Travels in Arabia, by John Lewis Burckhardt

From Yembo to Cairo.

I EMBARKED at Yembo on the morning of the 15th of May, in an open sambouk, or large boat, bound to Cosseir, there to load with corn; the Reys or master was the son of the owner, a native of Yembo. I had agreed for my own and my slave’s passage from hence to Cosseir at five dollars, two dollars being the usual charge paid by hadjys, and one dollar by poor people and servants. The government allowed the ship-owners only half a dollar per head for the transport of soldiers. As the partner of the commander of Yembo had a share in this boat, it was allowed to proceed without soldiers, and the Reys had told me that there were only a dozen Arab passengers on board. In making me pay two dollars more than the usual fare, he had agreed to let me have a small place behind the steerage to myself. When I came on board, however, I found that I had been deceived; above thirty passengers, principally Syrians and Egyptians, were crowded together in the boat, with about ten sailors. The Reys, his younger brother, the pilot, and the steward, had established themselves in the place behind the helm for which I had agreed. To revisit Yembo, the abode of death, was not advisable; and as I saw no appearance of plague on board, I submitted to my lot without any unavailing dispute. We immediately set sail, keeping close in shore. In the evening I saw that my situation was much worse than I had suspected it to be when I came on board; in the hold were lying half a dozen sick people, two of whom were in a violent delirium; the Reys’s young brother, who had his seat close to me, was paid to attend the sick; one of them died on the following day, and the body was thrown overboard. Little doubt remained of the plague being actually in the ship, though the sailors insisted that it was a different malady. On the third day, the boy, the Reys’s brother, felt great pains in his head, and, struck with the idea of the plague, he insisted on being set on shore. We were then in a small bay; the Reys yielded to his entreaties, and agreed with a Bedouin on shore to carry him back on his camel to Yembo. He was landed, and I am ignorant of his fate. The only precaution I could take against infection, was to place my baggage round me, so as to form an insulated spot in which I had just room enough to sit at my ease; but notwithstanding this, I was compelled to come in contact every moment with the ship’s company. Very luckily the disease did not spread; we had only another death, on the fifth day from our departure, though several of the passengers were seized with the malady, which I cannot possibly affirm to have been the plague, as I did not examine the corpses, but every thing led me to that belief. The continual sea-sickness and vomiting of the passengers were, perhaps, to them a salutary operation of nature. As to myself, I was in a very low state of health the whole of the voyage, and frequently tormented with my ague, which was increased by the utter want of comforts on board. I had taken a disgust to all food, excepting broths: whenever we entered a port, I bought a sheep of the Bedouins, in order to have a dish of soup; and by distributing the meat among the ship’s people, I obtained their good-will, so that in every instance I was well treated by them; and could command their assistance whenever I stood in need of it, either to raise a temporary awning every morning, or to fill my water-skins on shore.

The navigation is here the same as what I have already described in my voyage from Sowakin to Djidda. We went into a harbour every evening, never sailing during the night, and started again at day-break. If it was known that no small creek or harbour lay before us, near enough to be reached before sun-set with the then existing wind, we sometimes stopped at an anchoring-place soon after mid-day. Unfortunately, the ship’s boat had been carried away by a heavy sea, in a preceding voyage; we therefore could seldom get on shore, excepting at places where we found other vessels, whose boats we took, as we usually anchored in deep water. The sailors showed as great cowardice here, as those of Sowakin on a former occasion. Whenever it blew fresh, the sails were taken in; the dread of a storm made them take shelter in a harbour, and we never made longer courses than from twenty-five to thirty-five miles per day. A large square cask of water was the only one on board, and contained a supply for three days for the ship’s crew only. The passengers had each his own water-skin; and whenever we reached a watering-place, the Bedouins came to the beach, and sold us the contents of their full skins. As it sometimes happens that the ships are becalmed in a bay distant from any wells, or prevented from quitting it by adverse winds, the crew is exposed to great sufferings from thirst, for they have never more on board their boats than a supply for three or four days.

