Joomla project supported by everest poker review.

Texts in English / Palestine






Dancing figure in Nazareth, Galilae, Palestine, 1825~


Fuller, John: Narrative of a tour through some parts of the Turkish Empire. London, John Murray, 1830.



The modern village of Nazareth is clean, cheerful and populous, and there are many pleasant walks and rides in its environs. The most frequented is to a spot called “The Precipice,” which is supposed to be the steep place down which his countrymen attempted to cast our Saviour. It commands a view over the whole plain of Jezreel; and I strolled thither almost every evening, in the hopes of being able to discern my companion journeying from Samaria. On returning from one of these rides I had an opportunity of observing some of the ceremonies of a Galilaean wedding. Two marriages were to be celebrated at the same time; and the bridegrooms with their friends had been dining in a shady field about half a mile from the village. During the afternoon they amused themselves with firing at a mark, and other sports; and as they were returning home in the evening I accidentally fell in with the procession. The two bridegrooms rode side by side, turning their eyes neither to the right nor to the left, and retaining a gravity of countenance which did not admit a muscle of their faces to be moved. They were equipped with the best clothes and arms that they either possessed or could collect among their friends. Their turbans were profusely ornamented with flowers, and each of them carried a large nosegay in one hand, while with the other he held his pipe, which he seemed to puff as it were mechanically, at regular intervals. Their whole appearance, indeed, was that of two automatons placed on horseback. The horses were each led by two men, and moved on at the slowest possible pace. The solemn gravity of the principal actors in this pageant was strongly contrasted with the wild and almost frantic demeanour of their companions, who were all on foot. At every fifty yards these latter stopped and formed a circle round the bridegrooms.


One of them held in his hand a large figure dressed in woman's clothes, which he kept moving up and down, and dancing backwards and forwards, the rest clapping their hands and stamping violently with their feet, till they seemed almost overcome with the exertion. Loud shouts were heard from every side, and guns were fired off at intervals. At about half way to the village the women were seated in a group, and as soon as the procession came up they rose and joined it; some of them running by the side of the bridegrooms, whose horses now quickened their pace; others falling into the rear, and all joining in that peculiar cry which the women of the East are accustomed to use on occasions of rejoicing, and which can be compared to nothing more exactly than to the frequent rapid pronunciation of the words lillah, lillah, lillah, in the shrillest tone imaginable. When I first heard it, it seemed wild and extraordinary, and more expressive of sorrow than of joy ; but finding it always associated with the latter feeling, this impression gradually wore away, and at length I began to think it agreeable.


The procession conducts the bridegroom to his own house; after which he escapes to that of the bride, leaving his companions to continue their revelry, which is generally kept up in the same way, - dancing, shouting, clapping of hands, and firing of guns till midnight. The company is composed indiscriminately of Christians and Mahometans, who live together in the greatest harmony. The Christians of Nazareth indeed, except for a short interval during the reign of the tyrant Jezzar, have always enjoyed great freedom, owing in part to the protection which they receive from the Latin friars.




Almehs in Cosseir (after Mocha), Red Sea, Palestine 12⁄1827


Lushington, Mrs. Charles: Narrative of a journey from Calcutta to Europe by way of Egypt, in the years 1827 and 1828. London, John Murray, 1829.



At this moment my tukhte rowan [covered litter] was assailed by five or six dancing girls, called Almehs. I immediately lowered the silk blind, which, however, I thought they would have torn off in the same clamour and struggle for bucksees. I could not help seeing them as I strove to keep down the curtain ; and it was impossible to behold them without disgust. Their countenances appeared inflamed by drinking, their persons were greatly exposed, and altogether they more resembled common robust English women under the influence of liquor, than what I had fancied of the delicate and elegant Egyptian females. They wore the same full petticoat as the nautch girls of India. I may seem capriciously affected by the customs of the inhabitants amongst whom I travelled, but to me these women appeared doubly bold and degraded from the absence of the veil. It is so entirely contrary to the prejudices of the country for a female to appear without it, that the lowest peasant's wife will not allow any one to pass without drawing her muffler of coarse blue cloth closer round her face ; and to expose it thus must be the height of abandonment.














