James Silk Buckingham.

Travels in Palestine, through the countries of Bashan and Cilead, east of the River Jordan; including a visit to the cities of Geraza and Gamala, in the Decapolis (Volume 2) online

. (page 18 of 26)
Online LibraryJames Silk BuckinghamTravels in Palestine, through the countries of Bashan and Cilead, east of the River Jordan; including a visit to the cities of Geraza and Gamala, in the Decapolis (Volume 2) → online text (page 18 of 26)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

f 318 )



February 12th. Under the conduct of a guide
from the town, we quitted Nazareth at an early
hour, and ascended the hills to the eastward of
it. Our road was stonev and rugged for the first
two hours, when we were chiefly on hilly ground,
and in the early part of it, we had a command-
ing view of the plain of Esdraelon and Mount
Tabor, with the village of Eksall appearing
through an opening in the hills.

At nine we passed under the village of Ain
Mahhil, leaving it on the left, and having Tabor
immediately opposite to it, about two miles on
our right. The village is small, and inhabited
entirely by Mohammedans ; it is situated on the
brow of a hill, and the villagers are, more
generally, shepherds than cultivators, though
both classes are to be found there. In the vale
below, the country is woody, having the oak,
now bare, some few olive-trees, and the wild
carob, bearing the same name among the Arabs.
We saw here a land-tortoise of a small size,
weighing from three to four pounds.




At ten, we passed another small village, called
Oom-el-Jebeal, leaving it also on our left. This
village is seated at the foot of a hill, and is both
smaller and meaner than the last, and its inha-
bitants are Mohammedans.

From hence our course inclined a little to the
southward of east, until we reached Sook-el-
Khan *, which we entered an hour before noon,
This place is frequented for its weekly bazar on
the Monday of the Christians, and, as every de-
scription of commodity in use among the people
of the country is then collected here for sale,
crowds of purchasers are attracted from all
quarters. During the six other days of the week,
it is entirely deserted, and not a creature re-
mains even to guard the place. There are still
existing here the remains of a Saracen fort in
good preservation, and a khan or caravansera of
the same age, but in a more ruined state : the
former of these is of a square form, with circular
towers at the angles and in the centre of each
wall, and is about a hundred paces in extent on
each of its sides. The latter is more extensive,
besides having other buildings attached to it,
Over the door of entrance is an Arabic inscrip-
tion, and within are arched piazzas, little shops,
private rooms, &c. with one good well of water
in the centre.

* .jU» $ uv" literally, the market or fair of the caravansera.


We found assembled on the outside of these
buildings, from four to five thousand persons
as well as numerous herds of cattle, Arab horse-
men, Bedouins on foot, Fellaheen, or peasantry,
from the neighbourhood, women, and even
children, were all mingled together in the gay
confusion of a European fair. We turned into
the Khan to water our horses, and halted for
half an hour in the shade, as the heat was op-
pressive, the thermometer being at 92°, and the
whole country parched by the long drought.
We met here a young Nazarene, who had been
the early play-fellow of our guide from the same
place, and in the course of the interview between
these two, it appeared that the former, though
born of Christian parents, had become a Moham-
medan from choice ; it was added, that instances
of a similar change were frequent, but that the
fact of a Mohammedan becoming a Christian
had never been heard of here. The reason is
evident : temporal advantages are on the side of
the former, and these, being certain and present,
generally weigh more with this class of mankind
than spiritual blessings, which appear to them
uncertain and remote.

The whole of our road from Nazareth to
Sook-el- Khan had been more or less rugged and
hilly, but on our departure from hence, we
entered on a fertile plain. In our way across

vol. ir. Y


this, we met a party of Jews on asses, coming
from Tiberias to the great public market, and
conceiving me, from my Turkish dress and white
turban, to be a Mohammedan, they all dis-
mounted and passed by us on foot. These per-
secuted people are held in such opprobrium here,
that it is forbidden to them to pass a mussulman
mounted, while Christians are suffered to do so
either on mules or asses, though to them it is
also forbidden to ride on horseback without the
express permission of the Pasha.

Throughout this rising plain, we perceived
large quantities of the black porous stone which
we had observed near the hot springs on the
banks of the Nahr-el-Hami, east of the Jordan ;
the soil, however, was a light reddish earth, and
its whole surface was cracked by excessive
drought, and plentifully covered with thistles.

