« AnteriorContinuar »
BEYROOT AND ITS NEIGHBOURHOOD.
Ox Tuesday morning, November 16, 1847,* our voyage terminated, and our feet rested on the promised land. I rose early, about an hour before sunrise, and found we were slowly approaching Beyroot. The dark masses of "goodly Lebanon" rose immediately before us, standing out in strong relief from the gilded eastern sky. When we were anchored opposite Beyroot, and the sun had risen, the beauty and rich verdure of the scene filled us with surprise and pleasure. We had heard much of the barrenness of the land, but here all was beauty and fertility. The view of Beyroot from the sea is most striking. The town rises gradually from the shore,—its ruined fortresses in strange contrast with the new fresh-looking buildings around, and with the busy stir of commerce along its little quay. Around the town, mulberry gardens appeared to occupy all the ground, and amidst them rose neat white stone houses in very great numbers. The whole was surrounded by a range of small heights, thickly wooded, and picturesque.
A little after sunrise we were visited by crowds of boats; and innkeepers and dragomen—speaking almost every European language—rushed on board, pouncing upon the unfortunate traveller; who here runs the risk of being separated, by some anxious innkeeper, from his companions and his luggage. Mr. Lowthian* recognised his old servant Nicolo, who took us to an Arab innkeeper, and we all went together to his hotel—a house about a mile to the west of Beyroot, by the sea shore. Our host, Antonio, spoke English pretty fluently. The character of the people was sadly at variance with the beauty of the country. We found the Arabs emulating each other in endeavoring to cheat us. After breakfast, we walked through the bazaars of Beyroot. They were in some respects like those of Smyrna; but the streets were narrower, and the shopkeepers almost all Arabs. Only few Greeks were to be seen. Some parts of Beyroot are very old, and many principal streets in some places lead under low arches, almost dark.
* From ' Willan's Land of Israel.' London, Houlston and Co. B
We had partly determined, whilst at Smyrna, to fix our abode, for a time at least, on Lebanon; and had got a letter from Mr. Lewis to the American Missionaries at Beyroot, who have also an establishment at Arbeh, a village on the front of Lebanon, about four or five hours from Beyroot in a south-east direction. We called on Mr. Thompson, at the Mission, and got from him a letter to his brethren in the mountains—where we intended to go the next day. I may here remark, that we found it rather uncomfortably warm at Beyroot, notwithstanding that it was winter.
Early the next morning we started with horses and guide for Arbeh. The morning was beautiful and clear, and it was delightful to inhale the sea breeze, as we rode along the beach towards Beyroot. After passing through the town we came to a large open ground outside the walls, and were surprised by seeing great numbers of the Mahometan population—especially women and children—enjoying themselves much in the same way as English children do at a country fair. There were whirligigs and swings going at full speed, in which the youthful followers of the prophet were most complacently seated. On enquiry we found that it was a Mahometan festival, which lasted several days. We entered here a narrow lane, leading due south, lined with hedges of the prickly pear. Mulberry
• Mr. Lowthian, an English farmer, had previously visited the country, and recorded his impressions in his "Visit to Palestine," noticed approvingly in a former volume. The present work is of the same choice class—a real book.
trees appeared to occupy all the ground on both sides, and here, as elsewhere, numerous white stone cottages peeped up from among the masses of dark green foliage. Orange trees, laden with their golden fruit, were seen at intervals, and numbers of large vines overhung the road, supported by high trees. The grapes had all been taken long before. Presently we emerged into a plain of sand, in which a great number of pines were growing. This plain, only a few years ago, was almost covered with fine old trees; but only a few of these are left, which testify, by their size and height, to the quality and depth of the soil.
We then turned our faces more to the eastward, and began to ascend a little, through a large olive grove, which is said to extend for seven miles along the foot of Lebanon. As we got higher, the roads became worse, and in many places I dismounted, not venturing to ride over them. The roads all over Lebanon are dreadful.
We were surprised at the number of villages seen on every hand as we rose higher up the sides of Lebanon; and we frequently passed road-side khan or cafes. The mountain sides were generally very steep and very stony, and terraced to the summit. In some few places there were small plots of ground sufficiently level for the growth of grain, and we saw several mountaineers guiding their primitive ploughs. On the terraces, the vine and other fruits, and mulberry trees, seemed to thrive. At one place a shepherd was leading a flock of sheep, and playing on a shepherd's pipe. Though we had often read descriptions of this eastern custom, yet the first sight of this beautiful illustration of our Saviour's Parable (John x.J was at once touching and pleasing. A village was shewn us, to our left, where a fellow-countryman, Mr. Scott, had established works for spinning silk. As we ascended higher and higher our view kept extending, and the blue sea appeared to rise in the fair distant horizon, there to meet and mingle as one with the cloudless sky. The air was most transparent, and much cooler than on the plain. Our horses were very poor ones, and we made little progress. We rested for some time at a roadside khan, and were cheated in trying to buy some grain, to give our horses a feed in the middle of their journey—contrary to all use and custom in the east. Broken straw mixed with harley is the universal food of horses and mules, and the poor donkeys generally have only straw given them.
The afternoon was far advanced when we got to Arbek, which we found to be a populous village. We went immediately to the American Mission premises, where we were kindly received and entertained.
Next morning we took leave of our kind friends and began to descend towards Beyroot. Both as we went and returned, we were struck with the fertility of Lebanon, notwithstanding the general steepness of the ground. The soil seemed rich, of a reddish color, and of a loose, friable nature. The promised fertility of Lebanon is even now partially fulfilled. The mountains are beginning to "drop down new wine"* and to give tokens of the approach of that time when "Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field." Isa. xxix. 17.
It is remarkable how full scripture is of allusions to Lebanon, although Israel possessed but a small part of it. It was included in the wide and good land promised to Abraham and his seed, and Israel's not possessing it did not lessen its scriptural importance. In Beut. iii. 25. we are told that Moses, a little before his death, longed to go over and see the good land west of the Jordan; also "that goodly mountain" (probably Mount Sion or Hermon) and Lebanon, which lay northward. In the following chapter we see the principal mountain of the Lebanon range identified with Sion—"Mount Sion which is Hermon" (Beut. iv. 48 J The cedars of Lebanon were the trees chosen for the building of the temple. In beautiful figurative language, Lebanon and Sirion (Mount Hermon) are represented as skipping like a young unicorn, in the universal rejoicing of Immanuel's land at the return of its king to reign ;(Ps. xxix. 6 J and uuder his dominion we read that "there shall be a handful of corn in the earth on the top of the mountains,—the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon:" (Ps. lxxii. 16,) and then all nations shall call him blessed.
• Joel iii. 18.—" The wine of Lebanon" (nabeed jabel) is highly esteemed, and is abundant and cheap