Gustaf Dalman wanted to describe life in Palestine in all its dimensions, wanted to make even people in Central Europe understand what it meant to live in the Holy Land. His descriptions also allow us to catch a glimpse of life before the land was intensely settled again, before pollution clouded our view of the land.
When Dalman described a normal day in Palestine, he not only noted the activities the people were involved in, but also painted verbal pictures of the sky, the olive groves, the hills.
The first herald of the new day is the morning star. This is the time when travellers may start on their long journey in summer to avoid the heat of day. Shortly after, faint glimmer of light becomes visible, with dim rays of light occasionally flashing across the sky. Within quarter of an hour the mist of light grows stronger, so that it is clearly visible. The Arabs call this phenomenon morning column.
About one hour before sunrise, the true morning light appears with a red sheen and can be discerned above the eastern horizon.
Approximately half an hour later, the shadows disappear from the sky and the light changes to a clear blue, turning into an orange glow. Little later, the light intensifies into a bright yellow cone that dominates the horizon. The outlines of any small clouds in the sky shine in gold.
In the West, the light is reflected in bands of red and blue above the horizon. Finally, the sun rises in the East as a flaming disc that sheds its bright light across the land.
Work begins at sunrise for farmers and shepherds. Especially in summer, people begin work early to avoid the heat of day. Normally, a small meal of bread and maybe a few vegetables would have been eaten before sunrise.
The Muslim would interrupt work late in the morning for morning prayer—duha, though it apparently was not a prayer officially mandated.
Dalman discusses mythology in connection with many of the appearances of the morning. He also observes that the constellation of sickle moon and morning star, which has become so prevalent in Islam, appears to be a continuation of the veneration of Sin and Ishtar, the Mesopotamian gods.