The Land of Midian, by Richard F. Burton

Chapter XII.

From Shaghab to Zibá— ruins of El–Khandakí’ and Umm Ámil — the Turquoise Mine–Return to El–Muwaylah.

Leaving Lieutenant Amir to map the principal ruins, we followed the caravan up the Majrá el-Wághir, the long divide rising to the west-north-west. The thin forest reminded me of the wooded slopes of the Anti–Libanus about El–Kunaytarah: there, however, terebinths and holm-oaks take the place of these unlovely and uncomfortable thorn-trees. They are cruelly beaten — an operation called El–Ramá— by the Bedawi camel-man, part of whose travelling kit, and the most important part too, here as in Sinai, is the flail (Murmár or Makhbat) and the mat to receive the leaves: perhaps Acacias and Mimosas are not so much bettered by “bashing” as the woman, the whelp, and the walnut-tree of the good old English proverb. After three miles we passed, on the left, ruins of long walls and Arab Wasm, with white memorial stones perched on black. In front rose the tall Jebel Tulayh, buttressing the right or northern bank of the Dámah; and behind it, stained faint-blue by distance, floated in the flickering mirage the familiar forms of the Tihámah range, a ridge now broken into half a dozen blocks. I had ordered the caravan to march upon the Tuwayl el-Súk; but, after one hour and fifteen minutes, we found the tents pitched some three miles short of it, on a bleak and ugly wave of the Wághir. The Shaykhs swore, by all holy things, that this was the veritable Tuwayl; and a Bedawi, who declared that he knew where water lay in the neighbourhood, refused to show it sans the preliminary “bakhshísh.” Mashallah! It is a noble race.

Early next morning (six a.m., March 3rd) we followed the right bank of the Wady el-Khandakí, which runs north with westing. Beyond it lay the foot-hills of gloomy trap leading to the Jebel el-Raydán, a typical granitic form, a short demi-pique saddleback with inwards-sloping pommel like the Pao d’Assucar of picturesque Rio de Janeiro. Here as elsewhere, the granites run parallel with and seaward of the traps. The Tuwayl el-Súk is nothing but an open and windy flat, where the Hajj-caravan used to camp an adjoining ridge, the Hamrá el-Tuwayl, shows spalled quartz, Wasm and memorial stones. The principal formation here is the mauve-purple conglomerate before described.

After riding nine miles we came unexpectedly upon a large and curious ruin, backed by the broad Wady Dámah gleaming white in the sun. The first feature noticed was a pair of parallel walls, or rather their foundations, thirty-five feet apart, and nearly a kilometre in length: it looked like a vast hangar. To the left lie three tracings of squares; the central is a work of earth and stone, not unlike a rude battery; and, a few paces further north, a similar fort has a cistern attached to its western curtain. Heaps of rounded boulders, and the crumbling white-edged mounds which, in these regions, always denote old habitations, run down the right bank of the Wady el-Khandakí to its junction with the Dámah. For want of a better name I called this old settlement Kharábát (the “Ruins of”) el-Khandakí, and greatly regretted that we had not time enough to march down the whole line of the Dámah.

Half an hour more placed us at the great Wady, whose general direction is here west with a little southing, and which still merits its fame as an Arabian Arcadia. The banks were thickly bordered with secular tamarisks (T. orientalis), those hardy warriors with the Hebrew–Arabic name Asl (Athl), that battle against wind and weather, as successfully at Dovercourt (Essex) as at Haydarábád (Sind).

The tint was the normal grey-green, not unlike that of the traps in arrière plan. The clumps sheltered goats, sheep, and camels; and our mules now revel every day on green meat, growing fatter and fatter upon the Aristida grass, the Panicum, the Hordeum murinum, and the Bromus of many varieties. Fronting us rose the twin granitic peaks of Jebel Mutadán, one with a stepped side like an unfinished pyramid. They are separated from the Dámah by a rough and stony divide; and ruins with furnaces are reported to be found in their valley-drain, which feeds the great Wady ‘Amúd.

