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The innocents abroad, or, The new Pilgrim's progress

being some account of the steamship Quaker City's pleasure excursion to Europe and the Holy land ; with descriptions of countries, nations, incidents and adventures, as they appeared to the author






THE next day was an outrage upon men and horses both.
It was another thirteen-hour stretch (including an
hour's “nooning.”) It was over the barrenest chalk-hills and
through the baldest canons that even Syria can show. The
heat quivered in the air every where. In the canons we almost
smothered in the baking atmosphere. On high ground, the
reflection from the chalk-hills was blinding. It was cruel to
urge the crippled horses, but it had to be done in order to
make Damascus Saturday night. We saw ancient tombs and
temples of fanciful architecture carved out of the solid rock
high up in the face of precipices above out heads, but we had
neither time nor strength to climb up there and examine
them. The terse language of my note-book will answer for
the rest of this day's experiences:

Broke camp at 7 A. M., and made a ghastly trip through the Zeb Dana valley
and the rough mountains—horses limping and that Arab screech-owl that does
most of the singing and carries the water-skins, always a thousand miles ahead, of
course, and no water to drink—will he never die? Beautiful stream in a chasm,
lined thick with pomegranate, fig, olive and quince orchards, and nooned an hour
at the celebrated Baalam's Ass Fountain of Figia, second in size in Syria, and the
coldest water out of Siberia—guide-books do not say Baalam's ass ever drank there
—somebody been imposing on the pilgrims, may be. Bathed in it—Jack and I.
Only a second—ice-water. It is the principal source of the Abana river—only one-half
mile down to where it joins. Beautiful place—giant trees all around—so shady
and cool, if one could keep awake—vast stream gushes straight out from under the
mountain in a torrent. Over it is a very ancient ruin, with no known history—
supposed to have been for the worship of the deity of the fountain or Baalam's ass
or somebody. Wretched nest of human vermin about the fountain—rags, dirt,
sunken cheeks, pallor of sickness, sores, projecting bones, dull, aching misery in


Page 455
[ILLUSTRATION] [Description: 500EAF. Page 455. In-line Illustration. Image of a man in a turban walking with a heavy pack on his back. The caption reads, "WATER CARRIER."] their eyes and ravenous hunger speaking from every eloquent fibre and muscle
from head to foot. How they sprang upon a bone, how they crunched the bread
we gave them! Such as these to swarm about one and watch every bite he takes,
with greedy looks, and swallow unconsciously
every time he swallows, as if they
half fancied the precious morsel went
down their own throats—hurry up the
caravan!—I never shall enjoy a meal in
this distressful country. To think of eating
three times every day under such circumstances
for three weeks yet—it is
worse punishment than riding all day in
the sun. There are sixteen starving babies
from one to six years old in the party, and
their legs are no larger than broom handles.
Left the fountain at 1 P. M. (the fountain
took us at least two hours out of our way,)
and reached Mahomet's lookout perch, over
Damascus, in time to get a good long look
before it was necessary to move on.
Tired? Ask of the winds that far away
with fragments strewed the sea.”

As the glare of day mellowed into twilight, we looked down
upon a picture which is celebrated all over the world. I think
I have read about four hundred times that when Mahomet was
a simple camel-driver he reached this point and looked down
upon Damascus for the first time, and then made a certain renowned
remark. He said man could enter only one paradise;
he preferred to go to the one above. So he sat down there and
feasted his eyes upon the earthly paradise of Damascus, and
then went away without entering its gates. They have erected
a tower on the hill to mark the spot where he stood.

Damascus is beautiful from the mountain. It is beautiful
even to foreigners accustomed to luxuriant vegetation, and I
can easily understand how unspeakably beautiful it must be to
eyes that are only used to the God-forsaken barrenness and
desolation of Syria. I should think a Syrian would go wild
with ecstacy when such a picture bursts upon him for the first

From his high perch, one sees before him and below him, a
wall of dreary mountains, shorn of vegetation, glaring fiercely


Page 456
in the sun; it fences in a level desert of yellow sand, smooth
as velvet and threaded far away with fine lines that stand for
roads, and dotted with creeping mites we know are camel-trains
and journeying men; right in the midst of the desert
is spread a billowy expanse of green foliage; and nestling in
its heart sits the great white city, like an island of pearls and
opals gleaming out of a sea of emeralds. This is the picture
you see spread far below you, with distance to soften it, the
sun to glorify it, strong contrasts to heighten the effects, and
over it and about it a drowsing air of repose to spiritualize it
and make it seem rather a beautiful estray from the mysterious
worlds we visit in dreams than a substantial tenant of our
coarse, dull globe. And when you think of the leagues of
blighted, blasted, sandy, rocky, sun-burnt, ugly, dreary, infamous
country you have ridden over to get here, you think it is
the most beautiful, beautiful picture that ever human eyes
rested upon in all the broad universe! If I were to go to
Damascus again, I would camp on Mahomet's hill about a
week, and then go away. There is no need to go inside the
walls. The Prophet was wise without knowing it when he
decided not to go down into the paradise of Damascus.

