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Travels in Syria and the Holy Land by John Burckhardt

Part 7 out of 12

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less steep than the others.

The ruins of Amman being, with the exception of a few walls of flint, of
calcareous stone of moderate hardness, have not resisted the ravages of
time so well as those of Djerash. The buildings exposed to the
atmosphere are all in decay, so that there is little hope of finding any
inscriptions here, which might illustrate the history of the place. The
construction shews that the edifices were of different ages, as in the
other cities of the Decapolis, which I have examined.

I am sensible that the above description of Amman, though it notices all
the principal remains, is still very imperfect; but a traveller who is
not accompanied with an armed force can never hope to give very
satisfactory accounts of the antiquities of these deserted countries. My
guides had observed some fresh horse-dung near the water's side, which
greatly alarmed them, as it was a proof that


[p.361] some Bedouins were hovering about. They insisted upon my
returning immediately, and refusing to wait for me a moment, rode off
while I was still occupied in writing a few notes upon the theatre. I
hastily mounted the castle hill, ran over its ruins, and galloping after
my guides, joined them at half an hour from the town. When I reproached
them for their cowardice, they replied that I certainly could not
suppose that, for the twelve piastres I had agreed to give them, they
should expose themselves to the danger of being stripped and of losing
their horses, from a mere foolish caprice of mine to write down the
stones. I have often been obliged to yield to similar reasoning. A true
Bedouin, however, never abandons his companion in this manner; whoever,
therefore, wishes to travel in these parts, and to make accurate
observations, will do well to take with him as many horsemen as may
secure him against any strolling party of robbers.

About four or five bours S.S.W. from Amman are the ruins called El Kohf
(Arabic), with a large temple, and many columns. About eight hours
S.S.E. is the ruined city of Om el Reszasz (Arabic), i.e. the Mother of
Lead, which, according to all accounts, is of great extent, and contains
large buildings. In my present situation it was impossible for me to
visit these two places. I hope that some future traveller will be more

We returned from Amman by a more northern route. At one hour and three
quarters, we passed the ruined place called Djebeyha (Arabic); in two
hours the ruins of Meraze (Arabic). The hills which rise over the plain
are covered to their tops with thick heath. At two hours and a half are
the ruins of Om Djouze (Arabic), with a spring. Sources of water are
seldom met with in this upper plain of the Belka, a circumstance that
greatly enhances the importance of the situation of Amman. At three
hours and a half is


[p.362] Szafout (Arabic), where are ruins of some extent, with a spring;
the gate of a public edifice is still standing. To the north and north-
east of this place, at the foot of the mountain on which it stands,
extends a broad valley called El Bekka (Arabic); it is extremely
fertile, and is in part cultivated by the people of Szalt, and the Arabs
of the Belka. The Beni Szakher had burnt up the whole of the crops
before they concluded peace with Szalt. In the Bekka is a ruined place
called Ain el Basha (Arabic), with a spring.

From Szafout we returned by Ardh el Hemar to Feheis, which we reached in
four hours and a half from Szafout. Near the springs of Hemar we found a
cow that had gone astray from some Bedouin encampment; my guides
immediately declared her to be a fair prize, and drove her off before
them to Feheis, where she was killed, to prevent the owner from claiming
her, and the encampment feasted upon the flesh for two days. N.E. from
Szafout, distant about two hours, is a ruined city, with several
edifices still standing, called Yadjoush (Arabic). N. of Amman, two
hours, is a ruined building called El Nowakys (Arabic), on the interior
wall of which are some busts in relief, according to the report of one
who had seen them, but whose veracity was rather doubtful.

On my return to Szalt I was obliged to remain there several days longer,
for want of a guide; for the road to Kerek is a complete desert, and
much exposed to the inroads of the Arabs. At last I found a man who
engaged to serve me, but his demands were so exorbitant, that I was
several days in bargaining with him. Mousa, (M. Seetzen), he said, had
paid his guide twenty-five piastres for the trip from hence to Kerek,
and he would not, therefore, go the same road for less than twenty-
three; this was an enormous sum for a journey of two days, in a country
where an Arab will toil for a fortnight without obtaining so great a
sum. My principal


[p.363] objection to paying so much was, that it would become known at
Kerek, which, besides other difficulties it might bring me into, would
have obliged me to pay all my future guides in the same proportion. My
landlord, however, removed this objection by making the guide take a
solemn oath that he would never confess to having received more than six
piastres for his trouble. There was no other proper guide to be got, and
I began to be tired of Szalt, for I saw that my landlord was very
earnest in his endeavours to get me away; I resolved therefore to trust
to my good fortune, and to set out with no other company than that of an
armed horseman. In the evening I returned to Feheis, from whence we
departed early the next morning.

July 13th.--We passed Ardh el Hemar, in the neighbourhood of which are
the ruined places El Ryhha (Arabic), Shakour (Arabic), Meghanny
(Arabic), and Mekabbely (Arabic); and at a short distance farther on in
the wood, we met two men quite naked. Whenever the Bedouins meet any
other Arabs in the desert, of inferior force, and who are unknown to
them, they level their lances, and stop their horses within about ten
yards of the strangers, to enquire whether they are friends or not. My
guide had seen the two men at a great distance among the trees; be
called to me to get my gun ready, and we galloped towards them; but they
no sooner saw us than they stopped, and cried out, "We are under your
protection!" They then told us that they were peasants of a village near
Rieha or Jericho; that they had been carried away from their own fields
by a party of Beni Szakher, with whom their village happened to be at
war, as far as Yadjoush, where the latter had encampments; that after
being required to pay the price of blood of one of the tribe slain by
the inhabitants of their village, they had been beaten, and stripped
naked; but that at last they had found means to escape. Their bruises
and sores bore testimony


[p.364] to the truth of their story; instances of such acts of violence
frequently occur in the desert. In one hour and three quarters we came
to the ruins of Kherbet Tabouk (Arabic), which seems to have been a
place of some importance. Many wild fig-trees grow here. The direction
of our road was S. b. E. Here the woody country terminates, and we found
ourselves again upon the high plain called El Ahma, which has fertile
ground, but no trees. At two hours and a quarter is a ruined Birket, or
reservoir of rain water, called Om Aamoud (Arabic), from some fragments
of columns, which are found here. In two hours and a half we passed, on
our right, the Wady Szyr (Arabic), which has its source near the road,
und falls below into the Jordan. Above the source, on the declivity of
the valley, are the ruins called Szyr. We continued to travel along a
well trodden road for the greater part of the day. At three hours were
the ruins of Szar, to our left. At three hours and a half, and about
half an hour west of the road, are the ruins of Fokhara, on the side of
the Wady Eshta (Arabic), which empties itself into the Jordan. Here are
a number of wild fig-trees. The whole of the country to the right of the
road is intersected with deep Wadys and precipices, and is overgrown in
many parts with fine woods. We had at intervals a view of the Ghor
below. To the left of the road is the great plain, with many insulated
hillocks. In three hours and a half we passed a hill called Dhaheret el
Hemar (Arabic), or the Ass's Back. At three hours and three quarters, to
the right, are the ruins of Meraszas (Arabic), with a heap of stones
called Redjem Abd Reshyd (Arabic), where, according to Bedouin
tradition, a wonderful battle took place between a slave of an Arab
called Reshyd, and a whole party of his master's enemies. Here
terminates the district El Ahma. To the left are the ruins called Merdj
Ekke (Arabic). The soil in this vicinity is chalky. Last year a battle
was fought here between the troops of the Pasha of Damascus,


[p.365] and the Beni Szakher, in which the former were routed. At four
hours and a half, and about three quarters of an hour to our right, we
saw the ruins of Naour (Arabic) on the side of a rivulet of that name,
which falls into the Jordan opposite Rieha, or Jericho, driving in its
course several mills, where the Bedouins of the Belka grind their corn.
On both sides of the road are many vestiges of ancient field-enclosures.
From Naour our road lay S. At five hours and three quarters are the
ruins of El Aal (Arabic), probably the Eleale of the Scriptures: it
stands upon the summit of a hill, and takes its name from its situation,
Aal meaning "the high." It commands the whole plain; and the view from
the top of the hill is very extensive, comprehending the whole of the
southern Belka. From hence the mountain of Shyhhan (Arabic), behind
which lies Kerek, bears S. by W. El Aal was surrounded by a well built
wall, of which some parts yet remain. Among the ruins are a number of
large cisterns, fragments of walls, and the foundations of houses; but
nothing worth particular notice. The plain around is alternately chalk
and flint. At six hours and a quarter is Hesban (Arabic), upon a hill,
bearing S.W. from El Aal. Here are the ruins of a large ancient town,
together with the remains of some edifices built with small stones; a
few broken shafts of columns are still standing, a number of deep wells
cut in the rock, and a large reservoir of water for the summer supply of
the inhabitants. At about three quarters of an hour S.E. of Hesban are
the ruins of Myoun (Arabic), the ancient Baal Meon (Arabic), of the
tribe of Ruben.

In order to see Medaba, I left the great road at Hesban, and proceeded
in a more eastern direction. At six hours and three quarters, about one
hour distant from the road, I saw the ruins of Djeloul (Arabic), at a
short distance to the east of which, are the ruined places called El
Samek (Arabic), El Mesouh (Arabic), and


[p.366] Om el Aamed (Arabic), situated close together upon low
elevations. At about four hours distant, to the east of our road, I
observed a chain of hills, which begins near Kalaat Zerka, passes to the
east of Amman, near the Kalaat el Belka, (a station of the Syrian Hadj,
called by the Bedouins Kalaat Remeydan [Arabic]), and continues as far as
Wady Modjeb. The mountains bear the name of El Zoble (Arabic); the Hadj
route to Mekka lies along their western side. At seven hours and a
quarter is El Kefeyrat (Arabic), a ruined town of some extent. In seven
hours and a half we came to the remains of a well paved ancient
causeway; my guide told me that this had been formerly the route of the
Hadj, and that the pavement was made by the Mohammedans; but it appeared
to me to be a Roman work. At the end of eight hours we reached Madeba,
built upon a round hill; this is the ancient Medaba, but there is no
river near it. It is at least half an hour in circumference; I observed
many remains of the walls of private houses, constructed with blocks of
silex; but not a single edifice is standing. There is a large Birket,
which, as there is no spring at Madeba might still be of use to the
Bedouins, were the surrounding ground cleared of the rubbish, to allow
the water to flow into it; but such an undertaking is far beyond the
views of the wandering Arab. On the west side of the town are the
foundations of a temple, built with large stones, and apparently of
great antiquity. The annexed is its form and dimensions. A part of its
eastern wall remains, constructed in the same style as the castle wall
at Amman. At the entrance of one of the courts stand two columns of the
Doric order, each of two pieces, without bases, and thicker in the
centre than at either extremity, a peculiarity of which this is the only
instance I have seen in Syria. More modern capitals have been added, one

[p.367] which is Corinthian and the other Doric, and an equally coarse
architrave has been laid upon them. In the centre of one of the courts
is a large well.

About half an hour west of Madeba (Arabic), are the ruins of El Teym
(Arabic), perhaps the Kerjathaim of the Scripture, where, according to
my guide, a very large Birket is cut entirely in the rock, and is still
filled in the winter with rain water. As there are no springs in this
part of the upper plain of the Belka, the inha[bi]tants were obliged to
provide by cisterns for their supply of water during the summer months.
We returned from Madeba towards the great road, where we fell in with a
large party of Bedouins, on foot, who were going to rob by night an
encampment of Beni Szakher, at least fourteen hours distant from hence.
Each of them had a small bag of flower on his back, some were armed with
guns and others with sticks. I was afterwards informed that they drove
off above a dozen camels belonging to the Beni Szakher. They pointed out
to us the place where their tribe was encamped, and as we were then
looking out for some place where we might get a supper, of which we
stood in great need, we followed the direction they gave us. In turning
a little westwards we entered the mountainous country which forms the
eastern border of the valley of the Jordan, and descending in a S.W.
direction along the windings of a Wady, we arrived at a large encampment
of Bedouins, at the end of ten hours and a half from our setting out in
the morning. The upper part of the mountains consists entirely of
siliceous rock. We passed on the road several spots where the Bedouins
cultivate Dhourra.