We halted, after some sixteen to seventeen miles, at the water El–Ziyayb, slightly brackish but relished by our animals; and resumed our way in the cool sea-breeze at one p.m., passing the Jebel Tulayh on the north bank. The track then left the Dámah and turned up a short broad bed to the north-west. On the right rose a block of syenite, ruddy with orthose, all rounded lumps and twisted finials; it discharged a quantity of black sand that streaked the gravel plain. At four p.m. we camped on a broad divide, El–Kutayyifah, where an adjacent Sha’b, or “fold,” supplied fresh rain-water. The march had teen long (seven hours = twenty-two miles); and Shaykhs and camel-men looked, the Sayyid said, as if they had “smelt Jehannum.”

This divide, also called the Jayb el Sa’lúwwah, with granites to the east, and traps mixed with granites on the west, shows signs of labour. Hard by, to the south-west, some exceptionally industrious Bedawi, of the Jeráfín-Huwaytát, had laid out a small field with barley. In the evening we walked westward to the hills that bound the slope; and came upon a rock-cut road leading to an atalier, where “Marú” has been spalled from the stone in situ. Some specimens had a light-bluish tinge, as if stained by cobalt, a metal found in several slags; and there were veins of crystalline amethyst-quartz, coloured, said the engineer by chlorure of silver (?). The filons and filets cut the granite in all directions; and the fiery action of frequent trap-dykes had torn the ground-rock to tatters. The western side of El–Kutayyifah also showed modern ruins.

The guides reported, as usual when too late, that to the west-south-west lies a Nakb, called Abú‘l Marwah (“Father of the Quartz-place”), whose waters flow viâ the Mutadán to the ‘Amúd valley. For some days I had cold shudders lest this Pass, thus left unvisited, might be the Zúl-Marwah, the classical “Móchoura,” one of the objects of our Expedition. The alarm proved, however, as will be seen, false. A Bedawi youth also volunteered a grand account of three “written stones;” a built well surrounded by broken quartz; and, a little off the road from El–Kutayyifah to Umm Ámil, the remains of El–Dayr (“the Convent”). As Leake well knew, the latter is “a name which is often indiscriminately applied by the Arabs to ancient ruins.” The lad said they were close by, but the Garíb (“near”) and the Gurayyib (“nearish”) of the Midianite much resemble the Egyptian Fellah’s Taht el-Wish, “Under the face”— we should say “nose”— or Taht el-Ka’b, “Under the heel.” They may mean a handful of miles. As he refused to guide us, we secured the services of an old shepherd, who, objecting to sleep in camp, caused abundant trouble and delay next morning.

From this divide two roads lead to the ruins of Umm Ámil: one makes a considerable detour up a branch-valley in order to avoid an ugly Pass on the direct line. I again refused the camel-men permission to proceed by the indirect route, well knowing that they would do their best to miss us. On March 4th, at six a.m., a long descent and a similar rise led us to a Col, which presently became a broad open plain, 2100 feet above sea-level (aner. 28.85). Tents were scattered about the valleys; the lads tended their goats, and we greatly admired one fellow who had fallen asleep in the hot ascending steams. Here the old guide halted us, and declared that on the top of the dark trap-block the left (south) was a Mashghal, or “work-place,” with a strew of quartz and nothing else. Thus ended the “built well.” Descending to a lower plane, bounded in front by low rolling hills, I sent Lieutenant Amir to examine the “Convent” and the “written stones.” He came up with us at the halt; having been led over a rough divide by an abominable path; and he had seen only a few ruined heaps and three Arab Wusúm. Moreover, he had not dared to show disappointment before the old shepherd, who would probably have bolted in fear, and left him to find his own way.