For the first three days we steered along a sandy shore, here entirely barren and uninhabited, the mountains continuing at a distance inland. At three days’ journey by land and by sea from Yembo, as it is generally computed, lies the mountain called Djebel Hassány, reaching close to the shore; and from thence northward the lower range of the mountains are, in the vicinity of the beach, thinly inhabited throughout by Bedouins. The encampments of the tribe of Djeheyne extend as far as these mountains: to the north of it, as far as the station of the Hadj called El Wodjeh, or as it is also pronounced, El Wosh, are the dwelling-places of the Heteym Bedouins. In front of Djebel Hassány are several islands; and the sea is here particularly full of shoals and coral rocks, rising nearly to the surface; from the various colours of which, the water, when viewed from a distance, assumes all the hues of the rainbow. In spring, after the rains, some of these little islands are inhabited by the Bedouins of the coast, who there pasture their cattle as long as food is found: they have small boats, and are all active fishers. They salt the fish, and either carry it in their own boats to Yembo and Cosseir, or sell it to the ships which pass. One of these islands, called El Harra, belongs to the Beni Abs, once a powerful Bedouin tribe, but now reduced to a few families, who live mixed with the Beni Heteym, and, like them, are held in great disrepute by all their neighbours. Upon another island stands the tomb of a saint, called Sheikh Hassan el Merábet, with a few low buildings and huts round it, where a Bedouin family of the Heteym tribe is stationary, to whom the guardianship of the tomb belongs. The course of the Arab ships being usually close by this island, the crews often despatch a boat with a few measures of corn to those people, or some butter, biscuits, and coffee-beans, because they consider Sheikh Hassan to be the patron of these seas. When we sailed by, our Reys made a large loaf of bread, which he baked in ashes, and distributed a morsel of it to every person on board, who eat it in honour of the saint, after which we were treated by him with a cup of coffee.

In general, the Arab sailors are very superstitious; they hold certain passages in great horror; not because they are more dangerous than others, but because they believe that evil spirits dwell among the coral rocks, and might possibly attract the ship towards the shoal, and cause her to founder. For the same reason they observe the constant practice of throwing, at every meal, a handful of dressed victuals into the sea, before they sit down themselves to the repast; saying that the inhabitants of the sea must also have their morsel, otherwise they will impede the vessel’s course. Our Reys once forgot this tribute; but on recollecting it, he ordered a fresh loaf to be baked, and threw it into the sea.

We met every day, during this voyage, ships coming from Egypt, and often lay in the same bay with three or four of them, in the evening. On such occasions quarrels frequently happen about water; and ships are often obliged to wait one or two days before the Bedouins bring a sufficient supply down to the coast. Butter, milk, honey, sheep, goats, salt fish, firewood, thin branches of the shrub Arak, of which the Arabians make their tooth-brushes, and which the Bedouins collect on this coast, are every where to be had in plenty, and are generally exchanged for corn or tobacco. These Bedouins are daring robbers, and often swim to the ships during the night, to watch for the opportunity of pilfering. The water on the whole coast is bad, except at Wodjeh and at Dhoba. Wodjeh, which is usually reckoned at three days’ journey northward from Djebel Hassány, is a castle on the Hadj route, about three miles inland. Close by it is excellent spring water; and there are likewise copious wells of tolerable water in the vicinity of the small bay which serves as a harbour to the castle, and is therefore called Mersa el Wodjeh. Some Moggrebyn soldiers garrison the castle, which was said to be well stocked with provisions. Several of them were married to Bedouin women, and carried on a trifling trade in provisions with the ships that pass.

