Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah and Meccah, by Richard Burton

Chapter XII.

The Halt at Yambu’.

THE heat of the sun, the heavy dews, and the frequent washings of the waves, had so affected my foot, that on landing at Yambu’ I could scarcely place it upon the ground. But traveller’s duty was to be done; so, leaning upon my “slave’s” shoulder, I started at once to see the town, whilst Shaykh Hamid and the others of our party proceeded to the custom-house.

Yanbu’a al-Bahr, Yambu’ or Fountain of the Sea,1 identified, by Abyssinian Bruce, with the Iambia village of Ptolemy, is a place of considerable importance, and shares with others the title of “Gate of the Holy City.” It is the third quarter of the caravan road2 from Cairo to Meccah; and here, as well as at Al-Badr, pilgrims frequently leave behind them, in hired warehouses, goods too heavy to be transported in haste, or too valuable to risk in dangerous times. Yambu’ being the port of Al-Madinah, as Jeddah is of Meccah, is supported by a considerable transport trade and extensive imports from the harbours on the Western coasts of the Red Sea; it supplies its chief town with grain, dates, and henna. Here the Sultan’s dominion is supposed to begin, whilst the authority of the Pasha of Egypt ceases; there is no Nizam, or Regular Army, however, in the town,3 and the governor is a Sharif or Arab chief. I met him in the great bazar; he is a fine young man of light complexion and the usual high profile, handsomely dressed, with a Cashmere turband, armed to the extent of sword and dagger, and followed by two large, fierce-looking Negro slaves leaning upon enormous Nabbuts.

The town itself is in no wise remarkable. Built on the edge of a sunburnt plain that extends between the mountains and the sea, it fronts the northern extremity of a narrow winding creek. Viewed from the harbour, it is a long line of buildings, whose painful whiteness is set off by a sky-like cobalt and a sea-like indigo; behind it lies the flat, here of a bistre-brown, there of a lively tawny; whilst the background is formed by dismal Radhwah,

“Barren and bare, unsightly, unadorned.”

Outside the walls are a few little domes and tombs, which by no means merit attention. Inside, the streets are wide; and each habitation is placed at an unsociable distance from its neighbour, except near the port and the bazars, where ground is valuable. The houses are roughly built of limestone and coralline, and their walls full of fossils crumble like almond cake; they have huge hanging windows, and look mean after those in the Moslem quarters of Cairo. There is a “Suk,” or market-street of the usual form, a long narrow lane darkened by a covering of palm leaves, with little shops let into the walls of the houses on both sides. The cafes, which abound here, have already been described in the last chapter; they are rendered dirty in the extreme by travellers, and it is impossible to sit in them without a fan to drive away the flies. The custom-house fronts the landing-place upon the harbour; it is managed by Turkish officials, — men dressed in Tarbushes, who repose the livelong day upon the Diwans near the windows. In the case of us travellers they had a very simple way of doing business, charging each person of the party three piastres for each large box, but by no means troubling themselves to meddle with the contents.4 Yambu’ also boasts of a Hammam or hot bath, a mere date-leaf shed, tenanted by an old Turk, who, with his surly Albanian assistant, lives by “cleaning” pilgrims and travellers. Some whitewashed Mosques and Minarets of exceedingly simple form, a Wakalah or two for the reception of merchants, and a saint’s tomb, complete the list of public buildings.

In one point Yambu’ claims superiority over most other towns in this part of Al-Hijaz. Those who can afford the luxury drink sweet rain-water, collected amongst the hills in tanks and cisterns, and brought on camelback to the town. Two sources are especially praised, the Ayn al-Birkat and the Ayn Ali, which suffice to supply the whole population: the brackish water of the wells is confined to coarser purposes. Some of the old people here, as at Suez, are said to prefer the drink to which years of habit have accustomed them, and it is a standing joke that, arrived at Cairo, they salt the water of the Nile to make it palatable.

