A few paces further on the rocky road, a different scene presented itself to us. There lay, to the westward, a long stretch of naked yellow mountains, basking in the hot glare of the sun, and through the centre, deep down in the heart of the arid landscape, a winding line of living green showed the course of the Barrada. We followed the river, until the path reached an impassable gorge, which occasioned a detour of two or three hours. We then descended to the bed of the dell, where the vegetation, owing to the radiated heat from the mountains and the fertilizing stimulus of the water below, was even richer than on the plain of Damascus. The trees were plethoric with an overplus of life. The boughs of the mulberries were weighed down with the burden of the leaves; pomegranates were in a violent eruption of blossoms; and the foliage of the fig and poplar was of so deep a hue that it shone black in the sun.
Passing through a gateway of rock, so narrow that we were often obliged to ride in the bed of the stream, we reached a little meadow, beyond which was a small hamlet, almost hidden in the leaves. Here the mountains again approached each other, and from the side of that on the right hand, the main body of the Barrada, or Pharpar, gushed forth in one full stream. The fountain is nearly double the volume of that of the Jordan at Banias, and much more beautiful. The foundations of an ancient building, probably a temple, overhang it, and tall poplars and sycamores cover it with impenetrable shade. From the low aperture, where it bursts into the light, its waters, white with foam, bound away flashing in the chance rays of sunshine, until they are lost to sight in the dense, dark foliage. We sat an hour on the ruined walls, listening to the roar and rush of the flood, and enjoying the shade of the walnuts and sycamores. Soon after leaving, our path crossed a small stream, which comes down to the Barrada from the upper valleys of the Anti-Lebanon, and entered a wild pass, faced with cliffs of perpendicular rock. An old bridge, of one arch, spanned the chasm, out of which we climbed to a tract of high meadow land. In the pass there were some fragments of ancient columns, traces of an aqueduct, and inscriptions on the rocks, among which Mr. H. found the name of Antoninus. The place is not mentioned in any book of travel I have seen, as it is not on the usual road from Damascus to Baalbec.
As we were emerging from the pass, we saw a company of twelve armed men seated in the grass, near the roadside. They were wild-looking characters, and eyed us somewhat sharply as we passed. We greeted them with the usual "salaam aleikoom!" which they did not return. The same evening, as we encamped at the village of Zebdeni, about three hours further up the valley, we were startled by a great noise and outcry, with the firing of pistols. It happened, as we learned on inquiring the cause of all this confusion, that the men we saw in the pass were rebel Druses, who were then lying in wait for the Shekh of Zebdeni, whom, with his son, they had taken captive soon after we passed. The news had by some means been conveyed to the village, and a company of about two hundred persons was then marching out to the rescue. The noise they made was probably to give the Druses intimation of their coming, and thus avoid a fight. I do not believe that any of the mountaineers of Lebanon would willingly take part against the Druses, who, in fact, are not fighting so much against the institution of the conscription law, as its abuse. The law ordains that the conscript shall serve for five years; but since its establishment, as I have been informed, there has not been a single instance of discharge. It amounts, therefore, to lifelong servitude, and there is little wonder that these independent sons of the mountains, as well as the tribes inhabiting the Syrian Desert, should rebel rather than submit.
The next day, we crossed a pass in the Anti-Lebanon beyond Zebdeni, descended a beautiful valley on the western side, under a ridge which was still dotted with patches of snow, and after travelling for some hours over a wide, barren height, the last of the range, saw below us the plain of Baalbec. The grand ridge of Lebanon opposite, crowned with glittering fields of snow, shone out clearly through the pure air, and the hoary head of Hermon, far in the south, lost something of its grandeur by the comparison. Though there is a "divide," or watershed, between Husbeiya, at the foot of Mount Hermon, and Baalbec, whose springs join the Orontes, which flows northward to Antioch, the great natural separation of the two chains continues unbroken to the Gulf of Akaba, in the Red Sea. A little beyond Baalbec, the Anti-Lebanon terminates, sinking into the Syrian plain, while the Lebanon, though its name and general features are lost, about twenty miles further to the north is succeeded by other ranges, which, though broken at intervals, form a regular series, connecting with the Taurus, in Asia Minor.
On leaving Damascus, the Demon of Hasheesh still maintained a partial control over me. I was weak in body and at times confused in my perceptions, wandering away from the scenes about me to some unknown sphere beyond the moon. But the healing balm of my sleep at Zebdeni, and the purity of the morning air among the mountains, completed my cure. As I rode along the valley, with the towering, snow-sprinkled ridge of the Anti-Lebanon on my right, a cloudless heaven above my head, and meads enamelled with the asphodel and scarlet anemone stretching before me, I felt that the last shadow had rolled away from my brain. My mind was now as clear as that sky—my heart as free and joyful as the elastic morning air. The sun never shone so brightly to my eyes; the fair forms of Nature were never penetrated with so perfect a spirit of beauty. I was again master of myself, and the world glowed as if new-created in the light of my joy and gratitude. I thanked God, who had led me out of a darkness more terrible than that of the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and while my feet strayed among the flowery meadows of Lebanon, my heart walked on the Delectable Hills of His Mercy.
By the middle of the afternoon, we reached Baalbec. The distant view of the temple, on descending the last slope of the Anti-Lebanon, is not calculated to raise one's expectations. On the green plain at the foot of the mountain, you see a large square platform of masonry, upon which stand six columns, the body of the temple, and a quantity of ruined walls. As a feature in the landscape, it has a fine effect, but you find yourself pronouncing the speedy judgment, that "Baalbec, without Lebanon, would be rather a poor show." Having come to this conclusion, you ride down the hill with comfortable feelings of indifference. There are a number of quarries on the left hand; you glance at them with an expression which merely says: "Ah! I suppose they got the stones here," and so you saunter on, cross a little stream that flows down from the modern village, pass a mill, return the stare of the quaint Arab miller who comes to the door to see you, and your horse is climbing a difficult path among the broken columns and friezes, before you think it worth while to lift your eyes to the pile above you. Now re-assert your judgment, if you dare! This is Baalbec: what have you to say? Nothing; but you amazedly measure the torsos of great columns which lie piled across one another in magnificent wreck; vast pieces which have dropped from the entablature, beautiful Corinthian capitals, bereft of the last graceful curves of their acanthus leaves, and blocks whose edges are so worn away that they resemble enormous natural boulders left by the Deluge, till at last you look up to the six glorious pillars, towering nigh a hundred feet above your head, and there is a sensation in your brain which would be a shout, if you could give it utterance, of faultless symmetry and majesty, such as no conception of yours and no other creation of art, can surpass.
I know of nothing so beautiful in all remains of ancient Art as these six columns, except the colonnade of the Memnonium, at Thebes, which is of much smaller proportions. From every position, and with all lights of the day or night, they are equally perfect, and carry your eyes continually away from the peristyle of the smaller temple, which is better preserved, and from the exquisite architecture of the outer courts and pavilions. The two temples of Baalbec stand on an artificial platform of masonry, a thousand feet in length, and from fifteen to thirty feet (according to the depression of the soil) in height, The larger one, which is supposed to have been a Pantheon, occupies the whole length of this platform. The entrance was at the north, by a grand flight of steps, now broken away, between two lofty and elegant pavilions which are still nearly entire. Then followed a spacious hexagonal court, and three grand halls, parts of which, with niches for statues, adorned with cornices and pediments of elaborate design, still remain entire to the roof. This magnificent series of chambers was terminated at the southern extremity of the platform by the main temple, which had originally twenty columns on a side, similar to the six now standing.
The Temple of the Sun stands on a smaller and lower platform, which appears to have been subsequently added to the greater one. The cella, or body of the temple, is complete except the roof, and of the colonnade surrounding it, nearly one-half of its pillars are still standing, upholding the frieze, entablature, and cornice, which altogether form probably the most ornate specimen of the Corinthian order of architecture now extant. Only four pillars of the superb portico remain, and the Saracens have nearly ruined these by building a sort of watch-tower upon the architrave. The same unscrupulous race completely shut up the portal of the temple with a blank wall, formed of the fragments they had hurled down, and one is obliged to creep through a narrow hole in order to reach the interior. Here the original doorway faces you—and I know not how to describe the wonderful design of its elaborate sculptured mouldings and cornices. The genius of Greek art seems to have exhausted itself in inventing ornaments, which, while they should heighten the gorgeous effect of the work, must yet harmonize with the grand design of the temple. The enormous keystone over the entrance has slipped down, no doubt from the shock of an earthquake, and hangs within six inches of the bottom of the two blocks which uphold it on either side. When it falls, the whole entablature of the portal will be destroyed. On its lower side is an eagle with outspread wings, and on the side-stones a genius with garlands of flowers, exquisitely sculptured in bas relief. Hidden among the wreaths of vines which adorn the jambs are the laughing heads of fauns. This portal was a continual study to me, every visit revealing new refinements of ornament, which I had not before observed. The interior of the temple, with its rich Corinthian pilasters, its niches for statues, surmounted by pediments of elegant design, and its elaborate cornice, needs little aid of the imagination to restore it to its original perfection. Like that of Dendera, in Egypt, the Temple of the Sun leaves upon the mind an impression of completeness which makes you forget far grander remains.
But the most wonderful thing at Baalbec is the foundation platform upon which the temples stand. Even the colossal fabrics of Ancient Egypt dwindle before this superhuman masonry. The platform itself, 1,000 feet long, and averaging twenty feet in height, suggests a vast mass of stones, but when you come to examine the single blocks of which it is composed, you are crushed with their incredible bulk. On the western side is a row of eleven foundation stones, each of which is thirty-two feet in length, twelve in height, and ten in thickness, forming a wall three hundred and fifty-two feet long! But while you are walking on, thinking of the art which cut and raised these enormous blocks, you turn the southern corner and come upon three stones, the united length of which is one hundred and eighty-seven feet—two of them being sixty-two and the other sixty-three feet in length! There they are, cut with faultless exactness, and so smoothly joined to each other, that you cannot force a cambric needle into the crevice. There is one joint so perfect that it can only be discerned by the minutest search; it is not even so perceptible as the junction of two pieces of paper which have been pasted together. In the quarry, there still lies a finished block, ready for transportation, which is sixty-seven feet in length. The weight of one of these masses has been reckoned at near 9,000 tons, yet they do not form the base of the foundation, but are raised upon other courses, fifteen feet from the ground. It is considered by some antiquarians that they are of a date greatly anterior to that of the temples, and were intended as the basement of a different edifice.
