh of their own election; they also built, at the same time, the tower of Beszeyra. The Hamyde of Omteda then emigrated to this place, which appears to have been, in ancient times, a considerable city, if we may judge from the ruins which surround the village. It was probably the ancient Psora, a bishopric of Palæstina tertia.22 The women of Beszeyra were the first whom I saw wearing the Berkoa (ﻊﻗﺮﺑ), or Egyptian veil, over their faces.
The Sheikh of Kerek had come thus far, in order to settle a dispute concerning a colt which one of the Hamyde of Beszeyra demanded of him. We found here a small encampment of Howeytat Arabs, to one of whom the Sheikh recommended me: he professed to know the man well, and assured me that he was a proper guide. We settled the price of his hire to Cairo, at eighty piastres; and he was to provide me with a camel for myself and baggage. This was the last friendly service of Sheikh Youssef towards me, but I afterwards learnt, that he received for his interest in making the bargain, fifteen piastres from the Arab, who, instead of eighty, would have been content with forty piastres. After the Sheikh had departed on his return, my new guide told me that his camels were at another encampment, one day’s distance to the south, and that he had but one with him, which was necessary for the transport of his tent. This avowal was sufficient to make me understand the character of the man, but I still relied on the Sheikh’s recommendation. In order to settle with the guide I sold my mare for four goats and for thirty-five piastres worth of corn, a part of which I delivered to him, and I had the remainder ground into flour, for our provision during the journey; he took the goats in payment of his services, and it was agreed that I should give him twenty piastres more on reaching Cairo. I had still about eighty piastres in gold, but kept them carefully concealed in case of some great emergency; for I knew that if I were to shew a single sequin, the Arabs would suppose that I possessed several hundreds, and would either have robbed me of them, or prevented me from proceeding on my journey by the most exorbitant demands.
August 13th. — I remained two days at Beszeyra, and then set out with the family of my guide, consisting of his wife, two children, and a servant girl. We were on foot, and drove before us the loaded camel and a few sheep and goats. Our road ascended; at three quarters of an hour, we came to a spring in the mountain. The rock is here calcareous, with basalt. At two hours and a half was Ain Djedolat (ﺕﺎﻟﻭﺪﺟ ﻦﻴﻋ), a spring of excellent water; here the mountain is overgrown with short Balout trees. At the end of two hours and three quarters, direction S. we reached the top of the mountain, which is covered with large blocks of basalt. Here a fine view opened upon us; to our right we had the deep valley of Wady Dhana, with the village of the same name on its S. side; farther west, about four hours from Dhana, we saw the great valley of the Ghor, and towards the E. and S. extended the wide Arabian desert, which the Syrian pilgrims cross in their way to Medina. In three hours and a quarter, after a slight descent, we reached the plain, here consisting of arable ground covered with flints. We passed the ruins of an ancient town or large village, called El Dhahel (ﻞﺤﻀﻟﺍ). The castle of Aaneiza (ﻩﺰﻴﻧﻋ), with an insulated hillock near it, a station of the pilgrims, bore S.S.E. distant about five hours; the town of Maan, S. distant ten or twelve hours; and the castle El Shobak, S.S.W. East of Aaneiza runs a chain of hills called Teloul Djaafar (ﺮﻔﻌﺟ ﻝﻮﻠﺗ). Proceeding a little farther, we came to the high borders of a broad valley, called El Ghoeyr (ﺮﻳﻮﻐﻟﺍ), (diminutive of ﺭﻮﻏ El Ghor) to the S. of Wady Dhana. Looking down into this valley, we saw at a distance a troop of horsemen encamped near a spring; they had espied us, and immediately mounted their horses in pursuit of us. Although several people had joined our little caravan on the road, there was only one armed man amongst us, except myself. The general opinion was that the horsemen belonged to the Beni Szakher, the enemies of the Howeytat, who often make inroads into this district; there was therefore no time to lose; we drove the cattle hastily back, about a quarter of an hour, and hid them, with the women and baggage, behind some rocks near the road, and we then took to our heels towards the village of Dhana (ﻪﻧﺎﺿ), which we reached in about three quarters of an hour, extremely exhausted, for it was about two o’clock in the afternoon and the heat was excessive. In order to run more nimbly over the rocks, I took off my heavy Arab shoes, and thus I was the first to reach the village; but the sharp flints of the mountain wounded my feet so much, that after reposing a little I could hardly stand upon my legs. This was the first time I had ever felt fear during my travels in the desert; for I knew that if I fell in with the Beni Szakher, without any body to protect me, they would certainly kill me, as they did all persons whom they supposed to belong to their inveterate enemy, the Pasha of Damascus, and my appearance was very much that of a Damascene. Our fears however were unfounded; the party that pursued us proved to be Howeytat, who were coming to pay a visit to the Sheikh at Tafyle; the consequence was that two of our companions, who had staid behind, because being inhabitants of Maan, and friends of the Beni Szakher, they conceived themselves secure, were stripped by the pursuers, whose tribe was at war with the people of Maan. Dhana, which I suppose to be the ancient Thoana, is prettily situated, on the declivity of Tor Dhana, the highest mountain of Djebal, and has fine gardens and very extensive tobacco plantations. The Howeytat have built a tower in the village. The inhabitants were now at war with those of Beszeyra, but both parties respect the lives of their enemies, and their hostile expeditions are directed against the cattle only. Having reposed at Dhana we returned in the evening to the spot where we had left the women and the baggage, and rested for the night at about a quarter of an hour beyond it.
August 14th. — We skirted, for about an hour, the eastern borders of Wady Ghoeyr, when we descended into the valley, and reached its bottom at the end of three hours and a half, travelling at a slow pace. This Wady divides the district of Djebal from that of Djebal Shera (ﻩﺍﺮﺷ ﻞﺒﺟ), or the mountains of Shera, which continue southwards towards the Akaba. These are the mountains called in the Scriptures Mount Seir, the territory of the Edomites. The valley of Ghoeyr is a large rocky and uneven basin, considerably lower than the eastern plain, upwards of twelve miles across at its eastern extremity, but narrowing towards the west. It is intersected by numerous Wadys of winter torrents, and by three or four valleys watered by rivulets which unite below and flow into the Ghor. The Ghoeyr is famous for the excellent pasturage, produced by its numerous springs, and it has, in consequence, become a favourite place of encampment for all the Bedouins of Djebal and Shera. The borders of the rivulets are overgrown with Defle and the shrub Rethem (ﻢﺛﺭ). The rock is principally calcareous; and there are detached pieces of basalt and large tracts of brescia formed of sand, flint, and pieces of calcareous stone. In the bottom of the valley we passed two rivulets, one of which is called Seil Megharye (ﻩﺭﺎﻐﻣ ﻞﻴﺳ), where we arrived at the end of a four hours walk, and found some Bedouin women washing their blue gowns, and the wide shirts of their husbands. I had taken the lead of our party, accompanied by my guide’s little boy, with whom I reached an encampment, on the southern side of the valley, to which these women belonged. This was the encampment to which my guide belonged, and where he assured me that I should find his camels. I was astonished to see nobody but women in the tents, but was told that the greater part of the men had gone to Ghaza to sell the soap-ashes which these Arabs collect in the mountains of Shera. The ladies being thus left to themselves, had no impediment to the satisfying of their curiosity, which was very great at seeing a townsman, and what was still more extraordinary, a man of Damascus (for so I was called), under their tents. They crowded about me, and were incessant in their inquiries respecting my affairs, the goods I had to sell, the dress of the town ladies, &c. &c. When they found that I had nothing to sell, nor any thing to present to them, they soon retired; they however informed me that my guide had no other camels in his possession than the one we had brought with us, which was already lame. He soon afterwards arrived, and when I began to expostulate with him on his conduct, he assured me that his camel would be able to carry us all the way to Egypt, but begged me to wait a few days longer, until he should be well enough to walk by its side; for, since we left Beszeyra he had been constantly complaining of rheumatic pains in his legs. I saw that all this was done to gain time, and to put me out of patience, in order to cheat me of the wages he had already received; but, as we were to proceed on the following day to another encampment at a few hours distance, I did not choose to say any thing more to him on the subject in a place where I had nobody but women to take my part; hoping to be able to attack him more effectually in the presence of his own tribe’smen.
August 15th. — We remained this day at the women’s tents, and I amused myself with visiting almost every tent in the encampment, these women being accustomed to receive strangers in the absence of their husbands. The Howeytat Arabs resemble the Egyptians in their features; they are much leaner and taller than the northern Arabs; the skin of many of them is almost black, and their features are much less regular than those of the northern Bedouins, especially the Aeneze. The women are tall and well made, but too lean; and even the handsomest among them are disfigured by broad cheek bones.
The Howeytat occupy the whole of the Shera, as far as Akaba, and south of it to Moyeleh (ﺢﻠﻳﻮﻣ), five days from Akaba, on the Egyptian Hadj road. To the east they encamp as far as Akaba el Shamy, or the Akaba on the Syrian pilgrim route; while the northern Howeytat take up their winter quarters in the Ghor. The strength of their position in these mountains renders them secure from the attacks of the numerous hordes of Bedouins who encamp in the eastern Arabian desert; they are, however, in continual warfare with them, and sometimes undertake expeditions of twenty days journey, in order to surprise some encampment of their enemies in the plains of the Nedjed. The Beni Szakher are most dreaded by them, on account of their acquaintance with the country, and peace seldom lasts long between the two tribes. The encampment where I spent this day was robbed of all its camels last winter by the Beni Szakher, who drove off, in one morning, upwards of twelve hundred belonging to their enemies. The Howeytat receive considerable sums of money as a tribute from the Egyptian pilgrim caravan; they also levy certain contributions upon the castles on the Syrian Hadj route, situated between Maan and Tebouk, which they consider as forming a part of their territory. They have become the carriers of the Egyptian Hadj, in the same manner, as the Aeneze transport with their camels the Syrian pilgrims and their baggage. When at variance with the Pashas of Egypt, the Howeytat have been known to plunder the caravan; a case of this kind happened about ten years ago, when the Hadj was returning from Mekka; the principal booty consisted of several thousand camel loads of Mocha coffee, an article which the pilgrims are in the constant habit of bringing for sale to Cairo; the Bedouins not knowing what to do with so large a quantity, sold the greater part of it at Hebron, Tafyle, and Kerek, and that year happening to be a year of dearth, they gave for every measure of corn an equal measure of coffee. The Howeytat became Wahabis; but they paid tribute only for one year, and have now joined their forces with those of Mohammed Aly, against Ibn Saoud.
