WE have now left the territory of Al-Madinah. Al-Suwayrkiyah, which belongs to the Sharif of Meccah, is about twenty-eight miles distant from Hijriyah, and by dead reckoning ninety-nine miles along the road from the Prophet’s burial-place. Its bearing from the last station was S.W. 11°. The town, consisting of about one hundred houses, is built at the base and on the sides of a basaltic mass, which rises abruptly from the hard clayey plain. The summit is converted into a rude fortalice — without one, no settlement can exist in Al-Hijaz — by a bulwark of uncut stone, piled up so as to make a parapet. The lower part of the town is protected by a mud wall, with the usual semicircular towers. Inside there is a bazar, well supplied with meat (principally mutton) by the neighbouring Badawin; and wheat, barley, and dates are grown near the town. There is little to describe in the narrow streets and the mud houses, which are essentially Arab. The fields around are divided into little square plots by earthen ridges and stone walls; some of the palms are fine-grown trees, and the wells appear numerous. The water is near the surface and plentiful, but it has a brackish taste, highly disagreeable after a few days’ use, and the effects are the reverse of chalybeate.
The town belongs to the Benu Hosayn, a race of schismatics mentioned in the foregoing pages. They claim the allegiance of the Badawi tribes around, principally Mutayr, and I was informed that their fealty to the Prince of Meccah is merely nominal. The morning after our arrival at Al-Suwayrkiyah witnessed a commotion in our little party: hitherto they had kept together in fear of the road. Among the number was one Ali bin Ya Sin, a perfect “old man of the sea.” By profession he was a “Zemzemi,” or dispenser of water from the Holy Well,1 and he had a handsome “palazzo” at the foot of Abu Kubays in Meccah, which he periodically converted into a boarding-house. Though past sixty, very decrepit, bent by age, white-bearded, and toothless, he still acted cicerone to pilgrims, and for that purpose travelled once every year to Al-Madinah. These trips had given him the cunning of a veteran voyageur. He lived well and cheaply; his home-made Shugduf, the model of comfort, was garnished with soft cushions and pillows, whilst from the pockets protruded select bottles of pickled limes and similar luxuries; he had his travelling Shishah (water-pipe),2 and at the halting-place, disdaining the crowded, reeking tent, he had a contrivance for converting his vehicle into a habitation. He was a type of the Arab old man. He mumbled all day and three-quarters of the night, for he had des insomnies. His nerves were so fine, that if any one mounted his Shugduf, the unfortunate was condemned to lie like a statue. Fidgety and priggishly neat, nothing annoyed him so much as a moment’s delay or an article out of place, a rag removed from his water-gugglet, or a cooking-pot imperfectly free from soot; and I judged his avarice by observing that he made a point of picking up and eating the grains scattered from our pomegranates, exclaiming that the heavenly seed (located there by Arab superstition) might be one of those so wantonly wasted. Ali bin Ya Sin, returning to his native city, had not been happy in his choice of a companion this time. The other occupant of the handsome Shugduf was an ignoble-faced Egyptian from Al-Madinah. This ill-suited pair clave together for awhile, but at Al-Suwayrkiyah some dispute about a copper coin made them permanent foes. With threats and abuse such as none but an Egyptian could tamely hear, Ali kicked his quondam friend out of the vehicle. But terrified, after reflection, by the possibility that the man, now his enemy, might combine with two or three Syrians of our party to do him a harm, and frightened by a few black looks, the senior determined to fortify himself by a friend. Connected with the boy Mohammed’s family, he easily obtained an introduction to me; he kissed my hand with great servility, declared that his servant had behaved disgracefully; and begged my protection together with an occasional attendance of my “slave.”
This was readily granted in pity for the old man, who became immensely grateful. He offered at once to take Shaykh Nur into his Shugduf. The Indian boy had already reduced to ruins the frail structure of his Shibriyah by lying upon it lengthways, whereas prudent travellers sit in it cross-legged and facing the camel. Moreover, he had been laughed to scorn by the Badawin, who seeing him pull up his dromedary to mount and dismount, had questioned his sex, and determined him to be a woman of the “Miyan.3” I could not rebuke them; the poor fellow’s timidity was a ridiculous contrast to the Badawi’s style of mounting; a pull at the camel’s head, the left foot placed on the neck, an agile spring, and a scramble into the saddle. Shaykh Nur, elated by the sight of old Ali’s luxuries, promised himself some joyous hours; but next morning he owned with a sigh that he had purchased splendour at the extravagant price of happiness — the senior’s tongue never rested throughout the livelong night.
