MY arrival in the Hedjaz was attended with some unfavourable circumstances. On entering the town of Djidda, in the morning of the 15th of July, 1814, I went to the house of a person on whom I had a letter of credit, delivered to me, at my departure from Cairo, in January, 1813, when I had not yet fully resolved to extend my travels into Arabia. From this person I met with a very cold reception; the letter was thought to be of too old a date to deserve notice: indeed, my ragged appearance might have rendered any one cautious how he committed himself with his correspondents, in paying me a large sum of money on their account; bills and letters of credit are, besides, often trifled with in the mutual dealings of Eastern merchants; and I thus experienced a flat refusal, accompanied, however, with an offer of lodgings in the man’s house. This I accepted for the first two days, thinking that, by a more intimate acquaintance I might convince him that I was neither an adventurer nor impostor; but finding him inflexible, I removed to one of the numerous public Khans in the town, my whole stock of money being two dollars and a few sequins, sewed up in an amulet which I wore on my arm. I had little time to make melancholy reflections upon my situation; for on the fourth day after my arrival, I was attacked by a violent fever, occasioned, probably, by indulging too freely in the fine fruits which were then in the Djidda market; an imprudence, which my abstemious diet, for the last twelve months, rendered, perhaps, less inexcusable, but certainly of worse consequence. I was for several days delirious; and nature would probably have been exhausted, had it not been for the aid of a Greek captain, my fellow passenger from Souakin. He attended me in one of my lucid intervals, and, at my request, procured a barber, or country physician, who bled me copiously, though with much reluctance, as he insisted that a potion, made up of ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon, was the only remedy adapted to my case. In a fortnight after, I had sufficiently recovered to be able to walk about; but the weakness and languor which the fever had occasioned, would not yield to the damp heat of the atmosphere of the town; and I owed my complete recovery to the temperate climate of Tayf, situated in the mountains behind Mekka, where I afterwards proceeded.
The Djidda market little resembled those Negro markets, where a single dollar would purchase two or three weeks’ provision of dhourra and butter. The price of every thing had risen here to an unusual height, the imports from the interior of Arabia having entirely ceased, while the whole population of the Hedjaz, now increased by a Turkish army and its numerous followers, and a host of pilgrims who were daily coming in, wholly depended for its supply upon the imports from Egypt. My little stock of money was therefore spent during my illness, and before I was sufficiently recovered to walk out. The Greek captain, though he had shown himself ready to afford me the common services of humanity, was not disposed to trust to the honour or respectability of a man whom he knew to be entirely destitute of money. I was in immediate want of a sum sufficient to defray my daily expenses, and, no other means being left to procure it, I was compelled to sell my slave: I regretted much the necessity for parting with him, as I knew he had some affection for me, and he was very desirous to remain with me. During my preceding journey he had proved himself a faithful and useful companion; and although I have since had several other slaves in my possession, I never found one equal to him. The Greek captain sold him for me, in the slave-market of Djidda, for forty-eight dollars. [This slave cost me sixteen dollars at Shendy; thus, the profits of sale on one slave defrayed almost the whole expense of the four months’ journey through Nubia, which I had performed in the spring.]
The present state of the Hedjaz rendered travelling through it, in the disguise of a beggar, or at least for a person of my outward appearance, impracticable; and the slow progress of my recovery made me desirous of obtaining comforts: I therefore equipped myself anew, in the dress of a reduced Egyptian gentleman, and immediately wrote to Cairo for a supply of money; but this I could hardly receive in less than three or four months. Being determined, however, to remain in the Hedjaz until the time of the pilgrimage in the following November, it became necessary for me to find the means of procuring subsistence until my funds should arrive. Had I been disappointed in all my hopes, I should then have followed the example of numbers of the poor Hadjis, even those of respectable families, who earn a daily subsistence, during their stay in the Hedjaz, by manual labour; but before I resorted to this last expedient, I thought I might try another. I had indeed brought with me a letter of introduction from Seyd Mohammed el Mahrouky, [The original characters of these and other names, both of persons and places, are given in the Index of Arabic words at the end of this volume.] the first merchant in Cairo, to Araby Djeylany, the richest merchant of Djidda; but this I knew could be of no use, as it was not a letter of credit; and I did not present it. [I afterwards became acquainted with Djeylany, at Mekka; and what I saw of him, convinced me that I was not mistaken in the estimation I had formed of his readiness to assist a stranger.] I determined therefore, at last, to address the Pasha, Mohammed Aly, in person. He had arrived in the Hedjaz at the close of the spring of 1813, and was now resident at Tayf, where he had established the head-quarters of the army, with which he intended to attack the strongholds of the Wahabis. I had seen the Pasha several times at Cairo, before my departure for Upper Egypt; and had informed him in general terms of my travelling madness (as he afterwards jocularly termed it himself at Tayf). I should here observe that, as the merchants of Upper Egypt are in general poor, and none of them strictly honour a bill or obligation by immediate payment, I had found it necessary, during my stay there, in order to obtain a supply of money, to request my correspondent at Cairo to pay the sum which I wanted into the Pasha’s treasury, and to take an order from him upon his son, Ibrahim Pasha, then governor of Upper Egypt, to repay me the amount. Having therefore already had some money dealings with the Pasha, I thought that, without being guilty of too much effrontery, I might now endeavour to renew them in the Hedjaz, and the more so, as I knew that he had formerly expressed rather a favourable opinion of my person and pursuits. As soon, therefore, as the violence of my fever had subsided, I wrote to his physician, an Armenian of the name of Bosari, whom I had also known at Cairo, where I had heard much in his favour, and who was then with his master at Tayf. I begged him to represent my unfortunate situation to the Pasha, to inform him that my letter of credit upon Djidda had not been honoured, and to ask him whether he would accept a bill upon my correspondent at Cairo, and order his treasurer at Djidda to pay the amount of it.
Although Tayf is only five days distant from Djidda, yet the state of the country was such, that private travellers seldom ventured to cross the mountains between Mekka and Tayf; and caravans, which carried the letters of the people of the country, departed only at intervals of from eight to ten days; I could not, therefore, expect an answer to my letter in less than twenty days. During this period I passed my leisure hours at Djidda, in transcribing the journal of my travels in Nubia; but I felt the heat at this season so oppressive, especially in my weak state, that, except during a few hours early in the morning, I found no ease but in the cool shade of the great gateway of the Khan in which I lodged; where I passed the greater part of the day, stretched upon a stone bench. Bosari’s correspondent at Djidda, through whom I had sent my letter to Tayf, had meanwhile mentioned my name to Yahya Effendi, the physician of Tousoun Pasha, son of Mohammed Aly, now governor of Djidda, who had been in Upper Egypt while I was there, but I had not seen him. This physician, when at Cairo, had heard my name mentioned as that of a traveller; and understanding now, that I came from the Black countries, he was curious to see me, and desired Bosari’s friend to introduce me to him. He received me politely, invited me repeatedly to his house, and, in the course of further explanation, became acquainted with my wants, and the steps I had taken to relieve them. He happened at this time to be preparing for a journey to Medina with Tousoun Pasha, and was sending back all his unnecessary baggage to Cairo; with this he was also desirous to transmit to his family his last year’s savings, amounting to three thousand piastres (about 100l.), and he was so kind as to offer me the money for a bill upon Cairo, payable at sight; an advantage which, he well knew, the merchants of Djidda never insure to those who take their bills. Such an offer would not be considered as conferring any obligation in the commercial towns of Europe; but in the East, and under the circumstances in which I was placed, it was extraordinary. Yahya Effendi added, that some of his friends had given me a flattering character while at Cairo, and that he could not, therefore, entertain the slightest doubt of my solvency and respectability, in which opinion he had been confirmed on reading the letter of credit I had brought with me. As the issue of my application to the Pasha at Tayf was uncertain, I readily and gratefully accepted Yahya’s proposal; the money was immediately paid to me, the bills drawn, and a few days after, my obliging friend departed with Tousoun Pasha for Medina, where I had the pleasure of seeing him again early in the following year.
I was now in possession of a sum sufficient to banish all apprehension of suffering from poverty before the arrival of fresh supplies from Egypt, whatever might be the consequence of my application to the Pasha; but Yahya Effendi was no sooner gone, than I received a somewhat favourable answer to the letter I had written to Tayf. Bosari, it appeared, had been rather unwilling to urge my request to the Pasha, afraid, perhaps, that he might himself become a sufferer, should I forfeit my word. The Pasha, however, had heard of my being at Djidda, through another person in his suite, whom I had seen there, and who had arrived at Tayf; and hearing that I was walking about in rags, he immediately despatched a messenger, with two dromedaries, to the collector of customs at Djidda, Seyd Aly Odjakly, in whose hands was the management of all the affairs of the town, with an order to furnish me a suit of clothes, and a purse of five hundred piastres as travelling money; accompanied with a request that I should repair immediately to Tayf, with the same messenger who had brought the letter. In a postscript, Seyd Aly Odjakly was enjoined to order the messenger to take me by the upper road to Tayf, which leaves Mekka to the south, the lower and more usual road passing through the middle of that town.
The invitation of a Turkish Pasha is a polite command; whatever, therefore, might be my reluctance to go at this time to Tayf, I could not avoid, under the present circumstances, complying with the Pasha’s wishes; and, notwithstanding the secret aversion I had to receive a present at his hands instead of a loan, I could not refuse to accept the clothes and money, without hurting the pride and exciting the resentment of a chief, whose good graces it was now my principal aim to conciliate. [Some persons, perhaps, consider it an honour to receive presents from Pashas; but I think differently. I know that the real motive of a Turk in making presents, is either to get double the value in return, (which could not be the case with me,) or to gratify his own pride in showing to his courtiers that he deigns to be liberal towards a person whom he holds infinitely below him in station or worth. I have often witnessed the sneers of the donor and his people on making such presents; and their sentiments are sometimes expressed by the saying, “Look, he has thrown a morsel to this dog!” Few Europeans may, perhaps, agree with me in this respect, but my knowledge authorises me to form this opinion; and the only advice which I can give to travellers who would not lower themselves in the estimation of Turkish grandees, is to be always ready, on similar occasions, to return the supposed favour two-fold. As for myself, I had but seldom occasion to make presents during my travels; and this was the only one that I was ever obliged to accept.] I likewise understood the meaning of the postscript, although Seyd Aly was not aware of it; but, on this point, I flattered myself I should be a match for the Pasha and his people.
As the invitation was very pressing, I left Djidda in the evening of the same day on which the messenger arrived, after supping with Seyd Aly, in company with a great number of Hadjis from all parts of the world; for the fast of Ramadhan had already commenced, and during this month everybody displays as much hospitality and splendour as he possibly can, particularly in the supper after sun-set. Distrusting in some measure the Pasha’s intentions, I thought it necessary to carry a full purse to Tayf; I therefore changed the whole of the three thousand piastres which I had received from Yahya Effendi into gold, and put it in my girdle. A person who has money has little to fear among Osmanlis, except the loss of it; but I thought that I might stand in need of what I had, either as a bribe, or to facilitate my departure from Tayf. I was, however, fortunately mistaken in both these conjectures.