We were well received by the Bedouins of the encampment; who are on good
terms with the people of Szalt: one of the principal Sheikhs of which
place is married to the daughter of the chief of this tribe. They belong
to the Ghanemat, whose Sheikh, called


[p.368] Abd el Mohsen (Arabic), is one of the first men in the Belka.
The chief tribe in this province, for many years, was the Adouan, but
they are now reduced to the lowest condition by their inveterate enemies
the Beni Szakher. The latter, whose abode had for a long space of time
been on the Hadj road, near Oella (Arabic), were obliged, by the
increasing power of the Wahabi, to retire towards the north. They
approached the Belka, and obtained from the Adouan, who were then in
possession of the excellent pasturage of this country, permission to
feed their cattle here, on paying a small annual tribute. They soon
proved, however, to be dangerous neighbours; having detached the greater
part of the other tribes of the Belka from their alliance with the
Adouan, they have finally succeeded in driving the latter across the
Zerka, notwithstanding the assistance which they received from the Pasha
of Damascus. Peace had been made in 1810, and both tribes had encamped
together near Amman, when Hamoud el Szaleh, chief of the Adouan, made a
secret arrangement with the Pasha's troops, and the tribe of Rowalla,
who were at war with the Beni Szakher to make a united attack upon them.
The plot was well laid, but the valour of the Beni Szakher proved a
match for the united forces of their enemies; they lost only about a
dozen of their horsemen, and about two thousand sheep, and since that
time an inveterate enmity has existed between the Beni Szakher and the
Adouan. The second chief of Adouan, an old man with thirteen sons, who
always accompany him to the field, joined the Beni Szakher, as did also
the greater part of the Arabs of the Belka. In 1812, the Adouan were
driven into the mountains of Adjeloun, and to all appearance will never
be able to re-enter the Belka.[For the enumeration of the Belka Arabs,
see the classification of Syrian Bedouins, in the Appendix.]

The superiority of the pasturage of the Belka over that of all southern
Syria, is the cause of its possession being thus contested.


[p.369] The Bedouins have this saying, "Thou canst not find a country
like the Belka."--Methel el Belka ma teltaka (Arabic); the beef and
mutton of this district are preferred to those of all others. The
Bedouins of the Belka are nominally subject to an annual tribute to the
Pasha of Damascus; but they are very frequently in rebellion, and pay
only when threatened by a superior force. For the last two years Abd el
Mohsen has not paid any thing. The contribution of the Adouan is one-
tenth of the produce of their camels, sheep, goats, and cows, besides
ten pounds of butter for every hundred sheep.[The hundred of any kind of
cattle is here called Shilleie (Arabic).] The Arabs of the Belka have
few camels; but their herds of cows, sheep, and goats are large; and
whenever they have a prospect of being able to secure the harvest
against the incursions of enemies, they cultivate patches of the best
soil in their territory. In summer they remain in the valleys on the
side of the Ghor, in the winter a part of them descend into the Ghor
itself, while the others encamp upon the upper plain of the Belka.

July 14th.--We left the encampment of Abd el Mohsen early in the morning,
and at one hour from it, descending along a winding valley, we reached
the banks of the rivulet Zerka Mayn (Arabic), which is not to be
confounded with the northern Zerka. Its source is not far from hence; it
flows in a deep and barren valley through a wood of Defle trees, which
form a canopy over the rivulet impenetrable to the meridian sun. The red
flowers of these trees reflected in the river gave it the appearance of
a bed of roses, and presented a singular contrast with the whitish gray
rocks which border the wood on either side. All these mountains are
calcareous, mixed with some flint. The water of the Zerka Mayn is almost
warm, and has a disagreeable taste, occasioned probably by the quantity
of Defle flowers that fall into it. Having crossed the river we ascended
the steep side of the mountain Houma (Arabic),


[p.370] at the top of which we saw the summit of Djebel Attarous
(Arabic), about half an hour distant to our right; this is the highest
point in the neighbourhood, and seems to be the Mount Nebo of the
Scripture. On its summit is a heap of stones overshaded by a very large
wild pistachio tree. At a short distance below, to the S.W. is the
ruined place called Kereyat (Arabic). The part of the mountain over
which we rode was completely barren, with an uneven plain on its top. In
two hours and a half we saw at about half an hour to our right, the
ruins of a place called Lob, which are of some extent. We passed an
encampment of Arabs Ghanamat. At the end of three hours and three
quarters, after an hour's steep descent, we reached Wady Wale (Arabic);
the stream contains a little more water than the Zerka Mayn; it runs in
a rocky bed, in the holes of which innumerable fish were playing; I
killed several by merely throwing stones into the water. The banks of
the rivulet are overgrown with willows, Defle, and tamarisks (Arabic),
and I saw large petrifactions of shells in the valley. About one hour to
the west of the spot where we passed the Wale are the ruins of a small
castle, situated on the summit of a lower ridge of mountains; the Arabs
call it Keraoum Abou el Hossein (Arabic).

In the valley of Wale a large party of Arabs Sherarat was encamped,
Bedouins of the Arabian desert, who resort hither in summer for
pasturage. They are a tribe of upwards of five thousand tents; but not
having been able to possess themselves of a district fertile in
pasturage, and being hemmed in by the northern Aeneze, the Aeneze of the
Nedjed, the Howeytat, and Beni Szakher, they wander about in misery,
have very few horses, and are not able to feed any flocks of sheep or
goats. They live principally on the Hadj route, towards Maan, and in
summer approach the Belka, pushing northward sometimes as far as
Haouran. They


[p.371] are obliged to content themselves with encamping on spots where
the Beni Szakher and the Aeneze, with whom they always endeavour to live
at peace, do not choose to pasture their cattle. The only wealth of the
Sherarat consists in camels. Their tents are very miserable; both men
and women go almost naked, the former being only covered round the
waist, and the women wearing nothing but a loose shirt hanging in rags
about them. These Arabs are much leaner than the Aeneze, and of a
browner complexion. They have the reputation of being very sly and
enterprising thieves, a title by which they think themselves greatly

In four hours and a half, after having ascended the mountain on the S.
side of the Wale, we reached a fine plain on its summit. All the country
to the southward of the Wale, as far as the Wady Modjeb, is comprised
under the appellation of El Koura, a term often applied in Syria to
plains: El Koura is the "Plains of Moab" of the Scripture; the soil is
very sandy, and not fertile. The Haouran black stone, or basalt, if it
may be so called, is again met with here. The river El Wale rises at
about three hours distance to the E. of the spot where we passed it,
near which it takes a winding course to the south until it approaches
the Modjeb, where it again turns westwards. The lower part of the river
changes its name into that of Seyl Heydan (Arabic), which empties itself
into the Modjeb at about two hours distant from the Dead sea, near the
ruined place called Dar el Ryashe (Arabic). The Wale seems to be the
same called Nahaliel in D'Anville's map, but this name is unknown to the
Arabs; its source is not so far northward as in the map. Between the
Wady Zerka Mayn and the Wale is another small rivulet called Wady el
Djebel (Arabic). At the end of six hours and a half we reached the banks
of the Wady Modjeb, the Arnon of the Scriptures, which divides the

[p.372] province of Belka from that of Kerek, as it formerly divided the
small kingdoms of the Moabites and the Amorites. When at about one
hour's distance short of the Modjeb I was shewn to the N.E. of us, the
ruins of Diban (Arabic), the ancient Dibon, situated in a low ground of
the Koura.

On the spot where we reached the high banks of the Modjeb are the ruins
of a place called Akeb el Debs (Arabic). We followed, from thence, the
top of the precipice at the foot of which the river flows, in an eastern
direction, for a quarter of an hour, when we reached the ruins of Araayr
(Arabic), the Aroer of the Scriptures, standing on the edge of the
precipice; from hence a foot-path leads down to the river. In the Koura,
about one hour to the west of Araayr, are some hillocks called Keszour
el Besheir (Arabic). The view which the Modjeb presents is very
striking: from the bottom, where the river runs through a narrow stripe
of verdant level about forty yards across, the steep and barren banks
arise to a great height, covered with immense blocks of stone which have
rolled down from the upper strata, so that when viewed from above, the
valley looks like a deep chasm, formed by some tremendous convulsion of
the earth, into which there seems no possibility of descending to the
bottom; the distance from the edge of one precipice to that of the
opposite one, is about two miles in a straight line.

We descended the northern bank of the Wady by a foot-path which winds
among the masses of rock, dismounting on account of the steepness of the
road, as we had been obliged to do in the two former valleys which we
had passed in this day's march; this is a very dangerous pass, as
robbers often waylay travellers here, concealing themselves behind the
rocks, until their prey is close to them. Upon many large blocks by the
side of the path I saw heaps of small stones, placed there as a sort of
weapon for the traveller,

[p.373] in case of need. No Arab passes without adding a few stones to
these heaps. There are three fords across the Modjeb, of which we took
that most frequented. I had never felt such suffocating heat as I
experienced in this valley, from the concentrated rays of the sun and
their reflection from the rocks. We were thirty-five minutes in reaching
the bottom. About twelve minutes above the river I saw on the road side
a heap of fragments of columns, which had been about eight feet in
height. A bridge has been thrown across the stream in this place, of one
high arch, and well built; but it is now no longer of any use, though
evidently of modern date. At a short distance from the bridge are the
ruins of a mill. The river, which flows in a rocky bed, was almost dried
up, having less water than the Zerka Mayn and Wale, but its bed bears
evident marks of its impetuosity during the rainy season, the shattered
fragments of large pieces of rock which had been broken from the banks
nearest the river, and carried along by the torrent, being deposited at
a considerable height above the present channel of the stream. A few
Defle and willow trees grow on its banks.

The principal source of the Modjeb is at a short distance to the N.E. of
Katrane, a station of the Syrian Hadj; there the river is called Seyl
Sayde [Seyl means rivulet in this country.] (Arabic), lower down it
changes its name to Efm el Kereim (Arabic), or, as it is also called,
Szefye (Arabic). At about one hour east of the bridge it receives the
waters of the Ledjoum, which flow from the N.E. in a deep bed; the
Ledjoum receives a rivulet caled Seyl el Mekhreys (Arabic), and then the
Baloua (Arabic), after which it takes the name of Enkheyle (Arabic).
Near the source of the Ledjoum is the ruined place called Tedoun

[p.374] (Arabic); and near the source of the Baloua is a small ruined
castle called Kalaat Baloua. The rivulet Salyhha (Arabic), coming from
the south, empties itself into the Modjeb below the bridge.

Near the confluence of the Ledjoum and the Modjeb there seemed to be a
fine verdant pasture ground, in the midst of which stands a hill with
some ruins upon it, and by the side of the river are several ruined
mills. In mounting the southern ascent from the Modjeb, we passed, upon
a narrow level at about five minutes from the bridge, the ruins of a
small castle, of which nothing but the foundations remains: it is called
Mehatet el Hadj (Arabic), from the supposition that the pilgrim route to
Mekka formerly passed here, and that this was a station of the Hadj.
Near the ruin is a Birket, which was filled by a canal from the Ledjoum,
the remains of which are still visible. This may, perhaps, be the site
of Areopolis. My guide told me that M. Seetzen had been partly stripped
at this place, by some Arabs. We did not meet with any living being in
crossing the Wady. Near the ruins is another heap of broken columns,
like those on the opposite bank of the river; I conjecture that the
columns were Roman milliaria, because a causeway begins here, and runs
all the way up the mountain, and from thence as far as Rabba; it is
about fifteen feet broad, and was well paved, though at present in a bad
state, owing to a torrent which rushes along it from the mountain in
winter time. At twenty-eight minutes from the Mehatet el Hadj are three
similar columns, entire, but lying on the ground. We were an hour and
three quarters in ascending from the bridge to the top; on this side the
road might easily be made passable for horses. In several places the
rock has been cut through to form the path. The lower part of the
mountains is calcareous; I found great numbers of small petrified
shells, and small pieces of mica are likewise met with. Towards


[p.375] the upper part of the mountain the ground is covered with large
blocks of the black Haouran stone,[It is from this black and heavy
stone, (which M. Seetzen calls basalt, but which I rather conceive to
belong to the species called tufwacke by the Germans), that the ancient
opinion of there having been mountains of iron on the east side of the
Jordan appears to have arisen. Even now the Arabs believe that these
stones consist chiefly of iron, and I was often asked if I did not know
how to extract it.] which I found to be more porous than any specimens
of it which I had seen further northward. On the summit of this steep
southern ascent are the ruins of a large square building, of which the
foundations only remain, covered with heaps of stone; they are directly
opposite Araayr, and the ruins above mentioned are also called Mehatet
el Hadj. I believe them to be of modern date.

