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Byeways in Palestine
by James Finn
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Resting for a while before resuming the journey, the newcomers sat round in a circle to smoke their fragrant local tobacco, and find some relief to the mind in relating tales of suffering under persecution. They said they had more reason to be satisfied with the rule of my host, Hhamed el Bek, than with that of Tamar Bek at Bint Jebail, which they described as most cruel and capricious. That I could easily believe after the incident that came to my knowledge in that vicinity five years before,—that of the wanton murder of a poor Christian, at the lime-kiln works, by a servant of that governor. I have already mentioned that it was narrated to me by the village priest of 'Ain Nebel. An inquiry was instituted into the case by the authorities at Bayroot; but there must be many such instances occurring that are never known by those who would or could bring them to light and justice.

At length the signal was given for mounting. The mules were collected together, after straying about for such pasture as could be got, their bells gently ringing all the time, and the pipes were stowed away: those of the muleteers being placed down the backs of their jackets, with the bowls uppermost, reaching to the men's necks.

We then plunged into the forest of Tarsheehhah, where the Shaikh of the principal village, that which gives name to the district, is a fanatic Moslem, who was then preaching religious revivals, and was said to engraft upon his doctrine the pantheism of the Persian Soofis. This was not considered improbable, seeing that the Moslems of the Belad Besharah are all of the Sheah sect, (here called Metawala,) out of which the Soofi heresy is developed. The new doctrines had spread rapidly in various directions, and were professed by several of the Effendi class in Jerusalem—the old story repeated of Sadducean principles obtaining among the rich and the luxurious. This Shaikh was described as excessively intolerant of Christianity, and at that period, viz., the commencement of the Russian war, was in the habit of travelling about with a train of disciples, all carrying iron-shod staves in their hands, and distinguished by having a portion of the muslin of the turban hanging loosely behind, doing their utmost to excite tumult and hatred of the Christians by shouting aloud the Mohammedan formula of belief, "There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is the Apostle of God," striking the ground with their iron-shod staves by way of emphasis.

Among the evergreens, and the gall-oaks, and karoobah-trees, our path often became very narrow—sometimes subsiding into sunless hollows, then mounting afresh into a chequered brilliancy—but always passing between woods of dark and glossy foliage. At one place was a pretty spring of water, where one of the party halted to drink while the rest proceeded. On finding him fail to come up with us, a horseman and two footmen were despatched in search. Their shouts gave animation to the scene, but gradually became fainter as the distance between us increased.

The whole of the day's journey hitherto was remarkable for absence of human population.

Came to Herfaish, a Druse village, in the very heart of the forest, but passed on, still toiling in the hot sunshine. Occasionally the paths were so rocky that we had to dismount and lead the horses.

It was evident from the deportment and conversation of our guides, that whenever Christians (who in that neighbourhood are all Maronites) enter that division of the forest where the Druses of Herfaish prevail they find it necessary to travel in companies and armed. Fortunately we encountered none of the fanatics of Tarsheehhah. The escort told me that they themselves only became acquainted with these cross roads in the direction of Nazareth by means of their journeys thither at the ecclesiastical festivals of Easter, Christmas, etc.

At this hot season there were not many flowers to be noticed, beyond some varieties of salvia, yellow broom, bright-coloured thistles, the pink flax, blackberry blossoms, and one kind of heath, together with some plants unknown to me.

The trees were not of large dimensions, but mostly evergreen and of slow growth; many were very wide-spreading, and all dense enough to afford good shelter from either sun or rain.

After six hours and a half of uninterrupted forest we arrived at a small trickling spring called 'Ain Noom, when large trees began to give place to shrubs and underwood, and human inhabitants again cheered the sight, they bringing cattle to the water for drinking.

At Bait Jan we were overtaken by the missing member of our party. At this place there is considerable vine cultivation. Very soon afterwards we were suddenly upon the brow of a deep descent—sheer steep down to the plain of Battoof, and the prospect from that spot was amazing, not only beyond expectation, for we had not expected any remarkable scene to come in our way, but beyond all previous experience.

The whole of Lower Galilee, Samaria, and Gilead, was laid like a map at our feet; and from so great an elevation the Mediterranean and the Sea of Galilee were brought close together. Among the most conspicuous geographical points were Tabor, a very small object beneath; then the line of Carmel; and Ebal in Samaria; there was Hhatteen, the last battle-field of the Crusaders; King Baldwin's castle of Cocab; the entrance of the Jordan into the lake, and both the supposed sites of Capernaum; also Acre with her blue bay, and a small amount of shipping off Caiffa. Pity that I had no aneroid barometer for ascertaining the elevation of that site.

The map-like appearance of the wide panorama suggested to memory the song of Deborah the prophetess, with her recapitulation of the succours furnished or omitted by the several tribes of Israel at the battle of the Kishon and Harosheth of the Gentiles. From such a site she would turn to the left hand for expostulation with Reuben, and to the right for rebuking Dan and Asher upon the sea-coast, after that the Lord had defeated the national foe without them, and sold Sisera into the hands of a woman.

Our descent was by a narrow path of zig-zags, veering alternately towards Acre or Tiberias, although those towns were soon concealed by intervening hills; the plain below was a large dark patch of olive plantation.

In an hour and ten minutes of wearisome toil in leading the horses down, with no possible interval of rest, we came to the village of Rama; having long before lost sight of the Mediterranean.

We took refuge from the sun in the house of a Christian named Ibrahim Hhanna, and after an hour's sleep rose up to a feast of eggs, olives, bread, and cream cheese, after sharing in which our guides from Rumaish took their leave, with kindly wishes on both sides.

Next we hired a guide for our crossing the plain to 'Arabeh el Battoof on the way to Nazareth, and travelled over alternate corn stubble and balloot underwood. In one short valley that we crossed there were six jeldeh or short aqueducts to water-mills.

The weather was still extremely hot.

Passed near Dair Hhanna, a large ruin of a fortification upon a hill rising out of the plain; probably, as the name would seem to intimate, an old castle of the Knights of St John of Jerusalem. A few poor people here have built huts for themselves within the great walls, in the manner of the Italian peasants in Goldsmith's "Traveller," who do the same within the confines of a Caesar's palace—

"And wondering man can want the larger pile, Exult and own their cottage with a smile."

Two small towers, now also in ruin, flank the castle at short distances. These were erected by Shaikh Daher about eighty years since, who employed the whole for military defence in his revolt against the Turks.

Near this 'Arabeh lie some time-eaten fragments of large old columns. There we dismissed the guide, as he wished to be at home again before dark, and we traversed the plain of Sefuriyeh, the celebrated Sepphoris of Josephus' wars.

It is to be observed that in that afternoon we had crossed three narrow but long parallel plains, all running east and west, and divided from each other by lines of rocky hills. The northern one contains Rama and 'Arabeh; the middle one has Sefuriyeh; and the southern one has Tura'an and Cuf'r Cana, the place of the miracle at the marriage in St John's Gospel.

Hoping to reach our destination by a shorter track, after passing Rumaneh and Jerjer we mounted a hill to Mesh-had, that was in sight, but as darkness came on, lost our way for a considerable time; rain threatened and fell a short time. Once we came near a large cattle-fold, which we afterwards learned belonged to the Latin Convent of Nazareth, but no people appeared to answer us; then we got a gloomy view of Mount Tabor; at length, however, we were cheered with discovering the window lights of Nazareth, after being fourteen hours in the saddle, omitting the two hours' rest at Rama, and the half-hour at Rumaish.

The whole country we had traversed is particularly interesting; but at the close of the day the company were all too tired to sing aloud, as might have been performed under other circumstances, that Arab song well known over the country, with its wild high note (not cadence) at the end of each line:

"If thy horse be indeed A creature of speed Thou wilt lodge for the night in Nazareth."

In December of the next year (1854) I traversed the Rama plain lengthwise, that is to say, from Tiberias to the plain of Acre.

After Mejdal and the Wadi el Hamam, or "Valley of the Doves," we soon struck out due westwards, and passed under a hill with ruins on its top called Sabaneh; then some more considerable ruins in a similar position called Memileh. At a good way to our left a small village was pointed out called 'Ailabool, containing, among other inhabitants, a few Christians, who have their chapel and a priest.

The whole road was extremely picturesque—the scenery consisting of broken rocks of ochreous tinge and shoots of balloot oak; and for a long distance at every turn, in looking backwards, there showed itself the still lovely lake of the Gospel narratives—that object which no one can ever forget who has had once the privilege to be near it.

We kept Mansoorah steadily before the eye, but on arriving at the hill upon which this stands, the road deviated a little, and rose over an eminence side by side with the village. Here we got a view of those several separated objects—Tabor; the Sea of Galilee; and Dair Hhanna.

We were accosted by some Druse peasantry when the village of Moghar was somewhat on our left.

While passing the large olive plantations of Rama, we gazed up at the long and steep ladder of the precipice by which we had descended last year.

Rama is at some height above the level of the plain, although low in proportion to the mountain at its back.

Just before sunset we halted under the trees for refreshment about a quarter of an hour, then engaged a guide to conduct us to Yerka, on the plain of Acre.

