I ARRIVED at Tayf about mid-day, and alighted at the house of Bosari, the Pasha’s physician, with whom I had been well acquainted at Cairo. As it was now the fast of Ramadhan, during which the Turkish grandees always sleep in the day-time, the Pasha could not be informed of my arrival till after sun-set. In the mean while, Bosari, after the usual Levantine assurances of his entire devotion to my interests, and of the sincerity of his friendship, asked me what were my views in coming to the Hedjaz. I answered, to visit Mekka and Medina, and then to return to Cairo. Of my intention respecting Egypt he seemed doubtful, begged me to be candid with him as with a friend, and to declare the truth, as he confessed that he suspected I was going to the East Indies. This I positively denied; and in the course of our conversation, he hinted that if I really meant to return to Egypt, I had better remain at head-quarters with them, till the Pasha himself should proceed to Cairo. Nothing was said about money, although Bosari was ignorant that my pecuniary wants had been relieved at Djidda.
In the evening Bosari went privately to the Pasha at his women’s residence, where he only received visits from friends or very intimate acquaintances. In half an hour he returned, and told me that the Pasha wished to see me rather late that evening in his public room. He added, that he found seated with the Pasha the Kadhy of Mekka, who was then at Tayf for his health; and that the former, when he heard of my desire to visit the holy cities, observed jocosely, “it is not the beard [I wore a beard at this time, as I did at Cairo, when the Pasha saw me.] alone which proves a man to be a true Moslem;” but turning towards the Kadhy, he said, “you are a better judge in such matters than I am.” The Kadhy then observed that, as none but a Moslem could be permitted to see the holy cities, a circumstance of which he could not possibly suppose me ignorant, he did not believe that I would declare myself to be one, unless I really was. When I learnt these particulars, I told Bosari that he might return alone to the Pasha; that my feelings had already been much hurt by the orders given to my guide not to carry me through Mekka; and that I certainly should not go to the Pasha’s public audience, if he would not receive me as a Turk.
Bosari was alarmed at this declaration, and in vain endeavoured to dissuade me from such a course, telling me that he had orders to conduct me to the Pasha, which he could not disobey. I however adhered firmly to what I had said, and he reluctantly went back to Mohammed Aly, whom he found alone, the Kadhy having left him. When Bosari delivered his message, the Pasha smiled, and answered that I was welcome, whether Turk or not. About eight o’clock in the evening I repaired to the castle, a miserable, half-ruined habitation of Sherif Ghaleb, dressed in the new suit which I had received at Djidda by the Pasha’s command. I found his highness seated in a large saloon, with the Kadhy on one hand, and Hassan Pasha, the chief of the Arnaut soldiers, on the other; thirty or forty of his principal officers formed a half-circle about the sofa on which they sat; and a number of Bedouin sheikhs were squatted in the midst of the semicircle. I went up to the Pasha, gave him the “Salam Aleykum,” and kissed his hand. He made a sign for me to sit down by the side of the Kadhy, then addressed me very politely, inquired after my health, and if there was any news from the Mamelouks in the Black country which I had visited; but said nothing whatever on the subject most interesting to me. Amyn Effendi, his Arabic dragoman, interpreted between us, as I do not speak Turkish, and the Pasha speaks Arabic very imperfectly. In about five minutes he renewed the business with the Bedouins, which I had interrupted. When this was terminated, and Hassan Pasha had left the room, every body was ordered to withdraw, except the Kadhy, Bosari, and myself. I expected now to be put to the proof, and I was fully prepared for it; but not a word was mentioned of my personal affairs, nor did Mohammed Aly, in any of our subsequent conversations, ever enter further into them than to hint that he was persuaded I was on my way to the East Indies. As soon as we were alone, the Pasha introduced the subject of politics. He had just received information of the entrance of the allies into Paris, and the departure of Bonaparte for Elba; and several Malta gazettes, giving the details of these occurrences, had been sent to him from Cairo. He seemed deeply interested in these important events, chiefly because he laboured under the impression that, after Bonaparte’s downfall, England would probably seek for an augmentation of power in the Mediterranean, and consequently invade Egypt.
