Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah and Meccah, by Richard Burton

Chapter XVIII.


IT is equally difficult to define, politically and geographically, the limits of Al-Hijaz. Whilst some authors, as Abulfeda,1 fix its Northern frontier at Aylah (Fort Al-’Akabah) and the Desert, making Al-Yaman its Southern limit, others include in it only the tract of land lying between Meccah and Al-Madinah. The country has no natural boundaries, and its political limits change with every generation; perhaps, therefore, the best distribution of its frontier would be that which includes all the property called Holy Land, making Yambu’ the Northern, and Jeddah the Southern extremes, while a line drawn through Al-Madinah, Suwayrkiyah, and Jabal Kora-the mountain of Taif-might represent its Eastern boundary. Thus Al-Hijaz would be an irregular parallelogram, about two hundred and fifty miles in length, with a maximum breadth of one hundred and fifty miles.

Two meanings are assigned to the name of this venerated region. Most authorities make it mean the “Separator,” the “Barrier,” between Nijd and Tahamah,2 or between Al-Yaman and Syria. According to others, it signifies the “colligated,” i.e. by mountains. It is to be observed that the people of the country, especially the Badawin, distinguish the lowlands from the high region by different names; the former are called Tahamat al-Hijaz-the sea coast of Al-Hijaz, as we should say in India, “below the Ghauts;” the latter is known peculiarly as Al-Hijaz.3

Madinat al-Nabi,4 the Prophet’s City, or, as it is usually called for brevity, Al-Madinah, the City, is situated on the borders of Nijd, upon the vast plateau of high land which forms central Arabia. The limits of the sanctuary called the Hudud al-Harim, as defined by the Apostle, may still serve to mark out the city’s plain. Northwards, at a distance of about three miles, is Jabal Ohod, or, according to others, Jabal Saur, a hill somewhat beyond Ohod; these are the last ribs of the vast tertiary and primitive chine5 which, extending from Taurus to near Aden, and from Aden again to Maskat, fringes the Arabian trapezium. To the South-west the plain is bounded by ridges of scoriaceous basalt, and by a buttress of rock called Jabal Ayr, like Ohod, about three miles distant from the town. Westward, according to some authors, is the Mosque Zu’l-Halifah. On the East there are no natural landmarks, nor even artificial, like the “Alamayn” at Meccah; an imaginary line, therefore, is drawn, forming an irregular circle of which the town is the centre, with a diameter from ten to twelve miles. Such is the sanctuary.6 Geographically considered, the plain is bounded, on the East, with a thin line of low dark hills, traversed by the Darb al-Sharki, or the “Eastern road,” through Al-Nijd to Meccah: Southwards, the plateau is open, and almost perfectly level as far as the eye can see.

Al-Madinah dates its origin doubtless from ancient times, and the cause of its prosperity is evident in the abundant supply of water, a necessary generally scarce in Arabia. The formation of the plateau is in some places salt sand, but usually a white chalk, and a loamy clay, which even by the roughest manipulation makes tolerable bricks. Lime also abounds. The town is situated upon a gently-shelving part of the plain, the, lowest portion of which, to judge from the versant, is at the southern base of Mount Ohod, hence called Al-Safilah, and the highest at the Awali, or plains about Kuba, and the East.

The Southern and South-Eastern walls of the suburb are sometimes carried away by violent “Sayl,” or torrents, which, after rain, sweep down from the Western as well as from the Eastern highlands. The water-flow is towards Al-Ghabbah, lowlands in the Northern and Western hills, a little beyond Mount Ohod. This basin receives the drainage of the mountains and the plain; according to some absorbing it, according to others collecting it till of sufficient volume to flow off to the sea. Water, though abundant, is rarely of good quality. In the days of the Prophet, the Madani consumed the produce of wells, seven of which are still celebrated by the people.7 Historians relate that Omar, the second Caliph, provided the town with drinking-water from the Northern parts of the plains by means of an aqueduct. The modern city is supplied by a source called the Ayn al-Zarka or Azure Spring,8 which arises some say at the foot of Mount Ayr, others, with greater probability, in the date-groves of Kuba. Its waters were first brought to Al-Madinah by Marwan, governor in Al-Mu’awiyah’s day. It now flows down a subterraneous canal, about thirty feet below the surface; in places the water is exposed to the air, and steps lead to it for the convenience of the inhabitants: this was the work of Sultan Sulayman the Magnificent. After passing through the town it turns to the North-west, its course being marked by a line of circular walls breast high, like the Kariz of Afghanistan, placed at unequal distances, and resembling wells: it then loses itself in the Nakhil or palm-groves. During my stay at Al-Madinah, I always drank this water, which appeared to me, as the citizens declared it to be, sweet and wholesome.9 There are many wells in the town, as water is found at about twenty feet below the surface of the soil: few produce anything fit for drinking, some being salt and others bitter. As usual in the hilly countries of the East, the wide beds and Fiumaras, even in the dry season, will supply travellers for a day or two with an abundance of water, filtrated through, and, in some cases, flowing beneath the sand.