The population of Yambu’ — one of the most bigoted and quarrelsome races in Al-Hijaz-strikes the eye after arriving from Egypt, as decidedly a new feature. The Shaykh or gentleman is over-armed and over-dressed, as Fashion, the Tyrant of the Desert as well as of the Court, dictates to a person of his consequence. The civilised traveller from Al-Madinah sticks in his waist-shawl a loaded pistol,5 garnished with crimson silk cord, but he partially conceals the butt-end under the flap of his jacket. The Irregular soldier struts down the street a small armoury of weapons: one look at the man’s countenance suffices to tell you what he is. Here and there stalk grim Badawin, wild as their native wastes, and in all the dignity of pride and dirt; they also are armed to the teeth, and even the presence of the policeman’s quarterstaff6 cannot keep their swords in their scabbards. What we should call the peaceful part of the population never leave the house without the “Nabbut” over the right shoulder, and the larger, the longer, and the heavier the weapon is, the more gallantry does the bearer claim. The people of Yambu’ practise the use of this implement diligently; they become expert in delivering a head-blow so violent as to break through any guard, and with it they always decide their trivial quarrels.7 The dress of the women differs but little from that of the Egyptians, except in the face veil,8 which is generally white. There is an independent bearing about the Yambu’ men, strange in the East; they are proud without insolence, and they look manly without blustering. Their walk partakes somewhat of the nature of a swagger, owing, perhaps, to the shape of the sandals, not a little assisted by the self-esteem of the wearer, but there is nothing offensive in it: moreover, the population has a healthy appearance, and, fresh from Egypt, I could not help noticing their freedom from ophthalmic disease. The children, too, appear vigorous, nor are they here kept in that state of filth to which fear of the Evil Eye devotes them in the Valley of the Nile.

My companions found me in a coffee-house, where I had sat down to rest from the fatigue of halting on my wounded foot through the town. They had passed their boxes through the custom-house, and were now inquiring in all directions, “Where’s the Effendi?” After sitting for half an hour, we rose to depart, when an old Arab merchant, whom I had met at Suez, politely insisted upon paying for my coffee, still a mark of attention in Arabia as it was whilome in France. We then went to a Wakalah, near the bazar, in which my companions had secured an airy upper room on the terrace opposite the sea, and tolerably free from Yambu’s plague, the flies. It had been tenanted by a party of travellers, who were introduced to me as Omar Effendi’s brothers; he had by accident met them in the streets the day before their start for Constantinople, where they were travelling to receive the Ikram.9 The family was, as I have said before, from Daghistan (Circassia), and the male members still showed unequivocal signs of a northern origin, in light yellowish skins, grey eyes fringed with dark lashes, red lips, and a very scant beard. They were broad-shouldered, large-limbed men, distinguished only by a peculiar surliness of countenance; perhaps their expression was the result of their suspecting me; for I observed them narrowly watching every movement during Wuzu and prayers. This was a good opportunity for displaying the perfect nonchalance of a True Believer; and my efforts were, I believe, successful, for afterwards they seemed to treat me as a mere stranger, from whom they could expect nothing, and who therefore was hardly worth their notice.

On the afternoon of the day of our arrival we sent for a Mukharrij,10 (hirer of conveyance) and began to treat for camels. One Amm Jamal, a respectable native of Al-Madinah who was on his way home, undertook to be the spokesman; after a long palaver (for the Shaykh of the camels and his attendant Badawin were men that fought for farthings, and we were not far inferior to them), a bargain was struck. We agreed to pay three dollars for each beast; half in ready money, the other half after reaching our destination, and to start on the evening of the next day with a grain-caravan, guarded by an escort of Irregular cavalry. I hired two animals, one for my luggage and servant, the other for the boy Mohammed and myself, expressly stipulating that we were to ride the better beast, and that if it broke down on the road, its place should be supplied by another as good. My friends could not dissemble their uneasiness, when informed by the Mukharrij that the Hazimi tribe was “out,” and that travellers had to fight every day. The Daghistanis also contributed to their alarm. “We met,” said they, “between 200 and 300 devils on a Razzia near Al-Madinah; we gave them the Salam, but they would not reply, although we were all on dromedaries. Then they asked us if we were men of Al-Madinah, and we replied ‘Yes;’ and lastly, they wanted to know the end of our journey; so we said Bir Abbas.11” The Badawin who had accompanied the Daghistanis belonged to some tribe unconnected with the Hazimi: the spokesman rolled his head, as much as to say “Allah has preserved us!” And a young Indian of the party-I shrewdly suspect him of having stolen my pen-knife that night-displayed the cowardice of a “Miyan,12” by looking aghast at the memory of his imminent and deadly risk. “Sir,” said Shaykh Nur to me, “we must wait till all this is over.” I told him to hold his tongue, and sharply reproved the boy Mohammed, upon whose manner the effect of finding himself suddenly in a fresh country had wrought a change for the worse. “Why, ye were lions at Cairo; and here, at Yambu’, you are cats-hens!13” It was not long, however, before the youth’s impudence returned upon him with increased violence.

