The traveller earnestly desired to behold the cedars of Lebanon: for a great deal is said about them in the Bible; indeed, the temple of Solomon was built of those cedars. It was not easy to get close to them; for there were craggy rocks all around: but at last the traveller reached them, and stood beneath their shade. There were twelve very large old trees, and their boughs met at the top, and kept off the heat of the sun. These trees might be compared to holy men, grown old in the service of God: for this is God’s promise to his servants,—“The righteous shall flourish like the palm-tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.”—Psalm xc. 11, 12.
This is the capital of Syria.
It is perhaps the most ancient city in the world. Even in the time of Abraham, Damascus was a city; for his servant Eliezer came from it.
But Damascus is most famous, on account of a great event which once happened near it. A man going towards that city suddenly saw in the heavens a light brighter than the sun, and heard a voice from on high, calling him by his name. Beautiful as the city was, he saw not its beauty as he entered it, for he had been struck blind by the great light. That man was the great apostle Paul.
Who can help thinking of him among the gardens of fruit-trees surrounding Damascus?
The damask rose is one of the beauties of Damascus. There is one spot quite covered with this lovely red rose.
I will now give an account of a visit a stranger paid to a rich man in Damascus. He went through dull and narrow streets, with no windows looking into the streets. He stopped before a low door, and was shown into a large court behind the house. There was a fountain in the midst of the court, and flower-pots all round. The visitor was then led into a room with a marble floor, but with no furniture except scarlet cushions. To refresh him after his journey, he was taken to the bath. There a man covered him with a lather of soap and water, then dashed a quantity of hot water over him, and then rubbed him till he was quite dry and warm.
When he came out of the bath, two servants brought him some sherbet. It is a cooling drink made of lemon-juice and grape-juice mixed with water.
The master of the house received the stranger very politely: he not only shook hands with him, but afterwards he kissed his own hand, as a mark of respect to his guest. The servants often kissed the visitor’s hand.
The dinner lasted a long while, for only one dish was brought up at a time. Of course there were no ladies at the dinner, for in Mahomedan countries they are always hidden. There were two lads there, who were nephews to the master of the house; and the visitor was much surprised to observe that they did not sit down to dinner with the company; but that they stood near their uncle, directing the servants what to bring him; and now and then presenting a cup of wine to him, or his guests. But it is the custom in Syria for young people to wait upon their elders; however, they may speak to the company while they are waiting upon them.