THE LANDS OF THE SARACEN
or, Pictures of Palestine, Asia Minor, Sicily, and Spain.
To Washington Irving,
This book—the chronicle of my travels through lands once occupied by the Saracens—naturally dedicates itself to you, who, more than any other American author, have revived the traditions, restored the history, and illustrated the character of that brilliant and heroic people. Your cordial encouragement confirmed me in my design of visiting the East, and making myself familiar with Oriental life; and though I bring you now but imperfect returns, I can at least unite with you in admiration of a field so rich in romantic interest, and indulge the hope that I may one day pluck from it fruit instead of blossoms. In Spain, I came upon your track, and I should hesitate to exhibit my own gleanings where you have harvested, were it not for the belief that the rapid sketches I have given will but enhance, by the contrast, the charm of your finished picture.
This volume comprises the second portion of a series of travels, of which the "Journey to Central Africa," already published, is the first part. I left home, intending to spend a winter in Africa, and to return during the following summer; but circumstances afterwards occurred, which prolonged my wanderings to nearly two years and a half, and led me to visit many remote and unexplored portions of the globe. To describe this journey in a single work, would embrace too many incongruous elements, to say nothing of its great length, and as it falls naturally into three parts, or episodes, of very distinct character, I have judged it best to group my experiences under three separate heads, merely indicating the links which connect them. This work includes my travels in Palestine, Syria, Asia Minor, Sicily and Spain, and will be followed by a third and concluding volume, containing my adventures in India, China, the Loo-Choo Islands, and Japan. Although many of the letters, contained in this volume, describe beaten tracks of travel, I have always given my own individual impressions, and may claim for them the merit of entire sincerity. The journey from Aleppo to Constantinople, through the heart of Asia Minor, illustrates regions rarely traversed by tourists, and will, no doubt, be new to most of my readers. My aim, throughout the work, has been to give correct pictures of Oriental life and scenery, leaving antiquarian research and speculation to abler hands. The scholar, or the man of science, may complain with reason that I have neglected valuable opportunities for adding something to the stock of human knowledge: but if a few of the many thousands, who can only travel by their firesides, should find my pages answer the purpose of a series of cosmoramic views—should in them behold with a clearer inward eye the hills of Palestine, the sun-gilded minarets of Damascus, or the lonely pine-forests of Phrygia—should feel, by turns, something of the inspiration and the indolence of the Orient—I shall have achieved all I designed, and more than I can justly hope.
New York, October, 1854.
Life in a Syrian Quarantine.
Voyage from Alexandria to Beyrout—Landing at Quarantine—The Guardians—Our Quarters—Our Companions—Famine and Feasting—The Morning—The Holy Man of Timbuctoo—Sunday in Quarantine—Islamism—We are Registered—Love through a Grating—Trumpets—The Mystery Explained—Delights of Quarantine—Oriental vs. American Exaggeration—A Discussion of Politics—Our Release—Beyrout—Preparations for the Pilgrimage
The Coast of Palestine.
The Pilgrimage Commences—The Muleteers—The Mules—The Donkey—Journey to Sidon—The Foot of Lebanon—Pictures—The Ruins of Tyre—A Wild Morning—The Tyrian Surges—Climbing the Ladder of Tyre—Panorama of the Bay of Acre—The Plain of Esdraelon—Camp in a Garden—Acre—the Shore of the Bay—Haifa—Mount Carmel and its Monastery—A Deserted Coast—The Ruins of Caesarea—The Scenery of Palestine—We become Robbers—El Haram—Wrecks—the Harbor and Town of Jaffa.
From Jaffa to Jerusalem.
The Garden of Jaffa—Breakfast at a Fountain—The Plain of Sharon—The Ruined Mosque of Ramleh—A Judean Landscape—The Streets Ramleh—Am I in Palestine?—A Heavenly Morning—The Land of Milk and Honey—Entering the Hill Country—The Pilgrim's Breakfast—The Father of Lies—A Church of the Crusaders—The Agriculture of the Hills—The Valley of Elah—Day-Dreams—The Wilderness—The Approach—We See the Holy City
The Dead Sea and the River Jordan.
Bargaining for a Guard—-Departure from Jerusalem—The Hill of Offence—Bethany—The Grotto of Lazarus—The Valley of Fire—Scenery of the Wilderness—The Hills of Engaddi—The shore of the Dead Sea—A Bituminous Bath—Gallop to the Jordan—A watch for Robbers—The Jordan—Baptism—The Plains of Jericho—The Fountain of Elisha—The Mount of Temptation—Return to Jerusalem
The City of Christ.
Modern Jerusalem—The Site of the City—Mount Zion—Mount Moriah—The Temple—The Valley of Jehosaphat—The Olives of Gethsemane—The Mount of Olives—Moslem Tradition—Panorama from the Summit—The Interior of the City—The Population—Missions and Missionaries—Christianity in Jerusalem—Intolerance—The Jews of Jerusalem—The Face of Christ—The Church of the Holy Sepulchre—The Holy of Holies—The Sacred Localities—Visions of Christ—The Mosque of Omar—The Holy Man of Timbuctoo—Preparations for Departure.
The Hill-Country of Palestine.
Leaving Jerusalem—The Tombs of the Kings—El Bireh—The Hill-Country—First View of Mount Hermon—The Tomb of Joseph—Ebal and Gerizim—The Gardens of Nablous—The Samaritans—The Sacred Book—A Scene in the Synagogue—Mentor and Telemachus—Ride to Samaria—The Ruins of Sebaste—Scriptural Landscapes—Halt at Genin—The Plain of Esdraelon—Palestine and California—The Hills of Nazareth—Accident—Fra Joachim—The Church of the Virgin—The Shrine of the Annunciation—The Holy Places.
The Country of Galilee.
Departure from Nazareth—A Christian Guide—Ascent of Mount Tabor—Wallachian Hermits—The Panorama of Tabor—Ride to Tiberias—A Bath in Genesareth—The Flowers of Galilee—The Mount of Beatitude—Magdala—Joseph's Well—Meeting with a Turk—The Fountain of the Salt-Works—The Upper Valley of the Jordan—Summer Scenery—The Rivers of Lebanon—Tell el-Kadi—An Arcadian Region—The Fountains of Banias
Crossing the Anti-Lebanon.
The Harmless Guard—Caesarea Philippi—The Valley of the Druses—The Sides of Mount Hermon—An Alarm—Threading a Defile—Distant view of Djebel Hauaran—Another Alarm—Camp at Katana—We Ride into Damascus
Pictures of Damascus.
Damascus from the Anti-Lebanon—Entering the City—A Diorama of Bazaars—An Oriental Hotel—Our Chamber—The Bazaars—Pipes and Coffee—The Rivers of Damascus—Palaces of the Jews—Jewish Ladies—A Christian Gentleman—The Sacred Localities—Damascus Blades—The Sword of Haroun Al-Raschid—An Arrival from Palmyra
The Visions of Hasheesh.
A Dissertation on Bathing and Bodies.
Baalbec and Lebanon.
Departure from Damascus—The Fountains of the Pharpar—Pass of the Anti-Lebanon—Adventure with the Druses—The Range of Lebanon—The Demon of Hasheesh departs—Impressions of Baalbec—The Temple of the Sun—Titanic Masonry—The Ruined Mosque—Camp on Lebanon—Rascality of the Guide—The Summit of Lebanon—The Sacred Cedars—The Christians of Lebanon—An Afternoon in Eden—Rugged Travel—We Reach the Coast—Return to Beyrout
Pipes and Coffee
Journey to Antioch and Aleppo.
Change of Plans—Routes to Baghdad—Asia Minor—We sail from Beyrout—Yachting on the Syrian Coast—Tartus and Latakiyeh—The Coasts of Syria—The Bay of Suediah—The Mouth of the Orontes—Landing—The Garden of Syria—Ride to Antioch—The Modern City—The Plains of the Orontes—Remains of the Greek Empire—The Ancient Road—The Plain of Keftin—Approach to Aleppo.
Life in Aleppo.
Our Entry into Aleppo—We are conducted to a House—Our Unexpected Welcome—The Mystery Explained—Aleppo—Its Name—Its Situation—The Trade of Aleppo—The Christians—The Revolt of 1850—Present Appearance of the City—Visit to Osman Pasha—The Citadel—View from the Battlements—Society in Aleppo—Etiquette and Costume—Jewish Marriage Festivities—A Christian Marriage Procession—Ride around the Town—Nightingales—The Aleppo Button—A Hospital for Cats—Ferhat.
Through the Syrian Gates.
An Inauspicious Departure—The Ruined Church of St. Simon—The Plain of Antioch—A Turcoman Encampment—Climbing Akma Dagh—The Syrian Gates—Scanderoon—An American Captain—Revolt of the Koords—We take a Guard—The Field of Issus—The Robber-Chief, Kutchuk Ali—A Deserted Town—A Land of Gardens.
Adana and Tarsus.