Meanwhile the caravan continued its course down the broad smooth Wady Ruways, on whose left side was a large atelier, with broken walls and spalled quartz of the Negro variety. Here we found, for the first time, the handmills made of the hardest grey granite, so beautifully worked further south; they explained the fine and carefully polished tube which had been brought to the first Expedition at Zibá.168 Several of these articles were all but whole, an exception in this land of “‘clasts.” We then struck over the stony divide to the left, towards a fine landmark — a Khitm, or “block,” shaped like a seal cut en cabochon: its name is the barbarous sounding Khurm el-Badaríyyah. During the ascent, which was easy, we passed a second strew and scatter of the white stone broken into small pieces. From the Col, reached at 9.45 a.m., a descent, vile for camels not for mules, presently landed us in the Wady Umm Ámil. The left bank of the hideous narrow gorge showed a line of wells or water-pits, made, said Furayj, by the Mutakaddimín (veteres) — the Ancients who were probably Mediævals. Crossing the torrent-gully we left on its right bank the ruins of large works, especially the upper parallelogram. After a thirteen miles’ ride we halted at 10.40 a.m. under a rock on the left side, opposite three couthless heaps of water-rolled stones surrounded by fine quartz. By far the poorest thing we had yet seen, this “town” had been grandiosely described to the first Expedition at Zibá. Many blessings were heaped upon the head of Ámil and his mother: the name, however, as the Sayyid suggested, is evidently a corruption of Mu’ámil —“the workman, the employee.”169 I would conjecture that here the slave-miners were stationed, Old Zibá being the master’s abode: our caravan entitled it El–Lomán —“the bagnio, the prison for galériens.” On the coast-town I procured some specimens of heavy red copper which had been dug out of a ruined furnace; the metal is admirable, and it retrieves to a certain extent the lost reputation of Umm Ámil.

At noon we resumed a hot ride down the ugly, rocky watercourse, both of whose banks showed long lines of ruins. Presently, crossing a divide marked by two stone-heaps, we fell into the broader but equally unpicturesque Wady Salmá. It is on about the same parallel as Ziba’ (north lat. 27° 20’); and more than the usual allowance for the error of low latitude must be admitted if we would identify it with the Mediterranean [Greek] of Ptolemy (vi. 7), [Greek], in north lat. 260°, or fifteen miles south of Sóaka.

Wady Salmá is the smallest and the northernmost of the three basins which we have just visited; the central being the Dámah, and the southern Wady Shaghab–Aslah-Aznab. Steaming southwards we shall note the mouths of all these watercourses. We presently passed on the right bank the debouchure of the Wady Ruways, and left there a guard to direct the caravan, in case it should disobey orders, and march up to Umm Ámil. Here the valley gave forage to a herd of milch-camels, apparently unguarded; each had her foal, some newborn, others dating from January or February. After one hour and forty-five minutes (= six miles) we camped on the fine sands that floor the dull line hemmed in by tall masses of red and green trap. The adjacent scatter of Arab wells in the bed is known as the Má el-Badí‘ah. I carefully inquired concerning ruins in the neighbourhood; and we climbed the torrent-sides to command a (very limited) bird’s-eye view of the hills. According to the guides, there are no remains of the “old ones” nearer than Umm Ámil

Setting out early next morning (5.45 a.m., March 5th), after half an hour down the Wady Salmá, we saw its lower course becoming a mere gorge, constricted by two opposite rocks. On the left bank, above this narrow, lies a group of Arab graves, which may have been built upon older foundations. The right side here receives the Wady Haraymal (“Little Peganum-plant”), the Haráímil of the broad-speaking Bedawin. As we struck up its dull ascent, the southern form of the Shárr-giant suddenly broke upon us, all glorious in his morning robes of ethereal gauzy pink. The foreshortened view, from the south as well as the north, shows a compact prism-formed mass which has been compared with an iceberg. The main peak, Abú Shenázir, here No. 4 from the north, proudly bears a mural crown of granite towers, which it hides from El–Muwaylah; and the southern end, a mere vanishing ridge at this angle, but shown en face to the seaboard abreast of it, breaks into three distinctly marked bluffs and heads.170

A divide then led upwards and downwards to the Wady Abá Rikayy, remarkable only for warm pools, and crystal-clear runners, springing from the sole. The fringings of white show the presence of salt; the shallows are covered with the greenest mosses, and beetles chase one another over the depths where the waters sleep. The lower course takes the name of Wady Kifáfí, and discharges into the sea north of the Wady Salmá, with which it has erroneously been united, as in Niebuhr’s Selmá wa Kafâfa. According to the Kátib Chelebi, who, over two centuries ago, made the “Kabr Shaykh el-Kifáfí” the second pilgrim-station south of El–Muwaylah, a certain Bedawi chief, El–Kifáfí, was killed with a spear, and his tomb became a place of pious visitation. It is said still to exist between the Wadys Salmá and Kifáfí. A third divide to the north led along the eastern flank of the Jebel Abú Rísh, which exposes its head to the sea; and, reaching the Col, we had the pleasure of once more greeting the blue cove that forms the port of Zibá.