We sat through the afternoon in the little room on the terrace, whose reflected heat, together with the fiery winds from the Wilderness, seemed to incommode even my companions. After sunset we dined in the open air, a body of twenty: master, servants, children and strangers. All the procurable rugs and pillows had been seized to make a Diwan, and we squatted together round a large cauldron of boiled rice, containing square masses of mutton, the whole covered with clarified butter. Sa’ad the Demon was now in his glory. With what anecdotes the occasion supplied him! His tongue seemed to wag with a perpetual motion; for each man he had a boisterous greeting; and, to judge from his whisperings, he must have been in every one’s privacy and confidence. Conversation over pipes and coffee was prolonged to ten P.M., a late hour in these lands; then we prayed the Isha14 (or vespers), and, spreading our mats upon the terrace, slept in the open air.

The forenoon of the next day was occupied in making sundry small purchases. We laid in seven days’ provisions for the journey; repacked our boxes, polished and loaded our arms, and attired ourselves appropriately for the road. By the advice of Amm Jamal15 I dressed as an Arab, in order to avoid paying the Jizyat, a capitation tax 16 which, upon this road, the settled tribes extort from stranger travellers; and he warned me not to speak any language but Arabic, even to my “slave,” in the vicinity of a village. I bought for my own convenience a Shugduf or litter17 for which I paid two dollars. It is a vehicle appropriated to women and children, fathers of families, married men, “Shelebis,18” and generally to those who are too effeminate to ride. My reason for choosing a litter was that notes are more easily taken in it than on a dromedary’s back; the excuse of lameness prevented it detracting from my manhood, and I was careful when entering any populous place to borrow or hire a saddled beast.

Our party dined early that day, for the camels had been sitting at the gate since noon. We had the usual trouble in loading them: the owners of the animals vociferating about the unconscionable weight, the owners of the goods swearing that a child could carry such weight, while the beasts, taking part with their proprietors, moaned piteously, roared, made vicious attempts to bite, and started up with an agility that threw the half-secured boxes or sacks headlong to the ground. About 3 P.M. all was ready-the camels formed into Indian file were placed standing in the streets. But, as usual with Oriental travellers, all the men dispersed about the town: we did not mount before it was late in the afternoon.

I must now take the liberty of presenting to the reader an Arab Shaykh fully equipped for travelling.19 Nothing can be more picturesque than the costume, and it is with regret that we see it exchanged in the towns and more civilised parts for any other. The long locks or the shaven scalps are surmounted by a white cotton skull-cap, over which is a Kufiyah-a large square kerchief of silk and cotton mixed, and generally of a dull red colour with a bright yellow border, from which depend crimson silk twists ending in little tassels that reach the wearer’s waist. Doubled into a triangle, and bound with an Aakal20 or fillet of rope, a skein of yarn or a twist of wool, the kerchief fits the head close behind: it projects over the forehead, shading the eyes, and giving a fierce look to the countenance. On certain occasions one end is brought round the lower part of the face, and is fastened behind the head. This veiling the features is technically called Lisam: the chiefs generally fight so, and it is the usual disguise when a man fears the avenger of blood, or a woman starts to take her Sar.21 In hot weather it is supposed to keep the Samun, in cold weather the catarrh, from the lungs.

