Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah and Meccah
Sir Richard Francis Burton

Part 5 out of 8

The population of Yambu'-one of the most bigoted and quarrelsome races
in Al-Hijaz-strikes the eye after arriving from Egypt, as decidedly a
new feature. The Shaykh or gentleman is over-armed and over-dressed, as
Fashion, the Tyrant of the Desert as well as of the Court, dictates to
a person of his consequence. The civilised traveller from Al-Madinah
sticks in his waist-shawl a loaded pistol,[FN#5] garnished with crimson
silk cord, but he partially conceals the butt-end under the flap of his
jacket. The Irregular soldier struts down the street a small armoury of
weapons: one look at the man's countenance suffices to tell you what he
is. Here and there stalk grim Badawin, wild as their native wastes, and
in all the dignity of pride and dirt; they also are armed to the teeth,
and even the presence of the policeman's quarterstaff[FN#6] cannot keep
their swords in their scabbards. What we should call the peaceful part
of the population never leave the house without the "Nabbut" over the
right shoulder, and the larger, the longer, and the heavier the weapon
is, the more gallantry does the bearer claim. The people of Yambu'
practise the use of this implement diligently; they become expert in

[p.229] a head-blow so violent as to break through any guard, and with
it they always decide their trivial quarrels.[FN#7] The dress of the
women differs but little from that of the Egyptians, except in the face
veil,[FN#8] which is generally white. There is an independent bearing
about the Yambu' men, strange in the East; they are proud without
insolence, and they look manly without blustering. Their walk partakes
somewhat of the nature of a swagger, owing, perhaps, to the shape of
the sandals, not a little assisted by the self-esteem of the wearer,
but there is nothing offensive in it: moreover, the population has a
healthy appearance, and, fresh from Egypt, I could not help noticing
their freedom from ophthalmic disease. The children, too, appear
vigorous, nor are they here kept in that state of filth to which fear
of the Evil Eye devotes them in the Valley of the Nile.

My companions found me in a coffee-house, where I had sat down to rest
from the fatigue of halting on my wounded foot through the town. They
had passed their boxes through the custom-house, and were now inquiring
in all directions, "Where's the Effendi?" After sitting for half an
hour, we rose to depart, when an old Arab merchant, whom I had met at
Suez, politely insisted

[p.230] upon paying for my coffee, still a mark of attention in Arabia
as it was whilome in France. We then went to a Wakalah, near the bazar,
in which my companions had secured an airy upper room on the terrace
opposite the sea, and tolerably free from Yambu's plague, the flies. It
had been tenanted by a party of travellers, who were introduced to me
as Omar Effendi's brothers; he had by accident met them in the streets
the day before their start for Constantinople, where they were
travelling to receive the Ikram.[FN#9] The family was, as I have said
before, from Daghistan (Circassia), and the male members still showed
unequivocal signs of a northern origin, in light yellowish skins, grey
eyes fringed with dark lashes, red lips, and a very scant beard. They
were broad-shouldered, large-limbed men, distinguished only by a
peculiar surliness of countenance; perhaps their expression was the
result of their suspecting me; for I observed them narrowly watching
every movement during Wuzu and prayers. This was a good opportunity for
displaying the perfect nonchalance of a True Believer; and my efforts
were, I believe, successful, for afterwards they seemed to treat me as
a mere stranger, from whom they could expect nothing, and who therefore
was hardly worth their notice.

On the afternoon of the day of our arrival we sent for a
Mukharrij,[FN#10] (hirer of conveyance) and began to treat for camels.
One Amm Jamal, a respectable native of Al-Madinah who was on his way
home, undertook to be the spokesman; after a long palaver (for

[p.231] the Shaykh of the camels and his attendant Badawin were men
that fought for farthings, and we were not far inferior to them), a
bargain was struck. We agreed to pay three dollars for each beast; half
in ready money, the other half after reaching our destination, and to
start on the evening of the next day with a grain-caravan, guarded by
an escort of Irregular cavalry. I hired two animals, one for my luggage
and servant, the other for the boy Mohammed and myself, expressly
stipulating that we were to ride the better beast, and that if it broke
down on the road, its place should be supplied by another as good. My
friends could not dissemble their uneasiness, when informed by the
Mukharrij that the Hazimi tribe was "out," and that travellers had to
fight every day. The Daghistanis also contributed to their alarm. "We
met," said they, "between 200 and 300 devils on a Razzia near
Al-Madinah; we gave them the Salam, but they would not reply, although
we were all on dromedaries. Then they asked us if we were men of
Al-Madinah, and we replied ‘Yes;' and lastly, they wanted to know the
end of our journey; so we said Bir Abbas.[FN#11]" The Badawin who had
accompanied the Daghistanis belonged to some tribe unconnected with the
Hazimi: the spokesman rolled his head, as much as to say "Allah has
preserved us!" And a young Indian of the party-I shrewdly suspect him
of having stolen my pen-knife that night-displayed

[p.232] the cowardice of a "Miyan,[FN#12]" by looking aghast at the
memory of his imminent and deadly risk. "Sir," said Shaykh Nur to me,
"we must wait till all this is over." I told him to hold his tongue,
and sharply reproved the boy Mohammed, upon whose manner the effect of
finding himself suddenly in a fresh country had wrought a change for
the worse. "Why, ye were lions at Cairo; and here, at Yambu', you are
cats-hens![FN#13]" It was not long, however, before the youth's
impudence returned upon him with increased violence.

We sat through the afternoon in the little room on the terrace, whose
reflected heat, together with the fiery winds from the Wilderness,
seemed to incommode even my companions. After sunset we dined in the
open air, a body of twenty: master, servants, children and strangers.
All the procurable rugs and pillows had been seized to make a Diwan,
and we squatted together round a large cauldron of boiled rice,
containing square masses of mutton, the whole covered with clarified
butter. Sa'ad the Demon was now in his glory. With what anecdotes the
occasion supplied him! His tongue seemed to wag with a perpetual
motion; for each man he had a boisterous greeting; and, to judge from
his whisperings, he must have been in every one's privacy and
confidence. Conversation over pipes and coffee was prolonged to ten
P.M., a late hour in these lands; then we prayed the

[p.233] Isha[FN#14] (or vespers), and, spreading our mats upon the
terrace, slept in the open air.

The forenoon of the next day was occupied in making sundry small
purchases. We laid in seven days' provisions for the journey; repacked
our boxes, polished and loaded our arms, and attired ourselves
appropriately for the road. By the advice of Amm Jamal[FN#15] I dressed
as an Arab, in order to avoid paying the Jizyat, a capitation tax
[FN#16] which, upon this road, the settled tribes extort from stranger
travellers; and he warned me not to speak any language but Arabic, even
to my "slave," in the vicinity of a village. I bought for my own
convenience a Shugduf or litter[FN#17] for which I paid two dollars. It
is a

[p.234] vehicle appropriated to women and children, fathers of
families, married men, "Shelebis,[FN#18]" and generally to those who
are too effeminate to ride. My reason for choosing a litter was that
notes are more easily taken in it than on a dromedary's back; the
excuse of lameness prevented it detracting from my manhood, and I was
careful when entering any populous place to borrow or hire a saddled

Our party dined early that day, for the camels had been sitting at the
gate since noon. We had the usual trouble in loading them: the owners
of the animals vociferating about the unconscionable weight, the owners
of the goods swearing that a child could carry such weight, while the
beasts, taking part with their proprietors, moaned piteously, roared,
made vicious attempts to bite, and started up with an agility that
threw the half-secured boxes or sacks headlong to the ground. About 3
P.M. all was ready-the camels formed into Indian file were placed
standing in the streets. But, as usual with Oriental travellers, all
the men dispersed about the town: we did not mount before it was late
in the afternoon.

I must now take the liberty of presenting to the reader an Arab Shaykh
fully equipped for travelling.[FN#19] Nothing can be more picturesque
than the costume, and

[p.235] it is with regret that we see it exchanged in the towns and
more civilised parts for any other. The long locks or the shaven scalps
are surmounted by a white cotton skull-cap, over which is a Kufiyah-a
large square kerchief of silk and cotton mixed, and generally of a dull
red colour with a bright yellow border, from which depend crimson silk
twists ending in little tassels that reach the wearer's waist. Doubled
into a triangle, and bound with an Aakal[FN#20] or fillet of rope, a
skein of yarn or a twist of wool, the kerchief fits the head close
behind: it projects over the forehead, shading the eyes, and giving a
fierce look to the countenance. On certain occasions one end is brought
round the lower part of the face, and is fastened behind the head. This
veiling the features is technically called Lisam: the chiefs generally
fight so, and it is the usual disguise when a man fears the avenger of
blood, or a woman starts to take her Sar.[FN#21] In hot weather it is
supposed to keep the Samun, in cold weather the catarrh, from the lungs.

[p.236]The body dress is simply a Kamis or cotton shirt: tight sleeved,
opening in front, and adorned round the waist and collar, and down the
breast, with embroidery like net-work; it extends from neck to foot.
Some wear wide trousers, but the Badawin consider such things
effeminate, and they have not yet fallen into the folly of socks and
stockings. Over the Kamis is thrown a long-skirted and short-sleeved
cloak of camel's hair, called an Aba. It is made in many patterns, and
of all materials from pure silk to coarse sheep's wool; some prefer it
brown, others white, others striped: in Al-Hijaz the favourite hue is
white, embroidered with gold,[FN#22] tinsel, or yellow thread in two
large triangles, capped with broad bands and other figures running down
the shoulders and sides of the back. It is lined inside the shoulders
and breast with handsome stuffs of silk and cotton mixed, and is tied
in front by elaborate strings, and tassels or acorns of silk and gold.
A sash confines the Kamis at the waist, and supports the silver-hilted
Jambiyah[FN#23] or crooked dagger: the picturesque Arab sandal[FN#24]
completes the costume. Finally, the

[p.237] Shaykh's arms are a sword and a matchlock slung behind his
back; in his right hand he carries a short javelin[FN#25] or a light
crooked stick, about two feet and a half long, called a Mas'hab,[FN#26]
used for guiding camels.

The poorer clans of Arabs twist round their waist, [p.238] next to the
skin, a long plait of greasy leather, to support the back; and they
gird the shirt at the middle merely with a cord, or with a coarse sash.
The dagger is stuck in this scarf, and a bandoleer slung over the
shoulders carries the cartridge-case, powder-flask, flint and steel,
priming-horn, and other necessaries. With the traveller, the waist is
an elaborate affair. Next to the skin is worn the money-pouch,
concealed by the Kamis; the latter is girt with a waist shawl, over
which is strapped a leathern belt.[FN#27] The latter article should
always be well garnished with a pair of long-barrelled and
silver-mounted flint pistols,[FN#28] a large and a small dagger, and an

[p.239] iron ramrod with pincers inside; a little leathern pouch
fastened to the waist-strap on the right side contains cartridge,
wadding, and flask of priming powder. The sword hangs over the shoulder
by crimson silk cords and huge tassels[FN#29]: well-dressed men apply
the same showy ornaments to their pistols. In the hand may be borne a
bell-mouthed blunderbuss; or, better still, a long single-barrel gun
with an ounce bore. All these weapons must shine like silver, if you
wish to be respected; for the knightly care of arms is here a sign of

Pilgrims, especially those from Turkey, carry, I have said, a "Hamail,"
to denote their holy errand. This is a pocket Koran, in a handsome
gold-embroidered crimson velvet or red morocco case, slung by red silk
cords over the left shoulder. It must hang down by the right side, and
should never depend below the waist-belt. For this I substituted a most
useful article. To all appearance a "Hamail," it had inside three
compartments; one for my watch and compass, the second for ready money,
and the third contained penknife, pencils, and slips of paper, which I
could hold concealed in the hollow of my hand. These were for writing
and drawing: opportunities of making a "fair copy" into the
diary-book,[FN#30] are never wanting to the acute traveller. He

[p.240] must, however, beware of sketching before the Badawin, who
would certainly proceed to extreme measures, suspecting him to be a spy
or a sorcerer.[FN#31] Nothing so effectually puzzles these people as
the Frankish habit of putting everything on paper; their imaginations
are set at work, and then the worst may be expected from them. The only
safe way of writing in presence of a Badawi would be when drawing out a
horoscope or preparing a charm; he also objects not, if you can warm
his heart upon the subject, to seeing you take notes in a book of
genealogies. You might begin with, "And you, men of Harb, on what
origin do you pride yourselves?" And while the listeners became fluent
upon the, to them, all-interesting

[p.241] theme, you could put down whatever you please upon the margin.
The townspeople are more liberal, and years ago the Holy Shrines have
been drawn, surveyed and even lithographed, by Eastern artists: still,
if you wish to avoid all suspicion, you must rarely be seen with pen or
with pencil in hand.

