Damascus

Oct 29th

Out soon after six. Inside of tent cold, outside damp, and hoar frost on grass. My experience of tenting is that it is nicer in theory than in practice. Made an expedition into town before breakfast to buy cloves and a vessel to make a filter of in anticipation of bad water which we get on road. After breakfast, party set off with guide for Great Mosque.

Myself and a few others followed alone, and had some trouble in finding the place and gaining admission; but the name 'English' prevailed, and in the Mosque we met our friends. It is a large room, roofed, and supported by two longitudinal rows of arches springing from tall columns, and it has a dome. One side is also supported on arches and columns, and opens on a large quadrangular court, with another long building on the opposite side. The floor is of marble, and principally covered with carpets. In centre is a tomb, said to contain the head of John the Baptist: it being originally a Christian Church. The decorations are considerable; but not sustained, and generally in bad taste - such as marble and bad whitewash in close proximity, the upper columns painted, instead of being the original stone. Went up the Minaret, about 200 ft high, from which all the city is well seen. It does not look very beautiful from that elevation, the roofs being nearly all flat and composed of mud. It is very difficult to define the streets, the houses being built so close together, and then nearly meeting at the top. In some places there is scarcely room to pass a cat.

Next went to see the house of a Jew, said to have cost 12,000 building. It is five story high, and is made up of several square blocks with courtyards in midst. The taste throughout is quite bad - beautiful and expensive marble carvings going on to whitewash and cheap tawdry paper hangings; and, in rooms approached with marble steps and incrusted with do. inlaid with pearl, a miserable window sash, badly made and glazed with the worst glass. These orientals appear to do nothing thoroughly. Did some purchasing in the bazaars - bought some scarves and small handkerchiefs.

After lunch, none of us felt inclined for any more excursions, but quite ready to leave Damascus and all its charms. Last evening, four of us went with the guide to see how the Moslems amuse themselves during the month of their festivity and fasting all day. They do the latter, and some of them continue all night at the former. We found the Bazaar and it's busy at the edible stalls and full of people. First went into a large cafe, and the sight of some 400 red-turbanned heads, with bodies squatted on low rush stools, was striking. All were engaged smoking, generally narghillas, and talking in groups. In the next cafe, was a man telling stories: all the men congregate round him, leaving him space to walk about while he spins away. The best part of fun, to them, consists in pinning scraps and spills in his clothes behind him; and keep it up until his clothes were nearly destroyed. I understand from the guide that his story 'would not bear repeating' - as the newspaper men say. Our next sensation was music from stringed instruments, and a song - both miserable noises without melody. Next the caracalde, or marionettes, which represented beastliness beyond any you would credit a Turk with. My impression is that some form of lewdness is present in all these poor fellows' amusements, so called. After the last exhibition we had had just too much, and got to tents as soon as possible.

There are thousands of dogs here, either lying or sneaking about on our marsh. We lost a dead horse yesterday, and since then it has been the scene of feasting and fighting. To a great extent, every animal there is snarling or barking, and it is kept up night and day. Consul sent me a letter from Georgie to-day - very kind of him. I expected other letters: but must now content myself until we reach Jerusalem. Glad to hear about my May, and that all are well.

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