Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah and Meccah, by Richard Burton

Appendix V.

The Pilgrimage of Joseph Pitts to Meccah and Al-Madinah. — A.d. 1680

OUR second pilgrim was Jos. Pitts, of Exon,1 a youth fifteen or sixteen years old, when in A.D. 1678, his genius “leading him to be a sailor and to see foreign countries,” caused him to be captured by an Algerine pirate. After living in slavery for some years, he was taken by his “patroon” to Meccah and Al-Madinah via Alexandria, Rosetta, Cairo, and Suez. His description of these places is accurate in the main points, and though tainted with prejudice and bigotry, he is free from superstition and credulity. Conversant with Turkish and Arabic, he has acquired more knowledge of the tenets and practice of Al-Islam than his predecessor, and the term of his residence at Algier, fifteen years, sufficed, despite the defects of his education, to give fulness and finish to his observations. His chief patroon, captain of a troop of horse, was a profligate and debauched man in his time, and a murderer, “who determined to proselyte a Christian slave as an atonement for past impieties.” He began by large offers and failed; he succeeded by dint of a great cudgel repeatedly applied to Joseph Pitts’ bare feet. “I roared out,” says the relator, “to feel the pain of his cruel strokes, but the more I cried, the more furiously he laid on, and to stop the noise of my crying, would stamp with his feet on my mouth.” “At last,” through terror, he “turned and spake the words (la ilaha, &c.), as usual holding up the forefinger of the right hand”; he was then circumcised in due form. Of course, such conversion was not a sincere one —“there was yet swines-flesh in his teeth.” He boasts of saying his prayers in a state of impurity, hates his fellow religionists, was truly pleased to hear Mahomet called sabbatero, i.e., shoemaker, reads his bible, talks of the horrid evil of apostacy, calls the Prophet a “bloody imposter,” eats heartily in private of hog, and is very much concerned for one of his countrymen who went home to his own country, but came again to Algier, and voluntarily, without the least force used towards him, became a Mahometan. His first letter from his father reached him some days after he had been compelled by his patroon’s barbarity to abjure his faith. One sentence appears particularly to have afflicted him: it was this, “to have a care and keep close to God, and to be sure never, by any methods of cruelty that could be used towards me, be prevailed to deny my blessed Saviour, and that he (the father) would rather hear of my death than of my being a Mahometan.” Indeed, throughout the work, it appears that his repentance was sincere.

“God be merciful to me a Sinner!”

is the deprecation that precedes the account of his “turning Turk,” and the book concludes with,

“To him, therefore, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Three Persons and one God, be all Honour, Glory, and Praise, world without end. Amen.”

Having received from his patroon, whom he acknowledges to have been a second parent to him, a letter of freedom at Meccah and having entered into pay, still living with his master, Pitts began to think of escape. The Grand Turk had sent to Algier for ships, and the renegade was allowed to embark on board one of them provided with a diplomatic letter2 from Mr. Baker, Consul of Algier, to Mr. Raye, Consul at Smyrna. The devil, we are told, was very busy with him in the Levant, tempting him to lay aside all thoughts of escaping, to return to Algier, and to continue a Mussulman, and the loss of eight months’ pay and certain other monies seems to have weighed heavily upon his soul. Still he prepared for the desperate enterprise, in which failure would have exposed him to be dragged about the streets on the stones till half dead, and then be burned to ashes in the Jews’ burial-place. A generous friend, Mr. Eliot, a Cornish merchant who had served some part of his apprenticeship in Exon and had settled at Smyrna, paid £4 for his passage in a French ship to Leghorn. Therefrom, in the evening before sailing, he went on board “apparel’d as an Englishman with his beard shaven, a campaign periwig, and a cane in his hand, accompanied with three or four of his friends. At Leghorn he prostrated himself, and kissed the earth, blessing Almighty God, for his mercy and goodness to him, that he once more set footing on the European Christian3 part of the world.” He travelled through Italy, Germany, and Holland, where he received many and great kindnesses. But his patriotism was damped as he entered “England, his own native country, and the civilised land must have made him for a time regret having left Algier. The very first night he lay ashore, he was “imprest into the kings service” (we having at that time war with France); despite arguments and tears he spent some days in Colchester jail, and finally he was put on board a smack to be carried to the Dreadnought man-of-war. But happily for himself he had written to Sir William Falkener, one of the Smyrna or Turkey company in London; that gentleman used his interest to procure a protection from the Admiralty office, upon the receipt of which good news, Joseph Pitts did “rejoice exceedingly and could not forbear leaping upon the deck.” He went to London, thanked Sir William, and hurried down to Exeter, where he ends his fifteen years’ tale with a homely, heartful and affecting description of his first meeting with his father. His mother died about a year before his return.

The following passages are parts of the 7th and 8th chapters of Pitts’ little-known work.

“Next we came to Gidda, the nearest sea-port town to Mecca, not quite one day’s journey from it,4 where the ships are unloaded. Here we are met by Dilleels,5 i.e. certain persons who came from Mecca on purpose to instruct the Hagges, or pilgrims, in the ceremonies (most of them being ignorant of them) which are to be used in their worship at the temple there; in the middle of which is a place which they call Beat Allah, i.e. the House of God. They say that Abraham built it; to which I give no credit.

“As soon as we come to the town of Mecca, the Dilleel, or guide, carries us into the great street, which is in the midst of the town, and to which the temple joins.6 After the camels are laid down, he first directs us to the Fountains, there to take Abdes7; which being done, he brings us to the temple, into which (having left our shoes with one who constantly attends to receive them) we enter at the door called Bab-al-salem, i.e. the Welcome Gate, or Gate of Peace. After a few paces entrance, the Dilleel makes a stand, and holds up his hands towards the Beat-Allah (it being in the middle of the Mosque), the Hagges imitating him, and saying after him the same words which he speaks. At the very first sight of the Beat-Allah, the Hagges melt into tears, then we are led up to it, still speaking after the Dilleel; then we are led round it seven times, and then make two Erkaets.8 This being done, we are led into the street again, where we are sometimes to run and sometimes to walk very quick with the Dilleel from one place of the street to the other, about a bowshot.9 And I profess I could not chuse but admire to see those poor creatures so extraordinary devout, and affectionate, when they were about these superstitions, and with what awe and trembling they were possessed; in so much that I could scarce forbear shedding of tears, to see their zeal, though blind and idolatrous. After all this is done, we returned to the place in the street where we left our camels, with our provisions, and necessaries, and then look out for lodgings; where when we come, we disrobe and take of our Hirrawems,10 and put on our ordinary clothes again.

