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comprises the whole eastern slopes of Jebl esh-Sheikh, and a section of the plain extending nearly to S'as’a. It contains twelve villages, with a mixed population of Muslems, Druzes, and Christians. Originally it formed a portion of the territory of the ancient Maachathites (1 Chron. xix. 6). Under the Romans it appears first to have been part of the kingdom of Chalcis, and was afterwards annexed to the Tetrarchite of Abilene, under Lysanias. (Joseph. Ant. xv. 10, 1, and 3 ; also compare xix. 5, 1, with Luke iii. 1.)
The village of S’as'a, near which these streams unite, was in former days a kind of fortress, one of a regular series, built at intervals on the ancient caravan road from Damascus to Egypt. At present, however, it is in a great measure ruinous and deserted. The 'Awaj runs from this in a general direction N.W. by N. On its right bank is an undulating plain, thickly strewn with large boulders and broken fragments of basalt, which give it a barren and savage aspect. The left bank is less stony, where the limestone takes the place of the volcanic rock, but this whole district is forbidding and monotonous in the extreme. The river continues in the same course to the large caravansery called Khan esh-Shîh, distant seven or eight miles from S'as'a. The features of the country on the south bank continue the same the whole way. From thence the river turns nearly due east, and runs in a very tortuous and deep channel to the village of Kesweh, about six miles farther. On the north side, a short distance below Khan esh-Shîh, commences a range of low hills with conical peaks. These hills extend to Kesweh, leaving a fertile plain about a quarter of a mile wide, along the side of the river. This range is called Jebl el-Kesweh, and also Jebl el-Aswad. Several villages stand near the river; and the banks are lined with poplar and other trees, the dark green foliage of which relieves the monotony of the surrounding scenery.
Kesweh is built on the northern bank of the 'Awaj, and forms the first halting place on the great pilgrim road from Damascus to Mecca. It is reckoned by Abulfeda twelve miles from the former city (Tab. Syr. Ed. Reisk. p. 97); but I think this distance too great, as I have ridden it more than once in two hours at a fast walk. It cannot be more than nine Roman miles at the utmost. The Haj road from this place to the city runs nearly due north, keeping first for half an hour along the eastern base of the range of hills above mentioned. It then crosses a low neck which connects these hills with another lower, but more regular range, called Jebl el-Aswad—the black hills—which commences here and runs eastward for some miles, separating the plain of Damascus from the valley of the 'Awaj. Jebl el-Aswad, and Jebl es-Kesweh, are completely barren. They are wholly composed of volcanic rock, whence the name · Black Hills,' which is generally applied to both ranges. Their sides have a gentle and easy slope, and are thickly covered with fragments of basalt.
The road crosses the Awaj by a substantial bridge of several arches. The bridge was commanded in former times by a small castle, the ruins of which still stand above it on the north bank. After crossing, the road ascends the southern slope, and then continues over the elevated plateau called Ard Khiyârah. On this side of the river, and nearly east of the village, suddenly rises up another
range of mountains, more bold and rugged than the former. One peak, like a cone with the top cut off, is in part isolated, and forms a conspicuous object from every part of the plain of Damascus. It is crowned with the ruins of a fortress of considerable extent and high antiquity. From its summit I obtained a commanding view of the windings of the river and of the whole plain to the foot of Hermon. I was also able to look over the rugged surface of the Lejâh-the ancient Trachonitisto the mountain region beyond, now called Ard el-Bathanyeh, which is unquestionably the Batanaea of Josephus, and which brings down the ancient name of Bashan to modern times. A recent journey to that interesting region, during which I traversed it from north to south, and went as far as Busrah and Salkhad, has convinced me of the truth of the above statement. I visited the ruins of a town called Bathanyeh, and near it another called Shukathe Saccaria which, according to Ptolemy, stood in the eastern part of Batanaea. From travelling over also nearly the whole of Trachonitis, with a part of Auranitis, I was enabled to ascertain, with some approach to accuracy, the boundaries of these provinces.
