384 PICTURESQUE PALESTINE.
called El Ghutah. How old this name is cannot be determined, but we find it in the Jerusalem
Talmud. This beautiful district shows what a Syrian desert may become under proper
cultivation. No cultivation would, however, be attempted unless an ample supply of water
could be provided for irrigation. That which is brought down by the different mountain
streams is carried in many directions by a multitude of aqueducts, and distributed far and
near. Not all the water, however, that is needed is supplied in this way. From the earliest
times the inhabitants have had a method of obtaining it, on an inclined plain, by means
of wells. But, in the case of any given well, the water from it does not supply the plain
immediately about its own mouth. A well is sunk until abundant water is found. From
the bottom of this well a shaft,, nearly horizontal, is driven underground until the surface is
reached. Thus a well consists of a perpendicular and a long horizontal shaft, the latter
bringing the water to the top of the ground at a great distance, perhaps, from the mouth of the
well, and without the constant expense of men and machinery to raise it. In a full description
of these wells other particulars should be mentioned, yet what we have said will give one a
good idea of these singular underground aqueducts, of which there is a complete network
beneath the Damascus plain. These, together with those on the surface, although many of
both kinds are now in a ruined condition, combine to make this region, to the Orientals of the
present day, a garden of beauty, just as they led the Hebrews to esteem it a " paradise among
the rivers" (Babylonian Talmud, Erubin, 19 a).
The inside of Damascus contrasts at first unfavourably with the outside. The streets,
with few exceptions, are narrow, crooked, and filthy, and form a labyrinth, which makes a
guide indispensable (see page 399). The houses are high and generally unsightly externally.
There is but one hotel suitable for strangers; ifwas formerly kept by a Greek named Dimetri,
and now by his widow; it is close by the station of the French diligence. It was built by a
wealthy Damascene as a private residence, and contains an interior court, with a large fountain.
* For native wayfarers there are, however, many places for rest and refreshment. Roadside
cafes are numerous in the city and its suburbs, and especially on the road which approaches
Damascus on the west through the Merj (see page 381). A good example of a suburban roadside cafe is given on page 383. A rude shed erected under some spreading trees, a number
of low rush-seated stools, two or three tables for players at cards or dameh (the Arabic form
of chess), and a good supply of coffee and pipes, are all that is needed. In the evening, lamps,
coloured or plain, are suspended from the trees, and a wandering minstrel or professional storyteller entertains the smokers. Itinerant vendors of fruit, bread, cakes, and sweetmeats are
generally found near a roadside cafe. A still more favourite position for a cafe is on a jutting
balcony or kiosk, above a swiftly flowing stream or river. There are many such places in
Damascus, and they look very bright and cheerful at night, with irregularly suspended lamps
and lanterns reflected in the running water, which forms a murmuring accompaniment to the
Arabic melodies, which are always in the minor key. For examples of these water-side cafes,
* The following pages (to page 410), describing the cafes and principal buildings and bazaars of Damascus, are contributed by Miss M. E.