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WADY BENNA-WADY EL KURN.
But to my narrative. Yesterday I left Alma, and visited the great castle of Kūreîn. Passing southward down a ravine called 'Ain Hor, we reached the great Wady Benna, at the end of an hour. The village of Benna lies under mighty cliffs full of caverns, on the north side of the wady which trends round to the northeast toward Cosa. We ascended a branch wady to the southeast, along a path which terminated at a large ruin called Summakh, and left. us in the woods, where we soon got lost. After wandering about for some time, we discovered a Bedawy among the bushes, who threaded the tangled wood like an American Indian, and brought us out on the northern brink of Wady el Kŭrn, directly opposite the castle. The descent of six hundred and ten feet to the bed of the river was more than difficult — really dangerous and frightful. One held the horse by the head, and two by the tail, to keep him from tumbling over the precipice, and by great care we all got safely down. I was puzzled to make out the age and object of the building at the bottom of the wady. It is about one hundred feet long and eighty high. The basement is a very strong vault, evidently ancient; above it is a group of groined arches, mostly broken; they are apparently of Saracenic origin. One might suppose that this was a church if he could find or fancy where the congregation was to come from. A single granite column stops up the top of the stairway to the tower, which may have been a campanila or a minaret, or neither, for there is nothing about it to determine its character. A powerful dam, apparently Roman, once turned the water of the river into the basement of this curious edifice at the northeast corner. This favors the idea that the lower story at least was a mill, and in that case the upper part may have been a guard-house, though it was finished off in a style more elaborate than is common for such places. The dam would convert the river above it into an impassable fosse for that side of the hill on which the castle stands. There is a tradition that a covered way led down to the river from the castle, and, as the distance is not great, the thing is possible; and, indeed, the termination
of what might have been such a passage is seen in this basement room.
The ascent from this building to the top of the castle was extremely fatiguing. It is only six hundred feet, but it is nearly perpendicular, and covered with bushes and briers, through which one must burst his way upward. Where the bold, sharp ridge of the castle joins the eastern mountain, it is only a few feet across from north to south, with ragged cliffs descending on either side to a great depth. Just here it is cut off by a broad and deep fosse, on the west and lower edge of which stands the first part of the fortifications.
The top of the ridge was widened by a wall built up from below, as was done by Solomon on Mount Moriah, to enlarge the platform of the Temple. This basement work is very solid, and exhibits very fine specimens of the old Jewish or Phoenician bevel. On this platform stood a noble tower, of extremely well-cut and very large stones, but not beveled. They are all three feet thick, and of various lengths up to ten feet. It must have been quite impregnable before the invention of cannon. The ridge falls down rapidly toward the river in a direction nearly west, having the sides almost perpendicular. There are three other towers or departments, each lower than the one above, and also wider, for the hill bulges out as it descends, and the lowest of all incloses a considerable area. These various departments were so connected as to form one castle, and yet so separated that each would have to be taken by itself. The second from the top has in it a beautiful octagonal pedestal of finely-polished stone, about eight feet high, with a cornice, and over it stood eight demi-columns, united inwardly, a column for each face of the pedestal. It probably supported an image or statue. Above all spread a lofty canopy of clustered arches, like those in the building at the river. The entire castle and its hill are now clothed with a magnificent forest of oak, terebinth, bay, and other trees, whose ranks ascend, shade above shade,
“ A woody theatre of stateliest view,"
CASTLE OF KUREIN-CONIES.
and underneath is a tangled net-work of briers and bushes, which makes it very difficult to explore the ruins. After groping about for two hours I was obliged to leave, though not half satiated with the scene, nor satisfied with my examinations of it. Indeed, Castle Hill is inexpressibly beautiful and imposing; a swelling pyramid of green, hung up in mid-heaven, with the gray old towers peering out here and there, as if to take a quiet look for themselves on the fair world around and below. And then the river gorge, who can describe it? with its lofty ramparts, where
“Woods over woods, in gay theatric pride,” climb clear up to the sky. The very eagles fly timidly through its dim and solemn avenues.
It is not easy to comprehend the motive for erecting this castle in such a place. If the road from Zîb ever passed this
way to the regions of Upper Galilee, then it would have served to command it; but there is no evidence that any such highway ever led up this wild gorge, and certainly no farther than to the castle itself. It may have been a frontier barrier, held by the Galileans to guard against incursions from the seaboard; or, if there was a time when Achzîb, on the sea-shore, was the sea-port of Naphtali and his neighbors, this castle might then have been of the utmost importance in maintaining safe communication with it. Achzîb was given to Asher, as we learn from Joshua xix. 29, but seems never to have been in their possession.
When I first climbed into the castle, I was delighted to see, quietly sitting among the ruins, a beautiful little coney. It had shown that wisdom in selecting the rocks for its refuge which Solomon commends in Proverbs xxx. 26: The conies are a feeble folk, yet make they their houses in the rocks. I have seen them on the wild cliffs of the Litany, below Blât, and also above the rocky pass of el Buiyad, on the Ladder of Tyre. In shape they resemble the rabbit, but are smaller, and of a dull russet color. Our friends of Alma call them tūbsûn, and are well acquainted with them and their habits, as they are with the jerboa and many other
animals rarely met with except in such rocky regions as this.
In a gigantic cliff of Wady Kŭrn immense swarms of bees have made their home. The people of M'alia, several years ago, let a man down the face of the rock by ropes. He was entirely protected from the assaults of the bees, and extracted a large amount of honey; but he was so terrified by the prodigious swarms of bees that he could not be induced to repeat the exploit. One is reminded by this of the promise to Jacob in that farewell ode of Moses, Deut. xxxii. 13: He made him to suck honey out of the rock. And Asaph, in the 81st Psalm, thus sings: With honey out of the rock should I have satisfied thee. Such allusions prove that bees lived in the rocks long ago just as they do now, and per
haps they were more common than at present. I have seen no bees in the rock except in a wady east of Tyre.
Parting from my guides, who returned to their homes, I took over the hills in a southeasterly direction, and passing M'alia, seated on a singular tell, once a walled town, and still showing specimens of ancient Jewish or Phænician work, I stopped for the night at Tarshîha, half an hour farther on, and was hospitably entertained by the Greek priest of the village.
I spent the morning looking about this large village of Tarshîha, which gives name to a sub-governmental district of which it is the centre. There may be about three thousand inhabitants, of whom one fifth are Christians, the rest Mohammedans, bearing a very bad character. Their brutal manners and fierce fanaticism have of late years been considerably ameliorated, it is said, through the influence of Sheikh Aly el Mughraby, a sort of reforming prophet, who has his residence here. He is one of the religious impostors to which this country is ever giving birth. · The number of his disciples is stated as high as twenty thousand.
Like the Mormons, he sends forth apostles to call men to his new Tarîkeh, or new way, as it is named. They have produced a great sensation in Sidon, where he has many followers. His most zealous apostle there spent a whole forenoon in my study, laboring most earnestly at the work of my conversion, but finally gave up in despair. It was an amusing episode in our quiet life, and the style of argument was curious, and very characteristic of the Oriental mind. It is an interesting fact, however, that a man like Sheikh Aly can venture on a reform which leaves Mohammed almost entirely out of the account, suffering only the name of Allah to be used in prayers and hymns—a sort of Moslem Protestantism from this point of view. He also inculcates charity, and respectful treatment of the Christians, which is an important improvement in the tone of Moslem manners, particularly in this region. As to the moral reformation, of which I had heard so much, the specimens at Tarshîha were far from satisfactory. The whole popula