As we looked Eastward, the sun arose out of the horizon of low hill, blurred and dotted with small tufted trees, which gained from the morning mists a giant stature, and the earth was stained with purple and gold. Before us lay a spacious plain, bounded in front by the undulating ground of Nijd: on the left was a grim pile of rocks, the celebrated Mount Ohod, with a clump of verdure and a white dome or two nestling at its base. Rightwards, broad streaks of lilac-coloured mists, here thick with gathered dew, there pierced and thinned by the morning rays, stretched over the date groves and the gardens of Kuba, which stood out in emerald green from the dull tawny surface of the plain. Below, distant about two miles, lay Al-Madinah; at first sight it appeared a large place, but a closer inspection proved the impression to be erroneous. A tortuous road from the Harrah to the city wound across the plain, and led to a tall rectangular gateway, pierced in the ruinous mud-wall which surrounds the suburb. This is the “Ambari” entrance. It is flanked on the left (speaking as a sketcher) by the domes and minarets of a pretty Turkish building, a “Takiyah,” erected by the late Mohammed Ali for the reception of Darwaysh travellers; on the right by a long low line of white-washed buildings garnished with ugly square windows, an imitation of civilised barracks. Beginning from the left hand, as we sat upon the ridge, the remarkable features of the town thus presented themselves in succession. Outside, among the palm trees to the north of the city, were the picturesque ruins of a large old Sabil, or public fountain; and, between this and the enceinte, stood a conspicuous building, in the Turkish pavilion style-the Governor’s palace. On the north-west angle of the town-wall is a tall white-washed fort, partly built upon an outcropping mass of rock: its ramparts and embrasures give it a modern and European appearance, which contrasts strangely with its truly Oriental history.1 In the suburb “Al-Manakhah,” the “kneeling-place of camels,” the bran-new domes and minarets of the Five Mosques stand brightly out from the dull grey mass of house and ground. And behind, in the most Easterly part of the city, remarkable from afar, is the gem of Al-Madinah, — the four tall substantial towers, and the flashing green Dome under which the Apostle’s remains rest.2 Half concealed by this mass of buildings and by the houses of the town, are certain white specks upon a green surface, the tombs that adorn the venerable cemetery, Al-Bakia. From that point southwards begins the mass of palm groves celebrated in Al-Islam as the “Trees of Al-Madinah.”
The foreground is well fitted to set off such a view; fields of black basaltic scoriae showing clear signs of a volcanic origin, are broken up into huge blocks and boulders, through which a descent, tolerably steep for camels, winds down into the plain.
After a few minutes’ rest I remounted, and slowly rode on towards the gate. Even at this early hour the way was crowded with an eager multitude coming out to meet the Caravan. My companions preferred walking, apparently for the better convenience of kissing, embracing, and s[h]aking hands with relations and friends. Truly the Arabs show more heart on these occasions than any Oriental people I know; they are of a more affectionate nature than the Persians, and their manners are far more demonstrative than those of the Indians. The respectable Maryam’s younger son, a pleasant contrast to her surly elder, was weeping aloud for joy as he ran round his mother’s camel, he standing on tiptoe, she bending double in vain attempts to exchange a kiss; and, generally, when near relatives or intimates, or school companions, met, the fountains of their eyes were opened. Friends and comrades greeted one another, regardless of rank or fortune, with affectionate embraces, and an abundance of queries, which neither party seemed to think of answering. The general mode of saluting was to throw one arm over the shoulder and the other round the side, placing the chin first upon the left and then upon the right collar-bone, and rapidly shifting till a “jam satis” suggested itself to both parties. Inferiors recognized their superiors by attempting to kiss hands, which were violently snatched away; whilst mere acquaintances gave each other a cordial “poignee de mains,” and then raising the finger tips to their lips, kissed them with apparent relish.
