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The Asian mystery illustrated in the history, religion, and present state of the Ansaireeh or Nusairis of Syria online

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IN this book I have attempted for the sect of the An-
saireeh what De Sacy has already effected for that of the
Druses. My qualifications for the task have been

First : Connexion with the Ansaireeh for many years, as
the only European who has lived among them in their
mountains, where alone they are unmixed with other

Secondly : Acquaintance with Ansairee belief and cus-
toms, acquired orally from Christian servants and others
brought up in Ansairee districts ; and, especially, from an
Ansairee lad, who has had many opportunities of gaining

Thirdly : Possession of an Ansairee liturgical book,
called the " Manual of Sheikhs," in which all the main
points of the Ansairee system, theological and ceremonial,
are developed.


I have, moreover, consulted such Arab and other his-
torians and authors as promised to throw any light on
the Ansaireeh, and all published Ansairee documents that
I could hear of. I could have wished for greater opportu-
nities of examining original Ansairee writings. Indeed, I
might have been inclined to delay compiling the present
work, in the expectation of rendering it some day more
complete, had not the state of my health made it uncertain
whether I should enjoy such opportunity. As it is, I
trust that it will serve as a stepping-stone, to those who
may follow in the same road.

I have thus employed the leisure hours arising from
illness, in the hope that my labours might tend to the
furtherance of missionary work among a neglected people.
The letting in of light on the hidden things of darkness
is always favourable, with God's blessing, to the progress

of Christianity in the world.

S. L.

Cairo, 1860.


Note. It is principally in Germany and France that Ansairce
documents have been published.

NIEBUHR (Travels, vol. ii. p. 357, &c.) gives an account of an
Ansairee book which had come into his possession.

DE SACY (Exposition of Druse Religion, vol. ii. p. 580, note)
speaks of this book as having been lent to him by Niebuhr, and
translated by him.

Both Niebuhr and De Sacy speak of a Druse book against the
Ansaireeh, from which De Sacy gives many extracts.

BURCKHARDT (Travels, p. 151) speaks of an Ansairee book
which had come into the hands of M. Kousseau, " who has had it
translated into French, and means to publish it ;" and M. Kous-
seau himself (Annales des Voyages, cahier xlii.) has spoken of
the Ansaireeh.

In the Yearly Report of the German Oriental Society for
1845-6, mention is made of an Ansairee Catechism, which had
been sent, with a French translation, to the King of Prussia, A
translation of copious extracts from this document is given by
Dr. WOLFF, in vol. iii. p. 302, &c., of the Journal of the same

But the most complete information hitherto given with respect
to the Ansaireeh is to be found in the papers of M. CATAFAGO, in
the Journals of the French, Asiatic, and German Oriental Societies.

In the Journal Asiatique, Feb. 1848, he has given an account
of a book of Ansairee Festivals and Prayers ; and also three
Masses from the same in the Journal of the German Oriental
Society, vol. ii. p. 388.

In the Journal Asiatique, July, 1848, he has given the heads of
the contents of an Ansairee book, which I conclude to be the one
in my possession, and which, in that case, must have been once
lent to him. The book itself was purchased by me from a
Christian merchant in Ladikeeh for the sum of 10, having come
into his hands during the troublesome times of Ibrahim Pasha,
when the Ansaireeh were driven from their homes

Finally, in the Revue d'Orient for June, 1856, there is a short
paper on the Ansaireeh by M. VICTOR LANGLOIS. He says that
his account is taken from a MS. in the library of the Mufti of
Tarsus, and it is in the main correct.

The Rev. SAMUEL LYDE died at Alexandria, on the 1st of
April, 1860, shortly after he had finished the work which is now
published by relatives to whom he was very dear. His intention was to
enlarge on some points, after reference to authorities to which he had
not access in the East ; but this he did not live to accomplish. His
Mission is taken up by others ; and his brother, whose address can be
obtained through the Publishers, will be happy to give information to
any one interested in it.













MONIES ... .... . 149












IF the reader will take any map of Syria which has some
pretensions to accuracy, and will look at the sea-coast, he
will find in the parallel of latitude 35 30' the town of
Ladikeeh, the Laodicea of Seleucus Nicator, now known
through the tobacco exported from it ; which tobacco is
grown in the neighbouring mountains.

