James Bell Forsyth.

A few months in the East : or, A glimpse of the Red, the Dead, and the Black seas online

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would endeavour to add to her collections in Natural
History some entomological, as well as botanical,
specimens. The latter department I prevailed on Mr.
Murray to undertake, for he was quite at home in
this interesting branch. Yet I soon discovered that
the beetles alone bothered me considerably ; for I had
been instructed by the young lady to have a pot of
boiling water in readiness, in which to throw them,
being assured, by my fair young friend, that they
would suffer no pain. I was, however, a little scep-
tical on this point, and became impressed with some
glimmering recollections of the Brahminical doctrine of
Metempsychosis; so 1 wrote to her, and remarked, that
as possibly I might, in the delicate process, be guilty
of torturing her great -great -grandmother or some
ancestor of my own, I preferred sending her a few
specimens, purchased at a Naturalist's museum in
Cairo. This naturalist's collection was certainly of a
most comprehensive and copious character, from a
beetle up to a mummy, a crocodile or alligator.



60

Before leaving Cairo, we visited the storehouses of
Joseph, which are, in fact, nothing but an accumu-
lation of old brick and other rubbish ; and after-
wards the Bazaars. These, it is well-known, are,
in Eastern cities, the great marts of commerce, with
their long labyrinths of narrow lanes. Every depart-
ment of trade has a separate street to itself; these
are very narrow, and generally covered, so as to
preclude the burning rays of the sun. There is no
room for wheeled carriages, but camels and donkeys
innumerable wend their way quietly among the pas-
sengers. It is indeed wonderful, how one can escape
the camels ; every moment they seem likely to tread
on the feet of the bystanders or passengers, and a
corn-crusher of the kind should be prudently avoided.

The Turks, in exacting a price, generally demand
three times as much as they will be content to take ;
but they are so listless and indifferent, ever with the
long pipe in the mouth, that they decidedly seem to
consider it a bore to sell their own wares. Their
shops are stalls, crammed with an immense variety
of articles. When a stranger makes a purchase, he
finds great difficulty in making payment for it. Their
coin is so wretchedly debased, and its value difficult
to be ascertained ; their copper is literally shavings,
and their silver little better. It is amusing at times
to hear the dragomen talking of ten thousand piastres,



61

as if the amount constituted a mint of money ; whereas
the value of a piastre does not exceed two pence
sterling. Females are never seen attending the sale
of goods.

The mode of salutation among the Turks, Arabs,
and Egyptians, is much the same. The kiss be-
tween man and man is seldom, if ever, seen ; though
such was undoubtedly the prevalent custom in the age
of the patriarchs, and in much later times. This mode
of salutation among males appears to be confined to
the continental parts of Europe. The Turkish fashion
between equals is to strike the palms of the hands
together ; then to touch the region of the heart with
the right hand, indicating that all is right there ;
then to touch the lips, a gesture expressive of the
readiness of the tongue to say everything that is
polite and pleasant ; then the forehead, intimating
that the intellect comprehends the importance of the
occasion ; and the ceremony concludes with an in-
clination of the head. This is all very well, I used
to think ; but the hearty shake of the hand, according
to British custom, given with sincerity and cordiality,
appeared to me to be a more simple and intelligible
mode of salutation, and assuredly all that I should
wish or expect from my fellow-man.

,1 fancied, several times, that I observed a notable
resemblance between the Arabs and our North-



62

American Indians. Certainly both have the same
high cheek-bones, the same dark complexion and
copper colour, the hair black, but seldom any whiskers
or beard. There is, however, one great difference ;
the Arabs are a cheerful and jocund set of people,
full of animation, always laughing and chattering ;
the American Indians, on the other hand, are an
impassive race, not addicted to jocularity or laugh-
ter, but rather inclined to manifest contempt and
indignation for those who indulge in such habits,
especially if the laughter is loud and boisterous. A
circumstance, illustrative of this latter fact, recurs so
forcibly to my mind, that I cannot resist the oppor-
tunity of relating it at the conclusion of this pro-
tracted chapter : When the late Lord Aylmer was
Governor General of Canada, some thirty years ago,
he went on an excursion to Gaspe. As such was a
rare occurrence in those days, among others who
flocked from various parts to welcome the repre-
sentative of royalty, there came a party of Mic-mac
Indians, to the number of five or six hundred.
According to the usual phrase a great talk was
organized; and His Excellency landed, with a bril-
liant staff, to meet this respectable deputation of the
aboriginal race. The Indian Chief, a fine, powerful
man, surrounded by his principal warriors, com-
menced a long oration, delivered (as on all similar



