National Geographic : 1941 Aug
Bombs over Bible Lands and 13 feet wide. For some reason this block, though shaped, was never fully cut away from the mother rock under one end. Its weight is estimated at more than 1,000 tons! The odor of fruit, not sacrifices or incense, now fills the air about the Acropolis. Orchards of apricots, peaches, and other fruits form an oasis of green surrounding the town. "Rugs" of Apricot Jam In gardens below Baalbek's north wall we saw what appeared to be small orange- and henna-colored oriental rugs spread out in the sun. They were sheets of apricot jam! Villagers grind the fruit to pulp and spread it thinly over cloths. Dried in the sun and coated with olive oil, it is folded for marketing. Less than 25 miles north of Baalbek, high on the slopes of the mountains, are trees that are left of the famed Cedars of Lebanon. Four hundred trees grouped on a hill com prise the most famous of the historic forests whence King Solomon got timbers for his Temple at Jerusalem. Biggest tree is a grizzled giant 47 feet in diameter. A few men carve cedar souvenirs now where the thousands of hewers for David, Solomon, and Hiram, King of Tyre, carried on the world's most publicized logging industry. Town That Gave the Bible Its Name Down winding mountain roads, past ter raced farms and ravines, we rode to the coast at Batroun, which the Phoenicians founded as a frontier post back in the days of Nebuchad nezzar. Djebeil, a few miles south, was the Byblos of the Greeks. Tradition says it gave its name to the Bible. Yet it was also sacred to the cult of Adonis and scene of orgies connected with his worship. North of Batroun, on a cape, sprawls Tripoli. Multihued homes, domes, minarets, and gar dens mount the hillsides. Two outstanding features of the town, however, are a Crusader castle and some shiny oil tanks. The oil tanks are linked directly with the Iraq wells 532 miles away! Because Tripoli lacks adequate docking facilities, tankers load from flexible underwater hoses out in the open roadstead, a mile offshore, when the oil is running (page 143). North of Tripoli there is a procession of Crusader castles. Most of them are but piles of rubble now, though the Gothic church at Tartous is well preserved. So is the Krak des Chevaliers. The morning we motored up the steep path to where this vast castle crowns a hill on the Tripoli-Horns highroad, a group of horsemen cantered up to the entrance, their long robes flying in the wind. You could imagine they were Crusader guards returning from early patrol. This proud stronghold of Crusader engineers long guarded the pass to the coast. From the parapets its occupants could look west to the Mediterranean in one direction, and eastward over the plains (page 160). From here we headed east toward Horns, rail junction for the Tripoli and Beyrouth Aleppo lines. It is also a farming town and Bedouin trade center. Sun-bronzed Arab hillbillies wander among sheep, asses, and camels in the livestock mar ket and squat beside noisy coppersmiths to buy cooking bowls and coffeepots, while their womenfolk finger bracelets or bright cotton prints in the cloth stalls. We chatted with families from barren west ern hills, passing through with their creaky wagons filled with grain. Water, scarce in much of Syria, is plentiful here. Southwest of the city is a large lake. Through it, and twisting northward past Hama and Antioch, flows the Orontes River, water ing a fertile region. A dam blocks the lower end of the lake, whence French engineers were threading the countryside with a system of irrigation canals. Quick contrast to these new concrete-lined ditches are the groaning water wheels about Hama. These colossal wooden wheels, the largest more than 60 feet high, turn slowly in the current, lifting water to homes, mosques, and gardens along the banks. To the boys they make exciting diving boards to catch a ride upward before leaping off. On the Map 50 Centuries For more than five thousand years Hama, or Hamath, has been on the map. Once it was an ancient Hittite center, powerful capital of a kingdom of the same name which formed the northern boundary of the Promised Land, a prize for Sennacherib's armies. Since the Crusaders and Saracens fought for it, the tenor of its life has been geared to the creaking of water wheels and Bedouin trade. In Latakia we chatted with French army officers while awaiting permits to enter the Turkish Sanjak of Alexandretta * and Antioch, now Antakya. Dispatches told how German troops and tanks landed at Latakia. Antioch! It was built beside the Orontes back in 301 B. c. by Seleucus Nicator when the flight of an eagle guided him there. The frivolous, pleasure-loving Greco-Syrian city turned night into day and the worship of its * The Sanjak of Alexandretta (the Hatay) was ceded to Turkey in June, 1939.