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general character is alike, and they both run in the same direction of nearly north and south.
We had no sooner passed the summit of the second range, going down a short distance on its eastern side by a very gentle descent, than we found ourselves on plains of nearly as high a level as the summits of the hills themselves, and certainly eight hundred feet, at least, above the stream of the Jordan. The character of the country, too, was quite different from any thing that I had seen in Palestine, from my first landing at Soor to the present moment.
We were now in a land of extraordinary richness, abounding with the most beautiful prospects, clothed with thick forests, varied with verdant slopes, and possessing extensive plains of a fine red soil, now covered with thistles as the best proof of its fertility, and yielding in nothing to the celebrated plains of Zabulon and Esdraelon, in Galilee and Samaria.
We continued our way to the north-east, through a country, the beauty of which so surprised us, that we often asked each other what were our sensations; as if to ascertain the reality of what we saw, and persuade each other, by mutual confessions of our delight, that the picture before us was not an optical illusion. The landscape alone, which varied at every turn, and gave us new beauties from every different point
of view, was, of itself, worth all the pains of an excursion to the eastward of Jordan to obtain a sight of; and the park-like scenes that sometimes softened the romantic wildness of the general character as a whole, reminded us of similar spots in less neglected lands.
It was about noon when we reached a small encampment of Arabs, who had pitched their tents in a most luxuriant dell, where their flocks fed on the young buds of spring, and where they obtained for themselves an abundant supply of wood and water. Near to this camp, we found a place on which were the ruins of former buildings, with a large mill-stone of a circular form, with a square hole for an axle in its centre, and at least six feet in diameter. The name of this place, we were told, was Zerkah. It was seated in a beautiful valley; and on the hills around it were an abundance of wild olives, oaks, and pine-trees, of a moderate size. This place may therefore be the “ Zara in the valley of Cilices," which Josephus mentions with Heshbon, Medaba, and Pella, as being in the possession of the Jews in the reign of Aretas, the Arabian king. *
* Joseph. Ant. Jud. 1. xiii. c. 15. s. 4. Zaram is the same place mentioned by Reland among the towns possessed by Alexander Janneus in the land of Moab. Palæstina Illustrata, C. xx. de Moabitis, 1. i.
After smoking a pipe, and taking coffee with the Arabs, we quitted them about one, and soon after saw a smaller party, consisting of about a dozen families only, halting to pitch their tents in a beautiful little hollow bason, which they had chosen for the place of their encampment, surrounded on three sides by woody hills. The sheikh was the only one of the whole who rode ; the rest of the men walked on foot, as did most of the women also. The boys drove the flocks of sheep and goats; and the little children, the young låmbs, the kids and the poultry, were all carried in panniers or baskets across the camel's backs. The tents, with their cordage and the mats, the cooking utensils, the provisions and furniture, were likewise laden upon these useful animals. As these halted at every five steps to pull a mouthful of leaves from the bushes, the progress of their march was very slow; but the patience of all seemed quite in harmony with the tardy movement of the camel, and it was evidently a matter of indifference to every one of the group whether they halted at noon or at sun-set, since an hour was time enough for them to prepare their shelter for the night.
We now went up from hence by gradual but gentle ascents, over still more beautiful and luxuriant grounds than those which we had passed before. In our way, we left two ruined
buildings on our right, named Shahan and Ullan; they were both extensive but simple edifices, and seemed to be either large caravanseras, or very small villages recently deserted. After ascending these hills until three o'clock, pursuing, generally, a north-east direction, we came to a high plain, and going about a quarter of an hour over this, we came to a deep ravine, which looked like a separation of the hill to form this chasm by some violent convulsion of nature. The height of the cliffs here on each side, which were nearly perpendicular, was not less than five hundred feet, while the breadth from cliff to cliff was not more than a hundred yards.
The plains at the top, on both sides, were covered with a light red soil, and bore marks of high fertility; but the dark sides of the rocky cliffs that faced each other in this hollow chasm were, in general, destitute of verdure.
We descended into this ravine by winding paths, since it was every where too steep to go directly down; and found at the bottom of it a small river, which flowed from the eastward, appearing here to have just made a sharp bend from the northward, and from this point to go nearly west to discharge itself into the Jordań. The banks of this stream were so thickly wooded with oleander and plane trees, wild olives, and wild almonds in blossom, pink and white sickley