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THE title of this book gives promise of something pleasant, and the words Rambles in the Deserts of Syria hardly prepare us for a journey which leads from Beles, Hierapolis, Batnæ, and Aleppo, and thence by Marash and the Cilician Gates to Antioch, Tripoli, Dama, and Chalcis, and so back to Beroa, and anon by Aishah and Damascus to Jerusalem and Beirut, and once more back to Aleppo, Andrene, Seleucia, and Marash. Such a list recalls the Mirrors of Aleppo, in the pleasant story of Sadi and the Merchant of the Isle of Kish, where the latter says: "O Sadi! I have one more trip before me. I shall take Persian sulphur
DESERTS OF SYRIA.*
to China, for I have heard that it brings a prodigious price there; and thence I shall take China-ware to Greece, and Grecian brocade to India, and Indian steel to Aleppo, and mirrors of Aleppo to Yaman, and striped cloth of Yaman to Persia, and, after that, I shall give up trading, and sit at home in my shop."
Sooth to say, men do not ramble in the Syrian Desert. If they be Europeans they travel principally with a set purpose, and to see a certain locality. If Arabs, they wander, because it is their life to do so, the condition of their existence, as the river flows in omne avum. Thus the tribe of the Anezi circle perpetually "in a great migratory orbit, which takes them to Aleppo in summer, toward Urfa, Diarbekir, Mosul, and Baghdad in winter, and leads them round by the south
ern regions of the desert, passing near Damascus, Homs, and Hama, back to Aleppo." Or, be they European or native, Syrian wayfarers stray rather than ramble from the right direction, like the caravan of three thousand camels, with six hundred men, which perished in 1858, near Hara Iji Sheham. "It was bound from Damascus to Baghdad, and lost the way. No Bedaween happened to be within reach, and a tribe came upon their remains long after their death."
loss only of property. Or how would such a ride as is described in letter xii. of the volume before us suit the mere tourist? Starting from Aleppo in the fierce heat of August, the author of these pages rode fifteen miles south to the village of Sfiri, and cantered thence to Irjil, the ancient Regillum, which he reached at nightfall. Not finding there an Arab camp, the object of his search, he rode on till midnight and drew rein at Hara Iji Sheham. There he slept on the bare ground without food, and started next day when the sun was hot, with a draught of muddy water as his sole refreshment. Riding on the whole day, at nightfall he obtained from three Bedaween boys a little milk and a crust of hard bread, and again slept on the plain. After riding the whole of the third day he arrived at the ruins of a fine old castle on a hill, called by the Bedaweens Shuemis, not far from the site of the ancient Irenopolis, now Selamieh, half-way between Hama and Palmyra. Thence he rode on all night, "sometimes at a good gallop," and as the fourth day dawned reached the hospitable tents of the Mowali. For such rides the best blood of Arabia is required in the steed, and much of the Arab power of abstinence in the rider.
Least of all do men ramble voluntarily among Turkomans and Bedaweens. is with bated breath and anxious eye that the traveler presses on through the mountains of the Ansairi, or the great pine forests of the Ghiaoor Dagh, where with opportunity every man is a robber; and the rider who spurs into the illimitable desert of the Bedaweens will do wisely to watch well his mare, and see she misses not the track, as knowing his life depends upon her powers. To one who has had experience of the measure Turkomans mete out to their neighbors, to speak of rambling among them sounds like junketing among cannibals or picnics among pirates. The love of wild adventure, the grim necessity of travel, or serious and responsible duties may and do lead Europeans into the haunts of the robbers of the desert, but the careless spirit of the rambler should seek more peaceful districts. No doubt there is a Syrian handbook, and there are certain frequented routes along which cockneydom, ignorant
But with every protection that knowledge of the languages and the tribes, consummate address and presence of mind, and even recognized rank can give, the desert of the Bedaween is not always to be traversed with impunity. An exam
of the languages and heedless of the cus-ple of this will be found in the eighteenth toms of the people, may travel securely; letter of this series, where the author's but to penetrate into less known parts errand of mercy in quest of the unhappy and return safely demands qualifications Christian women carried off from Damasonly attained after a long residence in the cus, not only was not "twice blessed," country, and not often then, but which but doubly failed, first, as regards the the author of these pages abundantly pos- captives, who were never recovered; sesses. Without such gifts, indeed, his and, secondly, with reference to himself, rambles would soon have been unceremo- in that his own life was nearly sacrificed. niously abridged. Imagine, for example, The incident is one so stirring that it dean ordinary traveler in the situation of serves to be extracted: the author, about to enter the wild district of Chikoor Ova at the foot of the Ghiaoor Dagh, when the chief of the Turkoman escort suddenly pulled up, called in his men and took leave," abandoning him to find his way through mountain fastnesses peopled with robbers, into the Cilician plain, and then to trust himself to the tender mercies of the Tajerli. A stranger to the country would be fortunate in such a case to escape with the