I shall add here some remarks on Djidda and its inhabitants. The town is built upon a slightly rising ground, the lowest side of which is washed by the sea. Along the shore it extends in its greatest length for about fifteen hundred paces, while the breadth is no where more than half that space. It is surrounded on the land-side by a wall, in a tolerable state of repair, but of no strength. It had been constructed only a few years since by the joint labours of the inhabitants themselves, who were sensible that they possessed no protection against the Wahabis in the ancient half-ruined wall, built, A.H. 917, by Kansoue el Ghoury, Sultan of Egypt. [See Kotobeddin, History of Mekka.] The present structure is a sufficient barrier against Arabs, who have no artillery. At every interval of forty or fifty paces, the wall is strengthened by watch-towers, with a few rusty guns. A narrow ditch was also carried along its whole extent, to increase the means of defence; and thus Djidda enjoys, in Arabia, the reputation of being an impregnable fortress. On the sea-shore, in front of the town, the ancient wall remains, but in a state of decay. At the northern extremity, near the spot where the new wall is washed by the sea, stands the Governor’s residence; and at the southern extremity is a small castle, mounting eight or ten guns. There is, besides, a battery, to guard the entrance from the side of the sea, and command the whole harbour. Here is mounted an immense old piece of ordnance, which carries a ball of five hundred pounds, and is so celebrated all over the Red Sea, that the very fame of it is a protection to Djidda. The approach into the town from the sea is by two quays, where small boats discharge the cargoes of the large ships, these being obliged to anchor in the roadstead, about two miles from shore; none but the vessels called say, (the smallest that navigate the Red Sea,) approaching close to the shore. The quays are shut every evening about sunset; thus all communication is prevented, at night, between the town and the shipping.
On the land side Djidda has two gates; the Báb Mekka on the east side, and Báb el Medina on the north. A small gate in the south wall has lately been filled up. The area inclosed by the new wall (about three thousand paces in circuit) and the sea, is not entirely covered with buildings. A broad piece of open ground extends the whole length of the interior of the wall; and there is, besides, a good deal of waste ground near the Báb el Medina, and on the southern extremity. Having traversed this open space in coming from the gate, you enter the suburbs, comprising only huts formed of reeds, rushes, and brushwood, and encircling the inner town, which consists of stone buildings. The huts are chiefly inhabited by Bedouins, or poor peasants and labourers, who live here completely after the Bedouin fashion. Similar quarters for people of this description may be found in every town of Arabia. The interior of Djidda is divided into different districts. The people of Sowakin, who frequent this place, reside near the Báb el Medina; their quarters are called Haret è Sowakiny. Here they live in a few poor houses, but principally under huts, to which the lowest class of people frequently resort, as many public women reside here, and those who sell the intoxicating beverage called Boosa. The most respectable inhabitants have their quarters near the sea, where a long street, running parallel to the shore, appears lined with shops, and affords many khans constantly and exclusively frequented by the merchants. Djidda is well built; indeed, better than any Turkish town of equal size that I had hitherto seen. The streets are unpaved, but spacious and airy; the houses high, constructed wholly of stone, brought for the greater part from the sea-shore, and consisting of madrepores and other marine fossils. Almost every house has two stories, with many small windows and wooden shutters. Some have bow-windows, which exhibit a great display of joiners’ or carpenters’ work. There is, generally, a spacious hall at the entrance, where strangers are received, and which, during the heat of the day, is cooler than any other part of the house, as its floor is kept almost constantly wet. The distribution of rooms is nearly the same as in the houses of Egypt and Syria; with this difference, however, that in Djidda there are not so many large and lofty apartments as in those countries, where but few houses, at least of the natives, have two stories, whilst the rooms on the ground-floor are sometimes of a considerable height. It thus happens that, in many houses of the Hedjaz, the only cool spot is the entrance-hall; and here, at noon, the master, with all his male attendants, hired servants or slaves, may be seen enjoying, the siesta. [Although the cool breeze comes only from the north, yet the Arabians do not seem to take so much advantage of it in their houses as the Egyptians, whose principal rooms are generally so contrived as to open towards the north. The large ventilators constructed on the terraces of houses in Egypt, and which diffuse a current of air through all the lower apartments, are unknown in the Hedjaz.] As building is very expensive in this country, little is adapted for outward show beyond the lattice-work of the bow-windows; this frequently is painted with most gaudy colours, both on the outside and inside. In many houses the lawful wife of a man occupies one part, and his female Abyssinian slaves are lodged in their own distinct apartments; convenience, therefore, in the building, is more studied than size or beauty; yet, in Egypt, many ordinary houses have spacious and handsome rooms.
Uniformity in architecture is not observed at Djidda. Some houses are built with small, others with large square stones, the smooth side outwards, and the interior filled up with mud. Sometimes the walls are entirely of stone; many have, at intervals of about three feet, thin layers of planks placed in the wall, and these, the Arabs imagine, tend to increase its strength. When the walls are plastered, the wood is left of its natural colour, which gives to the whole a gay and pleasing appearance, as if the building had been ornamented with so many bands; but the dazzling white of the walls during sun-shine is extremely distressing to the eyes. Most of the gateways have pointed arches; some few round; and the latter are seen, though less frequently, over the gates of private houses in every part of Egypt. No buildings of ancient date are observed in Djidda, the madrepore being of such a nature that it rapidly decays when exposed to the rain and moist atmosphere prevalent here. [In general, it may be said that Djidda is a modern town; for its importance as a market of Indian goods can only be traced to the beginning of the fifteenth century, although it had been known in the most ancient times of Arabian history as the harbour of Mekka.] Besides many small mosques, there are two of considerable size: one of these was built by Sherif Serour, predecessor of the last reigning Sherif Ghaleb. The Governor’s habitation, in which the Sherif himself frequently resided, is a paltry building; such, likewise, is that in which dwells the collector of the customs. There are some well-built public khans in the town, with good accommodation, where the foreign merchants reside during their short stay here. In these khans are large open squares with arched passages, which afford a cool shade to the merchants for the greater part of the day. Except during the monsoon, when Djidda is extremely crowded with people, private lodgings may easily be procured in the most distant quarters of the town. The best private dwellings of Djidda belong to the great mercantile establishment of Djeylani, who, with his family, occupies a small square behind the principal street. This square is composed of three large buildings, the most commodious and costly private houses in all the Hedjaz. Every house of moderate size has its cistern; but as the rains are not sufficiently regular or abundant to fill the cisterns from the tops of the houses, (as throughout Syria,) they are often supplied with water from pools formed outside of the town in rainy seasons.
Of these cisterns, the water is very inadequate to the consumption of Djidda, and is reckoned a delicacy. Much of the drinking water is drawn from some wells a mile and a half distant on the southern side; water, indeed, may be found every where at a depth of fifteen feet, but it is generally of a bad taste, and in some places scarcely drinkable. Two only of the wells afford water that can be called sweet; but even this is considered heavy, [Heavy and light, applied to water, are expressions common in most languages of the East, where both natives and foreigners, from the vast quantity which they consume, become more refined in their taste regarding it than the people of our northern climates.] and, if suffered to stand twenty-four hours in a vessel, it becomes full of insects. The good water of these two wells being scarce and dear, cannot always be procured without the assistance of powerful friends; in fact, not more than from two to three hundred persons are ever able to obtain it, while the rest of the inhabitants must content themselves with the water supplied by other wells; and to this the constant ill-health of the people may chiefly be ascribed. As Djidda has the name of a Turkish fortress, we might suppose that the wells would have been protected by a fort; but the Turks have neglected this precaution, and when, in December, 1814, the people apprehended that the Wahabis were advancing on the side of Gonfade, the Governor of Djidda, in great haste, filled the few cisterns belonging to the government houses with water from the wells, and for several days withheld that necessary of life from all the inhabitants, as every water-camel was employed by him. Several of the wells are private property, and yield to their owners a considerable income.
The town of Djidda is without gardens, or vegetation of any kind except a few date-trees adjoining one of the mosques; even outside the town the whole country is a barren desert, covered on the sea-shore with a saline earth, and higher up with sand: here are found some shrubs and a few low acacia trees. The number of wells around the town might be considerably augmented, and water obtained for the purposes of irrigation; but the inhabitants of Djidda consider their residence as merely temporary, and, like all the other people of the Hedjaz, devote their whole attention to commerce and the acquisition of riches: on this account they are much less inclined to rural enjoyments or occupations than any other race of Moslems that I ever saw.
Beyond the Báb Mekka, and close to the town, are several huts, through the midst of which lies the road to Mekka. These huts are inhabited by the camel-drivers who traffic between that city and Djidda; by poor Bedouins, who earn a livelihood by cutting wood at a considerable distance in the mountains; and by Negro Hadjis, who adopt the same means of supporting themselves during their stay at Djidda. Here is held the market for live cattle, wood and charcoal, fruits and vegetables in wholesale. Coffee also is sold in many booths in this place, frequented for a short time, at an early hour, by the inferior class of merchants, who resort hither to learn the news from Mekka, whence the post arrives every morning soon after sunrise. About a mile beyond these huts, eastward of the town, is the principal burial-ground, containing the tombs of several sheikhs; but there are smaller cemeteries within the walls. About two miles northward of the town, is shown the tomb of Howa (Eve), the mother of mankind; it is, as I was informed, a rude structure of stone, about four feet in length, two or three feet in height, and as many in breadth; thus resembling the tomb of Noah, seen in the valley of Bekaa, in Syria.
During the predominance of the Wahabis, Djidda had been in a declining state; many of its buildings had gone to ruin; no one constructed a new house; trade was much depressed, in consequence of the pilgrimage from Turkey having been discontinued, and the unwillingness of the merchants to bring their goods hither for sale. Since the recovery of the holy cities, however, and the re-establishment of the pilgrimage, together with the daily arrival of soldiers, and a number of merchants and followers of the army, the town has quickly recovered its former condition, and is now as flourishing as at any former period. The number of its inhabitants may be estimated, generally, at from twelve to fifteen thousand; but in the months preceding the pilgrimage, and again during the summer months corresponding with the monsoon winds, there is a great influx of strangers, which increases the above number perhaps one-half.