We then descended into the Wady Sidrah, whose left bank is formed by the Safrá Zibá—“the Yellow (hill) of Zibá.” This small outlying peak is clad in the gaudiest of colours, especially a vivid citron-yellow, set off by red and rusty surroundings, which are streaked with a dead chalky-white. The citizens declare that it is absolutely useless, because it does not supply sulphur. During our day’s halt at Zibá, M. Marie brought from it quartz of several kinds; the waxy, the heat-altered, and the blue, stained with carbonate of copper. Possibly this metal may be abundant at a lower horizon

The “Valley of the (one) Jujube-tree,” after narrowing to a stony gut, suddenly flares out into the Wady Zibá, the vulgar feature of these regions, provided with the normal “Gate” some three hundred yards broad. Beyond it, the flat surrounding the head of the cove is remarkably well grown with palms, clumps of the Daum, and scattered date-trees, of which one is walled round. Hence I am disposed to consider Zibá the [Greek], or Phoenicon Vicus, of Ptolemy: although he places it in north lat. 26° 20’, or between Sharm Dumayghah and El–Wijh, when it lies in north lat. 27° 20’. I have already protested against the derivation of the word — which is written “Dhoba” by Wallin, “Deba” by Niebuhr, and “Zibber” by the Hydrographic Chart — proposed by my learned friend Sprenger.171 His theory was probably suggested by El-Yákút (iii. 464), who, in the twelfth century, describes “Dhabba” as “a village on the coast, opposite to which is a settlement with flowing water, called Badá: the two are separated by seventy miles.” An older name for the station is Bir el-Sultáni — the “Well of the Sultán” (Selim?): we shall presently inspect these remains. Itineraries also give Kabr el-Tawáshi, “the Eunuch’s Tomb;” and this we still find near the palms at the head of the inner baylet. It is a square measuring six paces each way, mud and coralline showing traces of plaster outside. Like Wellsted (II. X.) we failed to discover any sign of the Birkat (“tank”) mentioned in a guide-book which Burckhardt quotes; nor had the citizens ever heard of a “reservoir.”

The camping-ground of the pilgrims lies between the “Gate” and the cove-head. Around the wells sat at squat a small gathering of the filthy “Moghrebin” (Allah yakharrib-hum!). About 260 of these rufffians were being carried gratis, by some charitable merchant, in a Sambúk that lay at the harbour-mouth. A party had lately slaughtered a camel, of course not their own property; and yet they wondered that the Bedawin shoot them. They showed their insolence by threatening with an axe the dog Juno, when she sportively sallied out to greet them; and were highly offended because, in view of cholera and smallpox, I stationed sentries to keep them at a distance. Had there been contagious disease among them, it would have spread in no time. They haunted the wells, which were visited all day by women driving asses from the settlement; even the single old beggar of Zibá— unfailing sign of civilization — was here; and the black tents of the Arabs, who grazed their flocks at the cove-head, lay within easy shot of infection. On the evening of the next day, when the Sambúk made sail, the shouting and screaming, the brawling, cudgelling, and fighting, heard a mile off, reminded me of the foul company of Maghrabís on board the Golden Wire.

“Sultán Selim’s Well” has now grown to four, all large and masonry-lined. That to the south-east is dry; travellers are confined to the western, whose strong coping they have managed to tear down; whilst the northern shows hard old kerb-stones, deeply grooved and rope-channelled like that of Beersheba. We breakfasted at the head of the inner bay, whilst the Sayyid rode forward to meet his brother Mahmúd, who had kindly brought us the news from El–Muwaylah. Here we could see the townlet covering a low point projecting into the Sharm; a few large and some small tenements formed the body, whilst the head was the little Burj built, some fourteen years ago, upon the tall sea-bank to the north. It bore, by way of welcome, the Viceroy’s flag.

