The Land of Midian, Vol. 1
Part 1 out of 5
Produced by JC Byers and proofread by MaryAnn Short.
The Land of Midian (Revisited).
By Richard F. Burton.
In Two Volumes.
C. Kegan Paul & Co.
To the Memory of My Much Loved Niece,
Maria Emily Harriet Stisted,
Who Died at Dovercourt,
November 12, 1878.
"Gold shall be found, and found
In a land that's not now known."
MOTHER SHIPTON, A.D. 1448.
A few pages by way of "Forespeache."
The plain unvarnished tale of the travel in Midian, undertaken by
the second Expedition, which, like the first, owes all to the
liberality and the foresight of his Highness Ismail I., Khediv of
Egypt, forms the subject of these volumes. During the four months
between December 19, 1877, and April 20, 1878, the officers
employed covered some 2500 miles by sea and land, of which 600,
not including by-paths, were mapped and planned; and we brought
back details of an old-new land which the civilized world had
The public will now understand that one and the same subject has
not given rise to two books. I have to acknowledge with gratitude
the many able and kindly notices by the Press of my first volume
("The Gold Mines of Midian," etc. Messrs. C. Kegan Paul & Co.,
1878). But some reviewers succeeded in completely
misunderstanding the drift of that avant courier. It was an
introduction intended to serve as a base for the present more
extensive work, and--foundations intended to bear weight must be
solid. Its object was to place before the reader the broad
outlines of a country whose name was known to "every schoolboy,"
whilst it was a vox et praeterea nihil, even to the learned,
before the spring of 1877. I had judged advisable to sketch, with
the able assistance of learned friends, its history and
geography; its ethnology and archaeology; its zoology and
malacology; its botany and geology. The drift was to prepare
those who take an interest in Arabia generally, and especially in
wild mysterious Midian, for the present work, which, one foresaw,
would be a tale of discovery and adventure. Thus readers of "The
Land of Midian (Revisited)" may feel that they are not standing
upon ground utterly unknown; and the second publication is
shortened and lightened--perhaps the greatest advantage of
all--by the prolegomena having been presented in the first.
The purpose of the last Expedition was to conclude the labours
begun, during the spring of 1877, in a mining country unknown, or
rather, fallen into oblivion. Hence its primary "objective" was
mineralogical. The twenty-five tons of specimens, brought back to
Cairo, were inspected by good judges from South Africa,
Australia, and California; and all recognized familiar
metalliferous rocks. The collection enabled me to distribute the
mining industry into two great branches--(1) the rich silicates
and carbonates of copper smelted by the Ancients in North Midian;
and (2) the auriferous veins worked, but not worked out, by
comparatively modern races in South Midian, the region lying
below the parallel of El-Muwaylah. It is, indeed, still my
conviction that "tailings" have been washed for gold, even by men
still living. We also brought notices and specimens of three
several deposits of sulphur; of a turquoise-mine behind Ziba; of
salt and saltpetre, and of vast deposits of gypsum. These are
sources of wealth which the nineteenth century is not likely to
leave wasted and unworked.
In geography the principal novelties are the identification of
certain ruined cities mentioned by Ptolemy, and the "Harrahs" or
plutonic centres scattered over the seaboard and the interior. I
venture to solicit the attention of experts for my notes on
El-Harrah, that great volcanic chain whose fair proportions have
been so much mutilated by its only explorer, the late Dr. Wallin.
Beginning with Damascan Trachonitis, and situated, in the
parallel of north lat. 28 degrees, about sixty direct miles east
of the Red Sea, it is reported to subtend the whole coast of
North-Western Arabia, between El-Muwaylah (north lat. 27 degrees
39') and El-Yambu' (north lat. 24 degrees 5'). Equally noticeable
are the items of information concerning the Wady Hamz, the
"Land's End" of Egypt, and the most important feature of its kind
in North-Western Arabia. Its name, wrongly given by Wallin, is
unknown to the Hydrographic Chart, and to the erudite pages of my
friend Professor Aloys Sprenger, who, however, suspects with me
that it may be the mouth of the celebrated Wady el-Kura. For
further topographical details the reader is referred to the
"Itineraries" of the Expedition, offered to the Royal
Geographical Society of London.
Some of the principal sites were astronomically determined by
Commanders Ahmed Musallam and Nasir Ahmed, of the Egyptian navy.
The task of mapping and planning was committed to the two young
Staff-lieutenants sent for that purpose. They worked well in the
field; and their sketches were carefully executed whilst under my
superintendence. But it was different when they returned to
Cairo. The maps sent to the little Exposition at the Hippo-drome
(see conclusion) were simply a disgrace to the Staff-bureau. My
departure from Egypt caused delay; and, when the chart reached
me, it was far from satisfactory: names had been omitted, and
without my presence it could not have been printed. With the able
assistance of Mr. William J. Turner, of the Royal Geographical
Society, who found the work harder than he expected, it has been
reduced to tolerable shape. Still, it is purely provisional; and,
when mining operations shall begin, a far more careful survey
will be required.
As regards archaeology, the second Expedition visited, described,
and surveyed eighteen ruins of cities and towns, some of
considerable extent, in North Midian, besides seeing or hearing
of some twenty large Mashghal, apparently the ateliers of vagrant
Gypsy-like gangs. This total of thirty-eight is not far short of
the forty traditional Midianite settlements preserved by the
mediaeval Arab geographers. Many others are reported to exist in
the central or inland region; and fifteen were added by the South
Country, including the classical temple or shrine, found upon the
bank of the Wady Hamz before mentioned. The most interesting
sites were recommended to M. Lacaze, whose portfolio was soon
filled with about two hundred illustrations, in oil and
water-colours, pencil croquis and "sun-pictures." All, except the
six coloured illustrations which adorn this volume, have been
left in Egypt. His Highness resolved to embody the results of our
joint labours in a large album, illustrated with coloured
lithographs, maps, and plans, explained by letter-press, and
prepared at the Citadel, Cairo.
The Meteorological Journal was kept by myself, assisted at times
by Mr. Clarke. Mr. David Duguid, engineer of the Mukhbir, whose
gallant conduct will be recorded (Chap. VIII.), and Commander
Nasir Ahmed, of the Sinnar, obliged me by registering
simultaneous observations at sea-level. The whole was reduced to
shape by Mr. W. J. Turner, of the Royal Geographical Society.
My private collection of mineralogical specimens was deposited
with Professor M. H. N. Story-Maskelyne. The spirit-specimens of
zoology filled three large canisters: and the British Museum also
received a hare and five birds (Mr. R. B. Sharpe); four bats
(Rhinopoma) and a mouse; six reptiles, five fishes, thirty-five
crustaceans, and about the same number of insects; five
scorpions, six leeches, sixty molluscs, four echinoderms, and
three sponges. Dr. A. Gunther (Appendix III.) determined and
named two new species of reptiles. Mr. Frederick Smith (Appendix
III.) took charge of the insects. Mr. Edward J. Miers, F. L.S.,
etc., described the small collection of crustaceae (Annals and
Magazine of Natural History for November, 1878). Finally, Edgar
A. Smith examined and named the shells collected on the shores of
the 'Akabah Gulf and the north-eastern recess of the Red Sea.
The main interest of the little hortus siccus was the Alpine
Flora, gathered at an altitude of five thousand feet above
sea-level. The plants were offered to Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker,
of Kew; and Professor D. Oliver, of the Herbarium, has kindly
furnished me with a list of the names (Appendix IV.). Mr. William
Carruthers and his staff also examined the spirit-specimens of
fleshy plants (Appendix IV.).
Mr. Reginald Stuart Poole, Keeper of Coins and Medals, and Mr.
Barclay V. Head were good enough to compare with their rich
collections the coins of ancient Midian found (Chap. III.), for
the first time, at Maghair Shu'ayb[EN#1]. Some years ago, Mr.
Robert Ready, of the British Museum, had bought from a Jew, Yusuf
Kalafat (?), a miscellaneous collection, which included about
sixty of the so-called Midianitic coins. But the place of
discovery is wholly unknown. The Assistant Keeper read a paper
"On Arabian Imitations of Athenian Coins," Midianitic,
Himyaritic, and others, at a meeting of the Numismatic Society
(November 21, 1878); and I did the same at the Royal Asiatic
Society, December 16, 1878. The little "find" of stone
implements, rude and worked; and the instruments illustrating the
mining industry of the country, appeared before the
Anthropological Section of the British Association, which met at
Dublin (August, 1878), and again before the Anthropological
Institute of London, December 10, 1878.
Finally, the skulls and fragments of skulls from Midian were
submitted to Professor Richard Owen, the Superintendent of
Natural History; and my learned friend kindly inspected the
Egyptian and Palmyrene crania which accompanied them. The whole
was carefully described by Dr. C. Carter Blake, Ph.D., before the
last-named seance of the Anthropological Institute (December 10,
The tons of specimens brought to Cairo were, I have said,
publicly exhibited there, and created much interest. But the
discovery of a mining-country, some three hundred miles long,
once immensely wealthy, and ready to become wealthy once more, is
not likely to be accepted by every one. Jealous and obstructive
officials "did not think much of it." Rivals opposed it with even
less ceremony. A mild "ring" in Egypt attempted in vain to run
the Hamamat and Dar-For mines (Chap. III.) against Midian.
Consequently the local Press was dosed with rumours, which,
retailed by the home papers, made the latter rife in
contradictory reports. To quote one case only. The
turquoise-gangue from Ziba (Chap. XII.) was pronounced, by the
inexpert mineralogists at the Citadel, Cairo, who attempted
criticism, to be carbonate of copper, because rich silicates of
that metal were shown at the Exposition. No one seemed to know
that the fine turquoises of Midian have been sold for years at
Suez, and even at Cairo.
There was, indeed, much to criticise in the collection, which had
been made with a marvellous carelessness. But we must not be hard
upon M. Marie. He is an engineer, utterly ignorant of mineralogy
and of assaying: he was told off to do the duty, and he did it as
well as he could--in other words, very badly. He neglected to
search for alluvial gold in the sands. Every Wady which cuts, at
right angles, the metalliferous maritime chains, should have been
carefully prospected; these sandy and quartzose beds are natural
conduits and sluice-boxes. But the search for "tailings" is
completely different from that of gold-veins, and requires
especial practice. The process, indeed, may be called purely
empirical. It is not taught in Jermyn Street, nor by the Ecole
des Mines. In this matter theory must bow to "rule of thumb:" the
caprices of alluvium are various and curious enough to baffle
every attempt at scientific induction. Thus the "habits" of the
metal, so to speak, must be studied by experiment with patient
labour, the most accomplished mineralogist may pass over rich
alluvium without recognizing its presence, where the rude
prospector of California and Australia will find an abundance of
stream-gold. Evidently the proportion of "tailings" must
carefully be laid down before companies are justified in
undertaking the expensive operation of quartz-crushing. Hence M.