The inhabitants of Djidda, like those of Mekka and Medina, are almost exclusively foreigners. The descendants of the ancient Arabs who once peopled the town, have perished by the hands of the governors, or have retired to other countries. Those who can be truly called natives are only a few families of sherifs, who are all learned men, and attached to the mosques or the courts of justice; all the other Djiddawys (people of Ddjidda) are foreigners or their descendants. Of the latter, those from Hadramaut and Yemen are the most numerous: colonies from every town and province of those countries are settled in Djidda, and keep up an active commerce with their native places. Upwards of a hundred Indian families (chiefly from Surat, and a few from Bombay,) have also established themselves here; and to these may be added some Malays and people of Maskat. The settlers from Egypt, Syria, Barbary, European Turkey, and Anatolia, may be still recognised in the features of their descendants, who are all mixed in one general mass, and live and dress in the same Arab manner. The Indians alone remain a distinct race in manners, dress, and employment. There are no Christians settled in Djidda; but a few Greeks from the islands of the Archipelago occasionally bring merchandize to this market from Egypt. In the time of the sherifs they were much molested, compelled to wear a particular dress, and prohibited from approaching the Mekka gate; but the Turks having become masters of the Hedjaz, abolished these restrictions, and a Christian now enjoys complete liberty here: if he dies, he is not buried on shore, (this being sanctified ground, belonging to the holy city,) but upon some one of the small islands in the bay of Djidda. Jews were formerly the brokers of this town; but they were driven out, about thirty or forty years since, by Serour, the predecessor of Ghaleb, some of them having offended by their misconduct. They all retired to Yemen or to Sanaa. During the monsoons some Banians visit Djidda in the Indian ships; but they always return with them, and none are settled here.
The mixture of races in Djidda is an effect of the pilgrimage, during which rich merchants visit the Hedjaz with large adventures of goods: some of these not being able immediately to settle their accounts, wait till another year; during this period, they cohabit, according to the custom of the country, with some Abyssinian slaves, whom they soon marry; finding themselves at last with a family, they are induced to settle in the country. Thus every pilgrimage adds fresh numbers to the population not only of Djidda, but of Mekka also, which is indeed very necessary, as in both towns the number of deaths is far greater than that of births.
The people of Djidda are almost entirely engaged in commerce, and pursue no manufactures or trades but those of immediate necessity. They are all either sea-faring people, traders by sea, or engaged in the traffic with Arabia. Djidda derives its opulence not only from being the port of Mekka, but it may be considered as that of Egypt, of India, and of Arabia; all the exports of those countries destined for Egypt first passing through the hands of the Djidda merchants. Hence, it is probably richer than any town of the same size in the Turkish dominions. Its Arabian name, which means “rich,” is therefore perfectly well bestowed. The two greatest merchants in the place, Djeylany and Sakkat, both of Maggrebin [Maggrebin, “inhabitants of the West,” is the name given by all the Eastern Arabs to the natives of the Barbary States.] origin, and whose grandfathers first settled here, are known to possess from one hundred and fifty to two hundred thousand pounds sterling. Several Indians have acquired capitals nearly equal, and there are upwards of a dozen houses possessing from forty to fifty thousand pounds sterling. Wholesale trade is carried on here with greater facility and profit, and with less intrigue and fraud, than any where I have seen in the Levant; the principal reason of which is, that almost all the bargains are made for ready money, very little or no credit being given. This, however, is not to be understood as implying any thing favourable to the character of the merchants, who are as notorious for their bad faith as they are for their large fortunes; but the nature of the trade, and the established usage, render it a less troublesome and intriguing business here than in any other country of the East.
The commerce of Djidda may be divided into two principal branches — the coffee trade, and the Indian trade; with both of which that of Egypt is connected. Ships laden with coffee arrive from Yemen all the year round, without being restricted to any particular season. During the voyage, they sail constantly near the coast, and are thus enabled to take advantage of the land breezes during the season when no[r]therly winds prevail, and render the voyage difficult in mid-channel. They dispose of their cargoes for dollars, which are almost the only article that the merchants of Yemen take in return. The coffee trade is liable to great fluctuations, and may be considered a species of lottery, in which those only embark who have large capitals at their command, and who can bear occasionally great losses. The price of coffee at Djidda, being regulated by the advices from Cairo, varies almost with the arrival of every ship from Suez. The price at the latter place depending upon the demand for Mocha coffee in Turkey, is thus equally fluctuating. When I arrived at Djidda, coffee-beans were at thirty-five dollars a hundred-weight; three weeks after they fell to twenty-four dollars, in consequence of the peace between England and America, and the expectation that West–India coffee would be again imported in large quantities at Smyrna and Constantinople. From the hazardous nature of this trade, there are many merchants who will not engage in it, except as agents; others send the coffee on their own account to Cairo, where the chief part of the trade is in the hands of the Hedjaz merchants residing there. Within the last six years, the coffee trade between Arabia and the Mediterranean has suffered greatly by the importation of West–India coffee into the ports of Turkey. These were formerly supplied exclusively with Mocha coffee; the use of which has been almost entirely superseded in European Turkey, Asia Minor, and Syria, by that of the West Indies. The Pasha of Egypt, however, has hitherto strictly prohibited the importation of West–India coffee into his dominions.
The trade in India goods is much safer, and equally profitable. The fleets, principally from Calcutta, Surat, and Bombay, reach Djidda in the beginning of May, when they find the merchants already prepared for them, having collected as many dollars and sequins as their circumstances admit, that they may effect bargains in wholesale at the very first arrival of the ships. Large sums are also sent hither by the Cairo merchants to purchase goods on their account; but the cargoes for the greater part are bought up by the merchants of Djidda, who afterwards send them to Cairo to be sold for their own advantage. The India fleets return in June or July, when the prices of every article brought by them immediately rise; [The ships from Bengal leave Djidda in June, those from Surat and Bombay in July or the beginning of August. The Maskat and Bassora shipping, and the slave vessels from the Mozambique coast, arrive at the same time.] and it commonly occurs that, on the very day when the last ships sail, ten per cent. profit may be obtained upon the first price. The merchants, however, unless pressed for money, do not sell at this time, but keep their goods in warehouses for four or five months, during which the price continues to rise; so that if they choose to wait till the January or February following, they may calculate with great security upon a gain of from thirty to forty per cent; and if they transport a part of their goods to Mekka for sale to the Hadj, their profits are still greater. It is the nature of this commerce that renders Djidda so crowded during the stay of the fleet. People repair hither from every port on the Red Sea, to purchase at the first hand; and the merchants of Mekka, Yembo, and Djidda, scrape together every dollar they possess, to lay them out in these purchases. [Some time after the Indian fleet had sailed from Djidda, I was present when a merchant of great property and respectability called upon an acquaintance of mine to borrow one hundred dollars, saying, he had laid out every farthing of his money in India goods which he did not wish yet to sell, and had, in the mean while, no money left for his daily expenses. This occurs, I understood, very frequently among them.] Another cause of the India trade with Djidda being more safe and profitable is, the arrival of the merchant-ships but once in the year, at a stated period, and all within a few weeks: there is, therefore, nothing to spoil the market; the price of goods is settled according to the known demand and quantity of imports; and it is never known to fall till the return of the next fleet. In the coffee trade it was the reverse.
In Syria and Egypt it is the work of several days, and the business of three or four brokers, to conclude a bargain between two merchants to the amount of a thousand dollars. At Djidda sales and purchases are made of entire ships’ cargoes in the course of half an hour, and the next day the money is paid down. The greater part of the merchandize thus bought is shipped for Suez, and sold at Cairo, whence it finds its way into the Mediterranean. The returns are made either in goods, which are disposed of chiefly in the Hedjaz, or in dollars and sequins, large quantities of which are carried off annually by the Indian fleet: this principally causes the scarcity of silver in Egypt. The coffee ships from Yemen take a few articles of Egyptian manufacture in return, as Mellayes, (blue-striped cotton cloths,) linen stuff’s for shirts, and glass beads; but their chief sales are mostly for cash.
If Suez were to participate in the direct Indian trade, the present flourishing state of Djidda would, no doubt, be greatly diminished, and the town would become merely what its position renders it, the harbour of the Hedjaz, instead of being, as it now is, the port of Egypt. It was natural that the sherifs of Mekka, who had the customs in their own hands, should endeavour, by every means in their power, to make Djidda an emporium for the Indian trade, the custom-duties on which formed the principle source of their income. Suez, however, is not a place where large capitals are always found ready to make purchases; even Cairo could not, at least immediately, engage in this trade with advantage, were it transferred to Suez; for, according to old customs, from which Orientals seldom like to depart, ready money is almost unknown in the commercial transactions of that city; India goods are in consequence never sold there except at very long credit. Undoubtedly cash might in time have found its way to Suez, as it now does to Djidda; but the channel of trade was such, that a fleet of ships coming direct from India to Suez, would hardly have been able to dispose of their cargoes either with profit or within due time. Another cause also contributed to favour the harbour of Djidda: the India ships, although most of them sail under the English flag, are entirely manned and commanded by the people of the country, Arabs and Lascars; [No English captain had been at Djidda for five years, when, in 1814, the Resoul, Captain Boag, from Bombay, arrived laden with rice. The ships are not navigated by Englishmen, and very few English merchants resident in India have ever speculated in the trade of the Red Sea, which is carried on almost exclusively with the capitals of Muselman merchants of Djidda, Maskat, Bombay, Surat, and Calcutta. The Americans seldom visit any other harbour in this sea than that of Mekka.] and they have adopted the same coasting navigation that is followed in every part of the Red Sea. They never venture out to sea, and must, therefore, necessarily pass Djidda and Yembo, both harbours of the Sherif, who could easily oblige them to anchor in his ports and pay duties, as he is known to have done with many coffee ships bound direct for Suez from Yemen. These causes, however, no longer exist; for Mohammed Aly, Pasha of Egypt, having possession of the harbours and custom-houses of the Hedjaz, might transfer the customs of Djidda to Suez, and thence open a direct communication with India. The chief obstacles to such a change which have hitherto presented themselves, are the jealousy and false representations of the merchants of Djidda, and the Pasha’s ignorance of his own real interests, added perhaps to the fear of displeasing his sovereign; he has it, notwithstanding, in contemplation to change the system, after the example of a very respectable English house at Alexandria, which had, in concert with its correspondents at Bombay, in 1812, when the Hedjaz was not yet in the Pasha’s hands, concluded a treaty with him for allowing English ships to come direct to Suez, and for insuring the protection of merchandize across the Desert to Cairo. The reports of the Wahabi war, and of hostile cruisers in the Red Sea, prevented the merchants from taking advantage of the treaty till 1815, when a large ship was despatched from Bombay to Suez. The Pasha, however, who was at Mekka when she touched at Djidda, in direct violation of his engagements, stopped the ship, prohibited her proceeding to Suez, compelled the captain to sell the cargo at a loss, while the plague was raging in the town, and exacted the same duties as are taken on country ships, in contravention of the stipulations existing between Great Britain and the Porte. This affair, which created great disgust amongst the Europeans in Egypt, might easily have been remedied by retaliation upon the Pasha’s ships trading to Malta, which would have taught him to respect the British flag wherever he might meet it. The British officers, however, from an erroneous conception perhaps of his power and importance, and from a wish to remain upon a friendly footing with him, instead of evincing any displeasure, preferred submitting silently to the outrage; forgetting that the favour of a Turkish ruler can never be bought by conciliation, but can only be obtained by an attitude of defiance. In consequence of all this, the merchants were obliged to make a second treaty with the Pasha, which was formally ratified. His first demand was, that the ships should pay at Suez the joint customs of that port and Djidda, which would have been equivalent to about 12 per cent.; but he contented himself, at last, with a promise of 9 per cent. upon all imports into Suez from India, which was six per cent. more than the usual duty paid by European merchants in the ports of the Grand Signior. This arrangement, it is supposed, will lead to the opening of an active trade. The Pasha himself is disposed to speculate on his own account; and the first adventure he sent to Bombay, in the spring of 1816, was to bring him, in return, a richly caparisoned elephant, destined as a present to his sovereign at Constantinople. Still, however, I am afraid he will as little respect the second treaty as he did the first; for his avarice, if not effectually checked, knows no bounds, and he can at any time exact additional imposts, as far as the profits of this new commercial route can bear them, by threatening the security of the road from Suez to Cairo, the Bedouins of the neighbouring Desert being completely at his command.
