Narrative Of The United States Expedition To The River Jordan And The Dead Sea/22
MONDAY, MAY 22. Having completed all the necessary arrangements, given the officers and men time to recruit, and to see Jerusalem and its vicinity, I settled the accounts of the Expedition with H.B.M. Consul, Mr. Finn, broke up the camp, and started to run the line of level across to the Mediterranean, thirty-three miles distant, in a direct line. The desert being passed, we substituted mules for camels, to transport our baggage.
1 P.M. We recommenced leveling from the benchmark we had made north-west of Jerusalem, and carried the line to the highest point, but little less than four thousand feet above the surface of the Dead Sea, before skirting down the Wady Lufte.
The road, which was frightful, ran at first along the mountain ridge, looking down into the beautiful valley, with a convent toward the head of the gorge, and Ghebel Samwil, the highest peak in Palestine, towering to the north-west, its summit crowned with a ruined mosque. It is supposed to be the Mozpeh of the Old Testament, the reputed birth-place and the tomb of the Prophet Samuel. We here overtook a number of Jews, of both sexes and various ages. They were separating, one part to return to the city, the other to pursue the route towards the sea coast. Their sobs and tears, and clinging embraces, were truly affecting.
The vegetation increased in luxuriance, and in vividness of colour, as we descended. The mountain-sides are cut in terraces, many of them but a few yards wide, bearing olive, fig, and apricot trees, and numerous extensive vineyards.
At 3:25, crossed a massive stone bridge of one arch, which spans the now dry torrent bed of Kulonieh, and proceeding half a mile farther, stopped for the night on the edge of an olive-grove, a short distance from a fountain. The tents looked picturesque, pitched upon the green sward, with the highly cultivated valley before, and the village of Kulonfeh perched high on the hill above them. Soon after camping, we caught a cameleon, six inches long. It was deep green, with dark spots; but the colour became of a lighter hue, and turned brown, when the animal was placed upon a stone.*
* This cameleon was brought safely home, together with a pheasant from the vale of Sharon. Nearly everything else, including some singular blue pigeons from the Dead Sea, perished.
By a regulation most necessary for the security of travellers, the nomadic tribes are not permitted to pitch their tents west of Jerusalem. The only extortion to be now apprehended, is from the powerful and rapacious family of Abu Ghush, the sheikh of which, Lamartine, with his usual exaggeration, represents as having fifty thousand Arabs, subject to his sway. In order to evade the severe military conscription under the Egyptian rule, some of the Arabs of this district put out one of their eyes; but Ibrahim Pasha counteracted their purpose, by forming a one-eyed regiment.
The night was clear, and quite cool; the dew fell heavily, and the morning found us enveloped in a mist.
TUESDAY, MAY 23. At 4 A.M., very cold. Wishing to send to Jaffa some things, which were cumbersome to carry about, and could be dispensed with, I roused one of the Arab mule-drivers, and bade him go up to the village, about a mile distant, and procure another mule. He sprang instantly to his feet, and, from where he stood, called out in a stentorian voice to some one in the village. To my surprise, he was answered almost immediately, and very soon afterwards the mule was brought. It is astonishing how far, and how distinctly, the Arabs can hear and recognise each other’s voices in this hilly country. In the descent of the Jordan, and repeatedly along the cliffs of the Dead Sea, when we could only hear a faint halloo, or inarticulate sounds, our swarthy friends could distinguish words, and sometimes recognise the tribe of the speaker from his voice. They seem to have distinctive cries, corresponding to the whoops of our Indians.
We have often thought that we detected a resemblance, in many respects, between the Arabs and our North American Indians; but we were like those who, at a superficial glance, pronounce a portrait to be an exact similitude of the original, which, on a close inspection, exhibits such traits of difference, that they are astonished at their first impression. The nomadic mode of life, the colour of the skin, the prominent cheek-bones, and the black hair and eyes, present a similarity of appearance which, at first, misleads an observer. By slow degrees, however, traits of character are developed, and peculiarities of manner exhibited, which proclaim a marked and striking difference.
In his most repulsive aspect, the North American savage is a being lusty and ferocious, over whose countenance the light of intelligence casts but a feeble and lingering ray. He exhibits no trait whatever of that forethought which is the great characteristic of the grandeur of the human mind. To gather the fruit, he fells the tree; he slaughters the oxen bestowed upon him by the missionary to till his lands; and with the fragments of his plough he builds the fire to roast his food. From his civilized neighbour he seeks nothing but gunpowder, to destroy his brethren, and intoxicating spirits, to destroy himself; and, relying upon the undying avarice of the white man, he never dreams of manufacturing them. The son murders the father, to relieve him from the ennui of old age, and his wife destroys the fruit of his passion in her womb, to escape the duties of a nurse. He snatches the bleeding scalp from his yet living foe; he tears the flesh from his body; he roasts it and devours it amid songs of triumph; and if he can procure ardent spirits, he drinks to intoxication, to madness, to death, insensible alike to the reason which rescaravan s man by his fears, and the instinct which repels the animal by distaste. To all human judgment, he seems a doomed being, smitten for his crimes by an avenging Hand, in the innermost recesses of his moral conformation, so that he who regards him with an observant eye, trembles as he views.
