4i4 PICTURESQUE PALESTINE.
in this manner is welcome and refreshing to a person who is worn down by the long-
With these may be mentioned the bakers' shops. The ovens are curious, as well as the
method tff making and baking the bread, which is sold in shops, on stands in the streets (see
page 383), or by boys who carry it about on large trays (see page 421). The cries of these
vendors of bread would seem strange to other people, for among them one hears such as these:
11 O God, send a customer! " or, " Going for one cent!"
A class that attracted our attention were the pigeon-fanciers. These persons are
numerous, and they possess a kind of stock-exchange, where they meet for the transaction
of business. In former times communication between Damascus and Bagdad by means
of pigeons was extensively carried on, and one of the numerous breed still existing here
derives his name from this ancient custom. Pigeon-fanciers are supposed to be incapacitated
from giving testimony in a court of law, because their business leads them into special
temptations to theft; and, furthermore, it is thought that they yield to the opportunity afforded
them of viewing from their lofts the harems of the surrounding houses. Hence, although
numerous, they are not regarded as a very respectable class.
No detailed descriptions of these bazaars can be here attempted ; but, as we pass from
one to another, we witness on every hand, either in the streets or by the wayside, the
strangest sights. The barber seems to be always busy (see page 417). Unlike those with us,
the Damascus barber has with his regular business an associated branch, namely, that of
bleeding, a practice of which we hear little in modern times.
At another point, the cafe by the roadside will certainly afford a place for rest, if one
is weary, and for such refreshment as coffee and pipes can give. The busy proprietor will
be found to be genial and pleasant, and inspired by a desire to entertain his guests in the
most courteous manner (see page 383).
Farther on we find ourselves in front of a great plane-tree, which is nearly forty feet
in circumference, and which, on account of its size and age, seems out of place where it
stands, and leaves one to wonder how it can have survived for so many centuries. In the
shadow of its trunk and underneath its branches, which serve as a roof, workmen carry on
their trades (see page 407).
Damascus is, as we have previously stated, one of the oldest cities in the world. Josephus
affirms that it was founded by Uz, the son of Aram. It was known in the days of the
patriarchs, for Abraham's trusted servant Eliezer, was from Damascus (Gen. xv. 2). It is
often mentioned in the Old Testament, in the Acts of the Apostles, and twice in the Epistles
of Paul (Gal. j. 17; 2 Cor. xi. 32). David conquered the city after a bloody war (2 Sam.
viii. 5, 6), but under Solomon an adventurer made himself king of Damascus, and founded an
empire with which the Israelites came thenceforth often into violent conflict.
An interesting episode is the healing of Naaman, the Syrian general, from leprosy by the
prophet Elisha, to whom his attention was directed by a Jewish captive maid (2 Kings