Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Travels in Syria and the Holy Land by John Burckhardt

Part 12 out of 12

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 1.4 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

sea, which in times of high flood are filled with the sea water; it
remains sometimes during the whole summer, at a distance of six and
seven hours from the sea. The water brings with it a large quantity of
fish. The camels and horses drink the water of these Wadys.

35. (8) Khalysz [Arabic], a village with a rivulet.

36. (9) El Szafan [Arabic], two wells.

37.(10) Wady Fatme [Arabic], a rivulet, with a village and gardens.

38. Mekke.

[FN#1] To the southward of Kerek all the women on the Hadj route wear
the Egyptian face veil or Berkoa [Arabic], which is not a Syrian

[p.662] APPENDIX. No. IV.

Description of the Route from Boszra in the Haouran, to the Djebel

ON the western side of the Djebel Haouran, at a small distance from its
southern extremity, lies Boszra. On the eastern foot and declivity of
Djebel Haouran, are upwards of two hundred villages built of black stone
in ruins, at a quarter or half an hour's distance from each other. The
country beyond them is completely level and is called El Hammad
[Arabic]. About five hours to the S. of the Djebel, lies the half ruined
town of Szalkhat [Arabic]; it has a large castle, with strong walls,
several cisterns and Birkets of rainwater. From that place begins the
Wady Serhhan [Arabic], which runs to the E.S.E. It is a low ground, with
sloping sides; at every three or four hours a well is met with in the
Wady, with a little grass round it, but even in winter there is no
running stream; though water is found in many places at a small depth
below the surface of the earth. The traveller frequently passes in that
Wady small hills (Tels), which consist of thin layers of salt (about six
inches thick), alternating with layers of earth of the same thickness.
The Arabs sell the salt in the villages of the Haouran. Following the
course of that Wady, which at length takes a more southerly direction,
you arrive, after ten or eleven days journey (with camels about eight
days), in the country called Djof [Arabic]. The Tels about Djof are
called Kara [Arabic]. The Djof is a collection of seven or eight
villages, built at a distance of ten minutes or a quarter of an hour
from each other, in an easterly line. The ground is pure sand. These
villages are called Souk (or markets), the principal of them are: Souk
Ain Um Salim [Arabic], Souk Eddourra [Arabic], Souk Esseideiin [Arabic],
Souk Douma [Arabic], Souk Mared [Arabic]. These villages are all built
alike: the houses are built round the inside of a large square mud wall,
which has but one entrance. This wall therefore serves as a common back
wall to all the houses, which amount in some of the Souks to one hundred
and twenty, in others from eighty to one hundred. The middle part of the
enclosed square is empty. The roofs of the houses are made of palm wood,
and their walls of bricks, called Leben, dried in the sun, which are
about two feet square, and one foot thick. When strangers arrive, their
camels remain in the middle of the Souk, and they themselves lodge at
the different houses. Round the Souk are gardens of palm trees, which
the inhabitants call Houta [Arabic]: in several of these are deep
[p.663] wells, the water from some of which is conducted by small canals
[Arabic] into the gardens of those, who not having any wells are obliged
to purchase water from their neighbours. She camels are employed to draw
the water out of the wells; this is done by tying a rope round the
camel, which walks away from the well till the bucket, which is fastened
to the other end of the rope, is drawn up, and empties its contents into
the canals. These she camels are called Sanie [Arabic]. Most of the
inhabitants of the Djof are either petty merchants or artificers; they
work in leather, wood, iron, and make boots, sword hilts, horse shoes,
lance heads, &c. which they sell to the Arabs, together with the produce
of their palm trees; in return they, take camels. They sow very little
wheat; the small extent of ground which they cultivate is worked with
the hand; for they have no ploughs. They eat very little bread, living
upon dates, butter, and flesh meat. Besides the game which they hunt in
the neighbourhood, they eat camels flesh almost daily, and they even
devour the ostriches and wild dogs, the former of which are sold to them
by the Arabs Sherarat. They preserve their dates in large earthen jars
for the use of the great Arab tribes which often pass here; of these the
Rowalla come almost every year: before the time of the Wahabi, the El
Hessene and Beni Szakher likewise visited the Djof.