This peak is called Tell Mânia, and the range of hills which, beginning here, run about ten miles to the eastward, has the same
The 'Awaj at Kesweh turns sharply to the north-east for more than half an hour, sweeping round the base of Mânia. It then again resumes its former course through the fine vale between the parallel ridges. The large villages of 'Adalîyeh and Hurjilleh are here on its southern bank, and are supplied with water by a canal, led off from the river at Kesweh, and carried along the slopes. Two other canals are taken from the 'Awaj near Khan esh-Shîh the one on the south side waters two or three villages in the Ard el-Khiyârah, and the other on the north runs to Darâya near Damascus. Still
, notwithstanding these drains upon it, when passing Kesweh, it fully equals in volume the half of the Barada above the fountain of Fîjeh. The banks of the river between the hills present
a pleasing and rich appearance. Verdant meadows and finely cultivated corn-fields cover the vale through which the stream meanders, and a fringe of poplars and willows marks its course.
The range of Jebl el-Aswad sinks down at a small village called Nejha; and from thence the 'Awaj flows through an undulating plain to the lake, about eight miles eastward. This plain near the river is almost wholly uncultivated. It is covered with clumps of the tamarisk and other smaller shrubs. On the southern side, , opposite Nejha, Jebl Mâni'a sinks into a broad swell
, and gradually descends to the level of the plain. On this side below the fields of Nejha there is no cultivation. The vast plain stretches away unbroken to the distant slopes of Jebl Haurân. Over this roam the children of the desert, and here they feed their flocks when the rains of winter have ceased, and the tender grass springs up luxuriantly from the refreshed soil.
Toward the close of summer the waters of the 'Awaj seldom flow far below Nejha. Two canals carry the greater part of what remains into the neighbouring plain of Damascus. When I rode along this in November last, ere the rains set in the bed of the river was quite dry; but when I crossed the bridge at Nejha in the end of January, on my way to the Haurân, there was a deep and rapid stream. When here in November last the fertile plain round Nejha presented a gay and animated appearance. Eight battalions of Turkish soldiers, with a field-battery, were here encamped, to check the incursions of the rebel Druzes of the Haurân, against whom some eight or ten thousand men had been sent by the Government. A large force of irregular cavalry was also posted here. Little parties of these were scattered over the plain, engaged in the exciting exercise of the jerîd, and displaying by their sudden and graceful evolutions, not less the matchless speed and docility of the noble animals they rode, than their own dexterity in managing them. But the steady discipline of the regular soldiers, and the skilful evolutions of the Kurdish light horse, were not always sufficient to resist the impetuous attacks and fierce determination of the warlike Druzes. Once and again were villages plundered ; and to the very gates of the city the daring rebels sometimes penetrated. Often have I heard the booming of the cannon and the dropping fire of the musketry during the stillness of the night; and there was something solemn in the thought that each deep sound was, perhaps, the death-knell of a human being
The whole district through which the ’Awaj flows from Aklîm el-Bellân to the lake, is now called Wady el-'Ajam, which is generally understood to signify the · Vale of the Persians. But why this name is given to it I cannot tell. Wady el-'Ajam embraces the country extending from the walls of Damascus westward, along the base of Antilebanon to the borders of Jeidur beyond the 'Awaj. The breadth is here about thirty miles. As it extends eastward it gradually contracts until it reaches the lake Heijâny, where the breadth is not more than four or five miles. The extreme length is about thirty-two miles. It contains fiftyone villages which, with the exception of three or four, are all inhabited. The aggregate population is a little over 18,000, of whom 651 are Druzes, 694 Christians, and the rest Mohammedans. With the exception of the section in the neighbourhood of Damascus, the soil of Wady el-'Ajam is much inferior to that of the Ghûtah. The greater portion of it is volcanic ; and the two parallel ranges of Jebl el-Aswad and Jebl Mânia are wholly volcanic. The whole district is bleak, and wants features ; nothing can be more dreary and uninteresting than the greater part of the road from S'as'a to Damascus.