Tiburce Morisot, a practical digger from South Africa, introduced
at Cairo by his compatriot, M. Marie, to my friend M. Yacoub
Artin Bey, found a fair opportunity of proposing to his Highness
the Khediv (October, 1878) a third Expedition in search of
sand-gold. The Viceroy, however, true to his undertaking, refused
to sanction any "interloping."
The highly distinguished M. Ferdinand de Lesseps, when en route
to Paris, kindly took charge of some cases of specimens for
analysis. But the poorest stuff had been supplied to him by M.
Marie; and the results, of which I never heard, were probably
nil. The samples brought to England, by order of his Highness the
Khediv, were carefully assayed. The largest collection was
submitted to Dr. John Percy, F.R.S. Smaller items were sent to
the well-known houses, Messrs. Johnston and Matthey, of Hatton
Garden, and Messrs. Edgar Jackson and Co., Associates of the
Royal School of Mines (fourteen samples). Finally, special
observations were made by Mr. John L. Jenken, of Carrington,
through Mr. J. H. Murchison, of "British Lead Mines," etc., etc.,
etc.; by Lieut.-Colonel Ross, the distinguished author of
"Pyrology;" and by Lieut.-Colonel Bolton, who kindly compared the
rocks with those in his cabinet. M. Gastinel-Bey's analysis of
the specimens brought home by the first Expedition will be found
at the end of Chap. VIII.
The following is the text of Dr. Percy's report:--
Metallurgical Laboratory, Royal School of Mines,
Jermyn Street, London Dec 13 1878.
I now send the results of the analytical examination of the specimens
which you submitted to me for that purpose. The examination has been
conducted with the greatest care, in the metallurgical laboratory of the
Royal School of Mines, by Mr. Richard Smith, who, for the last thirty
years, has been constantly engaged in such work; and in whose accuracy I
have absolute confidence. It is impossible that any one should have taken
greater interest in, or have devoted himself with greater earnestness to,
the investigation. I have almost entirely confined myself to a statement
of facts, as I understand that was all you required for the guidance of
his Highness the Khedive.
Examination of the mineral specimens contained in the boxes marked as
(An average representative sample of each specimen, of about six pounds
in weight, was prepared for examination from portions broken off, or
otherwise taken, by Mr. Richard Smith at the Victoria Docks.[EN#2]
No. 1. "Box 22," Quartz from Mugnah (Makna). Quartz coloured black and
red-brown with oxides of iron. These were of two varieties, marked 22a
and 22b respectively.
No. 2. The magnetic ironstone (22a) was examined and found to contain of--
Peroxide of iron (per cent.). . . .85.29
Protoxide of iron (per cent.) . . . 9.83
Silica (quartz)(per cent.). . . . . 3.28
The oxides of iron together contain of metallic iron 66.8 per cent.
No. 3. The micaceous ironstone (22b) was examined and found to contain of–
Peroxide of iron (per cent.). . . . 91.0
Silica. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5.52
The peroxide of iron contains of metallic iron 63.7 per cent.
No. 4. "Box No. 14," Quartz from Mugnah, gave no results.
No. 5. "Box No. 27," Iron from Mugnah, proved to be haematite (which is
magnetic), with some red-brown oxide of iron and quartz. It was found to
Peroxide of iron (per cent.). . . .75.46
Protoxide of iron (per cent.) . . . 4.69
The oxides of iron together contain of metallic iron 56.4 per cent.
No. 6. "Box No. 7," Conglomerate from Mugnah, yielded no results.
No. 7 "Box No. 25," Quartz from Mugnah. This quartz, veined and coloured
black and red-brown with oxides of iron, was assayed with the following
Gold and Silver . . . . . . . None[EN#3]
Nos. 8 and 9. "Boxes Nos. 50 and 37,"[EN#4] Quartz and red dust from
Mugnah, yielded no results.
No. 10. "Box No. 37a," Sulphur from Mugnah. Lumps of sulphur,
crystallized and massive, irregularly distributed through a white, dull,
porous rock. The latter was examined, and found to be hydrated sulphate
of lime (gypsum), with a small quantity of magnesia; some of the lumps of
rock were coloured with oxides of iron, and others intermixed with sand.
Nos. 11. and 12. "Boxes Nos. 3 and 6," Black quartz and white quartz from
the Jebel el-Abyaz, gave no results except a small portion of copper
pyrites in a lump of quartz (Box No. 6).
No. 13. "Box No. 47," Quartz from El-Wedge (Wijh), gave only oxide of
No. 14. "Box No. 5," Red quartz from El-Wedge, a quartz with red-brown
oxide of iron and earthy substances, was assayed with the following
Gold (per statute ton = 3240 lbs.)2 dwts. 15 grs.
Silver. . . . . . . . . . . . . .Traces.
No. 15. "Box No. 16," Mica schist from El-Wedge. This mica-schist
undergoing decomposition from weathering action, mixed with small lumps
of quartz, was assayed with the following results :--
Gold (per statute ton). . . . .6 grains.
Silver. . . . . . . . . . . . . .Traces.
No. 16. "Box No. 32," White quartz from El-Wedge. This quartz coloured with
red-brown oxide of iron, mixed with mica-schist, was assayed with the
Gold (per statute ton). .3 dwts. 22 grs.
Silver. . . . . . . . . . . . . .Traces.
No. 17. "Box No. 48,"[EN#6] Red sulphur from Sharm Yaharr, was found to
have the following composition, while it was free from "native sulphur":--
Peroxide of iron (per cent. ) . . .44.36
Sand, clay, carbonates and sulphates of lime and
magnesia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14.90
Salts soluble in water, chiefly alkaline
chlorides and chlorites, and sulphates of lime
and magnesia . . . . . . . . . . . . . .29.70
Water . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11.40
No. 18. "Box No. 48a," Gypsum from Sharm Yaharr. Partly semi-transparent
and granular, and partly dull white and opaque. It was found to be
hydrated sulphate of lime, or gypsum, with carbonate of lime, and some
sand, magnesia, and chloride of sodium.
No. 19 "Box No. 35," Dust and stones from Sharma, yielded no results.
Examination of the mineral specimens contained in a box sent from Egypt.
As the specimens were unlabelled, they were marked A, B, C, D, E, F, G,
H, and I, respectively.
No. 21. A. "Copper ore." A fair average specimen was prepared for
examination from the several lumps of ore and marked a.
a. It was submitted to analysis, and found to contain carbonates of lime
and magnesia; silica, alumina, and oxides of iron; and of--
Copper (metallic) . . . .5.72 per cent.
b. A portion of the copper mineral, from which the rock or vein-stuff had
been detached as far as practicable, was found to consist of impure
hydrated silicate of copper (bluish-green chrysocolla) and carbonate of
copper. It was assayed and found to contain of--
Copper (metallic) . . . .23.14 per cent.
No. 22. "B." A lump of soft, ochrey red-brown ironstone, coated with a thin
layer of greyish white substance. A fair average sample, inclusive of this
external layer, was prepared for examination, and was found to consist of–
Peroxide of iron (per cent. ) . . .81.14
Water . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11.50
Silica. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.07
Sulphuric acid, lime, magnesia, alumina 4.29
The peroxide of iron contains 56.8 per cent. of metallic iron. The
greyish white substance was found to consist of silica, alumina, sulphate
of lime, and a little oxide of iron and magnesia.
No. 23. "C." Lump of red ironstone associated with sand and earthy
Peroxide of iron (per cent.). . . 68.09
Water of iron (per cent.) . . . . . 1.93
Silica and sand . . . . . . . . . .18.17
Lime, magnesia (in small quantity), alumina,
carbonic acid, sulphuric acid (traces) .11.81
The peroxide of iron contains 47.66 of metallic iron.
No. 24. "D." Lump of white quartz said to contain visible gold. I did not
observe any, but found a few minute specks of pyrites, and partially
No. 25. Lump of quartz associated with red-brown oxide of iron. It
yielded no results.
No. 26. Lump of rock in which the "turquoise" occurs. There was a thin
layer of greenish blue turquoise mineral on one surface, and minute seams
of a similar substance throughout the specimen.
a. The layer of turquoise mineral, from which the rock or vein-stuff had
been detached as far as practicable, was found to contain phosphoric
acid, alumina, oxide of copper, oxide of iron, and water; which occur in
b. After the layer a had been separated, a fair average sample of the
rock was found to contain 1.69 per cent. of metallic copper. It was also
assayed and found to be free from silver[EN#7] and gold.
No. 27. "G." A variety of jasper, having a somewhat polished, and
irregular and deeply indented surface, the result of sand-action. The
fractured surface was red, with patches of yellow. It was found to
consist chiefly of silica, coloured with oxides of iron.
No. 28. "H." Lump of "sard," of a pale-red flesh colour. A variety of
chalcedony. It was found to consist almost entirely of silica[EN#8].
No. 29. "I." Lumps of pure ironstone.
A small lump of metal[EN#9], supposed to contain antimony[EN#10] and
platinum, was brought for examination by Captain R. F. Burton. It was
submitted to analysis, and found to be iron and combined carbon, or white
cast-iron, containing small quantities of lead, copper, and silver, and
free from antimony, platinum, and gold. It is evidently the product of a
fusion operation. A few "shots" of lead were attached to the surface of
Dr. Percy concludes the assays in these words:--
Three of the specimens (Nos. 14, 15, and 19) from the same
locality contain gold. The amount of gold, however, is small. I
consider these indications of the presence of the precious metal
not altogether unsatisfactory; and certainly to justify further
exploration. My conviction is, that the ancients were adepts in
the art of extracting gold, and that, owing to the small value of
human labour, they could get out as much of the metal as could
now be done. They knew perfectly what was worth working and what
was not; and I think it likely that what you have brought home,
had been rejected by the ancients as unworkable[EN#12]. Further
search may lead to the discovery of workable stuff; but would
doubtless require a good deal of time, unless lucky accident
The specimens Nos. 2, 3, 5, 22, and 23 contain sufficient iron to
render them available as iron ores, provided they occur in large
quantity. The copper present in No. 21a is too small in amount to
render it available as a source of that metal [Footnote: Analyses
of copper ore from Midian at the Citadel, Cairo, gave in certain
cases forty percent.]. If it is practicable on a large scale, by
hand-labour or other means, to separate the "copper mineral" (as
in b), it would be sufficiently rich in copper, provided the cost
of the transit were not too great.
The specimen No. 17 is only of scientific interest, as it gives
off an acid vapour when heated; and this substance may have been
used by the ancients in the separation of silver from gold by the
process termed "cementation."
I remain, dear Sir, yours very truly,
(Signed) JOHN PERCY, M.D., F.R.S.
Lecturer on Metallurgy at the Royal School of Mines, London.
Capt. R. F. Burton, etc.
Upon this able report I would offer the following observations.