The climate of the plain is celebrated for a long, and, comparatively speaking, a rigorous winter; a popular saying records the opinion of the Apostle “that he who patiently endures the cold of Al-Madinah and the heat of Meccah, merits a reward in Paradise.” Ice is not seen in the town, but may frequently be met with, it is said, on Jabal Ohod; fires are lighted in the houses during winter, and palsies attack those who at this season imprudently bathe in unwarmed water. The fair complexions of the people prove that this account of the brumal rigours is not exaggerated. Chilly and violent winds from the Eastern Desert are much dreaded, and though Ohod screens the town on the North and North-East, a gap in the mountains to the North-West fills the air at times with raw and comfortless blasts. The rains begin in October, and last with considerable intervals through six months; the clouds, gathered by the hill-tops and the trees near the town, discharge themselves with violence, and about the equinoxes, thunder-storms are common. At such times the Barr al-Manakhah, or the open space between the town and the suburbs, is a sheet of water, and the land near the Southern and the South-Eastern wall of the faubourg becomes a pool. Rain, however, is not considered unhealthy here; and the people, unlike the Meccans and the Cairenes, expect it with pleasure, because it improves their date-trees and fruit plantations.10 In winter it usually rains at night, in spring during the morning, and in summer about evening time. This is the case throughout Al-Hijaz, as explained by the poet Labid in these lines, which describe the desolate site of an old encampment:—

“It (the place) hath been fertilised by the first spring showers of the constellations, and hath been swept by The incessant torrents of the thunder-clouds, falling in heavy and in gentle rains,

From each night-cloud, and heavily dropping morning-cloud,

And the even-cloud, whose crashings are re-echoed from around.”

And the European reader will observe that the Arabs generally reckon three seasons, including our autumn, in their summer. The hot weather at Al-Madinah appeared to me as extreme as the hibernal cold is described to be, but the air was dry, and the open plain prevented the faint and stagnant sultriness which distinguishes Meccah. Moreover, though the afternoons were close, the nights and the mornings were cool and dewy. At this season the citizens sleep on the house-tops, or on the ground outside their doors. Strangers must follow this example with considerable circumspection; the open air is safe in the Desert, but in cities it causes, to the unaccustomed, violent catarrhs and febrile affections.

I collect the following notes upon the diseases and medical treatment of the Northern Hijaz. Al-Madinah has been visited four times by the Rih al-Asfar11 (yellow wind), or Asiatic Cholera, which is said to have committed great ravages, sometimes carrying off whole households. In the Rahmat al-Kabirah, the “Great Mercy,” as the worst attack is piously called, whenever a man vomited, he was abandoned to his fate; before that, he was treated with mint, lime-juice, and copious draughts of coffee. It is still the boast of Al-Madinah, that the Taun, or plague, has never passed her frontier.12 The Judari, or smallpox, appears to be indigenous to the countries bordering upon the Red Sea; we read of it there in the earliest works of the Arabs,13 and even to the present time it sometimes sweeps through Arabia and the Somali country with desolating violence. In the town of Al-Madinah it is fatal to children, many of whom, however, are in these days inoculated14: amongst the Badawin, old men die of it, but adults are rarely victims, either in the City or in the Desert. The nurse closes up the room whilst the sun is up, and carefully excludes the night air, believing that, as the disease is “hot,15” a breath of wind will kill the patient. During the hours of darkness, a lighted candle or lamp is always placed by the side of the bed, or the sufferer would die of madness, brought on by evil spirits or fright. Sheep’s wool is burnt in the sick-room, as death would follow the inhaling of any perfume. The only remedy I have heard of is pounded Kohl (antimony) drunk in water, and the same is drawn along the breadth of the eyelid, to prevent blindness. The diet is Adas (lentils),16 and a peculiar kind of date, called Tamr al-Birni. On the twenty-first day the patient is washed with salt and tepid water.

Ophthalmia is rare.17 In the summer, quotidian and tertian fevers (Hummah Salis) are not uncommon, and if accompanied by emetism, they are frequently fatal.

The attack generally begins with the Naffazah, or cold fit, and is followed by Al-Hummah, the hot stage. The principal remedies are cooling drinks, such as Sikanjabin (oxymel) and syrups. After the fever the face and body frequently swell, and indurated lumps appear on the legs and stomach. There are also low fevers, called simply Hummah; they are usually treated by burning charms in the patient’s room. Jaundice and bilious complaints are common, and the former is popularly cured in a peculiar way. The sick man looks into a pot full of water, whilst the exorciser, reciting a certain spell, draws the heads of two needles from the patient’s ears along his eyes, down his face, lastly dipping them into water, which at once becomes yellow. Others have “Mirayat,” magic mirrors,18 on which the patient looks, and looses the complaint.

