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Beyond this point the plain assumed a new character. All traces of vegetation ceased, except occasionally a lone sprig of the Hubeibeh or alkaline plant which we had seen at 'Ain Jidy. The surface was almost a dead level, covered with a thin smooth nitrous crust, through which the feet of men and horses broke and sunk as in ashes up to the ankles. The tract continued of this character, with a few gentle swells, until we reached the banks of the Jordan at 1. 40', at a ford called el-Helu, considerably below the place usually visited by the pilgrims and travellers. It is indeed the lowest ford upon the river.
The upper or outer banks of the Jordan, where we thus came upon it, are not more than one hundred rods apart ; with a descent of fifty or sixty feet to the level of the lower valley in which the river flows. There was here no sign of vegetation along the upper banks, nor in the valley below; except a narrow strip of canes along the brink of the channel on each side, intermingled occasionally with tamarisks and the species of willow called by the Arabs Rishrash, the Agnus cas/us of botanists; from which the pilgrims usually carry away branches for staves, after dipping them in the Jordan. Looking down upon the river from the high upper bank, it seemed a deep sluggish discolored stream winding its way slowly through a cane-brake. Higher up the river, we could see that the upper banks were further apart, and the border of vegetation much broader, with many trees." We descended the high outer bank some rods above the ford; but found it impossible to reach the channel at that point, partly on account of the thickness of the cane brake, and partly because the stream was now swollen, filling its banks to the brim, and in some places slightly overflowing them so as to cover the bottom of the brake. At this point, and as far as we could see, this strip of vegetation occupied a still lower part of the lower valley, being skirted by low
* Among the trees and shrubs higher up are said to be the Rhamnus (Nubk) and Oleander. Hasselq. p. 152. Buckingham, p. 315.-Jacob de Vitry speaks of the canes growing along the Jordan as used for building huts; they are so used at the present day. "Et ripas idoneas ad arundines seu cannas procreandas, ex quibus tecta domorum tegunt, et parietes contexunt ;" c. 53, p. 1076.
banks two or three feet high. So that here the river might strictly be said to have three sets of banks, viz. the upper or outer ones, forming the first descent from the level of the great valley; the lower or middle ones enclosing the tract of vegetation; and the actual banks of the channel.
We proceeded therefore to the place of the ford, where there was an opening through the canes and trees. Here the banks of the channel were broken or worn away for the convenience of passing, and were now covered by the water. There was a still though very rapid current; the water was of a clayey color, but sweet and delightfully refreshing after the water to which we had been confined for the last two days since leaving 'Ain Jidy-either rain-water standing in holes in the Wadies and full of animalculæ, or the brackish waters of 'Ain el-Feshkhah. I estimated the breadth of the stream to be from 80 to 100 feet; my companion notes it at from 30 to 40 yards. The guides supposed it to be now 10 or 12 feet deep. I bathed in the river, without going out into the deep channel; the bottom here (a hollow place in the bank) was clayey mud with also blue clay. I waded out ten or twelve feei, and thus far the water was not over the hips; but a little further, several of the party who swam across, found it suddenly beyond their depth. The current was so strong that even our servant Komeh, a stout swimmer of the Nile, was carried down several yards in crossing. At this time, of course, this ford was impassable for animals except by swimming; and the Aga of Jericho afterwards told us, that he was accustomed to swim his horse in crossing higher up.
The sand hills, which here forın the upper banks, are of the same naked character as the desert we had crossed in coming to this spot. From them we could distinguish, some miles higher up the river, the ruined convent of St. John the Baptist, standing upon the brow of the upper bank, or first descent from the plain, near the place where the Latin pilgrims bathe in the Jordan. The Arabs call it Kůsr el-Yehûd, • Jews' Castle.' The bathing place of the Greek pilgrims is two or three miles below the convent; yet each party claims to bathe at the spot where our Lord was baptized by John. Far in the north a sharp conical peak was seen standing out like a bastion from the western mountains; our Arabs called it Kŭrn Súrtůbeh. Opposite to us across
the river lay the plains of Moab; the eastern mountains here retire in a small arc of a circle, forming a sort of recess, and leaving the eastern plain much broader than in any other part. It is apparently covered with shrubs, especially towards the mountains, which seemed to be two or three miles distant. Just below the ford, the Wady Hesbân comes in from the same mountains, descending through a verdant region at their foot, which indeed owes its fertility to the Wady. Further north, the similar Wady Sha'ib comes down from the vicinity of es-Salt, and enters the Jordan nearly east of Jericho. At its mouth is the ordinary ford of the river.- From the high bank near the ford, JebelezSalt or Gilead bore N. 30° E., Kůsr el-Yehûd N., Kúrn Súrtūbeh N. 8° W., 'Ain es-Sultàn beyond Jericho, about N. 50° W., Kŭsr Hajla N. 70° W.
