Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah and Meccah, by Richard Burton

Appendix IV.

The Navigation and Voyages of Ludovicus Vertomannus, Gentleman of Rome. A.d. 1503.

THE first of the pilgrims to Meccah and Al-Madinah who has left an authentic account of the Holy Cities is “Lewes Wertomannus (Lodovico Bartema), gentelman of the citie of Rome.1” If any man,” says this aucthor, “shall demand of me the cause of this my voyage, certeynely I can shewe no better reason than is the ardent desire of knowledge, which hath moved many other to see the world and the miracles of God therein.” In the year of our Lord 1503 he departed from Venice “with prosperous wynds,” arrived at Alexandria and visited Babylon of Egypt, Berynto, Tripoli, Antioch, and Damascus. He started from the latter place on the 8th of April, 1503, “in familiaritie and friendshyppe with a certayne Captayne Mameluke” (which term he applies to “al such Christians as have forsaken theyr fayth, to serve the Mahumetans and Turks”), and in the garb of a “Mamaluchi renegado.” He estimates the Damascus Caravan to consist of 40,000 men and 35,000 camels, nearly six times its present number.2 On the way they were “enforced to conflict with a great multitude of the Arabians:” but the three score mamluks composing their escort were more than a match for 50,000 Badawin. On one occasion the Caravan, attacked by 24,000 Arabians, slew 1500 of the enemies, losing in the conflict only a man and a woman.3 This “marveyle”— which is probably not without some exaggeration — he explains by the “strength and valiantness of the Mamalukes,” by the practice (still popular) of using the “camells in the steede of a bulwarke, and placing the merchaunts in the myddest of the army (that is), in the myddest of the camelles, whyle the pilgrims fought manfully on every side;” and, finally, by the circumstance that the Arabs were unarmed, and “weare only a thynne loose vesture, and are besyde almost naked: theyr horses also beyng euyll furnished, and without saddles or other furniture.” The Hijazi Badawi of this day is a much more dangerous enemy; the matchlock and musket have made him so; and the only means of crippling him is to prevent the importation of firearms and lead, and by slow degrees to disarm the population. After performing the ceremonies of pilgrimage at Al-Madinah and Meccah, he escaped to Zida or Gida (Jeddah), “despite the trumpetter of the caravana giving warning to all the Mamalukes to make readie their horses, to direct their journey toward Syria, with proclamation of death to all that should refuse so to doe,” and embarked for Persia upon the Red Sea. He touched at certain ports of Al-Yaman, and got into trouble at Aden, “where the Mahumetans took him,” and “put shackles on his legges, which came by occasion of a certayne idolatour, who cryed after him, saying, O, Christian Dogge, borne of Dogges.4” The lieutenant of the Sultan “assembled his council,” consulted them about putting the traveller to death as a “spye of Portugales,” and threw him ironed into a dungeon. On being carried shackled into the presence of the Sultan, Bartema said that he was a “Roman, professed a Mamaluke in Babylon of Alcayr;” but when told to utter the formula of the Moslem faith, he held his tongue, “eyther that it pleased not God, or that for feare and scruple of conscience he durst not.” For which offence he was again “deprived of ye fruition of heaven.”

But, happily for Bartema, in those days the women of Arabia were “greatly in love with whyte men.” Before escaping from Meccah, he lay hid in the house of a Mohammedan, and could not express his gratitude for the good wife’s care; “also,” he says, “this furthered my good enterteynement, that there was in the house a fayre young mayde, the niese of the Mahumetan, who was greatly in loue with me.” At Aden he was equally fortunate. One of the Sultan’s three wives, on the departure of her lord and master, bestowed her heart upon the traveller. She was “very faire and comely, after theyr maner, and of colour inclynyng to blacke:” she would spend the whole day in beholding Bartema, who wandered about simulating madness,5 and “in the meane season, divers tymes, sent him secretly muche good meate by her maydens.” He seems to have played his part to some purpose, under the colour of madness, converting a “great fatt shepe” to Mohammedanism, killing an ass because he refused to be a proselyte, and, finally, he “handeled a Jewe so euyll that he had almost killed hym.” After sundry adventures and a trip to Sanaa, he started for Persia with the Indian fleet, in which, by means of fair promises, he had made friendship with a certain captain. He visited Zayla and Berberah in the Somali country, and at last reached Hormuz. The 3rd book “entreateth of Persia,” the 4th of “India, and of the cities and other notable thynges seene there.” The 8th book contains the “voyage of India,” in which he includes Pegu, Sumatra, Borneo, and Java, where, “abhorryng the beastly maners” of a cannibal population, he made but a short stay. Returning to Calicut, he used “great subtiltie,” escaped to the “Portugales,” and was well received by the viceroy. After describing in his 7th book the “viage or navigation of Ethiopia, Melinda, Mombaza, Mozambrich (Mozambique), and Zaphala (Sofala),” he passed the Cape called “Caput Bonæ Spei, and repaired to the goodly citie of Luxburne (Lisbon),” where he had the honour of kissing hands. The king confirmed with his great seal the “letters patentes,” whereby his lieutenant the viceroy of India had given the pilgrim the order of knighthood. “And thus,” says Bartema by way of conclusion, “departing from thence with the kyngs pasporte and safe conducte, at the length after these my long and great trauayles and dangers, I came to my long desyred native countrey, the citie of Rome, by the grace of God, to whom be all honour and glory.”