In the village of Baalbec there is a small circular Corinthian temple of very elegant design. It is not more than thirty feet in diameter, and may have been intended as a tomb. A spacious mosque, now roofless and deserted, was constructed almost entirely out of the remains of the temples. Adjoining the court-yard and fountain are five rows of ancient pillars, forty (the sacred number) in all, supporting light Saracenic arches. Some of them are marble, with Corinthian capitals, and eighteen are single shafts of red Egyptian granite. Beside the fountain lies a small broken pillar of porphyry, of a dark violet hue, and of so fine a grain that the stone has the soft rich lustre of velvet. This fragment is the only thing I would carry away if I had the power.
After a day's sojourn, we left Baalbec at noon, and took the road for the Cedars, which lie on the other side of Lebanon, in the direction of Tripoli. Our English fellow-travellers chose the direct road to Beyrout. We crossed the plain in three hours; to the village of Dayr el-Ahmar, and then commenced ascending the lowest slopes of the great range, whose topmost ridge, a dazzling parapet of snow, rose high above us. For several hours, our path led up and down stony ridges, covered with thickets of oak and holly, and with wild cherry, pear, and olive-trees. Just as the sun threw the shadows of the highest Lebanon over us, we came upon a narrow, rocky glen at his very base. Streams that still kept the color and the coolness of the snow-fields from which they oozed, foamed over the stones into the chasm at the bottom. The glen descended into a mountain basin, in which lay the lake of Yemouni, cold and green under the evening shadows. But just opposite us, on a little shelf of soil, there was a rude mill, and a group of superb walnut-trees, overhanging the brink of the largest torrent. We had sent our baggage before us, and the men, with an eye to the picturesque which I should not have suspected in Arabs, had pitched our tents under those trees, where the stream poured its snow-cold beakers beside us, and the tent-door looked down on the plain of Baalbec and across to the Anti-Lebanon. The miller and two or three peasants, who were living in this lonely spot, were Christians.
The next morning we commenced ascending the Lebanon. We had slept just below the snow-line, for the long hollows with which the ridge is cloven were filled up to within a short distance of the glen, out of which we came. The path was very steep, continually ascending, now around the barren shoulder of the mountain, now up some ravine, where the holly and olive still flourished, and the wild rhubarb-plant spread its large, succulent leaves over the soil. We had taken a guide, the day before, at the village of Dayr el-Ahmar, but as the way was plain before us, and he demanded an exorbitant sum, we dismissed him, We had not climbed far, however, before he returned, professing to be content with whatever we might give him, and took us into another road, the first, he said, being impracticable. Up and up we toiled, and the long hollows of snow lay below us, and the wind came cold from the topmost peaks, which began to show near at hand. But now the road, as we had surmised, turned towards that we had first taken, and on reaching the next height we saw the latter at a short distance from us. It was not only a better, but a shorter road, the rascal of a guide having led us out of it in order to give the greater effect to his services. In order to return to it, as was necessary, there were several dangerous snow-fields to be passed. The angle of their descent was so great that a single false step would have hurled our animals, baggage and all, many hundred feet below. The snow was melting, and the crust frozen over the streams below was so thin in places that the animals broke through and sank to their bellies.
It were needless to state the number and character of the anathemas bestowed upon the guide. The impassive Dervish raved; Mustapha stormed; Francois broke out in a frightful eruption of Greek and Turkish oaths, and the two travellers, though not (as I hope and believe) profanely inclined, could not avoid using a few terse Saxon expressions. When the general indignation had found vent, the men went to work, and by taking each animal separately, succeeded, at imminent hazard, in getting them all over the snow. We then dismissed the guide, who, far from being abashed by the discovery of his trickery, had the impudence to follow us for some time, claiming his pay. A few more steep pulls, over deep beds of snow and patches of barren stone, and at length the summit ridge—a sharp, white wall, shining against the intense black-blue of the zenith—stood before us. We climbed a toilsome zig-zag through the snow, hurried over the stones cumbering the top, and all at once the mountains fell away, ridge below ridge, gashed with tremendous chasms, whose bottoms were lost in blue vapor, till the last heights, crowned with white Maronite convents, hung above the sea, whose misty round bounded the vision. I have seen many grander mountain views, but few so sublimely rugged and broken in their features. The sides of the ridges dropped off in all directions into sheer precipices, and the few villages we could see were built like eagles' nests on the brinks. In a little hollow at our feet was the sacred Forest of Cedars, appearing like a patch of stunted junipers. It is the highest speck of vegetation on Lebanon, and in winter cannot be visited, on account of the snow. The summit on which we stood was about nine thousand feet above the sea, but there were peaks on each side at least a thousand feet higher.
We descended by a very steep path, over occasional beds of snow, and reached the Cedars in an hour and a half. Not until we were within a hundred yards of the trees, and below their level, was I at all impressed with their size and venerable aspect. But, once entered into the heart of the little wood, walking over its miniature hills and valleys, and breathing the pure, balsamic exhalations of the trees, all the disappointment rising to my mind was charmed away in an instant There are about three hundred trees, in all, many of which are of the last century's growth, but at least fifty of them would be considered grand in any forest. The patriarchs are five in number, and are undoubtedly as old as the Christian Era, if not the Age of Solomon. The cypresses in the Garden of Montezuma, at Chapultepec, are even older and grander trees, but they are as entire and shapely as ever, whereas these are gnarled and twisted into wonderful forms by the storms of twenty centuries, and shivered in some places by lightning. The hoary father of them all, nine feet in diameter, stands in the centre of the grove, on a little knoll, and spreads his ponderous arms, each a tree in itself, over the heads of the many generations that have grown up below, as if giving his last benediction before decay. He is scarred less with storm and lightning, than with the knives of travellers, and the marble crags of Lebanon do not more firmly retain their inscriptions than his stony trunk. Dates of the last century are abundant, and I recollect a tablet inscribed: "Souard, 1670," around which the newer wood has grown to the height of three or four inches. The seclusion of the grove, shut in by peaks of barren snow, is complete. Only the voice of the nightingale, singing here by daylight in the solemn shadows, breaks the silence. The Maronite monk, who has charge of a little stone chapel standing in the midst, moves about like a shade, and, not before you are ready to leave, brings his book for you to register your name therein, I was surprised to find how few of the crowd that annually overrun Syria reach the Cedars, which, after Baalbec, are the finest remains of antiquity in the whole country.
After a stay of three hours, we rode on to Eden, whither our men had already gone with the baggage. Our road led along the brink of a tremendous gorge, a thousand feet deep, the bottom of which was only accessible here and there by hazardous foot-paths. On either side, a long shelf of cultivated land sloped down to the top, and the mountain streams, after watering a multitude of orchards and grain-fields, tumbled over the cliffs in long, sparkling cascades, to join the roaring flood below. This is the Christian region of Lebanon, inhabited almost wholly by Maronites, who still retain a portion of their former independence, and are the most thrifty, industrious, honest, and happy people in Syria. Their villages are not concrete masses of picturesque filth, as are those of the Moslems, but are loosely scattered among orchards of mulberry, poplar, and vine, washed by fresh rills, and have an air of comparative neatness and comfort. Each has its two or three chapels, with their little belfries, which toll the hours of prayer. Sad and poetic as is the call from the minaret, it never touched me as when I heard the sweet tongues of those Christian bells, chiming vespers far and near on the sides of Lebanon.
Eden merits its name. It is a mountain paradise, inhabited by people so kind and simple-hearted, that assuredly no vengeful angel will ever drive them out with his flaming sword. It hangs above the gorge, which is here nearly two thousand feet deep, and overlooks a grand wilderness of mountain-piles, crowded on and over each other, from the sea that gleams below, to the topmost heights that keep off the morning sun. The houses are all built of hewn stone, and grouped in clusters under the shade of large walnut-trees. In walking among them, we received kind greetings everywhere, and every one who was seated rose and remained standing as we passed. The women are beautiful, with sprightly, intelligent faces, quite different from the stupid Mahometan females.
The children were charming creatures, and some of the girls of ten or twelve years were lovely as angels. They came timidly to our tent (which the men had pitched as before, under two superb trees, beside a fountain), and offered us roses and branches of fragrant white jasmine. They expected some return, of course, but did not ask it, and the delicate grace with which the offering was made was beyond all pay. It was Sunday, and the men and boys, having nothing better to do, all came to see and talk with us. I shall not soon forget the circle of gay and laughing villagers, in which we sat that evening, while the dark purple shadows gradually filled up the gorges, and broad golden lights poured over the shoulders of the hills. The men had much sport in inducing the smaller boys to come up and salute us. There was one whom they called "the Consul," who eluded them for some time, but was finally caught and placed in the ring before us. "Peace be with you, O Consul," I said, making him a profound inclination, "may your days be propitious! may your shadow be increased!" but I then saw, from the vacant expression on the boy's face, that he was one of those harmless, witless creatures, whom yet one cannot quite call idiots. "He is an unfortunate; he knows nothing; he has no protector but God," said the men, crossing themselves devoutly. The boy took off his cap, crept up and kissed my hand, as I gave him some money, which he no sooner grasped, than he sprang up like a startled gazelle, and was out of sight in an instant.