Circle dance by the women of Jericho, Palestine, 1836


Stephens, J. L. : Incidents of travel in Egypt, Arabia Petraea, and the Holy Land, by an American. Based on the 2nd edition. New York, Harper & Brothers, 1837.



That evening I saw at Jericho what I never saw before. It was a beautiful moonlight night, and all the women were out of doors singing and dancing. The dance was altogether indescribable; consisting not of wanton movements, like those of the dancing girls in Egypt, but merely in joining hands and moving round in a circle, keeping time to the music of their own voices. I had never seen so gay and joyous a scene among the women in the East; and though their fathers, and brothers, and husbands, and lovers were away among the mountains, I did not feel disposed to judge them harshly. It was so rare, in that unhappy country, to see anything like gayety of heart, that if they had been dancing over the graves of their husbands I should have been inclined to join them. And they did not shun us as the Moslem women generally do; they talked with us with their faces uncovered; and I remember a young Arab girl, not more than sixteen, who had a child in her arms, and who told me that its father had fled to the mountains, and she put the child in my arms while she joined in the dance. In fact, my situation began to be peculiar; the aga had gone off to look for some one who would accompany me to the Dead Sea; and among perhaps more than a hundred women, that night Paul, and I, and my muleteers were the only men in Jericho. In justice to the poor Arab women, however, I would remove from them any imputation of want of feeling or hardness of heart; for I have no doubt the young girl who left her child in my arms loved its father as warmly as if they were all clad in purple and fine raiment every day.

I would have been better satisfied, however, if that night they had ceased their merriment at an earlier hour; for long after I had lain down on my stony bed, their song and laugh prevented my sleeping; and when they had retired, other noises followed: the lowing of cattle, the bleating of sheep and goats, the stamping of horses, the crying of children, and the loud barking of the watch-dog; and, finally, the fierce assault of the voracious insects that always swarm in an Arab's hut, drove me from my bed and out of doors. The cool air refreshed and revived me, and I walked by the light of a splendid moon among the miserable huts of the village, hunted and barked at by the watching wolf-dog, and perhaps exciting the apprehensions of the unprotected women.

I leaned against a high fence of brush enclosing some of the huts, and mused upon the wonderful events of which this miserable place had been the scene, until my eyes began to close; when, opening a place among the bushes, I drew my cloak around me and crawled in, and soon fell fast asleep. Once during the night I was worried and almost dragged out of my burrowing-place by the dogs, but I kicked them away and slept on. At daylight the aga was pulling me by the shoulder, armed to the teeth, and ready to escort me. I shook myself and my toilet was made; and before the laughers, and singers, and dancers of the previous night had waked from their slumbers, we were, mounted and on our way to the Jordan.






The palace of Herod at Sebaste, the ancient Samaria, Palestine, 1836


Stephens, J. L. : Incidents of travel in Egypt, Arabia Petraea, and the Holy Land, by an American. Based on the 2nd edition. New York, Harper & Brothers, 1837.


The palace of Herod stands on a table of land, on the very, summit of the hill, overlooking every part of the surrounding country; and such were the exceeding softness and beauty of the scene, even under the wildness and waste of Arab cultivation, that the city seemed smiling in the midst of her desolation. All around was a beautiful valley, watered by running streams, and covered by a rich carpet of grass, sprinkled with wild flowers of every hue, and beyond, stretched like an open book before me, a boundary of fruitful mountains, the vine and the olive rising in terraces to their very summits; there, day after day, the haughty Herod had sat in his royal palace; and looking out upon all these beauties, his heart had become hardened with prosperity; here, among these still towering columns, the proud monarch had made a supper "to his lords, and high captains, and chief estates of Galilee;" here the daughter of Herodias, Herod's brother's wife, "danced before him, and the proud king promised with an oath to give her whatever she should ask, even to the half of his kingdom." And while the feast and dance went on, the "head of John the Baptist was brought in a charger and given to the damsel." And Herod has gone, and Herodias, Herod's brother's wife, has gone, and "the lords, and the high captains, and the chief estates of Galilee" are gone; but the ruins of the palace in which they feasted are still here; the mountains and valleys which beheld their revels are here; and oh, what a comment upon the vanity of worldly greatness, a fellah was turning his plough around one of the columns, I was sitting on a broken capital under a fig-tree by its side, and I asked him what were the ruins that we saw; and while his oxen were quietly cropping the grass that grew among the fragments of the marble floor, he told me that they were the ruins of the palace of a king-he believed, of the Christians; and while pilgrims from every quarter of the world turn aside from their path to do homage in the prison of his beheaded victim, the Arab who was driving his plough among the columns of his palace knew not the name of the haughty Herod. Even at this distance of time I look back with a feeling of uncommon interest upon my ramble among those ruins, talking with the Arab ploughman of the king who built it, leaning against a column which perhaps had often supported the haughty Herod, and looking out from this scene of desolation and ruin upon the most beautiful country in the Holy Land.






