MARITIME CITIES OF PALESTINE.
in the month of July, and we approached the village through fields of rapidly ripening Indian
corn (maize) and fruit and vegetable gardens. The sheikh and all the chief men came out to
meet us with pleasant words of welcome, for we were expected and well known there. We
alighted on the outskirts of the village, which is very compact and built of sun-dried bricks ;
close to it there is a large enclosure, with buttressed walls, built of stone, for the protection of
flocks and herds, and for storage of grain and fuel. I found my tent already pitched amid
little mountains of wheat and barley, near to an extensive threshing-floor, where oxen were
busy treading out the corn.
Carpets and cushions were soon spread for us in the open air, and coffee and pipes were
brought. The sheikh and the heads of families sat opposite to us in a half circle, while the
younger men stood round or rested on the heaps of wheat near. We were not quite a mile
from the shore, and were facing the sea and the setting sun. The rocky islands and the ruins
of Tanturah (see page 105) could be plainly seen a little way to the south, and the tall tower
of Athlit appeared far away in the north (see page ico). At the moment when the sun
dropped down into the sea, the imam (or village priest) rose and stood in the middle of a
large and newly swept threshing-floor which was close by ; he looked earnestly towards the
south, and began chanting, in a loud and sonorous voice, the call to prayer—" God is most
great. I testify that there is no deity but God. I testify that Mohammed is God's apostle.
Come to prayer. Come to security. God is most great. There is no deity but God."
The sheikh and the elders who had gathered round us immediately rose and assembled on
the threshing-floor in a double row behind the imim, who thus looked truly like the leader
of the little band ; and when he uttered the usual ejaculations of prayer and praise, and recited
the appointed verses from the Koran, they echoed his words and followed all his movements
with precision and solemnity, kneeling and bowing their faces to the ground, and uplifting
their hands and rising to their feet with one accord. They were joined by the labourers from
the fields and neighbouring threshing-floors and by our Mohammedan servants, but some of
the younger men who had been talking with us hesitated at first to attend to the " call to
prayer." They looked at each other, as if undecided what to do ; and then at us, as if they
were ashamed or thought it impolite to leave us. We endeavoured, by keeping perfectly still
and silent, to make them understand that we did not wish or expect them to neglect their
devotions on our account. Suddenly they rose altogether and ranged themselves in a row at
the edge of the threshing-floor, and their voices blended with the voices of their fathers as they
cried, " God is most great! . . . May God hear him who praiseth Him ! "
No women came forward to pray ; they stood afar off, with their little ones, watching the
assembly; but I do not think that there was one man or youth of the village who did not join
in this service, which lasted about a quarter of an hour, and was conducted with the greatest
Immediately afterwards supper was served. A wooden bowl, rather shallow, but about a
yard in diameter, filled with steaming rice, boiled in butter, was placed on the ground at a little