“All the pilgrims hold it to be their great duty well to improve their time whilst they are at Mecca, not to do their accustomed duty and devotion in the temple, but to spend all their leisure time there, and as far as strength will permit to continue at Towoaf, i.e. to walk round the Beat-Allah, which is about four and twenty paces square. At one corner of the Beat, there is a black stone fastened and framed in with silver plate,11 and every time they come to that corner, they kiss the stone; and having gone round seven times they perform two Erkaets-nomas, or prayers. This stone, they say, was formerly white, and then it was called Haggar Essaed, i.e. the White Stone.12 But by reason of the sins of the multitudes of people who kiss it, it is become black, and is now called Haggar Esswaed, or the Black Stone.

“This place is so much frequented by people going round it, that the place of the Towoaf, i.e. the circuit which they take in going round it, is seldom void of people at any time of the day or night.13 Many have waited several weeks, nay months, for the opportunity of finding it so. For they say, that if any person is blessed with such an opportunity, that for his or her zeal in keeping up the honour of Towoaf, let they petition what they will at the Beat-Allah, they shall be answered. Many will walk round till they are quite weary, then rest, and at it again; carefully remembering at the end of every seventh time to perform two Erkaets. This Beat is in effect the object of their devotion, the idol which they adore: for, let them be never so far distant from it, East, West, North, or South of it, they will be sure to bow down towards it; but when they are at the Beat, they may go on which side they please and pay their Sallah towards it.14 Sometimes there are several hundreds at Towoaf at once, especially after Acshamnomas, or fourth time of service, which is after candle-lighting (as you heard before), and these both men and women, but the women walk on the outside the men, and the men nearest to the Beat. In so great a resort as this, it is not to be supposed that every individual person can come to kiss the stone afore-mentioned; therefore, in such a case, the lifting up the hands towards it, smoothing down their faces, and using a short expression of devotion, as Allah-waick barick, i.e. Blessed God, or Allah cabor, i.e. Great God, some such like; and so passing by it till opportunity of kissing it offers, is thought sufficient.15 But when there are but few men at Towoaf, then the women get opportunity to kiss the said stone, and when they have gotten it, they close in with it as they come round, and walk round as quick as they can to come to it again, and keep possession of it for a considerable time. The men, when they see that the women have got the place, will be so civil as to pass by and give them leave to take their fill, as I may say in their Towoaf or walking round, during which they are using some formal expressions. When the women are at the stone, then it is esteemed a very rude and abominable thing to go near them, respecting the time and place.

“I shall now give you a more particular description of Mecca and the temple there.

“First, as to Mecca. It is a town situated in a barren place (about one day’s journey from the Red Sea) in a valley, or rather in the midst of many little hills. It is a place of no force, wanting both walls and gates. Its buildings are (as I said before) very ordinary, insomuch that it would be a place of no tolerable entertainment, were it not for the anniversary resort of so many thousand Hagges, or pilgrims, on whose coming the whole dependance of the town (in a manner) is; for many shops are scarcely open all the year besides.

The people here, I observed, are a poor sort of people, very thin, lean, and swarthy. The town is surrounded for several miles with many thousands of little hills, which are very near one to the other. I have been on the top of some of them near Mecca, where I could see some miles about, yet was not able to see the farthest of the hills. They are all stony-rock and blackish, and pretty near of a bigness, appearing at a distance like cocks of hay, but all pointing towards Mecca. Some of them are half a mile in circumference, but all near of one height. The people here have an odd and foolish sort of tradition concerning them, viz.: That when Abraham went about building the Beat-Allah, God by his wonderful providence did so order it, that every mountain in the world should contribute something to the building thereof; and accordingly every one did send its proportion; though there is a mountain near Algier, which is called Corradog, i.e. Black Mountain; and the reason of its blackness, they say, is because it did not send any part of itself towards building the temple at Mecca.16 Between these hills is good and plain travelling, though they stand one to another.

“There is upon the top of one of them a cave, which they term Hira,17 i.e. Blessing; into which (they say) Mahomet did usually retire for his solitary devotions, meditations, and fastings; and here they believe he had a great part of the Alcoran brought him by the Angel Gabriel. I have been in this cave, and observed that it is not at all beautified; at which I admired.

“About half a mile out of Mecca is a very steep hill, and there are stairs made to go to the top of it, where is a cupola, under which is a cloven rock; into this, they say, Mahomet, when very young, viz. about four years of age, was carried by the Angel Gabriel, who opened his breast, and took out his heart, from which he picked some black blood-specks, which was his original corruption; then put it into its place again, and afterwards closed up the part; and that during this operation Mahomet felt no pain.

“Into this very place I myself went, because the rest of my company did so, and performed some Erkaets, as they did.

“The town hath plenty of water, and yet but few herbs, unless in some particular places. Here are several sorts of good fruits to be had, viz. grapes, melons, watermelons, cucumbers, pumkins, and the like; but these are brought two or three days’ journey off, where there is a place of very great plenty, called, if I mistake not, Habbash.18 Likewise sheep are brought hither and sold. So that as to Mecca itself, it affords little or nothing of comfortable provisions. It lieth in a very hot country, insomuch that people run from one side of the streets to the other to get into the shadow, as the motion of the sun causes it. The inhabitants, especially men, do usually sleep on the tops of the houses for the air, or in the streets before their doors. Some lay the small bedding they have on a thin mat on the ground; others have a slight frame, made much like drink-stalls on which we place barrels, standing on four legs, corded with palm cordage, on which they put their bedding. Before they bring out their bedding, they sweep the streets and water them. As for my own part, I usually lay open, without any bed-covering, on the top of the house: only I took a linen cloth, dipt in water, and after I had wrung it, covered myself with it in the night; and when I awoke I should find it dry; then I would wet it again: and thus I did two or three times in a night.

“Secondly, I shall next give you some account of the temple of Mecca.

