In the Heart of Africa
Sir Samuel White Baker

Part 1 out of 5

In The Heart Of Africa
By Sir Samuel W. Baker, M.A., F.R.G.S.

Condensed By E.J.W From "The Nile Tributaries Of Abyssinia"
And "The Albert N'yanza Great Basin Of The Nile."



The Nubian desert--The bitter well--Change of plans--An
irascible dragoman--Pools of the Atbara--One secret of the
Nile--At Cassala


Egypt's rule of the Soudan--Corn-grinding in the Soudan--Mahomet meets
relatives--The parent of Egypt--El Baggar rides the camel


The Arabs' exodus--Reception by Abou Sinn--Arabs dressing the hair--Toilet of an
Arab woman--The plague of lice--Wives among the Arabs--The Old Testament


On the Abyssinian border--A new school of medicine--Sacred
shrines and epidemics

A primitive craft--Stalking the giraffes--My first giraffes-Rare
sport with the finny tribe--Thieving elephants

Preparations for advance--Mek Nimmur makes a foray--The
Hamran elephant-hunters--In the haunts of the elephant--
A desperate charge


The start from Geera--Feats of horsemanship--A curious chase--
Abou Do wins a race--Capturing a young buffalo--Our
island camp--Tales of the Base


The elephant trumpets--Fighting an elephant with swords--
The forehead-shot--Elephants in a panic--A superb old
Neptune--The harpoon reaches its aim--Death of the
hippopotamus--Tramped by an elephant


Fright of the Tokrooris--Deserters who didn't desert--Arrival
of the Sherrif brothers--Now for a tally-ho!--On the heels
of the rhinoceroses--The Abyssinian rhinoceros--Every
man for himself


A day with the howartis--A hippo's gallant fight--Abou Do leaves
us--Three yards from a lion--Days of delight--A lion's furious
rage--Astounding courage of a horse

The bull-elephant--Daring Hamrans--The elephant helpless--Visited
by a minstrel--A determined musician--The nest of the outlaws--
The Atbara River


Abyssinian slave-girls--Khartoum--The Soudan under Egyptian rule--
Slave-trade in the Soudan--The obstacles ahead


Gondokoro--A mutiny quelled--Arrival of Speke and Grant--The sources
of the Nile-Arab duplicity--The boy-slave's story--Saat adopted


Startling disclosures--The last hope seems gone--The Bari chief's
advice--Hoping for the best--Ho for Central Africa!


A start made at last--A forced march--Lightening the ship--Waiting for
the caravan--Success hangs in the balance--The greatest rascal in
Central Africa--Legge demands another bottle

The greeting of the slave-traders--Collapse of the mutiny--African
funerals-Visit from the Latooka chief--Bokke makes a suggestion--
Slaughter of the Turks--Success as a prophet--Commoro's philosophy


Disease in the camp--Forward under difficulties--Our cup of misery
overflows--A rain-maker in a dilemma-Fever again--Ibrahim's quandary-Firing the


Greeting from Kamrasi's people--Suffering from the sins of others-Alone among
savages--The free-masonry of Unyoro.--Pottery and civilization


Kamrasi's cowardice--Interview with the king--The exchange of blood--
The rod beggar's last chance--An astounded sovereign


A satanic escort--Prostrated by sun-stroke--Days and nights of
sorrow--The reward for all our labor


The cradle of the Nile--Arrival at Magungo--The blind leading
the blind--Murchison Falls


Prisoners on the island--Left to starve--Months of helpless-
ness--We rejoin the Turks--The real Kamrasi--In the presence of royalty


The hour of deliverance--Triumphal entry into Gondokoro--
Homeward bound--The plague breaks out--Our welcome at
Khartoum--Return to civilization



The Nubian desert--The bitter well--Change of plans--An irascible
dragoman--Pools of the Atbara--One secret of the Nile--At Cassala.

In March, 1861, I commenced an expedition to discover the sources of the
Nile, with the hope of meeting the East African expedition of Captains
Speke and Grant, that had been sent by the English Government from the
South via Zanzibar, for the same object. I had not the presumption to
publish my intention, as the sources of the Nile had hitherto defied all
explorers, but I had inwardly determined to accomplish this difficult
task or to die in the attempt. From my youth I had been inured to
hardships and endurance in wild sports in tropical climates, and when I
gazed upon the map of Africa I had a wild hope, mingled with humility,
that, even as the insignificant worm bores through the hardest oak, I
might by perseverance reach the heart of Africa.

I could not conceive that anything in this world has power to resist a
determined will, so long as health and life remain. The failure of every
former attempt to reach the Nile source did not astonish me, as the
expeditions had consisted of parties, which, when difficulties occur,
generally end in difference of opinion and in retreat; I therefore
determined to proceed alone, trusting in the guidance of a Divine
Providence and the good fortune that sometimes attends a tenacity of
purpose. I weighed carefully the chances of the undertaking. Before me,
untrodden Africa; against me, the obstacles that had defeated the world
since its creation; on my side, a somewhat tough constitution, perfect
independence, a long experience in savage life, and both time and means,
which I intended to devote to the object without limit.

England had never sent an expedition to the Nile sources previous to
that under the command of Speke and Grant. Bruce, ninety years before,
had succeeded in tracing the source of the Blue or Lesser Nile; thus the
honor of that discovery belonged to Great Britain. Speke was on his road
from the South, and I felt confident that my gallant friend would leave
his bones upon the path rather than submit to failure. I trusted that
England would not be beaten, and although I hardly dared to hope that I
could succeed where others greater than I had failed, I determined to
sacrifice all in the attempt.

Had I been alone, it would have been no hard lot to die upon the
untrodden path before me; but there was one who, although my greatest
comfort, was also my greatest care, one whose life yet dawned at so
early an age that womanhood was still a future. I shuddered at the
prospect for her, should she be left alone in savage lands at my death;
and gladly would I have left her in the luxuries of home instead of
exposing her to the miseries of Africa. It was in vain that I implored
her to remain, and that I painted the difficulties and perils still
blacker than I supposed they really would be. She was resolved, with
woman's constancy and devotion, to share all dangers and to follow me
through each rough footstep of the wild life before me. "And Ruth said,
Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee;
for whither thou goest I will go, and where thou lodgest I will lodge;
thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God; where thou diest will
I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also,
if aught but death part thee and me."

Thus accompanied by my wife, on the 15th of April, 1861, I sailed up the
Nile from Cairo. The wind blew fair and strong from the north, and we
flew toward the south against the stream, watching those mysterious
waters with a firm resolve to track them to their distant fountain.

I had a firman from the Viceroy, a cook, and a dragoman. Thus my
impedimenta were not numerous. The firman was an order to all Egyptian
officials for assistance; the cook was dirty and incapable; and the
interpreter was nearly ignorant of English, although a professed
polyglot. With this small beginning, Africa was before me, and thus I
commenced the search for the sources of the Nile.

On arrival at Korosko, twenty-six days from Cairo, we started across the
Nubian Desert. During the cool months, from November until February, the
desert journey is not disagreeable; but the vast area of glowing sand
exposed to the scorching sun of summer, in addition to the withering
breath of the simoom, renders the forced march of two hundred and thirty
miles in seven days, at two and a half miles per hour, one of the most
fatiguing journeys that can he endured.

We entered a dead level plain of orange-colored sand, surrounded by
pyramidical hills. The surface was strewn with objects resembling cannon
shot and grape of all sizes from a 32-pounder downward, and looked like
the old battle-field of some infernal region--rocks glowing with heat,
not a vestige of vegetation, barren, withering desolation. The slow
rocking step of the camels was most irksome, and, despite the heat, I
dismounted to examine the Satanic bombs and cannon shot. Many of them
were as perfectly round as though cast in a mould, others were
egg-shaped, and all were hollow. With some difficulty I broke them, and
found them to contain a bright red sand. They were, in fact, volcanic
bombs that had been formed by the ejection of molten lava to a great
height from active volcanoes; these had become globular in falling, and,
having cooled before they reached the earth, they retained their forms
as hard spherical bodies, precisely resembling cannon shot. The exterior
was brown, and appeared to be rich in iron. The smaller specimens were
the more perfect spheres, as they cooled quickly; but many of the
heavier masses had evidently reached the earth when only half
solidified, and had collapsed upon falling. The sandy plain was covered
with such vestiges of volcanic action, and the infernal bombs lay as
imperishable relics of a hailstorm such as may have destroyed Sodom and

Passing through this wretched solitude, we entered upon a scene of
surpassing desolation. Far as the eye could reach were waves like a
stormy sea, gray, coldlooking waves in the burning heat; but no drop of
water. It appeared as though a sudden curse had turned a raging sea to
stone. The simoom blew over this horrible wilderness, and drifted the
hot sand into the crevices of the rocks, and the camels drooped their
heads before the suffocating wind; but still the caravan noiselessly
crept along over the rocky undulations, until the stormy sea was passed;
once more we were upon a boundless plain of sand and pebbles.

In forty-six hours and forty-five minutes' actual marching from Korosko,
we reached Moorahd, "the bitter well." This is a mournful spot, well
known to the tired and thirsty camel, the hope of reaching which has
urged him fainting on his weary way to drink one draught before he dies.
This is the camel's grave. Situated half way between Korosko and Abou
Hammed, the well of Moorahd is in an extinct crater, surrounded upon all
sides but one by precipitous cliffs about three hundred feet high. The
bottom is a dead flat, and forms a valley of sand about two hundred and
fifty yards wide. In this bosom of a crater, salt and bitter water is
found at a depth of only six feet from the surface. To this our tired
camels frantically rushed upon being unloaded.

The valley was a "valley of dry bones." Innumerable skeletons of camels
lay in all directions-the ships of the desert thus stranded on their
voyage. Withered heaps of parched skin and bone lay here and there, in
the distinct forms in which the camels had gasped their last. The dry
desert air had converted the hide into a coffin. There were no flies
here, thus there were no worms to devour the carcasses ; but the usual
sextons were the crows, although sometimes too few to perform their
office. These were perched upon the overhanging cliffs ; but no sooner
had our overworked camels taken their long draught and lain down
exhausted on the sand, than by common consent they descended from their
high places and walked round and round each tired beast.

As many wretched animals simply crawl to this spot to die, the crows,
from long experience and constant practice, can form a pretty correct
diagnosis upon the case of a sick camel. They had evidently paid a
professional visit to my caravan, and were especially attentive in
studying the case of one particular camel that was in a very weakly
condition and had stretched itself full length upon the sand; nor would
they leave it until it was driven forward.

Many years ago, when the Egyptian troops first conquered Nubia, a
regiment was destroyed by thirst in crossing this desert. The men, being
upon a limited allowance of water, suffered from extreme thirst, and
deceived by the appearance of a mirage that exactly resembled a
beautiful lake, they insisted on being taken to its banks by the Arab
guide. It was in vain that the guide assured them that the lake was
unreal, and he refused to lose the precious time by wandering from his
course. Words led to blows, and he was killed by the soldiers, whose
lives depended upon his guidance. The whole regiment turned from the
track and rushed toward the welcome waters. Thirsty and faint, over the
burning sands they hurried; heavier and heavier their footsteps became;
hotter and hotter their breath, as deeper they pushed into the desert,
farther and farther from the lost track where the pilot lay in his
blood; and still the mocking spirits of the desert, the afreets of the
mirage, led them on, and the hike glistening in the sunshine tempted
them to bathe in its cool waters, close to their eyes, but never at
their lips. At length the delusion vanished--the fatal lake had turned
to burning sand! Raging thirst and horrible despair! the pathless desert
and the murdered guide! lost! lost! all lost! Not a man ever left the
desert, but they were subsequently discovered, parched and withered
corpses, by the Arabs sent upon the search.

During our march the simoom was fearful, and the heat so intense that it
was impossible to draw the guncases out of their leather covers, which
it was necessary to cut open. All woodwork was warped; ivory
knife-handles were split; paper broke when crunched in the hand, and the
very marrow seemed to he dried out of the bones. The extreme dryness of
the air induced an extraordinary amount of electricity in the hair and
in all woollen materials. A Scotch plaid laid upon a blanket for a few
hours adhered to it, and upon being withdrawn at night a sheet of flame
was produced, accompanied by tolerably loud reports.