The man purposely led us up to the village of Rama, over a very stony road, hoping to induce us to stay there for the night on the way to Yerka. When I refused to remain, and insisted on going forwards, he took us into places even worse for travelling, to the peril of limbs to ourselves and the horses and mules: and great was our just wrath on finding ourselves every few minutes in augmented trouble in utter darkness; for there was no moon, and the stars were hid by clouds. The horses' feet were sometimes caught between close-wedged rocks, so that we had to lift them out with our hands, and our boots were with difficulty extricated from the same catch-traps; nevertheless the traitor trudged on nimbly a-head of us, heedless of our embarrassments. Had he not led us up to Rama at the beginning we should have kept upon a pleasant, well-beaten road on the level of the general plain.

At length by our own efforts we got down to this highway, and trudged on at a good pace, the guide still trotting on in advance, out of reach of our hands, fearful of consequences, until we reached Mejdal Croom, (or Migdol, or Tower of the Vineyards in Hebrew,) where he swore that Yerka was still three hours before us, and that he was exhausted with fatigue. As we were so in reality, we halted, and with great trouble obtained a room in the village for the night.

In the morning it was discovered that Yerka was only half-an-hour in advance, but the mischievous fellow was already gone back to where we had unfortunately picked him up.

In the house of our lodging I was amused by seeing rude paintings upon the white-washed walls, rather good for native Palestine artists of the nineteenth century. The principal object was a three-masted ship, actually containing what were intended for human figures; (perhaps it was a Christian, not a Mohammedan house.) On the masts were very large flags of no special nationality, but one of them in exactly the opposite direction from the others. The three men, (constructed of lines for limbs and a dot for the head,) looking through telescopes, were taking observations in different quarters; but perhaps this may be allowed—two men formed the crew. There were no sails, and the mainmast had one yard-arm, the rest had none. Up in the air, near the ship's masts, were two Arabs on horseback carrying spears; the whole tableau was coloured, as such works in the East always are, of a uniform dull red.

N.B.—We were within sight of the sea and the fortress of Acre.

* * * * *

The three previous chapters, and this one at its commencement, relate in no inconsiderable proportion to woods, glens, and glades included in proper forest scenery; but inasmuch as travellers in Palestine, describing only what they have themselves seen along high-roads from town to town, under the guidance of professional dragomans and muleteers, generally deny the existence of forest scenery in Palestine, I may subjoin some remarks on this particular subject.

Passing over the extensive olive plantations of Gaza, and the Sahara of twenty square miles between Bayroot and Saida, as not exactly belonging to the class of timber trees; and the "pine forest" near Bayroot, which is of artificial formation for accomplishing a preconceived design; also the neb'k and other thorny trees unfit for mechanical purposes, extending for miles in wild profusion beyond Jericho, and adding beauty to the scenery; there remain the veritable forests of Gilead and Bashan beyond Jordan, seldom visited by European travellers, and the two large forests in Western Palestine, accessible to the tourists who have leisure and will for knowing the country.

First, the Belad Besharah to the north, north-east, and east of Tibneen, and also west and south-west of Safed, through all of which I have travelled with unceasing admiration and indulgence of the early taste implanted in childhood among old forests of England. The verdure and the shade from the Syrian sun were delightful, with the glades and vistas, as well as the amusing alternations often occurring of stooping to the horse's neck in passing below the venerable branches that stretched across the roadway. Those sylvan scenes abound in game, and are known to contain formidable wild animals.

Secondly, the forest extending in length at least thirty miles from below Caesarea, northwards to the plain of Battoof beyond Sepphoris. This was designated the "ingens sylva" by the ancient Romans. I have crossed this in several lines between Nazareth and Acre or Caiffa; and twice from the Plain of Sharon to Carmel through the Wadi 'Arah by Umm el Fahh'm, a village, the very name of which ("mother of charcoal") belongs to a woodland region; besides the line from Carmel to 'Arabeh.

The portion of this forest immediately contiguous inland from Carmel is named "the Rohha," clearly from the fragrance exhaled by the pine and terebinth trees, with the wild herbs upon the hills; this, together with the dark wooded sides of the long mountain, constitutes "the forest of his Carmel" mentioned in the boasting of the King of Assyria, (Isa. xxxvii. 24; also x. 18, in Hebrew,) and it is the Drymos of the Septuagint and of Josephus, (Wars, i. 13, 2,) in the which a battle was fought by those Jews who were aiding the Parthians on behalf of Antigonus. No wonder that the loss of men was considerable among the woods and thickets there. I note the accuracy of assigning the name [Greek text] to this region, consisting as it does almost exclusively of oak.

Besides these wide tracts of woodland, there are also the summit and sides of Tabor, with woods along its north-eastern base.

And the district south and south-west of Hebron, in which, besides oak, etc., pine timber is frequent,—I should rather say was, for of late years it has been much devastated, and that too in an unmethodical manner, to meet the increased requirements of Jerusalem, Bethlehem, etc., for fuel; nay, as I have been told, shiploads of it are constantly conveyed away to Egypt, especially for works on the Suez Canal. In like manner, in creeks of the sea between Acre and Bayroot, may frequently be seen small vessels loading with wood for Egypt.

Throughout all the period of my experience in Palestine, I have had reason to deplore destruction of the growing timber by charcoal-burners in various provinces. I have seen the sides of whole hills in a blaze, purposely kindled and then left by these men to perform the work with least trouble to themselves: the Government takes no heed in the matter, and no care is employed for propagation of new trees to succeed the blackened ruin thus produced.

So it would appear that in ancient periods, when the land was well peopled, the very wants of that population would, as in every other country, keep down the growth of forests. In the military periods of Roman and other invasions, large timber was required for offensive and defensive operations; and in our generation, when the population there is exceedingly diminished, the ignorance, the bad government, and the wastefulness of uncivilisation, produce the same result of destroying or hindering the increase of timber growth.

There are not many parts of Palestine more bare of timber trees than the interval between Jerusalem and Bethlehem; yet there are old houses in the latter town whose owners pride themselves on the strong, stout rafters and planks they contain, of a quality known far around by the name of Bethlehem oak, and there are persons still living who can remember oak-trees near Solomon's pools.

That this neighbourhood was formerly well wooded is still proved by the tufts of evergreen oak which spring up everywhere over the hills. These tufts of brushwood are found to come from immense roots, each one enough for several camel-loads of fire-wood. They are dug up by the peasantry, and sold in Jerusalem for fuel, under the name of Carameh.

It is popularly said that "once upon a time" a man of Jerusalem went to reside at Hebron, and the usual chequered events of life occurred, ending in the calamity of losing his eyesight. In extreme old age he resolved upon returning to his native city, and when he reached the Convent of Mar Elias, half-way between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, the weather being hot, he took off his turban to rest it on the saddle before him. "Oh, our father," said his sons, who were walking by his side, "why art thou uncovering the bareness of thy head?" "It is," he replied, "that I may enjoy the coolness that is to be enjoyed beneath the trees that I remember to have been by the roadside all the way hence to Jerusalem." They assured him that not only did no such avenue exist, but that not a tree was to be seen in any direction, right or left, and that much of the change was owing to the hostilities that had been carried on among the villages under the laxity of the Turkish government. "Is it so?" said he: "then turn back, my sons, and let me die where I have lived so long; Jerusalem is no longer what it was."

This anecdote, current among the peasantry, describes strongly, by its very simplicity, the process that for centuries has been in operation to reduce that country to the condition in which we now find it.

I ought not to leave the subject of forest scenery in Palestine without inviting attention to the eloquent passages in Dr Thomson's "Land and the Book" upon that subject. This veteran missionary of the Lebanon knows the whole country well, and being an American of the Far West, has been accustomed to large forests, huge trees, and charms of woodland scenery; yet he speaks with rapture of the groves about Banias—the solemn glens and verdure of the Belad Besharah, and the magnificence of the Sindianeh. This author has a keen relish for all the varied beauties of nature, and possesses the faculty of describing them so as to enable us to share in its healthful gratifications.



X. A TEMPLE OF BAAL AND SEPULCHRE OF PHOENICIA.

About midway between Tyre and Sidon lies what has been called by Porter and Tristram a kind of Syrian Stonehenge; but neither they nor Vandevelde, who likewise mentions it, really visited the spot.

The remains are not even mentioned in Carl Ritter's elaborate compilation, the "Erd-Kunde," nor in Robinson or Thompson; but as I have visited them five times, namely in October 1848, October 1849, September 1855, October 1857, and September 1859, I may as well tell what I know of these monuments, which I believe to be of some importance.

The site on which they stand is a large open cultivated ground, nearly opposite Sarafend, (Sarepta,) between the high-road and the sea, a quarter of an hour south of the vestiges of Adloon, whose broken columns and large pieces of tesselated pavement lie actually upon the highway, so that our horses and mules walk over the household pavements, or the road pavement of hexagonal slabs. Adloon may be at half distance between Soor and Saida. It has been conjectured that the name is an Arabic modification of Adnoun, and that again derived from Ad nonum, meaning the ninth Roman mile from Tyre; but as far as my memory serves me, that does not correspond with the real distance.

There are upright stones standing from four to six feet each above the present level of the ground, but which may not be the original level. There may have been a considerable rise accumulated in process of time. The largest stone still shows six feet by a breadth of two. They anciently formed a parallelogram, (not a circle, which is commonly believed to be an emblem belonging to Baal-worship,) as may be seen in the following plan, which represents their present appearance:—

[Picture: Ancient construction at Adloon]

The twelve stones marked 0 are still erect; the rest, whose places are marked by dots, are either prostrate on the ground, or have entirely disappeared. Between them all are spaces of two or three yards each. The stones appear to have been carefully hewn originally, though now the edges are worn off, or pieces have fallen away from the substances of most of them. They bear, however, no chisel-indications of having been connected by lintels across the tops: they have not been placed as trilithons.