The Black Gate—The Plain of Cilicia—A Koord Village—Missis—Cilician Scenery—Arrival at Adana—Three days in Quarantine—We receive Pratique—A Landscape—The Plain of Tarsus—The River Cydnus—A Vision of Cleopatra—Tarsus and its Environs—The Duniktash—The Moon of Ramazan.
The Pass of Mount Taurus.
We enter the Taurus—Turcomans—Forest Scenery—the Palace of Pan—Khan Mezarluk—Morning among the Mountains—The Gorge of the Cydnus—The Crag of the Fortress—The Cilician Grate—Deserted Forts—A Sublime Landscape—The Gorge of the Sihoon—The Second Gate—Camp in the Defile—Sunrise—Journey up the Sihoon—A Change of Scenery—A Pastoral Valley—Kolue Kushla—A Deserted Khan—A Guest in Ramazan—Flowers—The Plain of Karamania—Barren Hills—The Town of Eregli—The Hadji again
The Plains of Karamania.
The Plains of Karamania—Afternoon Heat—A Well—Volcanic Phenomena—Karamania—A Grand Ruined Khan—Moonlight Picture—A Landscape of the Plains—Mirages—A Short Interview—The Village of Ismil—Third Day on the Plains—Approach to Konia
Scenes in Konia.
Approach to Konia—Tomb of Hazret Mevlana—Lodgings in a Khan—An American Luxury—A Night-Scene in Ramazan—Prayers in the Mosque—Remains of the Ancient City—View from the Mosque—The Interior—A Leaning Minaret—The Diverting History of the Muleteers
The Heart of Asia Minor.
Scenery of the Hills—Ladik, the Ancient Laodicea—The Plague of Gad-Flies—Camp at Ilguen—A Natural Warm Bath—The Gad-Flies Again—A Summer Landscape—Ak-Sheher—The Base of Sultan Dagh—The Fountain of Midas—A Drowsy Journey—The Town of Bolawaduen
The Forests of Phrygia.
The Frontier of Phrygia—Ancient Quarries and Tombs—We Enter the Pine Forests—A Guard-House—Encampments of the Turcomans—Pastoral Scenery—A Summer Village—The Valley of the Tombs—Rock Sepulchres of the Phrygian Kings—The Titan's Camp—The Valley of Kuembeh—A Land of Flowers—Turcoman Hospitality—The Exiled Effendis—The Old Turcoman—A Glimpse of Arcadia—A Landscape—Interested Friendship—The Valley of the Pursek—Arrival at Kiutahya
Kiutahya, and the Ruins of OEzani.
Entrance into Kiutahya—The New Khan—An Unpleasant Discovery—Kiutahya—The Citadel—Panorama from the Walls—The Gorge of the Mountains—Camp in a Meadow—The Valley of the Rhyndacus—Chavduer—The Ruins of OEzani—The Acropolis and Temple—The Theatre and Stadium—Ride down the Valley—Camp at Daghjkoei
The Mysian Olympus.
Journey Down the Valley—The Plague of Grasshoppers—A Defile—The Town of Taushanlue—The Camp of Famine—We leave the Rhyndacus—The Base of Olympus—Primeval Forests—The Guard-House—Scenery of the Summit—Forests of Beech—Saw-Mills—Descent of the Mountain—The View of Olympus—Morning—The Land of Harvest—Aineghioel—A Showery Ride—The Plain of Brousa—The Structure of Olympus—We reach Brousa—The Tent is Furled
Brousa and the Sea of Marmora.
The City of Brousa—Return to Civilization—Storm—The Kalputcha Hammam—A Hot Bath—A Foretaste of Paradise—The Streets and Bazaars of Brousa—The Mosque—The Tombs of the Ottoman Sultans—Disappearance of the Katurgees—We start for Moudania—The Sea of Marmora—Moudania—Passport Difficulties—A Greek Caique—Breakfast with the Fishermen—A Torrid Voyage—The Princes' Islands—Prinkipo—Distant View of Constantinople—We enter the Golden Horn
The Night of Predestination.
Constantinople in Ramazan—The Origin of the Fast—Nightly Illuminations—The Night of Predestination—The Golden Horn at Night—Illumination of the Shores—-The Cannon of Constantinople—A Fiery Panorama—The Sultan's Caique—Close of the Celebration—A Turkish Mob—The Dancing Dervishes
The Solemnities of Bairam.
The Appearance of the New Moon—The Festival of Bairam—The Interior of the Seraglio—The Pomp of the Sultan's Court—Reschid Pasha—The Sultan's Dwarf—Arabian Stallions—The Imperial Guard—Appearance of the Sultan—The Inner Court—Return of the Procession—The Sultan on his Throne—The Homage of the Pashas—An Oriental Picture—Kissing the Scarf—The Shekh el-Islam—The Descendant of the Caliphs—Bairam Commences
The Mosques of Constantinople.
Sojourn at Constantinople—Semi-European Character of the City—The Mosque—Procuring a Firman—The Seraglio—The Library—The Ancient Throne-Room—Admittance to St. Sophia—Magnificence of the Interior—The Marvellous Dome—The Mosque of Sultan Achmed—The Sulemanye—Great Conflagrations—Political Meaning of the Fires—Turkish Progress—Decay of the Ottoman Power
Farewell to the Orient—Malta.
Embarcation—Farewell to the Orient—Leaving Constantinople—A Wreck—The Dardanelles—Homeric Scenery—Smyrna Revisited—The Grecian Isles—Voyage to Malta—Detention—La Valetta—The Maltese—The Climate—A Boat for Sicily
The Festival of St. Agatha.
Departure from Malta—The Speronara—Our Fellow-Passengers—The First Night on Board—Sicily—Scarcity of Provisions—Beating in the Calabrian Channel—The Fourth Morning—The Gulf of Catania—A Sicilian Landscape—The Anchorage—The Suspected List—The Streets of Catania—Biography of St. Agatha—The Illuminations—The Procession of the Veil—The Biscari Palace—The Antiquities of Catania—The Convent of St. Nicola
The Eruption of Mount Etna.
The Mountain Threatens—The Signs Increase—We Leave Catania—Gardens Among the Lava—Etna Labors—Aci Reale—The Groans of Etna—The Eruption—Gigantic Tree of Smoke—Formation of the New Crater—We Lose Sight of the Mountain—Arrival at Messina—Etna is Obscured—Departure
Unwritten Links of Travel—Departure from Southampton—The Bay of Biscay—Cintra—Trafalgar—Gibraltar at Midnight—Landing—Search for a Palm-Tree—A Brilliant Morning—The Convexity of the Earth—Sun-Worship—The Rock
Cadiz and Seville.
Voyage to Cadiz—Landing—The City—Its Streets—The Women of Cadiz—Embarkation for Seville—Scenery of the Guadalquivir—Custom House Examination—The Guide—The Streets of Seville—The Giralda—The Cathedral of Seville—The Alcazar—Moorish Architecture—Pilate's House—Morning View from the Giralda—Old Wine—Murillos—My Last Evening in Seville
Journey in a Spanish Diligence.
Spanish Diligence Lines—Leaving Seville—An Unlucky Start—Alcala of the Bakers—Dinner at Carmona—A Dehesa—The Mayoral and his Team—Ecija—Night Journey—Cordova—The Cathedral-Mosque—Moorish Architecture—The Sierra Morena—A Rainy Journey—A Chapter of Accidents—Baylen—The Fascination of Spain—Jaen—The Vega of Granada
Granada and the Alhambra.
Mateo Ximenez, the Younger—The Cathedral of Granada—A Monkish Miracle—Catholic Shrines—Military Cherubs—The Royal Chapel—The Tombs of Ferdinand and Isabella—Chapel of San Juan de Dios—The Albaycin—View of the Vega—The Generalife—The Alhambra—Torra de la Vela—The Walls and Towers—A Visit to Old Mateo—The Court of the Fishpond—The Halls of the Alhambra—Character of the Architecture— Hall of the Abencerrages—Hall of the Two Sisters—The Moorish Dynasty in Spain
The Bridle-Roads of Andalusia.
Change of Weather—Napoleon and his Horses—Departure from Granada—My Guide, Jose Garcia—His Domestic Troubles—The Tragedy of the Umbrella—The Vow against Aguardiente—Crossing the Vega—The Sierra Nevada—The Baths of Alhama—"Woe is Me, Alhama!"—The Valley of the River Velez—Velez Malaga—The Coast Road—The Fisherman and his Donkey—Malaga—Summer Scenery—The Story of Don Pedro, without Fear and without Care—The Field of Monda—A Lonely Venta
The Mountains of Fonda.
Orange Valleys—Climbing the Mountains—Jose's Hospitality—El Burgo—The Gate of the Wind—The Cliff and Cascades of Ronda—The Mountain Region—Traces of the Moors—Haunts of Robbers—A Stormy Ride—The Inn at Gaucin—Bad News—A Boyish Auxiliary—Descent from the Mountains—The Ford of the Guadiaro—Our Fears Relieved—The Cork Woods—Ride from San Roque to Gibraltar—Parting with Jose—Travelling in Spain—Conclusion
The Lands of the Saracen
Life in a Syrian Quarantine.