Hence it has been charged that, “in the commission of a crime, the savage but follows his nature, while, by the same act, we violate our own;” and it is therefore inferred that he can never be reclaimed. They who reason thus are but shallow observers, and confound the bias of education with inherent propensities. The child of the meekest Christian of the land, if torn from the parental roof, and brought up from infancy in a wigwam, would become a blood-thirsty and ferocious savage, while the papoose, exchanging conditions, might be a zealous missionary of the Gospel. Instance’s of the former are frequent in our border history; and an educated Indian, not very long since, died, holding a commission in the medical corps of the Navy.
Beneath the frightful exterior of the North American savage, there are noble attributes. Such races are as necessary for the well-being of the human family as the whirlwind to the atmosphere when it sweeps through the forest and bears off the decaying and tainting vegetation. Such men, or not far removed from such, were the ancient Northmen, the Goths, and the Vandals. And now the countries overrun and settled by them are the most polished on the surface of the globe. England occupies the key-stone of the arch of civilization; France has long been proverbial for its refinement; and in Italy, the temple of the arts, the painter and the sculptor seek for the most beautiful models. The tide is now setting the other way, and civilization is overwhelming barbarism. Whether the Indian is to be swept away, or the red-man become merged with the white, time alone can determine.
The distinctive trait of the American savage is his vindictiveness towards an enemy. The ruling passion of an Arab is greediness of gold, which he will clutch from the unarmed stranger, or filch from an unsuspecting friend. The Indian, seeking only a trophy, as a record of his achievement, is content with the scalp of the foe he has slain in war. The Arab lurks in the crevices of the rock, and, from his covert, fires upon the peaceful traveler, that he may rifle his body of money and clothes. It is the ambition of an Indian father to bestow his daughter on the bravest warrior of the tribe: an Arab sheikh will sell his child to the meanest fellah, if he be the highest bidder. The Arab is yet more lascivious than the Indian; and in no part of the world is the condition of woman more abject than it is in the East. The wandering Arab does not, like the wild Indian, destroy the implements of agriculture, but watches and waits, and sweeps off the fresh-gathered harvest of the laborious and timid fellahin. The Arab will extort money from his guest, and expects a backshish for the slightest act of hospitality. The Indian, without dreaming of recompense, will share his last morsel, and, with his life, protect the stranger who has sought the shelter of his wigwam. To the noisy children of the desert, intoxicating drink is unknown; and, in that respect, their condition is far superior to that of the more taciturn but intemperate hunters of the forest. But the greatest distinction of all is, that while the North American savage, except in war or the chase, evinces no forethought whatever, the Arabian is cautious to the extreme of timidity. The one is reckless, the other calculating. The one, when roused, is implacable; the other barters forgiveness of the deepest injuries for a new wife, or her equivalent in money. The Arab, therefore, to the best of my judgment, is as far inferior to the North American Indian as an insatiate love of gold is more ignoble than a spirit of revenge. The distinction drawn by Chateaubriand is as beautiful as it is true: — “In the American Indian everything proclaims the savage who has not yet arrived at a state of civilization, in the Arab, everything indicates the civilized man who has returned to the savage state.”
Started, after an early breakfast; the road, execrable, leading along the skirts and over the crests of mountains; the ravines and the slopes fertile and highly cultivated; the ridges bare and verdureless. From the highest peak, we had anticipated another and a last view of Jerusalem, but it was concealed by intervening hills. Nebi Samwil towered above us to the north. The country bordering the ravine became more beautiful as we descended in the afternoon, and a little before sunset we encamped at ’Ain Dilbeh (Fountain of the Plane-tree), near Beit Nakubeh (House of Nakubeh). There were some old ruins about the spring. In the bed of the ravine there were fields of grain; on the lower slopes, vineyards and olive-groves; above them, dwarf oak-trees and bushes; and towards and along the summits, huge masses and scattered fragments of rock. On a hill in the distance, was a ruin, pointed out as the castle of the Macchabees; and among those hills, it is supposed that the Virgin visited the mother of the Baptist. In our route this day, we may have crossed the dry bed of the brook where David gathered the pebbles, with one of which he slew the Philistine. In this neighbourhood, it is supposed was the village of Emmaus, on the road to which our Saviour conversed with two of his disciples after his resurrection.
We found here the hop-trefoil, a small clover, with yellow flowers and hop-like heads; also a pink, with viscid flower-stalks, the first sometimes seen, the last common, at home.
From the vestiges about it, this spot seemed to be a favourite camping-ground of travelers. We found here some mules laden with baggage, marked “Miss Cooper, by steamer Novelty.” The lady, attended by an escort, soon after made her appearance, and expressed the opinion, which will be confirmed as she advances, that “the roads are very bad in this country.”