The former master of Djidda, Sherif Ghaleb, was actively engaged in the Indian trade; he had two ships, of four hundred tons each, employed in it, besides many smaller vessels in the coffee trade to Yemen; indeed, he was a shrewd speculator in all branches of the Red Sea trade. He oppressed the merchants of Djidda by heavy duties and his own powerful competition; but he was never known to practise extortion upon them. If he borrowed money, he repaid it at the stipulated time, and never ventured to levy extraordinary contributions from individuals, although he did it from the whole community, by increasing the duties in an arbitrary manner. It was the well-known security which property enjoyed under his government that induced foreign merchants to visit the port of Djidda, even when Ghaleb was reduced to great distress by the Wahabis. His conduct, however, in this respect, was not caused by any love of justice, for he governed most despotically; but he well knew that, if the merchants should be frightened away, his town would sink into insignificance. Towards the close of his government, the duty upon coffee was increased by him from two and a half to five dollars per quintal, or to about fifteen per cent. The duty upon India goods was from six to ten per cent., according to their quality. If Ghaleb could not immediately sell the coffee or India goods imported on his account, he distributed the cargoes of his ships among the native merchants of the place at the current market-price, in quantities proportioned to the supposed property of each merchant, who was thus forced to become a purchaser for ready money. In this respect Ghaleb was not singular; for in Egypt the present Pasha frequently distributes his coffee among the merchants; with this difference, however, from the practice of Ghaleb, that the price which he exacts is always above the real market-price.
Business in Djidda is conducted through the intervention of brokers, who are for the most part Indians of small property and bad reputations.
The number of ships belonging to Djidda is very great. Taking into account all the small vessels employed in the Red Sea trade, two hundred and fifty perhaps may be calculated as belonging either to merchants of the town, or to owners, who navigate them, and who consider the port as their principal home. The different names given to these ships, as Say, Seume, Merkeb, Sambouk, Dow, denote their size; the latter only, being the largest, perform the voyage to India. The ships are navigated chiefly by people from Yemen, from the Somawly coast (opposite to Aden, between Abyssinia and Cape Guardafui,) and by slaves, of which latter three or four are generally found in every ship. The crew receive a certain sum for the voyage, and every sailor is, at the same time, a petty trader on his own account; this is another cause of the resort of foreigners to Djidda during the trade winds, for persons with the smallest capitals can purchase goods in retail, at the first hand, from the crews of these ships. No vessels of any kind are now constructed at Djidda, so scarce has timber become; indeed, it is with difficulty that means are found to repair a ship. Yembo is subject to the same inconvenience. Suez, Hadeyda, and Mokha, are the only harbours in the Red Sea where ships are built. The timber used at Suez is transported thither overland from Cairo, and comes originally from the coast of Asia Minor: The canvas used all over the Red Sea is of Egyptian manufacture. The cordage is of the date-tree. Ships coming from the East Indies have cordage made of the cocoa-nut tree, of which a quantity is also brought for sale. That employed at Hadeyda and Mokha comes partly from Yemen, and partly from the African coast. Many ships are purchased at Bombay and Maskat; but those built at Suez are most common in the sea north of Yemen. There has been a great want of shipping at Djidda during the last three years, as the Pasha had seized a great number of ships, and obliged their owners to transport provisions, ammunition, and baggage, from Egypt to the Hedjaz, for which he pays a very low freight. During my stay at Djidda, scarcely a day passed without some arrival by sea, chiefly from Yembo and Cosseir; and there were constantly forty or fifty ships in the harbour. An officer, entitled Emir al Bahhr, acts as harbour-master, and takes from each ship a certain sum for anchorage. This was an office of considerable dignity in the time of the sherif, but it has now sunk into insignificance. I was somewhat surprised to find that, in so well-frequented a port as Djidda, there were no pleasure-boats of any kind in the harbour, nor even any regular public boatmen; but I learned that this proceeded from the jealousy of the custom-house officers, who forbid all craft of this description, and even insist that the ships’ boats should return to the ships after sunset.
Djidda carries on no trade by land, except with Medina and Mekka. A caravan departs for Medina once in forty or fifty days, principally with India goods and drugs, and is always augmented by a crowd of pilgrims who wish to visit Mohammed’s tomb. These caravans consist of from sixty to one hundred camels, and are conducted by the Harb Bedouins. The intercourse, however, between Djidda and Medina is more commonly carried on by the intermediate route of Yembo, whither merchandize is sent by sea. Besides the caravans above mentioned, others depart for Mekka almost every evening, and at least twice a week, with goods and provisions; and during the four months preceding the Hadj, when every ship that arrives brings pilgrims to Djidda, this intercourse farther increases, and caravans then set out regularly from the gate called Báb Mekka every evening after sunset. The loaded camels take two nights to perform the journey, resting midway at Hadda during the day; but, in addition to these, a small caravan of asses, lightly laden, starts also every evening, and performs the journey of fifteen or sixteen hours in one night, arriving regularly at Mekka early in the morning. [When camels abound, the hire of one from Djidda to Mekka is from twenty to twenty-five piastres. In time of scarcity, or at the approach of the Hadj, from sixty to seventy piastres are paid. During my stay, the hire of an ass from Djidda to Mekka was twenty piastres. These prices would be considered enormous in any other part of the Levant. Only fifteen piastres are paid for a camel from Cairo to Suez, which is double the distance between Djidda and Mekka.] It is by the ass-caravan that letters are conveyed between the two towns. In time of peace, caravans are occasionally met with on the sea-coast, towards Yemen, and the interior of Tehama, to Mokhowa, whence corn is imported. (V. Appendix on the Geography of the Hedjaz.)
The following enumeration of the different shops in the principal commercial street of Djidda, may throw some light on the trade of the town, as well as on the mode of living of its inhabitants.
The shops (as in all parts of Turkey) are raised several feet above ground, and have before them, projecting into the street, a stone bench, on which purchasers seat themselves; this is sheltered from the sun by an awning usually made of mats fastened to high poles. Many of the shops are only six or seven feet wide in front; the depth is generally from ten to twelve feet, with a small private room or magazine behind.
There are twenty-seven coffee-shops. Coffee is drunk to excess in the Hedjaz; it is not uncommon for persons to drink twenty or thirty cups in one day, and the poorest labourer never takes less than three or four cups. In a few of the shops may be had keshre, made from the skin of the bean, which is scarcely inferior in flavour to that made from the bean itself. One of the shops is frequented by those who smoke the hashysh, or a preparation of hemp-flowers mixed with tobacco, which produces a kind of intoxication. Hashysh is still more used in Egypt, especially among the peasants. [Of the hemp-flowers, they use for this purpose the small leaves standing round the seed, (called sheranek.) The common people put a small quantity of them upon the top of the tobacco with which their pipes are filled. The higher classes eat it in a jelly or paste (maadjoun) made in the following manner:— a quantity of the leaves is boiled with butter for several hours, and then put under a press; the juice so expressed is mixed with honey and other sweet drugs, and publicly sold in Egypt, where shops are kept for that purpose. The Hashysh paste is politely termed bast, and those who sell it basty (i.e. cheerfulness). On the occasion of a festival to celebrate the marriage of a son of one of the principal grandees at Cairo, when all the different crafts of the town were represented in a showy procession, the basty, although exercising a business prohibited and condemned by the law, was among the most gaudy. Many persons of the first rank use the bast in some shape or other; it exhilarates the spirits, and raises the imagination as violently as opium. Some persons also mix the paste with seeds of the Bendj, which comes from Syria.]
In all these shops the Persian pipe is smoked, of which there are three different sorts. 1. The Kedra, which is the largest, and rests upon a tripod; it is always neatly worked, and found only in private houses. 2. The Shishe (called in Syria Argyle), of a smaller size, but, like the former, joined to a long serpentine tube (called lieh), through which the smoke is inhaled. 3. The Bury. This consists of an unpolished cocoa-nut shell, which contains water; a thick reed answers the purpose of the serpentine tube: this pipe is the constant companion of the lower classes, and of all the sailors of the Red Sea, who indulge most inordinately in using it. The tobacco smoked in the two former of these pipes comes from the Persian gulf; the best is from Shiraz. An inferior sort (called tombak) comes from Basra and Baghdad; the leaf is of a light yellow colour, and much stronger in taste than common tobacco; it is, therefore, previously washed to render it milder. The tombak used in the Bury comes from Yemen, and is of the same species as the other, but of an inferior quality. The trade in this article is very considerable, its consumption in the Hedjaz being almost incredibly great; large quantities are also shipped for Egypt. The common pipe is little used in the Hedjaz, except by Turkish soldiers and Bedouins. The tobacco is of Egyptian growth, or from Sennar, whence it is carried to Sowakin. Very little good Syrian tobacco finds its way across the Red Sea.