The camp was pitched upon the northern shore of the inner cove, behind the new town, and sheltered by the tall sea-cliff: here stood Old Zibá, whose stones, buried for ages under the sand, are now dug up to build its successor. I thought better of the settlement and of the port after visiting them a second time. We had looked forward to it even as to a petit Paris: so Damascus and the Syrian cities appear centres of civilization to Westerns coming from the East — not from the West. It is far superior, especially in the article water, to El–Muwaylah; it exports charcoal in large quantities, and it does a thriving business with the Bedawi. Here are signs of a pier, and a mosque is to be built. The fish is excellent and abundant; lobsters are caught by night near the reef, and oysters in the bay when the tide is out. We succeeded, at last, in having our batterie de cuisine properly tinned, and we replenished our stores.172 As at El-‘Akabah, “Hashísh” may be bought in any quantity, but no ‘Ráki — hence, perhaps, the paleness and pastiness of the local complexion — and yet our old acquaintance, Mohammed el-Musalmáni, is a Copt who finds it convenient to be a Moslem. He aided us in collecting curiosities, especially a chalcedony (agate) intended for a talisman and roughly inscribed in Kufic characters, archaic and pointed like Bengali, with the Koranic chapter (xcii.) that testifies the Unity, “Kul, Huw’ Allah,” etc. As regards the port, Wellsted (Il. X.) is too severe upon it: “At Sherm Dhobá the anchorage is small and inconvenient, and could only be made available for boats or small vessels.” Dredging the sand-bar and cutting a passage in the soft coralline reef will give excellent shelter and, some say, a depth of seventeen fathoms.

Our first care was to walk straight into the sea, travelling clothes and all. I then received the notables, including Mohammed Selámah of El–Wijh, and at once began to inquire about the Jebel el-Fayrúz. The chief trader pleaded ignorance: he was a stranger, a new-comer; he had never been out of the settlement. The others opposed to me hard and unmitigated Iying: they knew nothing about turquoises; there were no such stones; the mines were exhausted.

And yet I knew that this coast is visited for turquoises by Europeans; and that the gem has been, and still is, sold at Suez and Cairo. Mr. Clarke had many uncut specimens at Zagázig, embedded in a dark gangue, which he called “porphyry,” as opposed to the limestone which bears the silicate of copper. Upon our first Expedition, we had noticed a splendid specimen, set in a Bedawi matchlock; and the people of El-‘Akabah praised highly the produce of the Jebel el-Ghál. Lastly, I happened to have heard that an Arab lately brought to Zibá a turquoise which sold there for £3. Evidently the mine, like the gold-sands before alluded to, would be carefully hidden from us. This reticence explained how, on our first visit, the two Staff-officers sent to prospect the diggings had been misdirected to a block lying north of the townlet, the “Red Hills,” alias the Jebel el-Shegayg.

Shortly after I left Egypt an Italian, Sig. F— returned to Suez from El–Muwaylah, with some fine pearls worth each from £20 to £30, and turquoises which appeared equally good. He was then bound for Italy, but he intended returning to Midian in a month or two. These are the men who teach the ready natives the very latest “dodges;” such as stimulating the peculiar properties of the pearl-oyster by inserting grains of sand.

I also collected notes concerning the ruins of M’jirmah, of which we had heard so many tales. The site, they said, is a branch of the Wady Azlam, the first of the three marches between Zibá and El–Wijh, and seven and a half hours’ sail along the coast. This watercourse shows, above the modern Hajj-station, the ruins of a fort built by Sultán Selim: Wellsted (II. X.) also mentions a castle lying three miles inland. From the head of the Sharm Dumayghah, seventy to seventy-two knots south of El–Muwaylah, Shaykh Furayj pointed out to us the pale-blue peaks of the Jebel Zafar:173 in the upper part of its Wady, the ‘Amúd Zafar, a southern branch valley of the Azlam, lies the ruin. He made it six hours’ march from the seaboard. It was an ancient gold-mine (?), whose house-foundations and a “well with steps” still remain. “M’jirmah,” which must not be confounded with the “Umm Jirmah,” an atelier that we shall visit tomorrow, has been identified with the [Greek] (Rhaunathi Pagus) of Ptolemy (north lat. 25° 40’). We will return to this subject when steaming down coast.

Our day of rest ended, at seven p.m., with a heavy storm of wind and rain from the north: the sun had been unusually hot for some days, and the sky looked ugly in the evening. As usual, all assured us that the clouds contained wind, not rain. Despite which, when the mess-tent had been nearly blown down, owing to our men being unwilling to leave their warm retreats, a heavy drenching downfall set in, and continued till eleven p.m. After a short lull, wind and rain again raged at midnight; and then the gale gradually blew itself out. The next two mornings were delightfully brisk and bracing; and deep puddles dotted the rocks.