After remaining for two or three hours with the Pasha in private conversation, either speaking Arabic to him, through the medium of the Kadhy, who, though a native of Constantinople, knew that language perfectly, or Italian, through Bosari, who was an Armenian, but had acquired a smattering of that tongue at Cairo, I took my leave, and the Pasha said that he expected me again on the morrow at the same hour.
August 29th. — I paid a visit to the Kadhy before sun-set, and found him with his companion and secretary, a learned man of Constantinople. The Kadhy Sádik Effendi was a true eastern courtier, of very engaging manners and address, possessing all that suavity of expression for which the well-bred natives of Stamboul are so distinguished. After we had interchanged a few complimentary phrases, I mentioned my astonishment on finding that the Pasha had expressed any doubts of my being a true Moslem, after I had now been a proselyte to that faith for so many years. He replied that Mohammed Aly had allowed that he (the Kadhy) was the best judge in such matters; and added, that he hoped we should become better acquainted with each other. He then began to question me about my Nubian travels. In the course of conversation literary subjects were introduced: he asked me what Arabic hooks I had read, and what commentaries on the Koran and on the law; and he probably found me better acquainted, with the titles, at least, of such works than he had expected, for we did not enter deeply into the subject. While we were thus conversing, the call to evening prayers announced the termination of this day’s fast. I supped with the Kadhy, and afterwards performed the evening prayers in his company, when I took great care to chaunt as long a chapter of the Koran as my memory furnished at the moment; after which we both went to the Pasha, who again sat up a part of the night in private conversation with me, chiefly on political affairs, without ever introducing the subject of my private business.
After another interview, I went every evening, first to the Kadhy, and then to the Pasha; but, notwithstanding a polite reception at the castle, I could perceive that my actions were closely watched. Bosari had asked me if I kept a journal; but I answered that the Hedjaz was not like Egypt, full of antiquities, and that in these barren mountains I saw nothing worthy of notice. I was never allowed to be alone for a moment, and I had reason to suspect that Bosari, with all his assurances of friendship, was nothing better than a spy. To remain at Tayf for an indeterminate period, in the situation I now found myself, was little desirable; yet I could not guess the Pasha’s intentions with respect to me. I was evidently considered in no other light than as a spy sent to this country by the English government, to ascertain its present state, and report upon it in the East Indies. This, I presume, was the Pasha’s own opinion: he knew me as an Englishman, a name which I assumed during my travels (I hope without any discredit to that country), whenever it seemed necessary to appear as an European; because at that time none but the subjects of England and France enjoyed in the East any real security: they were considered as too well protected, both by their governments at home and their ministers at Constantinople, to be trifled with by provincial governors. The Pasha, moreover, supposed me to be a man of some rank, for every Englishman travelling in the East is styled “My lord;” and he was the more convinced of this by a certain air of dignity which it was necessary for me to assume in a Turkish court, where modesty of behaviour and affability are quite out of place. Afraid as he then was of Great Britain, he probably thought it imprudent to treat me ill, though he did nothing whatever to forward my projects. As far as he knew, I could have only the five hundred piastres which he had ordered for me at Djidda, and which were not sufficient to pay my expenses for any length of time in the Hedjaz. Nothing was said to me either by him or Bosari of taking my bill upon Cairo, as I had requested him to do; but this favour I did not again solicit, having money enough for the present, and expecting a fresh supply from Egypt.