Passing through the Bab Ambari we defiled slowly down a broad dusty street, and traversed the Harat (Quarter), Al-Ambariyah, the principal in the Manakhah suburb. The thoroughfare is by no means remarkable after Cairo; only it is rather wider and more regular than the traveller is accustomed to in Asiatic cities. I was astonished to see on both sides of the way, in so small a place, so large a number of houses too ruinous to be occupied. Then we crossed a bridge, a single little round arch of roughly hewn stone, built over the bed of a torrent, Al-Sayh,3 which in some parts appeared about fifty feet broad, with banks showing a high and deeply indented water-mark. Here the road abuts upon an open space called the “Barr al-Manakhah.4 or more concisely Al-Barr, “the Plain.” Straightforward a line leads directly into the Bab al-Misri, the Egyptian gate of the city. But we turned off to the right; and, after advancing a few yards, we found ourselves at the entrance of our friend Hamid’s house.
The Shaykh had preceded us early that morning, in order to prepare an apartment for his guests, and to receive the first loud congratulations and embraces of his mother and the “daughter of his uncle.5” Apparently he had not concluded this pleasing duty when we arrived, for the camels were kneeling at least five minutes at his door, before he came out to offer the usual hospitable salutation. I stared to see the difference of his appearance this morning. The razor had passed over his head and face6; the former was now surmounted by a muslin turband of goodly size, wound round a new embroidered cap; and the latter, besides being clean, boasted of neat little moustaches turned up like two commas, whilst a well-trimmed goat’s beard narrowed until it resembled what our grammars call an “exclamation point.” The dirty, torn shirt, with the bits of rope round the loins, had been exchanged for a Jubbah or outer cloak of light pink merinos, a long-sleeved Caftan of rich flowered stuff, a fine shirt of Halaili,7 silk and cotton, and a sash of plaid pattern, elaborately fringed at both ends, and, for better display, wound round two-thirds of his body. His pantaloons were also of Halaili, with tasteful edgings about the ankles like a “pantilette’s,” while his bare and sun-burnt feet had undergone a thorough purification before being encased in new Mizz8 (inner slippers), and Papush (outer slippers), of bright lemon-coloured leather of the newest and most fashionable Constantinopolitan cut. In one of his now delicate hands the Shaykh bore a mother-of-pearl rosary, token of piety; in the other a handsome pipe with a jasmine stick, and an expensive amber mouth-piece; his tobacco pouch, dangling from his waist, like the little purse in the bosom pocket of his coat, was of broadcloth richly embroidered with gold. In course of time I saw that all my companions had metamorphosed themselves in an equally remarkable manner. As men of sense they appeared in tatters where they were, or when they wished to be, unknown, and in fine linen where and when the world judged their prosperity by their attire. Their grand suits of clothes, therefore, were worn only for a few days after returning from the journey, by way of proof that the wearer had wandered to some purpose; they were afterwards laid up in lavender, and reserved for choice occasions, as old ladies in Europe store up their state dresses.
The Shaykh, whose manners had changed with his garments, from the vulgar and boisterous to a certain staid courtesy, took my hand, and led me up to the Majlis 9 (parlour), which was swept and garnished, with all due apparatus, for the forthcoming reception-ceremony. And behind us followed the boy Mohammed, looking more downcast and ashamed of himself than I can possibly describe; he was still in his rags, and he felt keenly that every visitor staring at him would mentally inquire, —
“Who may that snob be?”
With the deepest dejectedness he squeezed himself into a corner, and Shaykh Nur, who was foully dirty, as an Indian en voyage always is, would have joined him in his shame, had I not ordered the “slave” to make himself generally useful.
It is customary for all relations and friends to call upon the traveller the very day he returns, that is to say, if amity is to endure. The pipes therefore stood ready filled, the Diwans were duly spread, and the coffee10 was being boiled upon a brazier in the passage.