We, who have travelled through a country like Midian, finding
everywhere extensive works for metallurgy; barrages and
aqueducts, cisterns and tanks ; furnaces, fire-bricks, and
scoriae; open mines, and huge scatters of spalled quartz, with
the remains of some eighteen cities and towns which apparently
fell to ruin with the industry that founded and fed them;--we, I
say, cannot but form a different and a far higher idea of its
mineral capabilities than those who determine them by the simple
inspection of a few specimens. The learned Dr. Percy at once hits
the mark when he surmises that worthless samples were brought
home; and this would necessarily occur when no metallurgist, no
practical prospector, was present with the Expedition. As will
appear from the following pages, all the specimens were collected
a ciel ouvert, and wholly without judgment.
I therefore expect that future exploration will develop Midian as
it has done India. The quartzose outcrop called the "Wynaad reef"
(Madras Presidency) produced only a few poor penny-weights per
ton, two and seven being the extremes, while much of it was
practically unproductive. Presently, in February, 1878, the
district was visited by Sir Andrew Clarke, of Australian
experience, member of the Viceregal Council. He invited Mr.
Brough Smyth, of Victoria, to explore and test the capabilities
of the country; and that eminent practical engineer discovered,
in an area of twenty-five by thirteen miles, ninety outcrops,
some yielding, they say, two hundred ounces per ton of gold, fine
and coarse, "with jagged pieces as large as peas." And British
India now hopes to draw her gold coinage from Wynaad.
I conclude this abstract of the book, which would have been
reduced in size had the mass of matter permitted, with the
heartfelt hope that the grand old Land of Midian will not be
without attraction to the public of Europe.
RICHARD F. BURTON.
The March Through Madyan Proper
Chapter I. Preliminary--from Trieste to Midian
Chapter II. The Start--from El Muwaylah to the "White
Mountain" and 'Aynunah
Chapter III. Breaking New Ground to Maghair Shu'ayb
Chapter IV. Notices of Precious Metals in Midian--the Papyri
and the Mediaeval Arab Geographers
Chapter V. Work At, and Excursions From, Maghair Shu'ayb
Chapter VI. To Makna, and Our Work There--the Magani or
Chapter VII. Cruise from Makna to El'akabah
Chapter VIII. Cruise from El'akabah to El Muwaylah--the
Shipwreck Escaped--resume of the Northern Journey
The March Through Central and Eastern Midian.
Chapter IX. Work in and Around El Muwaylah
Chapter X. Through East Midian to the Hisma
The March Through Madyan Proper
Preliminary--from Trieste to Midian.
Throughout the summer of 1877 I was haunted by memories of
mysterious Midian. The Golden Region appeared to me in the glow
of primaeval prosperity described by the Egyptian hieroglyphs; as
rich in agriculture and in fertility, according to the old
Hellenic travellers, as in its Centres of civilization, and in
the precious metals catalogued by the Sacred Books of the
Hebrews. Again I saw the mining works of the Greek, the Roman,
and the Nabathćan, whose names are preserved by Ptolemy; the
forty cities, mere ghosts and shadows of their former selves,
described in the pages of the mediaeval Arab geographers; and the
ruthless ruin which, under the dominion of the Bedawin, gradually
crept over the Land of Jethro. The tale of her rise and fall
forcibly suggested Algeria, that province so opulent and splendid
under the Masters of the World; converted into a fiery wilderness
by the representatives of the "gentle and gallant" Turk, and
brought to life once more by French energy and industry. And such
was my vision of a future Midian, whose rich stores of various
minerals will restore to her wealth and health, when the two
Khedivial Expeditions shall have shown the world what she has
been, and what she may be again.
I was invited to resume my exploration during the winter of
1877-78, by the Viceroy of Egypt, Ismail I., a prince whose
superior intelligence is ever anxious to develop the resources of
his country. His Highness was perhaps the only man in his own
dominions who, believing in the buried wealth of Midian, had the
perspicacity to note the advantages offered by its exploitation.
For the world around the Viceroy pronounced itself decidedly
against the project. My venerable friend, Linant Pasha, suggested
a comparison with the abandoned diggings of the Upper Nile;
forgetting that in at least half of Midian land, only the
"tailings" have been washed: whereas in the Bishárí country, and
throughout the "Etbaye," between the meridians of Berenike and
Sawákín, the very thinnest metallic fibrils have been shafted and
tunnelled to their end in the rock by those marvellous labourers,
the old Egyptians. In the Hamámát country, again, the excessive
distances, both from the Nile and from the Red Sea, together with
the cost of transport, must bar all profit. Even worse are the
conditions of Fayzoghlú and Dár-For; whilst the mines of Midian
begin literally at the shore.
Another Pasha wrote to me from Alexandria, congratulating me upon
having discovered, during our first Expedition, "a little copper
and iron." Generally, the official public, knowing that I had
brought back stones, not solid masses of gold and silver, loudly
deplored the prospective waste of money; and money, after the
horse-plague, the low Nile, and the excessive exigencies of the
short-sighted creditor, was exceptionally scarce. The truly
Oriental view of the question was taken by an official, whom I
shall call Árif Pasha--the "Knowing One." When told that M.
George Marie, the Government engineer detailed to accompany the
first Expedition, had sent in official analyses with sample tubes
of gold and silver, thus establishing the presence of auriferous
and argentiferous rocks on the Arabian shore, Son Excellence
exclaimed, "Imprudent jeune homme, thus to throw away the chances
of life! Had he only declared the whole affair a farce, a flam, a
sell, a canard, the Viceroy would have held him to be honest, and
would have taken care of his future."
Still, through bad report the Khediv, who had mastered, with his
usual accuracy of perception and judgment, the subject of Midian
and her Mines, was staunch to his resolve; and when one of his
European financiers, a Controleur Général de Dépenses, the normal
round peg in the square hole, warned him that there were no
public funds for such purpose, his Highness warmly declared, on
dit, that the costs of the Expedition should be defrayed at his
Meanwhile I had passed the summer of 1877 in preparation for the
work of the ensuing winter. A long correspondence with many
learned friends, and a sedulous study of the latest geographers,
especially German, taught me all that was known of mining in
Arabia generally, and particularly in Midian. During my six
months' absence from Egypt my vision was fixed steadily upon one
point, the Expedition that was to come; and when his Highness was
pleased to offer me, in an autograph letter full of the kindest
expressions, the government of Dár-For, I deferred accepting the
honour till Midian had been disposed of.
Unhappily, certain kindly advisers persuaded me to make well
better by a visit to Karlsbad, and a course of its alkaline
"Fountains of Health." Never was there a greater mistake! The air
is bad as the water is good; the climate is reeking damp, like
that of Western Africa; and, as in St. Petersburg, a plaid must
be carried during the finest weather. Its effects, rheumatic and
neuralgic, may be judged by the fact that the doctors must walk
about with pocketed squirts, for the hypodermal injection of
opium. Almost all those whom I knew there, wanting to be better,
went away worse; and, in my own case, a whole month of Midian
sun, and a sharp attack of ague and fever were required to burn
out the Hexenschuss and to counteract the deleterious effects of
the "Hygeian springs."
At last the happy hour for departure struck; and on October 19,
1877, the Austro-Hungarian Espero (Capitano Colombo) steamed out
of Trieste. On board were Sefer Pasha, our host of Castle
Bertoldstein; and my learned friends, the Aulic Councillor Alfred
von Kremer, Austrian Commissioner to Egypt, and Dr. Heinrich
Brugsch-Bey. The latter gave me a tough piece of work in the
shape of his "Ćgypten," which will presently be quoted in these
pages. It would be vain to repeat a description of the little
voyage described in "The Gold-Mines of Midian." The Dalmatian, or
first day; the second, or day of Corfu loved and lost; and the
third, made memorable by Cephalonia and the glorious Canale, all
gave fine smooth weather. But the usual rolling began off
still-vexed Cape Matapan. It lasted through the fourth day, or of
Candia, this insula nobilis et amćna--
"Crete, the crown of all the isles, flower of Levantine waters"
--while the fifth, or Mediterraneo-Alexandrian day, killed two of
the seventeen fine horses, Yuckers and Anglo-Normans, which Sefer
Pasha was conveying to Cairo.
On Thursday morning (October 25), after rolling through the night
off the old port Eunostus, which now looks brand-new, we landed,
and the next day saw me at Cairo. Such was my haste that I could
pay only a flying visit to the broken beer-bottles, the burst
provision-tins, the ice-plants, and the hospitable society of
Ramleh the Sand-heap; and my many acquaintances had barely time
to offer their congratulations upon the prospects of my "becoming
My presence at the capital was evidently necessary. A manner of
association for utilizing the discoveries of the first Expedition
had been formed in London by the Messieurs Vignolles, who knew
only the scattered and unofficial notices; issued, without my
privity, by English and continental journals. Their
representative, General Nuthall, formerly of the Madras army, had
twice visited Cairo, in August and October, 1877, seeking a
concession of the mines, and offering conditions which were
perfectly unacceptable. The Viceroy was to allow, contrary to
convention, the free importation of all machinery; to supply
guards, who were not wanted; and, in fact, to guarantee the
safety of the workmen, who were perfectly safe. In return, ten
per cent. on net profits, fifteen being the royalty of the Suez
Canal, was the magnificent inducement offered to the viceregal
convoitise. I could not help noting, by no means silently, this
noble illustration of the principle embodied in Sic vos non
vobis. I was to share in the common fate of originators,
discoverers, and inventors: the find was mine, the profits were
to go--elsewhere. General Nuthall professed inability to regard
the matter in that light; while to all others it appeared in no
other. However, after a few friendly meetings, the representative
left Egypt, with the understanding that possibly we might work
together when the exploration should have been completed. His
Highness, who had verbally promised me either the concession or
four per cent. on gross produce, acted en prince, simply
remarking that the affair was in my hands, and that he would not
interfere with me.
I must not trouble the reader with the tedious tale of the pains
and the labour which accompany the accouchement of such an
Expedition. All practicals know that to organize a movement of
sixty men is not less troublesome--indeed, rather more so--than
if it numbered six hundred or six thousand. The Viceroy had
wisely determined that we should not only carry out the work of
discovery by tracing the precious metals to their source; but,
also, that we should bring back specimens weighing tons enough
for assay and analysis, quantitive and qualitive, in London and
Paris. Consequently, miners and mining apparatus were wanted,
with all the materials for quarrying and blasting: my spirit
sighed for dynamite, but experiments at Trieste had shown it to
be too dangerous. The party was to consist of an escort numbering
twenty-five Súdán soldiers of the Line, negroes liberated some
two years ago; a few Ma'danjiyyah ("mine-men"), and thirty
Haggárah ("stone-men" or quarrymen).
