The author is Lieutenant, now Commander, WILLIAM BARKER of the Indian Navy, one of the travellers who accompanied Sir William Cornwallis, then Captain, Harris on his mission to the court of Shoa. His services being required by the Bombay Government, he was directed by Captain Harris, on October 14th, 1841, to repair to the coast via Harar, by a road “hitherto untrodden by Europeans.” These pages will reward perusal as a narrative of adventure, especially as they admirably show what obstacles the suspicious characters and the vain terrors of the Bedouins have thrown in the way of energy and enterprise.
“Aden, February 28, 1842.
“Shortly after I had closed my last communication to Captain Harris of the Bombay Engineers on special duty at the Court of Shoa (14. Jan. 1842), a report arrived at Allio Amba that Demetrius, an Albanian who had been for ten years resident in the Kingdom of Shoa, and who had left it for Tajoorah, accompanied by “Johannes,” another Albanian, by three Arabs, formerly servants of the Embassy, and by several slaves, had been murdered by the Bedoos (Bedouins) near Murroo. This caused a panic among my servants. I allayed it with difficulty, but my interpreter declared his final intention of deserting me, as the Hurruri caravan had threatened to kill him if he persisted in accompanying me. Before proceeding farther it may be as well to mention that I had with me four servants, one a mere lad, six mules and nine asses to carry my luggage and provisions.
“I had now made every arrangement, having, as the Wallasena Mahomed Abugas suggested, purchased a fine horse and a Tobe for my protector and guide, Datah Mahomed of the clan Seedy Habroo, a subtribe of the Debeneh. It was too late to recede: accordingly at an early hour on Saturday, the 15th January, 1842, I commenced packing, and about 8 A.M. took my departure from the village of Allio Amba. I had spent there a weary three months, and left it with that mixture of pleasure and regret felt only by those who traverse unknown and inhospitable regions. I had made many friends, who accompanied me for some distance on the road, and took leave of me with a deep feeling which assured me of their sympathy. Many endeavoured to dissuade me from the journey, but my lot was cast.
“About five miles from Allio, I met the nephew of the Wallasena, who accompanied me to Farri, furnished me with a house there, and ordered my mules and asses to be taken care of. Shortly after my arrival the guide, an old man, made his appearance and seemed much pleased by my punctuality.
“At noon, on Sunday the 16th, the Wallasena arrived, and sent over his compliments, with a present of five loaves of bread. I called upon him in the evening, and reminded him of the letter he had promised me; he ordered it to be prepared, taking for copy the letter which the king (Sahala Salassah of Shoa) had given to me.
“My guide having again promised to forward me in safety, the Wallasena presented him with a spear, a shield, and a Tobe, together with the horse and the cloth which I had purchased for him. About noon on Monday the 17th, we quitted Farri with a slave-caravan bound for Tajoorah. I was acquainted with many of these people, the Wallasena also recommended me strongly to the care of Mahomed ibn Buraitoo and Dorranu ibn Kamil. We proceeded to Datharal, the Wallasena and his nephew having escorted me as far as Denehmelli, where they took leave. I found the Caffilah to consist of fifteen Tajoorians, and about fifty camels laden with provisions for the road, fifty male and about twenty female slaves, mostly children from eight to ten years of age. My guide had with him five camels laden with grain, two men and two women.
“The Ras el Caffilah (chief of the caravan) was one Ibrahim ibn Boorantoo, who it appears had been chief of the embassy caravan, although Essakh (Ishak) gave out that he was. It is certain that this man always gave orders for pitching the camp and for loading; but we being unaware of the fact that he was Ras el Caffilah, he had not received presents on the arrival of the Embassy at Shoa. Whilst unloading the camels, the following conversation took place. ‘Ya Kabtan!’ (0 Captain) said he addressing me with a sneer, ‘where are you going to? — do you think the Bedoos will let you pass through their country? We shall see! Now I will tell you! — you Feringis have treated me very ill! — you loaded Essakh and others with presents, but never gave me anything. I have, as it were, a knife in my stomach which is continually cutting me — this knife you have placed there! But, inshallah! it is now my turn! I will be equal with you! — you think of going to Hurrur — we shall see!’ I replied, ‘You know me not! It is true I was ignorant that you were Ras el Caffilah on our way to Shoa. You say you have a knife cutting your inside — I can remove that knife! Those who treat me well, now that I am returning to my country, shall be rewarded; for, the Lord be praised! there I have the means of repaying my friends, but in Shoa I am a beggar. Those that treat me ill shall also receive their reward.’