Armed dervisches in Gaza, Palestine, 1842-1850


Neale, Frederick Arthur: Eight years in Syria, Palestine and Asia Minor, from 1842 to 1850, in 2 volumes. London, Colburn, 1851. Reprinted by Elibron Classics, 2002..



Before leaving Gaza, I witnessed the celebration of the feast of the “Beiram;” which, owing to the great sufferings the abstemious Turks had been undergoing during their long and tedious fast, which had this time fallen at the very hottest season of the year, was celebrated with more than ordinary festivities. The Nazir of the quarantine entertained us at a banquet he gave to the local authorities. The amusements of the day commenced with wrestling, which was kept up by the soldiers of the infantry detachment stationed at the Lazaretto. Some of these were the most uncouth looking beings I ever set eyes on, but  they were possessed of great muscular strength and surprising agility, so much so that I imagine they might well nigh prove a match for the far-famed “Pilewans,” of India. Horse and foot races followed, and then dinner was served on a most gigantic scale - whole sheep stuffed with rice, raisins, almonds and innumerable spices - ducks stewed with olives, salads dressed with curdled milk, and highly flavoured with garlic; “buckalowa,” and other Turkish sweetmeats; and last, though by no means least, a monster pillauff, that made two men stagger under its weight. French wines and liqueurs were freely circulated amongst such of the party, as thought fit to dispense with the injunctions of the Koran on this score. A band of Arab musicians kept up an incessant nasal drone, and executed, amongst other popular airs, a Turkish version, of “Malbrooke,” a tune now universally known in the East.


After this fatiguing performance I was rather startled to see three or four ferocious looking Dervishes enter the room, armed with formidable looking spikes and swords, their long matted hair streaming down their backs - long grisly beards, and such eyes -  eyes that would do credit to the most malignant lunatic. The doctor and myself thought it best to withdraw, as a religious ceremony was now about to be performed, and there was no telling to what extent their zeal and fanaticism might carry them, as they would think the act of impaling a Christian, or playfully thrusting him through with a spear, highly commendable, if not an imperative duty. From the doctor’s apartment we could see all that was going on without being inconveniently near. One dervish danced with a drawn sword in his hand, while the three others chaunted some unintelligible stuff, to which they kept time by nodding their heads like Chinese Mandarins, As the dirge grew more animated, so did the movements of the dancing dervishes, till the shouting of the vocalists, and the frenzy of these holy fanatics reached such a pitch of excitement, that they at length lost all command over their voices, and took to foaming and spitting at each other like belligerent cats over a fish’s head. All sounds now gradually died away, and the whole party were stretched full length on the floor in a state of utter exhaustion. Large glasses of rose water were sprinkled over them by the assembled Moslems, and they finally took themselves off, laden with the donations of the pious fanatics who had witnessed their performance.










At the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, Palestine, 1850


Patterson, James Laird: Journal of a tour in Egypt, Palestine, Syria, and Greece. London, Dolman, 1852. Reprinted by Elibron Classics.