We reached Berber on May 31st, and spent a week in resting after our
formidable desert march of fifteen days. From the slight experience I
had gained in the journey, I felt convinced that success in my Nile
expedition would be impossible without a knowledge of Arabic. My
dragoman had me completely in his power, and I resolved to become
independent of all interpreters as soon as possible. I therefore
arranged a plan of exploration for the first year, to embrace the
affluents to the Nile from the Abyssinian range of mountains, intending
to follow up the Atbara River from its junction with the Nile in
latitude 17 deg. 37 min. (twenty miles south of Berber), and to examine
all the Nile tributaries from the southeast as far as the Blue Nile,
which river I hoped ultimately to descend to Khartoum. I imagined that
twelve months would be sufficient to complete such an exploration, by
which time I should have gained a sufficient knowledge of the Arabic to
render me able to converse fairly well.

The wind at this season (June) was changeable, and strong blasts from
the south were the harbingers of the approaching rainy season. We had no
time to lose, and we accordingly arranged to start. I discharged my
dirty cook, and engaged a man who was brought by a coffeehouse keeper,
by whom he was highly recommended; but, as a precaution against
deception, I led him before the Mudir, or Governor, to be registered
before our departure. To my astonishment, and to his infinite disgust,
he was immediately recognized as an old offender, who had formerly been
imprisoned for theft! The Governor, to prove his friendship and his
interest in my welfare, immediately sent the police to capture the
coffee-house keeper who had recommended the cook. No sooner was the
unlucky surety brought to the Divan than he was condemned to receive two
hundred lashes for having given a false character. The sentence was
literally carried out, in spite of my remonstrance, and the police were
ordered to make the case public to prevent a recurrence. The Governor
assured me that, as I held a firman from the Viceroy, he could not do
otherwise, and that I must believe him to be my truest friend. "Save me
from my friends," was an adage quickly proved. I could not procure a
cook nor any other attendant, as every one was afraid to guarantee a
character, lest he might come in for his share of the two hundred

The Governor came to my rescue, and sent immediately the promised
Turkish soldiers, who were to act in the double capacity of escort and
servants. They were men of totally opposite characters. Hadji Achmet was
a hardy, powerful, dare-devil-looking Turk, while Hadji Velli was the
perfection of politeness, and as gentle as a lamb. My new allies
procured me three donkeys in addition to the necessary baggage camels,
and we started from Berber on the evening of the 10th of June for the
junction of the Atbara River With the Nile.

Mahomet, Achmet, and Ali are equivalent to Smith, Brown, and Thompson.
Accordingly, of my few attendants, my dragoman was Mahomet, and my
principal guide was Achmet, and subsequently I had a number of Alis.
Mahomet was a regular Cairo dragoman, a native of Dongola, almost black,
but exceedingly tenacious regarding his shade of color, which he
declared to be light brown. He spoke very bad English, was excessively
conceited, and irascible to a degree. He was one of those dragomans who
are accustomed to the civilized expeditions of the British tourist to
the first or second cataract, in a Nile boat replete with conveniences
and luxuries, upon which the dragoman is monarch supreme, a whale among
the minnows, who rules the vessel, purchases daily a host of unnecessary
supplies, upon which he clears his profit, until he returns to Cairo
with his pockets filled sufficiently to support him until the following
Nile season. The short three months' harvest, from November until
February, fills his granary for the year. Under such circumstances the
temper should be angelic.

But times had changed. To Mahomet the very idea of exploration was an
absurdity. He had never believed in it front the first, and he now
became impressed with the fact that he was positively committed to an
undertaking that would end most likely in his death, if not in terrible
difficulties; he determined, under the circumstances, to make himself as
disagreeable as possible to all parties. With this amiable resolution he
adopted a physical infirmity in the shape of deafness. In reality, no
one was more acute in hearing, but as there are no bells where there are
no houses, he of course could not answer such a summons, and he was
compelled to attend to the call of his own name--"Mahomet! Mahomet!" No
reply, although the individual were sitting within a few feet,
apparently absorbed in the contemplation of his own boots. "MaHOMet!"
with an additional emphasis upon the second syllable. Again no response.
"Mahomet, you rascal, why don't you answer?" This energetic address
would effect a change in his position. The mild and lamb-like dragoman
of Cairo would suddenly start from the ground, tear his own hair from
his head in handfuls, and shout, "Mahomet! Mahomet! Mahomet! always
Mahomet! D--n Mahomet! I wish he were dead, or back in Cairo, this brute
Mahomet!" The irascible dragoman would then beat his own head
unmercifully with his fists, in a paroxysm of rage.

To comfort him I could only exclaim, "Well done, Mahomet! thrash him;
pommel him well; punch his head; you know him best; he deserves it;
don't spare him!" This advice, acting upon the natural perversity of his
disposition, generally soothed him, and he ceased punching his head.
This man was entirely out of his place, if not out of his mind, at
certain moments, and having upon one occasion smashed a basin by
throwing it in the face of the cook, and upon another occasion narrowly
escaped homicide by throwing an axe at a man's head, which missed by an
inch, he became a notorious character in the little expedition.

We left Berber in the evening, and about two hours after sunset of the
following day reached the junction of the Nile and Atbara. The latter
presented a curious appearance. In no place was it less than four
hundred yards in width, and in many places much wider. The banks were
from twenty-five to thirty feet deep, and had evidently been overflowed
during floods; but now the river bed was dry sand, so glaring that the
sun's reflection was almost intolerable. The only shade was afforded by
the evergreen dome palms; nevertheless the Arabs occupied the banks at
intervals of three or four miles, wherever a pool of water in some deep
bend of the dried river's bed offered an attraction. In such places were
Arab villages or camps, of the usual mat tents formed of the dome- palm

Many pools were of considerable size and of great depth. In flood-time a
tremendous torrent sweeps down the course of the Atbara, and the sudden
bends of the river are hollowed out by the force of the stream to a
depth of twenty or thirty feet below the level of the bed. Accordingly
these holes become reservoirs of water when the river is otherwise
exhausted. In such asylums all the usual inhabitants of this large river
are crowded together in a comparatively narrow space. Although these
pools vary in size, from only a few hundred yards to a mile in length,
they are positively full of life; huge fish, crocodiles of immense size,
turtles, and occasionally hippopotami, consort together in close and
unwished-for proximity. The animals of the desert-- gazelles, hyenas,
and wild asses--are compelled to resort to these crowded
drinking-places, occupied by the flocks of the Arabs equally with the
timid beasts of the chase. The birds that during the cooler months would
wander free throughout the country are now collected in vast numbers
along the margin of the exhausted river; innumerable doves, varying in
species, throng the trees and seek the shade of the dome-palms;
thousands of desert grouse arrive morning and evening to drink and to
depart; while birds in multitudes, of lovely plumage, escape from the
burning desert and colonize the poor but welcome bushes that fringe the
Atbara River.

After several days' journey along the bank of the Atbara we halted at a
spot called Collodabad, about one hundred and sixty miles from the Nile
junction. A sharp bend of the river had left a deep pool about a mile in
length, and here a number of Arabs were congregated, with their flocks
and herds.

On the evening of June 23d I was lying half asleep upon my bed by the
margin of the river, when I fancied that I heard a rumbling like distant
thunder. I had not heard such a sound for months, but a low,
uninterrupted roll appeared to increase in volume, although far distant.
Hardly had I raised my head to listen more attentively when a confusion
of voices arose from the Arabs' camp, with a sound of many feet, and in
a few minutes they rushed into my camp, shouting to my men in the
darkness, "El Bahr! El Bahr!" (the river! the river!)

We were up in an instant, and my interpreter, Mahomet, in a state of
intense confusion, explained that the river was coming down, and that
the supposed distant thunder was the roar of approaching water.

Many of the people were asleep on the clean sand on the river's bed;
these were quickly awakened by the Arabs, who rushed down the steep bank
to save the skulls of two hippopotami that were exposed to dry. Hardly
had they descended when the sound of the river in the darkness beneath
told us that the water had arrived, and the men, dripping with wet, had
just sufficient time to drag their heavy burdens up the bank.

All was darkness and confusion, everybody talking and no one listening;
but the great event had occurred; the river had arrived "like a thief in
the night". On the morning of the 24th of June, I stood on the banks of
the noble Atbara River at the break of day. The wonder of the desert!
Yesterday there was a barren sheet of glaring sand, with a fringe of
withered bushes and trees upon its borders, that cut the yellow expanse
of desert. For days we had journeyed along the exhausted bed; all
Nature, even in Nature's poverty, was most poor: no bush could boast a
leaf, no tree could throw a shade, crisp gums crackled upon the stems of
the mimosas, the sap dried upon the burst bark, sprung with the
withering heat of the simoom. In one night there was a mysterious
change. Wonders of the mighty Nile! An army of water was hastening to
the wasted river. There was no drop of rain, no thunder-cloud on the
horizon to give hope. All had been dry and sultry, dust and desolation
yesterday; to-day a magnificent stream, some five hundred yards in width
and from fifteen to twenty feet in depth, flowed through the dreary
desert! Bamboos and reeds, with trash of all kinds, were hurried along
the muddy waters. Where were all the crowded inhabitants of the pool?
The prison doors were broken, the prisoners were released, and rejoiced
in the mighty stream of the Atbara.

The 24th of June, 1861, was a memorable day. Although this was actually
the beginning of my work, I felt that by the experience of this night I
had obtained a clew to one portion of the Nile mystery, and that, as
"coming events cast their shadows before," this sudden creation of a
river was but the shadow of the great cause. The rains were pouring in

The journey along the margin of the Atbara was similar to the route from
Berber, through a vast desert, with a narrow band of trees that marked
the course of the river. The only change was the magical growth of the
leaves, which burst hourly from the swollen buds of the mimosas. This
could be accounted for by the sudden arrival of the river, as the water
percolated rapidly through the sand and nourished the famishing roots.

At Gozerajup, two hundred and forty-six miles from Berber, our route was
changed. We had hitherto followed the course of the Atbara, but we were
now to leave that river on our right, while we travelled about ninety
miles south-east to Cassala, the capital of the Taka country, on the
confines of Abyssinia, and the great depot for Egyptian troops.

The entire country from Gozerajup to Cassala is a dead flat, upon which
there is not one tree sufficiently large to shade a full-sized tent.
There is no real timber in the country; but the vast level extent of
soil is a series of open plains and low bush of thorny mimosa. There is
no drainage upon this perfect level; thus, during the rainy season, the
soakage actually melts the soil, and forms deep holes throughout the
country, which then becomes an impenetrable slough, bearing grass and
jungle. No sooner had we arrived in the flooded country than my wife was
seized with a sudden and severe fever, which necessitated a halt upon
the march, as she could no longer sit upon her camel. In the evening
several hundreds of Arabs arrived and encamped around our fire. It was
shortly after sunset, and it was interesting to watch the extreme
rapidity with which these swarthy sons of the desert pitched their camp.
A hundred fires were quickly blazing; the women prepared the food, and
children sat in clusters around the blaze, as all were wet from paddling
through the puddled ground from which they were retreating.

No sooner was the bustle of arrangement completed than a gray old man
stepped forward, and, responding to his call, every man of the hundreds
present formed in line, three or four deep. At once there was total
silence, disturbed only by the crackling of the fires or by the cry of a
child; and with faces turned to the east, in attitudes of profound
devotion, the wild but fervent followers of Mahomet repeated their
evening prayer. The flickering red light of the fires illumined the
bronze faces of the congregation, and as I stood before the front line
of devotees, I tools off my cap in respect for their faith, and at the
close of their prayer made my salaam to their venerable Faky (priest);
he returned the salutation with the cold dignity of an Arab.

On the next day my wife's fever was renewed, but she was placed on a
dromedary and we reached Cassala about sunset. The place is rich in
hyenas, and the night was passed in the discordant howling of these
disgusting but useful animals. They are the scavengers of the country,
devouring every species of filth and clearing all carrion from the
earth. Without the hyenas and vultures the neighborhood of a Nubian
village would be unbearable. It is the idle custom of the people to
leave unburied all animals that die; thus, among the numerous flocks and
herds, the casualties would create a pestilence were it not for the
birds and beasts of prey.