At 6 P.M., descending the stairs of our Wakalah, we found the camels
standing loaded in the street, and shifting their ground in token of
impatience.[FN#32] My Shugduf, perched upon the back of a tall strong
animal, nodded and swayed about with his every motion, impressing me
with the idea that the first step would throw it over the shoulders or
the crupper. The camel-man told me I must climb up the animal's neck,
and so creep into the vehicle. But my foot disabling me from such
exertion, I insisted upon their bringing the beast to squat, which they
did grumblingly.[FN#33] We took leave of Omar Effendi's brothers and
their dependents, who insisted upon paying us the compliment of
accompanying us to the gate. Then we mounted and started, which was a
signal for all our party to disperse once more. Some heard the report
of a vessel having arrived from Suez, with Mohammed Shiklibha and other
friends on board; these hurried down to the harbour for a parting word.
Others, declaring they had forgotten some necessaries for the way, ran
off to spend one last hour in gossip at the coffee-house. Then the sun
set, and prayers must be said. The brief twilight had almost faded away
before all had mounted. With loud cries of "Wassit, ya hu!-

[p.242] Go in the middle of the road, O He!" and "Jannib, y'al
Jammal[FN#34]!-Keep to the side, O camel-man!" we threaded our way
through long, dusty, narrow streets, flanked with white-washed
habitations at considerable intervals, and large heaps of rubbish,
sometimes higher than the houses. We were stopped at the gate to
ascertain if we were strangers, in which case, the guard would have
done his best to extract a few piastres before allowing our luggage to
pass; but he soon perceived by my companions' accent, that they were
Sons of the Holy City,-consequently, that the case was hopeless. While
standing here, Shaykh Hamid vaunted the strong walls and turrets of
Yambu', which he said were superior to those of Jeddah[FN#35]: they
kept Sa'ud, the Wahhabi, at bay in A.D. 1802, but would scarcely, I
should say, resist a field battery in A.D. 1853. The moon rose fair and
clear, dazzling us with light as we emerged from the shadowy streets;
and when we launched into the Desert, the sweet air delightfully
contrasted with the close offensive atmosphere of the town. My
companions, as Arabs will do on such occasions, began to sing.

[FN#1] Yanbu'a in Arabic is "a Fountain." Yanbu'a of the Sea is so
called to distinguish it from "Yanbu'a of the Palm-Grounds," a village
at the foot of the mountains, about 18 or 20 miles distant from the
sea-port. Ali Bey places it one day's journey E.1/4N.E. from Yanbu'a
al-Bahr, and describes it as a pleasant place in a fertile valley. It
is now known as Yambu'a al-Nakhil. See "The Land of Midian (Revisited)."
[FN#2] The first quarter of the Cairo caravan is Al-Akabah; the second
is the Manhal Salmah (Salmah's place for watering camels); the third is
Yambu'; and the fourth Meccah.
[FN#3] The Nizam, as Europeans now know, is the regular Turkish
infantry. In Al-Hijaz, these troops are not stationed in small towns
like Yambu'. At such places a party of Irregular horse, for the purpose
of escorting travellers, is deemed sufficient. The Yambu' police seems
to consist of the Sharif's sturdy negroes. In Ali Bey's time Yambu'
belonged to the Sharif of Meccah, and was garrisoned by him.
[FN#4] This, as far as I could learn, is the only tax which the
Sultan's government derives from the northern Hijaz; the people declare
it to be, as one might expect at this distance from the capital, liable
to gross peculation. When the Wahhabis held Yambu', they assessed it,
like all other places; for which reason their name is held in the
liveliest abhorrence.
[FN#5] Civilians usually stick one pistol in the belt; soldiers and
fighting men two, or more, with all the necessary concomitants of
pouches, turnscrews, and long iron ramrods, which, opening with a
screw, disclose a long thin pair of pincers, wherewith fire is put upon
the chibuk.
[FN#6] The weapons with which nations are to be managed form a curious
consideration. The Englishman tamely endures a staff, which would make
a Frenchman mad with anger; and a Frenchman respects a sabre, which
would fill an Englishman's bosom with civilian spleen. You order the
Egyptian to strip and be flogged; he makes no objection to seeing his
blood flow in this way; but were a cutting weapon used, his friends
would stop at nothing in their fury.
[FN#7] In Arabia, generally, the wound is less considered by justice
and revenge, than the instrument with which it was inflicted. Sticks
and stones are held to be venial weapons: guns and pistols, swords and
daggers, are felonious.
[FN#8] Europeans inveigh against this article,-which represents the
"loup" of Louis XIV.'s time,-for its hideousness and jealous
concealment of charms made to be admired. It is, on the contrary, the
most coquettish article of woman's attire, excepting, perhaps, the
Lisam of Constantinople. It conceals coarse skins, fleshy noses, wide
mouths, and vanishing chins, whilst it sets off to best advantage what
in these lands is almost always lustrous and liquid-the eye. Who has
not remarked this at a masquerade ball?
[FN#9] A certain stipend allowed by the Sultan to citizens of the
Haramayn (Meccah and Al-Madinah). It will be treated of at length in a
future chapter.
[FN#10] The Shaykh, or agent of the camels, without whose assistance it
would be difficult to hire beasts. He brings the Badawin with him;
talks them over to fair terms; sees the "Arbun," or earnest-money,
delivered to them; and is answerable for their not failing in their
[FN#11] The not returning "Salam" was a sign on the part of the Badawin
that they were out to fight, and not to make friends; and the dromedary
riders, who generally travel without much to rob, thought this
behaviour a declaration of desperate designs. The Badawin asked if they
were Al-Madinah men; because the former do not like, unless when
absolutely necessary, to plunder the people of the Holy City. And the
Daghistanis said their destination was Bir Abbas, a neighbouring,
instead of Yambu', a distant post, because those who travel on a long
journey, being supposed to have more funds with them, are more likely
to be molested.
[FN#12] "Miyan," the Hindustani word for "Sir," is known to the Badawin
all over Al-Hijaz; they always address Indian Moslems with this word,
which has become contemptuous, on account of the low esteem in which
the race is held.
[FN#13] That is to say, sneaks and cowards. I was astonished to see our
Maghrabi fellow-passengers in the bazar at Yambu' cringing and bowing
to us, more like courtiers than Badawin. Such, however, is the effect
of a strange place upon Orientals generally. In the Persians such
humility was excusable; in no part of Al-Hijaz are they for a moment
safe from abuse and blows.
[FN#14] The night prayer.
[FN#15] "Amm" means literally a paternal uncle. In the Hijaz it is
prefixed to the names of respectable men, who may also be addressed "Ya
Amm Jamal!" (O Uncle Jamal!) To say "Ya Ammi!" (O my Uncle!) is more
familiar, and would generally be used by a superior addressing an
[FN#16] Jizyat properly means the capitation tax levied on Infidels; in
this land of intense pride, the Badawin, and even the town-chiefs,
apply the opprobrious term to blackmail extorted from travellers, even
of their own creed.
[FN#17] The Shugduf of Al-Hijaz differs greatly from that used in Syria
and other countries. It is composed of two corded cots 5 feet long,
slung horizontally, about half-way down, and parallel with the camel's
sides. These cots have short legs, and at the halt may be used as
bedsteads; the two are connected together by loose ropes, attached to
the inner long sides of the framework, and these are thrown over the
camel's packsaddle. Thick twigs inserted in the ends and the outer long
sides of the framework, are bent over the top, bower-fashion, to
support matting, carpets, and any other protection against the sun.
There is an opening in this kind of wicker-work in front (towards the
camel's head), through which you creep; and a similar one behind
creates a draught of wind. Outside, towards the camel's tail, are
pockets containing gullehs, or earthenware bottles, of cooled water.
Inside, attached to the wickerwork, are large provision pouches,
similar to those used in old-fashioned travelling chariots. At the
bottom are spread the two beds. The greatest disadvantage of the
Shugduf is the difficulty of keeping balance. Two men ride in it, and
their weights must be made to tally. Moreover, it is liable to be
caught and torn by thorn trees, to be blown off in a gale of wind; and
its awkwardness causes the camel repeated falls, which are most likely
to smash it. Yet it is not necessarily an uncomfortable machine. Those
for sale in the bazar are, of course, worthless, being made of badly
seasoned wood. But private litters are sometimes pleasant vehicles,
with turned and painted framework, silk cordage, and valuable carpets.
The often described "Mahmil" is nothing but a Syrian Shugduf, royally
[FN#18] " Exquisites."
[FN#19] It is the same rule with the Arab, on the road as at home; the
more he is dressed the greater is his respectability. For this reason,
you see Sharifs and other men of high family, riding or walking in
their warm camel's hair robes on the hottest days. Another superstition
of the Arabs is this, that thick clothes avert the evil effects of the
sun's beams, by keeping out heat. To the kindness of a friend-Thomas
Seddon-I owe the admirable sketch of an "Arab Shaykh in his Travelling
[FN#20] Sharifs and other great men sometimes bind a white turband or a
Cashmere shawl round the kerchief, to keep it in its place. The Aakal
varies in every part of the country. Here it is a twist of dyed wool,
there a bit of common rope, three or four feet long. Some of the Arab
tribes use a circlet of wood, composed of little round pieces, the size
of a shilling, joined side by side, and inlaid with mother-of-pearl.
The Eastern Arabs wear a large circle of brown wool, almost a turband
in itself. In Barbary, they twist brightcoloured cloth round a rope,
and adorn it with thick golden thread.
[FN#21] Generally written "Thar," the blood-revenge right, acknowledged
by law and custom. (See Chapter xxiv. post.)
[FN#22] Gold, however, as well as silk, I may be excused for repeating,
is a forbidden article of ornament to the Moslem.
[FN#23] The silver-hilted dagger is a sign of dignity: "I would silver
my dagger," in idiomatic Hijazi, means, "I would raise myself in the
[FN#24] Niebuhr has accurately described this article. It is still worn
in the Madras army, though long discarded from the other presidencies;
the main difference between the Indian and the Arab sandal is, that the
former has a ring, into which the big toe is inserted, and the latter a
thong, which is clasped between the big toe and its neighbour. Both of
them are equally uncomfortable, and equally injurious to soldiers,
whose legs fight as much as do their arms. They abrade the skin
wherever the straps touch, expose the feet to the sun, wind, and rain,
and admit thorns and flints to the toes and toe-nails. In Arabia, the
traveller may wear, if he pleases, slippers, but they are considered
townsman-like and effeminate. They must be of the usual colours, red or
yellow. Black shoes, though almost universally worn by the Turks at
Cairo and Constantinople, would most probably excite suspicion in
[FN#25] The Mizrak, as it is called, is peculiar to certain tribes, as
the Karashi and the Lahyami, and some, like the Hudayli near Meccah,
make very pretty as well as very useful darts. The head is 15 or 16
inches long, nowhere broader than an inch, and tapering gradually to a
fine point; its shape is two shallow prisms joined at their bases, and
its socket, round like that of all lances, measures a little less than
2 inches. The lower third of the blade only is adorned with bars,
lozenges, and cones of brass let into the iron in zig-zag and other
figures. The shaft is of hard pliant wood-I do not know of what
tree-well seasoned with grease and use; it is 23 inches long, and
strengthened and adorned at distances of half an inch apart by bands of
fine brass wire, about one inch and a half long. The heel of the weapon
is a blunt spike 14 inches long, used to stick it in the ground, and
this, as well as the lower third of the blade, is ornamented with brass
work. Being well balanced, the Mizrak is a highly efficient weapon for
throwing in hunting, and by its handsome appearance adds not a little
to the bearer's dignity. But the stranger must be careful how he so
arms himself. Unless he be undistinguishable from a Badawi, by carrying
a weapon peculiar to certain clans, he will expose himself to
suspicion, or to laughter. And to offend an Arab of Al-Hijaz mortally,
you have only to say bluntly, "Sell me thy spear." The proper style of
address to the man whose necessities compel him to break through one of
his "points d'honneur," is to say, "Give me that javelin, and I will
satisfy thee;" after which he will haggle for each copper piece as
though you were cheapening a sheep.
[FN#26] The Mas'hab is of almond, generally brought from Syria; at the
thick end is a kind of crook, formed by cutting off a bit of the larger
branch from which the stick grows. This crook is afterwards cut into
the shape useful to seize a camel's nose-ring, or a horse's bridle.
Arabs of all degrees are fond of carrying these sticks. [It is also
called Maghin.]
[FN#27] This article, the Silahlik of the Turks, is composed of
several oblong pieces of leather cut out to fit the front part of the
body; between each fold there is room enough to stick a weapon; a
substantial strap fastens it round the waist, and it serves to defend
the sash or the shirt from iron mould, and the stains of gunpowder. It
is made of all kinds of material, from plain Morocco leather to the
richest velvet embroidered with gold.
[FN#28] It is as well to have a good pair of Turkish barrels and
stocks, fitted up with locks of European manufacture; those made by
natives of these countries can never be depended upon. The same will
apply to the gun or rifle. Upon the whole, it is more prudent to have
flint locks. Copper caps are now sold in the bazars of Meccah and
Al-Madinah, where a Colt's "six-shooter" might excite attention for a
day; but were the owner in a position to despise notoriety, he might
display it everywhere without danger. One of our guards, who was killed
on the road, had a double-barrelled English fowling-piece. Still, when
doubts must not be aroused, the traveller will do well to avoid, even
in the civilised Hijaz, suspicious appearances in his weapons. I
carried in a secret pocket a small pistol with a spring dagger, upon
which dependence could be placed, and I was careful never to show it,
discharging it and loading it always in the dark. Some men wear a
little dagger strapped round the leg, below the knee. Its use is this:
when the enemy gets you under, he can prevent you bringing your hand up
to the weapon in your waist-belt; but before he cuts your throat, you
may slip your fingers down to the knee, and persuade him to stop by a
stab in the perineum. This knee dagger is required only in very
dangerous places. The article I chiefly accused myself of forgetting
was a stout English clasp-knife, with a large handle, a blade like an
"Arkansas toothpick," and possessing the other useful appliances of
picker, fleam, tweezers, lancet, and punch.
[FN#29] Called "Habak": these cords are made in great quantities at
Cairo, which possesses a special bazar for them, and are exported to
all the neighbouring countries, where their price considerably
increases. A handsome pistol-cord, with its tassels, costs about 12
shillings in Egypt; at Meccah, or Al-Madinah, the same would fetch
upwards of a pound sterling.
[FN#30] My diary-book was made up for me by a Cairene; it was a long
thin volume fitting into a breast-pocket, where it could be carried
without being seen. I began by writing notes in the Arabic character,
but as no risk appeared, my journal was afterwards kept in English.
More than once, by way of experiment, I showed the writing on a loose
slip of paper to my companions, and astonished them with the strange
character derived from Solomon and Alexander, the Lord of the Two
Horns, which we Afghans still use. For a short trip a pencil suffices;
on long journeys ink is necessary; the latter article should be
English, not Eastern, which is washed out clean the first time your
luggage is thoroughly soaked with rain. The traveller may use either
the Persian or the brass Egyptian inkstand; the latter, however, is
preferable, being stronger and less likely to break. But, unless he be
capable of writing and reading a letter correctly, it would be
unadvisable to stick such an article in the waist-belt, as this gives
out publicly that he is a scribe. When sketching, the pencil is the
best, because the simplest and shortest mode of operation is required.
Important lines should afterwards be marked with ink, as "fixing" is
impossible on such journeys. For prudence sake, when my sketches were
made, I cut up the paper into square pieces, numbered them for future
reference, and hid them in the tin canisters that contained my
[FN#31] An accident of this kind happened not long ago, in Hazramaut,
to a German traveller who shall be nameless. He had the mortification
to see his sketch-book, the labour of months, summarily appropriated
and destroyed by the Arabs. I was told by a Hazramaut man at Cairo, and
by several at Aden, that the gentleman had at the time a narrow escape
with his life; the Badawin wished to put him to death as a spy, sent by
the Frank to ensorceler their country, but the Shaykhs forbade
bloodshed, and merely deported the offender. Travellers caught
sketching are not often treated with such forbearance.
[FN#32] All Arabs assert that it pains the loaded camel's feet to stand
still, and, certainly, the "fidgettiness" of the animal to start, looks
as if he had some reason to prefer walking.
[FN#33] It often strains the camel to rise with a full Shugduf on his
back, besides which the motion is certain to destroy the vehicle in a
few days. Those who are unable to climb up the camel's neck usually
carry with them a short ladder.
[FN#34] Wassit means, "go in the middle of the road"; Jannib, "keep
clear of the sides." These words are fair specimens of how much may be
said by two Arabic syllables. Ya hu (O, he) is an address common in
Arabia as in Egypt, and Y'al Jammal (O camel-man) is perhaps a little
more civil.
[FN#35] The rivalry between the Sons of the two Holy Cities extends
even to these parts: the Madanis contending for Yambu', the Meccans for