Voyage from Alexandria to Beyrout—Landing at Quarantine—The Guardiano—Our Quarters—Our Companions—Famine and Feasting—The Morning—The Holy Man of Timbuctoo—Sunday in Quarantine—Islamism—We are Registered—Love through a Grating—Trumpets—The Mystery Explained—Delights of Quarantine—Oriental vs. American Exaggeration—A Discussion of Politics—Our Release—Beyrout—Preparations for the Pilgrimage.
"The mountains look on Quarantine, And Quarantine looks on the sea."
In Quarantine, Beyrout, Saturday, April 17, 1852.
Everybody has heard of Quarantine, but in our favored country there are many untravelled persons who do not precisely know what it is, and who no doubt wonder why it should be such a bugbear to travellers in the Orient. I confess I am still somewhat in the same predicament myself, although I have already been twenty-four hours in Quarantine. But, as a peculiarity of the place is, that one can do nothing, however good a will he has, I propose to set down my experiences each day, hoping that I and my readers may obtain some insight into the nature of Quarantine, before the term of my probation is over.
I left Alexandria on the afternoon of the 14th inst., in company with Mr. Carter Harrison, a fellow-countryman, who had joined me in Cairo, for the tour through Palestine. We had a head wind, and rough sea, and I remained in a torpid state during most of the voyage. There was rain the second night; but, when the clouds cleared away yesterday morning, we were gladdened by the sight of Lebanon, whose summits glittered with streaks of snow. The lower slopes of the mountains were green with fields and forests, and Beyrout, when we ran up to it, seemed buried almost out of sight, in the foliage of its mulberry groves. The town is built along the northern side of a peninsula, which projects about two miles from the main line of the coast, forming a road for vessels. In half an hour after our arrival, several large boats came alongside, and we were told to get our baggage in order and embark for Quarantine. The time necessary to purify a traveller arriving from Egypt from suspicion of the plague, is five days, but the days of arrival and departure are counted, so that the durance amounts to but three full days. The captain of the Osiris mustered the passengers together, and informed them that each one would be obliged to pay six piastres for the transportation of himself and his baggage. Two heavy lighters are now drawn up to the foot of the gangway, but as soon as the first box tumbles into them, the men tumble out. They attach the craft by cables to two smaller boats, in which they sit, to tow the infected loads. We are all sent down together, Jews, Turks, and Christians—a confused pile of men, women, children, and goods. A little boat from the city, in which there are representatives from the two hotels, hovers around us, and cards are thrown to us. The zealous agents wish to supply us immediately with tables, beds, and all other household appliances; but we decline their help until we arrive at the mysterious spot. At last we float off—two lighters full of infected, though respectable, material, towed by oarsmen of most scurvy appearance, but free from every suspicion of taint.
The sea is still rough, the sun is hot, and a fat Jewess becomes sea-sick. An Italian Jew rails at the boatmen ahead, in the Neapolitan patois, for the distance is long, the Quarantine being on the land-side of Beyrout. We see the rows of little yellow houses on the cliff, and with great apparent risk of being swept upon the breakers, are tugged into a small cove, where there is a landing-place. Nobody is there to receive us; the boatmen jump into the water and push the lighters against the stone stairs, while we unload our own baggage. A tin cup filled with sea-water is placed before us, and we each drop six piastres into it—for money, strange as it may seem, is infectious. By this time, the guardianos have had notice of our arrival, and we go up with them to choose our habitations. There are several rows of one-story houses overlooking the sea, each containing two empty rooms, to be had for a hundred piastres; but a square two-story dwelling stands apart from them, and the whole of it may be had for thrice that sum. There are seven Frank prisoners, and we take it for ourselves. But the rooms are bare, the kitchen empty, and we learn the important fact, that Quarantine is durance vile, without even the bread and water. The guardiano says the agents of the hotel are at the gate, and we can order from them whatever we want. Certainly; but at their own price, for we are wholly at their mercy. However, we go down stairs, and the chief officer, who accompanies us, gets into a corner as we pass, and holds a stick before him to keep us off. He is now clean, but if his garments brush against ours, he is lost. The people we meet in the grounds step aside with great respect to let us pass, but if we offer them our hands, no one would dare to touch a finger's tip.
Here is the gate: a double screen of wire, with an interval between, so that contact is impossible. There is a crowd of individuals outside, all anxious to execute commissions. Among them is the agent of the hotel, who proposes to fill our bare rooms with furniture, send us a servant and cook, and charge us the same as if we lodged with him. The bargain is closed at once, and he hurries off to make the arrangements. It is now four o'clock, and the bracing air of the headland gives a terrible appetite to those of us who, like me, have been sea-sick and fasting for forty-eight hours. But there is no food within the Quarantine except a patch of green wheat, and a well in the limestone rock. We two Americans join company with our room-mate, an Alexandrian of Italian parentage, who has come to Beyrout to be married, and make the tour of our territory. There is a path along the cliffs overhanging the sea, with glorious views of Lebanon, up to his snowy top, the pine-forests at his base, and the long cape whereon the city lies at full length, reposing beside the waves. The Mahommedans and Jews, in companies of ten (to save expense), are lodged in the smaller dwellings, where they have already aroused millions of fleas from their state of torpid expectancy. We return, and take a survey of our companions in the pavilion: a French woman, with two ugly and peevish children (one at the breast), in the next room, and three French gentlemen in the other—a merchant, a young man with hair of extraordinary length, and a filateur, or silk-manufacturer, middle-aged and cynical. The first is a gentleman in every sense of the word, the latter endurable, but the young Absalom is my aversion, I am subject to involuntary likings and dislikings, for which I can give no reason, and though the man may be in every way amiable, his presence is very distasteful to me.
We take a pipe of consolation, but it only whets our appetites. We give up our promenade, for exercise is still worse; and at last the sun goes down, and yet no sign of dinner. Our pavilion becomes a Tower of Famine, and the Italian recites Dante. Finally a strange face appears at the door. By Apicius! it is a servant from the hotel, with iron bedsteads, camp-tables, and some large chests, which breathe an odor of the Commissary Department. We go stealthily down to the kitchen, and watch the unpacking. Our dinner is there, sure enough, but alas! it is not yet cooked. Patience is no more; my companion manages to filch a raw onion and a crust of bread, which we share, and roll under our tongues as a sweet morsel, and it gives us strength for another hour. The Greek dragoman and cook, who are sent into Quarantine for our sakes, take compassion on us; the fires are kindled in the cold furnaces; savory steams creep up the stairs; the preparations increase, and finally climax in the rapturous announcement: "Messieurs, dinner is ready." The soup is liquified bliss; the cotelettes d'agneau are cotelettes de bonheur; and as for that broad dish of Syrian larks—Heaven forgive us the regret, that more songs had not been silenced for our sake! The meal is all nectar and ambrosia, and now, filled and contented, we subside into sleep on comfortable couches. So closes the first day of our incarceration.
This morning dawned clear and beautiful. Lebanon, except his snowy crest, was wrapped in the early shadows, but the Mediterranean gleamed like a shield of sapphire, and Beyrout, sculptured against the background of its mulberry groves, was glorified beyond all other cities. The turf around our pavilion fairly blazed with the splendor of the yellow daisies and crimson poppies that stud it. I was satisfied with what I saw, and felt no wish to leave Quarantine to-day. Our Italian friend, however, is more impatient. His betrothed came early to see him, and we were edified by the great alacrity with which he hastened to the grate, to renew his vows at two yards' distance from her. In the meantime, I went down to the Turkish houses, to cultivate the acquaintance of a singular character I met on board the steamer. He is a negro of six feet four, dressed in a long scarlet robe. His name is Mahommed Senoosee, and he is a fakeer, or holy man, from Timbuctoo. He has been two years absent from home, on a pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina, and is now on his way to Jerusalem and Damascus. He has travelled extensively in all parts of Central Africa, from Dar-Fur to Ashantee, and professes to be on good terms with the Sultans of Houssa and Bornou. He has even been in the great kingdom of Waday, which has never been explored by Europeans, and as far south as Iola, the capital of Adamowa. Of the correctness of his narrations I have not the least doubt, as they correspond geographically with all that we know of the interior of Africa. In answer to my question whether a European might safely make the same tour, he replied that there would be no difficulty, provided he was accompanied by a native, and he offered to take me even to Timbuctoo, if I would return with him. He was very curious to obtain information about America, and made notes of all that I told him, in the quaint character used by the Mughrebbins, or Arabs of the West, which has considerable resemblance to the ancient Cufic. He wishes to join company with me for the journey to Jerusalem, and perhaps I shall accept him.
Sunday, April 18.