Dysenteries frequently occur in the fruit season, when the greedy Arabs devour all manner of unripe peaches, grapes, and pomegranates. The popular treatment is by the actual cautery; the scientific affect the use of drastics and astringent simples, and the Bizr al-Kutn (cotton-seed), toasted, pounded, and drunk in warm water. Almost every one here, as in Egypt, suffers more or less from haemorrhoids; they are treated by dietetics-eggs and leeks-and by a variety of drugs, Myrobalans, Lisan-al-Hamal (Arnoglossum), etc. But the patient looks with horror at the scissors and the knife, so that they seldom succeed in obtaining a radical cure. The Filaria Medinensis, locally called “Farantit,” is no longer common at the place which gave it its European name. At Yambu’, however, the people suffer much from the Vena appearing in the legs. The complaint is treated here as in India and in Abyssinia: when the tumour bursts, and the worm shows, it is extracted by being gradually wound round a splinter of wood. Hydrophobia is rare, and the people have many superstitions about it. They suppose that a bit of meat falls from the sky, and that a dog eating it becomes mad. I was assured by respectable persons, that when a man is bitten, they shut him up with food, in a solitary chamber, for four days, and that if at the end of that time he still howls like a dog, they expel the Ghul (demon) from him, by pouring over him boiling water mixed with ashes-a certain cure I can easily believe. The only description of leprosy known in Al-Hijaz is that called “Al-Baras”: it appears in white patches on the skin, seldom attacks any but the poorer classes, and is considered incurable. Wounds are treated by Marham, or ointments, especially by the “Balesan,” or Balm of Meccah; a cloth is tied round the limb, and not removed till the wound heals, which amongst this people of simple life, generally takes place by first intention. Ulcers are common in Al-Hijaz, as indeed all over Arabia. We read of them in ancient times. In A.D. 504, the poet and warrior, Amr al-Kays, died of this dreadful disease, and it is related that when Mohammed Abu Si Mohammed, in A.H. 132, conquered Al-Yaman with an army from Al-Hijaz, he found the people suffering from sloughing and mortifying sores, so terrible to look upon that he ordered the sufferers to be burnt alive. Fortunately for the patients, the conqueror died suddenly before his inhuman mandate was executed. These sores here, as in Al-Yaman,19 are worst when upon the shin bones; they eat deep into the leg, and the patient dies of fever and gangrene. They are treated on first appearance by the actual cautery, and, when practicable, by cutting off the joint; the drugs popularly applied are Tutiya (tutty) and verdigris. There is no cure but rest, a generous diet, and change of air.

By the above short account it will be seen that the Arabs are no longer the most skilful physicians in the world. They have, however, one great advantage in their practice, and they are sensible enough to make free use of it. As the children of almost all the respectable citizens are brought up in the Desert, the camp becomes to them a native village. In cases of severe wounds or chronic diseases, the patient is ordered off to the Black Tents, where he lives as a Badawi, drinking camels’ milk (a diet for the first three or four days highly cathartic), and doing nothing. This has been the practice from time immemorial in Arabia, whereas Europe is only beginning to systematise the adhibition of air, exercise, and simple living. And even now we are obliged to veil it under the garb of charlatanry-to call it a “milk-cure” in Switzerland, a “water-cure” in Silesia, a “grape-cure” in France, a “hunger-cure” in Germany, and other sensible names which act as dust in the public eyes.

Al-Madinah consists of three parts, — a town, a fort, and a suburb little smaller than the body of the place. The town itself is about one-third larger than Suez, or nearly half the size of Meccah. It is a walled enclosure forming an irregular oval with four gates. The Bab al-Shami, or “ Syrian Gate,” in the North-West side of the enceinte, leads towards Jabal Ohod, Hamzah’s burial-place, and the mountains. In the Eastern wall, the Bab al-Jum’ah, or Friday Gate, opens upon the Nijd road and the cemetery, Al-Bakia. Between the Shami and the Jum’ah gates, towards the North, is the Bab al-Ziyafah (of Hospitality); and Westwards the Bab al-Misri (Egyptian) opens upon the plain called the Barr al-Manakhah. The Eastern and the Egyptian gates are fine massive buildings, with double towers close together, painted with broad bands of red, yellow, and other colors, not unlike that old entrance of the Cairo citadel which opens upon the Ramayliyah plain. They may be compared with the gateway towers of the old Norman castles-Arques, for instance. In their shady and well-watered interiors, soldiers keep guard, camel-men dispute, and numerous idlers congregate, to enjoy the luxuries of coolness and of companionship. Beyond this gate, in the street leading to the Mosque, is the great bazar. Outside it lie the Suk al-Khuzayriyah, or greengrocers’ market, and the Suk al-Habbabah, or the grain bazar, with a fair sprinkling of coffee-houses. These markets are long masses of palm-leaf huts, blackened in the sun and wind, of a mean and squalid appearance, detracting greatly from the appearance of the gates. Amongst them there is a little domed and whitewashed building, which I was told is a Sabil or public fountain.