On March 7th the caravan marched straight northwards, by the Hajj-road, along the shore to its camping-ground, an affair of two hours, while M. Marie and I set off for the turquoise mine. Furayj, who had never passed that way, engaged as guide one Sulaym el-Makrafi; and this old dromedary-rider’s son had been sent on to bring into camp all the Fayruz he could find. Crossing at six a.m. the broad pilgrim-track, we struck eastward at a place where the Secondary gypsum subtends the old coralline cliff. After three-quarters of an hour, we traversed the Wady Zahakán, the southernmost Pass over the Shárr (proper); and presently we ascended a branch that falls into the right bank. As we advanced, it became a rock-walled, stonesoled tunnel; winding, contracting and widening, rising and flattening, and generally interesting, compared with the dull flat breadth of such features as the Wady Salmá. The overfalls of rock and the unfriendly thorn-trees, selfishly taking up all the room, necessitate frequent zigzags up and down the rocky, precipitous banks. After a number of divides we entered the Wady Háskshah, which was wider and good for riding; and at 8.30 a.m. we passed into the Wady Umm Jirmah.

In this broad basin we found none of the ruins so often reported; but immense quantities of broken quartz showed the Mashghal or atelier. The material was distinguished, from all the outcrops hitherto observed, by its pretty pink, stained with oxide of iron: it appeared in large ramifications mostly striking east-west, and in little pitons dotting the valley sole and sides. A subsequent visit to Wady Umm Jirmah found many furnaces surrounded by well-worked scoriae; of these, specimens were secured.

After another half-hour, we dismounted at the watershed of the Wady el-Ghál, where the old guide lost no time in losing his head. The Jebel el-Ghál, whose folds fall into its watercourse, is a detached block, rising nearly due south of the “Sharp Peak,” as the Chart calls Abú Kusayb, the northernmost horn of the Shárr; while the Ghál cove, breaking the sea-cliff, bears 270° (mag.) from the summit. The hill, which may measure 250 feet above sea-level (aner. 29.75), is composed of porphyritic trap and of the hardest felspars, veined with chocolate-coloured quartz, the true gangue. While we examined the formation, Furayj and old Sulaym, who became more and more “moony,” ransacked the block in all directions, and notably failed to find a trace of mining. Evidently Athor, the genius of the “Turquoise Mountain,” was not to be conquered by a coup de main; so I determined to tire her out.

After building a stone-man on the finial of the Jebel el-Ghál, and a short rest in the north-western Wady, we remounted and struck seawards. Some ugly divides led us, after half an hour, to a broad Fiumara, well grown with palm-bush, the veritable Wady el-Ghál. From this point a total of four miles, and a grand total of fourteen, led us to the camp: it had been pitched at the Mahattat el-Gha’l, on the north bank, where the “winter-torrent,” falling into the cove, has broken through the sea cliff.

Here the best of news was in store for us. Lieutenant Yusuf, who had this morning rejoined the Expedition, brought our mails from the Sambúk, which I had ordered by letter at El-‘Akabah; and reported that his Highness’s frigate Sinnár, an old friend, would relieve the lively Mukhbir in taking us to our last journey southwards. Rations for men and mules, and supplies for ourselves, all were coming. We felt truly grateful to the Viceroy and the Prince Minister for the gracious interest they had taken in the Expedition; and we looked forward with excitement to the proper finish of our labours. Without the third march, the exploration of Midian would have been Abtar, as the Arabs say, “tail-less;” that is, lame and impotent in point of conclusion.