The coffee-houses are filled with people during the whole day; and in front a shed is generally erected, under which persons also sit. The rooms, benches, and small low chairs, are very filthy, and form a contrast to the neatness and elegance observable in the coffee-houses of Damascus. Respectable merchants are never seen in a coffee-house; but those of the third class, and sea-faring people, make it their constant resort. Every person has his particular house, where he meets those who have business with him. An Arab, who cannot afford to ask his friend to dine, invites him from the coffee-house, when he sees him pass, to enter and take a cup, and is highly offended if the invitation be rejected. When his friend enters, he orders the waiter to bring him a cup, and the waiter, in presenting it, exclaims aloud, so that every one in the place may hear him, djebba! (gratis). An Arab may cheat his creditors, or be guilty of bad faith in his dealings, and yet escape public censure; but he would be covered with infamy, if it were known that he had attempted to cheat the coffee-house waiter of his due. The Turkish soldiers have done their utmost in this respect to increase the contempt in which they are held by the Arabs. I never saw in the coffee-houses of the Hedjaz any of those story-tellers who are so common in Egypt, and still more in Syria. The Mangal [See Niebuhr’s Travels.] is generally played in all of them, and the Dama, “a kind of draughts,” differing somewhat from the European game; but I never happened to see chess played in the Hedjaz, though I heard that it is not uncommon, and that the sherifs in particular are fond of it.
Near to almost every coffee-shop a person takes his stand, who sells cooled water in small perfumed jars. [The Orientals often drink water before coffee, but never immediately after. I was once recognised in Syria as a foreigner or European, in consequence of having called for water just after I had taken coffee. “If you were of this country,” said the waiter, “you would not spoil the taste of the coffee in your mouth by washing it away with water.”]
Twenty-one butter-sellers, who likewise retail honey, oil, and vinegar. Butter forms the chief article in Arab cookery, which is more greasy than even that of Italy. Fresh butter, called by the Arabs zebde, is very rarely seen in the Hedjaz. It is a common practice amongst all classes to drink every morning a coffee-cup full of melted butter or ghee, after which coffee is taken. They regard it as a powerful tonic, and are so much accustomed to it from their earliest youth, that they would feel great inconvenience in discontinuing the use of it. The higher classes content themselves with drinking the quantity of butter, but the lower orders add a half-cup more, which they snuff up their nostrils, conceiving that they prevent foul air from entering the body by that channel. The practice is universal as well with the inhabitants of the town as with the Bedouins. The lower classes are likewise in the habit of rubbing their breasts, shoulders, arms, and legs, with butter, as the negroes do, to refresh the skin. During the war, the import of this article from the interior had almost entirely ceased; but even in time of peace, it is not sufficient for the consumption of Djidda; some is, therefore, brought also from Sowakin; but the best sort, and that which is in greatest plenty, comes from Massowah, and is called here Dahlak butter: whole ships’ cargoes arrive from thence, the greater part of which is again carried to Mekka. Butter is likewise imported from Cosseir; this comes from Upper Egypt, and is made from buffaloes’ milk; the Sowakin and Dahlak ghee is from sheep’s milk.
The Hedjaz abounds with honey in every part of the mountains. The best comes from those which are inhabited by the Nowaszera Bedouins, to the south of Tayf. Among the lower classes, a common breakfast is a mixture of ghee and honey poured over crumbs of bread as they come quite hot from the oven. The Arabs, who are very fond of paste, never eat it without honey.
The oil used for lamps is that of Sesamum (Seeredj, brought from Egypt). The Arabs do not use oil for culinary purposes, except in frying fish, or with broken paste to be given to the poor. Salad, of which the northern Turks are so fond, is never seen on an Arabian table.
Eighteen vegetable or fruit-stands. The number of these has now greatly increased, on account of the Turkish troops, who are great devourers of vegetables. All the fruits come from Tayf, behind Mekka, which is rich in gardens. I found here in July grapes of the best kind, with which the mountains behind Mekka abound; pomegranates of middling quality; quinces, which have not the harsh taste of those in Europe, and may be eaten raw; peaches; lemons of the smallest size only, like those of Cairo; bitter oranges; bananas — these do not grow at Tayf, but are brought by the Medina road principally from Safra, Djedeyda, and Kholeys. These fruits last till November. In March, water melons are brought from Wady Fatmé, which are said to be small, but of a good flavour. The Arabs eat little fruit except grapes; they say it produces bile, and occasions flatulency, in which they are probably not mistaken. The fruit sold at Djidda is particularly unwholesome; for having been packed up at Tayf in an unripe state, it acquires a factitious maturity by fermentation during the journey. The Turks quarrel and fight every morning before the shops, in striving to get the fruits, which are in small quantities and very dear. Vegetables are brought to Djidda from Wady Fatmé, six or eight miles distant to the north, which also supplies Mekka. The usual kinds are Meloukhye, Bamye, Portulaca egg-plants, or Badinjans, cucumbers, and very small turnips, of which the leaves are eaten, and the root is thrown away as useless. Radishes and leeks are the only vegetables regularly and daily used in Arab cookery; they are very small, and the common people eat them raw with bread. In general, the Arabs consume very few vegetables, their dishes being made of meat, rice, flour, and butter. In these fruit-shops, tamarind (called here Homar) is also sold; it comes from the East Indies, not in cakes, like that from the negro countries, but in its natural form, though much decomposed. When boiled in water, it constitutes a refreshing beverage, and is given to sick people boiled with meat into a stew.
Eight date-sellers. Of all eatables used by the Arabs, dates are the most favourite; and they have many traditions from their prophet, showing the pre-eminence of dates above all other kinds of food. The importation of dates is uninterrupted during the whole year. At the end of June, the new fruit (called ruteb) comes in: this lasts for two months, after which, for the remainder of the year, the date-paste, called adjoue, is sold. This is formed by pressing the dates, when fully ripe, into large baskets so forcibly as to reduce them to a hard solid paste or cake, each basket weighing generally about two hundred weight; in this state the Bedouins export the adjoue; in the market it is cut out of the basket and sold by the pound. This adjoue forms a part of the daily food among all classes of people. In travelling, it is dissolved in water, and thus affords a sweet and refreshing drink. There are upwards of twelve different sorts of adjoue; the best comes from Taraba, behind Tayf (now occupied by the Wahabis.) The most common kind at present in the market is that from Fatmé; and the better sort, that from Kheleys, and Djedeyde, on the road to Medina. During the monsoon, the ships from the Persian gulf bring adjoue from Basra for sale, in small baskets, weighing about ten pounds each; this kind is preferred to every other. The East–India ships, on their return, take off a considerable quantity of the paste, which is sold to great profit among the muselmans of Hindostan.
Four pancake-makers, who sell, early in the morning, pancakes fried in butter; a favourite breakfast.
Five bean-sellers. These sell for breakfast also, at an early hour, Egyptian horse-beans boiled in water, which are eaten with ghee and pepper. The boiled beans are called mudammes; they form a favourite dish with the people of Egypt, from whom the Arabs have adopted it.
Five sellers of sweetmeats, sugar-plums, and different sorts of confectionary, of which the Hedjaz people are much fonder than any Orientals I have seen; they eat them after supper, and in the evening the confectioners’ stands are surrounded by multitudes of buyers. The Indians are the best makers of them. I saw no articles of this kind here that I had not already found in Egypt; the Baktawa, Gnafe, and Ghereybe, are as common here as at Aleppo and Cairo.
Two kebab shops, where roasted meat is sold; these are kept by Turks, the kebab not being an Arab dish.
Two soup-sellers, who also sell boiled sheep’s heads and feet, and are much visited at mid-day.
One seller of fish fried in oil, frequented by all the Turkish and Greek sailors.
Ten or twelve stands where bread is sold, generally by women; the bread has an unpleasant flavour, the meal not having been properly cleansed, and the leaven being bad. A loaf of the same size as that which at Cairo is sold for two paras, costs here, though of a much worse quality, eight paras.
Two sellers of leben, or sour milk, which is extremely scarce and dear all over the Hedjaz. It may appear strange that, among the shepherds of Arabia, there should be a scarcity of milk, yet this was the case at Djidda and Mekka; but, in fact, the immediate vicinity of these towns is extremely barren, little suited to the pasturage of cattle, and very few people are at the expense of feeding them for their milk only. When I was at Djidda, the rotolo or pound of milk (for it is sold by weight) cost one piastre and a half, and could only be obtained by favour. What the northern Turks called yoghort, and the Syrians and Egyptians leben-hamed, [Very thick milk, rendered sour by boiling and the addition of a strong acid.] does not appear to be a native Arab dish; the Bedouins of Arabia, at least, never prepare it.
Two shops, kept by Turks, where Greek cheese, dried meat, dried apples, figs, raisins, apricots, called kammared’din, &c. are sold at three times the price paid in Cairo. The cheese comes from Candia, and is much in request among all the Turkish troops. An indifferent sort of cheese is made in the Hedjaz; it is extremely white, although salted, does not keep long, and is not by any means very nutritive. The Bedouins themselves care little for cheese; they either drink their milk, or make it into butter. The dried meat sold in these shops is the salted and smoked beef of Asia Minor, known all over Turkey by the name of bastorma, and much relished by travellers. The Turkish soldiers and the Hadjis are particularly fond of it, but the Arabs never can be induced to taste it; many of them, observing that it differs in appearance from all other meat with which they are acquainted, persist in regarding it as pork, and the estimation in which they hold the Turkish soldiery and their religious principles is not likely to remove their prejudices on this head. All the dried fruits above mentioned, except the apricots, come from the Archipelago; the latter are sent from Damascus all over Arabia, where they are considered a luxury, particularly among the Bedouins. The stone is extracted and the fruit reduced to a paste, and spread out upon its leaves to dry in the sun. It makes a very pleasant sauce when dissolved in water. On all their marches through the Hedjaz, the Turkish troops live almost entirely upon biscuit and this fruit.
