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TENT LIFE IN PALESTINE.
BY THE EDITOR.
DAMASCUS TO BAALBEC.
ON a lovely morning, April 26th, we mounted our horses for the ride over the Anti-Lebanon range. The air was filled with the fragrance of fig and apricot blossoms, and of the Damascus roses, of which we each carried a bouquet of portentous size. The horses, refreshed with their few days' rest, were full of mettle, and we made a very hilarious party as we cantered along the smooth diligence road, the best in Syria. This splendid road of seventy miles to Beyrout was made by a French company, and twice a day its huge, lumbering carriages traverse the distance in ten hours.
Soon leaving the road, we passed the grim gorge of the Barada (A bana), with bold exposure of highly tilted strata, and rode on beneath the shade of walnut, fig and olive orchards. Then for an hour we rode across the barren plain of Sahra, or the Syrian Sahara, a dreary expanse of sand and flint chips, enlivened at times VOL. XL. No. 5.
by flying flocks of gazelles. As we approached the gorge of the Barada we learned that the bridge across the stream was wrecked by a recent flood. Abdallah rode ahead and reported that, while it was badly shattered, it might possibly be crossed. As I was determined to take no risks, I gave orders to make a long détour over the barren hills to a safe ford.
We soon descended into a deep, romantic ravine, bordered by towering cliffs, and skirted, on a narrow ledge, the rushing Barada. A curious passage through the rocks was evidently a former aqueduct. Through the poplar and walnut foliage came stealing on our ears the sound of rushing water. After a short ride we reached the famous fountain of El-Figeh, the chief source of the Barada a name probably corrupted from the Greek anуn-a spring. A rushing torrent, clear as crystal, thirty feet in width and four feet deep, bursts forth from the foot of a lofty cliff with a current strong enough to turn a mill.
High above the birthplace of this storied stream, on massy foundations of huge stone, are the ruins of an ancient temple, some thirty feet square; and lower down near the water, another with walls two yards thick. This once formed a large vaulted chamber twenty feet high, with wide portal. The ancient Syrians, like the Greeks, deified their streams and fountains, and doubtless here, as at the source of the Jordan, were celebrated the rites of the ancient nature-worship of the land. Beneath the shade of fruit trees, beside this magnificent fountain, we ate our lunch and mused and moralized upon the eventful scenes of which, thoughout the ages, it had been the theatre.
In the afternoon we rode up the narrowing gorge, past the Kefr-el-Zeite (Village of Oil), and Kefr-el-Awamid (Village of Columns), where are enormous prostrate pillars of an ancient Greek temple, between yellow, chalky cliffs from 800 to 1,000 feet high. The vividness of the verdure in the bright spring sunlight, the infinite blue depths of the sky, and the picturesque outlines of the cliffs made a picture of surpassing beauty which haunts the memory with an abiding spell.
Crossing an old Roman bridge, which leaps in a single spring across the stream, we soon reached our encampment at Suk Wady Barada. Here, long ago, took place one of those ruthless massacres of a band of pilgrims and merchants which are so characteristic of Moslem misrule. The road here cuts a deep chasm through the anti-Lebanon range, bordered by cliffs 700 feet high, above which rises the stupendous mountain wall, like a vast amphitheatre. The scene is one of wild magnificence, whose interest is heightened by the remarkable remains of ancient power and
splendour which have earned for it the name of the Petra of Northern Syria.
After dinner I set out under the guidance of a bare-footed Arab to climb these cliffs and explore their ancient aqueducts and tombs. An old Roman road fifteen feet wide has been cleft through the rock for 600 feet and then came to an abrupt terminus. It evidently continued across the pass on a lofty viaduct now destroyed. High up the almost perpendicular face of the cliff, reached by long flights of steps, are numerous rock-hewn tombs, excavated with incredible labour. I counted in one chamber fifteen graves hewn in the rock, quite after the manner of the Roman Catacombs. The tombs were closed with double stone doors, having stone sockets. We crawled through an ancient aqueduct, about two feet wide, and in places so low we had to get upon our hands and knees. At last it came out in the open air on a narrow ledge and was still in part covered by sloping stone slabs. My bare-footed guide could speak no English and I could speak no Arabic, so our communication was entirely by signs. His prehensile toes seemed to clasp the rock, and he firmly held my hand as we crawled and clambered over the precipitous slope.