On the following morning the fever had yielded to quinine, and we were
enabled to receive a round of visits --the governor and suite, Elias
Bey, the doctor and a friend, and, lastly, Malem Georgis, an elderly
Greek merchant, who, with great hospitality, insisted upon our quitting
the sultry tent and sharing his own roof. We therefore became his guests
in a most comfortable house for some days. Here we discharged our
camels, as our Turk, Hadji Achmet's, service ended at this point, and
proceeded to start afresh for the Nile tributaries of Abyssinia.


Egypt's rule of the Soudan--Corn-grinding in the Soudan--Mahomet meets
relatives--The parent of Egypt--El Baggar rides the camel.

Cassala was built about twenty years before I visited the country, after
Taka had been conquered and annexed to Egypt. The general annexation of
the Soudan and tile submission of the numerous Arab tribes to the
Viceroy have been the first steps necessary to the improvement of the
country. Although the Egyptians are hard masters, and do not trouble
themselves about the future well-being of the conquered races, it must
be remembered that, prior to the annexation, all the tribes were at war
among themselves. There was neither government nor law; thus the whole
country was closed to Europeans. At the time of my visit to Cassala in
1861 the Arab tribes were separately governed by their own chiefs or
sheiks, who were responsible to the Egyptian authorities for the taxes
due from their people. Since that period the entire tribes of all
denominations have been placed under the authority of that grand old
Arab patriarch, Achmet Abou Sinn, to be hereafter mentioned. The iron
hand of despotism has produced a marvellous change among the Arabs, who
are rendered utterly powerless by the system of government adopted by
the Egyptians; unfortunately, this harsh system has the effect of
paralyzing all industry.

The principal object of Turks and Egyptians in annexation is to increase
their power of taxation by gaining an additional number of subjects.
Thus, although many advantages have accrued to the Arab provinces of
Nubia through Egyptian rule, there exists very much mistrust between the
governed and the governing. Not only are the camels, cattle, and sheep
subjected to a tax, but every attempt at cultivation is thwarted by the
authorities, who impose a fine or tax upon the superficial area of the
cultivated land. Thus, no one will cultivate more than is absolutely
necessary, as he dreads the difficulties that broad acres of waving
crops would entail upon his family. The bona fide tax is a bagatelle to
the amounts squeezed from him by the extortionate soldiery, who are the
agents employed by the sheik; these must have their share of the
plunder, in excess of the amount to be delivered to their employer; he
also must have his plunder before he parts with the bags of dollars to
the governor of the province. Thus the unfortunate cultivator is ground
down. Should he refuse to pay the necessary "backsheesh" or present to
the tax-collectors, some false charge is trumped up against him, and he
is thrown into prison. As a green field is an attraction to a flight of
locusts in their desolating voyage, so is a luxuriant farm in the Soudan
a point for the tax-collectors of Upper Egypt. I have frequently ridden
several days' journey through a succession of empty villages, deserted
by the inhabitants upon the report of the soldiers' approach. The women
and children, goats and cattle, camels and asses, had all been removed
into the wilderness for refuge, while their crops of corn had been left
standing for the plunderers, who would be too idle to reap and thrash
the grain.

Notwithstanding the miserable that fetters the steps of improvement,
Nature has bestowed such great capabilities of production in the fertile
soil of this country that the yield of a small surface is more than
sufficient for the requirements of the population, and actual poverty is
unknown. The average price of dhurra is fifteen piastres per "rachel,"
or about 3s. 2d. for five hundred pounds upon the spot where it is
grown. The dhurra (Sorghum andropogon) is the grain most commonly used
throughout the Soudan; there are great varieties of this plant, of which
the most common are the white and the red. The land is not only favored
by Nature by its fertility, but the intense heat of the summer is the
laborer's great assistant. As before described, all vegetation entirely
disappears in the glaring sun, or becomes so dry that it is swept off by
fire; thus the soil is perfectly clean and fit for immediate cultivation
upon the arrival of the rains.

The tool generally used is similar to the Dutch hoe. With this simple
implement the surface is scratched to the depth of about two inches, and
the seeds of the dhurra are dibbled in about three feet apart, in rows
from four to five feet in width. Two seeds are dropped into each hole. A
few days after the first shower they rise above the ground, and when
about six inches high the whole population turn out of their villages at
break of day to weed the dhurra fields. Sown in July, it is harvested in
February and March. Eight months are thus required for the cultivation
of this cereal in the intense heat of Nubia. For the first three months
the growth is extremely rapid, and the stem attains a height of six or
seven feet. When at perfection in the rich soil of the Taka country, the
plant averages a height of ten feet, the circumference of the stem being
about four inches. The crown is a feather very similar to that of the
sugar-cane; the blossom falls, and the feather becomes a head of dhurra,
weighing about two pounds. Each grain is about the size of hemp-seed. I
took the trouble of counting the corns contained in an average- sized
head, the result being 4,848. The process of harvesting and threshing is
remarkably simple, as the heads are simply detached from the straw and
beaten out in piles. The dried straw is a substitute for sticks in
forming the walls of the village huts; these are plastered with clay and
cow-dung, which form the Arab's lath and plaster.

The millers' work is exclusively the province of the women. No man will
condescend to grind the corn. There are no circular hand-mills, as among
Oriental nations; but the corn is ground upon a simple flat stone, of
cithor gneiss or granite, about two feet in length by fourteen inches in
width. The face of this is roughened by beating with a sharp-pointed
piece of harder stone, such as quartz or hornblende, and the grain is
reduced to flour by great labor and repeated grinding or rubbing with a
stone rolling-pin. The flour is mixed with water and allowed to ferment;
it is then made into thin pancakes upon an earthenware flat portable
hearth. This species of leavened bread is known to the Arabs as the
kisra. It is not very palatable, but it is extremely well suited to Arab
cookery, as it can be rolled up like a pancake and dipped in the general
dish of meat and gravy very conveniently, in the absence of spoons and

On the 14th of July I had concluded my arrangements for the start. There
had been some difficulty in procuring camels, but the all-powerful
firman was a never-failing talisman, and as the Arabs had declined to
let their animals for hire, the Governor despatched a number of soldiers
and seized the required number, including their owners. I engaged two
wild young Arabs of eighteen and twenty years of age, named Bacheet and
Wat Gamma. The latter, being interpreted, signifies "Son of the Moon."
This in no way suggests lunacy; but the young Arab had happened to enter
this world on the day of the new moon, which was considered to be a
particularly fortunate and brilliant omen at his birth. Whether the
climax of his good fortune had arrived at the moment he entered my
service I know not; but, if so, there was a cloud over his happiness in
his subjection to Mahomet, the dragoman, who rejoiced in the opportunity
of bullying the two inferiors. Wat Gamma was a quiet, steady,
well-conducted lad, who bore oppression mildly ; but the younger,
Bucheet, was a fiery, wild young Arab, who, although an excellent boy in
his peculiar way, was almost incapable of being tamed and domesticated.
I at once perceived that Mahomet would have a determined rebel to
control, which I confess I did not regret. Wages were not high in this
part of the world--the lads were engaged at one and a half dollars per
month and their keep.

Mahomet, who was a great man, suffered from the same complaint to which
great men are (in those countries) particularly subject. Wherever he
went he was attacked with claimants of relationship. He was overwhelmed
with professions of friendship from people who claimed to be connections
of some of his family. In fact, if all the ramifications of his race
were correctly represented by the claimants of relationship, Mahomet's
family tree would have shaded the Nubian desert

We all have our foibles. The strongest fort has its feeble point, as the
chain snaps at its weakest link. Family pride was Mahomet's weak link.
This was his tender point; and Mahomet, the great and the imperious,
yielded to the gentle scratching of his ear if a stranger claimed
connection with his ancient lineage. Of course he had no family, with
the exception of his wife and two children, whom he had left in Cairo.
The lady whom he had honored by admission into the domestic circle of
the Mahomets was suffering from a broken arm when we started from Egypt,
as she had cooked the dinner badly, and the "gaddah," or large wooden
bowl, had been thrown at her by the naturally indignant husband,
precisely as he had thrown the axe at one man and the basin at another
while in our service. These were little contretemps that could hardly
disturb the dignity of so great a man.

Mahomet met several relatives at Cassala. One borrowed money of him;
another stole his pipe; the third, who declared that nothing should
separate them now that "by the blessing of God" they had met, determined
to accompany him through all the difficulties of our expedition,
provided that Mahomet would only permit him to serve for love, without
wages. I gave Mahomet some little advice upon this point, reminding him
that, although the clothes of the party were only worth a few piastres,
the spoons and forks were silver; therefore I should hold him
responsible for the honesty of his friend. This reflection upon the
family gave great offence, and he assured me that Achmet, our quondam
acquaintance, was so near a relative that he was--I assisted him in the
genealogical distinction: "Mother's brother's cousin's sister's mother's
son? Eh, Mahomet?"

"Yes, sar, that's it!" "Very well, Mahomet; mind he doesn't steal the
spoons, and thrash him if he doesn't do his work!" "Yes, sar", replied
Mahomet; "he all same like one brother; he one good man; will do his
business quietly; if not, master lick him." The new relative not
understanding English, was perfectly satisfied with the success of his
introduction, and from that moment he became one of the party.

One more addition, and our arrangements were completed: the Governor of
Cassala was determined we should not start without a soldier guide to
represent the government. Accordingly he gave us a black corporal, so
renowned as a sportsman that he went by the name of "El Baggar" (the
cow), because of his having killed several of the oryx antelope, known
as "El Baggar et Wabash" (cow of the desert).

After sixteen hours' actual marching from Cassala we arrived at the
valley of the Atbara. There was an extraordinary change in the
appearance of the river between Gozerajup and this spot. There was no
longer the vast sandy desert with the river flowing through its sterile
course on a level with the surface of the country; but after traversing
an apparently perfect flat of forty-five miles of rich alluvial soil, we
had suddenly arrived upon the edge of a deep valley, between five and
six miles wide, at the bottom of which, about two hundred feet below the
general level of the country, flowed the river Atbara. On the opposite
side of the valley the same vast table-lands continued to the western

We commenced the descent toward the river: the valley was a succession
of gullies and ravines, of landslips and watercourses. The entire
hollow, of miles in width, had evidently been the work of the river. How
many ages had the rains and the stream been at work to scoop out from
the flat tableland this deep and broad valley? Here was the giant
laborer that had shovelled the rich loam upon the delta of Lower Egypt!
Upon these vast flats of fertile soil there can be no drainage except
through soakage. The deep valley is therefore the receptacle not only
for the water that oozes from its sides, but subterranean channels,
bursting as land-springs from all parts of the walls of the valley, wash
down the more soluble portions of earth, and continually waste away the
soil. Landslips occur daily during the rainy season; streams of rich mud
pour down the valley's slopes, and as the river flows beneath in a
swollen torrent, the friable banks topple down into the stream and
dissolve. The Atbara becomes the thickness of peasoup, as its muddy
waters steadily perform the duty they have fulfilled from age to age.
Thus was the great river at work upon our arrival on its bank at the
bottom of the valley. The Arab name, "Bahr el Aswat" (black river) was
well bestowed; it was the black mother of Egypt, still carrying to her
offspring the nourishment that had first formed the Delta.

At this point of interest the journey had commenced; the deserts were
passed; all was fertility and life. Wherever the sources of the Nile
might be, the Atbara was the parent of Egypt! This was my first
impression, to be proved hereafter.

A violent thunderstorm, with a deluge of rain, broke upon our camp on
the banks of the Atbara, fortunately just after the tents were pitched.
We thus had an example of the extraordinary effects of the heavy rain in
tearing away the soil of the valley. Trifling watercourses were swollen
to torrents. Banks of earth became loosened and fell in, and the rush of
mud and water upon all sides swept forward into the river with a
rapidity which threatened the destruction of the country, could such a
tempest endure for a few days. In a couple of hours all was over.