August 16th. — We set out for the encampment of the Sheikh of the northern Howeytat, with the tent and family of my guide: who was afraid of leaving them in this place where be thought himself too much exposed to the incursions of the Beni Szakher. We ascended on foot, through many Wadys of winter torrents, up the southern mountains of the Ghoeyr; we passed several springs, and the ruined place called Szyhhan (ﻥﺎﺤﻴﺻ), and at the end of three hours walk arrived at a large encampment of the Howeytat, situated near the summit of the basin of the Ghoeyr. It is usual, when an Arab with his tent reaches an encampment placed in a Douar (ﺭﺍﻭﺩ), or circle, that some of the families strike their tents, and pitch them again in such a way as to widen the circle for the admission of the stranger’s tent; but the character of my guide did not appear to be sufficiently respectable to entitle him to this compliment, for not a tent was moved, and he was obliged to encamp alone out of the circle, in the hope that they would soon break up for some other spot where he might obtain a place in the Douar. These Arabs are much poorer than the Aeneze, and consequently live much worse. Had it not been for the supply of butter which I bought at Beszeyra, I should have had nothing but dry bread to eat; there was not a drop of milk to be got, for at this time of the year the ewes are dry; of camels there was but about half a dozen in the whole encampment.
I here came to an explanation with my guide, who, I saw, was determined to cheat me out of the wages he had already received. I told him that I was tired of his subterfuges, and was resolved to travel with him no longer, and I insisted upon his returning me the goats, or hiring me another guide in his stead. He offered me only one of the goats; after a sharp dispute therefore I arose, took my gun, and swore that I would never re-enter his tent, accompanying my oath with a malediction upon him, and upon those who should receive him into their encampment, for I had been previously informed that he was not a real Howeytat, but of the tribe of Billy, the individuals of which are dispersed over the whole desert. On quitting his tent, I was surrounded by the Bedouins of the encampment, who told me that they had been silent till now, because it was not their affair to interfere between a host and his guest, but that they never would permit a stranger to depart in that way; that I ought to declare myself to be under the Sheikh’s protection, who would do me justice. This being what I had anticipated, I immediately entered the tent of the Sheikh, who happened to be absent; my guide now changed his tone, and began by offering me two goats to settle our differences. In the evening the Sheikh arrived, and after a long debate I got back my four goats, but the wheat which I had received at Beszeyra, as the remaining part of the payment for my mare, was left to the guide. In return for his good offices, the Sheikh begged me to let him have my gun, which was worth about fifteen piastres; I presented it to him, and he acknowledged the favour, by telling me that he knew an honest man in a neighbouring encampment, who had a strong camel, and would be ready to serve me as a guide.
August 18th. — I took a boy to shew me the way to this person, and driving my little flock before us, we reached the encampment, which was about one hour to the westward. The boy told the Bedouin that I had become the Sheikh’s brother, I was therefore well received, and soon formed a favourable opinion of this Arab, who engaged to take me to Cairo for the four goats, which I was to deliver to him now, and twenty piastres (about one pound sterling) to be paid on my arrival in Egypt. This will be considered a very small sum for a journey of nearly four hundred miles; but a Bedouin puts very little value upon time, fatigue, and labour; while I am writing this, many hundred loaded camels, belonging to Bedouins, depart every week from Cairo for Akaba, a journey of ten days, for which they receive twenty-five piastres per camel. Had I been known to be an European, I certainly should not have been able to move without promising at least a thousand piastres to my guide. The excursion of M. Boutin, a French traveller, from Cairo to the Oasis of Jupiter Ammon, a journey of twelve days, undertaken in the summer of 1812, cost for guides only, four thousand piastres.
August 19th. — In the morning I went to the castle of Shobak, where I wished to purchase some provisions. It was distant one hour and a quarter from the encampment, in a S.E. direction. Shobak, also called Kerek el Shobak (ﻖﺑﻮﺷ ﻙﺮﻛ), perhaps the ancient Carcaria,23 is the principal place in Djebel Shera; it is situated about one hour to the south of the Ghoeyr, upon the top of a hill in the midst of low mountains, which bears some resemblance to Kerek, but is better adapted for a fortress, as it is not commanded by any higher mountains. At the foot of the hill are two springs, surrounded by gardens and olive plantations. The castle is of Saracen construction, and is one of the largest to the south of Damascus; but it is not so solidly built as the castle of Kerek. The greater part of the wall and several of the bastions and towers are still entire. The ruins of a well built vaulted church are now transformed into a public inn or Medhafe. Upon the architraves of several gates I saw mystical symbols, belonging to the ecclesiastical architecture of the lower empire. In several Arabic inscriptions I distinguished the name of Melek el Dhaher. Where the hill does not consist of precipitous rock, the surface of the slope is covered with a pavement. Within the area of the castle a party of about one hundred families of the Arabs Mellahein (ﻦﻴﺣﻼﻣ) have built their houses or pitched their tents. They cultivate the neighbouring grounds, under the protection of the Howeytat, to whom they pay tribute. The horsemen of the latter who happen to encamp near the castle, call regularly every morning at one of the Medhafes of Shobak, in order to have their mares fed; if the barley is refused, they next day kill one of the sheep belonging to the town.
At one hour and a half north of Shobak, on the side of the Ghoeyr, lies the village of Shkerye (ﻪﻳﺮﻘﺷ). From Shobak the direction of Wady Mousa is S.S.W. Maan bears S.S.E. The mountain over Dhana, N.N.E. To the east of the castle is an encampment of Bedouin peasants, of the tribe of Hababene (ﻪﻨﺑﺎﺒﺣ), who cultivate the ground. As I had no cash in silver, and did not wish to shew my sequins, I was obliged to give in exchange for the provisions which I procured at Shobak my only spare shirt, together with my red cap, and half my turban. The provisions consisted of flour, butter, and dried Leben, or sour milk mixed with flour and hardened in the sun, which makes a most refreshing drink when dissolved in water. There are several Hebron merchants at Shobak.
August 20th. — I remained in the tent of my new guide, who delayed his departure, in order to obtain from his friends some commissions for Cairo, upon which he might gain a few piastres. In the afternoon of this day we had a shower of rain, with so violent a gust of wind, that all the tents of the encampment were thrown down at the same moment, for the poles are fastened in the ground very carelessly during the summer months.
August 21st. — The whole encampment broke up in the morning, some Bedouins having brought intelligence that a strong party of Beni Szakher had been seen in the district of Djebal. The greater part of the males of the Howeytat together with their principal Sheikh Ibn Rashyd (ﺪﻴﺷﺭ ﻥﺑﺍ), were gone to Egypt, in order to transport the Pasha’s army across the desert to Akaba and Yambo; we had therefore no means of defence against these formidable enemies, and were obliged to take refuge in the neighbourhood of Shobak, where they would not dare to attack the encampment. When the Bedouins encamp in small numbers, they choose a spot surrounded by high ground, to prevent their tents from being seen at a distance. The camp is, however, not unfrequently betrayed by the camels which pasture in the vicinity.
In the evening we took our final departure, crossing an uneven plain, covered with flints and the ruins of several villages, and then descended into the Wady Nedjed (ﺪﺠﻨ); the rivulet, whose source is in a large paved basin in the valley, joins that of Shobak. Upon the hills which border this pleasant valley are the ruins of a large town of the same name, of which nothing remains but broken walls and heaps of stones. In one hour and a quarter from our encampment, and about as far from Shobak, we reached the camp of another tribe of Fellahein Bedouins, called Refaya (ﻊﻳﺎﻓﺭ), where we slept. They are people of good property, for which they are indebted to their courage in opposing the extortions of the Howeytat. Here were about sixty tents and one hundred firelocks. Their herds of cows, sheep, and goats are very numerous, but they have few camels. Besides corn fields they have extensive vineyards, and sell great quantities of dried grapes at Ghaza, and to the Syrian pilgrims of the Hadj. They have the reputation of being very daring thieves.
August 22nd. — I was particularly desirous of visiting Wady Mousa, of the antiquities of which I had heard the country people speak in terms of great admiration; and from thence I had hoped to cross the desert in a straight line to Cairo; but my guide was afraid of the hazards of a journey through the desert, and insisted upon my taking the road by Akaba, the ancient Eziongeber, at the extremity of the eastern branch of the Red sea, where he said that we might join some caravans, and continue our route towards Egypt. I wished, on the contrary, to avoid Akaba, as I knew that the Pasha of Egypt kept there a numerous garrison to watch the movements of the Wahabi and of his rival the Pasha of Damascus; a person therefore like myself, coming from the latter place, without any papers to shew who I was, or why I had taken that circuitous route, would certainly have roused the suspicions of the officer commanding at Akaba, and the consequences might have been dangerous to me among the savage soldiery of that garrison. The road from Shobak to Akaba, which is tolerably good, and might easily be rendered practicable even to artillery, lies to the E. of Wady Mousa; and to have quitted it, out of mere curiosity to see the Wady, would have looked very suspicious in the eyes of the Arabs; I therefore pretended to have made a vow to slaughter a goat in honour of Haroun (Aaron), whose tomb I knew was situated at the extremity of the valley, and by this stratagem I thought that I should have the means of seeing the valley in my way to the tomb. To this my guide had nothing to oppose; the dread of drawing upon himself, by resistance, the wrath of Haroun, completely silenced him.
We left the Refaya early in the morning, and travelled over hilly ground. At the end of two hours we reached an encampment of Arabs Saoudye (ﻪﻳﺩﻮﻌﺳ), who are also Fellahein or cultivators, and the strongest of the peasant tribes, though they pay tribute to the Howeytat. Like the Refaya they dry large quantities of grapes. They lay up the produce of their harvest in a kind of fortress called Oerak (ﻕﺍﺮﻋ), not far from their camp, where are a few houses surrounded by a stone wall. They have upwards of one hundred and twenty tents. We breakfasted with the Saoudye, and then pursued the windings of a valley, where I saw many vestiges of former cultivation, and here and there some remains of walls and paved roads, all constructed of flints. The country hereabouts is woody. In three hours and a half we passed a spring, from whence we ascended a mountain, and travelled for some time along its barren summit, in a S.W. direction, when we again descended, and reached Ain Mousa, distant five hours and a half from where we had set out in the morning. Upon the summit of the mountain near the spot where the road to Wady Mousa diverges from the great road to Akaba, are a number of small heaps of stones, indicating so many sacrifices to Haroun. The Arabs who make vows to slaughter a victim to Haroun, think it sufficient to proceed as far as this place, from whence the dome of the tomb is visible in the distance; and after killing the animal they throw a heap of stones over the blood which flows to the ground. Here my guide pressed me to slaughter the goat which I had brought with me from Shobak, for the purpose, but I pretended that I had vowed to immolate it at the tomb itself. Upon a hill over the Ain Mousa the Arabs Lyathene (ﻪﻨﺘﻴﻟ) were encamped, who cultivate the valley of Mousa. We repaired to their encampment, but were not so hospitably received as we had been the night before.