The body dress is simply a Kamis or cotton shirt: tight sleeved, opening in front, and adorned round the waist and collar, and down the breast, with embroidery like net-work; it extends from neck to foot. Some wear wide trousers, but the Badawin consider such things effeminate, and they have not yet fallen into the folly of socks and stockings. Over the Kamis is thrown a long-skirted and short-sleeved cloak of camel’s hair, called an Aba. It is made in many patterns, and of all materials from pure silk to coarse sheep’s wool; some prefer it brown, others white, others striped: in Al-Hijaz the favourite hue is white, embroidered with gold,22 tinsel, or yellow thread in two large triangles, capped with broad bands and other figures running down the shoulders and sides of the back. It is lined inside the shoulders and breast with handsome stuffs of silk and cotton mixed, and is tied in front by elaborate strings, and tassels or acorns of silk and gold. A sash confines the Kamis at the waist, and supports the silver-hilted Jambiyah23 or crooked dagger: the picturesque Arab sandal24 completes the costume. Finally, the Shaykh’s arms are a sword and a matchlock slung behind his back; in his right hand he carries a short javelin25 or a light crooked stick, about two feet and a half long, called a Mas’hab,26 used for guiding camels.

The poorer clans of Arabs twist round their waist, next to the skin, a long plait of greasy leather, to support the back; and they gird the shirt at the middle merely with a cord, or with a coarse sash. The dagger is stuck in this scarf, and a bandoleer slung over the shoulders carries the cartridge-case, powder-flask, flint and steel, priming-horn, and other necessaries. With the traveller, the waist is an elaborate affair. Next to the skin is worn the money-pouch, concealed by the Kamis; the latter is girt with a waist shawl, over which is strapped a leathern belt.27 The latter article should always be well garnished with a pair of long-barrelled and silver-mounted flint pistols,28 a large and a small dagger, and an iron ramrod with pincers inside; a little leathern pouch fastened to the waist-strap on the right side contains cartridge, wadding, and flask of priming powder. The sword hangs over the shoulder by crimson silk cords and huge tassels29: well-dressed men apply the same showy ornaments to their pistols. In the hand may be borne a bell-mouthed blunderbuss; or, better still, a long single-barrel gun with an ounce bore. All these weapons must shine like silver, if you wish to be respected; for the knightly care of arms is here a sign of manliness.

Pilgrims, especially those from Turkey, carry, I have said, a “Hamail,” to denote their holy errand. This is a pocket Koran, in a handsome gold-embroidered crimson velvet or red morocco case, slung by red silk cords over the left shoulder. It must hang down by the right side, and should never depend below the waist-belt. For this I substituted a most useful article. To all appearance a “Hamail,” it had inside three compartments; one for my watch and compass, the second for ready money, and the third contained penknife, pencils, and slips of paper, which I could hold concealed in the hollow of my hand. These were for writing and drawing: opportunities of making a “fair copy” into the diary-book,30 are never wanting to the acute traveller. He must, however, beware of sketching before the Badawin, who would certainly proceed to extreme measures, suspecting him to be a spy or a sorcerer.31 Nothing so effectually puzzles these people as the Frankish habit of putting everything on paper; their imaginations are set at work, and then the worst may be expected from them. The only safe way of writing in presence of a Badawi would be when drawing out a horoscope or preparing a charm; he also objects not, if you can warm his heart upon the subject, to seeing you take notes in a book of genealogies. You might begin with, “And you, men of Harb, on what origin do you pride yourselves?” And while the listeners became fluent upon the, to them, all-interesting theme, you could put down whatever you please upon the margin. The townspeople are more liberal, and years ago the Holy Shrines have been drawn, surveyed and even lithographed, by Eastern artists: still, if you wish to avoid all suspicion, you must rarely be seen with pen or with pencil in hand.