During our half-halt at Al-Suwayrkiyah we determined to have a small feast; we bought some fresh dates, and we paid a dollar and a half for a sheep. Hungry travellers consider “liver and fry” a dish to set before a Shaykh. On this occasion, however, our enjoyment was marred by the water; even Soyer’s dinners would scarcely charm if washed down with cups of a certain mineral-spring found at Epsom.
We started at ten A.M. (Monday, 5th September) in a South-Easterly direction, and travelled over a flat, thinly dotted with Desert vegetation. At one P.M we passed a basaltic ridge; and then, entering a long depressed line of country, a kind of valley, paced down it five tedious hours. The Samum as usual was blowing hard, and it seemed to affect the travellers’ tempers. In one place I saw a Turk, who could not speak a word of Arabic, violently disputing with an Arab who could not understand a word of Turkish. The pilgrim insisted upon adding to the camel’s load a few dry sticks, such as are picked up for cooking. The camel-man as perseveringly threw off the extra burthen. They screamed with rage, hustled each other, and at last the Turk dealt the Arab a heavy blow. I afterwards heard that the pilgrim was mortally wounded that night, his stomach being ripped open with a dagger. On enquiring what had become of him, I was assured that he had been comfortably wrapped up in his shroud, and placed in a half-dug grave. This is the general practice in the case of the poor and solitary, whom illness or accident incapacitates from proceeding. It is impossible to contemplate such a fate without horror: the torturing thirst of a wound,4 the burning sun heating the brain to madness, and — worst of all, for they do not wait till death — the attacks of the jackal, the vulture, and the raven of the wild. At six P.M., before the light of day had faded, we traversed a rough and troublesome ridge. Descending it our course lay in a southerly direction along a road flanked on the left by low hills of red sandstone and bright porphyry. About an hour afterwards we came to a basalt field, through whose blocks we threaded our way painfully and slowly, for it was then dark. At eight P.M. the camels began to stumble over the dwarf dykes of the wheat and barley fields, and presently we arrived at our halting-place, a large village called Al-Sufayna. The plain was already dotted with tents and lights. We found the Baghdad Caravan, whose route here falls into the Darb al-Sharki. It consists of a few Persians and Kurds, and collects the people of North-Eastern Arabia, Wahhabis and others. They are escorted by the Agayl tribe and by the fierce mountaineers of Jabal Shammar. Scarcely was our tent pitched, when the distant pattering of musketry and an ominous tapping of the kettle-drum sent all my companions in different directions to enquire what was the cause of quarrel. The Baghdad Cafilah, though not more than 2000 in number, men, women and children, had been proving to the Damascus Caravan, that, being perfectly ready to fight, they were not going to yield any point of precedence. From that time the two bodies encamped in different places. I never saw a more pugnacious assembly: a look sufficed for a quarrel. Once a Wahhabi stood in front of us, and by pointing with his finger and other insulting gestures, showed his hatred to the chibuk, in which I was peaceably indulging. It was impossible to refrain from chastising his insolence by a polite and smiling offer of the offending pipe. This made him draw his dagger without a thought; but it was sheathed again, for we all cocked our pistols, and these gentry prefer steel to lead. We had travelled about seventeen miles, and the direction of Al-Sufayna from our last halting place was South-East five degrees. Though it was night when we encamped, Shaykh Mas’ud set out to water his moaning camels: they had not quenched their thirst for three days. He returned in a depressed state, having been bled by the soldiery at the well to the extent of forty piastres, or about eight shillings.