Scarcely had I taken my place at the cool windowsill, — it was the best in the room, — when the visitors began to pour in, and the Shaykh rose to welcome and embrace them. They sat down, smoked, chatted politics, asked all manner of questions about the other wayfarers and absent friends; drank coffee; and, after half an hour’s visit, rose abruptly, and, exchanging embraces, took leave. The little men entered the assembly, after an accolade at the door, noiselessly, squatted upon the worst seats with polite conges to the rest of the assembly; smoked, took their coffee, as it were, under protest, and glided out of the room as quietly as they crept in.
The great people, generally busy and consequential individuals, upon whose countenances were writ large the words “well to do in the world,” appeared with a noise that made each person in the room rise reverentially upon his feet; sat down with importance, monopolised the conversation; and, departing in a dignified manner, expected all to stand on the occasion.
The Jihad (Holy War), as usual, was the grand topic of conversation. The Sultan had ordered the Czar to become a Moslem. The Czar had sued for peace, and offered tribute and fealty. But the Sultan had exclaimed —
“No, by Allah! Al-Islam!”
The Czar could not be expected to take such a step without a little hesitation, but “Allah smites the faces of the Infidels!” Abd al-Majid would dispose of the “Moskow11” in a short time; after which he would turn his victorious army against all the idolaters of Feringistan, beginning with the English, the French, and the Arwam or Greeks.12 Amongst much of this nonsense, — when applied to for my opinion, I was careful to make it popular, — I heard news foreboding no good to my journey towards Maskat. The Badawin had decided that there was to be an “Arab contingent,” and had been looking forward to the spoils of Europe: this caused quarrels, as all the men wanted to go, and not a ten-year-old would be left behind. The consequence was, that this amiable people was fighting in all directions. At least so said the visitors, and I afterwards found out that they were not far wrong.
The Samman is a great family, in numbers as in dignity; from 8 A.M. till mid-day therefore the Majlis was crowded with people, and politeness delayed our breakfasts until an unconscionable hour.
To the plague of strangers succeeded that of children. No sooner did the parlour become, comparatively speaking, vacant than they rushed in en masse, treading upon our toes, making the noise of a nursery of madlings, pulling to pieces everything they could lay their hands upon, and using language that would have alarmed an old man-o’war’s-man.13 In fact, no one can conceive the plague but those who have studied the “enfan[t]s terribles” which India sends home in cargoes.
One urchin, scarcely three years old, told me, because I objected to his perching upon my wounded foot, that his father had a sword at home with which he would cut my throat from ear to ear, suiting the action to the word. By a few taunts, I made the little wretch furious with rage; he shook his infant fist at me, and then opening his enormous round black eyes to their utmost stretch, he looked at me, and licked his knee with portentous meaning. Shaykh Hamid, happening to come in at the moment, stood aghast at the doorway, chin in hand, to see the Effendi subject to such indignity; and it was not without trouble that I saved the offender from summary nursery discipline. Another scamp caught up one of my loaded pistols before I could snatch it out of his hand, and clapped it to his neighbour’s head; fortunately, it was on half-cock, and the trigger was stiff. Then a serious and majestic boy about six years old, with an inkstand in his belt, in token of his receiving a literary education, seized my pipe and began to smoke it with huge puffs. I ventured laughingly to institute a comparison between the length of his person and the pipe-stick, when he threw it upon the ground, and stared at me fixedly with flaming eyes and features distorted by anger. The cause of this “bouldness” soon appeared. The boys, instead of being well beaten, were scolded with fierce faces, a mode of punishment which only made them laugh.
They had their redeeming points, however; they were manly angry boys, who punched one another like Anglo-Saxons in the house, whilst abroad they were always fighting with sticks and stones. And they examined our weapons, — before deigning to look at anything else, — as if eighteen instead of five had been the general age.
