Our march to-day had been very fatiguing; we had ridden for eleven hours, and the greater part of the road had been very bad. The night brought us but little relaxation, for our cloaks did not sufficiently protect us from the cold.
The Lebanon—Druses and Maronites—Illness of Herr Sattler—Djebel or Byblus—Rocky passes—Dog’s-river—Return to Beyrout—Sickness— Departure for Alexandria—Roguery of the captain—Disagreeables on board—Limasol—Alarm of pirates—Cowardice of the crew—Arrival at Alexandria.
To-day we quitted our cold hard couch at six o’clock in the morning, and travelled agreeably for two hours through this romantic valley, which appeared almost at every step in a new aspect of increased beauty. Above the village a foaming stream bursts from the mighty rocks in a beautiful waterfall, irrigates the valley, and then vanishes imperceptibly among the windings of the ravine. Brooks similar to this one, but smaller, leapt from the mountains round about. On the rocky peaks we seem to behold ruined castles and towers, but discover with astonishment, as we approach nearer, that what we supposed to be ruins are delusive pictures, formed by the wonderful masses of rock, grouped one above the other in the most fantastic forms. In the depths on the one side, grottoes upon grottoes are seen, some with their entrances half concealed, others with gigantic portals, above which the wild rocks tower high; on the other a rich soil is spread in the form of terraces on the rocky cliffs, forming a lovely picture of refreshing vegetation. Had I been a painter, it would have been difficult to tear me away from the contemplation of these regions.
Below the greater waterfall a narrow stone bridge, without balustrades or railing, leads across a deep ravine, through which the stream rushes foaming, to the opposite shore. After having once crossed, we enter upon a more inhabited tract of country, and travel on between rows of houses and gardens. But many of the houses stood empty, the inhabitants having fled into the fields, and there erected huts of branches of trees, to escape the plague. The Maronites, the real inhabitants of these mountains, are strong people, gifted with a determined will; they cannot be easily brought under a foreign yoke, but are ready to defend their liberty to the death among the natural strongholds of their rocky passes. Their religion resembles that of the Christians, and their priests are permitted to marry. The women do not wear veils, but I saw few such handsome countenances among them as I have frequently observed in the Tyrol.
On the first mountain-range of Lebanon, in the direction of Caelosyria, many Druses are found, besides a few tribes of “Mutualis.” The former incline to the Christian faith, while the latter are generally termed “calf-worshippers.” They practise their religion so secretly, that nothing certain is known concerning it; the general supposition is, however, that they worship their deity under the form of a calf.