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FROM HÎT TO KUNAWAT — THE NORTHERN SECTION
OF JEBEL HAURÂN. Topography of the plain of BASHAN - Singular features of the Lejah
Vast numbers of deserted towns — Buildings of Hît — Their antiquity – Inscriptions and dates — Visit to Bathanyeh, Batanæa — Ancient houses Deserted towns — The province of Batanæa identified — Stone doors — Druze horsemanship - Visit to Shủka, the ancient Saccæa — Interesting ruins — Ancient churches — Errors in map of Berghaus - Position of Săfă – Wady Liwa — Visit to Shủhba
Causes of the Druze war and tyranny of Turkish rulers — Ruins of theatre, temples, &c. Extinct crater — Identification of site Princes of Shehâb – Terraced hills – Mourning for the slain in battle — Ancient towns Ruins of Suleim identified with Neapolis Beautiful mountain scenery — Visit to Kunawât, KENATI — Splendid ruins — A Druze schoolmaster - Character of the Bedawîn Description of Kunawât — Historical notices — Date of principal
buildings. February 2nd. — This morning dawned beautifully. The sky was unclouded, the mists, which on the previous
day hung around the hills and settled upon the plains, had completely disappeared, and the atmosphere was clear and transparent. Ascending to the roof of the sheikh's house, which commands a view of the whole plain from these mountains to the snow-capped Hermon, I examined with care the features of the country. The district lying between Jebel Haurân on the south-east, and Jebel eshSheikh on the north-west, is one continuous plain, about forty miles in breadth. On its northern side the low barren ridge of Jebel Khiyârah extends nearly ten miles across it. On the south it has no natural boundary, as it runs unbroken far as the eye can reach even from the commanding heights of Súlkhad, on the southern brow of the Jebel Haurân; but we may assume as its border the Wady Zêdy, which runs from Băsrah in a course nearly north-west, till it joins the Sheriat el-Mandhûr. This district embraces the whole of the plain of Haurân, the whole of the Lejah, with large portions of Jedûr and Jaulân ; and these modern provinces respectively correspond pretty nearly with the ancient Auranitis, Trachonitis, Ituræa, and Gaulanitis. The Lejah is the most remarkable of these provinces; and, in a geological point of view, the most wonderful district I have ever seen. I shall have occasion to speak more fully of it, as well as of the others, in the sequel ; but I refer to it here to enable the reader to follow me in my description of the physical features of the country. As seen from Hît the Lejah resembles a lake agitated by a strong wind, and any one who has seen Loch Lomond while a winter tempest swept over it, and the troubled waters assumed the gloomy hue of the clouded heavens, may form some idea of the appearance of the Lejah as seen from this place. Its eastern
border is very clearly defined along the side of the Wady Liwa, beyond which stretches out a broad plain, far as the eye can see.
The whole plain of the Haurân is diversified by numerous conical tells, which rise up at intervals. There are only two of these tells within the borders of the Lejah—Tell Amâra, beside the village of 'Ahiry, and Tell Sumeid.
While seated on the house-top the sheikh came up, and, on my remarking the extent of this prospect and the large number of towns and villages embraced in it, he volunteered to tell me the names of them all, and I gladly wrote them down as he enumerated them. The bearings of the most important of these I afterwards had an opportunity of taking with my large compass.
While I was thus engaged Mr. Barnett was busy in search of inscriptions; and on finishing my observations I joined him, and we made a hasty survey of the ruins.
The village is about a mile and a half in circumference, and the general character of the architecture is similar to that of Hiyât. There are several square towers like belfries, but the buildings to which they are attached have nothing about them of the nature of ecclesiastical edifices. There is one tower of much superior workmanship to the rest, though of the same dimensions and plan. It stands apart from other buildings, and is evidently a complete structure in itself. In almost every town and village I visited in these mountains I observed one or more similar towers, and my impression is they were intended for tombs. Those I afterwards found at Kunawât have still the sarcophagi in them. The tombs on the hill-sides near Palmyra are of the same character, though in general much larger and more highly ornamented. Many of the
ancient streets in Hît can be traced, notwithstanding the masses of ruins and rubbish that have accumulated in them during the course of ages. They are narrow and tortuous, and thus bear a marked contrast to those of other towns in this region which are manifestly of Roman origin, or at least were reconstructed in the Roman age. The houses are all massive and simple in plan, with stone roofs supported on arches, and stone doors. Some of the latter are finely panelled, and otherwise ornamented with tasteful mouldings.
Among the ruins of Hit there is a considerable number of Greek inscriptions, some of which have been copied by Burckhardt, and may be seen in his · Travels in Syria.' Mr. Barnett and I copied all we could find, and succeeded in obtaining some which Burckhardt had overlooked. The latter I will here insert.
The first is from a stone over the door of the sheikh's house. It merely records the dedication of some building or altar to Jupiter by a certain Arabianos (?)
BI MI NOCAIOMHAOYC
The second is from a small building resembling a fountain on the north side of the town, and is to the effect that Aelius Mazimos the Governor erected the structure :
• In this town a large majority of the houses are mere heaps of ruins; many, however, are still nearly perfect, and the present inhabitants occupy exclusively ancient dwellings. VOL. II,
The third is from beside a door in the building called the church:3.
On the east side of the village, on a large stone, lying beside the foundation of a small square structure of very superior masonry, is the following inscription in good characters ::
Of the inscriptions copied by Burckhardt, one appears to have the date 14 of the Bostrian era, which would be