At last I so far broke through the laws of Arab politeness as to inform my host in plain words-how inconceivably wretched the boy Mohammed was thereby rendered! — that I was hungry, thirsty, and sleepy, and that I wanted to be alone before visiting the Harim. The good-natured Shaykh, who was preparing to go out at once in order to pray before his father’s grave, immediately brought me breakfast; lighted a pipe, spread a bed, darkened the room, turned out the children, and left me to the society I most desired-my own. I then overheard him summon his mother, wife, and other female relatives into the store-room, where his treasures had been carefully stowed away. During the forenoon, in the presence of the visitors, one of Hamid’s uncles had urged him, half jocularly, to bring out the Sahharah. The Shaykh did not care to do anything of the kind. Every time a new box is opened in this part of the world, the owner’s generosity is appealed to by those whom a refusal offends, and he must allow himself to be plundered with the best possible grace. Hamid therefore prudently suffered all to depart before exhibiting his spoils; which, to judge by the exclamations of delight which they elicited from feminine lips, proved highly satisfactory to those most concerned.
After sleeping, we all set out in a body to the Harim, as this is a duty which must not be delayed by the pious. The boy Mohammed was in better spirits, the effect of having borrowed from Hamid, amongst other articles of clothing, an exceedingly gaudy embroidered coat. As for Shaykh Nur, he had brushed up his Tarbush, and, by means of some cast-off dresses of mine, had made himself look like a respectable Abyssinian slave, in a nondescript toilette, half Turkish, half Indian. I propose to reserve the ceremony of Ziyarat, or Visitation, for another chapter, and to conclude this with a short account of our style of living at the Shaykh’s hospitable house.
Hamid’s abode is a small corner building, open on the North and East to the Barr al-Manakhah: the ground floor shows only a kind of vestibule, in which coarse articles, like old Shugdufs, mats and bits of sacking, are lying about; the rest are devoted to purposes of sewerage. Ascending dark winding steps of ragged stone covered with hard black earth, you come to the first floor, where the men live. It consists of two rooms to the front of the house, one a Majlis, and another converted into a store. Behind them is a dark passage, into which the doors open; and the back part of the first story is a long windowless room, containing a Hanafiyah,14 or large copper water-pot, and other conveniences for purification. On the second floor is the kitchen, which I did not inspect, it being as usual occupied by the “Harim.”
The Majlis has dwarf windows, or rather apertures in the northern and eastern walls, with rude wooden shutters and reed blinds; the embrasures being garnished with cushions, where you sit, morning and evening, to enjoy the cool air. The ceiling is of date-sticks laid across palm-rafters stained red, and the walls are of rough scoriae, burnt bricks, and wood-work cemented with lime. The only signs of furniture in the sitting-room are a Diwan15 round the sides and a carpet in the centre. A huge wooden box, like a seaman’s chest, occupies one of the corners. In the southern wall there is a Suffah, or little shelf of common stone, sunk under a single arch; upon this are placed articles in hourly use, perfume-bottles, coffee-cups, a stray book or two, and sometimes a turband, to be out of the children’s way. Two hooks on the western wall, hung jealously high up, hold a pair of pistols with handsome crimson cords and tassels, and half a dozen cherry-stick pipes. The centre of the room is never without one or more Shishas16 (water pipes), and in the corner is a large copper brazier containing fire, with all the utensils for making coffee either disposed upon its broad brim or lying about the floor. The passage, like the stairs, is spread over with hard black earth, and is regularly watered twice a day during the hot weather.
The household consisted of Hamid’s mother, wife, some nephews and nieces, small children who ran about in a half-wild and more than half-nude state, and two African slave girls. When the Damascus Caravan came in, it was further reinforced by the arrival of his three younger brothers.
Though the house was not grand, it was made lively by the varied views out of the Majlis’ windows. From the East, you looked upon the square Al-Barr, the town walls and houses beyond it, the Egyptian gate, the lofty minarets of the Harim, and the distant outlines of Jabal Ohod.17 The north commanded a prospect of Mohammed’s Mosque, one of the Khamsah Masajid,18 or the five suburban Mosques19; of part of the fort-wall; and, when the Damascus Caravan came in, of the gay scene of the “Prado” beneath. The Majlis was tolerably cool during the early part of the day: in the afternoon the sun shone fiercely upon it. I have described the establishment at some length as a specimen of how the middle classes are lodged at Al-Madinah. The upper ranks affect Turkish and Egyptian luxuries in their homes, as I had an opportunity of seeing at Omar Effendi’s house in the “Barr;” and in these countries the abodes of the poor are everywhere very similar.