We had now again reached a high plain. To our right, about three
quarters of an hour, was the Djebel Shyhhan, an insulated mountain, with
the ruined village of that name on its summit. To our left, on the E.
side of the Ledjoum, about two or three hours distant, is a chain of low
mountains, called El Ghoweythe (Arabic), running from N. to S. about
three or four hours. To the south of El Ghoweythe begins a chain of low
hills, called El Tarfouye (Arabic), which farther south takes the name
of Orokaraye (Arabic); it then turns westward, and terminates to the
south-west of Kerek. From the Mehatet el Hadj we followed the paved road
which leads in a straight line towards Rabba, in a S.W. direction; in
half an hour, we met some shepherds with a flock of sheep, who led us to
the tents of their people behind a hill near the side of the road. We
were much fatigued, but the kindness of our hosts soon made us forget
our laborious day's march. We alighted under the tent of the Sheikh, who
was dying of a wound he had received a few days before from a thrust of
a lance; but such is the hospitality of these people, and their
attention to the comforts


[p.376] of the traveller, that we did not learn the Sheikh's misfortune
till the following day. He was in the women's apartment, and we did not
hear him utter any complaints. They supposed, with reason, that if we
were informed of his situation it would prevent us from enjoying our
supper. A lamb was killed, and a friend of the family did the honours of
the table: we should have enjoyed our repast had there not been an
absolute want of water, but there was none nearer than the Modjeb, and
the daily supply which, according to the custom of the Arabs, had been
brought in before sun-rise, was, as often happens, exhausted before
night; our own water skins too, which we had filled at the Modjeb, had
been emptied by the shepherds before we reached the encampment. This
loss was the more sensible to me, as in desert countries where water
seldom occurs, not feeling great thirst during the heat of the day, I
was seldom in the habit of drinking much at that time; but in the
evening, and the early part of the night, I always drank with great

July 15th.--We left our kind hosts, who belonged to the Arabs Hamaide,
early in the morning, and continued our route along the ancient road. At
half an hour from the encampment we passed the ruined village El Ryhha
(Arabic), in one hour and a half we arrived at the ruins of an ancient
city called Beit Kerm (Arabic), belonging to which, on the side of the
road, are the remains of a temple of remote antiquity. Its shape is an
oblong square, one of the long sides forming the front, where was a
portica of eight columns in antis: the columns, three feet in diameter,
are lying on the ground. Within the temple, a great part of the walls of
which are fallen, there are fragments of smaller columns. The stones
used in the construction of the walls are about five feet long, and two
feet broad. At one hour and three quarters is the ruined village of
Hemeymat (Arabic). This district, which is an even plain, is


[p.377] very fertile, and large tracts are here cultivated by the
inhabitants of Kerek, and the Arabs Hamaide. At two hours and a half is
Rabba (Arabic), probably the ancient Rabbath Moab, where the ancient
causeway terminates. The ruins of Rabba are about half an hour in
circuit, and are situated upon a low hill, which commands the whole
plain. I examined a part of them only, but the rest seemed to contain
nothing remarkable. On the west side is a temple, of which one wall and
several niches remain, by no means distinguished for elegance. Near them
is a gate belonging to another building, which stood on the edge of a
Birket. Distant from these ruins about thirty yards stand two Corinthian
columns of middling size, one higher than the other. In the plain, to
the west of the Birket, stands an insulated altar. In the town many
fragments are lying about; the walls of the larger edifices are built
like those of Heit Kerm. There are many remains of private habitations,
but none entire. There being no springs in this spot, the town had two
Birkets, the largest of which is cut entirely out of the rocky ground,
together with several cisterns. About three quarters of an hour to the
S.E. of Rabba, are two copious springs, called El Djebeyba (Arabic), and
El Yaroud (Arabic). From Rabba our road lay S. by E. At four hours are
the ruins of Kereythela (Arabic). At the end of five hours we entered a
mountainous district, full of Wadys; and after a march of six hours we
reached the town of Kerek.

I hesitated where I should alight at Kerek, and whether I should
announce myself as a Turk or a Christian, for I knew that the success of
my progress southward depended upon the good will of the people of this
place. I had a letter of recommendation to the Sheikh of the town, given
to me by a Turkish gentleman of Damascus, whose wife was a native of
Kerek, and he had mentioned me in such terms as led me to anticipate a
good reception; but as I knew that I should be much harassed by
inquisitive visitors, were

[p.378] I to take up my lodgings at the Sheikh's house, I determined to
alight at some Christian's, and then consult upon my future proceeding
with the Greek priest, whom I knew by report. I no sooner entered the
north gate of the town, where is the quarter of the Christians, than I
was surrounded by several of these hospitable people, who took hold of
the bridle of my horse, every one insisting upon my repairing to his
dwelling; I followed one, and the whole neighbourhood was soon
assembled, to partake of the sheep that was slaughtered in honour of my
arrival; still no one had asked me who I was, or whither I was going.
After some conversation with the priest, I thought it expedient to pay a
visit of ceremony to the Sheikh, in order to deliver my letter; I soon
however had reason to repent: he received me very politely; but when he
heard of my intention of proceeding southward, he told me that he could
not allow of my going forward with one guide only, and that as he was
preparing to visit the southern districts himself, in a few days, I
should wait for him or his people to conduct me. His secretary then
informed me, that it was expected I should make some present to the
Sheikh, and pay him, besides, the sum which I must have given for a
guide. The present I flatly refused to make, saying that it was rather
the Sheikh's duty to make a present to the guest recommended to him by
such a person as my Damascene friend was. With respect to the second
demand, I answered that I had no more money with me than was absolutely
necessary for my journey. Our negotiations on this point lasted for
several days; when seeing that I could obtain no guide without an order
from the Sheikh, I at last agreed to pay fifteen piastres for his
company as far as Djebel Sherah. If I had shewn a disposition to pay
this sum immediately, every body would have thought that I had plenty of
money, and more considerable sums would have been extorted; in every
part of Turkey it is a prudent rule not

[p.379] to grant the Turks their demands immediately, because they soon
return to the charge. Had I not shewn my letter to the Sheikh, I should
have procured a guide with little trouble, I should have had it in my
power to see the borders of the Dead sea, and should have been enabled
to depart sooner; but having once made my agreement with him, I was
obliged to wait for his departure, which was put off from day to day,
and thus I was prevented from going to any distance from the town, from
the fear of being left behind. I remained therefore at Kerek for twenty
successive days, changing my lodgings almost every day, in order to
comply with the pressing invitations of its hospitable inhabitants.

The town of Kerek (Arabic), a common name in Syria, is built upon the
top of a steep hill, surrounded on all sides by a deep and narrow
valley, the mountains beyond which command the town. In the valley, on
the west and north sides, are several copious springs, on the borders of
which the inhabitants cultivate some vegetables, and considerable
plantations of olive trees. The principal of these sources are, Ain Sara
(Arabic), which issues from the rock in a very romantic spot, where a
mosque has been built, now in ruins; this rivulet turns three mills: the
other sources are Ain Szafszaf (Arabic), Ain Kobeyshe (Arabic), and Ain
Frandjy (Arabic), or the European spring, in the rock near which, as
some persons told me, is an inscription in Frank characters, but no one
ever would, or could, shew it me.

The town is surrounded by a wall, which has fallen down in several
places; it is defended by six or seven large towers, of which the
northern is almost perfect, and has a long Arabic inscription on its
wall, but too high to be legible from the ground; on each side of the
inscription is a lion in bas-relief, similar to those seen on the walls
of Aleppo and Damascus. The town had originally only two entrances, one
to the south and the other to the north; they are

[p.380] dark passages, forty paces in length, cut through the rock. An
inscription on the northern gate ascribes its formation to Sultan Seyf-
eddin (Arabic). Besides these two gates, two other entrances have been
formed, leading over the ruins of the town wall. At the west end of the
town stands a castle, on the edge of a deep precipice over the Wady
Kobeysha. It is built in the style of most of the Syrian castles, with
thick walls and parapets, large arched apartments, dark passages with
loop-holes, and subterraneous vaults; and it probably owes its origin,
like most of these castles, to the prudent system of defence adopted by
the Saracens against the Franks during the Crusades. In a large Gothic
hall are the remains of paintings in fresco, but so much defaced that
nothing can be clearly distinguished. Kerek having been for some time in
the hands of the Franks, this hall may have been built at that time for
a church, and decorated with paintings. Upon an uncouth figure of a man
bearing a large chain I read the letters IONI, painted in large
characters; the rest of the inscription was effaced. On the side towards
the town the castle is defended by a deep fosse cut in the rock; near
which are seen several remains of columns of gray and red granite. On
the south side the castle hill is faced with stone in the same manner as
at Aleppo, El Hossn, Szalkhat, &c. On the west side a wall has been
thrown across the Wady, to some high rocks, which project from the
opposite side; a kind of Birket has thus been formed, which formerly
supplied the garrison with water. In the castle is a deep well, and many
of the private houses also have wells, but their water is brackish;
others have cisterns, which save the inhabitants the trouble of fetching
their water from the Wady below. There are no antiquities in the town,
excepting a few fragments of granite columns. A good mosque, built by
Melek el Dhaher, is now in ruins. The Christians have a church,
dedicated to St. George, or El Khuder, which has been

[p.381] lately repaired. On the declivity of the Wady to the south of
the town are some ancient sepulchral caves, of coarse workmanship, cut
in the chalky rock.

Kerek is inhabited by about four hundred Turkish, and one hundred and
fifty Christian families; the former can furnish upwards of eight
hundred firelocks, the latter about two hundred and fifty. The Turks are
composed of settlers from all parts of southern Syria, but principally
from the mountains about Hebron and Nablous. The Christians are, for the
greater part, descendants of refugees from Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and
Beit Djade. They are free from all exactions, and enjoy the same rights
with the Turks. Thirty or forty years ago Kerek was in the hands of the
Bedouin tribe called Beni Ammer, who were accustomed to encamp around
the town and to torment the inhabitants with their extortions. It may be
remarked generally of the Bedouins, that wherever they are the masters
of the cultivators, the latter are soon reduced to beggary, by their
unceasing demands. The uncle of the present Sheikh of Kerek, who was
then head of the town, exasperated at their conduct, came to an
understanding with the Arabs Howeytat, and in junction with these,
falling suddenly upon the Beni Ammer, completely defeated them in two
encounters. The Ammer were obliged to take refuge in the Belka, where
they joined the Adouan, but were again driven from thence, and obliged
to fly towards Jerusalem. For many years afterwards they led a miserable
life, from not being sufficiently strong to secure to their cattle good
pasturing places. About six years ago they determined to return to
Kerek, whatever might be their fate; in their way round the southern
extremity of the Dead sea they lost two thirds of their cattle by the
attacks of their inveterate enemies, the Terabein. When, at last, they
arrived in the neighbourhood of Kerek, they threw themselves upon the
mercy of the present Sheikh

[p.382] of the town, Youssef Medjaby, who granted them permission to
remain in his district, provided they would obey his commands. They were
now reduced, from upwards of one thousand tents, to about two hundred,
and they may at present be considered as the advanced guard of the
Sheikh of Kerek, who employs them against his own enemies, and makes
them encamp wherever he thinks proper. The inhabitants of Kerek have
thus become formidable to all the neighbouring Arabs; they are complete
masters of the district of Kerek, and have great influence over the
affairs of the Belka.

The Christians of Kerek are renowned for their courage, and more
especially so, since an action which lately took place between them and
the Rowalla, a tribe of Aeneze; a party of the latter had on a Sunday,
when the men were absent, robbed the Christian encampment, which was at
about an hour from the town, of all its cattle. On the first alarm given
by the women, twenty-seven young men immediately pursued the enemy, whom
they overtook at a short distance, and had the courage to attack, though
upwards of four hundred men mounted on camels, and many of them armed
with firelocks. After a battle of two hours the Rowalla gave way, with
the loss of forty-three killed, a great many wounded, and one hundred
and twenty camels, together with the whole booty which they had carried
off. The Christians had only four men killed. To account for the success
of this heroic enterprise, I must mention that the people of Kerek are
excellent marksmen; there is not a boy among them who does not know how
to use a firelock by the time he is ten years of age.

The Sheikh of Kerek has no greater authority over his people than a
Bedouin Sheikh has over his tribe. In every thing which regards the
Bedouins, he governs with the advice of the most respectable individuals
of the town; and his power is not absolute enough to deprive the meanest
of his subjects of the smallest part

[p.383] that prevails prevents the increase of wealth, and the richest
man in the town is not worth more than about L1000. sterling. Their
custom of entertaining strangers is much the same as at Szalt; they have
eight Menzels, or Medhafe (Arabic), for the reception of guests, six of
which belong to the Turks, and two to the Christians; their expenses are
not defrayed by a common purse: but whenever a stranger takes up his
lodging at one of the Medhafes, one of the people present declares that
he intends to furnish that day's entertainment, and it is then his duty
to provide a dinner or supper, which he sends to the Medhafe, and which
is always in sufficient quantity for a large company. A goat or a lamb
is generally killed on the occasion, and barley for the guest's horse is
also furnished. When a stranger enters the town the people almost come
to blows with one another in their eagerness to have him for their
guest, and there are Turks who every other day kill a goat for this
hospitable purpose. Indeed it is a custom here, even with respect to
their own neighbours, that whenever a visitor enters a house, dinner or
supper is to be immediately set before him. Their love of entertaining
strangers is carried to such a length, that not long ago, when a
Christian silversmith, who came from Jerusalem to work for the ladies,
and who, being an industrious man, seldom stirred out of his shop, was
on the point of departure after a two months residence, each of the
principal families of the town sent him a lamb, saying that it was not
just that he should lose his due, though he did not choose to come and
dine with them. The more a man expends upon his guests, the greater is
his reputation and influence; and the few families who pursue an
opposite conduct are despised by all the others.

