Some particulars of the Author’s Journey from Baghdad to Aleppo and Damascus.

FROM Baghdad we passed through the village of Nekjeh to the city of Ser­men Rai, commonly called Samerah. Here we visited the shrines of Imam Aly Nuckee, and Imam Hassan Askeree: who are both buried in their own houses, which are most magnificient buildings. The Kadems and all the attendants at these two shrines are very rapacious, and extort offerings from the pilgrims. The place where the Schiites believe that Imam Mahdee lies concealed, is in the corner of a vault at Samerah. After travelling the intermediate stages men­tioned in the route, we arrived at the city of Kerkook, which in ancient books is mentioned as part of Chaldea. Here we saw the tombs of the prophets Daniel and Ezra; both under one dome.

Moussul is a large city, situated on the Tigris, and where is shewn the tomb of the prophet Gerjees (Saint George). Withoutside the city, is the monument of the prophet Jonas: both are large and magnificient buildings. After much enquiry, I learnt that these monuments were erected by order of Timour, when he conquered this country. Between Kerkook and Moussul are very high mountains, which you leave on the left hand. The inhabitants of these moun­tains believe in two Gods, one the bestower of good, and the other the inflictor of evil. If any one should repeat from the Khoran, “I take refuge with God, from Satan the accursed,” they would stone him to death. The village of Abzird, mentioned in the route, is inhabited by this detestable race. They do not allow circumcision, and expose their nakedness. The river which runs by this village, is very difficult to ford without these guides; and they make the caravans pay very handsomely for assisting them in crossing over the camels. They are great robbers, as we had heard before we arrived at Moussul; and whilst we were there, we saw many instances of their depredations upon the poor inhabitants of that neighbourhood. On account of the recommendation which we brought from Ahmed Pasha, and the dread of Nadir Shah, whose pro­tection we were known to be under, we were well entertained by the governors of all the places through which we passed, and met with no molestation upon the road; but many of the poor people belonging to the caravan were pillaged. We remained six days at Moussul, and then pursued our journey with the caravan.

Orseh is a populous city, and has a well-cultivated territory dependent upon it. In the neighbourhood of the city they show you the place where Abraham, by the command of Nimrod, was thrown into the fiery furnace, at the foot of the mountain were the machine from which he was flung was constructed, and of which they pretend to point out some vestige to this day. Over the spring which is said to have issued from the midst of the fire, a mosque is erected, with a large reservoir on the outside into which the water runs; and in it are great numbers of fish, which will eat out of your hand, but no one is allowed to catch them. Adjoining to this mosque is the most beautiful garden I have ever seen in any part of the world. The city of Nimrod, lay on the farther side of the mountain; but as a punishment for the wickedness of its inhabitants, it was deso­lated, and the road was changed to this side.

Between Moussul and Orfeh opposite to Fej, mentioned in the route, is the castle of Mardeen, so celebrated in history. The governor having invited the Hakeem Bashy to an entertainment, I accompanied him: and we enjoyed a most delightful prospect from the top of the mountain. Timour was obliged to abandon the siege of this place, and with good reason, for a single man placed at the summit, by rolling down pieces of the rock, might defend the place against ten thousand assailants; so that it is absolutely impregnable.

Berjeek is a town pleasantly situated on the Euphrates, and well inhabited. Shah Ismail extended his conquests to this place. Nadir Shah carried his arms as far as Diarbekr, which is opposite to Chah Abbass, mentioned in the route; and Timour conquered the whole Turkish empire. But Timour, and Shah Ismail, commanded armies, by whom they were beloved; whilst Nadir Shah is hated by his soldiers, of which I have already given some instances; so that his successes are the more astonishing.

On the first of Shawal we arrived at Aleppo*. The river at Aleppo is very beautiful, the bazars* are extensive, and the shops well disposed; no filth is suffered to lie in any of the streets or lanes. The people are handsome and well dressed, so that there appears an uncommon degree of elegance amongst every class of people. The shrine of the prophet Yahia (John the Baptist) is near the great mosque in the city of Aleppo. The looking glasses which in Hindostan are called after this city, are not the manufacture of this place, but are brought hither from Europe, the same as it is with the Myrabolans of Cabul, which recals to my mind the following story. When I was at Bokhara with Mirza Ibrahim Isfahany, whom Nadir Shah appointed to entertain Abulfiez Khan the King of Turan, I had frequent opportunities of conversing with that monarch, who was very inquisitive about the geography of Hindostan, and its natural productions; and once, when I was speaking of the fruits of Hindostan, I observed that although the plumbs of Bokhara were universally famous, I had not yet been able to procure any there, that were equal to those I had tasted in Khorasan. He said, “This is like your famed Myrabolans of Cabul, where there is not a tree of that kind: in Bokhara, indeed, there are plumb trees, but not one that bears good fruit.” The people of Aleppo, besides the engaging splendor of their appearance, are remarkably affable, and courteous. The following proverb is in use throughout the east. “The people of Aleppo are splendid; those of Syria are sordid; the Egyptians are thieves; and the Hindostanees are the favourites of God.” The environs of Aleppo contain nothing extraordinary. The pilgrims assemble from all quarters at Aleppo, and go in large bodies to Mecca with the Kafelah or caravan.

Hummee, and Hemse*, are both populous towns, and the inhabitants are so remarkably beautiful that the following story is told of their origin. When Nimrod had formed the design of plant­ing a garden, that should vie with the heavenly paradise, he ordered the most beautiful persons to be collected together from all parts, to represent the celestial Hours* and Gilmans*; but dying before he could carry his plan into execution, these beauties of both sexes settled in these two towns; God knows the truth! Hum­mee is situated on the declivity of a moun­tain, to which the water is carried up from the river by an engine, said to have been invented by some great philosopher.

From the time we left Hemse till we reached Demeshk (Damascus), it snowed frequently, and the air was very cold. The ancient name of this city is Demeshk, as well as all the territory of Syria, but now the country is more commonly called Sham, and the city Sham Shereef*. The reason seems to be, that a new city called Sham was built near Demeshk, whose name in the course of time, has superseded the other. The mosque of Beni Ommiah is in the city of Demeshk, and is a very stupendous fabrick. The monument of the prophet Zekaria is situated near it. The bazars of Damascus are more exten­sive, but neither arranged with such skill, nor are the shops so well furnished as those of Aleppo. Every house has a water course. The city is ornamented with delightful gardens, the trees of which bear an uncommon load of fruit. The olive tree flourishes in all the adjacent country. Jerusalem* is only ten days journey from Damascus, but the near approach of the departure of the caravan for Mecca, would not permit me to make an excursion to that place.

From Baghdad to Damascus, we travelled north, and from thence to Mecca our course was south, passing over the desert where Zobiedeh built the wall already mentioned. The people of Bagh­dad pray with their faces towards the west, and in Damascus the south is their Keblah.