At two o’clock the clergy issued from the choir, and a sort of procession with banners was formed: these were carried by common men, who rushed forward wherever an opportunity offered; the rest struggled as they could through the crowd, without order or devotion; last came the “Bishop of the Fire”, an old man with a fine beard, supported by two deacons. After twice circling the Holy Sepulchre like a crew of bacchanals, the bishop was stripped of his vestments, and with difficulty pushed and carried into the Sepulchre, and the doors closed. Now came a few moments of phrenzied tumult, and then with a shout that rent the air, the fire was welcomed as it was thrust out from the two holes made for this purpose, on either side of the door of the Sepulchre, in tin pierced globes with handles. The men who received these, hastened to light large flambeaux, and to scramble out of the church and off to Bethlehem and Marsaba, and other Greek convents. Meanwhile, the fire was rapidly passed from hand to hand, the pilgrims lighting small thick candles, or rather bundles of candles, which they held to their faces, hands, arms, etc. Presently the bishop came forth from the Sepulchre and rushed forward, swayed hither and thither by the tumult, with a torch in each hand, towards the choir. He made gestures as if under a divine impulse, which put a most hideous crown to this blasphemous mockery. At this point the scene became too frightful to be endured any longer, and I retired from the window. I was told that the ceremonies of shaving some boys’ heads, and a dance of women, followed; but these I did not see.












Almées in a street procession, Gaza, Palestine, 1857


Thomson, W.M.: The land and the book. London, Thomas Nelson, 1913.


Here comes a new farce - musicians in harlequin attire, with fox-tails dangling from conical caps, blowing, beating, and braying any amount of discordant music. Following them is a company of dancers at sword-play. They are fierce-looking fellows, and their crooked Damascus blades flash around their heads in most perilous vehemence and vicinity. This, I suppose, is the first time you have seen a real shield, or heard its ring beneath the thick-falling blows of the sword. The next in this procession are genuine Bedawin Arabs, with their tremendous spears. This is because Gaza is on the borders of the desert, and the governor finds it to his interest to court the sheikhs of these powerful robbers. And now come the governor and suite, with the bridegroom and his friends - a gay cavalcade, in long silk robes; some of them are olive-green, and heavily loaded with silver and gold lace. Such is high life in Gaza.

The whole night will be spent in feasting, singing, dancing, and rude buffoonery - in the open court by the men, and in the harem, in equally boisterous games and dances, by the women. These are great occasions for the dancing-girls, and many not of the “profession” take part in the sport. We see little to admire in their performances. They move forward, and backward, and sideways, now slowly, then rapidly, throwing their arms and heads about at random, and rolling the eye, and wriggling the body into various preposterous attitudes, languishing, lascivious, and sometimes indecent; and this is repeated over and over, singly, or in pairs or groups. One thing is to be said in their favour - the different sexes do not intermingle in those indecorous sports. In my opinion, the dances spoken of in ancient Biblical times were in most points just such as we have been describing. [The author must allude here to such dancing as that of the daughter of Herodias before Herod. The dancing which sometimes accompanied worship must have been very different - Ed.].







Native dance by the guards, Elisha's Fountain, Jericho, Palestine, 01/01/1864


Tristram, Henry Baker: The land of Israel. Journal of travels in Palestine. London, 1882 (original 1865).


January 1stt. - Under a bright sun and a cloudless sky, with a natural warm bath in the open air, we began the new year. It was a day of thankful retrospect and sanguine anticipation, and the happiness of the party was crowned when M. appeared in the afternoon from Jerusalem, and our mystic seven being complete, we formed a light-hearted and enthusiastic dinner party. In the evening our guards took it into their heads to treat us to a “fantasia,” or native dance, in honour of M.’s arrival and the completion of the party. It is hardly a dance, scarcely acting, but rude it certainly is. One of them standing with his drawn sword, and facing the others, gave the time as they commenced with a series of deep guttural grunts in 2/4 time, accompanied with a clapping of the hands. Then came an extempore song of endless verses in praise of the Howadjis, their success in shooting, the style of their horsemanship, and of course a prophetic intimation of their generosity in gifts. All this long tale continued confined within three semitones, and also in 2/4 time. Then the grunts and the ducking, and hideous gasps, as they clapped their hands -then the song again, and so on for nearly an hour, till we stopped them and distributed a backshîsh for this Bedouin concert. Neither the dance nor the measure was like those of the Zickars I have often seen in Africa, although the monotonous chant and the indescribable grunting or soughing recalled them.