Every preceding camp seems to have left its colony here. We were annoyed during the night by all kinds of vermin. The weather was cool and damp, and the cries of jackals down in the ravine were incessant. The cry very much resembles that of a person in distress. Wednesday, May 24: Descended the ravine into the vale of Jeremiah by the village of ‘Kuryet el ‘Enab (village of grapes), the Kirjath jearim of the Bible, where it is said the prophet was born. When passing the village the sheikh, with the evident purpose of levying tribute, came out and forbade us to level through his territory; but we paid no attention to the terrible Abu Ghush (father of lies). He then rode within forty or fifty yards of the interpreter, who was in advance of the leveling party, and called out in an imperious tone, “toorgeman, talon!” (interpreter, come here); to which the latter, half turning round, but without rising from his position, replied “talon!” The sheikh at length went up to him, and demanded by what right we attempted to pass through his territory, stating that none could do so without his permission. The firman was shown to him. After reading it, he said that it mentioned nothing about surveying the road, and that one thousand armed men could not pass against his will. We told him that he had better consent then, for we had the sanction of his superiors and were not to be bullied. During the altercation, our Arab cook was dreadfully alarmed, and reminding us that Abu Ghush was a powerful sheikh, implored us in his broken English not to provoke him.
Great exception was taken by this sheikh to ’Awad, our Ta’amirah guide, who, he swore, should not pass through his territory; to which we replied that his services were necessary to us, and that we would protect him. ‘Awed said to him, in a deprecating tone, that he was only a poor fellah. We may judge of his fright and feigned humility, from the supreme contempt in which it is known that the predatory and pastoral Arabs hold the fellahin.
The sheikh was of a light complexion, with European features, and wearing a red moustache-very much resembling a gaunt, rough Jew. He is brother to the celebrated Abu Ghush, so long the terror of this district, who, for, his exactions, robberies, and murders, was sent not, long since to Constantinople, and is now, it is said, an exile on the banks of the Euxine.
When abreast of the village, in which there are the ruins of a Christian church, an old Arab called out, “O ye Muslims, come forth and see the Christians searching for treasures concealed by their forefathers in this country.” Great curiosity was exhibited by the people with respect to our operations. All desired to look through the telescope, and even little children were held up for a peep.
Leaving the village on the left, the road led over a high ridge; the vegetation extremely luxuriant, and the hillsides terraced, with many vines and fig trees, and groves of olive on each side. The olive is only picturesque in clusters. Individually it is an ungainly tree. With the appearance of greater strength than the oak, its branches are less graceful, and its leaves are smaller and less vivid in colour. The old trunks, gnarled and twisted, present to the eye vast bodies with disproportioned limbs. Those which are partially decayed are protected by stones piled up in the hollows.
From the summit of the ridge, through the mist which curtained it in the distance, we beheld the blue, the glorious Mediterranean. Not the soldiers of Xenophon cheered more heartily than we did when we beheld its broad expanse stretching towards the west, where lay our country and our homes.
Crossing over a rugged, rocky country, we descended by a precipitous road, a slope covered with bushes and shrubbery, to a dense olive grove near the village of Sarus, where we camped for the night.
The whole face of the country since leaving Jerusalem bears evidence of a high state of cultivation, and after the calcined cliffs of the Dead Sea and the utter barrenness of the desert of Judea, our senses are soothed by the soft and refreshing green of these terraced hills.
In the middle of the day the weather was oppressively warm, and being much fatigued we retired early. “To sleep — to dream, but in that sleep....”
THURSDAY, MAY 25: Weather cloudy, with a fine westerly breeze. Descended the dreadful road which leads down Wady Ali, and through Bab Wady Ali (Gate of the Ravine of Ali), issued out upon the vale of Sharon, covered with immense fields of ripened grain; the thick, clustering stems bending to the breeze, and their golden surfaces chequered with the shadows of passing clouds. Behind us were the rugged mountains; before us the lovely plain, dotted with villages, and covered with a whole population gathering the harvest; and beyond, in the distance, the pellucid and far-stretching sea, over which lay our homeward route. In the ravine we saw in great profusion the corn poppy, its bright scarlet flowers presenting a gorgeous appearance. The acacia was also abundant.
Camped under some tamarisk trees, near the village of Dier Ayoub, and received a visit from its sheikh. 10 P.M., temperature of the air 78°.
FRIDAY, MAY 26. A pleasant morning; wind light, with passing clouds; a dense fog to seaward. The night passed with less annoyance than usual from fleas and other insects. Long before sunrise, the industrious fellahin were at work in the fields. The scene was pastoral and picturesque. The herdsmen, with their flocks of black goats on the hill-sides, the cattle grazing below them; the reapers among the grain, the women gleaning after them; while the armed Nubian guard sat under the shadow of a tree, his ample costume setting off his jet-black skin. A light wind played in the loose folds of his white aba, and thence sweeping on, bowed down the heads of the unreaped barley, presenting an appearance like the surface of a still lake, when clouds are drifting over it.
We soon passed the Bir Dier Ayoub, the road, which was yet but a bridle-path, becoming better, and the mountains receding on each side, and giving at once an almost uninterrupted view of the plain. On the summit of a lofty hill before us; was the village of Latrun (Thief), named by tradition as the birth-place of the repentant thief upon the cross. Instead of following the road over the hill and through the village, we skirted its southern base, and passing the well, struck first into the Gaza road, and then into the usual road to Ramleh.
Gaza, the famous town of the Philistines, in a direct line, was about thirty miles distant. Once the residence of a king, it is now a paltry village. It was taken by Alexander the Great, after a siege of two months; and Quintus Curtius relates that, in imitation of Achilles, the ungenerous conqueror, who was twice wounded during the siege, dragged twice round the walls, at his chariot-wheels, the body of the general who had gallantly defended it.