The Felahein of the Djof are called Karaune [Arabic], a name which in
the neighbourhood of Damascus is given to all Syrians or those who are
presumed to be of Syrian origin. Although Fellahs, the people of the
Djof intermarry with Arab girls, whence it happens that many Arabs of
Shammor and Serhan have settled here and become Fellahs; and they
continue notwithstanding, to be looked upon in their respective tribes
by the heads of families, as proper husbands for their daughters. The
workmen or artificers [Arabic], on the contrary, never can marry Arab
girls, nor even the daughters of the Fellahs, their immediate
neighbours; they intermarry exclusively amongst themselves, or amongst
the workmen who have settled in the Bedouin encampments.

Every Souk has a Sheikh or chief; the name of the present grand Sheikh
is Ibn Deraa [Arabic]. It is about twenty years since they were
converted to the Wahabi creed. Their grand Sheikh collects the tribute
or Zika [Arabic], for Ibn Saoud, and lodges it in a particular house;
after taking from it the necessary expense for entertaining strangers,
or for provisions for Wahabi corps which pass by, he sends the remainder
to Saoud. The people of the Djof are all armed with firelocks; they have
no horses.

At Souk Mared is an ancient tower of remarkable structure. Its height, I
was told, is greater than the Minaret near my lodgings at Damascus,
which I should compute at about forty-five feet. Its basis is square, it
rises in steps and ends in a point; I had already heard at Aleppo from
some travelling Turks, that there were in the desert, towards Deraye,
pyramids like those of Cairo; by which they probably meant the Souk
Mared. The door of the tower is about ten feet high and eight broad; but
it is half filled up. The Kasr gate of Salamia,[FN#2] which is of wood
with iron bars, has been transported here by the Arabs to serve as a
gate for the tower. [p.664] The inside is not paved. There are three
floors, and staircases leading from one to the other. There are very
small windows in the sides of the tower, which seem rather to have been
destined for loop holes for musquetty. The walls of the tower are built
of large square white stones, and are in good preservation. The two
floors one over the other are not vaulted. On the top of the tower a
watchman constantly resides, to give notice of the arrival of strangers.
To the E. and somewhat to the S. from Djof, three hours, begins the
plain called Eddhahi or Taous [Arabic], a sandy desert full of small
hills or Tels, from which it derives the name of [Arabic]. Although
there is no water in the plain, a tree is very abundant which the Arabs
call Ghada [Arabic], about eight feet high; the people of Djof burn it
as fire wood. Near the trees grows in spring a kind of grass, which in
summer soon dries up, it is called Nassy [Arabic], and resembles wheat.
Wild cows [Arabic] are found here. My man told me that they resemble in
every particular the domestic cow. The Arabs Sherarat kill them, eat
them, and make of the leather targets, which are much esteemed [Arabic].
Of their horns the people of Djof make knife handles. Wild dogs, Derboun
[Arabic], of a black colour, are likewise met with here; the Arabs kill
and eat them. It is principally in the Dhahy that ostriches breed, and
great quantities of them are killed there. This desert is moreover
inhabited by a large lizard called Dhab [Arabic], of one foot and a half
in length with a tail of half a foot, exactly resembling in shape the
common lizard, but larger. The Arabs eat them in defiance of the laws of
their prophet; the scaly skin serves them instead of a goat skin to
preserve their butter in. These Arabs likewise eat all the eagles
[Arabic] and crows which they can kill. The plain of Eddhahi continues
for three days camel's march (with a caravan it would take six days),
without any water, extending as far as the chain of mountains called
Djebel Shammor [Arabic] which runs in an easterly direction five or six
days journey. From where it ends to Deraye, the seat of Ibn Saoud, are
ten days more. The Djebel Shammor is inhabited by the Arabs Shammor,
many of whom have become Fellahs, and live in villages in these
mountains. They are true and faithful Wahabis.

[FN#2] Salamia is a ruin eight or ten hours S.E. of Hamah.

[p.665] APPENDIX. No. V.

A Route to the eastward of the Castle El Hassa.