“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. The form of it is much resembling that of the Royal Exchange in London, but I believe it is near ten times bigger. It is all open and gravelled in the midst, except some paths that come from certain doors which lead to the Beat-Allah, and are paved with broad stones. The walks, or cloisters, all round are arched over-head, and paved beneath with fine broad stone; and all round are little rooms or cells, where such dwell and give themselves up to reading, studying, and a devout life, who are much akin to their dervises, or hermits.

“The Beat-Allah, which stands in the middle of the temple, is four-square, about twenty-four paces each square, and near twenty-four foot19 in height. It is built with great stone, all smooth, and plain, without the least bit of carved work on it. It is covered all over from top to bottom with a thick sort of silk. Above the middle part of the covering are embroidered all round letters of gold, the meaning of which I cannot well call to mind, but I think they were some devout expressions. Each letter is near two foot in length and two inches broad. Near the lower end of this Beat are large brass rings fastened into it, through which passeth a great cotton rope; and to this the lower end of the covering is tacked. The threshold of the door that belongs to the Beat is as high as a man can reach; and therefore when any person enter into it, a sort of ladder-stairs are brought for that purpose. The door is plated all over with silver20 and there is a covering hangs over it and reaches to the ground, which is kept turned up all the week, except Thursday night, and Friday, which is their Sabbath. The said covering of the door is very thick imbroidered with gold, insomuch that it weighs several score pounds. The top of the Beat is flat, beaten with lime and sand; and there is a long gutter, or spout, to carry off the water when it rains; at which time the people will run, throng, and struggle, to get under the said gutter, that so the water that comes off the Beat may fall upon them, accounting it as the dew of Heaven, and looking on it as a great happiness to have it drop upon them. But if they can recover some of this water to drink, they esteem it to be yet a much greater happiness.

Many poor people make it their endeavour to get some of it; and present it to the Hagges, for which they are well rewarded. My Patroon had a present made him of this water, with which he was not a little pleased, and gave him that brought it a good reward.

“This Beat-Allah is opened but two days in the space of six weeks, viz. one day for the men, and the next day for the women.21 As I was at Mecca about four months, I had the opportunity of entering into it twice; a reputed advantage, which many thousands of the Hagges have not met with, for those that come by land make no longer stay at Mecca than sixteen or seventeen days.

“When any enter into the Beat, all that they have to do is to perform two Erkaets on each side,22 with the holding up their two hands, and petitioning at the conclusion of each two Erkaets. And they are so very reverent and devout in doing this, that they will not suffer their eyes to wander and gaze about; for they account it very sinful so to do. Nay, they say that one was smitten blind for gazing about when in the Beat, as the reward of his vain and unlawful curiosity.23 I could not, for my part, give any credit to this story, but looked on it as a legendary relation, and, therefore, was resolved, if I could, to take my view of it; I mean not to continue gazing about it, but now and then to cast an observing eye. And I profess I found nothing worth seeing in it, only two wooden pillars in the midst, to keep up the roof,24 and a bar of iron fastened to them, on which hanged three or four silver lamps, which are, I suppose, but seldom, if ever, lighted. In one corner of the Beat is an iron or brass chain, I cannot tell which (for I made no use of it): the pilgrims just clap it about their necks in token of repentance. The floor of the Beat is marble, and so is the inside of the walls, on which there is written something in Arabick, which I had no time to read. The walls, though of marble on the inside, are hung over with silk, which is pulled off25 before the Hagges enter. Those that go into the Beat tarry there but a very little while, viz. scarce so much as half a quarter of an hour, because others wait for the same privilege; and while some go in, others are going out. After all is over, and all that will have done this, the Sultan of Mecca, who is Shirreef, i.e. one of the race of Mahomet, accounts himself not too good to cleanse the Beat; and, therefore, with some of his favourites, doth wash and cleanse it. And first of all, they wash it with the holy water, Zem Zem, and after that with sweet water. The stairs which were brought to enter in at the door of the Beat being removed, the people crowd under the door to receive on them the sweepings of the said water. And the besoms wherewith the Beat is cleansed are broken in pieces, and thrown out amongst the mob; and he that gets a small stick or twig of it, keeps it as a sacred relique.

“But to speak something further of the temple of Mecca (for I am willing to be very particular in matters about it, though in so being, I should, it may be, speak of things which by some people may be thought trivial). The compass of ground round the Beat (where the people exercise themselves in the duty of Towoaf) is paved with marble26 about 50 foot in breadth, and round this marble pavement stand pillars of brass about 15 foot high27 and 20 foot distant from each other; above the middle part of which iron bars are fastened, reaching from one to the other, and several lamps made of glass are hanged to each of the said bars, with brasswires in the form of a triangle, to give light in the night season, for they pay their devotions at the Beat-Allah as much by night as by day, during the Hagges’ stay at Mecca. These glasses are half-filled with water, and a third part with oil, on which a round wire of brass buoyed up with three little corks; in the midst of this wire is made a place to put in the wick or cotton, which burns till the oil is spent. Every day they are washed clean, and replenished with fresh water, oil, and cotton.

“On each of the four squares of the Beat is a little room built, and over every one of them is a little chamber with windows all round it, in which chambers the Emaums (together with the Mezzins) perform Sallah, in the audience of all the people which are below. These four chambers are built one at each square of the Beat, by reason that there are four sorts of Mahometans. The first are called Hanifee; most of them are Turks. The second Schafee28; whose manners and ways the Arabians follow. The third Hanbelee; of which there are but few. The fourth Malakee; of which there are those that live westward of Egypt, even to the Emperor of Morocco’s country. These all agree in fundamentals, only there is some small difference between them in the ceremonial part.

