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In approaching Alaya along the coast, several villages and castles are passed, of comparatively recent construction, yet all ruined and deserted, and affording a striking picture of the rapid impoverishment of this part of the Turkish empire. The present importance of the town is not great, although it is the capital of a pashalic; the streets and houses are miserable; there are few mosques, and they are mean; there are no perceptible signs of commerce, and the population does not exceed two thousand. The vestiges of ancient buildings do not possess much interest; there is here no harbour, and the anchorage is indifferent The view of the town-walls and steep, to whose bosom they cling, is so picturesque and fantastic, that it resembles a chess-board placed on its end; open to the sweep of the southerly winds, without trees or shelter. There is a small isle, with a castle on it, near the shore: a useless, at least an uncultivated soil, rarely pressed by the traveller's foot: no incitement to industry or activity; little intercourse with other nations or places; the grossest ignorance, bigotry, and brutality—such are the characteristics of Alaya and its people.
Wherever the industrious colonists of ancient Greece formed a maritime settlement, they endeavoured by art to supply the deficiencies of nature; and it is not probable that a place of such strength and consequence should have been left destitute of some shelter for its vessels. There was probably a mole here in ancient times; and Captain Beaufort, in his rapid and admirable sketch of the whole of this rarely-visited coast, observes, that he was restrained from searching for the remains of this mole, from an anxiety not to give offence to the peevish prejudices of the inhabitants. An isolated position, like that of Alaya, though it looks from the sea like a little Gibraltar, is a dreary home, where the Turk dreams and frets away his life, deprived of all the associations and little indispensable luxuries and excitements which seem to form the art and part of his existence: no groves, even in the rocky cemetery—no fountains, no coffee-houses but of the meanest kind—how is he to bear " the many ills and cares that flesh is heir to f he must sit on the rugged beach, or the limestone rock, and smoke his pipe, and look on the wild waste of waters, or on the mouldering and broken ruins of old walls and towers, while the seabird's shriek rings in his ear. In the hot season, the white cliffs cast fiercely and dismally back the glare of the sun, all shadowless, flowerless—no soft green bank, no loved palm or sycamore: in winter, the violence of the wind and the surge often keep him within doors, where his thin walls and comfortless rooms are pierced by the blast: if he has ever read the Arabian Nights, or heard of Cairo or Constantinople, what visions of glory and blessedness must they seem—what a mockery of Alaya!
FROM THE HEIGHTS NEAR SIR SIDNEY SMITHES VILLA.
This is part of an extensive view from the heights above Rhodes, near a villa occupied by Sir Sydney Smith. On the left is the harbour, protected by the castle: it is a beautiful and sheltered basin, and on the two sides of its entrance the Colossus formerly stood, with a foot on each opposite point, so that vessels could only enter the harbour by passing between the legs, which were at a sufficient distance apart The site of this colossal statue was the most picturesque in the world; its form beaten by a thousand storms, and in its hand a small pharos gave light to the mariner, both near and afar, through the darkness of night: yet if the descriptions of this figure were not given by credible writers, it would be difficult to believe, from the extent and singularity of the position it occupied, that the tale was not invented, or strangely embellished. The large and gloomy edifice on the right of the harbour is the gothic castle of the famous Knights of St. John of Jerusalem; and the massive walls of the town are seen stretching to the right: in the middle of the town another old gothic tower is seen, and several mosques; to the extreme right is part of a deserted harbour. The villas on the left, richly embosomed in gardens, are without the gates: the land on the opposite side of the broad channel is Asia Minor, with its long and bold range of mountains.