Our life in Shaykh Hamid’s house was quiet, but not disagreeable. I never once set eyes upon the face of woman, unless the African slave girls be allowed the title. Even these at first attempted to draw their ragged veils over their sable charms, and would not answer the simplest question; by degrees they allowed me to see them, and they ventured their voices to reply to me; still they never threw off a certain appearance of shame.20
I never saw, nor even heard, the youthful mistress of the household, who stayed all day in the upper rooms. The old lady, Hamid’s mother, would stand upon the stairs, and converse aloud with her son, and, when few people were about the house, with me. She never, however, as afterwards happened to an ancient dame at Meccah, came and sat by my side.
When lying during mid-day in the gallery, I often saw parties of women mount the stairs to the Gynaeconitis, and sometimes an individual would stand to shake a muffled hand21 with Hamid, to gossip awhile, and to put some questions concerning absent friends; but they were most decorously wrapped up, nor did they ever deign to deroger, even by exposing an inch of cheek.
At dawn we arose, washed, prayed, and broke our fast22 upon a crust of stale bread, before smoking a pipe, and drinking a cup of coffee.23 Then it was time to dress, to mount, and to visit the Harim or one of the Holy Places outside the city. Returning before the sun became intolerable, we sat together, and with conversation, Shishas and Chibuks,24 coffee, and cold water perfumed with mastich-smoke,25 we whiled away the time till our “Ariston,” a dinner which appeared at the primitive hour of 11 A.M. The meal, here called Al-Ghada, was served in the Majlis on a large copper tray, sent from the upper apartments. Ejaculating “Bismillah” — the Moslem “grace” — we all sat round it, and dipped equal hands in the dishes set before us. We had usually unleavened bread, different kinds of meat and vegetable stews; and, at the end of the first course, plain boiled rice eaten with spoons; then came the fruits, fresh dates, grapes, and pomegranates.
After dinner I used invariably to find some excuse-such as the habit of a “Kaylulah26” (mid-day siesta) or the being a “Saudawi27” — a person of melancholy temperament-to have a rug spread in the dark passage behind the Majlis; and there to lie reading, dozing, smoking, or writing, en cachette, in complete deshabille, all through the worst part of the day, from noon to sunset.
Then came the hour for receiving or paying visits. We still kept up an intimacy with Omar Effendi and Sa’ad the Demon, although Salih Skakkar and Amm Jamal, either disliking our society, or perhaps thinking our sphere of life too humble for their dignity, did not appear once in Hamid’s house. The evening prayers ensued, either at home, or in the Harim, followed by our Asha or “deipnon,” another substantial meal like the dinner, but more plentiful, of bread, meat, vegetables, plain rice and fruits, concluding with the invariable pipes and coffee.
To pass our soiree, we occasionally dressed in common clothes, shouldered a Nabbut,28 and went to the cafe; sometimes on festive occasions we indulged in a Taatumah (or Itmiyah), a late supper of sweetmeats, pomegranates, and dried fruits. Usually we sat upon mattresses spread upon the ground in the open air at the Shaykh’s door; receiving evening visits, chatting, telling stories, and making merry, till each, as he felt the approach of the drowsy god, sank down into his proper place, and fell asleep.
Whatever may be the heat of the day, the night at Al-Madinah, owing, I suppose, to its elevated position, is cool and pleasant. In order to allay the dust, the ground before the Shaykh’s door was watered every evening, and the evaporation was almost too great to be safe, — the boy Mohammed suffered from a smart attack of lumbago, which, however, yielded readily to frictions of olive oil in which ginger had been boiled.