Ain Mousa is a copious spring, rushing from under a rock at the eastern extremity of Wady Mousa. There are no ruins near the spring; a little lower down in the valley is a mill, and above it is the village of Badabde (ﻩﺪﺑﺪﺑ), now abandoned. It was inhabited till within a few years by about twenty families of Greek Christians, who subsequently retired to Kerek. Proceeding from the spring along the rivulet for about twenty minutes, the valley opens, and leads into a plain about a quarter of an hour in length and ten minutes in breadth, in which the rivulet joins with another descending from the mountain to the southward. Upon the declivity of the mountain, in the angle formed by the junction of the two rivulets, stands Eldjy (ﻲﺠﻟﺍ), the principal village of Wady Mousa. This place contains between two and three hundred houses, and is enclosed by a stone wall with three regular gates. It is most picturesquely situated, and is inhabited by the Lyathene abovementioned, a part of whom encamp during the whole year in the neighbouring mountains. The slopes of the mountain near the town are formed into artificial terraces, covered with corn fields and plantations of fruit trees. They are irrigated by the waters of the two rivulets and of many smaller springs which descend into the valley below Eldjy, where the soil is also well cultivated. A few large hewn stones dispersed over the present town indicate the former existence of an ancient city in this spot, the happy situation of which must in all ages have attracted inhabitants. I saw here some large pieces of beautiful saline marble, but nobody could tell me from whence they had come, or whether there were any rocks of this stone in the mountains of Shera.
I hired a guide at Eldjy, to conduct me to Haroun’s tomb, and paid him with a pair of old horse-shoes. He carried the goat, and gave me a skin of water to carry, as he knew that there was no water in the Wady below.
In following the rivulet of Eldjy westwards the valley soon narrows again; and it is here that the antiquities of Wady Mousa begin. Of these I regret that I am not able to give a very complete account: but I knew well the character of the people around me; I was without protection in the midst of a desert where no traveller had ever before been seen; and a close examination of these works of the infidels, as they are called, would have excited suspicions that I was a magician in search of treasures; I should at least have been detained and prevented from prosecuting my journey to Egypt, and in all probability should have been stripped of the little money which I possessed, and what was infinitely more valuable to me, of my journal book. Future travellers may visit the spot under the protection of an armed force; the inhabitants will become more accustomed to the researches of strangers; and the antiquities of Wady Mousa will then be found to rank amongst the most curious remains of ancient art.
At the point where the valley becomes narrow is a large sepulchral vault, with a handsome door hewn in the rock on the slope of the hill which rises from the right bank of the torrent: on the same side of the rivulet, a little farther on, I saw some other sepulchres with singular ornaments. Here a mass of rock has been insulated from the mountain by an excavation, which leaves a passage five or six paces in breadth between it and the mountain. It forms nearly a cube of sixteen feet, the top being a little narrower than the base; the lower part is hollowed into a small sepulchral cave with a low door; but the upper part of the mass is solid. There are three of these mausolea at a short distance from each other. A few paces lower, on the left side of the stream, is a larger mausoleum similarly formed, which appears from its decayed state, and the style of its architecture, to be of more ancient date than the others. Over its entrance are four obelisks, about ten feet in height, cut out of the same piece of rock; below is a projecting ornament, but so much defaced by time that I was unable to discover what it had originally represented; it had, however, nothing of the Egyptian style.
Continuing for about three hundred paces farther along the valley, which is in this part about one hundred and fifty feet in breadth; several small tombs are met with on both sides of the rivulet, excavated in the rock, without any ornaments. Beyond these is a spot where the valley seemed to be entirely closed by high rocks; but upon a nearer approach, I perceived a chasm about fifteen or twenty feet in breadth, through which the rivulet flows westwards in winter; in summer its waters are lost in the sand and gravel before they reach the opening, which is called El Syk (ﻚﻴﺴﻟﺍ). The precipices on either side of the torrent are about eighty-feet in height; in many places the opening between them at top is less than at bottom, and the sky is not visible from below. As the rivulet of Wady Mousa must have been of the greatest importance to the inhabitants of the valley, and more particularly of the city, which was entirely situated on the west side of the Syk, great pains seem to have been taken by the ancients to regulate its course. Its bed appears to have been covered with a stone pavement, of which many vestiges yet remain, and in several places stone walls were constructed on both sides, to give the water its proper direction, and to check the violence of the torrent. A channel was likewise cut on each side of the Syk, on a higher level than the river, to convey a constant supply of water into the city in all seasons, and to prevent all the water from being absorbed in summer by the broad torrent bed, or by the irrigation of the fields in the valley above the Syk.
About fifty paces below the entrance of the Syk a bridge of one arch thrown over the top of the chasm is still entire; immediately below it, on both sides, are large niches worked in the rock, with elegant sculptures, destined probably for the reception of statues. Some remains of antiquities might perhaps be found on the top of the rocks near the bridge; but my guide assured me, that notwithstanding repeated endeavours had been made, nobody had ever been able to climb up the rocks to the bridge, which was therefore unanimously declared to be the work of the Djan, or evil genii. In continuing along the winding passage of the Syk, I saw in several places small niches cut in the rock, some of which were single; in other places there were three or four together, without any regularity; some are mere holes, others have short pilasters on both sides; they vary in size from ten inches to four or five feet in height; and in some of them the bases of statues are still visible. We passed several collateral chasms between perpendicular rocks, by which some tributary torrents from the south side of the Syk empty themselves into the river. I did not enter any of them, but I saw that they were thickly overgrown with Defle trees. My guide told me that no antiquities existed in these valleys, but the testimony of these people on such subjects is little to be relied on. The bottom of the Syk itself is at present covered with large stones, brought down by the torrent, and it appears to be several feet higher than its ancient level, at least towards its western extremity. After proceeding for twenty-five minutes between the rocks, we came to a place where the passage opens, and where the bed of another stream coming from the south joins the Syk. On the side of the perpendicular rock, directly opposite to the issue of the main valley, an excavated mausoleum came in view, the situation and beauty of which are calculated to make an extraordinary impression upon the traveller, after having traversed for nearly half an hour such a gloomy and almost subterraneous passage as I have described. It is one of the most elegant remains of antiquity existing in Syria; its state of preservation resembles that of a building recently finished, and on a closer examination I found it to be a work of immense labour.
The principal part is a chamber sixteen paces square, and about twenty-five feet high. There is not the smallest ornament on the walls, which are quite smooth, as well as the roof, but the outside of the entrance door is richly embellished with architectural decorations. Several broad steps lead up to the entrance, and in front of all is a colonnade of four columns, standing between two pilasters. On each of the three sides of the great chamber is an apartment for the reception of the dead. A similar excavation, but larger, opens into each end of the vestibule, the length of which latter is not equal to that of the colonnade as it appears in front, but terminates at either end between the pilaster and the neighbouring column. The doors of the two apartments opening into the vestibule are covered with carvings richer and more beautiful than those on the door of the principal chamber. The colonnade is about thirty-five feet high, and the columns are about three feet in diameter with Corinthian capitals. The pilasters at the two extremities of the colonnade, and the two columns nearest to them, are formed out of the solid rock, like all the rest of the monument, but the two centre columns, one of which has fallen, were constructed separately, and were composed of three pieces each. The colonnade is crowned with a pediment, above which are other ornaments, which, if I distinguished them correctly, consisted of an insulated cylinder crowned with a vase, standing between two other structures in the shape of small temples, supported by short pillars. The entire front, from the base of the columns to the top of the ornaments, may be sixty or sixty-five feet. The architrave of the colonnade is adorned with vases, connected together with festoons. The exterior wall of the chamber at each end of the vestibule, which presents itself to the front between the pilaster and the neighbouring column, was ornamented with colossal figures in bas-relief; but I could not make out what they represented. One of them appears to have been a female mounted upon an animal, which, from the tail and hind leg, appears to have been a camel. All the other ornaments sculptured on the monument are in perfect preservation.
The natives call this monument Kaszr Faraoun (ﻥﻮﻋﺮﻓ ﺭﺼﻗ), or Pharaoh’s castle; and pretend that it was the residence of a prince. But it was rather the sepulchre of a prince, and great must have been the opulence of a city, which could dedicate such monuments to the memory of its rulers.
From this place, as I before observed, the Syk widens, and the road continues for a few hundred paces lower down through a spacious passage between the two cliffs. Several very large sepulchres are excavated in the rocks on both sides; they consist generally of a single lofty apartment with a flat roof; some of them are larger than the principal chamber in the Kaszr Faraoun. Of those which I entered, the walls were quite plain and unornamented; in some of them are small side rooms, with excavations and recesses in the rock for the reception of the dead; in others I found the floor itself irregularly excavated for the same purpose, in compartments six to eight feet deep, and of the shape of a coffin; in the floor of one sepulchre I counted as many as twelve cavities of this kind, besides a deep niche in the wall, where the bodies of the principal members of the family, to whom the sepulchre belonged, were probably deposited.
On the outside of these sepulchres, the rock is cut away perpendicularly above and on both sides of the door, so as to make the exterior facade larger in general than the interior apartment. Their most common form is that of a truncated pyramid, and as they are made to project one or two feet from the body of the rock they have the appearance, when seen at a distance, of insulated structures. On each side of the front is generally a pilaster, and the door is seldom without some elegant ornaments.
These fronts resemble those of several of the tombs of Palmyra, but the latter are not excavated in the rock, but constructed with hewn stones. I do not think, however, that there are two sepulchres in Wady Mousa perfectly alike; on the contrary, they vary greatly in size, shape, and embellishments. In some places, three sepulchres are excavated one over the other, and the side of the mountain is so perpendicular that it seems impossible to approach the uppermost, no path whatever being visible; some of the lower have a few steps before their entrance.
In continuing a little farther among the sepulchres, the valley widens to about one hundred and fifty yards in breadth. Here to the left is a theatre cut entirely out of the rock, with all its benches. It may be capable of containing about three thousand spectators: its area is now filled up with gravel, which the winter torrent brings down. The entrance of many of the sepulchres is in like manner almost choked up. There are no remains of columns near the theatre. Following the stream about one hundred and fifty paces further, the rocks open still farther, and I issued upon a plain two hundred and fifty or three hundred yards across, bordered by heights of more gradual ascent than before. Here the ground is covered with heaps of hewn stones, foundations of buildings, fragments of columns, and vestiges of paved streets; all clearly indicating that a large city once existed here; on the left side of the river is a rising ground extending westwards for nearly a quarter of an hour, entirely covered with similar remains. On the right bank, where the ground is more elevated, ruins of the same description are also seen. In the valley near the river, the buildings have probably been swept away by the impetuosity of the winter torrent; but even here are still seen the foundations of a temple, and a heap of broken columns; close to which is a large Birket, or reservoir of water, still serving for the supply of the inhabitants during the summer. The finest sepulchres in Wady Mousa are in the eastern cliff, in front of this open space, where I counted upwards of fifty close to each other. High up in the cliff I particularly observed one large sepulchre, adorned with Corinthian pilasters.