Outside the parallelogram, at the distance of six yards, stand two other stones of the same description, which probably served as a portal of approach.

Within the enclosure is a depression of ground, in an oval shape, almost filled up with weeds, which demands but little effort of imagination to suggest the position of an altar now removed, leaving only the hollow orifice of a channel for carrying away blood or ashes. This may be worth an examination hereafter.

There are tokens of buildings having stood near, but these may have been of later date. I picked up a fragment of tesselated pavement there, but that may have come there by means of any conceivable accident from Adloon.

Such is my simple account of what I cannot but believe to have been a temple of Baal-worship for the old Phoenicians, certainly of earlier period than any Greek or Roman architecture in the country; and vestiges such as these, of antique Syrian monuments, may, on careful examination, furnish us with data, useful in enabling us to understand the Celtic remains still found in Europe.

The nearest village to these remains, though at some distance upon the hills, is Sairi, hence the place is named Sook Sairi, from the circumstance of a "market" of cattle and general goods being held there periodically for the district around. But why should this spot above all others in the long-deserted plain be used for such a market? Is it not a traditional continuance of some remote custom in connexion with the importance conferred by the ancient temple and its now-forgotten worship? Who can tell us through how many ages this rural fair has been held at Sairi or Adloon?

The peasant account of the stones is that they were formerly men, whom God, or a prophet in His name, turned into stones for their wickedness, while they were employed in reaping a harvest; further my informant could not tell. The narrative closely resembled the explanation given me by country people in England respecting some almost similar stones at Long-Compton, on the border between Oxfordshire and Warwickshire; and I think I remember to have read of similar instances in other parts of England.

Vandevelde was told that this miracle was wrought by Nebi Zer, (whose weli is in the neighbourhood,) and that this prophet Zer was nephew to Joshua, the son of Nun,—i.e., if he understood his interpreter aright.

I cannot well leave that vicinity without mentioning the long lines of sepulchres excavated in the cliff-line which runs parallel to the sea, eastwards of the highway, and upon the crest of which line Sarafend and other villages are posted. These sepulchres have been noticed by travellers generally, even while merely passing along without leaving the beaten track, others have taken the trouble to visit them, but without finding any inscriptions. I have seen one inscription, the following in Greek, and apparently unfinished:—

[Greek text]

Although in some respects these resemble the sepulchres near Jerusalem, they are not so elaborately formed into passages and inner chambers as the latter. Many of the excavations high above the ground have been at some era adapted to residences for hermits.

Near Saida I have been shown sepulchres that were entered by steps and passages, and coated with very hard stucco, on which were pictures in fresco of festoons of olive and vine leaves alternated, these leaves being diversified sometimes with tints of autumnal brown, also trees of palm or olive, with birds upon their branches; the birds being all of one kind, with long tails, and coloured bright yellow and red, with brown backs. Inasmuch as these portray living creatures they must be ascribed to some classical, i.e., ante-Islamitic epoch. The designing and colouring of them are excellent, and the work remains in good preservation; they are most likely of Roman art, for their style much resembles the wall pictures of Pompeii.

I have met with no mention of these decorated sepulchres, but in Ritter's quotation from Mariti, (Saida's Umgebungen in vol. iv. I, page 410,) and that only lately.

The sepulchre which I entered consisted of one principal chamber, at each side of which were three smaller recesses, besides two such opposite the entrance. These latter have others proceeding further within them. There are no low shelves as in the Judaean sepulchres, but the dead were laid in shallow trenches sunk in the rocky floor. The stucco has only been employed to the right and left of the principal chamber.

I pass over, as not belonging to this subject, the more recent discovery by others near the town in 1855 of the two sarcophagi, one of them bearing a Phoenician inscription.

[Picture: Temple of Baal (see p284)]



XI. JERUSALEM TO PETRA, AND RETURN BY THE DEAD SEA.

During the last twenty years there have been many English and other visitors to Petra; but they have usually taken it in the way from Egypt towards Jerusalem, which is probably convenient with respect to the season of the year, inasmuch as they thereby get a warm winter before the "sights" of Jerusalem (as some irreverently speak) begin. It would not be so well to take Egypt after Easter.

But, on hearing that several travellers had been unable to reach Petra even after 'Akabah, on account of hostilities arising between the Alaween and the Tiyahah Arabs, or on account of the exorbitant demands of money made by the former of these, I thought the time had arrived for me to show the practicability of getting at the wonders of Petra from Jerusalem, under escort of the Jehaleen Arabs near Hebron.

I went accordingly, and treated with the Fellahheen of Wadi Moosa in the place itself; and numerous travellers have since availed themselves of this advantage, though none have published an account of their expedition.

On looking back at my notes of the journey, I am astonished at the rapid flight of time; for although my recollection is on the whole very vivid, these notes are dated in April 1851. Full occupation during the intervening period has seemed to shorten the interval. The scene, too, is now changed; for instead of the arid desert and the blasted porphyry cliffs of Edom, then before my eyes, these lines are penned among the bright green meadows of England, with the broad Thames in view, bearing large three-masted ships on its tide, freighted with imports from the most distant parts of the world.

With an officer of dragoons, being a traveller in Jerusalem, and under escort of Hamzeh, the Hebron agent for the Jehaleen, we proceeded across country to meet the Arabs in their wilderness.

Leaving the Hebron road at 'Ain Dirweh, we ascended the lofty hill to the little village and weli of Nebi Yunas, (Prophet Jonah,) which is so conspicuous an object far away in every direction,—the minaret which rises from the building giving it very much the appearance of a rural church in Europe. Thence through well-cultivated fields of wheat and barley,—green at that season,—towards the village of Beni Naim; but at quarter of the intermediate distance, passed considerable remains of good masonry, named Khirbet Bait Ainoon, (ruins of Beth Enon.) At Beni Naim is the reputed sepulchre of the Prophet Lot, according to the Moslems; that of his daughters being on an opposite hill at no great distance. This village commands a grand prospect of the Dead Sea, although there is no view of the kind from all the country around. Is not this the place whence Abraham, after the departure of the angels, saw the smoke of Sodom and Gomorrah rising as the smoke of a furnace? (Gen. xix. 27, 28.)

Here was a travelling durweesh, fantastically dressed, amusing the peasants by dancing and cracking a long whip; while a lad accompanying him thumped a large drum,—both the thonged whip and the large drum being rare objects in that country.

In a quarter of an hour we terminated our short day's journey (about six hours and a half) in a meadow of long green grass. The site is called Beerain, from the two wells there. Selameh, the brother of the Arab chief, with several of his people, were awaiting our arrival; and they were to lead us forward in the morning.

April 2.—My right knee was much swollen from the strain of a sinew, caused by an unexpected step down a bank taken by my horse when near Hhalhhool, on the road from Jerusalem; consequently, feeling feverish, and with a headache all night, I was not soothed by the camels groaning, quarrelling, or champing their food close to my tent.

In the morning we made our bargain with Selameh, for the hire of camels, the escort, etc. The captain and I, with my attendants, were to ride our horses in the desert,—taking camels to carry an extra supply of water for them.

We started, but in a very short time became disgusted at the slow travelling of our caravan, as we were compelled to moderate the pace of our riding to suit the leisurely tread of the camels. Selameh bestrode a very young colt of the K'baishi race; but I rated my pony, of the Jilfi stock, still higher than his.

The wide expanse before us was sprinkled with wild flowers, including the yellow furze, (I have beside me, while writing this, a bunch of the same, of English growth;) and the ret'm, or juniper, seven or eight feet in height, covered with white blossom, the fragrance of which resembled, or, if possible, was an improvement upon, the smell of a bean-field in flower.

Near Ziph, the rocks have many ancient wells cut into their solid substance. About noon we halted at a rough natural cistern, for the purpose of filling our barrels and kirbehs (goat and camel skins) with water. This task occupied an hour, during which I contrived to find just enough shade for my head under a big stone, but took refuge in the cistern itself while the camels were being reloaded.

Leaving this, we found the waste plains abounding in locusts innumerable, and not full grown. As a natural consequence, there were storks hovering about and feasting upon them. On account of the benefit thus conferred on mankind by these birds, the Arabs call them Abu Sa'ad, i.e., "Father of good fortune."

In the middle of the afternoon we arrived at the encampment of the Jehaleen, under the north-east side of Tell 'Arad, the site of the Canaanitish city in Num. xxi. I, xxxiii. 40; Judges i. 16. It was a cheerful green site, though the verdure consisted merely of a thin and poor grass.

We had to be introduced to the real shaikh on his own territorial domain, namely, Hadji Daif Allah abu Dahook,—a sharp fellow in driving a bargain,—a taller and stouter man than any of his people, who were all extremely dirty in person and dress, and several of them but small, withered-looking old men. One of the women, however, was tall, and walked with exceeding dignity of manner.

Our European tents were pitched at some distance from the black hair tents of the Arabs and we observed, soon after our arrival, that three strangers came up on horseback, carrying spears tufted with black ostrich feathers, on a visit to our shaikh. They were well received; and songs, with clapping of hands, continued during a great part of the night, with a monotonous accompaniment of the women grinding corn in their hand-mills!

