Camp At Caesarea Philippi
( Originally Published Mid 1800's )
Thursday Evening, December 7.
Here we are, encamped in a grove of old olive-trees close to Banyas, which is on the site of the old Caesarea Philippi on one of the southern spurs of Mt. Hermon, and close to the source of the Jordan. Yesterday morning we broke up camp at Rascheya, and started across the Anti-Lebanon mountains to visit the great gorge and natural bridge of the Litany. It was a terrible day's ride. We were in the saddle ten hours, over the most abominable road. We reached the gorge about three o'clock, and were well repaid. The river is very fine, and the great chasm through which it breaks its way is bold and picturesque. We then went to Hasbeya, whither our mules had pre-ceded us by a shorter route, and where we arrived after dark. This morning we rode from there over rough hills, till at last we came out into the Jordan valley, and saw far off before us the waters of Lake Merom, through which the Jordan flows. It was a pleasant ride then around the spur of Mt. Hermon, which we are getting to know like an old friend, over fields full of the crocus, or, as our dragoman called it, " the lily of the field," which was very beautiful, and neither sowing nor spinning, till we came in sight of the great castle on the hill and soon rode into this little village.
Here we lunched, drinking the Jordan water, and then spent_ the afternoon in wandering about where the sacred river bursts out of a deep cave on which was built first the Temple of Baal, then of the Greek god Pan, then of the Roman Caesar, and now there stands there a little white Mohammedan mosque. The whole scene is very beautiful. The Jordan rims in many streams among the ruins, and is overgrown with laurels and olives. The present village is miserably mean. Its inhabitants are Mohammedans, and in the mountains around are the wild Bedouins. This is the first night we have kept watch. This, you know, is the place where Christ had the conversation with St. Peter, and many put the Transfiguration on some one of the spurs of Hermon which surround us. This is the first spot that we have touched where Christ himself has been, and it is full of interest. Our weather is still perfect, and tonight soft and warm, with gorgeous starlight. An English gentleman and his sister, going from Jerusalem to Damascus, are encamped close to us.