These mountains, which are the special abode of the
Ansaireeh*, he will find to the east of Ladikeeh, stretching
from north to south, and called by names as various as
the different maps which he may consult.

The Ansairee mountains are separated on the south
from the Lebanon range, by the entrance into Hamath, a
valley through which run the roads from Tripoli to
Hamah, and from Tartoos to Hums, and also flows the
ancient Eleutherus, the Nahr-il-Chebeer of to-day. To the
north they are separated from the mountains, of which
Mount Cassius forms the conspicuous western termination,

* By Arab writers they are called An-Nusaireeyah. I have written
Ansaireeh as the nearest English imitation of the pronunciation of the
people themselves, when they speak of themselves by that name. They
usually style themselves Fellaheen, tfiat is, peasantry.



by a pass and valley, over and through which runs the
road from Ladikeeh to Aleppo.

But though these mountains are so almost exclusively
inhabited by the Ansaireeh as to be called by their name,
and in them is found the nucleus of the Ansairee nation,
and though in them and the neighbouring plains alone are
they governed by their own chiefs, and hold their lands
directly from government, yet the Ansairee population of
Syria is by no means confined to them.

They are the chief cultivators of the plain, which
stretches on the west of the mountains, from Wady Kan-
deel, about four hours, or twelve miles, to the north of
Ladikeeh (where the ground begins to swell into the range
of Cassius), to the district of Safeetah and the Nahr-il-
Chebeer, twenty-two hours, or sixty-six miles to the south.
On the east the narrow strip of ground between the
mountains and the Orontes, stretching to the south from
Djisr-ish-Shogher on the Aleppo road to the distance of
about thirty miles, belongs to them, and they possess vil-
lages in the wide plain which stretches east to Hums and
Hamah, in which last is a miserable quarter inhabited by

To the south of the Eleutherus or Nahr-il-Chebeer, con-
siderable numbers are to be found in the district of
Kulaat-il-Husn, and in the more southerly district of

To the north of Wady Kandeel they form part of the
peasantry of the range of mountains which are bounded
on the west by Mount Cassius, and by the Orontes on
the east and north. Along the valley of the Orontes, in
the plains of Antioch, they are to be found in great
numbers, from Suadeiah, on the sea-coast, near the ancient
Seleucia, fifteen miles to the west of Antioch, to the Djisr-
il-Hhadeed, twelve miles to the east,, where the road from
Antioch to Aleppo crosses the Orontes. Three hours, or
nine miles further on, on the east of the Orontes, and on
the right hand of the road to Aleppo, is to be seen the


castle of Harim. In the mountains which stretch from it
towards the south is found a group of Ansairee villages,
as also in the district of II Roodj, hard by to the 'east.

In Antioch itself they form a large element of the popu-
lation, and are to be found along the sea-coast from it to
Scanderoon, especially in the neighbourhood of Arsoos,
the Rhosus of Ptolemy.*

Leaving Syria for a moment, and crossing the ancient
bay of Issus, they abound in the districts of Adana and
Tarsoos, the ancient Tarsus. In Syria, far away to the
south, in the lower extremity of the Wady-il-Taym, near
Banias, the ancient Caesarea Philippi, are the three An-
saireeh villages of Anfeet, Zaoorah, and El Ghudjr.f

To conclude : in that east country which was the cra-
dle of their religion, remnants of them still exist. An
Ansairee sheikh from Bagdad, who spent two days in my
house in the Ansairee mountains, assured me that there
were some five hundred Ansaireehs in Bagdad, and declared
that there was a town in Persia exclusively inhabited by

Before proceeding to give the estimated number of this
people, I will attempt to give some idea of the geography,
physical and otherwise, of the Ansairee mountains and
the country adjacent.

Mount Cassius rises to the north of Ladikeeh and near
the mouth of the Orontes, in a magnificent cone of some

* The parts about Rhosus are described by Carl Hitter, Erdkunde,
Theil xvii. Kap. 27.

f I was once prevented from visiting these villages when on my way
to them, I will, therefore, give here the information I have been able to
procure from my friend, Rev. J. E. Ford, American missionary at
Sidon, being obtained by him from various sources. Anfeet, population
320 souls, mostly Kumreeh ; Zaoorah, 150 souls, mostly Kumreeh ; El-
Ghudjr, 250 souls, mostly Shemseeh. The villages are within a half an
hour of Banias, W. and N.W. It is to be doubted, adds Mr. Ford,
whether their distinctions as Shemseeh and Kumreeh are correctly
ascertained by the people who go among them. I myself was once in-
formed that they were all Shemseeh, and in the latest maps the positions
of the villages is given as south of Banias.