Pursuing the road to Ramleh, we crossed Merjibn ’Amir, an extensive plain under high cultivation. Ascending a slight eminence, we passed the village of Kubab.
The scene must have been similar to those of the days of Scripture. Below the village, and on the sides of the hill, the fields, in some spots, were yellow with the ripened grain; in others, large quantities, newly reaped, were spread upon the threshing-floors, and the cattle, yoked in couples, were treading it out; the whole population of the village was at work, reaping, gleaning, tossing in the sheaves, or raking aside the chaff. We encamped in the field by the road-side.
SATURDAY, MAY 27. A fine breeze from the westward gave us a delicious temperature. Early in the morning, two jackals came nearly up to the camp, and narrowly escaped paying, with their lives, for their temerity. They were frequently around us at night, and their cries were the accompaniments of our slumbers; but they had not, before, ventured so near in open day. Towards mid-day, the wind lulled, and the heat was oppressive.
The road continued over the almost level plain. Hundreds of villagers, men, women and children, with camels, mules, and donkeys, were employed getting in the harvest. The donkey is loaded in a singular manner: an immense heap of grain, in the straw, is trussed together, in the form of a parallelogram, and laid on one of its narrow sides; a donkey is made to stand close against it; and two of the fellahin, standing on the opposite side, place each a foot against the animal, and haul over on the bundle by a rope.
When it is half over, they secure it; and there is nothing of the donkey to be seen but its little feet, far beneath the cumbrous load, in bulk six times larger than himself. The small, square houses of the village, like those of all we have seen, Aba Ghush’s excepted, are of uncut stones, cemented and plastered with mud, and with flat, mud roofs. The mud floors are usually several feet below the surface of the ground; and the only aperture in the walls is the low and narrow doorway. Through the last, a stream of smoke is ever issuing, tainted with the foetid odour of the fuel, the sundried excrement of the camel; which is so offensive that the deaf and the blind would detect, with their nostrils, the impregnated atmosphere of a village. The habits of the people are as filthy as their dwellings are uncomfortable; and it is not surprising that, with all their simplicity of life, there are so few instances of longevity.
The town of Ramleh, seated in the plain, with its tower, its minarets, its ruins, and its palm-trees, looked more like an oriental city, than any we had seen in Palestine. In this plain, according to tradition, the Virgin, the infant Saviour, and St. Joseph, passed a night, in their flight to Egypt.
Arriving at Ramleh, we experienced great difficulty in getting round it, owing to the number of high and impenetrable cactus-hedges. At length our vice-consul came out in state, and guided us round to the north side, where we struck into the Jaffa road. This is the only place in the interior of Palestine where the American flag is permitted to fly. There were fine olive-groves, and many cypresses, around the town; and beyond, a lovely plain, bounded by a range of mountains on one hand, and the Mediterranean on the other. Ramleh is supposed to have been the Rama-Ephraim of the Old Testament, where Samuel judged the people, and where the elders assembled to demand a king. It has now a large convent, rebuilt, it is said, by Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy.
Passing along the plain of Beth Dagon, we camped, for Sunday, a little off the road, on a slope in the edge of an orchard of old olive-trees, near the village, and a few miles distant from Lyd, the Lydda of the New Testament, and the Diospolis of the Romans, where St. Peter miraculously cured the man afflicted with the palsy.
The uncultivated parts of the plain were beautified by the violet purple flowers of the plumbago, which grows more luxuriantly here than in southern Europe, the heads of the flowers being much longer, and the colours more vivid.
MONDAY, MAY 29. Pleasant weather; — commenced operations early. At the village of Yazur, turned to the left and followed the Frank road, the one on which Napoleon marched to and from Gaza. There were a number of people in the fields, but not many travelers on the road. Some wandering dervishes, bearing banners, and a few returning Christian pilgrims, passed us in the course of the morning. About three miles from the town, was a very handsome fountain, with a mosque beside it. Pursuing thence nearly a due-west course, we came out on the sandhills, and planted the level on the margin of the Mediterranean, about one and a half miles south of Jaffa. The task was at length accomplished. We had carried a line of levels, with the spirit-level, from the chasm of the Dead Sea, through the Desert of Judea, over precipices and mountain-ridges, and down and across yawning ravines, and for much of the time beneath a scorching sun. It had been considered by many as impracticable. It has, however, been accomplished; and with as much accuracy as, I believe, it can be done. The instrument was a capital one of Troughton’s, imported by Blunt. It was of the most recent construction, with staves to be read off by the observer. The adjustments of the instruments were frequently examined, and we were careful to make the observations as nearly mid-way as possible. The whole credit of this is due to Lieutenant Dale, to whom, in full confidence of his zeal and capacity, I assigned the task of leveling. The result is confirmatory of the skill and extraordinary accuracy of the triangulation of Lieutenant Symonds, Royal Navy.
We found the difference of level, in other words, the depression of the surface of the Dead Sea, below that of the Mediterranean, to be a little over 1,300 feet. The height of Jerusalem above the former sea, is very nearly three times that of this difference of level, while, at the same time, it is almost the exact multiple of the depth of that sea, of the height of its banks, and of the depression of its surface.