Farther to the west the valley is shut in by the rocks, which extend in a northern direction; the river has worked a passage through them, and runs underground, as I was told, for about a quarter of an hour. Near the west end of Wady Mousa are the remains of a stately edifice, of which part of the wall is still standing; the inhabitants call it Kaszr Bent Faraoun(ﻦﻮﻋﺮﻓ ﺖﻨﺑ ﺮﺼﻗ), or the palace of Pharaoh’s daughter. In my way I had entered several sepulchres, to the surprise of my guide, but when he saw me turn out of the footpath towards the Kaszr, he exclaimed: “I see now clearly that you are an infidel, who have some particular business amongst the ruins of the city of your forefathers; but depend upon it that we shall not suffer you to take out a single para of all the treasures hidden therein, for they are in our territory, and belong to us.” I replied that it was mere curiosity, which prompted me to look at the ancient works, and that I had no other view in coming here, than to sacrifice to Haroun; but he was not easily persuaded, and I did not think it prudent to irritate him by too close an inspection of the palace, as it might have led him to declare, on our return, his belief that I had found treasures, which might have led to a search of my person and to the detection of my journal, which would most certainly have been taken from me, as a book of magic. It is very unfortunate for European travellers that the idea of treasures being hidden in ancient edifices is so strongly rooted in the minds of the Arabs and Turks; nor are they satisfied with watching all the stranger’s steps; they believe that it is sufficient for a true magician to have seen and observed the spot where treasures are hidden (of which he is supposed to be already informed by the old books of the infidels who lived on the spot) in order to be able afterwards, at his ease, to command the guardian of the treasure to set the whole before him. It was of no avail to tell them to follow me and see whether I searched for money. Their reply was, “of course you will not dare to take it out before us, but we know that if you are a skilful magician you will order it to follow you through the air to whatever place you please.” If the traveller takes the dimensions of a building or a column, they are persuaded that it is a magical proceeding. Even the most liberal minded Turks of Syria reason in the same manner, and the more travellers they see, the stronger is their conviction that their object is to search for treasures, “Maou delayl” (ﻞﻳﻻﺩ ﻪﻌﻣ), “he has indications of treasure with him,” is an expression I have heard a hundred times.
On the rising ground to the left of the rivulet, just opposite to the Kaszr Bent Faraoun, are the ruins of a temple, with one column yet standing to which the Arabs have given the name of Zob Faraoun (ﻦﻭﻋﺮﻓ ﺏﺯ), i.e. hasta virilis Pharaonis; it is about thirty feet high and composed of more than a dozen pieces. From thence we descended amidst the ruins of private habitations, into a narrow lateral valley, on the other side of which we began to ascend the mountain, upon which stands the tomb of Aaron. There are remains of an ancient road cut in the rock, on both sides of which are a few tombs. After ascending the bed of a torrent for about half an hour, I saw on each side of the road a large excavated cube, or rather truncated pyramid, with the entrance of a tomb in the bottom of each. Here the number of sepulchres increases, and there are also excavations for the dead in several natural caverns. A little farther on, we reached a high plain called Szetouh Haroun (ﻥﻭﺭﺎﻫ ﺡﻮﻄﺳ), or Aaron’s terrace, at the foot of the mountain upon which his tomb is situated. There are several subterranean sepulchres in the plain, with an avenue leading to them, which is cut out of the rocky surface.
The sun had already set when we arrived on the plain; it was too late to reach the tomb, and I was excessively fatigued; I therefore hastened to kill the goat, in sight of the tomb, at a spot where I found a number of heaps of stones, placed there in token of as many sacrifices in honour of the saint. While I was in the act of slaying the animal, my guide exclaimed aloud, “O Haroun, look upon us! it is for you we slaughter this victim. O Haroun, protect us and forgive us! O Haroun, be content with our good intentions, for it is but a lean goat! O Haroun, smooth our paths; and praise be to the Lord of all creatures!”24 This he repeated several times, after which he covered the blood that had fallen on the ground with a heap of stones; we then dressed the best part of the flesh for our supper, as expeditiously as possible, for the guide was afraid of the fire being seen, and of its attracting hither some robbers.
August 23d. — The plain of Haroun and the neighbouring mountains have no springs: but the rain water collects in low grounds, and in natural hollows in the rocks, where it partly remains the whole year round, even on the top of the mountain; but this year had been remarkable for its drought. Juniper trees grow here in considerable numbers. I had no great desire to see the tomb of Haroun, which stands on the summit of the mountain that was opposite to us, for I had been informed by several persons who had visited it, that it contained nothing worth seeing except a large coffin, like that of Osha in the vicinity of Szalt. My guide, moreover, insisted upon my speedy return, as he was to set out the same day with a small caravan for Maan; I therefore complied with his wishes, and we returned by the same road we had come. I regretted afterwards, that I had not visited Haroun’s tomb, as I was told that there are several large and handsome sepulchres in the rock near it. A traveller ought, if possible, to see every thing with his own eyes, for the reports of the Arabs are little to be depended on, with regard to what may be interesting, in point of antiquity: they often extol things which upon examination, prove to be of no kind of interest, and speak with indifference of those which are curious and important. In a room adjoining the apartment, in which is the tomb of Haroun, there are three copper vessels for the use of those who slaughter the victims at the tomb: one is very large, and destined for the boiling of the flesh of the slaughtered camel. Although there is at present no guardian at the tomb, yet the Arabs venerate the Sheikh too highly, to rob him of any of his kitchen utensils. The road from Maan and from Wady Mousa to Ghaza, leads by the tomb, and is much frequented by the people of Maan and the Bedouins; on the other side of Haroun the road descends into the great valley.
In comparing the testimonies of the authors cited in Reland’s Palæstina, it appears very probable that the ruins in Wady Mousa are those of the ancient Petra, and it is remarkable that Eusebius says the tomb of Aaron was shewn near Petra. Of this at least I am persuaded, from all the information I procured, that there is no other ruin between the extremities of the Dead sea and Red sea, of sufficient importance to answer to that city. Whether or not I have discovered the remains of the capital of Arabia Petræa, I leave to the decision of Greek scholars, and shall only subjoin a few notes on these ruins.
The rocks, through which the river of Wady Mousa has worked its extraordinary passage, and in which all the tombs and mausolea of the city have been excavated, as high as the tomb of Haroun, are sand-stone of a reddish colour. The rocks above Eldjy are calcareous, and the sand-stone does not begin until the point where the first tombs are excavated. To the southward the sandstone follows the whole extent of the great valley, which is a continuation of the Ghor. The forms of the summits of these rocks are so irregular and grotesque, that when seen from afar, they have the appearance of volcanic mountains. The softness of the stone afforded great facilities to those who excavated the sides of the mountains; but, unfortunately, from the same cause it is in vain to look for inscriptions: I saw several spots where they had existed, but they are all now obliterated. The position of this town was well-chosen, in point of security; as a few hundred men might defend the entrance to it against a large army; but the communication with the neighbourhood must have been subjected to great inconveniences. I am not certain whether the passage of the Syk was made use of as a road, or whether the road from the town towards Eldjy was formed through one of the side valleys of the Syk. The road westwards towards Haroun, and the valley below, is very difficult for beasts of burthen. The summer heats must have been excessive, the situation being surrounded on all sides by high barren cliffs, which concentrate the reflection of the sun, while they prevent the westerly winds from cooling the air. I saw nothing in the position that could have compensated the inhabitants for these disadvantages, except the river, the benefit of which might have been equally enjoyed had the town been built below Eldjy. Security therefore was probably the only object which induced the people to overlook such objections, and to select such a singular position for a city. The architecture of the sepulchres, of which there are at least two hundred and fifty in the vicinity of the ruins, are of very different periods.
On our return I stopped a few hours at Eldjy. The town is surrounded with fruit-trees of all kinds, the produce of which is of the finest quality. Great quantities of the grapes are sold at Ghaza, and to the Bedouins. The Lyathene cultivate the valley as far as the first sepulchres of the ancient city; in their townhouses they work at the loom. They pay tribute to the Howeytat and carry provisions to the Syrian pilgrims at Maan, and to the Egyptian pilgrims at Akaba. They have three encampments of about eighty tents each. Like the Bedouins and other inhabitants of Shera they have become Wahabis, but do not at present pay any tribute to the Wahabi chief.
Wady Mousa is comprised within the territory of Damascus, as are the entire districts of Shera and Djebal. The most southern frontiers of the Pashalik are Tor Hesma, a high mountain so called at one day’s journey north of Akaba; from thence northward to Kerek, the whole country belongs to the same Pashalik, and consequently to Syria; but it may easily be conceived that the Pasha has little authority in these parts. In the time of Djezzar, the Arabs of Wady Mousa paid their annual land-tax into his treasury, but no other Pasha has been able to exact it.
I returned from Eldjy to the encampment above Ain Mousa, which is considerably higher than the town, and set out from thence immediately, for I very much disliked the people, who are less civil to strangers than any other Arabs in Shera. We travelled in a southern direction along the windings of a broad valley which ascends from Ain Mousa, and reached its summit at the end of two hours and a quarter. The soil, though flinty, is very capable of cultivation. This valley is comprised within the appellation of Wady Mousa, because the rain water which collects here joins, in the winter, the torrent below Eldjy. The water was anciently conducted through this valley in an artificial channel, of which the stone walls remain in several places. At the extremity of the Wady are the ruins of an ancient city, called Betahy (ﻲﻫﺎﻂﺑ), consisting of large heaps of hewn blocks of silicious stone; the trees on this mountain are thinly scattered. At a quarter of an hour from Betahy we reached an encampment, composed of Lyathene and Naymat, where we alighted, and rested for the night.