To remain for any length of time at Tayf, in a sort of polite imprisonment, was little to my taste; yet I could not press my departure without increasing his suspicions. This was manifest after my first interview with the Pasha and the Kadhy, and I knew that the reports of Bosari might considerably influence the mind of Mohammed. Under these circumstances, I thought the best course was to make Bosari tired of me, and thus induce him involuntarily to forward my views. I therefore began to act at his house with all the petulance of an Osmanly. It being the Ramadhan, I fasted during the day, and at night demanded a supper apart; early on the following morning I called for an abundant breakfast, before the fast recommenced. I appropriated to myself the best room which his small house afforded; and his servants were kept in constant attendance upon me. Eastern hospitality forbids all resentment for such behaviour; I was, besides, a great man, and on a visit to the Pasha. In my conversations with Bosari, I assured him that I felt myself most comfortably situated at Tayf, and that its climate agreed perfectly with my health; and I betrayed no desire of quitting the place for the present. To maintain a person in my character for any length of time at Tayf, where provisions of all kinds were much dearer than in London, was a matter of no small moment; and a petulant guest is everywhere disagreeable. The design, I believe, succeeded perfectly; and Bosari endeavoured to persuade the Pasha that I was a harmless being, in order that I might be the sooner dismissed.
I had been six days at Tayf, but seldom went out, except to the castle in the evening, when Bosari asked whether my business with the Pasha was likely to prevent me much longer from pursuing my travels, and visiting Mekka. I replied that I had no business with the Pasha, though I had come to Tayf at his desire; but that my situation was very agreeable to me, possessing so warm and generous a friend as he, my host. The next day he renewed the subject, and remarked that it must be tiresome to live entirely among soldiers, without any comforts or amusements, unacquainted besides, as I was, with the Turkish language. I assented to this; but added, that being ignorant of the Pasha’s wishes, I could determine on nothing. This brought him to the point I wished. “This being the case,” said he, “I will, if you like, speak to his Highness on the subject.” He did so in the evening, before I went to the castle; and the Pasha told me, in the course of conversation, that as he understood I wished to pass the last days of Ramadhan at Mekka, (a suggestion originating with Bosari,) I had better join the party of the Kadhy, who was going there to the feast, and who would be very glad of my company. This was precisely such a circumstance as I wished for. The departure of the Kadhy was fixed for the 7th of September, and I hired two asses, the usual mode of conveyance in this country, in order to follow him.
As it was my intention to proceed afterwards to Medina, where Tousoun Pasha, the son of Mohammed Aly, was governor, I begged Bosari to ask the Pasha for a firman or passport, authorising me to travel through all the Hedjaz, together with a letter of recommendation to his son. In reply, Bosari told me that the Pasha did not like to interfere personally in my travels; that I might act as I pleased, on my own responsibility; and that my knowledge of the language rendered a passport unnecessary. This was equivalent to telling me, “Do what you please; I shall neither obstruct nor facilitate your projects,” which, indeed, was as much, at present, as I could well expect or desire.
On the 6th of September I took my leave of the Pasha, who told me at parting, that if ever my travels should carry me to India, I might assure the English people there that he was much attached to the interests of the India trade. Early on the 7th the Kadhy sent me word that he should not set out till evening, would travel during the night, and hoped to meet me at Djebel Kora, midway to Mekka. I therefore left Tayf alone, as I had entered it, after a residence of ten days. At parting, Bosari assured me of his inviolable attachment to my interest; and I blessed my good stars, when I left the precincts of the town, and the residence of a Turkish court, in which I found it more difficult to avoid danger, than among the wild Bedouins of Nubia.
During my stay at Tayf, I had five or six interviews with the Pasha; and the following extracts from my journal will show the general result of what passed between us on those different occasions:—
Q. Sheikh Ibrahim, I hope you are well. A. Perfectly well, and most happy to have the honour of seeing you again. Q. You have travelled much since I saw you at Cairo. How far did you advance into the negro country?
To this question I replied, by giving a short account of my journey in Nubia.
Q. Tell me, how are the Mamelouks at Dongola?
I related what the reader will find in my Nubian Travels.
Q. I understand that you treated with two of the Mamelouk Beys at Ibrim; was it so?
The word treated (if the dragoman rightly translated the Turkish word), startled me very much; for the Pasha, while he was in Egypt, had heard that, on my journey towards Dongola, I had met two Mamelouk Beys at Derr; and as he still suspected that the English secretly favoured the Mamelouk interest, he probably thought that I had been the bearer of some message to them from government. I therefore assured him that my meeting with the two Beys was quite accidental that the unpleasant reception which I experienced at Mahass was on their account; and that I entertained fears of their designs against my life. With this explanation the Pasha seemed satisfied.