In the hollow of the hills near Jaffa, is a circular plain, where Ibrahim Pasha contemplated making a harbour, to be connected with the Mediterranean by a canal. At the request of our Vice-Consul, who had come to meet us early in the day, we examined it carefully, and felt satisfied that the work could be done at little cost, compared to the immense benefit that would be derived from it. The duties of the customs, 12 per cent., amount to 10,000 pounds sterling per annum; and twice that sum, or two years’ duties appropriated to the purpose, would accomplish it. Vessels not exceeding 160 tons can anchor near the town in summer; but in winter, they must keep in the offing.
Our work accomplished, we repaired to the country-house of Mr. Murad, our worthy consular representative, who had kindly placed it at our disposal.
The town of Jaffa is situated on a hill-side, the declivity towards the sea, and sweeping round it, inland, from north to south, is a plain of luxuriant vegetation, consisting of gardens and orange and mulberry groves, separated by hedges of cactus, fifteen feet high, then in full blossom, bearing a beautiful straw-coloured, cup-shaped, wax-looking flower. The roads, numerous but narrow, and shaded by the magnificent sycamore fig, wind between these hedges, the tenderest leaves of which are cropped by the passing camels, though, from being fretted with thorns, they are avoided by every other animal.
The garden in which we were quartered, was a delightful spot to recruit in, after our fatigue. A great many swallows were flying in and out, and twittering over our heads, in the open alcove we selected for our bed-chamber. We had been so long accustomed to camping in the open air, that we could not reconcile ourselves to sleeping in a room; moreover, we felt more secure from insects, away from apartments that had recently been inhabited.
We never wearied of the luxuriant and refreshing green of the gardens around and before us. The one we occupied, although not the largest in the vicinity, had in it 2500 orange and 1500 lemon, besides a number of apricot, and some apple and pomegranate trees. The first were nearly all laden with fruit, then near maturity, but some were in blossom, as were also all the pomegranate trees, and the beautiful white and crimson flowers were richly intermingled; while those of the orange, the bridal flower, fairly burthened the air with their fragrance. Attached to the garden is a well, a Persian wheel, and a reservoir. The wheel is worked day and night by mules; the water is collected in the reservoir, and thence conducted by small canals through the garden. There are two canals, built of cemented stone, with apertures in them at regular distances. They were this evening occupied two hours in irrigating one half of the garden, which is done on alternate days. A trench is dug in the loose soil from one of the canals to a tree, and the earth is raked aside from the roots and the stem, leaving a circular basin, according to the size of the tree; the water is let in, the basin filled, and in the mean time another trench and basin are prepared; the first is blocked up, the water diverted to the second, and in this manner every tree is irrigated once in two days. There is great loss of water by the process, and we endeavoured to persuade our consul to erect a windmill, which, requiring no food and much less attendance than mules, would, in this region of periodical winds, be far more economical than the present mode. But Jaffa is an antediluvian place, and I suppose that the Persian water-wheel, like the other customs of their ancestors, will be adhered to by this people.
In the vineyard attached to the garden, within pistol-shot of the alcove we occupied, is the reputed tomb of Tabitha, who was restored by St. Peter. It is a cave excavated in a scaly, friable limestone, and is about twelve feet deep, with a flight of steps leading down to it. The floor is level. The interior is about eighteen feet long, and it has nine crypts, three fronting the entrance, and three on each side, each one measuring eight feet in length, two feet in width, and three feet in height; the side crypts about eight feet apart.
We remained in the quarters so hospitably assigned to us until the 6th of June; and found full occupation in bringing up our work, particularly the astronomical and barometrical observations, and the measurements of the level, and rebuilding our boats by putting their sections together. The physical repose was truly grateful.
On the main road between this and the town there is an arabesque fountain, with a reservoir. Besides the fruit and mulberry trees, and wheat, barley, sesame, dhoura, and lentils, we noticed within the gardens, squashes, cucumbers, melons, peas, artichokes, egg-plants, okra, and some Irish potatoes, the last recently introduced. A little off the road, there was a very large tamarind and some date trees. In the near vicinity of the town there were many beggars, seated beneath trees by the road-side, reciting passages from the Koran to excite the sympathy of travelers. We came out from the labyrinthine road upon a sandy knoll, just without the town, and had the waves of the Mediterranean at our feet, the brawling sound of which we had heard before we saw them. Apart from the associations of the sight, we were exhilarated by the breeze which its sister element rendered so cool and refreshing. We had thence a glorious view of the sea before, and the plain and the cloud-capped mountains behind us.
To the north of the town, a short distance from the gate, for Jaffa has but one, and immediately upon the sea shore, is a village inhabited by Copts. These people followed Ibrahim Pasha from Egypt, but since the restoration of the country to Ottoman sway they have been driven from the town, and live in their poor mud village with the sea before and a graveyard behind them. Possessing no means of transportation over the first, along which they must often wistfully gaze towards their native country, the last remains as their only refuge from hunger, oppression, and unrewarded toil. Their complexions are dark, but the dress of the men differs in no respect from that of Arabs of the lowest class. The women wear a triangular piece of thin dark cloth suspended from the forehead, sometimes fringed with coins, and concealing the nose, mouth, and chin.