The Government magazines of Cairo contain everything, but the
difficulty is to find where the dispersed articles are stored:
there is a something of red-tapeism; but all is plain sailing,
compared with what it would be in Europe. The express orders of
his Highness Husayn Kámil Pasha, Minister of Finance and Acting
Minister of War, at once threw open every door. Had this young
prince not taken in the affair a personal interest of the
liveliest and most intelligent nature, we might have spent the
winter at Cairo. And here I cannot refrain from mentioning,
amongst other names, that of Mr. Alfred E. Garwood, C.E.,
locomotive superintendent; who, in the short space of four
months, has introduced order and efficiency into the chaos known
as the Bulák magazines. With his friendly cooperation, and under
his vigorous arm, difficulties melted away like hail in a
tropical sun. General Stone (Pasha), the Chief of Staff, also
rendered me some assistance, by lending the instruments which
stood in his own cabinet de travail.[EN#13]
Poor Cairo had spent a seedy autumn. The Russo-Turkish campaign,
which had been unjustifiably allowed, by foreign Powers, to drain
Egypt of her gold and life-blood--some 25,000 men since the
beginning of the Servian prelude--not only caused "abundant
sorrow" to the capital, but also frightened off the stranger-host,
which habitually supplies the poorer population with sovereigns
and napoleons. The horse-pest, a bad typhus, after raging in 1876
and early 1877, had died out: unfortunately, so had the horses;
and the well-bred, fine-tempered, and high-spirited little
Egyptians were replaced by a mongrel lot, hastily congregated
from every breeding ground in Europe. The Fellahs, who had
expected great things from the mission of MM. Goschen and
Joubert, asked wonderingly if those financiers had died; while a
scanty Nile, ten to twelve feet lower, they say, than any known
during the last thousand years, added to the troubles of the
poor, by throwing some 600,000 feddans (acres) out of gear, and
by compelling an exodus from the droughty right to the left bank.
Finally, when the river of Egypt did rise, it rose too late, and
brought with it a feverish and unwholesome autumn. Briefly, we
hardly escaped the horrors of Europe--
"Herbstesahnung! Triste Spuren
In den Wäldern, auf den Fluren!
Regentage, böses Wetter," etc.
Meanwhile, in the Land of the Pharaohs, whose scanty interest
about the war was disguised by affected rejoicings at Ottoman
successes, the Prophet gallantly took the field, as in the days
of Yúsuf bin Ishák. This time the vehicle of revelation was the
learned Shayhk (má? ) Alaysh, who was ordered in a dream by the
Apostle of Allah (upon whom be peace!) to announce the victory of
the Moslem over the Infidel; and, as the vision took place in
Jemádi el-Akhir (June), the first prediction was not more
unsuccessful than usual. Shortly afterwards, the same reverend
man again dreamt that, seeing two individuals violently
quarreling, with voies de fait, he had hastened, like a true
believer, to separate and to reconcile them. But what was his
surprise when the brawlers proved to be the Sultan and the Czar,
the former administering condign personal punishment to his
hereditary foe. This, the enlightened Shaykh determined, was a
sign that in September the Osmanli would be gloriously
triumphant. Nor was he far wrong. The Russians, who had begun the
campaign, like the English in India, with a happy contempt both
for the enemy and for the elementary rules of war, were struck
with a cold fit of caution: instead of marching straight upon and
intrenching themselves in Adrianople, they vainly broke their
gallant heads against the improvised earthworks of Plevna. And
ignorant Europe, marvelling at the prowess of the "noble Turk,"
ignored the fact that all the best "Turkish" soldiers were Slavs,
originally Christians, renegades of old, unable to speak a word
of Turkish; preserving their Bosniac family-names, and without
one drop of Turkish blood in their veins. Sulayman Pashás army
was about as "Turkish" as are the Poles or the Hungarians.
Not the less did Cairo develop the normal season-humours of the
Frank. Among the various ways of "doing the Pyramids," I
registered a new one: Mr. A---- , junior, unwilling wholly to
neglect them, sent his valet with especial orders to stand upon
the topmost plateau. The "second water" of irrigation made
November dangerous; many of the "Shepheards" suffered from the
Ayán el-Mulúk, the "Evil of Kings" (gout), in the gloomy form as
well as the gay; and whisky-cum-soda became popular as upon the
banks of the Thames and the Tweed. As happens on dark days, the
money-digger was abroad, and one anecdote deserves record. Many
years ago, an old widow body had been dunned into buying, for a
few piastres, a ragged little manuscript from a pauper Maghrabi.
These West Africans are, par excellence, the magicians of modern
Egypt and Syria; and here they find treasure, like the Greeks
upon the shores of the Northern Adriatic. Perhaps there may be a
basis for the idea; oral traditions and written documents
concerning buried hoards would take refuge in remote regions,
comparatively undisturbed by the storms of war, and inhabited by
races more or less literary. At any rate, the Maghrabi Darwaysh
went his ways, assuring his customer that, when her son came of
age, a fortune would be found in the little book. And true
enough, the boy, reaching man's estate, read in its torn pages
ample details concerning a Dafi'nah (hoard) of great value. He
was directed, by the manuscript, to a certain spot upon the
Mukattam range, immediately behind the Cairene citadel, where the
removal of a few stones would disclose a choked shaft: the latter
would descend to a tunnel, full of rubbish, and one of the many
sidings would open upon the golden chamber. The permission of
Government was secured, the workmen began, and the directions
proved true--"barring" the treasure, towards which progress was
still being made. Such was the legend of Cairo, as recounted to
me by my good friend, Yacoub Artin Bey; I can only add to it,
Allaho A'alam!--Allah is all-knowing!
The sole cause of delay in beginning exploration was the want of
money; and this, of course, even the Prince Minister of Finance
could not coin. Egypt, the fertile, the wealthy, the progressive,
was, indeed, at the time all but insolvent. At the suggestion of
foreigners, "profitable investments," which yielded literally
nothing, had been freely made for many a year, and the sole
results were money difficulties and debt. The European financiers
had managed admirably for their shareholders; but, having assumed
the annual national income at a maximum, instead of a minimum,
they had brought the goose of the golden eggs to the very verge
of death. The actionnaires were to receive, with a punctuality
hardly possible in the East, the usurious interest of six per
cent., not including one per cent. for sinking fund. Meanwhile,
the officers and officials, military, naval, and civil, had been
in arrears of salary for seven to fifteen months; and even the
Jews refused to cash at any price their pay certificates.
Nothing could be more unwise or unjust than the exactions of the
creditors. Men must live; if not paid, they perforce pay
themselves; and thus, of every hundred piastres, hardly thirty
find their way into the treasury. Ten times worse was the
condition of the miserable Felláhín, who were selling for three
or four napoleons the bullocks worth fifteen per head. Thus they
would tide over the present year; but a worse than Indian famine
was threatened for the following. And the "Bakkál," at once petty
trader and money-lender, whose interest and compound interest
here amount, as in Bombay, to hundreds per cent., would complete
the ruin which the "low Nile" and the Christian creditor had
A temporary reduction of interest to three per cent., with one
per cent of amortization, should content the greedy shareholder,
who seeks to combine high profits with perfect security. During
November, 1877, there were five M.P.'s at Shepheard's; and all
cried shame upon the financial condition of the country. Sir
George Campbell opened the little game. In his "Inside View of
Egypt" (Fortnightly Review, Dec., 1877) he drew a graphic picture
of the abnormal state of poor Egypt; he expressed the sensible
opinion that, in the settlement, the claims of the bond-holders
have been too exclusively considered, and he concluded that no
more payments of debt-interest should be made until official
arrears are discharged.
At last the Phare d'Alexandrie (November 29, 1877), doubtless
under official inspiration, put forth the following article,
greatly to the satisfaction of the unfortunate employés:--
"Si nos renseignements particuliers sont exacts, le comité des
finances vient de prendre une excellente décision. Elle consiste
en ce que, aussitôt l'argent pour le paiement du prochain coupon,
préparé, le ministe're, avant tout autre, procédera au paiement
des appointements arriérés des employés.
"Nous apprenons, on outre, que S. A. le ministre des finances,
męme, a déclaré, molu proprio, que jusqu'au complet paiement des
arriérés dűs aux employés, et dans le cas oú il se présenterait
une dépense de grande importance, prévue męme par le budget, de
ne pas en ordonner le paiement sans, au préalable, le sommettre ŕ
l'adhésion du comité.
"Nous applaudissons de toutes nos forces ŕ cette bonne nouvelle
d'abord, parcequ'elle affirme une fois de plus la scrupuleuse
exactitude qu'on apporte au paiement des coupons, ensuite elle
prouve le vif intérčt qu' inspire au gouvernement la situation de
ses nombreux employés, enfin elle nous fait espérer qu'aprčs
avoir songé ŕ eux, on s'occupera aussi ŕ payer les autres sommes
portées et pre'vues au budget de l'année."
Accordingly, on December 2nd, the Prince Minister of Finance took
heart of grace, and distributed among the officials one month's
pay, with a promise that all arrears should presently be made
good. On the same day his Highness issued to the Expedition 2000
napoleons, in addition to the 620 already expended upon
instruments and provisions. This was the more liberal, as I had
calculated the total at 1500: the more, however, the better. In
such work it is money versus time, the former saving the latter;
and we were already late in the year--it had been proposed to
start on November 15th, and we had lost three precious weeks of
fine autumnal weather. The stores were equally abundant: I wanted
one forge, and received three.
Of course, many details had been forgotten; e.g., a farrier and
change of mule-irons, a tinsmith and tinning tools, a
sulphur-still, boots for the soldiers and the quarrymen, small
shot for specimens, and so forth. I had carried out my idea of a
Dragoman with two servants; and the result had been a model
failure, especially in the most important department. The true
"Desert cook" is a man sui generis; he would utterly fail at the
Criterion, and even at Shepheard's; but in the wilderness he will
serve coffee within fifteen minutes, and dish the best of dinners
within the hour after the halt.
Mr. Clarke and Lieutenant Amir worked with a will; and they were
ably seconded by Colonel Ali Bey Robi and Lieutenant-Colonel (of
the Staff) Mohammed Bey Báligh. But the finishing touch to such
preparations must be done by the master hand; and my unhappy
visit to Karlsbad rendered that impossible. The stores and
provisions were supplied by MM. Voltéra Brothers, of Cairo: I
cannot say too much in their praise; and the packing was as good
as the material. M. Gross, of Shepheard's, was good enough to let
me have a barrel of claret; which improved every week by
travelling, and which cost only a franc a bottle: it began as a
bon ordinaire, and the little that returned to Cairo ranked with
a quasi-grand vin, at least as good as the four-shilling Medoc.
Finally, Dr. Lowe, of Cairo, kindly prepared for us a medicine
chest, containing about Ł10 worth of the usual drugs and
appliances--calomel, tartar emetic, and laudanum; blister,
plaster, and simple ointment.[EN#14]
A special train was made ready for Thursday, December 6th; and,
at ten a.m., after taking leave of their Highnesses, who
courteously wished me good luck and God-speed, the Expedition
found itself under weigh. We were accompanied to the station by
many kind friends: my excellent kinsman Lord Francis, and Lady F.
Conyngham, Yacoub Artin Bey, General Stone, and MM. George,
Garwood, Girard, and Guillemine.