At 6 P.M., descending the stairs of our Wakalah, we found the camels standing loaded in the street, and shifting their ground in token of impatience.32 My Shugduf, perched upon the back of a tall strong animal, nodded and swayed about with his every motion, impressing me with the idea that the first step would throw it over the shoulders or the crupper. The camel-man told me I must climb up the animal’s neck, and so creep into the vehicle. But my foot disabling me from such exertion, I insisted upon their bringing the beast to squat, which they did grumblingly.33 We took leave of Omar Effendi’s brothers and their dependents, who insisted upon paying us the compliment of accompanying us to the gate. Then we mounted and started, which was a signal for all our party to disperse once more. Some heard the report of a vessel having arrived from Suez, with Mohammed Shiklibha and other friends on board; these hurried down to the harbour for a parting word. Others, declaring they had forgotten some necessaries for the way, ran off to spend one last hour in gossip at the coffee-house. Then the sun set, and prayers must be said. The brief twilight had almost faded away before all had mounted. With loud cries of “Wassit, ya hu! — Go in the middle of the road, O He!” and “Jannib, y’al Jammal34! — Keep to the side, O camel-man!” we threaded our way through long, dusty, narrow streets, flanked with white-washed habitations at considerable intervals, and large heaps of rubbish, sometimes higher than the houses. We were stopped at the gate to ascertain if we were strangers, in which case, the guard would have done his best to extract a few piastres before allowing our luggage to pass; but he soon perceived by my companions’ accent, that they were Sons of the Holy City, — consequently, that the case was hopeless. While standing here, Shaykh Hamid vaunted the strong walls and turrets of Yambu’, which he said were superior to those of Jeddah35: they kept Sa’ud, the Wahhabi, at bay in A.D. 1802, but would scarcely, I should say, resist a field battery in A.D. 1853. The moon rose fair and clear, dazzling us with light as we emerged from the shadowy streets; and when we launched into the Desert, the sweet air delightfully contrasted with the close offensive atmosphere of the town. My companions, as Arabs will do on such occasions, began to sing.

1 Yanbu’a in Arabic is “a Fountain.” Yanbu’a of the Sea is so called to distinguish it from “Yanbu’a of the Palm-Grounds,” a village at the foot of the mountains, about 18 or 20 miles distant from the sea-port. Ali Bey places it one day’s journey E.1/4N.E. from Yanbu’a al-Bahr, and describes it as a pleasant place in a fertile valley. It is now known as Yambu’a al-Nakhil. See “The Land of Midian (Revisited).”

2 The first quarter of the Cairo caravan is Al-Akabah; the second is the Manhal Salmah (Salmah’s place for watering camels); the third is Yambu’; and the fourth Meccah.

3 The Nizam, as Europeans now know, is the regular Turkish infantry. In Al-Hijaz, these troops are not stationed in small towns like Yambu’. At such places a party of Irregular horse, for the purpose of escorting travellers, is deemed sufficient. The Yambu’ police seems to consist of the Sharif’s sturdy negroes. In Ali Bey’s time Yambu’ belonged to the Sharif of Meccah, and was garrisoned by him.

4 This, as far as I could learn, is the only tax which the Sultan’s government derives from the northern Hijaz; the people declare it to be, as one might expect at this distance from the capital, liable to gross peculation. When the Wahhabis held Yambu’, they assessed it, like all other places; for which reason their name is held in the liveliest abhorrence.

5 Civilians usually stick one pistol in the belt; soldiers and fighting men two, or more, with all the necessary concomitants of pouches, turnscrews, and long iron ramrods, which, opening with a screw, disclose a long thin pair of pincers, wherewith fire is put upon the chibuk.

6 The weapons with which nations are to be managed form a curious consideration. The Englishman tamely endures a staff, which would make a Frenchman mad with anger; and a Frenchman respects a sabre, which would fill an Englishman’s bosom with civilian spleen. You order the Egyptian to strip and be flogged; he makes no objection to seeing his blood flow in this way; but were a cutting weapon used, his friends would stop at nothing in their fury.

7 In Arabia, generally, the wound is less considered by justice and revenge, than the instrument with which it was inflicted. Sticks and stones are held to be venial weapons: guns and pistols, swords and daggers, are felonious.

