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



Procession at Gethsemane



Palestine, 1875



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.

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