On the 18th July, about 7 P.M., we passed through the gate of Yambu',
and took a due Easterly course. Our route lay over the plain between
the mountains of Radhwah on the left, and the sea on the right hand;
the land was desert,-that is to say, a hard level plain, strewed with
rounded lumps of granite and greenstone schist, with here and there a
dwarf Acacia, and a tuft of rank camel grass. By the light of a
glorious moon, nearly at the full, I was able to see the country
tolerably well.

Our party consisted of twelve camels, and we travelled in Indian file,
head tied to tail, with but one outrider, Omar Effendi, whose rank
required him to mount a dromedary with showy trappings. Immediately in
front of me was Amm Jamal, whom I had to reprove for asking the boy
Mohammed, "Where have you picked up that Hindi, (Indian)?" "Are we, the
Afghans, the Indian-slayers,[FN#1] become Indians?" I vociferated with
indignation, and brought the thing home to his feelings, by asking him
how he, an Arab, would like to be called an Egyptian,-a Fellah? The
rest of the party was behind, sitting or dozing upon the rough
platforms made by the lids of the two huge boxes slung to the sides of
their camels. Only one old woman, Al-Sitt Maryam (the lady Mary),

[p.244] to Al-Madinah, her adopted country, after a visit to a sister
at Cairo, allowed herself the luxury of a half-dollar Shibriyah or cot,
fastened crosswise over the animal's load. Moreover, all the party,
except Omar Effendi, in token of poverty, were dressed in the coarsest
and dirtiest of clothes,-the general suit consisting of a shirt torn in
divers places and a bit of rag wrapped round the head. They carried
short chibuks without mouth-pieces, and tobacco-pouches of greasy
leather. Though the country hereabouts is perfectly safe, all had their
arms in readiness, and the unusual silence that succeeded to the
singing, even Sa'ad the Demon held his tongue,-was sufficient to show
how much they feared for their property. After a slow march of two
hours facing the moon, we turned somewhat towards the North-East, and
began to pass over undulating ground, in which a steady rise was
perceptible. We arrived at the halting-place at three in the morning,
after a short march of about eight hours, during which we could not
have passed over more than sixteen miles.[FN#2] The camels were
nakh'd[FN#3]; the boxes were taken off and piled together as a
precaution against invisible robbers; my little tent, the only one in
the party, was pitched; we then spread our rugs upon the ground and lay
down to sleep.

We arose at about 9 A.M. (July 19), and after congratulating one
another upon being once more in the "dear Desert," we proceeded in
exhilarated mood to light the fire for pipes and breakfast. The meal-a
biscuit, a little rice, and a cup of milkless tea-was soon dispatched,
after which I proceeded to inspect our position.

[p.245]About a mile to the westward lay the little village
Al-Musahhal,[FN#4] a group of miserable mud hovels. On the south was a
strip of bright blue sea, and all around, an iron plain producing
naught but stones and grasshoppers, and bounded northward by a grisly
wall of blackish rock. Here and there a shrub fit only for fuel, or a
tuft of coarse grass, crisp with heat, met the eye. All was
sun-parched; the furious heat from above was drying up the sap and
juice of the land, as the simmering and quivering atmosphere showed;
moreover the heavy dews of these regions, forming in large drops upon
the plants and stones, concentrate the morning rays upon them like a
system of burning-glasses. After making these few observations I
followed the example of my companions, and returned to sleep.

At two P.M. we were roused to a dinner as simple as the breakfast had
been. Boiled rice with an abundance of the clarified butter[FN#5] in
which Easterns delight, some fragments of Kahk[FN#6] or soft biscuit,
and stale bread[FN#7] and a handful of stoned and pressed date-paste,
called 'Ajwah, formed the menu. Our potations began before dinner with
a vile-tasted but wholesome drink called Akit,[FN#8]

[p.246] dried sour milk dissolved in water; at the meal we drank the
leather-flavoured element, and ended with a large cupful of scalding
tea. Enormous quantities of liquid were consumed, for the sun seemed to
have got into our throats, and the perspiration trickled as after a
shower of rain. Whilst we were eating, a Badawi woman passed close by
the tent, leading a flock of sheep and goats, seeing which I expressed
a desire to drink milk. My companions sent by one of the camel-men a
bit of bread, and asked in exchange for a cupful of "laban.[FN#9]" Thus
I learned that the Arabs, even in this corrupt region, still adhere to
the meaningless custom of their ancestors, who chose to make the term
"Labban[FN#10]" (milk-seller) an opprobrium and a disgrace. Possibly
the origin of the prejudice

[p.247] might be the recognising of a traveller's guest-right to call
for milk gratis. However this may be, no one will in the present day
sell this article of consumption, even at civilised Meccah, except
Egyptians, a people supposed to be utterly without honour. As a general
rule in the Hijaz, milk abounds in the spring, but at all other times
of the year it is difficult to be procured. The Badawi woman managed,
however, to send me back a cupful.

At three P.M. we were ready to start, and all saw, with unspeakable
gratification, a huge black nimbus rise from the shoulder of Mount
Radhwah, and range itself, like a good genius, between us and our
terrible foe, the sun. We hoped that it contained rain, but presently a
blast of hot wind, like the breath of a volcano, blew over the plain,
and the air was filled with particles of sand. This is the "dry storm"
of Arabia; it appears to depend upon some electrical phenomena which it
would be desirable to investigate.[FN#11] When we had loaded and
mounted, my camel-men, two in number, came up to the Shugduf and
demanded "Bakhshish," which, it appears, they are now in the habit of
doing each time the traveller starts. I was at first surprised to find
the word here, but after a few days of Badawi society, my wonder
diminished. The men were Beni-Harb of the great Hijazi tribe, which has
kept its blood pure for the last thirteen centuries,-how much more we
know not,-but they had been corrupted by intercourse with pilgrims,
retaining none of their ancestral qualities but greed of gain,
revengefulness, pugnacity, and a frantic kind of bravery, displayed on
rare occasions. Their nobility, however, did not prevent my quoting the
Prophet's saying, "Of a truth, the worst names among the Arabs are the

[p.248] Kalb and the Beni-Harb,[FN#12]" whilst I taunted them severely
with their resemblance to the Fellahs of Egypt. They would have
resented this with asperity, had it proceeded from their own people,
but the Turkish pilgrim-the character in which they knew me, despite my
Arab dress-is a privileged person. The outer man of these Fight-Sons
was contemptible; small chocolate-coloured beings, stunted and thin,
with mops of course bushy hair burned brown by the sun, straggling
beards, vicious eyes, frowning brows, screaming voices, and well-made,
but attenuated, limbs. On their heads were Kufiyahs in the last stage
of wear: a tattered shirt, indigo-dyed, and girt with a bit of common
rope, composed their clothing; and their feet were protected from the
stones by soles of thick leather, kept in place by narrow thongs tied
to the ankle. Both were armed, one with a matchlock, and a
Shintiyan[FN#13] in a leathern scabbard, slung over the shoulder, the
other with a Nabbut, and both showed at the waist the Arab's invariable
companion, the Jambiyah (dagger). These ragged fellows, however, had
their pride. They would eat with me, and not disdain, like certain
self-styled Caballeros, to ask for more; but of work they would do
none. No promise of "Bakhshish," potent as

[p.249] the spell of that word is, would induce them to assist in
pitching my tent: they even expected Shaykh Nur to cook for them, and I
had almost to use violence, for even the just excuse of a sore foot was
insufficient to procure the privilege of mounting my Shugduf while the
camel was sitting. It was, they said, the custom of the country from
time immemorial to use a ladder when legs would not act. I agreed with
them, but objected that I had no ladder. At last, wearied with their
thick-headedness, I snatched the nose-string of the camel, and by main
force made it kneel.

Our party was now strong enough. We had about 200 beasts carrying
grain, attended by their proprietors, truculent looking as the
contrabandistas of the Pyrenees. The escort was composed of seven
Irregular Turkish cavalry, tolerably mounted, and supplied each with an
armoury in epitome. They were privily derided by our party, who, being
Arabs, had a sneaking fondness for the Badawin, however loth they might
be to see them amongst the boxes.

For three hours we travelled in a south-easterly direction upon a hard
plain and a sandy flat, on which several waters from the highlands find
a passage to the sea westward. Gradually we were siding towards the
mountains, and at sunset I observed that we had sensibly neared them.
We dismounted for a short halt; and, strangers being present, my
companions, before sitting down to smoke, said their prayers-a pious
exercise in which they did not engage for three days afterwards, when
they met certain acquaintances at Al-Hamra. As evening came on, we
emerged from a scrub of Acacia and Tamarisk and turned due East,
traversing an open country with a perceptible rise. Scarcely was it
dark before the cry of "Harami" (thieves) rose loud in the rear,
causing such confusion as one may see in a boat in the Bay of Naples
when suddenly neared by a water-spout

[p.250] All the camel-men brandished their huge staves, and rushed back
vociferating in the direction of the robbers. They were followed by the
horsemen; and truly, had the thieves possessed the usual acuteness of
the profession, they might have driven off the camels in our van with
safety and convenience.[FN#14] But these contemptible beings were only
half a dozen in number, and they had lighted their matchlocks, which
drew a bullet or two in their direction. Whereupon they ran away. This
incident aroused no inconsiderable excitement, for it seemed ominous of
worse things about to happen to us when entangled in the hills, and the
faces of my companions, perfect barometers of fair and foul tidings,
fell to zero. For nine hours we journeyed through a brilliant
moonlight, and as the first grey streak appeared in the Eastern sky we
entered a scanty "Misyal,[FN#15]" or Fiumara, strewed with pebbles and
rounded stones, about half a mile in breadth, and flanked by almost
perpendicular hills of primitive formation. I began by asking the names
of peaks and other remarkable spots, when I found that a folio volume
would not contain a three months' collection[FN#16]: every hill and
dale, flat, valley, and

[p.251] water-course here has its proper name or rather names. The
ingenuity shown by the Badawin in distinguishing between localities the
most similar, is the result of a high organization of the perceptive
faculties, perfected by the practice of observing a recurrence of
landscape features few in number and varying but little amongst
themselves. After travelling two hours up this torrent bed, winding in
an Easterly direction, and crossing some "Harrah," or ridges of rock,
"Ria," steep descents,[FN#17] "Kitaah," patch of stony flat, and bits
of "Sahil," dwarf plain, we found ourselves about eight A.M., after a
march of about thirty-four miles, at Bir Sa'id (Sa'id's Well), our

I had been led to expect at the "Well," a pastoral scene, wild flowers,
flocks and flowing waters; so I looked with a jaundiced eye upon a deep
hole full of slightly brackish water dug in a tamped hollow-a kind of
punch-bowl with granite walls, upon whose grim surface a few thorns of
exceeding hardihood braved the sun for a season. Not a house was in
sight-it was as barren and desolate a spot as the sun ever "viewed in
his wide career." But this is what the Arabian traveller must expect.
He is to traverse, for instance, the Wady Al-Ward-the Vale of Flowers.
He indulges in sweet recollections of Indian lakes beautiful with the
Lotus, and Persian plains upon which Narcissus is the meanest of
grasses. He sees a plain like swish-work, where knobs of granite act
daisies; and where, at every fifty yards, some hapless bud or blossom
is dying of inanition among the stones.