FROM Kalaat el Hassa, towards E.S.E. continues the already mentioned
Wady el Hassa. Passing the Tel Esshehak, two days journey from it, you
meet with a great number of Tels, in the midst of which there is a well
of good spring water called Byr Bair [Arabic]; near it is a tombstone,
said to be the burial place of the son of Sultan Hassan. From Bair
eastwards the Wady and its vicinity are called the district of Hudrush
[Arabic]; it is without water, with the exception of the rain water
which collects in the low grounds. The Hudrush extends for two days, as
far as the country called Ettebig [Arabic]. From the beginning of
Hudrush the Wady makes a bend to the N. and describing a half circle,
again returns in the Tebig to its original direction. To the N. from
Hudrush and Tebig the plain takes the name of Szauan [Arabic], (i.e.
flint) and extends for two days till it borders upon the Wady Serhhan.
The plain Szauan is covered so thickly with small black flints, that the
Arabs, whenever they are about to light a fire there, cover the ground
with earth, which they carry with them, in order to prevent the
splinters of the flint heated by the fire, from flying about and hurting
them. There is but one spring in the Szauan: it is about two hours from
Wady Serhhan, and at the same distance from Hudrush and Tebig, and is
called Byr Naam el aatta Allah [Arabic], in honour of a Christian
travelling merchant, who about sixty years ago lying upon the flint,
heard the noise of the water under his head, and thus discovered the
spring. On the western side of the Szauan, nearer to the Wady Serhhan
than to the Hudrush, is a castle called Kaszr Amera [Arabic], and at a
quarter of an hour from it, on the foot of a hill, the ruins of a
village. Between the Kaszr and the village is a low ground where the
rain water collects, and forms a small lake in winter half an hour in
length. Before the castle is a well more than thirty feet deep, walled
in by large stones, but without water. Over the well are four white
marble columns, which support a vaulted roof or Kubbe, such as are often
seen at wells in these countries. The castle is built of white square
stones, which seem not to have been cemented together. Its dimensions
are thirty-six or forty feet from W. to E. and twenty-five from S. to N.
The entrance door, which is only about three feet high, is on the S.
side, and leads into an apartment half the size of the whole building.
In the middle of the western wall of this apartment is another door, as
low as the former, leading to a second apartment of the [p.666] same
size as the former, except that one corner is partitioned off to form a
third chamber. Each of the two latter have a window in the western wall.
The roof of the apartments are vaulted below, and flat above. The walls
which divide the apartments are two yards in thickness; in the two first
rooms there is a stone pavement, in the small room the Arabs have taken
up the pavement to dig for treasures; but they found nothing underneath,
except small pieces of planks and some rusty iron. The ceiling of all
the three apartments is chalked over, and looks quite new. In the small
room it is painted all over with serpents, hares, gazelles, mares, and
birds; there are neither human figures nor trees amongst the paintings.
The colour of the paintings is red, green, and yellow, and they look as
bright and well preserved, as if they had been done a short time ago.
There are no kinds of niches, bas-reliefs, or inscriptions in the walls.

From Hudrush branches out a Wady towards Wady Serhhan, called Chadef
[Arabic]. Four days beyond Tebig you arrive at a Byr called El Sheben or
Szefan [Arabic], situated upon a small ascent. According to my informant
the Byr is two hundred yards in depth. To the north of that well the
desert is called Beseita [Arabic]. For two days farther the earth is
covered to the depth of six inches with small black gray stones, looking
like flints. The plant Samah [Arabic] grows there, which is collected by
the people of Djof. From the end of the Beseita to the Djof is one day's
journey farther, and the Beseita ends in the Dhahi.

All the Arabs along this road from El Hassa, are Sherarat, the Aeneze do
not come this way.

Between Tebig, Szauan, Hudrush, and to the S. of these places, are a
quantity of wild asses, which the Arabs Sherarat hunt, and eat
(secretly). Their skins and hoofs are sold to the wandering Christian
pedlars, and in the towns of Syria. Of the hoofs rings are made, which
the Fellahs of eastern Syria wear on the thumb, or tied with a thread
round the arm-pit, to prevent, or to heal rheumatic complaints. I may
here make a general remark that there is an infinity of names of places
in the desert. Every Tel, every declivity, or, elevation in a Wady,
every extent of plain ground, where a particular herb grows, has its
name, well known to the Arabs. The Khabera [Arabic], or places where the
rain-water collects, winter-time, are generally distinguished by the
name of some well known Sheikh who once pitched his tent near them; as
Khabera Ibn Ghebein [Arabic], the watering places of Ibn Ghebein.