After supper we spread our rugs and prepared to rest. And here I first remarked the coolness of the nights, proving, at this season of the year, a considerable altitude above the sea. As a general rule the atmosphere stagnated between sunrise and ten A.M., when a light wind rose. During the forenoon the breeze strengthened, and it gradually diminished through the afternoon. Often about sunset there was a gale accompanied by dry storms of dust. At Al-Sufayna, though there was no night-breeze and little dew, a blanket was necessary, and the hours of darkness were invigorating enough to mitigate the effect of the sand and Samum-ridden day. Before sleeping I was introduced to a namesake, one Shaykh Abdullah, of Meccah. Having committed his Shugduf to his son, a lad of fourteen, he had ridden forward on a dromedary, and had suddenly fallen ill. His objects in meeting me were to ask for some medicine, and for a temporary seat in my Shugduf; the latter I offered with pleasure, as the boy Mohammed was longing to mount a camel. The Shaykh’s illness was nothing but weakness brought on by the hardships of the journey: he attributed it to the hot wind, and to the weight of a bag of dollars which he had attached to his waist-belt. He was a man about forty, long, thin, pale, and of a purely nervous temperament; and a few questions elicited the fact that he had lately and suddenly given up his daily opium pill. I prepared one for him, placed him in my litter, and persuaded him to stow away his burden in some place where it would be less troublesome. He was my companion for two marches, at the end of which he found his own Shugduf. I never met amongst the Arab citizens a better bred or a better informed man. At Constantinople he had learned a little French, Italian, and Greek; and from the properties of a shrub to the varieties of honey,5 he was full of “ useful knowledge,” and openable as a dictionary. We parted near Meccah, where I met him only once, and then accidentally, in the Valley of Muna. At half-past five A.M. on Tuesday, the 6th of September, we rose refreshed by the cool, comfortable night, and loaded the camels. I had an opportunity of inspecting Al-Sufayna. It is a village of fifty or sixty mud-walled, flat-roofed houses, defended by the usual rampart. Around it lie ample date-grounds, and fields of wheat, barley, and maize. Its bazar at this season of the year is well supplied: even fowls can be procured.
We travelled towards the South-East, and entered a country destitute of the low ranges of hill, which from Al-Madinah southwards had bounded the horizon. After a two miles’ march our camels climbed up a precipitous ridge, and then descended into a broad gravel plain. From ten to eleven A.M. our course lay southerly over a high table-land, and we afterwards traversed, for five hours and a half, a plain which bore signs of standing water. This day’s march was peculiarly Arabia. It was a desert peopled only with echoes — a place of death for what little there is to die in it — a wilderness where, to use my companion’s phrase, there is nothing but He.6 Nature scalped, flayed, discovered all her skeleton to the gazer’s eye. The horizon was a sea of mirage; gigantic sand-columns whirled over the plain; and on both sides of our road were huge piles of bare rock, standing detached upon the surface of sand and clay. Here they appeared in oval lumps, heaped up with a semblance of symmetry; there a single boulder stood, with its narrow foundation based upon a pedestal of low, dome-shapen rock. All were of a pink coarse-grained granite, which flakes off in large crusts under the influence of the atmosphere. I remarked one block which could not measure fewer than thirty feet in height. Through these scenes we travelled till about half-past four P.M., when the guns suddenly roared a halt. There was not a trace of human habitation around us: a few parched shrubs and the granite heaps were the only objects diversifying the hard clayey plain. Shaykh Mas’ud correctly guessed the cause of our detention at the inhospitable “halting-place of the Mutayr” (Badawin). “Cook your bread and boil your coffee,” said the old man; “the camels will rest for awhile, and the gun will sound at nightfall.” We had passed over about eighteen miles of ground; and our present direction was South-west twenty degrees of Al-Sufayna.
At half-past ten that evening we heard the signal for departure, and, as the moon was still young, we prepared for a hard night’s work. We took a south-westerly course through what is called a Wa’ar — rough ground covered with thicket. Darkness fell upon us like a pall. The camels tripped and stumbled, tossing their litters like cockboats in a short sea; at times the Shugdufs were well nigh torn off their backs. When we came to a ridge worse than usual, old Mas’ud would seize my camel’s halter, and, accompanied by his son and nephew bearing lights, encourage the animals with gesture and voice. It was a strange, wild scene. The black basaltic field was dotted with the huge and doubtful forms of spongy-footed camels with silent tread, looming like phantoms in the midnight air; the hot wind moaned, and whirled from the torches flakes and sheets of flame and fiery smoke, whilst ever and anon a swift-travelling Takht-rawan, drawn by mules, and surrounded by runners bearing gigantic mashals or cressets,7 threw a passing glow of red light upon the dark road and the dusky multitude. On this occasion the rule was “every man for himself.” Each pressed forward into the best path, thinking only of preceding his neighbour. The Syrians, amongst whom our little party had become entangled, proved most unpleasant companions: they often stopped the way, insisting upon their right to precedence. On one occasion a horseman had the audacity to untie the halter of my dromedary, and thus to cast us adrift, as it were, in order to make room for some excluded friend. I seized my sword; but Shaykh Abdullah stayed my hand, and addressed the intruder in terms sufficiently violent to make him slink away. Nor was this the only occasion on which my companion was successful with the Syrians. He would begin with a mild “Move a little, O my father!” followed, if fruitless, by “Out of the way, O Father of Syria8!” and if still ineffectual, advancing to a “Begone, O he!” This ranged between civility and sternness. If without effect, it was supported by revilings to the “Abusers of the Salt,” the “Yazid,” the “Offspring of Shimr.” Another remark which I made about my companion’s conduct well illustrates the difference between the Eastern and the Western man. When traversing a dangerous place, Shaykh Abdullah the European attended to his camel with loud cries of “Hai! Hai9!” and an occasional switching. Shaykh Abdullah the Asiatic commended himself to Allah by repeated ejaculations of Ya Satir! Ya Sattar10!