The change from the damp air of Cairo to the drought of the
Desert was magical: light ailments and heavy cares seemed to fall
off like rags and tatters. We halted at Zagázig, remarking that
this young focus of railway traffic has become the eastern key of
Lower Egypt, as Benhá is to the western delta; and prophesying
that some day, not far distant, will see the glories of Bubastis
revived. Here we picked up my old friend Haji Wali, whom age--he
declares that he was born in the month Mízán of 1797--had made
only a little fatter and greedier. We gave a wide berth to the
future Alexandria, Ismailíyyah, whose splendid climate has been
temporarily spoilt by the sweet-water canal of the same name. The
soil became literally sopped; and hence the intermittent fevers
which have lately assailed it. A similar disregard for drainage
has ingeniously managed to convert into pest-houses Simla and
other Himalayan sanitaria.
The day ended with running the train into the Suez Docks, so as
to embark all our impediments on the next morning; and I fondly
expected Saturday to see us sail. But the weather-wise had been
true in their forecasts. Friday opened with howling, screaming
gusts of southerly wind; and, during the night we were treated to
a fierce display of storm,--thunder and lightning, and rain. The
gale caused one collision on the Canal, and twenty-five steamers
were delayed near the Bitter Lake; it broke down the railway and
sanded it up for miles, and it levelled fifty English and forty
Egyptian telegraph-posts--an ungentle hint to prefer the
telephone. Saturday, the beginning of winter, opened with a cold
raw souther and a surging sea, which washed over the Dock-piers;
in such weather it was impossible to embark ten mules without
horse-boxes. On Sunday the waves ran high, but the gale fell
about sunset to a dead calm; as usual in the Gulf, the breakers
and white horses at once disappeared; and the slaty surface,
fringed with dirty yellow, immediately reassumed its robes of
purple and turquoise blue. The ill wind, however, had blown us
some good by deluging with long-hoped-for rain the now barren
mountains of Midian.
This "Fortuna," according to the people, sets in with the fourth
Coptic month, Kayhak,[EN#15] which begins the first Arba'ín
("Forty-day period"); and the fourth day is known as the Imtizáj
el-Faslayn, or "Mixture of the two Seasons"--autumn and winter.
The storm is expected to blow three days from the Azyab
(south-east) or from the Shirs (south-west). The qualities of the
several winds are described in the following distich:--
"Mirísi Shaytán, wa Gharbi Wazírhu;
Tiyáb Sultán, wa Sharki Nazírhu."
"The south-wester's a Satan, and the wester's his minister;
The norther's a Sultan, and the easter's his man."
On the other hand, fair weather was predicted after the first
quarter of the moon (December 12th), according to the saying of
the Arab sailor:--
"When the moon sleeps, the seaman may sleep;
When the moon stands, the seaman must stand."
The "sleeping" moon--náim or rákid, also called Yemáni--is that
of the first quarter, which we mark concave to the left; the
"standing" moon is that of the last.
Our stay at Suez was saddened by the sudden death of Marius
Isnard, who had acted cook to the first Khedivial Expedition. The
poor lad, aged only eighteen, had met us at the Suez station,
delighted with the prospect of another journey; he had neglected
his health; and, after a suppression of two days, which he madly
concealed, gangrene set in, and he died a painful death at the
hospital during the night preceding our departure.
On December 10th we ran down from Suez Quay in the Bird of the
Sea (Tayr el-Bahr), the harbour mouche, or little steam-launch,
accompanied by the Governor, Sa'íd Bey, who has not yet been made
a Pasha; by Mr. Consul West; by the genial Ra'íf Bey, Wakíl
el-Komandaníyyah or acting commodore of the station; by Mr.
Willoughby Faulkner, my host at Suez; by the Messieurs Levick,
and by other friends. In the highest spirits we boarded our
"gun-carriage," the aviso Mukhbir (Captain Mohammed Siráj); and,
after many mutual good wishes, we left the New Docks at 6.10 p.m.
Nothing could be more promising than the weather, a young moon
mirrored in a sea smooth as oil. The "Giver of Good News"
(El-Mukhbir), however, for once failed in her mission. She had
lately conducted herself well upon a trial trip round the Zenobia
lightship ("Newport Rock").[EN#16] But the two Arab firemen who
acted engineers, worn-out grey-beards that hated the idea of four
months on the barbarous Arabian shore, had choked the tubes with
wastage, and had filled the single boiler, taking care to plug
up, instead of opening, the relief-pipe. The consequence was that
the engines sweated at every pore; steam instead of water
streamed from the sides; and the chimney discharged, besides
smoke, a heavy shower of rain. The engine (John Jameson,
engineer, Newcastle-on-Tyne, 1866), a good article, in prime
condition as far as a literally rotten boiler would allow,
presently revenged itself by splitting the air-pipe of the
condenser from top to bottom; and after two useless halts the
captain reported to me that we must return to Suez. What a
beginning! The fracture somewhat relieved the machinery; we did
better work after than before the accident, but we were ignobly
towed into dock by the ship's boats.
A telegram with a procčs-verbal was at once sent off to the
Prince; Sa'íd Bey and Ra'íf Bey hastened to our aid, and Mr.
Williams, superintending engineer of the Khedivíyyah line, with
the whole of his staff, stripped and set to work at the peccant
tubes and air-pump. They commenced with extinguishing a serious
fire which burst from the waste-room--by no means pleasant when
close to kegs of blasting-powder carefully sewn up in canvas.
They laboured with a will, and before sunset Mr. Williams
informed us that he would guarantee the engines for eight days,
when we were starting on a dangerous cruise for four months. He
also supplied us with an Egyptian boiler-maker and with eleven
instead of sixty new tubes: we lost forty-two of the old ones
between Suez and El-Muwaylah. Before sunset we made a trial trip,
the wretched old kettle acting tant bien que mal; we returned to
re-embark the soldiers and the mules, and we set out for the
second time at 5.30 p.m.
The Mukhbir, 130 feet long, 380 tons, and 80 to go horse-power,
under charge of the English or rather Scotch engineer, Mr. David
Duguid, who had taken the place of the two Arab firemen, began
with 7 1/2 knots an hour, 68 revolutions per minute, and a
pressure of 9 lbs. to the square inch. The condenser-vacuum was
26 inches (30 being complete)--13 lbs. Next morning the rate
declined to six miles in consequence of the boiler leaking, and
matters became steadily worse. As a French writer says of the
genre humain, we were placed, not entre le bien et le mal, but
entre le mal et le pire. After sundry narrow escapes in the Gulf
of 'Akabah, we were saved, as will be seen, by a manner of
miracles. Briefly, the Mukhbir caused us much risk, heartburn,
and loss of time.
Seven a.m. (December 11th) found us crossing the Birkat
Fara'ún--Pharaoh's Gulf--some sixty miles from the great port.
Its horrors to native craft I have already described in my
"Pilgrimage." Between this point and Ras Za'faránah, higher up,
the wind seems to split: a strong southerly gale will be blowing,
whilst a norther of equal pressure prevails at the Gulf-head, and
vice versâ. Suez, indeed, appears to be, in more ways than one, a
hydrographical puzzle. When it is low water in and near the
harbour, the flow is high between the Straits of Jobal and the
Daedalus Light; and the ebb tide runs out about two points across
the narrows, whilst the flood runs in on a line parallel with it.
Finally, when we returned, hardly making headway against an angry
norther, Suez, enjoying the "sweet south," was congratulating the
voyagers upon their weather.
The loss of a good working day soon made itself felt. The north
wind rose, causing the lively Mukhbir, whose ballast, by-the-by,
was all on deck, to waddle dangerously for the poor mules; and it
was agreed, nem. con., to put into Tor harbour. We found
ourselves at ten a.m. (December 12th) within the natural pier of
coralline, and we were not alone in our misfortune; an English
steamer making Suez was our companion. This place has superseded
El Wijh as the chief quarantine station for the return
pilgrimage; and I cannot sufficiently condemn the change.[EN#17]
The day lagged slowly, as we
"Walked in grief by the merge of the many-voiced
But we looked in vain for our "tender," a Sambúk of fifty tons,
El-Musahhil (Rais Ramazan), which Prince Husayn had thoughtfully
sent with us as post-boat. She disappeared on the evening of the
11th, and she did not make act of presence until the 16th, when
her master was at once imprisoned in the fort of El-Muwaylah.
Moreover, the owner, Mohammed Bukhayt, of Suez, who had received
Ł90 as advance for three months--others said Ł60 for
four--provided her with only a few days' provisions, leaving us
to ration his crew.
A wintry norther in these latitudes is not easily got rid of.
According to the people, here, as in the 'Akabah Gulf, it lasts
three days, and dies after a quiet noon; whereas on the 13th,
when we expected an escape, it rose angrily at one p.m. I was
much cheered by the pleasant news of M. Bianchi, the local
Deputato di Sanitŕ, who assured us that a pernicieuse was raging
at El-Muwaylah, and that it was certain death to pass one night
in the fort. The only fire that emitted all this smoke was the
fact that during the date-harvest of North-Western Arabia, July
and August, agues are common; and that at all seasons the well
water is not "honest," and is supposed to breed trifling chills.
In the Prairies of the Far West I heard of a man who rode some
hundreds of miles to deliver himself of a lie. Nothing like
solitude and the Desert for freshening the fancy. Another
individual who was much exercised by our journey was Khwájeh
Konstantin, a Syrian-Greek trader, son of the old agent of the
convent, whose blue goggles and comparatively tight pantaloons
denoted a certain varnish and veneer. It is his practice to visit
El-Muwaylah once every six months; when he takes, in exchange for
cheap tobacco, second-hand clothes, and poor cloth, the coral,
the pearls fished for in April, the gold dust, the finds of coin,
and whatever else will bring money. Such is the course and custom
of these small monopolists, who, at "Raitha" and elsewhere, much
dislike to see quiet things moved.
At length, after a weary day of far niente, when even le sommeil
se faisait prier, we "hardened our hearts," and at nine p.m., as
the gale seemed to slumber, we stood southwards. The Mukhbir
rolled painfully off Ras Mohammed, which obliged us with its own
peculiar gusts; and the 'Akabah Gulf, as usual, acted wind-sail.
A long détour was necessary in order to spare the mules, which,
however, are much less liable to injury, under such
circumstances, than horses, having a knack of learning to use
The night was atrocious; so was the next morning; but about noon
we were cheered by the sight of the glorious mountain-walls of
well-remembered Midian, which stood out of the clear blue sky in
passing grandeur of outline, in exceeding splendid dour of
colouring, and in marvellous sharpness of detail. Once more the
"power of the hills" was on us.
