374 PICTURESQUE PALESTINE.
it is likewise the main route to Damascus, of those on the north of Jebel esh Sheikh. None
of the roads in these mountains are easy, and, however strong and patient men and beasts of
burden may be, they soon become weary when struggling along over these difficult paths.
A few years since a strange innovation was made upon the primitive methods of intercourse in these mountains by a French company that built a substantial road from Beirut to
Damascus (see page 380). It was laid out and constructed by the best engineering skill that
could be employed; it is seventy miles long, is macadamised throughout its entire extent, and
is so broad and smooth that riding and driving upon it is a real luxury. It commands views
of portions of the grandest Lebanon scenery, but at certain points is so high that sometimes
for days together it is blocked by snow. The old winding and rocky path follows the same
general direction as the new road, and is still used by the Syrians and Arabs, who are not able
or disposed to pay the tax which the company require for the use of theirs. The contrast
between the donkey or the camel toiling slowly over this rough mountain-trail, and the
diligence drawn by strong, fleet horses, moving easily over the splendid carriage-way, will lead
one to appreciate the blessings of civilisation so far as conveniences for travelling are
concerned. Doubtless, if we extended our survey over the entire history of the Lebanon, we
should find that paved roads and wheeled vehicles are, after all, no novelty here, for traces of
more than one Roman road exist; and it is not at all likely that Damascus, which from time
immemorial has been one of the foremost cities in the East, would have been content with a
rocky bridle-path as its only means of communication with the near seaports where the ships
of the world lay at anchor. There was, in the Roman times at least, a road between the two
mountain ranges coming from the north past Ba'albek, and leading over Lebanon to the coast;
and another running north-west from Damascus past Abila, the capital of the district called
Abilene, which is mentioned in the third chapter of the Gospel of Luke.
Rasheiya is pleasantly situated on a steep but terraced slope which abounds in vineyards
and orchards (see page 375). Among its three thousand inhabitants there are a few Protestants.
The finest object in the town is the old palace, which, like that at Hasbeiya, was also a castle,
and which in the same manner was the scene of a massacre in i860, when eight hundred
innocent Christians that had taken refuge within it were foully murdered (see page 376).
The view from Rasheiya is extended, and interesting from the fact that one looks out
upon uplands and mountain ranges. The eastern face of Lebanon is in sight, and in the south
the white head of Hermon (Jebel esh Sheikh) appears in its regal glory (see page 375). Its
height is not so imposing as when seen from the Lake of Tiberias (see page 297) ; yet, from
whatever point it is beheld, it impresses the mind with a sense of sublimity, strength, and
massive grandeur. The ascent of Hermon is by no means a difficult task. Its summit can
be reached in six hours from Rasheiya. No specially rocky or broken paths have to be
surmounted, and the route is in every respect much easier than many of those in the Lebanon
that are in constant use. One may have been suffering from the heat on the sea-coast or the
plains of Damascus, but here one can, even in midsummer, revel in snow-fields and drink water