Our greatest inconvenience at night-time was the pugnacity of the animal creation. The horses of the troopers tethered in the Barr were sure to break loose once in twelve hours. Some hobbled old nag, having slipped the headstall, would advance with kangaroo-leaps towards a neighbour against whom it had a private grudge. Their heads would touch for a moment; then came a snort and a whinny, a furious kick, and, lastly, a second horse loose and dashing about with head and tail viciously cocked. This was the signal for a general breaking of halters and heel-ropes; after which, a “stampede” scoured the plain, galloping, rearing, kicking, biting, snorting, pawing, and screaming, with the dogs barking sympathetically, and the horse-keepers shouting in hot pursuit.
It was a strange sight to see by moonlight the forms of these “demon steeds” exaggerated by the shades; and, on more than one occasion, we had all to start up precipitately from our beds, and yield them to a couple of combatants who were determined to fight out their quarrel a l’outrance, wherever the battle-field might be.
The dogs at Al-Madinah are not less pugnacious than the horses.29 They are stronger and braver than those that haunt the streets at Cairo; like the Egyptians, they have amongst themselves a system of police regulations, which brings down all the posse comitatus upon the unhappy straggler who ventures into a strange quarter of the town. They certainly met in Al-Barr upon common ground, to decide the differences which must arise in so artificial a state of canine society.
Having had many opportunities of watching them, I can positively assert that they were divided into two parties, which fought with a skill and an acharnement that astounded me. Sometimes when one side gave way, and as the retreat was degenerating into a sauve qui peut, some proud warrior, a dog-hero, would sacrifice himself for the public weal, and with gnashing teeth and howls of rage encounter the assaults of the insolent victors until his flying friends had time to recover heart. Such an one my companions called “Mubariz.30” At other times, some huge animal, an Ajax of his kind, would plunge into the ring with frantic yells, roll over one dog, snap at a second, worry a third for a minute or two, and then dash off to a distant part, where a thicker field required his presence. This uncommon sagacity has been remarked by the Arabs, who look on amused at their battles. Current in Al-Hijaz are also certain superstitions about the dog resembling ours; only, as usual, more poetical and less grotesque. Most people believe that when the animal howls without apparent cause in the neighbourhood of a house, it forbodes death to one of the inmates; for the dog they say can distinguish the awful form of Azrail, the Angel of Death, hovering over the doomed abode, whereas man’s spiritual sight is dull and dim by reason of his sins.
When the Damascus Caravan entered Al-Madinah, our day became a little more amusing. From the windows of Shaykh Hamid’s house there was a perpetual succession of strange scenes. A Persian nobleman, also, had pitched his tents so near the door, that the whole course of his private life became public and patent to the boy Mohammed, who amused his companions by reporting all manner of ludicrous scenes. The Persian’s wife was rather a pretty woman, and she excited the youth’s fierce indignation, by not veiling her face when he gazed at her, — thereby showing that, as his beard was not grown, she considered him a mere boy.
“I will ask her to marry me,” said Mohammed, “and thereby rouse her shame!”
He did so, but, unhappy youth! the fair Persian never even ceased fanning herself.
The boy Mohammed was for once confounded.
1 In the East, wherever there is a compound of fort and city, that place has certainly been in the habit of being divided against itself. Surat in Western India is a well-known instance. I must refer the reader to Burckhardt (Travels in Arabia, vol. ii., page 281, and onwards) for a detailed account of the feuds and affrays between the “Agha of the Castle” and the “Agha of the Town.” Their day has now gone by, — for the moment.
2 Sir John Mandeville, writing in the 14th century, informed Europe that “Machomet lyeth in the Cytee of Methone.” In the 19th century, Mr. Halliwell, his editor, teaches us in a foot-note that “Methone” is Meccah! It is strange how often this gross mistake is still made by respectable authors in France as well as in England.
3 This torrent is called Al-Sayh, — “the Running Water,” — which, properly speaking, is the name of a well-wooded Wady outside the town, in the direction of Kuba.