“My mules, being frightened at the sight of the camels, were exceedingly restive; one of them strayed and was brought back by Deeni ibn Hamed, a young man who was indebted to me for some medicines and a trifling present which he had received from the embassy. Ibrahim, the Ras el Caffilah, seeing him lead it back, called out, ‘So you also have become servant to the Kafir (infidel)!’ At the same time Datah Mahomed, the guide, addressed to me some remark which he asked Ibrahim to explain; the latter replied in a sarcastic manner in Arabic, a language with which I am unacquainted.1 This determined hostility on the part of the Ras el Caffilah was particularly distressing to me, as I feared he would do me much mischief. I therefore determined to gain him over to my interests, and accordingly, taking Deeni on one side, I promised him a handsome present if he would take an opportunity of explaining to Ibrahim that he should be well rewarded if he behaved properly, and at the same time that if he acted badly, that a line or two sent to Aden would do him harm. I also begged him to act as my interpreter as long as we were together, and he cheerfully agreed to do so.
“We were on the point of resuming our journey on Tuesday the 18th, when it was found that the mule of the el Caffilah had strayed. After his conduct on the preceding evening, he was ashamed to come to me, but he deputed one of the caravan people to request the loan of one of my mules to go in quest of his. I gave him one readily. We were detained that day as the missing animal was not brought back till late. Notwithstanding my civility, I observed him in close conversation with Datah Mahomed, about the rich presents which the Feringis had given to Essakh and others, and I frequently observed him pointing to my luggage in an expressive manner. Towards evening the guide came to me and said, ‘My son! I am an old man, my teeth are bad, I cannot eat this parched grain — I see you eat bread. Now we are friends, you must give me some of it!’ I replied that several times after preparing for the journey, I had been disappointed and at last started on a short notice — that I was but scantily supplied with provisions, and had a long journey before me: notwithstanding which I was perfectly willing that he should share with me what I had as long as it lasted, and that as he was a great chief, I expected that he would furnish me with a fresh supply on arriving at his country. He then said, ‘it is well! but why did you not buy me a mule instead of a horse?’ My reply was that I had supposed that the latter would be more acceptable to him. I divided the night into three watches: my servants kept the first and middle, and I myself the morning.
“We quitted Dattenab, the frontier station, at about 7 o’clock A.M., on Wednesday the 19th. The country at this season presented a more lively appearance than when we travelled over it before, grass being abundant: on the trees by the roadside was much gum Acacia, which the Caffilah people collected as they passed. I was pleased to remark that Ibrahim was the only person ill-disposed towards me, the rest of the travellers were civil and respectful. At noon we halted under some trees by the wayside. Presently we were accosted by six Bedoos of the Woemah tribe who were travelling from Keelulho to Shoa: they informed us that Demetrius had been plundered and stripped by the Takyle tribe, that one Arab and three male slaves had been slain, and that another Arab had fled on horseback to the Etoh (Ittu) Gallas, whence nothing more had been heard of him: the rest of the party were living under the protection of Shaykh Omar Buttoo of the Takyle. The Bedoos added that plunderers were lying in wait on the banks of the river Howash for the white people that were about to leave Shoa. The Ras el Caffilah communicated to me this intelligence, and concluded by saying: ‘Now, if you wish to return, I will take you back, but if you say forward, let us proceed!’ I answered, ‘Let us proceed!’ I must own that the intelligence pleased me not; two of my servants were for returning, but they were persuaded to go on to the next station, where we would be guided by circumstances. About 2 o’clock P.M. we again proceeded, after a long “Cullam” or talk, which ended in Datah Mahomed sending for assistance to a neighbouring tribe. During a conversation with the Ras el Caffilah, I found out that the Bedoos were lying in wait, not for the white people, but for our caravan. It came out that these Bedouins had had the worst of a quarrel with the last Caffilah from Tajoorah: they then threatened to attack it in force on its return. The Ras el Caffilah was assured that as long as we journeyed together, I should consider his enemies my enemies, and that being well supplied with firearms, I would assist him on all occasions. This offer pleased him, and we became more friendly. We passed several deserted villages of the Bedoos, who had retired for want of water towards the Wadys, and about 7 o’clock P.M. halted at the lake Leadoo.