“About twelve paces from the Beat is (as they say) the sepulchre of Abraham,29 who by God’s immediate command, they tell you, built this Beat-Allah; which sepulchre is enclosed within iron gates. It is made somewhat like the tombstones which people of fashion have among us, but with a very handsome imbroidered covering. Into this persons are apt to gaze. A small distance from it, on the left-hand, is a well, which they call Beer el Zem Zem, the water whereof they call holy water; and as superstitiously esteem it as the Papists do theirs. In the month of Ramadan they will be sure to break their fast with it. They report that it is as sweet as milk; but for my part I could perceive no other taste in it than in common water, except that it was somewhat brackish. The Hagges, when they come first to Mecca, drink of it unreasonably; by which means they are not only much purged, but their flesh breaks out all in pimples; and this they call the purging of their spiritual corruptions. There are hundreds of pitchers belonging to the temple, which in the month of Ramadan are filled with the said water and placed all along before the people (with cups to drink) as they are kneeling and waiting for Acsham-nomas, or evening service; and as soon as the Mezzins or clerks on the tops of the minarets began their bawling to call them to nomas, they fall a drinking thereof before they begin their devotions. This Beer or well of Zem Zem is in the midst of one of the little rooms before mentioned, at each square of the Beat, distant about twelve or fourteen paces from it, out of which four men are employed to draw water, without any pay or reward, for any that shall desire it. Each of these men have two leather buckets tied to a rope on a small wheel, one of which comes up full, while the other goes down empty. They do not only drink this water, but oftentimes bathe themselves with it, at which time they take off their clothes, only covering their lower parts with thin wrapper, and one of the drawers pours on each person’s head five or six buckets of water.30 The person bathing may lawfully wash himself therewith above the middle, but not his lower parts, because they account they are not worthy, only letting the water take its way downwards. In short, they make use of this water only to drink, take Abdes, and for bathing: neither may they take Abdes with it, unless they first cleanse their secret parts with other common water. Yea, such an high esteem they have for it, that many Hagges carry it home to their respective countries in little latten or tin pots; and present it to their friends, half a spoonful, may be, to each, who receive it in the hollow of their hand with great care and abundance of thanks, sipping a little of it, and bestowing the rest on their faces and naked heads; at the same time holding up their hands, and desiring of God that they also may be so happy and prosperous as to go on pilgrimage to Mecca. The reason of their putting such an high value upon the water of this well, is because (as they say) it is the place where Ishmael was laid by his mother Hagar. I have heard them tell the story exactly as it is recorded in the 21st chapter of Genesis; and they say, that in the very place where the child paddled with his feet, the water flowed out.

“I shall now inform you how, when, and where, they receive the honourable title of Hagges, for which they are at all this pains and expence.

“The Curbaen Byram, or the Feast of Sacrifice, follows two months and ten days after the Ramadan fast. The eighth day after the said two months they all enter into Hirrawem, i.e. put on their mortifying habit again, and in that manner go to a certain hill called Gibbel el Orphat (El Arafat), i.e. the Mountain of Knowledge; for there, they say, Adam first found and knew his wife Eve. And they likewise say, that she was buried at Gidda near the Red Sea; at whose sepulchre all the Hagges who come to Mecca by way of the Red Sea, perform two Erkaets-nomas, and, I think, no more. I could not but smile to hear this their ridiculous tradition (for so I must pronounce it), when observing the marks which were set, the one at the head, and the other at the foot of the grave: I guessed them to be a bow-shot distant from each other. On the middle of her supposed grave is a little Mosque built, where the Hagges pay their religious respect.

“This Gibbel or hill is not so big as to contain the vast multitudes which resort thither; for it is said by them, that there meet no less than 70,000 souls every year, in the ninth day after the two months after Ramadan; and if it happen that in any year there be wanting some of that number, God, they say, will supply the deficiency by so many angels.31

“I do confess the number of Hagges I saw at this mountain was very great; nevertheless, I cannot think they could amount to so many as 70,000. There are certain bound-stones placed round the Gibbel, in the plain, to shew how far the sacred ground (as they esteem it) extends; and many are so zealous as to come and pitch their tents within these bounds, some time before the hour of paying their devotion here comes, waiting for it. But why they so solemnly approach this mountain beyond any other place, and receive from hence the title of Hagges, I confess I do not more fully understand than what I have already said, giving but little heed to these delusions. I observed nothing worth seeing on this hill, for there was only a small cupola on the top of it32; neither are there any inhabitants nearer to it than Mecca. About one or two of the clock, which is the time of Eulea-nomas, having washed and made themselves ready for it, they perform that, and at the same time perform Ekinde-nomas, which they never do at one time, but upon this occasion; because at the time when Ekinde-nomas should be performed in the accustomed order, viz. about four of the clock in the afternoon, they are imploring pardon for their sins, and receiving the Emaum’s benediction.33

“It was a sight indeed, able to pierce one’s heart, to behold so many thousands in their garments of humility and mortification, with their naked heads, and cheeks watered with tears; and to hear their grievous sighs and sobs, begging earnestly for the remission of their sins, promising newness of life, using a form of penitential expressions, and thus continuing for the space of four or five hours, viz. until the time of Acsham-nomas, which is to be performed about half an hour after sunset. (It is matter of sorrowful reflection, to compare the indifference of many Christians with this zeal of these poor blind Mahometans, who will, it is to be feared, rise up in judgment against them and condemn them.) After their solemn performance of their devotions thus at the Gibbel, they all at once receive that honourable title of Hagge from the Emaum, and are so stiled to their dying day. Immediately upon their receiving this name, the trumpet is sounded, and they all leave the hill and return for Mecca, and being gone two or three miles on their way[,] they then rest for that night34; but after nomas, before they go to rest, each person gathers nine-and-forty small stones about the bigness of an hazle nut; the meaning of which I shall acquaint you with presently.

“The next morning they move to a place called Mina, or Muna; the place, as they say, where Abraham went to offer up his son Isaac,35 and therefore in this place they sacrifice their sheep. It is about two or three miles from Mecca. I was here shown a stone, or little rock, which was parted in the middle. They told me, that when Abraham was going to sacrifice his son, instead of striking him, Providence directed his hand to this stone, which he clave in two. It must be a good stroke indeed!