In descending from Eden to the sea-coast, we were obliged to cross the great gorge of which I spoke. Further down, its sides are less steep, and clothed even to the very bottom with magnificent orchards of mulberry, fig, olive, orange, and pomegranate trees. We were three hours in reaching the opposite side, although the breadth across the top is not more than a mile. The path was exceedingly perilous; we walked down, leading our horses, and once were obliged to unload our mules to get them past a tree, which would have forced them off the brink of a chasm several hundred feet deep. The view from the bottom was wonderful. We were shut in by steeps of foliage and blossoms from two to three thousand feet high, broken by crags of white marble, and towering almost precipitously to the very clouds. I doubt if Melville saw anything grander in the tropical gorges of Typee. After reaching the other side, we had still a journey of eight hours to the sea, through a wild and broken, yet highly cultivated country.
Beyrout was now thirteen hours distant, but by making a forced march we reached it in a day, travelling along the shore, past the towns of Jebeil, the ancient Byblus, and Joonieh. The hills about Jebeil produce the celebrated tobacco known in Egypt as the Jebelee, or "mountain" tobacco, which is even superior to the Latakiyeh.
Near Beyrout, the mulberry and olive are in the ascendant. The latter tree bears the finest fruit in all the Levant, and might drive all other oils out of the market, if any one had enterprise enough to erect proper manufactories. Instead of this the oil of the country is badly prepared, rancid from the skins in which it is kept, and the wealthy natives import from France and Italy in preference to using it. In the bottoms near the sea, I saw several fields of the taro-plant, the cultivation of which I had supposed was exclusively confined to the Islands of the Pacific. There would be no end to the wealth of Syria were the country in proper hands.
Pipes and Coffee.
—"the kind nymph to Bacchus born By Morpheus' daughter, she that seems Gifted upon her natal morn By him with fire, by her with dreams— Nicotia, dearer to the Muse Than all the grape's bewildering juice." Lowell.
In painting the picture of an Oriental, the pipe and the coffee-cup are indispensable accessories. There is scarce a Turk, or Arab, or Persian—unless he be a Dervish of peculiar sanctity—but breathes his daily incense to the milder Bacchus of the moderns. The custom has become so thoroughly naturalized in the East, that we are apt to forget its comparatively recent introduction, and to wonder that no mention is made of the pipe in the Arabian Nights. The practice of smoking harmonizes so thoroughly with the character of Oriental life, that it is difficult for us to imagine a time when it never existed. It has become a part of that supreme patience, that wonderful repose, which forms so strong a contrast to the over-active life of the New World—the enjoyment of which no one can taste, to whom the pipe is not familiar. Howl, ye Reformers! but I solemnly declare unto you, that he who travels through the East without smoking, does not know the East.
It is strange that our Continent, where the meaning of Rest is unknown, should have given to the world this great agent of Rest. There is nothing more remarkable in history than the colonization of Tobacco over the whole Earth. Not three centuries have elapsed since knightly Raleigh puffed its fumes into the astonished eyes of Spenser and Shakspeare; and now, find me any corner of the world, from Nova Zembla to the Mountains of the Moon, where the use of the plant is unknown! Tarshish (if India was Tarshish) is less distinguished by its "apes, ivory, and peacocks," than by its hookahs; the valleys of Luzon, beyond Ternate and Tidore, send us more cheroots than spices; the Gardens of Shiraz produce more velvety toombek than roses, and the only fountains which bubble in Samarcand are those of the narghilehs: Lebanon is no longer "excellent with the Cedars," as in the days of Solomon, but most excellent with its fields of Jebelee and Latakiyeh. On the unvisited plains of Central Africa, the table-lands of Tartary, and in the valleys of Japan, the wonderful plant has found a home. The naked negro, "panting at the Line," inhales it under the palms, and the Lapp and Samoyed on the shores of the Frozen Sea.
It is idle for those who object to the use of Tobacco to attribute these phenomena wholly to a perverted taste. The fact that the custom was at once adopted by all the races of men, whatever their geographical position and degree of civilization, proves that there must be a reason for it in the physical constitution of man. Its effect, when habitually used, is slightly narcotic and sedative, not stimulating—or if so, at times, it stimulates only the imagination and the social faculties. It lulls to sleep the combative and destructive propensities, and hence—so far as a material agent may operate—it exercises a humanizing and refining influence. A profound student of Man, whose name is well known to the world, once informed me that he saw in the eagerness with which savage tribes adopt the use of Tobacco, a spontaneous movement of Nature towards Civilization.
I will not pursue these speculations further, for the narghileh (bubbling softly at my elbow, as I write) is the promoter of repose and the begetter of agreeable reverie. As I inhale its cool, fragrant breath, and partly yield myself to the sensation of healthy rest which wraps my limbs as with a velvet mantle, I marvel how the poets and artists and scholars of olden times nursed those dreams which the world calls indolence, but which are the seeds that germinate into great achievements. How did Plato philosophize without the pipe? How did gray Homer, sitting on the temple-steps in the Grecian twilights, drive from his heart the bitterness of beggary and blindness? How did Phidias charm the Cerberus of his animal nature to sleep, while his soul entered the Elysian Fields and beheld the forms of heroes? For, in the higher world of Art, Body and Soul are sworn enemies, and the pipe holds an opiate more potent than all the drowsy syrups of the East, to drug the former into submission. Milton knew this, as he smoked his evening pipe at Chalfont, wandering, the while, among the palms of Paradise.
But it is also our loss, that Tobacco was unknown to the Greeks. They would else have given us, in verse and in marble, another divinity in their glorious Pantheon—a god less drowsy than Morpheus and Somnus, less riotous than Bacchus, less radiant than Apollo, but with something of the spirit of each: a figure, beautiful with youth, every muscle in perfect repose, and the vague expression of dreams in his half-closed eyes. His temple would have been built in a grove of Southern pines, on the borders of a land-locked gulf, sheltered from the surges that buffet without, where service would have been rendered him in the late hours of the afternoon, or in the evening twilight. From his oracular tripod words of wisdom would have been spoken, and the fanes of Delphi and Dodona would have been deserted for his.
Oh, non-smoking friends, who read these lines with pain and incredulity—and you, ladies, who turn pale at the thought of a pipe—let me tell you that you are familiar only with the vulgar form of tobacco, and have never passed between the wind and its gentility. The word conveys no idea to you but that of "long nines," and pig-tail, and cavendish. Forget these for a moment, and look upon this dark-brown cake of dried leaves and blossoms, which exhales an odor of pressed flowers. These are the tender tops of the Jebelee, plucked as the buds begin to expand, and carefully dried in the shade. In order to be used, it is moistened with rose-scented water, and cut to the necessary degree of fineness. The test of true Jebelee is, that it burns with a slow, hidden fire, like tinder, and causes no irritation to the eye when held under it. The smoke, drawn through a long cherry-stick pipe and amber mouth-piece, is pure, cool, and sweet, with an aromatic flavor, which is very pleasant in the mouth. It excites no salivation, and leaves behind it no unpleasant, stale odor.
The narghileh (still bubbling beside me) is an institution known only in the East. It requires a peculiar kind of tobacco, which grows to perfection in the southern provinces of Persia. The smoke, after passing through water (rose-flavored, if you choose), is inhaled through a long, flexible tube directly into the lungs. It occasions not the slightest irritation or oppression, but in a few minutes produces a delicious sense of rest, which is felt even in the finger-ends. The pure physical sensation of rest is one of strength also, and of perfect contentment. Many an impatient thought, many an angry word, have I avoided by a resort to the pipe. Among our aborigines the pipe was the emblem of Peace, and I strongly recommend the Peace Society to print their tracts upon papers of smoking tobacco (Turkish, if possible), and distribute pipes with them.
I know of nothing more refreshing, after the fatigue of a long day's journey, than a well-prepared narghileh. That slight feverish and excitable feeling which is the result of fatigue yields at once to its potency. The blood loses its heat and the pulse its rapidity; the muscles relax, the nerves are soothed into quiet, and the frame passes into a condition similar to sleep, except that the mind is awake and active. By the time one has finished his pipe, he is refreshed for the remainder of the day, and his nightly sleep is sound and healthy. Such are some of the physical effects of the pipe, in Eastern lands. Morally and psychologically, it works still greater transformations; but to describe them now, with the mouth-piece at my lips, would require an active self-consciousness which the habit does not allow.
A servant enters with a steamy cup of coffee, seated in a silver zerf, or cup-holder. His thumb and fore-finger are clasped firmly upon the bottom of the zerf, which I inclose near the top with my own thumb and finger, so that the transfer is accomplished without his hand having touched mine.
After draining the thick brown liquid, which must be done with due deliberation and a pause of satisfaction between each sip, I return the zerf, holding it in the middle, while the attendant places a palm of each hand upon the top and bottom and carries it off without contact. The beverage is made of the berries of Mocha, slightly roasted, pulverized in a mortar, and heated to a foam, without the addition of cream or sugar. Sometimes, however, it is flavored with the extract of roses or violets. When skilfully made, each cup is prepared separately, and the quantity of water and coffee carefully measured.
Coffee is a true child of the East, and its original home was among the hills of Yemen, the Arabia Felix of the ancients. Fortunately for Mussulmen, its use was unknown in the days of Mahomet, or it would probably have fallen under the same prohibition as wine. The word Kahweh (whence cafe) is an old Arabic term for wine. The discovery of the properties of coffee is attributed to a dervish, who, for some misdemeanor, was carried into the mountains of Yemen by his brethren and there left to perish by starvation. In order to appease the pangs of hunger he gathered the ripe berries from the wild coffee-trees, roasted and ate them. The nourishment they contained, with water from the springs, sustained his life, and after two or three months he returned in good condition to his brethren, who considered his preservation as a miracle, and ever afterwards looked upon him as a pattern of holiness. He taught the use of the miraculous fruit, and the demand for it soon became so great as to render the cultivation of the tree necessary. It was a long time, however, before coffee was introduced into Europe. As late as the beginning of the seventeenth century, Sandys, the quaint old traveller, describes the appearance and taste of the beverage, which he calls "Coffa," and sagely asks: "Why not that black broth which the Lacedemonians used?"