The sun scorched our feet as we planted the tent, and, after drinking
our breakfast, we passed the usual day of perspiration and
semi-lethargy. In discomfort man naturally

[p.252] hails a change, even though it be one from bad to worse. When
our enemy began slanting towards the West, we felt ready enough to
proceed on our journey. The camels were laden shortly after 3 P.M.,
July 20th, and we started, with water jars in our hands, through a
storm of Samun.

We travelled five hours in a North-Easterly course up a diagonal
valley,[FN#18] through a country fantastic in its desolation-a mass of
huge hills, barren plains, and desert vales. Even the sturdy Acacias
here failed, and in some places the camel grass could not find earth
enough for its root. The road wound among mountains, rocks and hills of
granite, and over broken ground, flanked by huge blocks and boulders
piled up as if man's art had aided Nature to disfigure herself. Vast
clefts seamed like scars the hideous face of earth; here they widened
into dark caves, there they were choked with glistening drift sand. Not
a bird or a beast was to be seen or heard; their presence would have
argued the vicinity of water; and, though my companions opined that
Badawin were lurking among the rocks, I decided that these Badawin were
the creatures of their fears. Above, a sky like polished blue steel,
with a tremendous blaze of yellow light, glared upon us without the
thinnest veil of mist cloud. Below, the brass-coloured circle scorched
the face and dazzled the eyes, mocking them the while with offers of
water that was but air. The distant prospect was more attractive than
the near view, because it borrowed a bright azure tinge from the
intervening atmosphere; but the jagged peaks and the perpendicular
streaks of shadow down the flanks of the mountainous background

[p.253] showed that yet in store for us was no change for the better.

Between 10 and 11 P.M., we reached human habitations-a phenomenon
unseen since we left Al-Musahhal-in the shape of a long straggling
village. It is called Al-Hamra, from the redness of the sands near
which it is built, or Al-Wasitah, the "half-way," because it is the
middle station between Yambu' and Al-Madinah. It is therefore
considerably out of place in Burckhardt's map; and those who copy from
him make it much nearer the sea-port than it really is. We wandered
nearly an hour in search of an encamping station, for the surly
villagers ordered us off every flatter bit of ground, without, however,
deigning to show us where our jaded beasts might rest. At last, after
long wrangling, we found the usual spot; the camels were unloaded, the
boxes and baggage were disposed in a circle for greater security
against the petty pilferers in which this part of the road abounds, and
my companions spread their rugs so as to sleep upon their valuables. I
was invited to follow the general example; but I absolutely declined
the vicinity of so many steaming and snoring fellow-travellers. Some
wonder was excited by the Afghan Haji's obstinacy and recklessness; but
resistance to these people is sometimes bien place, and a man from
Kabul is allowed to say and to do strange things. In answer to their
warnings of nightly peril, I placed a drawn sword by my side[FN#19] and
a cocked pistol under my pillow, the saddle-bag: a carpet spread upon
the cool loose sand formed by no means an uncomfortable couch, and upon
it I enjoyed a sound sleep till day-break.

Rising at dawn (July 21), I proceeded to visit the village. It is built
upon a narrow shelf at the top of a precipitous hill to the North, and
on the South runs a sandy

[p.254] Fiumara about half a mile broad. On all sides are rocks and
mountains rough and stony; so you find yourself in another of those
punch-bowls which the Arabs seem to consider choice sites for
settlements.[FN#20] The Fiumara, hereabouts very winding, threads the
high grounds all the way down from the plateau of Al-Madinah: during
the rainy season it becomes a raging torrent, carrying westwards to the
Red Sea the drainage of a hundred hills. Water of good quality is
readily found in it by digging a few feet below the surface at the
angles where the stream forms the deepest hollows, and in some places
the stony sides give out bubbling springs.[FN#21]

Al-Hamra itself is a collection of stunted houses or rather hovels,
made of unbaked brick and mud, roofed over with palm leaves, and
pierced with air-holes, which occasionally boast a bit of plank for a
shutter. It appears thickly populated in the parts where the walls are
standing, but, like all settlements in the Holy Land, Al-Hijaz,[FN#23]
it abounds in ruins. It is well supplied with provisions, which are
here cheaper than at Al-Madinah,-a circumstance that induced Sa'ad the
Demon to overload his hapless camel with a sack of wheat. In the
village are a few shops where grain, huge plantains, ready-made bread,

[p.255] clarified butter, and other edibles are to be purchased. Palm
orchards of considerable extent supply it with dates. The bazar is,
like the generality of such places in the villages of Eastern Arabia, a
long lane, here covered with matting, there open to the sun, and the
narrow streets-if they may be so called-are full of dust and glare.
Near the encamping ground of caravans is a fort for the officer
commanding a troop of Albanian cavalry, whose duty it is to defend the
village,[FN#24] to hold the country, and to escort merchant travellers.
The building consists of an outer wall of hewn stone, loopholed for
musketry, and surmounted by "Shararif," "remparts coquets," about as
useful against artillery as the sugar gallery round a Twelfth-cake.
Nothing would be easier than to take the place: a false attack would
draw off the attention of the defenders, who in these latitudes know
nothing of sentry-duty, whilst scaling-ladders or a bag full of powder
would command a ready entrance into the other side. Around the Al-Hamra
fort are clusters of palm-leaf huts, where the soldiery lounge and
smoke, and near it is the usual coffee-house, a shed kept by an
Albanian. These places are frequented probably on account of the
intense heat inside the fort. We passed a comfortless day at the "Red
Village." Large flocks of sheep and goats were being driven in and out
of the place, but their surly shepherds would give no milk, even in
exchange for bread and meat. The morning was spent in watching certain
Badawin, who, matchlock in hand, had climbed the hills in pursuit of a
troop of cranes: not one bird was hit of the many fired at-a
circumstance which did not say much for their vaunted marksmanship.
Before breakfast I bought a moderately sized sheep for a dollar.

[p.256] Shaykh Hamid "halaled[FN#25]" (butchered) it, according to
rule, and my companions soon prepared a feast of boiled mutton. But
that sheep proved a "bone of contention." The boy Mohammed had, in a
fit of economy, sold its head to a Badawi for three piastres, and the
others, disappointed in their anticipations of "haggis," lost temper.
With the "Demon's" voluble tongue and impudent countenance in the van,
they opened such a volley of raillery and sarcasm upon the young
"tripe-seller," that he in his turn became excited-furious. I had some
difficulty to keep the peace, for it did not suit my interests that
they should quarrel. But to do the Arabs justice, nothing is easier for
a man who knows them than to work upon their good feelings. "He is a
stranger in your country-a guest!" acted as a charm; they listened
patiently to Mohammed's gross abuse, only promising to answer him when
in his land, that is to say, near Meccah. But what especially soured
our day was the report that Sa'ad, the great robber-chief, and his
brother were in the field; consequently that our march would be delayed
for some time: every half-hour some fresh tattle from the camp or the
coffee-house added fuel to the fire of our impatience.

A few particulars about this Schinderhans of Al-Hijaz[FN#26] may not be
unacceptable. He is the chief of the Sumaydah and the Mahamid, two
influential sub-families of the Hamidah, the principal family of the
Beni-Harb tribe of Badawin. He therefore aspired to rule all the
Hamidah, and through them the Beni-Harb, in which case he would have
been, de facto, monarch of the Holy Land. But the Sharif of Meccah, and
Ahmad Pasha,

[p.257] the Turkish governor of the chief city, for some political
reason degraded him, and raised up a rival in the person of Shaykh
Fahd, another ruffian of a similar stamp, who calls himself chief of
the Beni-Amr, the third sub-family of the Hamidah family. Hence all
kinds of confusion. Sa'ad's people, who number it is said 5000, resent,
with Arab asperity, the insult offered to their chief, and beat Fahd's,
who do not amount to 800. Fahd, supported by the government, cuts off
Sa'ad's supplies. Both are equally wild and reckless, and-nowhere doth
the glorious goddess, Liberty, show a more brazen face than in this

"Inviolate land of the brave and the free;"

both seize the opportunity of shooting troopers, of plundering
travellers, and of closing the roads. This state of things continued
till I left the Hijaz, when the Sharif of Meccah proposed, it was said,
to take the field in person against the arch-robber. And, as will
afterwards be seen in these pages, Sa'ad, had the audacity to turn back
the Sultan's Mahmil or litter-the ensign of Imperial power-and to shut
the road against its cortege, because the Pashas of Al-Madinah and of
the Damascus caravan would not guarantee his restitution to his former
dignity. That such vermin is allowed to exist proves the imbecility of
the Turkish government. The Sultan pays pensions in corn and cloth to
the very chiefs who arm their varlets against him; and the Pashas,
after purloining all they can, hand over to their enemies the means of
resistance. It is more than probable, that Abd al-Majid has never heard
a word of truth concerning Al-Hijaz, and that fulsome courtiers
persuade him that men there tremble at his name. His government,
however, is desirous, if report speaks truth, of thrusting Al-Hijaz
upon the Egyptian, who on his side would willingly pay a large sum to
avert such calamity. The Holy Land drains off Turkish gold and blood in
abundance, and the

[p.258] lords of the country hold in it a contemptible position. If
they catch a thief, they dare not hang him. They must pay black-mail,
and yet be shot at in every pass. They affect superiority over the
Arabs, hate them, and are despised by them. Such in Al-Hijaz are the
effects of the charter of Gulkhanah, a panacea, like Holloway's Pills,
for all the evils to which Turkish, Arab, Syrian, Greek, Egyptian,
Persian, Armenian, Kurd, and Albanian flesh is heir to. Such the
results of the Tanzimat, the silliest copy of Europe's
folly-bureaucracy and centralisation-that the pen of empirical
statecraft ever traced.[FN#27] Under a strong-handed and strong-hearted
despotism, like Mohammed Ali's, Al-Hijaz, in one generation, might be
purged of its pests. By a proper use of the blood feud; by vigorously
supporting the weaker against the stronger classes; by regularly
defeating every Badawi who earns a name for himself; and, above all, by
the exercise of unsparing, unflinching justice,[FN#28] the few
thousands of half-naked bandits, who now make the land a fighting
field, would soon sink into utter insignificance.

[p.259] But to effect such end, the Turks require the old stratocracy,
which, bloody as it was, worked with far less misery than the charter
and the new code. What Milton calls

"The solid rule of civil government"

has done wonders for the race that nurtured and brought to perfection
an idea spontaneous to their organisation. The world has yet to learn
that the admirable exotic will thrive amongst the country gentlemen of
Monomotapa or the ragged nobility of Al-Hijaz.[FN#29] And it requires
no prophetic eye to foresee the day when the Wahhabis or the Badawin,
rising en masse, will rid the land of its feeble conquerors.[FN#30]

Sa'ad, the Old Man of the Mountains, was described to me as a little
brown Badawi; contemptible in appearance, but remarkable for courage
and ready wit. He has for treachery a keen scent, which he requires to
keep in exercise. A blood feud with Abd al-Muttalib, the present Sharif
of Meccah, who slew his nephew, and the hostility of several Sultans,
has rendered his life eventful. He lost all his teeth by poison, which
would have killed him, had he not, after swallowing the potion,
corrected it by drinking off a large potfull of clarified butter. Since
that time he has lived entirely upon fruits, which he gathers for
himself, and

[p.260] coffee which he prepares with his own hands. In Sultan Mahmud's
time he received from Constantinople a gorgeous purse, which he was
told to open, as it contained something for his private inspection.
Suspecting treachery, he gave it for this purpose to a slave, bidding
him carry it to some distance; the bearer was shot by a pistol
cunningly fixed, like Rob Roy's, in the folds of the bag. Whether this
far-known story be "true or only well found," it is certain that Shaykh
Sa'ad now fears the Turks, even "when they bring gifts." The Sultan
sends, or is supposed to send him, presents of fine horses, robes of
honour, and a large quantity of grain. But the Shaykh, trusting to his
hills rather than to steeds, sells them; he gives away the dresses to
his slaves, and he distributes the grain amongst his clansmen. Of his
character, men, as usual, tell two tales: some praise his charity, and
call him the friend of the poor, as certainly as he is a foe to the
rich. Others, on the contrary, describe him as cruel, cold-blooded, and
notably, even among Arabs, revengeful and avaricious. The truth
probably lies between these two extremes, but I observed that those of
my companions who spoke most highly of the robber chief when at a
distance seemed to be in the sudori freddi whilst under the shadow of
his hills.