Q. Let us only settle matters here with the Wahabys, and I shall soon be able to get rid of the Mamelouks. How many soldiers do you think are necessary for subduing the country as far as Senaar? A. Five hundred men, good troops, might reach that point, but could not keep possession of the country; and the expenses would scarcely be repaid by the booty. Q. What do those countries afford?
A. Camels and slaves; and, towards Senaar, gold, brought from Abyssinia; but all this is the property of individuals. The chiefs or kings in those countries do not possess any riches. Q. In what state are the roads from Egypt to Senaar? A. I described the road between Asouan and Shendy, and from Souakin to the same place. Q. How did you pass your time among the Blacks? A. I related some laughable stories, with which he seemed greatly amused. Q. And now, Sheikh Ibrahim, where do you mean to go? A. I wish to perform the Hadj, return to Cairo, and then proceed to visit Persia. —(I did not think it advisable to mention my design of returning into the interior of Africa.) Q. May God render the way smooth before you! but I think it folly and madness to travel so much. What, let me ask, is the result of your last journey? A. Men’s lives are predestined; we all obey our fate. For myself, I enjoy great pleasure in exploring new and unknown countries, and becoming acquainted with different races of people. I am induced to undertake journies by the private satisfaction that travelling affords, and I care little about personal fatigue. Q. Have you heard of the news from Europe? A. Only some vague reports at Djidda.
The Pasha then gave me an account of the events which ended in Bonaparte’s banishment to Elba, after the entrance of the allies into Paris. Bonaparte, he said, behaved like a coward; he ought to have sought for death, rather than expose himself in a cage to the laughter of the universe. The Europeans, he said, are as treacherous as the Osmanlys; all Bonaparte’s confidants abandoned him — all his generals, who owed to him their fortunes.
He was eager in his inquiries about the political relations between Great Britain and Russia, and whether it was not likely that war might break out between them, on account of the hostile intentions of the latter towards the Porte. (On this point he had received false intelligence.) His only fear seemed to be that the English army, which had been employed in the south of France, and in Spain, would now be at liberty to invade Egypt. “The great fish swallow the small,” he said; “and Egypt is necessary to England, in supplying corn to Malta and Gibraltar.” I reasoned with him in vain on this subject, and perceived that the dragoman did not always interpret my answers correctly, from the fear of contradicting the well-known opinions of his master. These opinions, indeed, were deeply rooted, and had been fostered by the French mission in Egypt. “I am the friend of the English,” he continued. (This addressed by a Turk to a Christian, means only that he fears him, or wants his money.) “But to tell you the truth, among great men we see many compliments, and very little sincerity. My hope is, that they will not fall upon Egypt during my stay in the Hedjaz; if I am there myself, I shall at least have the satisfaction of fighting personally for my dominions. Of the Sultan I am not afraid, (this he repeatedly asserted, but I much doubt his sincerity,) and I shall know how to outwit him in all his measures. An army from Syria can never attack Egypt by land in very large bodies, from the want of camels; and separate corps are easily destroyed as soon as they have passed the desert.”
I took the liberty of telling him that he was like a young man in possession of a beautiful girl; although sure of her affection, he would always be jealous of every stranger. “You say well,” he replied. “I certainly love Egypt with all the ardour of a lover; and if I had ten thousand souls, I would willingly sacrifice them for its possession.”
He asked me in what state I had found Upper Egypt; and whether his son Ibrahim Pasha (the governor) was liked there. I replied, in the language of truth, that all the chiefs of villages hated him (for he had compelled them to abandon their despotic treatment of their fellow-peasants); but that the peasants themselves were much attached to him. (The fact is, that instead of being oppressed, as formerly, by the Mamelouk Beys and Kashefs, as well as by their own Sheikhs, they have at present only one tyrant, the Pasha himself, who keeps his governors of districts in perfect order.)