“Here they all pitch their tents (it being in a spacious plain), and spend the time of Curbaen Byram, viz. three days. As soon as their tents are pitched, and all things orderly disposed, every individual Hagge, the first day, goes and throws seven of the small stones, which they had gathered, against a small pillar, or little square stone building.36 Which action of theirs is intended to testify their defiance of the devil and his deeds; for they at the same time pronounce the following words, viz. Erzum le Shetane wazbehe37; i.e. stone the devil, and them that please him.38 And there are two other of the like pillars, which are situated near one another; at each of which (I mean all three), the second day, they throw seven stones; and the same they do the third day. As I was going to perform this ceremony of throwing the stones, a facetious Hagge met me; saith he, ‘You may save your labour at present, if you please, for I have hit out the devil’s eyes already.’ You must observe, that after they have thrown the seven stones on the first day (the country people having brought great flocks of sheep to be sold), every one buys a sheep and sacrifices it; some of which they give to their friends, some to the poor which come out of Mecca and the country adjacent, very ragged poor, and the rest they eat themselves; after which they shave their heads, throw off Hirrawem, and put on other clothes, and then salute one another with a kiss, saying, ‘Byram Mabarick Ela,’ i.e. the feast be a blessing to you.

“These three days of Byram they spend festivally, rejoicing with abundance of illuminations all night, shooting of guns, and fireworks flying in the air; for they reckon that all their sins are now done away, and they shall, when they die, go directly to heaven, if they don’t apostatize; and that for the future, if they keep their vow and do well, God will set down for every good action ten; but if they do ill, God will likewise reckon every evil action ten: and any person, who, after having received the title of Hagge, shall fall back to a vicious course of life, is esteemed to be very vile and infamous by them.39

“Some have written, that many of the Hagges, after they have returned home, have been so austere to themselves as to pore a long time over red-hot bricks, or ingots of iron, and by that means willingly lose their sight, desiring to see nothing evil or profane, after so sacred a sight as the temple at Mecca; but I never knew any such thing done.

“During their three days’ stay at Mina, scarce any Hagge (unless impotent) but thinks it his duty to pay his visit, once at least, to the temple at Mecca. They scarce cease running all the way thitherward, shewing their vehement desire to have a fresh sight of the Beat-Allah; which as soon as ever they come in sight of, they burst into tears for joy; and after having performed Towoaf for a while, and a few Erkaets, they return again to Mina. And when the three days of Byram are expired, they all, with their tents, &c., come back again to Mecca.

“They say, that after the Hagges are gone from Mina to Mecca, God doth usually send a good shower of rain to wash away the filth and dung of the sacrifices there slain; and also that those vast numbers of little stones, which I told you the Hagges throw in defiance of the devil, are all carried away by the angels before the year comes about again. But I am sure I saw vast numbers of them that were thrown the year before, lie upon the ground. After they are returned to Mecca, they can tarry there no longer than the stated time, which is about ten or twelve days; during which time there is a great fair held, where are sold all manner of East India goods, and abundance of fine stones for rings and bracelets, &c., brought from Yeamane40; also of China-ware and musk, and variety of other curiosities. Now is the time in which the Hagges are busily employed in buying, for they do not think it lawful to buy any thing till they have received the title of Hagge. Every one almost now buys a caffin, or shroud of fine linen, to be buried in (for they never use coffins for that purpose), which might have been procured at Algier, or their other respective homes, at a much cheaper rate; but they choose to buy it here, because they have the advantage of dipping it in the holy water, Zem Zem. They are very careful to carry the said caffin with them wherever they travel, whether by sea or land, that they may be sure to be buried therein.

“The evening before they leave Mecca, every one must go to take their solemn leave of the Beat, entering at the gate called Babe el Salem, i.e. Welcome Gate, and having continued at Towoaf as long as they please, which many do till they are quite tired, and it being the last time of their paying their devotions to it, they do it with floods of tears, as being extremely unwilling to part and bid farewell; and having drank their fill of the water Zem Zem, they go to one side of the Beat, their backs being towards the door called by the name of Babe el Weedoh i.e., the Farewell Door, which is opposite to the welcome door; where, having performed two or three Erkaets, they get upon their legs and hold up their hands towards the Beat, making earnest petitions; and then keep going backward till they come to the above said farewell gate, being guided by some other, for they account it a very irreverent thing to turn their backs towards the Beat when they take leave of it. All the way as they retreat they continue petitioning, holding up their hands, with their eyes fixed upon the Beat, till they are out of sight of it; and so go to their lodgings weeping.

“Ere I leave Mecca, I shall acquaint you with a passage of a Turk to me in the temple cloyster, in the night time, between Acsham-nomas, and Gega-nomas, i.e., between the evening and the night services. The Hagges do usually spend that time, or good part of it (which is about an hour and half), at Towoaf, and then sit down on the mats and rest themselves. This I did, and after I had sat a while, and for my more ease at last was lying on my back, with my feet towards the Beat, but at a distance as many others did, a Turk which sat by me, asked me what countryman I was; ‘A Mogrebee’ (said I), i.e. one of the West. ‘Pray,’ quoth he, ‘how far west did you come?’ I told him from Gazair, i.e. Algier. ‘Ah!’ replied he, ‘have you taken so much pains, and been at so much cost, and now be guilty of this irreverent posture before the Beat Allah?’

“Here are many Moors, who get a beggarly livelihood by selling models of the temple unto strangers, and in being serviceable to the Pilgrims. Here are also several Effendies, or masters of learning, who daily expound out of the Alcoran, sitting in high chairs, and some of the learned Pilgrims, whilst they are here, do undertake the same.

“Under the room of the Hanifees (which I mentioned before), people do usually gather together (between the hours of devotion), and sitting round cross-legged, it may be, twenty or thirty of them, they have a very large pair of Tessbeehs, or beads, each bead near as big as a man’s fist, which they keep passing round, bead after bead, one to the other, all the time, using some devout expressions. I myself was once got in amongst them, and methought it was a pretty play enough for children — however, I was to appearance very devout.

“There are likewise some dervises that get money here, as well as at other places, by burning of incense, swinging their censers as they go along before the people that are sitting; as this they do commonly on Friday, their Sabbath. In all other Gamiler or Mosques, when the Hattib is preaching, and the people all sitting still at their devotion, they are all in ranks, so that the dervise, without the least disturbance to any, walks between every rank, with his censer in one hand, and with the other takes his powdered incense out of a little pouch that hangs by his side.41

“But though this place, Mecca, is esteemed so very holy, yet it comes short of none for lewdness and debauchery. As for uncleanness, it is equal to Grand Cairo; and they will steal even in the temple itself.

Chapter VIII. — Of the Pilgrims’ return from Mecca: their visit made at Medina to Mahomet’s tomb there.