Kerek is filled with guests every evening; for the Bedouins, knowing
that they are here sure of a good supper for themselves and their
horses, visit it as often as they can; they alight at one Medhafe,
[p.385] go the next morning to another, and often visit the whole before
they depart. The following remarkable custom furnishes another example
of their hospitable manners: it is considered at Kerek an unpardonable
meanness to sell butter or to exchange it for any necessary or
convenience of life; so that, as the property of the people chiefly
consists in cattle, and every family possesses large flocks of goats and
sheep, which produce great quantities of butter, they supply this
article very liberally to their guests. Besides other modes of consuming
butter in their cookery, the most common dish at breakfast or dinner, is
Fetyte, a sort of pudding made with sour milk, and a large quantity of
butter. There are families who thus consume in the course of a year,
upwards of ten quintals of butter. If a man is known to have sold or
exchanged this article, his daughters or sisters remain unmarried, for
no one would dare to connect himself with the family of a Baya el Samin
(Arabic), or seller of butter, the most insulting epithet that can be
applied to a man of Kerek. This custom is peculiar to the place, and
unknown to the Bedouins.

The people of Kerek, intermarry with the Bedouins; and the Aeneze even
give the Kerekein their girls in marriage. The sum paid to the father of
the bride is generally between six and eighthundred piastres; young men
without property are obliged to serve the father five or six years, as
menial servants, in compensation for the price of the girl. The Kerekein
do not treat their wives so affectionately as the Bedouins; if one of
them falls sick, and her sickness is likely to prevent her for some time
from taking care of the family affairs, the husband sends her back to
her father's house, with a message that "he must cure her;" for, as he
says, "I bought a healthy wife of you, and it is not just that I should
be at the trouble and expense of curing her." This is a rule with both
Mohammedans and Christians. It is not the custom for the

[p.386] husband to buy clothes or articles of dress for his wife; she
is, in consequence, obliged to apply to her own family, in order to
appear decently in public, or to rob her husband of his wheal and
barley, and sell it clandestinely in small quantities; nor does she
inherit the smallest trifle of her husband's property. The Kerekein
never sleep under the same blanket with their wives; and to be accused
of doing so, is considered as great an insult as to be called a coward.

The domestic manners of the Christians of Kerek are the same as those of
the Turks; their laws are also the same, excepting those relating to
marriage; and in cases of litigation, even amongst themselves, they
repair to the tribunal of the Kadhy, or judge of the town, instead of
submitting their differences to their own Sheikhs. The Kadhy is elected
by the Sheikhs. With respect to their religious duties, they observe
them much less than any other Greeks in Syria; few of them frequent the
church, alleging, not without reason, that it is of no use to them,
because they do not understand one word of the Greek forms of prayer.
Neither are they rigid observers of Lent, which is natural enough, as
they would be obliged to live almost entirely on dry bread, were they to
abstain wholly from animal food. Though so intimately united with the
Turks both by common interests and manners, as to be considered the same
tribe, yet there exists much jealousy among the adherents of the two
religions, which is farther increased by the Sheikh's predilection for
the Christians. The Turks seeing that the latter prosper, have devised a
curious method of participating in the favours which Providence may
bestow on the Christians on account of their religion: many of them
baptise their male children in the church of St. George, and take
Christian godfathers for their sons. There is neither Mollah nor fanatic
Kadhy to prevent this practice, and the Greek priest, who

[p.387] is handsomely paid for baptising, reconciles his conscientious
scruples by the hope that the boy so baptized may perhaps die a
Christian; added to this, he does not give the child entire baptism, but
dips the hands and feet only in the water, while the Christian child
receives total immersion, and this pious fraud sets all his doubts at
rest as to the legality of the act. The priests pretend nevertheless
that such is the efficacy of the baptism that these baptised Turks have
never been known to die otherwise than by old age.

Kerek is the see of a Greek bishop, who generally resides at Jerusalem.
The diocese is called Battra (Arabic) in Arabic, and [Greek] in Greek;
and it is the general opinion among the clergy of Jerusalem, that Kerek
is the ancient Petra;[The Greek bishops belonging to the Patriarchal see
of Jerusalem are: 1. Kaisaryet Filistin; 2. Bysan: 3. Battra; 4. Akka;
5. Bethlehem; 6. Nazareth. The Greek bishops in partibus (Arabic) are;
1. Lyd; 2. Gaza; 3. Syna; 4. Yaffa; 5. Nablous; 6. Shabashye; 7. Tor
Thabour: 8. Djebel Adjeloun.] but it will be seen in the sequel of this
journal that there is good reason to think they are mistaken; Kerek
therefore is probably the Charax Omanorum of Pliny. The bishop's revenue
is about six pounds sterling per annum; he visits his diocese every five
or six years. During my stay, a Greek priest arrived from Jerusalem, to
collect for his convent, which had been at a great expense in rebuilding
the church of the Holy Sepulchre. The Greeks delivered to him in sheep
to the value of about fifteen pounds sterling.

The Kerekein cultivate the plains in the neighbouring mountains and feed
their cattle on the uncultivated parts. One-third of the people remain
encamped the whole year at two or three hours distant from the town, to
superintend the cattle; the rest encamp in the harvest time only. During
the latter period the Christians have two large camps or Douars, and the
Turks five. Here they

[p.388] live like Bedouins, whom they exactly resemble, in dress, food,
and language. The produce of their fields is purchased by the Bedouins,
or exchanged for cattle. The only other commercial intercourse carried
on by them is with Jerusalem, for which place a caravan departs every
two months, travelling either by the route round the southern extremity
of the Dead sea, which takes three days and a half, or by crossing the
Jordan, a journey of three days. At Jerusalem they sell their sheep and
goats, a few mules, of which they have an excellent breed, hides, wool,
and a little Fowa or madder (Rubia tinctorum), which they cultivate in
small quantities; in return they take coffee, rice, tobacco, and all
kinds of articles of dress, and of household furniture. This journey,
however, is undertaken by few of the natives of Kerek, the trade being
almost wholly in the hands of a few merchants of Hebron, who keep shops
at Kerek, and thus derive large profits from the indolence or ignorance
of the Kerekein. I have seen the most common articles sold at two
hundred per cent. profit. The trade is carried on chiefly by barter: and
every thing is valued in measures of corn, this being the readiest
representative of exchange in the possession of the town's-people; hence
the merchants, make their returns chiefly in corn and partly in wool.
The only artizans in Kerek who keep shops are a blacksmith, a shoemaker,
and a silversmith. When the Mekka caravan passes, the Kerekein sell
provisions of all kinds to the Hadj, which they meet at the castle of
Katrana. Many Turks, as well as Christians, in the town, have negro
slaves, whom they buy from the Bedouins, who bring them from Djidda and
Mekka: there are also several families of blacks in Kerek, who have
obtained their liberty, and have married free black women.

The houses of Kerek have only one floor, and three or four are generally
built in the same court-yard. The roof of the apartment

[p.389] is supported by two arches, much in the same way as in the
ancient buildings of the Haouran, which latter however have generally
but one arch. Over the arches thick branches of trees are laid, and over
the latter a thin layer of rushes. Along the wall at the extremity of
the room, opposite to the entrance, are large earthen reservoirs of
wheat (Kowari Arabic). There is generally no other aperture in these
rooms than the door, a circumstance that renders them excessively
disagreeable in the winter evenings, when the door is shut and a large
fire is kindled in the middle of the floor.

Some of the Arab tribes in the territory of Kerek pay a small annual
tribute to the Sheikh of Kerek, as do likewise the peasants who
cultivate the shores of the Dead sea. In order, however, to secure their
harvests against any casualties, the Kerekein have deemed it expedient
to pay, on their, part, a tribute to the Southern Arabs called El
Howeytat, who are continually passing this way in their expeditions
against the Beni Szakher. The Christians pay to one of the Howeytat
Sheikhs one Spanish dollar per family, and the Turks send them annually
about fifteen mule loads of carpets which are manufacured at Kerek.
Whenever the Sheikhs of the Beni Szakher visit the town, they receive
considerable presents by way of a friendly tribute.

The district of Kerek comprises three other villages, which are under
the orders of the Sheikh of Kerek: viz. Ketherabba (Arabic), Oerak
(Arabic), and Khanzyre (Arabic). There are besides a great number of
ruined places in the district, the principal of which are the following;
Addar (Arabic), Hedjfa (Arabic), Hadada (Arabic), Thenye (Arabic), three
quarters of an hour to the S. of the town; Meddyn (Arabic), Mouthe
(Arabic), Djeldjoun (Arabic), Djefeiras (Arabic), Datras (Arabic), about
an hour and a half S.E. of the town, where some walls of houses remain;
Medjdelein (Arabic), Yarouk (Arabic), Seraf

[p.390] (Arabic), Meraa (Arabic), and Betra, where is a heap of stones
on the foot of a high hill, distant from Kerek to the southward and
westward about five hours.

Several Wadys descend from the mountains of Kerek into the plain on the
shore of the Dead sea, and are there lost, either in the sands or in the
fields of the peasants who cultivate the plain, none of them reaching
the lake itself in the summer. To the S. of Modjeb is the Seyl Djerra
(Arabic), and farther south, Wady Beni Hammad (Arabic). In the valley of
this river, perhaps the Zared of Scripture, are hot-wells, with some
ruined buildings near them, about five hours from Kerek, in a northern
direction. Next follow Seyl el Kerek, Wady el Draah (Arabic), Seyl Assal
(Arabic), perhaps Assan, which rises nearer Ketherabba; El Nemeyra
(Arabic), coming from Oerak; Wady Khanzyre (Arabic), and El Ahhsa, a
river which divides the territory of Kerek from the district to the S.
of it, called El Djebel.

Not having had an opportunity of descending to the borders of the Dead
sea, I shall subjoin here a few notes which I collected from the people
of Kerek. I have since been informed that M. Seetzen, the most
indefatigable traveller that ever visited Syria, has made the complete
tour of the Dead sea; I doubt not that he has made many interesting
discoveries in natural history.

The mountains which inclose the Ghor, or valley of the Jordan, open
considerably at the northern extremity of the Dead sea, and encompassing
it on the W. and E. sides approach again at its S. extremity, leaving
only a narrow plain between them. The plain on the west side, between
the sea and the mountains, is covered with sand, and is unfit for
cultivation; but on the E. side, and especially towards the S.
extremity, where it continues to bear the appellation of El Ghor
(Arabic), the plain is in many places very fertile. Its breadth

[p.391] varies from one to four and five miles; it is covered with
forests, in the midst of which the miserable peasants build their huts
of rushes, and cultivate their Dhourra and tobacco fields. These
peasants are called El Ghowarene (Arabic), and amount to about three
hundred families; they live very poorly, owing to the continual
exactions of the neighbouring Bedouins, who descend in winter from the
mountains of Belka and Kerek, and pasture their cattle amidst the
fields. The heat of the climate of this low valley, during the summer,
renders it almost uninhabitable; the people then go nearly naked; but
their low huts, instead of affording shelter from the mid-day heat
rather increase it. At this period violent intermittent fevers prevail,
to which, however, they are so much accustomed, that they labour in the
fields during the intervals of the paroxysms of the disease.

The principal settlement of the Ghowarene is at the southern extremity
of the sea, near the embouchure of the Wady el Ahhsa; their village is
called Ghor Szafye (Arabic), and is the winter rendezvous of more than
ten large tribes of Bedouins. Its situation corresponds with that of
Zoar. The spots not cultivated being for the greater part sandy, there
is little pasturage, and the camels, in consequence, feed principally
upon the leaves of the trees.