Three p.m. had struck before we found ourselves in broken water
off the fort of El-Muwaylah, where our captain cast a single
anchor, and where we had our first escape from drifting upon the
razor-like edges of the coralline reefs. In fact, everything
looked so menacing, with surging sea around and sable
storm-clouds to westward, that I resolved upon revisiting our old
haunt, the safe and dock-like Sharm Yáhárr. Here we entered
without accident; and were presently greeted by the Sayyid 'Abd
el-Rahím, our former Káfilah-báshi, who had ridden from
El-Muwaylah to receive us. The news was good: a truce of one
month had been concluded between the Huwaytát and the Ma'ázah,
probably for the better plundering of the pilgrims. This year the
latter were many: the "Wakfah," or standing upon Mount Ararat,
fell upon a Friday; consequently it was a Hajj el-Akbar, or
"Greater Pilgrimage," very crowded and very dangerous, in more
ways than one.
I had given a free passage to one Sulaymán Aftáhi, who declared
himself to be of the Beni 'Ukbah, when he was a Huwayti of the
Jeráfín clan. After securing a free passage and provision gratis,
when the ship anchored, he at once took French leave. On return I
committed him to the tender mercies of the Governor, Sa'íd Bey.
The soldiers, the quarry-men, and the mules were landed, and the
happy end of the first stage brought with it a feeling of intense
relief, like that of returning to Alexandria. Hitherto everything
had gone wrong: the delays and difficulties at Cairo; at Suez,
the death of poor Marius Isnard and the furious storm; the
break-down of the engine; the fire in the wasteroom; and, lastly,
the rough and threatening gale between the harbour and
El-Muwaylah. What did the Wise King mean by "better is the end of
a thing than the beginning thereof"? I only hope that it may be
applicable to the present case. In the presence of our working
ground all evils were incontinently forgotten; and, after the
unusual dankness of the Egyptian capital, and the blustering
winds of the Gulf and the sea, the soft and delicate air of the
Midian shore acted like a cordial. For the first time after
leaving Alexandria, I felt justified in taper de l'oeil with the
clearest of consciences.
The preliminary stage ended with disembarking at the Fort,
El-Muwaylah, all our stores and properties, including sundry
cases of cartridges and five hundred pounds of pebble-powder,
which had been stored immediately under the main cabin and its
eternal cigarettes and allumettes. The implements, as well as the
provisions, were made over to the charge of an old Albanian, one
Rajab Aghá, who at first acted as our magazine-man for a
consideration of two napoleons per month, in advance if possible.
This done, the Mukhbir returned into the dock Yáhárr, in order to
patch up her kettle, which seemed to grow worse under every
improvement. We accompanied her, after ordering a hundred camels
to be collected; well knowing that as this was the Bairam, 'Id,
or "Greater Festival," nothing whatever would be done during its
three days' duration.
The respite was not unwelcome to me; it seemed to offer an
opportunity for recovering strength. At Cairo I had taken the
advice of a learned friend (if not an "Apostle of Temperance," at
any rate sorely afflicted with the temperance idea), who, by
threats of confirmed gout and lumbago, fatty degeneration of the
heart and liver, ending in the possible rupture of some valve,
had persuaded me that man should live upon a pint of claret per
diem. How dangerous is the clever brain with a monomania in it!
According to him, a glass of sherry before dinner was a poison,
whereas half the world, especially the Eastern half, prefers its
potations preprandially; a quarter of the liquor suffices, and
both appetite and digestion are held to be improved by it. The
result of "turning over a new leaf," in the shape of a phial of
thin "Gladstone," was a lumbago which lasted me a long month, and
which disappeared only after a liberal adhibition of "diffusible
It required no small faith in one's good star to set out for a
six weeks' work in the Desert under such conditions. My
consolation, however, was contained in the lines attributed to
half a dozen who wrote good English:--
"He either fears his fate too much,
Or his deserts are small,
Who dares not put it to the touch,
To gain or lose it all."
This time, however, Mind was tranquil, whatever Matter might
suffer. As the novelist says, "Lighting upon a grain of gold or
silver betokens that a mine of the precious metal must be in the
neighbourhood." It had been otherwise with my first Expedition: a
forlorn hope, a miracle of moral audacity; the heaviest of
responsibilities incurred upon the slightest of justifications,
upon the pinch of sand which a tricky and greedy old man might
readily have salted. It reminds me of a certain "Philip sober,"
who in the morning fainted at the sight of the precipice which he
had scaled when "Philip drunk." I look back with amazement upon
The second Khedivial Expedition to Midian was composed of the
following officers and men. The European staff numbered four, not
including the commander, viz.:--
M. George Marie, of the État-Major, Egyptian army, an engineer
converted into a geologist and mineralogist; he was under the
orders of his Highness Prince Husayn Pasha.
Mr. J. Charles J. Clarke, telegraphic engineer, ranking as major
in Egypt, commissariat officer.
M. Émile Lacaze, of Cairo, artist and photographer.
M. Jean Philipin, blacksmith.
Besides these, Mr. David Duguid,--not related to "Hafed, Prince
of Persia,"--chief engineer of the gunboat Mukhbir (Captain
Mohammed Síráj), accompanied us part of the way on temporary
leave, and kindly assisted me in observing meteorology and in
The Egyptian commissioned officers numbered six, viz.:--
Ahmed Kaptán Musallam, commander in the navy, and ranking as
Sakulághási (major). He had been first officer in the Sinnár, and
he was sent to make astronomical observations; but he proved to
be a confirmed invalid.
Of the Arkán-Harb (Staff) were:--
Lieutenant Amir Rushdi, who had accompanied me before.
Lieutenant Yusuf Taufik.
Lieutenant Darwaysh Ukkáb, of the Piyédah or infantry. He was
also a great sufferer on a small scale.
Sub-Lieutenant Mohammed Farahát, of the Muhandism (Engineers), in
charge of the Laggámgiyyah or Haggárah (blasters and quarrymen).
He ended by deserting his duty on arrival at Cairo.
The non-commissioned officers, all Egyptians, amounted to
Bulúk-amín (writer) Mohammed Sharkáwi (infantry).
Chawush (serjeant) 'Atwah El-Ashírí (infantry).
Chawush (serjeant) Mabrúk Awadh (quarryman); deserted at Cairo.
Onbáshi (corporal) Higázi Ammár (Staff).
Onbáshi (corporal) Mohammed Sulaymán (infantry) : also our
barber, and a good man.
Onbáshi (corporal) Mahmu'd Abd el-Rahmán (infantry): I had to put
him in irons.
Onbáshi (corporal) Ibráhím Hedíb.
There were three Nafar (privates) of the Staff:--
'Ali 'Brahim Ma'danji, generally known as Ali Marie, from the
officer whom he served; a hard-working man, over-devoted to his
master. I recommended him for promotion.
Hasan Mohammed. He proved useful, as he brought with him all the
necessary tools for mending saddles.
The twenty-five privates of infantry were emancipated negroes, a
few being from the Súdán; composed of every tribe, it was a
curious mixture, good, bad, and indifferent. Some were slaves who
had been given, in free gift, by their owners to the Mírí
(Government), and men never part with a good "chattel," except
for a sufficient cause. As will be seen, many of the names are
Sayyid Ahmed El-Tawíl.
Yúsuf Faragallah (Faraj-Allah).
Sa'íd Hasan Básha'. His owner was a Fellah called Hasan
Báshá--peasants often give this title as a name to a boy who is
born under fortunate circumstances. Sa'íd was a fat, jolly
fellow, a Sidi Bháí from the Mrímá, or mainland of Zanzibar, who
had wholly forgotten his Kisawáhílí. Corporal Mahmúd was punished
for keeping him eighteen hours on guard. He was one of the very
few to whom I gave "bakhshísh" after returning to Cairo.
Abdullah Mohammed Zaghúl.
Faragallah Sharaf el-Dín.
Salámat el-Nahhás; an excellent and intelligent man, who was
attached to the service of M. Lacaze. He distinguished himself by
picking up antiques, until his weakness, the Dá el-Faranj, found
Farag Ahmed Bura'í.
Farag Mohammed Amín.
Mabrúk Hasan Osmán.
Khayr Ramazán, a large and sturdy negro, from Dár-Wadái, with
long cuts down both sides of his face; a hard-working and
intelligent soldier, who naturally took command of his fellows. I
made him an acting corporal, and on return recommended him for
Fadl 'Allah 'Ali el-Kholi, a Shillúk, one of the worst tribes of
the Upper Nile, whom it is forbidden to enlist. He began by
refusing to obey an order, he pushed an officer out of his way,
and he struck an Arab Shaykh. Consequently, he passed the greater
part of the time in durance vile at the fort of El-Muwaylah.
Mirgán Yúsuf; flogged for insolence to his officer, January 19.
Mabrúk Mansúr Agwah.
The Boruji (bugler) Mersál Abú Dunyá, a "character" who retires
for practice to lonely hills and vales. His progress is not equal
to his zeal and ambition.
The thirty quarrymen were all Egyptians, and it would be hard to
find a poorer lot; they never worked, save under compulsion, and
they stole whatever they could. I examined their packs during the
homeward cruise, and found that many of them had secreted
5. Mustafá Husayn.
Ali 'Abd el-Rahmán.
10. 'Alí Bedawi.
Mustafá Sa'dáni (died of fever at El-Muwaylah).
15. Mahmu'd Gum'ah.,
Abú Zayd Hassá'nah.
20. 'Ali Atwadh.
Ibra'hi'm 'Ali Mohammed.
Mohammed 'Abd el-Záhir.
25. 'Ali Wahish.
Abbási Mansúr (a tinman by trade, but without tools).
30. Mohammed Ajízah.
And lastly (31), the carpenter, 'Ali Sulaymán; a "knowing
dodger," who brought with him a little stock-in-trade of tobacco,
cigarette-paper, and similar comforts.
There were five soldiers, or rather matchlock-men, engaged from
the fort-garrison, El-Muwaylah:--
Husayn Bayrakdár; a man who has travelled, and has become too
clever by half. He was equally remarkable as a liar and as a
Bukháyt Ahmed, generally known as El-Ahmar from his red coat; a
Dinká slave, some sixty years old, and looking forty-five. He was
still a savage, never sleeping save in the open air.
Bukhayt Mohammed, popularly termed El-Aswad; a Foráwi
(Dár-Forian) and a good man. He was called "The Shadow of the
Ahmed Sálih; a stout fellow, and the worst of guides.
The head of the caravan was the Sayyid' Abd el-Rahím, accountant
at the Fort el-Muwaylah, of whom I have spoken before. He was
subsequently recommended by me to his Highness for the post of
Názir or commandant.
Haji Wali, my old Cairene friend, who lost no time in bolting.
There were also generally three Bedawi Shaykhs, who, by virtue of
their office, received each one dollar (twenty piastres) per
The servants and camp followers were:--
Anton Dimitriadis, the dragoman; a Bakkál or small shopkeeper at
Zagázig, and a tenant of Haji Wali.
Giorgi (Jorgos) Sifenus, the cook, whose main disadvantage was
his extreme and ultra-Greek uncleanliness.
Petro Giorgiadis, of Zante; a poor devil who has evidently been a
waiter in some small Greek café which supplies a cup per hour.