We passed by the shaft of a white marble co-
lumn on the road, and soon after noon reached
the village of Cafr Sabt. This is altogether built
of the black porous stone already spoken of,
great part of which appears to have been well-
hewn blocks, as if the remains of former and
better edifices. We saw here the pedestal of a
white marble column, and several large stones
used as architraves and portals to door-ways, but
no other vestiges of antiquity. Though we had
been riding over a gently-rising plain all the way


from Sook-el-Khan thus far, we found this vil-
lage seated on the edge of a steep hill, facing to
the eastward, with a deep valley below, and ano-
ther rising slope going up to the eastward from
its base, on a lower level than that which we had

In our descent from this hill, we halted at a
large watering-place to drink ; but though the
spring was ordinarily sufficient for the supply of
the whole village above, it now scarcely yielded
its water but by distinct drops. We found a
solitary female here watching her pitcher as it
slowly filled, and spinning at her distaff in the
mean time. She kindly supplied our wants from
her own scanty store, and about half a mile fur-
ther on, we came to the watering-place of the
cattle. Several herds were assembled at this
place, and water for them was so scarce, that
there remained no hope of our being able to pro-
cure any for our own animals ; so that, to avoid
altercations, we passed on.

On reaching the foot of this hill, and begin-
ning to ascend the eastern slope, we saw several
flocks of ghazelles, consisting each of from four
to six in number. The whole of the country
seemed so burnt up by the unseasonable heat,
and want of rain, that neither for them, nor for
the flocks of the shepherds, was there a blade of
verdure to be seen.

y 2


After ascending slowly for about two hours,
we reached the summit of this slope, and came
suddenly in sight of the lake and town of Tibe-
rias. We found ourselves again on the brow of
a steep hill facing to the eastward, and forming
the western boundary of the hollow in which
the lake is contained. The view from hence is
grand and interesting. To the south, inclining
easterly, the vale of the Jordan w T as distinctly
open ; to the south-west the rounded top of Ta-
bor rose above the intervening hills ; to the
north, the lofty Libanus, the Gebel-el-Thelj *
or Gebel-el-Sheikh t of the Arabs, reared its
snow- clad head ; while the bare and yellow
mountains of the eastern shore served but to give
a brighter blue to the scarcely ruffled w T aters of
the lake below. The town from hence has a
more completely Moorish appearance, from its
high walls and circular towers, than any other I
had yet seen in Palestine. The waters, on
whose western edge it stands, were ^as still as
those of the Dead Sea, from being confined in a
deep basin, and hemmed closely in by opposite
ranges of hills. The scenery around possessed
many features of grandeur, though destitute of
wood and verdure ; and the whole, indeed, was

jtfLii i! l)-^> the Mountain of Snow,
t UxZ, "i (Jjkd»> the Mountain of the Chid".


such as to render our momentary halt there
agreeable in the extreme.

On descending the hill, we observed a cistern
for water, its spring being now dry ; and while
the muezzin * was calling to the prayers of El
Assr, from the gallery of the mosque within the
town, we entered it by the gate of the western
wall. Taking a southern course through the
town, we were conducted to the house of the
Catholic priest, and alighted there to halt for the

We found the Abunat himself occupied in
opening pods of cotton in the outer court ; while
about twenty children were bawling, rather than
reading Arabic in a small dark room behind
him. The mat on which the father sat, being
sufficiently large to contain us both, I seated
myself beside him ; but, whether from religious
pride or any other motive, I knew not, he neither
rose, nor gave me any of the accustomed forms
of salutation. The first question which he asked
me, on my being seated, was, whether I was a
Christian, and how I made the sign of the cross.
I replied, that I was an Englishman on my way

-ft *

,jl>j-c> the public crier who announces the hour of

t U.jI, literally, " Our Father." This is the the name ge-
nerally given to Christian pastors throughout the Holy Land, by
those who speak of them in Arabic.