But I would not be beaten by the enemy upon the subject of the lapis Pharanitis mine. During the course of the day, a Jeráfín Bedawi, Selím ibn Musallim, brought in scoriae of copper and iron; and on the morrow I sent him as guide to Lieutenant Yusuf, with an escort of two soldiers and eight quarrymen on seven camels. After three days’ absence (March 8 — 10) the officer rejoined us and reported as follows:—

Leaving the Mahattat el-Ghál, he rode up its watercourse, and then turned southwards into the long Wady Umm Jirmah. After seven miles and a half (= direct five and three-quarters), he came upon the Jebel el-Fayrúz. It is a rounded eminence of no great height, showing many signs of work, especially three or four cuttings some twenty metres deep. A hillock to the north-west supplied the scoriæ before mentioned. Lieutenant Yusuf blasted the chocolate-coloured quartzose rock in four places, filled as many sacks, and struck the pilgrim-road in the Wady el-Mu’arrash, leaving its red block, the Hamrá el-Mu’arrash, to the left. His specimens were very satisfactory; except to the learned geologists of the Citadel, Cairo, who pronounced them to be carbonate of copper! Dr. L. Karl Moser, of Trieste, examined them and found crystals of turquoise, or rather “johnite,” as Dana has it, embedded in or spread upon the quartz. One specimen, moreover, contained silver. So much for the Zibá or southern turquoise-diggings.

Our journey ended on March 8th with a dull ride along the Hajj-road northwards. Passing the creek Abú Sharír, which, like many upon this coast, is rendered futile by a wall of coral reef, we threaded a long flat, and after two hours (= seven miles) we entered a valley where the Secondary formation again showed its débris. Here is the Mahattat el-Husan (“the Stallion’s Leap”), a large boulder lying to the left of the track, and pitted with holes which a little imagination may convert into hoof-prints. The name of the noble animal was El–Mashhúr; that of its owner is, characteristically enough, forgotten by the Arabs: it lived in the Days of Ignorance; others add, more vaguely still, when the Beni ‘Ukbah, the lords of the land, were warring with the Baliyy. The gorge was then a mere cutting, blocked up by this rock. El–Mashhúr “negotiated” it, alighting upon the surface like a Galway hunter taking a stone wall; and carried to Wady Tiryam its rider, whose throat was incontinently cut by the foeman in pursuit. The legend is known to all, and the Bedawin still scrape away the sands which threaten to bury the boulder: it has its value, showing that in regions where the horse is now unknown, where, in fact, nothing but a donkey can live, noble blood was once bred. The same remark is made by Professor Palmer (“The Desert of the Exodus,” p. 42) concerning the Mangaz Hisán Abú Zená (“Leap of the Stallion of the Father of Adultery”), two heaps of stone near the Sinaitic Wady Gharandal. There, however, the animal is cursed, while here it is blessed: perhaps, also, the Midianite tradition may descend from a source which, still older, named the [Greek]. Is this too far-fetched? And yet, peradventure, it may be true.

We then fell into the Wady Jibbah; passed the Jebel el-Kibrít, examined M. Philipin’s work, and, led over a very vile and very long “short cut,” found ourselves once more on board the Mukhbir.

Note on the Supplies Procurable at Zibá.

The chief stores are:—

Rice (good Yemani), per Kis, or bag of five and a half Kaylah (each twenty-one Ratl = eighteen pounds), four to six dollars.

Durrah (Sorghum), per Ardebb (each = twelve Kaylah), seven and a half to eight dollars.

Dukhn (millet), not common, per Ardebb, eight dollars.

Wheat, always procurable, per Ardebb, ten to twelve dollars.

Barley, always procurable, per Ardebb, five to six dollars.

‘Adas (lentils, Revalenta Arabica), per Ardebb, ten to twelve

Samn (liquified butter), per Ratl, seven and a half to eight dollars.

Coffee (green), per pound, eighteen-pence.

‘Ajwah (pressed dates), 100 to 110 piastres per Kantar (= 100 Ratl).

Eggs, thirty-five to the shilling.

It is generally possible to buy small quantities of Hummus (lupins or chick-peas), Kharru’b (carob-pods), “hot” and coarse tobacco for the Arabs, and cigarette-paper, matches, etc.

168 See “The Gold Mines of Midian,’’ Chap. II.

169 So in Moab the ruins of “Méron” or Mérou of the Greeks has degenerated into Umm Rasás, “the Mother of Lead.”

170 Their names will be given in Chap. XIII.

171 A. G., p. 24. See “The Gold–Mines of Midian,” Chap. XI. Sprenger spells the word either with a Zád or a Zá: I have discussed the question in my “Itineraries,” part ii. sect. 4.

172 See the end of this Chapter for a list.

173 See Chap. XIV.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:36