All the houses of the Orientals are similar to this one, except that the apartments of the women open into another courtyard than those of the men.
After examining and admiring every thing to our heart’s content, we returned to our hospitable convent. This evening the clerical gentlemen entertained us. A tolerably nice meal, with wine and good bread, restored our exhausted energies to a certain extent.
At Beyrout we were quite alarmed at the warnings we received concerning the numbers of certain creeping things we should find here in the bedsteads. I therefore betook myself to bed with many qualms and misgivings; but I slept undisturbed, both on this night and on the following one.
The bazaar at Damascus—The khan—Grotto of St. Paul—Fanaticism of the inhabitants—Departure from Damascus—The desert—Military escort—Heliopolis or Balbeck—Stupendous ruins—Continuation of our voyage through the desert—The plague—The Lebanon range—Cedar-trees—Druses and Maronites—Importunate beggars—Thievish propensities of the Arabs.
Damascus is one of the most ancient cities of the East, but yet we see no ruins; a proof that no grand buildings ever existed here, and that therefore the houses, as they became old and useless, were replaced by new ones.
To-day we visited the seat of all the riches—the great bazaar. It is mostly covered in, but only with beams and straw mats. On both sides are rows of wooden booths, containing all kinds of articles, but a great preponderance of eatables, which are sold at an extraordinarily cheap rate. We found the “mish-mish” particularly good.
As in Constantinople, the rarest and most costly of the wares are not exposed for sale, but must be sought for in closed store-houses. The booths look like inferior hucksters’ shops, and each merchant is seen sitting in the midst of his goods. We passed hastily through the bazaar, in order soon to reach the great mosque, situate in the midst of it. As we were forbidden, however, not only to enter the mosque, but even the courtyard, we were obliged to content ourselves with wondering at the immense portals, and stealing furtive glances at the interior of the open space beyond. This mosque was originally a Christian church; and a legend tells that St. George was decapitated here.