Y 3


to Damascus, and had thought that he would be
glad to entertain me for a night on that consi-
deration alone ; but added, that if he felt any
scruples at harbouring an heretic, in which light
the English are considered by all the Christians
of the East, I should most willingly withdraw to
seek some other shelter. His son then hinted to
him in a loose way, that though the English did
not bow to the Pope, they were excellent people
to deal with, for they travelled all the world over
to get the hidden treasures of ruined cities, and
always paid twice as much as the people of any
other nation for any service rendered to them.
This seemed to reconcile the father so com-
pletely to my stay, that throughout the whole of
the evening nothing was talked of but the Eng-
lish, their wealth, their wisdom, and proficiency
in the black art, and the certainty of their being
the greatest in this world, whatever fate they
might be doomed to in the next.

Being desirous of supping on the fish of the
lake, a person had been dispatched on the in-
stant after our arrival to procure some ; but
after a search of two hours, he returned without
being able to find any. This fine piece of water
abounds with a great variety of excellent fish ;
but from the poverty, and one must add, the
ignorance and the indolence of the people who
live on its borders, there is not a boat or a raft,


either large or small, throughout its whole ex-
tent. Some three years since, a boat did exist
here, but this being broken up from decay, has
never been replaced ; so that the few fish
which are now and then taken, are caught by
lines from the shore, nets never being used.

The conduct of the southern Arabs on the
shores of the Yemen forms a striking contrast
in this particular to that of their brethern in the
north. Along all the shores of Arabia Felix
are small rafts called catamarans, composed
only of four or five rude logs of wood lashed
together, on which fishermen go out for several
miles against a strong wind and boisterous sea,
and remain often a whole day and night half-
immersed in water to procure supplies of fish
for the market ; while here, where the lake is
scarcely ever ruffled by a wind of any violence,
where the water is shallow, the shelter good,
and the fish abundant near the shore, the means
of procuring supplies of food from thence are
uncertain and neglected.

When the sun had set, we retired into an in-
ner room, which the whole of the family inha-
bited, including the Abuna and his wife, the
elder son Yusuf, his wife Martha, and the infant
child Ibrahim, with two grown boys, younger
sons of the old man. The whole of the space
appropriated to this number, was about ten feet

y 4


Jong, by six broad ; and in the same enclosure,

on a lower level, was a stall for two cows, and

a little place apart for three pigs. Besides this,

were to be seen above little balconies, like large

breeding-cages for birds, which appeared to be

store-rooms or lockers for provisions. The

whole compass of the outer walls which inclosed

all these departments, was not a square of more

than twelve feet at the utmost. The roof was

flat, and composed of branches of wood laid

across rude beams, and covered by mortar, which

formed the terrace above. The only ornament

seen within, was the cross, daubed in red upon

the walls, and repeated at every interval of space

not otherwise occupied ; and even over the stall

of the oxen and the trough of the hogs, this holy

emblem was conspicuously pourtrayed.

The hour of supper arrived, and a bowl of
boiled wheat and durra with oil was produced for
the family. I was turning up my sleeves to
wash my hands in preparation for the meal,
when the old man asked me, whether we had no
provisions in our sack. I replied, that we had
only taken sufficient for the day, and had finish-
ed it at Sook-el-Khan, being assured by the
friars at Nazareth that we should find every
thing we could desire here. He then said,
"You must purchase supper for yourselves." I
replied, that we would not willingly intrude on


his stock, and had therefore sought to purchase
tish at first ; but that since none could be pro-
cured, we should content ourselves with what-
ever might be found. Four eggs were then
produced from a cupboard in the house ; but
before they were broken, eight paras were de-
manded of me~ for them. I desired that their
number might be doubled, and the remaining
eight paras were also asked for before they
were produced. Six paras were then claimed
for oil to fry them in, though this was poured
out of the same jar from which the lamp was
filled, and they seemed to think that they had
laid us under great obligations to their hospi-
tality in merely furnishing us with bread and

All this was so contrary to the behaviour of
Arabs in general, and so directly opposite to
that of the Mohammedans, and of the Bedouins
in particular, that we were forcibly struck with
it ; nor could even the evident poverty of this
religious chief account sufficiently for it ; since
among the very poorest of the classes named,
the same warm hospitality is found as among the
richest, varying only in its extent according to
their several means. We made a hearty supper,
however, and the old Abuna himselfj after
finishing his portion of the family bowl, came
without ceremony to begin a new meal at


our mess, of which he took at least an equal

A number of visits were paid in the evening
by heads of Christian families, and the topic of
conversation was the heretical peculiarities of
the English, and their lamentable ignorance of
the true religion. Some insisted that none of
them believed in the existence of a God; others
thought it was still worse that they did not bow
to the Pope ; many seemed to know that they
did not hold the Virgin Mary in esteem, and
that the crucifix was not worn by them ; and all
believed that there were neither churches,
priests, fasts, festivals, nor public prayers
throughout the country, but that every one
followed the devices of his own heart without

