« PreviousContinue »
FIVE YEARS IN DAMASCUS,
JOURNEY ALONG THE BORDERS OF THE DESERT
Objects of the tour - Difficulties - Druze war— A battle Turkish legislation - A caravan - Singular mirage- The valley of the 'Awaj, PHARPAR-Scenery of the desert - A night march and adventureDeserted town of Burâk - Remarkable stone houses- Exciting tale of border warfare - Wild scenery of the Lejah, Trachonitis — Moonlight ride- Ruined and deserted towns Roman road Jebel Haurân-Kingdom of BASHAN - Druze hospitality - Ancient houses and inscriptions in Hiyât - A Druze chief - A banquet — Illustrations of Scripture.
FROM the period of my arrival in Syria, in 1849, it was my desire, whenever opportunity should offer, to visit and explore the interesting district comprehended in the ancient provinces of Batanæa, Auronitis, and Trachonitis. This district is now inhabited by a mixed population of Christians, Druzes, and Muslems. Little is known of their character and habits; and no attempts have ever been made to communicate to them either secular or
religious instruction. One great object I had in view in my proposed visit was to become acquainted with the people, and to ascertain whether schools could be advantageously established in any of the villages. The Haurân
being the granary of Damascus, the peasants frequently, and in large numbers, visit the city; I consequently considered that it might open up the way to more important labours if I could induce any of them to receive or purchase books, whether educational or purely religious. To secure the friendship of the leading Druze sheikhs, who are the actual rulers of the Haurân, was also advisable, and indeed essential, before any operations should be commenced.
But while these were the main objects of my proposed visit, I determined to lose no opportunity which my travels might afford me of investigating the topography and antiquities, or elucidating the geography and history, of this interesting region. Whatever might tend to illustrate and explain any passage in the Word of God, I have always considered it my duty carefully to observe and accurately to note; while traversing Bible Lands, therefore, and visiting some of those cities and provinces whose names are among the earliest found in Scripture history, it will not be thought strange that I should linger amid their ruins, and investigate monuments that date back to the age of the patriarchs and prophets. And if these researches should enable me to solve some difficulties in Scripture geography, or to correct errors into which others have fallen, it will not be considered that I go beyond my proper sphere of labour, if I attempt to communicate to the world the results of my investigations.
A perusal of Burckhardt's valuable notes, and of the rough sketches of Buckingham, had given me some idea of the general features of the country, and of the almost innumerable ruins scattered over its surface; while a study of the Sacred Scriptures, of the writings of