The neighbouring mountains of Wodjeh are inhabited by the Bedouin tribe of Bily. To the north of Wodjeh, and about two days’ journey south of Moeyleh, lies the anchorage of Dhoba, renowned for its excellent wells. The anchoring-place is in a large bay, one of the best harbours on this coast, and the wells are about half an hour’s distance inland, under a grove of palm and Doum date-trees. The route of the Egyptian Hadj passes here; and for its convenience, a birket, or reservoir, has been constructed. The ships that sail from Cosseir to Yembo generally make this point, and continue from thence their coasting voyage southwards. North of Dhoba two days, lies the castle and small village of Moeyleh, in the territory of the Howeytat and Omran Bedouins. We passed it at a distance; but I could see considerable plantations of date-trees near the shore. What is called the castle, appears to be a square building, upon the plain close by the water-side. The position of Moeyleh is distinguishable from afar by the high mountain just behind it; three pointed summits of which, overtopping the rest, are visible sixty to eighty miles off: I was told that in clear winter days they could be distinguished, from Cosseir, at the moment of sun-rise. Moeyleh is the principal position on this coast from Akaba down to Yembo. Its inhabitants, who are for the greater part Bedouins, become settlers, carry on a trade in cattle and fish with Tor and Yembo, and their market is visited by numerous Bedouins of the interior of the country. It is the only place on this coast where a regular market is kept, and where provisions are always to be found, and thus often affords timely relief to ships detained on their passage by contrary winds. Provisions being very dear in the Hedjaz, and very cheap in Egypt, ships, on leaving the Hedjaz harbours for Cosseir or Suez, never lay in more than is absolutely necessary; but the passage, which is usually calculated by them at twenty days, very often lasts a month, and sometimes even two months.

From off Moeyleh, the point of the peninsula of Sinai, called Ras Abou Mohammed, is clearly distinguished. Ships bound from Yembo to Cosseir generally make this promontory, or one of the islands lying before it, and thence steer south to Cosseir. They do this, in order to take advantage of the northerly winds that blow in these parts of the Red Sea for nine months of the year; and they prefer the tedious, but safer mode of a coasting voyage, during which they often enjoy a land-breeze, to the danger and fatigue of beating up, in open sea, against the wind, or of standing straight across from Djidda or Yembo to the African coast; with the harbours of which, south of Cosseir, very few Red Sea pilots are acquainted, and of the Bedouin inhabitants of which they all entertain great fears.

On reaching Ras Mohammed, they anchor near one of the small islands, or go into the harbour called Sherm, where they wait till a fair wind springs up, which usually carries them to Cosseir in one or two days.

As for ourselves, we had not during the whole voyage any sort of disagreeable occurrence, though the wind, which was seldom fair, obliged us once to remain three days at the same anchorage; and I often expected the vessel to be wrecked, on seeing the pilot steer among the shoals in shore: a practice in which these people have acquired great experience, and in which they display as much boldness as they do cowardice in the open sea.

After twenty days’ voyage we reached the neighbourhood of Ras Abou Mohammed, on the 4th of June: the boat was secured for the night with grapplings to some coral rocks, leeward of a small island ahead of the promontory; the pilot intending to strike across the next morning.

As I knew that Bedouins were always to be found in the harbour of Sherm, to transport passengers by land to Tor or Suez, I wished to be set on shore here. The road from hence to Cairo was much shorter than by way of Cosseir; and my low state of health rendered it desirable to leave the vessel where I had not the slightest accommodation, and where the fears of the plague had not yet subsided, though no person had died on board during the last fortnight. For the sum of four dollars given to the Reys, and one to the pilot, they were kind enough to go a little out of their course, and on the following morning, the 5th of June, we entered the harbour of Sherm.

Sherm is about four or five hours distant from the point called Ras Abou Mohammed, and is a good and spacious harbour, with anchorage for large ships; it lies at the entrance of the gulf of Akaba, and is the best harbour on the west side of that gulf. Under the name Sherm, or Sheroum, (the plural,) are included two harbours half a mile distant from each other, both equally good; but the southern is the most frequented. As a copious well is near, these harbours are often visited by ships coming from and going to the Hedjaz; and passengers who wish to save themselves a voyage up the Gulf of Suez, (which during the prevalence of the northerly winds is often of long duration,) land here, and are carried by the Bedouins upon camels to Tor and Suez. These Bedouins, living up in the mountains, see the ships from afar, and on their arrival hasten to the coast to offer their services. In former times, when the Pashas of Egypt exercised but a nominal power over the neighbouring Bedouins, the Arabs of Tor were much dreaded by the crews of ships; they enforced from them regular tributes whenever they entered their harbours, and conducted themselves in a very oppressive manner. At present, Mohammed Aly, through the means of the commander at Suez, has succeeded in overawing these Bedouins; their conduct is now very friendly, and travelling with them is perfectly safe: but if a ship happens to be wrecked on their coasts, or on the islands near them (no unfrequent occurrence), they still assert their ancient right of plundering the cargo.