These three men were a great mistake; but, as has been said, poor
health at Cairo prevented my looking into details.
Yúsuf el-Fazi, Dumánji or quartermaster from the Mukhbir, acting
servant to Captain Ahmed, and a thoroughly good man. He was also
recommended for promotion.
Ahmed, the Saís or mule-groom; another pauvre diable, rascally
withal, who was flogged for selling the mules' barley to the
Bedawin. He was assisted by the Corporal (and barber) Mohammed
Sulaymán and by five quarrymen.
Husayn Ganínah; a one-eyed little Felláh, fourteen years old,
looking ten, and knowing all that a man of fifty knows. He was
body-servant to Lieutenant Yusuf.
As usual, the caravan was accompanied by a suttler from
El-Muwaylah, one Hamad, who sold tobacco, coffee, clarified
butter, and so forth. He was chaffed with the saying, Hamad fi'
bayt ak--"Thy house is a pauper."
Finally, there were two dogs: Juno, a Clumber spaniel, young and
inexperienced; Páikí, a pariah, also a pup.
Besides these two permanents, various "casuals," the dog 'Brahim,
etc., attached themselves to our camp.
The Start--from El-muwaylah to the "White Mountain" and 'Aynúah.
I landed at El-Muwaylah, described in my last volume,[EN#18] on
the auspicious Wednesday, December 19, 1877, under a salute from
the gunboat Mukhbir, which the fort answered with a rattle and a
patter of musketry. All the notables received us, in line drawn
up on the shore, close to our camp. To the left stood the
civilians in tulip-coloured garb; next were the garrison, a dozen
Básh-Buzuks en bourgeois, and mostly armed with matchlocks; then
came out quarrymen in uniform, but without weapons; and, lastly,
the escort (twenty-five men) held the place of honour on the
right. The latter gave me a loud "Hip! hip! hurrah!" as I passed.
The tents, a total of twenty, including two four-polers for our
mess and for the stores, with several large canvas sheds--páls,
the Anglo-Indian calls them--gleamed white against the dark-green
fronds of the date-grove; and the magnificent background of the
scene was the "Dibbagh" block of the Tiha'mah, or lowland
The usual "palaver" at once took place; during which everything
was "sweet as honey." After this pleasant prelude came the normal
difficulties and disagreeables--it had been reported that I was
the happy possessor of Ł22,000 mostly to be spent at El-MuwayIah.
The unsettled Arabs plunder and slay; the settled Arabs slander
A whole day was spent in inspecting the soldiers and mules; in
despatching a dromedary-post to Suez with news of our
unexpectedly safe arrival, and in conciliating the claims of
rival Bedawin. His Highness the Viceroy had honoured with an
order to serve us Hasan ibn Salim, Shaykh of the Beni 'Ukbah, a
small tribe which will be noticed in a future page. Last spring
these men had carried part of our caravan to 'Aynúnah; and they
having no important blood-feuds, I had preferred to employ them.
But 'Abd el-Nabi, of the Tagayát-Huwaytát clan, had been spoilt
by over-kindness during my reconnaissance of 1877; besides, I had
given him a bowie-knife without taking a penny in exchange. In my
first volume he appears as a noble savage, with a mixture of the
gentleman; here he becomes a mere Fellah-Bedawi.
The claimants met with the usual ceremony; right hands placed on
the opposite left breasts--this is not done when there is bad
blood--foreheads touching, and the word of peace, "Salám,"
ceremoniously ejaculated by both mouths. Then came the screaming
voices, the high words, and the gestures, which looked as if the
Kurbáj ("whip") were being administered. The Huwayti stubbornly
refused to march with the other tribe, whom, moreover, he grossly
insulted: he professed perfect readiness to carry me and mine
gratis, the while driving the hardest bargain; he spoke of "our
land," when the country belongs to the Khediv; he openly denied
his allegiance; he was convicted of saying, "If these Christians
find gold, there will be much trouble (fitneh) to us Moslems;"
and at a subsequent time he went so far as to abuse an officer. I
had "Shaykh'd" him (Shayyakht-uh), that is, promoted him in rank,
said the Sayyid 'Abd el-Rahím; and the honour had completely
changed his manners. "Nasaggharhu" (We will "small" him), was my
reply. The only remedy, in fact, was to undo what had been done;
to cut down, as Easterns say, the tree which I had planted. So he
was solemnly and conspicuously disrated; the fee, one dollar per
diem, allotted as travelling and escort-allowance to the chiefs,
was publicly taken from him, and he at once subsided into an
ignoble Walad ("lad"), under the lead of his uncle, Shaykh
'Aláyan ibn Rabí. The latter is a man of substance, who can
collect at least two thousand camels. Though much given to
sulking, on the whole, he behaved so well that, the Expedition
ended, I recommended him to his Highness the Viceroy for
appointment to the chieftainship of his tribe, and the usual
yearly subsidy. With him was associated his cousin, Shaykh
Furayj, an excellent man, of whom I shall have much to say; and
thus we had to fee three Bedawi chiefs, including Hasan. The
latter was a notable intriguer and mischief-maker, ever breeding
bad blood; and his termper was rather violent than sullen. When
insulted by a soldier, he would rush off for his gun,
ostentatiously light the match, walk about for an hour or two
threatening to "shyute," and then apparently forget the whole
All wanted to let their camels by the day, whereas the custom of
Arabia is to bargain for the march. Thus, the pilgrims pay one
dollar per stage of twelve hours; and the post-dromedary demands
the same sum, besides subsistence-money and "bakhshi'sh." But our
long and frequent halts rendered this proceeding unfair to the
Bedawin. I began by offering seven piastres tariff, and ended by
agreeing to pay five per diem while in camp, and ten when on the
road.[EN#19] Of course, it was too much; but our supply of money
was ample, and the Viceroy had desired me to be liberal. In the
Nile valley, where the price of a camel is some Ł20, the average
daily hire would be one dollar: on the other hand, the animal
carries, during short marches, 700 lbs. The American officers in
Upper Egypt reduced to 300 lbs. the 500 lbs. heaped on by the
Súdáni merchants. In India we consider 400 lbs. a fair load; and
the Midianite objects to anything beyond 200 lbs.
I have no intention of troubling the reader with a detailed
account of our three first stages from El-Muwaylah to the Jebel
el-Abyaz, or White Mountain.[EN#20] On December 21st, leaving
camp with the most disorderly of caravans--106 camels instead of
80, dromedaries not included--we marched to the mouth of the Wady
Tiryam, where we arrived before our luggage and provisions,
lacking even "Adam's ale." The Shaykhs took all the water which
could be found in the palm-boothies near the shore, and drank
coffee behind a bush. This sufficed to give me the measure of
Early next morning I set the quarrymen to work, with pick and
basket, at the north-western angle of the old fort. The latter
shows above ground only the normal skeleton-tracery of coralline
rock, crowning the gentle sand-swell, which defines the lip and
jaw of the Wady; and defending the townlet built on the northern
slope and plain. The dimensions of the work are fifty-five mčtres
each way. The curtains, except the western, where stood the Báb
el-Bahr ("Sea gate"), were supported by one central as well as by
angular bastions; the northern face had a cant of 32 degrees east
(mag.); and the northwestern tower was distant from the sea
seventy-two me'tres, whereas the south-western numbered only
sixty. The spade showed a substratum of thick old wall, untrimmed
granite, and other hard materials. Further down were various
shells, especially bénitiers ( Tridacna gigantea) the harp (here
called "Sirinbáz"), and the pearl-oyster; sheep-bones and palm
charcoal; pottery admirably "cooked," as the Bedawin remarked;
and glass of surprising thinness, iridized by damp to rainbow
hues. This, possibly the remains of lachrymatories, was very
different from the modern bottle-green, which resembles the old
Roman. Lastly, appeared a ring-bezel of lapis lazuli;
unfortunately the "royal gem," of Epiphanus was without
Whilst we were digging, the two staff-officers rode to the
date-groves of Wady Tiryam, and made a plan of the ancient
defences--the results of the first Khedivial Expedition had
either not been deposited at, or had been lost in, the Staff
bureau, Cairo. They found that the late torrents had filled up
the sand pits acting as wells; and the people assured them that
the Fiumara had ceased to show perennial water only about five or
six years ago.
The second march was disorderly as the first: it reminded me of
driving a train of unbroken mules over the Prairies; the men were
as wild and unmanageable as their beasts. It was every one's
object to get the maximum of money for the minimum of work. The
escort took especial care to see that all their belongings were
loaded before ours were touched. Each load was felt, and each box
was hand-weighed before being accepted: the heaviest, rejected by
the rich, were invariably left to the poorest and the lowest
clansmen with the weakest and leanest of animals. All at first
especially objected to the excellent boxes--a great comfort--made
for the Expedition[EN#21] at the Citadel, Cairo; but they ended
with bestowing their hatred upon the planks, the tables, and the
long tent-poles. As a rule, after the fellows had protested that
their camels were weighted down to the earth, we passed them on
the march comfortably riding--for "the 'Orbán can't walk." And no
wonder. At the halting-place they unbag a little barley and
wheat-meal, make dough, thrust it into the fire, "break bread,"
and wash it down with a few drops of dirty water. This copious
refection ends in a thimbleful of thick, black coffee and a pipe.
At home they have milk and Ghí (clarified butter) in plenty
during the season, game at times, and, on extraordinary
occasions, a goat or a sheep, which, however, are usually kept
for buying corn in Egypt. But it is a "caution" to see them feed
alle spalle altrui.
Nothing shabbier than the pack-saddles; nothing more rotten than
the ropes. As these "Desert ships" must weigh about half the
sturdy animals of Syria and the Egyptian Delta, future
expeditions will, perhaps, do well to march their carriage round
by El-'Akabah. The people declare that the experiment has been
tried, but that the civilized animal sickens and dies in these
barrens; they forget, however, the two pilgrim-caravans.
At this season the beasts are half-starved. Their "kitchen" is a
meagre ration of bruised beans, and their daily bread consists of
the dry leaves of thorn trees, beaten down by the Makhbat, a
flail-like staff, and caught in a large circle of matting
(El-Khasaf). In Sinai the vegetation fares even worse: the
branches are rudely lopped off to feed the flocks; only "holy
trees" escape this mutilation. With the greatest difficulty we
prevented the Arabs tethering their property all night close to
our tents: either the brutes were cold; or they wanted to browse
or to meet a friend: every movement was punished with a wringing
of the halter, and the result may be imagined.