63

occasions) in a sing-song, drawling sort of manner,
with frequent bowing of the head, but solemnly and
without excitement. It happened that a vessel
had been wrecked, some months previously, at the
mouth of the Gulf of St. Lawrence ; and the Indians
in this quarter, being quite as adroit and ready as
the wreckers on some parts of the Irish, Welsh and
Cornish coasts, had profited largely by the windfall.
Among other little ornaments, which they had seized,
there was a box full of labels for decanters, marked, in
conspicuous characters, "Rum" "Gin" "Brandy"
&c, &c. The Chief had his head liberally encircled
with tin ornaments of the usual kind ; and, on this
occasion, he had dexterously affixed to his ears and
nose some of the captured labels. At the beginning
of the interview, these were not particularly dis-
cernible amid the novelty of the spectacle ; and it
was only while listening to the lengthened harangue
of the savage Chief, that His Excellency began to
scrutinize his appearance and dress ; and then his
eye alighted on the appendages hanging from his
ears and nose, with the labels inscribed, "Brandy"
" Gin" and "Rum!" Glancing towards his staff, he
could no longer maintain his gravity, and was joined
in a hearty but indecorous burst of unrestrainable
laughter. The indignant Chief, with his followers,
immediately withdrew, and would neither be pacified



64

nor persuaded to return on any terms or explanation.
Lord Aylmer, in relating to me the circumstance,
remarked, that he had often been in very trying
situations, but that he had never felt so vexed as he
had done on account of the offence which he had
given to these poor people.



CHAPTER VII.



FROM JAFFA TO JERUSALEM.

From Cairo we returned by railway to Alexandria,
and were fortunate enough to find a French steamer
on the eve of starting for Jaffa in Palestine. Jaffa
(the Joppa of the New Testament) looks remarkably
well from the sea. Happily, on the morning of our
arrival, the weather was calm ; for there is only an
open road-stead and no harbour, so that steamers
are frequently obliged to proceed onwards to Beyrout,
without landing passengers and goods destined for
Jaffa. This is a great hardship, and one from which,
by the conditions of the passage-ticket, there is no
redress. The steamer, on this occasion, was full of
passengers, the greater part being a caravan or convoy
of Roman Catholics, en route for the Holy City.
Among these I was glad to make the acquaintance of
Dr. Durocher, of Montreal, and one of the reverend
gentlemen of the Seminary of St. Sulpice.



66

Jaffa appeared to much advantage from the deck
of the steamer ; but, on entering the city, we were
sadly disappointed. The streets are narrow and
filthy, and the tout-ensemble wore a most wretched
look ; still we experienced a feeling of gratification,
that we were, at length, safely arrived in Palestine.

We remained in the town a very short time, and
found no difficulty in engaging a dragoman ex-
pressly for the journey to Jerusalem. This is a
course which I should recommend, in preference to
taking one at Cairo or Alexandria. By noon, we
were on our way; and certainly, though Jaffa is
miserable enough within its precincts, it has a neigh-
bourhood which a little culture would render most
luxuriant and productive. We rode, I might almost
say, through forests of orange, lemon and citron trees,
the fragrance and perfume of which we had inhaled
and enjoyed when we were a few miles off at sea,
and the delightful odour continued to accompany us
on our journey as far as Ramleh.

From Jaffa to Ramleh the traveller may ride, at a
good pace, through the beautiful valley of Sharon ;
which, though sandy, is well cultivated. A continuous
train of wanderers and inhabitants prevent the route
from being solitary; for Easter is the season at Jeru-
salem, and the roads are numerously frequented. We



67

reached Ramleh in about three hours from Jaffa, and
took up our abode in the Latin Convent. Here,
thanks in a great measure to Mr. Brown, (one of our
party, who spoke Spanish,) we were very hospitably
entertained. The greater part of the Brotherhood
are from Spain, but the chef-de-cuisine was an
Italian ; and certainly the dinner, which he served
up, would not have disgraced a first-rate restaurant
in Paris, or (what I consider to be as high a compli-
ment) our own chef in the Conservative Club in
London. Before dinner we ascended to the top of
the tower, built in the time of the Crusaders ; and,
from this elevation, we had the valley of Sharon and
the hill-country of Judea full in view before us, a
most interesting scene. Upon this spot Richard of
the lion-heart was long encamped ; and here he con-
cluded the celebrated peace with Saladin the Great,
before he left the Holy Land for ever.