“On the morning of Thursday the 20th, Datah Mahomed came to me and delivered himself though Deeni as follows: ‘My son! our father the Wallasena entrusted you to my care, we feasted together in Gouchoo — you are to me as the son of my house! Yesterday I heard that the Bedoos were waiting to kill, but fear not, for I have sent to the Seedy Habroo for some soldiers, who will be here soon. Now these soldiers are sent for on your account; they will want much cloth, but you are a sensible person, and will of course pay them well. They will accompany us beyond the Howash!’ I replied,’ It is true, the Wallasena entrusted me to your care. He also told me that you were a great chief, and could forward me on my journey. I therefore did not prepare a large supply of cloth — a long journey is before me — what can be spared shall be freely given, but you must tell the soldiers that I have but little. You are now my father!’
“Scarcely had I ceased when the soldiers, fine stout-looking savages, armed with spear, shield, and crease, mustering about twenty-five, made their appearance. It was then 10 A.M. The word was given to load the camels, and we soon moved forward. I found my worthy protector exceedingly good-natured and civil, dragging on my asses and leading my mules. Near the Howash we passed several villages, in which I could not but remark the great proportion of children. At about 3 P.M. we forded the river, which was waist-deep, and on the banks of which were at least 3000 head of horned cattle. Seeing no signs of the expected enemy, we journeyed on till 5 P.M., when we halted at the south-eastern extremity of the Howash Plain, about one mile to the eastward of a small pool of water.
“At daylight on Friday the 21st it was discovered that Datah Mahomed’s horse had disappeared. This was entirely his fault; my servants had brought it back when it strayed during the night, but he said, ‘Let it feed, it will not run away!’ When I condoled with him on the loss of so noble an animal, he replied, ‘I know very well who has taken it: one of my cousins asked me for it yesterday, and because I refused to give it he has stolen it; never mind, Inshallah! I will steal some of his camels.’ After a ‘Cullam’ about what was to be given to our worthy protectors, it was settled that I should contribute three cloths and the Caffilah ten; receiving these, they departed much satisfied. Having filled our water-skins, we resumed our march a little before noon. Several herds of antelope and wild asses appeared on the way. At 7 P.M. we halted near Hano. Prevented from lighting a fire for fear of the Galla, I was obliged to content myself with some parched grain, of which I had prepared a large supply.