This old traveller’s pages abound with the information to be collected in a fresh field by an unscrupulous and hard-headed observer. They are of course disfigured with a little romancing. His Jews at Khaybor, near Al-Madinah, were five or six spans long. At Meccah he saw two unicorns, the younger “at the age of one yeare, and lyke a young coolte; the horne of this is of the length of four handfuls.6” And so credulous is he about anthropophagi, that he relates of Mahumet (son to the Sultan of Sanaa) how he “by a certayne naturall tyrannye and madnesse delyteth to eate man’s fleeshe, and therefore secretly kylleth many to eate them.7” But all things well considered, Lodovico Bartema, for correctness of observation and readiness of wit, stands in the foremost rank of the old Oriental travellers.

I proceed to quote, and to illustrate with notes, the few chapters devoted in the 1st volume of this little-known work to Meccah and Al-Madinah.

Chapter XI. — Of a Mountayne inhabited with Jewes, and of the Citie of Medinathalnabi, where Mahumet was buried.

In the space of eyght dayes we came to a mountayne which conteyneth in circuite ten or twelve myles. This is inhabited with Jewes, to the number of fyue thousande or thereabout. They are very little stature, as of the heyght of fyue or sixe spannes, and some muche lesse. They have small voyces lyke women, and of blacke colour, yet some blacker then other. They feede of none other meate than goates fleshes.8 They are circumcised, and deny not themselues to be Jewes. If by chaunce, any Mahumetan come into their handes, they flay him alyue. At the foot of the mountayne we founde a certayne hole, out of whiche flowed aboundance of water. By fyndyng this opportunitie, we laded sixtiene thousand camels; which thyng greatly offended the Jewes. They wandred in that mountayne, scattered lyke wylde goates or prickettes, yet durst they not come downe, partly for feare, and partly for hatred agaynst the Mahumetans. Beneath the mountaine are seene seuen or eyght thorne trees, very fayre, and in them we found a payre of turtle doues, which seemed to vs in maner a miracle, hauying before made so long journeyes, and sawe neyther beast nor foule. Then proceedyng two dayes journey, we came to a certayne citie name Medinathalnabi: four myles from the said citie, we founde a well. Heere the carauana (that is, the whole hearde of camelles) rested. And remayning here one day, we washed ourselves, and changed our shertes, the more freshely to enter into the citie; it is well peopled, and conteyneth about three hundred houses; the walles are lyke bulwarkes of earth, and the houses both of stone and bricke. The soile about the citie is vtterly barren, except that about two myles from the citie are seene about fyftie palme trees that beare dates.9 There, by a certayne garden, runneth a course of water fallyng into a lower playne, where also passingers are accustomed to water theyr camelles.10 And here opportunitie now serueth to confute the opinion of them whiche thynke that the arke or toombe of wicked Mahumet to hang in the ayre, not borne vp with any thing. As touching which thyng, I am vtterly of an other opinion, and affirme this neyther to be true, nor to haue any lykenesse of trueth, as I presently behelde these thynges, and sawe the place where Mahumet is buried, in the said citie of Medinathalnabi: for we taryed there three dayes, to come to the true knowledge of all these thynges. When wee were desirous to enter into theyr Temple (which they call Meschita,11 and all other churches by the same name), we coulde not be suffered to enter without a companion little or great. They taking vs by the hande, brought vs to the place where they saye Mahumet is buried.

Chapter XII. — Of the Temple or Chapell, and Sepulchre of Mahumet, and of his Felowes.

His temple is vaulted, and is a hundred pases in length, fourscore in breadth; the entry into it is by two gates; from the sydes it is couered with three vaultes; it is borne vp with four hundred columnes or pillers of white brick; there are seene, hanging lampes, about the number of three thousande. From the other part of the temple in the first place of the Meschita, is seene a tower of the circuite of fyue pases vaulted on euery syde, and couered with a cloth or silk, and is borne vp with a grate of copper, curiously wrought and distant from it two pases; and of them that goe thyther, is seene as it were through a lateese.12 Towarde the lefte hande, is the way to the tower, and when you come thyther, you must enter by a narower gate. On euery syde of those gates or doores, are seene many bookes in manner of a librarie, on the one syde 20, and on the other syde 25. These contayne the filthie traditions and lyfe of Mahumet and his fellowes: within the sayde gate is seene a sepulchre, (that is) a digged place, where they say Mahumet is buried and his felowes, which are these, Nabi, Bubacar, Othomar, Aumar, and Fatoma13; but Mahumet was theyr chiefe captayne, and an Arabian borne. Hali was sonne in lawe to Mahumet, for he tooke to wyfe his daughter Fatoma. Bubacar is he who they say was exalted to the dignitie of a chiefe counseller and great gouernour, although he came not to the high degree of an apostle, or prophet, as dyd Mahumet. Othomar and Aumar were chief captaynes of the army of Mahumet. Euery of these haue their proper bookes of factes and traditions. And hereof proceedeth the great dissention and discorde of religion and maners among this kynde of filthie men, whyle some confirm one doctrine, and some another, by reason of theyr dyuers sectes of Patrons, Doctours, and Saintes, as they call them. By this meanes are they marueylously diuided among themselues, and lyke beastes kyll themselues for such quarelles of dyuers opinions, and all false. This also is the chiefe cause of warre between the sophie of Persia and the great Turke, being neuerthelesse both Mahumetans, and lyue in mortall hatred one agaynst the other for the mayntenaunce of theyr sectes, saintes and apostles, whyle euery of them thynketh theyr owne to bee best.

Chapter XIII. — Of the Secte of Mahumet.