We left Ramleh about four o'clock next morning,
and were joined by several travellers ; but these did
not remain long in company with us. For about two
hours our ride was a very pleasant one, but when we
arrived at Latron, at the base of the hills, the pleasant
part of our journey was ended; for there we com-
menced a dreary and painful ascent over steep, abrupt
mountains, and soon found, to our discomfort, that we

f2



68

were in the hill-country of Judea. It would be diffi-
cult for any one to form an adequate conception of
the bridle-path over which we had to wend our way.
It is, in many places, more suited for goats than
horses ; and so slippery were the hard, flinty rocks,
that it excited our surprise how the horses managed
to keep their footing at all. Here and there, valleys
came in view, rich in terraces and cultivation, full of
olive and fig-trees and spreading vines. Now and then
a village of small huts, built of loose stones, with flat
roofs, was seen on the side of a hill. But, upon the
whole, it was a dreary ride ; and the general face of
the country around presented nothing but rock, ex-
cept in the instances alluded to. In one sense the
scene was lively, by reason of the number of pilgrims
and travellers on their way to Jerusalem. The day
was oppressively hot; ; and though we wore light
wide-awakes, which were enveloped in white muslin,
we found umbrellas very acceptable. After we had
toiled along the road for about seven hours, at the
rate of three miles an hour, one of our party had
nearly broken down ; but, at four o'clock, the " City of
the Great King" came in sight, and the view cheered
the faint and weary. Although the appearance of
this ancient and renowned site was not so imposing
from our present access, yet we all experienced a
feeling of deep interest and enthusiastic excitement.



69

'as we gazed earnestly on the spot itself and the
surrounding country. It was holy ground ; and in
this now comparatively small city, and its immediate
vicinity, the most wonderful events in the history
of man had been enacted ; here it occurred to
our minds with intermingled feelings of gratitude,
humility and joy the great atonement was offered.

The Jaffa Gate is the usual way of entering Jeru-
salem, except for those who approach from crossing
the desert. As the traveller draws near to the city,
he is struck by the high, regular and imposing walls,
with which it is surrounded ; and though these would,
undoubtedly, quickly crumble beneath an Armstrong
or a Whitworth piece of artillery, they are found
sufficient to keep the roving Arab and Bedouin in
check.

The Mount of Olives rose in front of us, but on
the other side of the city; and although it is only
two hundred feet higher than the site thereof, it
creates an impression, that Jerusalem is situated on
a low and level surface ; whereas, in reality, the
mountain on which it is built is 2200 feet high.

On entering the Jaffa Gate the most crowded of
all the entrances the traveller, when fairly within the
walls, becomes painfully aware that he is indeed in
an Eastern city. There is a total want of sewerage;



70

the streets are narrow, and so badly paved (though
paved with marble taken from the ruins of the temple,
and used for this purpose,) and so slippery withal,
that I could not help fearing that my jaded horse
would stumble. Although I was assured to the con-
trary by the dragoman, who kindly laid hold of the
bridle, the brute came down flat on his side, knocking
me against a stonewall, and bruising me rather severely.
I walked the remainder of the way, and soon arrived
at Hauser's hotel, in Christian street, situated on the
side of Hezekiah's Pool, which is immediately under
the dining-room windows. There is another hotel \ both
are very comfortable, and the terms moderate. In fact,
it is infinitely better to take up one's quarters in either
of these than to go to any Convent, where everything
is given grudgingly and as a favor, where one is not
his own master, and yet is expected to give twice as
much as would be charged for better accommodation
at the hotels ; and where, if the weary traveller does
sleep, it is in spite of the untiring efforts of the
numerous insect tribe.