The beauty of this view, which is unsurpassed in the East, is augmented by the excessive purity of the atmosphere: how clearly, almost ethereally, distinct is each distant bark on the channel, and each mountain-peak, precipice, and forest of Asia! it is a splendid panorama, over which at noon there is a pale purple haze, like a faint shroud, which, as the sun sinks lower, melts away. The ruins of the ancient kingdoms of Asia Minor, stretched out upon the opposite capes and hills, desolate and solitary, are almost visible to fancy's eye; at least there are dim forms and shadows that resemble them. Early in the morning, (and whoever resides in the Archipelago must be an early riser,) there is a bracing, inspiring freshness in the air, which is perfectly delightful: the seabreezes have no humidity or heaviness, but seem almost to partake of the dry and exhilarating quality of the air of the deserts. What a contrast is here between the often shelterless shores and wastes, the comfortless homes, or the Turcoman's tent, of Asia Minor—and the delicious refuge of Rhodes, which in a few hours can be enjoyed. Did life more often present such startling and indelible contrasts, how much sweeter and deeper would be its draught! is not the monotony, the daily, yearly, gentle tide and usage of our existence, one of its sorest ills? the memory becomes unpeopled, like a forsaken khan, on which the sun falls beautifully by day, and the shadow at evening, by whose side there is the fountain and the palm—but no passengers of many nations come and lodge there, and light their fires, and tell their tales with vivid welcomes, and recount their successes, joys, and passions, till the morning sends them into the wilderness again.
In the little land-locked harbour, the vessels lie as securely almost as in a dock: the day on which the writer landed, was some Turkish festival, and the gates were closed at
noon, during the hour of worship in the mosques; he was glad to take refuge from the heat in a barber's shop, among the houses at the water's edge: a Turkish barber is more of a gentleman in bearing and pretension than any of his fraternity in the rest of the world; he politely invited the stranger to sit down and rest, till the gates should be opened, which would be in an hour or two: he was well dressed, and had several assistants, and his full share of fluency of speech. The scene within and the scene without were amusingly at variance; the beautiful basin was as calm as that of the barber, and its little wave scarcely lifted itself to fall with a mimic moan before the door; there were several vessels of various nations on its bosom, their crews stretched, and mostly sleeping on the deck: between the rocks of the entrance, as through a vista, were seen the mountains of Asia Minor, and the thin clouds of noon resting on their sides and summits: within the shop were Turks, and Greeks, and mariners, the former well dressed and of a lordly air, talking earnestly with the master, some waiting their turn, others beneath the tonsor's hands, with bare scalps, uttering grave sentences at each breathing interval. There was no coffee-house or place of refreshment without the gates: no breeze came from the harbour; even the long shadow of the Colossus would have been welcome: the barber's shop was an asylum, though not a cool one; while the customers, the clash ol tongues, the anxious movements, the hot water, made the hour pass very slowly. But when the gates were opened, it was like entering the Happy Valley of Rasselas from the wastes beyond—broad streets, foot-pavements, groups of trees, clean, nice-lookingdwellings; the Rhodians appeared in that moment to be the most enviable and the best lodged people in the Levant It was an absolute pleasure to walk up and down the streets: the trottoir was at first, both to the eye and foot, a very incredible object—never to be beheld in the proudest capitals of Turkey: none of their princes ever knew such an indulgence, or would have dreamed of it in their most imaginative hours. No caliph in his nightly rounds, to espy the real state and feelings of his people, not even Karoun el Raschid, ever walked on a foot-pavement: even in Rhodes, the brains of the faithful did not invent or their hands perpetrate it; the Christians bestowed this exceeding great luxury and convenience on the town. The pavement of Turkish towns and cities is execrably bad, composed of small stones, unevenly laid, and most unpleasant to the foot: the streets of Cairo, which are mostly stoneless, are comfortable in comparison to those of Constantinople: they are hard and tolerably smooth, being, as it were, mac-adamised, of earth only, dried and baked in the heat, and, as rain rarely falls there, they are never turned into mud and mire, which would soon be the case in a wet season.
The villa occupied by Sir Sydney Smith was splendidly situated on a gentle eminence above the town, with the full benefit of the sea-breezes. In his various wanderings and adventures in many lands, the defender of Acre was never so exquisitely lodged; his flagship riding in the channel, or at anchor in its frequent calms: the perfumed shades of the orange, lemon, and sycamore trees of his garden: the fall of his own fountain, broken at morn and eve by the signal-gun of the Pompd, its echoes borne over the hills of Rhodes and far away to the Asian mountains.