Mohammed Aly wished to know my opinion respecting the number of troops necessary for defending Egypt against a foreign army. I answered, that I knew nothing of war, but from what I had read in books. “No, no;” he exclaimed, “you travellers always have your eyes open, and you inquire after every thing.” He persisted in his question; and being thus forced to reply, I said that twenty-five thousand chosen troops would probably be able to resist any attack. “I have now thirty-three thousand,” said he — a false assertion, for I am quite certain that he had at that time not more than sixteen thousand men, dispersed over Egypt and the Hedjaz.
He would next explain to me the Nizam Djedyd, or new system of discipline and military regulations He said it was only the avidity of the chiefs, and not the dislike of the common soldiers, that obstructed the institution of a well-organised army in Turkey, and opposed the mustering necessary to prevent the officers from imposing on the public treasury. “But I shall make a regular corps of negro soldiers,” he added. This his predecessor Khurshid Pasha had attempted, but with little success. The subject of the Nizam Djedyd was resumed as soon as Mohammed Aly returned to Egypt from this expedition; but the revolt of his soldiers, who plundered his own capital, obliged him to abandon the undertaking, which had been badly planned. In the defence of Egypt, he said, he should principally use his cavalry and horseartillery; the former should destroy all the provisions in advance of the enemy, as the Russians had lately done; and the latter would harass them on all sides, without ever attempting to make a stand.
During my stay at Tayf, letters arrived from Constantinople, across the Desert, by way of Damascus, bringing to the Pasha a Turkish translation of the treaty of peace concluded at Paris. After having read it several times, he ordered his Turkish writer to explain it to me in Arabic, word for word. This occupied us in a private apartment several hours. I then returned to the audience, and was desired by the Pasha to tell him my opinion of the treaty. Referring to a Turkish atlas, copied from European maps, and printed at Constantinople, he made me point out to him the new limits of Belgium, the islands Mauritius and Tobago, the position of Genoa, &c. &c. With respect to the latter place, a curious mistake occurred. It had been stated to me that Genoa was ceded to the Swedes, which I could not credit. Upon inquiry, I found that Geneva and Switzerland were meant; a town and country which, I am sorry to say, were not comprised in the geographical knowledge of a Turkish viceroy. The mistake, however, was easily made; for in Turkish, Geneva is written like Genoua, and Sweden is pronounced Shwit.
The Pasha observed that much yet remained to be done, before all differences between the parties could be settled; and I clearly saw how impatiently he looked forward to a war among the European powers, which would relieve him from any apprehensions for his own safety, and at the same time occasion a great demand for corn at Alexandria.
With respect to Bonaparte, he seemed quite certain that the English would one day seize him in Elba. “Have the English, then,” he exclaimed, “fought for nothing these twenty years? They have only got Malta, and a few other islands!” He was impressed with the fear that there were secret articles in the peace, which assigned to them the possession of Egypt. The notion of their having re-established the balance of power in Europe, and secured their own safety and independence, did not enter into his mind. “They should not leave Spain,” he continued, “without being handsomely paid by the Spaniards; and why now abandon Sicily?” That the English were guided in their policy by the laws of honour, and a sense of the general good of Europe, he could not comprehend. “A great king,” he exclaimed, with much warmth, “knows nothing but his sword and his purse; he draws the one to fill the other; there is no honour among conquerors!”— a frank avowal of the sentiments which guide even the most petty of the Turkish rulers.
Mohammed Aly had some notions of the English parliament; the name of Wellington was familiar to him. “He was a great general,” he said; but he doubted whether, if his Lordship had commanded such bad soldiers as the Turkish troops are, he would have been able to do with them as much as he (the Pasha) had done in conquering Egypt and the Hedjaz. He betrayed great anxiety about the fate and future possession of Corfu and the Seven Islands. On the one hand, he wished the Russians to make war on the Porte, and to drive the Sultan out of Europe; on the other, he feared that, if the Russians should seize Turkey in Europe, the English would not remain quiet spectators, but would take their share of the Turkish empire, which he was firmly persuaded would be no other than the province of Egypt.