It would have been as easy to have moved a
mountain, as to have changed opinions like
these ; and the task of informing the very igno-
rant is often an ungrateful one. I barely replied
with truth, therefore, to their questions ; and,
even in doing this, I made more enemies than
friends, since it necessarily implied a contradic-
tion of what they before held to be true.

Before the retirement of the party, we talked
of our road to Damascus, and it was the opinion
of all, that there was danger in every route
which could be taken to that city. This was a


subject on which their authority was of some
value, and therefore worth consulting them on.
By the latest advices from Sham, it appeared
that the division of parties grew rather higher
every day there, and that the roads in the neigh-
bourhood were therefore infested, and robberies
committed on them with impunity. On the
sea-coast it was said to be worse, on account of
the domineering insolence of the soldiery, who
were now indeed all masters of their own parti-
cular districts. Besides the original usurper of
the pashalick of Sham, who still continued at
Damascus, and the pretensions of Suliman of
Acre thereto, it was said that one Ali Pasha,
who had been the Capudan Pasha of the Turks,
was on his way from Stamboul, to take posses-
sion of the city by order of the Sultan. A ge-
neral belief prevailed also that Toussoun Pasha,
the eldest son of Mohammed Ali in Egypt, had
designs this way, since he was now at the Sublime
Porte, as conqueror of the Wahabees, and deli-
liverer of the Prophet's tomb ; and it was
thought that the city of Damascus, which is
one of the gates of pilgrimage, would be given
to him as a recompense.

Such was the state of things, at the present
moment, and the hope of its amelioration was
but faint and distant, It was recommended to
me, however, to take from hetice two armed


men as an escort, and attempt the journey by
an unfrequented road, where the danger was
thought to be less, from there being less chance
of plunder, and consequently fewer adventurers.
An arrangement of this nature was so generally
approved of, that before we slept, two men
were found, who engaged to depart with us in
the morning.

( 333 )



-February 13th. Having paid for the food
of our horses, and purchased some bread of our
host for the way, we prepared to mount, when
the old grey-bearded Abuna demanded of us a
backshish *, for our entertainment : although we
had already paid for every article consumed by
us, a few paras were then given to him, which
he accepted with evident avidity, and at sunrise
we departed from his dwelling.

Leaving Tiberias, by the same gate at which
we entered, we pursued our course to the north-
ward, along the western edge of the lake.
The ground rises here, so that the north-west
angle of the town stands on a hill, while all the
rest of it is low. We observed some fragments
of a wall, which might have been part of the in-

* m1A_^. backshish, though represented as a word of
Persian origin, is in use through most parts of Arabia, to denote
a gift or a reward.


closure of the ancient city, and if so must have
been at its northern extremity, as just beyond
it are a number of old tombs, apparently of
higher antiquity than the present town.

In about an hour after quitting Tiberias we
came to the remains of some ancient baths, close
to the water's edge. Of these there were three
in number, the only portion of each remaining
being a large circular cistern, in which the visi-
tors must have bathed openly, as there is no
appearance of any covered building ever having
been constructed over them. They were all
nearly of the same size ; the one around the .
edge of which I walked being eighty paces in
circumference, and from twelve to fifteen feet
deep. Each of these were distant from the other
about one hundred yards, ranging along the
beach of the lake, and each was supplied by a
separate spring, rising also near the sea. The
water was in all of them beautifully transparent,
of a slightly sulphureous taste, and of a light-
green colour, as at the bath near Oom Kais j
but the heat of the stream here was scarcely
greater than that of the atmosphere, as the thermo-
meter in the air stood at 84°, and when immersed
in water rose to 86°. The first of these circular
cisterns had a stone bench or pathway running
round its interior, for the accommodation of the

bathers, and the last had a similar work on the

3 #


outside j in the latter a number of small black
fish were seen swimming. # Each of the baths
was supplied by a small aqueduct from its sepa-
rate spring, and there were appearances of a
semi-circular wall having inclosed them all within
one area.

