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village of Tell es-Sâfieh, about mid-way between Ekron and Eleutheropolis. “ Leaving Tell es-Sâfieh,” he writes, we descended the western side of the hill into the wide plain. The morning was bright and balmy ; and the scene was enlivened by large herds of cattle and flocks of sheep and goats, going forth in various directions to pasture. Our road lay obliquely across the plain, on a general course W.S. W. . . . This is a beautiful and fertile tract of country; for a time almost perfectly level; and after a short distance almost without a stone. The soil is a light brown loam. The barley-harvest was now mostly over.
The peasants were in full activity in the beginning of the wheatharvest; and the fields full of reapers, and the threshingfloors around the villages presented a lively scene.
А large part of the plain, so far as it was tilled, was covered with grain already ripe. Some tracts were sown with millet, now a few weeks above the ground, and yielding a delightful refreshment to the eye by its beautiful green.
We saw one field of cotton. The crops were good; yet hardly one-half of the plain was under cultivation ..,
(We came to the village of Súmmeil) on an elevation in the plain. Here is a large public well at the foot of the hillock; it measured one hundred and ten feet deep to the surface of the water, and eleven feet in diameter; the walls being circular, and composed of hewn stones of good masonry. Women were drawing water from the well by a rope passing over a pulley, which they hauled up by running off with it a great distance into the field, in the manner of sailors From here Esdûd (Ashdod) was pointed out to us, upon a low round eminence, with trees thick around it like a wood, probably olives; the distance was said to be three hours. Askelon was said also to be only three hours distant; but was probably not less than four or five; the Arabs generally specifying distances by time very loosely
“ In about half an hour (after leaving Summeil) we passed ... the first village we had yet seen in Palestine not built of stone. The materials of the houses are here unburnt bricks; and such continued to be the case all the way to Gaza, and is so elsewhere throughout the plain. The bricks are formed from the common loam of the soil, with straw intermixed to bind the mass together, as in Egypt; they are of very large size, and are merely dried in the sun. Many of them, newly made, were laid in rows along the ground, in the process
of drying “ The country now became more undulating; low ridges or swells ran from south to north, but the general character of the soil did not change . . . The white sandhills which here skirt the shore of the Mediterranean began soon to appear
We reached (the village of Bureir). . . and rested for more than an hour and a half under the shade of a spreading tree. This is a flourishing village, forming a sort of central point in the plain. There is a large public well, at which camels were drawing water by means of a ... waterwheel with jars, as in Egypt; the first machinery we had yet seen in Palestine. Flocks and herds were collected around the well; the troughs for which were partly laid up in front with ancient marble columns. Here were also several palm-trees; and the whole scene was animated and pleasing. Setting off from Bureir ... we at first took a wrong road ... and were
compelled to pick our way through the fields to the Gaza road ... (and) we passed (a little village where) the peasants were winnowing barley by throwing it up into the air with a wooden fork We came to the village Beit Húnûn on our right, in a low rich tract of the plain. Here, as elsewhere, all were busy with the wheat-harvest; the reapers were in the fields ; donkeys and camels were moving homewards with their high loads of sheaves; while on the threshing-floors near the village I counted not less than thirty gangs
of cattle, occupied in treading out the grain, with many camels and donkeys standing idle around. The whole village seemed at work, and presented a busy
Not far beyond this village, we came upon the immense olive-groves which stretch far to the north of Gaza ... We fell into the Yâfa road, at the line of hills which bounds the plain on the west, towards the coast. The road here crosses these hills at a low spot or gap, and continues along their western side ... having on the right a tract of drifts and hills of white sand, extending to the sea, here an hour distant. These sands seem only to need water in order to become fertile; even now they are studded with trees and bushes like hedges ; apparently from the effect of the rains alone. For the whole distance from the gap of the hills to Gaza, the road passes through a vast grove of olive-trees, not only very numerous, but very large and productive. Many of them are upon the sands. It is said to be the largest olive-grove in Palestine . . . We pitched our tent among these trees, ten minutes from the entrance of Gaza, just at the edge of the gardens on the north of the city
The next day, being Sunday, we remained encamped, and enjoyed a quiet day of rest...”