On account of the excellence of the material, and the skilful manner of its preparation, the Coffee of the East is the finest in the world. I have found it so grateful and refreshing a drink, that I can readily pardon the pleasant exaggeration of the Arabic poet, Abd-el Kader Anazari Djezeri Hanbali, the son of Mahomet, who thus celebrates its virtues. After such an exalted eulogy, my own praises would sound dull and tame; and I therefore resume my pipe, commending Abd-el Kader to the reader.
"O Coffee! thou dispellest the cares of the great; thou bringest back those who wander from the paths of knowledge. Coffee is the beverage of the people of God, and the cordial of his servants who thirst for wisdom. When coffee is infused into the bowl, it exhales the odor of musk, and is of the color of ink. The truth is not known except to the wise, who drink it from the foaming coffee-cup. God has deprived fools of coffee, who, with invincible obstinacy, condemn it as injurious.
"Coffee is our gold; and in the place of its libations we are in the enjoyment of the best and noblest society. Coffee is even as innocent a drink as the purest milk, from which it is distinguished only by its color. Tarry with thy coffee in the place of its preparation, and the good God will hover over thee and participate in his feast. There the graces of the saloon, the luxury of life, the society of friends, all furnish a picture of the abode of happiness.
"Every care vanishes when the cup-bearer presents the delicious chalice. It will circulate fleetly through thy veins, and will not rankle there: if thou doubtest this, contemplate the youth and beauty of those who drink it. Grief cannot exist where it grows; sorrow humbles itself in obedience before its powers.
"Coffee is the drink of God's people; in it is health. Let this be the answer to those who doubt its qualities. In it we will drown our adversities, and in its fire consume our sorrows. Whoever has once seen the blissful chalice, will scorn the wine-cup. Glorious drink! thy color is the seal of purity, and reason proclaims it genuine. Drink with confidence, and regard not the prattle of fools, who condemn without foundation."
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.
"The chain is loosed, the sails are spread, The living breath is fresh behind, As, with dews and sunrise fed, Comes the laughing morning wind."
Aleppo, Friday, June 4, 1852.
A Traveller in the East, who has not unbounded time and an extensive fortune at his disposal, is never certain where and how far he shall go, until his journey is finished. With but a limited portion of both these necessaries, I have so far carried out my original plan with scarcely a variation; but at present I am obliged to make a material change of route. My farthest East is here at Aleppo. At Damascus, I was told by everybody that it was too late in the season to visit either Baghdad or Mosul, and that, on account of the terrible summer heats and the fevers which prevail along the Tigris, it would be imprudent to undertake it. Notwithstanding this, I should probably have gone (being now so thoroughly acclimated that I have nothing to fear from the heat), had I not met with a friend of Col. Rawlinson, the companion of Layard, and the sharer in his discoveries at Nineveh. This gentleman, who met Col. R. not long since in Constantinople, on his way to Baghdad (where he resides as British Consul), informed me that since the departure of Mr. Layard from Mosul, the most interesting excavations have been filled up, in order to preserve the sculptures. Unless one was able to make a new exhumation, he would be by no means repaid for so long and arduous a journey. The ruins of Nineveh are all below the surface of the earth, and the little of them that is now left exposed, is less complete and interesting than the specimens in the British Museum.
There is a route from Damascus to Baghdad, across the Desert, by way of Palmyra, but it is rarely travelled, even by the natives, except when the caravans are sufficiently strong to withstand the attacks of the Bedouins. The traveller is obliged to go in Arab costume, to leave his baggage behind, except a meagre scrip for the journey, and to pay from $300 to $500 for the camels and escort. The more usual route is to come northward to this city, then cross to Mosul and descend the Tigris—a journey of four or five weeks. After weighing all the advantages and disadvantages of undertaking a tour of such length as it would be necessary to make before reaching Constantinople, I decided at Beyrout to give up the fascinating fields of travel in Media, Assyria and Armenia, and take a rather shorter and-perhaps equally interesting route from Aleppo to Constantinople, by way of Tarsus, Konia (Iconium), and the ancient countries of Phrygia, Bithynia, and Mysia. The interior of Asia Minor is even less known to us than the Persian side of Asiatic Turkey, which has of late received more attention from travellers; and, as I shall traverse it in its whole length, from Syria to the Bosphorus, I may find it replete with "green fields and pastures new," which shall repay me for relinquishing the first and more ambitious undertaking. At least, I have so much reason to be grateful for the uninterrupted good health and good luck I have enjoyed during seven months in Africa and the Orient, that I cannot be otherwise than content with the prospect before me.
I left Beyrout on the night of the 28th of May, with Mr. Harrison, who has decided to keep me company as far as Constantinople. Francois, our classic dragoman, whose great delight is to recite Homer by the sea-side, is retained for the whole tour, as we have found no reason to doubt his honesty or ability. Our first thought was to proceed to Aleppo by land, by way of Homs and Hamah, whence there might be a chance of reaching Palmyra; but as we found an opportunity of engaging an American yacht for the voyage up the coast, it was thought preferable to take her, and save time. She was a neat little craft, called the "American Eagle," brought out by Mr. Smith, our Consul at Beyrout. So, one fine moonlit night, we slowly crept out of the harbor, and after returning a volley of salutes from our friends at Demetri's Hotel, ran into the heart of a thunder-storm, which poured down more rain than all I had seen for eight months before. But our rais, Assad (the Lion), was worthy of his name, and had two good Christian sailors at his command, so we lay in the cramped little cabin, and heard the floods washing our deck, without fear.
In the morning, we were off Tripoli, which is even more deeply buried than Beyrout in its orange and mulberry groves, and slowly wafted along the bold mountain-coast, in the afternoon reached Tartus, the Ancient Tortosa. A mile from shore is the rocky island of Aradus, entirely covered by a town. There were a dozen vessels lying in the harbor. The remains of a large fortress and ancient mole prove it to have been a place of considerable importance. Tartus is a small old place on the sea-shore—not so large nor so important in appearance as its island-port. The country behind is green and hilly, though but partially cultivated, and rises into Djebel Ansairiyeh, which divides the valley of the Orontes from the sea. It is a lovely coast, especially under the flying lights and shadows of such a breezy day as we had. The wind fell at sunset; but by the next morning, we had passed the tobacco-fields of Latakiyeh, and were in sight of the southern cape of the Bay of Suediah. The mountains forming this cape culminate in a grand conical peak, about 5,000 feet in height, called Djebel Okrab. At ten o'clock, wafted along by a slow wind, we turned the point and entered the Bay of Suediah, formed by the embouchure of the River Orontes. The mountain headland of Akma Dagh, forming the portal of the Gulf of Scanderoon, loomed grandly in front of us across the bay; and far beyond it, we could just distinguish the coast of Karamania, the snow-capped range of Taurus.
The Coasts of Syria might be divided, like those of Guinea, according to the nature of their productions. The northern division is bold and bare, yet flocks of sheep graze on the slopes of its mountains; and the inland plains behind them are covered with orchards of pistachio-trees. Silk is cultivated in the neighborhood of Suediah, but forms only a small portion of the exports. This region may be called the Wool and Pistachio Coast. Southward, from Latakiyeh to Tartus and the northern limit of Lebanon, extends the Tobacco Coast, whose undulating hills are now clothed with the pale-green leaves of the renowned plant. From Tripoli to Tyre, embracing all the western slope of Lebanon, and the deep, rich valleys lying between his knees, the mulberry predominates, and the land is covered with the houses of thatch and matting which shelter the busy worms. This is the Silk Coast. The palmy plains of Jaffa, and beyond, until Syria meets the African sands between Gaza and El-Arish, constitute the Orange Coast. The vine, the olive, and the fig flourish everywhere.
We were all day getting up the bay, and it seemed as if we should never pass Djebel Okrab, whose pointed top rose high above a long belt of fleecy clouds that girdled his waist. At sunset we made the mouth of the Orontes. Our lion of a Captain tried to run into the river, but the channel was very narrow, and when within three hundred yards of the shore the yacht struck. We had all sail set, and had the wind been a little stronger, we should have capsized in an instant. The lion went manfully to work, and by dint of hard poling, shoved us off, and came to anchor in deep water. Not until the danger was past did he open his batteries on the unlucky helmsman, and then the explosion of Arabic oaths was equal to a broadside of twenty-four pounders. We lay all night rocking on the swells, and the next morning, by firing a number of signal guns, brought out a boat, which took us off. We entered the mouth of the Orontes, and sailed nearly a mile between rich wheat meadows before reaching the landing-place of Suediah—two or three uninhabited stone huts, with three or four small Turkish craft, and a health officer. The town lies a mile or two inland, scattered along the hill-side amid gardens so luxuriant as almost to conceal it from view.
This part of the coast is ignorant of travellers, and we were obliged to wait half a day before we could find a sufficient number of horses to take us to Antioch, twenty miles distant. When they came, they were solid farmers' horses, with the rudest gear imaginable. I was obliged to mount astride of a broad pack-saddle, with my legs suspended in coils of rope. Leaving the meadows, we entered a lane of the wildest, richest and loveliest bloom and foliage. Our way was overhung with hedges of pomegranate, myrtle, oleander, and white rose, in blossom, and occasionally with quince, fig, and carob trees, laced together with grape vines in fragrant bloom. Sometimes this wilderness of color and odor met above our heads and made a twilight; then it opened into long, dazzling, sun-bright vistas, where the hues of the oleander, pomegranate and white rose made the eye wink with their gorgeous profusion. The mountains we crossed were covered with thickets of myrtle, mastic, daphne, and arbutus, and all the valleys and sloping meads waved with fig, mulberry, and olive trees. Looking towards the sea, the valley broadened out between mountain ranges whose summits were lost in the clouds. Though the soil was not so rich as in Palestine, the general aspect of the country was much wilder and more luxuriant.
