4o2 PICTURESQUE PALESTINE.
gourds, calabashes, broken pots, or metal bowls in their hands. Behind the cauldron stood two
men to ladle out the soup, directed by the Mannun. I expressed a wish to taste the soup, so
the sheikh sent for a silver drinking-cup (in the form of a saucer), and I was served. I found
it was composed of rice, vegetables, and meat, flavoured with herbs, and was very substantial.
I was afterwards conducted by the sheikh to the innermost court, and we entered the beautiful
mosque which stands on the south side of it. The sunlight was streaming through the stained-
glass windows of the clerestory of the dome, and a large chandelier, with beautiful lamps, was
suspended from the centre. The walls were covered with glazed tiles ; those of the mihrab, the
niche on the south side, were especially beautiful, and the largest I had seen—much too large
to be drawn in my sketch-book full size. I told the sheikh that I regretted this. He
instantly went to his house on the opposite side of the court, and brought me some very
large well-made Turkish paper, and I made a careful drawing of a tile which measured fifteen
inches and a quarter by twelve inches and one-eighth, which well represents the style and
character of the tiles throughout the building. I afterwards took coffee and sherbet with him
in his room, and he gathered for me his choicest flowers.
As I passed across the great court, on my way out, I heard a terrible sound of lamentation.
The little fever-stricken boy had just then died. A group of women stood in the doorway, and
others quickly gathered round them from the neighbouring rooms. Then they together
suddenly uttered the death-cry, called wilwdl, a peculiarly mournful cadence, with shrieks and
pauses at regular intervals. This cry has been transmitted from one generation of mourners to
another, and is probably exceedingly ancient; it may even be the echo of the great cry which
was heard throughout all the land of Egypt when all the first-born were smitten (Gen. xii. 30).
Throughout the East, the instant after a death has taken place the women present proclaim it
by loud lamentations; all the women who hear it flock to the house of mourning and join in the
" death cry," which cannot possibly be mistaken for any other sound. Professional mourners,
who are " skilful in lamentation," are employed by wealthy people to assist the volunteers (see
Amos v. 16). I had often heard this cry before, but it seemed to me especially mournful
then. The dead child was the only son of a widow, and she " refused to be comforted"
(Jeremiah xxxi. 15). I walked homewards sorrowfully, with the mournful chorus, " Alas for
him ! alas for him !" ringing in my ears.
The private houses of Damascus are almost as remarkable for their external plainness as
for their internal splendour. A stranger in traversing the city would never guess that it
contained such luxurious residences, for they are nearly always situated in tortuous streets with
high bare walls on each side; an occasional doorway, more or less decorated, is the only
outward and visible sign of their existence. Sometimes the doorway is sufficiently wide and
lofty to admit a laden camel or a mounted horseman, and this indicates that it opens at once
into a courtyard with stabling; but it is always pierced with a smaller door for ordinary use.
The entrance to a private house is, however, generally only large enough to admit one person
at a time, and opens into a passage which, after one or more abrupt turnings, leads into the