The morning of Wednesday (September 7th) broke as we entered a wide plain. In many places were signs of water: lines of basalt here and there seamed the surface, and wide sheets of the tufaceous gypsum called by the Arabs Sabkhah shone like mirrors set in the russet framework of the flat. This substance is found in cakes, often a foot long by an inch in depth, curled by the sun’s rays and overlying clay into which water had sunk. After our harassing night, day came on with a sad feeling of oppression, greatly increased by the unnatural glare:—
“In vain the sight, dejected to the ground,
Stoop’d for relief: thence hot ascending streams
And keen reflection pain’d.”
We were disappointed in our expectations of water, which usually abounds near this station, as its name, Al-Ghadir, denotes. At ten A.M. we pitched the tent in the first convenient spot, and we lost no time in stretching our cramped limbs upon the bosom of mother Earth. From the halting-place of the Mutayr to Al-Ghadir is a march of about twenty miles, and the direction south-west twenty-one degrees. Al-Ghadir is an extensive plain, which probably presents the appearance of a lake after heavy rains. It is overgrown in parts with Desert vegetation, and requires nothing but a regular supply of water to make it useful to man. On the East it is bounded by a wall of rock, at whose base are three wells, said to have been dug by the Caliph Harun. They are guarded by a Burj, or tower, which betrays symptoms of decay.
In our anxiety to rest we had strayed from the Damascus Caravan amongst the mountaineers of Shammar. Our Shaykh Mas’ud manifestly did not like the company; for shortly after three P.M. he insisted upon our striking the tent and rejoining the Hajj, which lay encamped about two miles distant in the western part of the basin. We loaded, therefore, and half an hour before sunset found ourselves in more congenial society. To my great disappointment, a stir was observable in the Caravan. I at once understood that another night-march was in store for us.
At six P.M. we again mounted, and turned towards the Eastern plain. A heavy shower was falling upon the Western hills, whence came damp and dangerous blasts. Between nine P.M. and the dawn of the next day we had a repetition of the last night’s scenes, over a road so rugged and dangerous, that I wondered how men could prefer to travel in the darkness. But the camels of Damascus were now worn out with fatigue; they could not endure the sun, and our time was too precious for a halt. My night was spent perched upon the front bar of my Shugduf, encouraging the dromedary; and that we had not one fall excited my extreme astonishment. At five A.M. (Thursday, 8th September) we entered a wide plain thickly clothed with the usual thorny trees, in whose strong grasp many a Shugduf lost its covering, and not a few were dragged with their screaming inmates to the ground. About five hours afterwards we crossed a high ridge, and saw below us the camp of the Caravan, not more than two miles distant. As we approached it, a figure came running out to meet us. It was the boy Mohammed, who, heartily tired of riding a dromedary with his friend, and possibly hungry, hastened to inform my companion Abdullah that he would lead him to his Shugduf and to his son. The Shaykh, a little offended by the fact that for two days not a friend nor an acquaintance had taken the trouble to see or to inquire about him, received Mohammed roughly; but the youth, guessing the grievance, explained it away by swearing that he and all the party had tried in vain to find us. This wore the semblance of truth: it is almost impossible to come upon any one who strays from his place in so large and motley a body.
