Not the faintest memorial at present exists of the ancient Joppa; its site being occupied by the modern town of Jaffa, a place of commerce rather than of strength. The streets are steep; the hill on which they stand rises abruptly from the sea, on which they look down, and are swept by its keen winds in winter, and tempered by its cool breezes during the hot season. The gloomy town is inclosed by a strong wall: great is the change from it’s depressing interior to the pleasant environs, shaded by the palm, the large fig-tree, and the cypress, beautified by the prickly pear with its yellow flowers, by the pomegranate, and the vine: there is a freshness of verdure on every side, and you quit the sandy beach, on which the wild surge was beating, and the prison-like streets, to walk in the way to Ramla, through lanes bordered by luxuriant hedges.
The scriptural interest of Joppa is but feeble, and is confined to the remains of the house of Simon Peter the tanner-the dull and miserable fragment of some old dwelling of a few centuries back, at which many a pilgrim’s eye has gazed in tears, and many a knee knelt fervently. The ruin is in possession of the English consul, Signor Damiani, and he is anxious that no traveller should depart from his roof, destitute of the unction that a visit to it is sure to impart. This dignitary’s religion is something like his garb, of a mixed and confused character; the English three-cocked hat giving an official dignity to his head, while his large person is enveloped in the full Turkish dress. He is a worthy, hospitable, talking person: he had given shelter to Napoleon beneath his roof; and related part of his conversation with the general, as he sat in the same salon in which his guests were now seated: his father had been ruined by the invasion of the French, losing the greater part of his property.
Napoleon asked him if he could recommend him a guide to accompany the army along the shore to St. Jean d’Acre. Damiani described the route so minutely, that the former told him he should himself be the guide-to the dismay and sorrow of the Signor, who thus saw himself compromised as the pioneer of the French army into his native territory, and perceived, from Napoleon’s decided manner, that all excuse or remonstrance was useless. Sadly and reluctantly he marched fulfilling his charge, however, with fidelity, and rewarded with the barren applause of the conqueror. It was Lent season with the consul, who drank only water himself, and prejudiced his character for hospitality, by giving us, after a hot and fatiguing journey, water only: no wine sparkled on the board.
The cemetery in the plate, in the declivity without the walls, was destitute of the shade of trees, that shrouds so calmly and appropriately most of the Eastern burial grounds: the sea-winds swept wildly over these shelterless graves, the sun beat upon them; even the long and oval tombs had little that was Oriental in their character; they were most probably Armenian.
At this time Ibrahim Pasha was encamped without the walls; the travelers visited him, with the consul at their head, who marched with a dignity of gait and freedom of soul that he did not feel when the guide of Napoleon’s army. Beyond was the valley of Sharon, its near openings displaying the glittering tents of the soldiery; and in the distance, the purple-hued hills of Judea, blending with a fierce and cloudless sky.
The quarters of the Pasha were on a bold mound, commanding both sea and shore, and crowned by a small mosque or tomb, around which were irregularly grouped the tents which contained his suite: and in the valley below were those of the officers, some of whom were reclining in the shade, their coursers tied up, or freely pasturing where a spot of verdure could be found. No ceremony was required to obtain an interview with Ibrahim: the travelers, introduced by the consul, were ushered into the mosque, and had full time to scrutinize him. His person is corpulent, and his long white beard heightens the effect of his striking features. He was seated smoking, and received their respects with a frank and cheerful courtesy, sending for his dragoman, who shortly entered.
Omar Effendi, the dragoman, had been educated at Cambridge, and spoke English well, and there was about him an openness very engaging; he explained their object to the Pasha, who received it with marked attention. It was evident he was playing the courteous Frank, smiling at one thing, gravely admitting another, and breaking forth very often into boisterous merriment; for it is quite a point with him to create a good impression in his favor, among Europeans. From time to time, during the interview, his eye glanced anxiously’ towards the western horizon, upon which the sails of his expected succors, impelled by a favorable breeze, were just discerned: and he explained to us, that as soon as they entered the port, he should march against the rebels of the mountains, and restore peace in a very brief period. The guests then took their leave, after he had made them the proposal to accompany him, if they pleased, in his march upon Jerusalem: they strolled among the Arab soldiery of the camp, and were struck with their lively passionate gestures, their activity, and delight in the simple music of their tribes: one day famishing with hunger, and almost naked, in the mud cabins of the Nile – the next, seized, enrolled, clothed with what to them must be splendor, and well fed: inflated with their new positions and success, these poor victims of a debasing oppression are now become its readiest instruments.
Source: Syria, the Holy Land, Asia Minor illustrated in a series of views drawn from nature by John Carne, William Henry Bartlett, William Purser. Published by Fisher Sons & Co. London, Paris & America. c. 1836.