Now will we speake of the maners and sect of Mahumet. Vnderstande, therefore, that in the highest part of the tower aforesayde, is an open round place. Now shall you vnderstande what crafte they vsed to deceyue our carauans. The first euening that we came thyther to see the sepulchre of Mahumet, our captayne sent for the chiefe priest of the temple to come to him, and when he came, declared vnto him that the only cause of his commyng thyther was to visite the sepulchre and bodie of Nabi, by which woord is signified the prophet Mahumet; and that he vnderstoode that the price to be admitted to the syght of these mysteries should be foure thousande seraphes of golde. Also that he had no parents, neyther brothers, sisters, kinsefolkes, chyldren, or wyues; neyther that he came thyther to buy merchaundies, as spices, or bacca, or nardus, or any maner of precious jewelles; but only for very zeale of religion and saluation of his soule, and was therefore greatly desirous to see the bodie of the prophet. To whom the priest of the temple (they call them Side), with countenance lyke one that were distraught14, made aunswere in this maner: “Darest thou with those eyes, with the which thou hast committed so many horrible sinnes, desyre to see him by whose sight God hath created heauen and earth?” To whom agayne our captayne aunswered thus: “My Lord, you have sayde truly; neuertheless I pray you that I may fynd so much fauour with you, that I may see the Prophet; whom when I haue seene, I will immediately thrust out myne eyes.” The Side aunswered, “O Prince, I will open all thynges unto thee. So it is that no man can denye but that our Prophet dyed heere, who, if he woulde, might haue died at Mecha. But to shewe in himself a token of humilitie, and thereby to giue vs example to folowe him, was wyllyng rather heere than elsewhere to departe out of this worlde, and was incontinent of angelles borne into heauen, and there receyued as equall with them.” Then our captayne sayde to him, “Where is Jesus Christus, the sonne of Marie?” To whom the Side answered, “At the feete of Mahumet.15” Then sayde our captayne agayne: “It suffyceth, it suffyceth; I will knowe no more.” After this our captayne commyng out of the temple, and turnyng to vs, sayd, “See (I pray you) for what goodly stuffe I would haue paide three thousande seraphes of golde.” The same daye at euenyng, at almost three a clock of the nyght, ten or twelue of the elders of the secte of Mahumet entered into our carauana, which remayned not paste a stone caste from the gate of the citie.16 These ranne hyther and thyther, crying lyke madde men, with these wordes, “Mahumet, the messenger and Apostle of God, shall ryse agayne! O Prophet, O God, Mahumet shall ryse agayne! Have mercy on vs God!” Our captayne and we, all raysed with this crye, tooke weapon with all expedition, suspectyng that the Arabians were come to rob our carauana; we asked what was the cause of that exclamation, and what they cryed? For they cryed as doe the Christians, when sodeynly any marueylous thyng chaunceth. The Elders answered, “Sawe you not the lyghtning whiche shone out of the sepulchre of the Prophet Mahumet17?” Our captayne answered that he sawe nothing; and we also beyng demaunded, answered in lyke maner. Then sayde one of the old men, “Are you slaues?” that is to say, bought men; meanyng thereby Mamalukes. Then sayde our captayne, “We are in deede Mamalukes.” Then agayne the old man sayde, “You, my Lordes, cannot see heauenly thinges, as being Neophiti, (that is) newly come to the fayth, and not yet confirmed in our religion.” To this our captayne answered agayne, “O you madde and insensate beastes, I had thought to haue giuen you three thousande peeces of gold; but now, O you dogges and progenie of dogges, I will gyue you nothing.” It is therefore to bee vnderstoode, that none other shynyng came out of the sepulchre, then a certayne flame which the priests caused to come out of the open place of the towre18 spoken of here before, whereby they would have deceyved vs. And therefore our captayne commaunded that thereafter none of vs should enter into the temple. Of this also we haue most true experience, and most certaynely assure you that there is neyther iron or steele or the magnes stone that should so make the toombe of Mahumet to hange in the ayre, as some haue falsely imagined; neyther is there any mountayne nearer than foure myles: we remayned here three dayes to refreshe our company. To this citie victualles and all kynde of corne is brought from Arabia Fælix, and Babylon or Alcayr, and also from Ethiope, by the Redde Sea, which is from this citie but four dayes journey.19