So, by this glorious lane, over the myrtled hills and down into valleys, whose bed was one hue of rose from the blossoming oleanders, we travelled for five hours, crossing the low ranges of hills through which the Orontes forces his way to the sea. At last we reached a height overlooking the valley of the river, and saw in the east, at the foot of the mountain chain, the long lines of barracks built by Ibrahim Pasha for the defence of Antioch. Behind them the ancient wall of the city clomb the mountains, whose crest it followed to the last peak of the chain, From the next hill we saw the city—a large extent of one-story houses with tiled roofs, surrounded with gardens, and half buried in the foliage of sycamores. It extends from the River Orontes, which washes its walls, up the slope of the mountain to the crags of gray rock which overhang it. We crossed the river by a massive old bridge, and entered the town. Riding along the rills of filth which traverse the streets, forming their central avenues, we passed through several lines of bazaars to a large and dreary-looking khan, the keeper of which gave us the best vacant chamber—a narrow place, full of fleas.
Antioch presents not even a shadow of its former splendor. Except the great walls, ten to fifteen miles in circuit, which the Turks have done their best to destroy, every vestige of the old city has disappeared. The houses are all of one story, on account of earthquakes, from which Antioch has suffered more than any other city in the world. At one time, during the Middle Ages, it lost 120,000 inhabitants in one day. Its situation is magnificent, and the modern town, notwithstanding its filth, wears a bright and busy aspect. Situated at the base of a lofty mountain, it overlooks, towards the east, a plain thirty or forty miles in length, producing the most abundant harvests. A great number of the inhabitants are workers in wood and leather, and very thrifty and cheerful people they appear to be.
We remained until the next day at noon, by which time a gray-bearded scamp, the chief of the mukkairees, or muleteers, succeeded in getting us five miserable beasts for the journey to Aleppo. On leaving the city, we travelled along a former street of Antioch, part of the ancient pavement still remaining, and after two miles came to the old wall of circuit, which we passed by a massive gateway, of Roman time. It is now called Bab Boulos, or St. Paul's Gate. Christianity, it will be remembered, was planted in Antioch by Paul and Barnabas, and the Apostle Peter was the first bishop of the city. We now entered the great plain of the Orontes—a level sea, rioting in the wealth of its ripening harvests. The river, lined with luxuriant thickets, meandered through the centre of this glorious picture. We crossed it during the afternoon, and keeping on our eastward course, encamped at night in a meadow near the tents of some wandering Turcomans, who furnished us with butter and milk from their herds.
Leaving the plain the next morning, we travelled due east all day, over long stony ranges of mountains, inclosing only one valley, which bore evidence of great fertility. It was circular, about ten miles in its greater diameter, and bounded on the north by the broad peak of Djebel Saman, or Mount St. Simon. In the morning we passed a ruined castle, standing in a dry, treeless dell, among the hot hills. The muleteers called it the Maiden's Palace, and said that it was built long ago by a powerful Sultan, as a prison for his daughter. For several hours thereafter, our road was lined with remains of buildings, apparently dating from the time of the Greek Empire. There were tombs, temples of massive masonry, though in a bad style of architecture, and long rows of arched chambers, which resembled store-houses. They were all more or less shattered by earthquakes, but in one place I noticed twenty such arches, each of at least twenty feet span. All-the hills, on either hand, as far as we could see, were covered with the remains of buildings. In the plain of St. Simon, I saw two superb pillars, apparently part of a portico, or gateway, and the village of Dana is formed almost entirely of churches and convents, of the Lower Empire. There were but few inscriptions, and these I could not read; but the whole of this region would, no doubt, richly repay an antiquarian research. I am told here that the entire chain of hills, which extends southward for more than a hundred miles, abounds with similar remains, and that, in many places, whole cities stand almost entire, as if recently deserted by their inhabitants.
During the afternoon, we came upon a portion of the ancient road from Antioch to Aleppo, which is still as perfect as when first constructed. It crossed a very stony ridge, and is much the finest specimen of road-making I ever saw, quite putting to shame the Appian and Flaminian Ways at Rome. It is twenty feet wide, and laid with blocks of white marble, from two to four feet square. It was apparently raised upon a more ancient road, which diverges here and there from the line, showing the deeply-cut traces of the Roman chariot-wheels. In the barren depths of the mountains we found every hour cisterns cut in the rock and filled with water left by the winter rains. Many of them, however, are fast drying up, and a month later this will be a desert road.
Towards night we descended from the hills upon the Plain of Keftin, which stretches south-westward from Aleppo, till the mountain-streams which fertilize it are dried up, when it is merged into the Syrian Desert. Its northern edge, along which we travelled, is covered with fields of wheat, cotton, and castor-beans. We stopped all night at a village called Taireb, planted at the foot of a tumulus, older than tradition. The people were in great dread of the Aneyzeh Arabs, who come in from the Desert to destroy their harvests and carry off their cattle. They wanted us to take a guard, but after our experience on the Anti-Lebanon, we felt safer without one.
Yesterday we travelled for seven hours over a wide, rolling country, now waste and barren, but formerly covered with wealth and supporting an abundant population, evidences of which are found in the buildings everywhere scattered over the hills. On and on we toiled in the heat, over this inhospitable wilderness, and though we knew Aleppo must be very near, yet we could see neither sign of cultivation nor inhabitants. Finally, about three o'clock, the top of a line of shattered wall and the points of some minarets issued out of the earth, several miles in front of us, and on climbing a glaring chalky ridge, the renowned city burst at once upon our view. It filled a wide hollow or basin among the white hills, against which its whiter houses and domes glimmered for miles, in the dead, dreary heat of the afternoon, scarcely relieved by the narrow belt of gardens on the nearer side, or the orchards of pistachio trees beyond. In the centre of the city rose a steep, abrupt mound, crowned with the remains of the ancient citadel, and shining minarets shot up, singly or in clusters, around its base. The prevailing hue of the landscape was a whitish-gray, and the long, stately city and long, monotonous hills, gleamed with equal brilliancy under a sky of cloudless and intense blue. This singular monotony of coloring gave a wonderful effect to the view, which is one of the most remarkable in all the Orient.
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 Pasha.
Aleppo, Tuesday, June 8, 1852.
Our entry into Aleppo was a fitting preliminary to our experiences during the five days we have spent here. After passing a blackamoor, who acted as an advanced guard of the Custom House, at a ragged tent outside of the city, and bribing him with two piastres, we crossed the narrow line of gardens on the western side, and entered the streets. There were many coffee-houses, filled with smokers, nearly all of whom accosted us in Turkish, though Arabic is the prevailing language here. Ignorance made us discourteous, and we slighted every attempt to open a conversation. Out of the narrow streets of the suburbs, we advanced to the bazaars, in order to find a khan where we could obtain lodgings. All the best khans, however, were filled, and we were about to take a very inferior room, when a respectable individual came up to Francois and said: "The house is ready for the travellers, and I will show you the way." We were a little surprised at this address, but followed him to a neat, quiet and pleasant street near the bazaars, where we were ushered into a spacious court-yard, with a row of apartments opening upon it, and told to make ourselves at home.
The place had evidently been recently inhabited, for the rooms were well furnished, with not only divans, but beds in the Frank style. A lean kitten was scratching at one of the windows, to the great danger of overturning a pair of narghilehs, a tame sea-gull was walking about the court, and two sheep bleated in a stable at the further end. In the kitchen we not only found a variety of utensils, but eggs, salt, pepper, and other condiments. Our guide had left, and the only information we could get, from a dyeing establishment next door, was that the occupants had gone into the country. "Take the good the gods provide thee," is my rule in such cases, and as we were very hungry, we set Francois to work at preparing dinner. We arranged a divan in the open air, had a table brought out, and by the aid of the bakers in the bazaar, and the stores which the kitchen supplied, soon rejoiced over a very palatable meal. The romantic character of our reception made the dinner a merry one. It was a chapter out of the Arabian Nights, and be he genie or afrite, caliph or merchant of Bassora, into whose hands we had fallen, we resolved to let the adventure take its course. We were just finishing a nondescript pastry which Francois found at a baker's, and which, for want of a better name, he called meringues a la Khorassan, when there was a loud knock at the street door. We felt at first some little trepidation, but determined to maintain our places, and gravely invite the real master to join us.
It was a female servant, however, who, to our great amazement, made a profound salutation, and seemed delighted to see us. "My master did not expect your Excellencies to-day; he has gone into the gardens, but will soon return. Will your Excellencies take coffee after your dinner?" and coffee was forthwith served. The old woman was unremitting in her attentions; and her son, a boy of eight years, and the most venerable child I ever saw, entertained us with the description of a horse which his master had just bought—a horse which had cost two thousand piastres, and was ninety years old. Well, this Aleppo is an extraordinary place, was my first impression, and the inhabitants are remarkable people; but I waited the master's arrival, as the only means of solving the mystery. About dusk, there was another rap at the door. A lady dressed in white, with an Indian handkerchief bound over her black hair, arrived. "Pray excuse us," said she; "we thought you would not reach here before to-morrow; but my brother will come directly." In fact, the brother did come soon afterwards, and greeted us with a still warmer welcome. "Before leaving the gardens," he said, "I heard of your arrival, and have come in a full gallop the whole way." In order to put an end to this comedy of errors, I declared at once that he was mistaken; nobody in Aleppo could possibly know of our coming, and we were, perhaps, transgressing on his hospitality. But no: he would not be convinced. He was a dragoman to the English Consulate; his master had told him we would be here the next day, and he must be prepared to receive us. Besides, the janissary of the Consulate had showed us the way to his house. We, therefore, let the matter rest until next morning, when we called on Mr. Very, the Consul, who informed us that the janissary had mistaken us for two gentlemen we had met in Damascus, the travelling companions of Lord Dalkeith. As they had not arrived, he begged us to remain in the quarters which had been prepared for them. We have every reason to be glad of this mistake, as it has made us acquainted with one of the most courteous and hospitable gentlemen in the East.