April 3.—We rose early, enjoying the indescribable beauty and purity of starlight in an oriental desert, thermometer, Fahrenheit, 53.25 degrees, at sunrise; but before sunrise I mounted to the summit of the hill, where I found no vestiges of a city, only the foundation of a castle, or some such edifice, of about a hundred feet by sixty. In fact, this covered nearly the whole surface of the summit. The city must, therefore, have been situated on the plain, the metropolis of a petty Canaanitish king; but every trace of it is gone.

Low hills bounded the view on every side, over which some peaks of the Moab mountains showed themselves in the east.

When fairly started on the march at 10 past 6 A.M., we went along very cheerily, accompanied by Hadji Daif Allah and the three strangers, till, on a sudden, the latter wheeled about, and required from us the ghuf'r, or toll, for our future passage through their country. The shaikh recommended us to make them a present of a couple of dollars, as they were neighbours of Petra, and without their good-will we should not be able to succeed in the expedition.

We complied, and they rode off southwards, Abu Dahook returning to his camp.

Wearisome indeed is travelling with camels; but what would it have been had we been mounted upon them, as is generally the case with travellers from Sinai and 'Akabah! We horsemen frequently imitated the practice of old Fadladeen in Lalla Rookh, when he rode ahead of his caravan, and alighted now and then to enjoy the spectacle of the procession coming up and passing, then mounted again to repeat the pleasure.

The strongest and worst tempered one of our camels having the barrels of water to carry, suddenly lay down and rolled them from him. Had his burden been the skins of water instead, they would have burst, and we should have lost their precious contents. Our Arabs not being accustomed to the convoy of travellers, were as yet unskilful in loading the camels, or in poising the burdens in equal divisions; and most extraordinary noises did they make in urging the beasts forward,—sounds utterly indescribable in European writing, or even by any combinations of the Arabic alphabet!

We had about half a dozen men, mostly trudging on foot, and but slightly armed, commanded by Selameh; and one of them, named Salem, was the merry-andrew of the party, full of verbal and practical jokes. The ride was exhilarating,—over a level plain, green with thin grass or weeds, and low shrubs, whose roots extended to surprising distances, mostly above the surface of the ground; the morning breeze delicious, with larks trilling high above us in the sky, and smaller birds that sang among the bushes.

Sometimes we caught distant views of innumerable storks devouring the infant locusts upon the hill-sides.

Passed 'Ain Mel'hh, (Salt-fountain,) which Robinson identifies with the Moladah of Joshua xix. 2, by means of the transition name of Malatha in Greek. The only building now remaining is a square weli, surmounted by a dome. Here we were not far from Beersheba, upon our right, and fell in with the common route from Gaza and Hebron to Ma'an. Finding a flock of goats, we got new milk from the shepherd; when diluted with water, this is a refreshing beverage.

On coming up to a camp of Saadeen Arabs, our cook, a vain-glorious Maronite from the Lebanon, and ignorant of Arab customs, attempted to fire upon a watch-dog at the tents for barking at him; and it was judged necessary to deprive him of his pistols for the rest of the journey. Had he succeeded in his folly, we should have got into considerable trouble; for an Arab watch-dog is accounted so valuable, that to kill one of them might have entailed upon us a long delay, and a formal trial in a council of elders of different tribes, collected for the purpose; followed by the penalty awarded by the unwritten laws which obtain in the desert, namely, a payment of as much fine wheat as would entirely cover the dog when held up by his tail, and the nose touching the ground, and this is no small quantity; such delay would have probably thwarted our whole journey.

At a narrow pass, called Daiket 'Arar, was the shell of an old building, now roofless. Near this, and by the wayside, as we advanced, were considerable remains of foundations of houses. There must have been a town of note at that place, it is the 'Aroer of 1 Sam. xxx. 28. Our course now suddenly trended towards the east, instead of southwards.

In less than another hour we came to Kubbet el Baul, merely the foundation of a small weli. Selameh told us that this had belonged to a tribe called Bali, (or Baul in the plural.) I have no doubt that this is the site of Balah of Joshua xix. 3; and that from it the Arabs, settling near it afterwards, derived their appellation.

We soon afterwards, 3 P.M., passed Curnub, a ruined place on the right, and descended the slope of Muzaikah.

In another hour and a half, namely, at half-past four, we halted for the night, after a journey of ten hours. It was on a smooth, pebbly plain, dotted with shrubs, having lines of chalky hills to the south-west, for which our people had no other name than Jebel el Ghurb, or the "western mountain." The whole scene was that of a mere desert; no creatures were to be seen or heard but ourselves. No Turkish authorities ever intrude into this purely Arab wilderness; still less was the landscape spoiled by the smoke of European factories. No speck of cloud had we seen the whole day through.

Not far from this must have transpired the incidents recorded of Hagar and Ishmael,—incidents that might have occurred yesterday, or last week; for a few thousand years count but little in so primitive a region.

Our ragged fellows ran about singing, in search of thorns or long roots, or even the straggling plants of bitter colocynth, as fuel for our cooking-fire.

Stars arose, but such stars! not like the spangles of the English poet's conception, those "patines of bright gold," though that idea is beautiful; but one could see that they were round orbs that flashed streams of diamond light from out their bigness.

So luxurious a bed as that spread upon the desert sand, amid such pure air for breathing, is scarcely to be obtained but in exactly similar circumstances; and we were undisturbed by cries of any wild beasts, although jackals and hyenas are common at night in the more cultivated parts of Palestine.

April 4.—Thermometer, Fahrenheit, 53.75 degrees at sunrise. We had our breakfast, and were off again by sunrise. It is said that

"Early to bed, and early to rise, Makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise."

It remained to be seen what the effect would be upon us.

The groom being left behind a short time for packing up the kitchen utensils, allowed us to get out of sight without his observing the direction we had taken; and, when mounted, he took a wrong course. It was therefore necessary to give chase towards the hills to recover him.

In an hour we reached two tul'hh (acacia or mimosa) trees, from which, I believe, the gum-arabic is obtained, and the stump of a third. These were the first that we had seen. Then descended, during about half an hour, to the broken walls of a town called Sufah, below which commenced the very remarkable nuk'beh, or precipitous slope into the great Wadi 'Arabah. Before commencing this, however, we paused to survey the savage scenery around us, and the glorious expanse of the plain, which extends from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea, and is bounded on one side by the hills of Judaea, and on the other by the mountains of Edom,—on an average of 3500 feet above the level,—including Mount Hor, the most conspicuous peak among them. At that time, however, the range was capped with rolling mists of the morning.

This Sufah is most likely the Zephath of Judges i. 17,—the frontier town of King Arad the Canaanite, which the tribes of Judah and Simeon destroyed, and called the site Hormah, (i.e., "devoted to destruction.") If so, it is strange that the Canaanitish name should outlive the one intentionally given by the early Israelites. Probably, the surrounding tribes never adopted the Hebrew name, and preserved the original one.

We were standing among crevasses of shivered mountains, whose strata are tossed about in fantastic contortions; and what we had yet to traverse below this, was something like a thousand feet of very slippery rock, lying in flakes, and sloping two ways at once. The greater length forms a rough line, at an angle of what seemed to the eye to be one of forty-five degrees,—not so steep as the Terabeh that we came to afterwards, but longer and more perilous. Yet this is the only approach to Judaea from the desert for many leagues around. Was it here that King Amaziah destroyed his Edomite prisoners after his victory in the "valley of salt?" (2 Chron. xxv. 12.)

Half way down, one of our barrels of water slipped off a camel, and rolled into a chasm with noise and echoes like thunder. Wonderful to relate, it was not broken, and we were thankful for its preservation.

At the bottom of the precipice, just beyond the shingle or debris of the mountain, the captain and I rested, and drank some camels' milk. This the Bedaween consider very strengthening. There were several tul'hh-trees in a torrent-bed beside us, and some neb'k. With some twine that we gave him, and a stout thorn of tul'hh, one of our Arabs mended his sandal, which was in need of repair. We, having preceded the beasts of burthen over the slippery rock, sat watching them and the men creeping slowly down, in curved lines, like moving dots, towards us.

Upon the ground we found some dried palm-branches and slips of vine, which must have belonged to some former travellers, passing from the western towns to Ma'an, for neither palm nor vine grows in this wilderness, of which it may be truly said, "It is no place of seed, or of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates," (Num. xx. 5;) and it is now become like a past dream, that Virgil and Lucan mentioned the palm-trees of Idumaea. {301}

So at length we were upon the great 'Arabah, or "wilderness of Zin," of the Israelitish wanderings; and our path was to be diagonally across this, pointed direct at Mount Hor in the south-east.

On crossing a shallow wadi named Fik'r, they told us of a spring of water to be found in it, at a good distance to the north-east.

After some hours, we came to Wadi Jaib, sometimes styled the Jeshimon, as well as its corresponding plain on the north of the Dead Sea, and in Arabic both are called "the Ghor," in the shallow bed of which were receptacles for water, concealed by canes and brushwood laid in the utmost disorder, so as to produce the appearance of mere random drift of winter storms. Without the Arabs, of course, we should never have suspected the existence of such valuable stores. Probably also the Bedaween from a distance would not be aware of such resources there. The covering would, besides, serve to prevent a speedy evaporation of the water by the sun's heat. These spots were shaded likewise by tul'hh, sunt, and neb'k-trees. There we watered the cattle and filled our vessels. {302} In another half hour we rested for the night, having made a march of nearly twelve hours, over more tiring ground than that of yesterday.