“At sunrise on the 22nd we resumed our journey, the weather becoming warm and the grass scanty. At noon we halted near Shaykh Othman. I was glad to find that Deeni had succeeded in converting the Ras el Caffilah from an avowed enemy to a staunch friend, at least outwardly so; he has now become as civil and obliging as he was before the contrary. There being no water at this station, I desired my servant Adam not to make any bread, contenting myself with the same fare as that of the preceding evening. This displeasing Datah Mahomed, some misunderstanding arose, which, from their ignorance of each other’s language, might, but for the interference of the Ras el Caffilah and Deeni, have led to serious results. An explanation ensued, which ended in Datah Mahomed seizing me by the beard, hugging and embracing me in a manner truly unpleasant. I then desired Adam to make him some bread and coffee, and harmony was once more restored. This little disturbance convinced me that if once left among these savages without any interpreter, that I should be placed in a very dangerous situation. The Ras el Caffilah also told me that unless he saw that the road was clear for me to Hurrur, and that there was no danger to be apprehended, that he could not think of leaving me, but should take me with him to Tajoorah. He continued, ‘You know not the Emir of Hurrur: when he hears of your approach he will cause you to be waylaid by the Galla. Why not come with me to Tajoorah? If you fear being in want of provisions we have plenty, and you shall share all we have!’ I was much surprised at this change of conduct on the part of the Ras el Caffilah, and by way of encouraging him to continue friendly, spared not to flatter him, saying it was true I did not know him before, but now I saw he was a man of excellent disposition. At three P.M. we again moved forward. Grass became more abundant; in some places it was luxuriant and yet green. We halted at eight P.M. The night was cold with a heavy dew, and there being no fuel, I again contented myself with parched grain.
“At daylight on the 23rd we resumed our march. Datah Mahomed asked for two mules, that he and his friend might ride forward to prepare for my reception at his village. I lent him the animals, but after a few minutes he returned to say that I had given him the two worst, and he would not go till I dismounted and gave him the mule which I was riding. About noon we arrived at the lake Toor Erain Murroo, where the Bedouins were in great numbers watering their flocks and herds, at least 3000 head of horned cattle and sheep innumerable. Datah Mahomed, on my arrival, invited me to be seated under the shade of a spreading tree, and having introduced me to his people as his guest and the friend of the Wallasena, immediately ordered some milk, which was brought in a huge bowl fresh and warm from the cow; my servants were similarly provided. During the night Adam shot a fox, which greatly astonished the Bedouins, and gave them even more dread of our fire-arms. Hearing that Demetrius and his party, who had been plundered of everything, were living at a village not far distant, I offered to pay the Ras el Caffilah any expense he might be put to if he would permit them to accompany our caravan to Tajoorah. He said that he had no objection to their joining the Caffilah, but that he had been informed their wish was to return to Shoa. I had a long conversation with the Ras, who begged of me not to go to Hurrur; ‘for,’ he said, ‘it is well known that the Hurruri caravan remained behind solely on your account. You will therefore enter the town, should you by good fortune arrive there at all, under unfavourable circumstances. I am sure that the Emir2, who may receive you kindly, will eventually do you much mischief, besides which these Bedouins will plunder you of all your property.’ The other people of the caravan, who are all my friends, also spoke in the same strain. This being noted as a bad halting place, all kept watch with us during the night.
“The mules and camels having had their morning feed, we set out at about 10 A.M. on Monday the 24th for the village of Datah Mahomed, he having invited the Caffilah’s people and ourselves to partake of his hospitality and be present at his marriage festivities. The place is situated about half a mile to the E. N. E. of the lake; it consists of about sixty huts, surrounded by a thorn fence with separate enclosures for the cattle. The huts are formed of curved sticks, with their ends fastened in the ground, covered with mats, in shape approaching to oval, about five feet high, fifteen feet long, and eight broad. Arrived at the village, we found the elders seated under the shade of a venerable Acacia feasting; six bullocks were immediately slaughtered for the Caffilah and ourselves. At sunset a camel was brought out in front of the building and killed — the Bedoos are extremely fond of this meat. In the evening I had a long conversation with Datah Mahomed, who said, ‘My son! you have as yet given me nothing. The Wallasena gave me everything. My horse has been stolen — I want a mule and much cloth.’ Deeni replied for me that the mules were presents from the king (Sahala Salassah) to the Governor of Aden: this the old man would not believe. I told him that I had given him the horse and Tobe, but he exclaimed, ‘No, no! my son; the Wallasena is our father; he told me that he had given them to me, and also that you would give me great things when you arrived at my village. My son! the Wallasena would not lie.’ Datah was then called away.