I am still ignorant of the Pasha’s real opinion concerning my sincerity in professing the Mohammedan faith. He certainly treated me as a muselman, and I flattered myself that the boldness of my conduct at Tayf had convinced him that I was a true proselyte. As to the Kadhy, who was a shrewd Constantinopolitan, most people supposed that the Porte had sent him to watch the proceedings of Mohammed Aly, and give information accordingly to the Sultan; and it struck me that his behaviour towards myself was connected with an intention of accusing the Pasha, on his return to Constantinople, of having protected a Christian in his visit to the holy cities, a crime which would be considered unpardonable in a Pasha. Mohammed Aly, after his return to Cairo,
(where, contrary to his expectations, he again found me, and where I only saw him once,) took frequent opportunities, and indeed seemed anxious, to convince Mr. Salt and Mr. Lee, His Majesty’s and the Levant Company’s consuls, as well as several English travellers of note who passed through Cairo, that he knew perfectly well, in the Hedjaz, that I was no Moslem, but that his friendship for the English nation made him overlook the circumstance, and permit me to impose upon the Kadhy. He entertained a notion, suggested to him by some of his Frank counsellors at Cairo, that, in some future account of my travels, I might perhaps boast of having imposed upon him, like Aly Bey el Abassi, whose work had just been received at Cairo, and who declares that he deceived not only the Pasha, but all the olemas, or learned men, of Cairo. To Mohammed Aly it was of more consequence not to be thought a fool than a bad muselman.
Notwithstanding these declarations of the Pasha to the English gentlemen, which were made in private, and certainly were not occasioned by any imprudent speeches of mine, I continued to live, after my return to Cairo, without molestation, as a Moslem, in the Turkish quarter. I have to thank him for his polite reception of me at Tayf, and for his having thrown no obstacles in the way of my travels through the Hedjaz.
I was at Mekka in December, and at Medina in the April following, when the Pasha was at both places; but I did not think it necessary or advisable to wait upon him at either place, where I was otherwise wholly unknown. My practice in travelling has been to live as retired as possible; and, except during my short visit to Tayf, where circumstances forced me to appear somewhat conspicuously, I was known only in the Hedjaz as a hadjy, or pilgrim, a private gentleman from Egypt, one with whom no person was acquainted but the few officers of the Pasha whom I had seen at Tayf.
My information respecting Tayf is very scanty, and was not committed to paper until after I had left the town. I was never suffered to be alone during my stay there. I had no acquaintances from whom much could be learned; and during the fast of Ramadhan, few individuals of the higher classes, among whom I lived, stir out of their houses in the day-time.
The town of Tayf is situated in the midst of a sandy plain, about four hours in circuit, overgrown with shombs, and encompassed by low mountains, called Djebal Ghazoan. These are subordinate ridges of the great chain, which, continuing for four or five hours farther east, are then lost in the plain. Tayf is an irregular square, of thirty-five minutes quick walking in circumference; it is inclosed with a wall and a ditch, newly constructed by Othman el Medhayfe. The wall has three gates, and is defended by several towers; but it is much less solid than the walls of Djidda, Medina, and Yembo, being in few places more than eighteen inches thick. On the west side, within the town, and forming a part of its wall, stands the castle, upon a rocky elevated site. It was built by Sherif Ghaleb, and has no claim to the title of a castle, except that it is larger than the other buildings in the town, and that its stone walls are stronger. Though it is now half ruined, Mohammed Aly had made this castle his headquarters. The houses of the town are mostly small, but well built with stone: the sitting-rooms are on the upper floor; at least I saw no saloons on the ground-floor, as usual in Turkey. The streets are broader than those in most eastern towns. The only public place is in front of the castle, a large open space which serves for a market.