Chapter XIV. — The Journey to Mecha.20

After we were satisfied, or rather wearyed, with the filthinesse and lothesomenesse of the trumperyes, deceites, trifles, and hypocrisis of the religion of Mahumet, we determined to goe forward on our journey; and that by guyding of a pylot who might directe our course with the mariners boxe or compasse, with also the carde of the sea, euen as is vsed in sayling on the sea. And thus bendyng our journey to the west we founde a very fayre well or fountayne, from the which flowed great aboundance of water. The inhabitantes affyrme that Sainct Marke the Euangelist was the aucthour of this fountayne, by a miracle of God, when that region was in maner burned with incredible drynesse.21 Here we and our beastes were satisfied with drynke. I may not here omit to speake of the sea of sande, and of the daungers thereof. This was founde of vs before we came to the mountayne of the Jewes. In this sea of sande we traueiled the journey of three days and nightes: this is a great brode plaine, all couered with white sande, in maner as small as floure. If by euil fortune it so chaunce that any trauaile that way southward, if in the mean time the wind come to the north, they are ouerwhelmed with sande, that they scatter out of the way, and can scarsely see the one the other ten pases of. And therefore the inhabitants trauayling this way, are inclosed in cages of woodde, borne with camels, and lyue in them,22 so passing the jorney, guided by pilots with maryner’s compasse and card, euen as on the sea, as we haue sayde. In this jorney, also many peryshe for thirst, and many for drynkyng to muche, when they finde suche good waters. In these sandes is founde Momia, which is the fleshe of such men as are drowned in these sandes, and there dryed by the heate of the sunne: so that those bodyes are preserued from putrifaction by the drynesse of the sand; and therefore that drye fleshe is esteemed medicinable.23 Albeit there is another kynde of more pretious Momia, which is the dryed and embalmed bodies of kynges and princes, whiche of long tyme haue been preserued drye without corruption. When the wynde bloweth from the northeast, then the sand riseth and is driuen against a certayne mountayne, which is an arme of the mount Sinai.24 There we found certayne pyllers artificially wrought, whiche they call Ianuan. On the lefte hande of the sayde mountayne, in the toppe or rydge thereof, is a denne, and the entrie into it is by an iron gate. Some fayne that in that place Mahumet lyued in contemplation. Here we heard a certayne horrible noyse and crye; for passyng the sayde mountayne, we were in so great daunger, that we thought neuer to have escaped. Departyng, therefore, from the fountayne, we continued our journey for the space of ten dayes, and twyse in the way fought with fyftie thousande Arabians, and so at the length came to the citie of Mecha, where al things were troubled by reason of the warres betweene two brethren, contendyng whiche of them shoulde possesse the kyngedome of Mecha.

Chapter XV. — Of the Fourme and Situation of the Citie of Mecha; and why the Mohumetans resort thyther.

Nowe the tyme requireth to speake somewhat of the famous citie of Mecha, or Mecca, what it is, howe it is situate, and by whom it is gouerned. The citie is very fayre and well inhabited, and conteyneth in rounde fourme syxe thousande houses, as well buylded as ours, and some that cost three or foure thousande peeces of golde: it hath no walles. About two furlongs from the citie is a mount, where the way is cutte out,25 whiche leadeth to a playne beneath. It is on euery syde fortified with mountains, in the stead of walles or bulwarkes, and hath foure entries. The Gouernour is a Soltan, and one of the foure brethern of the progenie of Mahumet, and is subject to the Soltan of Babylon of whom we haue spoken before. His other three brethren be at continuall warre with hym. The eighteen daye of Maye we entered into the citie by the north syde; then, by a declynyng way, we came into a playne. On the south syde are two mountaynes, the one very neere the other, distant onely by a little valley, which is the way that leadeth to the gate of Mecha. On the east syde is an open place betweene two mountaynes, lyke vnto a valley,26 and is the waye to the mountayne where they sacrifice to the Patriarkes Abraham and Isaac.27 This mountayne is from the citie about ten or twelve myles, and of the heyght of three stones cast: it is of stone as harde as marble, yet no marble.28 In the toppe of the mountaine is a temple or Meschita, made after their fashion, and hath three wayes to enter into it.29 At the foote of the mountayne are two cesterns, which conserue waters without corruption: of these, the one is reserued to minister water to the camels of the carauana of Babylon or Alcayr; and the other, for them of Damasco. It is rayne water, and is deriued far of.30

But to returne to speake of the citie; for as touchyng the maner of sacrifice which they vse at the foote of the mountayne wee wyll speake hereafter. Entryng, therefore, into the citie, wee founde there the carauana of Memphis, or Babylon, which prevented vs eyght dayes, and came not the waye that wee came. This carauana conteyned threescore and foure thousande camelles, and a hundred Mamalukes to guyde them. And here ought you to consyder that, by the opinion of all men, this citie is greatly cursed of God, as appereth by the great barrennesse thereof, for it is destitute of all maner of fruites and corne.31 It is scorched with drynesse for lacke of water, and therefore the water is there growen to suche pryce, that you cannot for twelve pence buye as much water as wyll satysfie your thyrst for one day. Nowe, therefore, I wyll declare what prouision they have for victuales. The most part is brought them from the citie of Babylon, otherwyse named Memphis, Cayrus, or Alcayr, a citie of the ryuer of Nilus in Egypt as we have sayde before, and is brought by the Red Sea (called Mare Erythreum) from a certayne port named Gida, distaunt from Mecha fourtie myles.32 The rest of theyr prouisions is brought from Arabia Faelix, (that is) the happye or blessed Arabia: so named for the fruitfulnesse thereof, in respect of the other two Arabiaes, called Petrea and Diserta, that is, stonye and desart. They haue also muche corne from Ethyopia. Here we found a marueylous number of straungers and peregrynes, or pylgryms; of the whiche some came from Syria, some from Persia, and other from both the East Indiaes, (that is to say) both India within the ryuer of Ganges, and also the other India without the same ryuer. I neuer sawe in anye place greater abundaunce and frequentation of people, forasmuche as I could perceyue by tarrying there the space of 20 dayes. These people resort thyther for diuers causes, as some for merchandies, some to obserue theyr vowe of pylgrymage, and other to haue pardon for theyr sinnes: as touchyng the whiche we wyll speake more hereafter.

Chapter XVII. — Of the Pardons or Indulgences of Mecha.