“Early on the morning of Tuesday the 25th, Datah Mahomed invited me and the elders of the Caffilah to his hut, where he supplied us liberally with milk; clarified butter was then handed round, and the Tajoorians anointed their bodies. After we had left his hut, he came to me, and in presence of the Ras el Caffilah and Deeni said, ‘You see I have treated you with great honour, you must give me a mule and plenty of cloth, as all my people want cloth. You have given me nothing as yet!’ Seeing that I became rather angry, and declared solemnly that I had given him the horse and Tobe, he smiled and said, ‘I know that, but I want a mule, my horse has been stolen.’— I replied that I would see about it. He then asked for all my blue cloth and my Arab ‘Camblee’ (blanket). My portmanteau being rather the worse for wear — its upper leather was torn — he thrust in his fingers, and said, with a most avaricious grin, ‘What have you here?’ I immediately arose and exclaimed, ‘You are not my father; the Wallasena told me you would treat me kindly; this is not doing so.’ He begged pardon and said, ‘Do not be frightened, my son; I will take nothing from you but what you give me freely. You think I am a bad man; people have been telling you ill things about me. I am now an old man, and have given up such child’s work as plundering people.’ It became, however, necessary to inquire of Datah Mahomed what were his intentions with regard to myself. I found that I had been deceived at Shoa; there it was asserted that he lived at Errur and was brother to Bedar, one of the most powerful chiefs of the Adel, instead of which it proved that he was not so highly connected, and that he visited Errur only occasionally. Datah told me that his marriage feast would last seven days, after which he would forward me to Doomi, where we should find Bedar, who would send me either to Tajoorah or to Hurrur, as he saw fit.
“I now perceived that all hope of reaching Hurrur was at an end. Vexed and disappointed at having suffered so much in vain, I was obliged to resign the idea of going there for the following reasons: The Mission treasury was at so low an ebb that I had left Shoa with only three German crowns, and the prospect of meeting on the road Mahomed Ali in charge of the second division of the Embassy and the presents, who could have supplied me with money. The constant demands of Datah Mahomed for tobacco, for cloth, in fact for everything he saw, would become ten times more annoying were I left with him without an interpreter. The Tajoorians, also, one all, begged me not to remain, saying, ‘Think not of your property, but only of your and your servants’ lives. Come with us to Tajoorah; we will travel quick, and you shall share our provisions.’ At last I consented to this new arrangement, and Datah Mahomed made no objection. This individual, however, did not leave me till he had extorted from me my best mule, all my Tobes (eight in number), and three others, which I borrowed from the caravan people. He departed about midnight, saying that he would take away his mule in the morning.
“At 4 A.M. on the 26th I was disturbed by Datah Mahomed, who took away his mule, and then asked for more cloth, which was resolutely refused. He then begged for my ‘Camblee,’ which, as it was my only covering, I would not part with, and checked him by desiring him to strip me if he wished it. He then left me and returned in about an hour, with a particular friend who had come a long way expressly to see me. I acknowledged the honour, and deeply regretted that I had only words to pay for it, he himself having received my last Tobe. ‘However,’ I continued, seeing the old man’s brow darken, ‘I will endeavour to borrow one from the Caffilah people.’ Deeni brought me one, which was rejected as inferior. I then said, ‘You see my dress — that cloth is better than what I wear — but here; take my turban.’ This had the desired effect; the cloth was accepted. At length Datah Mahomed delivered me over to the charge of the Ras el Caffilah in a very impressive manner, and gave me his blessing. We resumed our journey at 2 P.M., when I joined heartily with the caravan people in their ‘Praise be to God! we are at length clear of the Bedoos!’ About 8 P.M. we halted at Metta.