Al-Hamra is the third station from Al-Madinah in the Darb Sultani, the
"Sultan's" or "High Road," the Westerly line leading to Meccah along
the sea-coast. When the robbers permit, the pilgrims prefer this route
on account of its superior climate, the facility of procuring water and
supplies, the vicinity of the sea, and the circumstance of its passing
through "Badr," the scene of the Prophet's principal military exploits
(A.H. 2). After mid-day, on the 21st July, when we had made up our
minds that Fate had determined we should halt at Al-Hamra, a caravan
arrived from Meccah; and the new travellers had interest to procure an
escort, and permission

[p.261] to proceed without delay towards Al-Madinah. The good news
filled us with joy. A little after four P.M. we urged our panting
camels over the fiery sands to join the Meccans, who were standing
ready for the march, on the other side of the torrent bed. An hour
afterwards we started in an Easterly direction.

My companions having found friends and relations in the Meccan
caravan,-the boy Mohammed's elder brother, about whom more anon, was of
the number,-were full of news and excitement. At sunset they prayed
with unction: even Sa'ad and Hamid had not the face to sit their camels
during the halt, when all around were washing, sanding
themselves,[FN#31] and busy with their devotions. We then ate our
suppers, remounted, and started once more. Shortly after night set in,
we came to a sudden halt. A dozen different reports rose to account for
this circumstance, which was occasioned by a band of Badawin, who had
manned a gorge, and sent forward a "parliamentary," ordering us
forthwith to stop. They at first demanded money to let us pass; but at
last, hearing that we were Sons of the Holy Cities, they granted us
transit on the sole condition that the military,-whom they, like Irish
peasants, hate and fear,-should return to whence they came. Upon this,
our escort, 200 men, wheeled their horses round and galloped back to
their barracks. We moved onwards, without, however, seeing any robbers;
my camel-man pointed out their haunts, and showed me a small bird
hovering over a place where he supposed water trickled from the rock.
The fellow had attempted a sneer at my expense when the fray was
impending. "Why don't you load your pistols, Effendi,"

[p.262] he cried, "and get out of your litter, and show fight?"
"Because," I replied as loudly, "in my country, when dogs run at us, we
thrash them with sticks." This stopped Mansur's mouth for a time, but
he and I were never friends. Like the lowest orders of Orientals, he
required to be ill-treated; gentleness and condescension he seemed to
consider a proof of cowardice or of imbecility. I began with kindness,
but was soon compelled to use hard words at first, and then threats,
which, though he heard them with frowns and mutterings, produced
manifest symptoms of improvement.

"Oignez vilain, il vous poindra!
Poignez vilain, il vous oindra!"

says the old French proverb, and the axiom is more valuable in the East
even than in the West.

Our night's journey had no other incident. We travelled over rising
ground with the moon full in our faces; and, about midnight, we passed
through another long straggling line of villages, called
Jadaydah,[FN#32] or Al-Khayf.[FN#33] The principal part of it lies on
the left of the road going to Al-Madinah; it has a fort like that of
Al-Hamra, springs of tolerable drinking water, a Nakhil or date-ground,
and a celebrated (dead) saint, Abd al-Rahim al-Burai. A little beyond
it lies the Bughaz[FN#34] or defile, where in A.D. 1811 Tussun Bey and
his 8000 Turks were totally defeated by 25,000 Harbi Badawin and

[p.263] This is a famous attacking-point of the Beni-Harb. In former
times both Jazzar Pasha, the celebrated "butcher" of Syria, and
Abdullah Pasha of Damascus, were baffled at the gorge of
Jadaydah[FN#36]; and this year the commander of the Syrian caravan,
afraid of risking an attack at a place so ill-omened, avoided it by
marching upon Meccah via the Desert road of Nijd. At four A.M., having
travelled about twenty-four miles due East, we encamped at Bir Abbas.

[FN#1] Alluding to the celebrated mountain, the "Hindu-kush," whence
the Afghans sallied forth to lay waste India.
[FN#2] Throughout this work I have estimated the pace of a Hijazi
camel, laden and walking in caravan line, under ordinary circumstances,
at two geographical miles an hour. A sandy plain or a rocky pass might
make a difference of half a mile each way, but not more.
[FN#3] See Chap. VIII., page 152, note 1, ante.
[FN#4] The reader must be warned that these little villages in Arabia,
as in Sind and Baluchistan, are continually changing their names,
whilst the larger settlements always retain the same. The traveller,
too, must beware of writing down the first answer he receives; in one
of our maps a village on the Euphrates is gravely named "M'adri,"
("Don't know").
[FN#5] Here called Samn, the Indian ghee.
[FN#6] The "Kahk" in this country is a light and pleasant bread made of
ground wheat, kneaded with milk, leavened with sour bean flour, and
finally baked in an oven, not, as usual, in the East, upon an iron
plate. The Kahk of Egypt is a kind of cake.
[FN#7] Stale unleavened bread is much relished by Easterns, who say
that keeping it on journeys makes it sweet. To prevent its becoming
mouldy, they cut it up into little bits, and, at the risk of hardening
it to the consistence of wood, they dry it by exposure to the air.
[FN#8] This Akit has different names in all parts of Arabia; even in
Al-Hijaz it is known by the name of Mazir, as well as, "Igt," (the
corruption of Akit). When very sour, it is called "Saribah," and when
dried, without boiling, "Jamidah." The Arabs make it by evaporating the
serous part of the milk; the remainder is then formed into cakes or
lumps with the hand, and spread upon hair cloth to dry. They eat it
with clarified butter, and drink it melted in water. It is considered a
cooling and refreshing beverage, but boasts few attractions to the
stranger. The Baluchis and wild tribes of Sindians call this
preparation of milk "Krut," and make it in the same way as the Badawin
[FN#9] In Arabic and Hebrew, milk; the Maltese give the word a very
different signification, and the Egyptians, like the Syrians, confine
their use of it to sour milk or curds-calling sweet milk "laban halib,"
or simply "halib."
[FN#10] In a previous work (History of Sind), I have remarked that
there exists some curious similarity in language and customs between
the Arabs and the various races occupying the broad ranges of hills
that separate India from Persia. Amongst these must be numbered the
prejudice alluded to above. The lamented Dr. Stocks, of Bombay, who
travelled amongst and observed the Brahui and the Baluchi nomads in the
Pashin valley, informed me that, though they will give milk in exchange
for other commodities, yet they consider it a disgrace to make money by
it. This, methinks, is too conventional a point of honour to have
sprung up spontaneously in two countries so distant, and apparently so
[FN#11] At Aden, as well as in Sind, these dry storms abound, and there
the work of meteorological investigation would be easier than in
[FN#12] "Beni-Kalb," (or Juhaynah, Chap. X.), would mean the
"Dogs'-Sons"-"Beni-Harb," the "Sons of Fight."
[FN#13] The Shintiyan is the common sword-blade of the Badawin; in
Western Arabia, it is called Majar (from the Magyars?), and is said to
be of German manufacture. Good old weapons of the proper curve, marked
like Andrew Ferraras with a certain number of lines down their length,
will fetch, even in Arabia, from L7 to L8. The modern and cheap ones
cost about 10s. Excellent weapons abound in this country, the reason
being that there is a perpetual demand for them, and when once
purchased, they become heir-looms in the family. I have heard that when
the Beni Bu Ali tribe, near Ras al-Khaymah, was defeated with slaughter
by Sir Lionel Smith's expedition, the victors found many valuable old
European blades in the hands of the slain.
[FN#14] The way of carrying off a camel in this country is to loosen
him, and then to hang on heavily to his tail, which causes him to start
at full gallop.
[FN#15] The Arabic Misyal, Masyal, Masil, or Masilah, is the Indian
Nullah and the Sicilian "Fiumara," a hill water-course, which rolls a
torrent during and after rain, and is either partially or wholly dry at
other seasons,-the stream flowing slowly underground. In England we
want the feature, and therefore there is no single word to express it.
Our "River" is an imperfect way of conveying the idea.
[FN#16] Generalisation is not the forte of the Arabic language.
"Al-Kulzum" (the Red Sea), for instance, will be unintelligible to the
native of Jeddah; call it the Sea of Jeddah, and you at once explain
yourself; so the Badawin will have names for each separate part, but no
single one to express the whole. This might be explained by their
ignorance of anything but details. The same thing is observable,
however, in the writings of the Arabian geographers when they come to
treat of the objects near home.

[FN#17] About the classic "Harrah," I shall have more to say at a
future time. The word "Ria" in literary and in vulgar Arabic is almost
synonymous with Akabah, a steep descent, a path between hills or a
mountain road.
[FN#18] Valleys may be divided into three kinds. 1. Longitudinal, i.e.
parallel to the axis of their ridges; 2. Transversal or perpendicular
to the same; and, 3. Diagonal, which form an acute or an obtuse angle
with the main chain of mountains.
[FN#19] This act, by the bye, I afterwards learned to be a greater act
of imprudence than the sleeping alone. Nothing renders the Arab thief
so active as the chance of stealing a good weapon.
[FN#20] Probably, because water is usually found in such places. In the
wild parts of the country, wells are generally protected by some
fortified building, for men consider themselves safe from an enemy
until their supply of water is cut off.
[FN#22] Near Al-Hamra, at the base of the Southern hills, within fire
of the forts, there is a fine spring of sweet water. All such fountains
are much prized by the people, who call them "Rock-water," and
attribute to them tonic and digestive virtues.
[FN#23] As far as I could discover, the reason of the ruinous state of
the country at present is the effect of the old Wahhabi and Egyptian
wars in the early part of the present century, and the misrule of the
Turks. In Arabia the depopulation of a village or a district is not to
be remedied, as in other countries, by an influx of strangers; the land
still belongs to the survivors of the tribe, and trespass would be
visited with a bloody revenge.
[FN#24] Without these forts the Turks, at least so said my companions,
could never hold the country against the Badawin. There is a little
amour propre in the assertion, but upon the whole it is true. There are
no Mohammed Alis, Jazzars, and Ibrahim Pachas in these days.
[FN#25] To "halal" is to kill an animal according to Moslem rites: a
word is wanted to express the act, and we cannot do better than to
borrow it from the people to whom the practice belongs.
[FN#26] He is now dead, and has been succeeded by a son worse than
[FN#27] The greatest of all its errors was that of appointing to the
provinces, instead of the single Pasha of the olden time, three
different governors, civil, military, and fiscal, all depending upon
the supreme council at Constantinople. Thus each province has three
plunderers instead of one, and its affairs are referred to a body that
can take no interest in it.
[FN#28] Ziyad bin Abihi was sent by Al-Mu'awiyah, the Caliph, to reform
Al-Basrah, a den of thieves; he made a speech, noticed that he meant to
rule with the sword, and advised all offenders to leave the city. The
inhabitants were forbidden under pain of death to appear in the streets
after evening prayers, and dispositions were made to secure the
execution of the penalty. Two hundred persons were put to death by the
patrol during the first night, only five during the second, and not a
drop of blood was shed afterwards. By similar severity, the French put
an end to assassination at Naples, and the Austrians at Leghorn. We may
deplore the necessity of having recourse to such means, but it is a
silly practice to salve the wound which requires the knife.
[FN#29] These remarks were written in 1853: I see no reason to change
them in 1878.
[FN#30] A weak monarch, a degenerate government, a state whose
corruption is evidenced by moral decay, a revenue bolstered up by a
system of treasury paper, which even the public offices discount at
from three to six per cent., an army accustomed to be beaten, and
disorganised provinces; these, together with the proceedings of a
ruthless and advancing enemy, form the points of comparison between the
Constantinople of the present day and the Byzantine metropolis eight
hundred years ago. Fate has marked upon the Ottoman Empire in Europe
"delenda est": we are now witnessing the efforts of human energy and
ingenuity to avert or to evade the fiat.
[FN#31] When water cannot be obtained for ablution before prayers,
Moslems clap the palms of their hands upon the sand, and draw them down
the face and both fore-arms. This operation, which is performed once or
twice-it varies in different schools-is called Tayammum.
[FN#32] I write this word as my companions pronounced it. Burckhardt
similarly gives it "Djedeyde," and Ali Bey "Djideïda." Giovanni Finati
wrongly calls the place "Jedeed Bughaz," which Mr. Bankes, his editor,
rightly translates the "new opening or pass."
[FN#33] Al-Khayf is a common name for places in this part of Arabia.
The word literally means a declivity or a place built upon a declivity.
[FN#34] Bughaz means in Turkish the fauces, the throat, and signifies
also here a gorge, or a mountain pass. It is the word now commonly used
in Al-Hijaz for the classical "Nakb," or "Mazik." Vincent (Periplus)
errs in deriving the word from the Italian "Bocca."
[FN#35] Giovanni Finati, who was present at this hard-fought field as a
soldier in Tussun's army, gives a lively description of the disastrous
"day of Jadaydah" in vol. i. of his work.
[FN#36] This Abdullah, Pasha of Damascus, led the caravan in A.D. 1756.
When the Shaykhs of the Harb tribe came to receive their black-mail, he
cut off their heads, and
sent the trophies to Stambul. During the next season the Harb were
paralysed by the blow, but in the third year they levied 80,000 men,
attacked the caravan, pillaged it, and slew every Turk that fell into
their hands.



THE 22nd July was a grand trial of temper to our little party. The
position of Bir Abbas exactly resembles that of Al-Hamra, except that
the bulge of the hill-girt Fiumara is at this place about two miles
wide. There are the usual stone-forts and palm-leaved hovels for the
troopers, stationed here to hold the place and to escort travellers,
with a coffee-shed, and a hut or two, called a bazar, but no village.
Our encamping ground was a bed of loose sand, with which the violent
Samum filled the air; not a tree or a bush was in sight; a species of
hardy locust and swarms of flies were the only remnants of animal life:
the scene was a caricature of Sind. Although we were now some hundred
feet, to judge by the water-shed, above the level of the sea, the
mid-day sun scorched even through the tent; our frail tenement was more
than once blown down, and the heat of the sand made the work of
repitching it painful. Again my companions, after breakfasting, hurried
to the coffee-house, and returned one after the other with dispiriting
reports. Then they either quarrelled desperately about nothing, or they
threw themselves on their rugs, pretending to sleep in very sulkiness.
The lady Maryam soundly rated her surly son for refusing to fill her
chibuk for the twelfth time that morning, with the usual religious
phrases, "Allah direct thee into the right way, O my son!"-meaning that
he was going to the bad, and "O my calamity, thy mother is a lone
woman, O Allah!"-equivalent to the

[p.265] European parental plaint about grey hairs being brought down in
sorrow to the grave. Before noon a small caravan which followed us came
in with two dead bodies,-a trooper shot by the Badawin, and an Albanian
killed by sun-stroke, or the fiery wind.[FN#1] Shortly after mid-day a
Caravan, travelling in an opposite direction, passed by us; it was
composed chiefly of Indian pilgrims, habited in correct costume, and
hurrying towards Meccah in hot haste. They had been allowed to pass
unmolested, because probably a pound sterling could not have been
collected from a hundred pockets, and Sa'ad the Robber sometimes does a
cheap good deed. But our party,

[p.266] having valuables with them, did not seem to gather heart from
this event. In the evening we all went out to see some Arab Shaykhs who
were travelling to Bir Abbas in order to receive their salaries.
Without such douceurs, it is popularly said and believed, no stone
walls could enable a Turk to hold Al-Hijaz against the hill-men. Such
was our system in Afghanistan-most unwise, teaching in limine the
subject to despise rulers subject to blackmail. Besides which, these
highly paid Shaykhs do no good. When a fight takes place or a road is
shut, they profess inability to restrain their clansmen; and the richer
they are, of course the more formidable they become. The party looked
well; they were Harb, dignified old men in the picturesque Arab
costume, with erect forms, fierce thin features, and white beards, well
armed, and mounted upon high-bred and handsomely equipped dromedaries
from Al-Shark.[FN#2] Preceded by their half-naked clansmen, carrying
spears twelve or thirteen feet long, garnished with single or double
tufts of black ostrich feathers, and ponderous matchlocks, which were
discharged on approaching the fort, they were not without a kind of
barbaric pomp.

Immediately after the reception of these Shaykhs, there was a parade of
the Arnaut Irregular horse. About 500 of them rode out to the sound of
the Nakus or little kettle-drum, whose puny notes strikingly contrasted
with this really martial sight. The men, it is true, were mounted on
lean Arab and Egyptian nags, ragged-looking as their clothes; and each
trooper was armed

[p.267] in his own way, though all had swords, pistols and matchlocks,
or firelocks of some kind. But they rode hard as Galway "buckeens," and
there was a gallant reckless look about the fellows which prepossessed
me strongly in their favour. Their animals, too, though notable
"screws," were well trained, and their accoutrements were intended for
use, not show. I watched their manoeuvres with curiosity. They left
their cantonments one by one, and, at the sound of the tom-tom, by
degrees formed a "plump" or "herse"-column[FN#3] it could not be
called-all huddled together in confusion. Presently the little
kettle-drum changed its note and the parade its aspect. All the serried
body dispersed as would Light Infantry, now continuing their advance,
then hanging back, then making a rush, and all the time keeping up a
hot fire upon the enemy. At another signal they suddenly put their
horses to full speed, and, closing upon the centre, again advanced in a
dense mass. After three-quarters of an hour parading, sometimes
charging singly, often in bodies, to the right, to the left, and
straight in front, halting when requisite, and occasionally retreating,
Parthian-like, the Arnauts turned en masse towards their lines. As they
neared them, all broke off and galloped in, ventre a terre, discharging
their shotted guns with much recklessness against objects assumed to
denote the enemy. But ball-cartridge seemed to be plentiful hereabouts;
during the whole of this and the next day, I remarked that bullets,
notched for noise, were fired away in mere fun.[FN#4]

[p.268] Barbarous as these movements may appear to the Cavalry Martinet
of the "good old school," yet to something of the kind will the tactics
of that arm of the service, I humbly opine, return, when the perfect
use of the rifle, the revolver, and field artillery shall have made the
present necessarily slow system fatal. Also, if we adopt the common
sense opinion of a modern writer,[FN#5] and determine that "individual
prowess, skill in single combats, good horsemanship, and sharp swords
render cavalry formidable," these semi-barbarians are wiser in their
generation than the civilised, who never practise arms (properly so
called), whose riding-drill never made a good rider, whose horses are
over-weighted, and whose swords are worthless. They have yet another
point of superiority over us; they cultivate the individuality of the
soldier, whilst we strive to make him a mere automaton. In the days of
European chivalry, battles were a system of well-fought duels. This was
succeeded by the age of discipline, when, to use the language of
Rabelais, "men seemed rather a consort of organ-pipes, or mutual
concord of the wheels of a clock, than an infantry and cavalry, or army
of soldiers." Our aim should now be to combine the merits of both
systems; to make men individually

[p.269] excellent in the use of weapons, and still train them to act
naturally and habitually in concert. The French have given a model to
Europe in the Chasseurs de Vincennes,-a body capable of most perfect
combination, yet never more truly excellent than when each man is
fighting alone. We, I suppose, shall imitate them at some future

A distant dropping of fire-arms ushered in the evening of our first
melancholy day at Bir Abbas. This, said my companions, was a sign that
the troops and the hill-men were fighting. They communicated the
intelligence, as if it ought to be an effectual check upon my
impatience to proceed; it acted, however, in the contrary way. I
supposed that the Badawin, after battling out the night, would be less
warlike the next day; the others, however, by no means agreed in
opinion with me. At Yambu' the whole party had boasted loudly that the
people of Al-Madinah could keep their Badawin in order, and had twitted
the boy Mohammed with their superiority in this respect to his
townsmen, the Meccans. But now that a trial was impending, I saw none
of the fearlessness so conspicuous when peril was only possible. The
change was charitably to be explained by the presence of their
valuables; the "Sahharahs," like conscience, making cowards of them
all. But the young Meccan, who, having sent on his box by sea from

[p.270] to Jeddah, felt merry, like the empty traveller, would not lose
the opportunity to pay off old scores. He taunted the Madinites till
they stamped and raved with fury. At last, fearing some violence, and
feeling answerable for the boy's safety to his family, I seized him by
the nape of his neck and the upper posterior portion of his nether
garments, and drove him before me into the tent.

When the hubbub had subsided, and all sat after supper smoking the pipe
of peace in the cool night air, I rejoined my companions, and found
them talking, as usual, about old Shaykh Sa'ad. The scene was
appropriate for the subject. In the distance rose the blue peak said to
be his eyrie, and the place was pointed out with fearful meaning. As it
is inaccessible to strangers, report has converted it into another
garden of Iram. A glance, however, at its position and formation
satisfied me that the bubbling springs, the deep forests, and the
orchards of apple-trees, quinces and pomegranates, with which my
companions furnished it, were a "myth," whilst some experience of Arab
ignorance of the art of defence suggested to me strong doubts about the
existence of an impregnable fortress on the hill-top. The mountains,
however, looked beautiful in the moonlight, and distance gave them a
semblance of mystery well suited to the themes which they inspired.

That night I slept within my Shugduf, for it would have been mere
madness to sleep on the open plain in a place so infested by banditti.
The being armed is but a poor precaution near this robbers' den. If you
wound a man in the very act of plundering, an exorbitant sum must be
paid for blood-money. If you kill him, even to save your life, then
adieu to any chance of escaping destruction. Roused three or four times
during the night by jackals and dogs prowling about our little camp, I
observed that my companions, who had agreed amongst themselves to keep
watch by turns, had all

[p.271] fallen into a sound sleep. However, when we awoke in the
morning, the usual inspection of goods and chattels showed that nothing
was gone.

The next day (July 23rd) was a forced halt, a sore stimulant to the
traveller's ill-humour; and the sun, the sand, the dust, the furious
Samum, and the want of certain small supplies, aggravated our
grievance. My sore foot had been inflamed by a dressing of onion skin
which the lady Maryam had insisted upon applying to it.[FN#7] Still
being resolved to push forward by any conveyance that could be
procured, I offered ten dollars for a fresh dromedary to take me on to
Al- Madinah. Shaykh Hamid also declared he would leave his box in
charge of a friend and accompany me. Sa'ad the Demon flew into a
passion at the idea of any member of the party escaping the general
evil; and he privily threatened Mohammed to cut off the legs of any
camel that ventured into camp. This, the boy-who, like a boy of the
world as he was, never lost an opportunity of making mischief-instantly
communicated to me, and it brought on a furious dispute. Sa'ad was
reproved and apologised for by the rest of the party; and presently he
himself was pacified, principally, I believe, by the intelligence that
no camel was to be hired at Bir Abbas. One of the Arnaut garrison, who
had obtained leave to go to Al-Madinah, came to ask us if we could
mount him, as otherwise he should be obliged to walk the whole way.
With him we debated the propriety of attempting a passage through the
hills by one of the many by-paths that traverse them: the project was
amply discussed, and duly rejected.

We passed the day in the usual manner; all crowded

[p.272] together for shelter under the tent. Even Maryam joined us,
loudly informing Ali, her son, that his mother was no longer a woman
but a man; whilst our party generally, cowering away from the fierce
glances of the sun, were either eating or occasionally smoking, or were
occupied in cooling and drinking water. About sunset-time came a report
that we were to start that night. None could believe that such good was
in store for us; before sleeping, however, we placed each camel's pack
apart, so as to be ready for loading at a moment's notice; and we took
care to watch that our Badawin did not drive their animals away to any
distance. At last, about 11 P.M., as the moon was beginning to peep
over the Eastern wall of rock, was heard the glad sound of the little
kettle-drum calling the Albanian troopers to mount and march. In the
shortest possible time all made ready; and, hurriedly crossing the
sandy flat, we found ourselves in company with three or four Caravans,
forming one large body for better defence against the dreaded
Hawamid.[FN#8] By dint of much manoeuvring, arms in hand,-Shaykh Hamid
and the "Demon" took the prominent parts,-we, though the last comers,
managed to secure places about the middle of the line. On such
occasions all push forward recklessly, as an English mob in the strife
of sight-seeing; the rear, being left unguarded, is the place of
danger, and none seeks the honour of occupying it.

We travelled that night up the Fiumara in an Easterly direction, and at
early dawn (July 24th) found ourselves in an ill-famed gorge called
Shuab al-Hajj,[FN#9] the "Pilgrimage Pass." The loudest talkers became
silent as we neared it, and their countenances showed apprehension
written in legible characters. Presently from the high precipitous

[p.273] cliff on our left, thin blue curls of smoke-somehow or other
they caught every eye-rose in the air; and instantly afterwards rang
the sharp cracks of the hillmen's matchlocks, echoed by the rocks on
the right. My Shugduf had been broken by the camel's falling during the
night, so I called out to Mansur that we had better splice the
framework with a bit of rope: he looked up, saw me laughing, and with
an ejaculation of disgust disappeared. A number of Badawin were to be
seen swarming like hornets over the crests of the hills, boys as well
as men carrying huge weapons, and climbing with the agility of cats.
They took up comfortable places on the cut-throat eminence, and began
firing upon us with perfect convenience to themselves. The height of
the hills and the glare of the rising sun prevented my seeing objects
very distinctly, but my companions pointed out to me places where the
rock had been scarped, and where a kind of rough stone breastwork-the
Sangah of Afghanistan-had been piled up as a defence, and a rest for
the long barrel of the matchlock. It was useless to challenge the
Badawin to come down and fight us like men upon the plain; they will do
this on the Eastern coast of Arabia, but rarely, if ever, in Al-Hijaz.
And it was equally unprofitable for our escort to fire upon a foe
ensconced behind stones. Besides which, had a robber been killed, the
whole country would have risen to a man; with a force of 3,000 or
4,000, they might have gained courage to overpower a Caravan, and in
such a case not a soul would have escaped. As it was, the Badawin
directed their fire principally against the Albanians. Some of these
called for assistance to the party of Shaykhs that accompanied us from
Bir Abbas; but the dignified old men, dismounting and squatting in
council round their pipes, came to the conclusion that, as the robbers
would probably turn a deaf ear to their words, they had better spare
themselves the trouble of speaking.

[p.274] We had therefore nothing to do but to blaze away as much
powder, and to veil ourselves in as much smoke, as possible; the result
of the affair was that we lost twelve men, besides camels and other
beasts of burden. Though the bandits showed no symptoms of bravery, and
confined themselves to slaughtering the enemy from their hill-top, my
companions seemed to consider this questionable affair a most gallant

After another hour's hurried ride through the Wady Sayyalah, appeared
Shuhada, to which we pushed on,

"Like nighted swain on lonely road,
When close behind fierce goblins tread."

Shuhada is a place which derives its name, "The Martyrs," because here
are supposed to be buried forty braves that fell in one of Mohammed's
many skirmishes. Some authorities consider it the cemetery of the
people of Wady Sayyalah.[FN#10] The once populous valley is now barren,
and one might easily pass by the consecrated spot without observing a
few ruined walls and a cluster of rude Badawin graves, each an oval of
rough stones lying beneath the thorn trees on the left of and a little
off the road. Another half hour took us to a favourite halting-place,
Bir al-Hindi,[FN#11] so called from some forgotten Indian

[p.275] who dug a well there. But we left it behind, wishing to put as
much space as we could between our tents and the nests of the Hamidah.
Then quitting the Fiumara, we struck Northwards into a well-trodden
road running over stony rising ground. The heat became sickening; here,
and in the East generally, at no time is the sun more dangerous than
between eight and nine A.M. Still we hurried on. It was not before
eleven A.M. that we reached our destination, a rugged plain covered
with stones, coarse gravel, and thorn trees in abundance; and
surrounded by inhospitable rocks, pinnacle-shaped, of granite below,
and in the upper parts fine limestone. The well was at least two miles
distant, and not a hovel was in sight; a few Badawi children belonging
to an outcast tribe fed their starveling goats upon the hills. This
place is called "Suwaykah"; it is, I was told, that celebrated in the
history of the Arabs.[FN#12] Yet not for this reason did my comrades
look lovingly upon its horrors: their boxes were safe and with the eye
of imagination they could now behold their homes. That night we must
have travelled about twenty-two miles; the direction of the road was
due East, and the only remarkable feature in the ground was its steady

[p.276] We pitched the tent under a villainous Mimosa, the tree whose
shade is compared by poetic Badawin to the false friend who deserts you
in your utmost need. I enlivened the hot dull day by a final affair
with Sa'ad the Demon. His alacrity at Yambu' obtained for him the loan
of a couple of dollars: he had bought grain at Al-Hamra, and now we
were near Al-Madinah: still there was not a word about repayment. And
knowing that an Oriental debtor discharges his debt as he pays his
rent, namely, with the greatest unwillingness,-and that, on the other
hand, an Oriental creditor will devote the labour of a year to
recovering a sixpence, I resolved to act as a native of the country,
placed in my position, would; and by dint of sheer dunning and
demanding pledges, to recover my property. About noon Sa'ad the Demon,
after a furious rush, bare-headed, through the burning sun, flung the
two dollars down upon my carpet: however, he presently recovered
temper, and, as subsequent events showed, I had chosen the right part.
Had he not been forced to repay his debt, he would have despised me as
a "freshman," and would have coveted more. As it was, the boy Mohammed
bore the brunt of unpopular feeling, my want of liberality being traced
to his secret and perfidious admonitions. He supported his burden the
more philosophically, because, as he notably calculated, every dollar
saved at Al-Madinah would be spent under his stewardship at Meccah.

At four P.M. (July 24th) we left Suwaykah, all of us in the crossest of
humours, and travelled in a N.E. direction. So "out of temper" were my
companions, that at sunset, of the whole party, Omar Effendi was the
only one who would eat supper. The rest sat upon the ground, pouting,
grumbling, and-they had been allowed to exhaust my stock of
Latakia-smoking Syrian tobacco as if it were a grievance. Such a game
at naughty children, I have seldom seen played even by Oriental men.
The boy Mohammed

[p.277] privily remarked to me that the camel-men's beards were now in
his fist,-meaning that we were out of their kinsmen, the Harb's, reach.
He soon found an opportunity to quarrel with them; and, because one of
his questions was not answered in the shortest possible time, he
proceeded to abuse them in language which sent their hands flying in
the direction of their swords. Despite, however, this threatening
demeanour, the youth, knowing that he now could safely go to any
lengths, continued his ill words, and Mansur's face was so comically
furious, that I felt too much amused to interfere. At last the
camel-men disappeared, thereby punishing us most effectually for our
sport. The road lay up rocky hill and down stony vale; a tripping and
stumbling dromedary had been substituted for the usual monture: the
consequence was that we had either a totter or a tumble once per mile
during the whole of that long night. In vain the now fiery Mohammed
called for the assistance of the camel-men with the full force of his
lungs: "Where be those owls, those oxen of the oxen, those beggars,
those cut-off ones, those foreigners, those Sons of Flight[FN#13]?
withered be their hands! palsied be their fingers! the foul mustachioed
fellows, basest of the Arabs that ever hammered tent-peg, sneaking
cats, goats of Al-Akhfash![FN#14] Truly I will torture them the torture
of the oil,[FN#15] the mines of infamy! the cold of
countenance![FN#16]" The Badawi brotherhood of the camel-men looked at
him wickedly, muttering the while,-"By Allah! and by Allah!

[p.278] and by Allah! O boy, we will flog thee like a hound when we
catch thee in the Desert!" All our party called upon him to desist, but
his temper had got completely the upper hand over his discretion, and
he expressed himself in such classic and idiomatic Hijazi, that I had
not the heart to stop him. Some days after our arrival at Al-Madinah,
Shaykh Hamid warned him seriously never again to go such perilous
lengths, as the Beni Harb were celebrated for shooting or poniarding
the man who ventured to use to them even the mild epithet "O jackass!"
And in the quiet of the city the boy Mohammed, like a sobered man
shuddering at dangers braved when drunk, hearkened with discomposure
and penitence to his friend's words. The only immediate consequence of
his abuse was that my broken Shugduf became a mere ruin, and we passed
the dark hours perched like two birds upon the only entire bits of
framework the cots contained.

The sun had nearly risen (July 25th) before I shook off the lethargic
effects of such a night. All around me were hurrying their camels,
regardless of rough ground, and not a soul spoke a word to his
neighbour. "Are there robbers in sight?" was the natural question.
"No!" replied Mohammed; "they are walking with their eyes,[FN#17] they
will presently see their homes!" Rapidly we passed the Wady
al-Akik,[FN#18] of which,

"O my friend, this is Akik, then stand by it,

Endeavouring to be distracted by love, if not really a lover,"[FN#19]

[p.279] and a thousand other such pretty things, have been said by the
Arab poets. It was as "dry as summer's dust," and its "beautiful trees"
appeared in the shape of vegetable mummies. Half an hour after leaving
the "Blessed Valley" we came to a huge flight of steps roughly cut in a
long broad line of black scoriaceous basalt. This is termed the
Mudarraj or flight of steps over the western ridge of the so-called
Al-Harratayn.[FN#20] It is holy ground; for the Apostle spoke well of
it. Arrived at the top, we passed through a lane of dark lava, with
steep banks on both sides, and after a few minutes a full view of the
city suddenly opened upon us.[FN#21]

We halted our beasts as if by word of command. All of us descended, in
imitation of the pious of old, and sat down, jaded and hungry as we
were, to feast our eyes with a view of the Holy City.

"O Allah! this is the Harim (sanctuary) of Thy Apostle; make it to us a
Protection from Hell Fire, and a Refuge from Eternal Punishment! O open
the Gates of Thy Mercy, and let us pass through them to the Land of
Joy!" and "O Allah, bless the last of Prophets, the Seal of Prophecy,
with Blessings in number

[p.280] as the Stars of Heaven, and the Waves of the Sea, and the Sands
of the Waste-bless him, O Lord of Might and Majesty, as long as the
Corn-field and the Date-grove continue to feed Mankind[FN#22]!" And
again, "Live for ever, O Most Excellent of Prophets!-live in the Shadow
of Happiness during the Hours of Night and the Times of Day, whilst the
Bird of the Tamarisk (the dove) moaneth like the childless Mother,
whilst the West-wind bloweth gently over the Hills of Nijd, and the
Lightning flasheth bright in the Firmament of Al-Hijaz!"

Such were the poetical exclamations that rose all around me, showing
how deeply tinged with imagination becomes the language of the Arab
under the influence of strong passion or religious enthusiasm. I now
understood the full value of a phrase in the Moslem ritual, "And when
his" (the pilgrim's) "eyes shall fall upon the Trees of Al-Madinah, let
him raise his Voice and bless the Apostle with the choicest of
Blessings." In al[l] the fair view before us nothing was more striking,
after the desolation through which we had passed, than the gardens and
orchards about the town. It was impossible not to enter into the spirit
of my companions, and truly I believe that for some minutes my
enthusiasm rose as high as theirs. But presently when we
remounted,[FN#23] the traveller returned strong upon me: I made a rough
sketch of the town, put questions about the principal buildings, and in
fact collected materials for the next chapter.

[p.281] The distance traversed that night was about twenty-two miles in
a direction varying from easterly to north-easterly. We reached
Al-Madinah on the 25th July, thus taking nearly eight days to travel
over little more than 130 miles. This journey is performed with camels
in four days, and a good dromedary will do it without difficulty in
half that time.[FN#24]

[FN#1] The natives of Al-Hijaz assured me that in their Allah-favoured
land, the Samum never kills a man. I "doubt the fact." This Arnaut's
body was swollen and decomposing rapidly, the true diagnostic of death
by the poison-wind. (See Ibn Batuta's voyage, "Kabul.") However, as
troopers drink hard, the Arabs may still be right, the Samum doing half
the work, arrack the rest. I travelled during the months of July,
August, and September, and yet never found myself inconvenienced by the
"poison-wind" sufficiently to make me tie my Kufiyah, Badawi-fashion,
across my mouth. At the same time I can believe that to an invalid it
would be trying, and that a man almost worn out by hunger and fatigue
would receive from it a coup de grace. Niebuhr attributes the
extraordinary mortality of his companions, amongst other causes, to a
want of stimulants. Though these might doubtless be useful in the cold
weather, or in the mountains of Al-Yaman, for men habituated to them
from early youth, yet nothing, I believe, would be more fatal than
strong drink when travelling through the Desert in summer heat. The
common beverage should be water or lemonade; the strongest stimulants
coffee or tea. It is what the natives of the country do, and doubtless
it is wise to take their example. The Duke of Wellington's dictum about
the healthiness of India to an abstemious man does not require to be
quoted. Were it more generally followed, we should have less of
sun-stroke and sudden death in our Indian armies, when soldiers, fed
with beef and brandy, are called out to face the violent heat. At the
same time it must be remembered, that foul and stagnant water,
abounding in organic matter, is the cause of half the diarrhoea and
dysentry which prove so fatal to travellers in these regions. To the
water-drinker, therefore, a pocket-filter is indispensable.
[FN#2] Al-Shark, "the East," is the popular name in the Hijaz for the
Western region as far as Baghdad and Bassorah, especially Nijd. The
latter province supplies the Holy Land with its choicest horses and
camels. The great heats of the parts near the Red Sea appear
prejudicial to animal generation; whereas the lofty table-lands and the
broad pastures of Nijd, combined with the attention paid by the people
to purity of blood, have rendered it the greatest breeding country in

[FN#3] I mean a civilised column. "Herse" is the old military name for
a column opposed to "Haye," a line. So we read that at far-famed Cressy
the French fought en battaille a haye, the English drawn up en herse.
This appears to have been the national predilection of that day. In
later times, we and our neighbours changed style, the French preferring
heavy columns, the English extending themselves into lines.
[FN#4] The Albanians, delighting in the noise of musketry, notch the
ball in order to make it sing the louder. When fighting, they often
adopt the excellent plan-excellent, when rifles are not procurable-of
driving a long iron nail through the bullet, and fixing its head into
the cartridge. Thus the cartridge is strengthened, the bullet is
rifled, and the wound which it inflicts is death. Round balls are apt
to pass into and out of savages without killing them, and many an
Afghan, after being shot or run through the body, has mortally wounded
his English adversary before falling. It is false philanthropy, also,
to suppose that in battle, especially when a campaign is commencing, it
is sufficient to maim, not to kill, the enemy. Nothing encourages men
to fight so much, as a good chance of escaping with a wound-especially
a flesh wound. I venture to hope that the reader will not charge these
sentiments with cruelty. He who renders warfare fatal to all engaged in
it will be the greatest benefactor the world has yet known.
[FN#5] The late Captain Nolan.
[FN#6] The first symptom of improvement will be a general training to
the Bayonet exercise. The British is, and for years has been, the only
army in Europe that does not learn the use of this weapon: how long
does it intend to be the sole authority on the side of ignorance? We
laughed at the Calabrese levies, who in the French war threw away their
muskets and drew their stilettos; and we cannot understand why the
Indian would always prefer a sabre to a rifle. Yet we read without
disgust of our men being compelled, by want of proper training, to
"club their muskets" in hand-to-hand fights,-when they have in the
bayonet the most formidable of offensive weapons,-and of the Kafirs and
other savages wresting the piece, after drawing off its fire, from its
unhappy possessor's grasp.
[FN#7] I began to treat it hydropathically with a cooling bandage, but
my companions declared that the water was poisoning the wound, and
truly it seemed to get worse every day. This idea is prevalent
throughout Al-Hijaz; even the Badawin, after once washing a cut or a
sore, never allow air or water to touch it.
[FN#8] Hawamid is the plural of Hamidah, Shaykh Sa'ad's tribe.
[FN#9] Shuab properly means a path through mountains, or a watercourse
between hills. It is generally used in Arabia for a "Valley," and
sometimes instead of Nakb, or the Turkish Bughaz, a "Pass."
[FN#10] Others attribute these graves to the Beni Salim, or Salmah, an
extinct race of Hijazi Badawin. Near Shuhada is Jabal Warkan, one of
the mountains of Paradise, also called Irk al-Zabyat, or Thread of the
Winding Torrent. The Prophet named it "Hamt," (sultriness), when he
passed through it on his way to the Battle of Badr. He also called the
valley "Sajasaj," (plural of Sajsaj, a temperate situation), declared
it was a valley of heaven, that 70 prophets had prayed there before
himself, that Moses with 70,000 Israelites had traversed it on his way
to Meccah, and that, before the Resurrection day, Isa bin Maryam should
pass through it with the intention of performing the Greater and the
Lesser Pilgrimages. Such are the past and such the future honours of
the place.
[FN#11] The Indians sink wells in Arabia for the same reason which
impels them to dig tanks at home,-"nam ke waste,"-"for the purpose of
name"; thereby denoting, together with a laudable desire for posthumous
fame, a notable lack of ingenuity in securing it. For it generally
happens that before the third generation has fallen, the well and the
tank have either lost their original names, or have exchanged them for
others newer and better known.
[FN#12] Suwaykah derives its name from the circumstance that in the
second, or third, year of the Hijrah (Hegira), Mohammed here attacked
Abu Sufiyan, who was out on a foray with 200 men. The Infidels, in
their headlong fight, lightened their beasts by emptying their bags of
"Sawik." This is the old and modern Arabic name for a dish of green
grain, toasted, pounded, mixed with dates or sugar, and eaten on
journeys when it is found difficult to cook. Such is the present
signification of the word: M.C. de Perceval (vol. iii., p. 84) gives it
a different and a now unknown meaning. And our popular authors
erroneously call the affair the "War of the Meal-sacks."
[FN#13] A popular but not a bad pun-"Harb" (Fight), becomes, by the
alteration of the H, "Harb" (Flight).
[FN#14] The old Arabic proverb is "A greater wiseacre than the goat of
Akhfash"; it is seldom intelligible to the vulgar.
[FN#15] That is to say, "I will burn them (metaphorically) as the fiery
wick consumes the oil,"-a most idiomatic Hijazi threat.
[FN#16] A "cold-of-countenance" is a fool. Arabs use the word "cold" in
a peculiar way. "May Allah refrigerate thy countenance!" i.e. may it
show misery and want. "By Allah, a cold speech!" that is to say, a
silly or an abusive tirade.
[FN#17] That is to say, they would use, if necessary, the dearest and
noblest parts of their bodies (their eyes) to do the duty of the basest
(i.e. their feet).
[FN#18] Writers mention two Al-Akik. The superior comprises the whole
site of Al-Madinah, extending from the Western Ridge, mentioned below,
to the cemetery Al-Bakia. The inferior is the Fiumara here alluded to;
it is on the Meccan road, about four miles S.W. of Al-Madinah, and its
waters fall into the Al-Hamra torrent. It is called the "Blessed
Valley" because the Prophet was ordered by an angel to pray in it.
[FN#19] The esoteric meaning of this couplet is, "Man! this is a lovely
portion of God's creation: then stand by it, and here learn to love the
perfections of thy Supreme Friend."
[FN#20] Al-Harratayn for Al-Harratani, the oblique case of the dual and
plural noun being universally used for the nominative in colloquial
Arabic. The other one of the Two Ridges will be described in a future
part of this Book.
[FN#21] The city is first seen from the top of the valley called Nakb,
or Shuab Ali, close to the Wady al-Akik, a long narrow pass, about five
miles from Al-Madinah. Here, according to some, was the Mosque Zu'l
Halifah, where the Prophet put on the Pilgrim's garb when travelling to
Meccah. It is also called "The Mosque of the Tree," because near it
grew a fruit tree under which the Prophet twice sat. Ibn Jubayr
considers that the Harim (or sacred precincts of Al-Madinah) is the
space enclosed by three points, Zu'l Halifah, Mount Ohod, and the
Mosque of Kuba. To the present day pilgrims doff their worldly garments
at Zu'l Halifah.
[FN#22] That is to say, "throughout all ages and all nations." The
Arabs divide the world into two great bodies: first themselves, and,
secondly, "'Ajami," i.e. all that are not Arabs. Similar bi-partitions
are the Hindus and Mlenchhas, the Jews and Gentiles, the Greeks and
Barbarians, &c., &c.
[FN#23] Robust religious men, especially those belonging to the school
of Al-Malik, enter into Al-Madinah, after the example of Ali, on foot,
reverently, as the pilgrims approach Meccah.
[FN#24] Barbosa makes three days' journey from Yambu' to Al-Madinah,
D'Herbelot eight, and Ovington six. The usual time is from four to five
days. A fertile source of error to home geographers, computing
distances in Arabia, is their neglecting the difference between the
slow camel travelling and the fast dromedary riding.
The following is a synopsis of our stations:-


1. From Yambu', 18th July, to Musahhal, N.E.----------16
2. From Musahhal, 19th July, to Bir Sa'id, S. and E.--34 64 miles
3. From Bir Sa'id, 20th July, to Al-Hamra, N.E.-------14

4. From Al-Hamra, 21st July, to Bir Abbas, E.---------24
5. From Bir Abbas, 23rd July, to Suwaykah, E.---------22 68 miles
6. From Suwaykah, 24thJuly, to Al-Madinah, N. and E.--22

Total English miles----------------------------------132

[p.285]CHAPTER XV.


As we looked Eastward, the sun arose out of the horizon of low hill,
blurred and dotted with small tufted trees, which gained from the
morning mists a giant stature, and the earth was stained with purple
and gold. Before us lay a spacious plain, bounded in front by the
undulating ground of Nijd: on the left was a grim pile of rocks, the
celebrated Mount Ohod, with a clump of verdure and a white dome or two
nestling at its base. Rightwards, broad streaks of lilac-coloured
mists, here thick with gathered dew, there pierced and thinned by the
morning rays, stretched over the date groves and the gardens of Kuba,
which stood out in emerald green from the dull tawny surface of the
plain. Below, distant about two miles, lay Al-Madinah; at first sight
it appeared a large place, but a closer inspection proved the
impression to be erroneous. A tortuous road from the Harrah to the city
wound across the plain, and led to a tall rectangular gateway, pierced
in the ruinous mud-wall which surrounds the suburb. This is the
"Ambari" entrance. It is flanked on the left (speaking as a sketcher)
by the domes and minarets of a pretty Turkish building, a "Takiyah,"
erected by the late Mohammed Ali for the reception of Darwaysh
travellers; on the right by a long low line of white-washed buildings

[p.286] with ugly square windows, an imitation of civilised barracks.
Beginning from the left hand, as we sat upon the ridge, the remarkable
features of the town thus presented themselves in succession. Outside,
among the palm trees to the north of the city, were the picturesque
ruins of a large old Sabil, or public fountain; and, between this and
the enceinte, stood a conspicuous building, in the Turkish pavilion
style-the Governor's palace. On the north-west angle of the town-wall
is a tall white-washed fort, partly built upon an outcropping mass of
rock: its ramparts and embrasures give it a modern and European
appearance, which contrasts strangely with its truly Oriental
history.[FN#1] In the suburb "Al-Manakhah," the "kneeling-place of
camels," the bran-new domes and minarets of the Five Mosques stand
brightly out from the dull grey mass of house and ground. And behind,
in the most Easterly part of the city, remarkable from afar, is the gem
of Al-Madinah,-the four tall substantial towers, and the flashing green
Dome under which the Apostle's remains rest.[FN#2] Half concealed by
this mass of buildings and by the houses of the town, are certain white
specks upon a green surface, the tombs that adorn the venerable
cemetery, Al-Bakia. From that point southwards begins the mass of palm
groves celebrated in Al-Islam as the "Trees of Al-Madinah."

[p.287] The foreground is well fitted to set off such a view; fields of
black basaltic scoriae showing clear signs of a volcanic origin, are
broken up into huge blocks and boulders, through which a descent,
tolerably steep for camels, winds down into the plain.

After a few minutes' rest I remounted, and slowly rode on towards the
gate. Even at this early hour the way was crowded with an eager
multitude coming out to meet the Caravan. My companions preferred
walking, apparently for the better convenience of kissing, embracing,
and s[h]aking hands with relations and friends. Truly the Arabs show
more heart on these occasions than any Oriental people I know; they are
of a more affectionate nature than the Persians, and their manners are
far more demonstrative than those of the Indians. The respectable
Maryam's younger son, a pleasant contrast to her surly elder, was
weeping aloud for joy as he ran round his mother's camel, he standing
on tiptoe, she bending double in vain attempts to exchange a kiss; and,
generally, when near relatives or intimates, or school companions, met,
the fountains of their eyes were opened. Friends and comrades greeted
one another, regardless of rank or fortune, with affectionate embraces,
and an abundance of queries, which neither party seemed to think of
answering. The general mode of saluting was to throw one arm over the
shoulder and the other round the side, placing the chin first upon the
left and then upon the right collar-bone, and rapidly shifting till a
"jam satis" suggested itself to both parties. Inferiors recognized
their superiors by attempting to kiss hands, which were violently
snatched away; whilst mere acquaintances gave each other a cordial
"poignee de mains," and then raising the finger tips to their lips,
kissed them with apparent relish.

Passing through the Bab Ambari we defiled slowly down a broad dusty
street, and traversed the Harat

[p.288] (Quarter), Al-Ambariyah, the principal in the Manakhah suburb.
The thoroughfare is by no means remarkable after Cairo; only it is
rather wider and more regular than the traveller is accustomed to in
Asiatic cities. I was astonished to see on both sides of the way, in so
small a place, so large a number of houses too ruinous to be occupied.
Then we crossed a bridge, a single little round arch of roughly hewn
stone, built over the bed of a torrent, Al-Sayh,[FN#3] which in some
parts appeared about fifty feet broad, with banks showing a high and
deeply indented water-mark. Here the road abuts upon an open space
called the "Barr al-Manakhah.[FN#4] or more concisely Al-Barr, "the
Plain." Straightforward a line leads directly into the Bab al-Misri,
the Egyptian gate of the city. But we turned off to the right; and,
after advancing a few yards, we found ourselves at the entrance of our
friend Hamid's house.

The Shaykh had preceded us early that morning, in order to prepare an
apartment for his guests, and to receive the first loud congratulations
and embraces of his mother and the "daughter of his uncle.[FN#5]"
Apparently he had not concluded this pleasing duty when we arrived, for
the camels were kneeling at least five minutes at his door, before he
came out to offer the usual hospitable salutation. I stared to see the
difference of his appearance this morning. The razor had passed over
his head

[p.289] and face[FN#6]; the former was now surmounted by a muslin
turband of goodly size, wound round a new embroidered cap; and the
latter, besides being clean, boasted of neat little moustaches turned
up like two commas, whilst a well-trimmed goat's beard narrowed until
it resembled what our grammars call an "exclamation point." The dirty,
torn shirt, with the bits of rope round the loins, had been exchanged
for a Jubbah or outer cloak of light pink merinos, a long-sleeved
Caftan of rich flowered stuff, a fine shirt of Halaili,[FN#7] silk and
cotton, and a sash of plaid pattern, elaborately fringed at both ends,
and, for better display, wound round two-thirds of his body. His
pantaloons were also of Halaili, with tasteful edgings about the ankles
like a "pantilette's," while his bare and sun-burnt feet had undergone
a thorough purification before being encased in new Mizz[FN#8] (inner
slippers), and Papush (outer slippers), of bright lemon-coloured
leather of the newest and most fashionable Constantinopolitan cut. In
one of his now delicate hands the Shaykh bore a mother-of-pearl rosary,
token of piety; in the other a handsome pipe with a jasmine stick, and
an expensive amber mouth-piece; his tobacco pouch, dangling from his
waist, like the little purse in the bosom pocket of his coat, was of
broadcloth richly embroidered with gold. In course of time I saw that

[p.290] my companions had metamorphosed themselves in an equally
remarkable manner. As men of sense they appeared in tatters where they
were, or when they wished to be, unknown, and in fine linen where and
when the world judged their prosperity by their attire. Their grand
suits of clothes, therefore, were worn only for a few days after
returning from the journey, by way of proof that the wearer had
wandered to some purpose; they were afterwards laid up in lavender, and
reserved for choice occasions, as old ladies in Europe store up their
state dresses.

The Shaykh, whose manners had changed with his garments, from the
vulgar and boisterous to a certain staid courtesy, took my hand, and
led me up to the Majlis
[FN#9] (parlour), which was swept and garnished, with all due
apparatus, for the forthcoming reception-ceremony. And behind us
followed the boy Mohammed, looking more downcast and ashamed of himself
than I can possibly describe; he was still in his rags, and he felt
keenly that every visitor staring at him would mentally inquire,-

"Who may that snob be?"

With the deepest dejectedness he squeezed himself into a corner, and
Shaykh Nur, who was foully dirty, as an Indian en voyage always is,
would have joined him in his shame, had I not ordered the "slave" to
make himself generally useful.

It is customary for all relations and friends to call upon the
traveller the very day he returns, that is to say, if amity is to
endure. The pipes therefore stood ready filled, the Diwans were duly
spread, and the coffee[FN#10] was being boiled upon a brazier in the

[p.291] Scarcely had I taken my place at the cool windowsill,-it was
the best in the room,-when the visitors began to pour in, and the
Shaykh rose to welcome and embrace them. They sat down, smoked, chatted
politics, asked all manner of questions about the other wayfarers and
absent friends; drank coffee; and, after half an hour's visit, rose
abruptly, and, exchanging embraces, took leave. The little men entered
the assembly, after an accolade at the door, noiselessly, squatted upon
the worst seats with polite conges to the rest of the assembly; smoked,
took their coffee, as it were, under protest, and glided out of the
room as quietly as they crept in.

The great people, generally busy and consequential individuals, upon
whose countenances were writ large the words "well to do in the world,"
appeared with a noise that made each person in the room rise


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