B 2


5,000 or 5,700 feet in height. It is joined to the Ansai-
ree mountains by a far lower range, over which passes
the road from Ladikeeh to Antioch, past the Mussulman
village of Oordee, situated near half way. The distance is
about twelve hours from Ladikeeh to Oordee, and ten more
from Oordee to Antioch, in all about twenty-two hours or
sixty-six miles. From Ladikeeh to the mouth of the
Orontes is reckoned at twenty-hours, or sixty miles, and
from Antioch to Scanderoon (or Alexandretta), eleven
hours, or thirty-three miles.

The Ansairee mountains commence, as I have said, to
the south of the road from Ladikeeh to Aleppo, which, after
crossing a pass in the mountains near Bahluleeh, an
Ansairee village, about six hours distant, north-east of
Ladikeeh, continues for eleven hours through a winding
valley, past the Turcoman village of Bedawa, to Djisr-ish-
Shogher, a large Mussulman village, where it crosses the
Orontes, and so on a journey of two days more, or six-
teen hours, to Aleppo. The distance from Ladikeeh to
Aleppo is thus about thirty-three hours, or ninety-nine

But before proceeding with the Ansairee mountains, I
will return for a little towards Mount Cassius, as now
may be the best time to say something of the political
divisions of the country, so as to fix them in the mind
by means of the natural objects included in them, and the

The province of Ladikeeh includes not only the greater
part of the western slope of the Ansaireeh mountains, but
also of the Mount Cassius range. From Wady Kandeel,
along the sea-coast, and on towards Oordee, is the district
of Boodjak. The chief inhabitants, as in the time of Ibn-
Batoutah, the Moghrebbin traveller, some 500 years ago,
are Turcomans. I once spent an evening with Hafiz Aga,
the governor of the district, who is nephew of the chief
man of Oordee. Tie was in considerable fear of the wild
Ansaireeh of the south, and received me very graciously,


giving me credit for great influence among them, as J was
residing in one of the most powerful districts.

The district of the Baier, also chiefly Mussulman, lies
to the north-east of the Boodjak, arid is but of small
extent. To the east, and on the north side of the road
from Ladikeeh to Djisr-ish-Shogher and Aleppo, is the
district of Djebel-il-Akrad, chiefly inhabited by a colony
of Kurds. I once skirted these mountains to the south,
on my way to the small town or village of Shogher, and
I had before passed over part of them, and then round
their base to Antioch, on my journey thither from the
same place. The present governor is called Mohammed
Aga Yurnisu.*

Facing these mountains to the south are the mountains
of the Ansaireeh, to which we now come. Anciently
styled Mons Bargylus, they are called by the Arab geo-
graphers Ibn-Haukal f and Abulfeda Djebel Lukkarn, and
in the southern part, where dwelt the Syrian Assassins,
Djebel Summak and Djebel -il-Aamileh. They are con-
siderably lower than the Lebanon range, their height
being from 3000 to 4000 feet. On the west they sweep
in circles round the large plains of Ladikeeh and Tartoos,
throwing out spurs, which at the castle of Merkab reach
the sea, and skirt it for some distance. J On the east they
run in a straight line overlooking the Orontes, to the
valley of which they descend, to the eye, almost precipi-
tously, though there is room for deep valleys, gorges, and
extensive woods, and several villages. The people on this
side are relations of those who respectively adjoin them

* The districts of Mount Cassius, such as Kusair, Urdeh, Djebel
Akrad, &c., are described in the Erdkunde of Carl Hitter, Theil xvii.
Kap. 16.

f Ibn-Haukal, (Wonnely, London, 1808,) p. 38.

t Kcnrick (Phoenicia, p. 4), misled by the words of some traveller,
says: "Between Ladikeeh and Djebileh the country is mountainous; but
from Djebileh extends the plain bounded by the Ansarian or Nasairieh
mountains." The plain commences beyond Ladikeeh to the north, and
sweeps round Djebileh to the east as far as Castle Merkab.

