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In a Syrian Saddle

In a Syrian Saddle
Title: In a Syrian Saddle
Release Date: 2018-05-24
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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Transcriber's Note.

Apparent typographical errors have been corrected. The use of hyphens hasbeen rationalised. Variations in the use of accents have been retained.

Two lines in blackletter font have been bolded.

The musical score at the top of page 97 is accompanied by a link to amidi file.






First Published in 1905

This record is dedicated


On the eve of starting together upon a longer journey


I. Going to Jericho 1
II. Stepping Eastward 20
III. Madaba 51
IV. Mshatta 64
V. Ammân 93
VI. Jerash, and the Fords of Jabbok 116
VII. Es-Salt 145
VIII. The Jordan Valley 161
I. To Nablus 178
II. To Samaria 194
III. To Taanak and Megiddo 217
IV. Haifa and Carmel 244
V. Nazareth and Tabor 258
VI. The Sea of Galilee 277
VII. Tiberias and Besan 302
VIII. West of the Jordan 323




"A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho"

Lifeis, in many respects, made very easyin the Holy Land. You can return homein the afternoon with no anxious forebodingsas to how much waste of time is awaiting youin the shape of cards and notes on the halltable; you may wear clothes for covering, youmay eat for nourishment; without taking thoughtfor fashion in the one case, or of competitionwith your neighbour's cook or gardener inthe other. But—according to our Occidentalstandards—you cannot consistently indulge anytaste you may happen to have for being grand.Your attempts at a London, or shall we say asuburban, drawing-room, your "At Home" days,your Europeanised service, the dress of your{2}womankind—distantly reminiscent of the ladies'papers and of Answers to Correspondents—arecertain to be complicated by some contretempsprovocative only of mirth. The Oriental himselfmakes no attempt at being consistent.When you arrive at his house he spreads apriceless carpet, but omits to remove last week'sdust from off the furniture; he gives youperfumed coffee, which is like a dream ofOlympus, and his servant brings you a pieceof bread in his fingers.

These reflections, and many more, weresuggested during the waiting which accompaniedour start in the early sunrise at half-past fiveon Saturday, 3rd October 1903. No one couldhave guessed how grand we really were, andthere were moments then, and later, whenthe fact escaped even our own notice. Wefour, the Lady, the Doctor (of various formsof scholarship) and the two Sportsmen, werethe chosen and proud companions of theProfessor; and the Professor, besides beingthe greatest epigraphist in Europe, was therepresentative of a Royal Personage, and armedwith all the permits and safe-conducts andspecial privileges useful in a land of cholera,quarantine, and backsheesh. Our eight horses{3}were innocent of grooming, and their equipmentwas fastened together mainly with tin tacks,pieces of rope, and bits of string; but itwould have been difficult to find in England anyanimal to whom you could have proposed, stillless with whom you could have carried through,one tithe of what our ragged regiment accomplished.Our two grooms, mukaris, appealed tocertain senses as vaguely horsey, though they suggestednothing more distinguished than stable-helps;but their management of eight animals,under conditions which seemed especially designedfor their destruction, when there was not a bladeof grass, perhaps for a whole day not a drop ofwater; when they were ridden for ten, twelve,or even fourteen hours at a stretch with merelyan hour's rest—without forage—at noon, wouldhave done credit to any groom at Badmintonor Berkeley. As we proposed to ourselves bothpleasure and profit we took no servants—stillless a dragoman. Our portable food had beenvery carefully selected, and was the best obtainable.Bread, eggs, chickens, grapes, andlemons we could count upon getting as wewent along.

Each member of the party had clothing anda blanket in a pair of saddle-bags—mostly of{4}goats' hair or camels' hair, gaily decorated withcoloured tassels—and these, with an extra pairfor the baskets of food, spirit-lamps, plates,knives, and tin cups, were distributed amongthe three baggage animals, who also carried,in turn, the two mukaris, perched on the topof the pile, but capable of climbing up anddown with incredibly rapid agility.

At length the cavalcade was ready, and weturned our faces towards Jericho. First camethe Professor, on a tall, white Circassian horse,with a tail which almost swept the ground,and was dyed with henna for protection fromthe Evil One, who was further defied, by eachof us, by means of a large blue bead hanginground the neck of every horse on a colouredworsted rope. The Professor himself exhibitedfive foot of humanity, mostly brains; a personalitywhich consisted, to the eye, of a largescarlet and gold silk keffeeye (head covering)with a goats' hair akal (rope to keep it in place)and an elaborate silk fringe, below which emergeda pair of black leggings, into one of which a whipwas jauntily stuck. He was mounted on a peaked,military saddle, and he alone of all the party refusedto be separated from his saddle-bags, whichcontained an assortment of cigars, cigarettes,{5}tobacco, and the long wooden pipe, for use inthe saddle, such as is in favour with the Bedu.

Next came the Lady, mounted on a long-leggedArab steed, several sizes too large forher, but selected for her use mainly because hecould do the rahwân, the light canter special tothe desert horses, and which reduces fatigue toa minimum. It was discovered, later in theday, that he was also capable, apparently, ofrunning for the Derby, an incident which mayas well be recorded at once, as it resulted in hisbanishment to the second class, and the societyof the mukaris.