At eleven A.M. we had reached our station. It is about wenty-four miles from Al-Ghadir, and its direction is South-east ten degrees. It is called Al-Birkat (the Tank), from a large and now ruinous cistern built of hewn stone by the Caliph Harun.11 The land belongs to the Utaybah Badawin, the bravest and most ferocious tribe in Al-Hijaz; and the citizens denote their dread of these banditti by asserting that to increase their courage they drink their enemy’s blood.12 My companions shook their heads when questioned upon the subject, and prayed that we might not become too well acquainted with them — an ill-omened speech!
The Pasha allowed us a rest of five hours at Al-Birkat: we spent them in my tent, which was crowded with Shaykh Abdullah’s friends. To requite me for this inconvenience, he prepared for me an excellent water-pipe, a cup of coffee, which, untainted by cloves and by cinnamon, would have been delicious, and a dish of dry fruits. As we were now near the Holy City, all the Meccans were busy canvassing for lodgers and offering their services to pilgrims. Quarrels, too, were of hourly occurrence. In our party was an Arnaut, a white-bearded old man, so decrepit that he could scarcely stand, and yet so violent that no one could manage him but his African slave, a brazen-faced little wretch about fourteen years of age. Words were bandied between this angry senior and Shaykh Mas’ud, when the latter insinuated sarcastically, that if the former had teeth he would be more intelligible. The Arnaut in his rage seized a pole, raised it, and delivered a blow which missed the camel-man, but, which brought the striker headlong to the ground. Mas’ud exclaimed, with shrieks of rage, “Have we come to this, that every old-woman Turk smites us?” Our party had the greatest trouble to quiet the quarrel[l]ers. The Arab listened to us when we threatened him with the Pasha. But the Arnaut, whose rage was “like red-hot steel,” would hear nothing but our repeated declarations, that unless he behaved more like a pilgrim, we should be compelled to leave him and his slave behind.
At four P.M. we left Al-Birkat, and travelled Eastwards over rolling ground thickly wooded. There was a network of footpaths through the thickets, and clouds obscured the moon; the consequence was inevitable loss of way. About 2 A.M. we began ascending hills in a south-westerly direction, and presently we fell into the bed of a large rock-girt Fiumara, which runs from east to west. The sands were overgrown with saline and salsolaceous plants; the Coloquintida, which, having no support, spreads along the ground13; the Senna, with its small green leaf; the Rhazya stricta14; and a large luxuriant variety of the Asclepias gigantea,15 cottoned over with mist and dew. At 6 A.M. (Sept. 9th) we left the Fiumara, and, turning to the West, we arrived about an hour afterwards at the station. Al-Zaribah, “the valley,” is an undulating plain amongst high granite hills. In many parts it was faintly green; water was close to the surface, and rain stood upon the ground. During the night we had travelled about twenty-three miles, and our present station was south-east 56° from our last.
Having pitched the tent and eaten and slept, we prepared to perform the ceremony of Al-Ihram (assuming the pilgrim-garb), as Al-Zaribah is the Mikat, or the appointed place.16 Between the noonday and the afternoon prayers a barber attended to shave our heads, cut our nails, and trim our mustachios. Then, having bathed and perfumed ourselves — the latter is a questionable point — we donned the attire, which is nothing but two new cotton cloths, each six feet long by three and a half broad, white, with narrow red stripes and fringes: in fact, the costume called Al-Eddeh, in the baths at Cairo.17 One of these sheets, technically termed the Rida, is thrown over the back, and, exposing the arm and shoulder, is knotted at the right side in the style Wishah. The Izar is wrapped round the loins from waist to knee, and, knotted or tucked in at the middle, supports itself. Our heads were bare, and nothing was allowed upon the instep.18 It is said that some clans of Arabs still preserve this religious but most uncomfortable costume; it is doubtless of ancient date, and to this day, in the regions lying west of the Red Sea, it continues to be the common dress of the people.
After the toilette, we were placed with our faces in the direction of Meccah, and ordered to say aloud,19 “I vow this Ihram of Hajj (the pilgrimage) and the Umrah (the Little pilgrimage) to Allah Almighty!” Having thus performed a two-bow prayer, we repeated, without rising from the sitting position, these words, “O Allah! verily I purpose the Hajj and the Umrah, then enable me to accomplish the two, and accept them both of me, and make both blessed to me!” Followed the Talbiyat, or exclaiming —
“Here I am! O Allah! here am I—
No partner hast Thou, here am I;
Verily the praise and the grace are Thine, and the empire —
No partner hast Thou, here am I20!”