Aleppo lies so far out of the usual routes of travel, that it is rarely visited by Europeans. One is not, therefore, as in the case of Damascus, prepared beforehand by volumes of description, which preclude all possibility of mistake or surprise. For my part, I only knew that Aleppo had once been the greatest commercial city of the Orient, though its power had long since passed into other hands. But there were certain stately associations lingering around the name, which drew me towards it, and obliged me to include it, at all hazards, in my Asiatic tour. The scanty description of Captains Irby and Mangles, the only one I had read, gave me no distinct idea of its position or appearance; and when, the other day, I first saw it looming grand and gray among the gray hills, more like a vast natural crystallization than the product of human art, I revelled in the novelty of that startling first impression.
The tradition of the city's name is curious, and worth relating. It is called, in Arabic, Haleb el-Shahba—Aleppo, the Gray—which most persons suppose to refer to the prevailing color of the soil. The legend, however, goes much farther. Haleb, which the Venetians and Genoese softened into Aleppo, means literally: "has milked," According to Arab tradition, the patriarch Abraham once lived here: his tent being pitched near the mound now occupied by the citadel. He had a certain gray cow (el-shahba) which was milked every morning for the benefit of the poor. When, therefore, it was proclaimed: "Ibrahim haleb el-shahba" (Abraham has milked the gray cow), all the poor of the tribe came up to receive their share. The repetition of this morning call attached itself to the spot, and became the name of the city which was afterwards founded.
Aleppo is built on the eastern slope of a shallow upland basin, through which flows the little River Koweik. There are low hills to the north and south, between which the country falls into a wide, monotonous plain, extending unbroken to the Euphrates. The city is from eight to ten miles in circuit, and, though not so thickly populated, covers a greater extent of space than Damascus. The population is estimated at 100,000. In the excellence (not the elegance) of its architecture, it surpasses any Oriental city I have yet seen. The houses are all of hewn stone, frequently three and even four stories in height, and built in a most massive and durable style, on account of the frequency of earthquakes. The streets are well paved, clean, with narrow sidewalks, and less tortuous and intricate than the bewildering alleys of Damascus. A large part of the town is occupied with bazaars, attesting the splendor of its former commerce. These establishments are covered with lofty vaults of stone, lighted from the top; and one may walk for miles beneath the spacious roofs. The shops exhibit all the stuffs of the East, especially of Persia and India. There is also an extensive display of European fabrics, as the eastern provinces of Asiatic Turkey, as far as Baghdad, are supplied entirely from Aleppo and Trebizond.
Within ten years—in fact, since the Allied Powers drove Ibrahim Pasha out of Syria—the trade of Aleppo has increased, at the expense of Damascus. The tribes of the Desert, who were held in check during the Egyptian occupancy, are now so unruly that much of the commerce between the latter place and Baghdad goes northward to Mosul, and thence by a safer road to this city. The khans, of which there are a great number, built on a scale according with the former magnificence of Aleppo, are nearly all filled, and Persian, Georgian, and Armenian merchants again make their appearance in the bazaars. The principal manufactures carried on are the making of shoes (which, indeed, is a prominent branch in every Turkish city), and the weaving of silk and golden tissues. Two long bazaars are entirely occupied with shoe-shops, and there is nearly a quarter of a mile of confectionery, embracing more varieties than I ever saw, or imagined possible. I saw yesterday the operation of weaving silk and gold, which is a very slow process. The warp and the body of the woof were of purple silk. The loom only differed from the old hand-looms in general use in having some thirty or forty contrivances for lifting the threads of the warp, so as to form, by variation, certain patterns. The gold threads by which the pattern was worked were contained in twenty small shuttles, thrust by hand under the different parcels of the warp, as they were raised by a boy trained for that purpose, who sat on the top of the loom. The fabric was very brilliant in its appearance, and sells, as the weavers informed me, at 100 piastres per pik—about $7 per yard.
We had letters to Mr. Ford, an American Missionary established here, and Signor di Picciotto, who acts as American Vice-Consul. Both gentlemen have been very cordial in their offers of service, and by their aid we have been enabled to see something of Aleppo life and society. Mr. Ford, who has been here four years, has a pleasant residence at Jedaida, a Christian suburb of the city. His congregation numbers some fifty or sixty proselytes, who are mostly from the schismatic sects of the Armenians. Dr. Smith, who established the mission at Ain-tab (two days' journey north of this), where he died last year, was very successful among these sects, and the congregation there amounts to nine hundred. The Sultan, a year ago, issued a firman, permitting his Christian subjects to erect houses of worship; but, although this was proclaimed in Constantinople and much lauded in Europe as an act of great generosity and tolerance, there has been no official promulgation of it here. So of the aid which the Turkish Government was said to have afforded to its destitute Christian subjects, whose houses were sacked during the fanatical rebellion of 1850. The world praised the Sultan's charity and love of justice, while the sufferers, to this day, lack the first experience of it. But for the spontaneous relief contributed in Europe and among the Christian communities of the Levant, the amount of misery would have been frightful.
To Feridj Pasha, who is at present the commander of the forces here, is mainly due the credit of having put down the rebels with a strong hand. There were but few troops in the city at the time of the outbreak, and as the insurgents, who were composed of the Turkish and Arab population, were in league with the Aneyzehs of the Desert, the least faltering or delay would have led to a universal massacre of the Christians. Fortunately, the troops were divided into two portions, one occupying the barracks on a hill north of the city, and the other, a mere corporal's guard of a dozen men, posted in the citadel. The leaders of the outbreak went to the latter and offered him a large sum of money (the spoils of Christian houses) to give up the fortress. With a loyalty to his duty truly miraculous among the Turks, he ordered his men to fire upon them, and they beat a hasty retreat. The quarter of the insurgents lay precisely between the barracks and the citadel, and by order of Feridj Pasha a cannonade was immediately opened on it from both points. It was not, however, until many houses had been battered down, and a still larger number destroyed by fire, that the rebels were brought to submission. Their allies, the Aneyzehs, appeared on the hill east of Aleppo, to the number of five or six thousand, but a few well-directed cannon-balls told them what they might expect, and they speedily retreated. Two or three hundred Christian families lost nearly all of their property during the sack, and many were left entirely destitute. The house in which Mr. Ford lives was plundered of jewels and furniture to the amount of 400,000 piastres ($20,000). The robbers, it is said, were amazed at the amount of spoil they found. The Government made some feeble efforts to recover it, but the greater part was already sold and scattered through a thousand hands, and the unfortunate Christians have only received about seven per cent. of their loss.
The burnt quarter has since been rebuilt, and I noticed several Christians occupying shops in various parts of it. But many families, who fled at the time, still remain in various parts of Syria, afraid to return to their homes. The Aneyzehs and other Desert tribes have latterly become more daring than ever. Even in the immediate neighborhood of the city, the inhabitants are so fearful of them that all the grain is brought up to the very walls to be threshed. The burying-grounds on both sides are now turned into threshing-floors, and all day long the Turkish peasants drive their heavy sleds around among the tomb-stones.
On the second day after our arrival, we paid a visit to Osman Pasha, Governor of the City and Province of Aleppo. We went in state, accompanied by the Consul, with two janissaries in front, bearing silver maces, and a dragoman behind. The serai, or palace, is a large, plain wooden building, and a group of soldiers about the door, with a shabby carriage in the court, were the only tokens of its character. We were ushered at once into the presence of the Pasha, who is a man of about seventy years, with a good-humored, though shrewd face. He was quite cordial in his manners, complimenting us on our Turkish costume, and vaunting his skill in physiognomy, which at once revealed to him that we belonged to the highest class of American nobility. In fact, in the firman which he has since sent us, we are mentioned as "nobles." He invited us to pass a day or two with him, saying that he should derive much benefit from our superior knowledge. We replied that such an intercourse could only benefit ourselves, as his greater experience, and the distinguished wisdom which had made his name long since familiar to our ears, precluded the hope of our being of any service to him. After half an hour's stay, during which we were regaled with jewelled pipes, exquisite Mocha coffee, and sherbet breathing of the gardens of Guelistan, we took our leave.
The Pasha sent an officer to show us the citadel. We passed around the moat to the entrance on the western side, consisting of a bridge and double gateway. The fortress, as I have already stated, occupies the crest of an elliptical mound, about one thousand feet by six hundred, and two hundred feet in height. It is entirely encompassed by the city and forms a prominent and picturesque feature in the distant view thereof. Formerly, it was thickly inhabited, and at the time of the great earthquake of 1822, there were three hundred families living within the walls, nearly all of whom perished. The outer walls were very much shattered on that occasion, but the enormous towers and the gateway, the grandest specimen of Saracenic architecture in the East, still remain entire. This gateway, by which we entered, is colossal in its proportions. The outer entrance, through walls ten feet thick, admitted us into a lofty vestibule lined with marble, and containing many ancient inscriptions in mosaic. Over the main portal, which is adorned with sculptured lions' heads, there is a tablet stating that the fortress was built by El Melek el Ashraf (the Holiest of Kings), after which follows: "Prosperity to the True Believers—Death to the Infidels!" A second tablet shows that it was afterwards repaired by Mohammed ebn-Berkook, who, I believe, was one of the Fatimite Caliphs. The shekh of the citadel, who accompanied us, stated the age of the structure at nine hundred years, which, as nearly as I can recollect the Saracenic chronology, is correct. He called our attention to numbers of iron arrow-heads sticking in the solid masonry—the marks of ancient sieges. Before leaving, we were presented with a bundle of arrows from the armory—undoubted relics of Saracen warfare.