In the days of the Prophet the town was not walled. Even in Al-Idrisi’s time (twelfth century), and as late as Bartema’s (eighteenth century), the fortifications were mounds of earth, made by order of Kasim al-Daulat al-Ghori, who re-populated the town and provided for its inhabitants. Now, the enceinte is in excellent condition. The walls are well built of granite and lava blocks, in regular layers, cemented with lime; they are provided with “Mazghal” (or “Matras”) long loopholes, and “Shararif” or trefoil-shaped crenelles: in order to secure a flanking fire, semicircular towers, also loopholed and crenellated, are disposed in the curtain at short and irregular intervals. Inside, the streets are what they always should be in these torrid lands, deep, dark, and narrow, in few places paved-a thing to be deprecated-and generally covered with black earth well watered and trodden to hardness. The most considerable lines radiate towards the Mosque. There are few public buildings. The principal Wakalahs are four in number; one is the Wakalat Bab Salam near the Harim, another the Wakalat Jabarti, and two are inside the Misri gate; they all belong to Arab citizens. These Caravanserais are used principally as stores, rarely for dwelling-places like those of Cairo; travellers, therefore, must hire houses at a considerable expense, or pitch tents to the detriment of health and to their extreme discomfort. The other public buildings are a few mean coffee-houses and an excellent bath in the Harat Zarawan, inside the town: far superior to the unclean establishments of Cairo, it borrows something from the luxury of Stambul. The houses are, for the East, well built, flat-roofed and double-storied; the materials generally used are a basaltic scoria, burnt brick, and palm wood. The best enclose spacious courtyards and small gardens with wells, where water basins and date trees gladden the owners’ eyes. The latticed balconies, first seen by the overland European traveller at Malta, are here common, and the windows are mere apertures in the wall, garnished, as usual in Arab cities, with a shutter of planking. Al-Madinah fell rapidly under the Wahhabis, but after their retreat, it soon rose again, and now it is probably as comfortable and flourishing a little city as any to be found in the East. It contains between fifty and sixty streets, including the alleys and culs-de-sac. There is about the same number of Harat or quarters; but I have nothing to relate of them save their names. Within the town few houses are in a dilapidated condition. The best authorities estimate the number of habitations at about 1500 within the enceinte, and those in the suburb at 1000. I consider both accounts exaggerated; the former might contain 800, and the Manakhah perhaps 500; at the same time I must confess not to have counted them, and Captain Sadlier (in A.D. 1819) declares that the Turks, who had just made a kind of census, reckoned 6000 houses and a population of 18,000 souls. Assuming the population to be 16,000 (Burckhardt raises it as high as 20,000), of which 9000 occupy the city, and 7000 the suburbs and the fort, this would give a little more than twelve inhabitants to each house, a fair estimate for an Arab town, where the abodes are large and slaves abound.20

The castle joins on to the North-West angle of the city enceinte, and the wall of its Eastern outwork is pierced for a communication through a court strewed with guns and warlike apparatus, between the Manakhah Suburb and the Bab al-Shami, or the Syrian Gate. Having been refused entrance into the fort, I can describe only its exterior. The outer wall resembles that of the city, only its towers are more solid, and the curtain appears better calculated for work. Inside, a donjon, built upon a rock, bears proudly enough the banner of the Crescent and the Star; its whitewashed walls make it a conspicuous object, and guns pointed in all directions, especially upon the town, project from their embrasures. The castle is said to contain wells, bomb-proofs, provisions, and munitions of war; if so, it must be a kind of Gibraltar to the Badawin and the Wahhabis. The garrison consisted of a Nisf Urtah,21 or half battalion (four hundred men) of Nizam infantry, commanded by a Pasha; his authority also extends to a Sanjak, or about five hundred Kurdish and Albanian Bash-Buzuks, whose duty it is to escort caravans, to convey treasures, and to be shot at in the Passes. The Madani, who, as usual with Orientals, take a personal pride in their castle, speak of it with much exaggeration. Commanded by a high line of rocks on the North-West, and built as it is in most places without moat, glacis, earthwork, or outworks, a few shells and a single battery of siege guns would soon render it untenable. In ancient times it has more than once been held by a party at feud with the town, for whose mimic battles the Barr al-Manakhah was a fitting field. Northward from the fort, on the road to Ohod, but still within fire, is a long many-windowed building, formerly Da’ud Pasha’s palace. In my time it had been bought by Abbas Pasha of Egypt.

The suburbs lie to the South and West of the town. Southwards they are separated from the enceinte by a wide road, called the Darb al-Janazah, the Road of Biers, so called because the corpses of certain schismatics, who may not pass through the city, are carried this way to their own cemetery near the Bab al-Jumah, or Eastern Gate. Westwards, between Al-Madinah and its faubourg, lies the plain of Al-Manakhah, about three-quarters of a mile long, by three hundred yards broad. The straggling suburbs occupy more ground than the city: fronting the enceinte they are without walls; towards the West, where open country lies, they are enclosed by mud or raw brick ramparts, with little round towers, all falling to decay. A number of small gates lead from the suburb into the country. The only large one, a poor copy of the Bab al-Nasr at Cairo, is the Ambari or Western entrance, through which we passed into Al-Madinah. The suburb contains no buildings of any consequence, except the Khaskiyah, or official residence of the Muhafiz (governor), a plain building near the Barr al-Manakhah, and the Khamsah Masajid, or the Five Mosques, which every Zair is expected to visit. They are

The Prophet’s Mosque in the Manakhah.
Abu Bakr’s near the Ayn al-Zarka.
Ali’s Mosque in the Zukak al-Tayyar of the Manakhah. Some authors call this the “Musalla al-Id,” because the Prophet here prayed the Festival Prayer.
Omar’s Mosque, near the Bab Kuba of the Manakhah, and close to the little torrent called Al-Sayh.
Belal’s Mosque, celebrated in books; I did not see it, and some Madani assured me that it no longer exists.