Let vs now returne to speake of the pardons of pilgryms, for the which so many strange nations resort thither. In the myddest of the citie is a temple, in fashyon lyke vnto the colossus of Rome, the amphitheatrum, I meane, lyke vnto a stage, yet not of marbled or hewed stones, but of burnt bryckes; for this temple, like vnto an amphitheatre, hath fourscore and ten, or an hundred gates,33 and is vaulted. The entrance is by a discent of twelve stayers or degrees on euery part34: in the church porche, are sold only jewels and precious stones. In the entry the gylted walles shyne on euery syde with incomparable splendour. In the lower part of the temple (that is vnder the vaulted places) is seene a maruelous multitude of men; for there are fyue or sixe thousande men that sell none other thyng then sweete oyntmentes, and especially a certayne odoriferous and most sweete pouder wherewith dead bodyes are embalmed.35 And hence, all maner of sweete sauours are carried in maner into the countreys of all the Mahumetans. It passeth all beleefe to thynke of the exceedyng sweetnesse of these sauours, farre surmounting the shoppes of the apothecaries. The 23 daye of Maye the pardones began to be graunted in the temple, and in what maner we wyll nowe declare. The temple in the myddest is open without any inclosyng, and in the myddest also thereof is a turrett of the largnesse of sixe passes in cercuitie,36 and inuolued or hanged with cloth or tapestry of sylke[,]37and passeth not the heyght of a man. They enter into the turret by a gate of syluer, and is on euery syde besette with vesselles full of balme. On the day of Pentecost licence is graunted to al men to se these thynges. The inhabitantes affyrm that balme or balsame to be part of the treasure of the Soltan that is Lorde of Mecha. At euery vaulte of the turret is fastened a rounde circle of iron, lyke to the ryng of a doore.38 The 22 day of Maye, a great multitude of people beganne, early in the mornyng before day, seuen tymes to walke about the turret, kyssing euery corner thereof, often tymes feelyng and handelyng them. From this turret about tenne or twelue pases is an other turret, like a chappell buylded after our maner. This hath three or foure entryes: in the myddest thereof is a well of threescore and tenne cubites deepe; the water of this well is infected with salt peter or saltniter.39 Egypt men are therevnto appoynted to drawe water for all the people: and when a multitude of people haue seuen tymes gone rounde about the first turret, they come to this well, and touchyng the mouth or brym thereof, they saye thus, “Be it in the honour of God; God pardon me, and forgeue me my synnes.” When these woordes are sayde, they that drawe the water powre three buckettes of water on the headdes of euery one of them, and stand neere about the well, and washe them all wette from the headde to the foote, although they be apparelled with sylk. Then the dotyng fooles dreame that they are cleane from all theyr synnes, and that theyr synnes are forgeuen them. They saye, furthermore, that the fyrst turret, whereof we haue spoken, was the fyrst house that euer Abraham buylded, and, therefore, whyle they are yet all wette of the sayd washyng, they go to the mountayne, where (as we have sayde before) they are accustomed to sacrifice to Abraham.40 And remayning there two daies, they make the said sacrifice to Abraham at the foote of the mountayne.

Chapter XVIII. — The Maner of sacrificing at Mecha.

Forasmuche as for the most parte noble spirites are delyted with nouelties of great and straunge thyngs, therefore, to satisfie their expectation, I wyll describe theyr maner of sacrifycyng. Therefore, when they intend to sacrifice, some of them kyll three sheepe, some foure, and tenne; so that the butcherie sometyme so floweth with blood that in one sacrifice are slayne above three thousande sheepe. They are slayne at the rysyng of the sunne, and shortly after are distributed to the poore for God’s sake: for I sawe there a great and confounded multitude of poor people as to the number of 20 thousande. These make many and long dyches in the feeldes, where they keepe fyre with camels doong, and rost or seeth the fleshe that is geuen them, and eate it euen there. I beleue that these poore people came thither rather for hunger than for deuotion, which I thinke by this coniectur — that great abundance of cucumbers are brought thyther from Arabia Fælix, whiche they eate, castyng away the parynges without their houses or tabernacles, where a multitude of the sayde poore people geather them euen out of the myre and sande, and eate them, and are so greedie of these parynges that they fyght who may geather most.41 The daye folowing,42 their Cadi (which are in place with them as with vs the preachers of God’s worde) ascended into a hygh mountayne, to preach to the people that remaineth beneath; and preached to them in theyr language the space of an houre. The summe of the sermon was, that with teares they should bewayle theyr sinnes, and beate their brestes with sighes and lamentation. And the preacher hymselfe with loude voyce spake these wordes, “O Abraham beloued of God, O Isaac chosen of God, and his friend, praye to God for the people of Nabi.” When these woordes were sayde, sodenly were heard lamenting voyces. When the sermon was done, a rumor was spredde that a great armye of Arabians, to the number of twentie thousande, were commyng. With which newes, they that kept the caraunas beyng greatly feared, with all speede, lyke madde men, fledde into the citie of Mecha, and we agayne bearyng newes of the Arabians approche, fledde also into the citie. But whyle wee were in the mydwaye between the mountayne and Mecha, we came by a despicable wall, of the breadthe of foure cubites: the people passyng this wall, had couered the waye with stones, the cause whereof, they saye to be this: when Abraham was commaunded to sacrifice his sonne, he wylled his sonne Isaac to folowe hym to the place where he should execute the commaundement of God. As Isaac went to follow his father, there appeared to him in the way a Deuyl, in lykenesse of a fayre and freendly person, not farre from the sayde wall, and asked hym freendlye whyther he went. Isaac answered that he went to his father who tarryed for him. To this the enemie of mankynde answered, that it was best for hym to tarrye, and yf that he went anye further, his father would sacrifice him. But Isaac nothyng feareyng this aduertisement of the Deuyl, went forward, that his father on hym myght execute the commaundement of God: and with this answere (as they saye) they Deuyell departed. Yet as Isaac went forwarde, the Diuell appeared to hym agayne in the lykenesse of an other frendlye person, and forbade hym as before. Then Isaac taking vp a stone in that place, hurlde it at the Deuyl and wounded him in the forehead: In witnesse and remembraunce whereof, the people passyng that waye when they come neare the wall, are accustomed to cast stones agaynst it, and from thence go into the citie.43 As we went this way, the ayre was in maner darkened with a multitude of stock doues. They saye that these doues, are of the progenie of the doue that spake in the eare of Mahumet, in lykenesse of the Holye Ghost.44 These are seene euery where, as in the villages, houses, tauernes and graniers of corne and ryse, and are so tame that one can scharsely dryue them away. To take them or kyll them is esteemed a thyng worthy death,45 and therefore a certayne pensyon is geuen to nourysshe them in the temple.