In the evening we crossed with our baggage and people to the opposite
side of the ricer, and pitched our tents at the village of Goorashee. In
the morning the camels arrived, and once more we were ready to start.
Our factotum, El Baggar, had collected a number of baggage-camels and
riding dromedaries, or "hygeens". The latter he had brought for
approval, as we bad suffered much from the extreme roughness of our late
camels. There is the same difference between a good hygeen, or
dromedary, and a baggage-camel, as between the thoroughbred and the
cart-horse; and it appears absurd in the eyes of the Arabs that a man of
any position should ride a baggage-camel. Apart from all ideas of
etiquette, the motion of the latter animal is quite sufficient warning.
Of all species of fatigue, the back-breaking, monotonous swing of a
heavy camel is the worst; and should the rider lose patience and
administer a sharp cut with the coorbatch, that induces the creature to
break into a trot, the torture of the rack is a pleasant tickling
compared to the sensation of having your spine driven by a sledge-hammer
from below, half a foot deeper into the skull.

The human frame may be inured to almost anything; thus the Arabs, who
have always been accustomed to this kind of exercise, hardly feel the
motion, and the portion of the body most subject to pain in riding a
rough camel upon two bare pieces of wood for a saddle, becomes naturally
adapted for such rough service, as monkeys become hardened from
constantly sitting upon rough substances. The children commence almost
as soon as they are born, as they must accompany their mothers in their
annual migrations; and no sooner can the young Arab sit astride and hold
on than he is placed behind his father's saddle, to which he clings,
while he bumps upon the bare back of the jolting camel. Nature quickly
arranges a horny protection to the nerves, by the thickening of the
skin; thus, an Arab's opinion of the action of a riding hygeen should
never be accepted without a personal trial. What appears delightful to
him may be torture to you, as a strong breeze and a rough sea may be
charming to a sailor, but worse than death to a landsman.

I was determined not to accept the camels now offered as hygeens until I
had seen them tried. I accordingly ordered our black soldier, El Baggar,
to saddle the most easy-actioned animal for my wife; but I wished to see
him put it through a variety of paces before she should accept it. The
delighted EL Baggar, who from long practice was as hard as the heel of a
boot, disdained a saddle. The animal knelt, was mounted, and off he
started at full trot, performing a circle of about fifty yards' diameter
as though in a circus. I never saw such an exhibition! "Warranted quiet
to ride, of easy action, and fit for a lady!" This had been the
character received with the rampant brute, who now, with head and tail
erect, went tearing round the circle, screaming and roaring like a wild
beast, throwing his forelegs forward and stepping at least three feet
high in his trot.

Where was El Baggar? A disjointed looking black figure was sometimes on
the back of this easy going camel, sometimes a foot high in the air;
arms, head, legs, hands, appeared like a confused mass of dislocation;
the woolly hair of this unearthly individual, that had been carefully
trained in long stiff narrow curls, precisely similar to the tobacco
known as "negro-head," alternately started upright en masse, as though
under the influence of electricity, and then fell as suddenly upon his
shoulders. Had the dark individual been a "black dose", he or it could
not have been more thoroughly shaken. This object, so thoroughly
disguised by rapidity of movement, was El Baggar happy, delighted El
Baggar! As he came rapidly round toward us flourishing his coorbatch, I
called to him, "Is that a nice hygeen for the Sit (lady), EL Baggar? Is
it very easy?" He was almost incapable of a reply. "V-e-r-y
e-e-a-a-s-y," replied the trustworthy authority, "j-j-j-just the
thin-n-n-g for the S-i-i-i-t-t-t." "All right, that will do," I
answered, and the jockey pulled up his steed. "Are the other camels
better or worse than that?" I asked. "Much worse," replied El Baggar;
"the others are rather rough, but this is an easy goer, and will suit
the lady well."

It was impossible to hire a good hygeen; an Arab prizes his riding
animal too much, and invariably refuses to let it to a stranger, but
generally imposes upon him by substituting some lightly-built camel that
he thinks will pass muster. I accordingly chose for my wife a
steady-going animal from among the baggage-camels, trusting to be able
to obtain a hygeen from the great Sheik Abou Sinn, who was encamped upon
the road we were about to take along the valley of the Atbara. We left
Goorashee on the following day.


The Arabs' exodus-Reception by Abou Sinn-Arabs dressing the hair-Toilet
of an Arab woman-The plague of lice-Wives among the Arabs-The Old
Testament confirmed

IT was the season of rejoicing. Everybody appeared in good humor. The
distended udders of thousands of camels were an assurance of plenty. The
burning sun that for nine months had scorched the earth was veiled by
passing clouds. The cattle that had panted for water, and whose food was
withered straw, were filled with juicy fodder. The camels that had
subsisted upon the dried and leafless twigs and branches, now feasted
upon the succulent tops of the mimosas. Throngs of women and children
mounted upon camels, protected by the peculiar gaudy saddle-hood,
ornamented with cowrie- shells, accompanied the march. Thousands of
sheep and goats, driven by Arab boys, were straggling in all directions.
Baggage-camels, heavily laden with the quaint household goods, blocked
up the way. The fine bronzed figures of Arabs, with sword and shield,
and white topes, or plaids, guided their milk-white dromedaries through
the confused throng with the usual placid dignity of their race, simply
passing by with the usual greeting, "Salaam aleikum" (Peace be with

It was the Exodus; all were hurrying toward the promised land--"the
land flowing with milk and honey", where men and beasts would be secure,
not only from the fevers of the south, but from that deadly enemy to
camels and cattle, the fly. This terrible insect drove all before it.

If all were right in migrating to the north, it was a logical conclusion
that we were wrong in going to the south during the rainy season;
however, we now heard from the Arabs that we were within a couple of
hours' march from the camp of the great Sheik Achmet Abou Sinn, to whom
I had a letter of introduction. At the expiration of about that time we
halted, and pitched the tents among some shady mimosas, while I sent
Mahomet to Abou Sinn with the letter, and my firman.

I was busily engaged in making sundry necessary arrangements in the tent
when Mahomet returned and announced the arrival of the great sheik in
person. He was attended by several of his principal people, and as he
approached through the bright green mimosas, mounted upon a beautiful
snow-white hygeen, I was exceedingly struck with his venerable and
dignified appearance. Upon near arrival I went forward to meet him and
to assist him from his camel; but his animal knelt immediately at his
command, and he dismounted with the ease and agility of a man of twenty.

He was the most magnificent specimen of an Arab that I have ever seen.
Although upward of eighty years of age, he was as erect as a lance, and
did not appear more than between fifty and sixty. He was of herculean
stature, about six feet three inches high, with immensely broad
shoulders and chest, a remarkably arched nose, eyes like an eagle's,
beneath large, shaggy, but perfectly white eyebrows. A snow-white beard
of great thickness descended below the middle of his breast. He wore a
large white turban and a white cashmere abbai, or long robe, from the
throat to the ankles. As a desert patriarch he was superb--the very
perfection of all that the imagination could paint, if we should
personify Abraham at the head of his people. This grand old Arab with
the greatest politeness insisted upon our immediately accompanying him
to his camp, as he could not allow us to remain in his country as
strangers. He would hear of no excuses, but at once gave orders to
Mahomet to have the baggage repacked and the tents removed, while we
were requested to mount two superb white hygeens, with saddle-cloths of
blue Persian sheepskins, that he had immediately accoutered when he
heard from Mahomet of our miserable camels. The tent was struck, and we
joined our venerable host with a line of wild and splendidly-mounted
attendants, who followed us toward the sheik's encampment.

Among the retinue of the aged sheik whom we now accompanied, were ten of
his sons, some of whom appeared to be quite as old as their father. We
had ridden about two miles when we were suddenly met by a crowd of
mounted men, armed with the usual swords and shields; many were on
horses, others upon hygeens, and all drew up in lines parallel with our
approach. These were Abou Sinn's people, who had assembled to give us
the honorary welcome as guests of their chief. This etiquette of the
Arabs consists in galloping singly at full speed across the line of
advance, the rider flourishing the sword over his head, and at the same
moment reining up his horse upon its haunches so as to bring it to a
sudden halt. This having been performed by about a hundred riders upon
both horses and hygeens, they fell into line behind our party, and, thus
escorted, we shortly arrived at the Arab encampment. In all countries
the warmth of a public welcome appears to be exhibited by noise. The
whole neighborhood had congregated to meet us; crowds of women raised
the wild, shrill cry that is sounded alike for joy or sorrow; drums were
beat; men dashed about with drawn swords and engaged in mimic fight, and
in the midst of din and confusion we halted and dismounted. With
peculiar grace of manner the old sheik assisted my wife to dismount, and
led her to an open shed arranged with angareps (stretchers) covered with
Persian carpets and cushions, so as to form a divan. Sherbet, pipes, and
coffee were shortly handed to us, and Mahomet, as dragoman, translated
the customary interchange of compliments; the sheik assured us that our
unexpected arrival among them was "like the blessing of a new moon", the
depth of which expression no one can understand who has not experienced
life in the desert, where the first faint crescent is greeted with such

Abou Sinn had arranged to move northward on the following day; we
therefore agreed to pass one day in his camp, and to leave the next
morning for Sofi, on the Atbara, about seventy-eight miles distant.

From Korosko to this point we had already passed the Bedouins,
Bishareens, Hadendowas, Hallongas, until we had entered the
Shookeriyahs. On the west of our present position were the Jalyns, and
to the south near Sofi were the Dabainas. Many of the tribes claim a
right to the title of Bedouins, as descended from that race. The customs
of all the Arabs are nearly similar, and the distinction in appearance
is confined to a peculiarity in dressing the hair. This is a matter of
great importance among both men and women. It would be tedious to
describe the minutiae of the various coiffures, but the great desire
with all tribes, except the Jalyn, is to have a vast quantity of hair
arranged in their own peculiar fashion, and not only smeared, but
covered with as much fat as can be made to adhere. Thus, should a man
wish to get himself up as a great dandy, he would put at least half a
pound of butter or other fat upon his head. This would be worked up with
his coarse locks by a friend, until it somewhat resembled a cauliflower.
He would then arrange his tope or plaid of thick cotton cloth, and throw
one end over his left shoulder, while slung from the same shoulder his
circular shield would hang upon his back; suspended by a strap over the
right shoulder would hang his long two-edged broadsword.

Fat is the great desideratum of an Arab. His head, as I have described,
should be a mass of grease; he rubs his body with oil or other ointment;
his clothes, i.e. his one garment or tope, is covered with grease, and
internally he swallows as much as he can procure.

The great Sheik Abou Sinn, who is upward of eighty, as upright as a
dart, a perfect Hercules, and whose children and grandchildren are like
the sand of the sea-shore, has always consumed daily throughout his life
two rottolis (pounds) of melted butter. A short time before I left the
country he married a new young wife about fourteen years of age. This
may be a hint to octogenarians.

The fat most esteemed for dressing the hair is that of the sheep. This
undergoes a curious preparation, which renders it similar in appearance
to cold cream; upon the raw fat being taken from the animal it is chewed
in the mouth by an Arab for about two hours, being frequently taken out
for examination during that time, until it has assumed the desired
consistency. To prepare sufficient to enable a man to appear in full
dress, several persons must be employed in masticating fat at the same
time. This species of pomade, when properly made, is perfectly white,
and exceedingly light and frothy. It may be imagined that when exposed
to a burning sun, the beauty of the head-dress quickly disappears; but
the oil then runs down the neck and back, which is considered quite
correct, especially when the tope becomes thoroughly greased. The man is
then perfectly anointed. We had seen an amusing example of this when on
the march from Berber to Gozerajup. The Turk, Hadji Achmet, had pressed
into our service, as a guide for a few miles, a dandy who had just been
arranged as a cauliflower, with at least half a pound of white fat upon
his head. As we were travelling upward of four miles an hour in an
intense heat, during which he was obliged to run, the fat ran quicker
than he did, and at the end of a couple of hours both the dandy and his
pomade were exhausted. The poor fellow had to return to his friends with
the total loss of personal appearance and half a pound of butter.

Not only are the Arabs particular in their pomade, but great attention
is bestowed upon perfumery, especially by the women. Various perfumes
are brought from Cairo by the travelling native merchants, among which
those most in demand are oil of roses, oil of sandal-wood, an essence
from the blossom of a species of mimosa, essence of musk, and the oil of
cloves. The women have a peculiar method of scenting their bodies and
clothes by an operation that is considered to be one of the necessaries
of life, and which is repeated at regular intervals. In the floor of the
tent, or hut, as it may chance to be, a small hole is excavated
sufficiently large to contain a common-sized champagne bottle. A fire of
charcoal, or of simply glowing embers, is made within the hole, into
which the woman about to be scented throws a handful of various drugs.
She then takes off the cloth or tope which forms her dress, and crouches
naked over the fumes, while she arranges her robe to fall as a mantle
from her neck to the ground like a tent. When this arrangement is
concluded she is perfectly happy, as none of the precious fumes can
escape, all being retained beneath the robe, precisely as if she wore a
crinoline with an incense-burner beneath it, which would be a far more
simple way of performing the operation. She now begins to perspire
freely in the hot-air bath, and the pores of the skin being thus opened
and moist, the volatile oil from the smoke of the burning perfumes is
immediately absorbed.