The citadel is now a mass of ruins, having been deserted since the earthquake. Grass is growing on the ramparts, and the caper plant, with its white-and-purple blossoms, flourishes among the piles of rubbish. Since the late rebellion, however, a small military barrack has been built, and two companies of soldiers are stationed there, We walked around the walls, which command a magnificent view of the city and the wide plains to the south and east. It well deserves to rank with the panorama of Cairo from the citadel, and that of Damascus from the Anti-Lebanon, in extent, picturesqueness and rich oriental character. Out of the gray ring of the city, which incloses the mound, rise the great white domes and the whiter minarets of its numerous mosques, many of which are grand and imposing structures. The course of the river through the centre of the picture is marked by a belt of the greenest verdure, beyond which, to the west, rises a chain of naked red hills, and still further, fading on the horizon, the blue summit of Mt. St. Simon, and the coast range of Akma Dagh. Eastward, over vast orchards of pistachio trees, the barren plain of the Euphrates fades away to a glimmering, hot horizon. Looking downwards on the heart of the city, I was surprised to see a number of open, grassy tracts, out of which, here and there, small trees were growing. But, perceiving what appeared to be subterranean entrances at various points, I found that these tracts were upon the roofs of the houses and bazaars, verifying what I had frequently heard, that in Aleppo the inhabitants visit their friends in different parts of the city, by passing over the roofs of the houses. Previous to the earthquake of 1822, these vast roof-plains were cultivated as gardens, and presented an extent of airy bowers as large, if not as magnificent, as the renowned Hanging Gardens of ancient Babylon.
Accompanied by Signor di Picciotto, we spent two or three days in visiting the houses of the principal Jewish and Christian families in Aleppo. We found, it is true, no such splendor as in Damascus, but more solid and durable architecture, and a more chastened elegance of taste. The buildings are all of hewn stone, the court-yards paved with marble, and the walls rich with gilding and carved wood. Some of the larger dwellings have small but beautiful gardens attached to them. We were everywhere received with the greatest hospitality, and the visits were considered as a favor rather than an intrusion. Indeed, I was frequently obliged to run the risk of giving offence, by declining the refreshments which were offered us. Each round of visits was a feat of strength, and we were obliged to desist from sheer inability to support more coffee, rose-water, pipes, and aromatic sweetmeats. The character of society in Aleppo is singular; its very life and essence is etiquette. The laws which govern it are more inviolable than those of the Medes and Persians. The question of precedence among the different families is adjusted by the most delicate scale, and rigorously adhered to in the most trifling matters. Even we, humble voyagers as we are, have been obliged to regulate our conduct according to it. After our having visited certain families, certain others would have been deeply mortified had we neglected to call upon them. Formerly, when a traveller arrived here, he was expected to call upon the different Consuls, in the order of their established precedence: the Austrian first, English second, French third, &c. After this, he was obliged to stay at home several days, to give the Consuls an opportunity of returning the visits, which they made in the same order. There was a diplomatic importance about all his movements, and the least violation of etiquette, through ignorance or neglect, was the town talk for days.
This peculiarity in society is evidently a relic of the formal times, when Aleppo was a semi-Venetian city, and the opulent seat of Eastern commerce. Many of the inhabitants are descended from the traders of those times, and they all speak the lingua franca, or Levantine Italian. The women wear a costume partly Turkish and partly European, combining the graces of both; it is, in my eyes, the most beautiful dress in the world. They wear a rich scarf of some dark color on the head, which, on festive occasions, is almost concealed by their jewels, and the heavy scarlet pomegranate blossoms which adorn their dark hair. A Turkish vest and sleeves of embroidered silk, open in front, and a skirt of white or some light color, completes the costume. The Jewesses wear in addition a short Turkish caftan, and full trousers gathered at the ankles. At a ball given by Mr. Very, the English Consul, which we attended, all the Christian beauties of Aleppo were present. There was a fine display of diamonds, many of the ladies wearing several thousand dollars' worth on their heads. The peculiar etiquette of the place was again illustrated on this occasion. The custom is, that the music must be heard for at least one hour before the guests come. The hour appointed was eight, but when we went there, at nine, nobody had arrived. As it was generally supposed that the ball was given on our account, several of the families had servants in the neighborhood to watch our arrival; and, accordingly, we had not been there five minutes before the guests crowded through the door in large numbers. When the first dance (an Arab dance, performed by two ladies at a time) was proposed, the wives of the French and Spanish Consuls were first led, or rather dragged, out. When a lady is asked to dance, she invariably refuses. She is asked a second and a third time; and if the gentleman does not solicit most earnestly, and use some gentle force in getting her upon the floor, she never forgives him.
At one of the Jewish houses which we visited, the wedding festivities of one of the daughters were being celebrated. We were welcomed with great cordiality, and immediately ushered into the room of state, an elegant apartment, overlooking the gardens below the city wall. Half the room was occupied by a raised platform, with a divan of blue silk cushions. Here the ladies reclined, in superb dresses of blue, pink, and gold, while the gentlemen were ranged on the floor below. They all rose at our entrance, and we were conducted to seats among the ladies. Pipes and perfumed drinks were served, and the bridal cake, made of twenty-six different fruits, was presented on a golden salver. Our fair neighbors, some of whom literally blazed with jewels, were strikingly beautiful. Presently the bride appeared at the door, and we all rose and remained standing, as she advanced, supported on each side by the two shebeeniyeh, or bridesmaids. She was about sixteen, slight and graceful in appearance, though not decidedly beautiful, and was attired with the utmost elegance. Her dress was a pale blue silk, heavy with gold embroidery; and over her long dark hair, her neck, bosom, and wrists, played a thousand rainbow gleams from the jewels which covered them. The Jewish musicians, seated at the bottom of the hall, struck up a loud, rejoicing harmony on their violins, guitars, and dulcimers, and the women servants, grouped at the door, uttered in chorus that wild, shrill cry, which accompanies all such festivals in the East. The bride was careful to preserve the decorum expected of her, by speaking no word, nor losing the sad, resigned expression of her countenance. She ascended to the divan, bowed to each of us with a low, reverential inclination, and seated herself on the cushions. The music and dances lasted some time, accompanied by the zughareet, or cry of the women, which was repeated with double force when we rose to take leave. The whole company waited on us to the street door, and one of the servants, stationed in the court, shouted some long, sing-song phrases after us as we passed out. I could not learn the words, but was told that it was an invocation of prosperity upon us, in return for the honor which our visit had conferred.
In the evening I went to view a Christian marriage procession, which, about midnight, conveyed the bride to the house of the bridegroom. The house, it appeared, was too small to receive all the friends of the family, and I joined a large number of them, who repaired to the terrace of the English Consulate, to greet the procession as it passed. The first persons who appeared were a company of buffoons; after them four janissaries, carrying silver maces; then the male friends, bearing colored lanterns and perfumed torches, raised on gilded poles; then the females, among whom I saw some beautiful Madonna faces in the torchlight; and finally the bride herself, covered from head to foot with a veil of cloth of gold, and urged along by two maidens: for it is the etiquette of such occasions that the bride should resist being taken, and must be forced every step of the way, so that she is frequently three hours in going the distance of a mile. We watched the procession a long time, winding away through the streets—a line of torches, and songs, and incense, and noisy jubilee—under the sweet starlit heaven.
The other evening, Signor di Picciotto mounted us from his fine Arabian stud, and we rode around the city, outside of the suburbs. The sun was low, and a pale yellow lustre touched the clusters of minarets that rose out of the stately masses of buildings, and the bare, chalky hills to the north. After leaving the gardens on the banks of the Koweik, we came upon a dreary waste of ruins, among which the antiquarian finds traces of the ancient Aleppo of the Greeks, the Mongolian conquerors of the Middle Ages, and the Saracens who succeeded them. There are many mosques and tombs, which were once imposing specimens of Saracenic art; but now, split and shivered by wars and earthquakes, are slowly tumbling into utter decay. On the south-eastern side of the city, its chalk foundations have been hollowed into vast, arched caverns, which extend deep into the earth. Pillars have been left at regular intervals, to support the masses above, and their huge, dim labyrinths resemble the crypts of some great cathedral. They are now used as rope-walks, and filled with cheerful workmen.
Our last excursion was to a country-house of Signor di Picciotto, in the Gardens of Babala, about four miles from Aleppo. We set out in the afternoon on our Arabians, with our host's son on a large white donkey of the Baghdad breed. Passing the Turkish cemetery, where we stopped to view the tomb of General Bem, we loosened rein and sped away at full gallop over the hot, white hills. In dashing down a stony rise, the ambitious donkey, who was doing his best to keep up with the horses, fell, hurling Master Picciotto over his head. The boy was bruised a little, but set his teeth together and showed no sign of pain, mounted again, and followed us. The Gardens of Babala are a wilderness of fruit-trees, like those of Damascus. Signor P.'s country-house is buried in a wild grove of apricot, fig, orange, and pomegranate-trees. A large marble tank, in front of the open, arched liwan, supplies it with water. We mounted to the flat roof, and watched the sunset fade from the beautiful landscape. Beyond the bowers of dazzling greenness which surrounded us, stretched the wide, gray hills; the minarets of Aleppo, and the walls of its castled mount shone rosily in the last rays of the sun; an old palace of the Pashas, with the long, low barracks of the soldiery, crowned the top of a hill to the north; dark, spiry cypresses betrayed the place of tombs; and, to the west, beyond the bare red peak of Mount St. Simon, rose the faint blue outline of Giaour Dagh, whose mural chain divides Syria from the plains of Cilicia. As the twilight deepened over the scene, there came a long, melodious cry of passion and of sorrow from the heart of a starry-flowered pomegranate tree in the garden. Other voices answered it from the gardens around, until not one, but fifty nightingales charmed the repose of the hour. They vied with each other in their bursts of passionate music. Each strain soared over the last, or united with others, near and far, in a chorus of the divinest pathos—an expression of sweet, unutterable, unquenchable longing. It was an ecstasy, yet a pain, to listen. "Away!" said Jean Paul to Music: "thou tellest me of that which I have not, and never can have—which I forever seek, and never find!"