Eleven large shops of corn-dealers, where Egyptian wheat, barley, beans, lentils, dhourra, [Or durra, from Sowakin, which comes from Taka, in the interior of Nubia, and a small-grained sort from Yemen, are also sold here.] Indian and Egyptian rice, biscuits, &c. may be purchased. The only wheat now sold in the Hedjaz comes from Egypt. In time of peace, there is a considerable importation from Yemen into Mekka and Djidda, and from Nedjed to Medina; but the imports from Egypt are by far the most considerable, and the Hedjaz may truly be said to depend upon Egypt for corn. The corn-trade was formerly in the hands of individuals, and the Sherif Ghaleb also speculated in it; but at the present, Mohammed Aly Pasha has taken it entirely into his own hands, and none is sold either at Suez or Cosseir to private persons, every grain being shipped on account of the Pasha. This is likewise the case with all other provisions, as rice, butter, biscuits, onions, of which latter great quantities are imported. At the time of my residence in the Hedjaz, this country not producing a sufficiency, the Pasha sold the grain at Djidda for the price of from one hundred and thirty to one hundred and sixty piastres per erdeb, and every other kind of provision in proportion; the corn cost him twelve piastres by the erdeb in Upper Egypt, and including the expense of carriage from Genne to Cosseir, and freight thence to Djidda, twenty-five or thirty piastres. This enormous profit was alone sufficient to defray his expenses in carrying on the Wahaby war; but it was little calculated to conciliate the good-will of the people. His partisans, however, excused him, by alleging that, in keeping grain at high prices, he secured the Bedouins of the Hedjaz in his interest, as they depend upon Mekka and Djidda for provisions, and they were thus compelled to enter into his service, and receive his pay, to escape starvation. The common people of the Hedjaz use very little wheat; their bread is made either of durra or barley-flour, both of which are one-third cheaper than wheat; or they live entirely upon rice and butter. This is the case also with most of the Bedouins of Tehama, on the coast. The Yemen people in Djidda eat nothing but durra. Most of the rice used at Djidda is brought as ballast by the ships from India. The best sort comes from Guzerat and Cutch: it forms the chief article of food among the people of the Hedjaz, who prefer it to the rice from Egypt, because they think it more wholesome than the former, which is used exclusively by the Turks and other strangers from the north-ward. The grain of the Indian rice is larger and longer than the common sort of Egypt, and is of a yellowish colour; whereas the latter has a reddish tint; but the best sorts of both are snow-white. The Indian rice swells more in boiling than the Egyptian, and is for this reason preferred by the Arabs, as a smaller quantity of it will fill a dish; but the Egyptian rice is more nutritive. The Indian rice is rather cheaper, and is transported from Djidda to Mekka, Tayf, Medina, and thence as far as Nedjed. A mixture of equal portions of rice and lentils, over which butter is poured, forms a favourite preparation with the middle class, and generally their only dish at supper. [This dish is known in Syria, and called there medjeddereh, because the lentils in the rice look like a person’s face marked with the small-pox, or djedreh.] I found, in every part of the Hedjaz, that the Bedouins, when travelling, carried no other provision than rice, lentils, butter, and dates. The importation of biscuits from Egypt has of late been very considerable, for the use of the Turkish army. The Arabians do not like and seldom eat them even on board their ships, where they bake their unleavened cake every morning in those small ovens which are found in all the ships of every size that navigate the Red Sea.
Salt is sold by the corn-dealers. Sea-salt is collected near Djidda, and is a monopoly in the hands of the sherif. The inhabitants of Mekka prefer rock-salt, which is brought thither by the Bedouins from some mountains in the neighbourhood of Tayf.
Thirty-one tobacco-shops, in which are sold Syrian and Egyptian tobacco, tombac, or tobacco for the Persian pipe, pipe-heads and pipe-snakes, cocoa-nuts, coffee-beans, keshre, soap, almonds, Hedjaz raisins, and some other articles of grocery. The Egyptian tobacco, sometimes mixed with that of Sennar, is the cheapest, and in great demand throughout the Hedjaz. There are two sorts of it: the leaf of one is green, even when dry; this is called ribbé, and comes from Upper Egypt: the other is brown-leaved, the best sort of which grows about Tahta, to the south of Siout. During the power of the Wahabys, tobacco could not be sold publicly; but as all the Bedouins of the Hedjaz are passionately fond of it, persons sold it clandestinely in their shops, not as tobacco or dokhan, but under the name of “the wants of a man.” Long snakes for the Persian pipe, very prettily worked, are imported from Yemen. Cocoa-nuts are brought from the East Indies, as well as from the south-eastern coast of Africa and the Somawly country, and may be had quite fresh, at low prices, during the monsoon. The people of Djidda and Mekka appear to be very fond of them. The larger nuts, as already mentioned, are used for the boury, or common Persian pipe, and the smallest for snuff-boxes.
Soap comes from Suez, whither it is carried from Syria, which supplies the whole coast of the Red Sea with it. The soap-trade is considerable, and, for the greater part, in the hands of the merchants from Hebron, (called in Arabic el Khalyl or the Khalylis,) who bring it to Djidda, where some of them are always to be found. The almonds and raisins come from Tayf and the Hedjaz mountains; large quantities of both are exported, even to the East Indies. The almonds are of most excellent quality; the raisins are small and quite black, but very sweet. An intoxicating liquor is prepared from them.
Eighteen druggists. These are all natives of the East Indies, and mostly from Surat. In addition to all kinds of drugs, they sell wax candles, paper, sugar, perfumery, and incense; the latter is much used by the inhabitants of the towns, where all the respectable families perfume their best rooms every morning. Mastic and sandal-wood, burnt upon charcoal, are most commonly used for this purpose. Spices of all sorts, and heating drugs, are universally used in the Hedjaz. Coffee is rarely drunk in private houses without a mixture of cardamoms or cloves; and red pepper, from India or Egypt, enters into every dish. A considerable article of trade among the druggists of Djidda and Mekka consists in rose-buds, brought from the gardens of Tayf. The people of the Hedjaz, especially the ladies, steep them in water, which they afterwards use for their ablutions; they also boil these roses with sugar, and make a conserve of them. The sugar sold in the drug-gists’ shops is brought from India; it is of a yellowish white colour, and well refined, but in powder. A small quantity of Egyptian sugar is imported, but the people here do not like it; in general, they prefer every thing that comes from India, which they conceive to be of a superior quality; in the same manner as English produce and manufactures are preferred on the continent of Europe. The Indian druggists are all men of good property; their trade is very lucrative, and no Arabs can rival them in it. At Mekka, also, and at Tayf, Medina, and Yembo, all the druggists are of Indian descent; and although they have been established in the country for several generations, and completely naturalized, yet they continue to speak the Hindu language, and distinguish themselves in many trifling customs from the Arabs, by whom they are in general greatly disliked, and accused of avarice and fraud.
Eleven shops where small articles of Indian manufacture are sold, such as china-ware, pipe-heads, wooden spoons, glass heads, knives, rosaries, mirrors, cards, &c. These shops are kept by Indians, mostly from Bombay. Very little European hardware finds its way hither, except needles, scissors, thimbles, and files; almost every thing else of this kind comes from India. The earthenware of China is greatly prized in the Hedjaz. The rich inhabitants display very costly collections of it, disposed upon shelves in their sitting-rooms, as may be remarked also in Syria. I have seen, both at Mekka and Djidda, china dishes brought to table, measuring at least two feet and a half in diameter, carried by two persons, and containing a sheep roasted entire. The glass beads exported from Djidda are chiefly for the Souakin and Abyssinian market; they are partly of Venetian and partly of Hebron manufacture. The Bedouin women of the Hedjaz likewise wear them; though bracelets, made of black horn, and amber necklaces, seem to be more in fashion among them. It is in these shops that the agate beads, called reysh, [See Travels in Nubia, article Shendy.] are sold, which come from Bombay, and are used in the very heart of Africa. A kind of red beads, made of wax, are seen here in great quantities; they come from India, and are mostly destined for Abyssinia. Of rosaries, a great variety is sold: those made of yoser [From this, the principal lane of Djidda is called Hosh Yosser.] are the most costly; it is a species of coral which grows in the Red Sea. The best sort is found between Djidda and Gonfode, is of a deep black colour, and takes a fine polish. Strings of one hundred beads each are sold at from one to four dollars, according to their size. They are made by the turners of Djidda, and are much in demand for the Malays. Other rosaries, (also brought from India,) made of the odoriferous kalambac, and of the sandal-wood, are in great demand throughout Egypt and Syria. Few pilgrims leave the Hedjaz without taking from the holy cities same of these rosaries, as presents to their friends at home.
Eleven clothes-shops. In these various articles of dress are sold every morning by public auction. The greater part of those dresses are of the Turkish fashion, adopted by merchants of the first and second classes, with some trifling national variations in the cut of the clothes. During the period of the Hadj, these shops are principally frequented for the purchase of the Hiram or Ihram, that mantle in which the pilgrimage is performed, and which consists generally of two long pieces of white Indian cambric. Here, too, the Hedjaz Bedouins come to buy the woollen abbas, or Bedouin cloaks, brought from Egypt, on which country they entirely depend for this article; and thus they seem to possess the same indolent character as most people of the Hedjaz; for it is customary with the wives of other Bedouins to fabricate their own abbas. Here, also, they bring Turkish carpets of an inferior quality, which form an indispensable article of furniture for the tent of a Sheikh. In these shops are likewise retailed all other imports from Egypt necessary for dress, as mellayes, cotton quilts, linen for shirts, shirts dyed blue, worn by the peasants, red and yellow slippers, used by the more opulent merchants, and by all the ladies, red caps, all kinds of cloth dresses, second-hand cashmere shawls, muslin shawls, &c. &c.
Six large shops of Indian piece-goods: French cloth, cashmere shawls, &c. belonging to respectable merchants, whose clerks here sell by retail. Almost all the principal merchants carry on also a retail business in their own houses, except the great Indian merchants established here, who deal in nothing but Indian piece-goods. The other merchants of Djidda engage in every branch of commerce. I once saw the brother of Djeylany quarrelling with a Yembo pedlar about the price of a mellaye, worth about fifteen shillings; but this is the case also in Egypt and Syria, where the most wealthy native merchants sell in retail, and enter into all the minute details of business, and yet without keeping any large establishment of clerks or accomptants, which their mode of conducting business renders little necessary. A Turkish merchant never keeps more than one accompt-book; into this he copies from a pocket-book his weekly sales and purchases. They have not that extensive correspondence which European merchants are obliged to keep up; and they write much less, though perhaps more to the purpose, than the latter. In every town with which they traffic, they have one friend, with whom they annually balance accounts. Turkish merchants, with the exception of those living in sea-ports, generally pursue but one branch of trade; maintaining a correspondence with the town only from whence they obtain their merchandize, and with that to which they transport it. Thus, for instance, the great Baghdad merchants of Aleppo, men with from thirty to forty thousand pounds in capital, receive goods from their friends at Baghdad, and then send them from Aleppo to Constantinople. I have known many of them who kept no clerk, but transacted the whole of their business themselves. At Cairo, the Syrian merchants trade in the stuffs of Damascus and Aleppo, and are altogether unconnected with the Maggrebin, Syria, and Djidda merchants.
Mercantile transactions are farther simplified by the traders employing chiefly their own capital, commission business being much less extensive than it is in Europe. When a merchant consigns a considerable quantity of goods to a place, he sends a partner with them, or perhaps a relative, if he have no partner resident in the place. Ranking concerns and bills of exchange are wholly unknown among the natives, which saves them much trouble. In those towns where European factories are established, bills may be found, but they are hardly current with the natives, among whom assignments only are customary.
The practice followed equally by Mahomedan, Christian, and Jewish merchants, in the East, of never drawing an exact balance of the actual state of their capital, is another cause that renders the details of book-keeping less necessary here than in Europe. For the same reason that a Bedouin never counts the tents of his tribe, nor the exact number of his sheep, nor a military chief the exact number of his men, nor a governor the number of inhabitants of his town, a merchant never attempts to ascertain the exact amount of his property; an approximation only is all that be desires. This arises from a belief that counting is an ostentatious display of wealth, which heaven will punish by a speedy diminution.