About eight hours to the N. of Szafye is the Ghor el Mezra (Arabic), a
village much frequented by the people of Kerek, who there buy the
tobacco which they smoak. About the middle of the lake on the same
eastern shore, are some ruins of an ancient city, called Towahein el
Sukkar (Arabic) i.e. the Sugar Mills. Farther north the mountains run
down to the lake, and a steep cliff overhangs the sea for about an hour,
shutting out all passage along the shore. Still farther to the north are
the ruined places called Kafreyn (Arabic), and Rama (Arabic), and in the
valley of the Jordan, south of Abou Obeida, are the ruins of Nemrin
(Arabic), probably


[p.392] the Bethnimra of the Scriptures. In the vegetable productions of
this plain the botanist would perhaps discover several unknown species
of trees and plants; the reports of the Arabs on this subject are so
vague and incoherent, that it is almost impossible to obtain any precise
information from them; they speak, for instance, of the spurious
pomegranate tree, producing a fruit exactly like that of the
pomegranate, but which, on being opened, is found to contain nothing but
a dusty powder; this, they pretend, is the Sodom apple-tree; other
persons however deny its existence. The tree Asheyr (Arabic), is very
common in the Ghor. It bears a fruit of a reddish yellow colour, about
three inches in diameter, which contains a white substance, resembling
the finest silk, and enveloping some seeds. The Arabs collect the silk,
and twist it into matches for their fire-locks, preferring it to the
common match, because it ignites more readily. More than twenty camel
loads might be annually procured, and it might perhaps be found useful
in the silk and cotton manufactories of Europe. At present the greater
part of the fruit rots on the trees. On making an incision into the
thick branches of the Asheyr a white juice exsudes, which is collected
by putting a hollow reed into the incision; the Arabs sell the juice to
the druggists at Jerusalem, who are said to use it in medicine as a
strong cathartic.[It is the same plant called Oshour by the people of
Upper Egypt and Nubia. Norden, who has given a drawing of it, as found
by him near the first cataract of the Nile, improperly denominates it

Indigo is a very common production of the Ghor; the Ghowarene sell it to
the merchants of Jerusalem and Hebron, where it is worth twenty per
cent. more than Egyptian indigo. One of the most interesting productions
of this valley is the Beyrouk honey, or as the Arabs call it, Assal
Beyrouk (Arabic). I suppose it to be the manna, but I never had an
opportunity of seeing it myself. It was described to me, as a juice
dropping from the

[p.393] leaves and twigs of a tree called Gharrab (Arabic), of the size
of an olive tree, with leaves like those of the poplar, but somewhat
broader. The honey collects upon the leaves like dew, and is gathered
from them, or from the ground under the tree, which is often found
completely covered with it. According to some its colour is brownish;
others said it was of a grayish hue; it is very sweet when fresh, but
turns sour after being kept two days. The Arabs eat it like honey, with
butter, they also put it into their gruel, and use it in rubbing their
water skins, in order to exclude the air. I enquired whether it was a
laxative, but was answered in the negative. The Beyrouk honey is
collected only in the months of May and June. Some persons assured me
that the same substance was likewise produced by the thorny tree
Tereshresh (Arabic), and collected at the same time as that from the

In the mountains of Shera grows a tree called Arar (Arabic), from the
fruit of which the Bedouins extract a juice, which is extremely
nutritive. The tree Talh (Arabic), which produces the gum arabic
(Arabic), is very common in the Ghor; but the Arabs do not take the
trouble to collect the gum. Among other vegetable productions there is a
species of tobacco, called Merdiny (Arabic), which has a most
disagreeable taste; but, for want of a better kind, it is cultivated in
great quantity, and all the Bedouins on the borders of the Dead sea are
supplied with it. The coloquintida (Arabic or Arabic), grows wild every
where in great quantities. The tree Szadder (Arabic), which is a species
of the cochineal tree, is also very common.

As to the mineral productions of the borders of the Dead sea, it appears
that the southern mountains are full of rock salt, which is washed off
by the winter rains, and carried down into the lake. In the northern
Ghor pieces of native sulphur are found at a small


[p.394] depth beneath the surface, and are used by the Arabs to cure
diseases in their camels. The asphaltum (Arabic), Hommar, which is
collected by the Arabs of the western shore, is said to come from a
mountain which blocks up the passage along the eastern Ghor, and which
is situated at about two hours south of wady Modjeb. The Arabs pretend
that it oozes from the fissures in the cliff, and collects in large
pieces on the rock below, where the mass gradually increases and
hardens, until it is rent asunder by the heat of the sun, with a loud
explosion, and falling into the sea, is carried by the waves in
considerable quantities to the opposite shores. At the northern
extremity of the sea the stink-stone is found; its combustible
properties are ascribed, by the Arabs, to the magic rod of Moses, whose
tomb is not far from thence. The stones are thrown into the fires made
of camel's dung, to encrease the heat.

Concerning the lake itself, I was informed that no visible increase of
its waters takes place in winter time, as the greater part of the
torrents which descend from the eastern mountains do not reach the lake,
but are lost in the sandy plain. About three hours north of Szaffye is a
ford, by which the lake is crossed in three hours and a half. Some Arabs
assured me that there are spots in this ford where the water is quite
hot, and where the bottom is of red earth. It is probable that there are
hot springs in the bottom of the lake, which near the ford is nowhere
deeper than three or four feet; and generally only two feet. The water
is so strongly impregnated with salt, that the skin of the legs of those
who wade across it soon afterwards peels entirely off.

The mountains about Kerek are all calcareous, with flint; they abound
with petrified shells, and some of the rocks consist entirely of small
shells. Fine specimens of calcareous spath, called by the Arabs Hadjar
Ain el Shems (Arabic), the Sun's eye, are found

[p.395] here. Ancient coins of copper, silver, and even of gold are
found in the fields near Kerek; in general they are bought by the
silversmiths, and immediately melted. I procured a few of copper upon
which was the Greek legend of [Greek].

The direction of Jerusalem from Kerek, as pointed out to me several
times, is N. by W. The direction of Katrane, a station of the pilgrim
caravan to Mekka, is E.S.E. distant about eight hours. That of Szaffye,
or the S. point of the Dead sea, is W. by S. distant about twelve hours.
The Dead sea is here called Bahret Lout, the Sea of Lot. August
4th.--After having remained nearly three weeks at Kerek, waiting from day
to day for the departure of the Sheikh, he at last set out, accompanied
by about forty horsemen. The inhabitants of Kerek muster about one
hundred horsemen, and have excellent horses; the Sheikh himself
possessed the finest horse I had seen in Syria; it was a gray Saklawy,
famous all over the desert.

We descended into the valley of Ain Frandjy, and ascended the mountain
on the other side, our road lying nearly S.S.W. In one hour and a half
from Kerek we reached the top of the mountain, from whence we had a fine
view of the southern extremity of the Dead sea, which presented the
appearance of a lake, with many islands or shoals covered with a white
saline crust. The water is very shallow for about three hours from its
south end. Where narrowest, it may be about six miles across. The
mountain which we had passed was a barren rock of flint and chalk. We
met with an encampment of Beni Hamyde, where we breakfasted. At the end
of two hours and a half we reached, on the descent of the mountain, Ain
Terayn (Arabic), a fine spring, with the ruins of a city near it. The
rivulet which takes its rise here joins that of Ketherabba, and descends
along a narrow valley into the Ghor, which it reaches near the ruined
place called Assal, from which it takes the name of Wady


[p.396] Assal. Near the rivulet are some olive plantations. At two hours
and three quarters is Ketherabba (Arabic), a village with about eighty
houses. Many of its inhabitants live under tents pitched in the square
open spaces left among the houses of the village. The gardens contain
great numbers of large fig trees. The mountains in the neighbourhood are
cultivated in some parts by the Beni Ammer. The village of Szaffye in
the Ghor bears from hence W.

August 5th.--We left Ketherabba early in the morning. Our road lay
through a wild and entirely barren rocky country, ascending and
descending several Wadys. In one hour and a quarter we came to Oerak
(Arabic), a village of the same size as the former, very picturesquely
situated; it is built at the foot of a high perpendicular cliff, down
which a rivulet rushes into the Wady below. Many immense fragments have
separated from the cliff, and fallen down; and amongst these rocks the
houses of the village are built. Its inhabitants cultivate, besides
wheat, barley, and dhourra, olives, figs, and tobacco, which they sell
to advantage. We rested here the greater part of the day, under a large
Kharnoub tree. Our Sheikh had no pressing business, but like all Arabs,
fond of idleness, and of living well at other people's expense, he by no
means hastened his journey, but easily found a pretext for stopping;
wherever we alighted a couple of sheep or goats were immediately killed,
and the best fruits, together with plenty of tobacco, were presented to
us. Our company increased at every village, as all those Arabs who had
horses followed us, in order to partake of our good fare, so that our
party amounted at last to eighty men. At two hours and a quarter is a
fine spring; two hours and a half, the village Khanzyre (Arabic), which
is larger than Oerak and Ketherabba. Here we stopped a whole day, our
Sheikh having a house in the village, and a wife, whom he dared not
carry to Kerek, having another family there. In the evening he held a

[p.397] of justice, as he had done at Ketherabba, and decided a number
of disputes between the peasants; the greater part of these were
concerning money transactions between husbands and the families of their
wives; or related to the mixed property of the Arabs in mares, in
consequence of the Bedouin custom of selling only one-half, or one-third
of those animals.

August 6th.------Khanzyre is built on the declivity of one of the highest
mountains on the eastern side of the Dead sea; in its neighbourhood are
a number of springs whose united waters form a rivulet which irrigates
the fields belonging to the village, and an extensive tract of gardens.
The villages of this country are each governed by its own Sheikh, and
the peasants are little better than Bedouins; their manners, dress, and
mode of living are exactly the same. In the harvest time they live in
the mountains under tents, and their cattle is entrusted during the
whole year to a small encampment of their own shepherds. In the
afternoon of this day we were alarmed by loud cries in the direction of
the opposite mountain. The whole of our party immediately mounted, and I
also followed. On reaching the spot from whence the cries came, we found
two shepherds of Khanzyre quite naked; they had been stripped by a party
of the Arabs Terabein, who live in the mountains of Hebron, and each of
the robbers had carried off a fat sheep upon his mare. They were now too
far off to be overtaken; and our people, not being able to engage the
enemy, amused themselves with a sham-fight in their return home. They
displayed superior strength and agility in handling the lance, and great
boldness in riding at full speed over rugged and rocky ground. In the
exercise with the lance the rider endeavours to put the point of it upon
the shoulder of his adversary, thus showing that his life is in his
power. When the parties become heated, they often bear off upon their
lances the turbands of their adversaries, and carry them

[p.398] about with insolent vociferation. Our Sheikh of Kerek, a man of
sixty, far excelled all his people in these youthful, exercises; indeed
he seemed to be an accomplished Bedouin Sheikh; though he proved to be a
treacherous friend to me. As I thought that I had settled matters with
him, to his entire satisfaction, I was not a little astonished, when he
took me aside in the evening to announce to me, that unless he received
twenty piastres more, he would not take charge of me any farther.
Although I knew it was not in his power to hinder me from following him,
and that he could not proceed to violence without entirely losing his
reputation among the Arabs, for ill-treating his guest, yet I had
acquired sufficient knowledge of the Sheikh's character to be persuaded
that if I did not acquiesce in his demand, he would devise some means to
get me into a situation which it would have perhaps cost me double the
sum to escape from; I therefore began to bargain with him; and brought
him down to fifteen piastres. I then endeavoured to bind him by the most
solemn oath used by the Bedouins; laying his hand upon the head of his
little boy, and on the fore feet of his mare, he swore that he would,
for that sum, conduct me himself, or cause me to be conducted, to the
Arabs Howeytat, from whence I might hope to find a mode of proceeding in
safety to Egypt. My precautions, however, were all in vain. Being
satisfied that my cash was reduced to a few piastres, he began his plans
for stripping me of every other part of my property which had excited
his wishes. The day after his oath, when we were about to depart from
Ayme, he addressed me in the presence of the whole company, saying that
his saddle would fit my horse better than my own did, and that he would
therefore change saddles with me. Mine was worth nearly forty piastres,
his was not worth more than ten. I objected to the exchange, pretending
that I was not accustomed to ride upon the low Bedouin saddle; he
replied, by assuring

[p.399] me that I should soon find it much more agreeable than the town
saddle; moreover, said he, you may depend upon it that the Sheikh of the
Howeytat will take your saddle from you, if you do not give it to me. I
did not dare to put the Sheikh in mind of his oath, for had I betrayed
to the company his having extorted from me so much, merely for the sake
of his company, he would certainly have been severely reprimanded by the
Bedouins present, and I should thus have exposed myself to the effects
of his revenge. All the bye-standers at the same time pressed me to
comply with his request: "Is he not your brother?" said they. "Are not
the best morsels of his dish always for you? Does he not continually
fill your pipe with his own tobacco? Fie upon your stinginess." But they
did not know that I had calculated upon paying part of the hire of a
guide to Egypt with the value of the saddle, nor that I had already
handsomely paid for my brotherhood. I at last reluctantly complied; but
the Sheikh was not yet satisfied: the stirrups he had given me, although
much inferior to those he had taken from me, were too good in his eyes,
to form part of my equipment. In the evening his son came to me to
propose an exchange of these stirrups against a pair of his own almost
unfit for use, and which I knew would wound my ankles, as I did not wear
boots; but it was in vain to resist. The pressing intreaties of all my
companions in favour of the Sheikh's son lasted for two whole days;
until tired at length with their importunity, I yielded, and, as had
expected, my feet were soon wounded. I have entered into these details
in order to shew what Arab cupidity is: an article of dress, or of
equipment, which the poorest townsman would be ashamed to wear, is still
a covetable object with the Bedouins; they set no bounds to their
demands, delicacy is unknown amongst them, nor have they any word to
express it; if indeed one persists in refusing, they never take the
thing by force; but it is extremely


[p.400] difficult to resist their eternal supplications and compliments
without yielding at last. With regard to my behaviour towards the
Bedouins, I always endeavoured, by every possible means, to be upon good
terms with my companions, whoever they were, and I seldom failed in my
endeavours. I found, by experience, that putting on a grave face, and
talking wisely among them was little calculated to further the
traveller's views. On the contrary, I aspired to the title of a merry
fellow; I joked with them whenever I could, and found that by a little
attention to their ways of thinking and reasoning, they are easily put
into good humour. This kind of behaviour, however, is to be observed
only in places where one makes a stay of several days, or towards fellow
travellers: in passing rapidly through Arab encampments, it is better
for the traveller not to be too talkative in the tents where he alights,
but to put on a stern countenance.