A description of one of these buildings will suffice, for they are all similar. Mohammed’s Mosque in the Manakhah stands upon a spot formerly occupied, some say, by the Jami Ghamamah. Others believe it to be founded upon the Musalla al-Nabi, a place where the Apostle recited the first Festival prayers after his arrival at Al-Madinah, and used frequently to pray, and to address those of his followers who lived far from the Harim,22 or Sanctuary. It is a trim modern building of cut stone and lime in regular layers, of parallelogramic shape, surmounted by one large and four small cupolas. These are all whitewashed; and the principal is capped with a large crescent, or rather a trident, rising from a series of gilt globes: the other domes crown the several corners. The minaret is of the usual Turkish shape, with a conical roof, and a single gallery for the Mu’ezzin. An Acacia-tree or two on the Eastern side, and behind it a wall-like line of mud houses, finish the coup-d’oeil; the interior of this building is as simple as is the exterior. And here I may remark that the Arabs have little idea of splendour, either in their public or in their private architecture. Whatever strikes the traveller’s eye in Al-Hijaz is always either an importation or the work of foreign artists. This arises from the simple tastes of the people, combined, doubtless, with their notable thriftiness. If strangers will build for them, they argue, why should they build for themselves? Moreover, they have scant inducement to lavish money upon grand edifices. Whenever a disturbance takes place, domestic or from without, the principal buildings are sure to suffer. And the climate is inimical to their enduring. Both ground and air at Al-Madinah, as well as at Meccah, are damp and nitrous in winter, in summer dry and torrid: the lime is poor; palm-timber soon decays: even foreign wood-work suffers, and a few years of neglect suffice to level the proudest pile with the dust.

The suburbs to the South of Al — Madinah are a collection of walled villages, with plantations and gardens between. They are laid out in the form, called here, as in Egypt, Hosh-court-yards, with single-storied tenements opening into them. These enclosures contain the cattle of the inhabitants; they have strong wooden doors, shut at night to prevent “lifting,” and they are capable of being stoutly defended. The inhabitants of the suburb are for the most part Badawi settlers, and a race of schismatics who will be noticed in another chapter. Beyond these suburbs, to the South, as well as to the North and Northeast, lie gardens and extensive plantations of palm-trees.

1 To the East he limits Al-Hijaz by Yamamah (which some include in it), Nijd, and the Syrian desert, and to the West by the Red Sea. The Greeks, not without reason, included it in their Arabia Petraea. Niebuhr places the Southern boundary at Hali, a little town south of Kunfudah (Gonfoda). Captain Head (Journey from India to Europe) makes the village Al-Kasr, opposite the Island of Kotambul, the limit of Al-Hijaz to the South.

2 Or, according to others, between Al-Yaman and Syria.

3 If you ask a Badawi near Meccah, whence his fruit comes, he will reply “min Al-Hijaz,” “from the Hijaz,” meaning from the mountainous part of the country about Taif. This would be an argument in favour of those who make the word to signify a “place tied together,” (by mountains). It is notorious that the Badawin are the people who best preserve the use of old and disputed words; for which reason they were constantly referred to by the learned in the palmy days of Moslem philology. “Al-Hijaz,” also, in this signification, well describes the country, a succession of ridges and mountain chains; whereas such a name as “the barrier” would appear to be rather the work of some geographer in his study. Thus Al-Nijd was so called from its high and open lands, and, briefly, in this part of the world, names are most frequently derived from some physical and material peculiarity of soil or climate.