By the time that the fire has expired the scenting process is completed,
and both her person and robe are redolent of incense, with which they
are so thoroughly impregnated that I have frequently smelt a party of
women strongly at full a hundred yards' distance, when the wind has been
blowing from their direction.

The Arab women do not indulge in fashions. Strictly conservative in
their manners and customs, they never imitate, but they simply vie with
each other in the superlativeness of their own style; thus the dressing
of the hair is a most elaborate affair, which occupies a considerable
portion of their time. It is quite impossible for an Arab woman to
arrange her own hair; she therefore employs an assistant, who, if clever
in the art, will generally occupy about three days before the operation
is concluded. First, the hair must be combed with a long skewer-like
pin; then, when well divided, it becomes possible to use an exceedingly
coarse wooden comb. When the hair is reduced to reasonable order by the
latter process, a vigorous hunt takes place, which occupies about an
hour, according to the amount of game preserved. The sport concluded,
the hair is rubbed with a mixture of oil of roses, myrrh, and
sandal-wood dust mixed with a powder of cloves and cassia. When well
greased and rendered somewhat stiff by the solids thus introduced, it is
plaited into at least two hundred fine plaits; each of these plaits is
then smeared with a mixture of sandal-wood dust and either gum water or
paste of dhurra flour. On the last day of the operation, each tiny plait
is carefully opened by the long hairpin or skewer, and the head is
ravissante. Scented and frizzled in this manner with a well-greased tope
or robe, the Arab lady's toilet is complete. Her head is then a little
larger than the largest sized English mop, and her perfume is something
between the aroma of a perfumer's shop and the monkey-house at the
Zoological Gardens. This is considered "very killing," and I have been
quite of that opinion when a crowd of women have visited my wife in our
tent, with the thermometer at 95 degrees C, and have kindly consented to
allow me to remain as one of the party.

It is hardly necessary to add that the operation of hairdressing is not
often performed, but that the effect is permanent for about a week,
during which time the game becomes so excessively lively that the
creatures require stirring up with the long hairpin or skewer whenever
too unruly. This appears to be constantly necessary from the vigorous
employment of the ruling sceptre during conversation. A levee of Arab
women in the tent was therefore a disagreeable invasion, as we dreaded
the fugitives; fortunately, they appeared to cling to the followers of
Mahomet in preference to Christians.

The plague of lice brought upon the Egyptians by Moses has certainly
adhered to the country ever since, if "lice" is the proper translation
of the Hebrew word in the Old Testament. It is my own opinion that the
insects thus inflicted upon the population were not lice, but ticks.
Exod. 8:16: "The dust became lice throughout all Egypt;" again, Exod.
8:17: "Smote dust... it became lice in man and beast." Now the louse
that infests the human body and hair has no connection whatever with
"dust," and if subject to a few hours' exposure to the dry heat of the
burning sand, it would shrivel and die. But the tick is an inhabitant of
the dust, a dry horny insect without any apparent moisture in its
composition; it lives in hot sand and dust, where it cannot possibly
obtain nourishment, until some wretched animal lies down upon the spot,
when it becomes covered with these horrible vermin. I have frequently
seen dry desert places so infested with ticks that the ground was
perfectly alive with them, and it would have been impossible to rest on
the earth.

In such spots, the passage in Exodus has frequently occurred to me as
bearing reference to these vermin, which are the greatest enemies to man
and beast. It is well known that, from the size of a grain of sand in
their natural state, they will distend to the size of a hazelnut after
having preyed for some days upon the blood of an animal. The Arabs are
invariably infested with lice, not only in their hair, but upon their
bodies and clothes; even the small charms or spells worn upon the arm in
neatly-sewn leathern packets are full of these vermin. Such spells are
generally verses copied from the Koran by the Faky, or priest, who
receives some small gratuity in exchange. The men wear several such
talismans upon the arm above the elbow, but the women wear a large bunch
of charms, as a sort of chatelaine, suspended beneath their clothes
around the waist.

Although the tope or robe, loosely but gracefully arranged around the
body, appears to be the whole of the costume, the women wear beneath
this garment a thin blue cotton cloth tightly bound round the loins,
which descends to a little above the knee; beneath this, next to the
skin, is the last garment, the rahat. The latter is the only clothing of
young girls, and may be either perfectly simple or adorned with beads
and cowrie shells according to the fancy of the wearer. It is perfectly
effective as a dress, and admirably adapted to the climate.

The rahat is a fringe of fine dark brown or reddish twine, fastened to a
belt, and worn round the waist. On either side are two long tassels,
that are generally ornamented with beads or cowries, and dangle nearly
to the ankles, while the rahat itself should descend to a little above
the knee, or be rather shorter than a Highland kilt. Nothing can be
prettier or more simple than this dress, which, although short, is of
such thickly hanging fringe that it perfectly answers the purpose for
which it is intended.

Many of the Arab girls are remarkably good-looking, with fine figures
until they become mothers. They generally marry at the age of thirteen
or fourteen, but frequently at twelve or even earlier. Until married,
the rahat is their sole garment. Throughout the Arab tribes of Upper
Egypt, chastity is a necessity, as an operation is performed at the
early age of from three to five years that thoroughly protects all
females and which renders them physically proof against incontinency.

There is but little love-making among the Arabs. The affair of matrimony
usually commences by a present to the father of the girl, which, if
accepted, is followed by a similar advance to the girl herself, and the
arrangement is completed. All the friends of both parties are called
together for the wedding; pistols and guns are fired off, if possessed.
There is much feasting, and the unfortunate bridegroom undergoes the
ordeal of whipping by the relatives of his bride, in order to test his
courage. Sometimes this punishment is exceedingly severe, being
inflicted with the coorbatch or whip of hippopotamus hide, which is
cracked vigorously about his ribs and back. If the happy husband wishes
to be considered a man worth having, he must receive the chastisement
with an expression of enjoyment; in which case the crowds of women again
raise their thrilling cry in admiration. After the rejoicings of the day
are over, the bride is led in the evening to the residence of her
husband, while a beating of drums and strumming of guitars (rhababas)
are kept up for some hours during the night, with the usual discordant

There is no divorce court among the Arabs. They are not sufficiently
advanced in civilization to accept a pecuniary fine as the price of a
wife's dishonor; but a stroke of the husband's sword or a stab with the
knife is generally the ready remedy for infidelity. Although strict
Mahometans, the women are never veiled; neither do they adopt the
excessive reserve assumed by the Turks and Egyptians. The Arab women are
generally idle, and one of the conditions of accepting a suitor is that
a female slave is to be provided for the special use of the wife. No
Arab woman will engage herself as a domestic servant; thus, so long as
their present customs shall remain unchanged, slaves are creatures of
necessity. Although the law of Mahomet limits the number of wives for
each man to four at one time, the Arab women do not appear to restrict
their husbands to this allowance, and the slaves of the establishment
occupy the position of concubines.

The Arabs adhere strictly to their ancient customs, independently of the
comparatively recent laws established by Mahomet. Thus, concubinage is
not considered a breach of morality; neither is it regarded by the
legitimate wives with jealousy. They attach great importance to the laws
of Moses and to the customs of their forefathers; neither can they
understand the reason for a change of habit in any respect where
necessity has not suggested the reform. The Arabs are creatures of
necessity; their nomadic life is compulsory, as the existence of their
flocks and herds depends upon the pasturage. Thus, with the change of
seasons they must change their localities, according to the presence of
fodder for their cattle. Driven to and fro by the accidents of climate,
the Arab has been compelled to become a wanderer; and precisely as the
wild beasts of the country are driven from place to place either by the
arrival of the fly, the lack of pasturage, or by the want of water, even
so must the flocks of the Arab obey the law of necessity, in a country
where the burning sun and total absence of rain for nine months of the
year convert the green pastures into a sandy desert.

The Arab cannot halt on one spot longer than the pasturage will support
his flocks; therefore his necessity is food for his beasts. The object
of his life being fodder, he must wander in search of the ever-changing
supply. His wants must be few, as the constant changes of encampment
necessitate the transport of all his household goods; thus he reduces to
a minimum the domestic furniture and utensils. No desires for strange
and fresh objects excite his mind to improvement, or alter his original
habits; he must limit his impedimenta, not increase them. Thus with a
few necessary articles he is contented. Mats for his tent, ropes
manufactured with the hair of his goats and camels, pots for carrying
fat, water-jars and earthenware pots or gourd-shells for containing
milk, leather water-skins for the desert, and sheep-skin bags for his
clothes--these are the requirements of the Arabs. Their patterns have
never changed, but the water-jar of to-day is of the same form as that
carried to the well by the women of thousands of years ago. The
conversation of the Arabs is in the exact style of the Old Testament.
The name of God is coupled with every trifling incident in life, and
they believe in the continual action of divine special interference.
Should a famine afflict the country, it is expressed in the stern
language of the bible--"The Lord has sent a grievous famine upon the
land;" or, "The Lord called for a famine, and it came upon the land."
Should their cattle fall sick, it is considered to be an affliction by
divine command; or should the flocks prosper and multiply particularly
well during one season, the prosperity is attributed to special
interference. Nothing can happen in the usual routine of daily life
without a direct connection with the hand of God, according to the
Arab's belief.

This striking similarity to the descriptions of the Old Testament is
exceedingly interesting to a traveller when residing among these curious
and original people. With the Bible in one hand, and these unchanged
tribes before the eyes, there is a thrilling illustration of the sacred
record; the past becomes the present; the veil of three thousand years
is raised, and the living picture is a witness to the exactness of the
historical description. At the same time there is a light thrown upon
many obscure passages in the Old Testament by a knowledge of the present
customs and figures of speech of the Arabs, which are precisely those
that were practised at the periods described. I do not attempt to enter
upon a theological treatise, therefore it is unnecessary to allude
specially to these particular points. The sudden and desolating arrival
of a flight of locusts, the plague, or any other unforeseen calamity, is
attributed to the anger of God, and is believed to be an infliction of
punishment upon the people thus visited, precisely as the plagues of
Egypt were specially inflicted upon Pharaoh and the Egyptians.

Should the present history of the country be written by an Arab scribe,
the style of the description would be purely that of the Old Testament;
and the various calamities or the good fortunes that have in the course
of nature befallen both the tribes and individuals would be recounted
either as special visitations of divine wrath or blessings for good
deeds performed. If in a dream a particular course of action is
suggested, the Arab believes that God has spoken and directed him. The
Arab scribe or historian would describe the event as the "voice of the
Lord" ("kallam el Allah"), having spoken unto the person; or, that God
appeared to him in a dream and "said," etc. Thus much allowance would be
necessary on the part of a European reader for the figurative ideas and
expressions of the people. As the Arabs are unchanged, the theological
opinions which they now hold are the same as those which prevailed in
remote ages, with the simple addition of their belief in Mahomet as the


On the Abyssinian border. A new school of medicine--Sacred shrines and

We left the camp of Abou Sinn on the morning of July 25th, and in a few
rapid marches arrived at Tomat, a lovely spot at the junction of the
Atbara with the Settite.

The Settite is the river par excellence, as it is the principal stream
of Abyssinia, in which country it bears the name of "Tacazzy." Above the
junction the Athara does not exceed two hundred yards in width. Both
rivers have scooped out deep and broad valleys throughout their course.
This fact confirmed my first impression that the supply of soil had been
brought down by the Atbara to the Nile. The country on the opposite or
eastern bank of the Atbara is contested ground. In reality it forms the
western frontier of Abyssinia, of which the Atbara River is the
boundary; but since the annexation of the Nubian provinces to Egypt
there has been no safety for life or property upon the line of frontier;
thus a large tract of country actually forming a portion of Abyssinia is

Upon our arrival at Sofi we were welcomed by the sheik, and by a German,
Florian, who was delighted to see Europeans. He was a sallow,
sickly-looking man, who with a large bony frame had been reduced from
constant hard work and frequent sickness to little but skin and sinew.
He was a mason, who had left Germany with the Austrian mission to
Khartoum, but finding the work too laborious in such a climate, he and a
friend, who was a carpenter, had declared for independence, and they had
left the mission. They were both enterprising fellows, and sportsmen;
therefore they had purchased rifles and ammunition, and had commenced
life as hunters. At the same time they employed their leisure hours in
earning money by the work of their hands in various ways.