We left Khanzyre late in the evening, that we might enjoy the coolness
of the night air. We ascended for a short time, and then began to
descend into the valley called Wady el Ahsa. It had now become dark, and
this was, without exception, the most dangerous route I ever travelled
in my life. The descent is steep, and there is no regular road over the
smooth rocks, where the foot slips at every step. We had missed our way,
and were obliged to alight from our horses, after many of us had
suffered severe falls. Our Sheikh was the only horseman who would not
alight from his mare, whose step, he declared, was as secure as his own.
After a march of two hours and a half, we halted upon a narrow plain, on
the declivity of the Wady, called El Derredje (Arabic), where we lighted
a fire, and remained till day-break.

August 7th.--In three quarters of an hour from Derredje, we reached the
bottom of the valley. The Wady el Ahsa (Arabic), which takes its rise
near the castle El Ahsa, or El Hassa, on the


[p.401] Syrian Hadj road, runs here in a deep and narrow bed of rocks,
the banks of which are overgrown with Defle. There was more water in the
rivulet than in any of those I had passed south of Zerka; the water was
quite tepid, caused by a hot spring, which empties itself into the Ahsa
from a side valley higher up the Wady. This forms the third hot spring
on the east of the Dead sea, one being in the Wady Zerka Mayn, and
another in the Wady Hammad. The valley of El Ahsa divides the district
of Kerek from that of Djebal (plur. of Djebel), the ancient Gebalene. In
the Ghor the river changes its name into that of Kerahy (Arabic), and is
likewise called Szafye (Arabic). This name is found in all the maps of
Arabia Petraea, but the course of the river is not from the south, as
there laid down; Djebal also, instead of being laid down at the S.E.
extremity of the lake, is improperly placed as beginning on the S.W. of
it. The rock of the Wady el Ahsa is chiefly sand-stone, which is seldom
met with to the N. of this valley; but it is very common in the southern

We ascended the southern side of the valley, which is less steep and
rocky than the northern, and in an hour and a half reached a fine spring
called El Kaszrein (Arabic) surrounded by verdant ground and tall reeds.
The Bedouins of the tribe of Beni Naym, here cultivate some Dhourra
fields and there are some remains of ancient habitations. In two hours
and a quarter we arrived at the top of the mountain, when we entered
upon an extensive plain, and passed the ruins of an ancient city of
considerable extent called El Kerr (Arabic), perhaps the ancient Kara, a
bishopric belonging to the diocese of Rabba Moabitis;[See Reland.
Palaest. Vol. i. p. 226.] nothing remains but heaps of stones. The plain,
which we crossed in a S.W. by S. direction, consists of a fertile soil,
and contains the ruins of several villages. At the end of two hours and
three quarters we descended by a steep road, into a Wady, and in three
hours reached the village of


[p.402] Ayme (Arabic), situated upon a narrow plain at the foot of high
cliffs. In its neighbourhood are several springs, and wherever these are
met with, vegetation readily takes place, even among barren sandrocks.
Ayme is no longer in the district of Kerek, its Sheikh being now under
the command of the Sheikh of Djebal, whose residence is at Tafyle. One
half of the inhabitants live under tents, and every house has a tent
pitched upon its terrace, where the people pass the mornings and
evenings, and sleep. The climate of all these mountains, to the
southward of the Belka, is extremely agreeable; the air is pure, and
although the heat is very great in summer, and is still further
increased by the reflexion of the sun's rays from the rocky sides of the
mountains, yet the temperature never becomes suffocating, owing to the
refreshing breeze which generally prevails. I have seen no part of Syria
in which there are so few invalids. The properties of the climate seem
to have been well known to the ancients, who gave this district the
appellation of Palaestina tertia, sive salutaris. The winter is very
cold; deep snow falls, and the frosts sometimes continue till the middle
of March. This severe weather is doubly felt by the inhabitants, as
their dress is little fitted to protect them from it. During my stay in
Gebalene, we had every morning a fog which did not disperse till mid-
day. I could perceive the vapours collecting in the Ghor below, which,
after sun-set, was completely enveloped in them. During the night they
ascend the sides of the mountains, and in general are not entirely
dissipated until near mid-day. From Khanzyre we had the Ghor all the way
on our right, about eight or ten hours distant; but, in a straight line,
not more than six hours.

August 8th.--At one hour and a quarter from Ayme, route S. b. W. we
reached Tafyle (Arabic), built on the declivity of a mountain, at the
foot of which is Wady Tafyle. This name bears some resemblance to that
of Phanon or Phynon, which, according


[p.403] to Eusebius, was situated between Petra and Zoara.[Euseb. de
nom. S.S.] Tafyle contains about six hundred houses; its Sheikh is the
nominal chief of Djebal, but in reality the Arabs Howeytat govern the
whole district, and their Sheikh has lately constructed a small castle
at Tafyle at his own expense. Numerous springs and rivulets (ninety-nine
according to the Arabs), the waters of which unite below and flow into
the Ghor, render the vicinity of this town very agreeable. It is
surrounded by large plantations of fruit trees: apples, apricots, figs,
pomegranates, and olive and peach trees of a large species are
cultivated in great numbers. The fruit is chiefly consumed by the
inhabitants and their guests, or exchanged with the Bedouin women for
butter; the figs are dried and pressed together in large lumps, and are
thus exported to Ghaza, two long days journey from hence.

The inhabitants of Djebal are not so independent as the Kerekein,
because they have not been able to inspire the neighbouring Bedouins
with a dread of their name. They pay a regular tribute to the Beni
Hadjaya, to the Szaleyt, but chiefly to the Howeytat, who often exact
also extraordinary donations. Wars frequently happen between the people
of Djebal and of Kerek, principally on account of persons who having
committed some offence, fly from one town to seek an asylum in the
other. At the time of my visit a coolness had existed between the two
districts for several months, on account of a man of Tafyle, who having
eloped with the wife of another, had taken refuge at Kerek; and one of
the principal reasons which had induced our Sheikh to undertake this
journey, was the hope of being able to bring the affair to an amicable
termination. Hence we were obliged to remain three days at Tafyle,
tumultuous assemblies were held daily, upon the subject, and the meanest
Arab might give his opinion, though in direct

[p.404] opposition to that of his Sheikh. The father of the young man
who had eloped had come with us from Kerek, for the whole family had
been obliged to fly, the Bedouin laws entitling an injured husband to
kill any of the offender's relations, in retaliation for the loss of his
wife. The husband began by demanding from the young man's father two
wives in return for the one carried off, and the greater part of the
property which the emigrant family possessed in Tafyle. The father of
the wife and her first cousin also made demands of compensation for the
insult which their family had received by her elopement. Our Sheikh,
however, by his eloquence and address, at last got the better of them
all: indeed it must in justice be said that Youssef Medjaly was not more
superior to the other mountaineers in the strength of his arm, and the
excellence of his horsemanship, than he was by his natural talents. The
affair was settled by the offender's father placing his four infant
daughters, the youngest of whom was not yet weaned, at the disposal of
the husband and his father-in-law, who might betrothe them to whomsoever
they chose, and receive themselves the money which is usually paid for
girls. The four daughters were estimated at about three thousand
piastres, and both parties seemed to be content. In testimony of peace
being concluded between the two families, and of the price of blood
being paid, the young man's father, who had not yet shewn himself
publickly, came to shake hands with the injured husband, a white flag
was suspended at the top of the tent in which we sat, a sheep was
killed, and we passed the whole night in feasting and conversation.

The women of Tafyle are much more shy before strangers than those of
Kerek. The latter never, or at least very seldom, veil themselves, and
they discourse freely with all strangers; the former, on the contrary,
imitate the city ladies in their pride, and reserved manners. The
inhabitants of Tafyle, who are of the tribe

[p.405] of Djowabere (Arabic), supply the Syrian Hadj with a great
quantity of provisions, which they sell to the caravan at the castle El
Ahsa; and the profits which they derive from this trade are sometimes
very great. It is much to be doubted whether the peasants of Djebal and
Shera will be able to continue their field-labour, if the Syrian pilgrim
caravan be not soon re-established. The produce of their soil hardly
enables them to pay their heavy tribute to the Bedouins, besides feeding
the strangers who alight at their Menzels: for all the villages in this
part of the country treat their guests in the manner, which has already
been described. The people of Djebal sell their wool, butter, and hides
at Ghaza, where they buy all the little luxuries which they stand in
need of; there are, besides, in every village, a few shopkeepers from El
Khalyl or Hebron, who make large profits. The people of Hebron have the
reputation of being enterprising merchants, and not so dishonest as
their neighbours of Palestine: their pedlars penetrate far into the
desert of Arabia, and a few of them remain the whole year round at
Khaibar in the Nedjed.

The fields of Tafyle are frequented by immense numbers of crows; the
eagle Rakham is very common in the mountains, as are also wild boars. In
all the Wadys south of the Modjeb, and particularly in those of Modjeb
and El Ahsa, large herds of mountain goats, called by the Arabs Beden
(Arabic), are met with. This is the Steinbock, or Bouquetin of the Swiss
and Tyrol Alps they pasture in flocks of forty or fifty together; great
numbers of them are killed by the people of Kerek and Tafyle, who hold
their flesh in high estimation. They sell the large knotty horns to the
Hebron merchants, who carry them to Jerusalem, where they are worked
into handles for knives and daggers. I saw a pair of these horns at
Kerek three feet and a half in length. The Arabs told

[p.406] me that it is very difficult to get a shot at them, and that the
hunters hide themselves among the reeds on the banks of streams where
the animals resort in the evening to drink; they also asserted, that
when pursued, they will throw themselves from a height of fifty feet and
more upon their heads without receiving any injury. The same thing is
asserted by the hunters in the Alps. In the mountains of Belka, Kerek,
Djebal, and Shera, the bird Katta [This bird is a species of partridge,
Tetrao Alkatta, and is found in large flocks in May and June in every
part of Syria. It has been particularly described in Russel's Aleppo,
vol. ii. p. 194.] is met with in immense numbers; they fly in such large
flocks that the Arab boys often kill two and three at a time, merely by
throwing a stick amongst them. Their eggs, which they lay in the rocky
ground, are collected by the Arabs. It is not improbable that this bird
is the Seloua (Arabic), or quail, of the children of Israel.

The peasants of Tafyle have but few camels; they till the ground with
oxen and cows, and use mules for the transport of their provisions. At
half an hour south of Tafyle is the valley of Szolfehe (Arabic). From a
point above Tafyle the mountains of Dhana (which I shall have occasion
to mention hereafter) bore S.S.W.

August 11th.--During our stay at Tafyle we changed our lodgings twice
every day, dining at one public house and supping at another. We were
well treated, and had every evening a musical party, consisting of
Bedouins famous for their performance upon the Rababa, or guitar of the
desert, and who knew all the new Bedouin poetry by heart. I here met a
man from Aintab, near Aleppo, who hearing me talk of his native town,
took a great liking to me, and shewed me every civility.

We left Tafyle on the morning of the 11th. In one hour we reached a
spring, where a party of Beni Szaleyt was encamped. At two hours was a
ruined village, with a fine spring, at the head of


[p.407] a Wady. Two hours and three quarters, the village Beszeyra
(Arabic). Our road lay S.W. along the western declivity of the
mountains, having the Ghor continually in view. The Wadys which descend
the mountains of Djebal south of Tafyle do not reach the lowest part of
the plain in the summer, but are lost in the gravelly soil of the
valley. Beszeyra is a village of about fifty houses. It stands upon an
elevation, on the summit of which a small castle has been built, where
the peasants place their provisions in times of hostile invasion. It is
a square building of stone, with strong walls. The villages of Beszeyra,
Szolfehe, and Dhana are inhabited by descendants of the Beni Hamyde, a
part of whom have thus become Fellahein, or cultivators, while the
greater number still remain in a nomadic state. Those of Beszeyra lived
formerly at Omteda, now a ruined village three or four hours to the
north of it. At that time the Arabs Howeytat were at war with the
Djowabere, whose Sheikh was an ally of the Hamyde. The Howeytat defeated
the Djowabere, and took Tafyle, where they constructed a castle, and
established a Sheikh of their own election; they also built, at the same
time, the tower of Beszeyra. The Hamyde of Omteda then emigrated to this
place, which appears to have been, in ancient times, a considerable
city, if we may judge from the ruins which surround the village. It was
probably the ancient Psora, a bishopric of Palaestina tertia.[See
Reland. Palaest. vol i. p. 218.] The women of Beszeyra were the first
whom I saw wearing the Berkoa (Arabic), or Egyptian veil, over their

The Sheikh of Kerek had come thus far, in order to settle a dispute
concerning a colt which one of the Hamyde of Beszeyra demanded of him.
We found here a small encampment of Howeytat Arabs, to one of whom the
Sheikh recommended me: he professed to know the man well, and assured me
that he was a proper guide. We settled the price of his hire to Cairo,
at eighty piastres; and he was to provide me with a camel for myself and
baggage. This was


[p.408] the last friendly service of Sheikh Youssef towards me, but I
afterwards learnt, that he received for his interest in making the
bargain, fifteen piastres from the Arab, who, instead of eighty, would
have been content with forty piastres. After the Sheikh had departed on
his return, my new guide told me that his camels were at another
encampment, one day's distance to the south, and that he had but one
with him, which was necessary for the transport of his tent. This avowal
was sufficient to make me understand the character of the man, but I
still relied on the Sheikh's recommendation. In order to settle with the
guide I sold my mare for four goats and for thirty-five piastres worth
of corn, a part of which I delivered to him, and I had the remainder
ground into flour, for our provision during the journey; he took the
goats in payment of his services, and it was agreed that I should give
him twenty piastres more on reaching Cairo. I had still about eighty
piastres in gold, but kept them carefully concealed in case of some
great emergency; for I knew that if I were to shew a single sequin, the
Arabs would suppose that I possessed several hundreds, and would either
have robbed me of them, or prevented me from proceeding on my journey by
the most exorbitant demands.