Leaving this spot, w r e continued our way along
the lake, and about nine o'clock, came to a small
village called Migdal, where a few Mohammedan
families reside. This is seated near the edge of
the lake, beneath a range of high cliffs, in which
small grottoes are seen ; and besides the few
dwellings of the present inhabitants, there are
the remains of an old square tower, and some
larger buildings of rude construction, and ap-
parently great antiquity, t This place is, no
doubt, the Magdala of the Gospel, to the coasts
of which Jesus was conveyed by ship, after his

* Pliny mentions a fountain in Armenia, that had black
fishes in it, of which whoever ate died suddenly. Nat. Hist,
b. xxxi. c. 2.

f Migdal signifies " a tower," in Hebrew, and, as such, is
given as an affix to many scriptural names, as may be seen in
Reland, 1. iii. p. 897, 898. It is in speaking of the tower of
Eder, beyond which Jacob spread his tent, (Gen. xxxv. 21.)
and which was thought to be near to Bethlehem, that he
notices another place of the same name near the lake of
Tiberias : — "Fit et mentio loci Migdal Eder in vita R. Simeonis
Ben Chalaphta : quamvis ille locus videatur prope mare Tibe-
riadis situs fuisse, ubi ")"|J ^"IJO May2«Xa r«5« ? «v Lightfootus
constituit a Gadaris dicta." Lib. iii. de urbibus, p. 898.


feeding the multitude on a mountain nigh unto
the sea of Galilee*, and the Migdal of the earlier
Scriptures, t

From this we entered upon a more extended
plain, the hills retiring from the lake on the left ;
and continuing our course in a straight line
across it, so as to leave the beach at some little
distance on our right, we reached, in half an
hour, a place called Khan-el-Munney. There
are remains of a large Saracen khan, or cara-
vansera, here, from which the place derives its
name; and near the same spot we observed several
large mill-stones, now broken.

Passing on, in a more easterly direction, we
ascended over a little promontory, around which
there was no road by the beach, and remarked
the remains of a narrow paved way. Close by
this, on the hill on our left, we were shewn what
is considered to be the site of Gennesareth, but
we could trace no remains of any buildings on
the spot. It was here, too, our guides said, that
the legion of devils entered into the swine, who
ran violently down a steep place into the sea. +
The voyages of Jesus and his disciples by ship
across this lake, are so vaguely described that it
is exceedingly difficult to understand them
clearly. From St. Mark, who first relates this

* Matt. xv. 29. f Joshua, xix. 38. % St. Mark, v. 13.


story, the scene appears to have been on the
eastern side of the lake, as far as can be gathered
from the context. After his withdrawing himself
with his disciples to the sea, where great multi-
tudes from Galilee followed him*, and requested
that a small ship should wait on him, because of
the multitude, lest they should throng himt,
Jesus is first described to have gone up into
a mountain, where he ordained the twelve
Apostles t 9 and afterwards to have entered into
a ship, and sat on the sea, while the whole mul-
titude was by the sea on the§ land. And the
same day, when the even was come, he saith
unto them, " Let us pass over unto the other
side." II And they came over unto the other
side of the sea, unto the country of the Gada-
renes. And when he was come out of the ship,
immediately there met him out of the tombs, a
man with an unclean spirit, &c." %

St. Luke, who is more explicit in all his
details, says expressly, after describing the pass-
age of Jesus and his disciples across the lake,
" And they arrived at the country of the Gada-
renes, which is over against Galilee." ## He
says also, " then the whole multitude of the

* St. Mark, iii. 7. f Ibid. iii. 9. % Ibid. Ui. 14.

§ Ibid. iv. I. || Ibid, iv.35. % Ibid. v. 2.
** St. Luke, viii. 26.



country of the Gadarenes * round about, be-

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 18 20 21 22 23 24 25 26

Online LibraryJames Silk BuckinghamTravels in Palestine, through the countries of Bashan and Cilead, east of the River Jordan; including a visit to the cities of Geraza and Gamala, in the Decapolis (Volume 2) → online text (page 18 of 26)