B 3


on the other, of whom, as I shall show hereafter, many
crossed the mountains from the east. Burckhardt gives
the names of villages on the east of the mountains, and I
repeat the names of some as verified by myself. Beginning
from the north is Merdadj, the village of Mohammed ibn-
Djaafar, chief man of the eastern Arnamareh, of whom I
saw the son, who Was studying under a sheikh with his
relations at Diryoos. In the plain is the village of
Khandok, belonging to Mohammed Ali Khadro, who lives
at Ain Nab, farther to the south. He alone of the Ansaireeh
remained unsubdued by Ibrahim Pasha, taking refuge in
his valleys and woods, while on the east his country is
defended by the marshes of the Orontes, which are only
passable in certain places by boats, through lanes of deep
water amid the sedge. He seems now to be the man of
chief influence on that side of the mountains, and is by all
accounts a wild fellow. I have never yet fulfilled an
intention of visiting him, though once when the mountains
were in a stir about a religious discussion which I had
had with the chief sheikh, I was told that he asked per-
mission of the people of the district in which I lived, on
the other side of the mountains, to come with twenty-
five men to make an end of the mission.

Still farther to the south is Ain-il-Keroom, inhabited
by relations of the wild Narvasireh of the western side.
Burckhardt speaks of them as rebels in his time.

On the west side of the mountains, at the extreme
north, live the Diryoos people, of which the chief man,
Mohammed Badoor, living in the village of Diryoos, has
influence over all the Ansairee peasantry in the Cassius
range, and about Antioch, as they are of the same sect
with himself; the Ansaireeh being divided, as I shall
afterwards show, into two principal sects, the Shemseeh,
called also the Shemaleeh or Northerners, as living mostly
to the north, and the Kumreeh, who living to the south
give the Shemseeh the above name. Two hours westerly
is 11 Kushbce, an old tower, where lives Ali Aga Hassan,


a relation of Ahmed Badoor, who has turned Mussulman.
I once spent a night with him, having reached him in
about three hours from II Hhuffeh, a village of the
Sahyoon district. I was on my way to him from Bahlu-
leeh, and reached Shereefah, a border village of the Bah-
luleeh district, with fine plantations running down to the
gorge leading to Djisr-ish-Shogher. After passing it a
little way, and arriving at a village Ard-il- Ham ra, near
Bahenna, I was stopped by the people of the latter village,
and taken off to Sahyoon, from whence when released I
prosecuted my journey to II Kushbee. From II Kushbee,
I paid a visit to the tomb of the Nebbee Yunis, or Jonah,
riding about two or three hours in an easterly or north-
easterly direction. It seemed the highest point in all this
part of the mountain, and near it more south is the
mountain of the Nebbee Matta, which seemed to Burck-
hardt, looking at it from the east, to be the highest point
of the Ansairee range. In this part of the mountains are
many towers, commanding the pass from Ladikeeh to

The people of Diryoos, in the winter and spring, live in
houses on the edge of the Orontes marshes, and with the
other Ansaireeh of the eastern side of the mountains,
descend into the valley of the Ghab, cross the Orontes, and
carry off the flocks of the Turcomans, who, as Burckhardt
says, have in consequence not too good an opinion of
them. The Diryoos people are a wild and lawless set,
who, under their present chief man, have obtained an
independence from their former governors of Beyt Shilf.

From Diryoos, I started in a south-west direction for
Ain-il-Teeneh , a village situate under a spur of the mountains,
which rises conspicuously on the verge of the plain east of
Ladikeeh, in a line crowned by the tornb of the Nebbee
liubeel, or Reuben.* The road lay across a deep valley,

* This may not be the patriarch Reuben, for Niebuhr speaks of a
certain Rubeel, son of Saleh, an Arabian prophet.

