Journey to Damascus
All out of bed about ½ past 4 this morning: breakfasted at 5, and on our journey towards Damascus about six o'clock. The morning was cool and pleasant; but looked threatening. However, no rain fell, and our way was right through Anti-Lebanon. After passing a number of barren stony treeless hills, we made a long descent into a narrow valley, down which ran a small noisy brook bordered with green trees. The sight and sound was grateful to our senses. Our way lies along by this brook, and at 11 o'clock we dismount for lunch, and, as some of our ladies are out of sorts, rest until 2 o'clock.
I am much better to-day, and have quite enjoyed the morning. Our rest at lunch was very agreeable. I bathed my feet, gathered blackberries, and cut a fine thorn stick to wake up my horse.
We encamped at night about a mile from Zebdani, a small town with about 2000 people. It is a pleasant spot with plenty of trees; but, as usual, the houses are most objectionable. We had a sensation this evening: we arrived at camp about sundown, and found that the youngest member of our party was absent! - Mackenzie. He went on, confident of his own skill as guide: and so went astray. We hooted and shouted, blew the horn and sent three men on horseback after him; but one of the men who was out buying straw had the good fortune to meet him. So his adventure ended with giving him a good fright, and us some uneasiness.
We are now in the centre of Anti-Lebanon. Over the mountain we saw a peculiar effect: we were almost in darkness, and yet over the mountain came bright light, as though a city, highly illuminated, was on the other side.
Heard the jackals for the first time to-night. Distance travelled to-day about 29 miles.
All active and on horseback same time as yesterday. We journeyed principally through deep ravines with a fast flowing stream rushing down at the bottom. At long intervals the valleys open out, and we pass through a green wooded spot, where a village is sure to he gathered: and so on, until rest for lunch at the fountain of the Abana, where a splendid rush of water comes out of the limestone, forming a considerable stream at once. Just over from here are ruins of an ancient temple, and, on our way we passed tomb of ??? Abel ( 2 Sam. 20, vv 18 & 20 ) perched in an apparently inaccessible rock about 400 ft high, also reputed grave of Abel. Remainder of journey, with exception of half ? at start, dry stony and uninteresting. About 4 miles from Damascus struck into a main road and had a good gallop. Found the tents pitched on a marsh, a miserable unhealthy spot. Said they can get no other.
At Damascus, and not required to rise before seven. Many of the party troubled with diarrhoea. Myself pretty well, though not quite strong. At nine, all went into town with guide. Saw a large plane tree, 42 ft round, said to be as old as Mahomet - say 1218 years. Next, to British Consul, and were treated very kindly by him. He had a letter for me, much to my joy, from Georgie and my little May. Next, to see the house of Ananias, which is a small vaulted room, partly underground, and now used as a Catholic Church. Then, to see Eastern Gate, and the place on the wall where St Paul was let down in a basket, then through the Bazaar, and so back to lunch.
After this, and a rest, to see the house of Judas in Straight St. The place shown is not in the street, and the street is not straight; but by Eastern cities comparatively so. The above house is now a small mosque and looks a deceit on the face of it. Bought a few small shawls in the Bazaar; and then to tents for dinner. The bazaars are extensive, and are simply the shopkeeping streets. The shops nearly all bolted up, and the keeper lives elsewhere. They are nearly all roofed over with wood, table shaped, and are lighted by small round holes left at intervals. There are some respectable things seen on the stalls, but no display - not such beautiful things as in our towns.