I determined to arrange our winter quarters at Sofi for three months'
stay, during which I should have ample time to gain information and
complete arrangements for the future. I accordingly succeeded in
purchasing a remarkably neat house for ten piastres (two shillings). The
architecture was of an ancient style, from the original design of a
pill-box surmounted by a candle extinguisher. I purchased two additional
huts, which were erected at the back of our mansion, one as the kitchen,
the other as the servants' hall.

In the course of a week we had as pretty a camp as Robinson Crusoe
himself could have coveted. We had a view of about five miles in extent
along the valley of the Atbara, and it was my daily amusement to scan
with my telescope the uninhabited country upon the opposite side of the
river and watch the wild animals as they grazed in perfect security. We
were thoroughly happy at Sofi. There was a delightful calm and a sense
of rest, a total estrangement from the cares of the world, and an
enchanting contrast in the soft green verdure of the landscape before
us, to the many hundred weary miles of burning desert through which we
had toiled from Lower Egypt.

Time glided away smoothly until the fever invaded our camp. Florian
became seriously ill. My wife was prostrated by a severe attack of
gastric fever, which for nine days rendered her recovery almost
hopeless. Then came the plague of boils, and soon after a species of
intolerable itch, called the coorash. I adopted for this latter a
specific I had found successful with the mange in dogs, namely,
gunpowder, with one fourth sulphur added, made into a soft paste with
water, and then formed into an ointment with fat. It worked like a charm
with the coorash.

Faith is the drug that is supposed to cure the Arab; whatever his
complaint may be, he applies to his Faky or priest. This minister is not
troubled with a confusion of book-learning, neither are the shelves of
his library bending beneath weighty treatises upon the various maladies
of human nature; but he possesses the key to all learning, the talisman
that will apply to all cases, in that one holy book, the Koran. This is
his complete pharmacopoeia: his medicine chest, combining purgatives,
blisters, sudorifies, styptics, narcotics, emetics, and all that the
most profound M.D. could prescribe. With this "multum in parvo"
stock-in-trade the Faky receives his patients. No. 1 arrives, a barren
woman who requests some medicine that will promote the blessing of
childbirth. No. 2, a man who was strong in his youth, but from excessive
dissipation has become useless. No. 3, a man deformed from his birth,
who wishes to become straight as other men. No. 4, a blind child. No. 5,
a dying old woman, carried on a litter; and sundry other impossible
cases, with others of a more simple character.

The Faky produces his book, the holy Koran, and with a pen formed of a
reed he proceeds to write a prescription--not to be made up by an
apothecary, as such dangerous people do not exist; but the prescription
itself is to be SWALLOWED! Upon a smooth board, like a slate, he rubs
sufficient lime to produce a perfectly white surface; upon this he
writes in large characters, with thick glutinous ink, a verse or verses
from the Koran that he considers applicable to the case; this completed,
he washes off the holy quotation, and converts it into a potation by the
addition of a little water; this is swallowed in perfect faith by the
patient, who in return pays a fee according to the demand of the Faky.

As few people can read or write, there is an air of mystery in the art
of writing which much enhances the value of a scrap of paper upon which
is written a verse from the Koran. A few piastres are willingly expended
in the purchase of such talismans, which are carefully and very neatly
sewn into small envelopes of leather, and are worn by all people, being
handed down from father to son.

The Arabs are especially fond of relics; thus, upon the return from a
pilgrimage to Mecca, the "hadji" or pilgrim is certain to have purchased
from some religious Faky of the sacred shrine either a few square inches
of cloth, or some such trifle, that belonged to the prophet Mahomet.
This is exhibited to his friends and strangers as a wonderful spell
against some particular malady, and it is handed about and received with
extreme reverence by the assembled crowd. I once formed one of a circle
when a pilgrim returned to his native village. We sat in a considerable
number upon the ground, while he drew from his bosom a leather envelope,
suspended from his neck, from which he produced a piece of extremely
greasy woollen cloth, about three inches square, the original color of
which it would have been impossible to guess. This was a piece of
Mahomet's garment, but what portion he could not say. The pilgrim had
paid largely for this blessed relic, and it was passed round our circle
from hand to hand, after having first been kissed by the proprietor, who
raised it to the crown of his head, which he touched with the cloth, and
then wiped both his eyes. Each person who received it went through a
similar performance, and as ophthalmia and other diseases of the eyes
were extremely prevalent, several of the party had eyes that had not the
brightness of the gazelle's; nevertheless, these were supposed to become
brighter after having been wiped by the holy cloth. How many eyes this
same piece of cloth had wiped, it would be impossible to say, but such
facts are sufficient to prove the danger of holy relics, that are
inoculators of all manner of contagious diseases.

I believe in holy shrines as the pest spots of the world. We generally
have experienced in Western Europe that all violent epidemics arrive
from the East. The great breadth of the Atlantic boundary would
naturally protect us from the West, but infectious disorders, such as
plague, cholera, small-pox, etc., may be generally tracked throughout
their gradations from their original nests. Those nests are in the East,
where the heat of the climate acting upon the filth of semi-savage
communities engenders pestilence.

The holy places of both Christians and Mahometans are the receptacles
for the masses of people of all nations and classes who have arrived
from all points of the compass. The greater number of such people are of
poor estate, and many have toiled on foot from immense distances,
suffering from hunger and fatigue, and bringing with them not only the
diseases of their own remote counties, but arriving in that weak state
that courts the attack of any epidemic. Thus crowded together, with a
scarcity of provisions, a want of water, and no possibility of
cleanliness, with clothes that have been unwashed for weeks or months,
in a camp of dirty pilgrims, without any attempt at drainage, an
accumulation of filth takes place that generates either cholera or
typhus; the latter, in its most malignant form, appears as the dreaded
"plague." Should such an epidemic attack the mass of pilgrims
debilitated by the want of nourishing food, and exhausted by their
fatiguing march, it runs riot like a fire among combustibles, and the
loss of life is terrific. The survivors radiate from this common centre,
upon their return to their respective homes, to which they carry the
seeds of the pestilence to germinate upon new soils in different
countries. Doubtless the clothes of the dead furnish materials for
innumerable holy relics as vestiges of the wardrobe of the Prophet.
These are disseminated by the pilgrims throughout all countries,
pregnant with disease; and, being brought into personal contact with
hosts of true believers, Pandora's box could not be more fatal.

Not only are relics upon a pocket scale conveyed by pilgrims and
reverenced by the Arabs, but the body of any Faky who in lifetime was
considered unusually holy is brought from a great distance to be
interred in some particular spot. In countries where a tree is a rarity,
a plank for a coffin is unknown; thus the reverend Faky, who may have
died of typhus, is wrapped in cloths and packed in a mat. In this form
he is transported, perhaps some hundred miles, slung upon a camel, with
the thermometer above 130 degrees Fah. in the sun, and he is conveyed to
the village that is so fortunate as to be honored with his remains. It
may be readily imagined that with a favorable wind the inhabitants are
warned of his approach some time before his arrival.

Happily, long before we arrived at Sofi, the village had been blessed by
the death of a celebrated Faky, a holy man who would have been described
as a second Isaiah were the annals of the country duly chronicled. This
great "man of God," as he was termed, had departed this life at a
village on the borders of the Nile, about eight days' hard camel-journey
from Sofi; but from some assumed right, mingled no doubt with jobbery,
the inhabitants of Sofi had laid claim to his body, and he had arrived
upon a camel horizontally, and had been buried about fifty yards from
the site of our camp. His grave was beneath a clump of mimosas that
shaded the spot, and formed the most prominent object in the foreground
of our landscape. Thither every Friday the women of the village
congregated, with offerings of a few handfuls of dhurra in small
gourd-shells, which they laid upon the grave, while they ATE THE HOLY
EARTH in small pinches, which they scraped like rabbits, from a hole
they had burrowed toward the venerated corpse. This hole was about two
feet deep from continual scratching, and must have been very near the

Although thus reverent in their worship, the Arab's religion is a sort
of adjustable one. The wild boar, for instance, is invariably eaten by
the Arab hunters, although in direct opposition to the rules of the
Koran. I once asked them what their Faky would say if he were aware of
such a transgression. "Oh!" they replied, "we have already asked his
permission, as we are sometimes severely pressed for food in the
jungles. He says, `If you have the KORAN in your hand and NO PIG, you
are forbidden to eat pork; but if you have the PIG in your hand and NO
KORAN, you had better eat what God has given you.'"


A primitive craft--Stalking the giraffes--My first giraffes--Rare sport
with the finny tribe--Thieving elephants.

For many days, while at Sofi, we saw large herds of giraffes and
antelopes on the opposite side of the river, about two miles distant. On
September 2d a herd of twenty-eight giraffes tempted me at all hazards
to cross the river. So we prepared an impromptu raft. My angarep
(bedstead) was quickly inverted. Six water-skins were inflated, and
lashed, three on either side. A shallow packing- case, lined with tin,
containing my gun, was fastened in the centre of the angarep, and two
towlines were attached to the front part of the raft, by which swimmers
were to draw it across the river. Two men were to hang on behind, and,
if possible, keep it straight in the rapid current. After some
difficulty we arrived at the opposite bank, and scrambled through thick
bushes, upon our hands and knees, to the summit.

For about two miles' breadth on this side of the river the valley was
rough broken ground, full of gullies and ravines sixty or seventy feet
deep, beds of torrents, bare sandstone rocks, bushy crags, fine grassy
knolls, and long strips of mimosa covert, forming a most perfect
locality for shooting.

I had observed by the telescope that the giraffes were standing as usual
upon an elevated position, from whence they could keep a good lookout. I
knew it would be useless to ascend the slope directly, as their long
necks give these animals an advantage similar to that of the man at the
masthead; therefore, although we had the wind in our favor, we should
have been observed. I accordingly determined to make a great circuit of
about five miles, and thus to approach them from above, with the
advantage of the broken ground for stalking. It was the perfection of
uneven country. By clambering up broken cliffs, wading shoulder-deep
through muddy gullies, sliding down the steep ravines, and winding
through narrow bottoms of high grass and mimosas for about two hours, we
at length arrived at the point of the high table-land upon the verge of
which I had first noticed the giraffes with the telescope. Almost
immediately I distinguished the tall neck of one of these splendid
animals about half a mile distant upon my left, a little below the
table-land; it was feeding on the bushes, and I quickly discovered
several others near the leader of the herd. I was not far enough
advanced in the circuit that I had intended to bring me exactly above
them, therefore I turned sharp to my right, intending to make a short
half circle, and to arrive on the leeward side of the herd, as I was now
to windward. This I fortunately completed, but I had marked a thick bush
as my point of cover, and upon arrival I found that the herd had fed
down wind, and that I was within two hundred yards of the great bull
sentinel that, having moved from his former position, was now standing
directly before me.

I lay down quietly behind the bush with my two followers, and anxiously
watched the great leader, momentarily expecting that it would get my
wind. It was shortly joined by two others, and I perceived the heads of
several giraffes lower down the incline, that were now feeding on their
way to the higher ground. The seroot fly was teasing them, and I
remarked that several birds were fluttering about their heads, sometimes
perching upon their noses and catching the fly that attacked their
nostrils, while the giraffes appeared relieved by their attentions.
These birds were of a peculiar species that attacks the domestic
animals, and not only relieves them of vermin, but eats into the flesh
and establishes dangerous sores. A puff of wind now gently fanned the
back of my neck; it was cool and delightful, but no sooner did I feel
the refreshing breeze than I knew it would convey our scent directly to
the giraffes. A few seconds afterward the three grand obelisks threw
their heads still higher in the air, and fixing their great black eyes
upon the spot from which the warning came, they remained as motionless
as though carved from stone. From their great height they could see over
the bush behind which we were lying at some paces distant, and although
I do not think they could distinguish us to be men, they could see
enough to convince them of hidden enemies.

