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culminating point of the range. Upon the long slopes are numerous villages, and far away in its wastes (three days' journey, we were told) we knew were the far-famed cedars of Lebanon, the honoured monarchs of the vegetable world, the ornament of the Temple, the wisdom of Solomon, the lofty symbol of the Truth of the spiritual Church. Fain would we have visited the fragrant forest, where, as some hold, trees of two thousand years are still standing, but we could not embrace the glory of Lebanon in our prescribed route.
The houses of Beyrout bear witness to the prosperity of this citypleasant, well-built, flat-roofed residences, interspersed with beautiful gardens and groves, giving the whole an attractive appearance, independently of its picturesque position with respect to the mountains and the sea. We met intelligent-looking Syrian men, and a few villanous-looking Bedouins, with unkempt locks and beards, and long-striped dirty bournous, who gave us an idea of a kind of people it would not be altogether pleasant to meet with in solitary places. Women, too, there were, some pleasant-looking faces of Maronites, who, as Christians, did not adopt the hideous custom of veiling the face, particularly as it is done here ; for many others we encountered who, in addition to the ordinary yashmak, had the whole countenance covered with a coloured handkerchief, which probably did not prevent their seeing, but which effectually concealed their features, and gave them a ghastly look of walking ghosts. On their hips, or on their shoulders, they often carried little children, more or less in a state of nature, in Eastern fashion.
Wandering thus through the suburbs, we presently came in sight of a pretty English-looking chapel, with a clock-tower, and near it a Bible-house, which we visited. This was the American Presbyterian Mission, which is effecting a vast amount of good as a Christian centre, and from which no less than twelve thousand Arabic Bibles are circulated annually, and by no means gratuitously. From the summit of this tower, which the superintendent kindly permitted us to ascend, we obtained a fine view of Beyrout, the sea, and Mount Lebanon, on a lovely afternoon, which filled up any gap in our impression of the beauty of the district.
In such a centre as Beyrout it may be easily understood that such institutions flourish and are of vast benefit, and I may mention two other civilizing media which are doing important work for Syria. One of these is the Syrian Protestant College, established in 1863 by a statute of the Legislation of New York; and another, also American in its nationality, which comprises a school for the education of the daughters of foreign residents and a school for orphan girls of the country, who are here brought up in Christian principles, Arabic being the language used. There are about 130 in the school, the cost of each being about £9 sterling per annum.
In the evening we were engaged in our preparations for the journey before us, which consisted in the inspection of the tents, canteens, etc., which were to be our habitation and provision for the way, and the very complete character of which left us no misgivings as to how our dragomans and caterers intended to treat us. Our party was to consist of eleven, nine gentlemen and two ladies; and to afford accommodation even for that moderate number through a country where we should have to depend upon our own arrangements for everything for some weeks, the preparations were necessarily upon a scale and of an importance which made it desirable that we should feel confidence in those who undertook this part of the arrangements.
An equally necessary and more important personal duty we applied ourselves to later, viz. the trial of the horses, horseback being the only practicable mode of conveyance through the rugged and rather sterile country before us. Fifteen or sixteen horses—we might rather call them ponies—were ranged in front of the hotel, each one ticketed; and each traveller drew a number from a hat, and proceeded to find the corresponding animal. At the same time it was understood that if dissatisfied with the mount, it might be exchanged for one more to one's liking. There was a good deal of changing and arrangement necessary before all were pleased; I was fortunate however to find my horse to my mind, and kept my wiry little animal, an iron-grey with a long tail dyed with red ochre, and which I at once named Phoenicurus. I also liked very well the Syrian saddle, with a high pommel and black sheepskin cover. All the rest had English saddles, but I may here say that my horse and saddle both justified my choice, and while they gave me the minimum amount of trouble, my Phoenicurus won golden opinions from my travelling companions, who from time to time were dismounted from various causes, or who admired the tendency of my horse to pass before the others, in the Indian file which we usually had to assume among the limestone crags ; so that I was sometimes tempted to change his name to Pioneer. I I may here say that both ladies (although one was a good horsewoman) were thrown more than once, as well as five or six of the gentlemen, although happily all escaped uninjured; while I, from no merit of my own, scarcely experienced a stumble the whole way.
On the following morning we set out in grand cavalcade. Upwards of thirty mules laden with tents, baggage, and cooking appliances, and attended by about half that number of muleteers, went forward, together with two cooks and a waiter; and this baggage train always preceded us, if possible, on our daily journeys. We ourselves formed a party of fifteen, viz. eleven travellers, two dragomans, and two waiters to lay out the lunch al fresco; all of course mounted, and one or two extra animals to carry provisions for the mid-day meal, carpets to spread, etc. Beyrout is accustomed to such processions, but our start caused considerable attention as we passed through the bazaars and skirts of the town. Leaving Beyrout, we at once entered upon an excellent coach-road, constructed by a French company, and opened ,
, in 1875, for the daily running of a diligence between Beyrout and Damascus, a distance of fifty-five miles. Of this road we availed
. ourselves for the whole of the first day's journey, gradually ascending by zigzags up the slope of Mount Lebanon. It was a lovely ride, first through groves of mulberries, walnuts, chestnuts, olives, and fig-trees, mingled with some palms and thick hedges of cactus or prickly pear. As we rose higher we gained beautiful views over the city and the sea, and we were in no hurry to reach the summit and descend on the other side. Our pace was mostly a walking one, to suit all capacities, but this did not prejudice those who desired a canter now and then. The road was much frequented, and we met from time to time long trains of camels, laden with sacks and bags of merchandise, trudging along with their usual patient looks and tranquil bearing, however much they may be murmuring at heart (as camels do murmur) at their lot. Here, as usual, it is customary for å man or boy to ride a donkey at the head of the train, to which the first camel's head is tied by a loose cord, and each camel similarly attached behind, head to tail, so that they are easily led. There were also waggons drawn by three mules, strings of mules and asses laden with packs, Syrians, Arabs, etc., and now and then some veiled Syrian ladies in wide trousers, sitting across mules, with their escort. rose higher we crossed some magnificent gorges and defiles in the mountain, or long limestone terraces, caused by fracture, and forming fine sections, which looked as though they were artificially constructed walls. Of flowers there were unfortunately few at this time of the year, the most conspicuous being some tree-mallows and large yellow autumnal crocuses. Bright green umbrella or Italian pines succeeded, and leafless fig-trees. Eagles or large buzzard-like hawks soared over our heads from time to time, pairs of ravens, a flock of hooded crows, and smaller birds accompanied us, and added to the life and interest of the scene.