Chapter XX. — Of diuers thynges which chaunced to me in Mecha; and of Zida, a port of Mecha.

It may seeme good here to make mention of certayne thynges, in the which is seene sharpenesse of witte in case of vrgent necessitie, which hath no lawe as sayeth the prouerbe, for I was dryuen to the point howe I myght prieuly escape from Mecha. Therefore whereas my Captayne gaue me charge to buy certayne thynges, as I was in the market place, a certayne Mamaluke knewe me to be a christian, and therefore in his owne language spake vnto me these woordes, “Inte mename,” that is, whence art thou?46 To whom I answered that I was a Mahumetan. But he sayde, Thou sayest not truely. I sayde agayne, by the head of Mahumet I am a Mahumetan. Then he sayde agayne, Come home to my house, I folowed hym willingly. When we were there, he began to speake to me in the Italian tongue, and asked me agayne from whence I was, affyrming that he knewe me, and that I was no Mahumetan: also that he had been sometyme in Genua and Venice. And that his woordes myght be better beleeued, he rehearsed many thinges which testified that he sayed trueth. When I vnderstoode this, I confessed freely, that I was a Romane, but professed to the fayth of Mahumet in the citie of Babylon, and there made one of the Mamalukes; whereof he seemed greatly to reioyce and therefore vsed me honourably. But because my desyre was yet to goe further, I asked the Mahumetan whether that citie of Mecha was so famous as all the world spake of it: and inquired of him where was the great aboundaunce of pearles, precious stones, spices, and other rich merchandies that the bruite went of to be in that citie. And all my talke was to the ende to grope the mynde of the Mahumetan, that I might know the cause why such thinges were not brought thyther as in tyme paste. But to auoyde all suspition, I durst here make no mention of the dominion which the Kyng of Portugale had in the most parte of that ocean, and of the gulfes of the Redde Sea and Persia. Then he began with more attentyue mynde, in order to declare vnto me the cause why that marte was not so greatly frequented as it had been before, and layde the only faulte thereof in the Kyng of Portugale. But when he had made mention of the kyng, I began of purpose to detracte his fame, lest the Mahumetan might thinke that I reioyced that the Christians came thyther for merchandies. When he perceyued that I was of profession an enemy to the Christians, he had me yet in greater estimation, and proceeded to tell me many thynges more. When I was well instructed in all thynges, I spake vnto him friendly these woordes in the Mahumet’s language Menaba Menalhabi, that is to say, “I pray you assist mee.47” He asked mee wherein. “To help me (sayed I) howe I may secretly departe hence.” Confyrmyng by great othes, that I would goe to those kinges that were most enemies to the Christians: affyrmyng furthermore, that I knewe certain secretes greatly to be esteemed, which if they were knowen to the sayde kynges, I doubted not but that in shorte tyme I should bee sent for from Mecha. Astonyshed at these woordes, he sayde vnto mee, I pray you what arte or secrete doe you know? I answered, that I would giue place to no man in makyng of all manner of gunnes and artillerie. Then sayde hee, “praysed be Mahumet who sent thee hyther, to do hym and his saintes good seruice:” and willed me to remayne secretly in his house with his wyfe, and requyred me earnestly to obtayne leaue of our Captayne that under his name he myght leade from Mecha fifteine camelles laden with spices, without paying any custome: for they ordinarily paye to the Soltan thirtie seraphes48 of golde, for transportyng of such merchandies for the charge of so many camelles. I put him in good hope of his request, he greatly reioyced, although he would ask for a hundred, affyrmyng that might easily be obteyned by the priuileges of the Mamalukes, and therefore desyred hym that I might safely remayne in his house. Then nothyng doubtyng to obtayn his request, he greatly reioyced, and talkyng with me yet more freely, gaue me further instructions and counsayled me to repayre to a certayne kyng of the greater India, in the kyngdome and realme of Decham49 whereof we will speake hereafter. Therefore the day before the carauana departed from Mecha, he willed me to lye hydde in the most secrete parte of his house. The day folowyng, early in the mornyng the trumpetter of the carauana gaue warning to all the Mamalukes to make ready their horses, to directe their journey toward Syria, with proclamation of death to all that should refuse so to doe. When I hearde the sounde of the trumpet, and was aduertised of the streight commaundement, I was marueylously troubled in minde, and with heauy countenaunce desired the Mahumetan’s wife not to bewraye me, and with earnest prayer committed myselfe to the mercie of God. On the Tuesday folowyng, our carauana departed from Mecha, and I remayned in the Mahumetans house with his wyfe, but he folowed the carauana. Yet before he departed, he gaue commaundement to his wyfe to bryng me to the carauana, which shoulde departe from Zida50 the porte of Mecha to goe into India. This porte is distant from Mecha 40 miles. Whilest I laye thus hyd in the Mahumetans house, I can not expresse how friendly his wyfe vsed me. This also furthered my good enterteynement, that there was in the house a fayre young mayde, the niese of the Mahumetan, who was greatly in loue with me. But at that tyme, in the myddest of those troubles and feare, the fyre of Venus was almost extincte in mee: and therefore with daliaunce of fayre woordes and promises, I styll kepte my selfe in her fauour. Therefore the Friday folowyng, about noone tyde, I departed, folowyng the carauana of India. And about myd nyght we came to a certayne village of the Arabians, and there remayned the rest of that nyght, and the next day tyll noone.