August 24th. — Our road lay S.S.W.; in one hour we came to Ain Mefrak (ﻕﺮﻔﻣ ﻦﻴﻋ), where are some ruins. From thence we ascended a mountain, and continued along the upper ridge of Djebel Shera. To our right was a tremendous precipice, on the other side of which runs the chain of sand-rocks which begin near Wady Mousa. To the west of these rocks we saw the great valley forming the continuation of the Ghor. At the end of three hours, after having turned a little more southward, we arrived at a small encampment of Djaylat (ﺕﻼﻴﻌﺟ) where we stopped to breakfast. The Bedouin tents which composed a great part of this encampment were the smallest I had ever seen; they were about four feet high, and ten in length. The inhabitants were very poor, and could not afford to give us coffee; our breakfast or dinner therefore consisted of dry barley cakes, which we dipped in melted goat’s grease. The intelligence which I learnt here was extremely agreeable; our landlord told us that a caravan was to set out in a few days for Cairo, from a neighbouring encampment of Howeytat, and that they intended to proceed straight across the desert. This was exactly what I wished, for I could not divest myself of apprehensions of danger in being exposed to the undisciplined soldiers of Akaba. It had been our intention to reach Akaba from hence in two days, by way of the mountainous district of Reszeyfa (a part of Shera so called) and Djebel Hesma; but we now gladly changed our route, and departed for the encampment of the Howeytat. We turned to the S.E. and in half an hour from the Djeylat passed the fine spring called El Szadeke (ﻪﻗﺩﺎﺼﻟﺍ), near which is a hill with extensive ruins of an ancient town consisting of heaps of hewn stones. From thence we descended by a slight declivity into the eastern plain, and reached the encampment, distant one hour and a half from Szadeke. The same immense plain which we had entered in coming from Beszeyra, on the eastern borders of the Ghoeyr, here presented itself to our view. We were about six hours S. of Maan, whose two hills, upon which the two divisions of the town are situated, were distinctly visible. The Syrian Hadj route passes at about one hour to the east of the encampment. About eight hours S. of Maan, a branch of the Shera extends for three or four hours in an eastern direction across the plain; it is a low hilly chain.
The mountains of Shera are considerably elevated above the level of the Ghor, but they appear only as low hills, when seen from the eastern plain, which is upon a much higher level than the Ghor. I have already noticed the same peculiarity with regard to the upper plains of El Kerek and the Belka: and it is observable also in the plain of Djolan relatively to the level of the lake of Tiberias. The valley of the Ghor, which has a rapid slope southward, from the lake of Tiberias to the Dead sea, appears to continue descending from the southern extremity of the latter as far as the Red sea, for the mountains on the E. of it appear to increase in height the farther we proceed southward, while the upper plain, apparently continues upon the same level. This plain terminates to the S. near Akaba, on the Syrian Hadj route, by a steep rocky descent, at the bottom of which begins the desert of Nedjed, covered, for the greater part, with flints. The same descent, or cliff, continues westward towards Akaba on the Egyptian Hadj road, where it joins the Djebel Hesma (a prolongation of Shera), about eight hours to the N. of the Red sea. We have thus a natural division of the country, which appears to have been well known to the ancients, for it is probably to a part of this upper plain, together with the mountains of Shera, Djebal, Kerek, and Belka, that the name of Arabia Petræa was applied, the western limits of which must have been the great valley or Ghor. It might with truth be called Petræa, not only on account of its rocky mountains, but also of the elevated plain already described, which is so much covered with stones, especially flints, that it may with great propriety be called a stony desert, although susceptible of culture: in many places it is overgrown with wild herbs, and must once have been thickly inhabited, for the traces of many ruined towns and villages are met with on both sides of the Hadj road between Maan and Akaba, as well as between Maan and the plains of Haouran, in which direction are also many springs. At present all this country is a desert, and Maan (ﻥﺎﻌﻣ)
is the only inhabited place in it. All the castles on the Syrian Hadj route from Fedhein to Medina are deserted. At Maan are several springs, to which the town owes its origin, and these, together with the circumstance of its being a station of the Syrian Hadj, are the cause of its still existing. The inhabitants have scarcely any other means of subsistence than the profits which they gain from the pilgrims in their way to and from Mekka, by buying up all kinds of provisions at Hebron and Ghaza, and selling them with great profit to the weary pilgrims; to whom the gardens and vineyards of Maan are no less agreeable, than the wild herbs collected by the people of Maan are to their camels. The pomgranates, apricots, and peaches of Maan are of the finest quality. In years when a very numerous caravan passes, pomgranates are sold at one piastre each, and every thing in the same proportion. During the two days stay of the pilgrims, in going, and as many in returning, the people of Maan earn as much as keeps them the whole year.
Maan is situated in the midst of a rocky country, not capable of cultivation; the inhabitants therefore depend upon their neighbours of Djebal and Shera for their provision of wheat and barley. At present, owing to the discontinuance of the Syrian Hadj, they are scarcely able to obtain money to purchase it. Many of them have commenced pedlars among the Bedouins, and fabricators of different articles for their use, especially sheep-skin furs, while others have emigrated to Tafyle and Kerek. The Barbary pilgrims who were permitted by the Wahabi chief to perform their pilgrimage in 1810, and 1811, returned from Medina by the way of Maan and Shobak to Hebron, Jerusalem, and Yaffa, where they embarked for their own country, having taken this circuitous route on account of the hostile demonstrations of Mohammed Ali Pasha on the Egyptian road. Several thousands of them died of fatigue before they reached Maan. The people of this town derived large profits from the survivors, and for the transport of their effects; but it is probable that if the Syrian Hadj is not soon reestablished, the place will in a few years be abandoned. The inhabitants considering their town as an advanced post to the sacred city of Medina, apply themselves with great eagerness to the study of the Koran. The greater part of them read and write, and many serve in the capacity of Imams or secretaries to the great Bedouin Sheikhs. The two hills upon which the town is built, divide the inhabitants into two parties, almost incessantly engaged in quarrels which are often sanguinary; no individual of one party even marries into a family belonging to the other.
On arriving at the encampment of the Howeytat, we were informed that the caravan was to set out on the second day; I had the advantage, therefore, of one day’s repose. I was now reduced to that state which can alone ensure tranquillity to the traveller in the desert; having nothing with me that could attract the notice or excite the cupidity of the Bedouins; my clothes and linen were torn to rags; a dirty Keffye, or yellow handkerchief, covered my head; my leathern girdle and shoes had long been exchanged, by way of present, against similar articles of an inferior kind, so that those I now wore were of the very worst sort. The tube of my pipe was reduced from two yards to a span, for I had been obliged to cut off from it as much as would make two pipes for my friends at Kerek; and the last article of my baggage, a pocket handkerchief, had fallen to the lot of the Sheikh of Eldjy. Having thus nothing more to give, I expected to be freed from all further demands: but I was mistaken: I had forgotten some rags torn from my shirt, which were tied round my ancles, wounded by the stirrups which I had received in exchange from the Sheikh of Kerek. These rags happening to be of white linen, some of the ladies of the Howeytat thought they might serve to make a Berkoa (ﻊﻗﺮﺑ), or face veil, and whenever I stepped out of the tent I found myself surrounded by half a dozen of them, begging for the rags. In vain I represented that they were absolutely necessary to me in the wounded state of my ancles: their answer was, “you will soon reach Cairo, where you may get as much linen as you like.” By thus incessantly teazing me they at last obtained their wishes; but in my anger I gave the rags to an ugly old woman, to the no slight disappointment of the young ones.
August 26th. — We broke up in the morning, our caravan consisting of nine persons, including myself, and of about twenty camels, part of which were for sale at Cairo; with the rest the Arabs expected to be able to transport, on their return home, some provisions and army-baggage to Akaba, where Mohammed Ali Pasha had established a depot for his Arabian expedition. The provisions of my companions consisted only of flour; besides flour, I carried some butter and dried Leben (sour milk), which when dissolved in water, forms not only a refreshing beverage, but is much to be recommended as a preservative of health when travelling in summer. These were our only provisions. During the journey we did not sup till after sunset, and we breakfasted in the morning upon a piece of dry bread, which we had baked in the ashes the preceding evening, without either salt or leven. The frugality of these Bedouins is indeed without example; my companions, who walked at least five hours every day, supported themselves for four and twenty hours with a piece of dry black bread of about a pound and a half weight, without any other kind of nourishment. I endeavoured, as much as possible to imitate their abstemiousness, being already convinced from experience that it is the best preservative against the effects of the fatigues of such a journey. My companions proved to be very good natured people: and not a single quarrel happened during our route, except between myself and my guide. He too was an honest, good tempered man, but I suffered from his negligence, and rather from his ignorance of my wants, as an European. He had brought only one water-skin with him, which was to serve us both for drinking and cooking; and as we had several intervals of three days without meeting with water, I found myself on very short allowance, and could not receive any assistance from my companions, who had scarcely enough for themselves. But these people think nothing of hardships and privations, and take it for granted, that other people’s constitutions are hardened to the same aptitude of enduring thirst and fatigue, as their own.
We returned to Szadeke, where we filled our water-skins, and proceeded from thence in a W.S.W. direction, ascending the eastern hills of Djebel Shera. After two hours march we began to descend, in following the course of a Wady. At the end of four hours is a spring called Ibn Reszeysz (ﺺﻴﺻﺭ ﻥﺑﺍ). The highest point of Djebel Hesma, in the direction of Akaba, bears from hence S.W. Hesma is higher than any part of Shera. In five hours we reached Ain Daleghe (ﻪﻐﻟﺍﺩ ﻦﻴﻋ), a spring in a fertile valley, where the Howeytat have built a few huts, and cultivate some Dhourra fields. We continued descending Wady Daleghe, which in winter is an impetuous torrent. The mountains are quite barren here; calcareous rock predominates, with some flint. At the end of seven hours we left the Wady, which takes a more northern direction, and ascended a steep mountain. At eight hours and a half we alighted on the declivity of the mountain, which is called Djebel Koula (ﻪﻟﻮﻗ ﻞﺒﺟ), and which appears to be the highest summit of Djebel Shera. Our road was tolerably good all the way.
August 27th. — After one hour’s march we reached the summit of Djebel Koula, which is covered with a chalky surface. The descent on the other side is very wild, the road lying along the edges of almost perpendicular precipices amidst large blocks of detached rocks, down a mountain entirely destitute of vegetation, and composed of calcareous rocks, sand-stone, and flint, lying over each other in horizontal layers. At the end of three hours we came to a number of tombs on the road side, where the Howeytat and other Bedouins who encamp in these mountains bury their dead. In three hours and a half we reached the bottom of the mountain, and entered the bed of a winter torrent, which like Wady Mousa has worked its passage through the chain of sand-stone rocks that form a continuation of the Syk. These rocks extend southwards as far as Djebel Hesma. The narrow bed is enclosed by perpendicular cliffs, which, at the entrance of the Wady, are about fifteen or twenty yards distant from each other, but wider lower down. We continued in a western direction for an hour and a half, in this Wady, which is called Gharendel (ﻝﺪﻧﺮﻏ ﻱﺩﺍﻭ). At five hours the valley opens, and we found ourselves upon a sandy plain, interspersed with rocks; the bed of the Wady was covered with white sand. A few trees of the species called by the Arabs Talh, Tarfa, and Adha (ﻪﻀﻋ), grow in the midst of the sand, but their withered leaves cannot divert the traveller’s eye from the dreary scene around him. At six hours the valley again becomes narrower; here are some more tombs of Bedouins on the side of the road. At the end of six hours and a half we came to the mouth of the Wady, where it joins the great lower valley, issuing from the mountainous country into the plain by a narrow passage, formed by the approaching rocks. These rocks are of sand-stone and contain many natural caverns. A few hundred paces above the issue of the Wady are several springs, called Ayoun Gharendel, surrounded by a few date trees, and some verdant pasture ground. The water has a sulphureous taste, but these being the only springs on the borders of the great valley within one day’s journey to the N. and S. the Bedouins are obliged to resort to them. The wells are full of leeches, some of which fixed themselves to the palates of several of our camels whilst drinking, and it was with difficulty that we could remove them. The name of Arindela, an ancient town of Palæstina Tertia, bears great resemblance to that of Gharendel.
