The Lands of the Saracen eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 452 pages of information about The Lands of the Saracen.

In descending from Eden to the sea-coast, we were obliged to cross the great gorge of which I spoke.  Further down, its sides are less steep, and clothed even to the very bottom with magnificent orchards of mulberry, fig, olive, orange, and pomegranate trees.  We were three hours in reaching the opposite side, although the breadth across the top is not more than a mile.  The path was exceedingly perilous; we walked down, leading our horses, and once were obliged to unload our mules to get them past a tree, which would have forced them off the brink of a chasm several hundred feet deep.  The view from the bottom was wonderful.  We were shut in by steeps of foliage and blossoms from two to three thousand feet high, broken by crags of white marble, and towering almost precipitously to the very clouds.  I doubt if Melville saw anything grander in the tropical gorges of Typee.  After reaching the other side, we had still a journey of eight hours to the sea, through a wild and broken, yet highly cultivated country.

Beyrout was now thirteen hours distant, but by making a forced march we reached it in a day, travelling along the shore, past the towns of Jebeil, the ancient Byblus, and Joonieh.  The hills about Jebeil produce the celebrated tobacco known in Egypt as the Jebelee, or “mountain” tobacco, which is even superior to the Latakiyeh.

Near Beyrout, the mulberry and olive are in the ascendant.  The latter tree bears the finest fruit in all the Levant, and might drive all other oils out of the market, if any one had enterprise enough to erect proper manufactories.  Instead of this the oil of the country is badly prepared, rancid from the skins in which it is kept, and the wealthy natives import from France and Italy in preference to using it.  In the bottoms near the sea, I saw several fields of the taro-plant, the cultivation of which I had supposed was exclusively confined to the Islands of the Pacific.  There would be no end to the wealth of Syria were the country in proper hands.

Chapter XIII.

Pipes and Coffee.

—­“the kind nymph to Bacchus born By Morpheus’ daughter, she that seems Gifted upon her natal morn By him with fire, by her with dreams—­ Nicotia, dearer to the Muse Than all the grape’s bewildering juice.”  Lowell.

In painting the picture of an Oriental, the pipe and the coffee-cup are indispensable accessories.  There is scarce a Turk, or Arab, or Persian—­unless he be a Dervish of peculiar sanctity—­but breathes his daily incense to the milder Bacchus of the moderns.  The custom has become so thoroughly naturalized in the East, that we are apt to forget its comparatively recent introduction, and to wonder that no mention is made of the pipe in the Arabian Nights.  The practice of smoking harmonizes so thoroughly with the character of Oriental life, that it is difficult for us to imagine a time when it never existed.  It has become a part of that supreme patience, that wonderful repose, which forms so strong a contrast to the over-active life of the New World—­the enjoyment of which no one can taste, to whom the pipe is not familiar.  Howl, ye Reformers! but I solemnly declare unto you, that he who travels through the East without smoking, does not know the East.

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The Lands of the Saracen from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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