As Quarantine is a sort of limbo, without the pale of civilized society, we have no church service to-day. We have done the best we could, however, in sending one of the outside dragomen to purchase a Bible, in which we succeeded. He brought us a very handsome copy, printed by the American Bible Society in New York. I tried vainly in Cairo and Alexandria to find a missionary who would supply my heathenish destitution of the Sacred Writings; for I had reached the East through Austria, where they are prohibited, and to travel through Palestine without them, would be like sailing without pilot or compass. It gives a most impressive reality to Solomon's "house of the forest of Lebanon," when you can look up from the page to those very forests and those grand mountains, "excellent with the cedars." Seeing the holy man of Timbuctoo praying with his face towards Mecca, I went down to him, and we conversed for a long time on religious matters. He is tolerably well informed, having read the Books of Moses and the Psalms of David, but, like all Mahommedans, his ideas of religion consist mainly of forms, and its reward is a sensual paradise. The more intelligent of the Moslems give a spiritual interpretation to the nature of the Heaven promised by the Prophet, and I have heard several openly confess their disbelief in the seventy houries and the palaces of pearl and emerald. Shekh Mahommed Senoosee scarcely ever utters a sentence in which is not the word "Allah," and "La illah il' Allah" is repeated at least every five minutes. Those of his class consider that there is a peculiar merit in the repetition of the names and attributes of God. They utterly reject the doctrine of the Trinity, which they believe implies a sort of partnership, or God-firm (to use their own words), and declare that all who accept it are hopelessly damned. To deny Mahomet's prophetship would excite a violent antagonism, and I content myself with making them acknowledge that God is greater than all Prophets or Apostles, and that there is but one God for all the human race. I have never yet encountered that bitter spirit of bigotry which is so frequently ascribed to them; but on the contrary, fully as great a tolerance as they would find exhibited towards them by most of the Christian sects.
This morning a paper was sent to us, on which we were requested to write our names, ages, professions, and places of nativity. We conjectured that we were subjected to the suspicion of political as well as physical taint, but happily this was not the case. I registered myself as a voyageur, the French as negocians and when it came to the woman's turn, Absalom, who is a partisan of female progress, wished to give her the same profession as her husband—a machinist. But she declared that her only profession was that of a "married woman," and she was so inscribed. Her peevish boy rejoiced in the title of "pleuricheur," or "weeper," and the infant as "titeuse," or "sucker." While this was going on, the guardiano of our room came in very mysteriously, and beckoned to my companion, saying that "Mademoiselle was at the gate." But it was the Italian who was wanted, and again, from the little window of our pavilion, we watched his hurried progress over the lawn. No sooner had she departed, than he took his pocket telescope, slowly sweeping the circuit of the bay as she drew nearer and nearer Beyrout. He has succeeded in distinguishing, among the mass of buildings, the top of the house in which she lives, but alas! it is one story too low, and his patient espial has only been rewarded by the sight of some cats promenading on the roof.
I have succeeded in obtaining some further particulars in relation to Quarantine. On the night of our arrival, as we were about getting into our beds, a sudden and horrible gush of brimstone vapor came up stairs, and we all fell to coughing like patients in a pulmonary hospital. The odor increased till we were obliged to open the windows and sit beside them in order to breathe comfortably. This was the preparatory fumigation, in order to remove the ranker seeds of plague, after which the milder symptoms will of themselves vanish in the pure air of the place. Several times a day we are stunned and overwhelmed with the cracked brays of three discordant trumpets, as grating and doleful as the last gasps of a dying donkey. At first I supposed the object of this was to give a greater agitation to the air, and separate and shake down the noxious exhalations we emit; but since I was informed that the soldiers outside would shoot us in case we attempted to escape, I have concluded that the sound is meant to alarm us, and prevent our approaching too near the walls. On inquiring of our guardiano whether the wheat growing within the grounds was subject to Quarantine, he informed me that it did not ecovey infection, and that three old geese, who walked out past the guard with impunity, were free to go and come, as they had never been known to have the plague. Yesterday evening the medical attendant, a Polish physician, came in to inspect us, but he made a very hasty review, looking down on us from the top of a high horse.
Monday, April 19.
Eureka! the whole thing is explained. Talking to day with the guardiano, he happened to mention that he had been three years in Quarantine, keeping watch over infected travellers. "What!" said I, "you have been sick three years." "Oh no," he replied; "I have never been sick at all." "But are not people sick in Quarantine?" "Stafferillah!" he exclaimed; "they are always in better health than the people outside." "What is Quarantine for, then?" I persisted. "What is it for?" he repeated, with a pause of blank amazement at my ignorance, "why, to get money from the travellers!" Indiscreet guardiano! It were better to suppose ourselves under suspicion of the plague, than to have such an explanation of the mystery. Yet, in spite of the unpalatable knowledge, I almost regret that this is our last day in the establishment. The air is so pure and bracing, the views from our windows so magnificent, the colonized branch of the Beyrout Hotel so comfortable, that I am content to enjoy this pleasant idleness—the more pleasant since, being involuntary, it is no weight on the conscience. I look up to the Maronite villages, perched on the slopes of Lebanon, with scarce a wish to climb to them, or turning to the sparkling Mediterranean, view
"The speronara's sail of snowy hue Whitening and brightening on that field of blue,"
and have none of that unrest which the sight of a vessel in motion suggests.
To-day my friend from Timbuctoo came up to have another talk. He was curious to know the object of my travels, and as he would not have comprehended the exact truth, I was obliged to convey it to him through the medium of fiction. I informed him that I had been dispatched by the Sultan of my country to obtain information of the countries of Africa; that I wrote in a book accounts of everything I saw, and on my return, would present this book to the Sultan, who would reward me with a high rank—perhaps even that of Grand Vizier. The Orientals deal largely in hyperbole, and scatter numbers and values with the most reckless profusion. The Arabic, like the Hebrew, its sister tongue, and other old original tongues of Man, is a language of roots, and abounds with the boldest metaphors. Now, exaggeration is but the imperfect form of metaphor. The expression is always a splendid amplification of the simple fact. Like skilful archers, in order to hit the mark, they aim above it. When you have once learned his standard of truth, you can readily gauge an Arab's expressions, and regulate your own accordingly. But whenever I have attempted to strike the key-note myself, I generally found that it was below, rather than above, the Oriental pitch.
The Shekh had already informed me that the King of Ashantee, whom he had visited, possessed twenty-four houses full of gold, and that the Sultan of Houssa had seventy thousand horses always standing saddled before his palace, in order that he might take his choice, when he wished to ride out. By this he did not mean that the facts were precisely so, but only that the King was very rich, and the Sultan had a great many horses. In order to give the Shekh an idea of the great wealth and power of the American Nation, I was obliged to adopt the same plan. I told him, therefore, that our country was two years' journey in extent, that the Treasury consisted of four thousand houses filled to the roof with gold, and that two hundred thousand soldiers on horseback kept continual guard around Sultan Fillmore's palace. He received these tremendous statements with the utmost serenity and satisfaction, carefully writing them in his book, together with the name of Sultan Fillmore, whose fame has ere this reached the remote regions of Timbuctoo. The Shekh, moreover, had the desire of visiting England, and wished me to give him a letter to the English Sultan. This rather exceeded my powers, but I wrote a simple certificate explaining who he was, and whence he came, which I sealed with an immense display of wax, and gave him. In return, he wrote his name in my book, in the Mughrebbin character, adding the sentence: "There is no God but God."
This evening the forbidden subject of politics crept into our quiet community, and the result was an explosive contention which drowned even the braying of the agonizing trumpets outside. The gentlemanly Frenchman is a sensible and consistent republican, the old filateur a violent monarchist, while Absalom, as I might have foreseen, is a Red, of the schools of Proudhon and Considerant. The first predicted a Republic in France, the second a Monarchy in America, and the last was in favor of a general and total demolition of all existing systems. Of course, with such elements, anything like a serious discussion was impossible; and, as in most French debates, it ended in a bewildering confusion of cries and gesticulations. In the midst of it, I was struck by the cordiality with which the Monarchist and the Socialist united in their denunciations of England and the English laws. As they sat side by side, pouring out anathemas against "perfide Albion," I could not help exclaiming: "Voila, comme les extremes se rencontrent!" This turned the whole current of their wrath against me, and I was glad to make a hasty retreat.
The physician again visited us to-night, to promise a release to-morrow morning. He looked us all in the faces, to be certain that there were no signs of pestilence, and politely regretted that he could not offer us his hand. The husband of the "married woman" also came, and relieved the other gentlemen from the charge of the "weeper." He was a stout, ruddy Provencal, in a white blouse, and I commiserated him sincerely for having such a disagreeable wife.
To-day, being the last of our imprisonment, we have received many tokens of attention from dragomen, who have sent their papers through the grate to us, to be returned to-morrow after our liberation. They are not very prepossessing specimens of their class, with the exception of Yusef Badra, who brings a recommendation from my friend, Ross Browne. Yusef is a handsome, dashing fellow, with something of the dandy in his dress and air, but he has a fine, clear, sparkling eye, with just enough of the devil in it to make him attractive. I think, however, that, the Greek dragoman, who has been our companion in Quarantine, will carry the day. He is by birth a Boeotian, but now a citizen of Athens, and calls himself Francois Vitalis. He speaks French, German, and Italian, besides Arabic and Turkish, and as he has been for twelve or fifteen years vibrating between Europe and the East, he must by this time have amassed sufficient experience to answer the needs of rough-and-tumble travellers like ourselves. He has not asked us for the place, which displays so much penetration on his part, that we shall end by offering it to him. Perhaps he is content to rest his claims upon the memory of our first Quarantine dinner. If so, the odors of the cutlets and larks—even of the raw onion, which we remember with tears—shall not plead his cause in vain.