“Having thus given you an account of the Turks’ pilgrimage to Mecca, and of their worship there (the manner and circumstances of which I have faithfully and punctually related, and may challenge the world to convict me of a known falsehood), I now come to take leave of the temple and town of Mecca.

“Having hired camels of the carriers, we set out, but we give as much for the hire of one from Mecca to Egypt, which is about forty days’ journey, as the real worth of it is, (viz.) about five or six pounds sterling. If it happen that the camel dies by the way, the carrier is to supply us with another; and therefore, those carriers42 who come from Egypt to Mecca with the Caravan, bring with them several spare camels; for there is hardly a night passeth but many die upon the road, for if a camel should chance to fall, it is seldom known that it is able to rise again; and if it should, they despair of its being capable of performing the journey, or ever being useful more. It is a common thing, therefore, when a camel once falls, to take off its burden and put it on another, and then kill it; which the poorer sort of the company eat. I myself have eaten of camel’s flesh, and it is very sweet and nourishing. If a camel tires, they even leave him upon the place.

“The first day we set out from Mecca, it was without any order at all, all hurly burly; but the next day every one laboured to get forward; and in order to it, there was many time much quarrelling and fighting. But after every one had taken his place in the Caravan, they orderly and peaceably kept the same place till they came to Grand Cairo. They travel four camels in a breast, which are all tied one after the other, like as in teams.43 The whole body is called a Caravan, which is divided into several cottors, or companies, each of which hath its name, and consists, it may be, of several thousand camels; and they move one cottor after another, like distinct troops. In the head of each cottor is some great gentleman or officer, who is carried in a thing like a horse-litter, borne by two camels, one before and the other behind, which is covered all over with sear-cloth, and over that again with green broad cloth, and set forth very handsomely. If the said great person hath a wife with him, she is carried in another of the same.44 In the head of every cottor there goes, likewise, a sumpter camel which carries his treasures, &c. This camel hath two bells, about the bigness of our market-bells, having one on each side, the sound of which may be heard a great way off. Some other of the camels have round bells about their necks, some about their legs, like those which our carriers put about their fore-horses’ necks; which together with the servants (who belong to the camels, and travel on foot) singing all night, make a pleasant noise, and the journey passes away delightfully. They say this musick make the camels brisk and lively. Thus they travel, in good order every day, till they come to Grand Cairo; and were it not for this order, you may guess what confusion would be amongst such a vast multitude.

“They have lights by night (which is the chief time of travelling, because of the exceeding heat of the sun by day), which are carried on the tops of high poles, to direct the Hagges on their march.45 They are somewhat like iron stoves, into which they put short dry wood, which some of the camels are loaded with; it is carried in great sacks, which have an hole near the bottom, where the servants take it out, as they see the fires need a recruit. Every cottor hath one of these poles belonging to it, some of which have ten, some twelve, of these lights on their tops, or more or less; and they are likewise of different figures as well as numbers; one, perhaps, oval way, like a gate; another triangular, or like an N or M, &c., so that every one knows by them his respective cottor. They are carried in the front, and set up in the place where the Caravan is to pitch, before that comes up, at some distance from one another. They are also carried by day, not lighted, but yet by the figure and number of them, the Hagges are directed to what cottor they belong, as soldiers are, by their colours, where to rendezvous; and without such directions it would be impossible to avoid confusion in such a vast number of people.

“Every day, viz. in the morning, they pitch their tents, and rest several hours. When the camels are unloaded the owners drive them to water, and give them their provender, &c. So that we had nothing to do with them, besides helping to load them.

“As soon as our tents were pitched, my business was to make a little fire and get a pot of coffee. When we had ate some small matter and drank the coffee, we lay down to sleep. Between eleven and twelve we boiled something for dinner, and having dined, lay down again, till about four in the afternoon; when the trumpet was sounded which gave notice to every one to take down their tents, pack up their things, and load their camels in order to proceed on their journey. It takes up about two hours time ere they are in all their places again. At the time of Acsham-nomas, and also Gega-nomas, they make a halt, and perform their Sallah (so punctual are they in their worship), and then they travel till next morning. If water be scarce, what I call an imaginary Abdes46 will do. As for ancient men, it being very troublesome for such to alight off the camels, and get up again, it is lawful for them to defer these two times of nomas till the next day; but they will be sure to perform it then.

“As for provisions, we bring enough out of Egypt to suffice us till we return thither again. At Mecca we compute how much will serve us for one day, and consequently, for the forty days’ journey to Egypt, and if we find we have more than we may well guess will suffice us for a long time, we sell the overplus at Mecca. There is a charity maintained by the Grand Seignior, for water to refresh the poor who travel on foot all the way; for there are many such undertake this journey (or pilgrimage) without any money, relying on the charity of the Hagges for subsistence, knowing that they largely extend it at such a time.

“Every Hagge carries his provisions, water, bedding, &c., with him, and usually three or four diet together, and sometimes discharge a poor man’s expenses the whole journey for his attendance on them. There was an Irish renegade, who was taken very young, insomuch that he had not only lost his Christian religion, but his native language also. This man had endured thirty years slavery in Spain, and in the French gallies, but was afterwards redeemed and came home to Algier. He was looked upon as a very pious man, and a great Zealot, by the Turks, for his not turning from the Mahommedan faith, notwithstanding the great temptations he had so to do. Some of my neighbours who intended for Mecca, the same year I went with my patroon thither, offered this renegado that if he would serve them on this journey they would defray his charges throughout. He gladly embraced the offer, and I remember when we arrived at Mecca he passionately told me, that God had delivered him out of hell upon earth (meaning his former slavery in France and Spain), and had brought him into a heaven upon earth, viz. Mecca. I admired much his zeal, but pitied his condition.

“Their water they carry in goats’ skins, which they fasten to one side of their camels. It sometimes happens that no water is to be met with for two, three, or more days; but yet it is well known that a camel is a creature that can live long without drinking (God in his wise providence so ordering it: for otherwise it would be very difficult, if not impossible to travel through the parched deserts of Arabia).