“At half-past 4 A.M. on the 27th we started; all the people of the Caffilah were warm in their congratulations that I had given up the Hurrur route. At 9 A.M. we halted at Codaitoo: the country bears marks of having been thickly inhabited during the rains, but at present, owing to the want of water, not an individual was to be met with. At Murroo we filled our water-skins, there being no water between that place and Doomi, distant two days’ journey. As the Ras el Caffilah had heard that the Bedoos were as numerous as the hairs of his head at Doomi and Keelulhoo, he determined to avoid both and proceed direct to Warrahambili, where water was plentiful and Bedoos were few, owing to the scarcity of grass. This, he said, was partly on my account and partly on his own, as he would be much troubled by the Bedouins of Doomi, many of them being his kinsmen. We continued our march from 3 P.M. till 9 P.M., when we halted at Boonderrah.
“At 4 P.M., on January 28th, we moved forward through the Waddy Boonderrah, which was dry at that season; grass, however, was still abundant. From 11 A.M. till 4 P.M., we halted at Geera Dohiba. Then again advancing we traversed, by a very rough road, a deep ravine, called the “Place of Lions.” The slaves are now beginning to be much knocked up, many of them during the last march were obliged to be put upon camels. I forgot to mention that one died the day we left Murroo. At 10 P.M. we halted at Hagaioo Geera Dohiba: this was formerly the dwelling-place of Hagaioo, chief of the Woemah (Dankali), but the Eesa Somali having made a successful attack upon him, and swept off all his cattle, he deserted it. During the night the barking of dogs betrayed the vicinity of a Bedoo encampment, and caused us to keep a good look-out. Water being too scarce to make bread, I contented myself with coffee and parched grain.
“At daylight on the 29th we resumed our journey, and passed by an encampment of the Eesa, About noon we reached Warrahambili. Thus far we have done well, but the slaves are now so exhausted that a halt of two days will be necessary to recruit their strength. In this Wady we found an abundance of slightly brackish water, and a hot spring.
“Sunday, 30th January. — A Caffilah, travelling from Tajoorah to Shoa, passed by. The people kindly offered to take my letters. Mahomed ibn Boraitoo, one of the principal people in the Caffilah, presented me with a fine sheep and a quantity of milk, which I was glad to accept. There had been a long-standing quarrel between him and our Ras el Caffilah. When the latter heard that I accepted the present he became very angry, and said to my servant, Adam, ‘Very well, your master chooses to take things from other people; why did he not ask me if he wanted sheep? We shall see!’ Adam interrupted him by saying, ‘Be not angry; my master did not ask for the sheep, it was brought to him as a present; it has been slaughtered, and I was just looking for you to distribute it among the people of the Caffilah.’ This appeased him; and Adam added, ‘If my master hears your words he will be angry, for he wishes to be friends with all people.’ I mention the above merely to show how very little excites these savages to anger. The man who gave me the sheep, hearing that I wished to go to Tajoorah, offered to take me there in four days. I told him I would first consult the Ras el Caffilah, who declared it would not be safe for me to proceed from this alone, but that from Dakwaylaka (three marches in advance) he himself would accompany me in. The Ras then presented me with a sheep.
“We resumed our journey at 1 P.M., January 31st, passed several parties of Eesa, and at 8 P.M. halted at Burroo Ruddah.
“On February 1st we marched from 4 A.M. to 11 A.M., when we halted in the Wady Fiahloo, dry at this season. Grass was abundant. At 3 P.M. we resumed our journey. Crossing the plain of Amahdoo some men were observed to the southward, marching towards the Caffilah; the alarm and the order to close up were instantly given; our men threw aside their upper garments and prepared for action, being fully persuaded that it was a party of Eesa coming to attack them. However, on nearer approach we observed several camels with them; two men were sent on to inquire who they were; they proved to be a party of Somalis going to Ousak for grain. At 8 P.M. we halted on the plain of Dakwaylaka.