The road from Jerusalem to Jericho still retainsthe character recorded some two thousandyears ago, but the thieves among whom you inevitablyfall are now licensed by the Government.There is a whole village full of them, calledAbu-dis, and they have the privilege of protectingtravellers from Bethany to Jericho—thatis, of enforcing payment for preventing anyoneelse from robbing you. It is but some fewyears ago that an Englishman, suspected ofseeking to dispense with this advantage, hadhis donkey shot under him. At Bethany, accordingly,we were joined by our escort, but,as became our dignity, he was an officer,{6}picturesquely attired, and mounted, unfortunately,on a beautiful Arab mare. The misfortunelay in the fact that all our horses, withone exception, were stallions, most of whombecame restless and uneasy, that of the Professorso unmanageable that our escort was compelledto leave us, and to take to bypaths from whichhe could, more or less, keep us in sight. Nevertheless,even the temporary companionship hadsomewhat excited the entire cavalcade. Wewere all in good spirits, and it must be confessedthat there was a certain amount of whatmay be called "fooling"—-of what we wouldnot for worlds describe as "showing off," but,rather, as trying the paces of our steeds—anamusement which the Professor saw reason,later, to forbid entirely.

The road to Jericho is a descent of over threethousand feet, but at a point nearly half way, a longand steep climb brings you from the transversevalley Sa'b-el-Meshak to the Khan of the GoodSamaritan. At this point it occurred to the Lady'shorse to have a private exhibition on his ownaccount, and to set off at a truly breakneck gallop,with which no other animal in the party couldpossibly compete, even had it been wise to follow,except at a considerable distance. Her strength{7}was quite inadequate to check him, but in the lengthand steepness of the hill lay promise of safety,and it was with infinite relief that he was seento pull up at last. He had no vice, but theoccasion was not one for a steeplechase, and itwas decided that, on the morrow, there shouldbe a "general post" of horses, the mukari beingmade responsible for his Derby winner, and theProfessor arranging, by exchange with one of theSportsmen, to ride an animal which would admitof conversation with the officer, for such attainmentsas our leader's have not been achievedby sitting in a library, or by confinement to theprofessorial chair of his university, but ratherby personal intercourse with the Arabs in thevarious dialects of their own clans, by life inthe desert, and association with wanderingtribes in the unexplored districts of the PeræaHaurân and of Central Arabia.

The Sportsmen carried guns, the Doctor anotebook—though he was more than suspectedof yearning for a rifle,—the revolver which hecarried at his belt being better adapted forthe murder of man than of beast—not that themurder of man, to judge from the experiencesof earlier travellers, was a wholly improbable contingency.Our road led us along almost the entire{8}length of the north and east wall of Jerusalem;we then crossed the bridge over the Kedronvalley—the brook, if any exist, is now farbelow the surface; we passed the Garden ofGethsemane, skirted the southern slope of theMount of Olives, hastened past the filthy hovelsof the little village of Bethany, crowned by theso-called Castle of Lazarus, probably the remainsof a pre-crusading Benedictine convent, andfinally, about seven o'clock, pulled up at whatis known as the Inn of the Apostles' Fountain,just such a building as a child might drawupon a slate. As this is the only well betweenBethany and Jericho it may be safely assumedthat the apostles, coming up to Jerusalem,would drink here, though it is to be hoped thatit was less contaminated than at present; foreven the careless natives strain the water througha sieve before allowing their animals to drink,though, nevertheless, they still acquire leeches,as the bleeding mouths of the camels anddonkeys one meets along the road frequentlybetray. The spot has been marked by asuccession of buildings; a little white dome overthe well, and some hewn stones and the ruinsof an aqueduct in the hill across the road, beingall that now remains of its old dignity.

{9}Passing the Khan of the Good Samaritan—amodern inn and curiosity shop, at which youcan, at your leisure, renew "a certain man's"experiences—we paused at the top of the lasthill before descending towards the Jordan valley.Here the entire neighbourhood was once commandedby a strong mediæval castle, intended,like many all over the country, for the defenceof the district. The tribal marks of the Beduto be found on its walls are of extreme interest.The hill upon which it stands is known asTel'at ed-Dam, the hill of blood, probably fromthe red colour of the rock, though some havesought to identify it, by reason of the sound ofthe name, with the Adummim of Joshua xv. 7.

The view from this point is, in certain details,absolutely unique. You look down at the lowestspot upon the earth's surface—the hollow ofthe Dead Sea, blue as the sky in the morningsunshine, flecked with cloudlike wavelets, beautiful,gay and smiling, but bitter, treacherous, andthe home only of mystery and death. The watercontains about twenty-five per cent. of solid substances;no organism higher than such microbes asthe bacilli of tetanus can live in it; even swimmingis almost impossible; neither shells nor coraltestify to any happier past. The water boils{10}at 221 degrees Fahrenheit, but the presence ofchloride of magnesium makes it incrediblynauseous, while the oily quality, which it derivesfrom chloride of calcium, makes any accidentalsplash upon the garments very destructive. Wegratefully take in long breaths of air which,hot and dry as it is, are, we are well aware,more fresh and sweet than any we are likelyto obtain during the next twenty-four hours, foronly personal experience of the stifling heatof that unrivalled hollow can make it possibleto realise that six and a half million tons ofwater which

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