In the evening a ship came in, laden with soldiers, which left Yembo six days before us; the commander of the soldiers, and four or five of his party, were set on shore, to proceed by land to Cairo, and both vessels continued their voyage the next morning for Cosseir.

There was no difficulty in obtaining camels; more than thirty were ready to be hired; and we started, on the evening of our arrival, in two parties, the one in advance composed of the soldiers, and the other, at about two hours’ distance behind, composed of myself and slave, and two fellow passengers, men of Damascus, who were glad of this opportunity of shortening their journey home. We rode this evening about one hour and a half in a valley, and then rested for the night.

On the 6th of June we continued our road in barren valleys, among steep rocks, mostly of granite, till we halted, about noon, under a projecting rock that afforded us some shade. The Bedouins went to fetch water from a place up in the western mountains, called El Hamra, which proved to be of excellent quality. A poor woman with two goats lived in the valley quite alone. Among the Bedouins themselves the most perfect security prevails in this district, which is interrupted only by the scandalous behaviour of the Turkish soldiers who pass this way. I knew these men well from repeated experience, and therefore had declined joining their party. When we continued our route towards evening, we met on the road one of the Bedouin boys who served as camel-drivers to the party before us. His camel, upon which one of the soldiers was mounted, had not been able to keep up with the others, and its rider, furious at this delay, had drawn his sabre, and cut the animal to make it move at a quicker pace: when the boy remonstrated and seized the halter, he also received a cut on the shoulder; and as he persisted in keeping his hold, the ruffian discharged his gun at him; the boy then ran off, and waited for our coming up. At a few miles’ distance we heard from afar the soldier’s loud cursing, and found him walking behind the camel. As I expected an affray, I had loaded my gun and pistols. When he saw me riding in front of our people, he immediately ran towards me, and cried out to me in Turkish to descend and to change camels with him. I laughed at him, and told him in Arabic I was no fellah, to be addressed in that manner. In the usual style of those soldiers, who think that every person who is not a soldier must yield to their commands, he then turned towards my slave and ordered him to alight, swearing that he would shoot one of us, if we did not obey. On hearing this I took up my gun, and assured him that it was loaded with good powder, and would send a bullet to his heart better than his would to mine. During this altercation his camel had strayed a little into the valley, and fearing for his baggage, he ran after it, and we rode on. Not being able to follow us in the sands, he discharged his gun at me, from a distance, which I immediately answered, and thus the battle ended. Farther on we came up with his companions, who had alighted. I told them, that their friend behind was embarrassed with his camel, upon which they dispatched one of their Bedouins to fetch him, while I myself rode on, and encamped that night in a side valley out of the road, where the Bedouin boy again joined us, not wishing to be seen by the other soldiers.

We now conducted our journey in such a manner as not to fall in again with the soldiers; but two days after I met the man again at Tor. The governor of Suez was then there, to whom I might have addressed my complaints: this he was afraid of, and therefore walked up to me with a smiling countenance, and said he hoped that no rancour subsisted between us; that as to the shot he fired, it was merely for the purpose of calling his companions to assist him with his camel. In reply, I assured him that my shot had quite a different object, and that I was sorry it had missed; upon which he laughed and went away. There are not on earth more insolent, haughty, and at the same time vile and cowardly beings than Turkish soldiers: wherever they expect to meet with no resistance, they act in the most overbearing, despotic manner, and think nothing of killing an inoffensive person, in the slightest fit of passion; but when they meet with a firm resistance, or apprehend any bad consequences from their conduct, there is no meanness to which they will not immediately submit. During my journey through Egypt from Cairo to Assouan, the whole of which was performed by land, I had several similar rencontres with soldiers; and I must lay it down as a rule for travellers, constantly to treat these fellows with great hauteur, as the most trifling condescension is attributed by them to fear, and their conduct becomes intolerable. We travelled this day about nine hours.