“At daylight on February the 2nd, the Ras el Caffilah, Deeni, and Mahomed accompanied me in advance of the caravan to water our mules at Dakwaylaka. Arriving there about 11 A.M. we found the Bedoos watering their cattle. Mahomed unbridled his animal, which rushed towards the trough from which the cattle were drinking; the fair maid who was at the well baling out the water into the trough immediately set up the shrill cry of alarm, and we were compelled to move about a mile up the Wady, when we came to a pool of water black as ink. Thirsty as I was I could not touch the stuff. The Caffilah arrived about half-past 1 P.M., by which time the cattle of the Bedoos had all been driven off to grass, so that the well was at our service. We encamped close to it. Ibrahim recommended that Adam Burroo of the Assoubal tribe, a young Bedoo, and a relation of his should accompany our party. I promised him ten dollars at Tajoorah.3 At 3 P.M., having completed my arrangements, and leaving one servant behind to bring up the luggage, I quitted the Caffilah amidst the universal blessings of the people. I was accompanied by Ibrahim, the Ras el Caffilah, Deeni ibn Hamid, my interpreter, three of my servants, and the young Bedoo, all mounted on mules. One baggage mule, fastened behind one of my servants’ animals, carried a little flour, parched grain, and coffee, coffee-pot, frying-pan, and one suit of clothes for each. Advancing at a rapid pace, about 5 P.M. we came up with a party consisting of Eesa, with their camels. One of them instantly collected the camels, whilst the others hurried towards us in a suspicious way. The Bedoo hastened to meet them, and we were permitted, owing, I was told, to my firearms, the appearance of which pleased them not, to proceed quietly. At 7 P.M., having arrived at a place where grass was abundant, we turned off the road and halted.
“At 1:30 A.M., on Thursday, 3rd February, as the moon rose we saddled our mules and pushed forward at a rapid pace. At 4 A.M. we halted and had a cup of coffee each, when we again mounted. As the day broke we came upon an encampment of the Debeneh, who hearing the clatter of our mules’ hoofs, set up the cry of alarm. The Bedoo pacified them: they had supposed us to be a party of Eesa. We continued our journey, and about 10 A.M. we halted for breakfast, which consisted of coffee and parched grain. At noon we again moved forward, and at 3 P.M., having arrived at a pool of water called Murhabr in the Wady Dalabayah, we halted for about an hour to make some bread. We then continued through the Wady, passed several Bedoo encampments till a little after dark, when we descended into the plain of Gurgudeli. Here observing several fires, the Bedoo crawled along to reconnoitre, and returned to say they were Debeneh. We gave them a wide berth, and about 8:30 P.M. halted. We were cautioned not to make a fire, but I had a great desire for a cup of coffee after the fatigue of this long march. Accordingly we made a small fire, concealing it with shields.
“At 3 A.M. on Friday, the 4th February, we resumed our journey. After about an hour and a half arriving at a good grazing ground, we halted to feed the mules, and then watered them at Alooli. At 1 P.M. I found the sun so oppressive that I was obliged to halt for two hours. We had struck off to the right of the route pursued by the Embassy, and crossed, not the Salt Lake, but the hills to the southward. The wind blowing very strong considerably retarded our progress, so that we did not arrive at Dahfurri, our halting-place, till sunset. Dahfurri is situated about four miles to the southward of Mhow, the encampment of the Embassy near the Lake, and about 300 yards to the eastward of the road. Here we found a large basin of excellent water, which the Tajoorians informed me was a mere mass of mud when we passed by to Shoa, but that the late rains had cleared away all the impurities. After sunset a gale of wind blew.
“At 1 A.M. on the 5th February, the wind having decreased we started. Passing through the pass of the Rer Essa, the barking of dogs caused us some little uneasiness, as it betrayed the vicinity of the Bedoo, whether friend or foe we knew not. Ibrahim requested us to keep close order, and to be silent. As day broke we descended into the plain of Warrah Lissun, where we halted and ate the last of the grain. After half an hour’s halt we continued our journey. Ibrahim soon declared his inability to keep up with us, so he recommended me to the care of the Bedoo and Deeni, saying he would follow slowly. We arrived at Sagulloo about 11 A.M., and Ibrahim about two hours afterwards. At 3 P.M. we resumed our march, and a little before sunset arrived at Ambaboo.
