Page images
PDF
EPUB

not been properly laid down, probably because it was found not to accord with other calculations. Still the distance on the map is much too great, being nearly two hours. Here there is no mistake on Burckhardt's part, but there is a want of sufficient fulness. He ought to have given the directions as well as the distances. On arriving at 'Ayûn he turned nearly due east, and recrossed the eastern branch of the mountains, which is here low, and covered with ruined walls, as he describes it. Proceeding in this direction, he reached ’Orman in 1į hour, and from thence he turned back W. by S., and arrived at Sulkhad in 11 hour more. Instead of 4 hours, Súlkhad is only 24 hours from Sehwet el-Khudr. Burckhardt's route from Súlkhad to Kureiyeh appears to have been the same as ours. Buckingham’s, however, was different, as he kept more to the north, and passed close to ’Ayûn.

The town of 'Orman, visited by Burckhardt, I saw from the ruins of Sülkhad; it is in the plain, considerably to the eastward of the base of the mountain. It is a place of some historical importance, as marking the site of the ancient Philipopolis. It is identified by means of an inscription copied by Burckhardt, in which the name occurs, with the date 253, or A.D. 359. In Aurelius Victor's History of the Cæsars' is the following passage, which throws some light on these ruins :—“M. Julius Philippus,

M. an Arab of Trachonitis, having united with himself his son Philippus (in the government of the empire), and having arranged affairs in the East, and erected the city

7

6

6 Travels in Syria, p. 99. 7 Travels among Arab Tribes, p. 214

8

of Philipopolis in Arabia, came to Rome.” This Philippus was a native of Bostra, and founded Philipopolis to perpetuate his own name, and to honour his native land. He may probably have descended from a family which at one time resided in this very town; and when he obtained the sceptre of the Cæsars, he rebuilt and adorned it, and gave it his own name. Philipopolis became afterwards an episcopal city, and its bishop signed the acts of the Council of Chalcedon.' The Greek name is now forgotten, and the ancient Syrian name alone is known to the people of the land.

[ocr errors]

Chap. xxviii.; see also Ritter, Pal. und Syr., ii. 954.
S. Paulo, Geog. Sac., p. 295; see also Reland, Pal., p. 218.

CHAPTER XIV.

SUWEIDEH TO NEJRAN, EDHR’A (EDREI), AND DAMASCUS.

[ocr errors]

Roman road - The plain of Bashan - The borders of the Lejah,

Trachonitis — Situation of Nejrân, and description of its ruins Kerâtah, the ancient Coreathes — Ride along the side of the Lejah Busr el-Hariry – Fanaticism and insolence of its inhabitants Danger of penetrating the Lejah — Approach to Edrei — Description of its position and ruins — Identification and history – Fearful conflict with its inhabitants — Rescue -Threats and plans of escape Midnight flight - Bivouac in a defile — Wild scenery of the Lejah.

TOPOGRAPHY AND PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY OF THE LEJAH. - Its extent and boundaries - Identified with Trachonitis and ARGOBGreat numbers of deserted towns — Ruins of Musmeih, the ancient Phænos.

The plain of Bashan - Arrival at Deir 'Aly — The valley of the Pharpar — The Hâj road.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

We now resume our narrative. At 1.55 we again mounted, and rode down the stony declivity to the plain. In ten minutes we crossed the Roman road referred to above. The loose stones and rough ground continued till we reached the village of Welgha at 2:50. Among the rocks there is abundance of the richest soil. Welgha is built on the top of a low tell, and resembles all the other villages of this region. Half an hour north from it, on another tell, is Rîmeh, and between them, in a stony wady, are two towers resembling the tombs of Kunawât. On passing Welgha the plain becomes open, and the loamy soil is entirely free from stones, affording fine fields for the cultivation of wheat. At 3.30 we reached the small ruined village of Mezraáh, beside which there is a large fountain. We soon afterwards crossed one of the branches of the Wady Kunawât, and then rode over a rich plain to Sijn. On our way the large village of Mejdel was visible about a mile on our right. Here Burckhardt found several Greek inscriptions." Some distance north of it is Kefr el-Laha, where there are also large ruins of ancient buildings, with inscriptions of the time of the emperor Gordianus II. The latter village stands on the bank of the northern branch of Wady Kunawât. So many small wadys descend from these mountains, and so much do they resemble each other when they reach the plain, that it is difficult for the traveller to ascertain with accuracy the course of each one. So far as I have been able to ascertain by inquiries and observation, two wadys descend from the neighbourhood of Kunawât—one from the ravine beside the ruins, and the other from the ravine at Deir es-Sumeid. The latter sweeps to the north, after leaving the mountains, to Kefr el-Laha, where both Burckhardt and Buckingham saw it; and from thence it follows the borders of the Lejah, a little southward of Nejrân, Busr el-Harîry, and Edhra, and, after leaving the latter place, winds across the plain to Eshmiskîn and Tell Ashareh, from whence it runs southward to the Sheriat el-Mandhûr. The other branch runs in a parallel course over the plain, and falls into the former between Eshmiskîn and Tell Ash'areh.

Sijn stands upon a tell, and contains some buildings of great solidity. As we passed it the Druze sheikh and several of his attendants saw us, and it was with much difficulty we were enabled to get away from them, so eager were they that we should remain for the night. The stony ground here again commenced ; and the black porous trap cropped up in jagged masses from the surface of the plain, many of them twenty feet high, and forty or fifty yards in diameter. These, with the huge intervening boulders and scattered fragments, give the country a barren and savage aspect. As we advanced, the patches of clear soil became smaller and less frequent, and the rocks loftier and more extended. The town of Nejrân now appeared before us--the massive black walls and heavy square towers rising up lonely and deserted-like from the midst of a wilderness of rocks. The singular physical features I had remarked at Burâk here again showed themselves, and were evidences that we had crossed the borders of that geological wonder the Lejah. Some mounds of loose stones regularly formed on an open place to the left attracted my attention, and Mahmûd informed me that here were placed the batteries of Ibrahîm Pasha during his war with the Druzes. A large fortified camp had been constructed behind them.

1 Travels in Syria, pp. 66, 67. 2 Id. p. 68; see also Ritter, Pal. und Syr., ii. 873. 3. Travels in Syria, p. 67; Buck., Trav. among Arab Tribes, p. 253.

We reached Nejrân at 5:15. The approach to the town is by a winding path among the rocks. We had often to scramble over smooth ledges of basalt, where our horses could scarcely keep their feet; and these were separated by deep fissures, and in some places encompassed by pools full of water. A stranger would have sought in vain for the path, if path it can be called. On entering the ruins we were led to a large open place in the centre of them, and here we found the venerable sheikh Kasem abu-Fakher in the midst of his elders,

« PreviousContinue »