June 7th. We continued our course in valleys for about two hours and a half, when we came to a high mountain, where I was obliged to dismount. It was with great difficulty that I could reach the summit, for my strength was exhausted; and I had been shivering with a fever the whole preceding night. It took us about two hours and a half to pass the mountain, and to descend into the valley on the other side. From the top we had a fine view of the Gulf of Akaba. The upper part of this mountain is granite, and its lower ridges grünstein. In the afternoon we issued from this chain into the western plain, which declines slowly towards the sea of Suez, and encamped in it after a ride of about ten hours.

June 8th. We reached Tor, in about three hours and a half from our resting-place. Here we found every thing in a great bustle. The lady of Mohammed Aly Pasha, whom I had met with at almost every station on this journey, had arrived here from Yembo a few days before, and, as it blew strong from the north, had come on shore, that she might proceed by land to Suez. The governor of Suez and Mustafa Beg, her own brother, one of the Pasha’s principal officers, had come to meet her, and her tents were pitched close by the little village of Tor. From four to five hundred camels were required to transport her suite and soldiers to Suez, and as that number could not soon be prepared, she had already been waiting here a whole week.

I had intended to stop at Tor a few days, merely to recover sufficient strength for my journey to Cairo; but when I learned that the plague was still at Suez, as well as at Cairo, I changed my plan, and determined to wait here some weeks, till the season for the disease should be passed. I soon found, however, that a residence at Tor was not very agreeable. This little village is built in a sandy plain, close to the beach, without any shelter from the sun; a few date-plantations are at some distance behind it. The houses are miserable, and swarms of flies and mosquitoes choke up the avenues of every dwelling. I remained at Tor for the night; and having heard from the Bedouins that at one hour’s distance was another small village, in an elevated situation, with abundance of gardens and excellent water, I resolved to take up my quarters there.

It is surrounded by a half-ruined wall: the remains of a small castle are seen, said to have been constructed by Sultan Selym I., who fortified all the outposts of his empire. The French intended to rebuild it, but they left Egypt before the work was begun. Two small villages, about a mile distance, on both sides of Tor, are inhabited by Arabs, while in Tor itself none reside but Greeks, consisting of about twenty families, with a priest, who is under the Archbishop of Mount Sinai. They earn their livelihood by selling provisions to the ships that anchor here to take in water, which abounds in wells, and is of a good quality. Provisions are here twice as dear as at Cairo; and the people of Tor have their own small boats, in which they sail to Suez for those provisions. Were it not for the passage of Turkish soldiers, they would be rich, as they live very parsimoniously; but the rapacity of a few of these men often deprives them, in a single day, of the profits they have earned during a whole year. No garrison is kept here by the Pasha.

June 9th. In the morning I rode over the ascending plain to the above-mentioned village, which is called El Wady, after having laid in a sufficient stock of provisions at Tor. I easily found a lodging, and was glad to see that my expectations of the site of this village were not disappointed: it consists of about thirty houses, built in gardens, and among date-trees, almost every house having its own little garden. I hired a small half-open building, which I had covered with dateleaves, and enjoyed the immediate vicinity of a shady pleasure-ground, where grew palm, nebek, pomegranate, and apricot trees. A large well, in the midst of them, afforded a supply of excellent water, and I had nothing more to wish for at present. The people of the village, who are for the greater part Bedouins become settlers, could not suspect any motive I might have for residing here, as they saw that I was scarcely able to stand upon my legs: they treated me, in consequence, kindly; and little presents of meat and other provision, which I distributed among them, soon insured their good-will, and I had every reason to be satisfied with their conduct. Thus enjoying complete repose, and the good mountain air of this village, which lies so much higher than Tor, my strength soon returned.

