페이지 이미지
PDF

some of the Spanish bull-fighters, and I have often beheld feats that have astonished me; but this diversion at Babaoyo, for so the natives consider it, evinced more bravery and agility than I had ever before witnessed. The teeth of the alligator are often taken from the jaws, and yesqueros, small tinder-boxes, which are generally carried in the pocket for the purpose of lighting cigars, are made from them; they are beautifully white, and equal to the finest ivory; some are four inches long, and I have seen them most delicately carved, and mounted with gold or silver.”

5. Travels among the Arab Tribes inhabiting the Countries East of Syria and Palestine, &c. &c. By. J. S. Buckingham.

These travels set out from Na

zareth, and in the first third of the , volume describe the passage of the Jordan above Beisan, and between that place and Oom-Kais; —the route, in a line nearly parallel to the river, down to Assalt; a journey from Assalt, across the elevated plain of Belkah, to Oomer-Russas, including a visit to Ammāān, and a forced return to Assalt; and the author's track from Assalt through the plains of the Haouran, in a contrary direction, to Djebel Haouran. Our first extract relates to the passage of the Jordan to the eastern bank:

“In fording the Jordan at this spot, which was at a distance of two hours, or about four miles to the southward of its outlet from the lake of Tiberias, we found it so deep near the banks of the stream as to throw our horses off

their legs for a few minutes, and oblige them to swim ; but they soon regained their footing as they approached the middle of the stream, and in the very centre we found it quite shallow. It still appeared rather as a brook or torrent, than a river, being no where more than one hundred feet wide, as far as we could observe it from hence; and the water, which was clear and sweet, winding slowly over a sandy and pebbly bed at about the rate of a mile and a half per hour.” Having reached Assalt, some 40 or 50 miles to the S.S. E., Mr. B. was quartered on a merchant named Aioobe, or Job. His house, the principal dwelling in the town—“Consisting of one room only about twenty feet square, divided into a lower portion for the cattle, and an upper part or terrace, about two feet above the former, for the family. In the first of these was contained also a large supply of fire-wood and provisions for the winter; and in the last his whole stock of merchandise, consisting of cotton cloths from Nablous, Bedouin garments, and various articles, chiefly for sale among the tribes of Arabs, that come to the market of Assalt from the surrounding country. This chief of the merchants of Assalt was estimated to be worth about 5000 piastres, or 250l. sterling; and by most of his fellow-townsmen he was considered to be as rich as any merchant could hope or desire to be. In comparison with his neighbours he might be called wealthy indeed; for many of those who were considered traders, had never more than 10l. sterling invested in stock, and the average of the town might be safely taken

at

[merged small][ocr errors]

at 20l., as rather beyond than below the state of their trading property. “After a day passed in visits to all the principal christian inhabitants of the place, and eating, contrary to my inclination, at almost every house, we assembled in a large evening party at the dwelling of the widow in which Georgis and myself had taken up our temporary abode. Though the dimensions of this building were very small, not exceeding fifteen feet by twelve, it had a chimney in the wall, and an apartment of the same size above, the ascent to which was by a flight of narrow steps made of dried clay, with a carved wooden balustrade ; the only instance I had met with, in all the town, of so much convenience and ornament. “Although this was the evening of Sunday, cards were introduced, and I was pressed to take a part in the game against my will. Fortune was adverse to me: and in playing for garments, I lost my ooza, a sort of thick woollen cloak, which I had bought at Nazareth for four piastres. There was no remedy: and though all exclaimed, Allah kereem / “God is bountifush' yet I felt that this was neither the season nor the country in which to gamble away warm garments, particularly as it would have been imprudent, at the present moment, to show that my finances were so good as to admit of my purchasing it back again from the winner. “The conversation of the evening was such as I should gladly have retained, had it been practicable to have stored my memory with all the geographical and topographical facts mentioned re