At noon we halted, and some of us who were not much accustomed to riding were glad to dismount and rest upon our mats, while our
attendants provided an excellent al fresco meal, consisting of hardboiled eggs, fowls, mutton, bread, and dried fruits; and after an hour's rest thus spent we once more proceeded. As we approached the summit of the pass the scene became grander, the peak of Sunnin was conspicuous, and far away to sea we could distinctly perceive the island of Cyprus lying in misty outline upon the blue waters of the Mediterranean, while our aneroid barometer informed us that we had ascended to a height of 5500 feet above our starting-place, the city of Beyrout, which seemed to be at our feet at a great depth. A line of telegraph wires accompanied us all the way, and near the summit long poles about forty feet high were fixed upright at intervals, their use being to mark the road in winter, when it is sometimes covered fifteen or twenty feet deep with snow, and all other landmarks are obliterated.
At four P.M. we crossed the summit and addressed ourselves to the other side. Now was our view changed. The ocean gave place to a broad and rather desolate valley some ten miles wide, bounded by a range of lofty hills, and at our feet were sharp zigzags down which we were to descend. This valley was the plain of Cæle Syria (i.e. hollow Syria), and the mountain-range was the Anti-Lebanon, which runs parallel to Mount Lebanon; and away to our right was its highest point, a peak 10,000 feet high, with which we were destined to become very familiar, and which seldom or never was out of sight during our whole journey through; Palestine—the picturesque, the ancient, and the sacred Mount Hermon.
As we descended, the sun set, gilding the top of Hermon, dusk rapidly followed, and we began to wish we could reach the camp. At a turn of the road I thought I could discern the tents below us, but it took many turns to reach them. Before doing so, a large space was passed, which seemed full of camels, mules, and drivers, all lying down in a confused mass together. It was a caravan which had bivouacked for the night; and not long after we reached camp, and were right glad to resume our legs after a ride of thirty miles, which to such as, like myself, were unused to horse exercise, was not a bad beginning How snug
looked in the dusky light! There were seven tents—five for the travellers, one for the kitchen, and one for a saloon or dining-room. In the kitchen tent a ruddy fire proclaimed preparations for a hearty and well-earned meal. The baggage animals, weary enough, no doubt, were tethered closely, lying down or standing up, as it pleased them, while the muleteers were busy feeding or otherwise attending upon them. Repairing to my own tent, I found it a commodious apartment, containing three small and low iron bedsteads
and a table and chairs, the walls of the tent itself being elegantly decorated with Arabesque designs in white, blue, red, and yellow. My tent companions were an American Congregational minister and a gentleman whose brother I had known in England.
Within twenty minutes of our arrival dinner was served, with tea for those who liked it—and a very welcome addition; and as I am alluding to these facts once for all, I may mention that our dinner always consisted of mutton and fowls, with vegetables, pudding, and various dried fruits. Fowls we generally easily obtained from the natives, mutton, however, was the only butcher's meat obtainable, and it was served in every possible way, and not unacceptable to most of our party, if we except one, who had an unfortunate idiosyncrasy which excluded mutton in any shape from her diet. After the meal was concluded we usually assembled in the tent of an old American Presbyterian minister, for reading the Scriptures and prayer; after which, writing letters, making up diaries, a little interchange of visiting, etc., occupied the rest of the evening; for we never wandered far beyond the precincts of the camp after our evening meal, in fact fatigue alone kept us from too much of that. The muleteers and attendants slept soundly enough, no doubt, extended anywhere, as was their wont; the camp, however, was not left unguarded, but a watch of one or two men of the district, armed with guns, always took up their station in our midst : whether they slept or not I am hardly in a position to say.
At six next morning we were aroused by a horn, and every one jumped up; but before we were fairly dressed the tents were struck, and amid loud shouts of “ Y'allah ! Y'allah !” from our Arabs, the beds, luggage, and tents were packed, the mules laden, and the breakfast prepared; but long before it was finished our baggage train was under way, and soon after seven we were all in the saddle. Still following the coach-road, we soon reached the spot where our route diverged to the north ; for we were bound for the magnificent ruins of Baalbék, considerably to the north of Damascus, and situated in the valley of Cæle Syria. Quitting, then, the Damascus route, we diverged into a mere mule-track, and for two hours were busy at a foot-pace fording rugged gullies and marching over rough stones and rocks, when a sudden turn of the road disclosed a deep cleft in the hills on the left, in which there nestled a large, clean, and prosperous-looking town. This was Zachleh, a Christian settlement of some 10,000 inhabitants, all except a few families being Maronites, but notwithstanding which it must be told that it is a town “notorious for pride and turbulence.”