Beyrout (out of Quarantine), Wednesday, May 21.
The handsome Greek, Diamanti, one of the proprietors of the "Hotel de Belle Vue," was on hand bright and early yesterday morning, to welcome us out of Quarantine. The gates were thrown wide, and forth we issued between two files of soldiers, rejoicing in our purification. We walked through mulberry orchards to the town, and through its steep and crooked streets to the hotel, which stands beyond, near the extremity of the Cape, or Ras Beyrout. The town is small, but has an active population, and a larger commerce than any other port in Syria. The anchorage, however, is an open road, and in stormy weather it is impossible for a boat to land. There are two picturesque old castles on some rocks near the shore, but they were almost destroyed by the English bombardment in 1841. I noticed two or three granite columns, now used as the lintels of some of the arched ways in the streets, and other fragments of old masonry, the only remains of the ancient Berytus.
Our time, since our release, has been occupied by preparations for the journey to Jerusalem. We have taken Francois as dragoman, and our mukkairee, or muleteers, are engaged to be in readiness to-morrow morning. I learn that the Druses are in revolt in Djebel Hauaran and parts of the Anti-Lebanon, which will prevent my forming any settled plan for the tour through Palestine and Syria. Up to this time, the country has been considered quite safe, the only robbery this winter having been that of the party of Mr. Degen, of New York, which was plundered near Tiberias. Dr. Robinson left here two weeks ago for Jerusalem, in company with Dr. Eli Smith, of the American Mission at this place.
The Coast of Palestine.
The Pilgrimage Commences—The Muleteers—The Mules—The Donkey—Journey to Sidon—The Foot of Lebanon—Pictures—The Ruins of Tyre—A Wild Morning—The Tyrian Surges—Climbing the Ladder of Tyre—Panorama of the Bay of Acre—The Plain of Esdraelon—Camp in a Garden—Acre—the Shore of the Bay—Haifa—Mount Carmel and its Monastery—A Deserted Coast—The Ruins of Caesarea—The Scenery of Palestine—We become Robbers—El Haram—Wrecks—the Harbor and Town of Jaffa.
"Along the line of foam, the jewelled chain, The largesse of the ever-giving main."
R. H. Stoddard.
Ramleh, April 27, 1852.
We left Beyrout on the morning of the 22d. Our caravan consisted of three horses, three mules, and a donkey, in charge of two men—Dervish, an erect, black-bearded, and most impassive Mussulman, and Mustapha, who is the very picture of patience and good-nature. He was born with a smile on his face, and has never been able to change the expression. They are both masters of their art, and can load a mule with a speed and skill which I would defy any Santa Fe trader to excel. The animals are not less interesting than their masters. Our horses, to be sure, are slow, plodding beasts, with considerable endurance, but little spirit; but the two baggage mules deserve gold medals from the Society for the Promotion of Industry. I can overlook any amount of waywardness in the creatures, in consideration of the steady, persevering energy, the cheerfulness and even enthusiasm with which they perform their duties. They seem to be conscious that they are doing well, and to take a delight in the consciousness. One of them has a band of white shells around his neck, fastened with a tassel and two large blue beads; and you need but look at him to see that he is aware how becoming it is. He thinks it was given to him for good conduct, and is doing his best to merit another. The little donkey is a still more original animal. He is a practical humorist, full of perverse tricks, but all intended for effect, and without a particle of malice. He generally walks behind, running off to one side or the other to crop a mouthful of grass, but no sooner does Dervish attempt to mount him, than he sets off at full gallop, and takes the lead of the caravan. After having performed one of his feats, he turns around with a droll glance at us, as much as to say: "Did you see that?" If we had not been present, most assuredly he would never have done it. I can imagine him, after his return to Beyrout, relating his adventures to a company of fellow-donkeys, who every now and then burst into tremendous brays at some of his irresistible dry sayings.
I persuaded Mr. Harrison to adopt the Oriental costume, which, from five months' wear in Africa, I greatly preferred to the Frank. We therefore rode out of Beyrout as a pair of Syrian Beys, while Francois, with his belt, sabre, and pistols had much the aspect of a Greek brigand. The road crosses the hill behind the city, between the Forest of Pines and a long tract of red sand-hills next the sea. It was a lovely morning, not too bright and hot, for light, fleecy vapors hung along the sides of Lebanon. Beyond the mulberry orchards, we entered on wild, half-cultivated tracts, covered with a bewildering maze of blossoms. The hill-side and stony shelves of soil overhanging the sea fairly blazed with the brilliant dots of color which were rained upon them. The pink, the broom, the poppy, the speedwell, the lupin, that beautiful variety of the cyclamen, called by the Syrians "deek e-djebel" (cock o' the mountain), and a number of unknown plants dazzled the eye with their profusion, and loaded the air with fragrance as rare as it was unfailing. Here and there, clear, swift rivulets came down from Lebanon, coursing their way between thickets of blooming oleanders. Just before crossing the little river Damoor, Francois pointed out, on one of the distant heights, the residence of the late Lady Hester Stanhope. During the afternoon we crossed several offshoots of the Lebanon, by paths incredibly steep and stony, and towards evening reached Saida, the ancient Sidon, where we obtained permission to pitch our tent in a garden. The town is built on a narrow point of land, jutting out from the centre of a bay, or curve in the coast, and contains about five thousand inhabitants. It is a quiet, sleepy sort of a place, and contains nothing of the old Sidon except a few stones and the fragments of a mole, extending into the sea. The fortress in the water, and the Citadel, are remnants of Venitian sway. The clouds gathered after nightfall, and occasionally there was a dash of rain on our tent. But I heard it with the same quiet happiness, as when, in boyhood, sleeping beneath the rafters, I have heard the rain beating all night upon the roof. I breathed the sweet breath of the grasses whereon my carpet was spread, and old Mother Earth, welcoming me back to her bosom, cradled me into calm and refreshing sleep. There is no rest more grateful than that which we take on the turf or the sand, except the rest below it.
We rose in a dark and cloudy morning, and continued our way between fields of barley, completely stained with the bloody hue of the poppy, and meadows turned into golden mosaic by a brilliant yellow daisy. Until noon our road was over a region of alternate meadow land and gentle though stony elevations, making out from Lebanon. We met continually with indications of ancient power and prosperity. The ground was strewn with hewn blocks, and the foundations of buildings remain in many places. Broken sarcophagi lie half-buried in grass, and the gray rocks of the hills are pierced with tombs. The soil, though stony, appeared to be naturally fertile, and the crops of wheat, barley, and lentils were very flourishing. After rounding the promontory which forms the southern boundary of the Gulf of Sidon, we rode for an hour or two over a plain near the sea, and then came down to a valley which ran up among the hills, terminating in a natural amphitheatre. An ancient barrow, or tumulus, nobody knows of whom, stands near the sea. During the day I noticed two charming little pictures. One, a fountain gushing into a broad square basin of masonry, shaded by three branching cypresses. Two Turks sat on its edge, eating their bread and curdled milk, while their horses drank out of the stone trough below. The other, an old Mahommedan, with a green turban and white robe, seated at the foot of a majestic sycamore, over the high bank of a stream that tumbled down its bed of white marble rock to the sea.
The plain back of the narrow, sandy promontory on which the modern Soor is built, is a rich black loam, which a little proper culture would turn into a very garden. It helped me to account for the wealth of ancient Tyre. The approach to the town, along a beach on which the surf broke with a continuous roar, with the wreck of a Greek vessel in the foreground, and a stormy sky behind, was very striking. It was a wild, bleak picture, the white minarets of the town standing out spectrally against the clouds. We rode up the sand-hills, back of the town, and selected a good camping-place among the ruins of Tyre. Near us there was an ancient square building, now used as a cistern, and filled with excellent fresh water. The surf roared tremendously on the rocks, on either hand, and the boom of the more distant breakers came to my ear like the wind in a pine forest. The remains of the ancient sea-wall are still to be traced for the entire circuit of the city, and the heavy surf breaks upon piles of shattered granite columns. Along a sort of mole, protecting an inner harbor on the north side, are great numbers of these columns. I counted fifteen in one group, some of them fine red granite, and some of the marble of Lebanon. The remains of the pharos and the fortresses strengthening the sea-wall, were pointed out by the Syrian who accompanied us as a guide, but his faith was a little stronger than mine. He even showed us the ruins of the jetty built by Alexander, by means of which the ancient city, then insulated by the sea, was taken. The remains of the causeway gradually formed the promontory by which the place is now connected with the main land. These are the principal indications of Tyre above ground, but the guide informed us that the Arabs, in digging among the sand-hills for the stones of the old buildings, which they quarry out and ship to Beyrout, come upon chambers, pillars, arches, and other objects. The Tyrian purple is still furnished by a muscle found upon the coast, but Tyre is now only noted for its tobacco and mill-stones. I saw many of the latter lying in the streets of the town, and an Arab was selling a quantity at auction in the square, as we passed. They are cut out from a species of dark volcanic rock, by the Bedouins of the mountains. There were half a dozen small coasting vessels lying in the road, but the old harbors are entirely destroyed. Isaiah's prophecy is literally fulfilled: "Howl, ye ships of Tarshish; for it is laid waste, so that there is no house, no entering in."