For the last four years, since I had left the society of my friends Mr. Barker and Mr. Masseyk, and the delightful gardens of Aleppo, I had not found myself so comfortable as I did here; and even the first day that I passed in this retreat produced a visible improvement in my health. As I thought that slight exercise might be useful, I rode over to the Hammám, a warm bath, round the corner of the mountain, situated to the north of Tor, and about half an hour distant from El Wady. Several warm springs issue from the calcareous mountain, the principal of which has a roof built over it, and is visited by all the surrounding Bedouins. Some half-ruined buildings, probably as old as the demolished castle of Tor, offered, in former times, accommodation to the visiters. The water is of a moderate heat, and appears to be strongly impregnated with nitre. Close by the springs are extensive date-plantations. I have never seen a richer and more luxurious growth of palm-trees than in this place; they form so thick a wood, that it is difficult to find one’s way through it. These plantations belong to the Bedouins of the peninsula, who come here with their families at the date-harvest. The largest grove, however, is the property of the Greek priests of Mount Sinai, one of whom lives in an insulated tower in the midst of it, like a hermit, for he is the only constant resident in the place. The fear of the Bedouins keeps him shut up for months in this tower the entrance to which is by a ladder; and a waterman, who provides him every week with a supply of water, is the only individual who approaches him. The priest is placed here as gardener of the convent; but experience shows the inefficacy of all attempts to protect the trees from the pilfering Bedouins, and they have therefore given up the fruit to the first comer: so that this grove, the produce of which often amounts to the value of four or five thousand piastres, becomes public property.

I had some difficulty in providing myself with flesh-meat at Wady: sheep are very scarce in the whole peninsula, and no Arab is inclined to sell what he has. A flock had been sent from Suez to Tor, for the supply of Mohammed Aly’s lady and her suite. I was obliged to pay twelve piastres here for a small kid.

The second week’s residence at El Wady considerably improved my health. I was not thoroughly recovered, but only wished., at present, to acquire sufficient strength for the journey to Cairo, where the means of a complete cure might be found. I was the more inclined to hasten my departure, as it was said that all the Bedouins who had camels to spare, and had not given them up for the transport of the Pasha’s women, were soon to leave this neighbourhood, with loads of coals for Cairo, when I should find it difficult to procure beasts of transport. I had been for eighteen months without any letters from Europe, and felt impatient to reach Cairo, where I knew that many awaited me. I knew too, that the plague would have nearly subsided by the time of my arrival, as about the end of June it always yields to the influence of the hot season. I therefore engaged two camels from hence to Cairo, for which I paid twelve dollars.

The Arabs of these parts have established particular transport customs: of those who inhabit this peninsula, the tribe of Sowaleha is entitled to one half of the transport, and the other half is shared by the two tribes of Mezeyne and Aleygat. As I wanted two camels, one was to be furnished to me by a Sowaleha, and the other either by a Mezeyne or Aleygat. If no individuals of those three tribes happen to be present, the business is easily settled with one of them, and the others have no after claim; but if several of them are on the spot, quarrels always arise among them, and he who conducts the traveller is obliged to give to the others a small sum of money, to silence their claims. The same custom or law marks out certain limits, which when the traveller and his guide have once passed, the countrymen of the latter have no more claims for the transport. The limit from Tor, northward, is half way between Tor and Wady. The Bedouin who had carried me from Tor to Wady passed this limit by stealth, none of his friends knowing of it: they pursued when they saw us on the road; but we had passed the limits before they came up with us, and I had thus fallen to the lot of this guide; when, on inquiring at Wady for a new guide to Cairo, I was told that no person could take the transport upon himself, without the knowledge or permission of the Bedouin who had brought me to Wady from Tor, and upon whose camel I had once crossed the limits. The man was therefore sent for, and as his own camels were not present, he ceded his right to another for two dollars; and with the latter I departed. These quarrels about transport are very curious, and sometimes very intricate to decide: in the mean while the traveller remains completely passive, but there is not much danger of imposition, for the amount of the hire is always publicly known, and one dollar is the largest sum he can lose.