On issuing from this rocky country, which terminates the Djebel Shera, on its western side, the Wady Gharendel empties itself into the valley El Araba, in whose sands its waters are lost. This valley is a continuation of the Ghor, which may be said to extend from the Red sea to the sources of the Jordan. The valley of that river widens about Jericho, and its inclosing hills are united to a chain of mountains which open and enclose the Dead sea. At the southern extremity of the sea they again approach, and leave between them a valley similar to the northern Ghor, in shape; but which the want of water makes a desert, while the Jordan and its numerous tributary streams render the other a fertile plain. In the southern Ghor the rivulets which descend from the eastern mountains, to the S. of Wady Szafye, or El Karahy, are lost amidst the gravel in their winter beds, before they reach the valley below, and there are no springs whatever in the western mountain; the lower plain, therefore, in summer is entirely without water, which alone can produce verdure in the Arabian deserts, and render them habitable. The general direction of the southern Ghor is parallel to the road which I took in coming from Khanzyre to Wady Mousa. At the point where we crossed it, near Gharendel, its direction was from N.N.E. to S.S.W. From Gharendel it extends southwards for fifteen or twenty hours, till it joins the sandy plain which separates the mountains of Hesma from the eastern branch of the Red sea. It continues to bear the appellation of El Ghor as far as the latitude of Beszeyra, to the S. of which place, as the Arabs informed me, it is interrupted for a short space by rocky ground and Wadys, and takes the name of Araba (ﻪﺑﺮﻋ), which it retains till its termination near the Red sea. Near Gharendel, where I saw it, the whole plain presented to the view an expanse of shifting sands whose surface was broken by innumerable undulations, and low hills. The sand appears to have been brought from the shores of the Red sea by the southerly winds; and the Arabs told me that the valley continued to present the same appearance beyond the latitude of Wady Mousa. A few Talh trees (ﺢﻠﻃ) (the acacia which produces the gum arable), Tarfa (ﻪﻓﺮﻃ) (tamarisk), Adha (ﻪﻀﻋ), and Rethem (ﻢﺛﺭ), grow among the sand hills; but the depth of sand precludes all vegetation of herbage. Numerous Bedouin tribes encamp here in the winter, when the torrents produce a copious supply of water, and a few shrubs spring up upon their banks, affording pasturage to the sheep and goats; but the camels prefer the leaves of the trees, especially the thorny Talh.
The existence of the valley El Araba, the Kadesh Barnea, perhaps, of the Scriptures, appears to have been unknown both to ancient and modern geographers, although it forms a prominent feature in the topography of Syria and Arabia Petræa. It deserves to be thoroughly investigated, and travellers might proceed along it in winter time, accompanied by two or three Bedouin guides of the tribes of Howeytat and Terabein, who could be procured at Hebron. Akaba, or Eziongeber, might be reached in eight days by the same road by which the communication was anciently kept up between Jerusalem and her dependencies on the Red sea, for this is both the nearest and the most commodious route, and it was by this valley that the treasures of Ophir were probably transported to the warehouses of Solomon.
Of the towns which I find laid down in D’Anville’s maps, between Zoara and Aelana, no traces remain, Thoana excepted, which is the present Dhana. The name of Zoar is unknown to the Arabs, but the village of Szafye is near that point; the river which is made by D’Anville to fall into the Dead sea near Zoara, is the Wady El Ahhsa; but it will have been seen in the above pages, [t]hat the course of that Wady is rather from the east than south. I enquired in vain among the Arabs for the names of those places where the Israelites had sojourned during their progress through the desert; none of them are known to the present inhabitants. The country, about Akaba, and to the W.N.W. of it, might, perhaps, furnish some data for the illustration of the Jewish history. I understand that M. Seetzen went in a straight line from Hebron to Akaba, across the desert El Ty; he may perhaps, have collected some interesting information on the subject.
The following ruined places are situated in Djebal Shera, to the S. and S.S.W. of Wady Mousa; Kalaat Beni Madha (ﻲﻀﻣ ﻲﻧﺑ ﺖﻌﻠﻗ), Atrah (ﺡﺭﻃﺍ), a ruined tower, with water near it, Djerba (ﻪﺑﺮﺟ), Basta (ﻪﻄﺴﺑ), Eyl (ﻞﻳﺍ), Ferdakh (ﺥﺩﺮﻓ), with a spring; Anyk (ﻖﻴﻧﻋ), Bir el Beytar (ﺭﺎﺘﻴﺒﻟﺍ ﺮﻴﺑ), a number of wells upon a plain surrounded by high cliffs, in the midst of Tor Hesma. The caravans from Wady Mousa to Akaba make these wells their first station, and reach Akaba on the evening of the second day; but they are two long days journeys of ten or twelve hours each. At the foot of Hanoun are the ruins of Wayra (ﻩﺮﻴﻋﻭ), and the two deserted villages of Beydha (ﻪﻀﻴﺑ) and Heysha (ﻪﺸﻴﺣ). West of Hanoun is the spring Dhahel (ﻞﺤﺿ), with some ruins. In that neighbourhood are the ruined places Shemakh (ﺥﺎﻤﺷ) and Syk (ﻖﻴﺳ).
We were one hour and a half in crossing the Araba, direction W. by N. In some places the sand is very deep, but it is firm, and the camels walk over it without sinking. The heat was suffocating, and it was increased by a hot wind from the S.E. There is not the slightest appearance of a road, or of any other work of human art in this part of the valley. On the other side we ascended the western chain of mountains. The mountain opposite to us appeared to be the highest point of the whole chain, as far as I could see N. and S.; it is called Djebel Beyane (ﻪﻧﺎﻴﺑ ﻞﺒﺟ); the height of this chain, however, is not half that of the eastern mountains. It is intersected by numerous broad Wadys, in which the Talh tree grows; the rock is entirely silicious, of the same species as that of the desert which extends from hence to Suez. I saw some large pieces of flint perfectly oval, three to four feet in length, and about a foot and a half in breadth.
After an hour and a half of gentle ascent we arrived at the summit of the hills, and then descended by a short and very gradual declivity into the western plain, the level of which although higher than that of the Araba, is perhaps one thousand feet lower than the eastern desert. We had now before us an immense expanse of dreary country entirely covered with black flints, with here and there some hilly chains rising from the plain. About six hours distant, to our right, were the hills near Wady Szays (ﺲﻴﺎﺻ). The horizon being very clear near sunset, my companions pointed out to me the mountains of Kerek, which bore N.E. by N. Djebel Dhana bore N.E. by F., and Djebel Hesma S.S.E. I must here observe, that during all my journeys in the deserts I never allowed the Arabs to get a sight of my compass, as it would certainly have been considered by them as an instrument of magic. When on horseback I took the bearings, unseen, beneath my wide Arab cloak; under such circumstances it is an advantage to ride a mare, as she may easily be taught to stand quite still. When mounted on, a camel, which can never be stopped while its companions are moving on, I was obliged to jump off when I wished to take a bearing, and to couch down in the oriental manner, as if answering a call of nature. The Arabs are highly pleased with a traveller who jumps off his beast and remounts without stopping it, as the act of kneeling down is troublesome and fatiguing to the loaded camel, and before it can rise again, the caravan is considerably ahead. From Djebel Beyane we continued in the plain for upwards of an hour; and stopped for the night in a Wady which contains Talh trees, and extends across the plain for about half an hour. We had this day marched eleven hours.
August 28th. — In the morning we passed two broad Wadys full of tamarisks and of Talh trees, which have given to them the name of Abou Talhha (ﺎﺤﻠﻃ ﻮﺑﺍ). At the end of four hours we reached Wady el Lahyane (ﻪﻧﺎﻴﺤﻠﻟﺍﻱﺩﺍﻭ). In this desert the water collects in a number of low bottoms and Wadys, where it produces verdure in winter time: and an abundance of trees with green leaves are found throughout the year. In the winter some of the Arabs of Ghaza, Khalyl, as well as those from the shores of the Red sea, encamp here. The Wady Lahyane25 is several hours in extent; its bottom is full of gravel. We met with a few families of Arabs Heywat (ﺕﺍﻮﻴﺣ), who had chosen this place, that their camels might feed upon the thorny branches of the gum arabic tree, of which they are extremely fond. These poor people had no tents with them; and their only shelter from the burning rays of the sun, and the heavy dews of night, were the scanty branches of the Talh trees. The ground was covered with the large thorns of these trees, which are a great annoyance to the Bedouins and their cattle. Each Bedouin carries in his girdle a pair of small pincers, to extract the thorns from his feet, for they have no shoes, and use only a sort of sandal made of a piece of camel’s skin, tied on with leathern thongs. In the summer they collect the gum arabic (ﻎﻤﺻ), which they sell at Cairo for thirty and forty patacks the camel load, or about twelve or fifteen shillings per cwt. English; but the gum is of a very inferior quality to that of Sennaar. My companions eat up all the small pieces that had been left upon the trees by the road side. I found it to be quite tasteless, but I was assured that it was very nutritive.
We breakfasted with the Arabs Heywat, and our people were extremely angry, and even insolent, at not having been treated with a roasted lamb, according to the promise of the Sheikh, who had invited us to alight. His excuse was that he had found none at hand; but one of our young men had overheard his wife scolding him, and declaring that she would not permit a lamb to be slaughtered for such miserable ill-looking strangers! The Bedouin women, in general, are much less generous and hospitable than their husbands, over whom they often use their influence, to curtail the allowance to guests and strangers.