But space fails me to describe half the incidents of our stay in Aleppo. There are two things peculiar to the city, however, which I must not omit mentioning. One is the Aleppo Button, a singular ulcer, which attacks every person born in the city, and every stranger who spends more than a month there. It can neither be prevented nor cured, and always lasts for a year. The inhabitants almost invariably have it on the face—either on the cheek, forehead, or tip of the nose—where it often leaves an indelible and disfiguring scar. Strangers, on the contrary, have it on one of the joints; either the elbow, wrist, knee, or ankle. So strictly is its visitation confined to the city proper, that in none of the neighboring villages, nor even in a distant suburb, is it known. Physicians have vainly attempted to prevent it by inoculation, and are at a loss to what cause to ascribe it. We are liable to have it, even after five days' stay; but I hope it will postpone its appearance until after I reach home.
The other remarkable thing here is the Hospital for Cats. This was founded long ago by a rich, cat-loving Mussulman, and is one of the best endowed institutions in the city. An old mosque is appropriated to the purpose, under the charge of several directors; and here sick cats are nursed, homeless cats find shelter, and decrepit cats gratefully purr away their declining years. The whole category embraces several hundreds, and it is quite a sight to behold the court, the corridors, and terraces of the mosque swarming with them. Here, one with a bruised limb is receiving a cataplasm; there, a cataleptic patient is tenderly cared for; and so on, through the long concatenation of feline diseases. Aleppo, moreover, rejoices in a greater number of cats than even Jerusalem. At a rough guess, I should thus state the population of the city: Turks and Arabs, 70,000; Christians of all denominations, 15,000; Jews, 10,000; dogs, 12,000; and cats, 8,000.
Among other persons whom I have met here, is Ferhat Pasha, formerly General Stein, Hungarian Minister of War, and Governor of Transylvania. He accepted Moslemism with Bem and others, and now rejoices in his circumcision and 7,000 piastres a month. He is a fat, companionable sort of man; who, by his own confession, never labored very zealously for the independence of Hungary, being an Austrian by birth. He conversed with me for several hours on the scenes in which he had participated, and attributed the failure of the Hungarians to the want of material means. General Bem, who died here, is spoken of with the utmost respect, both by Turks and Christians. The former have honored him with a large tomb, or mausoleum, covered with a dome.
But I must close, leaving half unsaid. Suffice it to say that no Oriental city has interested me so profoundly as Aleppo, and in none have I received such universal and cordial hospitality. We leave to-morrow for Asia Minor, having engaged men and horses for the whole route to Constantinople.
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.
"Mountains, on whose barren breast The lab'ring clouds do often rest."
In Quarantine (Adana, Asia Minor), Tuesday, June 15, 1852.
We left Aleppo on the morning of the 9th, under circumstances not the most promising for the harmony of our journey. We had engaged horses and baggage-mules from the capidji, or chief of the muleteers, and in order to be certain of having animals that would not break down on the way, made a particular selection from a number that were brought us. When about leaving the city, however, we discovered that one of the horses had been changed. Signor di Picciotto, who accompanied us past the Custom-House barriers, immediately dispatched the delinquent muleteer to bring back the true horse, and the latter made a farce of trying to find him, leading the Consul and the capidji (who, I believe, was at the bottom of the cheat) a wild-goose chase over the hills around Aleppo, where of course, the animal was not to be seen. When, at length, we had waited three hours, and had wandered about four miles from the city, we gave up the search, took leave of the Consul and went on with the new horse. Our proper plan would have been to pitch the tent and refuse to move till the matter was settled. The animal, as we discovered during the first day's journey, was hopelessly lame, and we only added to the difficulty by taking him.
We rode westward all day over barren and stony hills, meeting with abundant traces of the power and prosperity of this region during the times of the Greek Emperors. The nevastation wrought by earthquakes has been terrible; there is scarcely a wall or arch standing, which does not bear marks of having been violently shaken. The walls inclosing the fig-orchards near the villages contain many stones with Greek inscriptions, and fragments of cornices. We encamped the first night on the plain at the foot of Mount St. Simon, and not far from the ruins of the celebrated Church of the same name. The building stands in a stony wilderness at the foot of the mountain. It is about a hundred feet long and thirty in height, with two lofty square towers in front. The pavement of the interior is entirely concealed by the masses of pillars, capitals, and hewn blocks that lie heaped upon it. The windows, which are of the tall, narrow, arched form, common in Byzantine Churches, have a common moulding which falls like a mantle over and between them. The general effect of the Church is very fine, though there is much inelegance in the sculptured details. At the extremity is a half-dome of massive stone, over the place of the altar, and just in front of this formerly stood the pedestal whereon, according to tradition, St. Simeon Stylites commenced his pillar-life. I found a recent excavation at the spot, but no pedestal, which has probably been carried off by the Greek monks. Beside the Church stands a large building, with an upper and lower balcony, supported by square stone pillars, around three sides. There is also a paved court-yard, a large cistern cut in the rock and numerous out-buildings, all going to confirm the supposition of its having been a monastery. The main building is three stories high, with pointed gables, and bears a strong resemblance to an American summer hotel, with verandas. Several ancient fig and walnut trees are growing among the ruins, and add to their picturesque appearance.
The next day we crossed a broad chain of hills to the Plain of Antioch, which we reached near its northern extremity. In one of the valleys through which the road lay, we saw a number of hot sulphur springs, some of them of a considerable volume of water. Not far from them was a beautiful fountain of fresh and cold water gushing from the foot of a high rock. Soon after reaching the plain, we crossed the stream of Kara Su, which feeds the Lake of Antioch. This part of the plain is low and swampy, and the streams are literally alive with fish. While passing over the bridge I saw many hundreds, from one to two feet in length. We wandered through the marshy meadows for two or three hours, and towards sunset reached a Turcoman encampment, where the ground was dry enough to pitch our tents. The rude tribe received us hospitably, and sent us milk and cheese in abundance. I visited the tent of the Shekh, who was very courteous, but as he knew no language but Turkish, our conversation was restricted to signs. The tent was of camel's-hair cloth, spacious, and open at the sides. A rug was spread for me, and the Shekh's wife brought me a pipe of tolerable tobacco. The household were seated upon the ground, chatting pleasantly with one another, and apparently not in the least disturbed by my presence. One of the Shekh's sons, who was deaf and dumb, came and sat before me, and described by very expressive signs the character of the road to Scanderoon. He gave me to understand that there were robbers in the mountains, with many grim gestures descriptive of stabbing and firing muskets.
The mosquitoes were so thick during the night that we were obliged to fill the tent with smoke in order to sleep. When morning came, we fancied there would be a relief for us, but it only brought a worse pest, in the shape of swarms of black gnats, similar to those which so tormented me in Nubia. I know of no infliction so terrible as these gnats, which you cannot drive away, and which assail ears, eyes, and nostrils in such quantities that you become mad and desperate in your efforts to eject them. Through glens filled with oleander, we ascended the first slopes of Akma Dagh, the mountain range which divides the Gulf of Scanderoon from the Plain of Antioch. Then, passing a natural terrace, covered with groves of oak, our road took the mountain side, climbing upwards in the shadow of pine and wild olive trees, and between banks of blooming lavender and myrtle. We saw two or three companies of armed guards, stationed by the road-side, for the mountain is infested with robbers, and a caravan had been plundered only three days before. The view, looking backward, took in the whole plain, with the Lake of Antioch glittering in the centre, the valley of the Orontes in the south, and the lofty cone of Djebel-Okrab far to the west. As we approached the summit, violent gusts of wind blew through the pass with such force as almost to overturn our horses. Here the road from Antioch joins that from Aleppo, and both for some distance retain the ancient pavement.
From the western side we saw the sea once more, and went down through the Pylae Syriae, or Syrian Gates, as this defile was called by the Romans. It is very narrow and rugged, with an abrupt descent. In an hour from the summit we came upon an aqueduct of a triple row of arches, crossing the gorge. It is still used to carry water to the town of Beilan, which hangs over the mouth of the pass, half a mile below. This is one of the most picturesque spots in Syria. The houses cling to the sides and cluster on the summits of precipitous crags, and every shelf of soil, every crevice where a tree can thrust its roots, upholds a mass of brilliant vegetation. Water is the life of the place. It gushes into the street from exhaustless fountains; it trickles from the terraces in showers of misty drops; it tumbles into the gorge in sparkling streams; and everywhere it nourishes a life as bright and beautiful as its own. The fruit trees are of enormous size, and the crags are curtained with a magnificent drapery of vines. This green gateway opens suddenly upon another, cut through a glittering mass of micaceous rock, whence one looks down on the town and Gulf of Scanderoon, the coast of Karamania beyond, and the distant snows of the Taurus. We descended through groves of pine and oak, and in three hours more reached the shore.
Scanderoon is the most unhealthy place on the Syrian Coast, owing to the malaria from a marsh behind it. The inhabitants are a wretched pallid set, who are visited every year with devastating fevers. The marsh was partly drained some forty years ago by the Turkish government, and a few thousand dollars would be sufficient to remove it entirely, and make the place—which is of some importance as the seaport of Aleppo—healthy and habitable. At present, there are not five hundred inhabitants, and half of these consist of the Turkish garrison and the persons attached to the different Vice-Consulates. The streets are depositories of filth, and pools of stagnant water, on all sides, exhale the most fetid odors. Near the town are the ruins of a castle built by Godfrey of Bouillon. We marched directly down to the sea-shore, and pitched our tent close beside the waves, as the place most free from malaria. There were a dozen vessels at anchor in the road, and one of them proved to be the American bark Columbia, Capt. Taylor. We took a skiff and went on board, where we were cordially welcomed by the mate. In the evening, the captain came to our tent, quite surprised to find two wandering Americans in such a lonely corner of the world. Soon afterwards, with true seaman-like generosity, he returned, bringing a jar of fine Spanish olives and a large bottle of pickles, which he insisted on adding to our supplies. The olives have the choicest Andalusian flavor, and the pickles lose none of their relish from having been put up in New York.