“The elders had a conference which lasted about a quarter of an hour, when they came forward and welcomed me, directing men to look after my mules. I was led to a house which had been cleaned for my reception. Ibrahim then brought water and a bag of dates, and shortly afterwards some rice and milk. Many villagers called to pay their respects, and remained but a short time as I wanted repose: they would scarcely believe that I had travelled in eighteen days from Shoa, including four day’s halt.
“Early on the morning of the 6th February I set out for Tajoorah, where I was received with every demonstration of welcome by both rich and poor. The Sultan gave me his house, and after I had drunk a cup of coffee with him, considerately ordered away all the people who had flocked to see me, as, he remarked, I must be tired after so rapid a journey.
“It may not be amiss to mention here that the British character stands very high at Tajoorah. The people assured me that since the British had taken Aden they had enjoyed peace and security, and that from being beggars they had become princes. As a proof of their sincerity they said with pride, ‘Look at our village, you saw it a year and a half ago, you know what it was then, behold what is now!’ I confessed that it had been much improved.”
(From Tajoorah the traveller, after awarding his attendants, took boat for Zayla, where he was hospitably received by the Hajj Sharmarkay’s agent. Suffering severely from fever, on Monday the 14th February he put to sea again and visited Berberah, where he lived in Sharmarkay’s house, and finally he arrived at Aden on Friday the 25th February, 1842. He concludes the narrative of his adventure as follows.)
“It is due to myself that I should offer some explanation for the rough manner in which this report is drawn up. On leaving Shoa the Caffilah people marked with a jealous eye that I seemed to number the slaves and camels, and Deeni reported to me that they had observed my making entries in my note-book. Whenever the Bedoos on the road caught sight of a piece of paper, they were loud in their demands for it.4 Our marches were so rapid that I was scarcely allowed time sufficient to prepare for the fatigues of the ensuing day, and experience had taught me the necessity of keeping a vigilant watch.5 Aware that Government must be anxious for information from the ‘Mission,’ I performed the journey in a shorter space of time than any messenger, however highly paid, has yet done it, and for several days lived on coffee and parched grain. Moreover, on arrival at Aden, I was so weak from severe illness that I could write but at short intervals.
“It will not, I trust, be considered that the alteration in my route was caused by trivial circumstances. It would have been absurd to have remained with the Bedoos without an interpreter: there would have been daily disputes and misunderstandings, and I had already sufficient insight into the character of Datah Mahomed to perceive that his avarice was insatiable. Supposing I had passed through his hands, there was the chief of Bedar, who, besides expecting much more than I had given to Datah Mahomed, would, it is almost certain, eventually have forwarded me to Tajoorah. Finally, if I can believe the innumerable reports of the people, both at Tajoorah and Zalaya, neither I myself nor my servants would ever have passed through the kingdom of Hurrur. The jealousy of the prince against foreigners is so great that, although he would not injure them within the limits of his own dominions, he would cause them to waylaid and murdered on the road.”
1 Thus in the original. It may be a mistake, for Captain Barker is, I am informed, a proficient in conversational Arabic.
2 This chief was the Emir Abubakr, father of Ahmed: the latter was ruling when I entered Harar in 1855.
3 As the youth gave perfect satisfaction, he received, besides the ten dollars, a Tobe and a European saddle, “to which he had taken a great fancy.”
4 In these wild countries every bit of paper written over is considered to be a talisman or charm.
5 A sergeant, a corporal, and a Portuguese cook belonging to Captain Harris’s mission were treacherously slain near Tajoorah at night. The murderers were Hamid Saborayto, and Mohammed Saborayto, two Dankalis of the Ad All clan. In 1842 they seem to have tried a ruse de guerre upon M. Rochet, and received from him only too mild a chastisement. The ruffians still live at Juddah (Jubbah?) near Ambabo.
This web edition published by:
The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:06