The Eastern merchant seldom enters into hazardous speculations, but limits his transactions to the extent of his capital. Credit to a great amount is obtained with difficulty, as affairs of individuals are in general much more publicly known than in Europe; failures are, therefore, of rare occurrence; and when a man becomes embarrassed either from an unsuccessful speculation or inevitable losses, his creditors forbear to press their demands, and are generally paid after a few years’ patience; thereby saving the merchant’s credit, and preventing the consequences of bankruptcy.
On the other hand, however, the Eastern merchants are liable to the imputation of uncertainty in their payments, which they often delay beyond the stipulated periods. Even the most respectable among them do not hesitate to put off the payment of a debt for months; and it may be stated as a general rule in Egypt and Syria, that assignments are never fully paid till after a lapse of nearly double the time named. But this, I was often assured by the best informed people here, has only become the practice within the last twenty or thirty years, and is a consequence of the universal decay of commerce and diminution of capital in the Levant. At Djidda, as I have already observed, almost all bargains are made for ready money.
Three sellers of copper vessels. A variety of well-tinned copper vessels may be found in every Arabian kitchen. Even the Bedouins have one capacious boiler, at least, in every tent. The whole of these come from Egypt. The most conspicuous article of this description is the abrík, or water-pot, with which the Muselman performs his ablutions. No Turkish pilgrim arrives in the Hedjaz without one of these pots, or at least he purchases one at Djidda. There are found, also, in the market a few copper vessels from China, brought hither by the Malays; but they are not tinned, and though the copper seems to be of a much finer quality than that of Anatolia, which is brought from Cairo, the Arabs dislike to use it.
Four barbers’ shops. The barbers are at once the surgeons and physicians of this country. They know how to let blood, and to compound different sorts of aperient medicines. The few Arabians whose beards are longer and thicker than those of their country-men usually are, take great pains in keeping them neatly cut, so that not a hair may project beyond another. The mustachios are always cut closely, and never allowed to hang over the lips; in this they differ from the northern Turks, who seldom touch their thick bushy mustachios with scissors. The barbers’ shops are frequented by loungers of the lower classes, who resort thither to hear the news, and amuse themselves with conversation. In one of these shops I found established a seal-engraver of Persian origin; he had a good deal of business, for a pilgrim, after he has performed his visits to the holy places, usually adds to the name on his seal the words El Hadjy, or “The Pilgrim.”
Four tailors. Many others live in various parts of the town; they are mostly foreigners. Tousoun Pasha’s court-tailor was a Christian of Bosnia, and exercised authority over all the other tailors in the town; who complained bitterly of being subjected, not only to the commands and insults, but often to the stick of this Christian.
Five makers of nâl, or sandals. There is not one shoe-maker in the Hedjaz. Those who wear shoes or slippers buy them of the merchants by whom they are imported from Egypt.
The shape of the sandals used throughout Arabia differs in every province; and to those delineated by Niebuhr, a dozen other forms might be added. Some are peculiar to certain classes: a merchant, for instance, would not wear the sandals of a mariner. This is the case in Turkey with regard to shoes, of which each province and class has its particular shape. Egypt and Abyssinia furnish the thick leather used in making sandals.
Three shops where water-skins brought from Sowakin and Egypt are sold and repaired. The greater part of the Hedjaz is furnished with water-skins from Sowakin; they are in great request, being very light, and sewed with much neatness. A Sowakin water-skin will last, in daily use, about three or four months.
Two turners, who bore pipe-tubes, and make beads, &c.
Three sellers of sweet-oils or essences, civet, aloe-wood, balsam of Mekka, and rose-water from Fayoum in Egypt. The civet and Mekka balsam can seldom be bought pure, except at first hand. The Habesh or Abyssinian merchants bring the civet in large cow-horns; they sold it at four piastres per drachm in the year 1814. Musk also is sold in these shops, the best at two dollars per metkal. It is brought hither by the Indian and Persian Hadjys.
One watchmaker, a Turk. All the Mekka and Djidda merchants wear watches, many of which are of good English manufacture; they are brought either from India, or by the Hadjys from Constantinople. As it often happens that the Turkish pilgrims want money in the Hedjaz, they are sometimes compelled to dispose of their most valuable articles; the watch is always the first, then the pistols and sabre, and lastly the fine pipe, and best copy of the Korán: all these articles are consequently very common in the auction-markets of Djidda and Mekka.
One seller of Turkish and Persian tobacco-pipes. The latter come principally from Baghdad. The wealthy often display in their sitting-rooms a whole range of the finest nargils: these cost as much as one hundred dollars a piece.
Seven money-dealers, or seráfs. They sit upon benches in the open street, with a large box before them containing the money. Formerly, these seráfs were all Jews, as is still the case, with few exceptions, at Cairo, Damascus, and Aleppo; but since the Sherif–Serour drove the Jews out of the Hedjaz, the Djiddawys themselves have taken up the profession, to which their natural disposition and habits incline them. There is usually at each stand a partnership of them, comprising half a dozen individuals. A large amount of cash is required to carry on the business; but it is very profitable. The value of money changes here more rapidly than in any part of the East with which I am acquainted. The price of dollars and sequins fluctuates almost daily, and the seráfs are always sure to be gainers. During the stay of the Indian fleet, the value of a dollar becomes very high. While I was at Djidda, it rose to eleven and twelve piastres. After the departure of the fleet, when there is no immediate demand for dollars, the price falls; in January, 1815, it was at nine piastres. The gold coins vary in proportion.
Formerly the old current coins of the Hedjaz were Venetian and Hungarian sequins, Spanish dollars, and money coined at Constantinople. Egyptian coins were wholly excluded; [According to the historians of Mekka, it appears that the sherifs there assumed the privilege of coining their own money, in the name of the Sultan of Constantinople, as late as the seventeenth century; but this is now abandoned.] but since the arrival of the troops of Mohammed Ali Pasha, all the Cairo coins have been forcibly put into circulation, and the Cairo silver money is now next in estimation to the Spanish dollar. The Pasha of Egypt, who enjoys the right of coining money in the name of the Sultan, has lately much abused this privilege. In 1815, he farmed out the mint for a yearly sum of seven millions of piastres, which is, at the present rate of exchange, about two hundred thousand pounds sterling, obliging the people to take the dollar at eight of his piastres, although it is well known to be now worth twenty-two or twenty-three. In the Hedjaz he has not the same means of enforcing his despotic measures to their full extent; and thus it happens that in the interior of the country, where the Turkish troops are placed, the value of the dollar is eighteen or nineteen piastres. The Bedouins, however, refuse to take the Egyptian piastres, even at a depreciation, and will receive nothing but dollars; a determination to which the Pasha himself has been frequently obliged to yield.
The párá, or smallest Turkish coin, (here called diwany,) is current all over the Hedjaz, and in great request, from its being of more intrinsic value than the piastre, though coined like them at Cairo. Forty párás make a piastre; but in the time of the Hadj, when small change is necessary for the immense daily traffic of the pilgrims, the seráfs gave twenty-five párás only in change for the piastre. A few Indian rupees are seen in the Djidda market, but they have no currency. I never met with any money coined by the Imám of Yemen.
In the same great street of shops are ten large okales, always full of strangers and goods. Most of them were formerly the property of the sherif; they now belong to the Pasha, who levies an annual rent on the merchants. In Syria these buildings are called khans; in the Hedjaz hosh, which, in the dialect of Egypt, means a court-yard.
In a street adjoining the great market-place live a few artisans, blacksmiths, silversmiths, carpenters, some butchers, &c. most of them natives of Egypt.
The reader will perceive, by the foregoing pages, that Djidda depends for its commodities entirely on importations either from Egypt or the East Indies; and this is the case even to the most trifling article. The want of hands, and the high price of manual labour, but still more the indolence and want of industry inherent in the natives of the Hedjaz, have hitherto prevented them from establishing any kind of manufactory, except of the most indispensable articles. In this respect they offer a contrast to the Syrian and Egyptian Arabs, who in general are industrious, and who, in spite of the obstacles often thrown in their way by the government, have nevertheless established several manufactures, which render them, in some parts of the country, entirely independent of foreign supplies. The inhabitants of the Hedjaz appear to have only two occupations; commerce, and the pasture of cattle. The first engrosses the mind of almost every town-inhabitant, not excepting even the olemas, or learned men. Every one endeavours to employ whatever capital he possesses in some advantageous traffic, that he may live without much bodily exertion; for these people seem to be as averse to the latter as they are eager to endure all the anxieties and risks inseparable from the former. It is even difficult to find persons who will perform the common labour of porters, &c.: those who follow similar occupations are for the most part foreigners from Egypt or Syria, and negro pilgrims, who thus earn a very comfortable livelihood, and generally make but a temporary stay at Djidda. The only race of Arabians whom I have found more industrious than the others, are the people of Hadramaut, or, as they are called, El Hadáreme. Many of them act as servants in the merchants’ houses, as door-keepers, messengers, and porters, in which latter character they are preferred to all others for their honesty and industry. Almost every considerable town in the East has its particular race of porters: at Aleppo, the Armenians of the mountains of Asia Minor are in request for this office; at Damascus, the people of Mount Libanus; at Cairo, the Berábera Nubians; at Mekka and Djidda, the Hadáreme, who, like those of Syria, are mountaineers. It is well known that similar qualifications recommend my countrymen, the Alpine mountaineers, to the same offices at Paris. There is another striking similarity among the natives of all these countries; they generally return home with their gains, and pass the remainder of their days with their families. Notwithstanding this source, there is a great and almost absolute want of free servants in the Hedjaz. No man who has been born in one of the holy cities, will act as a menial servant, unless he be driven to it by the fear of dying from want of food; and no sooner is he in good condition, than he ceases to labour, and either turns pedlar or beggar. The number of beggars at Mekka and Djidda is very great, and it is a common remark among the merchants of the latter place, that a Djiddawy will never work while he can possibly maintain himself by begging. Mendicity is much encouraged by the pilgrims, who are fond of displaying their charity on first touching holy ground at this place.
Respecting the people of Djidda and their character, I shall have occasion to make further observations in describing the inhabitants of Mekka, whom generally they resemble. In fact, all the respectable families have houses at both places, and frequently pass from one to the other.
Djidda is governed by a pasha of three tails, who takes precedence of most others, from the connexion of this place with the holy cities; but the government of it is an honour little esteemed by the Turkish grandees, who have always regarded Djidda as a place rather of exile than of preferment, and it has often been conferred on disgraced statesmen. The Pasha styles himself not only Wály or governor of Djidda, but of Sowakin and Habesh; and in support of this title, keeps custom-house officers at Sowakin and Massoua, which, prior to the government of Mohammed Aly, were entirely dependent on the sherif.