We slept that night at Wady Sharmá. Of this ruined town a plan
was made for "The Gold-Mines of Midian," by Lieutenant Amir, who
alone is answerable for its correctness. We afterwards found
layers of ashes, slag, and signs of metal-working to the
north-east of the enceinte, where the furnace probably stood. The
outline measures 1906 metres, not "several kilometres;" and
desultory digging yielded nothing but charcoal, cinders, and
broken pottery. It was not before nine a.m. on the next day that
I could mount my old white, stumbling, starting mule; the delay
being caused by M. Marie's small discovery, which will afterwards
be noticed. We crossed both branches of the Sharmá water; and,
ascending the long sand-slope of the right bank, we again passed
the Bedawi cemetery. I sent Lieutenants Amir and Yusuf to
prospect certain stone-heaps which lay seawards of the graves;
and they found a little heptangular demi-lune, concave to the
north; the curtains varying from a minimum length of ten to a
maximum of eighty me'tres, and the thickness averaging two
metres, seventy-five centimetres. It was possibly intended, like
those above Wady Tiryam, to defend the western approach; and,
superficially viewed, it looks like a line of stones heaped up
over the dead, with that fine bird's-eye view of the valley which
the Bedawi loves for his last sleeping-place.
Thence we passed through the dry Báb ("sea gap"), cut by a
torrent in the regular line of the coralline cliff, the opening
of the Wady Melláh, off which lay our Sambúk. Marching up the
Wady Maka'dah, our experienced eyes detected many small outcrops
of quartz, formerly unobserved, in the sole and on the banks. The
granite hills, here as throughout Midian, were veined and dyked
with two different classes of plutonic rock. The red and pink are
felsites or fine-grained porphyries; the black and bottle-green
are the coarse-grained varieties, easily disintegrating, and
forming hollows [Illustration with caption: Fortification on the
cliff commanding the right bank of Wady Sharma'.] in the harder
granite. The ride was made charming by the frontage of
picturesque Jebel 'Urnub, with its perpendicular Pinnacles upon
rock-sheets dropping clear a thousand feet; its jutting bluffs;
its three huge flying Buttresses, that seemed to support the
mighty wall-crest; and its many spits and "organs," some capped
with finials that assume the aspect of logan-stones. There was no
want of animal life, and the yellow locusts were abroad; one had
been seized by a little lizard which showed all the violent
muscular action of the crocodile. There were small long-eared
hares, suggesting the leporide; sign of gazelles appeared; and
the Bedawin spoke of wolves and hyenas, foxes and jackals.
We camped upon the old ground to the southwest of the Jebel
el-Abyaz; and at the halt our troubles forthwith began. The
water, represented to be near, is nowhere nearer than a two
hours' march for camels; and it is mostly derived from
rain-puddles in the great range of mountains which subtends
maritime Midian. But this was our own discovery. The half-Fellah
Bedawin, like the shepherds, their predecessors, in the days of
Abimelech and Jethro, are ever chary of their treasure; the only
object being extra camel-hire. After eating your salt, a rite
whose significance, by-the-by, is wholly ignored throughout
Midian and its neighbourhood, they will administer under your
eyes a silencing nudge to an over-communicative friend. 'The very
children that drive the sheep and goats instinctively deny all
knowledge of the Themáil ("pits") and holes acting as wells.
At the head of the Wady el-Maka'dah we halted six days (December
24--30); this delay gave us time to correct the misapprehensions
of our flying visit. The height of the Jebel el-Abyaz, whose
colour makes it conspicuous even from the offing when sailing
along the coast, was found to be 350 (not 600) feet above the
plain. The Grand Filon, which a mauvais plaisant of a reviewer
called the "Grand Filou," forms a "nick" near the hill-top, but
does not bifurcate in the interior. The fork is of heavy greenish
porphyritic trap, also probably titaniferous iron, with a trace
of silver,[EN#22] where it meets the quartz and the granite.
Standing upon the "old man" with which we had marked the top, I
counted five several dykes or outcrops to the east (inland), and
one to the west, cutting the prism from north to south; the
superficial matter of these injections showed concentric circles
like ropy lava. The shape of the block is a saddleback, and the
lay is west-east, curving round to the south. The formation is of
the coarse grey granite general throughout the Province, and it
is dyked and sliced by quartz veins of the amorphous type,
crystals being everywhere rare in Midian (?) The filons and
filets, varying in thickness from eight metres to a few lines,
are so numerous that the whole surface appears to be quartz
tarnished by atmospheric corrosion to a dull, pale-grey yellow;
while the fracture, sharp and cutting as glass or obsidian, is
dazzling and milk-white, except where spotted with
pyrites--copper or iron. The neptunian quartz, again, has
everywhere been cut by plutonic injections of porphyritic trap,
veins averaging perhaps two metres, with a north-south strike,
and a dip of 75 degrees (mag.) west. If the capping were removed,
the sub-surface would, doubtless, bear the semblance of a
The Jebel el-Abyaz is apparently the centre of the quartzose
outcrop in North Midian (Madyan Proper). We judged that it had
been a little worked by the ancients, from the rents in the reef
that outcrops, like a castle-wall, on the northern and eastern
flanks. There are still traces of roads or paths; while heaps,
strews, and scatters of stone, handbroken and not showing the
natural fracture, whiten like snow the lower slopes of the
western hill base. They contrast curiously with the hard
felspathic stones and the lithographic calcaires bearing the
moss-like impress of metallic dendrites; these occur in many
parts near the seaboard, and we found them in Southern as well as
in Northern Midian. The conspicuous hill is one of four mamelons
thus disposed in bird's-eye view; the dotted line shows the
supposed direction of the lode in the Jibál el-Bayzá, the
On the plain to the north of the Jebel el-Abyaz also, I found
curdles of porphyritic trap, and parallel trap-dykes, cutting the
courses of large-grained grey granite: as many as three outcrops
of the former appeared within fourteen yards. This convinced me
that the whole of the solid square, thirty kilometres (six by
five), where the quartz emerges, is underlaid by veins and
veinlets of the same rock. Moreover, I then suspected, and
afterwards ascertained, that the quartz of the Jibál el-Bayzá, as
the Bedawin call this section, is not a local peculiarity. It
everywhere bursts, not only the plain between the sea and the
coast-range, but the two parallels of mountain which confine it
on the east. In fact, throughout our northern march the Arabs,
understanding that its object was "Marú," the generic name for
quartz,[EN#23] brought us loads of specimens from every
direction. Nothing is easier than to work the purely superficial
part. A few barrels of gunpowder and half a dozen English miners,
with pick and crowbar, suffice. Even our dawdling, feckless
quarrymen easily broke and "spelled" for camel loading some six
tons in one day.
Our short se'nnight was not wasted; yet I had an uncomfortable
feeling that the complication of the country called for an
exploration of months and not hours. Every day some novelty
appeared. The watercourses of the Gháts or coast-range were
streaked with a heavy, metallic, quartzose black sand which M.
Marie vainly attempted to analyze. We afterwards found it in
almost every Wady, and running north as far as El-'Akabah;
whilst, with few exceptions, all our washings of red earth,
chloritic sand, and bruised stone, yielded it and it only. It is
apparently the produce of granite and syenite, and it abounds in
African Egypt. I was in hopes that tungsten and titaniferous iron
would make it valuable for cutlery as the black sand of New
Zealand. Experiments in the Citadel, Cairo, produced nothing save
magnetic iron with a trace of lead. But according to Colonel
Ross, the learned author of "Pyrology, or Fire Chemistry,"[EN#24]
it is iserine or magnetic ilmenite, titaniferous iron-sand,
containing eighty-eight per cent. of iron (oxides and
sesquioxides), with eleven per cent. of titanic acid.
The Arabs brought in fine specimens of hematite and of copper ore
from Wady Gharr or Ghurr, six miles to the south of camp. Here
were found two water-pits in a well-defined valley; the nearer
some ten miles south-west of the Jebel el-Abyaz, the other about
two miles further to the north-west; making a total of twelve.
About the latter there was, however, no level ground for tents. A
mile and a half walking almost due north led to a veinlet of
copper 30 metres long by 0.30 thick, with an east-west strike,
and a dip of 45 degrees south. This metal was also found in the
hills to the south. Crystalline pyroxene and crystallized
sulphates of lime apparently abound, while the same is the case
with carbonate of manganese, and other forms of the metal so
common in Western Sinai. Briefly, our engineer came to the
conclusion that we were in the very heart of a mining region.
We made a general reconnaisance (December 27th) of a place whence
specimens of pavonine quartz had come to hand. Following the Wady
'Ifriyá round the north and east of the White Mountain, we fell
into the Wady Simákh (of "Wild Sumach"), that drains the great
gap between the Pinnacles and the Buttresses of the
'Urnub-Tihámah section. After riding some two miles, we found to
the south-east fragments of dark, iridescent, and metallic
quartz: they emerge from the plain like walls, bearing
north-south, with 36 degrees of westing and a westward dip of 15
degrees to 20 degrees--exactly the conditions which Australia
seeks, and which produced the huge "Welcome Nugget" of Ballarat.
They crop out of the normal trap-dyked grey granite, and select
specimens show the fine panaché lustre of copper. M. Marie
afterwards took from one of the geodes a pinch of powder weighing
about half a gramme, and cupelled a bright dust-shot bead
weighing not less than two centigrammes. Without further
examination he determined it to be argentiferous, when it was
possibly iron or antimony. On the other hand, the silver
discovered in the Grand Filon by so careful and conscientious an
observer as Gastinel Bey, and the fact that we are here on the
same line of outcrop, and at a horizon three hundred feet lower,
This vein, which may be of great length and puissance, I took the
liberty of calling the "Filon Husayn," from the prince who had so
greatly favoured the Expedition. Here we had hit upon the
Negros,[EN#25] or coloured quartzose formations of Mexico, in
which silver appears as a sulphure; and we may expect to find the
Colorado, or argillaceous, that produces the noble metal in the
forms of chlorure, bromure, and iodure. The former appears
everywhere in Midian, but our specimens are all superficial,
taken ŕ ciel ouvert. To ascertain the real value and the extent
of the deposits required exposure of the veins at a horizon far
lower than our means and appliances allowed us to reach. If the
rock prove argentiferous I should hope to strike virgin silver in
the capillary or aborescent shape below. Above it, as on the
summit of the Jebel el-Abyaz, and generally in the "Marú" hills
and hillocks of North Midian, the dull white quartz is
comparatively barren; showing specks of copper; crystals of
pyrites, the "crow-gold" of the old English miner, and dark dots
of various metals which still await analysis.
Thus, I would divide the metalliferous quartzes of this
North-Midianite region into two chief kinds: those stained green
and light blue, whose chief metallic element is copper, with its
derivatives; and the iridescent Negro, which may shelter the
Colorado. In South Midian the varieties of quartz are
incomparably more numerous, and almost every march shows a new
colour or constitution.
About the Jebel el-Abyaz, as in many mining countries, water is a
serious difficulty. The principal deposit lies some three miles
east of the camping ground in a Nakb or gorge, El-Asaybah,
offsetting from the great Fiumara, "El-Simákh;" and apparently it
is only a rain-pool. Throughout Midian, I may say, men still
fetch water out of the rock. M. Philipin, whilst pottering about
this place, saw two Beden (ibex) with their young, which suggests
a permanent supply of drink.[EN#26]
However that may be, Norton's Abyssinian pumps, for which I had
Back to Full Books