At present, Tayf may be described as in a state of ruin, for but few houses are in complete repair. Many of the buildings were destroyed by the Wahabys, when they took the town, in 1802; and as it has been almost abandoned since that period, every thing is hastening to decay. I saw two small mosques; the best, that of the Henoud, or Indians. The tomb of El Abbas, which had a good dome over it, and was often visited by pilgrims, has been entirely destroyed by the Wahabys. Excepting four or five buildings, now inhabited by the principal officers of the Pasha, I saw none above the most common size.
Tayf is supplied with water from two copious wells, one of which is within the walls, and the other just before one of the gates. The water is well-tasted, but heavy. The town is celebrated all over Arabia for its beautiful gardens; but these are situated at the foot of the mountains which encircle the sandy plain. I did not see any gardens, nor even a single tree within the walls; and the immediate neighbourhood is entirely destitute of verdure, which renders a residence here as melancholy as in any other city of Arabia. The nearest gardens appeared to be on the S.W. side, at the distance of about half or three quarters of an hour: on that side also stands a deserted suburb, separated from the town, with some date-trees among its ruins; it was abandoned long before the invasion of the Wahabys.
I did not visit any of the gardens. In some of them are small pavilions, where the people of Tayf pass their festive hours; the most noted of them are Wady Methna, Wady Selame, and Wady Shemal. The gardens are watered by wells and by rivulets, which descend from the mountains. Numerous fruit-trees are found here, together with fields of wheat and barley. The fruits which I tasted at Tayf were grapes of a very large size and delicious flavour, figs, quinces, and pomegranates; but all the other sorts mentioned at Djebel Kora are likewise found here. The gardens of Tayf are renowned also for the abundance of their roses, which, like the grapes, are transported to all parts of the Hedjaz. To these gardens all the great merchants of Mekka formerly retired in summer; and here the Sherif himself often passed a part of the hot season: they had all their houses and establishments here, and therefore lost considerable property, when Tayf was plundered by the Wahabys.
The indigenous inhabitants of Tayf are Arabs, of the tribe of Thekyf, [Of the Thekyf tribes are El Hamde, Beni Mohammed, and Themale. — Vide Assamy.] who have become settlers: in their possession are all the gardens adjoining the town, and most of the provision-shops within its walls. A few Mekkawys are also settled here, but the far greater part of the foreigners are Indians by origin. As at Djidda, these people, although born in Arabia, and in some instances established here for several generations, still preserve the dress and manners of the Indian Muselmans: some of them are merchants; but the greater part are druggists, whose trade is of much more importance in the Hedjaz than in other countries, from the general predilection of all classes for drugs, perfumes, &c. There are, I believe, no wholesale merchants in Tayf; I counted in all about fifty shops. Before the Wahaby invasion, this was a commercial town, to which the Arabs of the country around, at the distance of many days’ journey, resorted, that they might purchase articles of dress; while those of the mountains brought caravans of wheat and barley: it was also a considerable entrepôt for coffee, brought on camels from the mountains of Yemen by Bedouins, who thus eluded the heavy duties levied in the harbours of the Arabian coast. Every thing denotes great misery in the town. At present, the only imports from the interior are dates, brought by the Ateybe Arabs from the many fruitful plantations in their territory. The principal streets abound with beggars, amongst whom are many Indians, who must often be exposed to perish from absolute hunger; for, during my residence, it required at least two piastres, (which, according to the actual exchange, was equal to about one-sixth of a dollar, or ten-pence) to procure bread enough for a man’s daily subsistence. Caravans of provisions arrived every week, but the want of camels did not allow of a sufficient importation from the coast to lower the price of food; and although the common class lived principally upon dates, and thus consumed none of the provisions brought hither from Mekka; yet I learned from good authority that there was only a supply for ten days in Tayf for the Turkish army.
In the time of the Sherif, this town was governed by an officer of his appointment, named Hakem, himself a sherif, and who narrowly escaped the sword of the Wahabys. He has been restored to his office by Mohammed Aly; but it is at present merely honorary. Several sherif families of Mekka are settled here; and the mode of living, the dress, and manners, appear to be the same as at Mekka; but I had few opportunities of making observations on this subject.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:05