4 Amongst a people, who, like the Arabs or the Spaniards, hold a plurality of names to be a sign of dignity, so illustrious a spot as Al-Madinah could not fail to be rich in nomenclature. A Hadis declares, “to Al-Madinah belong ten names”: books, however, enumerate nearly a hundred, of which a few will suffice as a specimen. Tabah, Tibah, Taibah, Tayyibah, and Mutayyibah, (from the root “Tib,” “good,” “sweet,” or “lawful,”) allude to the physical excellencies of Al-Madinah as regards climate-the perfume of the Prophet’s tomb, and of the red rose, which was a thorn before it blossomed by the sweat of his brow-and to its being free from all moral impurity, such as the presence of Infidels, or worshippers of idols. Mohammed declared that he was ordered by Allah to change the name of the place to Tabah, from Yasrib or Asrib. The latter, according to some, was a proper name of a son of Noah; others apply it originally to a place west of Mount Ohod, not to Al-Madinah itself; and quote the plural form of the word, “Asarib,” (“spots abounding in palms and fountains,”) as a proof that it does not belong exclusively to a person. However this may be, the inauspicious signification of Yasrib, whose root is “Sarab,” (destruction,) and the notorious use of the name by the Pagan Arabs, have combined to make it, like the other heathen designation, Al-Ghalabah, obsolete, and the pious Moslem who pronounces the word is careful to purify his mouth by repeating ten times the name “Al-Madinah.” Barah and Barrah allude to its obedience and purity; Hasunah to its beauty; Khayrah and Khayyarah to its goodness; Mahabbah, Habibah and Mahbubah, to the favour it found in the eyes of the Prophet; whilst Jabirah, Jabbarah, and Jabarah, (from the root Jabr, joining or breaking), at once denote its good influence upon the fortunes of the Faithful and its evil effects upon the Infidel. “Al-Iman,” (the Faith,) is the name under which it is hinted at in the Koran. It is called Shafiyah (the Healer), on account of the curative effects of earth found in its neighbourhood; Nasirah, the Saving, and Asimah, the Preserving, because Mohammed and his companions were there secure from the fury of their foes; Fazihah, the Detector, from its exposing the Infidel and the hypocrite; Muslimah and Muminah, the Faithful City; Mubarakah, the Blessed; Mahburah, the Happy; and Mahturah, the Gifted. Mahrusah, the Guarded; and Mahfuzah, the Preserved, allude to the belief that an angel sits in each of its ten main streets, to watch over the town, and to prevent “Antichrist” entering therein. “Al-Dajjal,” as this personage is called, will arise in the East and will peregrinate the earth; but he will be unable to penetrate into Meccah; and on approaching Jabal Ohod, in sight of Al-Madinah, he will turn off towards his death-place, Al-Sham (Damascus). In the Taurat or Pentateuch, the town is called Mukaddasah, the Holy, or Marhumah the Pitied, in allusion to the mission of Mohammed; Marzukah, the Fed, is a favourable augury of plenty to it, and Miskinah, the Poor, hints that it is independent of treasure of gold or store of silver to keep up its dignity. Al-Makarr, means the Residence or the Place of Quiet; Makinat, the Firmly-fixed, (in the right faith); Al-Harim, the Sacred or Inviolable; and, finally, Al-Balad, the Town, and Al-Madinah, the City by excellence. So an inhabitant calls himself Al-Madani, whilst the natives of other and less-favoured “Madinahs” affix Madini to their names. Its titles are Arz-Allah, Allah’s Land; Arz al-Hijrah, the Land of Exile; Akkalat al-Buldan, the Eater of Towns; and Akkalat al-Kura, the Eater of Villages, on account of its superiority, even as Meccah is entitled Umm al-Kura, the Mother of Villages; Bayt Rasul Allah, House of Allah’s Prophet; Jazirat alArab, Isle of the Arab; and Harim Rasul Allah, the Sanctuary of Allah’s Prophet. In books and letters it has sometimes the title of Madinah Musharrafah, the Exalted; more often that of Madinah Munawwarah, the Enlightened-scil. by the lamp of faith and the column of light supposed to be based upon the Prophet’s tomb. The Moslems are not the only people who lay claim to Al-Madinah. According to some authors-and the legend is more credible than at first sight it would appear-the old Guebres had in Arabia and Persia seven large fire temples, each dedicated to a planet. At “Mahdinah,” as they pervert the word, was an image of the Moon, wherefore the place was originally called the “Religion of the Moon.” These Guebres, amongst other sacred spots, claim Meccah, where they say Saturn and the Moon were conjointly venerated; Jerusalem, the Tomb of Ali at Najaf, that of Hosayn at Kerbela, and others. These pretensions of course the Moslems deny with insistance, which does not prevent certain symptoms of old and decayed faith peeping out in localities where their presence, if duly understood, would be considered an abomination. This curious fact is abundantly evident in Sind, and I have already alluded to it (History of Sind).

5 Such is its formation in Al-Hijaz.

6 Within the sanctuary all Muharramat, or sins, are forbidden; but the several schools advocate different degrees of strictness. The Imam Malik, for instance, allows no latrinae nearer to Al-Madinah than Jabal Ayr, a distance of about three miles. He also forbids slaying wild animals, but at the same time he specifies no punishment for the offence. Some do not allow the felling of trees, alleging that the Prophet enjoined their preservation as an ornament to the city, and a pleasure to visitors. Al-Khattabi, on the contrary, permits people to cut wood, and this is certainly the general practice. All authors strenuously forbid within the boundaries slaying man (except invaders, infidels, and the sacrilegious), drinking spirits, and leading an immoral life. As regards the dignity of the sanctuary, there is but one opinion; a number of Hadis testify to its honour, praise its people, and threaten dreadful things to those who injure it or them. It is certain that on the last day, the Prophet will intercede for, and aid, all those who die, and are buried, at Al-Madinah. Therefore, the Imam Malik made but one pilgrimage to Meccah, fearing to leave his bones in any other cemetery but Al-Bakia. There is, however, much debate concerning the comparative sanctity of Al-Madinah and Meccah. Some say Mohammed preferred the former, blessing it as Abraham did Meccah. Moreover, as a tradition declares that every man’s body is drawn from the dust of the ground in which he is buried, Al-Madinah, it is evident, had the honour of supplying materials for the Prophet’s person. Others, like Omar, were uncertain in favour of which city to decide. Others openly assert the pre-eminence of Meccah; the general consensus of Al-Islam preferring Al-Madinah to Meccah, save only the Bayt Allah in the latter city. This last is a juste-milieu view, by no means in favour with the inhabitants of either place. In the meanwhile the Meccans claim unlimited superiority over the Madani; the Madani over the Meccans.

7 These seven wells will be noticed in Chapter XIX., post.

8 I translate Al-Zarka “azure,” although Sir G. Wilkinson remarks, apropos of the Bahr al-Azrak, generally translated by us the “Blue Nile,” that, “when the Arabs wish to say dark or jet black, they use the word ‘Azrak.’” It is true that Azrak is often applied to indeterminate dark hues, but “Aswad,” not Azrak, is the opposite to Abyaz, “white.” Moreover, Al-Zarka in the feminine is applied to women with light blue eyes; this would be no distinctive appellation if it signified black eyes, the almost universal colour. Zarka of Yamamah is the name of a celebrated heroine in Arab story, and the curious reader, who wishes to see how much the West is indebted to the East, even for the materials of legend, will do well to peruse her short history in Major Price’s “Essay,” or M.C. de Perceval’s “Essai,” &c., vol. i., p. 101. Both of these writers, however, assert that Zarka’s eyes, when cut out, were found to contain fibres blackened by the use of Kohl, and they attribute to her the invention of this pigment. I have often heard the legend from the Arabs, who declare that she painted her eyes with “Ismid,” a yellow metal, of what kind I have never been able to determine, although its name is everywhere known.