On returning from our ramble we passed the house of the Governor, Daood Agha, who was dispensing justice in regard to a lawsuit then before him. He asked us to stop and take coffee, and received us with much grace and dignity. As we rose to leave, a slave brought me a large bunch of choice flowers from his garden.
We set out from Tyre at an early hour, and rode along the beach around the head of the bay to the Ras-el-Abiad, the ancient Promontorium Album. The morning was wild and cloudy, with gleams of sunshine that flashed out over the dark violet gloom of the sea. The surf was magnificent, rolling up in grand billows, which broke and formed again, till the last of the long, falling fringes of snow slid seething up the sand. Something of ancient power was in their shock and roar, and every great wave that plunged and drew back again, called in its solemn bass: "Where are the ships of Tyre? where are the ships of Tyre?" I looked back on the city, which stood advanced far into the sea, her feet bathed in thunderous spray. By and by the clouds cleared away, the sun came out bold and bright, and our road left the beach for a meadowy plain, crossed by fresh streams, and sown with an inexhaustible wealth of flowers. Through thickets of myrtle and mastic, around which the rue and lavender grew in dense clusters, we reached the foot of the mountain, and began ascending the celebrated Ladder of Tyre. The road is so steep as to resemble a staircase, and climbs along the side of the promontory, hanging over precipices of naked white rock, in some places three hundred feet in height. The mountain is a mass of magnesian limestone, with occasional beds of marble. The surf has worn its foot into hollow caverns, into which the sea rushes with a dull, heavy boom, like distant thunder. The sides are covered with thickets of broom, myrtle, arbutus, ilex, mastic and laurel, overgrown with woodbine, and interspersed with patches of sage, lavender, hyssop, wild thyme, and rue. The whole mountain is a heap of balm; a bundle of sweet spices.
Our horses' hoofs clattered up and down the rounds of the ladder, and we looked our last on Tyre, fading away behind the white hem of the breakers, as we turned the point of the promontory. Another cove of the mountain-coast followed, terminated by the Cape of Nakhura, the northern point of the Bay of Acre. We rode along a stony way between fields of wheat and barley, blotted almost out of sight by showers of scarlet poppies and yellow chrysanthemums. There were frequent ruins: fragments of sarcophagi, foundations of houses, and about half way between the two capes, the mounds of Alexandro-Schoenae. We stopped at a khan, and breakfasted under a magnificent olive tree, while two boys tended our horses to see that they ate only the edges of the wheat field. Below the house were two large cypresses, and on a little tongue of land the ruins of one of those square towers of the corsairs, which line all this coast. The intense blue of the sea, seen close at hand over a broad field of goldening wheat, formed a dazzling and superb contrast of color. Early in the afternoon we climbed the Ras Nakhura, not so bold and grand, though quite as flowery a steep as the Promontorium Album. We had been jogging half an hour over its uneven summit, when the side suddenly fell away below us, and we saw the whole of the great gulf and plain of Acre, backed by the long ridge of Mount Carmel. Behind the sea, which makes a deep indentation in the line of the coast, extended the plain, bounded on the east, at two leagues' distance, by a range of hills covered with luxuriant olive groves, and still higher, by the distant mountains of Galilee. The fortifications of Acre were visible on a slight promontory near the middle of the Gulf. From our feet the line of foamy surf extended for miles along the red sand-beach, till it finally became like a chalk-mark on the edge of the field of blue.
We rode down the mountain and continued our journey over the plain of Esdraelon—a picture of summer luxuriance and bloom. The waves of wheat and barley rolled away from our path to the distant olive orchards; here the water gushed from a stone fountain and flowed into a turf-girdled pool, around which the Syrian women were washing their garments; there, a garden of orange, lemon, fig, and pomegranate trees in blossom, was a spring of sweet odors, which overflowed the whole land. We rode into some of these forests, for they were no less, and finally pitched our tent in one of them, belonging to the palace of the former Abdallah Pasha, within a mile of Acre. The old Saracen aqueduct, which still conveys water to the town, overhung our tent. For an hour before reaching our destination, we had seen it on the left, crossing the hollows on light stone arches. In one place I counted fifty-eight, and in another one hundred and three of these arches, some of which were fifty feet high. Our camp was a charming place: a nest of deep herbage, under two enormous fig-trees, and surrounded by a balmy grove of orange and citron. It was doubly beautiful when the long line of the aqueduct was lit up by the moon, and the orange trees became mounds of ambrosial darkness.
In the morning we rode to Acre, the fortifications of which have been restored on the land-side. A ponderous double gateway of stone admitted us into the city, through what was once, apparently, the court-yard of a fortress. The streets of the town are narrow, terribly rough, and very dirty, but the bazaars are extensive and well stocked. The principal mosque, whose heavy dome is visible at some distance from the city, is surrounded with a garden, enclosed by a pillared corridor, paved with marble. All the houses of the city are built in the most massive style, of hard gray limestone or marble, and this circumstance alone prevented their complete destruction during the English bombardment in 1841. The marks of the shells are everywhere seen, and the upper parts of the lofty buildings are completely riddled with cannon-balls, some of which remain embedded in the stone. We made a rapid tour of the town on horseback, followed by the curious glances of the people, who were in doubt whether to consider us Turks or Franks. There were a dozen vessels in the harbor, which is considered the best in Syria.
The baggage-mules had gone on, so we galloped after them along the hard beach, around the head of the bay. It was a brilliant morning; a delicious south-eastern breeze came to us over the flowery plain of Esdraelon; the sea on our right shone blue, and purple, and violet-green, and black, as the shadows or sunshine crossed it, and only the long lines of roaring foam, for ever changing in form, did not vary in hue. A fisherman stood on the beach in a statuesque attitude, his handsome bare legs bathed in the frothy swells, a bag of fish hanging from his shoulder, and the large square net, with its sinkers of lead in his right hand, ready for a cast. He had good luck, for the waves brought up plenty of large fish, and cast them at our feet, leaving them to struggle back into the treacherous brine. Between Acre and Haifa we passed six or eight wrecks, mostly of small trading vessels. Some were half buried in sand, some so old and mossy that they were fast rotting away, while a few had been recently hurled there. As we rounded the deep curve of the bay, and approached the line of palm-trees girding the foot of Mount Carmel, Haifa, with its wall and Saracenic town in ruin on the hill above, grew more clear and bright in the sun, while Acre dipped into the blue of the Mediterranean. The town of Haifa, the ancient Caiapha, is small, dirty, and beggarly looking; but it has some commerce, sharing the trade of Acre in the productions of Syria. It was Sunday, and all the Consular flags were flying. It was an unexpected delight to find the American colors in this little Syrian town, flying from one of the tallest poles. The people stared at us as we passed, and I noticed among them many bright Frankish faces, with eyes too clear and gray for Syria. O ye kind brothers of the monastery of Carmel! forgive me if I look to you for an explanation of this phenomenon.
We ascended to Mount Carmel. The path led through a grove of carob trees, from which the beans, known in Germany as St. John's bread, are produced. After this we came into an olive grove at the foot of the mountain, from which long fields of wheat, giving forth a ripe summer smell, flowed down to the shore of the bay. The olive trees were of immense size, and I can well believe, as Fra Carlo informed us, that they were probably planted by the Roman colonists, established there by Titus. The gnarled, veteran boles still send forth vigorous and blossoming boughs. There were all manner of lovely lights and shades chequered over the turf and the winding path we rode. At last we reached the foot of an ascent, steeper than the Ladder of Tyre. As our horses slowly climbed to the Convent of St. Elijah, whence we already saw the French flag floating over the shoulder of the mountain, the view opened grandly to the north and east, revealing the bay and plain of Acre, and the coast as far as Ras Nakhura, from which we first saw Mount Carmel the day previous. The two views are very similar in character, one being the obverse of the other. We reached the Convent—Dayr Mar Elias, as the Arabs call it—at noon, just in time to partake of a bountiful dinner, to which the monks had treated themselves. Fra Carlo, the good Franciscan who receives strangers, showed us the building, and the Grotto of Elijah, which is under the altar of the Convent Church, a small but very handsome structure of Italian marble. The sanctity of the Grotto depends on tradition entirely, as there is no mention in the Bible of Elijah having resided on Carmel, though it was from this mountain that he saw the cloud, "like a man's hand," rising from the sea. The Convent, which is quite new—not yet completed, in fact—is a large, massive building, and has the aspect of a fortress.
