« PreviousContinue »
THE NAHR UZZIYEH-EL HUMRA.
XXI. LADDER OF TYRE-ACRE.
While we are quietly passing over this broad and fertile plain of Acre toward Jiddîn, I call for your adventures after we parted at Rumeish last Saturday.
The account of that ride can soon be given; but let me remind you first, that by taking the interior route by Banias, we have missed the entire road from Tyre over the “ Ladder” to Acre.
I can easily fill up that gap. The road follows the shore south of Tyre for two hours to the Nahr Uzzîyeh, where are the remains of an old Roman bridge. This stream rises near Kefr Buri’am, passes by the site of Hazor under the name of Wady el Aiyûn, and thence to the sea by a tortuous, wild, and wooded gorge like those we have looked into in other parts of Naphtali. Fifteen minutes farther is a well called Medfeneh, south of which are ruins scattered along the shore, with no other name than that of the well; but just at the foot of the "Ladder" is el Hŭmra, a very ancient site, probably, of a castle built to command the pass. The Ladder--the Promontorium Album of the geographers -is a path cut in the cliff overhanging the sea for about a mile, and rising two hundred feet above its surface. It makes even a bold man nervous to look down where the waves dash against the perpendicular rocks, and groan and bellow through the hollow caverns. The direction of the pass is east and west, and the mountain rises boldly overhead several hundred feet, in cliffs of white indurated marl, interlaced with seams of dark-colored flint. If you watch closely you will always see timid conies creeping about on these cliffs. At the end of the pass the road turns south for a mile to the ruins of Scanderûna, the Alexandroschene of the ancients; there is nothing about them, however, indicative of an age older than the times of the Crusaders. William of Tyre, in his history, lib. xi., sect. 29–30, gives an account of the repairing of this place in A.D. 1116 by Baldwin, but he derives its name from Alexander the Great, and native tradition ascribes the road over the Ladder to the same hand, but there was a road there long before Alexander's day, and many others besides him have repaired it.
There are many specimens of Roman road in this vicinity, and a fountain of delicious water flows out near the shore, most grateful to the weary traveler along this desolate coast: no doubt the ancient city owed its existence to this fountain. A mile farther south stands a solitary column on the hill side, marking the site of a ruined temple and forsaken city. The place is now called Em el’Amed (mother of columns), and the remains are extensive, spreading up the valley-broken columns, prostrate houses, sarcophagi, and rock tombs. The Wady Hamûl comes down from Alma to the sea at this point, but the road up it is nearly impracticable, from the dense jungle of bushes, briers, and ruins which choke this romantic valley. An aqueduct once led the water from Neba Hamûl to Em el ’Amed.
KHAN EN NAKURA— MISREPHOTH.
but it has long since been broken. One may at least start the inquiry whether this may not be the 'Amad given to Asher by Joshua.?
The coast from this place bends southwest for thirty minutes to Khan en Nakûra, east of which is a village of the same name, and on the shore stands one of St. Helen's towers, in good preservation, tenanted by flocks below, and hawks and owls above. From this khan the road lies along the shore westward for a mile, and then rising over Cape en Nakûra, descends steeply to the sea, where the mountain terminates in bold and picturesque precipices. After crossing a wady on an old Roman bridge half broken away, the path ascends by a most villainous track for half an hour, to the ancient tower called Musheîrifeh. The entire
is about seven miles across, and has three distinct promontories: the first, the real Ladder, or Scala Tyrionum, which does not project into the sea more than a mile beyond the general line of the coast; the second is Ras en Nakûra, and the last is Ras el Mushеîrifeh, which is the highest of all, and shows boldest toward the sea, and hence has been often confounded with the true “Scala.” This Musheîrifeh, with the noble fountains at its base of the same name, I am disposed to identify with the Misrephoth-maim (waters of Misrephoth), to which that part of the Canaanitish host which came from Dor, etc., fled from the battle of Merom ;2 and I do this, notwithstanding the contradictory renderings of these words in the margin of our Bibles, and all other philological criticisms whatsoever. The ancient and modern names are nearly identical in form, and I believe in signification, and both were suggested by the bright and glowing color of those magnificent cliffs which overhang the sea; and any one who will study the route which the division of Jabin's army that came from Dor must have taken to escape Joshua's troops and reach home, will see that this is the spot where they would most likely first find a safe and convenient halting place on the shore. The difficult pass, commanded by a castle, where the present Burj stands, | Josh. xix. 26.