There is an honored old tradition that the immense garden
which Damascus stands in was the Garden of Eden, and
modern writers have gathered up many chapters of evidence
tending to show that it really was the Garden of Eden, and
that the rivers Pharpar and Abana are the “two rivers” that
watered Adam's Paradise. It may be so, but it is not paradise
now, and one would be as happy outside of it as he would be
likely to be within. It is so crooked and cramped and dirty
that one can not realize that he is in the splendid city he saw
from the hill-top. The gardens are hidden by high mud-walls,
and the paradise is become a very sink of pollution and uncomeliness.
Damascus has plenty of clear, pure water in it,
though, and this is enough, of itself, to make an Arab think it
beautiful and blessed. Water is scarce in blistered Syria.
We run railways by our large cities in America; in Syria they
curve the roads so as to make them run by the meagre little




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puddles they call “fountains,” and which are not found oftener
on a journey than every four hours. But the “rivers” of
Pharpar and Abana of Scripture (mere creeks,) run through
Damascus, and so every house and every garden have their
sparkling fountains and rivulets of water. With her forest of
foliage and her abundance of water, Damascus must be a
wonder of wonders to the Bedouin from the deserts. Damascus
is simply an oasis—that is what it is. For four thousand
years its waters have not gone dry or its fertility failed. Now
we can understand why the city has existed so long. It could
not die. So long as its waters remain to it away out there in
the midst of that howling desert, so long will Damascus live
to bless the sight of the tired and thirsty wayfarer.

“Though old as history itself, thou art fresh as the breath of spring, blooming as
thine own rose-bud, and fragrant as thine own orange flower, O Damascus, pearl of
the East!”

Damascus dates back anterior to the days of Abraham, and
is the oldest city in the world. It was founded by Uz, the
grandson of Noah. “The early history of Damascus is
shrouded in the mists of a hoary antiquity.” Leave the
matters written of in the first eleven chapters of the Old
Testament out, and no recorded event has occurred in the
world but Damascus was in existence to receive the news of
it. Go back as far as you will into the vague past, there was
always a Damascus. In the writings of every century for
more than four thousand years, its name has been mentioned
and its praises sung. To Damascus, years are only moments,
decades are only flitting trifles of time. She measures time,
not by days and months and years, but by the empires she has
seen rise, and prosper and crumble to ruin. She is a type of
immortality. She saw the foundations of Baalbec, and Thebes,
and Ephesus laid; she saw these villages grow into mighty
cities, and amaze the world with their grandeur—and she has
lived to see them desolate, deserted, and given over to the
owls and the bats. She saw the Israelitish empire exalted,
and she saw it annihilated. She saw Greece rise, and flourish


Page 458
two thousand years, and die. In her old age she saw Rome
built; she saw it overshadow the world with its power; she
saw it perish. The few hundreds of years of Genoese and
Venetian might and splendor were, to grave old Damascus,
only a trifling scintillation hardly worth remembering. Damascus
has seen all that has ever occurred on earth, and still
she lives. She has looked upon the dry bones of a thousand
empires, and will see the tombs of a thousand more before she
dies. Though another claims the name, old Damascus is by
right the Eternal City.

We reached the city gates just at sundown. They do say
that one can get into any walled city of Syria, after night, for
bucksheesh, except Damascus. But Damascus, with its four
thousand years of respectability in the world, has many old
fogy notions. There are no street lamps there, and the law
compels all who go abroad at night to carry lanterns, just as
was the case in old days, when heroes and heroines of the
Arabian Nights walked the streets of Damascus, or flew away
toward Bagdad on enchanted carpets.

It was fairly dark a few minutes after we got within the
wall, and we rode long distances through wonderfully crooked
streets, eight to ten feet wide, and shut in on either side by the
high mud-walls of the gardens. At last we got to where lanterns
could be seen flitting about here and there, and knew we were
in the midst of the curious old city. In a little narrow street,
crowded with our pack-mules and with a swarm of uncouth
Arabs, we alighted, and through a kind of a hole in the wall
entered the hotel. We stood in a great flagged court, with
flowers and citron trees about us, and a huge tank in the centre
that was receiving the waters of many pipes. We crossed the
court and entered the rooms prepared to receive four of us. In
a large marble-paved recess between the two rooms was a tank
of clear, cool water, which was kept running over all the time
by the streams that were pouring into it from half a dozen
pipes. Nothing, in this scorching, desolate land could look so
refreshing as this pure water flashing in the lamp-light;
nothing could look so beautiful, nothing could sound so delicious