4 “Manakhah” is a place where camels kneel down; it is a derivation from the better known root to “Nakh,” or cause the animal to kneel.
5 Arabs, and, indeed, most Orientals, are generally received after returning from a journey, with shrill cries of joy by all the fair part of the household, and they do not like strangers to hear this demonstration.
6 An Eastern Barber is not content to pass the razor over hairy spots: he must scrape the forehead, trim the eyebrows, clean the cheeks, run the blade rapidly over the nose, correct the upper and under lines of the mustaches, parting them in the centre, and so on.
7 Halaili is a cotton stuff, with long stripes of white silk, a favourite material amongst the city Arabs. At Constantinople, where the best is sold, the piece, which will cut into two shirts, costs about thirty shillings.
8 The “Mizz” (in colloquial Arabic Misd) are the tight-fitting inner slippers of soft Cordovan leather, worn as stockings inside the slipper; they are always clean, so they may be retained in the Mosque or on the Diwan (divan or sofa).
9 The Majlis (“the Place of Sitting”) is the drawing or reception room; it is usually in the first story of the house, below the apartments of the women.
10 The coffee drank at Al-Madinah is generally of a good quality. In Egypt that beverage in the common coffee-shops is, — as required to be by the people who frequent those places, — “bitter as death, black as Satan, and hot as Jahannam.” To effect this desideratum, therefore, they toast the grain to blackness, boil it to bitterness, and then drink scalding stuff of the consistency of water-gruel. At Al-Madinah, on the contrary, — as indeed in the houses of the better classes even in Egypt, — the grain is carefully picked, and that the flavour may be preserved, it is never put upon the fire until required. It is toasted too till it becomes yellow, not black; and afterwards is bruised, not pounded to powder. The water into which it is thrown is allowed to boil up three times, after which a cold sprinkling is administered to clear it, and then the fine light-dun infusion is poured off into another pot. Those who admire the “Kaimak,” or froth, do not use a second vessel. The Arabs seldom drink more than one cup of coffee at a time, but with many the time is every half-hour of the day. The coffee-husk or “Kishr” of Al-Yaman is here unknown.
11 The common name for the Russians in Egypt and Al-Hijaz.
12 The Greeks are well known at Al-Madinah, and several of the historians complain that some of the minor holy places had fallen into the hands of this race, (Moslems, or pretended Moslems, I presume), who prevented people visiting them. It is curious that the impostor Cagliostro should have hit upon the truth when he located Greeks at Al-Madinah
13 Parents and full-grown men amuse themselves with grossly abusing children, almost as soon as they can speak, in order to excite their rage, and to judge of their dispositions. This supplies the infant population with a large stock-in-trade of ribaldry. They literally lisp in bad language.
14 The Hanafiyah is a large vessel of copper, sometimes tinned, with a cock in the lower part, and, generally, an ewer, or a basin, to receive the water.
15 It is wonderful that this most comfortable, inexpensive, and ornamental style of furnishing a room, has not been oftener imitated in India and the hot countries of Europe. The Diwan-it must not be confounded with the leathern perversion which obtains that name in our club smoking-rooms-is a line of flat cushions ranged round the room, either placed upon the ground, or on wooden benches, or on a step of masonry; varying in height according to the fashion of the day. When such foundation is used, it should be about a yard in breadth, and slope very gently from the outer edge towards the wall, for the greater convenience of reclining. Cotton-stuffed pillows, covered with chintz for summer, and silk for winter, are placed against the wall, and can be moved to make a luxurious heap; their covers are generally all of the same colour, except those at the end. The seat of honour is denoted by a small square cotton-stuffed silk coverlet, placed in one of the corners, which the position of the windows determines, the place of distinction being on the left of the host. Thus in Egypt you have a neatly-furnished room for L5 or L6.