The side of a Wady where the Arab descends is called by him Hadhera
[Arabic], the opposite side, where he re-ascends Sende [Arabic].

A Ghadir [Arabic] is distinguished from a Wady, the two sides of the
latter are hills which rise above the surface of the adjacent plain; the
Ghadir on the contrary is only a hollow in the plain. The Wady is seen
from afar, the Ghadir only on arriving near the descent.

[p.667]APPENDIX. No. VI.

Description of the Desert from the Neighbourhood of Damascus towards the

From the Wady Serhhan northward and north-eastward, the whole desert is
called El Hammad [Arabic], till it reaches the neighbourhood of the
Euphrates, where the broad valley of the river is by the Arabs called
Oerak (Irak). That name therefore is not exclusively applied to the
Djezire or island between the Tigris and the Euphrates, but (in the
Bedouin acceptation of the word at least), to the fertile country also
between the desert and the river's right bank.

At the end of the Ghouta or Merdj of Damascus, begins the Djebel
Haouran,[FN#3] which takes a south direction; to the north runs the
Djebel Ruak (towards Tedmor). The intermediate plain, which is about a
day and a half in breadth, is called Ard Esseikal [Arabic], having
journied for two days in this plain, the mountains to the S. are no more
visible, and a waterless plain lies before the traveller, which
according to the camels strength may be crossed in seven, eight, or ten
days. Water is met with on the road, only in winter, when rainwater
collects in the low grounds, and Ghadirs. There are no hills or Wadys.
Small pipe heads, in the eastern fashion, and made of stone, are
frequently found in the plain. The Arabs say that an ancient tribe
called Beni Tamour [Arabic] fabricated them. At the end of the number of
days above-mentioned, a high insulated hill is met with, which is
visible all round to the distance of two days journey. The Arabs call it
[p.668] Djebel Laha [Arabic]. It consists of sandy earth: there are no
springs near it. From the Djebel Laha run two Wadys towards the
Euphrates, the one called Wady Haouran [Arabic], begins on the hill's
western side; the other Wady Tebbel [Arabic], on its northern side. They
run in a parallel direction, till they unite in the vicinity of the
Euphrates. To the N.W. of the Laha, at one day's march, is another Wady,
called Souan [Arabic], which takes the same direction with the other
two, and joins them, near their termination. In the middle of the Wady
Tebbel is spring water. To the E. of Laha, about three days from it, is
a low ground called Kaar [Arabic] (the general name given to such
places), which is four or five days in circuit. It extends towards the
Euphrates. The descent into it is two hundred or two hundred and fifty
yards. There are two watering places in it, at a good day's march from
each other; Rahh [Arabic], with a number of springs, and Molassa
[Arabic]. There is always some verdure in the Kaar, and when the Aeneze
pass that way, the whole tribe encamps there. From Molass it is one
day's journey to Gebesse, a poor village in a N.E. direction, from
thence to Hit one. Hit, or Ith, is a well known station and village on
the banks of the Euphrates.

The Djebel Ruak and the Djebel Abiad (which comes from the west) are
united behind Tedmor with the Djebel Belaes [Arabic] which continues its
course in a northerly direction, (somewhat to the E.) for two days.
There is water in the Belaes but no villages. This mountain at the end
of two days changes its name to Djebel Bishr [Arabic], and terminates
after one day's journey in the Zor [Arabic], which is the name of the
broad valley of the Euphrates, on its right bank, from Byr down to Aene
and Hit. There are sources in the Bishr, and ruins of villages. It
produces also a tree which is about eight feet high, and whose root has
so little hold, that the smallest effort will throw it down.

London: Printed by W. Bulmer and W. Nicol, Cleveland-row, St. James's.

[FN#3] This northern part of the Djebel Haouran is called Es-Szaffa
[Arabic]. On the eastern side of it is a pass called Bab es-Szaffa,
where the mountain is entered by a deep clet in the perpendicular rock,
about two yards broad. The passage is about one hundred yards long, it
leads to a plain in the middle of the mountain, also called Szaffa,
which has no other known entrance, and is two days in circuit. This pass
and plain are famed among the Arabs, who often retire there, before the
troops of the Pasha of Damascus. There is no water in the Szaffa, except
the ponds formed by the winter-rains. The earth is fertile and is
occasionally sown by he Arabs when they remain there a sufficient time.

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest