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

Part 7 out of 8

[p.352]the early part of his career, the emissaries of a tribe called
the Benu Abd al-Ashhal came from that town to Meccah, in order to make
a treaty with the Kuraysh, and the Apostle seized the opportunity of
preaching Al-Islam to them. His words were seconded by Ayyas bin Ma'az,
a youth of the tribe, and opposed by the chiefs of the embassy; who,
however, returned home without pledging themselves to either
party.[FN#21] Shortly afterwards a body of the Aus and the Khazraj came
to the pilgrimage of Meccah: when Mohammed began preaching to them,
they recognised the person so long expected by the Jews, and swore to
him an oath which is called in Moslem history the "First Fealty of the

After the six individuals who had thus pledged themselves returned to
their native city, the event being duly bruited abroad caused such an
effect that, when the next pilgrimage season came, twelve, or according
to others forty persons, led by As'ad bin Zara[r]ah, accompanied the
original converts, and in the same place swore the "Second Fealty of
the Steep." The Prophet dismissed them in company with one Musab bin
Umayr, a Meccan, charged to teach them the Koran and their religious
duties, which in those times consisted only of prayer and the
Profession of Unity. They arrived at Al-Madinah on a Friday, and this
was the first day on which the city witnessed the public devotions of
the Moslems.

After some persecutions, Musab had the fortune to convert a cousin of
As'ad bin Zararah, a chief of the Aus, Sa'ad bin Ma'az, whose
opposition had been of the fiercest. He persuaded his tribe, the Benu
Abd al-Ashhal, to break

[p.353]their idols and openly to profess Al-Islam. The next season,
Musab having made many converts, some say seventy, others three
hundred, marched from Al-Madinah to Meccah for their pilgrimage; and
there induced his followers to meet the Prophet at midnight upon the
Steep near Muna. Mohammed preached to them their duties towards Allah
and himself, especially insisting upon the necessity of warring down
infidelity. They pleaded ancient treaties with the Jews of Al-Madinah,
and showed apprehension lest the Apostle, after bringing them into
disgrace with their fellows, should desert them and return to the faith
of his kinsmen, the Kuraysh. Mohammed, smiling, comforted them with the
assurance that he was with them, body and soul, for ever. Upon this
they asked him what would be their reward if slain. He replied,
"Gardens 'neath which the streams flow,"-that is to say, Paradise.

Then, in spite of the advice of Al-Abbas, Mohammed's uncle, who was
loud in his denunciations, they bade the Preacher stretch out his hand,
and upon it swore the oath known as the "Great Fealty of the Steep."
After comforting them with an Ayat, or Koranic verse, which promised
heaven, the Apostle divided his followers into twelve bodies; and
placing a chief at the head of each,[FN#23] dismissed them to their
homes. He rejected the offer made by one of the party-namely, to slay
all the idolaters present at the pilgrimage-saying that Allah had
favoured him with no such order. For the same reason he refused their
invitation to visit Al-Madinah, which was the principal object of their
mission; and he then took an affectionate leave of them.

[p.354]Two months and a half after the events above detailed, Mohammed
received the inspired tidings that Al-Madinah of the Hijaz was his
predestined asylum. In anticipation of the order, for as yet the time
had not been revealed, he sent forward his friends, among whom were
Omar, Talhah, and Hamzah, retaining with him Abu Bakr[FN#24] and Ali.
The particulars of the Flight, that eventful accident to Al-Islam, are
too well known to require mention here; besides which they belong
rather to the category of general than of Madinite history.

Mohammed was escorted into Al-Madinah by one Buraydat al-Aslami and
eighty men of the same tribe, who had been offered by the Kuraysh a
hundred camels for the capture of the fugitives. But Buraydat, after
listening to their terms, accidentally entered into conversation with
Mohammed; and no sooner did he hear the name of his interlocutor, than
he professed the faith of Al-Islam. He then prepared for the Apostle a
standard by attaching his turband to a spear, and anxiously inquired
what house was to be honoured by the presence of Allah's chosen
servant. "Whichever," replied Mohammed, "this she-camel[FN#25] is
ordered to show me." At the last

[p.355]halting-place, he accidentally met some of his disciples
returning from a trading voyage to Syria; they dressed him and his
companion Abu Bakr in white clothing which, it is said, caused the
people of Kuba to pay a mistaken reverence to the latter. The Moslems
of Al-Madinah were in the habit of repairing every morning to the
heights near the city, looking out for the Apostle; and, when the sun
waxed hot, they returned home. One day, about noon, a Jew, who
discovered the retinue from afar, suddenly warned the nearest party of
Ansar, or Auxiliaries of Al-Madinah, that the fugitive was come. They
snatched up their arms and hurried from their houses to meet him.

Mohammed's she-camel advanced to the centre of the then flourishing
town of Kuba. There she suddenly knelt upon a place which is now
consecrated ground; at that time it was an open space, belonging, they
say, to Abu Ayyub the Ansari, who had a house there near the abodes of
the Benu Amr bin Auf. This event happened on the first day of the week,
the twelfth of the month Rabia al-Awwal[FN#26] (June 28, A.D. 622), in
the first year of the Flight: for which reason Monday, which also
witnessed the birth, the mission, and the death of the Prophet, is an
auspicious day to Al-Islam.

After halting two days in the house of Kulsum bin Hadmah at Kuba, and
there laying the foundation of the

[p.356]first Mosque upon the lines where his she-camel trod, the
Apostle was joined by Ali, who had remained at Meccah, for the purpose
of returning certain trusts and deposits committed to Mohammed's
charge. He waited three days longer; on Friday morning (the 16th Rabia
al-Awwal, A.H. 1,=2nd July, A.D. 622), about sunrise he mounted
Al-Kaswa, and, accompanied by a throng of armed Ansar on foot and on
horseback, he took the way to the city. At the hour of public
prayer,[FN#27] he halted in the Wady or valley near Kuba, upon the spot
where the Masjid al-Jum'ah now stands, performed his devotions, and
preached an eloquent sermon. He then remounted. Numbers pressed forward
to offer him hospitality; he blessed them, and bade them stand out of
the way, declaring that Al-Kaswa would halt of her own accord at the
predestined spot. He then advanced to where the Apostle's pulpit now
stands. There the she-camel knelt, and the rider exclaimed, as one
inspired, "This is our place, if Almighty Allah please!"

Descending from Al-Kaswa, he recited, "O Lord, cause me to alight a
good Alighting, and Thou art the Best of those who cause to alight!"
Presently the camel rose unaided, advanced a few steps, and then,
according to some, returning, sat down upon her former seat; according
to others, she knelt at the door of Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, whose abode in
those days was the nearest to the halting-place. The descendant of the
Jewish High Priest in the time of the Tobbas, with the Apostle's
permission, took the baggage off the camel, and carried it into his
house. Then ensued great rejoicings. The Abyssinians came and played
with their spears. The

[p.357]maidens of the Benu Najjar tribe sang and beat their
kettle-drums. And all the wives of the Ansar celebrated with shrill
cries of joy the auspicious event; whilst the males, young and old,
freemen and slaves, shouted with effusion, "Allah's Messenger is come!
Allah's Messenger is here!"

Mohammed caused Abu Ayyub and his wife to remove into the upper story,
contenting himself with the humbler lower rooms. This was done for the
greater convenience of receiving visitors without troubling the family;
but the master of the house was thereby rendered uncomfortable in mind.
His various remarks about the Apostle's diet and domestic habits,
especially his avoiding leeks, onions, and garlic,[FN#28] are gravely
chronicled by Moslem authors.

After spending seven months, more or less, at the house of Abu Ayyub,
Mohammed, now surrounded by his wives and family, built, close to the
Mosque, huts for their reception. The ground was sold to him by Sahal
and Suhayl, two orphans of the Benu Najjar,[FN#29] a noble family of
the Khazraj. Some time afterwards one Harisat bin al-Nu'uman presented
to the Prophet all his houses in the vicinity of the temple. In those
days the habitations of the Arabs were made of a framework of Jarid or
palm sticks, covered over with a cloth of camel's hair, a curtain of
similar stuff forming the door. The more splendid had walls of unbaked
brick, and roofs of palm fronds plastered

[p.358]over with mud or clay. Of this description were the abodes of
Mohammed's family. Most of them were built on the North and East of the
Mosque, which had open ground on the Western side; and the doors looked
towards the place of prayer. In course of time, all, except Abu
Bakr[FN#30] and Ali, were ordered to close their doors, and even Omar
was refused the favour of having a window opening into the temple.

Presently the Jews of Al-Madinah, offended by the conduct of Abdullah
bin Salam, their most learned priest and a descendant from the
Patriarch Joseph, who had become a convert to the Moslem dispensation,
began to plot against Mohammed.[FN#31] They were headed by Hajj bin
Akhtah, and his brother Yasir bin Akhtah, and were joined by many of
the Aus and the Khazraj. The events that followed this combination of
the Munafikun, or Hypocrites, under their chief, Abdullah, belong to
the domain of Arabian history.[FN#32]

Mohammed spent the last ten years of his life at Al-Madinah. He died on
Monday, some say at nine A.M., others at noon, others a little after,
on the twelfth of Rabia al-Awwal in the eleventh year of the Hijrah.
When his family and companions debated where he should be buried, Ali
advised Al-Madinah, and Abu Bakr, Ayishah's chamber,

[p.359]quoting a saying of the deceased that prophets and martyrs are
always interred where they happen to die. The Apostle was placed, it is
said, under the bed where he had given up the ghost, by Ali and the two
sons of Abbas, who dug the grave. With the life of Mohammed the
interest of Al-Madinah ceases, or rather is concentrated in the history
of its temple. Since then the city has passed through the hands of the
Caliphs, the Sharifs of Meccah, the Sultans of Constantinople, the
Wahhabis, and the Egyptians. It has now reverted to the Sultan, whose
government is beginning to believe that, in these days when religious
prestige is of little value, the great Khan's title, "Servant of the
Holy Shrines," is purchased at too high a price. As has before been
observed, the Turks now struggle for existence in Al-Hijaz with a
soldier ever in arrears, and officers unequal to the task of managing
an unruly people. The pensions are but partly paid,[FN#33] and they are
not likely to increase with years. It is probably a mere consideration
of interest that prevents the people rising en masse,

[p.360]and re-asserting the liberties of their country. And I have
heard from authentic sources that the Wahhabis look forward to the day
when a fresh crusade will enable them to purge the land of its
abominations in the shape of silver and gold.

The Masjid al-Nabi, or Prophet's Mosque, is the second in Al-Islam in
point of seniority, and the second, or, according to others, the first
in dignity, ranking with the Ka'abah itself. It is erected around the
spot where the she-camel, Al-Kaswa, knelt down by the order of Heaven.
At that time the land was a palm grove and a Mirbad, or place where
dates are dried. Mohammed, ordered to erect a place of worship there,
sent for the youths to whom it belonged, and certain Ansar, or
Auxiliaries, their guardians; the ground was offered to him in free
gift, but he insisted upon purchasing it, paying more than its value.
Having caused the soil to be levelled and the trees to be felled, he
laid the foundation of the first Mosque.

In those times of primitive simplicity its walls were made of rough
stone and unbaked bricks: trunks of date-trees supported a palm-stick
roof, concerning which the Archangel Gabriel delivered an order that it
should not be higher than seven cubits, the elevation of Moses's
temple. All ornament was strictly forbidden. The Ansar, or men of
Al-Madinah, and the Muhajirin, or Fugitives from Meccah, carried the
building materials in their arms from the cemetery Al-Bakia, near the
well of Ayyub, north of the spot where Ibrahim's Mosque now stands, and
the Apostle was to be seen aiding them in their labours, and reciting
for their encouragement,

"O Allah! there is no good but the good of futurity,
Then have mercy upon my Ansar and Muhajirin!"

The length of this Mosque was fifty-four cubits from North to South,
and sixty-three in breadth, and it was hemmed in by houses on all sides
save the Western. Till the seventeenth

[p.361]month of the new aera the congregation faced towards the
Northern wall. After that time a fresh revelation turned them in the
direction of Meccah, Southwards: on which occasion the Archangel
Gabriel descended and miraculously opened through the hills and wilds a
view of the Ka'abah, that there might be no difficulty in ascertaining
its true position.

After the capture of Khaybar in A.H. 7, the Prophet and his first three
successors restored the Mosque, but Moslem historians do not consider
this a second foundation. Mohammed laid the first brick, and Abu
Hurayrah declares that he saw him carry heaps of building materials
piled up to his breast. The Caliphs, each in the turn of his
succession, placed a brick close to that laid by the Prophet, and aided
him in raising the walls. Al-Tabrani relates that one of the Ansar had
a house adjacent which Mohammed wished to make part of the place of
prayer; the proprietor was promised in exchange for it a home in
Paradise, which he gently rejected, pleading poverty. His excuse was
admitted, and Osman, after purchasing the place for ten thousand
dirhams, gave it to the Apostle on the long credit originally offered.

This Mosque was a square of a hundred cubits. Like the former building,
it had three doors: one on the South side, where the Mihrab al-Nabawi,
or the "Prophet's Niche," now is; another in the place of the present
Bab al-Rahmah; and the third at the Bab Osman, now called the Gate of
Gabriel. Instead of a Mihrab or prayer-niche,[FN#34] a large block of
stone directed the congregation; at first it was placed against the
Northern wall

[p.362]of the Mosque, and it was removed to the Southern when Meccah
became the Kiblah.

In the beginning the Prophet, whilst preaching the Khutbah or Friday
sermon, leaned when fatigued against a post.[FN#35] The Mambar,[FN#36]
or pulpit, was the invention of a Madinah man, of the Benu Najjar. It
was a wooden frame, two cubits long by one broad, with three steps,
each one span high; on the topmost of these the Prophet sat when he
required rest. The pulpit assumed its present form about A.H. 90,
during the artistic reign of Al-Walid.

In this Mosque Mohammed spent the greater part of the day[FN#37] with
his companions, conversing, instructing, and

[p.363]comforting the poor. Hard by were the abodes of his wives, his
family, and his principal friends. Here he prayed, at the call of the
Azan, or devotion-cry, from the roof. Here he received worldly envoys
and embassies, and the heavenly messages conveyed by the Archangel
Gabriel. And within a few yards of the hallowed spot, he died, and
found a grave.

The theatre of events so important to Al-Islam could not be
allowed-specially as no divine decree forbade the change-to remain in
its pristine lowliness. The first Caliph contented himself with merely
restoring some of the palm pillars, which had fallen to the ground:
Omar, the second successor, surrounded the Hujrah, or Ayishah's
chamber, in which the Prophet was buried, with a mud wall; and in A.H.
17, he enlarged the Mosque to 140 cubits by 120, taking in ground on
all sides except the Eastern, where stood the abodes of the "Mothers of
the Moslems.[FN#38]" Outside the Northern wall he erected a Suffah,
called Al-Batha-a raised bench of wood, earth, or stone, upon which the
people might recreate themselves with conversation and quoting poetry,
for the Mosque was now becoming [a] place of peculiar reverence to

The second Masjid was erected A.H. 29, by the third Caliph, Osman, who,
regardless of the clamours of the people, overthrew the old walls and
extended the building

[p.364]greatly towards the North, and a little towards the West; but he
did not remove the Eastern limit on account of the private houses. He
made the roof of Indian teak,[FN#40] and the walls of hewn and carved
stone. These innovations caused some excitement, which he allayed by
quoting a tradition of the Prophet, with one of which he appears
perpetually to have been prepared. The saying in question was,
according to some, "Were this my Mosque extended to Safa"-a hill in
Meccah-"it verily would still be my Mosque"; according to others, "Were
the Prophet's Mosque extended to Zu'l Halifah[FN#41] it would still be
his." But Osman's skill in the quotation of tradition did not prevent
the new building being in part a cause of his death. It was finished on
the first Muharram, A.H. 30.

At length, Al-Islam, grown splendid and powerful, determined to surpass
other nations in the magnificence of its public buildings.[FN#42] In
A.H. 88, Al-Walid[FN#43] the First, twelfth Caliph of the Benu Ummayah
race, after building, or rather restoring, the noble "Jami' al-Ammawi"
(cathedral of the Ommiades) at Damascus, determined to

[p.365]display his liberality at Al-Madinah. The governor of the place,
Umar bin Abd Al-Aziz, was directed to buy for seven thousand Dinars
(ducats) all the hovels of raw brick that hedged in the Eastern side of
the old Mosque. They were inhabited by descendants of the Prophet and
of the early Caliphs, and in more than one case, the ejection of the
holy tenantry was effected with considerable difficulty. Some of the
women-ever the most obstinate on such occasions-refused to take money,
and Omar was forced to the objectionable measure of turning them out of
doors with exposed faces[FN#45] in full day. The Greek Emperor, applied
to by the magnificent Caliph, sent immense presents, silver lamp
chains, valuable curiosities,[FN#46] forty loads of small cut stones
for pietra-dura, and a sum of eighty thousand Dinars, or, as others
say, forty thousand Miskals of gold. He also despatched forty Coptic
and forty Greek artists to carve the marble pillars and the casings of
the walls, and to superintend the gilding and the mosaic work. One of
these Christians was beheaded for sculpturing a hog on the Kiblah wall;
and another, in an attempt to defile the roof, fell to the ground, and
his brains were dashed out. The remainder Islamized, but this did not
prevent the older Arabs murmuring that their Mosque had been turned
into a Kanisah, a Christian idol-house.

The Hujrah, or chamber, where, by Mohammed's permission, Azrail, the
Angel of Death, separated his

[p.366]soul from his body, whilst his head was lying in the lap of
Ayishah, his favourite wife, was now for the first time taken into the
Mosque. The raw-brick enceinte[FN#46] which surrounded the three graves
was exchanged for one of carved stone, enclosed by an outer precinct
with a narrow passage between.[FN#47] These double walls were either
without a door, or had only a small blocked-up wicket on the Northern
side, and from that day (A.H. 90), no one, says Al-Samanhudi, has been
able to approach the sepulchre.[FN#48] A minaret was erected at each
corner of the Mosque.[FN#49] The building was enlarged to 200 cubits by
167, and was finished in A.H. 91. When Al-Walid, the Caliph, visited it
in state, he inquired of his lieutenant why greater magnificence had
not been displayed in the erection; upon which Omar, the governor,
informed him,

[p.367]to his astonishment, that the walls alone had cost forty-five
thousand ducats.[FN#50]

The fourth Mosque was erected in A.H. 191, by Al-Mahdi, third prince of
the Benu Abbas or Baghdad Caliphs-celebrated in history only for
spending enormous sums upon a pilgrimage. He enlarged the building by
adding ten handsome pillars of carved marble, with gilt capitals, on
the Northern side. In A.H. 202, Al-Ma'amun made further additions to
this Mosque. It was from Al-Mahdi's Masjid that Al-Hakim bi'Amri 'llah,
the third Fatimite Caliph of Egypt, and the deity of the Druze sect,
determined to steal the bodies of the Prophet and his two companions.
About A.H. 412, he sent emissaries to Al-Madinah: the attempt, however,
failed, and the would-be violators of the tomb lost their lives. It is
generally supposed that Al-Hakim's object was to transfer the
Visitation to his own capital; but in one so manifestly insane it is
difficult to discover the spring of action. Two Christians, habited
like Maghrabi pilgrims, in A.H. 550, dug a mine from a neighbouring
house into the temple. They were discovered, beheaded, and burned to
ashes. In relating these events the Moslem historians mix up many
foolish preternaturalisms with credible matter. At last, to prevent a
recurrence of such sacrilegious attempts, Al-Malik al-Adil Nur al-Din
of the Baharite Mamluk Sultans, or, according to others, Sultan Nur
al-Din Shahid Mahmud bin Zangi, who, warned by a vision of the Apostle,
had started for Al-Madinah only in time to discover the two Christians,
surrounded the holy place with a deep trench filled with molten lead.
By this means Abu Bakr and Omar, who had run considerable risks of
their own, have ever since been enabled to occupy their last homes

In A.H. 654, the fifth Mosque was erected in consequence of a fire,
which some authors attribute to a

[p.368]volcano that broke out close to the town in terrible
eruption[FN#51]; others, with more fanaticism and less probability, to
the schismatic Benu Husayn, then the guardians of the tomb. On this
occasion the Hujrah was saved, together with the old and venerable
copies of the Koran there deposited, especially the Cufic MSS., written
by Osman, the third Caliph. The piety of three sovereigns, Al-Mustasim
(last Caliph of Baghdad), Al-Muzaffar Shems al-Din Yusuf, chief of
Al-Yaman, and Al-Zahir Beybars, Baharite Sultan of Egypt, completed the
work in A.H. 688. This building was enlarged and beautified by the
princes of Egypt, and lasted upwards of two hundred years.

The sixth Mosque was built, almost as it now stands, by Kaid-Bey,
nineteenth Sultan of the Circassian Mamluk kings of Egypt, in A.H. 888:
it is now therefore more than four centuries old. Al-Mustasim's Mosque
had been struck by lightning during a storm; thirteen men were killed
at prayers, and the destroying element spared nothing but the interior
of the Hujrah.[FN#52] The railing and dome were restored; niches and a
pulpit were sent from Cairo, and the gates and minarets were
distributed as they are now. Not content with this, Kaid-Bey
established "Wakf" (bequests) and pensions, and introduced order among
the attendants on the tomb. In the tenth century, Sultan Sulayman the
Magnificent paved with fine white marble the Rauzah or garden, which
Kaid-Bey, not daring to alter, had left of earth, and erected the fine
minaret that bears his name.

[p.369]During the dominion of the later Sultans, and of Mohammed Ali, a
few trifling presents, of lamps, carpets, wax candles and chandeliers,
and a few immaterial alterations, have been made. The present head of
Al-Islam is, as I have before said, rebuilding one of the minarets and
the Northern colonnade of the temple.

Such is the history of the Mosque's prosperity.

During the siege of Al-Madinah by the Wahhabis,[FN#53] the principal
people seized and divided amongst themselves the treasures of the tomb,
which must have been considerable. When the town surrendered, Sa'ud,
accompanied by his principal officers, entered the Hujrah, but,
terrified by dreams, he did not penetrate behind the curtain, or
attempt to see the tomb. He plundered, however, the treasures in the
passage, the "Kaukab al-Durri[FN#54]" (or pearl star), and the
ornaments sent as presents from every part of Al-Islam. Part of these
he sold, it is said, for 150,000 Riyals (dollars), to Ghalib, Sharif of
Meccah, and the rest he carried with him to Daraiyah, his
capital.[FN#55] An accident prevented any further desecration of the
building. The greedy Wahhabis, allured by the appearance of the golden
or gilt globes and crescents surmounting the green dome, attempted to
throw down the latter. Two of their number, it is said, were killed by

[p.370]from the slippery roof,[FN#56] and the rest, struck by
superstitious fears, abandoned the work of destruction. They injured,
however, the prosperity of the place by taxing the inhabitants, by
interrupting the annual remittances, and by forbidding visitors to
approach the tomb. They are spoken of with abhorrence by the people,
who quote a peculiarly bad trait in their characters, namely, that in
return for any small religious assistance of prayer or recitation, they
were in the habit of giving a few grains of gunpowder, or something
equally valuable, instead of "stone-dollars.[FN#57]"

When Abdullah, son of Sa'ud, had concluded in A.D. 1815 a treaty of
peace with Tussun Pasha, the Egyptian General bought back from the
townspeople, for 10,000 Riyals, all the golden vessels that had not
been melted down, and restored the treasure to its original place. This
I have heard denied; at the same time it rests upon credible evidence.
Amongst Orientals the events of the last generation are, usually
speaking, imperfectly remembered, and the Olema are well acquainted
with the history of vicissitudes which took place 1200 years ago, when
profoundly ignorant of what their grandfathers witnessed. Many
incredible tales also I heard concerning the present wealth of the
Al-Madinah Mosque: this must be expected when the exaggeration is
considered likely to confer honour upon the exaggerator.

The establishment attached to the Al-Madinah Mosque is greatly altered
since Burckhardt's time,[FN#58] the result of the increasing influence
of the Turkish half-breeds

[p.371]It is still extensive, because in the first place the principle
of divided labour is a favourite throughout the East, and secondly
because the Sons of the Holy Cities naturally desire to extract as much
as they can from the Sons of other cities with the least amount of
work. The substance of the following account was given to me by Omar
Effendi, and I compared it with the information of others upon whom I
could rely.

The principal of the Mosque, or Shaykh al-Harim, is no longer a
neuter.[FN#59] The present is a Turkish Pasha, Osman, appointed from
Constantinople with a salary of about 30,000 piastres a month. His Naib
or deputy is a black eunuch, the chief of the Aghawat,[FN#60] upon a
pay of 5000 piastres. The present principal of this college is one
Tayfur Agha, a slave of Esma Sultanah, sister to the late Sultan
Mahmud. The chief treasurer is called the Mudir al-Harim; he keeps an
eye upon the Khaznadar, or treasurer, whose salary is 2000 piastres.
The Mustaslim is the chief of the Katibs, or writers who settle the

[p.372]accounts of the Mosque; his pay is 1500, and under him is a
Nakib or assistant upon 1000 piastres. There are three Shaykhs of the
eunuchs who receive from 700 to 1000 piastres a month each. The
eunuchs, about a hundred and twenty in number, are divided into three
orders. The Bawwabin, or porters, open the doors of the Mosque. The
Khubziyah sweep the purer parts of the temple, and the lowest order,
popularly called "Battalin," clean away all impurities, beat those
found sleeping, and act as beadles, a duty here which involves
considerable use of the cane. These men receive as perquisites presents
from each visitor when they offer him the usual congratulation, and for
other small favours, such as permitting strangers to light the
lamps,[FN#61] or to sweep the floor. Their pay varies from 250 to 500
piastres a month: they are looked upon as honourable men, and are,
generally speaking, married, some of them indulging in three or four
wives,-which would have aroused Juvenal's bile. The Agha's character is
curious and exceptional as his outward conformation. Disconnected with
humanity, he is cruel, fierce, brave, and capable of any villany. His
frame is unnaturally long and lean, especially the arms and legs, with
high shoulders, protruding joints, and a face by contrast
extraordinarily large; he is unusually expert in the use of weapons,
and sitting well "home," he rides to admiration, his hoarse, thick
voice investing him with all the circumstances of command.

Besides the eunuchs, there are a number of free servants, called
Farrashin, attached to the Mosque; almost all the middle and lower
class of citizens belong to this order. They are divided into parties
of thirty each, and are changed every week, those on duty receiving a
Ghazi or twenty-two piastres for their services. Their business

[p.373]is to dust, and to spread the carpets, to put oil and wicks into
the lamps which the eunuchs let down from the ceiling, and, generally
speaking, diligently to do nothing.

Finally, the menial establishment of the Mosque consists of a Shaykh
al-Sakka (chief of the water-carriers), under whom are from forty-five
to fifty men who sprinkle the floors, water the garden, and, for a
consideration, supply a cupful of brackish liquid to visitors.

The literary establishment is even more extensive than the executive
and the menial. There is a Kazi, or chief judge, sent every year from
Constantinople. After twelve months at Al-Madinah, he passes on to
Meccah, and returns home after a similar term of service in the second
Holy City. Under him are three Muftis,[FN#62] of the Hanafi, the
Shafe'i, and the Maliki schools; the fourth, or Hanbali, is not
represented here or at Cairo.[FN#63] Each of these officers receives as
pay about two hundred and fifty piastres a month. The Ruasa,[FN#64] as
the Mu'ezzins (prayer-callers) here call themselves, are extensively
represented; there are forty-eight or forty-nine of the lowest order,
presided over by six Kubar or Masters, and these again are under the
Shaykh al-Ruasa, who alone has the privilege of calling to prayers from
the Raisiyah minaret. The Shaykh receives a hundred and fifty piastres,
the chiefs about a hundred, and the common criers sixty; there are

[p.374]forty-five Khatibs, who preach and pray before the congregation
on Fridays for a hundred and twenty piastres a month; they are under
the Shaykh al-Khutaba. About the same sum is given to seventy-five
Imams, who recite the five ordinary prayers of every day in the Mosque;
the Shaykh al-Aimmat is their superior.[FN#65]

Almost all the citizens of Al-Madinah who have not some official charge
about the temple qualify themselves to act as Muzawwirs. They begin as
boys to learn the formula of prayer, and the conducting of visitors;
and partly by begging, partly by boldness, they often pick up a
tolerable livelihood at an early age. The Muzawwir will often receive
strangers into his house, as was done to me, and direct their devotions
during the whole time of their stay. For such service he requires a sum
of money proportioned to his guests' circumstances, but this fee does
not end the connexion. If the Muzawwir visit the home of his Zair, he
expects to be treated with the utmost hospitality, and to depart with a
handsome present. A religious visitor will often transmit to his
cicerone at Meccah and at Al-Madinah yearly sums to purchase for
himself a prayer at the Ka'abah and the Prophet's Tomb. The remittance
is usually wrapped up in paper, and placed in a sealed leathern bag,
somewhat like a portfolio, upon which is worked the name of the person
entitled to receive it. It is then given in charge either to a
trustworthy pilgrim, or to the public treasurer, who accompanies the
principal caravans.

I could procure no exact information about the amount of money
forwarded every year from Constantinople and Cairo to Al-Madinah; the
only point upon which men seemed to agree was that they were defrauded
of half their dues. When the Sadaka and Aukaf (the alms and bequests)
arrive at the town, they are committed by the Surrah, or

[p.375]financier of the caravan, to the Muftis, the chief of the
Khatibs, and the Kazi's clerk. These officers form a committee, and
after reckoning the total of the families entitled to pensions, divide
the money amongst them, according to the number in each household, and
the rank of the pensioners. They are divided into five orders:-
The Olema, or learned, and the Mudarrisin, who profess, lecture, or
teach adults in the Harim.
The Imams and Khatibs.
The descendants of the Prophet.
The Fukaha, poor divines, pedadogues, gerund-grinders, who teach boys
to read the Koran.
The Awam, or nobile vulgus of the Holy City, including the Ahali, or
burghers of the town, and the Mujawirin, or those settled in the place.
Omar Effendi belonged to the second order, and he informed me that his
share varied from three to fifteen Riyals per annum.

[FN#1] In Oriental geography the parasang still, as in the days of
Pliny, greatly varies, from 1500 to 6000 yards. Captain Francklin,
whose opinion is generally taken, makes it (in his Tour to Persia) a
measure of about four miles (Preface to Ibn Haukal, by Sir Gore
[FN#2] M.C. de Perceval (Essai sur l'Histoire des Arabes avant
l'Islamisme), makes Amlak son of Laoud (Lud), son of Shem, or,
according to others, son of Ham. That learned writer identifies the
Amalik with the Phoenicians, the Amalekites, the Canaanites, and the
Hyksos. He alludes, also, to an ancient tradition which makes them to
have colonised Barbary in Africa.
[FN#3] The Dabistan al-Mazahib relates a tradition that the Almighty,
when addressing the angels in command, uses the Arabic tongue, but when
speaking in mercy or beneficence, the Deri dialect of Persian.
[FN#4] These were the giants who fought against Israel in Palestine.
[FN#5] In this wild tradition we find a confirmation of the sound
geographical opinion which makes Arabia "Une des pepinieres du genre
humain" (M. Jomard). It must be remembered that the theatre of all
earliest civilisation has been a fertile valley with a navigable
stream, like Sind, Egypt, and Mesopotamia. The existence of such a spot
in Arabia would have altered every page of her history; she would then
have become a centre, not a source, of civilisation. Strabo's Malothes
river in Al-Yaman is therefore a myth. As it is, the immense population
of the peninsula-still thick, even in the deserts-has, from the
earliest ages, been impelled by drought, famine, or desire of conquest,
to emigrate into happier regions. All history mentions two main streams
which took their rise in the wilds. The first set to the North-East,
through Persia, Mekran, Baluchistan, Sind, and the Afghan Mountains, as
far as Samarkand, Bokhara, and Tibet; the other, flowing towards the
North-West, passed through Egypt and Barbary into Etruria, Spain, the
Isles of the Mediterranean, and Southern France. There are two minor
emigrations chronicled in history, and written in the indelible
characters of physiognomy and philology. One of these set in an
exiguous but perennial stream towards India, especially Malabar, where,
mixing with the people of the country, the Arab merchants became the
progenitors of the Moplah race. The other was a partial emigration,
also for commercial purposes, to the coast of Berberah, in Eastern
Africa, where, mixing with the Galla tribes, the people of Hazramaut
became the sires of the extensive Somali and Sawahil nations. Thus we
have from Arabia four different lines of emigration, tending N.E. and
S.E., N.W. and S.W. At some future time I hope to develop this curious
but somewhat obscure portion of Arabian history. It bears upon a most
interesting subject, and serves to explain, by the consanguinity of
races, the marvellous celerity with which the faith of Al-Islam spread
from the Pillars of Hercules to the confines of China-embracing part of
Southern Europe, the whole of Northern and a portion of Central Africa,
and at least three-fourths of the continent of Asia.
[FN#6] Of this name M.C. de Perceval remarks, "Le mot Arcam etait une
designation commune a tous ces rois." He identifies it with Rekem
(Numbers xxxi. 8), one of the kings of the Midianites; and recognises
in the preservation of the royal youth the history of Agag and Samuel.
[FN#7] And some most ignorantly add, "after the entrance of Moses into
the Promised Land."
[FN#8] In those days, we are told, the Jews, abandoning their original
settlement in Al-Ghabbah or the low lands to the N. of the town,
migrated to the highest portions of the Madinah plain on the S. and E.,
and the lands of the neighbourhood of the Kuba Mosque.
[FN#9] When describing Ohod, I shall have occasion to allude to Aaron's
dome, which occupies the highest part. Few authorities, however,
believe that Aaron was buried there; his grave, under a small stone
cupola, is shown over the summit of Mount Hor, in the Sinaitic
Peninsula, and is much visited by devotees.
[FN#10] It must be remembered that many of the Moslem geographers
derive the word "Arabia" from a tract of land in the neighbourhood of
[FN#11] Khaybar in Hebrew is supposed to signify a castle. D'Herbelot
makes it to mean a pact or association of the Jews against the Moslems.
This fort appears to be one of the latest as well as the earliest of
the Hebrew settlements in Al-Hijaz. Benjamin of Tudela asserts that
there were 50,000 Jews resident at their old colony, Bartema in A.D.
1703 found remnants of the people there, but his account of them is
disfigured by fable. In Niebuhr's time the Beni Khaybar had independent
Shaykhs, and were divided into three tribes, viz., the Benu Masad, the
Benu Shahan, and the Benu Anizah (this latter, however, is a Moslem
name), who were isolated and hated by the other Jews, and therefore the
traveller supposes them to have been Karaites. In Burckhardt's day the
race seems to have been entirely rooted out. I made many inquiries, and
all assured me that there is not a single Jewish family now in Khaybar.
It is indeed the popular boast in Al-Hijaz, that, with the exception of
Jeddah (and perhaps Yambu', where the Prophet never set his foot),
there is not a town in the country harbouring an Infidel. This has now
become a point of fanatic honour; but if history may be trusted, it has
become so only lately.
[FN#12] When the Arabs see the ass turn tail to the wind and rain, they
exclaim, "Lo! he turneth his back upon the mercy of Allah!"
[FN#13] M.C. de Perceval quotes Judith, ii. 13, 26, and Jeremiah, xlix.
28, to prove that Holofernes, the general of Nebuchadnezzar the First,
laid waste the land of Midian and other parts of Northern Arabia.
[FN#14] Saba in Southern Arabia.
[FN#15] The erection of this dyke is variously attributed to Lukman the
Elder (of the tribe of Ad) and to Saba bin Yashjab. It burst according
to some, beneath the weight of a flood; according to others, it was
miraculously undermined by rats. A learned Indian Shaykh has mistaken
the Arabic word "Jurad," a large kind of mouse or rat, for "Jarad," a
locust, and he makes the wall to have sunk under a "bar i Malakh," or
weight of locusts! No event is more celebrated in the history of pagan
Arabia than this, or more trustworthy, despite the exaggeration of the
details-the dyke is said to have been four miles long by four broad-and
the fantastic marvels which are said to have accompanied its bursting.
The ruins have lately been visited by M. Arnaud, a French traveller,
who communicated his discovery to the French Asiatic Society in 1845.
[FN#16] Ma al-Sama, "the water (or "the splendour") of heaven," is,
generally speaking, a feminine name amongst the pagan Arabs; possibly
it is here intended as a matronymic.
[FN#17] This expedition to Al-Madinah is mentioned by all the
pre-Islamatic historians, but persons and dates are involved in the
greatest confusion. Some authors mention two different expeditions by
different Tobbas; others only one, attributing it differently, however,
to two Tobbas,-Abu Karb in the 3rd century of the Christian era, and
Tobba al-Asghar, the last of that dynasty, who reigned, according to
some, in A.D. 300, according to others in A.D. 448. M.C. de Perceval
places the event about A.D. 206, and asserts that the Aus and Khazraj
did not emigrate to Al-Madinah before A.D. 300. The word Tobba or
Tubba, I have been informed by some of the modern Arabs, is still used
in the Himyaritic dialect of Arabic to signify "the Great" or "the
[FN#18] Nothing is more remarkable in the annals of the Arabs than
their efforts to prove the Ishmaelitic descent of Mohammed; at the same
time no historic question is more open to doubt.
[FN#19] If this be true it proves that the Jews of Al-Hijaz had in
those days superstitious reverence for the Ka'abah; otherwise the
Tobba, after conforming to the law of Moses, would not have shown it
this mark of respect. Moreover there is a legend that the same Rabbis
dissuaded the Tobba from plundering the sacred place when he was
treacherously advised so to do by the Benu Hudayl Arabs. I have lately
perused "The Worship of Ba'alim in Israel," based upon the work of Dr.
R. Dozy, "The Israelites in Mecca." By Dr. H. Oort. Translated from the
Dutch, and enlarged, with Notes and Appendices, by the Right Rev. John
William Colenso, D.D. (Longmans.) I see no reason why Meccah or Beccah
should be made to mean "A Slaughter"; why the Ka'abah should be founded
by the Simeonites; why the Hajj should be the Feast of Trumpets; and
other assertions in which everything seems to be taken for granted
except etymology, which is tortured into confession. If Meccah had been
founded by the Simeonites, why did the Persians and the Hindus respect
[FN#20] It is curious that Abdullah, Mohammed's father, died and was
buried at Al-Madinah, and that his mother Aminah's tomb is at Abwa, on
the Madinah road. Here, too, his great-grandfather Hashim married Salma
Al-Mutadalliyah, before him espoused to Uhayhah, of the Aus tribe.
Shaybah, generally called Abd al-Muttalib, the Prophet's grandfather,
was the son of Salma, and was bred at Al-Madinah.
[FN#21] Ayyas bin Ma'az died, it is said, a Moslem.
[FN#22] "Bayat al-Akabat al-ula." It is so called because this oath was
sworn at a place called Al-Akabah (the Mountain-road), near Muna. A
Mosque was afterwards built there to commemorate the event.
[FN#23] Some Moslem writers suppose that Mohammed singled out twelve
men as apostles, and called them Nakil, in imitation of the example of
our Saviour. Other Moslems ignore both the fact and the intention. M.C.
de Perceval gives the names of these Nakils in vol. iii. p. 8.
[FN#24] Orthodox Moslems do not fail to quote this circumstance in
honour of the first Caliph, upon whom moreover they bestow the title of
"Friend of the Cave." The Shi'ahs, on the other hand, hating Abu Bakr,
see in it a symptom of treachery, and declare that the Prophet feared
to let the "Old Hyena," as they opprobriously term the venerable
successor, out of his sight for fear lest he should act as spy to the
Kuraysh. The voice of history and of common sense is against the
Shi'ahs. M.C. de Perceval justly remarks, that Abu Bakr and Omar were
men truly worthy of their great predecessor.
[FN#25] This animal's name, according to some, was Al-Kaswa ("the tips
of whose ears are cropped"); according to others Al-Jada'a ("one
mutilated in the ear, hand, nose, or lip"). The Prophet bought her for
800 dirhams, on the day before his flight, from Abu Bakr, who had
fattened two fine animals of his own breeding. The camel was offered as
a gift, but Mohammed insisted upon paying its price, because, say the
Moslem casuists, he being engaged in the work of God would receive no
aid from man. According to M.C. de Perceval, the Prophet preached from
the back of Al-Kaswa the celebrated pilgrimage sermon at Arafat on the
8th March, A.D. 632.
[FN#26] The Prophet is generally supposed to have started from Meccah
on the first of the same month, on a Friday or a Monday. This
discrepancy is supposed to arise from the fact that Mohammed fled his
house in Meccah on a Friday, passed three days in the cave on Jabal
Saur, and finally left it for Al-Madinah on Monday, which therefore,
according to Moslem divines, was the first day of the "Hijrah." But the
aera now commences on the 1st of the previous Muharram, an arrangement
made seventeen years after the date of the flight by Omar the Caliph,
with the concurrence of Ali.
[FN#27] The distance from Kuba to Al-Madinah is little more than three
miles, for which six hours-Friday prayers being about noon-may be
considered an inordinately long time. But our author might urge as a
reason that the multitude of people upon a narrow road rendered the
Prophet's advance a slow one, and some historians relate that he spent
several hours in conversation with the Benu Salim.
[FN#28] Mohammed never would eat these strong smelling vegetables on
account of his converse with the angels, even as modern "Spiritualists"
refuse to smoke tobacco; at the same time he allowed his followers to
do so, except when appearing in his presence, entering a Mosque, or
joining in public prayers. The pious Moslem still eats his onions with
these limitations. Some sects, however, as the Wahhabis, considering
them abominable, avoid them on all occasions.
[FN#29] The name of the tribe literally means "sons of a carpenter";
hence the error of the learned and violent Humphrey Prideaux, corrected
by Sale.
[FN#30] Some say that Abu Bakr had no abode near the Mosque. But it is
generally agreed upon, that he had many houses, one in Al-Bakia,
another in the higher parts of Al-Madinah, and among them a hut on the
spot between the present gates called Salam and Rahmah.
[FN#31] It is clear from the fact above stated, that in those days the
Jews of Arabia were in a state of excitement, hourly expecting the
advent of their Messiah, and that Mohammed believed himself to be the
person appointed to complete the law of Moses.
[FN#32] In many minor details the above differs from the received
accounts of Pre-Islamitic and early Mohammedan history. Let the blame
be borne by the learned Shaykh Abd al-Hakk al-Muhaddis of Delhi, and
his compilation, the "Jazb al-Kulub ila Diyar al-Mahhub (the "Drawing
of Hearts towards the Holy Parts"). From the multitude of versions at
last comes correctness.
[FN#33] A Firman from the Porte, dated 13th February, 1841, provides
for the paying of these pensions regularly. "It being customary to send
every year from Egypt provisions in kind to the two Holy Cities, the
provisions and other articles, whatever they may be, which have up to
this time been sent to this place, shall continue to be sent thither."
Formerly the Holy Land had immense property in Egypt, and indeed in all
parts of Al-Islam. About thirty years ago, Mohammed Ali Pasha bought up
all the Wakf (church property), agreeing to pay for its produce, which
he rated at five piastres the ardeb, when it was worth three times as
much. Even that was not regularly paid. The Sultan has taken advantage
of the present crisis to put down Wakf in Turkey. The Holy Land,
therefore, will gradually lose all its land and house property, and
will soon be compelled to depend entirely upon the presents of the
pilgrims, and the Sadakah, or alms, which are still sent to it by the
pious Moslems of distant regions. As might be supposed, both the
Meccans and the Madani loudly bewail their hard fates, and by no means
approve of the Ikram, the modern succedaneum for an extensive and
regularly paid revenue. At a future time, I shall recur to this subject.
[FN#34] The prayer-niche and the minaret both date their existence from
the days of Al-Walid, the builder of the third Mosque. At this age of
their empire, the Moslems had travelled far and had seen art in various
lands; it is therefore not without a shadow of reason that the Hindus
charge them with having borrowed their two favourite symbols, and
transformed them into an arch and a tower.
[FN#35] The Ustawanat al-Hannanah, or "Weeping-Post." See page 335,
chapter XVI., ante.
[FN#36] As usual, there are doubts about the invention of this article.
It was covered with cloth by the Caliph Osman, or, as others say, by
Al-Mu'awiyah, who, deterred by a solar eclipse from carrying out his
project of removing it to Damascus, placed it upon a new framework,
elevated six steps above the ground. Al-Mahdi wished to raise the
Mambar six steps higher, but was forbidden so to do by the Imam Malik.
The Abbasides changed the pulpit, and converted the Prophet's original
seat into combs, which were preserved as relics. Some historians
declare that the original Mambar was burnt with the Mosque in A.H. 654.
In Ibn Jubayr's time (A.H. 580), it was customary for visitors to place
their right hands upon a bit of old wood, inserted into one of the
pillars of the pulpit; this was supposed to be a remnant of the
"weeping-post." Every Sultan added some ornament to the Mambar, and at
one time it was made of white marble, covered over with a dome of the
"eight metals." It is now a handsome structure, apparently of wood,
painted and gilt of the usual elegant form, which has been compared by
some travellers with the suggesta of Roman Catholic churches. I have
been explicit about this pulpit, hoping that, next time the knotty
question of Apostolic seats comes upon the tapis, our popular authors
will not confound a Curule chair with a Moslem Mambar. Of the latter
article, Lane (Mod. Egyptians, chap. iii.) gave a sketch in the
"Interior of a Mosque."
[FN#37] The Prophet is said to have had a dwelling-house in the
Ambariyah, or the Western quarter of the Manakhah suburb, and here,
according to some, he lodged Mariyah, the Coptic girl. As pilgrims do
not usually visit the place, and nothing of the original building can
be now remaining, I did not trouble myself about it.
[FN#38] Meaning the Prophet's fifteen to twenty-five wives. Their
number is not settled. He left nine wives and two concubines. It was
this title after the Koranic order (chap, xxxiii. v. 53) which rendered
their widowhood eternal; no Arab would willingly marry a woman whom he
has called mother or sister.
[FN#39] Authors mention a place outside the Northern wall called
Al-Suffah, which was assigned by Mohammed as a habitation to houseless
believers; from which circumstance these paupers derived the title of
Ashab al-Suffah, "Companions of the Sofa."
[FN#40] So I translate the Arabicised word "Saj."
[FN#41] A place about five miles from Al-Madinah, on the Meccan way.
See Chap. XIV.
[FN#42] And curious to say Al-Islam still has the largest cathedral in
the world-St. Sophia's at Constantinople. Next to this ranks St.
Peter's at Rome; thirdly, I believe, the "Jumma Masjid," or cathedral
of the old Moslem city Bijapur in India; the fourth is St. Paul's,
[FN#43] It is to this monarch that the Saracenic Mosque-architecture
mainly owes its present form. As will be seen, he had every advantage
of borrowing from Christian, Persian, and even Indian art. From the
first he took the dome, from the second the cloister-it might have been
naturalised in Arabia before his time-and possibly from the third the
minaret and the prayer-niche. The latter appears to be a peculiarly
Hindu feature in sacred buildings, intended to contain the idol, and to
support the lamps, flowers, and other offerings placed before it.
[FN#44] The reader will remember that in the sixth year of the Hijrah,
after Mohammed's marriage with Zaynab, his wives were secluded behind
the Hijab, Pardah, or curtain. A verse of the Koran directed the
Moslems to converse with them behind this veil. Hence the general
practice of Al-Islam: now it is considered highly disgraceful in any
Moslem to make a Moslemah expose her face, and she will frequently
found a threat upon the prejudice. A battle has been prevented by this
means, and occasionally an insurrection has been caused by it.
[FN#45] Amongst which some authors enumerate the goblet and the mirror
of Kisra.
[FN#46] The outer wall, built by Al-Walid, remained till A.H. 550, when
Jamal al-Din of Isafahan, Wazir to Nur al-Din Shahid Mahmud bin Zangi,
supplied its place by a grating of open sandal woodwork, or, as others
say, of iron. About the same time, Sayyid Abu 'l Hayja sent from Egypt
a sheet of white brocade, embroidered in red silk with the chapter
Y.S., in order to cover the inner wall. This was mounted on the
accession of Al-Mustazi bi'llah, the Caliph, after which it became the
custom for every Sultan to renew the offering. And in A.H. 688, Kalaun
of Egypt built the outer network of brass as it now is, and surmounted
it with the Green Dome.
[FN#47] The inner wall, erected by Al-Walid, seems to have resisted the
fire which in A.H. 654 burnt the Mosque to the ground. Also, in A.H.
886, when the building was consumed by lightning, the Hujrah was spared
by the devouring element.
[FN#48] After the Prophet's death and burial, Ayishah continued to
occupy the same room, without even a curtain between her and the tomb.
At last, vexed by the crowds of visitors, she partitioned off the
hallowed spot with a wall. She visited the grave unveiled as long as
her father Abu Bakr only was placed behind the Prophet; but when Omar's
corpse was added, she always covered her face.
[FN#49] One of these, the minaret at the Bab-al-Salam, was soon
afterwards overthrown by Al-Walid's brother Sulayman, because it shaded
the house of Marwan, where he lodged during his visit to Al-Madinah in
the cold season.
[FN#50] The dinar (denarius) was a gold piece, a ducat, a sequin.
[FN#51] I purpose to touch upon this event in a future chapter, when
describing my route from Al-Madinah to Meccah.
[FN#52] "On this occasion," says Al-Samanhudi, quoted by Burckhardt,
"the interior of the Hujrah was cleared, and three deep graves were
found in the inside, full of rubbish, but the author of this history,
who himself entered it, saw no traces of tombs." Yet in another place
he, an eye-witness, had declared that the coffin containing the dust of
Mohammed was cased with silver. I repeat these details.
[FN#53] Burckhardt has given a full account of this event in his
history of the Wahhabis.
[FN#54] See Chapter XVI., ante.
[FN#55] My predecessor estimates the whole treasury in those days to
have been worth 300,000 Riyals,-a small sum, if we consider the length
of time during which it was accumulating. The chiefs of the town
appropriated 1 cwt. of golden vessels, worth at most 50,000 dollars,
and Sa'ud sold part of the plunder to Ghalib for 100,000 (I was told
one-third more), reserving for himself about the same amount of pearls
and corals. Burckhardt supposes that the governors of Al-Madinah, who
were often independent chiefs, and sometimes guardians of the tombs,
made occasional draughts upon the generosity of the Faithful.
[FN#56] I inquired in vain about the substance that covered the dome.
Some told me it was tinfoil; others supposed it to be rivetted with
green tiles.
[FN#57] The Badawi calls a sound dollar "Kirsh Hajar," or "Riyal
Hajar," a "stone dollar."
[FN#58] At the same time his account is still carefully copied by our
popular and general authors, who, it is presumed, could easily become
better informed.
[FN#59] The Persians in remote times, as we learn from Herodotus (lib.
6), were waited upon by eunuchs, and some attribute to them the
invention. Ammianus Marcellinus (lib. 14) ascribes the origin to
Semiramis. In Al-Islam, the employment of such persons about the Mosque
is a "Bida'ah" or custom unknown in the time of the Prophet. It is said
to have arisen from the following three considerations: 1. These people
are concentrated in their professions; 2. They must see and touch
strange women at the shrines; and 3. The shrines are "Harim," or
sacred, having adyta which are kept secret from the prying eyes of men,
and, therefore, should be served by eunuchs. It is strange that the
Roman Catholic church, as well as the Moslem Mosque, should have
admitted such an abomination.
[FN#60] One of these gentry, if called "Tawashi,"-his generic
name,-would certainly insult a stranger. The polite form of address to
one of them is "Agha"-Master,-in the plural "Aghawat." In partibus,
they exact the greatest respect from men, and the title of the Eunuch
of the Tomb is worth a considerable sum to them. The eunuchs of
Al-Madinah are more numerous and better paid than those of Meccah: they
are generally the slaves of rich men at Constantinople, and prefer this
city on account of its climate.
[FN#61] The "Sons of the City," however, are always allowed to do such
service gratis; if, indeed, they are not paid for it.
[FN#62] Others told me that there were only two muftis at Al-Madinah,
namely, those of the Hanafi and Shafe'i schools. If this be true, it
proves the insignificance of the followers of Malik, which personage,
like others, is less known in his own town than elsewhere.
[FN#63] The Hanbali school is nowhere common except in Nijd, and the
lands Eastward as far as Al-Hasa. At present it labours under a sort of
imputation, being supposed to have thrown out a bad offshoot, the
[FN#64] "Ruasa" is the plural of Rais, a chief or president. It is the
term generally applied in Arabia to the captain of a vessel, and in
Al-Yaman it often means a barber, in virtue, I presume, of its
root-Ras, the head.
[FN#65] Some say that the Egyptian distinction between the Imam Khatib
and the Imam Ratib does not obtain at Al-Madinah.



IT is equally difficult to define, politically and geographically, the
limits of Al-Hijaz. Whilst some authors, as Abulfeda,[FN#1] fix its
Northern frontier at Aylah (Fort Al-'Akabah) and the Desert, making
Al-Yaman its Southern limit, others include in it only the tract of
land lying between Meccah and Al-Madinah. The country has no natural
boundaries, and its political limits change with every generation;
perhaps, therefore, the best distribution of its frontier would be that
which includes all the property called Holy Land, making Yambu' the
Northern, and Jeddah the Southern extremes, while a line drawn through
Al-Madinah, Suwayrkiyah, and Jabal Kora-the mountain of Taif-might
represent its Eastern boundary. Thus Al-Hijaz would be an irregular
parallelogram, about two hundred and fifty miles in length, with a
maximum breadth of one hundred and fifty miles.

Two meanings are assigned to the name of this venerated region. Most
authorities make it mean the "Separator," the "Barrier," between Nijd
and Tahamah,[FN#2] or between Al-Yaman and Syria. According to others,
it signifies the "colligated," i.e. by mountains. It is to be observed
that the people of the country, especially the Badawin, distinguish the
lowlands from the high region

[p.377]by different names; the former are called Tahamat al-Hijaz-the
sea coast of Al-Hijaz, as we should say in India, "below the Ghauts;"
the latter is known peculiarly as Al-Hijaz.[FN#3]

Madinat al-Nabi,[FN#4] the Prophet's City, or, as it is

[p.378]usually called for brevity, Al-Madinah, the City, is situated on
the borders of Nijd, upon the vast plateau of high land

[p.379] which forms central Arabia. The limits of the sanctuary called
the Hudud al-Harim, as defined by the Apostle, may still serve to mark
out the city's plain. Northwards, at a distance of about three miles,
is Jabal Ohod, or, according to others, Jabal Saur, a hill somewhat
beyond Ohod; these are the last ribs of the vast tertiary and primitive
chine[FN#5] which, extending from Taurus to near Aden, and from Aden
again to Maskat, fringes the Arabian trapezium. To the South-west the
plain is bounded by ridges of scoriaceous basalt, and by a buttress of
rock called Jabal Ayr, like Ohod, about three miles distant from the
town. Westward, according to some authors, is the Mosque Zu'l-Halifah.
On the East there are no natural landmarks, nor even artificial, like
the "Alamayn" at Meccah; an imaginary line, therefore, is drawn,
forming an irregular circle of which the town is the centre, with a
diameter from ten to twelve miles. Such is the sanctuary.[FN#6]
Geographically considered, the

[p.380]plain is bounded, on the East, with a thin line of low dark
hills, traversed by the Darb al-Sharki, or the "Eastern road," through
Al-Nijd to Meccah: Southwards, the plateau is open, and almost
perfectly level as far as the eye can see.

Al-Madinah dates its origin doubtless from ancient times, and the cause
of its prosperity is evident in the abundant supply of water, a
necessary generally scarce in Arabia. The formation of the plateau is
in some places salt sand, but usually a white chalk, and a loamy clay,
which even by the roughest manipulation makes tolerable bricks. Lime
also abounds. The town is situated upon a gently-shelving part of the
plain, the, lowest portion of which, to judge from the versant, is at
the southern base of Mount Ohod, hence called Al-Safilah, and the
highest at the Awali, or plains about Kuba, and the East.

The Southern and South-Eastern walls of the suburb are sometimes
carried away by violent "Sayl," or torrents, which, after rain, sweep
down from the Western as

[p.381]well as from the Eastern highlands. The water-flow is towards
Al-Ghabbah, lowlands in the Northern and Western hills, a little beyond
Mount Ohod. This basin receives the drainage of the mountains and the
plain; according to some absorbing it, according to others collecting
it till of sufficient volume to flow off to the sea. Water, though
abundant, is rarely of good quality. In the days of the Prophet, the
Madani consumed the produce of wells, seven of which are still
celebrated by the people.[FN#7] Historians relate that Omar, the second
Caliph, provided the town with drinking-water from the Northern parts
of the plains by means of an aqueduct. The modern city is supplied by a
source called the Ayn al-Zarka or Azure Spring,[FN#8] which arises some
say at the foot of Mount Ayr, others, with greater probability, in the
date-groves of Kuba. Its waters were first brought to Al-Madinah by
Marwan, governor in Al-Mu'awiyah's day. It now flows down a
subterraneous canal, about thirty feet below the surface; in places the
water is exposed to the air, and

[p.382]steps lead to it for the convenience of the inhabitants: this
was the work of Sultan Sulayman the Magnificent. After passing through
the town it turns to the North-west, its course being marked by a line
of circular walls breast high, like the Kariz of Afghanistan, placed at
unequal distances, and resembling wells: it then loses itself in the
Nakhil or palm-groves. During my stay at Al-Madinah, I always drank
this water, which appeared to me, as the citizens declared it to be,
sweet and wholesome.[FN#9] There are many wells in the town, as water
is found at about twenty feet below the surface of the soil: few
produce anything fit for drinking, some being salt and others bitter.
As usual in the hilly countries of the East, the wide beds and
Fiumaras, even in the dry season, will supply travellers for a day or
two with an abundance of water, filtrated through, and, in some cases,
flowing beneath the sand.

The climate of the plain is celebrated for a long, and, comparatively
speaking, a rigorous winter; a popular saying records the opinion of
the Apostle "that he who patiently endures the cold of Al-Madinah and
the heat of Meccah, merits a reward in Paradise." Ice is not seen in
the town, but may frequently be met with, it is said, on Jabal Ohod;
fires are lighted in the houses during winter, and palsies attack those
who at this season imprudently bathe in unwarmed water. The fair
complexions of the people prove that this account of the brumal rigours
is not exaggerated. Chilly and violent winds from the Eastern Desert
are much dreaded, and though Ohod screens the town on the North and
North-East, a gap in the mountains to the North-West fills the

[p.383]air at times with raw and comfortless blasts. The rains begin
in October, and last with considerable intervals through six months;
the clouds, gathered by the hill-tops and the trees near the town,
discharge themselves with violence, and about the equinoxes,
thunder-storms are common. At such times the Barr al-Manakhah, or the
open space between the town and the suburbs, is a sheet of water, and
the land near the Southern and the South-Eastern wall of the faubourg
becomes a pool. Rain, however, is not considered unhealthy here; and
the people, unlike the Meccans and the Cairenes, expect it with
pleasure, because it improves their date-trees and fruit
plantations.[FN#10] In winter it usually rains at night, in spring
during the morning, and in summer about evening time. This is the case
throughout Al-Hijaz, as explained by the poet Labid in these lines,
which describe the desolate site of an old encampment:-

"It (the place) hath been fertilised by the first spring showers of the
constellations, and hath been swept by
The incessant torrents of the thunder-clouds, falling in heavy and
in gentle rains,
>From each night-cloud, and heavily dropping morning-cloud,
And the even-cloud, whose crashings are re-echoed from around."
"It (the place) hath been fertilised by the first spring showers of the
constellations, and hath been swept by
The incessant torrents of the thunder-clouds, falling in heavy and in
gentle rains,
>From each night-cloud, and heavily dropping morning-cloud,
And the even-cloud, whose crashings are re-echoed from around."

And the European reader will observe that the Arabs generally reckon
three seasons, including our autumn, in their summer. The hot weather
at Al-Madinah appeared to me as extreme as the hibernal cold is
described to be, but the air was dry, and the open plain prevented the
faint and stagnant sultriness which distinguishes Meccah. Moreover,
though the afternoons were close, the nights and the mornings were cool
and dewy. At this season the citizens sleep on the house-tops, or on
the ground

[p.384]outside their doors. Strangers must follow this example with
considerable circumspection; the open air is safe in the Desert, but in
cities it causes, to the unaccustomed, violent catarrhs and febrile

I collect the following notes upon the diseases and medical treatment
of the Northern Hijaz. Al-Madinah has been visited four times by the
Rih al-Asfar[FN#11] (yellow wind), or Asiatic Cholera, which is said to
have committed great ravages, sometimes carrying off whole households.
In the Rahmat al-Kabirah, the "Great Mercy," as the worst attack is
piously called, whenever a man vomited, he was abandoned to his fate;
before that, he was treated with mint, lime-juice, and copious draughts
of coffee. It is still the boast of Al-Madinah, that the Taun, or
plague, has never passed her frontier.[FN#12] The Judari, or smallpox,
appears to be indigenous to the countries bordering upon the Red Sea;
we read of it there in the earliest works of the Arabs,[FN#13] and even
to the present time it sometimes sweeps through Arabia and the Somali

[p.385] country with desolating violence. In the town of Al-Madinah it
is fatal to children, many of whom, however, are in these days
inoculated[FN#14]: amongst the Badawin, old men die of it, but adults
are rarely victims, either in the City or in the Desert. The nurse
closes up the room whilst the sun is up, and carefully excludes the
night air, believing that, as the disease is "hot,[FN#15]" a breath of
wind will kill the patient. During the hours of darkness, a lighted
candle or lamp is always placed by the side of the bed, or the sufferer
would die of madness, brought on by evil spirits or fright. Sheep's
wool is burnt in the sick-room, as death would follow the inhaling of
any perfume. The only remedy I have heard of is pounded Kohl (antimony)
drunk in water, and the same is drawn along the breadth of the eyelid,
to prevent blindness. The diet is Adas (lentils),[FN#16] and a peculiar
kind of date, called Tamr al-Birni. On the twenty-first day the patient
is washed with salt and tepid water.

Ophthalmia is rare.[FN#17] In the summer, quotidian and

[p.386]tertian fevers (Hummah Salis) are not uncommon, and if
accompanied by emetism, they are frequently fatal.

[p.387]The attack generally begins with the Naffazah, or cold fit, and
is followed by Al-Hummah, the hot stage. The principal remedies are
cooling drinks, such as Sikanjabin (oxymel) and syrups. After the fever
the face and body frequently swell, and indurated lumps appear on the
legs and stomach. There are also low fevers, called simply Hummah; they
are usually treated by burning charms in the patient's room. Jaundice
and bilious complaints are common, and the former is popularly cured in
a peculiar way. The sick man looks into a pot full of water, whilst the
exorciser, reciting a certain spell, draws the heads of two needles
from the patient's ears along his eyes, down his face, lastly dipping
them into water, which at once becomes yellow. Others have "Mirayat,"
magic mirrors,[FN#18] on which the patient looks, and looses the

[p.388] Dysenteries frequently occur in the fruit season, when the
greedy Arabs devour all manner of unripe

[p.389]peaches, grapes, and pomegranates. The popular treatment is by
the actual cautery; the scientific affect the use of drastics and
astringent simples, and the Bizr al-Kutn (cotton-seed), toasted,
pounded, and drunk in warm water. Almost every one here, as in Egypt,
suffers more or less from haemorrhoids; they are treated by
dietetics-eggs and leeks-and by a variety of drugs, Myrobalans,
Lisan-al-Hamal (Arnoglossum), etc. But the patient looks with horror at
the scissors and the knife, so that they seldom succeed in obtaining a
radical cure. The Filaria Medinensis, locally called "Farantit," is no
longer common at the place which gave it its European name. At Yambu',
however, the people suffer much from the Vena appearing in the legs.
The complaint is treated here as in India and in Abyssinia: when the
tumour bursts, and the worm shows, it is extracted by being gradually
wound round a splinter of wood. Hydrophobia is rare, and the people
have many superstitions about it. They suppose that a bit of meat falls
from the sky, and that a dog eating it becomes mad. I was assured by
respectable persons, that when a man is bitten, they shut him up with
food, in a solitary chamber, for four days, and that if at the end of
that time he still howls like a dog, they expel the Ghul (demon) from
him, by pouring over him boiling water mixed with ashes-a certain cure
I can easily believe. The only description of leprosy known in Al-Hijaz
is that called "Al-Baras": it appears in white patches on the skin,
seldom attacks any but the poorer classes, and is considered incurable.
Wounds are treated by Marham, or ointments, especially by the
"Balesan," or Balm of Meccah; a cloth is tied round the limb, and

[p.390]not removed till the wound heals, which amongst this people of
simple life, generally takes place by first intention. Ulcers are
common in Al-Hijaz, as indeed all over Arabia. We read of them in
ancient times. In A.D. 504, the poet and warrior, Amr al-Kays, died of
this dreadful disease, and it is related that when Mohammed Abu Si
Mohammed, in A.H. 132, conquered Al-Yaman with an army from Al-Hijaz,
he found the people suffering from sloughing and mortifying sores, so
terrible to look upon that he ordered the sufferers to be burnt alive.
Fortunately for the patients, the conqueror died suddenly before his
inhuman mandate was executed. These sores here, as in Al-Yaman,[FN#19]
are worst when upon the shin bones; they eat deep into the leg, and the
patient dies of fever and gangrene. They are treated on first
appearance by the actual cautery, and, when practicable, by cutting off
the joint; the drugs popularly applied are Tutiya (tutty) and
verdigris. There is no cure but rest, a generous diet, and change of

By the above short account it will be seen that the Arabs are no longer
the most skilful physicians in the world. They have, however, one great
advantage in their practice, and they are sensible enough to make free
use of it. As the children of almost all the respectable citizens are
brought up in the Desert, the camp becomes to them a native village. In
cases of severe wounds or chronic diseases, the patient is ordered off
to the Black Tents, where he lives as a Badawi, drinking camels' milk
(a diet for the first three or four days highly cathartic), and doing
nothing. This has been the practice from time immemorial in Arabia,
whereas Europe is only beginning to systematise the adhibition of air,
exercise, and simple living. And even now we are obliged to veil it
under the garb of charlatanry-to call it a "milk-cure" in Switzerland,

[p.391]a "water-cure" in Silesia, a "grape-cure" in France, a
"hunger-cure" in Germany, and other sensible names which act as dust in
the public eyes.

Al-Madinah consists of three parts,-a town, a fort, and a suburb little
smaller than the body of the place. The town itself is about one-third
larger than Suez, or nearly half the size of Meccah. It is a walled
enclosure forming an irregular oval with four gates. The Bab al-Shami,
or " Syrian Gate," in the North-West side of the enceinte, leads
towards Jabal Ohod, Hamzah's burial-place, and the mountains. In the
Eastern wall, the Bab al-Jum'ah, or Friday Gate, opens upon the Nijd
road and the cemetery, Al-Bakia. Between the Shami and the Jum'ah
gates, towards the North, is the Bab al-Ziyafah (of Hospitality); and
Westwards the Bab al-Misri (Egyptian) opens upon the plain called the
Barr al-Manakhah. The Eastern and the Egyptian gates are fine massive
buildings, with double towers close together, painted with broad bands
of red, yellow, and other colors, not unlike that old entrance of the
Cairo citadel which opens upon the Ramayliyah plain. They may be
compared with the gateway towers of the old Norman castles-Arques, for
instance. In their shady and well-watered interiors, soldiers keep
guard, camel-men dispute, and numerous idlers congregate, to enjoy the
luxuries of coolness and of companionship. Beyond this gate, in the
street leading to the Mosque, is the great bazar. Outside it lie the
Suk al-Khuzayriyah, or greengrocers' market, and the Suk al-Habbabah,
or the grain bazar, with a fair sprinkling of coffee-houses. These
markets are long masses of palm-leaf huts, blackened in the sun and
wind, of a mean and squalid appearance, detracting greatly from the
appearance of the gates. Amongst them there is a little domed and
whitewashed building, which I was told is a Sabil or public fountain.
In the days of the Prophet the town

[p.392] was not walled. Even in Al-Idrisi's time (twelfth century), and
as late as Bartema's (eighteenth century), the fortifications were
mounds of earth, made by order of Kasim al-Daulat al-Ghori, who
re-populated the town and provided for its inhabitants. Now, the
enceinte is in excellent condition. The walls are well built of granite
and lava blocks, in regular layers, cemented with lime; they are
provided with "Mazghal" (or "Matras") long loopholes, and "Shararif" or
trefoil-shaped crenelles: in order to secure a flanking fire,
semicircular towers, also loopholed and crenellated, are disposed in
the curtain at short and irregular intervals. Inside, the streets are
what they always should be in these torrid lands, deep, dark, and
narrow, in few places paved-a thing to be deprecated-and generally
covered with black earth well watered and trodden to hardness. The most
considerable lines radiate towards the Mosque. There are few public
buildings. The principal Wakalahs are four in number; one is the
Wakalat Bab Salam near the Harim, another the Wakalat Jabarti, and two
are inside the Misri gate; they all belong to Arab citizens. These
Caravanserais are used principally as stores, rarely for
dwelling-places like those of Cairo; travellers, therefore, must hire
houses at a considerable expense, or pitch tents to the detriment of
health and to their extreme discomfort. The other public buildings are
a few mean coffee-houses and an excellent bath in the Harat Zarawan,
inside the town: far superior to the unclean establishments of Cairo,
it borrows something from the luxury of Stambul. The houses are, for
the East, well built, flat-roofed and double-storied; the materials
generally used are a basaltic scoria, burnt brick, and palm wood. The
best enclose spacious courtyards and small gardens with wells, where
water basins and date trees gladden the owners' eyes. The latticed
balconies, first seen by the overland European traveller at Malta, are
here common, and the windows are

[p.393]mere apertures in the wall, garnished, as usual in Arab cities,
with a shutter of planking. Al-Madinah fell rapidly under the Wahhabis,
but after their retreat, it soon rose again, and now it is probably as
comfortable and flourishing a little city as any to be found in the
East. It contains between fifty and sixty streets, including the alleys
and culs-de-sac. There is about the same number of Harat or quarters;
but I have nothing to relate of them save their names. Within the town
few houses are in a dilapidated condition. The best authorities
estimate the number of habitations at about 1500 within the enceinte,
and those in the suburb at 1000. I consider both accounts exaggerated;
the former might contain 800, and the Manakhah perhaps 500; at the same
time I must confess not to have counted them, and Captain Sadlier (in
A.D. 1819) declares that the Turks, who had just made a kind of census,
reckoned 6000 houses and a population of 18,000 souls. Assuming the
population to be 16,000 (Burckhardt raises it as high as 20,000), of
which 9000 occupy the city, and 7000 the suburbs and the fort, this
would give a little more than twelve inhabitants to each house, a fair
estimate for an Arab town, where the abodes are large and slaves

The castle joins on to the North-West angle of the city enceinte, and
the wall of its Eastern outwork is pierced for

[p.394]a communication through a court strewed with guns and warlike
apparatus, between the Manakhah Suburb and the Bab al-Shami, or the
Syrian Gate. Having been refused entrance into the fort, I can describe
only its exterior. The outer wall resembles that of the city, only its
towers are more solid, and the curtain appears better calculated for
work. Inside, a donjon, built upon a rock, bears proudly enough the
banner of the Crescent and the Star; its whitewashed walls make it a
conspicuous object, and guns pointed in all directions, especially upon
the town, project from their embrasures. The castle is said to contain
wells, bomb-proofs, provisions, and munitions of war; if so, it must be
a kind of Gibraltar to the Badawin and the Wahhabis. The garrison
consisted of a Nisf Urtah,[FN#21] or half battalion (four hundred men)
of Nizam infantry, commanded by a Pasha; his authority also extends to
a Sanjak, or about five hundred Kurdish and Albanian Bash-Buzuks, whose
duty it is to escort caravans, to convey treasures, and to be shot at
in the Passes. The Madani, who, as usual with Orientals, take a
personal pride in their castle, speak of it with much exaggeration.
Commanded by a high line of rocks on the North-West, and built as it is
in most places without moat, glacis, earthwork, or outworks, a few
shells and a single battery of siege guns would soon render it
untenable. In ancient times it has more than once been held by a party
at feud with the town, for whose mimic battles the Barr al-Manakhah was
a fitting field. Northward from the fort, on the road to Ohod, but
still within fire, is a long many-windowed building, formerly Da'ud
Pasha's palace. In my time it had been bought by Abbas Pasha of Egypt.

[p.395]The suburbs lie to the South and West of the town. Southwards
they are separated from the enceinte by a wide road, called the Darb
al-Janazah, the Road of Biers, so called because the corpses of certain
schismatics, who may not pass through the city, are carried this way to
their own cemetery near the Bab al-Jumah, or Eastern Gate. Westwards,
between Al-Madinah and its faubourg, lies the plain of Al-Manakhah,
about three-quarters of a mile long, by three hundred yards broad. The
straggling suburbs occupy more ground than the city: fronting the
enceinte they are without walls; towards the West, where open country
lies, they are enclosed by mud or raw brick ramparts, with little round
towers, all falling to decay. A number of small gates lead from the
suburb into the country. The only large one, a poor copy of the Bab
al-Nasr at Cairo, is the Ambari or Western entrance, through which we
passed into Al-Madinah. The suburb contains no buildings of any
consequence, except the Khaskiyah, or official residence of the Muhafiz
(governor), a plain building near the Barr al-Manakhah, and the Khamsah
Masajid, or the Five Mosques, which every Zair is expected to visit.
They are

The Prophet's Mosque in the Manakhah.
Abu Bakr's near the Ayn al-Zarka.
Ali's Mosque in the Zukak al-Tayyar of the Manakhah. Some authors call
this the "Musalla al-Id," because the Prophet here prayed the Festival
Omar's Mosque, near the Bab Kuba of the Manakhah, and close to the
little torrent called Al-Sayh.
Belal's Mosque, celebrated in books; I did not see it, and some Madani
assured me that it no longer exists.

A description of one of these buildings will suffice, for they are all
similar. Mohammed's Mosque in the Manakhah stands upon a spot formerly
occupied, some say, by the Jami Ghamamah. Others believe it to be
founded upon the Musalla al-Nabi, a place where the

[p.396]Apostle recited the first Festival prayers after his arrival at
Al-Madinah, and used frequently to pray, and to address those of his
followers who lived far from the Harim,[FN#22] or Sanctuary. It is a
trim modern building of cut stone and lime in regular layers, of
parallelogramic shape, surmounted by one large and four small cupolas.
These are all whitewashed; and the principal is capped with a large
crescent, or rather a trident, rising from a series of gilt globes: the
other domes crown the several corners. The minaret is of the usual
Turkish shape, with a conical roof, and a single gallery for the
Mu'ezzin. An Acacia-tree or two on the Eastern side, and behind it a
wall-like line of mud houses, finish the coup-d'oeil; the interior of
this building is as simple as is the exterior. And here I may remark
that the Arabs have little idea of splendour, either in their public or
in their private architecture. Whatever strikes the traveller's eye in
Al-Hijaz is always either an importation or the work of foreign
artists. This arises from the simple tastes of the people, combined,
doubtless, with their notable thriftiness. If strangers will build for
them, they argue, why should they build for themselves? Moreover, they
have scant inducement to lavish money upon grand edifices. Whenever a
disturbance takes place, domestic or from without, the principal
buildings are sure to suffer. And the climate is inimical to their
enduring. Both ground and air at Al-Madinah, as well as at Meccah, are
damp and nitrous in winter, in summer dry and torrid: the lime is poor;
palm-timber soon decays: even foreign wood-work suffers, and a few
years of neglect suffice to level the proudest pile with the dust.

The suburbs to the South of Al- Madinah are a collection

[p.397]of walled villages, with plantations and gardens between. They
are laid out in the form, called here, as in Egypt, Hosh-court-yards,
with single-storied tenements opening into them. These enclosures
contain the cattle of the inhabitants; they have strong wooden doors,
shut at night to prevent "lifting," and they are capable of being
stoutly defended. The inhabitants of the suburb are for the most part
Badawi settlers, and a race of schismatics who will be noticed in
another chapter. Beyond these suburbs, to the South, as well as to the
North and Northeast, lie gardens and extensive plantations of

[FN#1] To the East he limits Al-Hijaz by Yamamah (which some include in
it), Nijd, and the Syrian desert, and to the West by the Red Sea. The
Greeks, not without reason, included it in their Arabia Petraea.
Niebuhr places the Southern boundary at Hali, a little town south of
Kunfudah (Gonfoda). Captain Head (Journey from India to Europe) makes
the village Al-Kasr, opposite the Island of Kotambul, the limit of
Al-Hijaz to the South.
[FN#2] Or, according to others, between Al-Yaman and Syria.
[FN#3] If you ask a Badawi near Meccah, whence his fruit comes, he will
reply "min Al-Hijaz," "from the Hijaz," meaning from the mountainous
part of the country about Taif. This would be an argument in favour of
those who make the word to signify a "place tied together," (by
mountains). It is notorious that the Badawin are the people who best
preserve the use of old and disputed words; for which reason they were
constantly referred to by the learned in the palmy days of Moslem
philology. "Al-Hijaz," also, in this signification, well describes the
country, a succession of ridges and mountain chains; whereas such a
name as "the barrier" would appear to be rather the work of some
geographer in his study. Thus Al-Nijd was so called from its high and
open lands, and, briefly, in this part of the world, names are most
frequently derived from some physical and material peculiarity of soil
or climate.
[FN#4] Amongst a people, who, like the Arabs or the Spaniards, hold a
plurality of names to be a sign of dignity, so illustrious a spot as
Al-Madinah could not fail to be rich in nomenclature. A Hadis declares,
"to Al-Madinah belong ten names": books, however, enumerate nearly a
hundred, of which a few will suffice as a specimen. Tabah, Tibah,
Taibah, Tayyibah, and Mutayyibah, (from the root "Tib," "good,"
"sweet," or "lawful,") allude to the physical excellencies of
Al-Madinah as regards climate-the perfume of the Prophet's tomb, and of
the red rose, which was a thorn before it blossomed by the sweat of his
brow-and to its being free from all moral impurity, such as the
presence of Infidels, or worshippers of idols. Mohammed declared that
he was ordered by Allah to change the name of the place to Tabah, from
Yasrib or Asrib. The latter, according to some, was a proper name of a
son of Noah; others apply it originally to a place west of Mount Ohod,
not to Al-Madinah itself; and quote the plural form of the word,
"Asarib," ("spots abounding in palms and fountains,") as a proof that
it does not belong exclusively to a person. However this may be, the
inauspicious signification of Yasrib, whose root is "Sarab,"
(destruction,) and the notorious use of the name by the Pagan Arabs,
have combined to make it, like the other heathen designation,
Al-Ghalabah, obsolete, and the pious Moslem who pronounces the word is
careful to purify his mouth by repeating ten times the name
"Al-Madinah." Barah and Barrah allude to its obedience and purity;
Hasunah to its beauty; Khayrah and Khayyarah to its goodness; Mahabbah,
Habibah and Mahbubah, to the favour it found in the eyes of the
Prophet; whilst Jabirah, Jabbarah, and Jabarah, (from the root Jabr,
joining or breaking), at once denote its good influence upon the
fortunes of the Faithful and its evil effects upon the Infidel.
"Al-Iman," (the Faith,) is the name under which it is hinted at in the
Koran. It is called Shafiyah (the Healer), on account of the curative
effects of earth found in its neighbourhood; Nasirah, the Saving, and
Asimah, the Preserving, because Mohammed and his companions were there
secure from the fury of their foes; Fazihah, the Detector, from its
exposing the Infidel and the hypocrite; Muslimah and Muminah, the
Faithful City; Mubarakah, the Blessed; Mahburah, the Happy; and
Mahturah, the Gifted. Mahrusah, the Guarded; and Mahfuzah, the
Preserved, allude to the belief that an angel sits in each of its ten
main streets, to watch over the town, and to prevent "Antichrist"
entering therein. "Al-Dajjal," as this personage is called, will arise
in the East and will peregrinate the earth; but he will be unable to
penetrate into Meccah; and on approaching Jabal Ohod, in sight of
Al-Madinah, he will turn off towards his death-place, Al-Sham
(Damascus). In the Taurat or Pentateuch, the town is called Mukaddasah,
the Holy, or Marhumah the Pitied, in allusion to the mission of
Mohammed; Marzukah, the Fed, is a favourable augury of plenty to it,
and Miskinah, the Poor, hints that it is independent of treasure of
gold or store of silver to keep up its dignity. Al-Makarr, means the
Residence or the Place of Quiet; Makinat, the Firmly-fixed, (in the
right faith); Al-Harim, the Sacred or Inviolable; and, finally,
Al-Balad, the Town, and Al-Madinah, the City by excellence. So an
inhabitant calls himself Al-Madani, whilst the natives of other and
less-favoured "Madinahs" affix Madini to their names. Its titles are
Arz-Allah, Allah's Land; Arz al-Hijrah, the Land of Exile; Akkalat
al-Buldan, the Eater of Towns; and Akkalat al-Kura, the Eater of
Villages, on account of its superiority, even as Meccah is entitled Umm
al-Kura, the Mother of Villages; Bayt Rasul Allah, House of Allah's
Prophet; Jazirat alArab, Isle of the Arab; and Harim Rasul Allah, the
Sanctuary of Allah's Prophet. In books and letters it has sometimes the
title of Madinah Musharrafah, the Exalted; more often that of Madinah
Munawwarah, the Enlightened-scil. by the lamp of faith and the column
of light supposed to be based upon the Prophet's tomb. The Moslems are
not the only people who lay claim to Al-Madinah. According to some
authors-and the legend is more credible than at first sight it would
appear-the old Guebres had in Arabia and Persia seven large fire
temples, each dedicated to a planet. At "Mahdinah," as they pervert the
word, was an image of the Moon, wherefore the place was originally
called the "Religion of the Moon." These Guebres, amongst other sacred
spots, claim Meccah, where they say Saturn and the Moon were conjointly
venerated; Jerusalem, the Tomb of Ali at Najaf, that of Hosayn at
Kerbela, and others. These pretensions of course the Moslems deny with
insistance, which does not prevent certain symptoms of old and decayed
faith peeping out in localities where their presence, if duly
understood, would be considered an abomination. This curious fact is
abundantly evident in Sind, and I have already alluded to it (History
of Sind).
[FN#5] Such is its formation in Al-Hijaz.
[FN#6] Within the sanctuary all Muharramat, or sins, are forbidden; but
the several schools advocate different degrees of strictness. The Imam
Malik, for instance, allows no latrinae} nearer to Al-Madinah than
Jabal Ayr, a distance of about three miles. He also forbids slaying
wild animals, but at the same time he specifies no punishment for the
offence. Some do not allow the felling of trees, alleging that the
Prophet enjoined their preservation as an ornament to the city, and a
pleasure to visitors. Al-Khattabi, on the contrary, permits people to
cut wood, and this is certainly the general practice. All authors
strenuously forbid within the boundaries slaying man (except invaders,
infidels, and the sacrilegious), drinking spirits, and leading an
immoral life. As regards the dignity of the sanctuary, there is but one
opinion; a number of Hadis testify to its honour, praise its people,
and threaten dreadful things to those who injure it or them. It is
certain that on the last day, the Prophet will intercede for, and aid,
all those who die, and are buried, at Al-Madinah. Therefore, the Imam
Malik made but one pilgrimage to Meccah, fearing to leave his bones in
any other cemetery but Al-Bakia. There is, however, much debate
concerning the comparative sanctity of Al-Madinah and Meccah. Some say
Mohammed preferred the former, blessing it as Abraham did Meccah.
Moreover, as a tradition declares that every man's body is drawn from
the dust of the ground in which he is buried, Al-Madinah, it is
evident, had the honour of supplying materials for the Prophet's
person. Others, like Omar, were uncertain in favour of which city to
decide. Others openly assert the pre-eminence of Meccah; the general
consensus of Al-Islam preferring Al-Madinah to Meccah, save only the
Bayt Allah in the latter city. This last is a juste-milieu view, by no
means in favour with the inhabitants of either place. In the meanwhile
the Meccans claim unlimited superiority over the Madani; the Madani
over the Meccans.
[FN#7] These seven wells will be noticed in Chapter XIX., post.
[FN#8] I translate Al-Zarka "azure," although Sir G. Wilkinson remarks,
apropos of the Bahr al-Azrak, generally translated by us the "Blue
Nile," that, "when the Arabs wish to say dark or jet black, they use
the word ĎAzrak.'" It is true that Azrak is often applied to
indeterminate dark hues, but "Aswad," not Azrak, is the opposite to
Abyaz, "white." Moreover, Al-Zarka in the feminine is applied to women
with light blue eyes; this would be no distinctive appellation if it
signified black eyes, the almost universal colour. Zarka of Yamamah is
the name of a celebrated heroine in Arab story, and the curious reader,
who wishes to see how much the West is indebted to the East, even for
the materials of legend, will do well to peruse her short history in
Major Price's "Essay," or M.C. de Perceval's "Essai," &c., vol. i., p.
101. Both of these writers, however, assert that Zarka's eyes, when cut
out, were found to contain fibres blackened by the use of Kohl, and
they attribute to her the invention of this pigment. I have often heard
the legend from the Arabs, who declare that she painted her eyes with
"Ismid," a yellow metal, of what kind I have never been able to
determine, although its name is everywhere known.
[FN#9] Burckhardt confounds the Ayn al-Zarka with the Bir al-Khatim, or
Kuba well, of whose produce the surplus only mixes with it, and he
complains loudly of the "detestable water of Madinah." But he was ill
at the time, otherwise he would not have condemned it so strongly after
eulogising the salt-bitter produce of the Meccan Zemzem.
[FN#10] The people of Nijd, as Wallin informs us, believe that the more
the palms are watered, the more syrup will the fruit produce; they
therefore inundate the ground, as often as possible. At Al-Jauf, where
the date is peculiarly good, the trees are watered regularly every
third or fourth day.
[FN#11] Properly meaning the Yellow Wind or Air. The antiquity of the
word and its origin are still disputed.
[FN#12] Burckhardt (Travels in Arabia, vol. ii.) informs us, that in
A.D. 1815, when Meccah, Yambu', and Jeddah suffered severely from the
plague, Al-Madinah and the open country between the two seaports
[FN#13] Conjecture, however, goes a little too far when it discovers
small-pox in the Tayr Ababil, the "swallow birds," which, according to
the Koran, destroyed the host of Abrahat al-Ashram. Major Price (Essay)
may be right in making Ababil the plural of Abilah, a vesicle; but it
appears to me that the former is an Arabic and the latter a Persian
word, which have no connection whatever. M.C. de Perceval, quoting the
Sirat al-Rasul, which says that at that time small-pox first appeared
in Arabia, ascribes the destruction of the host of Al-Yaman to an
epidemic and a violent tempest. The strangest part of the story is,
that although it occurred at Meccah, about two months before Mohammed's
birth, and, therefore, within the memory of many living at the time,
the Prophet alludes to it in the Koran as a miracle.
[FN#14] In Al-Yaman, we are told by Niebuhr, a rude form of
inoculation-the mother pricking the child's arm with a thorn-has been
known from time immemorial. My Madinah friend assured me that only
during the last generation, this practice has been introduced amongst
the Badawin of Al-Hijaz.
[FN#15] Orientals divide their diseases, as they do remedies and
articles of diet, into hot, cold, and temperate.

[FN#16] This grain is cheaper than rice on the banks of the Nile-a fact
which enlightened England, now paying a hundred times its value for
"Revalenta Arabica," apparently ignores.
[FN#17] Herodotus (Euterpe) has two allusions to eye disease, which
seems to have afflicted the Egyptians from the most ancient times.
Sesostris the Great died stone-blind; his successor lost his sight for
ten years, and the Hermaic books had reason to devote a whole volume to
ophthalmic disease. But in the old days of idolatry, the hygienic and
prophylactic practices alluded to by Herodotus, the greater cleanliness
of the people, and the attention paid to the canals and drainage,
probably prevented this malarious disease becoming the scourge which it
is now. The similarity of the soil and the climate of Egypt to those of
Upper Sind, and the prevalence of the complaint in both countries,
assist us in investigating the predisposing causes. These are, the
nitrous and pungent nature of the soil-what the old Greek calls "acrid
matter exuding from the earth,"-and the sudden transition from extreme
dryness to excessive damp checking the invisible perspiration of the
circumorbital parts, and flying to an organ which is already weakened
by the fierce glare of the sun, and the fine dust raised by the Khamsin
or the Chaliho. Glare and dust alone, seldom cause eye disease.
Everyone knows that ophthalmia is unknown in the Desert, and the people
of Al-Hijaz, who live in an atmosphere of blaze and sand, seldom lose
their sight. The Egyptian usually catches ophthalmia in his childhood.
It begins with simple conjunctivitis, caused by constitutional
predisposition, exposure, diet, and allowing the eye to be covered with
swarms of flies. He neglects the early symptoms, and cares the less for
being a Cyclops, as the infirmity will most probably exempt him from
military service. Presently the sane organ becomes affected
sympathetically. As before, simple disease of the conjunctiva passes
into purulent ophthalmia. The man, after waiting a while, will go to
the doctor and show a large cicatrix in each eye, the result of an
ulcerated cornea. Physic can do nothing for him; he remains blind for
life. He is now provided for, either by living with his friends, who
seldom refuse him a loaf of bread, or if industriously inclined, by
begging, by acting Mu'ezzin, or by engaging himself as "Yamaniyah," or
chaunter, at funerals. His children are thus predisposed to the
paternal complaint, and gradually the race becomes tender-eyed. Most
travellers have observed that imported African slaves seldom become
blind either in Egypt or in Sind. Few Englishmen settled in Egypt lose
their sight, except they be medical men, who cannot afford time to
nurse the early symptoms. The use of coffee and of water as beverages
has much to do with this. In the days of hard drinking our Egyptian
army suffered severely, and the Austrian army in Tuscany showed how
often blindness is caused by importing Northern habits into Southern
countries. Many Europeans in Egypt wash their eyes with cold water,
especially after walking, and some use once a day a mildly astringent
or cooling wash, as Goulard's lotion or vinegar and water. They avoid
letting flies settle upon their eyes, and are of opinion that the
evening dews are prejudicial, and that sleeping with open windows lays
the foundation of disease. Generally when leaving a hot room,
especially a Nile-boat cabin, for the cold damp night air, the more
prudent are careful to bathe and to wipe the eyes and forehead as a
preparation for change of atmosphere. During my short practice in Egypt
I found the greatest advantage from the employment of
counter-irritants,-blisters and Pommade Emetise,-applied to the temples
and behind the ears. Native practitioners greatly err by confining
their patients in dark rooms, thereby injuring the general health and
laying the foundation of chronic disease. They are ignorant that,
unless the optic nerve be affected, the stimulus of light is beneficial
to the eye. And the people by their dress favour the effects of glare
and dust. The Tarbush, no longer surrounded as of old by a huge
turband, is the least efficient of protectors, and the comparative
rarity of ophthalmic disease among the women, who wear veils, proves
that the exposure is one of its co-efficient causes.
[FN#18] This invention dates from the most ancient times, and both in
the East and in the West has been used by the weird brotherhood to
produce the appearances of the absent and the dead, to discover
treasure, to detect thieves, to cure disease, and to learn the secrets
of the unknown world. The Hindus called it Anjan, and formed it by
applying lamp-black, made of a certain root, and mixed with oil to the
palm of a footling child, male or female. The Greeks used oil poured
into a boy's hand. Cornelius Agrippa had a crystal mirror, which
material also served the Counts de Saint Germain and Cagliostro. Dr.
Dee's "show-stone" was a bit of cannel coal. The modern Sindians know
the art by the name of Gahno or Vinyano; there, as in Southern Persia,
ink is rubbed upon the seer's thumb-nail. The people of Northern Africa
are considered skilful in this science, and I have a Maghrabi magic
formula for inking the hand of a "boy, a black slave girl, a virgin, or
a pregnant woman," which differs materially from those generally known.
The modern Egyptians call it Zarb al-Mandal, and there is scarcely a
man in Cairo who does not know something about it. In selecting
subjects to hold the ink, they observe the right hand, and reject all
who have not what is called in palmistry the "linea media naturalis"
straight and deeply cut. Even the barbarous Finns look into a glass of
brandy, and the natives of Australia gaze at a kind of shining stone.
Lady Blessington's crystal ball is fresh in the memory of the present
generation, and most men have heard of Electro-Biology and the Cairo
magician. Upon this latter subject, a vexed one, I must venture a few
remarks. In the first account of the magician by Mr. Lane, we have a
fair and dispassionate recital of certain magical, mystical, or
mesmeric phenomena, which "excited considerable curiosity and interest
th[r]oughout the civilised world." As usual in such matters, the
civilised world was wholly ignorant of what was going on at home;
otherwise, in London, Paris, and New York, they might have found dozens
studying the science. But a few years before, Dr. Herklots had
described the same practice in India, filling three goodly pages; but
he called his work "Qanoon-i-Islam," and, consequently, despite its
excellencies, it fell still-born from the press. Lady H. Stanhope
frequently declared "the spell by which the face of an absent person is
thrown upon a mirror to be within the reach of the humblest and most
contemptible of magicians;" but the civilised world did not care to
believe a prophetess. All, however, were aroused by Mr. Lane's
discovery, and determined to decide the question by the ordeal of
reason. Accordingly, in A.D. 1844, Mr. Lane, aided by Lord Nugent and
others, discovered that a "coarse and stupid fraud" had been
perpetrated upon him by Osman Effendi, the Scotchman. In 1845, Sir G.
Wilkinson remarked of this rationalism, "The explanation lately
offered, that Osman Effendi was in collusion with the magician, is
neither fair on him nor satisfactory, as he was not present when those
cases occurred which were made so much of in Europe," and he proposed
"leading questions and accidents" as the word of the riddle. Eothen
attributed the whole affair to "shots," as schoolboys call them, and
ranked success under the head of Paley's "tentative miracles." A writer
in the Quarterly explained them by suggesting the probability of divers
(impossible) optical combinations, and, lest the part of belief should
have been left unrepresented, Miss Martineau was enabled to see clear
signs of mesmeric action, and by the decisive experiment of self,
discovered the magic to be an "affair of mesmerism." Melancholy to
relate, after all this philosophy, the herd of travellers at Cairo is
still divided in opinion about the magician, some holding his
performance to be "all humbug," others darkly hinting that "there may
be something in it."
[FN#19] They distinguish, however, between the Hijaz "Nasur" and the
"Jurh al-Yamani," or the "Yaman Ulcer."
[FN#20] I afterwards received the following information from Mr.
Charles Cole, H.B.M. Vice-Consul at Jeddah, a gentleman well acquainted
with Western Arabia, and having access to official information: "The
population of Al-Madinah is from 16,000 to 18,000, and the Nizam troops
in garrison 400. Meccah contains about 45,000 inhabitants, Yambu' from
6000 to 7000, Jeddah about 2500 (this I think is too low), and Taif
8000. Most of the troops are stationed at Meccah and at Jeddah. In
Al-Hijaz there is a total force of five battalions, each of which ought
to contain 800 men; they may amount to 3500, with 500 artillery, and
4500 irregulars, though the muster rolls bear 6000. The Government pays
in paper for all supplies, (even for water for the troops,) and the
paper sells at the rate of forty piastres per cent."
[FN#21] The Urtah or battalion here varies from 800 to 1000 men. Of
these, four form one Alai or regiment, and thirty-six Alai an Urdu or
camp. This word Urdu, pronounced "Ordoo," is the origin of our "horde."
[FN#22] One of the traditions, "Between my house and my place of
prayers is a Garden of the Gardens of Paradise," has led divines to
measure the distance: it is said to be 1000 cubits from the Bab Salam
of the Harim to this Musalla.



THE principal places of pious visitation in the vicinity of Al-Madinah
are the Mosques of Kuba, the Cemetery Al-Bakia, and the martyr Hamzah's
tomb, at the foot of Mount Ohod. These the Zair is directed by all the
Olema to visit, and on the holy ground to pray Allah for a blessing
upon himself, and upon his brethren of the faith.

Early one Saturday morning, I started for Kuba with a motley crowd of
devotees. Shaykh Hamid, my Muzawwir, was by my side, mounted upon an
ass more miserable than I had yet seen. The boy Mohammed had procured
for me a Meccan dromedary, with splendid trappings, a saddle with
burnished metal peaks before and behind, covered with a huge sheepskin
died crimson, and girthed over fine saddle-bags, whose enormous tassels
hung almost to the ground. The youth himself, being too grand to ride a
donkey, and unable to borrow a horse, preferred walking. He was proud
as a peacock, being habited in a style somewhat resembling the plume of
that gorgeous bird, in the coat of many colours-yellow, red, and golden
flowers, apparently sewed on a field of bright green silk-which cost me
so dear in the Harim. He was armed, as indeed all of us were, in
readiness for the Badawin, and he anxiously awaited opportunities of
discharging his pistol. Our course lay from Shaykh Hamid's house in the
Manakhah, along and up the

[p.399]Fiumara, "Al-Sayh," and through the Bab Kuba, a little gate in
the suburb wall, where, by-the-bye, my mounted companion was nearly
trampled down by a rush of half-wild camels. Outside the town, in this
direction, Southward, is a plain of clay, mixed with chalk, and here
and there with sand, whence protrude blocks and little ridges of
basalt. As far as Kuba, and the Harrah ridge to the West, the earth is
sweet and makes excellent gugglets.[FN#1] Immediately outside the gate
I saw a kiln, where they were burning tolerable bricks. Shortly after
leaving the suburb, an Indian, who joined our party upon the road,
pointed out on the left of the way what he declared was the place of
the celebrated Khandak, or Moat, the Torres Vedras of Arabian
History.[FN#2] Presently the Nakhil, or palm plantations, began.
Nothing lovelier to the eye, weary with hot red glare, than the rich
green waving crops and the cool shade, the "food of vision," as the
Arabs call it, and "pure water to the parched throat." For hours I
could have sat and looked at it. The air was soft and balmy; a perfumed
breeze, strange luxury in Al-Hijaz, wandered amongst the date fronds;
there were fresh flowers and bright foliage; in fact, at Midsummer,
every beautiful feature of Spring. Nothing more delightful to the ear
than the warbling of the small birds, that sweet familiar sound; the
splashing of tiny cascades from the wells into the wooden troughs,

[p.400]and the musical song of the water-wheels. Travellers-young
travellers-in the East talk of the "dismal grating," the "mournful
monotony," and the "melancholy creaking of these dismal machines." To
the veteran wanderer their sound is delightful from association,
reminding him of fields and water-courses, and hospitable villages, and
plentiful crops. The expatriated Nubian, for instance, listens to the
water-wheel with as deep emotion as the Ranz des Vaches ever excited in
the hearts of Switzer mercenary at Naples, or "Lochaber no more," among
a regiment of Highlanders in the West Indies. The date-trees of
Al-Madinah merit their celebrity. Their stately columnar stems, here,
seems higher than in other lands, and their lower fronds are allowed to
tremble in the breeze without mutilation.[FN#3] These enormous palms
were loaded with ripening fruits; and the clusters, carefully tied up,
must often have weighed upwards of eighty pounds. They hung down
between the lower branches by a bright yellow stem, as thick as a man's
ankle. Books enumerate a hundred and thirty-nine varieties of trees; of
these between sixty and seventy are well known, and each is
distinguished, as usual among Arabs, by its peculiar name. The best
kind is Al-Shelebi; it is packed in skins, or in flat round boxes
covered with paper, somewhat in the manner of French prunes, and sent
as presents to the remotest parts of the Moslem world.[FN#4] The fruit
is about two inches long, with a small stone,

[p.401]and has a peculiar aromatic flavour and smell; it is seldom
eaten by the citizens on account of the price, which varies from two to
ten piastres the pound. The tree, moreover, is rare, and is said to be
not so productive as the other species. The Ajwah[FN#5] date is eaten,
but not sold, because a tradition of the Prophet declares, that whoso
breaketh his fast every day with six or seven of these fruits, need
fear neither poison nor magic. The third kind, Al-Hilwah, also a large
date, derives a name from its exceeding sweetness: of this palm the
Moslems relate that the Prophet planted a stone, which in a few minutes
grew up and bore fruit. Next comes Al-Birni, of which was said, "It
causeth sickness to depart, and there is no sickness in it." The Wahshi
on one occasion bent its head, and "salamed" to Mohammed as he ate its
fruit, for which reason even now its lofty tuft turns earthwards. The
Sayhani (Crier) is so called, because when the founder of Al-Islam,
holding Ali's hand, happened to pass beneath, it cried, "This is
Mohammed the Prince of Prophets, and this is Ali the Prince of the
Pious, and the Progenitor of the Immaculate Imams.[FN#6]" Of course the
descendants of so intelligent a vegetable hold high rank in the kingdom
of palms, and the vulgar were in the habit of eating the Sayhani and of
throwing the stones about the Harim. The Khuzayriyah is thus named
because it preserves its green colour, even when ripe; it is dried and
preserved as a curiosity. The Jabali is the common fruit: the poorest
kinds are the Laun and

[p.402]the Hilayah, costing from four to seven piastres per mudd.[FN#7]

I cannot say that the dates of Al-Madinah are finer than those of
Meccah, although it is highly heretical to hold such tenet. The produce
of the former city was the favourite food of the Prophet, who
invariably broke his fast with it: a circumstance which invests it with
a certain degree of relic-sanctity. The citizens delight in speaking of
dates as an Irishman does of potatoes, with a manner of familiar
fondness: they eat them for medicine as well as for food; "Rutab," or
wet dates, being held to be the most saving, as it is doubtless the
most savoury, of remedies. The fruit is prepared in a great variety of
ways: the favourite dish is a broil with clarified butter, extremely
distasteful to the European palate. The date is also left upon the tree
to dry, and then called "Balah": this is eaten at dessert as the
"Nukliyat"-the quatre mendiants of Persia. Amongst peculiar
preparations must be mentioned the "Kulladat al-Sham[FN#8]" (necklace
of Sham). The unripe fruit is dipped in boiling water to preserve its
gamboge colour, strung upon a thick thread and hung out in the air to
dry. These strings are worn all over Al-Hijaz as necklaces by children,
who seldom fail to munch the ornament when not in fear of slappings;
and they are sent as presents to distant countries.

[p.403]January and February are the time for the masculation[FN#9] of
the palm. The "Nakhwali," as he is called, opens the female flower, and
having inserted the inverted male blossom, binds them together: this
operation is performed, as in Egypt, upon each cluster.[FN#10] The
fruit is ripe about the middle of May, and the gathering of it, forms
the Arabs' "vendemmia." The people make merry the more readily because
their favourite diet is liable to a variety of accidents: droughts
injure the tree, locusts destroy the produce, and the date crop, like
most productions which men are imprudent enough to adopt singly as the
staff of life, is often subject to complete failure.

One of the reasons for the excellence of Madinah dates is the quantity
of water they obtain: each garden or field has its well; and even in
the hottest weather the Persian wheel floods the soil every third day.
It has been observed that the date-tree can live in dry and barren
spots; but it loves the beds of streams and places where moisture is
procurable. The palms scattered over the other parts of the plain, and
depending solely upon rain water, produce less fruit, and that too of
an inferior quality.

Verdure is not usually wholesome in Arabia, yet invalids leave the
close atmosphere of Al-Madinah to seek health under the cool shades of
Kuba. The gardens are divided by what might almost be called lanes,
long narrow lines with tall reed fences on both sides. The graceful
branches of the Tamarisk, pearled with manna, and cottoned over with
dew, and the broad leaves of the castor plant, glistening in the sun,
protected us from the morning

[p.404]rays. The ground on both sides of the way was sunken, the earth
being disposed in heaps at the foot of the fences, an arrangement which
facilitates irrigation, by giving a fall to the water, and in some
cases affords a richer soil than the surface. This part of the Madinah
plain, however, being higher than the rest, is less subject to the
disease of salt and nitre. On the way here and there the earth crumbles
and looks dark under the dew of morning; but nowhere has it broken out
into that glittering efflorescence which denotes the last stage of the
attack. The fields and gardens are divided into small oblongs,
separated from one another by little ridges of mould which form
diminutive water-courses. Of the cereals there are luxuriant maize,
wheat, and barley, but the latter two are in small quantities. Here and
there patches of "Barsim," or Egyptian clover, glitter brightly in the
sunbeams. The principal vegetables are Badanjan (Egg-plant), the
Bamiyah (a kind of esculent hibiscus, called Bhendi in India), and
Mulukhiyah (Corchoris olitorius), a mucilaginous spinage common
throughout this part of the East. These three are eaten by citizens of
every rank; they are, in fact, the potatoes and the greens of Arabia. I
remarked also onions and leeks in fair quantities, a few beds of
carrots and beans; some Fijl (radishes), Lift (turnips), gourds,
cucumbers, and similar plants. Fruit trees abound. There are five
descriptions of vines, the best of which is Al-Sharifi, a long white
grape of a flavour somewhat resembling the produce of Tuscany.[FN#11]
Next to it, and very similar, is Al-Birni. The Hijazi is a round fruit,
sweet, but insipid, which is also the reproach of the Sawadi, or black
grape. And lastly, the Raziki is a small white fruit, with a diminutive
stone. The Nebek, Lote,

[p.405]or Jujube, is here a fine large tree with a dark green leaf,
roundish and polished like the olive; it is armed with a short, curved,
and sharp thorn,[FN#12] and bears a pale straw-coloured berry, about
the size of the gooseberry, with red streaks on the side next the sun.
Little can be said in favour of the fruit, which has been compared
successively by disappointed "Lotus eaters[FN#13]" to a bad plum, an
unripe cherry, and an insipid apple. It is, however, a favourite with
the people of Al-Madinah, who have reckoned many varieties of the
fruit: Hindi (Indian), Baladi ("native"), Tamri (date-like), and
others. There are a few peaches, hard like the Egyptian, and almost
tasteless, fit only for stewing, but greedily eaten in a half-ripe
state; large coarse bananas, lime trees, a few water-melons, figs, and
apples, but neither apricots nor pears.[FN#14] There are three kinds of
pomegranates: the best is the Shami (Syrian): it is red outside, very
sweet, and costs one piastre: the Turki is large, and of a white
colour: and the Misri has a greenish rind, and a somewhat sub-acid and
harsh flavour; the latter are sold at one-fourth the price of the best.
I never saw in the East, except at Meccah, finer fruits than the Shami:
almost stoneless like those of Maskat, they are delicately perfumed,
and as large as an infant's head. Al-Madinah is celebrated, like Taif,
for its "Rubb Rumman," a thick pomegranate syrup, drunk

[p.406]with water during the hot weather, and esteemed cooling and

After threading our way through the gardens, an operation requiring
less time than to describe them, we saw, peeping through the groves,
Kuba's simple minaret. Then we came in sight of a confused heap of huts
and dwelling-houses, chapels and towers with trees between, and foul
lanes, heaps of rubbish, and barking dogs,-the usual material of a
Hijazi village. Having dismounted, we gave our animals in charge of a
dozen infant Badawin, the produce of the peasant gardeners, who shouted
"Bakhshish" the moment they saw us. To this they were urged by their
mothers, and I willingly parted with a few paras for the purpose of
establishing an intercourse with fellow-creatures so fearfully and
wonderfully resembling the tailless baboon. Their bodies, unlike those
of Egyptian children, were slim[FN#15] and straight, but their ribs
stood out with curious distinctness; the colour of the skin was that
oily lamp-black seen upon the face of a European sweep; and the
elf-locks, thatching the cocoa-nut heads, had been stained by the sun,
wind, and rain to that reddish-brown hue which Hindu romances have
appropriated to their Rakshasas or demons. Each anatomy carried in his
arms a stark-naked miniature of himself, fierce-looking babies with
faces all eyes, and the strong little wretches were still able to
extend the right hand and exert their lungs with direful clamour. Their
mothers were fit progenitors for such progeny: long, gaunt, with
emaciated limbs, wall-sided, high-shouldered, and straight-backed, with
pendulous bosoms, spider-like arms, and splay feet. Their long
elf-locks, wrinkled faces, and high cheek-bones, their lips darker than
the epidermis, hollow staring eyes, sparkling as if to light up the

[p.407]ugliness around, and voices screaming as though in a perennial
rage, invested them with all the "charms of Sycorax." These "Houris of
Jahannam" were habited in long night-gowns dyed blue to conceal want of
washing, and the squalid children had about a yard of the same material
wrapped round their waists for all toilette. This is not an overdrawn
portrait of the farmer race of Arabs, the most despised by their
fellow-countrymen, and the most hard-favoured, morally as well as
physically, of all the breed.

Before entering the Mosque of Al-Kuba[FN#16] it will be necessary to
call to mind some passages of its past history. When the Apostle's
she-camel, Al-Kaswa, as he was approaching Al-Madinah after the flight
from Meccah, knelt down here, he desired his companions to mount the
animal. Abu Bakr and Omar[FN#17] did so; still she sat upon the ground;
but when Ali obeyed the order, she arose. The Apostle bade him loose
her halter, for she was directed by Allah, and the Mosque walls were
built upon the line over which she trod. It was the first place of
public prayer in Al-Islam. Mohammed laid the first brick, and with an
"Anzah," or iron-shod javelin, marked out the direction of
prayer[FN#18]: each of his successors followed his example. According
to most historians, the

[p.408]land belonged to Abu Ayyub the Ansari, the Apostle's host; for
which reason the "Bayt Ayyub," his descendants, still perform the
service of the Mosque, keep the key, and share with the Bawwabs, or
porters, the alms and fees here offered by the Faithful. Others
declared that the ground was the property of one Linah, a woman who was
in the habit of tethering her ass there.[FN#19] The Apostle used to
visit it every Saturday[FN#20] on foot, and always made a point of
praying the dawn-prayer there on the 17th Ramazan.[FN#21] A number of
traditions testify to its dignity: of these, two are especially
significant. The first assures all Moslems that a prayer at Kuba is
equal to a Lesser Pilgrimage at Meccah in religious efficacy; and the
second declares that such devotion is more acceptable to the Deity than


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