Fantasia by women, Jericho, Palestine, 1864


Tristram, Henry Baker: The land of Israel. Journal of travels in Palestine. London, 1882 (original 1865).



In the afternoon we were serenaded by another fantasia or Zikkar ; this time by the women of Er Riha, the village which stands on the site of ancient Jericho. They came up and formed in front of the tents with loud shouts, and the strange “trill trill” with the tongue which we had often heard from the women of Algiers. The dance consisted in the movement of the body rather than of the limbs, and one woman in front of the circle, with a scarf in both hands, gave the time gracefully enough to the twenty-three performers who made up the party. They were a miserable and degraded-looking set, scantily clad in blue cotton, all very filthy ; and, excepting two or three of the younger ones, most repulsive in feature. I never saw such vacant, sensual, and debased features in any group of human beings of the type and form of whites. There was no trace of mind in the expression of any one of these poor creatures, who scarcely know they have a soul, and have not an idea beyond the day. They are the despised women of despised fellahin, who repay to their wives the contempt they meet with from the Bedouin. The women of the Ghor, unlike Moslems of the towns, do not veil, and truly there is no need for them to do so. In vain we told them it was our Sabbath, and that we did not wish for their performance. Still they persevered, till we left them and dispersed, in the hope of getting quit of them. But to no purpose. The Amazons of the party rushed in pursuit, and caught L., whom they forcibly dragged back. We saw resistance was useless, and were glad to purchase quiet by a liberal backshîsh. We now observed among them a little childish figure completley covered, and an old red silk handkerchief tied over head and face. It was discovered that this was a wedding celebration, and that the poor child was the bride, who was led round with only one hand exposed, into which every one was expected to put a piece of silver as a wedding gift. This done, they retired, dancing and singing our praises ; while we felt, as we looked after them, that if there is one thing more trying than to witness pain which one cannot alleviate, it is to behold degradation which one cannot elevate. And this, too, on the very spot where the Redeemer had taught and healed.






Bedwins at Elisha, Bethlehem, Palestine, 1875


Warner, Charles Dudley: In the Levant. Boston, James Osgood, 1877.


When it is dusk we have an invasion from the neighboring Bedaween, an imposition to which all tourists are subjected, it being taken for granted that we desire to see a native dance. This is one of the ways these honest people have of levying tribute; by the connivance of our protectors, the head sheykhs, the entertainment is forced upon us, and the performers will not depart without a liberal backsheesh. We are already somewhat familiar with the fascinating dances of the Orient, and have only a languid curiosity about those of the Jordan; but before we are aware there is a crowd before our tents, and the evening is disturbed by doleful howling and drum-thumping. The scene in the flickering firelight is sufficiently fantastic.

The men dance first. Some twenty or thirty of them form in a half-circle, standing close together; their gowns are in rags, their black hair is tossed in tangled disorder, and their eyes shine with animal wildness. The only dancing they perform consists in a violent swaying of the body from side to side in concert, faster and faster as the excitement rises, with an occasional stamping of the feet, and a continual howling like darwishes. Two vagabonds step into the focus of the half-circle and hop about in the most stiff-legged manner, swinging enormous swords over their heads, and giving from time to time a war-whoop, - it seems to be precisely the dance of the North American Indians. We are told, however, that the howling is a song, and that the song relates to meeting the enemy and demolishing him. The longer the performance goes on the less we like it, for the uncouthness is not varied by a single graceful motion, and the monotony becomes unendurable. We long for the women to begin.