16 The Madinah Shisha is a large cocoa-nut, with a tall wooden stem, both garnished with brass ornaments; some trifling differences in the latter distinguish it from the Meccah pipe. Both are inconveniently mounted upon small brass tripods, and are easily overturned, scattering fire and water over the carpets. The “lay,” or snakes, are the substantial manufacture of Al-Yaman. Some grandees at Al-Madinah have glass Turkish Shishas and Constantinople snakes, which are of admirable elegance, compared with the clumsy and unsightly Arab inventions. (See page 80, ante.)
17 From this window I sketched the walls and the Egyptian gate of Al-Madinah.
18 “Five mosques.”
19 This Mosque must not be confounded with the Harim. It is described in Chapter XV.
20 Their voices are strangely soft and delicate, considering the appearance of the organs from which they proceed. Possibly this may be a characteristic of the African races; it is remarkable amongst the Somali women.
21 After touching the skin of a strange woman, it is not lawful in Al-Islam to pray without ablution. For this reason, when a fair dame shakes hands with you, she wraps up her fingers in a kerchief, or in the end of her veil.
22 Nafukku’r rik, literally, “Let us open the saliva,” is most idiomatic Hijazi for the first morsel eaten in the morning. Hence it is called Fakkur’ rik, also Gura and Tasbih: the Egyptians call it “Al-Fatur.”
23 Orientals invariably begin by eating an “akratisma” in the morning before they will smoke a pipe, or drink a cup of coffee; they have also an insuperable prejudice against the internal use of cold water at this hour.
24 The tobacco generally smoked here is Syrian, which is brought down in large quantities by the Damascus caravan. Latakia is more expensive, and generally too dry to retain its flavour.
25 The interior of the water jar is here perfumed with the smoke of mastich, exactly as described by Lane, (Mod. Egyptians, vol i. ch. 5). I found at Al-Madinah the prejudice alluded to by Sonnini, namely, that the fumes of the gum are prejudicial, and sometimes fatal to invalids.
26 Kaylulah is the half hour’s siesta about noon. It is a Sunnat, and the Prophet said of it, “Kilu, fa inna ’sh’ Shayatina la Takil,” — “Take the mid-day siesta, for, verily, the demons sleep not at this hour.” “Aylulah” is slumbering after morning prayers (our “beauty sleep”), which causes heaviness and inability to work. Ghaylulah is the sleeping about 9 A.M., the effect of which is poverty and wretchedness. Kaylulah (with the guttural kaf) is sleeping before evening prayers, a practice reprobated in every part of the East. And, finally, Faylulah is sleeping immediately after sunset, — also considered highly detrimental.
27 The Arabs, who suffer greatly from melancholia, are kind to people afflicted with this complaint; it is supposed to cause a distaste for society, and a longing for solitude, an unsettled habit of mind, and a neglect of worldly affairs. Probably it is the effect of overworking the brain, in a hot dry atmosphere. I have remarked, that in Arabia students are subject to it, and that amongst their philosophers and literary men, there is scarcely an individual who was not spoken of as a “Saudawi.” My friend Omar Effendi used to complain, that at times his temperament drove him out of the house, — so much did he dislike the sound of the human voice, — to pass the day seated upon some eminence in the vicinity of the city.
28 This habit of going out at night in common clothes, with a Nabbut upon one’s shoulders, is, as far as I could discover, popular at Al-Madinah, but confined to the lowest classes at Meccah. The boy Mohammed always spoke of it with undisguised disapprobation. During my stay at Meccah, I saw no such costume amongst respectable people there; though oftentimes there was a suspicion of a disguise.
29 Burckhardt (Travels in Arabia, vol. ii., p. 268) remarks that Al-Madinah is the only town in the East from which dogs are excluded. This was probably as much a relic of Wahhabi-ism, (that sect hating even to look at a dog), as arising from apprehension of the Mosque being polluted by canine intrusion. I have seen one or two of these animals in the town, but I was told, that when they enter it in any numbers, the police-magistrate issues orders to have them ejected.
30 The “Mubariz” is the single combatant, the champion of the Arabian classical and chivalrous times.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:51