8 Europeans inveigh against this article, — which represents the “loup” of Louis XIV.‘s time, — for its hideousness and jealous concealment of charms made to be admired. It is, on the contrary, the most coquettish article of woman’s attire, excepting, perhaps, the Lisam of Constantinople. It conceals coarse skins, fleshy noses, wide mouths, and vanishing chins, whilst it sets off to best advantage what in these lands is almost always lustrous and liquid-the eye. Who has not remarked this at a masquerade ball?

9 A certain stipend allowed by the Sultan to citizens of the Haramayn (Meccah and Al-Madinah). It will be treated of at length in a future chapter.

10 The Shaykh, or agent of the camels, without whose assistance it would be difficult to hire beasts. He brings the Badawin with him; talks them over to fair terms; sees the “Arbun,” or earnest-money, delivered to them; and is answerable for their not failing in their engagement.

11 The not returning “Salam” was a sign on the part of the Badawin that they were out to fight, and not to make friends; and the dromedary riders, who generally travel without much to rob, thought this behaviour a declaration of desperate designs. The Badawin asked if they were Al-Madinah men; because the former do not like, unless when absolutely necessary, to plunder the people of the Holy City. And the Daghistanis said their destination was Bir Abbas, a neighbouring, instead of Yambu’, a distant post, because those who travel on a long journey, being supposed to have more funds with them, are more likely to be molested.

12 “Miyan,” the Hindustani word for “Sir,” is known to the Badawin all over Al-Hijaz; they always address Indian Moslems with this word, which has become contemptuous, on account of the low esteem in which the race is held.

13 That is to say, sneaks and cowards. I was astonished to see our Maghrabi fellow-passengers in the bazar at Yambu’ cringing and bowing to us, more like courtiers than Badawin. Such, however, is the effect of a strange place upon Orientals generally. In the Persians such humility was excusable; in no part of Al-Hijaz are they for a moment safe from abuse and blows.

14 The night prayer.

15 “Amm” means literally a paternal uncle. In the Hijaz it is prefixed to the names of respectable men, who may also be addressed “Ya Amm Jamal!” (O Uncle Jamal!) To say “Ya Ammi!” (O my Uncle!) is more familiar, and would generally be used by a superior addressing an inferior.

16 Jizyat properly means the capitation tax levied on Infidels; in this land of intense pride, the Badawin, and even the town-chiefs, apply the opprobrious term to blackmail extorted from travellers, even of their own creed.

17 The Shugduf of Al-Hijaz differs greatly from that used in Syria and other countries. It is composed of two corded cots 5 feet long, slung horizontally, about half-way down, and parallel with the camel’s sides. These cots have short legs, and at the halt may be used as bedsteads; the two are connected together by loose ropes, attached to the inner long sides of the framework, and these are thrown over the camel’s packsaddle. Thick twigs inserted in the ends and the outer long sides of the framework, are bent over the top, bower-fashion, to support matting, carpets, and any other protection against the sun. There is an opening in this kind of wicker-work in front (towards the camel’s head), through which you creep; and a similar one behind creates a draught of wind. Outside, towards the camel’s tail, are pockets containing gullehs, or earthenware bottles, of cooled water. Inside, attached to the wickerwork, are large provision pouches, similar to those used in old-fashioned travelling chariots. At the bottom are spread the two beds. The greatest disadvantage of the Shugduf is the difficulty of keeping balance. Two men ride in it, and their weights must be made to tally. Moreover, it is liable to be caught and torn by thorn trees, to be blown off in a gale of wind; and its awkwardness causes the camel repeated falls, which are most likely to smash it. Yet it is not necessarily an uncomfortable machine. Those for sale in the bazar are, of course, worthless, being made of badly seasoned wood. But private litters are sometimes pleasant vehicles, with turned and painted framework, silk cordage, and valuable carpets. The often described “Mahmil” is nothing but a Syrian Shugduf, royally ornamented.

18 “ Exquisites.”

19 It is the same rule with the Arab, on the road as at home; the more he is dressed the greater is his respectability. For this reason, you see Sharifs and other men of high family, riding or walking in their warm camel’s hair robes on the hottest days. Another superstition of the Arabs is this, that thick clothes avert the evil effects of the sun’s beams, by keeping out heat. To the kindness of a friend-Thomas Seddon-I owe the admirable sketch of an “Arab Shaykh in his Travelling Dress.”