Page 459
as this mimic rain to ears long unaccustomed to sounds
of such a nature. Our rooms were large, comfortably furnished,
and even had their floors clothed with soft, cheerful-tinted
carpets. It was a pleasant thing to see a carpet again,
for if there is any thing drearier than the tomb-like, stone-paved
parlors and bed-rooms of Europe and Asia, I do not
know what it is. They make one think of the grave all the
time. A very broad, gaily caparisoned divan, some twelve or
fourteen feet long, extended across one side of each room, and
opposite were single beds with spring mattrasses. There were
great looking-glasses and marble-top tables. All this luxury
was as grateful to systems and senses worn out with an
exhausting day's travel, as it was unexpected—for one can not
tell what to expect in a Turkish city of even a quarter of a
million inhabitants.

I do not know, but I think they used that tank between the
rooms to draw drinking water from; that did not occur to me,
however, until I had dipped my baking head far down into its
cool depths. I thought of it then, and superb as the bath was,
I was sorry I had taken it, and was about to go and explain to
the landlord. But a finely curled and scented poodle dog
frisked up and nipped the calf of my leg just then, and before
I had time to think, I had soused him to the bottom of the
tank, and when I saw a servant coming with a pitcher I went
off and left the pup trying to climb out and not succeeding
very well. Satisfied revenge was all I needed to make me
perfectly happy, and when I walked in to supper that first
night in Damascus I was in that condition. We lay on those
divans a long time, after supper, smoking narghilies and long-stemmed
chibouks, and talking about the dreadful ride of the
day, and I knew then what I had sometimes known before—
that it is worth while to get tired out, because one so enjoys
resting afterward.

In the morning we sent for donkeys. It is worthy of note
that we had to send for these things. I said Damascus was an
old fossil, and she is. Any where else we would have been
assailed by a clamorous army of donkey-drivers, guides,


Page 460
[ILLUSTRATION] [Description: 500EAF. Page 460. In-line Illustration. Image of a man riding a running donkey. The caption reads, "STREET CARS OF DAMASCUS."] peddlers and beggars—but in Damascus they so hate the very
sight of a foreign Christian that they want no intercourse
whatever with him; only a year or two ago, his person was
not always safe in Damascus streets. It is the most fanatical
Mohammedan purgatory out of Arabia. Where you see one
green turban of a Hadji elsewhere (the honored sign that my
lord has made the pilgrimage to Mecca,) I think you will see a
dozen in Damascus. The Damascenes are the ugliest, wickedest
looking villains we have seen. All the veiled women we
had seen yet, nearly, left their eyes exposed, but numbers of
these in Damascus completely hid the face under a close-drawn
black veil that made the woman look like a mummy. If ever
we caught an eye exposed it was quickly hidden from our contaminating
Christian vision; the beggars actually passed us by
without demanding bucksheesh; the merchants in the bazaars
did not hold up their
goods and cry out eagerly,
“Hey, John!” or
“Look this, Howajji!”
On the contrary, they
only scowled at us and
said never a word.

The narrow streets
swarmed like a hive with
men and women in
strange Oriental costumes,
and our small
donkeys knocked them
right and left as we
plowed through them,
urged on by the merciless
donkey-boys. These
persecutors run after the
animals, shouting and
goading them for hours
together; they keep the
donkey in a gallop always, yet never get tired themselves or


Page 461
fall behind. The donkeys fell down and spilt us over their
heads occasionally, but there was nothing for it but to mount
and hurry on again. We were banged against sharp corners,
loaded porters, camels, and citizens generally; and we were so
taken up with looking out for collisions and casualties that we
had no chance to look about us at all. We rode half through
the city and through the famous “street which is called
Straight” without seeing any thing, hardly. Our bones were
nearly knocked out of joint, we were wild with excitement,
and our sides ached with the jolting we had suffered. I do
not like riding in the Damascus street-cars

We were on our way to the reputed houses of Judas and
Ananias. About eighteen or nineteen hundred years ago,
Saul, a native of Tarsus, was particularly bitter against the
new sect called Christians, and he left Jerusalem and started
across the country on a furious crusade against them. He
went forth “breathing threatenings and slaughter against the
disciples of the Lord.”

“And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus, and suddenly there shined round
about him a light from heaven:

“And he fell to the earth and heard a voice saying unto him, `Saul, Saul, why
persecutest thou me?'

“And when he knew that it was Jesus that spoke to him he trembled, and was
astonished, and said, `Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?' ”

He was told to arise and go into the ancient city and one
would tell him what to do. In the meantime his soldiers
stood speechless and awe-stricken, for they heard the mysterious
voice but saw no man. Saul rose up and found that that
fierce supernatural light had destroyed his sight, and he was
blind, so “they led him by the hand and brought him to Damascus.”
He was converted.