The attitude of fixed attention and surprise of the three giraffes was
sufficient warning for the rest of the herd, who immediately filed up
from the lower ground, and joined their comrades. All now halted and
gazed steadfastly in our direction, forming a superb tableau, their
beautiful mottled skins glancing like the summer coat of a thoroughbred
horse, the orange-colored statues standing out in high relief from a
background of dark-green mimosas.

This beautiful picture soon changed. I knew that my chance of a close
shot was hopeless, as they would presently make a rush and be off; thus
I determined to get the first start. I had previously studied the
ground, and I concluded that they would push forward at right angles
with my position, as they had thus ascended the hill, and that, on
reaching the higher ground, they would turn to the right, in order to
reach an immense tract of high grass, as level as a billiard-table, from
which no danger could approach them unobserved.

I accordingly with a gentle movement of my hand directed my people to
follow me, and I made a sudden rush forward at full speed. Off went the
herd, shambling along at a tremendous pace, whisking their long tails
above their hind quarters, and, taking exactly the direction I had
anticipated, they offered me a shoulder shot at a little within two
hundred yards' distance. Unfortunately, I fell into a deep hole
concealed by the high grass, and by the time that I resumed the hunt
they had increased their distance; but I observed the leader turned
sharply to the right, through some low mimosa bush, to make directly for
the open table-land. I made a short cut obliquely at my best speed, and
only halted when I saw that I should lose ground by altering my
position. Stopping short, I was exactly opposite the herd as they filed
by me at right angles in full speed, within about a hundred and eighty
yards. I had my old Ceylon No. 10 double rifle, and I took a steady shot
at a large dark-colored bull. The satisfactory sound of the ball upon
his hide was followed almost immediately by his blundering forward for
about twenty yards and falling heavily in the low bush. I heard the
crack of the ball of my left-hand barrel upon another fine beast, but no
effects followed. Bacheet quickly gave me the single two-ounce Manton
rifle, and I singled out a fine dark-colored bull, who fell on his knees
to the shot, but, recovering, hobbled off disabled, apart from the herd,
with a foreleg broken just below the shoulder. Reloading immediately, I
ran up to the spot, where I found my first giraffe lying dead, with the
ball clean through both shoulders. The second was standing about one
hundred paces distant. Upon my approach he attempted to move, but
immediately fell, and was despatched by my eager Arabs. I followed the
herd for about a mile to no purpose, through deep clammy ground and high
grass, and I returned to our game.

These were my first giraffes, and I admired them as they lay before me
with a hunter's pride and satisfaction, but mingled with a feeling of
pity for such beautiful and utterly helpless creatures. The giraffe,
although from sixteen to twenty feet in height, is perfectly
defenceless, and can only trust to the swiftness of its pace and the
extraordinary power of vision, for its means of protection. The eye of
this animal is the most beautiful exaggeration of that of the gazelle,
while the color of the reddish-orange hide, mottled with darker spots,
changes the tints of the skin with the differing rays of light,
according to the muscular movement of the body. No one who has merely
seen the giraffe in a cold climate can form the least idea of its beauty
in its native land.

Life at Sofi was becoming sadly monotonous, and I determined to move my
party across the river to camp on the uninhabited side. The rains had
almost ceased, so we should be able to live in a tent by night, and to
form a shady nook beneath some mimosas by day. On the 15th of September
the entire male population of Sofi turned out to assist us across the
river. I had arranged a raft by attaching eight inflated skins to the
bedstead, upon which I lashed our large circular sponging bath. Four
hippopotami hunters were harnessed as tug steamers. By evening all our
party, with the baggage, had effected the crossing without accident--all
but Achmet, Mahomet's mother's brother's cousin's sister's mother's son,
who took advantage of his near relative, when the latter was in the
middle of the stream, and ran off with most of his personal effects.

The life at our new camp was charmingly independent. We were upon
Abyssinian territory, but as the country was uninhabited we considered
it as our own. Our camp was near the mouth of a small stream, the Till,
tributary to the Atbara, which afforded some excellent sport in fishing.
Choosing one day a fish of about half a pound for bait, I dropped this
in the river about twenty yards beyond the mouth of the Till, and
allowed it to swim naturally down the stream so as to pass across the
Till junction, and descend the deep channel between the rocks. For about
ten minutes I had no run. I had twice tried the same water without
success; nothing would admire my charming bait; when, just as it had
reached the favorite turning-point at the extremity of a rock, away
dashed the line, with the tremendous rush that follows the attack of a
heavy fish. Trusting to the soundness of my tackle, I struck hard and
fixed my new acquaintance thoroughly, but off he dashed down the stream
for about fifty yards at one rush, making for a narrow channel between
two rocks, through which the stream ran like a mill-race. Should he pass
this channel, I knew he would cut the line across the rock; therefore,
giving him the butt, I held him by main force, and by the great swirl in
the water I saw that I was bringing him to the surface; but just as I
expected to see him, my float having already appeared, away he darted in
another direction, taking sixty or seventy yards of line without a
check. I at once observed that he must pass a shallow sandbank favorable
for landing a heavy fish; I therefore checked him as he reached this
spot, and I followed him down the bank, reeling up line as I ran
parallel with his course. Now came the tug of war! I knew my hooks were
good and the line sound, therefore I was determined not to let him
escape beyond the favorable ground; and I put upon him a strain that,
after much struggling, brought to the surface a great shovel-head,
followed by a pair of broad silvery sides, as I led him gradually into
shallow water. Bacheet now cleverly secured him by the gills, and
dragged him in triumph to the shore. This was a splendid bayard, of at
least forty pounds' weight.

I laid my prize upon some green reeds, and covered it carefully with the
same cool material. I then replaced my bait by a lively fish, and once
more tried the river. In a very short time I had another run, and landed
a small fish of about nine pounds, of the same species. Not wishing to
catch fish of that size, I put on a large bait, and threw it about forty
yards into the river, well up the stream, and allowed the float to sweep
the water in a half circle, thus taking the chance of different
distances from the shore. For about half an hour nothing moved. I was
just preparing to alter my position, when out rushed my line, and,
striking hard, I believed I fixed the old gentleman himself, for I had
no control over him whatever. Holding him was out of the question; the
line flew through my hands, cutting them till the blood flowed, and I
was obliged to let the fish take his own way. This he did for about
eighty yards, when he suddenly stopped. This unexpected halt was a great
calamity, for the reel overran itself, having no checkwheel, and the
slack bends of the line caught the handle just as he again rushed
forward, and with a jerk that nearly pulled the rod from my hands he was
gone! I found one of my large hooks broken short off. The fish was a

After this bad luck I had no run until the evening, when, putting on a
large bait, and fishing at the tail of a rock between the stream and
still water, I once more had a fine rush, and hooked a big one. There
were no rocks down stream, all was fair play and clear water, and away
he went at racing pace straight for the middle of the river. To check
the pace I grasped the line with the stuff of my loose trousers, and
pressed it between my fingers so as to act as a brake and compel him to
labor for every yard; but he pulled like a horse, and nearly cut through
the thick cotton cloth, making straight running for at least a hundred
yards without a halt. I now put so severe a strain upon him that my
strong bamboo bent nearly double, and the fish presently so far yielded
to the pressure that I could enforce his running in half circles instead
of straight away. I kept gaining line until I at length led him into a
shallow bay, and after a great fight Bacheet embraced him by falling
upon him and clutching the monster with hands and knees; he then tugged
to the shore a magnificent fish of upward of sixty pounds. For about
twenty minutes lie had fought against such a strain as I had never
before used upon a fish; but I had now adopted hooks of such a large
size and thickness that it was hardly possible for them to break, unless
snapped by a crocodile. My reel was so loosened from the rod, that had
the struggle lasted a few minutes longer I must have been vanquished.
This fish measured three feet eight inches to the root of the tail, and
two feet three inches in girth of shoulders ; the head measured one foot
ten inches in circumference. It was of the same species as those I had
already caught.

Over a month was passed at our camp, Ehetilla, as we called it. The time
passed in hunting, fishing, and observing the country, but it was for
the most part uneventful. In the end of October we removed to a village
called Wat el Negur, nine miles south-east of Ehetilla, still on the
bank of the Atbara.

Our arrival was welcomed with enthusiasm. The Arabs here had extensive
plantations of sesame, dhurra, and cotton, and the nights were spent in
watching them, to scare away the elephants, which, with extreme cunning,
invaded the fields of dhurra at different points every night, and
retreated before morning to the thick, thorny jungles of the Settite.
The Arabs were without firearms, and the celebrated aggageers or
sword-hunters were useless, as the elephants appeared only at night, and
were far too cunning to give them a chance. I was importuned to drive
away the elephants, and one evening, about nine o'clock, I arrived at
the plantations with three men carrying spare guns. We had not been half
an hour in the dhurra fields before we met a couple of Arab watchers,
who informed us that a herd of elephants was already in the plantation;
we accordingly followed our guides. In about a quarter of an hour we
distinctly heard the cracking of the dhurra stems, as the elephants
browsed and trampled them beneath their feet.

Taking the proper position of the wind, I led our party cautiously in
the direction of the sound, and in about five minutes I came in view of
the slate-colored and dusky forms of the herd. The moon was bright, and
I counted nine elephants; they had trampled a space of about fifty yards
square into a barren level, and they were now slowly moving forward,
feeding as they went. One elephant, unfortunately, was separated from
the herd, and was about forty yards in the rear; this fellow I was
afraid would render our approach difficult. Cautioning my men,
especially Bacheet, to keep close to me with the spare rifles, I crept
along the alleys formed by the tall rows of dhurra, and after carefully
stalking against the wind, I felt sure that it would be necessary to
kill the single elephant before I should be able to attack the herd.
Accordingly I crept nearer and nearer, well concealed in the favorable
crop of high and sheltering stems, until I was within fifteen yards of
the hindmost animal. As I had never shot one of the African species, I
was determined to follow the Ceylon plan, and get as near as possible;
therefore I continued to creep from row to row of dhurra, until I at
length stood at the very tail of the elephant in the next row. I could
easily have touched it with my rifle, but just at this moment it either
obtained my wind or it heard the rustle of the men. It quickly turned
its head half round toward me; in the same instant I took the
temple-shot, and by the flash of the rifle I saw that it fell. Jumping
forward past the huge body, I fired the left-hand barrel at an elephant
that had advanced from the herd; it fell immediately! Now came the
moment for a grand rush, as they stumbled in confusion over the last
fallen elephant, and jammed together in a dense mass with their immense
ears outspread, forming a picture of intense astonishment! Where were my
spare guns? Here was an excellent opportunity to run in and floor them
right and left!

Not a man was in sight! Everybody had bolted, and I stood in advance of
the dead elephant calling for my guns in vain. At length one of my
fellows came up, but it was too late. The fallen elephant in the herd
had risen from the ground, and they had all hustled off at a great pace,
and were gone. I had only bagged one elephant. Where was the valiant
Bacheet--the would-be Nimrod, who for the last three months had been
fretting in inactivity, and longing for the moment of action, when he
had promised to be my trusty gun-bearer? He was the last man to appear,
and he only ventured from his hiding-place in the high dhurra when
assured of the elephants' retreat. I was obliged to admonish the whole
party by a little physical treatment, and the gallant Bacheet returned
with us to the village, crestfallen and completely subdued. On the
following day not a vestige remained of the elephant, except the offal;
the Arabs had not only cut off the flesh, but they had hacked the skull
and the bones in pieces, and carried them off to boil down for soup.


Preparations for advance--Mek Nimmur makes a foray--The Hamran
elephant-hunters--In the haunts of the elephant--A desperate charge.

The time was approaching when the grass throughout the country would be
sufficiently dry to be fired. We accordingly prepared for our
expedition; but it was first necessary for me to go to Katariff, sixty
miles distant, to engage men, and to procure a slave in place of old
Masara, whose owner would not trust her in the wild region we were about
to visit.