20 Sharifs and other great men sometimes bind a white turband or a Cashmere shawl round the kerchief, to keep it in its place. The Aakal varies in every part of the country. Here it is a twist of dyed wool, there a bit of common rope, three or four feet long. Some of the Arab tribes use a circlet of wood, composed of little round pieces, the size of a shilling, joined side by side, and inlaid with mother-of-pearl. The Eastern Arabs wear a large circle of brown wool, almost a turband in itself. In Barbary, they twist brightcoloured cloth round a rope, and adorn it with thick golden thread.

21 Generally written “Thar,” the blood-revenge right, acknowledged by law and custom. (See Chapter xxiv. post.)

22 Gold, however, as well as silk, I may be excused for repeating, is a forbidden article of ornament to the Moslem.

23 The silver-hilted dagger is a sign of dignity: “I would silver my dagger,” in idiomatic Hijazi, means, “I would raise myself in the world.”

24 Niebuhr has accurately described this article. It is still worn in the Madras army, though long discarded from the other presidencies; the main difference between the Indian and the Arab sandal is, that the former has a ring, into which the big toe is inserted, and the latter a thong, which is clasped between the big toe and its neighbour. Both of them are equally uncomfortable, and equally injurious to soldiers, whose legs fight as much as do their arms. They abrade the skin wherever the straps touch, expose the feet to the sun, wind, and rain, and admit thorns and flints to the toes and toe-nails. In Arabia, the traveller may wear, if he pleases, slippers, but they are considered townsman-like and effeminate. They must be of the usual colours, red or yellow. Black shoes, though almost universally worn by the Turks at Cairo and Constantinople, would most probably excite suspicion in Al-Hijaz.

25 The Mizrak, as it is called, is peculiar to certain tribes, as the Karashi and the Lahyami, and some, like the Hudayli near Meccah, make very pretty as well as very useful darts. The head is 15 or 16 inches long, nowhere broader than an inch, and tapering gradually to a fine point; its shape is two shallow prisms joined at their bases, and its socket, round like that of all lances, measures a little less than 2 inches. The lower third of the blade only is adorned with bars, lozenges, and cones of brass let into the iron in zig-zag and other figures. The shaft is of hard pliant wood-I do not know of what tree-well seasoned with grease and use; it is 23 inches long, and strengthened and adorned at distances of half an inch apart by bands of fine brass wire, about one inch and a half long. The heel of the weapon is a blunt spike 14 inches long, used to stick it in the ground, and this, as well as the lower third of the blade, is ornamented with brass work. Being well balanced, the Mizrak is a highly efficient weapon for throwing in hunting, and by its handsome appearance adds not a little to the bearer’s dignity. But the stranger must be careful how he so arms himself. Unless he be undistinguishable from a Badawi, by carrying a weapon peculiar to certain clans, he will expose himself to suspicion, or to laughter. And to offend an Arab of Al-Hijaz mortally, you have only to say bluntly, “Sell me thy spear.” The proper style of address to the man whose necessities compel him to break through one of his “points d’honneur,” is to say, “Give me that javelin, and I will satisfy thee;” after which he will haggle for each copper piece as though you were cheapening a sheep.

26 The Mas’hab is of almond, generally brought from Syria; at the thick end is a kind of crook, formed by cutting off a bit of the larger branch from which the stick grows. This crook is afterwards cut into the shape useful to seize a camel’s nose-ring, or a horse’s bridle. Arabs of all degrees are fond of carrying these sticks. [It is also called Maghin.]

27 This article, the Silahlik of the Turks, is composed of several oblong pieces of leather cut out to fit the front part of the body; between each fold there is room enough to stick a weapon; a substantial strap fastens it round the waist, and it serves to defend the sash or the shirt from iron mould, and the stains of gunpowder. It is made of all kinds of material, from plain Morocco leather to the richest velvet embroidered with gold.