August 13th.--I remained two days at Beszeyra, and then set out with the
family of my guide, consisting of his wife, two children, and a servant
girl. We were on foot, and drove before us the loaded camel and a few
sheep and goats. Our road ascended; at three quarters of an hour, we
came to a spring in the mountain. The rock is here calcareous, with
basalt. At two hours and a half was Ain Djedolat (Arabic), a spring of
excellent water; here the mountain is overgrown with short Balout trees.
At the end of two hours and three quarters, direction S. we reached the
top of the mountain, which is covered with large blocks of basalt. Here
a fine view opened upon us; to our right we had the deep valley of Wady
Dhana, with the village of the


[p.409] same name on its S. side; farther west, about four hours from
Dhana, we saw the great valley of the Ghor, and towards the E. and S.
extended the wide Arabian desert, which the Syrian pilgrims cross in
their way to Medina. In three hours and a quarter, after a slight
descent, we reached the plain, here consisting of arable ground covered
with flints. We passed the ruins of an ancient town or large village,
called El Dhahel (Arabic). The castle of Aaneiza (Arabic), with an
insulated hillock near it, a station of the pilgrims, bore S.S.E.
distant about five hours; the town of Maan, S. distant ten or twelve
hours; and the castle El Shobak, S.S.W. East of Aaneiza runs a chain of
hills called Teloul Djaafar (Arabic). Proceeding a little farther, we
came to the high borders of a broad valley, called El Ghoeyr (Arabic),
(diminutive of Arabic El Ghor) to the S. of Wady Dhana. Looking down
into this valley, we saw at a distance a troop of horsemen encamped near
a spring; they had espied us, and immediately mounted their horses in
pursuit of us. Although several people had joined our little caravan on
the road, there was only one armed man amongst us, except myself. The
general opinion was that the horsemen belonged to the Beni Szakher, the
enemies of the Howeytat, who often make inroads into this district;
there was therefore no time to lose; we drove the cattle hastily back,
about a quarter of an hour, and hid them, with the women and baggage,
behind some rocks near the road, and we then took to our heels towards
the village of Dhana (Arabic), which we reached in about three quarters
of an hour, extremely exhausted, for it was about two o'clock in the
afternoon and the heat was excessive. In order to run more nimbly over
the rocks, I took off my heavy Arab shoes, and thus I was the first to
reach the village; but the sharp flints of the mountain wounded my feet
so much, that after reposing a little I could hardly stand upon my legs.
This was the first time I had ever felt fear during my travels


[p.410] in the desert; for I knew that if I fell in with the Beni
Szakher, without any body to protect me, they would certainly kill me,
as they did all persons whom they supposed to belong to their inveterate
enemy, the Pasha of Damascus, and my appearance was very much that of a
Damascene. Our fears however were unfounded; the party that pursued us
proved to be Howeytat, who were coming to pay a visit to the Sheikh at
Tafyle; the consequence was that two of our companions, who had staid
behind, because being inhabitants of Maan, and friends of the Beni
Szakher, they conceived themselves secure, were stripped by the
pursuers, whose tribe was at war with the people of Maan. Dhana, which I
suppose to be the ancient Thoana, is prettily situated, on the declivity
of Tor Dhana, the highest mountain of Djebal, and has fine gardens and
very extensive tobacco plantations. The Howeytat have built a tower in
the village. The inhabitants were now at war with those of Beszeyra, but
both parties respect the lives of their enemies, and their hostile
expeditions are directed against the cattle only. Having reposed at
Dhana we returned in the evening to the spot where we had left the women
and the baggage, and rested for the night at about a quarter of an hour
beyond it.

August 14th.--We skirted, for about an hour, the eastern borders of Wady
Ghoeyr, when we descended into the valley, and reached its bottom at the
end of three hours and a half, travelling at a slow pace. This Wady
divides the district of Djebal from that of Djebal Shera (Arabic), or
the mountains of Shera, which continue southwards towards the Akaba.
These are the mountains called in the Scriptures Mount Seir, the
territory of the Edomites. The valley of Ghoeyr is a large rocky and
uneven basin, considerably lower than the eastern plain, upwards of
twelve miles across at its eastern extremity, but narrowing towards


[p.411] the west. It is intersected by numerous Wadys of winter
torrents, and by three or four valleys watered by rivulets which unite
below and flow into the Ghor. The Ghoeyr is famous for the excellent
pasturage, produced by its numerous springs, and it has, in consequence,
become a favourite place of encampment for all the Bedouins of Djebal
and Shera. The borders of the rivulets are overgrown with Defle and the
shrub Rethem (Arabic). The rock is principally calcareous; and there are
detached pieces of basalt and large tracts of brescia formed of sand,
flint, and pieces of calcareous stone. In the bottom of the valley we
passed two rivulets, one of which is called Seil Megharye (Arabic),
where we arrived at the end of a four hours walk, and found some Bedouin
women washing their blue gowns, and the wide shirts of their husbands. I
had taken the lead of our party, accompanied by my guide's little boy,
with whom I reached an encampment, on the southern side of the valley,
to which these women belonged. This was the encampment to which my guide
belonged, and where he assured me that I should find his camels. I was
astonished to see nobody but women in the tents, but was told that the
greater part of the men had gone to Ghaza to sell the soap-ashes which
these Arabs collect in the mountains of Shera. The ladies being thus
left to themselves, had no impediment to the satisfying of their
curiosity, which was very great at seeing a townsman, and what was still
more extraordinary, a man of Damascus (for so I was called), under their
tents. They crowded about me, and were incessant in their inquiries
respecting my affairs, the goods I had to sell, the dress of the town
ladies, &c. &c. When they found that I had nothing to sell, nor any
thing to present to them, they soon retired; they however informed me
that my guide had no other camels in his possession than the one we had
brought with us, which was already lame. He soon afterwards arrived, and
when I began to expostulate with him on his

[p.412] conduct, he assured me that his camel would be able to carry us
all the way to Egypt, but begged me to wait a few days longer, until he
should be well enough to walk by its side; for, since we left Beszeyra
he had been constantly complaining of rheumatic pains in his legs. I saw
that all this was done to gain time, and to put me out of patience, in
order to cheat me of the wages he had already received; but, as we were
to proceed on the following day to another encampment at a few hours
distance, I did not choose to say any thing more to him on the subject
in a place where I had nobody but women to take my part; hoping to be
able to attack him more effectually in the presence of his own

August 15th.--We remained this day at the women's tents, and I amused
myself with visiting almost every tent in the encampment, these women
being accustomed to receive strangers in the absence of their husbands.
The Howeytat Arabs resemble the Egyptians in their features; they are
much leaner and taller than the northern Arabs; the skin of many of them
is almost black, and their features are much less regular than those of
the northern Bedouins, especially the Aeneze. The women are tall and
well made, but too lean; and even the handsomest among them are
disfigured by broad cheek bones.

The Howeytat occupy the whole of the Shera, as far as Akaba, and south
of it to Moyeleh (Arabic), five days from Akaba, on the Egyptian Hadj
road. To the east they encamp as far as Akaba el Shamy, or the Akaba on
the Syrian pilgrim route; while the northern Howeytat take up their
winter quarters in the Ghor. The strength of their position in these
mountains renders them secure from the attacks of the numerous hordes of
Bedouins who encamp in the eastern Arabian desert; they are, however, in
continual warfare with them, and sometimes undertake expeditions of
twenty days journey, in order to surprise some encampment of their

[p.413] enemies in the plains of the Nedjed. The Beni Szakher are most
dreaded by them, on account of their acquaintance with the country, and
peace seldom lasts long between the two tribes. The encampment where I
spent this day was robbed of all its camels last winter by the Beni
Szakher, who drove off, in one morning, upwards of twelve hundred
belonging to their enemies. The Howeytat receive considerable sums of
money as a tribute from the Egyptian pilgrim caravan; they also levy
certain contributions upon the castles on the Syrian Hadj route,
situated between Maan and Tebouk, which they consider as forming a part
of their territory. They have become the carriers of the Egyptian Hadj,
in the same manner, as the Aeneze transport with their camels the Syrian
pilgrims and their baggage. When at variance with the Pashas of Egypt,
the Howeytat have been known to plunder the caravan; a case of this kind
happened about ten years ago, when the Hadj was returning from Mekka;
the principal booty consisted of several thousand camel loads of Mocha
coffee, an article which the pilgrims are in the constant habit of
bringing for sale to Cairo; the Bedouins not knowing what to do with so
large a quantity, sold the greater part of it at Hebron, Tafyle, and
Kerek, and that year happening to be a year of dearth, they gave for
every measure of corn an equal measure of coffee. The Howeytat became
Wahabis; but they paid tribute only for one year, and have now joined
their forces with those of Mohammed Aly, against Ibn Saoud.

August 16th.--We set out for the encampment of the Sheikh of the northern
Howeytat, with the tent and family of my guide: who was afraid of
leaving them in this place where be thought himself too much exposed to
the incursions of the Beni Szakher. We ascended on foot, through many
Wadys of winter torrents, up the southern

[p.414] mountains of the Ghoeyr; we passed several springs, and the
ruined place called Szyhhan (Arabic), and at the end of three hours walk
arrived at a large encampment of the Howeytat, situated near the summit
of the basin of the Ghoeyr. It is usual, when an Arab with his tent
reaches an encampment placed in a Douar (Arabic), or circle, that some
of the families strike their tents, and pitch them again in such a way
as to widen the circle for the admission of the stranger's tent; but the
character of my guide did not appear to be sufficiently respectable to
entitle him to this compliment, for not a tent was moved, and he was
obliged to encamp alone out of the circle, in the hope that they would
soon break up for some other spot where he might obtain a place in the
Douar. These Arabs are much poorer than the Aeneze, and consequently
live much worse. Had it not been for the supply of butter which I bought
at Beszeyra, I should have had nothing but dry bread to eat; there was
not a drop of milk to be got, for at this time of the year the ewes are
dry; of camels there was but about half a dozen in the whole encampment.

I here came to an explanation with my guide, who, I saw, was determined
to cheat me out of the wages he had already received. I told him that I
was tired of his subterfuges, and was resolved to travel with him no
longer, and I insisted upon his returning me the goats, or hiring me
another guide in his stead. He offered me only one of the goats; after a
sharp dispute therefore I arose, took my gun, and swore that I would
never re-enter his tent, accompanying my oath with a malediction upon
him, and upon those who should receive him into their encampment, for I
had been previously informed that he was not a real Howeytat, but of the
tribe of Billy, the individuals of which are dispersed over the whole
desert. On quitting his tent, I was surrounded by the Bedouins

[p.415] of the encampment, who told me that they had been silent till
now, because it was not their affair to interfere between a host and his
guest, but that they never would permit a stranger to depart in that
way; that I ought to declare myself to be under the Sheikh's protection,
who would do me justice. This being what I had anticipated, I
immediately entered the tent of the Sheikh, who happened to be absent;
my guide now changed his tone, and began by offering me two goats to
settle our differences. In the evening the Sheikh arrived, and after a
long debate I got back my four goats, but the wheat which I had received
at Beszeyra, as the remaining part of the payment for my mare, was left
to the guide. In return for his good offices, the Sheikh begged me to
let him have my gun, which was worth about fifteen piastres; I presented
it to him, and he acknowledged the favour, by telling me that he knew an
honest man in a neighbouring encampment, who had a strong camel, and
would be ready to serve me as a guide.