At the end of five hours we issued from the head of Wady Lahyane again into the plain. The hill on the top of this Wady is called Ras el Kaa (ﻉﺎﻘﻟﺍ ﺱﺍﺭ), and is the termination of a chain of hills which stretch across the plain in a northern direction for six or eight hours: it projects like a promontory, and serves as a land-mark to travellers; its rock is calcareous. The plain which we now entered was a perfect flat covered with black pebbles. The high insulated mountain behind which Ghaza is situated, bore from hence N. by W. distant three long days journey. At the end of seven hours, there was an insulated hill to the left of our road two hours distant, called Szoeyka (ﻪﻘﻳﻮﺻ); we here turned off to the left of the great road, in order to find water. In eight hours, and late at night, we reached several wells, called Biar Omshash (ﺵﺎﺷ ﻡﺍ), is where we found an encampment of Heywat, with whom we wished to take our supper after having filled our water skins; but they assured us that they had nothing except dry bread to give us. On hearing this my companions began to reproach them with want of hospitality, and an altercation ensued, which I was afraid would lead to blows; I therefore mounted my camel, and was soon followed by the rest. We continued our route during the night, but lost our road in the dark, and were obliged to alight in a Wady full of moving sands, about half an hour from the wells.
August 29th. — This day we passed several Wadys of Talh and tamarisk trees intermixed with low shrubs. Direction W. by S. The plain is for the greater part covered with flints; in some places it is chalky. Wherever the rain collects in winter, vegetation of trees and shrubs is produced. In the midst of this desert we met a poor Bedouin woman, who begged some water of us; she was going to Akaba, where the tents of her family were, but had neither provisions nor water with her, relying entirely on the hospitality of the Arabs she might meet on the road. We directed her to the Heywat at Omshash and in Wady Lahyane. She seemed to be as unconcerned, as if she were merely taking a walk for pleasure. After an uninterrupted march of nine hours and a half, we reached a mountain called Dharf el Rokob (ﺐﻛﺮﻟﺍ ﻑﺮﺿ). It extends for about eight hours in a direction from N.W. to S.E. At its foot we crossed the Egyptian Hadj road; it passes along the mountain towards Akaba, which is distant from hence fifteen or eighteen hours. We ascended the northern extremity of the mountain by a broad road, and after a march of eleven hours reached, on the other side, a well called El Themmed (ﺪﻤﺘﻟﺍ), whose waters are impregnated with sulphur. The pilgrim caravan passes to the N. of the mountain and well, but the Arabs who have the conduct of the caravan repair to the well to fill the water skins for the supply of the Hadjis. The well is in a sandy soil, surrounded by calcareous rocks, and notwithstanding its importance, nothing has been done to secure it from being choaked up by the sand and gravel which every gust of wind drives into it. Its sides are not lined, and the Arabs take so little care in descending into it, that every caravan which arrives renders it immediately turbid.
The level plain over which we had travelled from Ras el Kaa terminates at Dharf el Rokob. Westward of it the ground is more intersected by hills and Wadys, and here begins the Desert El Ty (ﻪﻴﺘﻟﺍ), in which, according to tradition, both Jewish and Mohammedan, the Israelites wandered for several years, and from which belief the desert takes its name. We went this evening two hours farther than the Themmed, and alighted in the Wady Ghoreyr (ﺮﻴﺮﻏ), after a day’s march of thirteen hours and a half. The Bedouins, when travelling in small numbers, seldom alight at a well or spring, in the evening, for the purpose of there passing the night; they only fill their water-skins as quickly as possible, and then proceed on their way, for the neighbourhood of watering places is dangerous to travellers, especially in deserts where there are few of them, because they then become the rendezvous of all strolling parties.
August 30th. — On issuing from the Wady Ghoreyr we passed a chain of hills called Odjme (ﻪﻤﺠﻋ), running almost parallel with the Dharf el Rokob. We had now re-entered the Hadj route, a broad well trodden road, strewn with the whitened bones of animals that have died by the way. The soil is chalky, and overspread with black pebbles. At the end of five hours and a half we reached Wady Rouak (ﻕﺍﻭﺭ ﻲﺩﺍﻭ); here the term Wady is applied to a narrow strip of ground, the bed of a winter torrent, not more than one foot lower than the level of the plain, where the rain water from the inequalities of the surface collects, and produces a vegetation of low shrubs, and a few Talh trees. The greater part of the Wadys from hence to Egypt are of this description. The coloquintida grows in great abundance in all of them, it is used by the Arabs to make tinder, by the following process: after roasting the root in the ashes, they wrap it in a wetted rag of cotton cloth, they then beat it between two stones, by which means the juice of the fruit is expressed and absorbed by the rag, which is dyed by it of a dirty blue; the rag is then dried in the sun, and ignites with the slightest spark of fire. The Arabs nearest to Egypt use the coloquint in venereal complaints; they fill the fruit with camel’s milk, roast it over the fire, and then give to the patient the milk thus impregnated with the essence of the fruit.
In nine hours and a half we passed a chain of low chalky hills called Ammayre (ﻩﺮﻳﺎﻣﺍ). On several parts of the road were holes, out of which rock salt had been dug. At the end of ten hours and a half we arrived in the vicinity of Nakhel (i.e. date-tree), a fortified station of the Egyptian Hadj, situated about half an hour to the N. of the pilgrim’s road. Our direction was still W. by N. Nakhel stands in a plain, which extends to an immense distance southward, but which terminates to the N. at about one hour’s distance from Nakhel, in a low chain of mountains. The fortress is a large square building, with stone walls, without any habitations round it. There is a well of brackish water, and a large Birket, which is filled from the well, in the time of the Hadj. The Pasha of Egypt keeps a garrison in Nakhel of about fifty soldiers, and uses it as a magazine for the provisions of his army in his expedition against the Wahabi. The appellation Nakhel was probably given to this castle at a time when the adjacent country was covered with palm trees, none of which are now to be seen here. At Akaba, on the contrary, are large forests of them, belonging for the greater part to the Arabs Heywat. The ground about Nakhel is chalky or sandy, and is covered with loose pebbles.
We passed along the road as quickly as we could, for my companions were afraid lest their camels should be stopped by the Aga of Nakhel, to transport provisions to Akaba. The Arabs Heywat and Sowadye, who encamp in this district, style themselves masters of Akaba and Nakhel, and exact yearly from the Pasha certain sums for permitting him to occupy them; for though they are totally unable to oppose his troops, yet the tribute is paid, in order to take from them all pretext for plundering small caravans. About six hours to the S.W. of Nakhel is a chain of mountains called Szadder (ﺭﺪﺻ), extending in a S. E. direction.
Near Nakhel my Arab companions fell in with an acquaintance, who was burning charcoal for the Cairo market. He informed us that a large party of Arabs Sowaleha, with whom my Howeytats were at war, was encamped in this vicinity; it was, in consequence, determined to travel by night, until we should be out of their reach, and we stopped at sunset, about one hour west of Nakhel, after a day’s march of eleven hours and a half, merely for the purpose of allowing the camels to eat. Being ourselves afraid to light a fire, lest it should be descried by the Sowaleha, we were obliged to take a supper of dry flour mixed with a little salt. During the whole of the journey the camels had no other provender than the withered shrubs of the desert, my dromedary excepted, to which I gave a few handfuls of barley every evening. Loaded camels are scarcely able to perform such a journey without a daily allowance of beans and barley.
August 31st — We set out before midnight, and continued at a quick rate the whole night. In these northern districts of Arabia the Bedouins, in general, are not fond of proceeding by night; they seldom travel at that time, even in the hottest season, if they are not in very large numbers, because, as they say, during the night nobody can distinguish the face of his friend, from that of his enemy. Another reason is, that camels on the march never feed at their ease in the day time, and nature seems to require that they should have their principal meal and a few hours rest in the evening. The favourite mode of travelling in these parts is, to set out about two hours before sun-rise, to stop two hours at noon, when every one endeavours to sleep under his mantle, and to alight for the evening at about one hour before sunset. We always sat round the fire, in conversation, for two or three hours after supper. During this night’s march my companions frequently alluded to a superstitious belief among the Bedouins, that the desert is inhabited by invisible female demons, who carry off travellers tarrying in the rear of the caravans, in order to enjoy their embraces. They call them Om Megheylan (ﻥﻼﻴﻐﻣ ﻡﺍ), from Ghoul (ﻝﻮﻏ). The frequent loss of men who, exhausted by fatigue, loiter behind the great pilgrim caravans, and are cut off, stripped, and abandoned, by Bedouin robbers, may have given rise to this fable, which afforded my companions a subject of numerous jokes against me. “You townsmen,” said they, “would be exquisite morsels for these ladies, who are accustomed only to the food of the desert.”
We marched for four hours over uneven ground, and then reached a level plain, consisting of rich red earth fit for culture, and similar to that of the northern Syrian desert. We crossed several Wadys, in which we started a number of hares. At every twenty yards lay heaps of bones of camels, horses, and asses, by the side of the road. At six hours was a chain of low hills to the S. of the road, and running parallel with it. In seven hours we crossed Wady Nesyl (ﻞﻴﺴﻨ), overgrown with green shrubs, but without trees. At the end of ten hours and a half we reached the mountainous country called El Theghar (ﺭﺎﻐﺜﻟﺍ), or the mouths, which forms a boundary of the Desert El Ty, and separates it from the peninsula of Mount Sinai. We ascended for half an hour by a well formed road, cut in several places in the rock, and then followed the windings of a valley, in the bed of a winter torrent, gradually descending. On both sides of the Hadj road we saw numerous heaps of stones, the tombs of pilgrims who had died of fatigue; among others is shewn that of a woman who here died in labour, and whose infant was carried the whole way to Mekka, and back to Cairo in good health. At the end of fifteen hours we alighted in a valley of the Theghar, where we found an abundance of shrubs and trees.
September 1st. — We continued descending among the windings of the Wady, turning a little to the southward of the Hadj route. Among the calcareous hills of the Wady deep sands have accumulated, which have been blown thither from the shores of the Red sea; and in several parts there are large insulated rocks of porous tufwacke. After a march of four hours and a half we had a fine view of the sea, and gained the plain which extends to its shores, and which is apparently much below the level of the desert El Ty; it is covered with moving sands, among which a few low shrubs grow. The direction of our route was W.S.W. In seven hours we reached the wells of Mabouk (ﻕﻮﻌﺑﺎﻣ), to our great satisfaction, as we had not a drop of water left in our skins. These wells are in the open plain, at the foot of some rocks. Good water, but in small quantities, is found every where on digging to the depth of ten or twelve feet. There were about half a dozen holes, five or six feet in circumference, with a foot of water in each; on drawing up the water the holes fill again immediately. We here met some shepherds of the Maazye, a tribe of Bedouins of the desert between Egypt and the Red sea, who were busy in watering a large herd of camels. They were so kind as to make room for us, in consideration of our being strangers and travellers; and we were occupied several hours in drawing up water. These wells were filled up last year by the Moggrebyn Hadj, on its passage, to revenge themselves upon Mohammed Ali, with whose treatment they were dissatisfied. The Egyptian pilgrims take a more northern route, but the Arabs who accompany them fill the water skins for the use of the caravan at these wells, and rejoin the Hadj by the route we travelled this morning. Near the wells are the ruins of a small building, with strong walls, which was probably constructed for the defence of the water, when the Hadj was still in its ancient splendour.
