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THE CONTENT AT DEIR-IL-KALA -PROVISIONS FOR THE WINTER
- MODE OF MAKING BURGHOL—THE SILKWORM - FIRST STAGE OF EXISTENCE — SHIFTING ITS FIRST SKIN — SECOND STATE OF TORPOR-TUE KHOOK-THIRD STATE OF TORPOR-SUPERSTITION --K'FARCHIMA.
Qui non palazzi, non teatro o loggia,
There never was a better illustration of the above quotation than is presented to us as we dismount under the shelter of the lofty walls of the convent at Deir-il-Kala, and forage in our saddle-bags for some materials for breakfast. Everything before us, perhaps with the solitary exception of the convent itself, speaks clearly of the handiwork of nature, untouched or undisfigured by the hand or art of man. Many years ago, perhaps centuries, some edifice existed, the foundations of which we can still clearly trace; but the ruthless hand of time has levelled this with the
THE CONVENT AT DEIR-IL-KALA.
mountain surface, and the fragments and stones have been used in the construction of the modern convent. From this elevated position, in an atmosphere so transcendently clear as that which Syria enjoys, we are afforded an extensive and uninterrupted view of many miles circuit; far away, dwindled into nothingness in the distance, we perceive the small headland, behind which is situated the city of Tripoli ; then a vast sheet of ocean, clearly defining where the sea terminates and where the sky commences, stretches across from left to right. On this vast mass of waters, large ships, plying to and fro with merchandise and passengers, are dimly discernible, like indistinct specks upon the deep blue colour of the sea. Nearer still, flashing in the golden sunlight like the expanded wings of the sea-gull, appear the lateen sails of coasting vessels ; then in a confused mass, we note the spot supposed to mark the site of Beyrout. Clear skies of atmosphere intervene, whilst miles of the level ground are shut out from our gaze by the tops of the trees growing upon the nearer elevation of the intervening mountains. The breeze up here is invigorating and refreshing in the extreme, which, in conjunction with the exercise of the morning, is sure to add a keen edge to our appetites; under which influence a cold fowl of yesterday, the hard-boiled eggs,
bread and cheese, etc., diminish in their proportions. The k'dames in the Druse's pocket have been reduced to just half the original quantity.
PROVISIONS FOR THE WINTER.
Leaving the convent at Deir-il-Kala, we proceed on our journey to the left, and very shortly have evidence that we are entering upon that region almost exclusively inhabited by the Druses. Our road is one succession of alternate hill and valley, interspersed at intervals of every few miles with small Druse and Maronite villages, the inhabitants of most of which are at this hour of the day absent on their various callings. Some of the females, however, are busy upon their house-tops spreading out mats on the terraced roofs, and here exposing to the sun the figs which have been gathered in and slit open, and which, when properly dried, will be put away in earthen jars and serve as part and portion of the provision laid by for winter use. When these figs are packed into the jars, the women get in after every handful, and with their naked feet stamp upon them so as to compress them in the most compact manner;
the more effectually to accomplish this, they sprinkle the figs at intervals with a treacley substance extracted from the kharroubé, which saccharine matter helps to consolidate the mass. Many of these huge lumps of figs are afterwards exposed for sale in the bazaars at Beyrout and Sidon, where the shopkeepers cut large slices off with a knife and sell them by weight. But the Druse women, at this particular season of the year, have other domestic occupations which must be all completed before the fine weather passes away.
First of all, there is the staple commodity of life
MODE OF MAKING BURGHOL.
amongst all classes inhabiting Syria, to wit, the burghol, a gritty substance made from the wheat ; and as we pass along from these villages we encounter, at various houses, females in every stage of burghol making. First, there is the careful Druse wife washing the wheat in a huge cauldron close to her hut door : this is the preliminary process. Her neighbour, who has been more industrious than herself, has completed the washing, and is spreading out the wet grain upon mats to dry; and what with the cats running to and fro, and thievish sparrows and equally thievish cocks and hens, she has enough to do to keep the Philistines away from her wheat, even though assisted by all the junior members of the family, who, armed with sticks and branches, hoot at and frighten the invaders away. In the next village, the drying process has been completed, and the good woman of the house is boiling the grain previous to its undergoing a second drying and airing ; when this much has been done, then the woman shifts the responsibility off her shoulders to those of her husband. Early in the morning the Druse husband gets up, and lading his donkey with sacks containing the boiled wheat, he goes off to the nearest mill, where, for a consideration, it is ground into two distinct substances, which are carefully separated and packed in separate sacks; the larger and coarser grits serving exclusively for the manufacture of kubbé, the finer being boiled and used as a substitute for rice in pilaufs, etc.
But besides the burghol and the figs, the Druse housewife has many little but indispensable preparations to make against the winter. In the back gardens grow chilies and onions and garlic, to say nothing of cucumbers and vegetables. chilies are culled, and being split open, mixed in jars with salt and water, being eventually drained and covered with vinegar; in the same way, cucumbers, walnuts, batinjans, and even radishes, are pickled. The red chilies are strung to long pieces of twine and suspended from the house-top to dry ; the same process is undergone by the onions and garlic, and at proper seasons are added walnuts and raisins, olives, and many other trifles, indispensable for the comfort of the family and for the display of that hospitality for which the Druses are notorious.
Proceeding onwards, and protected from the fierce heat of the sun's rays by the pleasant shade of mountain pines, we are continually encountering horse-loads of cocoons, the fruit of the industry of the Druse silk rearer. The whole process, from hatching the silkworm eggs till the moment that the worm becomes a cocoon, is one series of anxiety and labour to the peasant; the worms are so delicate that the smallest change of temperature exposes them to destruction, and the peasant can never confidently count upon reaping a harvest until the cocoon is fairly set.
The spring, which is later by two weeks on these