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At ten, we passed another small village, called Oom-el-Jebeal, leaving it also on our left. This village is seated at the foot of a hill, and is both smaller and meaner than the last, and its inhabitants are Mohammedans.
From hence our course inclined a little to the southward of east, until we reached Sook-elKhan*, which we entered an hour before noon. This place is frequented for its weekly bazar on the Monday of the Christians, and, as every de. scription of commodity in use among the people of the country is then collected here for sale, crowds of purchasers are attracted from all quarters. During the six other days of the week, it is entirely deserted, and not a creature remains even to guard the place. There are still existing here the remains of a Saracen fort in good preservation, and a khan or caravansera of the same age, but in a more ruined state: the former of these is of a square form, with circular towers at the angles and in the centre of each wall, and is about a hundred paces in extent on each of its sides. The latter is more extensive, besides having other buildings attached to it, Over the door of entrance is an Arabic inscription, and within are arched piazzas, little shops. private rooms, &c. with one good well of water in the centre.
literally, the market or fair of the caravansera.
We found assembled on the outside of these buildings, from four to five thousand persons as well as numerous herds of cattle, Arab horsemen, Bedouins on foot, Fellaheen, or peasantry, from the neighbourhood, women, and even children, were all mingled together in the gay confusion of a European fair. We turned into the Khan to water our horses, and halted for half an hour in the shade, as the heat was oppressive, the thermometer being at 92°, and the whole country parched by the long drought. We met here a young Nazarene, who had been the early play-fellow of our guide from the same place, and in the course of the interview between these two, it appeared that the former, though born of Christian parents, had become a Mohammedan from choice; it was added, that instances of a similar change were frequent, but that the fact of a Mohammedan becoming a Christian had never been heard of here. The reason is evident temporal advantages are on the side of the former, and these, being certain and present, generally weigh more with this class of mankind than spiritual blessings, which appear to them uncertain and remote.
The whole of our road from Nazareth to Sook-el-Khan had been more or less rugged and hilly, but on our departure from hence, we entered on a fertile plain. In our way across
this, we met a party of Jews on asses, coming from Tiberias to the great public market, and conceiving me, from my Turkish dress and white turban, to be a Mohammedan, they all dismounted and passed by us on foot. These persecuted people are held in such opprobrium here, that it is forbidden to them to pass a mussulman mounted, while Christians are suffered to do so either on mules or asses, though to them it is also forbidden to ride on horseback without the express permission of the Pasha.
Throughout this rising plain, we perceived large quantities of the black porous stone which we had observed near the hot springs on the banks of the Nahr-el-Hami, east of the Jordan; the soil, however, was a light reddish earth, and its whole surface was cracked by excessive drought, and plentifully covered with thistles.
We passed by the shaft of a white marble column on the road, and soon after noon reached the village of Cafr Sabt. This is altogether built of the black porous stone already spoken of, great part of which appears to have been wellhewn blocks, as if the remains of former and better edifices. We saw here the pedestal of a white marble column, and several large stones used as architraves and portals to door-ways, but no other vestiges of antiquity. Though we had been riding over a gently-rising plain all the way
from Sook-el-Khan thus far, we found this village seated on the edge of a steep hill, facing to the eastward, with a deep valley below, and another rising slope going up to the eastward from its base, on a lower level than that which we had passed.
In our descent from this hill, we halted at a large watering-place to drink; but though the spring was ordinarily sufficient for the supply of the whole village above, it now scarcely yielded its water but by distinct drops. We found a solitary female here watching her pitcher as it slowly filled, and spinning at her distaff in the mean time. She kindly supplied our wants from her own scanty store, and about half a mile further on, we came to the watering-place of the cattle. Several herds were assembled at this place, and water for them was so scarce, that there remained no hope of our being able to procure any for our own animals; so that, to avoid altercations, we passed on.
On reaching the foot of this hill, and beginning to ascend the eastern slope, we saw several flocks of ghazelles, consisting each of from four to six in number. The whole of the country seemed so burnt up by the unseasonable heat, and want of rain, that neither for them, nor for the flocks of the shepherds, was there a blade of verdure to be seen.