On quitting the wells we turned off in the direction of Suez, our route lying W.N.W. There are no traces of a road here, for the track of caravans is immediately filled up by the moving sands, which covered the plain as far as I could discern, and in some places had collected into hills thirty or forty feet in height. At ten hours from our setting out in the morning we entered a plain covered with flints, and again fell in with the Hadj road. Here we took a W. by N. direction. At the end of eleven hours the plain was covered with a saline crust, and we crossed a tract of ground, about five minutes in breadth, covered with such a quantity of small white shells, that it appeared at a distance like a strip of salt. Shells of the same species are found on the shores of the lake of Tiberias. Once probably the sea covered the whole of this ground. At twelve hours and a half Suez bore S. about an hour and an half distant from us. To our right we saw marshy ground extending northwards, which the people informed me was full of salt; it is called, like all salt marshes, Szabegha (ﺎﻐﺒﺻ). At the end of thirteen hours we crossed a low and narrow Wady, perhaps the remains of the canal of Ptolemy; and at fourteen hours and a half, alighted in Wady Redjel (ﻞﺟﺭ ﻱﺩﺍﻭ), where there were many Talh trees, and plenty of food for our camels.
September 2d. — We continued to travel over the plain, route W. by N. In two hours we reached Adjeroud (ﺩﻭﺮﺠﻋ), an ancient castle, which has lately been completely repaired by Mohammed Ali, who keeps a garrison here. There are two separate buildings, the largest of which is occupied by the soldiers, and the smaller contains a mosque with the tomb of a saint; they are both defended by strong walls against any attack of the Arabs. Here is also a copious well, but the water is very bitter, and can be used only for watering camels. The garrison is supplied from the wells of Mousa, opposite to Suez. Our road was full of the aromatic herb Baytheran (ﻥﺍﺮﺜﻴﻌﺑ), which is sold by the Arabs at Ghaza and Hebron.
Beyond Adjeroud many Wadys cross the plain. To the left we had the chain of mountains called Attaka. At the end of five hours, and about one hour to the right of the road, begins the chain of low mountains called Oweybe (ﻪﺒﻳﻮﻋ), running parallel with the Attaka. Our route lay W. by N. At eight hours the Attaka terminated on our left, and was succeeded by a ridge of low hills. The plain here is sandy, covered with black flints. We again passed several Wadys, and met two large caravans, transporting a corps of infantry to Suez. At the end of ten hours and a half we stopped in Wady Djaafar (ﺮﻔﻌﺟ ﻱﺩﺍﻭ), which is full of low trees, shrubs, and dry herbs. From hence a hilly chain extends north-eastwards.
September 3d. — After a march of six hours along the plain, the ground began to be overspread with Egyptian pebbles. Route W. We passed several Wadys, similar to those mentioned above when describing Wady Rowak. At nine hours, we descried the Nile, with its beautiful verdant shores; at eleven hours began a hilly tract, the last undulations of Djebel Makattam; and in thirteen hours and a half we reached the vicinity of Cairo. Here my Arab companions left me, and proceeded to Belbeis, where, they were informed, their principal men were encamped, waiting for orders to proceed to Akaba. I discharged my honest guide, Hamd Ibn Hamdan, who was not a little astonished to see me take some sequins out of the skirts of my gown. As it was too late to enter the town, I went to some Bedouin tents which I saw at a distance, and entered one of them, in which, for the first time, I drank of the sweet water of the Nile. Here I remained all night. A great number of Bedouins were at this time collected near Cairo, to accompany the troops which were to be sent into Arabia after the Ramadhan.
1 See p. 284.
2 Φέρει [η λίμνη] τήν αρωματιτιν σχοινον, και κάλαμον. I. 16, p. 755.
3 Tel el Faras, the southern extremity of Djebel Heish, bears from a point above Tabaria N.E. by E.
4 Strabo mentions the Βάλασμος, as growing on the lake, p. 755. Ed.
5 See page 320.
6 See p. 276.
7 The Terra Santa pays to the Pasha of Damascus about £12000. a year; the Greek convent of Jerusalem pays much more, as well to maintain its own privileges, as with a view to encroach upon those of the Latins.
8 I understood from the Spanish consul at Cairo, that when the news of the capture of Madrid, in August, 1812, reached Jerusalem, the Spanish priests celebrated a public Te Deum, and took the oaths prescribed by the new constitution of the Cortes.
9 The villages in the Pashalik of Akka are all of the description which the Turkish law calls Melk. They are all assessed at certain yearly sums, which each is obliged to pay, whatever may be the number of its inhabitants. This is one of the chief causes of the depopulation of many parts of Syria.
10 The following are the names or the rivulets which descend from the western mountains into the Ghor, to the north or Bysan. Beginning at the southern extremity of the lake of Tiberias are Wady Fedjaz (ﺯﺎﺠﻓ ﻱﺩﺍﻭ), Ain el Szammera (ﻩﺮﻣﺼﻟﺍ ﻦﻴﻋ), Wady Djaloud (ﺩﻮﻟﺎﺟ ﻱﺩﺍﻭ), Wady el Byre (ﻩﺮﻴﺒﻟﺍ ﻱﺩﺍﻭ), and Wady el Oeshe (ﻪﺸﻌﻟﺍ ﻱﺩﺍﻭ). To the south of Bysan are Wady el Maleh (ﺢﻟﺎﻤﻟﺍ ﻱﺩﺍﻭ), Wady Medjedda (ﻉﺪﺠﻣ ﻱﺩﺍﻭ), with a ruined town so called, Wady el Beydhan (ﻥﺎﻀﻴﺑﻟﺍ ﻱﺩﺍﻭ), coming from the neighbourhood of Nablous, and Wady el Farah (ﺡﺭﺎﻔﻟﺍ). On the east side of the Jordan, beginning at the Sheriat el Mandhour, and continuing to the place where we crossed the river, the following Wadys empty themselves into it: Wady el Arab (ﺏﺒﻌﻟﺍ ﻱﺩﺍﻭ), Wady el Koszeir (ﺮﻴﺼﻘﻟﺍ ﻱﺩﺍﻭ ), Wady el Taybe (ﻪﺒﻴﻂﻟﺍ ﻱﺩﺍﻭ), Wady el Seklab (ﺏﻼﻘﺳ), which last falls into the Jordan near the village Erbayn, about one hour’s distance north of the place where we crossed. This Wady forms the boundary between the districts; called El Koura and El Wostye.
On the west side of the river, to the north of Bysan, are the following ruined places in the Ghor: beginning at the lake, Faszayl (ﻞﻳﺎﺼﻓ), El Odja (ﻊﺟﻮﻻﺍ), Ayn Sultan (ﻥﺎﻠﺳ ﻦﻴﻋ). Near where we crossed, to the south, are the ruins of Sukkot (ﻂﻘﺳ). On the western banks of the river, farther south than Ayn Sultan, which is about one hour distant from Bysan, there are no ruins, as far as Rieha, or Jericho, the valley in that direction being full of rocks, and little susceptible of cultivation.
11 For the names of the Bedouin tribes see the classification, in the Appendix.
12 See the history of Sheikh Dhaher, the predecessor of Djezzar Pasha in the government of Akka, in Volney. Voyage en Egypte et en Syrie, vol. ii. chap. 25. Ed.
13 For the enumeration of the Belka Arabs, see the classification of Syrian Bedouins, in the Appendix.
14 The hundred of any kind of cattle is here called Shilleie (ﻪﻴﻠﺷ).
15 Seyl means rivulet in this country.
16 It is from this black and heavy stone, (which M. Seetzen calls basalt, but which I rather conceive to belong to the species called tufwacke by the Germans), that the ancient opinion of there having been mountains of iron on the east side of the Jordan appears to have arisen. Even now the Arabs believe that these stones consist chiefly of iron, and I was often asked if I did not know how to extract it.
17 The Greek bishops belonging to the Patriarchal see of Jerusalem are: 1. Kaisaryet Filistin; 2. Bysan: 3. Battra; 4. Akka; 5. Bethlehem; 6. Nazareth. The Greek bishops in partibus (ﻪﻔﻗﺎﺳﺍ) are; 1. Lyd; 2. Gaza; 3. Syna; 4. Yaffa; 5. Nablous; 6. Shabashye; 7. Tor Thabour: 8. Djebel Adjeloun.
18 It is the same plant called Oshour by the people of Upper Egypt and Nubia. Norden, who has given a drawing of it, as found by him near the first cataract of the Nile, improperly denominates it Oshar.
19 See Reland. Palæst. Vol. i. p. 226.
20 Euseb. de nom. S.S.
21 This bird is a species of partridge, Tetrao Alkatta, and is found in large flocks in May and June in every part of Syria. It has been particularly described in Russel’s Aleppo, vol. ii. p. 194.
22 See Reland. Palæst. vol i. p. 218.
23 Euseb. de locis S.S.
24 .ﻦﻴﻤﻟﺎﻌﻟﺍ ﺏﺭ ﷲ ﺪﻤﺤﻟﺍﻭ ﺎﻨﺒﺮﺩ ﻞﻬﺳ ﻥﻭﺭﺎﻫ ﺎﻳ ﻪﻨﻴﻤﺳ ﻲﻓ ﺚﻴﺣ ﺎﻧﺗﻴﺗ ﻞﺒﻘﺗ ﻥﻭﺮﻫ ﺎﻴ ﺎﻧﻋ ﻲﻔﻋ ﺎﻧﻇﻔﺣﺍ ﻥﻭﺭﺎﻫ ﺎﻳ ﻚﺠﻮﻟ ﻪﻳﺤﺑﺬﻟﺍ ﺎﺨﺑﺫ ﻦﺤﻧﻓ ﺎﻧﺍﺭﺍ ﻥﻭﺭﺎﻫ ﺎﻳ
25 The road from Akaba to Ghaza passes here. It is a journey of eight long days. The watering places on it are, El Themmed (ﺪﻤﺜﻟﺍ), Mayeyu (ﻦﻴﻳﺎﻣ), and Berein (ﻦﻳﺮﻴﺑ). The distance from Akaba to Hebron is nine days. The springs on the road are: El Ghadyan (ﻥﺎﻳﺪﻐﻟﺍ), El Ghammer (ﺮﻤﻐﻟﺍ), and Weyba (ﻪﺑﻴﻭ).
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:48