When the women begin, we wish we had the men back again. Creatures uglier and dirtier than these hags could not be found. Their dance is much the same as that of the men, a semicircle, with a couple of women to jump about and whirl swords. But the women display more fierceness and more passion as they warm to their work, and their shrill cries, dishevelled hair, loose robes, and frantic gestures give us new ideas of the capacity of the gentle sex; you think that they would not only slay their enemies, but drink their blood and dance upon their fragments. Indeed, one of their songs is altogether belligerent; it taunts the men with cowardice, it scoffs them for not daring to fight, it declares that the women like the sword and know how to use it, - and thus, and thus, and thus, lunging their swords into the air, would they pierce the imaginary enemy. But these sweet creatures do not sing altogether of war; they sing of love in the same strident voices and fierce manner: “My lover will meet me by the stream, he will take me over the water.”

When the performance is over they all clamor for backsheesh; it is given in a lump to their sheykh, and they retire into the bushes and wrangle over its distribution. The women return to us and say, “Why you give our backsheesh to sheykh? We no get any. Men get all.” It seems that women are animated nowadays by the same spirit the world over, and make the same just complaints of the injustice of men.






Mourners in Judaea, Palestine, 1875


Warner, Charles Dudley: In the Levant. Boston, James Osgood, 1877.


There is, alas ! everywhere in Judaea something to drive away sentiment as well as pious feeling. The tomb of Rachel is now surrounded by a Moslem cemetery, and as we happened to be there on Thursday we found ourselves in the midst of a great gathering of women, who had come there, according to their weekly custom, to weep and to wail.

You would not see in farthest Nubia a more barbarous assemblage, and not so fierce an one. In the presence of these wild mourners the term “gentler sex” has a ludicrous sound. Yet we ought not to forget that we were intruders upon their periodic grief, attracted to their religious demonstration merely by curiosity, and fairly entitled to nothing but scowls and signs of aversion. I am sure that we should give bold Moslem intruders upon our hours of sorrow at home no better reception. The women were in the usual Syrian costume ; their loose gowns gaped open at the bosom, and they were without veils, and made no pretence of drawing a shawl before their faces ; all wore necklaces of coins, and many of them had circlets of coins on the head, with strips depending from them, also stiff with silver pieces. A woman’s worth was thus easily to be reckoned, for her entire fortune was on her head. A pretty face was here and there to be seen, but most of them were flaringly ugly, and – to liken them to what they most resembled – physically and mentally the type of the North American squaws. They were accompanied by all their children, and the little brats were tumbling about the tombs, and learning the language of woe.

Among the hundreds of women present, the expression of grief took two forms, - one active, the other more resigned. A group seated itself about a tomb, and the members swayed their bodies to and fro, howled at the top of their voices, and pretended to weep. I had the infidel curiosity to go from group to group in search of a tear, but I did not see one. Occasionally some interruption, like the arrival of a new mourner, would cause the swaying and howling to cease for a moment, or it would now and then be temporarily left to the woman at the head of the grave, but presently all would fall to again and abandon themselves to the luxury of agony. It was perhaps unreasonable to expect tears from creatures so withered as most of these were ; but they worked themselves into a frenzy of excitement, they rolled up their blue checked cotton handkerchiefs, drew them across their eyes, and then wrung them out with gestures of despair. It was the dryest grief I ever saw.

The more active mourners formed a ring in a clear spot. Some thirty women standing with their faces toward the centre, their hands on each other’s shoulders, circled round with unrhythmic steps, crying and singing, and occasionally jumping up and down with all their energy, like the dancers of Horace, “striking the ground with equal feet,” coming down upon the earth with a heavy thud, at the same time slapping their faces with their hands ; then circling around again with faster steps, and shriller cries, and more prolonged ululations, and anon pausing to jump and beat the ground with a violence sufficient to shatter their frames. The loose flowing robes, the clinking of the silver ornaments, the wild gleam of their eyes, the Bacchantic madness of their saltations, the shrill shrieking and wailing, conspired to give their demonstration an indescribable barbarity. This scene has recurred every Thursday for, I suppose, hundreds of years, within a mile of the birthplace of Jesus.





Procession at Gethsemane, Palestine, 1875


Warner, Charles Dudley: In the Levant. Boston, James Osgood, 1877.


