THE PHOENICIAN PLAIN. 67
bottom that it is difficult for a horseman to pass a laden camel without dismounting, and where
he may touch the cliffs on either side with his stick. The sides of the enclosing hills gently
slope back, timber being absent, but its place taken by dense brushwood, lentisk, myrtle, arbutus,
the lovely.storax, and the Judas-tree all in blossom together, with an undergrowth of endless
variety of flowers, generally very different from those of Esdraelon and Galilee, and partaking
more of the character of the Lebanon flora—especially a number of ferns of northern type.
Just at the mouth of the valley is a little plain, and high up in the rocks on the north side
of this opening are some very curious sculptures. On the face of the cliff is cut a square recess
about thirty-two inches square, and thirty inches deep. It is set in a bevelled frame of five
steps, each two inches deep, cut in the rock. On the back wall of the niche is a fine piece of
delicate sculpture, rather weathered. There is a group of five figures, the central one seated
and two standing on each side, apparently offering gifts. Over the group is engraved the
Egyptian symbol of eternity, with the outstretched wings, the disk, serpents, and other emblems.
In many of these Phoenician remains we have the Egyptian, in others the Assyrian recalled,
but nowhere has yet been found anything resembling the Hittite type.
When we reach the head of the Wady ' Ashur, north of the village of Kefra, the summit of
the hill affords a magnificent view. Three thousand feet beneath is the strip of the Phoenician
plain, with Tyre conspicuous, jutting out from its neck of sand into the sea, fringed by the
Mediterranean. Turning round, Hermon (see pages 334 and 375, vol. i.) and the craters of
the Lejah stretch from north to south, with the great castle of Shukif distinct, perched on its
crag south-west of Hermon. One bit of snow behind it marks the beginning of the Lebanon
(see page 337, vol. L), while on the top of an isolated cone immediately to the east frowns the
castle of Tibnin, as though still impregnable, and giving the idea of a stupendous fortress,
looking all the larger from its isolation.
And now, having surveyed the highlands, we will descend by that charming glen again to
Ras el 'Ain (see page 60), and after a farewell glance at its dripping cisterns and fairylike
festoons of maiden-hair fern, we continue along the shore till we reach the bluff headland of
Ras el Abyad, " White Cape," which boldly projects into the sea, the sharp and clearly defined
boundary of the Phoenician Plain (see page 65). The chalky headland is often called the
Ladder of Tyre, and a true ladder it would be were it not that many of its rungs are wanting,
and the path, being worn in the cliff side without the slightest bridge or fence and overhanging
the sea two or three hundred feet below, is somewhat trying to novices in Palestine riding.
From the crest of the pass is a very impressive view of the Phoenician coast. Desolate as the plain
is, it is, at least in early summer, green, and shows well with its girdle of sand curving gracefully
as it recedes, and then runs out in the headland of Tyre. Curving again inwards from this
point we can follow it beyond the promontory of Surafend, which forms the head of the second
bow. The ridge of the limestone hills behind varies in colour, through blending shades of
purples, reds, and yellows, closing with the white and glittering brow on which we stand, while
behind all tower the snowy ranges of Jebel Sunnin and Jebel esh Sheikh (Hermon), from forty