"Knowing the way perfectly, we left Aisheh without an escort, and having with us only a servant, a groom, and a lad. Fer several hours we rode safely under the thickly-falling snow, unable to see fifty yards around us, and consequently unseen from any greater distance. In the afternoon, the weather unfortunately cleared, and we came in sight of some horsemen toward the north, belonging to the Shammar Sheikh, Abd-ul-Kerim, with a few of the worst characters among the Ghess and other low
tribes, which had taken the field for Deham, in, all about sixty. Being only five, we could not think of simple resistance, but both F- - and I were well mounted, and we could try to avoid close quarters. The party opened as soon as they saw us, and we were soon nearly surrounded. Flight in a straight line was impossible. We had plenty of room, however, as our enemy seemed to have recognized us, and evidently feared that we might have fire-arms. I told F on no account to use his revolver, as we must be finally overpowered, and by drawing blood we should only seal our own fate. After ineffectual attempts to force our way through their line, in one of which I got a spear-thrust through my Arab cloak, but without wounding me, we kept wheeling and dodging the attacks made on us within a circle of a few hundred yards. Our three men having inferior horses were soon taken, unhorsed, and stripped. Their cries seem to have been heard by another body of horsemen, which soon appeared rapidly approaching us from the south. Encouraged by the hope that they were friends, we continued galloping about with a decided advantage in the speed and condition of our horses; if they were enemies, we could only give ourselves up. Fwas struggling gallantly, striking out with his fists, like a school-boy as he is, at four or five Arabs, who were trying to jostle him. At last they got him down, and then others tried to close on me. The shock of several horsemen who ran up against me at full speed without pointing their lances, brought my horse to the ground, and rough hands dragged me from the saddle before he could rise. I contrived to shake them off, and, giving up my horse, ran toward the other party of Bedaween who were coming on at their best pace. The first man who reached me was Khalifeh-el-Kir, of the Roos tribe of Anezi. He was a brother, and he shouted to those behind who I was. I sent Khalifeh to F, who was still stoutly sparring at bay, his horse having been carried off Not knowing Khalifeh, he thought him a new assailant, and struck out at him too. Khalifeh quickly scattered with his lance the Shammar on foot around F—, unwound the aghal from his head, threw it over F to secure him, then gave him a horse to ride, taken from one of his men. The next who came up to me was Ahmed-Bey-Mowali, who at once charged those near me, and drove them off with the enormous
lance he always uses. The fear of his very name seemed to disperse the Shammar. He gave me the mare of his cousin Daher, who was with him, and a general assault was made on the enemy. The Anezi and Mowali were only thirty, but they soon showed their superiority over the Shammar, who were as two to one.
A short mélée settled the affair, leaving twelve wounded, two of them severely. One of the latter was on my horse, and he was set upon ferociously, and knocked off with three bad spear-wounds and a broken head from the blow
of a mace, which Ahmed Bey carries at his saddle-bow. In the evening the wounded were carried into the Weldi camp, where every attention was paid them-the Shammar and Ghess having galloped off without bestowing a thought on them. All our horses, cloaks, and every thing we had lost, not excepting the minutest articles taken from our servants, were carefully brought to us by Ahmed Bey, who then led the way to Mehemed-al-Ganim's camp, a short mile further on. News of the fight had preceded us, and the whole tribe came out on foot to meet us; the sheikh with bare head and feet, and tearing his beard with vexation; the women brandishing tent-poles, and screaming imprecations against the Shammar. It was not until F and I were felt all over by the faithful Weldi, to convince themselves that we were not wounded, that they would be quiet, and let us rest after our lively ride. All their horsemen mustered next morning to escort us on our return, which was diversified by a very pretty little chase after an enormous wild boar. F- turned it after a couple of miles' run, and the brute charged him. Excellent horsemanship and the skillful use of his spear secured to him the victory, which was cheered by the Arabs forming a vast ring round the two combatants, when a last home-thrust laid the huge animal on his side, not to rise again."
Dangers, then, and hardships, it must be admitted, attend those who wander from the beaten track in the Syrian Desert, or, indeed, in any part of the Turkish empire. But without such deviations the real condition of the country can never be thoroughly appreciated. It is when the high road is quitted, and the escort is dispensed with, that the true state of af fairs becomes known.
This volume teems with information as
to the actual condition of both the governed and the governing classes in Turkey, and with just reflections on the position and prospects of the Ottoman empire, and this it is that makes it so valuable. The ordinary incidents of traveling in the East have often been amusingly described, and the reading public have so frequently been regaled with descriptions of Oriental scenery and disquisitions on architectural remains, and the sites of places of historic fame, that at present, "a crude surfeit" is reigning where eager interest used to exist. But the real desideratum is correct information, which would serve to elucidate the political problems, which the Turkish Sphinx proposes to the Bootions of the West, to the solution of which, in the opinion of many, no steps have yet been made. These problems are, first.