The 29th of March was the day on which I arrived
in the Holy City, a day much to be remembered
by me. Although it was late in the afternoon, we
had two hours to look about us ; and we endeavoured
to employ them profitably. We visited, in the first
place, the Pacha's Palace, or Governor's House, built



71

upon the site of Herod's fortress of Antonia, which
was destroyed by Titus, during the siege of Jerusalem,
A.D. 70. It is highly probable that it was in this fort
that Jesus was brought before Pilate, who, being
at that time Governor of Judea, had his temporary
residence in this stronghold when in Jerusalem ; his
ordinary place of abode being in Caesarea. The pre-
sent structure is upon the ancient foundations, at the
north-west angle of what had been the Temple Courts :
it is now used as barracks, and from its flat roof we
first beheld the site of Solomon's Temple, lying as if
it were at our feet ; on the sacred spot now stands
the Mosque of Omar. We had also a good view,
from this point, of the Holy Sepulchre. We then
passed along the Via Dolorosa; and I may here
mention, that I found it much more satisfactory and
gratifying to the feelings to accept the current tradi-
tions of the inhabitants with regard to ihe different
localities and scenes mentioned in Scripture, than to
impugn, and cavil at, their correctness. This is the
spirit, also, in which the majority of travellers ought
to visit the holy region, whatever may be their pre-
tensions to learning and knowledge ; for instance,
when the pilgrim stands on Mount Calvary, where
the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is reared, what
can it avail to dispute about the minutely exact
locality ? Jerusalem and its precincts are now so



72

limited, that the traditional spot cannot be very far
distant from the real one, on which He suffered He

" Who shared on earth our common lot,
But the world comprehended not
His deity.

5{C 5jC *jC *jfc ?f*

Yes, the glad messenger of love

To guide us to our home above.,

The Saviour came ;

Born amid mortal cares and fears,

He suffered in this vale of tears

A death of shame."

* % * * *

Coplas de Manrique Longfellow's translation.

I confess that much of the delight, which I felt in
Judea, would have been marred and lost, if I had
visited it in a captious, carping or doubting spirit.

The Ecce Homo arch is very conspicuous ; it crosses
a street and supports a ruinous gallery, from which
(according to prevalent tradition) Pilate shewed our
Saviour to the multitude, when they exclaimed,
"His blood be on us, and on our children!" And,
standing here, it is impossible for the traveller not to
reflect how fearfully this self-imprecated curse has
been visited on the nation.

Next morning, we arose betimes, and spent the
whole day in visiting different places in this most
interesting city, where, as Fisk observes-, " Prophecy



73

has had its accomplishment, and Promise its fulfil-
ment."

We commenced our rounds by going out at the
Zion Gale, where we were surrounded by those fright-
fully wretched sufferers the Lepers, this being their
quarter. Most of them were so fearfully mutilated,
that they could only crawl after us to solicit alms.
Certainly, until I witnessed this spectacle, I never
formed any adequate conception of the dreadful na-
ture and extent of this loathsome disease, so often
mentioned in Scripture. It is impossible to erase
from the memory the impression caused by the painful
scene. It is only in a miserable locality, near this
gate, that these wretched outcasts are allowed to take
up their abode. At Ramleh, on my return, I saw
one family suffering under this awful affliction, but
no where else out of Jerusalem.

After this, we passed Joab's tomb ; and proceeded
through the valley of the Son of Hinnom, at the
extremity of which is situated Tophet, infamous of
old for the sacrifices offered to Molech to propitiate
whom children were made to pass through the fire,
and other abominations were committed. We then
visited, in succession, the Pool of Siloam, Absalom's
tomb, the tombs of Zechariah and St. James, and
also of Jehoshaphat ; from which last this great valley



74

has derived its name, though evidently under a mis-
taken notion.

Jerusalem lies, as it were, between these two
valleys, and has another running across called the
Tyropceon Valley, which separates the Hill of Zion
on one side from Acra, and on the other from the
Temple grounds. Over this declivity a bridge must
at one time have existed, whereby the Kings of
Judah might pass over to the Temple ; and, in fact,
the spring of the arch is still discernible. We crossed
the brook Kedron, and returned to the city by St.
Stephen's gate ; we then proceeded to the Church
of the Holy Sepulchre, where we passed a consider-
able time. The church is used by the Eoman Catho-
lics, Greeks and Armenians ; and is very gorgeously
decorated, especially that part of it, which is shewn
as the tomb of Joseph, in which the body of Jesus
was laid.

I had never before witnessed the ceremonies of
the Greek Church ; they appear to me to resemble
strongly those of the Latin the chief difference
between the two churches consisting in the calendar.
The Greeks retain the old style, repudiate the use of
images and the doctrine of purgatory, admit the laity
to communion in both kinds, and sanction the mar-
riage of the secular clergy.



