At the hotel in the Soog el-Harab, or Frank quarter, the illusion was not dissipated. It had once been the house of some rich merchant. The court into which we were ushered is paved with marble, with a great stone basin, surrounded with vases of flowering plants, in the centre.
At last we observed near the catacombs sundry heaps of pinkish earth, evidently washed out; and our researches in the South Country afterwards suggested that this may have been the remains of the micaceous schist, whose containing quartz was so extensively worked at Umm el-Harab. Moreover, a short study of Shaghab threw more light on the matter.
The ruins, known as Umm el-Harab, "Mother of Desolation," are the usual basement-lines: they lie in the utterly waterless basin, our camping-ground, stretching west of Mara Rubayyigh, the big white reef. At Umm el-Harab we saw for the first time an open mine, scientifically worked by the men of old.
Saltpetre is plentiful, and a third "Sulphur hill" rises from the maritime plain north of the Wady Hamz. The principal ruins and ateliers number five; these, beginning from the north, are the Umm el-Karayat, the Umm el-Harab, the Bujat-Bada, the Kharabat Aba'l-Maru, and the old Nabathean port, E1-Haura.