“In this journey many times the skulking, thievish, Arabs do much mischief to some of the Hagges; for in the night time they will steal upon them (especially such as are on the outside of the Caravan), and being taken to be some of the servants that belong to the carriers, or owners of the camels, they are not suspected. When they see an Hagge fast asleep (for it is usual for them to sleep on the road), they loose a camel before and behind, and one of the thieves leads it away with the Hagge upon its back asleep. Another of them in the meanwhile, pulls on the next camel to tie it to the camel from whence the halter of the other was cut; for if that camel be not fastened again to the leading camel, it will stop, and all that are behind will then stop of course, which might be the means of discovering the robbers. When they have gotten the stolen camel, with his rider, at a convenient distance from the Caravan, and think themselves out of danger, they awake the Hagge, and sometimes destroy him immediately; but at other times, being a little more inclined to mercy, they strip him naked, and let him return to the Caravan.47

“About the tenth easy day’s journey, after we come out of Mecca, we enter into Medina, the place where Mahomet lies entombed. Although it be (as I take it) two or three days’ journey out of the direct way from Mecca to Egypt, yet the Hagges pay their visit there for the space of two days, and come away the third.

“Those Mahometans which live to the southward of Mecca, at the East Indies, and thereaway, are not bound to make a visit to Medina, but to Mecca only, because it would be so much out of their way. But such as come from Turkey, Tartary, Egypt, and Africa, think themselves obliged to do so.

“Medina is but a little town, and poor, yet it is walled round,48 and hath in it a great Mosque, but nothing near so big as the temple at Mecca. In one corner of the Mosque is a place, built about fourteen or fifteen paces square. About this place are great windows,49 fenced with brass grates. In the inside it is decked with some lamps, and ornaments. It is arched all over head. (I find some relate, that there are no less than 3000 lamps about Mahomet’s tomb; but it is a mistake, for there are not, as I verily believe, an hundred; and I speak what I know, and have been an eye-witness of). In the middle of this place is the tomb of Mahomet, where the corpse of that bloody impostor is laid, which hath silk curtains all around it like a bed; which curtains are not costly nor beautiful. There is nothing of his tomb to be seen by any, by reason of the curtains round it, nor are any of the Hagges permitted to enter there.50 None go in but the Eunuchs, who keep watch over it, and they only light the lamps, which burn there by night, and to sweep and cleanse the place. All the privilege the Hagges have, is only to thrust in their hands at the windows,51 between the brass grates, and to petition the dead juggler, which they do with a wonderful deal of reverence, affection, and zeal. My patroon had his silk handkerchief stole out of his bosom, while he stood at his devotion here.

“It is storied by some, that the coffin of Mahomet hangs up by the attractive virtue of a loadstone to the roof of the Mosque; but believe me it is a false story. When I looked through the brass gate, I saw as much as any of the Hagges; and the top of the curtains, which covered the tomb, were not half so high as the roof or arch, so that it is impossible his coffin should be hanging there. I never heard the Mahometans say anything like it. On the outside of this place, where Mahomet’s tomb is, are some sepulchres of their reputed saints; among which is one prepared for Jesus Christ, when he shall come again personally into the world; for they hold that Christ will come again in the flesh, forty years before the end of the world, to confirm the Mahometan faith, and say likewise, that our Saviour was not crucified in person, but in effigy, or one like him.

“Medina is much supplied by the opposite Abyssine country, which is on the other side of the Red Sea: from thence they have corn and necessaries brought in ships: an odd sort of vessels as ever I saw, their sails being made of matting, such as they use in the houses and Mosques to tread upon.

“When we had taken our leave of Medina, the third day, and travelled about ten days more, we were met by a great many Arabians, who brought abundance of fruit to us, particularly raisins; but from whence I cannot tell.52 When we came within fifteen days’ journey of Grand Cairo, we were met by many people who came from thence, with their camels laden with presents for the Hagges, sent from their friends and relations, as sweetmeats, &c. But some of them came rather for profit, to sell fresh provisions to the Hagges, and trade with them.

“About ten days before we got to Cairo, we came to a very long steep hill, called Ackaba, which the Hagges are usually much afraid how they shall be able to get up. Those who can will walk it. The poor camels, having no hoofs, find it very hard work, and many drop here. They were all untied, and we dealt gently with them, moving very slowly, and often halting. Before we came to this hill, I observed no descent, and when we were at the top there was none, but all plain as before.

“We past by Mount Sinai by night, and, perhaps, when I was asleep; so that I had no prospect of it.

“When we came within seven days’ journey of Cairo, we were met by abundance of people more, some hundreds, who came to welcome their friends and relations; but it being night, it was difficult to find those they wanted, and, therefore, as the Caravans past along they kept calling them aloud by their names, and by this means found them out. And when we were in three days’ journey of it, we had many camel-loads of the water of the Nile brought us to drink. But the day and night before we came to Cairo, thousands came out to meet us with extraordinary rejoicing. It is thirty-seven days’ journey from Mecca to Cairo, and three days we tarry by the way, which together make us (as I said) forty days’ journey; and in all this way there is scarce any green thing to be met with, nor beast nor fowl to be seen or heard; nothing but sand and stones, excepting one place which we passed through by night; I suppose it was a village, where were some trees, and, we thought, gardens.”

1 It is curious, as Crichton (Arabia, vol. ii. p. 208) observes, that Gibbon seems not to have seen or known anything of the little work published by Pitts on his return home. It is entitled “A faithful Account of the Religion and the Manners of the Mahometans, in which is a particular Relation of their Pilgrimage to Mecca, the Place of Mahomet’s Birth, and Description of Medina, and of his Tomb there,” &c., &c. My copy is the 4th edition, printed for T. Longman and R. Hett, London, A.D. 1708. The only remarkable feature in the “getting up” of the little octavo is, that the engraving headed “the most sacred and antient Temple of the Mahometans at Mecca,” is the reverse of the impression[.]

2 Some years afterwards, Mr. Consul Baker, when waited upon by Pitts, in London, gave him a copy of the letter, with the following memorandum upon the back of it —“Copy of my letter to Consul Raye at Smyrna, to favour the escape of Joseph Pitts, an English renegade, from a squadron of Algier men-of-war. Had my kindness to him been discovered by the government of Algiers, my legs and arms had first been broken, and my carcass burnt — a danger hitherto not courted by any.”

3 The italics in the text are the author’s. This is admirably characteristic of the man. Asiatic Christendom would not satisfy him. He seems to hate the “damnable doctrines” of the “Papists,” almost as much as those of the Moslems.