I left Wady on the 17th of June. Our road lay upon an elevated plain, bounded on the east by the high summits of the Sinai mountains, and on the west by a low ridge of calcareous hills, which separate the plain from the sea, and run parallel with it for about five or six hours. This plain, which is completely barren, and of a gravelly soil, is called El Kaa, and is in bad repute with the Bedouins, from having no springs, and being extremely hot, from the nature of its position. Thus I found it myself. During this day we suffered much from one of the hottest winds I ever remember to have experienced. We alighted during the mid-day hours in the open plain, without finding any tree to afford shade. A Bedouin cloak, fastened to four poles, was erected as a tent, barely sheltering me from the sun, while my two guides and my slave wrapped themselves in their mantles, and lay down and slept in the sun. Instead of causing perspiration, the hot air of the Semoum chokes up every pore; and in the evening I again had the ague, which continued from hence, in irregular fits, till I arrived at Cairo. We encamped this night in El Kaa.

June 18th. We entered, in the morning, Wady Feiran, followed it down towards the sea, and then continued along shore for the rest of the day, till we reached the neighbourhood of the well called El Merkha, in front of the bay which bears the name of Birket Faraoun.

June 19th. From Merkha we again proceeded along shore, then entered the Wady Taybe, leaving to our left the mountains, which reach close to the shore, and in the midst of which lies the bath, called Hamam Seydna Mousa. Taybe is a valley full of trees, which were now withered for want of rain. Having reached its top, we continued over a high plain, passed Wady Osayt, and slept that night in Wady Gharendel.

June 20th. Passing by the brackish spring of Howara, we crossed a barren plain, reached Wady Wardan at mid-day, and encamped in the evening at Wady Seder. Our days’ journeys were very long, and we travelled some hours during the night, that we might reach Suez in time to join the caravan, which was preparing there to conduct the Pasha’s women to Cairo. As I shall speak in detail of this road in the journal of my visit to Mount Sinai, I forbear entering here into any particulars: the remarks I now made were, besides, very superficial.

June 26th. [sic] In the morning we passed Ayoun Mousa, and reached Suez in the afternoon. The caravan was just preparing to depart, and we started with it in the evening. There was a strong guard, and altogether we had about six hundred camels. We travelled the whole night without interruption, and on the morning of June 22nd alighted at the place called El Hamra, the Hadj station between Cairo and Adjeroud. The ladies of the Pasha had brought two carriages with them from the Hedjaz, in which they had travelled all the way from Tor to Suez, the road being every where of easy passage. Two more carriages were sent for them from Cairo to Suez, one of which, an elegant English barouche, was drawn by four horses: they got into these at Suez, and quitted them occasionally for splendid litters or palanquins, carried by mules. We started again in the evening, and, travelling the whole night, reached Birket el Hadj on the morning of the 23rd, having thus made the whole journey from Tor in six days; a forced march which, from the heat of the season, had fatigued me extremely. At the Birket El Hadj the caravan was met by many grandees from Cairo: the ladies of the Pasha intended to encamp there for a few days among the date-groves. Being unable myself, from weakness, to proceed on the same day, (although Cairo is but four hours distant,) I slept here, and entered the city on the morning of the 24th of June, after an absence from thence of nearly two years and a half. I found that two letters, which I sent here from Medina, had not been received, and my acquaintances had supposed me lost. The plague had nearly subsided; some of the Christians had already re-opened their houses; but great gloom seemed to have overspread the town from the mortality that had taken place.

The joy I felt at my safe return to Cairo was considerably increased by flattering and encouraging letters from England; but my state of health was too low to admit of fully indulging in the pleasures of success. The physicians of Cairo are of the same set of European quacks so frequently found in other parts of the Levant: they made me swallow pounds of bark, and thus rendered my disease worse; and it was not till two months after that I regained my perfect health at Alexandria, whither I had gone to pay a visit to Colonel Missett, the British resident in Egypt, who had already laid me under so many obligations, and to whose kind attentions, added to regular exercise on horseback, more than to any thing else, I was indebted for my recovery. A delightful journey, in the winter months, through Lower Egypt, and by the Lake Menzaleh, restored me to my wonted strength, which I am happy to say has never since experienced any abatement.

Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:31