9 Burckhardt confounds the Ayn al-Zarka with the Bir al-Khatim, or Kuba well, of whose produce the surplus only mixes with it, and he complains loudly of the “detestable water of Madinah.” But he was ill at the time, otherwise he would not have condemned it so strongly after eulogising the salt-bitter produce of the Meccan Zemzem.

10 The people of Nijd, as Wallin informs us, believe that the more the palms are watered, the more syrup will the fruit produce; they therefore inundate the ground, as often as possible. At Al-Jauf, where the date is peculiarly good, the trees are watered regularly every third or fourth day.

11 Properly meaning the Yellow Wind or Air. The antiquity of the word and its origin are still disputed.

12 Burckhardt (Travels in Arabia, vol. ii.) informs us, that in A.D. 1815, when Meccah, Yambu’, and Jeddah suffered severely from the plague, Al-Madinah and the open country between the two seaports escaped.

13 Conjecture, however, goes a little too far when it discovers small-pox in the Tayr Ababil, the “swallow birds,” which, according to the Koran, destroyed the host of Abrahat al-Ashram. Major Price (Essay) may be right in making Ababil the plural of Abilah, a vesicle; but it appears to me that the former is an Arabic and the latter a Persian word, which have no connection whatever. M.C. de Perceval, quoting the Sirat al-Rasul, which says that at that time small-pox first appeared in Arabia, ascribes the destruction of the host of Al-Yaman to an epidemic and a violent tempest. The strangest part of the story is, that although it occurred at Meccah, about two months before Mohammed’s birth, and, therefore, within the memory of many living at the time, the Prophet alludes to it in the Koran as a miracle.

14 In Al-Yaman, we are told by Niebuhr, a rude form of inoculation-the mother pricking the child’s arm with a thorn-has been known from time immemorial. My Madinah friend assured me that only during the last generation, this practice has been introduced amongst the Badawin of Al-Hijaz.

15 Orientals divide their diseases, as they do remedies and articles of diet, into hot, cold, and temperate.

16 This grain is cheaper than rice on the banks of the Nile-a fact which enlightened England, now paying a hundred times its value for “Revalenta Arabica,” apparently ignores.

17 Herodotus (Euterpe) has two allusions to eye disease, which seems to have afflicted the Egyptians from the most ancient times. Sesostris the Great died stone-blind; his successor lost his sight for ten years, and the Hermaic books had reason to devote a whole volume to ophthalmic disease. But in the old days of idolatry, the hygienic and prophylactic practices alluded to by Herodotus, the greater cleanliness of the people, and the attention paid to the canals and drainage, probably prevented this malarious disease becoming the scourge which it is now. The similarity of the soil and the climate of Egypt to those of Upper Sind, and the prevalence of the complaint in both countries, assist us in investigating the predisposing causes. These are, the nitrous and pungent nature of the soil-what the old Greek calls “acrid matter exuding from the earth,” — and the sudden transition from extreme dryness to excessive damp checking the invisible perspiration of the circumorbital parts, and flying to an organ which is already weakened by the fierce glare of the sun, and the fine dust raised by the Khamsin or the Chaliho. Glare and dust alone, seldom cause eye disease. Everyone knows that ophthalmia is unknown in the Desert, and the people of Al-Hijaz, who live in an atmosphere of blaze and sand, seldom lose their sight. The Egyptian usually catches ophthalmia in his childhood. It begins with simple conjunctivitis, caused by constitutional predisposition, exposure, diet, and allowing the eye to be covered with swarms of flies. He neglects the early symptoms, and cares the less for being a Cyclops, as the infirmity will most probably exempt him from military service. Presently the sane organ becomes affected sympathetically. As before, simple disease of the conjunctiva passes into purulent ophthalmia. The man, after waiting a while, will go to the doctor and show a large cicatrix in each eye, the result of an ulcerated cornea. Physic can do nothing for him; he remains blind for life. He is now provided for, either by living with his friends, who seldom refuse him a loaf of bread, or if industriously inclined, by begging, by acting Mu’ezzin, or by engaging himself as “Yamaniyah,” or chaunter, at funerals. His children are thus predisposed to the paternal complaint, and gradually the race becomes tender-eyed. Most travellers have observed that imported African slaves seldom become blind either in Egypt or in Sind. Few Englishmen settled in Egypt lose their sight, except they be medical men, who cannot afford time to nurse the early symptoms. The use of coffee and of water as beverages has much to do with this. In the days of hard drinking our Egyptian army suffered severely, and the Austrian army in Tuscany showed how often blindness is caused by importing Northern habits into Southern countries. Many Europeans in Egypt wash their eyes with cold water, especially after walking, and some use once a day a mildly astringent or cooling wash, as Goulard’s lotion or vinegar and water. They avoid letting flies settle upon their eyes, and are of opinion that the evening dews are prejudicial, and that sleeping with open windows lays the foundation of disease. Generally when leaving a hot room, especially a Nile-boat cabin, for the cold damp night air, the more prudent are careful to bathe and to wipe the eyes and forehead as a preparation for change of atmosphere. During my short practice in Egypt I found the greatest advantage from the employment of counter-irritants, — blisters and Pommade Emetise, — applied to the temples and behind the ears. Native practitioners greatly err by confining their patients in dark rooms, thereby injuring the general health and laying the foundation of chronic disease. They are ignorant that, unless the optic nerve be affected, the stimulus of light is beneficial to the eye. And the people by their dress favour the effects of glare and dust. The Tarbush, no longer surrounded as of old by a huge turband, is the least efficient of protectors, and the comparative rarity of ophthalmic disease among the women, who wear veils, proves that the exposure is one of its co-efficient causes.

