The opening paragraphs of The Peasantry of Palestine (1907) by Elihu Grant*:
"This little book will make no attempt to tell all that could be said of its subject, but we hope that its selection of things to tell will be gratifying to you. Our wish is that not many of its pages will be condemned as dry, but that most of them have interest and refreshment. If sometimes when you are tired you can sit down and be pleased with some of these pages, here or there, you will know a little of how the trudging peasant of the village feels as, going over hill after hill, from each top he gazes off towards the west and sees the evening mists thickening and looking like good, cool mountains in the sea. It is pleasant to see the face of the native light up as he catches sight of the clouds heavy with blessings of moisture. Perhaps fierce sirocco days have followed one another for some time, longer than usual. Such days are actually looked for in trios at least, but often they hold for a longer time. Their peculiarly enervating heat is very trying, and when they have passed one welcomes eagerly an evening that brings the heavy mist. This announces that the succession of hot days is broken and that some days of respite are coming. The welcome moisture blesses the vineyards, the fig orchards, the tomatoes, squashes and melons, and it is sure to bring out ejaculations of blessing from the fervent peasant, praising the Father of all, whose favoring mercy he feels.
"Look out on a morning early and you will see the mists scudding, drifting, veiling and dissevering like masses of gauze, like streamers of truant air. Perhaps some near mountain may be cut off from the little hill half-way down by a moat filled with billowing fog. Soon the sun cuts it and scatters it away and the hot, dry day sets in. The roads and rocks are powdered with lime dust, the somber morning tones on the hills are touched with whitening brightness. Here and there is the dusty grey of an olive-orchard or the bright green of vineyards. Overhead, the brightest blue is set with one yellow gem of fire that creeps up and up until noon, and then the toiling peasantry, who have watched this timepiece of the heavens, sit down in the nearest shade to eat their food and chat. That done, they roll over for the luxury of a nap and forget a hot, dry hour in a healthy doze. The click of the chisel in the quarry ceases, the hoe is cast aside, the driver is lying on his face, fast asleep, while the donkey nibbles and rolls his load-sore back deliciously in the dust. The camel sits like a salamander, apparently minding no change of weather. Little birds pant for breath. All is very still and hot.
"But work-time comes again before the heat goes, and the workmen half sit up, looking around, perhaps playfully tossing a stick or clod on the head of a lazier comrade. The work-saddles are roped on the backs of the animals. The camel, long habituated to complaining, whether made to kneel or rise again, utters grating gutturals from his long throat. He is the Oriental striker, objecting, vocally, at least, to every new demand upon him. Well walked, the countryside begins to be busy again and work goes on until sundown. As the afternoon slips into the evening you will see traveling peasants hastening to make their villages. The hills are touched with pinks and purples that shade into dark blue. The grey owl calls, the foxes reconnoiter the fields, the village dogs bark, lights straggle out from the settlements. One may hear the song of a watcher in a vineyard or the bang of his musket as he shoots at a dog or fox meddling with the vines. As we hastened one evening through a village two hours distance from our own, the people, sitting about the doors and in the alleys, seemed astonished and urged us to stop overnight, not understanding our preference to travel on in the growing dark. But we went on, passing possible sites for Ai, then Bethel and Beeroth, and so to our own Ram Allah. The way was precarious and stony, with only the starlight to help us, and the evening was chilly."
[*Grant (1873-1942) was an archaeologist and Professor of Biblical Literature at Haverford College, Pennsylvania. Expect more such extracts from this wonderful book about Palestine's indigenous people.]