And we were warned to repeat these words as often as possible, until the conclusion of the ceremonies. Then Shaykh Abdullah, who acted as director of our consciences, bade us be good pilgrims, avoiding quarrels, immorality, bad language, and light conversation. We must so reverence life that we should avoid killing game, causing an animal to fly, and even pointing it out for destruction21; nor should we scratch ourselves, save with the open palm, lest vermin be destroyed, or a hair uprooted by the nail. We were to respect the sanctuary by sparing the trees, and not to pluck a single blade of grass. As regards personal considerations, we were to abstain from all oils, perfumes, and unguents; from washing the head with mallow or with lote leaves; from dyeing, shaving, cutting, or vellicating a single pile or hair; and though we might take advantage of shade, and even form it with upraised hands, we must by no means cover our sconces. For each infraction of these ordinances we must sacrifice a sheep22; and it is commonly said by Moslems that none but the Prophet could be perfect in the intricacies of pilgrimage. Old Ali began with an irregularity: he declared that age prevented his assuming the garb, but that, arrived at Meccah, he would clear himself by an offering.
The wife and daughters of a Turkish pilgrim of our party assumed the Ihram at the same time as ourselves. They appeared dresse in white garments; and they had exchanged the Lisam, that coquettish fold of muslin which veils without concealing the lower part of the face, for a hideous mask, made of split, dried, and plaited palm-leaves, with two “bulls’-eyes” for light.23 I could not help laughing when these strange figures met my sight, and, to judge from the shaking of their shoulders, they were not less susceptible to the merriment which they had caused.
At three P.M. we left Al-Zaribah, travelling towards the South-West, and a wondrously picturesque scene met the eye. Crowds hurried along, habited in the pilgrim-garb, whose whiteness contrasted strangely with their black skins; their newly shaven heads glistening in the sun, and their long black hair streaming in the wind. The rocks rang with shouts of Labbayk! Labbayk! At a pass we fell in with the Wahhabis, accompanying the Baghdad Caravan, screaming “Here am I”; and, guided by a large loud kettle-drum, they followed in double file the camel of a standard-bearer, whose green flag bore in huge white letters the formula of the Moslem creed. They were wild-looking mountaineers, dark and fierce, with hair twisted into thin Dalik or plaits: each was armed with a long spear, a matchlock, or a dagger. They were seated upon coarse wooden saddles, without cushions or stirrups, a fine saddle-cloth alone denoting a chief. The women emulated the men; they either guided their own dromedaries, or, sitting in pillion, they clung to their husbands; veils they disdained, and their countenances certainly belonged not to a “soft sex.” These Wahhabis were by no means pleasant companions. Most of them were followed by spare dromedaries, either unladen or carrying water-skins, fodder, fuel, and other necessaries for the march. The beasts delighted in dashing furiously through our file, which being lashed together, head and tail, was thrown each time into the greatest confusion. And whenever we were observed smoking, we were cursed aloud for Infidels and Idolaters.
Looking back at Al-Zaribah, soon after our departure, I saw a heavy nimbus settle upon the hill-tops, a sheet of rain being stretched between it and the plain. The low grumbling of thunder sounded joyfully in our ears. We hoped for a shower, but were disappointed by a dust-storm, which ended with a few heavy drops. There arose a report that the Badawin had attacked a party of Meccans with stones, and the news caused men to look exceeding grave.
At five P.M. we entered the wide bed of the Fiumara, down which we were to travel all night. Here the country falls rapidly towards the sea, as the increasing heat of the air, the direction of the watercourses, and signs of violence in the torrent-bed show. The Fiumara varies in breadth from a hundred and fifty feet to three-quarters of a mile; its course, I was told, is towards the South-West, and it enters the sea near Jeddah. The channel is a coarse sand, with here and there masses of sheet rock and patches of thin vegetation.
At about half-past five P.M. we entered a suspicious-looking place. On the right was a stony buttress, along whose base the stream, when there is one, swings; and to this depression was our road limited by the rocks and thorn trees which filled the other half of the channel. The left side was a precipice, grim and barren, but not so abrupt as its brother. Opposite us the way seemed barred by piles of hills, crest rising above crest into the far blue distance. Day still smiled upon the upper peaks, but the lower slopes and the Fiumara bed were already curtained with grey sombre shade.