18 This invention dates from the most ancient times, and both in the East and in the West has been used by the weird brotherhood to produce the appearances of the absent and the dead, to discover treasure, to detect thieves, to cure disease, and to learn the secrets of the unknown world. The Hindus called it Anjan, and formed it by applying lamp-black, made of a certain root, and mixed with oil to the palm of a footling child, male or female. The Greeks used oil poured into a boy’s hand. Cornelius Agrippa had a crystal mirror, which material also served the Counts de Saint Germain and Cagliostro. Dr. Dee’s “show-stone” was a bit of cannel coal. The modern Sindians know the art by the name of Gahno or Vinyano; there, as in Southern Persia, ink is rubbed upon the seer’s thumb-nail. The people of Northern Africa are considered skilful in this science, and I have a Maghrabi magic formula for inking the hand of a “boy, a black slave girl, a virgin, or a pregnant woman,” which differs materially from those generally known. The modern Egyptians call it Zarb al-Mandal, and there is scarcely a man in Cairo who does not know something about it. In selecting subjects to hold the ink, they observe the right hand, and reject all who have not what is called in palmistry the “linea media naturalis” straight and deeply cut. Even the barbarous Finns look into a glass of brandy, and the natives of Australia gaze at a kind of shining stone. Lady Blessington’s crystal ball is fresh in the memory of the present generation, and most men have heard of Electro-Biology and the Cairo magician. Upon this latter subject, a vexed one, I must venture a few remarks. In the first account of the magician by Mr. Lane, we have a fair and dispassionate recital of certain magical, mystical, or mesmeric phenomena, which “excited considerable curiosity and interest th[r]oughout the civilised world.” As usual in such matters, the civilised world was wholly ignorant of what was going on at home; otherwise, in London, Paris, and New York, they might have found dozens studying the science. But a few years before, Dr. Herklots had described the same practice in India, filling three goodly pages; but he called his work “Qanoon-i-Islam,” and, consequently, despite its excellencies, it fell still-born from the press. Lady H. Stanhope frequently declared “the spell by which the face of an absent person is thrown upon a mirror to be within the reach of the humblest and most contemptible of magicians;” but the civilised world did not care to believe a prophetess. All, however, were aroused by Mr. Lane’s discovery, and determined to decide the question by the ordeal of reason. Accordingly, in A.D. 1844, Mr. Lane, aided by Lord Nugent and others, discovered that a “coarse and stupid fraud” had been perpetrated upon him by Osman Effendi, the Scotchman. In 1845, Sir G. Wilkinson remarked of this rationalism, “The explanation lately offered, that Osman Effendi was in collusion with the magician, is neither fair on him nor satisfactory, as he was not present when those cases occurred which were made so much of in Europe,” and he proposed “leading questions and accidents” as the word of the riddle. Eothen attributed the whole affair to “shots,” as schoolboys call them, and ranked success under the head of Paley’s “tentative miracles.” A writer in the Quarterly explained them by suggesting the probability of divers (impossible) optical combinations, and, lest the part of belief should have been left unrepresented, Miss Martineau was enabled to see clear signs of mesmeric action, and by the decisive experiment of self, discovered the magic to be an “affair of mesmerism.” Melancholy to relate, after all this philosophy, the herd of travellers at Cairo is still divided in opinion about the magician, some holding his performance to be “all humbug,” others darkly hinting that “there may be something in it.”

19 They distinguish, however, between the Hijaz “Nasur” and the “Jurh al-Yamani,” or the “Yaman Ulcer.”

20 I afterwards received the following information from Mr. Charles Cole, H.B.M. Vice-Consul at Jeddah, a gentleman well acquainted with Western Arabia, and having access to official information: “The population of Al-Madinah is from 16,000 to 18,000, and the Nizam troops in garrison 400. Meccah contains about 45,000 inhabitants, Yambu’ from 6000 to 7000, Jeddah about 2500 (this I think is too low), and Taif 8000. Most of the troops are stationed at Meccah and at Jeddah. In Al-Hijaz there is a total force of five battalions, each of which ought to contain 800 men; they may amount to 3500, with 500 artillery, and 4500 irregulars, though the muster rolls bear 6000. The Government pays in paper for all supplies, (even for water for the troops,) and the paper sells at the rate of forty piastres per cent.”

21 The Urtah or battalion here varies from 800 to 1000 men. Of these, four form one Alai or regiment, and thirty-six Alai an Urdu or camp. This word Urdu, pronounced “Ordoo,” is the origin of our “horde.”

22 One of the traditions, “Between my house and my place of prayers is a Garden of the Gardens of Paradise,” has led divines to measure the distance: it is said to be 1000 cubits from the Bab Salam of the Harim to this Musalla.


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