"'The Thistle that is in Lebanon" is the harassed, weak, yet simple disciple of the Eastern Church; and "the Cedar that was in Lebanon" is the true Church of Christ, whose seeds were first derived from [Syria's] Holy shores, and are now firmly rooted in England. The Thistle has sent to ask thy daughter, Enlightenment, in marriage to her son, Simplicity. O refuse her not! lest the wild beast in Lebanon should tread down the Thistle and obtain the ascendancy.'" A nineteenth-century Syrian Christian raised in Lebanon, Habeeb Risk Allah Effendi was a traveller, emigre and doctor whose charming, anecdotal traveller's tales take us throughout his troubled native land and on to Egypt, Malta, France and England. From pirates, belles and balls to the status of women and the role of health care in society, Effendi's position as outsider lend his observations of his own and other cultures a unique perspective. But this is more than a travelogue, and the detailed account of life in nineteenth-century, multi-faith Syria is more than an introduction to a then - and even now - exotic realm.
Effendi hoped to arouse interest in the future development of his country, which he regarded as having great promise and potential. He was particularly interested in securing English interest - and help. Despite their apparent 'lack of reverence for beards' and an irritating 'devotion of the young fair sex to uniforms', Effendi believed that the English, with their Protestant and therefore (as he saw it) tolerant and enlightened views, could act as a moderating, beneficial influence, both for the Christian faith in Syria and for his country as a whole.