Crowds of people thronged both sides of the road to the Mount of Olives and to Gethsemane, spreading themselves in the valley and extending away up the road of the Triumphal Entry ; everywhere were the most brilliant effects of white, red, yellow, gray, green, black, and striped raiment : no matter what these Orientals put on, it becomes picturesque, - old coffee-bags, old rags and carpets, anything. There could not be a finer place for a display than these two opposing hillsides, the narrow valley, and the winding roads, which increased the apparent length of the procession and set it off to the best advantage. We were glad of the opportunity to see this ancient valley of bones revived in a manner to recall the pageants and shows of centuries ago, and as we rode down the sunken road in advance of the procession, we imagined how we might have felt if we had been mounted on horses or elephants instead of donkeys, and if we had been conquerors leading a triumph, and these people on either hand had been cheering us instead of jeering us. Turkish soldiers, stationed every thirty paces, kept the road clear for the expected cavalcade. In order to see it and the spectators to the best advantage, we took position on the opposite side of the valley and below the road around the Mount of Olives.

The procession was a good illustration of the shallow splendor of the Orient ; it had no order, no uniformity, no organization ; it dragged itself along at the whim of its separate squads. First came a guard of soldiers, then a little huddle of men of all sorts of colors and apparel, bearing several flags, among them the green Flag of Moses; after an interval another squad, bearing large and gorgeous flags, preceded by musicians beating drums and cymbals. In front of the drums danced, or rather hitched forward with stately steps, two shabby fellows throwing their bodies from side to side and casting their arms about, clashing cymbals and smirking with infinite conceit. At long intervals came other like bands with flags and music, in such disorder as scarcely to be told from the spectators, except that they bore guns and pistols, which they continually fired into the air and close over the heads of the crowd, with a reckless profusion of powder and the most murderous appearance. To these followed mounted soldiers in white, with a Turkish band of music, - worse than any military band in Italy; and after this the pasha, the governor of the city, a number of civil and military dignitaries and one or two high ulemas, and a green-clad representative of the Prophet, - a beggar on horseback, - on fiery horses which curveted about in the crowd, excited by the guns, the music, and the discharge of a cannon now and then, which was stationed at the gate of St. Stephen. Among the insignia displayed were two tall instruments of brass, which twirled and glittered in the sun, not like the golden candlestick of the Jews, nor the “host” of the Catholics, nor the sistrum of the ancient Egyptians, but, perhaps, as Moslemism is a reminiscence of all religions, a caricature of all three.



Women in a graveyard, Gaza, Palestine, 1879

McGarvey, John William: Lands of the Bible. Philadelphia & London, Lippincott, 1881. Reprinted by Elibron Classics.


The modern Ar'abs have little of the reverence for burial-places which characterized the Jews of old. The empty sepulchres of the ancients are everywhere used for the folds of sheep and goats when practicable, and some of them, with their doors enlarged and an additional structure in front, are used as dwellings. Even the modern cemetery in which their own dead are buried is but little reverenced. The author saw at Gaza a crowd of women enjoying a kind of picnic under the shade-trees of a graveyard, while a small group of their company were dancing for the amusement of the others in a narrow space closely surrounded by gravestones





Arab soldiers in Palestine, 1915


Aaronsohn, Alexander: With the Turks in Palestine. 1916.



Seldom did an evening pass without a dance. As darkness fell, the Arabs would gather in a great circle around one of their comrades, who squatted on the ground with a bamboo flute; to a weird minor music they would begin swaying and moving about while some self-chosen poet among them would sing impromptu verses to the flute "obbligato". As a rule the themes were homely. "To-morrow we shall eat rice and meat," the singer would wail. "Yaha lili-amali" (my endeavor be granted), came the full-throated response of all the others. The chorus was tremendously effective. Sometimes the singer would indulge in pointed personalities, with answering roars of laughter.


These dances lasted for hours, and as they progressed the men gradually worked themselves up into a frenzy. I never failed to wonder at these people, who, without the aid of alcohol, could reproduce the various stages of intoxication. As I lay by and watched the moon riding serenely above these frantic men and their twisting black shadows, I reflected that they were just in the condition when one word from a holy man would suffice to send them off to wholesale murder and rapine.