In another graveyard to the left was an Egyptian woman at her devotions. Eastern women are rarely seen to pray by travelers. Like the majority of their sex all over the world, they seem to shrink from public exhibition. Once before, in a Turkish burial-ground near St. Stephen’s gate, Jerusalem, I saw some black slaves making their prostrations before a tomb, but could not tell whether they were worshipping God, or paying homage to the shade of their master. The real belief of Muhammedans with regard to the future prospects of women, I have never been able to ascertain. The vulgar idea that they are denied the possession of souls by the Koran, is, however, an incorrect one. Muhammed named four as worthy of Paradise. But it is impossible, for a Christian at least, to obtain satisfactory information from a native on this subject. They never speak of their women to strangers, and consider any allusion to them as insulting. ’Awad, our guide, was the only one who would answer our questions, in this matter, and he did it with perceptible reluctance. Indeed, all the Arabs with whom we have been associated, and they were many and of various tribes, were very reserved about their domestic affairs, and more evasive even than our eastern brethren in their replies to questions of a personal nature. I have never known them to give a direct answer to a question pertaining to their families or themselves. When asked how he is, an Arab replies, “Thanks be to God!” When the question is repeated, he says, “God is great!” and if asked the third time, his reply is, “God is bountiful !”
On the sands of the sea, a little beyond the Coptic village, the Pasha of Jerusalem, with a number of his officers and attendants, were jousting and throwing the djerid. They were mounted on spirited horses, drawn up in two lines, facing each other, about 150 yards apart. A single horseman would leave his ranks, cross the intervening space, and ride leisurely along in front of the opposite line, when, selecting his opponent, he quickly threw his djerid, or short, blunted, wooden spear, directly at him. The latter, generally dodging the weapon, immediately started in hot pursuit of his antagonist, who, now unarmed, spurred his horse towards his friends, and, to avoid the threatened blow, threw himself nearly from the stead, hanging by one leg, exactly in the manner of our Blackfoot Indians, and the inhabitants of the Pampas of South America. If the assailed were struck with the first cast, one of his party pursued the assailant; and if successful in striking him, it became his turn to flee from an adversary. It is a manly and a beautiful game, and excited us as we looked upon it. How much more so must it have been to those who were engaged in it! The noble black charger of the Pasha seemed to devour the wind, and not one escaped the unerring aim of his rider. There was no sycophancy, however; for, less successful in retreat than pursuit, the Pasha was repeatedly struck before he regained his place.
Immediately in front of the gate were a number of fruit-sellers, some bazaars, and a new khan under construction, with a throng of people moving rapidly to and fro, indicating more activity of trade than we had seen since leaving Beïrût.
Just before entering, we stopped to let a funeral procession pass. It was quite a long one, and consisted wholly of females. They were wailing in the same monotonous tone as those we saw in a similar procession at Jerusalem. It is the custom for the relatives and friends, for three consecutive days, to repair in procession to, and weep over, the grave of the deceased.
Just within the gate, on the right, is a very handsome fountain, with elaborate carved-work about it. Passing through lines of bazaars, and by a mosque with a large court, and handsome fountain on the right, and thence threading narrow, unpaved streets, cumbered with rubbish, which seemed to have no precise direction, and to lead to no particular place, and twice descending steps where Putnam might have hesitated, with a foe behind him, but down which our horses walked as carefully as we could have done ourselves, we at length reached the residence of our consul, immediately overlooking the harbour. There were some thirty or forty small polacre vessels in the port, which is protected by a reef of rocks to the westward. This reef is generally supposed to be the remains of a breakwater, built by the Emperor Adrian; but to me the reef presented a natural aspect. I could detect no vestiges of an ancient mole, and have not been able to find any historical account of an artificial harbour being formed here. On the contrary, Josephus speaks of the dangers of the anchorage, caused by a number of rocks off the town.
Our worthy consular representative is a Syrian by birth and an Armenian in faith. He was dressed in the oriental style, and received us hospitably and kindly. For upwards of twenty years he has been in the service of our government; in the first place as an assistant, and subsequently as the successor of his father.
Jaffa is, perhaps, the oldest city in the world; and Pliny calls it an antediluvian one. Here, in mythology, Andromeda was chained to a rock, and exposed to the embraces of a sea-monster.
History fixes upon this as the landing-place of the crusaders, subsequently fortified by St. Louis; within its Armenian convent Napoleon touched the sick infected with the plague, and without its walls massacred his prisoners in cold blood; and here Ibrahim Pasha sought refuge from the Arab tribes, whom he had driven to desperation. According to tradition, here Noah built the ark, and from its port Jonas embarked; on these shores were landed the cedars of Lebanon, brought for the building of the temple; and in it was the house of Simon the tanner, with whom the first of the apostles dwelt. We visited the site of the last, which is upon the sea-side, exactly accordant with the description. There is a sarcophagus in the yard, used as a reservoir to the fountain. It is said to have belonged to the family of Simon. Who knows? Who can believe? and who can contradict it? The population of Jaffa is now about 13,000, viz: Turks, 8000; Greeks, 2000; Armenians, 2000; Maronites, 700; and Jews, about 300.