On a huge slab, on the face of the cliff, was a deeply-cut Latin inscription which affirms that "THE EMPEROR CÆSAR MARCUS AURELIUS ANTONINUS AUGUSTUS ARMENIACUS, AND THE EMPEROR CESAR LUCIUS AURELIUS VERUS AUGUSTUS ARMENIACUS RESTORED THE ROAD BROKEN AWAY BY THE FORCE OF THE RIVER, THE MOUNTAINS BEING CUT THROUGH BY JULIUS VERUS, THE LEGATE OF SYRIA, AT THE COST('IMPENDUS) OF THE ABILENIANS." This identifies this place as the ancient Abilene, so named by tradition from the reputed tomb of Abel, which is still a place of Moslem pilgrimage. The "tomb" is plainly a part of an ancient stone wall, about nine yards long. This district is mentioned by Luke, chapter iii. 1, who says that John the Baptist began preaching in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Cæsar, Lysanias being the tetrarch of Abilene.
In the deepening twilight I made my way back to the camp, the shadows of the mountain cliffs stretching far across the valley. Other tourist parties joining us here, our encampment assumed quite military proportions, amounting to over 300 persons, including muleteers and camp-followers. About forty snowy tents were pitched, behind which were tethered about a hundred horses, whose champing and stamping made sleep a difficult achievement.
The next morning was bitterly cold, and the scramble up the rugged cliff was an agreeable exercise, but the effect was far less
impressive than amid the growing twilight of the preceding evening. We followed up the deep valley of the Barada and at length reached the verdant plain of Zebedany, an oasis of beauty seven miles long, and from one to three wide, amid the wilderness of barren and desolate mountains by which it is surrounded. It was studded with fruit trees and sweet-briar rose-bushes. We pressed on to the village of Surghaya near which our camp was pitched. Near here is a ruined khan, a low, flat-roofed building, with stables on one side and travellers' rooms on the other, with rude fireplaces in the corners. The traveller must bring his own rugs, food, bedding and everything. He finds only shelter in these khans. Our clean and comfortable tents were far prefer
Before dinner we climbed a high hill commanding a broad view, and found some old rock-tombs and exceedingly interesting wine-presses hewn out of the solid rock. Some very ancient levers and rollers for crushing out the wine were still in place. Their use we could not understand till one of the natives in sign language explained the mechanism. The whole mountain side was dotted with sheep and goats, lambs and kids, skipping about in a very lively manner. After dinner we made a tour of the rather squalid Arab village. We were courteously invited to visit the sheikh's house. The sheikh's wife, less reserved than most of her sex in the East, brought cushions for us to sit upon, and showed with much pride what seemed to be a bridal trousseau embroidered in spangles and beads, which she brought from a splendid coffer richly inlaid with mother-of-pearl. Quite an animated conversation took place in signs. It is marvellous how expressive they can be.
We next visited the paltry little bazaar, where the merchant treated us to candy and offered us a puff of his hubble-bubble pipe. He inquired if we came from New York or Brazil, which seemed to be the only places in America that he knew.
On a spur of a neighbouring mountain is the reputed tomb of Seth, the son of Adam, one hundred feet long and ten wide. There were evidently giants on the earth in those days. The Moslems themselves, while exceedingly credulous, write such stories as make credulity ridiculous. Of this the following, as told us by Dr. Jessop, is an example:
A certain Sheikh Mohammed was the guardian of the tomb of a noted saint. Pilgrims thronged to it from every side, and Mohammed grew rich from their costly offerings. At length his servant Ali, dissatisfied with his meagre share of the revenue, ran away to the east of the Jordan, taking his master's donkey. The donkey died on the road, and Ali, having