75

On the following day, we again left the city, pass-
ing through St. Stephen's gate ; we thence descended
a very steep declivity to the brook Kedron, which
we crossed by a bridge, and, having visited the
Garden of Gethsemane, we soon found ourselves
ascending the Mount of Olives. The very name of
Gethsemane, in such a vicinity, excites feelings of
intense interest ; but the Christian traveller can
hardly rest satisfied with the assertion, that the
circumscribed enclosure within stone walls, now
exhibited by the Latin Monks, as the scene of
the occurrences of that dread night, is the genuine
Gethsemane. In fact the Greeks show, in opposition,
another space lately inclosed ; but the Olive trees in
this are only in their infancy, while those in the
Latin enclosure are evidently of great age. The
probability, I think, is that, at the time of Christ's
sojourn on earth, the whole valley was in a state of
culture, and that the garden so-called was not con-
fined to such a limited space, but extended over the
cultivated ground.

The ascent to the Mount of Olives, on this side, is
very precipitous, and on the summit stands the Church
of the Ascension, now a mosque. From the top of
this building there is a magnificent view, bounded by
the mountains of Moab, the intervening space in-
cluding the city of Jericho, the outline of the Jordan,



76

and the Dead Sea looking like molten lead. The
bold bluff of the mountains of Moab is remarkably-
striking, so abrupt and yet so clearly defined, with
the Dead Sea at their base, that they seem within a
few thousand yards, though, in reality, they are some
twenty miles distant. From the summit of one of
these, Moses was permitted, before his death, to
view the Promised Land ; though the place of his
sepulture was never discovered, and the Israelites,
prone "to start aside like a broken bow," were
thereby prevented from offering idolatrous rites to
the remains, or at the tomb of their great Lawgiver.

We next visited the Jews' Place of Wailing,
where they are permitted to come, every Friday,
and mourn over the foundations of the Temple. The
place, where they meet for this purpose, is on the
external side, where there are exposed to view five
courses of immense stones, each about twenty feet in
length. These so exactly resemble the tiers of stone
in the walls of Abraham's tomb at Hebron, that there
can be no doubt of their great antiquity ; and, in
fact, the tomb of the patriarch was re-constructed, or
inclosed, by Solomon. The Temple itself was razed
to the ground, but part of the foundations still re-
main ; and to this spot, where these are visible, the
Jews flock to weep and wail over their lost temple
and departed glory, kissing the stones and reciting



77

texts from the Old Testament. Here they read the
Penitential Psalms and the Lamentations of Jere-
miah, presenting a vivid picture of their abject and
degraded condition.

The Jews resident in the Holy City do not exceed
six thousand in number ; they are mostly of Spanish
origin, and very poor. Their ancestors were driven
out of Spain by the short-sighted policy of Ferdinand
and Isabella, towards the close of the fifteenth cen-
tury ; and their descendants still speak a kind of
corrupt Spanish, and with the exception of a few,
they are in a miserable condition. The five chapters
of the Lamentations of Jeremiah present a true,
though sad, picture of the present state of Jerusalem
and its Jewish inhabitants. The very opening of
the book is thrillingly accurate : -" How doth the
city sit solitary, that was full of people ! how is she
become as a widow! she that was great among the
nations, and princess among the provinces, how is
she become tributary ! She weepeth sore in the night,
and her tears are on her cheeks." And again :
" Judah is gone into captivity because of affliction,
and because of great servitude : she dwelleth among
the heathen, she findeth no rest : all her persecutors
overtook her between the straits."

," It is a touching scene," (says the writer in Murray's Hand-
book, in eloquent terms,) " which presents itself to the stranger,



78

every Friday, on this retired spot, the Place of Wailing ; Jews of
both sexes, of all ages, and from every quarter of the earth, raise
up a united cry of lamentation over a desolated and dishonoured
sanctuary. Old men may be seen tottering up to these massive
stones, kissing them with fond rapture, burying their faces in the
joints and cavities, while tears stream down their cheeks, and
accents of deepest sorrow burst from their trembling lips ! "

During my brief sojourn in Jerusalem, I was
fortunate enough to be admitted to their principal
Synagogue, on the Day of Atonement. A large
number of wealthy Jews, from all parts of the world,
were present ; for it is a prevalent custom, among the
scattered race, to visit the Holy City at this season.
We were surprised at seeing so many of these zealous


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