As we were to sleep at Tantura, five hours distant, we were obliged to make a short visit, in spite of the invitation of the hospitable Fra Carlo to spend the night there. In the afternoon we passed the ruins of Athlit, a town of the Middle Ages, and the Castel Pellegrino of the Crusaders. Our road now followed the beach, nearly the whole distance to Jaffa, and was in many places, for leagues in extent, a solid layer of white, brown, purple and rosy shells, which cracked and rattled under our horses' feet. Tantura is a poor Arab village, and we had some difficulty in procuring provisions. The people lived in small huts of mud and stones, near the sea. The place had a thievish look, and we deemed it best to be careful in the disposal of our baggage for the night.
In the morning we took the coast again, riding over millions of shells. A line of sandy hills, covered with thickets of myrtle and mastic, shut off the view of the plain and meadows between the sea and the hills of Samaria. After three hours' ride we saw the ruins of ancient Caesarea, near a small promontory. The road turned away from the sea, and took the wild plain behind, which is completely overgrown with camomile, chrysanthemum and wild shrubs. The ruins of the town are visible at a considerable distance along the coast. The principal remains consist of a massive wall, flanked with pyramidal bastions at regular intervals, and with the traces of gateways, draw-bridges and towers. It was formerly surrounded by a deep moat. Within this space, which may be a quarter of a mile square, are a few fragments of buildings, and toward the sea, some high arches and masses of masonry. The plain around abounds with traces of houses, streets, and court-yards. Caesarea was one of the Roman colonies, but owed its prosperity principally to Herod. St. Paul passed through it on his way from Macedon to Jerusalem, by the very road we were travelling.
During the day the path struck inland over a vast rolling plain, covered with sage, lavender and other sweet-smelling shrubs, and tenanted by herds of gazelles and flocks of large storks. As we advanced further, the landscape became singularly beautiful. It was a broad, shallow valley, swelling away towards the east into low, rolling hills, far back of which rose the blue line of the mountains—the hill-country of Judea. The soil, where it was ploughed, was the richest vegetable loam. Where it lay fallow it was entirely hidden by a bed of grass and camomile. Here and there great herds of sheep and goats browsed on the herbage. There was a quiet pastoral air about the landscape, a soft serenity in its forms and colors, as if the Hebrew patriarchs still made it their abode. The district is famous for robbers, and we kept our arms in readiness, never suffering the baggage to be out of our sight.
Towards evening, as Mr. H. and myself, with Francois, were riding in advance of the baggage mules, the former with his gun in his hand, I with a pair of pistols thrust through the folds of my shawl, and Francois with his long Turkish sabre, we came suddenly upon a lonely Englishman, whose companions were somewhere in the rear. He appeared to be struck with terror on seeing us making towards him, and, turning his horse's head, made an attempt to fly. The animal, however, was restive, and, after a few plunges, refused to move. The traveller gave himself up for lost; his arms dropped by his side; he stared wildly at us, with pale face and eyes opened wide with a look of helpless fright. Restraining with difficulty a shout of laughter, I said to him: "Did you leave Jaffa to-day?" but so completely was his ear the fool of his imagination, that he thought I was speaking Arabic, and made a faint attempt to get out the only word or two of that language which he knew. I then repeated, with as much distinctness as I could command: "Did—you—leave—Jaffa—to-day?" He stammered mechanically, through his chattering teeth, "Y-y-yes!" and we immediately dashed off at a gallop through the bushes. When we last saw him, he was standing as we left him, apparently not yet recovered from the shock.
At the little village of El Haram, where we spent the night, I visited the tomb of Sultan Ali ebn-Aleym, who is now revered as a saint. It is enclosed in a mosque, crowning the top of a hill. I was admitted into the court-yard without hesitation, though, from the porter styling me "Effendi," he probably took me for a Turk. At the entrance to the inner court, I took off my slippers and walked to the tomb of the Sultan—a square heap of white marble, in a small marble enclosure. In one of the niches in the wall, near the tomb, there is a very old iron box, with a slit in the top. The porter informed me that it contained a charm, belonging to Sultan Ali, which was of great use in producing rain in times of drouth.
In the morning we sent our baggage by a short road across the country to this place, and then rode down the beach towards Jaffa. The sun came out bright and hot as we paced along the line of spray, our horses' feet sinking above the fetlocks in pink and purple shells, while the droll sea-crabs scampered away from our path, and the blue gelatinous sea-nettles were tossed before us by the surge. Our view was confined to the sand-hills—sometimes covered with a flood of scarlet poppies—on one hand; and to the blue, surf-fringed sea on the other. The terrible coast was still lined with wrecks, and just before reaching the town, we passed a vessel of some two hundred tons, recently cast ashore, with her strong hull still unbroken. We forded the rapid stream of El Anjeh, which comes down from the Plain of Sharon, the water rising to our saddles. The low promontory in front now broke into towers and white domes, and great masses of heavy walls. The aspect of Jaffa is exceedingly picturesque. It is built on a hill, and the land for many miles around it being low and flat, its topmost houses overlook all the fields of Sharon. The old harbor, protected by a reef of rocks, is on the north side of the town, but is now so sanded up that large vessels cannot enter. A number of small craft were lying close to the shore. The port presented a different scene when the ships of Hiram, King of Tyre, came in with the materials for the Temple of Solomon. There is but one gate on the land side, which is rather strongly fortified. Outside of this there is an open space, which we found filled with venders of oranges and vegetables, camel-men and the like, some vociferating in loud dispute, some given up to silence and smoke, under the shade of the sycamores.
We rode under the heavily arched and towered gateway, and entered the bazaar. The street was crowded, and there was such a confusion of camels, donkeys, and men, that we made our way with difficulty along the only practicable street in the city, to the sea-side, where Francois pointed out a hole in the wall as the veritable spot where Jonah was cast ashore by the whale. This part of the harbor is the receptacle of all the offal of the town; and I do not wonder that the whale's stomach should have turned on approaching it. The sea-street was filled with merchants and traders, and we were obliged to pick our way between bars of iron, skins of oil, heaps of oranges, and piles of building timber. At last we reached the end, and, as there was no other thoroughfare, returned the same way we went, passed out the gate, and took the road to Ramleh and Jerusalem.
But I hear the voice of Francois, announcing, "Messieurs, le diner est pret." We are encamped just beside the pool of Ramleh, and the mongrel children of the town are making a great noise in the meadow below it. Our horses are enjoying their barley; and Mustapha stands at the tent-door tying up his sacks. Dogs are barking and donkeys braying all along the borders of the town, whose filth and dilapidation are happily concealed by the fig and olive gardens which surround it. I have not curiosity enough to visit the Greek and Latin Convents embedded in its foul purlieus, but content myself with gazing from my door upon the blue hills of Palestine, which we must cross to-morrow, on our way to Jerusalem.
From Jaffa to Jerusalem.
The Garden of Jaffa—Breakfast at a Fountain—The Plain of Sharon—The Ruined Mosque of Ramleh—A Judean Landscape—The Streets of Ramleh—Am I in Palestine?—A Heavenly Morning—The Land of Milk and Honey—Entering the Hill-Country—The Pilgrim's Breakfast—The Father of Lies—A Church of the Crusaders—The Agriculture of the Hills—The Valley of Elah—Day-Dreams—The Wilderness—The Approach—We see the Holy City.
—"Through the air sublime, Over the wilderness and o'er the plain; Till underneath them fair Jerusalem, The Holy City, lifted high her towers."
Jerusalem, Thursday, April 29, 1852.
Leaving the gate of Jaffa, we rode eastward between delightful gardens of fig, citron, orange, pomegranate and palm. The country for several miles around the city is a complete level—part of the great plain of Sharon—and the gray mass of building crowning the little promontory, is the only landmark seen above the green garden-land, on looking towards the sea. The road was lined with hedges of giant cactus, now in blossom, and shaded occasionally with broad-armed sycamores. The orange trees were in bloom, and at the same time laden down with ripe fruit. The oranges of Jaffa are the finest in Syria, and great numbers of them are sent to Beyrout and other ports further north. The dark foliage of the pomegranate fairly blazed with its heavy scarlet blossoms, and here and there a cluster of roses made good the Scriptural renown of those of Sharon. The road was filled with people, passing to and fro, and several families of Jaffa Jews were having a sort of pic-nic in the choice shady spots.
Ere long we came to a fountain, at a point where two roads met. It was a large square structure of limestone and marble, with a stone trough in front, and a delightful open chamber at the side. The space in front was shaded with immense sycamore trees, to which we tied our horses, and then took our seats in the window above the fountain, where the Greek brought us our breakfast. The water was cool and delicious, as were our Jaffa oranges. It was a charming spot, for as we sat we could look under the boughs of the great trees, and down between the gardens to Jaffa and the Mediterranean. After leaving the gardens, we came upon the great plain of Sharon, on which we could see the husbandmen at work far and near, ploughing and sowing their grain. In some instances, the two operations were made simultaneously, by having a sort of funnel attached to the plough-handle, running into a tube which entered the earth just behind the share. The man held the plough with one hand, while with the other he dropped the requisite quantity of seed through the tube into the furrow. The people are ploughing now for their summer crops, and the wheat and barley which they sowed last winter are already in full head. On other parts of the plain, there were large flocks of sheep and goats, with their attendant shepherds. So ran the rich landscape, broken only by belts of olive trees, to the far hills of Judea.
