I0 PICTURESQUE PALESTINE.
traveller. The Turkish Tartar postmen, however well armed, were often shot by Nusairiyeh
brigands in these dreary thickets. At the time of our visit a Greek merchant had built a house
and was living here, and we spent the night unmolested. Not the least interesting feature in
this region is the people who now inhabit it—the Nusairiyeh. They are justly regarded as the
jcendants of the old Canaanites, never converted to Judaism, Christianity, or Islamism, but
retaining the old Baal and star worship of the Canaanites, with their sacred shrines in groves on
ery high hill," and at the same time having borrowed various features from both Christians.
Muslims, and Jews. Ali is their God. When they speak of Allah they always mean Ali. They
practise circumcision, use wine at their sacrament, a secret rite bound by terrific oaths, and their
principal prayer is a series of dire curses upon all other sects. Their present name was derived
from Abu Shuaib ibn Nusair in 840 a.d. They are a secret society with mysterious signs and
passwords. When one of the initiated dies they believe that Mars or Jupiter descends and
takes his soul to the sky, where it becomes a star in the " Darub et tibban," the 4k Milky Wa
They believe, in transmigration, and that the souls of Muslims pass into donkeys, of Christians
into swine, of Jews into monkeys, and of Nusairiyeh into other men. Women are not allo\
to be initiated into their secret rites, nor even attend their worship. " Devils we
from the sins of men, and women from the sins of devils." The soul leaves the body through
the mouth, and hence death by hanging is regarded by them with horror. The Turks look
upon them as Kafirs, or infidels, and hence for ages have persecuted and oppressed them in
most cruel manner, driving them to desperation. Blood revenge and highway robber)
common. At present they are somewhat better treated, but their fertile mountains have b<
turned almost into a wilderness. Native writers on the Nusairy religion insist that the initiated
sheikhs offer their wives to their guests when visiting each other, but this is not confirmee! by
credible testimony. Physically they are a fine race. Some of their sheikhs are men
splendid personal appearance, and their girls and boys who have enjoyed the advant
education in the Christian schools at Laclikiyeh have proved themselves equal to any c
of Syrian Arabs in intellect and capacity.
South of Tartus we meet but few villages of the Nusairiyeh, and on entering the Lebanon
district beyond Tripoli we find only a Mohammedan, Christian, and Druse population.
Crossing the broad and fertile plain of Akkar, we reach Tell Arka, on a river of the same
name, where dwelt the Arkites. The Tell is evidently the site of the old Arkite capital.
Fragments of columns, sarcophagi, and blocks of stone lie scattered on the slope and in the
deep rocky gorge o( the river. A four hours' ride from this point takes us along the seasli
across the Nahr el Barid, and thence to the famous "' Ain el Bedawy," or "Sheikh el
Bedawy," known as the k< Moscpie of the Sacred Fish." Just below the road, down a
slope and in the edge of the rich green gardens and orchards of the Tripoli plain, is a circular
birkeh, or pool, into which flows the clear sweet water of a fine fountain. The pool isabo
one hundred feet in diameter, and the water two or three feet in depth. In it are hundr
fat light-coloured fish, from three to twenty inches in length, resembling river bass. I u€)