Among the villages of Wady el-Ajam there is no name of historie interest, and there are no ruins of any importance. It has indeed been thought that the village of Kaukab, about two hours from the city, is the Kokaba of Epiphanius. Kokaba, however, Epiphanius says, is in Bashan, beyond Adraa, and the position of the present Kaukab does not at all accord with this statement. It is far north of the ancient border of Bashan ; and, except to the inhabitants of Arabia, it certainly could not be described as beyond Adraa (See Reland, Palest. p. 202). There can be little doubt that the whole country watered by the 'Awaj was originally included in the territory of Damascus. Ancient canals from that river carry the water to several places in the vicinity of that city; and there is no natural boundary between the two provinces; the whole, with the exception of the hills, forming one vast plain.
On the south-west Wady el-'Ajam is bounded by Jeidur, and on the south-east by part of the Haurân. Jeidur is the ancient Ituraea-a province which, by some writers, and even by Reland and Lightfoot has been confounded with Auranitis (Rel. Pal., p. 106; Light. Hor. Heb. Chor. s. v. Ituraea). These provinces, however, were not only distinct, but considerably removed from each other. Auranitis was one of the provinces into which the kingdom of Bashan was divided after the captivity. Ituraea was never included in that kingdom. It is the country of the descendants of Jetur the son of Ishmael. 1 Chron. i. 35, & v. 19. It is montioned by Pliny; and Strabo places it on the borders of Chalcis (lib. xvi.). "To establish these assertions satisfactorily to the general reader would require more space than is now at my disposal. I merely give these incidental references as the results of a careful examination of authorities, and of the country itself.
That portion of the Haurân which lies on the south-east of Wady el-'Ajam is the fine plain north of the Lejâh, with part of the low mountain range of Jebl el-Khiyârah. This was formerly included in the province of Trachonitis.
Reference has already been made to the lake Heijâny into which the 'Awaj flows. This lake is quite distinct from those mentioned in the previous article, and known by the common name of Bahret el-Merj. The Bahret el-Heijâny is, properly speaking, only a winter lake, as the lower part of the 'Awaj is only a winter river. From a small hill beside the village of Heijâny, I obtained the best view of this lake and of the country round it. From this point it extends to the south and south-east, and is, as nearly as I could estimate it by careful bearings, about seven miles long from north to south, by four and a half from east to west. This whole expanse is covered with water during the winter and spring ; but sometimes, though very rarely, it dries up altogether toward the close of summer. Its dimensions can be taken at all seasons from the reeds by which it is covered. The river ’Awaj enters it at its north-west corner below the Tell Heijâny ; and the Nahr el-Liwa at its south-east corner. The latter stream descends from the mountains of the Haurân, or Ard el-Bathanyeh, flows along the eastern side of the Lejâh, and then across the plain to the lake. It only runs, however, for a very short period, while the snow is melting in the mountains. I travelled along it in January to near its source, and only found water in pools.
North of the lake Heijâny is a broad swell in the plain, from three to five miles wide, dividing this lake from the Bahret elKiblîyeh, one of those into which the Barada flows. The soil here is rich and deep. At intervals are little tells similar to those found throughout the Haurân, but much smaller. In some of these the black basaltic rock crops above the soil. The large Tell Heijâny is covered with immense boulders of basalt.
It is thus seen, that instead of one lake which is laid down on all maps of this region, and into which all the rivers are carried, there are in reality three lakes, namely, the Bahret esh-Shurkiyeh, and Bahret el-Kiblîyah into which the Barada empties its waters; and the Bahret el-Heijâny, supplied by the 'Awaj and Liwa. The two first never become dry, though a great portion of them is mere marsh in summer, with little spots of clear water at intervals. Gigantic reeds, some of which are more than twenty-five feet high, grow in all the lakes, and render it extremely difficult to ascertain where there is water and where dry ground. Wild swine are very plentiful in these thickets; and myriads of wild