The present Arabic name for the Jordan is esh-Sheriát, the watering-place;' to which the epithet el-Kebir, the great,' is sometimes annexed.* The form el-Urdan, however, was not unknown among Arabian writers.t The common name of the great valley through which it thus flows below the lake of Tiberias, is el-Ghôr, signifying a depressed tract or plain, usually between two mountains; and the same name continues to be applied to the valley quite across the whole length of the Dead Sea and for some distance beyond. I
It has so happened, that until the present century most pilgrims and travellers have visited the valley of the Jordan only at Jericho; so that we have had no account of the fea-' tures of its upper part in the vicinity of the lake of Tiberias. of the earlier pilgrimis indeed, Antoninus Martyr at the
* To distinguish it from the Sheriát el-Mandhør or Yarmuk, the ancient Hieromax, which joins it from the east about two hours below the lake of Tiberias. Burckhardt, pp. 273, 274. Edrisi ed. Jaubert, p. 338. Abulfed. Tab. Syr. p. 148.
+ Abulfedae Tab. Syr. p. 147. Schultens Index in vit. Sal. adin, art. Fluvius Jordanes.
It thus corresponds to the Auton of Eusebius and Jerome; see Onomast.--On the Ghôr, see Edrisi par Jaubert, pp. 337, 338. Abulfedae Tab. Syr. ed. Kohler, pp. 8, 9. Schultens Index in Vit. Salad. art. Algaurum. Reland Palaest. p. 365. Abulfedae says correctly that the same valley extends to Ailah.
close of the sixth century, and St. Willibald in the eighth, passed down through the whole length of the valley from Tiberias to Jericho; and in the year 1100 King Baldwin I. accompanied a train of pilgrims from Jericho to Tiberias ;* but we have nothing more than a mere notice of these journeys. In like manner the various excursions of the crusa. ders across the Ghôr throw no light upon its character. In the year 1799 the French penetrated to the south end of the lake of Tiberias, but no further. In 1806 Seetzen crossed the valley just south of the same lake; but describes it only in very general terms.t Burckbardt in 1812 was twice in its northern part; and travelled along it from Beisân to a point several hours below, on his way to es-Salt. I Six years later, in the winter of 1818, Irby and Mangles passed down from Tiberias to Beisân; thence crossed over into the country around Jerash, and returned from es-Salt to Nâbulus, fording the Jordan several miles above Jericho. S About the same time Mr. Bankes, accompanied by Buckingham, crossed the valley obliquely from Jericho, passing the river apparently at the same ford (or very near it) as Irby and Mangles.|
According to Burckhardt, the Ghôr at the upper end runs in a course from N. by E. to S, by W., and is about two hours broad. T Opposite Jericho we found its general course to be the same; but in consequence of the retiring of the mountains on both sides, to which I have already alluded, its breadth is here much greater, being not less than three and a half or four hours. The Jordan issues from the lake of Tiberias near its S. W. corner, where are still traces of the site and walls of the ancient Taricbaea.** The river at first winds very much, and flows for three hours near the western hills; then turns to the eastern, on which side it continues its course for several hours, to the district called
* Fulcher. Carnot. 21, p. 402.
** Seetzen, I. c. p. 350. Irby and Mangles, p. 300. See Reland's Palest. p. 1026. Comp. Pocoke, II. p. 70, fol.
Kůrn el-Hemår, · Ass's Horn,' two hours below Beisân; where it again returns to the western side of the valley. * Lower down the Jordan follows more the middle of the great valley ; though opposite Jericho and towards the Dead Sea, its course is nearer to the eastern mountains; about two thirds or three quarters of the valley lying here upon its western side. A few hundred yards below the point where the Jordan issues from the lake, there is a ford, close by the ruins of a Roman bridge of ten arches. About two hours further down are the ruins of another bridge, called Iisr elMejami, consisting of one arch in the centre with small arches upon arches at the sides; and also a ruined Khân upon the western bank. I Somewhat higher up, but in sight of these ruins, is another ford.S That near Beisân lies in a direction S. S. E. from the town.|Indeed, “the river is fordable in many places during summer; but the few spots where it may be crossed in the rainy season are known only to the Arabs.”
The banks of the Jordan appear to preserve everywhere a uniform character, such as we have described them above. “ The river flows in a valley of about a quarter of an hour in breadth, (sometimes more and sometimes less, which is considerably lower than the rest of the Ghôr;" in the northern part about forty feet.** This lower valley, where Burckhardt saw it, was “covered with high trees and a luxuriant verdure, affording a striking contrast with the sandy slopes that border it on both sides.” Further down, a portion of this lower valley is also naked sand; and the verdure is confined in some parts at least) to a still lower strip along the river's brink. So we saw it; and so also it is described by Pococke near the convent of St.John.ft.
* Burckhardt, pp. 344, 345. Irby and Mangles, l. c.
Ibid. p. 345.
Ht “From the high bank indeed of the river, (meaning the usual level of the lower valley,] there is a descent in many places to a lower ground, which is four or five feet above the water, and is frequently covered with wood;" Pocoke II.p.33, fol.