National Geographic : 1911 Jan
DAMASCUS, THE PEARL OF THE DESERT BY A. FORDER, OF JERUSALEM With Photographs by the Author LEBANON and Damascus! How far back such names seem to carry us in the history of the world! Mil lenniums ago Damascus had its attrac tions for the Oriental, and today there is no city in the East that so charms Arab and Turk. The Bedouin from the sandy stretches of Arabia and arid Syria has given it an appropriate name in "The Pearl of the Desert"; for, with its thou sands of white houses, mosques, and towers, encircled with miles of orchards and gardens, each vying with the other in foliage, the city indeed has a very charming appearance. Damascus dates back to the time when the Pharaohs ruled in Egypt, and is one of the few cities of the Orient that has had a continuous history and existence. This city, which is second in impor tance in the Turkish Empire, may now be reached by three different railroads, thus making it a very attractive resort for the trader from all parts of the East, whereas a few years ago it was difficult of access. Its population is estimated at about some two hundred thousand souls, not including the garrison of many thou sand soldiers. Despite the mixture of nationalities and creeds, the temper and endurance of the inhabitants is remark able, for one never reads or hears of riots or impending trouble in Damascus. The main and most used road to Da mascus is the railway from Beirut, the principal port of Syria. This line is a narrow gauge rack-and-pinion system, crossing the mountains of Lebanon at a THE MONOLITH OF THE LEBANON This is the largest known stone ever quarried. It is 72 feet long, 17 feet 2 inches square, and is estimated to weigh more than a thousand tons. For some unknown reason it was never finished (see page 65).