4 He must have been accustomed to long days’ journeys. Al-Idrisi makes Jeddah forty miles from Meccah; I calculated about forty-four.

5 Dalil, a guide, generally called at Meccah “Muttawwif.”

6 Pitts’ Note — that before they’ll provide for themselves, they serve God in their way.

7 Abdast is the Turkish word, borrowed from the Persian, for “Wuzu,” the minor ablution.

8 Ruka’at, a bending. This two-bow prayer is in honour of the Mosque.

9 This is the ceremony technically called Al-Sai, or running between Safa and Marwah. Burckhardt describes it accurately, vol. i. pp. 174, 175.

10 Ihram, the pilgrim-garb.

11 Now gold or gilt.

12 This is an error. The stone is called Hajar Aswad, the Black Stone, or Hajar As’ad, the Blessed Stone. Moreover, it did not change its colour on account of the sins of the people who kissed it.

13 The Meccans, in effect, still make this a boast.

14 Nothing more blindly prejudiced than this statement. Moslems turn towards Meccah, as Christians towards Jerusalem.

15 As will afterwards be explained, all the four orthodox schools do not think it necessary to kiss the stone after each circumambulation.

16 These are mere local traditions. The original Ka’abah was composed of materials gathered from the six mountains of Paradise (chap. xx.) The present building is of grey granite quarried in a hill near Meccah.

17 Now Jabal Nur.

18 They come from the well-known Taif, which the country people call Hijaz, but never Habbash. The word Taif literally means the “circumambulator.” It is said that when Adam settled at Meccah, finding the country barren, he prayed to Allah to supply him with a bit of fertile land. Immediately appeared a mountain, which having performed Tawaf round the Ka’abah, settled itself down eastward of Meccah. Hence, to the present day, Taif is called Kita min al-Sham, a piece of Syria, its fatherland.

19 This is an error of printing for “paces.”

20 (Pitts’ Note.) Not of massy gold, as a late French author (who, I am sure, was never there) says. The door is of wood, only plated over with silver; much less is the inside of the Beat ceiled with massy gold, as the same Frenchman asserts. I can assure the world it is no such thing. The door is of wood, thickly plated over with silver, in many parts gilt. And whatever hereabouts is gilt, the Meccans always call gold. (R.F.B.)

21 This is no longer the case. Few women ever enter the Ka’abah, on account of the personal danger they run there.

22 More correctly, at three of the corners, and the fourth opposite the southern third of the western wall.

23 It is deemed disrespectful to look at the ceiling, but pilgrims may turn their eyes in any other direction they please.

24 There are now three.

25 It is tucked up about six feet high.

26 It is a close kind of grey granite, which takes a high polish from the pilgrims’ feet.

27 Now iron posts.

28 The Shafe’i school have not, and never had, a peculiar oratory like the other three schools. They pray near the well Zemzem.

29 This place contains the stone which served Abraham for a scaffold when he was erecting the Ka’abah. Some of our popular writers confound this stone with the Hajar al-Aswad.

30 (Pitts’ Note.) The worthy Mons. Thevenot saith, that the waters of Meccah are bitter; but I never found them so, but as sweet and as good as any others, for aught as I could perceive. Pitts has just remarked that he found the waters of Zemzem brackish. To my taste it was a salt-bitter, which was exceedingly disagreeable. (R.F.B.)

31 They are not so modest. 600,000 is the mystical number; others declare it to be incalculable. Oftentimes 70,000 have met at Arafat.

32 The cupola has now disappeared; there is a tall pillar of masonry-work, whitewashed, rising from a plastered floor, for praying.

33 On the 9th Zu’l Hijjah, or the Day of Arafat, the pilgrims, having taken their stations within the sacred limits, perform ablution about noon, and pray as directed at that hour. At three P.M., after again performing the usual devotions, or more frequently after neglecting them, they repair to the hill, and hear the sermon.

34 At Muzdalifah.

35 This, I need scarcely say, is speaking as a Christian. All Moslems believe that Ishmael, and not Isaac, was ordered to be sacrificed. The place to which Pitts alludes is still shown to pilgrims.

36 (Pitts’ Note.) Monsieur de Thevenot saith, that they throw these stones at the Gibbel or Mount; but, indeed, it is otherwise; though I must needs say, he is very exact in almost every thing of Turkish matters; and I pay much deference to that great author.

37 The Rami or Jaculator now usually says, as he casts each stone, “In the name of Allah, and Allah is omnipotent (Raghman li’sh’ Shaytani wa Khizyatih), in token of abhorrence to Satan, and for his ignominy (I do this).”

38 The Arabic would mean stone the devil and slay him, unless “wazbehe” be an error for “wa ashabih,”—“and his companions.”

39 Even in the present day, men who have led “wild” lives in their youth, often date their reformation from the first pilgrimage.

40 Al-Yaman, Southern Arabia, whose “Akik,” or cornelians were celebrated.

41 This is still practised in Moslem countries, being considered a decent way of begging during public prayers, without interrupting them.

42 These people will contract to board the pilgrim, and to provide him with a tent, as well as to convey his luggage.

43 The usual way now is in “Kitar,” or in Indian file, each camel’s halter being tied to the tail of the beast that precedes him. Pitts’ “cottor” must be a kitar, but he uses the word in another of its numerous senses.

44 This vehicle is the “Takht-rawan” of Arabia.

45 He describes the Mashals still in use. Lane has sketched them, Mod. Egypt. chap. vi.

46 Pitts means by “imaginary Abdes,” the sand ablution — lawful when water is wanted for sustaining life.

47 As I shall explain at a future time, there are still some Hijazi Badawin whose young men, before entering life, risk everything in order to plunder a Haji. They care little for the value of the article stolen, the exploit consists in stealing it.

48 The walls, therefore, were built between A.D. 1503 and A.D. 1680.

49 These are not windows, but simply the inter-columnar spaces filled with grating.

50 This account is perfectly correct. The Eunuchs, however, do not go into the tomb; they only light the lamps in, and sweep the passage round, the Sepulchre.

51 These are the small apertures in the Southern grating. See Chap. xvi.

52 The Caravan must have been near the harbour of Muwaylah, where supplies are abundant.


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