From hence we went forwarde on our journey toward Zida, and came thyther in the silence of the nyght. This citie hath no walles, yet fayre houses, somewhat after the buyldyng of Italie. Here is great aboundaunce of all kynd of merchandies, by reason of resorte in manner of all nations thyther, except jewes and christians, to whom it is not lawfull to come thyther. As soone as I entered into the citie, I went to their temple or Meschita, where I sawe a great multitude of poore people, as about the number of 25 thousande, attendyng a certayne pilot who should bryng them into their countrey. Heere I suffered muche trouble and affliction, beyng enforced to hyde myselfe among these poore folkes, fayning myselfe very sicke, to the ende that none should be inquisityue what I was, whence I came, or whyther I would. The lord of this citie is the Soltan of Babylon, brother to the Soltan of Mecha, who is his subiecte. The inhabitauntes are Mahumetans. The soyle is vnfruitfull, and lacketh freshe water. The sea beateth agaynst the towne. There is neuerthelesse aboundance of all thinges: but brought thyther from other places, as from Babylon of Nilus, Arabia F[æ]lix, and dyuers other places. The heate is here so great, that men are in maner dryed up therewith. And therefore there is euer a great number of sicke folkes. The citie conteyneth about fyue hundred houses.

After fyftiene dayes were past, I couenaunted with a pilot, who was ready to departe from thence into Persia, and agreed of the price, to goe with him. There lay at anker in the hauen almost a hundred brigantines and foistes,51 with diuers boates and barkes of sundry sortes, both with ores and without ores. Therefore after three days, gyuyng wynde to our sayles, we entered into the Redde Sea, otherwise named Mare Erythræum.

1 I have consulted the “Navigation and Voyages of Lewes Wertomannus to the Regions of Arabia, Egypt, Persia, Syria, Ethiopia, and East India, both within and without the River of Ganges, &c., conteyning many notable and straunge things both Historicall and Natural. Translated out of Latine into Englyshe by Richarde Eden. In the year of our Lord, 1576.”—(Hakluyt’s Voyages, vol. iv.) The curious reader will also find the work in Purchas (Pilgrimmes and Pilgrimage, vol. ii.) and Ramusio (Raccolta delle Navigasioni e Viaggi, tom. i.). The Travels of Bartema were first published at Milan, A.D. 1511, and the first English translation appeared in Willes and Eden’s Decades, 4to. A.D. 1555.

2 The number of pilgrims in this Caravan is still grossly exaggerated. I cannot believe that it contains more than 7000 of both sexes, and all ages.

3 This may confirm Strabo’s account of [Æ]lius Gallus’ loss, after a conflict with a host of Arabs — two Roman soldiers. Mons. Jomard, noticing the case, pleasantly remarks, that the two individuals in question are to be pitied for their extreme ill-luck.

4 This venerable form of abuse still survives the lapse of time. One of the first salutations reaching the ears of the “Overlands” at Alexandria is some little boys —

Ya Nasrani

Kalb awani, &c., &c. —

O Nazarene,

O dog obscene, &c., &c.

In Percy’s Reliques we read of the Knight calling his Moslem opponent “unchristen hounde,”— a retort courteous to the “Christen hounde,” previously applied to him by the “Pagan.”

5 For a full account of the mania fit I must refer the curious reader to the original (Book ii. chap. v.) The only mistake the traveller seems to have committed, was that, by his ignorance of the rules of ablution, he made men agree that he was “no sainct, but a madman.”

6 He proceeds, however, to say that “the head is lyke a hart’s,” the “legges thynne and slender, lyke a fawne or hyde, the hoofs divided much like the feet of a goat”; that they were sent from Ethiopia (the Somali country), and were “shewed to the people for a myracle.” They might, therefore, possibly have been African antelopes, which a lusus naturæ had deprived of their second horn. But the suspicion of fable remains.

7 This is a tale not unfamiliar to the Western World. Louis XI. of France was supposed to drink the blood of babes — “pour rajeunir sa veine epuisee.” The reasons in favour of such unnatural diet have been fully explained by the infamous M. de Sade.

8 This is, to the present day, a food confined to the Badawin.

9 This alludes to the gardens of Kuba. The number of date-trees is now greatly increased. (See chap. xix.)

10 The Ayn al-Zarka, flowing from the direction of Kuba. (Chap. xviii).

11 Masjid, a Mosque.

12 Nothing can to more correct than this part of Bartema’s description.

13 Nabi (the Prophet), Abu Bakr, Osman, Omar, and Fatimah. It was never believed that Osman was buried in the Prophet’s Mosque. This part of the description is utterly incorrect. The tombs are within the “tower” above-mentioned; and Bartema, in his 13th chapter, quoted below, seems to be aware of the fact.

