382 PICTURESQUE PALESTINE.
(from 4 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.), over the splendid macadamised road of seventy miles, which was
built by a French company after the massacre of i860. The climate is delightful; in the
summer the heat rises to ioo° and 1040, but the nights are cool and the clews heavy.
The Orientals call Damascus a terrestrial reflection of Paradise, " The Pearl of the East,"
and " The Eye of the Desert." The Damascenes believe that the Garden of Eden was located
there, and that the clay of which Adam was formed was taken from the banks of the Abana.
Fifteen miles north of the city, on a lofty cliff,, the reputed tomb of Abel is shown, which
measures thirty feet in length ! It is reported that when Mohammed, on one of his journeys as
a camel-driver from Mecca, in the service of Khadijah, who afterwards became his wife, reached
the brow of the barren hill of Kasyun, and saw the city and gardens below in all their
enchanting beauty, he turned away, saying, " Man can have but one paradise ; my paradise is
fixed above." But his guide remained and exclaimed, " Here let me die!" The spot is
marked by a small building called " Kubbet en Nusr," which is said to contain the grave of
the guide. The English historian, Henry Thomas Buckle, who died in Damascus, May 29,
1862, said, when he beheld the city from the same place only a fortnight before his death:
" This is, indeed, worth all the toil and danger it has cost me to come here ! " Dean Stanley
declares, " There may be other views in the world more beautiful ; there can hardly be another
at once so beautiful and so instructive." Dr. J. L. Porter, who spent several years in Damascus,
says : " Damascus occupies one of those sites which Nature seems to have intended for a
perennial city ; its beauty stands unrivalled, its richness has passed into a proverb, and its
supply of water is unlimited, making fountains sparkle in every dwelling."
The beauty of Damascus is all the more striking for the contrast to the barren desert
which surrounds this oasis. The white city looks like a diamond set in the dark green of
fruitful gardens. These gardens and orchards extend several miles around the city to the
borders of the desert, and are a marvel of fertility. The fields of wheat and barley and beans
are shaded by fruit and forest trees—the poplar, the cypress, the palm, the walnut, the citron,
the pomegranate, the orange, the apricot, the fig-tree, arrayed in a rich variety of colours, laden
with golden fruit, and filling the air with sweet fragrance. The soil is refreshed by perennial
streams of abounding water from the mountain. A ride through these shady groves, after
a journey over the barren desert under the scorching heat of the Syrian sun, is a luxury which
must be enjoyed to be appreciated.
The finest views of Damascus and its environs may be obtained from a minaret of the
Great Mosque (see pages 385 and 411), and from various points of the range of hills northwest of the city, the rugged Jebel Kasyun.
The beauty and fertility of the surroundings of Damascus are chiefly due to the abundance
of water, this greatest of blessings in a sandy and rocky desert, and fit symbol of life and
regeneration. Naaman of old very naturally thought the rivers of Damascus, Abana (or
Amana) and Pharpar, far better than all the waters of Israel (2 Kings v. 12). They are
now called the Barada (the Chrysorrhoas, or Gold River of the Greeks), and El 'Awaj (see