'Ain Weibeh was to our right, which Robinson conjectured to be Kadesh Barnea.

We perceived footprints of gazelles and of hyenas.

April 5. Sunrise, Fahrenheit, 62.25 degrees. Our Jerusalem bread being now exhausted, we took to that of the desert-baking, which is very good while fresh and hot from the stones on which the improvisation of baking is performed, but not otherwise for a European digestion: and our servants, with the Bedaween, had to chase the chickens every morning. The survivors of those brought from Jerusalem being humanely let out of their cages for feeding every evening, the scene of running after them, or flinging cloaks in the air when they took short flights, not to mention the shouts of the men and the screams of the birds, was very ludicrous, but annoying, when time is precious. The merry little Salem enjoyed all this, as well as the amusements of our people, during the monotony of daily travelling: as, for instance, the captain rolling oranges along the ground, as prizes for running, or his mounting a camel himself, or riding backwards, etc.—anything for variety.

The desert may be described as a dried pudding of sand and pebbles, in different proportions in different places,—sometimes the sand predominating, and sometimes the pebbles,—with occasionally an abundance of very small fragments of flint, serving to give a firmer consistency to the sand. Round boulders are also met with on approaching the hill-sides. In one place large drifts of soft yellow sand were wrinkled by the wind, as a smooth sea-beach is by the ripples of a receding tide. These wrinkles, together with the glare of a burning sun upon them, affected the eyes, so as to make the head giddy in passing over them.

Wild flowers and shrubs are not wanting; and the former are often very fragrant. I observed among those that are so, a prevalence in their names of the letter [Arabic letter] (gh); as Ghurrah, Ghubbeh, Ghurkud, Ghuraim, etc. They brought me a handful of meijainineh, which was said to be good for pains in the stomach; and the starry flower, called dibbaihh, not unlike a wild pink, is eaten by the people, both petals, calyx, and stalk.

The tul'hh, or mimosa-tree, has a strange appearance, very like an open fan, or the letter V filled up.

The green foliage of it is particularly vivid at the season when we saw it, and the thorns long and sharp. {304}

Distances are hard to judge of in such extensive plains and in so clear an atmosphere. We had been nearly two days in sight of Mount Hor, straight before us; yet the mountain only grew in size as we approached it, not in distinctness.

[Picture: Tul'hh Trees]

As we came nearer to the eastern mountains, we found innumerable and huge blocks of porphyry rock scattered over the ground. The Arabs called the range of Seir by the name of Jebel Sherreh.

At about eight hours from our last night's station, we turned off the Wadi 'Arabah by the narrow Wadi Tayibeh into the heart of the mountains, at the foot of Hor.

Ascended a series of precipices, and, at some elevation, met two young English gentlemen, with a pair of double-barrelled pistols shared between them, and their fingers ready on the triggers. They had a tale to relate of grievous exactions made by the Fellahheen of Petra,—which, however, seemed to me, by their account, to have been brought on unconsciously by themselves, in having taken an escort of Tiyahah Arabs from Nukh'l instead of the Alaween; and they informed me that a clergyman from Cambridge was still detained there, as he refused to comply with the excessive demands of the people.

On what a stupendous scale is geology to be studied in Mount Seir, where you have masses of red sandstone 1500 feet in depth; yellow sandstone extending miles away in ranges of hills, and the sandy desert beneath; all of this incapable of cultivation; and inspiring a sensation of deep sadness, in connexion with the denunciations of God's prophecies!

At a quarter before four we caught the first glimpse of the Mezar of Aaron's tomb, and at five pitched our tents on the rugged side of Hor, among crags and scented plants, enlivened by numerous cuckoos, and the sweet warbling of one little bird. What reminiscences of dear old England the song of the cuckoos awakened! Now, however, from henceforth, being in England, their song will infallibly recall the memory to large bare mountains, extreme heat of climate, and the fragrance of Elijah's ret'm plant.

During the last hour we had seen some blue pigeons, one partridge, and, separately, two large eagles, to which our attention had been drawn by their shadows moving on the ground before us; then, on looking upwards, the royal birds were seen sailing along, silently and slowly, against the blue vault of ether.

This had been the hottest day of our whole journey; and the atmosphere became thick as the evening stole over the hills.

April 6th.—Sunrise, Fahrenheit 77 degrees. In the morning we advanced upwards towards Aaron's tomb. Walking in front of the luggage, we met the clergyman of whom we had heard the day before. He had been allowed to leave Petra on suffering the people to take money out of his pockets,—reserving to himself the intention of complaining against them officially to the consul in Jerusalem.

He had been to the summit of Hor, and pronounced the view from it to be more grand and striking than that from Sinai. On bidding him farewell, we took Selameh and one kawwas, for clambering on our hands and knees to the summit, leaving the luggage to proceed and wait for us farther on; but had to rest occasionally in the shade of large trees of 'Arar, which Robinson considered to be the true juniper, and not the ret'm. The latter (the rothem of the Hebrew Bible, under which the Prophet Elijah reposed) was very abundant, and covered with white blossom, shedding the richest perfume. Is it possible that all this fragrance, and the warbling of the birds, is but "wasted in the desert air?"

The mountain is all of dark-red colour; and the higher we ascended, the more difficult we found the progress to be. At length all farther advance seemed impossible, till, on looking round, we observed an excavation for a well, with masonry around it; and beyond this were steps cut into the rock, which rock was sloped at an angle of between fifty and sixty degrees. This encouraged us to persevere.

Still higher, I picked up some tesserae of mosaic, and morsels of marble and alabaster,—a piece of the latter now lies on the table before me.

At length we attained the highest peak, where there was scarcely more space than sufficient to contain the small weli-building, which was at the time untenanted, though we had expected to find a Moslem devotee in permanent residence there.

[Picture: Small weli-building]

I utterly despair of being able to describe the prospect around us; and can only say that extensive mountain-peaks lay in lines below, and might be compared to those made upon embossed maps, but that the whole scene was vast, savage, and abandoned to sombre desolation—both the hills and the desert—in every direction.

The atmosphere was too thick and hazy to allow of very distant views. Neither of the two waters—the Red Sea or the Dead Sea—was visible.

Let those who take pleasure in doing so, doubt that on that peak lies interred Aaron, the first high priest of Israel, "the saint of the Lord," and that there was effected the first personal transfer of the pontifical office from him to Eleazer his son. Rather let me believe that there my unworthy footsteps have been placed on the same pieces of rock with the two venerable brothers who led up the redeemed people from Egypt, "the house of bondage," and that it was there they parted, leaving Moses to carry on the task alone.

"Three Hebrew cradles, the Nile-palms under, Rock'd three sweet babes upon Egypt's plain: Three desert graves must those dear ones sunder, Three sorrowful links of a broken chain. Kadesh and Hor, and Nebo yonder, Three waymarks now for the pilgrim train." {309}

I seated myself, and wrote a brief letter to a dear relative in England.

Entering the weli, we found near the door a common-looking tomb, with an Arabic inscription,—which, however, I found too illegible to allow of its being copied; and over the tomb was spread a pall of silk, striped in red, green, and white, but much faded. Against a pillar, which supports the roof, were hung rows of coloured rags and threads of yarn, with snail-shells and sea-shells strung among them by way of further ornament. A wooden bowl, at one end of the tomb, was probably intended to receive alms for the support of the devotee who claims the place, and who practises the curing of diseases by charms among the wild Arabs.

The floor of the chamber has been handsomely paved with tesselated bits of coloured marble, much of which still remains. Over the tomb are suspended some ostrich eggs on a line, as is common in oriental churches; and near it is a mihrab, or niche in the wall, to indicate the southerly direction for Moslem prayers.

In a corner of the floor, a flight of steps leads down to a crypt; and, providing ourselves with a light, we descended thither, in expectation of finding there the more ancient tomb, believed to be genuine, as it is the usual practice in Moslem welies to have an imitation tomb on the common floor at the entrance, while the true one is exactly beneath it. But we only found an iron grating, swinging loose to the touch, and within it a plain wall, from which part of the plaster having fallen away, allowed to be seen the corner of a kind of stone sarcophagus. The portion visible was not, however, sufficient to enable us to judge of its probable era. The ceiling of the crypt is blackened by the smoke of lamps.

I then mounted, by the outside of the building, to the top of the dome, but could see nothing thence of Petra, so deeply sunk is that valley betwixt high hills.

Descending the mountain by the opposite side of that of our arrival,—namely, on the side next to Petra,—we discovered that more pains in roadmaking had been bestowed there, and that the ascent in that direction would be comparatively easy. Cuckoos and partridges were heard plentifully; and, on looking back, I saw a very large raven hovering over the weli.

In an hour's descent we rejoined our servants and horses, but were not yet at the foot of the mountain.

Entering a valley of red rocks, much streaked with blue in wavy lines, the first work of antiquity that met our view was a square turret on each side of the road. Then we passed some tombs, or chambers, cut into the massive red cliffs with architectural cornices, pediments, and pilasters, some of them very handsome. Next was what Laborde marks in his map as "the solitary column." It is standing solitary; but then near its base lie other columns of the same edifice, with the circular slices (or drums, as architects term them) that composed them, scarcely disturbed as they slid down in falling.

In five minutes more we halted for the night close to what Laborde designates the Acropolis, where a pile of fine building lies prostrate, and the columns on the ground, in their segments, still touching each other.