Paul lay three days, blind, in the house of Judas, and during
that time he neither ate nor drank.

There came a voice to a citizen of Damascus, named Ananias,
saying, “Arise, and go into the street which is called
Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas, for one called
Saul, of Tarsus; for behold, he prayeth.”


Page 462

Ananias did not wish to go at first, for he had heard of Saul
before, and he had his doubts about that style of a “chosen
vessel” to preach the gospel of peace. However, in obedience
to orders, he went into the “street called Straight” (how he
ever found his way into it, and after he did, how he ever found
his way out of it again, are mysteries only to be accounted for
by the fact that he was acting under Divine inspiration.) He
found Paul and restored him, and ordained him a preacher;
and from this old house we had hunted up in the street which
is miscalled Straight, he had started out on that bold missionary
career which he prosecuted till his death. It was not the
house of the disciple who sold the Master for thirty pieces of
silver. I make this explanation in justice to Judas, who was
a far different sort of man from the person just referred to.
A very different style of man, and lived in a very good house.
It is a pity we do not know more about him.

I have given, in the above paragraphs, some more information
for people who will not read Bible history until they are
defrauded into it by some such method as this. I hope that
no friend of progress and education will obstruct or interfere
with my peculiar mission.

The street called Straight is straighter than a corkscrew, but
not as straight as a rainbow. St. Luke is careful not to commit
himself; he does not say it is the street which is straight,
but the “street which is called Straight.” It is a fine piece of
irony; it is the only facetious remark in the Bible, I believe.
We traversed the street called Straight a good way, and then
turned off and called at the reputed house of Ananias. There
is small question that a part of the original house is there still;
it is an old room twelve or fifteen feet under ground, and its
masonry is evidently ancient. If Ananias did not live there in
St. Paul's time, somebody else did, which is just as well. I
took a drink out of Ananias' well, and singularly enough, the
water was just as fresh as if the well had been dug yesterday.

We went out toward the north end of the city to see the
place where the disciples let Paul down over the Damascus
wall at dead of night—for he preached Christ so fearlessly


Page 463
in Damascus that the people sought to kill him, just as they
would to-day for the same offense, and he had to escape and
flee to Jerusalem.

Then we called at the tomb of Mahomet's children and at a
tomb which purported to be that of St. George who killed the
dragon, and so on out to the hollow place under a rock where
Paul hid during his flight till his pursuers gave him up; and
to the mausoleum of the five thousand Christians who were
massacred in Damascus in 1861 by the Turks. They say
those narrow streets ran blood for several days, and that men,
women and children were butchered indiscriminately and left
to rot by hundreds all through the Christian quarter; they
say, further, that the stench was dreadful. All the Christians
who could get away fled from the city, and the Mohammedans
would not defile their hands by burying the “infidel dogs.”
The thirst for blood extended to the high lands of Hermon and
Anti-Lebanon, and in a short time twenty-five thousand more
Christians were massacred and their possessions laid waste.
How they hate a Christian in Damascus!—and pretty much
all over Turkeydom as well. And how they will pay for it
when Russia turns her guns upon them again!

It is soothing to the heart to abuse England and France for
interposing to save the Ottoman Empire from the destruction
it has so richly deserved for a thousand years. It hurts my
vanity to see these pagans refuse to eat of food that has been
cooked for us; or to eat from a dish we have eaten from; or
to drink from a goatskin which we have polluted with our
Christian lips, except by filtering the water through a rag
which they put over the mouth of it or through a sponge! I
never disliked a Chinaman as I do these degraded Turks and
Arabs, and when Russia is ready to war with them again, I
hope England and France will not find it good breeding or
good judgment to interfere.

In Damascus they think there are no such rivers in all the
world as their little Abana and Pharpar. The Damascenes
have always thought that way. In 2 Kings, chapter v., Naaman
boasts extravagantly about them. That was three thousand


Page 464
years ago. He says: “Are not Abana and Pharpar,
rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? May
I not wash in them and be clean?” But some of my readers
have forgotten who Naaman was, long ago. Naaman was
the commander of the Syrian armies. He was the favorite
of the king and lived in great state. “He was a mighty
man of valor, but he was a leper.” Strangely enough, the
house they point out to you now as his, has been turned into a
leper hospital, and the inmates expose their horrid deformities
and hold up their hands and beg for bucksheesh when a
stranger enters.

One can not appreciate the horror of this disease until he
looks upon it in all its ghastliness, in Naaman's ancient dwelling
in Damascus. Bones all twisted out of shape, great knots
protruding from face and body, joints decaying and dropping