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By James Finn

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Then we came to the bridge called Jis'r el Mejama'a, which is in tolerably good condition, with one large and several smaller arches in two rows, and a dilapidated khan at the western end. I crossed over the bridge into the territory of Gilead. The khan has been a strong edifice, but the stones of the massive gateway, especially the great keystone, are split across, as if from the effects of gunpowder. When that bridge was erected, the country must have been in safe and prosperous circumstances; the beauty of the scenery was not found in contrast to the happiness of the people; there must have been rich commerce carried on between the far east and the towns of Palestine; and it is in reference to such a fortunate period that the wandering minstrels, even now among the Bedaween, sing the songs of the forty orphan youths who competed in poetic compositions under the influence of love for an Arab maiden at the bridge of Mejama'a.

Close to the town there were thick layers of calcareous sediment, containing petrified reeds or canes, of which I brought away specimens for our museum. --I find that I have omitted to mention the mineral quality of the water, the most of which is undrinkable. We left Beisan at half-past nine, after examining it more completely than the published accounts of former travellers lead us to believe they have done. Thomson's account is of later date. Our journey now lay due north, along the Ghor to Tiberias; and a very pleasing journey it proved to be.

In another half-hour we had Ras el Ahhmar on our left. Then Farah and Salhhah at some distance to the left, and Alma just before us. The volcanic brown stones had on them occasionally a thin lichen of either orange colour, or a sour pale green, like verdigris. About this village were women and children gathering olives from the trees--first beating the boughs with poles, then picking up the fruit from the ground. The small district around here is named "the Khait," and the people boast of its extraordinary fertility in corn-produce.

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Byeways in Palestine by James Finn


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