Of the city itself, Dr. Robinson writes, “Gaza, in Arabic Ghúzzeh, is situated on a low round hill of considerable extent, not elevated more than fifty or sixty feet above the plain around. This hill may be regarded as the nucleus of the city; although only the southern half is now covered with houses. Most of these are of stone, and especially all such as belong to the government. But the greater part of the modern city has sprung up on the plain below, a sort of suburbs, stretching far out on the eastern and northern sides. These suburbs appear to be thickly populated; the houses are numerous, and wholly built of mud or unburnt bricks, like the villages we had passed on the great plain.
“ The ancient city of Gaza, renowned as the strong, lay obviously chiefly on the hill. The present town has no gates, being like an open village ; yet the places of the former ones remain, and are pointed out around the hill. One of these, at the foot of the slope on the south-east, is shown as the gate whose doors and bars were carried off by Samson; and just by it is a mukâm in his honour, which the Muslims pretend is also his tomb Indeed, all vestiges of the ancient walls and ancient strength of Gaza have disappeared; and nothing remains to mark its former extent, except the bounds of the hill itself on which it stood. Even the traces of its former existence, its vestiges of antiquity, are very rare; consisting of occasional columns of marble or grey granite, scattered in the streets and gardens, or used as thresholds at the gates and doors of houses, or laid upon the front of watering troughs. One fine Corinthian capital of white marble lies inverted in the middle of a street running from north to south along the eastern foot of the hill.
“ Gaza is said to be an hour distant from the sea, which is not here visible. Between the city and the shore are the hills and tracts of sand already mentioned, on which are scattered a few trees and hedges. Around the city on the south, east, and north, are numerous gardens hedged with prickly pear, which forms an impenetrable barrier. The soil of these is exceedingly rich and productive. Apricots and mul. berries were already ripe ; the former delicious and abundant. Many palm trees are scattered around the city, though they form no grove as in Egypt; while beyond the gardens, towards the north, lies the extensive olive-grove through which we had passed. There are two pools of water, one on the north and the other south of the city; but they seemed to contain nerely stagnant rain-water, of which no use was made. The public cemeteries lie straggling and scattered in all directions, mingling with the houses on the hill and
along the roads in the plain. Towards the east, the view is shut in by the line of hills we bad crossed The population of Gaza has usually been rated as much too low as that of Jerusalem has been over-estimated. (It consists, probably) of not less than fifteen, or perhaps sixteen thousand souls, and makes Gaza larger than Jerusalem ; a fact which is also confirmed by its greater extent of crowded dwellings. There were said to be fifty-seven resident christian families ; but their number is increased by transient sojourners.
“We heard nothing of the port of Gaza, nor did we learn whether it is now visited by vessels. Gaza itself has no more the appearance of a maritime city than Jerusalem. Yet it certainly might be a place of considerable commerce.
The fertile soil produces, in abundance, grains and fruits of every kind and of the finest quality. Volney speaks here of manufactures of soap, and also of cotton for the supply of the neighbouring Bedawîn. The position of Gaza on the route of the great caravans, which, in all ages, have passed between Egypt and Syria, is favourable to its commerce and prosperity; both as affording a means of constant communication with both countries, and also from the opportunity of furnishing supplies to the caravans in passing. Those travelling towards Egypt naturally lay in here a stock of provisions and necessaries for the desert; while those coming from Egypt, arrive at Gaza exhausted, and must, of course, supply themselves anew ... The bazaars (shops or markets) in Gaza seemed well supplied with wares; far better, indeed, than those of Jerusalem."- Robinson's Researches, vol. ii. pp. 367–378.
“We remarked,” observe Captains Irby and Mangles, “ that the inhabitants here were cleaner and better looking, the women being dressed in a white or blue shirt, and a white shawl thrown loosely over the head, with which those who have no other veil, cover their faces occasionally.”—Travels, p. 178.