specting the positions of ancient and modern places in the neighbourhood, the very names of which are unknown in England, as the whole of this tract is little better than a blank in our best maps. But amidst so many loud and discordant voices, and the innumerable questions that were incessantly asked me on every side, the names of places that I heard in one moment escaped me in the next, “Among the many ridiculous questions that were seriously proposed to me, when talking of the different countries that I had visited, I was asked, whether I had ever been to the Belled-el-Kelb, where the men had dogs' heads 2 and, whether I had seen the Geziret-el-Waak, or the island in which women grow on trees, budding at sunrise, and becoming mature at sunset, when they fall from the branches, and exclaim, in the language of the country, Waak / Waak / ‘Come and embrace me!' “The opinions entertained by the people of Assalt on all matters beyond their own immediate sphere of observation, are like those which prevailed among the most ignorant of the ancients; and there is no fable of antiquity, however preposterous, that would not find believers here. Even now, places not a league distant from the town are made the scene of miracle; and the people seem not only to believe, but to delight in themarvellous. Myguide, Mallim Georgis, was a consequential old man, of diminutive stature, with a scanty beard confined to the extremity of his chin, small grey eyes, an aquiline nose, thin lips, high arched forehead, and round back; he might D 2 have have passed for a true descendant of Æsop, for he talked incessantly, and almost constantly in fables and parables. I have no doubt, from the reputation he seemed to enjoy with every one, that he was a man of integrity, and, in matters of common intercourse in life, a person of general credit and good faith; yet even he made no hesitation to swear by the few hairs of the scanty beard he possessed, that he had seen a Muggrebin at Oom Kais, by the art of magic, transport one of the columns of the ruins from that place to his own country; that he had distinctly heard him order it to rise and begone; and that he himself, with his own eyes, had seen it take its flight through the air Others said, that at a place called Oom-el-Russas, in the way to Karak, several Muggrebins had, by the aid of perfumes and prayers, raised up out of the earth copper cases full of gold, and carried them off to their own countries 1 “Amidst these absurd stories, there were now and then mingled some useful facts that were more worthy of remembering. I learnt, for instance, from the conversation of the evening, that Mallim Moosa, or Doctor Seetzen, had gone round the Bahr-el-Loot, or Dead Sea, from the outlet of the Jordan to the same point on his return, passing round from east to west, and that he had found the remains of many Greek monasteries and churches among the barren rocks

that border it. Sheikh Ibrahim,

or Mr. Burckhardt, had gone from hence, it was said, to Karak, and from that town round the southern extremity of the Dead Sea, by the ancient Zoar, to Egypt, with a party of Bedouins, about three years since. When I mentioned to them that I had, at Mr. Burckhardt's request, made minute inquiries into the particulars of Dr. Seetzen's death at Mokha, in my way from Egypt to India through the Red Sea, it excited a deep interest, and apparently a sincere regret"; both these enterprising individuals being well known to most of the persons present, and being, indeed, the only Europeans that had ever, till this period, penetrated much to the east of the Jordan, as far, at least, as was known to us by any trace of such a V1Slt. “The general topics of conversation were, however, relating to the Muggrebins, and their exploits whenever they came into this part of the country. These Muggrebins—the name being common to all the Arabs that come from any part of Africa between the Nile and the Atlantic—have the character of being profound magicians; and as the country east of the Jordan abounds with ruins, the people think that in all of them treasures are buried, and that the chief, if not the only object of all strangers coming among them, is to discover these hidden treasures, and carry them off for their own use. On the summit of Jebel-el-Belkah, or Bilgah, as it is equally often pronounced, the

• “ The particulars here alluded to were sent by me to Mr. Burckhardt, from Mokha, and by him transmitted to the Baron Von Hammer, at Vienna; by whom they were published, in a letter bearing my name, in one of the numbers of a large work

published at that capital, under the title of Les Mines de l'Orient.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

Pisgah of the Hebrews, from which Moses saw the promised land and died, and which is only three hours south of the reputed tomb of Joshua, on the mountain of Assalt, there grew, according to the testimony of all present, a species of grass, which changed the teeth of every animal that ate of it to silver! And in a party of twenty persons then assembled, there were not less than five witnesses who declared most solemnly that they had seen this transmutation take place with their own eyes ll" The informant who principally contributed these details, and many others relating to the topography of the district, is thus mentioned as getting rid of his task in being catechised: “Here my informant grew tired of his task, and exclaimed, “By the beard of my prophet ! there are three hundred and sixty-six ruined towns and villages about Assalt, and I know the names of all ; but who could have the patience to sit down and recite them to another, while he writes them in a book 2' I said all I could to explain the utility of this ; and added, that my chief object in taking this trouble was for the purpose of ascertaining what scriptural names were still retained and extant among the ruined cities here: but all my efforts were of no avail: the patience of my companion was exhausted, and there was no prevailing on him to resume his task. I had ascer