At the foot of this heap stands what is named the Palace of Pharaoh; and our station within it appeared, from the black relics of fires there, to be a frequent resting-place for travellers.

Here, then, we were fairly lodged among the wonders which so deservedly excite the curiosity of the world, and proceeded to improve time, before the Fellahheen of the district should arrive to annoy us, by crowding and importunity.

It is not my design to recount in detail the marvels of the place,—this has been done by Laborde, Lord Lindsay, Wilson, and Robinson,—but just to say, that having with me the small edition of Laborde and some manuscript notes extracted from other books, by their help I saw most of what was to be seen. I wandered through streets of the middle town; surveyed and entered palaces hewn into crimson rocks; sat reading on the solid benches of the theatre, and walked along its stage; then gazed with unwearied admiration on the beautiful Khazneh, its delicate tints and graceful proportions, and went to rest upon a green bank opposite to it, with a running stream at my feet, bordered by gorgeous oleanders, where I chatted with some wild Arabs arriving from the south. Such a harmony of ruddy tints, from the darkest buds of the oleander, through gradations on the rocks, to the most delicate pink, was truly a feast of nature for the eyes.

These are incidents never to be forgotten, and the memory of them is unspeakably charming. I made a few rough sketches; but it may be sufficient here to give only a specimen of the capitals of columns that are peculiar to Petra.

[Picture: Capital of column]

During the afternoon the thermometer stood inside the tent at 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

The captain, my companion, went alone to explore the chasm called the Sik, as my slight sprain, after being almost forgotten during the journey, had become painful again from the effects of climbing upon Mount Hor.

But I had come to Petra for business; and the indigenous peasantry of Wadi Moosa were gathering around our tents from different directions. They had not been prepared for the reception of guests arriving from the north, i.e., Jerusalem, as travellers usually come from 'Akabah or Sinai, through Nukh'l.

Our Arabs, both Jehaleen and some strangers, set to making themselves comfortable. There arrived a large body of the Fellahheen, headed by Shaikh Suliman es Said, a ragged and ugly crew, he as dirty as the rest, but strutting about in a robe of bright scarlet.

Then commenced the negotiations and disputes between them and ours; noise and menace speedily ensued, alternated with diplomatic manoeuvres, for our champion, Selameh, was an able practitioner in such matters, at least he had a reputation for it. The stormy scenes were not concluded till late in the night, and they ended by an arrangement that travellers, arriving by the new road from Jerusalem, should pay the same pecuniary acknowledgment to the territorial owners as had been hitherto claimed from those arriving under Alaween escort from Nukh'l or 'Akabah; and this agreement I ratified orally, as writing or sealing would have been altogether out of place there. One might think that so simple a matter could have been finished in five minutes; but just as in European business of that nature, it is always necessary for the contracting parties to be allowed scope for the display of their professional talents.

April 7th.—Sunrise, Fahrenheit 65.75 degrees. An inundation of strange Arabs from the desert had arrived during the night, and it was computed that there were not less than two hundred guns round our tents, while our party had not more than five, with a few pistols. We were hemmed in by the newcomers, and the crags over us were occupied by men with guns laid in position between crevices. Some men were scattered about, shooting at birds; but it seemed to me their real object was rather the making of signals.

These people were 'Ali Rasheed's branch of the Alaween, from a district not so distant as 'Akabah. Our Jehaleen party looked very insignificant among them; they had evidently not expected this turn of events.

As soon as we Europeans showed ourselves after breakfast, the Fellahheen rushed forward to serve as guides in exhibiting the curiosities. Feeling rather lame, I decided on remaining at the tents with my two kawwases as sentinels; the more disposed to do so, as the strangers had, during the night, purloined some articles from the Jehaleen.

It was a warm, misty morning, and in the absence of my companion I found considerable amusement in the screams of multitudes of wild birds, high aloft "among the holes of the rocks, and the tops of the rugged rocks,"—probably all of them birds of prey,—which echoed and reverberated with sounds closely resembling the laughter and shouts of children in their vociferous games. On their return, the Fellahheen were rapacious in demands for remuneration of their services, but were at length contented. This was the signal for the others to take their advantage. They wanted toll to be paid for crossing part of the desert on which they thought the Jehaleen had no right or precedent for bringing strangers. So, on our preparing to leave the ground, they rushed up the bank, secured commanding points for their guns, and thus exacted their fee. The screams and hubbub were at length terminated by some small backsheesh, (to our surprise, how little was required,) and we all marched away in a northern direction, the opposite to that of our arrival.

This gave us an opportunity of passing again in front of the principal edifices, if they may be so denominated, including what I had not before seen, the sepulchre with the Latin inscription in large letters, QVINTVS. PRAETEXTVS. FLORENTINVS.

It is to be noticed that Petra itself is called by the Arabs, Wadi Pharaon, {316} not Wadi Moosa. The two valleys are adjoining, but in the latter there are no antiquities or wonders. At a distance, however, the journey to Petra is usually called a journey to Wadi Moosa, because the Fellahheen of the region about there, and to whom toll is paid, are cultivators of the Wadi Moosa.

Before leaving the place, it may be observed that the neighbourhood must have been kept in a high state of cultivation during the Roman empire for the maintenance of so numerous and luxurious a population of the city, instead of the absence of necessaries of civilised life that we now see there; and that good state of things must have continued in later Christian periods, when the district formed "the third Palestine," and deputed bishops to the synods of Jerusalem and elsewhere.

With respect to the colouring of the hills and rocks, it is truly surprising to behold such huge masses of deep red colour, variegated with wavy lines of violet and purple and blue, especially in the direction towards Mount Hor. We did not, however, remark so much of yellow and orange as Laborde or Irby and Mangles describe.

I find since that Dr Wilson states these rocks to be highly saliferous, and says the Arabs scrape them with knives to obtain saltpetre for making their rude gunpowder. He is of opinion that in some geological era the whole place has been formed in a salt-water lake. Few people have had so much leisure for making researches there as he had.

The temperature was high in the valley, because closely confined between lines of hills; notwithstanding that the elevation is supposed to exceed 2000 feet above the Mediterranean. What it may be in a more advanced season than April I cannot tell; but I perceived neither scorpions nor serpents there, (as some represent the place to abound in,) no creeping things worse than earwigs.

When on the march, we learned that the robbery of the night by 'Ali Rasheed's people, amounted to one camel, one gun, and old Selameh's sandals. Also, that those three men whom we saw on the 2d April at Abu Dahook's camp were of the same faction, probably also my visitors of the Khazneh yesterday. Selameh thought that for a couple of gazis (about three shillings and sixpence) he might succeed in a redemption of his goods. These I gave him, and he trudged back over the hills with one of his people, while we kept on our way. He was to meet us at our night's station.

The last glance given to Petra showed us the palace of Pharaoh, and the peak of Hor with Aaron's tomb.

Our way led us over a tolerable plain, made agreeable by the fragrance of the ret'm, as wafted along by the breeze; this plant sometimes almost covering the small branch valleys.

Soon after noon we were in the Wadi Nemela, through which we travelled for nearly two hours,—a scene of broken rocks on each side, and the intermediate space with a profusion of oleander, ret'm and 'arar, all in flower, some of the latter having trunks of ten feet in circumference.

Thence we issued upon a heath covered with low fragrant herbs; our Arabs singing, and the camels striding on famously, followed by a poor little lamb that we had bought at Petra. This, of course, we did not intend to convey all the way to Jerusalem; but his presence constantly reminded me of the text, (Isa. xvi. 1,) "Send ye the lamb (to) the ruler of the land from Sela [i.e. Petra] to the wilderness, unto the mount of the daughter of Zion." This is no longer the time when the king of Moab paid tribute "to the king of Israel, 100,000 lambs and 100,000 rams, with the wool," (2 Kings iii. 4.)

Soon after two P.M. we were passing over ledges of porphyry mountain-cliffs, dark and gloomy, but enlivened by large yellow salvia in bloom, and plenty of flowers visible in the hollow below; the whole scene most romantic and fantastic in formation. Such huge piles of porphyry I had not seen since those of the coast of Peterhead and Buchan, lashed by the great billows coming from the Baltic Sea. Occasionally we came to standing pools of water, which, lying on this hard kind of stone, could not filter away or be absorbed, as in our Palestine limestone would be the case. From these settlements our water vessels were supplied. Thermometer in shade of a rocky cliff, 75.75 degrees Fahrenheit.

We were soon again upon sandstone cliffs, but wildly broken, and descending into lower ground with its juniper and oleander. Then ascended again, and attained our greatest elevation by half-past three, at least equal to Robinson's calculation of 1500 feet above the 'Arabah. For two hours more we had to traverse cliffs, gullies, crags, and precipices of red porphyry or green syenite alternately, in enormous masses, split by convulsions of nature, and next arrived in a valley strewed with huge fragments, angular, not rounded boulders, yet fallen from the adjacent mountains. But we were still high above the wide level of the 'Arabah.

Halted at half-past five; thermometer, Fahrenheit 71.25 degrees, and, during our dinner, old Selameh rejoined us, having failed in his dealings with the Alaween, who refused to restore their plunder, as they said their object was to punish the Jehaleen, for bringing travellers through their country, instead of making them go by way of Egypt. {320} He reported that thirty more Arabs had arrived at Petra, half-an-hour after our starting.