Riding on over the long, low swells, fragrant with wild thyme and camomile, we saw at last the tower of Ramleh, and down the valley, an hour's ride to the north-east, the minaret of Ludd, the ancient Lydda. Still further, I could see the houses of the village of Sharon, embowered in olives. Ramleh is built along the crest and on the eastern slope of a low hill, and at a distance appears like a stately place, but this impression is immediately dissipated on entering it. West of the town is a large square tower, between eighty and ninety feet in height. We rode up to it through an orchard of ancient olive trees, and over a field of beans. The tower is evidently a minaret, as it is built in the purest Saracenic style, and is surrounded by the ruins of a mosque. I have rarely seen anything more graceful than the ornamental arches of the upper portions. Over the door is a lintel of white marble, with an Arabic inscription. The mosque to which the tower is attached is almost entirely destroyed, and only part of the arches of a corridor around three sides of a court-yard, with the fountain in the centre, still remain. The subterranean cisterns, under the court-yard, amazed me with their extent and magnitude. They are no less than twenty-four feet deep, and covered by twenty-four vaulted ceilings, each twelve feet square, and resting on massive pillars. The mosque, when entire, must have been one of the finest in Syria.
We clambered over the broken stones cumbering the entrance, and mounted the steps to the very summit. The view reached from Jaffa and the sea to the mountains near Jerusalem, and southward to the plain of Ascalon—a great expanse of grain and grazing land, all blossoming as the rose, and dotted, especially near the mountains, with dark, luxuriant olive-groves. The landscape had something of the green, pastoral beauty of England, except the mountains, which were wholly of Palestine. The shadows of fleecy clouds, drifting slowly from east to west, moved across the landscape, which became every moment softer and fairer in the light of the declining sun.
I did not tarry in Ramleh. The streets are narrow, crooked, and filthy as only an Oriental town can be. The houses have either flat roofs or domes, out of the crevices in which springs a plentiful crop of weeds. Some yellow dogs barked at us as we passed, children in tattered garments stared, and old turbaned heads were raised from the pipe, to guess who the two brown individuals might be, and why they were attended by such a fierce cawass. Passing through the eastern gate, we were gladdened by the sight of our tents, already pitched in the meadow beside the cistern. Dervish had arrived an hour before us, and had everything ready for the sweet lounge of an hour, to which we treat ourselves after a day's ride. I watched the evening fade away over the blue hills before us, and tried to convince myself that I should reach Jerusalem on the morrow. Reason said: "You certainly will!"—-but to Faith the Holy City was as far off as ever. Was it possible that I was in Judea? Was this the Holy Land of the Crusades, the soil hallowed by the feet of Christ and his Apostles? I must believe it. Yet it seemed once that if I ever trod that earth, then beneath my feet, there would be thenceforth a consecration in my life, a holy essence, a purer inspiration on the lips, a surer faith in the heart. And because I was not other than I had been, I half doubted whether it was the Palestine of my dreams.
A number of Arab cameleers, who had come with travellers across the Desert from Egypt, were encamped near us. Francois was suspicious of some of them, and therefore divided the night into three watches, which were kept by himself and our two men. Mustapha was the last, and kept not only himself, but myself, wide awake by his dolorous chants of love and religion. I fell sound asleep at dawn, but was roused before sunrise by Francois, who wished to start betimes, on account of the rugged road we had to travel. The morning was mild, clear, and balmy, and we were soon packed and in motion. Leaving the baggage to follow, we rode ahead over the fertile fields. The wheat and poppies were glistening with dew, birds sang among the fig-trees, a cool breeze came down from the hollows of the hills, and my blood leaped as nimbly and joyously as a young hart on the mountains of Bether.
Between Ramleh and the hill-country, a distance of about eight miles, is the rolling plain of Arimathea, and this, as well as the greater part of the plain of Sharon, is one of the richest districts in the world. The soil is a dark-brown loam, and, without manure, produces annually superb crops of wheat and barley. We rode for miles through a sea of wheat, waving far and wide over the swells of land. The tobacco in the fields about Ramleh was the most luxuriant I ever saw, and the olive and fig attain a size and lusty strength wholly unknown in Italy. Judea cursed of God! what a misconception, not only of God's mercy and beneficence, but of the actual fact! Give Palestine into Christian hands, and it will again flow with milk and honey. Except some parts of Asia Minor, no portion of the Levant is capable of yielding such a harvest of grain, silk, wool, fruits, oil, and wine. The great disadvantage under which the country labors, is its frequent drouths, but were the soil more generally cultivated, and the old orchards replanted, these would neither be so frequent nor so severe.
We gradually ascended the hills, passing one or two villages, imbedded in groves of olives. In the little valleys, slanting down to the plains, the Arabs were still ploughing and sowing, singing the while an old love-song, with its chorus of "ya, ghazalee! ya, ghazalee!" (oh, gazelle! oh, gazelle!) The valley narrowed, the lowlands behind us spread out broader, and in half an hour more we were threading a narrow pass, between stony hills, overgrown with ilex, myrtle, and dwarf oak. The wild purple rose of Palestine blossomed on all sides, and a fragrant white honeysuckle in some places hung from the rocks. The path was terribly rough, and barely wide enough for two persons on horseback to pass each other. We met a few pilgrims returning from Jerusalem, and a straggling company of armed Turks, who had such a piratical air, that without the solemn asseveration of Francois that the road was quite safe, I should have felt uneasy about our baggage. Most of the persons we passed were Mussulmen, few of whom gave the customary "Peace be with you!" but once a Syrian Christian saluted me with, "God go with you, O Pilgrim!" For two hours after entering the mountains, there was scarcely a sign of cultivation. The rock was limestone, or marble, lying in horizontal strata, the broken edges of which rose like terraces to the summits. These shelves were so covered with wild shrubs—in some places even with rows of olive trees—-that to me they had not the least appearance of that desolation so generally ascribed to them.
In a little dell among the hills there is a small ruined mosque, or chapel (I could not decide which), shaded by a group of magnificent terebinth trees. Several Arabs were resting in its shade, and we hoped to find there the water we were looking for, in order to make breakfast. But it was not to be found, and we climbed nearly to the summit of the first chain of hills, where in a small olive orchard, there was a cistern, filled by the late rains. It belonged to two ragged boys, who brought us an earthen vessel of the water, and then asked, "Shall we bring you milk, O Pilgrims!" I assented, and received a small jug of thick buttermilk, not remarkably clean, but very refreshing. My companion, who had not recovered from his horror at finding that the inhabitants of Ramleh washed themselves in the pool which supplied us and them, refused to touch it. We made but a short rest, for it was now nearly noon, and there were yet many rough miles between us and Jerusalem. We crossed the first chain of mountains, rode a short distance over a stony upland, and then descended into a long cultivated valley, running to the eastward. At the end nearest us appeared the village of Aboo 'l Ghosh (the Father of Lies), which takes its name from a noted Bedouin shekh, who distinguished himself a few years ago by levying contributions on travellers. He obtained a large sum of money in this way, but as he added murder to robbery, and fell upon Turks as well as Christians, he was finally captured, and is now expiating his offences in some mine on the coast of the Black Sea.
Near the bottom of the village there is a large ruined building, now used as a stable by the inhabitants. The interior is divided into a nave and two side-aisles by rows of square pillars, from which spring pointed arches. The door-way is at the side, and is Gothic, with a dash of Saracenic in the ornamental mouldings above it. The large window at the extremity of the nave is remarkable for having round arches, which circumstance, together with the traces of arabesque painted ornaments on the columns, led me to think it might have been a mosque; but Dr. Robinson, who is now here, considers it a Christian church, of the time of the Crusaders. The village of Aboo 'l Ghosh is said to be the site of the birth-place of the Prophet Jeremiah, and I can well imagine it to have been the case. The aspect of the mountain-country to the east and north-east would explain the savage dreariness of his lamentations. The whole valley in which the village stands, as well as another which joins it on the east, is most assiduously cultivated. The stony mountain sides are wrought into terraces, where, in spite of soil which resembles an American turnpike, patches of wheat are growing luxuriantly, and olive trees, centuries old, hold on to the rocks with a clutch as hard and bony as the hand of Death. In the bed of the valley the fig tree thrives, and sometimes the vine and fig grow together, forming the patriarchal arbor of shade familiar to us all. The shoots of the tree are still young and green, but the blossoms of the grape do not yet give forth their goodly savor. I did not hear the voice of the turtle, but a nightingale sang in the briery thickets by the brook side, as we passed along.