28 It is as well to have a good pair of Turkish barrels and stocks, fitted up with locks of European manufacture; those made by natives of these countries can never be depended upon. The same will apply to the gun or rifle. Upon the whole, it is more prudent to have flint locks. Copper caps are now sold in the bazars of Meccah and Al-Madinah, where a Colt’s “six-shooter” might excite attention for a day; but were the owner in a position to despise notoriety, he might display it everywhere without danger. One of our guards, who was killed on the road, had a double-barrelled English fowling-piece. Still, when doubts must not be aroused, the traveller will do well to avoid, even in the civilised Hijaz, suspicious appearances in his weapons. I carried in a secret pocket a small pistol with a spring dagger, upon which dependence could be placed, and I was careful never to show it, discharging it and loading it always in the dark. Some men wear a little dagger strapped round the leg, below the knee. Its use is this: when the enemy gets you under, he can prevent you bringing your hand up to the weapon in your waist-belt; but before he cuts your throat, you may slip your fingers down to the knee, and persuade him to stop by a stab in the perineum. This knee dagger is required only in very dangerous places. The article I chiefly accused myself of forgetting was a stout English clasp-knife, with a large handle, a blade like an “Arkansas toothpick,” and possessing the other useful appliances of picker, fleam, tweezers, lancet, and punch.

29 Called “Habak”: these cords are made in great quantities at Cairo, which possesses a special bazar for them, and are exported to all the neighbouring countries, where their price considerably increases. A handsome pistol-cord, with its tassels, costs about 12 shillings in Egypt; at Meccah, or Al-Madinah, the same would fetch upwards of a pound sterling.

30 My diary-book was made up for me by a Cairene; it was a long thin volume fitting into a breast-pocket, where it could be carried without being seen. I began by writing notes in the Arabic character, but as no risk appeared, my journal was afterwards kept in English. More than once, by way of experiment, I showed the writing on a loose slip of paper to my companions, and astonished them with the strange character derived from Solomon and Alexander, the Lord of the Two Horns, which we Afghans still use. For a short trip a pencil suffices; on long journeys ink is necessary; the latter article should be English, not Eastern, which is washed out clean the first time your luggage is thoroughly soaked with rain. The traveller may use either the Persian or the brass Egyptian inkstand; the latter, however, is preferable, being stronger and less likely to break. But, unless he be capable of writing and reading a letter correctly, it would be unadvisable to stick such an article in the waist-belt, as this gives out publicly that he is a scribe. When sketching, the pencil is the best, because the simplest and shortest mode of operation is required. Important lines should afterwards be marked with ink, as “fixing” is impossible on such journeys. For prudence sake, when my sketches were made, I cut up the paper into square pieces, numbered them for future reference, and hid them in the tin canisters that contained my medicines.

31 An accident of this kind happened not long ago, in Hazramaut, to a German traveller who shall be nameless. He had the mortification to see his sketch-book, the labour of months, summarily appropriated and destroyed by the Arabs. I was told by a Hazramaut man at Cairo, and by several at Aden, that the gentleman had at the time a narrow escape with his life; the Badawin wished to put him to death as a spy, sent by the Frank to ensorceler their country, but the Shaykhs forbade bloodshed, and merely deported the offender. Travellers caught sketching are not often treated with such forbearance.

32 All Arabs assert that it pains the loaded camel’s feet to stand still, and, certainly, the “fidgettiness” of the animal to start, looks as if he had some reason to prefer walking.

33 It often strains the camel to rise with a full Shugduf on his back, besides which the motion is certain to destroy the vehicle in a few days. Those who are unable to climb up the camel’s neck usually carry with them a short ladder.

34 Wassit means, “go in the middle of the road”; Jannib, “keep clear of the sides.” These words are fair specimens of how much may be said by two Arabic syllables. Ya hu (O, he) is an address common in Arabia as in Egypt, and Y’al Jammal (O camel-man) is perhaps a little more civil.

35 The rivalry between the Sons of the two Holy Cities extends even to these parts: the Madanis contending for Yambu’, the Meccans for Jeddah.


Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:51