The pashalik of Djidda was reduced to perfect insignificance by the power of the sherif of Mekka; and the title had become merely an honorary distinction, enjoyed by the individual on whom it had been bestowed, while he resided in some provincial town of Turkey or at Constantinople, without ever attempting to take possession of his government. There was, however, an exception in 1803, when, after the total evacuation of Egypt by the French, Sherif Pasha went to Djidda with a body of four or five hundred soldiers; but like all his predecessors, he became the mere instrument of Sherif Ghaleb, and in 1804 his career was terminated by sudden death-the fate of many former Pashas both of Djidda and of Mekka.
According to the orders of the Sultan, whose nominal supremacy over the Hedjaz was recognised until the last Wahaby conquest, the revenue arising from the customs collected at Djidda should have been divided equally between the Pasha and the sherif of Mekka, while the former was to have exclusively the command of the town. When the Turks began to subdue Asia, the sherif received only one third of this revenue, and it was not until the year of the Hedjira 1042 that he obtained the half. [Vide Asámi, History of the Hedjaz.] Subsequently, however, the sherif not only usurped the government of Djidda, but also applied the customs wholly to his own use, the Pasha being rendered altogether dependent upon his bounty.
Soon after the death of Sherif Pasha, the Sherif Ghaleb was obliged to surrender Mekka to the Wahabys, having been besieged, the preceding year, in Djidda, by Saoud. He then openly declared himself a proselyte to the Wahaby faith, and a subject of the Wahaby chief, though he still retained full possession of Djidda and the produce of its customs, which formed the principal part of his income. The Wahabys did not enter the town, which ostensibly declared in favour of their doctrines. The Turkish soldiers were now obliged to retire towards Egypt, or elsewhere; and from that period till 1811 all Turkish authority was entirely excluded from the Hedjaz.
In 1811, Mohammed Aly Pasha commenced his operations against the Wahabys, by sending a body of troops under the command of his son Tousoun Bey, who was defeated in the passes between Yembo and Medina. A second, in 1812, was more successful: while Tousoun, in September of that year, took Medina, Mustafa Bey, the Pasha’s brother-inlaw, proceeded directly with the cavalry under his command to Djidda, Mekka, and Tayf; all which surrendered, almost without bloodshed. The Sherif Ghaleb, who, from the moment he began to apprehend the probable success of Aly’s expedition, had entered into a secret correspondence with Egypt, now openly declared himself a friend to the Turks, who entered Djidda as friends. The title of Pasha of Djidda was soon after conferred by the Porte upon Tousoun, as a reward for his services. The details of this war will be given in another place; I shall, therefore, only mention here, that after the Osmanlys, or Turks, entered Djidda, a quarrel arose between the Pasha and the sherif respecting the customs, which were to be divided between them, but which the Pasha, being now superior in power, kept wholly to himself. He sent the sherif as prisoner to Turkey, and since that event, the town has continued wholly at his disposal, the new sherif, Yahya, being a servant in the pay of Tousoun.
Djidda, in the time of Sherif Ghaleb, was governed either by himself, when he resided there, or, during his absence, by an officer called Vizir, under whose orders the police of the town was placed; while the collection of the customs (gumruk) was entrusted to another officer, called the gumrukdjy; and the police of the harbour to the Emir el Bahhr, or the “Chief of the Sea,” a title equivalent to “harbour-master.” In later times the vizir was a black slave of Ghaleb, and much detested for his pride and despotic conduct. Ghaleb seldom resided in Djidda, his continual intrigues with the Bedouins, and his schemes against the Wahaby tribes, requiring his presence in the more central position of Mekka.
The form of government which existed under Ghaleb has not been changed by the Osmanlys. It happened that Tousoun Pasha could seldom reside in his capital, being placed under the command of his father, who received from the Porte the entire direction of the Hedjaz war, and the disposal of all the resources of that country. Tousoun was more usefully employed in moving about with the troops under his command, till he returned to Cairo in the autumn of 1815. Since the year 1812, a military commander has always resided in the town, with a garrison of two or three hundred men, which the Pasha takes care to change every three or four months. The collection of the customs, the entire regulation of civil affairs, the correspondence with Cairo and Mekka, the conveyance of troops, stores, and government merchandize between Egypt and Djidda, and the Pasha’s treasury, are in the hands of this commander, whose name is Seyd Ali Odjakly. His father was from Asia Minor, and belonged to the corps of Janissaries (Odjak), whence his son takes the epithet of Odjakly. He is disliked by the merchants of Djidda, because they remember his selling nuts in the streets about twenty years ago. In the time of Sherif Ghaleb, he was employed by him in his private commercial affairs; and as he possesses great talents and activity, joined to a good knowledge of the Turkish language, Mohammed Ali could with difficulty have pitched upon a person more competent to fill the post which he now holds.
The public revenue of Djidda arises almost exclusively from the customs, called here ashour, or tithes. This ought legally to be, as I was informed, ten per cent. upon all imported goods; but, in consequence of abuses which have been long practised, some articles of merchandize are charged much higher, while others pay less. During the latter period of the sherif’s power, coffee was charged at five dollars the quintal, which may be computed as fifteen to twenty per cent. Spices pay somewhat less than ten per cent.; India piece-goods something more. Great irregularity, therefore, exists in levying the customs; and it is in the power of the officer of customs to favour his friends without incurring any responsibility.
After the sherif had embraced the Wahabi doctrine, his income was greatly diminished; because Saoud, the chief of the Wahabis, insisted that the goods of all his followers should pass duty-free, and thus the greater part of the coffee trade became exempt. I heard from a person who had means of knowing the truth, and who had no motive for concealing it from me, that the amount of customs collected at Djidda in 1814 was four hundred thousand dollars, equal to eight thousand purses, or four millions of piastres, which would give an annual importation of about four millions of dollars, a sum certainly below rather than above the truth. Customs are levied after the same rate at the two gates of the town, called Bab Mekka and Bab el Medina, upon all provisions coming from the interior of the country, principally cattle, butter, and dates, which, in time of peace, when the communication with the interior is uninterrupted, becomes a matter of importance. Except these, the people of the town pay no imposts whatever.
During my residence, the Turks had made Djidda the principal depot for their army. A large magazine of corn belonging to the Pasha, received almost daily supplies from Egypt, and caravans were every day despatched to Mekka and Tayf; the commerce of the town also was much increased by the wants of the army and its followers. The police of the place was well regulated; and the Pasha had given the strictest injunctions to his troops that they should not commit excesses, as he well knew that the high-minded Arabians do not so quietly submit to ill-treatment as the enslaved Egyptians: whenever quarrels happened between Arabs and Turks, the former generally had the advantage. No avanies (or wanton act of oppression and injustice) had, under any pretence, been exercised upon individuals, except in the occupation of a few of the best houses by the Pasha as lodgings for his wives. The merchants suffered, however, as in the sherif’s time, from the arbitrary rates of customs, and from the necessity of frequently purchasing all kinds of merchandize from the Pasha, who, while he was in the Hedjaz, seemed to be as eager in his mercantile as he was in his military pursuits. But after an impartial view of the merits and demerits of both governments, it may be said that the people of Djidda have certainly gained by the Osmanlys; yet, strange to mention, not an Arab could be found, whether rich or poor, sincerely attached to his new masters; and the termination of the sherif’s government was universally regretted. This must not be attributed wholly to the usual levity of a mob, which is found among the subjects of the Porte, even in a greater degree than among those of any European nation. The Ottoman governors or Pashas are continually changing, and every new one becoming a supreme ruler, gives ample cause for complaints and private hatred and disgust; while their rapid succession inspires the people with the hope of being soon rid of their present despot, an event to which they look forward with pleasure, as the first months of a new governor are generally marked by clemency and justice.
The Arabians are a very proud, high-spirited nation; and this may be said even of those who inhabit the towns, however corrupted the true Bedouin character may be among this degenerate race. They despise every nation that does not speak the Arabic language, or that differs in manners; they have, besides, been accustomed, for many years, to look upon Turks as a very inferior people, who, whenever they entered the Hedjaz, were overawed by the power of the sherif. The rigid ceremonial of a Turkish court was not adapted to the character and established notions of Mohammed Aly’s new subjects. The sherif, in the height of his power, resembled a great Bedouin Sheikh, who submits to be boldly and often harshly addressed. A Turkish Pasha is approached with the most abject forms of servitude. “Whenever the Sherif Ghaleb wanted a loan of money,” observed one of the first merchants of the Hedjaz to me, “he sent for three or four of us; we sat in close discourse with him for a couple of hours, often quarrelling loudly, and we always reduced the sum to something much less than was at first demanded. When we went to him on ordinary business, we spoke to him as I now speak to you; but the Pasha keeps us standing before him in an humble attitude, like so many Habesh (Abyssinian) slaves, and looks down upon us as if we were beings of an inferior creation. I would rather,” he concluded, “pay a fine to the sherif than receive a favour from the Pasha.”
The little knowledge which the Turks possess of the Arabic language, their bad pronunciation of it even in reciting prayers from the Koran, the ignorance of Arabia and its peculiarities which they betray in every act, are so many additional causes to render them hateful or despicable in the eyes of the Arabs. The Turks return an equal share of contempt and dislike. Whoever does not speak the language of the Turkish soldier, or does not dress like one, is considered as a fellah, or boor, a term which they have been in the habit of applying to the Egyptian peasants, as beings in the lowest state of servitude and oppression. Their hatred of the Arabian race is greater, because they cannot indulge their tyrannical disposition with impunity, as they are accustomed to do in Egypt, being convinced by experience that an Arabian, when struck, will strike again. The Arabians particularly accuse the Turks of treachery, in seizing the sherif and sending him to Turkey after he had declared for the Pasha, and permitted Djidda and Mekka to be occupied by the Turkish troops, who, they assert, would never, without the assistance of the sherif, have been able to make any progress in Arabia, much less to acquire a firm footing therein.
The term khayn, “treacherous,” is universally applied to every Turk in Arabia, with that proud self-confidence of superiority, in this respect, for which the Arabs are deservedly renowned. The lower classes of the Arabs have discovered a fanciful confirmation of their charge against the Turks in one of the Grand Signor’s titles, Khán, an ancient Tatar word, which in Arabic signifies “he betrayed,” being the preterite of the verb ykhoun, “to betray.” They pretend that an ancestor of the Sultan having betrayed a fugitive, received the opprobrious appellation of “el Sultan Khán,” (“the Sultan has been treacherous;”) and that the title is merely retained by his successors from their ignorance of the Arabic language.
Whenever the power of the Turks in the Hedjaz declines, which it will when the resources of Egypt are no longer directed to that point by so able and so undisturbed a possessor of Egypt as Mohammed Ali, the Arabs will avenge themselves for the submission, light as it is, which they now reluctantly yield to their conquerors; and the reign of the Osmanlis in the Hedjaz will probably terminate in many a scene of bloodshed.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:48