April 8th.—Sunrise, Fahrenheit 59 degrees. Moving again at six o'clock. In half an hour we were clear of the mountains of Seir or Edom; but for another hour the ground was still strewn with blocks of porphyry and green syenite, too hard for any of our implements to break off bits from them, and fragments small enough to be carried away were very difficult to find; however, we got some. These large stumbling-blocks, together with dry watercourses, rendered our travelling unusually troublesome to the horses and camels, and wearisome to ourselves.

At length we got upon the free 'Arabah, among green shrubs and trees of tul'hh and neb'k.

At nine o'clock we came to a high sandbank, beneath which was a verdant line of tamarisk, and ghar, and tall canes, with frogs croaking among them. All of these were indications of water; and, accordingly, we found a spring named 'Ain Taasan, being one of those which together form the stream of Buwairdeh. Here we filled our water vessels to the utmost, as it was not expected we should find any more good water for two days to come.

The surrounding prospect was one of utter desolation, and I took out my Bible and read the words of 2 Kings iii. 8,-9, and 20: "And he said, Which way shall we go up? And he answered, The way through the wilderness of Edom. So the king of Israel went, and the king of Judah, and the king of Edom; and they fetched a compass of seven days' journey: and there was no water for the host, and for the cattle that followed them . . . And it came to pass in the morning, when the meat-offering was offered, that, behold, there came water by the way of Edom, and the country was filled with water."

On the spot, as well as at the present time, I remembered with pain the deplorable weakness and wickedness of the remarks on this event contained in Paine's "Age of Reason," and which I do not choose to repeat. The most charitable opinion that one can entertain of such writers is that they know nothing of the nature of the country under consideration. Thank God that the world at large, and that land in particular, is now better known than formerly, and, as a consequence, our evidences of the truth of the blessed Bible are daily the more confirmed.

We then proceeded northwards along the bed of that stream; but in a few minutes its water was lost in the sand. In another hour we entered the dry bed of the Wadi el Jaib, and continued along its course in the direction of the Dead Sea.

The hills were misty on both sides, and the ground hot beneath, as we tramped along, all our voices hushed during the "strength of the heat," (according to Arab expression,) and the footfall of the camels entirely without noise.

Who can sufficiently admire the adaptation of this creature to the desert, in which the Maker and Ruler of all has placed him? No heat exceeds the power of his endurance; steadily, patiently, silently he stalks his long strides over the yellow ground—one animal following another in regular military step. And during our travels at least he never flagged—the large eyes never lost their brightness; and who ever saw a camel, even though his master may seek rest or shade as he finds opportunity, shrink from the blazing brightness of the sun?

Halted for the night shortly before five P.M., the journey having been one of eleven hours. But the Arabs insisted on our being placed behind the corner of a re-entering valley, in order that our fire and smoke might not be seen during the night by hostile people from a distance.

Thermometer at sunset, 81.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

We found footprints of gazelles, storks, and hyenas.

Mount Hor at that distance, and in that direction, very much resembles the Salisbury Crags of Edinburgh.

April 9th—Sunrise, Fahrenheit 63.5 degrees. Tents struck, and all on the march by half-past five. Losing sight of Mount Hor.

At a quarter to eight a breeze sprung up from the north, so refreshing in that hot and dry wilderness as to merit the praise of the Bedawi poem, beginning—

"Shemali, ya hawa ed-deeret shemali."

"The north! O thou wind of the northern direction, It has increased my blessing, and all that belongs to me, And after weakness of state, has changed my condition."

I find, however, that this literal translation gives but a very poor idea of the feeling concentrated in the words of the original, and only feebly expresses the reminiscence of that time as still preserved at the moment of this writing.

Soon after eight o'clock we were out of the Wadi el Jaib, that is to say, the high cliffs of marl on each side abruptly terminated, previous to which, they had been at first more than a hundred feet above our heads, and then gradually diminishing in height as we advanced. We descended gradually into the semicircular expanse of marshes called El Ghuwair or the Little Ghor, with the large Dead Sea and the Khash'm Usdum, or salt mountain of Sodom, spread out before us.

The course of the wadi we had left trended from south-east to north-east, on issuing from which we took the line on the western side of the Ghuwair, and easily descended over small eminences. This place is most probably the "ascent of Akrabbim," (Num. xxxiv. 4, and Josh. xv. 3,) the southern boundary of the land given to Israel, and named after its abundance of scorpions. In our hasty passage over it we saw none of these.

Among the marshes we found several palms growing wild. They were stumpy in stature, and ragged in form for want of cultivation, or perhaps of congenial soil. The miasma was strongly perceptible to the smell, and our horses were plagued with flies and gnats. How great was this change from the pure dry air of the mountains!

Quarter to ten at 'Ain 'Aroos, (the bridegroom's fountain,) but the water was brackish.

Thermometer in the shade, 83.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

For an hour past our people had been on the alert, on account of a feud between them and the Ghawarineh Arabs. On coming up to the print of a human footstep, this was carefully examined as to its size, direction of the tread, etc. The circumstances were not, however, exactly parallel to the occurrence in Robinson Crusoe, which naturally came to mind.

At twenty minutes to eleven, having completed the western curve of the Ghuwair, we fell in with the Wadi Hhuggereh, which came up from the south-west, and on looking back, perceived a distinct mirage visible over the dry sands which occupy part of the Ghuwair, probably the effect of a salty deposit.

About noon we arrived at a clear, running stream of water, but which proved, on tasting, to be highly impregnated with salt. The surface of the plain was in a great measure covered with a white efflorescence. Along the middle of this plain there was a sunken channel of a mile and a half in length, occupied by an overflowing of the Dead Sea, which, however, did not interfere with our track.

At the end of this, and on approaching the corner of the salt mountain, we had an incident to enliven the tediousness of the hot journey. A party of Arabs came in sight. Our men discovered them first, and running forwards, primed their guns, or lighted the match of the lock, drew their swords and screamed, making bare the right arm, as if prepared for awful deeds. The others took up position behind low rocks, unslung their fire-arms, and screamed not. Presently a real or fictitious recognition took place, the guns on both sides were fired up in the air, and swords were brandished for very joy. Both parties rushed into each other's embraces, smiling and kissing with the greatest fervour.

The comers proved to be some of their own Jehaleen, escorting some Hebron townsmen to Kerak. There were two women among the latter, some old men, and some conjurers with monkeys, who thereupon set up a dance to the music of tambourines. Upon something like equanimity being restored, the strangers informed us of certain doings that had taken place, on our account, since we had passed by there, and which nearly concerned us.

The two parties soon separated, taking opposite directions.

As we were close upon the western side, there was the southern end of the Dead Sea at our right hand, coming up imperceptibly upon the land, flush with it, so that no limit could be distinguished between water and the wet beach.

At a few minutes past one we all alighted before the large cavern which runs into the heart of the salt mountain; and a picturesque group our party formed, spread about in some shade of the hill, with a great variety of costumes and colours—the camels kneeling and the horses picketed upon the bay of the sea of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Entering the cavern, we found relics of the recent French expedition thither, under M. de Saulcy, such as egg-shells and torn paper coverings of candles, with French shopkeepers' names upon them. We did not penetrate far inwards, but could see traces of occasional overflowings of the lake into the interior.

The mountain itself is a wonder: five miles of salt above ground, and a hundred feet, probably in some places two hundred feet high. The colour is not bright, but of a dull gray. The best parts of it are very hard to break, and with difficulty we brought away some pieces for curiosity.

As for Lot's wife,—the pillar of salt, mentioned and portrayed by the American expedition in 1848, and of which it is said they took a fragment for a museum at home,—after a good deal of search, we only discovered a crooked thin spire of rock-salt in one place of the mountain; but it would not have been very remarkable if many such had been found to exist in similar circumstances.

It was a place for inducing solemn reflections and intense sensations, such as one could hardly venture to record at the time of being there, or endeavour to repeat now after so long an interval. Much may, however, be imagined by devout readers of the holy Scriptures—not only as contained in the records of the Book of Genesis, but also as inculcated with intense emphasis in the Epistle of Jude in a later period. Still, there is a vividness of impression to be derived only from being actually on the spot, and surveying the huge extent of water that differs from any other in the world,—placid and bright on its surface, yet awful in its rocky boundaries. But where are the cities and their punished inhabitants, except in the Bible, and the traditions preserved by Tacitus, the Koran, and by the present inhabitants of the country?

Some morsels of bitumen were found upon the beach; but the principal season of the year for finding it is in winter, especially at the commencement of winter, when the lake becomes unusually agitated, and breaks off masses of it from the bottom, often of very large size—the peasants of Hebron, with exaggeration, say, "As large as ships;" but I have seen many camel-loads of it brought up to Jerusalem at a time, for export to Europe. It is, however, a monopoly of the crown.

We should note that in Gen. xiv. 10, the district was full of bitumen pits previous to the overthrow of the cities of the plain.

At twenty minutes to three we came to a rude heap of stones called Zoghal or Zoghar. This cannot well be Zoar, among other reasons, because it lies upon the beach, and is not upon an eminence. It is well to mention that M. de Saulcy's extravagant ideas of the Pentapolis of Sodom, etc., had not then been published.

In another quarter of an hour we had reached the extremity of the "Salt Mountain," with all its distorted, sometimes even perpendicular stratification. By this time we were convinced that the whole of the mountain is not salt, but that a good deal of the upper length of it is a mixture of salt and marl or sand. Between it and the water's edge we frequently saw blocks and spires of rock-salt protruding through the flat beach.

