Page:A short guide to Syria (1943).djvu/8
You'll see a lot of the cities and their people, but it's the desert and the desert folk that give flavor to the land.
THE desert Arab, or tribesman, has few necessities beyond coffee, sugar, and tobacco. Even on feast days he eats astonishingly little, and when no guest is present, bread and a bowl of camel's milk is about all he requires — and he can make long marches on that simple fare. It is said that the Bedouin (bed-win) is never without hunger. But when a notable guest is in camp, a sheep must be killed and a bountiful meal of mutton, curds, and flaps of bread is the order of the day.
More than 250,000 Bedouins roam the desert fringes in Syria with their herds of camels and huge flocks of sheep searching for pasture. You'll be able to recognize the Bedouin by his flowing robes, his long head scarf and, frequently, by his long side curls.
Desert Farmers. Less romantic perhaps than the Bedouin or the warlike Jebel Druze (je-bel drooz) are the farmers, but they form the bulk of the 3½ millions of people of Syria-Lebanon. They do a remarkably efficient job in getting what they do out of it. The average farmer just manages to sustain his family, and has little left over. Rural incomes in Syria average about $80 a year, debts are always large and mortgages heavy.
Mostly the farmers live in small, compact villages built around springs or near other sources of water. To you, their methods may seem primitive, but at least one American conservation expert has said that their method of terracing fields is one of the finest examples of soil conservation in the world. And their wooden plow is well suited to the shallow, stony soil they have to work.
A large proportion of these desert farmers are share-croppers or tenants, the land they till being held by land lords who sometimes control several or more villages and vast acres of cultivable land.
Translation — There is no conqueror but god