I engaged six strong Tokrooris for five months, and purchased a slave
woman for thirty-five dollars. The name of the woman was Barrake. She
was about twenty-two years of age, brown in complexion, fat and strong,
rather tall, and altogether she was a fine, powerful-looking woman, but
decidedly not pretty. Her hair was elaborately dressed in hundreds of
long narrow curls, so thickly smeared with castor oil that the grease
had covered her naked shoulders. In addition to this, as she had been
recently under the hands of the hairdresser, there was an amount of fat
and other nastiness upon her head that gave her the appearance of being
nearly gray.

Through the medium of Mahomet I explained to her that she was no longer
a slave, as I had purchased her freedom; that she would not even be
compelled to remain with us, but she could do as she thought proper;
that both her mistress and I should be exceedingly kind to her, and we
would subsequently find her a good situation in Cairo; in the mean time
she would receive good clothes and wages. This, Mahomet, much against
his will, was obliged to translate literally. The effect was magical;
the woman, who had looked frightened and unhappy, suddenly beamed with
smiles, and without any warning she ran toward me, and in an instant I
found myself embraced in her loving arms. She pressed me to her bosom,
and smothered me with castor-oily kisses, while her greasy ringlets hung
upon my face and neck. How long this entertainment would have lasted I
cannot tell, but I was obliged to cry "Caffa! Caffa!" (enough! enough!)
as it looked improper, and the perfumery was too rich. Fortunately my
wife was present, but she did not appear to enjoy it more than I did. My
snow-white blouse was soiled and greasy, and for the rest of the day I
was a disagreeable compound of smells--castor oil, tallow, musk,
sandal-wood, burnt shells, and Barrake.

Mahomet and Barrake herself, I believe, were the only people who really
enjoyed this little event. "Ha!" Mahomet exclaimed, "this is your own
fault! You insisted upon speaking kindly, and telling her that she is
not a slave; now she thinks that she is one of your WIVES!" This was the
real fact; the unfortunate ** Barrake ** had deceived herself. Never
having been free, she could not understand the use of freedom unless she
was to be a wife. She had understood my little address as a proposal,
and of course she was disappointed; but as an action for breach of
promise cannot be pressed in the Soudan, poor Barrake, although free,
had not the happy rights of a free-born Englishwoman, who can heal her
broken heart with a pecuniary plaster, and console herself with damages
for the loss of a lover.

We were ready to start, having our party of servants complete, six
Tokrooris--Moosa, Abdoolahi, Abderachman, Hassan, Adow, and Hadji Ali,
with Mahomet, Wat Gamma, Bacheet, Mahomet secundus (a groom), and
Barrake; total, eleven men and the cook.

When half way on our return from Katariff to Wat el Negur, we found the
whole country in alarm, Mek Nimmur having suddenly made a foray. He had
crossed the Atbara, plundered the district, and driven off large numbers
of cattle and camels, after having killed a considerable number of
people. No doubt the reports were somewhat exaggerated, but the
inhabitants of the district were flying from their villages with their
herds, and were flocking to Katariff. We arrived at Wat el Negur on the
3d of December, and we now felt the advantage of our friendship with the
good Sheik Achmet, who, being a friend of Mek Nimmur, had saved our
effects during our absence. These would otherwise have been plundered,
as the robbers had paid him a visit. He had removed our tents and
baggage to his own house for protection. Not only had he thus protected
our effects, but he had taken the opportunity of delivering the polite
message to Mek Nimmur that I had entrusted to his charge--expressing a
wish to pay him a visit as a countryman and friend of Mr. Mansfield
Parkyns, who had formerly been so well received by his father.

My intention was to examine thoroughly all the great rivers of Abyssinia
that were tributaries to the Nile. These were the Settite, Royan,
Angrab, Salaam, Rahad, Dinder, and the Blue Nile. If possible, I should
traverse the Galla country, and crossing the Blue Nile, I should
endeavor to reach the White Nile. But this latter idea I subsequently
found impracticable, as it would have interfered with the proper season
for my projected journey up the White Nile in search of the sources. The
Hamran Arabs were at this time encamped about twenty- five miles from
Wat el Negur. I sent a messenger, accompanied by Mahomet, to the sheik,
with the firman of the Viceroy, requesting him to supply me with
elephant hunters (aggageers).

During the absence of Mahomet I received a very polite message from Mek
Nimmur, accompanied by a present of twenty pounds of coffee, with an
invitation to pay him a visit. His country lay between the Settite River
and the Bahr Salaam; thus without his invitation I might have found it
difficult to traverse his territory. So far all went well. I returned my
salaams, and sent word that we intended to hunt through the ** Base **
country, after which we should have the honor of passing a few days with
him on our road to the river Salaam, at which place we intended to hunt
elephants and rhinoceroses.

Mahomet returned, accompanied by a large party of Hamran Arabs,
including several hunters, one of whom was Sheik Abou Do Roussoul, the
nephew of Sheik Owat. As his name in full was too long, he generally
went by the abbreviation "Abou Do." He was a splendid fellow, a little
above six feet one, with a light active figure, but exceedingly
well-developed muscles. His face was strikingly handsome; his eyes were
like those of a giraffe, but the sudden glance of an eagle lighted them
up with a flash during the excitement of conversation, which showed
little of the giraffe's gentle character. Abou Do was the only tall man
of the party; the others were of middle height, with the exception of a
little fellow named Jali, who was not above five feet four inches, but
wonderfully muscular, and in expression a regular daredevil.

There were two parties of hunters among the Hamran Arabs, one under Abou
Do, and the other consisting of four brothers Sherrif. The latter were
the most celebrated aggageers among the renowned tribe of the Hamran.
Their father and grandfather had been mighty Nimrods, and the
broadswords wielded by their strong arms had descended to the men who
now upheld the prestige of the ancient blades. The eldest was Taher
Sherrif. His second brother, Roder Sherrif, was a very small,
active-looking man, with a withered left arm. An elephant had at one
time killed his horse, and on the same occasion had driven its sharp
tusk through the arm of the rider, completely splitting the limb, and
splintering the bone from the elbow-joint to the wrist to such an extent
that by degrees the fragments had sloughed away, and the arm had become
shrivelled and withered. It now resembled a mass of dried leather
twisted into a deformity, without the slightest shape of an arm; this
was about fourteen inches in length from the shoulder. The stiff and
crippled hand, with contracted fingers, resembled the claw of a vulture.

In spite of his maimed condition, Roder Sherrif was the most celebrated
leader in the elephant hunt. His was the dangerous post to ride close to
the head of the infuriated animal and provoke the charge, and then to
lead the elephant in pursuit, while the aggageers attacked it from
behind. It was in the performance of this duty that he had met with the
accident, as his horse had fallen over some hidden obstacle and was
immediately caught. Being an exceedingly light weight he had continued
to occupy this important position in the hunt, and the rigid fingers of
the left hand served as a hook, upon which he could hang the reins.

My battery of rifles was now laid upon a mat for examination; they were
in beautiful condition, and they excited the admiration of the entire
party. The perfection of workmanship did not appear to interest them so
much as the size of the bores. They thrust their fingers down each
muzzle, until they at last came to the "Baby," when, finding that two
fingers could be easily introduced, they at once fell in love with that
rifle in particular.

On the 17th of August, accompanied by the German, Florian, we said
good-by to our kind friend Sheik Achmet and left Wat el Negur. At Geera,
early at daybreak, several Arabs arrived with a report that elephants
had been drinking in the river within half an hour's march of our
sleeping-place. I immediately started with my men, accompanied by
Florian, and we shortly arrived upon the tracks of the herd. I had three
Hamran Arabs as trackers, one of whom, Taher Noor, had engaged to
accompany us throughout the expedition.

For about eight miles we followed the spoor through high dried grass and
thorny bush, until we at length arrived at a dense jungle of kittar--the
most formidable of the hooked thorn mimosas. Here the tracks appeared to
wander, some elephants having travelled straight ahead, while others had
strayed to the right and left. For about two hours we travelled upon the
circuitous tracks of the elephants to no purpose, when we suddenly were
startled by the shrill trumpeting of one of these animals in the thick
thorns, a few hundred yards to our left. The ground was so intensely
hard and dry that it was impossible to distinguish the new tracks from
the old, which crossed and recrossed in all directions. I therefore
decided to walk carefully along the outskirts of the jungle, trusting to
find their place of entrance by the fresh broken boughs. In about an
hour we had thus examined two or three miles, without discovering a clew
to their recent path, when we turned round a clump of bushes, and
suddenly came in view of two grand elephants, standing at the edge of
the dense thorns. Having our wind, they vanished instantly into the
thick jungle. We could not follow them, as their course was down wind;
we therefore made a circuit to leeward for about a mile, and finding
that the elephants had not crossed in that direction, we felt sure that
we must come upon them with the wind in our favor should they still be
within the thorny jungle. This was certain, as it was their favorite

With the greatest labor I led the way, creeping frequently upon my hands
and knees to avoid the hooks of the kittar bush, and occasionally
listening for a sound. At length, after upward of an hour passed in this
slow and fatiguing advance, I distinctly heard the flap of an elephant's
ear, shortly followed by the deep guttural sigh of one of those animals,
within a few paces; but so dense was the screen of jungle that I could
see nothing. We waited for some minutes, but not the slightest sound
could be heard; the elephants were aware of danger, and they were, like
ourselves, listening attentively for the first intimation of an enemy.

This was a highly exciting moment. Should they charge, there would not
be a possibility of escape, as the hooked thorns rendered any sudden
movement almost impracticable. In another moment there was a tremendous
crash; and with a sound like a whirlwind the herd dashed through the
crackling jungle. I rushed forward, as I was uncertain whether they were
in advance or retreat. Leaving a small sample of my nose upon a kittar
thorn, and tearing my way, with naked arms, through what, in cold blood,
would have appeared impassable, I caught sight of two elephants leading
across my path, with the herd following in a dense mass behind them.
Firing a shot at the leading elephant, simply in the endeavor to check
the herd, I repeated with the left-hand barrel at the head of his
companion. This staggered him, and threw the main body into confusion.
They immediately closed up in a dense mass, and bore everything before
them; but the herd exhibited merely an impenetrable array of hind
quarters wedged together so firmly that it was impossible to obtain a
head or shoulder shot.

I was within fifteen paces of them, and so compactly were they packed
that with all their immense strength they could not at once force so
extensive a front through the tough and powerful branches of the dense
kittar. For about half a minute they were absolutely checked, and they
bored forward with all their might in their determination to open a road
through the matted thorns. The elastic boughs, bent from their position,
sprang back with dangerous force, and would have fractured the skull of
any one who came within their sweep. A very large elephant was on the
left flank, and for an instant he turned obliquely to the left. I
quickly seized the opportunity and fired the "Baby," with an explosive
shell, aimed far back in the flank, trusting that it would penetrate
beneath the opposite shoulder. The recoil of the "Baby," loaded with ten
drams of the strongest powder and a half-pound shell, spun me round like
a top. It was difficult to say which was staggered the more severely,
the elephant or myself. However, we both recovered, and I seized one of
my double rifles, a Reilly No. 10, that was quickly pushed into my hand
by my Tokroori, Hadji Ali. This was done just in time, as an elephant
from the battled herd turned sharp round, and, with its immense ears
cocked, charged down upon us with a scream of rage. "One of us she must
have if I miss!"

This was the first downright charge of an African elephant that I had
seen, and instinctively I followed my old Ceylon plan of waiting for a
close shot. She lowered her head when within about six yards, and I
fired low for the centre of the forehead, exactly in the swelling above
the root of the trunk. She collapsed to the shot, and fell dead, with a
heavy shock, upon the ground. At the same moment the thorny barrier gave
way before the pressure of the herd, and the elephants disappeared in
the thick jungle, through which it was impossible to follow them.

I had suffered terribly from the hooked thorns, and the men had
likewise. This had been a capital trial for my Tokrooris, who had
behaved remarkably well, and had gained much confidence by my successful
forehead-shot at the elephant when in full charge; but I must confess
that this is the only instance in which I have succeeded in killing an
African elephant by the front shot, although I have steadily tried the
experiment upon subsequent occasions.

We had very little time to examine the elephant, as we were far from
home and the sun was already low. I felt convinced that the other
elephant could not be far off, after having received the "Baby's"
half-pound shell carefully directed, and I resolved to return on the
following morning with many people and camels to divide the flesh. It
was dark by the time we arrived at the tents, and the news immediately
spread through the Arab camp that two elephants had been killed.


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