A damp seemed to fall upon our spirits as we approached this Valley Perilous. I remarked that the voices of the women and children sank into silence, and the loud Labbayk of the pilgrims were gradually stilled. Whilst still speculating upon the cause of this phenomenon, it became apparent. A small curl of the smoke, like a lady’s ringlet, on the summit of the right-hand precipice, caught my eye; and simultaneous with the echoing crack of the matchlock, a high-trotting dromedary in front of me rolled over upon the sands — a bullet had split its heart — throwing the rider a goodly somersault of five or six yards.
Ensued terrible confusion; women screamed, children cried, and men vociferated, each one striving with might and main to urge his animal out of the place of death. But the road being narrow, they only managed to jam the vehicles in a solid immovable mass. At every match-lock shot, a shudder ran through the huge body, as when the surgeon’s scalpel touches some more sensitive nerve. The Irregular horsemen, perfectly useless, galloped up and down over the stones, shouting to and ordering one another. The Pasha of the army had his carpet spread at the foot of the left-hand precipice, and debated over his pipe with the officers what ought to be done. No good genius whispered “Crown the heights.”
Then it was that the conduct of the Wahhabis found favour in my eyes. They came up, galloping their camels —
“Torrents less rapid, and less rash —
with their elf-locks tossing in the wind, and their flaring matches casting a strange lurid light over their features. Taking up a position, one body began to fire upon the Utaybah robbers, whilst two or three hundred, dismounting, swarmed up the hill under the guidance of the Sharif Zayd. I had remarked this nobleman at Al-Madinah as a model specimen of the pure Arab. Like all Sharifs, he is celebrated for bravery, and has killed many with his own hand.24 When urged at Al-Zaribah to ride into Meccah, he swore that he would not leave the Caravan till in sight of the walls; and, fortunately for the pilgrims, he kept his word. Presently the firing was heard far in our rear, the robbers having fled. The head of the column advanced, and the dense body of pilgrims opened out. Our forced halt was now exchanged for a flight. It required much management to steer our Desert-craft clear of danger; but Shaykh Mas’ud was equal to the occasion. That many were not, was evident by the boxes and baggage that strewed the shingles. I had no means of ascertaining the number of men killed and wounded: reports were contradictory, and exaggeration unanimous. The robbers were said to be a hundred and fifty in number; their object was plunder, and they would eat the shot camels. But their principal ambition was the boast, “We, the Utaybah, on such and such a night, stopped the Sultan’s Mahmil one whole hour in the Pass.”
At the beginning of the skirmish I had primed my pistols, and sat with them ready for use. But soon seeing that there was nothing to be done, and wishing to make an impression — nowhere does Bobadil now “go down” so well as in the East — I called aloud for my supper. Shaykh Nur, exanimate with fear, could not move. The boy Mohammed ejaculated only an “Oh, sir!” and the people around exclaimed in disgust, “By Allah, he eats!” Shaykh Abdullah, the Meccan, being a man of spirit, was amused by the spectacle. “Are these Afghan manners, Effendim?” he enquired from the Shugduf behind me. “Yes,” I replied aloud, “in my country we always dine before an attack of robbers, because that gentry is in the habit of sending men to bed supperless.” The Shaykh laughed aloud, but those around him looked offended. I thought the bravado this time mal place; but a little event which took place on my way to Jeddah proved that it was not quite a failure.
As we advanced, our escort took care to fire every large dry Asclepias, to disperse the shades which buried us. Again the scene became wondrous wild:—
“Full many a waste I’ve wander’d o’er,
Clomb many a crag, cross’d many a shore,
But, by my halidome,
A scene so rude, so wild as this,
Yet so sublime in barrenness,
Ne’er did my wandering footsteps press,
Where’er I chanced to roam.”
On either side were ribbed precipices, dark, angry, and towering above, till their summits mingled with the glooms of night; and between them formidable looked the chasm, down which our host hurried with shouts and discharges of matchlocks. The torch-smoke and the night-fires of flaming Asclepias formed a canopy, sable above and livid red below; it hung over our heads like a sheet, and divided the cliffs into two equal parts. Here the fire flashed fiercely from a tall thorn, that crackled and shot up showers of sparks into the air; there it died away in lurid gleams, which lit up a truly Stygian scene. As usual, however, the picturesque had its inconveniences. There was no path. Rocks, stone-banks, and trees obstructed our passage. The camels, now blind in darkness, then dazzled by a flood of light, stumbled frequently; in some places slipping down a steep descent, in others sliding over a sheet of mud. There were furious quarrels and fierce language between camel-men and their hirers, and threats to fellow-travellers; in fact, we were united in discord. I passed that night crying, “Hai! Hai!” switching the camel, and fruitlessly endeavouring to fustigate Mas’ud’s nephew, who resolutely slept upon the water-bags. During the hours of darkness we made four or five halts, when we boiled coffee and smoked pipes; but man and beasts were beginning to suffer from a deadly fatigue.