August 18th.--I took a boy to shew me the way to this person, and driving
my little flock before us, we reached the encampment, which was about
one hour to the westward. The boy told the Bedouin that I had become the
Sheikh's brother, I was therefore well received, and soon formed a
favourable opinion of this Arab, who engaged to take me to Cairo for the
four goats, which I was to deliver to him now, and twenty piastres
(about one pound sterling) to be paid on my arrival in Egypt. This will
be considered a very small sum for a journey of nearly four hundred
miles; but a Bedouin puts very little value upon time, fatigue, and
labour; while I am writing this, many hundred loaded camels, belonging
to Bedouins, depart every week from Cairo for Akaba, a journey of ten
days, for which they receive twenty-five piastres per camel. Had I been
known to be an European, I certainly should not have been able to move
without promising at least a thousand piastres to my guide. The
excursion of M. Boutin, a French traveller, from


[p.416] Cairo to the Oasis of Jupiter Ammon, a journey of twelve days,
undertaken in the summer of 1812, cost for guides only, four thousand

August 19th.--In the morning I went to the castle of Shobak, where I
wished to purchase some provisions. It was distant one hour and a
quarter from the encampment, in a S.E. direction. Shobak, also called
Kerek el Shobak (Arabic), perhaps the ancient Carcaria,[Euseb. de locis
S.S.] is the principal place in Djebel Shera; it is situated about one
hour to the south of the Ghoeyr, upon the top of a hill in the midst of
low mountains, which bears some resemblance to Kerek, but is better
adapted for a fortress, as it is not commanded by any higher mountains.
At the foot of the hill are two springs, surrounded by gardens and olive
plantations. The castle is of Saracen construction, and is one of the
largest to the south of Damascus; but it is not so solidly built as the
castle of Kerek. The greater part of the wall and several of the
bastions and towers are still entire. The ruins of a well built vaulted
church are now transformed into a public inn or Medhafe. Upon the
architraves of several gates I saw mystical symbols, belonging to the
ecclesiastical architecture of the lower empire. In several Arabic
inscriptions I distinguished the name of Melek el Dhaher. Where the hill
does not consist of precipitous rock, the surface of the slope is
covered with a pavement. Within the area of the castle a party of about
one hundred families of the Arabs Mellahein (Arabic) have built their
houses or pitched their tents. They cultivate the neighbouring grounds,
under the protection of the Howeytat, to whom they pay tribute. The
horsemen of the latter who happen to encamp near the castle, call
regularly every morning at one of the Medhafes of Shobak, in order to
have their mares fed; if the barley is refused, they next day kill one
of the sheep belonging to the town.

At one hour and a half north of Shobak, on the side of the

[p.417] Ghoeyr, lies the village of Shkerye (Arabic). From Shobak the
direction of Wady Mousa is S.S.W. Maan bears S.S.E. The mountain over
Dhana, N.N.E. To the east of the castle is an encampment of Bedouin
peasants, of the tribe of Hababene (Arabic), who cultivate the ground.
As I had no cash in silver, and did not wish to shew my sequins, I was
obliged to give in exchange for the provisions which I procured at
Shobak my only spare shirt, together with my red cap, and half my
turban. The provisions consisted of flour, butter, and dried Leben, or
sour milk mixed with flour and hardened in the sun, which makes a most
refreshing drink when dissolved in water. There are several Hebron
merchants at Shobak.

August 20th.--I remained in the tent of my new guide, who delayed his
departure, in order to obtain from his friends some commissions for
Cairo, upon which he might gain a few piastres. In the afternoon of this
day we had a shower of rain, with so violent a gust of wind, that all
the tents of the encampment were thrown down at the same moment, for the
poles are fastened in the ground very carelessly during the summer

August 21st.--The whole encampment broke up in the morning, some Bedouins
having brought intelligence that a strong party of Beni Szakher had been
seen in the district of Djebal. The greater part of the males of the
Howeytat together with their principal Sheikh Ibn Rashyd (Arabic), were
gone to Egypt, in order to transport the Pasha's army across the desert
to Akaba and Yambo; we had therefore no means of defence against these
formidable enemies, and were obliged to take refuge in the neighbourhood
of Shobak, where they would not dare to attack the encampment. When the
Bedouins encamp in small numbers, they choose a spot surrounded by high
ground, to prevent their tents from being


[p.418] seen at a distance. The camp is, however, not unfrequently
betrayed by the camels which pasture in the vicinity.

In the evening we took our final departure, crossing an uneven plain,
covered with flints and the ruins of several villages, and then
descended into the Wady Nedjed (Arabic); the rivulet, whose source is in
a large paved basin in the valley, joins that of Shobak. Upon the hills
which border this pleasant valley are the ruins of a large town of the
same name, of which nothing remains but broken walls and heaps of
stones. In one hour and a quarter from our encampment, and about as far
from Shobak, we reached the camp of another tribe of Fellahein Bedouins,
called Refaya (Arabic), where we slept. They are people of good
property, for which they are indebted to their courage in opposing the
extortions of the Howeytat. Here were about sixty tents and one hundred
firelocks. Their herds of cows, sheep, and goats are very numerous, but
they have few camels. Besides corn fields they have extensive vineyards,
and sell great quantities of dried grapes at Ghaza, and to the Syrian
pilgrims of the Hadj. They have the reputation of being very daring

August 22nd.--I was particularly desirous of visiting Wady Mousa, of the
antiquities of which I had heard the country people speak in terms of
great admiration; and from thence I had hoped to cross the desert in a
straight line to Cairo; but my guide was afraid of the hazards of a
journey through the desert, and insisted upon my taking the road by
Akaba, the ancient Eziongeber, at the extremity of the eastern branch of
the Red sea, where he said that we might join some caravans, and
continue our route towards Egypt. I wished, on the contrary, to avoid
Akaba, as I knew that the Pasha of Egypt kept there a numerous garrison
to watch the movements of the Wahabi and of his rival the Pasha of


[p.419] a person therefore like myself, coming from the latter place,
without any papers to shew who I was, or why I had taken that circuitous
route, would certainly have roused the suspicions of the officer
commanding at Akaba, and the consequences might have been dangerous to
me among the savage soldiery of that garrison. The road from Shobak to
Akaba, which is tolerably good, and might easily be rendered practicable
even to artillery, lies to the E. of Wady Mousa; and to have quitted it,
out of mere curiosity to see the Wady, would have looked very suspicious
in the eyes of the Arabs; I therefore pretended to have made a vow to
slaughter a goat in honour of Haroun (Aaron), whose tomb I knew was
situated at the extremity of the valley, and by this stratagem I thought
that I should have the means of seeing the valley in my way to the tomb.
To this my guide had nothing to oppose; the dread of drawing upon
himself, by resistance, the wrath of Haroun, completely silenced him.

We left the Refaya early in the morning, and travelled over hilly
ground. At the end of two hours we reached an encampment of Arabs
Saoudye (Arabic), who are also Fellahein or cultivators, and the
strongest of the peasant tribes, though they pay tribute to the
Howeytat. Like the Refaya they dry large quantities of grapes. They lay
up the produce of their harvest in a kind of fortress called Oerak
(Arabic), not far from their camp, where are a few houses surrounded by
a stone wall. They have upwards of one hundred and twenty tents. We
breakfasted with the Saoudye, and then pursued the windings of a valley,
where I saw many vestiges of former cultivation, and here and there some
remains of walls and paved roads, all constructed of flints. The country
hereabouts is woody. In three hours and a half we passed a spring, from
whence we ascended a mountain, and travelled for some time along its
barren summit, in a S.W. direction, when we again descended, and reached


[p.420] Mousa, distant five hours and a half from where we had set out
in the morning. Upon the summit of the mountain near the spot where the
road to Wady Mousa diverges from the great road to Akaba, are a number
of small heaps of stones, indicating so many sacrifices to Haroun. The
Arabs who make vows to slaughter a victim to Haroun, think it sufficient
to proceed as far as this place, from whence the dome of the tomb is
visible in the distance; and after killing the animal they throw a heap
of stones over the blood which flows to the ground. Here my guide
pressed me to slaughter the goat which I had brought with me from
Shobak, for the purpose, but I pretended that I had vowed to immolate it
at the tomb itself. Upon a hill over the Ain Mousa the Arabs Lyathene
(Arabic) were encamped, who cultivate the valley of Mousa. We repaired
to their encampment, but were not so hospitably received as we had been
the night before.

Ain Mousa is a copious spring, rushing from under a rock at the eastern
extremity of Wady Mousa. There are no ruins near the spring; a little
lower down in the valley is a mill, and above it is the village of
Badabde (Arabic), now abandoned. It was inhabited till within a few
years by about twenty families of Greek Christians, who subsequently
retired to Kerek. Proceeding from the spring along the rivulet for about
twenty minutes, the valley opens, and leads into a plain about a quarter
of an hour in length and ten minutes in breadth, in which the rivulet
joins with another descending from the mountain to the southward. Upon
the declivity of the mountain, in the angle formed by the junction of
the two rivulets, stands Eldjy (Arabic), the principal village of Wady
Mousa. This place contains between two and three hundred houses, and is
enclosed by a stone wall with three regular gates. It is most
picturesquely situated, and is inhabited by the


[p.421] Lyathene abovementioned, a part of whom encamp during the whole
year in the neighbouring mountains. The slopes of the mountain near the
town are formed into artificial terraces, covered with corn fields and
plantations of fruit trees. They are irrigated by the waters of the two
rivulets and of many smaller springs which descend into the valley below
Eldjy, where the soil is also well cultivated. A few large hewn stones
dispersed over the present town indicate the former existence of an
ancient city in this spot, the happy situation of which must in all ages
have attracted inhabitants. I saw here some large pieces of beautiful
saline marble, but nobody could tell me from whence they had come, or
whether there were any rocks of this stone in the mountains of Shera.

I hired a guide at Eldjy, to conduct me to Haroun's tomb, and paid him
with a pair of old horse-shoes. He carried the goat, and gave me a skin
of water to carry, as he knew that there was no water in the Wady below.

In following the rivulet of Eldjy westwards the valley soon narrows
again; and it is here that the antiquities of Wady Mousa begin. Of these
I regret that I am not able to give a very complete account: but I knew
well the character of the people around me; I was without protection in
the midst of a desert where no traveller had ever before been seen; and
a close examination of these works of the infidels, as they are called,
would have excited suspicions that I was a magician in search of
treasures; I should at least have been detained and prevented from
prosecuting my journey to Egypt, and in all probability should have been
stripped of the little money which I possessed, and what was infinitely
more valuable to me, of my journal book. Future travellers may visit the
spot under the protection of an armed force; the inhabitants will become
more accustomed to the researches of strangers; and the antiquities of

[p.422] Wady Mousa will then be found to rank amongst the most curious
remains of ancient art.

At the point where the valley becomes narrow is a large sepulchral
vault, with a handsome door hewn in the rock on the slope of the hill
which rises from the right bank of the torrent: on the same side of the
rivulet, a little farther on, I saw some other sepulchres with singular
ornaments. Here a mass of rock has been insulated from the mountain by
an excavation, which leaves a passage five or six paces in breadth
between it and the mountain. It forms nearly a cube of sixteen feet, the
top being a little narrower than the base; the lower part is hollowed
into a small sepulchral cave with a low door; but the upper part of the
mass is solid. There are three of these mausolea at a short distance
from each other. A few paces lower, on the left side of the stream, is a
larger mausoleum similarly formed, which appears from its decayed state,
and the style of its architecture, to be of more ancient date than the
others. Over its entrance are four obelisks, about ten feet in height,
cut out of the same piece of rock; below is a projecting ornament, but
so much defaced by time that I was unable to discover what it had
originally represented; it had, however, nothing of the Egyptian style.

Continuing for about three hundred paces farther along the valley, which
is in this part about one hundred and fifty feet in breadth; several
small tombs are met with on both sides of the rivulet, excavated in the
rock, without any ornaments. Beyond these is a spot where the valley
seemed to be entirely closed by high rocks; but upon a nearer approach,
I perceived a chasm about fifteen or twenty feet in breadth, through
which the rivulet flows westwards in winter; in summer its waters are
lost in the sand and gravel before they reach the opening, which is
called El Syk (Arabic). The precipices on either side of the torrent are

[p.423] about eighty-feet in height; in many places the opening between
them at top is less than at bottom, and the sky is not visible from
below. As the rivulet of Wady Mousa must have been of the greatest
importance to the inhabitants of the valley, and more particularly of
the city, which was entirely situated on the west side of the Syk, great
pains seem to have been taken by the ancients to regulate its course.
Its bed appears to have been covered with a stone pavement, of which
many vestiges yet remain, and in several places stone walls were
constructed on both sides, to give the water its proper direction, and
to check the violence of the torrent. A channel was likewise cut on each
side of the Syk, on a higher level than the river, to convey a constant
supply of water into the city in all seasons, and to prevent all the
water from being absorbed in summer by the broad torrent bed, or by the
irrigation of the fields in the valley above the Syk.

About fifty paces below the entrance of the Syk a bridge of one arch
thrown over the top of the chasm is still entire; immediately below it,
on both sides, are large niches worked in the rock, with elegant
sculptures, destined probably for the reception of statues. Some remains
of antiquities might perhaps be found on the top of the rocks near the
bridge; but my guide assured me, that notwithstanding repeated
endeavours had been made, nobody had ever been able to climb up the
rocks to the bridge, which was therefore unanimously declared to be the
work of the Djan, or evil genii. In continuing along the winding passage
of the Syk, I saw in several places small niches cut in the rock, some

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