A Syrian Voyage in Central and South America


Father Henri Lammens was born into a Catholic family in Ghent, Belgium, in 1862. At the age of 15 he joined the Jesuits and later settled permanently in Lebanon. He mastered Latin and Greek and taught Arabic in Beirut. His first work was an Arabic dictionary, Farā'id al-lugha (The pearls of language), dating from 1889. He also served as editor for the Jesuit newspaper of Beirut, al-Bashīr (The evangelist). He wrote many works, most notably on the history of Arabia in the pre-Islamic era, as well as on the Umayyad dynasty. His scholarly work is marred by a lack of objectivity and an often violently polemical view regarding Islam. Among his well-known works are Remarques sur les mots français dérivés de l' arabe (Comments on French words derived from the Arabic), the Tasrīh al-abṣār (On archeological sites in Lebanon), and Etudes sur le régne du calipha Omaiyade Moʼawia Ier (Studies on the reign of Umayyid caliph Muʻāwiyah I). Lammens died in Beirut in 1937. Al-Riḥla al-sūrīya fī Amīrka al-mutawwasiṭa wa al-junūbīya (A Syrian voyage in Central and South America) is based on the author's trip to America and his essays about the trip published in al-Bashīr in 1893 and 1894. These pieces were translated into Arabic by Rashid al-Shartouni and published as a book by the Catholic Printing Press of Beirut in 1894. In the book, the author provides information regarding the religious practices, agriculture, industry, trade, and demographics of the places he visited. The countries covered are Cuba (chapters 1−3), Jamaica (chapter 4), Mexico (chapters 5−11), British Honduras (present-day Belize, chapter 12), Guatemala (chapter 13), Honduras (chapter 14), Nicaragua (chapter 15), Costa Rica (chapter 16), and Panama (at the time a department of Colombia, chapters 17−19), Colombia (chapters 20−23), and Ecuador (chapter 23).

Last updated: October 17, 2014