certained, however, by this means, at least one highly interesting fact, namely, that the whole of this region was, in a manner, studded with the ruins of ancient towns, and must have been once highly fertile and thickly peopled. On a reference to the division of the place given to the tribe of Judah, there appear only three names of places in the modern list corresponding with those of the cities mentioned there. Assalt, for the city of Salt (Joshua xv. 62); El Anab, for Anab (verse 50); and El Jehennah probably for Janum (verse 53). I have no doubt, however, but a visit to the places themselves, and the comparison of names on the spot might lead to the most interesting discoveries towards the elucidation of scriptural topography, and restore the lost knowledge of this interesting. region, which appears, both from ancient testimony, and the existence of innumerable ruins up to the present time, to have been one of the most fertile and thickly peopled countries on the face of the earth, though it still remains a blank in our maps, and is considered by all who treat of these countries as a desert or a wilderness.” On the contrary, throughout all this journey the remains of a very thickly planted ancient population, ruins of flourishing cities, and other signs of extreme cultivation and riches, are every where obvious". How great is the contrast now 7 At one spot the traveller's horses were startled by the rushing out of wild boars from the tickets, and in another we are told : “Proceeding onward, without even alighting to examine the ruins of Jelool, we started a strange animal from his retreat; and a cry of pursuit being set up by Abu Farah, we loosened our reins, and spurred our horses for the chace. It ran with such speed, however, that it gained upon us considerably at first, but we soon came up with it, and, coming near, each discharged his musket, but without success. At the sound of this, the animal turned sharp round, and ran towards my horse, uttering, with open jaws, a sound like the hissing of a goose, excepting only that it was rougher and much louder. The horse was frightened at this attack, and became almost unmanageable : but on loading and discharging a second piece with ball, the animal fell. It was called in Arabic, according to the information of my guide, “El Simta;' and was said, by him, to live chiefly by preying on the bodies of the dead, while it was naturally so ferocious, that it always turned on the living when attacked, and seldom even took

* Speaking elsewhere, Mr. B. observes, “We had now arrived at a very elevated part of the plain, which had continued fertile throughout the whole of the distance that we had yet come from Amman to this place, and were still gradually ris ng as we proceeded on, when we came to an elevation from which a new view opened before us to the south-east, in the direction in which we were travelling. This view presented to us, on a little lower level, a still more extensive tract of continued plain, than that over

veller's which we had already passed. Throughout its whole extent were seen ruined towns in every direction, both before, behind, and on each side of us; generally seated on small eminences; all at a short distance from each other; and all, as far as we had yet seen, bearing evident marks of former opulence and consideration. There was not a tree in sight as far as the eye could reach; but my guide, who had been over every part of it, assured me that the whose of the plain was covered with the finest soil, and capable of being made the most productive corn land in the world. It is true, that for a space of more than thirty miles there did not appear to me a single interruption of hill, rock, or wood, to impede immediate tillage; and it is certain, that the great plain of Esdraelon, so justly celebrated for its extent and fertility, is inferior in both, to this plain of Belkah, for so the whole country is called, from the mountain of that name, the Pisgah of the scripture. Like Esdraelon, it appears also to have been once the seat of an active and numerous population; but, on the former, the monuments of the dead only remain, while here the habitations of the living are equally mingled with the tombs of the departed, both thickly strewn over every part of the soil from which they drew their

flight at first as it had done with us. The whole length of this animal did not exceed five feet, including a short head and neck, and a bushy tail of about a foot long; its legs were short, its belly fat, and its whole height from the ground not more than eighteen inches; its nose was rounded, its head small, and its mouth wide; the colour of all the lower part of its body was black, but over the back and tail it had a broad grey patch, which, at a little distance, resembled a dirty white cloth, tied over the animal to shelter it from wet or cold ; its hair was long and coarse, its back slightly arched, like that of the hyaena, and its general resemblance nearer to the badger, than to any other animal to which I could compare it.” At Adjeloon (Ajalon) “there were only two christians in the place besides our host, and as these were not present among the groupe that surrounded us on our arrival, they were sent for, when the kissing and greeting of our first meeting was again repeated. “After we had satisfied the curiosity of our Mohammedan visitors, they gradually dispersed; and being now left alone, or with

sustenance.” christian

« 이전계속 »