The consul’s dinner was an extremely plentiful one, consisting of a great variety of dishes, many of them unknown to us, prepared in the Eastern style. His wife, in compliment to us, for the first time in her life, sat down to a table with strangers. She had a sweet countenance, and her profile was a beautiful one. She was timid, yet dignified in her manners; the wave of her hand was particularly graceful, and her voice soft and gentle, — “an excellent thing in woman.” She was dressed richly, according to the fashion of her country. Her head was ornamented with diamonds, in clusters of leaves and flowers; and on her finger was a magnificent ruby, encircled with brilliants. When she turned to address those who were waiting behind her, we were particularly struck with the exquisite contour and flexure of her head and throat. A master-artist would have painted her so, and called her the heroine of some historic scene. From time to time, she helped us to morsels from her own plate; a marked compliment, founded on a custom which, under other circumstances, we should have thought “more honoured in the breach than the observance;” but her manner was so gentle and so winning, and her smile so irresistible, that, had it been physic instead of palatable food, we should have swallowed it without hesitation. For the first time within many months, we felt the soothing and refining influence of the society of the other sex. Members of the family acted as waiters, it being the custom when it is intended to pay the highest honour to a guest. Conscious of not deserving it in that sense, we received it as a tribute to the exalted character of our country, and as an evidence of the patriotism of our worthy host; — and a more patriotic, unassuming, and truly hospitable representative of that country I have never seen. He stowed our boats in his warehouse, and placed his country-house at our disposal. His residence in town was our familiar resort, and we ever found a heartfelt welcome at his table. He spared no trouble; hesitated at no expense; and, at the settlement of the accounts, refused all compensation whatever. Mr. Stephens says that he is the only man he has ever known to declare himself happy. I can safely add that he is the only one whom I thought truly so. Many there are who ought to be, but I have never before met with one who rightly appreciated the blessings he enjoyed.
While at dinner, we heard sung in the street the same song of the wild Ta’amirah, to which we had so often listened on the shores of the Dead Sea. Heretofore invariably discordant, it now sounded almost melodious.
In the afternoon there was a marriage-procession; the bride being escorted to her future home by her husband and his friends. First came the groom, with a number of his male friends, walking two abreast; then a gorgeous silken canopy, beneath which walked the bride, her person entirely screened. On each side was a man with a drawn sword in his hand, suggesting to the mind thoughts about a lamb led to the sacrifice, or of a criminal conducted to execution. Behind the canopy, in the same order as the men who preceded it, were a number of females of various ages. There were also many attendants with musical instruments. The monotonous, twanging sound of the last, mingled with the shouts of the men; the whining tones and occasional screams of the women; and the flourishes of the swords by those who bore them, presented a singular spectacle; a most extraordinary vocal and instrumental concert, with a yet stranger accompaniment.
We learned from our Consul, that the Turks treat their wives very badly. In consequence of the power vested in the husband to divorce at will, there is no community of interest between man and wife. The latter, not knowing at what moment the dreadful word may be pronounced, is ever laying by something for such a contingency, of which her mother is usually the depository. Hence, the husband, in self-defence, rarely provides groceries or food in any quantity, of which the wife would certainly sell a portion, and retain the proceeds. In the vicinity of towns, therefore, and we have frequently observed it. Turks may be seen returning home with a little oil, and a small quantity of provisions, for the day’s consumption.
It is true, that if the wife be divorced for any other cause than infidelity, she can claim her dower, — that is, the sum paid for her by her husband, if it had been returned to him, which is rarely the case. But her youth, and with it, all her attractions, had probably passed away; and, what is the most severe part of the infliction, the children, in such an event, remain subject to the father’s control. The wife can also obtain divorce; and in Constantinople there is a singular female court to which she may appeal, but its jurisdiction, like the edict with regard to slavery, is nominal, and the rights of woman and the slave are alike disregarded.
All over the world, civilized and savage, women are treated as inferior beings. In what is esteemed refined society, we hold them in mental thraldom, while we exempt them from bodily labour; and, paying a sensual worship to their persons, treat them as pretty play things.
The law of inheritance, in the Turkish dominions, recognises no right whatever in the female. On the death of the father, if there be one son and one or more daughters, the son inherits all the property. If two or more sons, it is portioned equally among them; but, in either case, the daughters have no share.
As illustrative of the seclusion of the female in the Christian as well as the Muslim, a circumstance was related to us by our Consul’s brother, which, from a less authentic source, we should have deemed incredible. A widower, on marrying a second time, enjoined it upon his son, then about half-grown, never to enter the apartment occupied by his step-mother without knocking, in order that she might have time to conceal her face. This form was scrupulously observed by the son, who, after the lapse of some years, also married. In turn, he requested his father to adopt the same rule which had been applied to him; and we were assured that they lived and died in the same house, without seeing the faces of each other’s wives. I give this for what it is worth.