There can be no doubt that the Arabic name, Usdum, is identical with Sodom, by a well-known custom of the language to invert the consonant and vowel of the first syllable. But even this is brought back to the original state in the adjective form. Thus I heard our guides speak of the Jebel Sid'mi, meaning the Khash'm or Jebel Usdum, or promontory of Sodom.

The Wadi Netheeleh comes up from the southwest to the shore at this northern end of the mountain, parallel to the Wadi Hhuggereh at the southern end.

We kept along the sea-side, and on rising to a higher level, near five o'clock, halted for the night at the mouth of a valley where some water was to be procured, and near us was a broken tower. This site is named Mobugghek or Umm-Bugghek. As we were scarcely out of the reach of the Ghawarineh Arabs, our people had to go out in armed detachments for collecting firewood.

During the process of pitching the tents, one of our men, named 'Odeh, perceived a stranger at a great distance, and half stripping himself, ran nimbly up a steep sand hill, ready for whatever operation might be necessary. Our European, I might rather say, our civilised eyes, could not have discovered the ill-omened object at that distance, but those of desert Arabs are far more powerful than ours. I do not know that I shall ever forget the ardent brilliancy of Shaikh Selameh's eyes at all times, as witnessed constantly during our excursion.

While we rambled on the beach in search of bitumen or sulphur, we suddenly heard a furious screaming in the direction of our tents, and hastily returning, found a number of strangers coming down a winding path. Our men were gathered together, and armed. The captain also examined the state of his double-barrelled pistols. However, on their arrival, the newcomers were recognised as people not hostile to the Jehaleen, and their general location is near 'Ain 'Aroos. So, after some squabbling and arrangement, they agreed to share our supper with us in peace. Had the case been otherwise, our position was not an enviable one; for we were shut in between their hills and the sea, they were more numerous than our Arabs, and they had entire command of our spring of water. Our camels, too, were all unloaded, and the packages scattered on the ground.

The scenery was desolate and gloomy in the extreme, undoubtedly blasted by the wrath of Almighty God, although a place which had at one time been "well watered everywhere . . . even as the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt," (Gen. xiii. 10;) and it required strong faith to expect the possibility of this "wilderness" ('Arabah) being again made "like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord," (Isa. li. 3.) Indeed, that promise does not seem to apply to this peculiar locality, by comparing it with Ezek. xlvii. 10, 11, although these unwholesome waters are to be healed, and are to have fish of various kinds in them, with fishermen's nets employed there.

It deserves observation, that now the sea is so utterly lifeless that the American explorers there were unable, by the most powerful microscopes, to find any animalculae in its water. Yet Lynch was of opinion that the atmosphere or vapour there was not in any way prejudicial to human health; and since then, Mr Holman Hunt spent a considerable time near the brink without injury derived from it.

The air was very warm all night, with no freshening dew, and the sound of slow, rippling water on the strand, during the still starlight hours, was one to which our ears had not been of late accustomed.

The Arab figures and conversation round the watch-fire were romantic enough. Thermometer at eight P.M., 90.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

April 10th.—Sunrise, Fahrenheit 70.25 degrees. In taking this last note of the thermometer at sunrise, I may observe that the marking of it at that moment gives but a feeble idea of the heat that we experienced during the days' marches throughout this excursion,—the temperature rapidly increased after sunrise, and at later hours within the confined hollows, such as Petra and the basin of the Dead Sea, rose to that of (I suppose) an Indian climate—but above all the effects of heat was that produced by the weight of atmospheric pressure at probably the lowest position in the whole surface of the globe: about 1300 feet below the Mediterranean.

Before six o'clock we were on the march, over broken and precipitous rocky paths, on which the progress was slow and toilsome. Then down again upon the beach. I am sure that if the Dead Sea were already covering the ground that it now does, before the time of Chedorlaomer, the "four kings against five" could not possibly have mustered or manoeuvred their armies on any side or place between the mountains on each side of the water. {332} At a quarter past seven the thermometer stood at 86 degrees Fahrenheit.

There is always a close, heavy heat in this depressed region, inducing profuse perspiration.

At ten minutes past nine we were at the spot where the great eastern peninsula projects nearest to us, having in view the two extremities, north-east and south-west, now named on the maps, the former as Point Costigan, after the unfortunate explorer of 1835, and the latter, Point Molyneux, after my friend, the lieutenant of H.M.S. Spartan, who was there in 1847. But at that season of the year we could perceive no traces of the shallow or ford by which the Arabs occasionally pass over to it on the way to Kerak.

At half-past nine we were in front of Sebbeh, with a view of the ruins of Masada on its summit, to which, however, we did not climb, but contented ourselves with recalling to memory the heroic events of the Jewish defenders, as related by Josephus. Here the sea, retiring towards our side, forms a semicircular bay, terminating at 'Ain Jidi, (Engeddi,) where we arrived at two o'clock. There we were at a considerable elevation above the shore, which we now abandoned, not only because all further advance in that direction is impracticable, but because our route towards Jerusalem lay in a different direction.

We were upon a platform abounding in springs of water and luxuriant neglected vegetation. The pleasure derived from the sound of gushing streams can only be appreciated by those who have been in our circumstances. The contrast is not to be understood merely from words laid before a reader, between this and the dry wilderness of Edom or the salt beach of Sodom. One of our camels not only drank his fill, but rolled himself in the water.

There were some neb'k trees, some trees of the 'osher, (apple of Sodom,) and some of the shrub solanum melongena, all of which may be found near Jericho, though not peculiar to that region. Canes and large weeds almost filled the watercourses, but not a blossom of any wild-flower could I find upon the ground.

The streams abound in petrifactions of vegetation, which would show that the water cannot be very wholesome for drinking. A monster crab was brought us out of a channel; my horse in drinking had been startled at the sight of it.

There were traces of buildings about the place, such as foundations of walls almost razed to the ground, and one broken tower.

But the prospect eastwards, including the peninsula, and the mountains and huge crevasses of Moab, or southwards, including Sebbeh and the Salt mountain, are magnificent beyond expression. We could not be sure that Mount Hor was distinguishable. At a quarter past three, and under shade of trees, the thermometer was at 86 degrees Fahrenheit.

After considerable repose and some feeding there, we prepared for the remaining ascent, called by our people "The Ladder of Terabeh." This was a very toilsome climbing of near two hours up a nearly perpendicular cliff, by means of curves and zigzags turning away four or five yards. Most of the way we were dismounted, but still the horses and camels were greatly distressed by the effort of the ascent. At first the camel-drivers sang to cheer their animals. This, however, dwindled into occasional prolonged notes, which again were deteriorated into groans instead of music.

It was a curious sight for us who were untroubled with the care of camels, and consequently getting on faster than they, to look down upon the wavy lines of moving creatures, and hear the echoes of their voices from below.

Reached the summit at half-past four, and after an hour's progress upon level ground, we halted for the night. Poor old Selameh fell down flat, not so much from the effect of mere fatigue, as from having had his ankle bitten by a spiteful camel in the morning, and then the long climbing in addition.

This was to be our last night together, and we enjoyed to the utmost the social gathering round the bivouac fire with our Arab companions, to whom, after ten days association, to the exclusion of all the rest of the world, we could not but feel something of temporary personal attachment. There was Selameh, with his mended shoe and his bitten ankle, who had been our officer and diplomatist, ready for fun or a row at any minute; 'Odeh the champion, called out upon emergencies; Khamees, the slave boy, a general domestic, if this latter word may be allowed for a Bedawi Arab; and Salem the merry-man, short in stature, and drawing into the vale of years. We chatted over the fire about the events of the expedition, while some of the men were kneading and baking fresh bread upon stones made hot in the fire.

Yet this is a sad aimless life that such people lead—of course our excursion under their protection was an event to supply matter for many a conversation afterwards.

As for religion: they seem to have little or no sense of its responsibility or benefit, or even its formalities. I asked Selameh about prayers or reading, and all he had to say was that annually in Ramadan they hire a reader from some mosque of a town to come and read the Koran to them; but not one, not even Abu Dahook could read for himself. I never heard these Jehaleen mention either the word Moslem or Ghiaour, much less the technical words Mushrakeen or Seerat el Mustakeem. Thermometer at sunset, 79.25 degrees Fahrenheit.

April 11th.—Our camels were loaded for the last time, as usual grunting, groaning, and tossing the head backwards while the burdens were placed upon them, and, as must be known to all desert travellers, the smell exhaled from these animals after a long journey is particularly disagreeable.

We were marching forward at half-past five, and in an hour and a half we caught a distant view of our old familiar Frank mountain, which was lost again afterwards. About ten o'clock, we saw in a valley at our left an encampment of Sair Arabs; and soon afterwards in a valley at our right, a circle of the Ta'amri tents. In another hour we arrived at a square enclosure of very large ancient stones, which was denominated 'Arkoob Sahaba. The breezes on this high land were most refreshing after our southern excursion.

Passed Thekua' or Tekua', (Tekoa,) and at some distance forwards, to the north-east, some ruins called Abu'n-jaib, or perhaps Abu N'jaim.

Then we approached the well-remembered fragrance of the wild herbs on the uncultivated hills about Urtas and Bethlehem, redolent of homeward associations, and between two and three o'clock were at Jerusalem, grateful for special and numerous mercies of Divine Providence.

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