B 4


and over high table -land, the distance being between one
or two hours' ride. From hence I took about the same
time to get to Djindjaneh, after passing a very deep valley
and skirting a mountain running from the eastern ridge
over the table-land towards the west. Djindjaneh is
prettily situated between two mountains, and is the resi-
dence of Ali Hhabeeb, an old man, Mekuddam, or chief of
that section of the Amarnarah, who live in the part I had
passed through from Diryoos. They extend still farther
to the south in the highest part of the mountains, behind
the districts of the Muhailby and Kelbeeh, and also to the
east of the mountains as before said. The Mekuddam of
the southern section is Mohammed Saeed. They form a
considerable body, and bear a good character, being earnest
in matters of religion, and averse to robbery, presenting
thus a great contrast to their neighbours. They are as
the Diryoos people of the Shemseeh sect, but were origin-
ally of the Kumreeh, a fact which I shall have to notice

From Djindjaneh it took me less than an hour to arrive
at Muzairiah, which is a village giving its name to the
district, which includes not only the part of the mountains
of which we have spoken, but also part of the plain. In
this village is a colony of Greeks, that is Arabs of the Greek
Church, who some 150 years ago emigrated here from
the Hauran. There are few Christian villages in these
mountains. Among them are Aramo, an Armenian vil-
lage, near the residence of Ali Aga Hassan, and Dar Sofra,
a Maronite village to the south of Castle Merkab.

Still going south from Muzairiah, one soon reaches the
Muhailby district, of which the inhabitants are again of
the Shemseeh sect, while, farther south, in the mountains,
all are Kumreeh. In their district is a castle, which the
late Dr. Eli Smith, of Beyrout, told me was called by the
people Blatanos ; and, therefore, this must be the castle
referred to by Abulfedu*, who says, that after Saladin had

* iv. 89.


taken Ladikeeli and the castle of Sahyoor, he dispersed his
troops over the mountains near, and " they made them-
selves masters of the Castle of Beladnoos (which he calls
elsewhere Belatnus), for the Franks that were in it had
already fled from it ; so they took it."

At the south-east extremity of this district is the Djebel-
il-Arbaeen, a very conspicuous conical hill, lower than the
crest of the mountains behind it, but rising high above
the plain, towards which a lofty hill runs down from it,
nearly east and west, separating the district of Muhailby
from that of the Kelbeeh. On this hill is a visiting-place
(called Zeyareh), with a double dome, and from it there
is a magnificent view of the plain and surrounding moun-
tains. Indeed it forms so distinguishable a landmark
that it was lately visited by Lieutenant Brooker, of H.M.
surveying ship Tartarus, to take observation?.

From it one easily descends through a well watered
valley to the large village of the Merdj, which forms the
outskirt of the Kelbeeh district, and is but half an hour
distant from B'hamra, the village in which my mission-
house is situated. This district from the character of its
people, and from their alliances and relatives, is the most
powerful in the mountains ; and hence they were heard of
by Niebuhr, Yolney, and Burckhardt, who make great,
and, as to Volney, absurd mistakes with respect to them.
To the east of the district lies the deep valley called Wady
Beyt Nasir, of which the inhabitants are wilder and fiercer
than perhaps any others in the mountains. Buried in
their lonely gorges they only issue from them to rob, or
help their friends the Kelbeeh in some fight with an
adjoining district, or with the government. This valley
runs up to a mountain called Giafar Tayyar, from a cele-
brated visiting-place on the top. It lies about direct east
from Djebileh, and as it took me about five hours and a
half to reach its summit from my house, which is three
hours north-east of Djebileh, I calculate it is about 20
miles from the sea-coast. I am thus particular, because


it lies at the inmost part of the curve of mountains which
sweep round Ladikeeh, and can easily be distinguished by
its bald head and its height, which, after many attempts
to institute with the eye a comparison between it and the
mountains of Nebbee Yunis and Nebbee Matta, I should
take to be superior to that of the last-named, and, there-
fore, the highest point of the Ansairee range. The chief
village of the Kelbeeh is called Kurdahah, which gives its
name to the district. Their lands run down to the sea,
and are prettily diversified by hills trending westerly,
between which are rich valleys, of which the most southern,
Wady Beyt Ahmed, is well planted. Then rises a moun-
tain also trending westerly which separates the district
from that of Beni Ali, to the south of which most of the
villages lie about this mountain ; Ali Sukkur being the
chief village of the plain or western part, and El Boadeh
of the eastern or mountain part of the district.

To the south-east of El Boadeh is the village of Harf-il-
Masatireh, where I once spent a night with Mohammed
Satir, the Mehuddam of the northern section of the
Keratileh, a wild race, relations of the people of my own
district, the Kelbeeh. To the south of them is Matwar,
the residence of the late Sheikh Hhabeeb, whose family
hold the highest rank as sheikhs, or religious heads, of
the Ansaireeh. This village I still call Matwar, notwith-

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