The following is his description of this city, where the Turkish rule begins. "It is a very large and beautiful city, walled round, and outside the walls for fifteen miles are gardens and orchards, and of all the surrounding country, this is the most fertile spot. The town stands at the foot of Mount Hermon, whence rise the two rivers, Abana and Pharpar; the first passes through the city, and its waters are taken into the larger houses by means of aqueducts, as well as through the streets and markets. This town trades with all the world. The river Pharpar fertilizes the orchards and gardens outside the town. There is an Ishmaelitish mosque, called Goman-Dammesec, meaning the synagogue of Damascus, and this building has not its equal; it is said to have been Benhadad's palace, and it contains a glass wall, built apparently by magic. This wall has 365 holes in it, answering to the days of the year; as the sun rises and sets it shines through one or other of these holes, so that the hour of the day may thus always be known. Inside the palace or mosque are gold and silver houses, large enough to hold two or three persons at a time, if they wish to wash or bathe in them."

After going to Galad and Salkah, which are two days' journey from Damascus, Benjamin reached Baalbec, the Heliopolis of the Greeks and Romans, built by Solomon, in the valley of the Libanus, then to Tadmor, which is Palmyra, also built entirely of great stones. Then passing by Cariatin, he stopped at Hamah, which was partially destroyed by an earthquake in 1157, which overthrew many of the Syrian towns.

Now comes in the narrative a list of names, which are of no great interest: we may mention among them, Nineveh, whence the traveller returned towards the Euphrates; and finally that he reached Baghdad, the residence of the Caliph.

Baghdad was of great interest to the Jewish traveller; he says it is a large town three miles in circumference, containing a hospital both for Jews and sick people of any nation. It is the centre for learned men, philosophers, and magicians from all parts of the world. It is the residence of the Caliph, who at this time was probably Mostaidjed, whose dominion included western Persia and the banks of the Tigris. He had a vast palace, standing in a park watered by a tributary of the Tigris and filled with wild beasts, he may be taken as a model sovereign on some points; he was a good and very truthful man, kind and considerate to all with whom he came in contact. He lived on the produce of his own toil, and made blankets, which, marked with his own seal, were sold in the market by the princes of his court, to defray the expense of his living. He only left his palace once a year, at the feast of Ramadan, when he went to the mosque near the Bassorah gate, and there acting as Iman, he explained the law to his people. He returned to his palace by a different route which was carefully guarded all the rest of the year, so that no other passer by might profane the marks of his footsteps. All the brothers of the Caliph inhabit the same palace as he does; they are all treated with much respect, and have the government of provinces and towns in their hands, the revenues from them enabling them to pass a pleasant life; only, as they once rebelled against their sovereign, they are now all fettered with chains of iron, and have guards mounted before their houses.

Benjamin of Tudela visited that part of Turkey in Asia which is watered by the Euphrates and Tigris, and saw the ruined city of Babylon, passing by what is said to be the furnace into which Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown, and the tower of Babel, which he describes as follows. "The tower built by the tribes that were dispersed is of bricks; its largest ground work must be two miles in circumference; its length is two hundred and forty cubits. At every ten cubits there is a passage leading to a spiral staircase, which goes to the upper part of the building; from the tower there is a view of the surrounding country for twenty miles; but the wrath of God fell upon it and it is now only a heap of ruins."

The Tower of Babel
The Tower of Babel.

From Babel the traveller went to the Synagogue of Ezekiel, situated on the Euphrates, a real sanctuary where believers congregate to read the book written by the prophet. Then traversing Alkotzonath, &c., to Sura, once the site of a celebrated Jewish college, and Shafjathib, whose synagogue is built with stones from Jerusalem, and crossing the desert of Yemen he passed Themar, Tilimar, and Chaibar which contained a great number of Jewish inhabitants, to Waseth; and thence to Bassorah on the Tigris, nearly at the end of the Persian Gulf.