2 Josh. xi. 8.
would be an effectual barrier against their enemies, and the plain below in possession of Achzîb, which the Jews did not subdue, would afford a delightful place for them to rest and refresh themselves after the fatigues of that disastrous day. Let Musheîrifeh, therefore, stand for Misrephoth.
Below the old castle are picturesque caves, into which the waves tumble with tremendous uproar, and above one of them is a long inscription. I once descended down the face of the cliff to the shore, and by creeping along a shelf of the rock several hundred feet long, and not more than six inches wide, I got within a few yards of this inscription. I had tried to reach it by boat several times, but the sea was always too rough. The result of this closer study left me in doubt whether, after all, it was not one of those unaccountable freaks of Nature, whose hand seems occasionally to sketch and scribble on the wild cliffs of the mountains, as if on purpose to puzzle antiquarian savants. If writing it be, there was a surface about fifteen feet square covered with some fifty lines of the same length originally, but many of them now partially worn away. It is either Cufic of a very large pattern, and somewhat involved, or it is Egyptian hieroglyphics — possibly placed there when the kings of Egypt held Ptolemais. Ibrahim Pasha, the latest Egyptian potentate in possession of Acre, came to this place in a boat with a company of French savants, but neither could they get near enough to make any thing out of it. If it is a freak of Nature, it is one of the strangest, and, at any rate, I hope some man of means and leisure will ere long solve the mystery. He should have two boats, with ladders, and means to suspend a scaffolding of some sort or other down the face of the cliff, and, above all, the day must be absolutely calm.
I found thousands of petrified star-fish mingled in the white rock of the cliffs, like colossal plums in a mountain of pudding. They seemed to be about equally diffused through the entire thickness of the cape. The rock is intensely hard, and white as snow.
From the fountains at the foot of Musheîrifeh it is an hour
to Zîb, the modern representative of ancient Achzîb,' the Ecdippa of Roman geographers. The River Kŭrn enters the sea near Zîb. The village stands on a mound, mainly of rubbish, and it has evident traces of antiquity about it, though it could never have been a large city. The shore opens into small creeks, which afford a partial shelter for boats, and this was probably the reason for building a city at this point. A grove of palm-trees, sheltering pyramids of bee-hives, will attract attention as the traveler hastens on to join the regular road to Acre at el Mūzrah, where he will be sure to rest and regale himself with oranges, good water, and fine scenery. He will there have an excellent view of the great aqueduct which conveys water from Kabery to Acre. In half an hour more he will be at the Behajeh, the delightful but dilapidated palace of Abdallah Pasha, which . our friend Jimmal has just purchased for sixty thousand piastres. This is two miles from Acre. The whole distance from Tyre is about twenty-eight miles. And now for your story.
Well, after parting from you at Rumeîsh, we ascended a wady southward, called Kutamone, for half an hour, to a fountain, with an old castle on the hill east of it, all of the
The country thereabouts is densely wooded, and extremely beautiful, and on that morning at least, alive with flocks and herds under the care of their shepherds. It also abounds, I was told, with leopards, wolves, wild boars, gazelles, doves, partridges, and almost every variety of birds found in this country. It was once densely peopled, too; for Mohammed, who seemed to be perfectly at home there, gave me a long list of ruins with outlandish names, which I did not venture to write. We climbed out of Wady Kutamone by a steep path through most charming oak groves, and immediately descended into another, called Bukra, which united below with Wady el Kŭrn. From the top of the next ridge we saw a castle called Deir, but as it lay out of our line to the west we did not visit it. I did on one of my trips through that region, and found
1 Josh. xix. 27.