A Journey of Biblical Proportions
Mendes’ religion was important to him. Arriving in the Holy Land, he planned to visit some of the most important religious sights. His devotion was very clear when he wrote home, often including chapter and verse about the sites he would see. In a letter dated February 21, 1832, Mendes said:
“My first day’s journey will be to the borders north to the great sea and allotted to the tribe of Asher ‘even unto great Sidon,” Joshua Ch. 19, v. 28. , reaching ‘to Carmel westward.’ My tour thro’ the land will first be along the coast which will encompass the allotments of Ashur touching near the border of Zebulun. Thence thro’ the land of Issachar and Dan, thence thro’ the land of Benjamin to Jerusalem touching the borders of Judah. Returning to the coast pass thro’ the land of Simeon into the land of the Philistines.
Returning I shall go again to Jerusalem, endeavor to cross the Jordan, and enter the land of Reuben and Gad hoping to visit the land of the half tribe of Manasseh ‘beyond Jordan eastward’ returning visit that of Ephraim ‘Manasseh this side of Jordan,’ Issachar, Zebulon, and Naphtali being the land of the twelve tribes endeavoring not to omit any of the celebrated places mentioned in the holy scriptures. Having fulfilled all this and view the cedars on Mount Lebanon (now covered in snow) from which King Solomon procured all his timber for the Temple; however, I should not tell you all this now, it will tell better when I have made the visit.”
Near Beirut, Syria - February 21, 1832
Mendes was the first American tourist to receive official permission from the Ottoman Empire to visit Palestine.
Published in an undated and unidentified paper, republished November 6, 1831:
“I have just received my Firman [official travel pass]. It is very full and explicit, to give me aid, supply my wants…through my travels. It is written…on a sheet of paper about two feet and a half square, the size of the paper constituting, in some measure, its importance…when it’s presented to a Turk, he respects it by bowing, putting forward his head, and kissing the Sultan’s signature at the top of the paper…It is, I believe, the first American Firman, which has been issued, our countrymen heretofore having been obliged to procure them through the English Ambassador.”
Travel Firman, Courtesy of Maryland Historical Society.