On the 5th of June we dined with Dr. Kayat, H.B.M. Consul. The dishes were excellent and most-abundant; — among them a lamb, roasted whole — and the attendance was a miracle for Syrian servants. The dress of the hostess, a perfect lady in her manners and appearance, was a singular dovetailing of the oriental with the European costume. Her hair, flowing beneath her head-dress of
cerulean silk, ornamented with crimson and surmounted by a gold-embroidered crown, was internetted with minute spiculae of gold about the size of a spangle, and fell like the fabulous tiara of a mermaid upon her shoulders. Her neck, at least so much of it as could be seen, for the lady was not slightly moulded, was encircled with a string of golden ornaments in the forms of claws of animals, altogether reminding one of the necklace of a Tuscarora belle. Her fingers sparkled with rings of emerald, ruby and diamond, and an amethystine silk dress, made in the European style, with neat slippers upon the feet, completed her costume. She presided with quiet dignity and becoming grace, and the conversation of the husband gave an additional zest to the repast he had hospitably prepared.
Dr. Kayat has just claims to be considered a benefactor to this section of country. He has encouraged the culture of the vine; has introduced that of the mulberry and of the Irish potatoe; and by word and example is endeavouring to prevail on the people in the adjacent plain to cultivate the sweet potatoe, which in this warm climate and light friable soil will doubtless succeed admirably. This section, like all Syria, has few nutritious and succulent vegetables. The introduction of the potatoe would be a blessing, if only to supersede the washy and unwholesome cucumber, which is now the vegetable of the country. In the court-yard we observed an English plough of an improved construction, imported by the consul. This gentleman related two anecdotes, one illustrative of the superstition of the lower order, the other, of the increasing liberality of spirit among the Muslim clergy.
Last winter a boat was upset in the harbour, and the insensible body of one of the crew was thrown by the waves upon the beach. Dr. Kayat had it immediately carried to his house, where he took instant measures for its resuscitation. In the meantime, a report was spread abroad that a Giaour (infidel) was making incantations over the body of one of the faithful. A crowd was very soon collected before the house, and became clamorous for the body that they might inter it; for, as I have before stated, it is an article of Muslim belief that the soul of a person, not slain in battle, cannot enter the gardens of Paradise until the body is interred. Dr. Kayat, from his official position, succeeded in keeping the doors closed, until, after several hours’ persevering efforts, he succeeded, and indignation gave way to astonishment among the people, who declared that he "had restored the dead to life."
A short time after the above occurrence, two Mullahs called upon him, and seeing an Arabic translation of the Bible upon his table, expressed a desire to read it, whereupon he presented each of them with a copy. The Imaum (head of the hierarchy in Jaffa) was present, but said nothing. A few days after, however, he came alone, and asked why a copy had not been given to him. Of course, he was presented with one.
Our host also told us of a ruin, supposed to be ante-diluvian, and we went to see it. It is covered by a Saracenic arch, some thirty or forty feet from the sea. We could not tell whether it had been a pier or an abutment of a bridge, but the fragmentary ruin bore evident traces of the action of water, and we found some small, dead seashells in its crevices. It was deliciously cool as we returned after nightfall, by the faint light of the young moon, with the old moon in her arms. Every evening, after sunset, the zodaical lights were beautiful. Can they, as has been suggested, be the unabsorbed rays of the sun?
MONDAY, JUNE 5. Another night has passed, which would have been delightful, were it not for the harassing and incessant annoyance of fleas. The boats being complete, I now chartered a small Arab brig to convey them, our stores, and a majority of the party, to St. Jean d’Acre. A short distance within the gate, we recognized and joyfully accosted Sherîf Musaid, — one of our Bedouin allies. To our mortification his return greeting was anything but a cordial one, and we parted from him abruptly, our bosoms chilled with such an unexpected proof of the instability of human friendship. We had all become much attached to him during our association, and from his deportment towards us had believed the feeling to be reciprocal. Many, therefore, were the fruitless auras to the cause of his change of manner.
After embarking the boats, and making all necessary arrangements for to-morrow’s start, among them, procuring quantities of every variety of seed, we returned to our quarters, to spend the last night in the spacious but infested villa of our most worthy consul. Great was our surprise, and unequalled our delight, when, shortly after, the younger Sherîf came in and explained the cause of his reserved demeanour in the morning. A valuable slave had absconded from him at Acre, taking with him his master’s best horse and a highly prized rifle. Following in swift pursuit, Musaid had tracked him to Jaffa, and was, incognito, making some necessary inquiries, when we suddenly came upon him. He ascertained that the slave had continued his flight to Egypt, and purposed following in pursuit. In reply to our inquiries, Sherîf humanely said that if he came within gun-shot of the fugitive, he would not shoot him, even to secure his horse and his gun. He expressed his regret that he had not parted with the slave some time before, when he seemed dissatisfied. By an imperial edict (which is, however, disregarded with respect to Nubians), a slave cannot remain in servitude more than seven years; and, by a custom, the most imperative of all laws, a slave, if dissatisfied, can claim to be sold; and if the demand be thrice ineffectually made, before witnesses, he becomes, ipso facto, free. Hence, the treatment of slaves is mild and conciliatory.
I do not purpose entering into a description of Jaffa, or to give the statistical facts which were collected there. The first has been repeatedly done before; the last will, with more propriety, accompany the official report. Moreover, I feel that my notes are diminishing in interest as we recede from those mysterious shores, where we alone were almost the only voyagers. We were now, and had, since our departure from Jerusalem, been travelling a route repeatedly and graphically described by others. Any attempt, on my part, to compete with some of them, would be like one endeavouring to rival the lightning of heaven with the artificial fireworks of earth.