14 The request was an unconscionable one; and the “chief priest” knew that the body, being enclosed within four walls, could not be seen.

15 This is incorrect. “Hazrat Isa,” after his second coming, will be buried in the Prophet’s “Hujrah.” But no Moslem ever believed that the founder of Christianity left his corpse in this world. (See chap. xvi.)

16 Most probably, in the Barr al-Manakhah, where the Damascus caravan still pitches tents.

17 This passage shows the antiquity of the still popular superstition which makes a light to proceed from the Prophet’s tomb.

18 It is unnecessary to suppose any deception of the kind. If only the “illuminati” could see this light, the sight would necessarily be confined to a very small number.

19 This account is correct. Kusayr (Cosseir), Suez, and Jeddah still supply Al-Madinah.

20 It is impossible to distinguish from this description the route taken by the Damascus Caravan in A.D. 1503. Of one thing only we may be certain, namely, that between Al-Madinah and Meccah there are no “Seas of Sand.”

21 The name of St. Mark is utterly unknown in Al-Hijaz. Probably the origin of the fountain described in the text was a theory that sprang from the brains of the Christian Mamluks.

22 A fair description of the still favourite vehicles, the Shugduf, Takht-rawan, and the Shibriyah. It is almost needless to say that the use of the mariner’s compass is unknown to the guides in Al-Hijaz.

23 Wonderful tales are still told about this same Momiya (mummy). I was assured by an Arab physician, that he had broken a fowl’s leg, and bound it tightly with a cloth containing man’s dried flesh, which caused the bird to walk about, with a sound shank, on the second day.

24 This is probably Jabal Warkan, on the Darb al-Sultani, or Sea road to Meccah. For the Moslem tradition about its Sinaitic origin, see Chapter xx.

25 The Saniyah Kuda, a pass opening upon the Meccah plain. Here two towers are now erected.

26 This is the open ground leading to the Muna Pass.

27 An error. The sacrifice is performed at Muna, not on Arafat, the mountain here alluded to.

28 The material is a close grey granite.

29 The form of the building has now been changed.

30 The Meccans have a tradition concerning it, that it is derived from Baghdad.

31 Moslems who are disposed to be facetious on serious subjects, often remark that it is a mystery why Allah should have built his house in a spot so barren and desolate.

32 This is still correct. Suez supplies Jeddah with corn and other provisions.

33 A prodigious exaggeration. Burckhardt enumerates twenty. The principal gates are seventeen in number. In the old building they were more numerous. Jos. Pitt says, “it hath about forty-two doors to enter into it; — not so much, I think, for necessity, as figure; for in some places they are close by one another.”

34 Bartema alludes, probably, to the Bab al-Ziyadah, in the northern enceinte.

35 I saw nothing of the kind, though constantly in the Harim at Meccah.

36 “The Ka’abah is an oblong massive structure, 18 paces in length, 14 in breadth, and from 35 to 40 feet in height.” (Burckhardt, vol. i. p. 248.) My measurements, concerning which more hereafter, gave 18 paces in breadth, and 22 in length.

37 In ancient times possibly it was silk: now, it is of silk and cotton mixed.

38 These are the brazen rings which serve to fasten the lower edge of the Kiswah, or covering.

39 A true description of the water of the well Zemzem.

40 There is great confusion in this part of Bartema’s narrative. On the 9th of Zu’l Hijjah, the pilgrims leave Mount Arafat. On the 10th, many hasten into Meccah, and enter the Ka’abah. They then return to the valley of Muna, where their tents are pitched and they sacrifice the victims. On the 12th, the tents are struck, and the pilgrims re-enter Meccah.

41 This well describes the wretched state of the poor “Takruri,” and other Africans, but it attributes to them an unworthy motive. I once asked a learned Arab what induced the wretches to rush upon destruction, as they do, when the Faith renders pilgrimage obligatory only upon those who can afford necessaries for the way. “By Allah,” he replied, “there is fire within their hearts, which can be quenched only at God’s House, and at His Prophet’s Tomb.”

42 Bartema alludes to the “Day of Arafat,” 9th of Zu’l Hijjah, which precedes, not follows, the “Day of Sacrifice.”

43 Bartema alludes to the “Shaytan al-Kabir,” the “great devil,” as the buttress at Al-Muna is called. His account of Satan’s appearance is not strictly correct. Most Moslems believe that Abraham threw the stone at the “Rajim,”— the lapidated one; but there are various traditions upon the subject.

44 A Christian version of an obscure Moslem legend about a white dove alighting on the Prophet’s shoulder, and appearing to whisper in his ear whilst he was addressing a congregation. Butler alludes to it:— “Th’ apostles of this fierce religion, Like Mahomet’s, were ass and widgeon;” the latter word being probably a clerical error for pigeon. When describing the Ka’abah, I shall have occasion to allude to the “blue-rocks” of Meccah.

45 No one would eat the pigeons of the Ka’abah; but in other places, Al-Madinah, for instance, they are sometimes used as articles of food.

46 In the vulgar dialect, “Ant min ayn?”

47 I confess inability to explain these words: the printer has probably done more than the author to make them unintelligible. “Atamannik minalnabi,” in vulgar and rather corrupt Arabic, would mean “I beg you (to aid me) for the sake of the Prophet.”

48 Ashrafi, ducats.

49 The Deccan.

50 Jeddah

51 A foist, foyst or buss, was a kind of felucca, partially decked.


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