Dawn (Saturday, Sept. 10th) found us still travelling down the Fiumara, which here is about a hundred yards broad. The granite hills on both sides were less precipitous; and the borders of the torrent-bed became natural quays of stiff clay, which showed a water-mark of from twelve to fifteen feet in height. In many parts the bed was muddy; and the moist places, as usual, caused accidents. I happened to be looking back at Shaykh Abdullah, who was then riding in old Ali bin Ya Sin’s fine Shugduf; suddenly the camel’s four legs disappeared from under him, his right side flattening the ground, and the two riders were pitched severally out of the smashed vehicle. Abdullah started up furious, and with great zest abused the Badawin, who were absent. “Feed these Arabs,” he exclaimed, quoting a Turkish proverb, “and they will fire at Heaven!” But I observed that, when Shaykh Mas’ud came up, the citizen was only gruff.
We then turned Northward, and sighted Al-Mazik, more generally known as Wady Laymun, the Valley of Limes. On the right bank of the Fiumara stood the Meccan Sharif’s state pavilion, green and gold: it was surrounded by his attendants, and he had prepared to receive the Pasha of the Caravan. We advanced half a mile, and encamped temporarily in a hill-girt bulge of the Fiumara bed. At eight A.M. we had travelled about twenty-four miles from Al-Zaribah, and the direction of our present station was South-west 50°.
Shaykh Mas’ud allowed us only four hours’ halt; he wished to precede the main body. After breaking our fast joyously upon limes, pomegranates, and fresh dates, we sallied forth to admire the beauties of the place. We are once more on classic ground — the ground of the ancient Arab poets —
“Deserted is the village — waste the halting place and home
At Mina, o’er Rijam and Ghul wild beasts unheeded roam,
On Rayyan hill the channel lines have left their naked trace,
Time-worn, as primal Writ that dints the mountain’s flinty face;25”
— and this Wady, celebrated for the purity of its air, has from remote ages been a favourite resort of the Meccans. Nothing can be more soothing to the brain than the dark-green foliage of the limes and pomegranates; and from the base of the Southern hill bursts a bubbling stream, whose
“Chaire, fresche e dolci acque”
flow through the gardens, filling them with the most delicious of melodies, the gladdest sound which Nature in these regions knows.
Exactly at noon Mas’ud seized the halter of the foremost camel, and we started down the Fiumara. Troops of Badawi girls looked over the orchard walls laughingly, and children came out to offer us fresh fruit and sweet water. At two P.M., travelling South-west, we arrived at a point where the torrent-bed turns to the right[;] and, quitting it, we climbed with difficulty over a steep ridge of granite. Before three o’clock we entered a hill-girt plain, which my companions called “Sola.” In some places were clumps of trees, and scattered villages warned us that we were approaching a city. Far to the left rose the blue peaks of Taif, and the mountain road, a white thread upon the nearer heights, was pointed out to me. Here I first saw the tree, or rather shrub, which bears the balm of Gilead, erst so celebrated for its tonic and stomachic properties.26 I told Shaykh Mas’ud to break off a twig, which he did heedlessly. The act was witnessed by our party with a roar of laughter; and the astounded Shaykh was warned that he had become subject to an atoning sacrifice. 27 Of course he denounced me as the instigator, and I could not fairly refuse assistance. The tree has of late years been carefully described by many botanists; I will only say that the bark resembled in colour a cherry-stick pipe, the inside was a light yellow, and the juice made my fingers stick together.
At four P.M. we came to a steep and rocky Pass, up which we toiled with difficulty. The face of the country was rising once more, and again presented the aspect of numerous small basins divided and surrounded by hills. As we jogged on we were passed by the cavalcade of no less a personage than the Sharif of Meccah. Abd al-Muttalib bin Ghalib is a dark, beardless old man with African features derived from his mother. He was plainly dressed in white garments and a white muslin turband,28 which made him look jet black; he rode an ambling mule, and the only emblem of his dignity was the large green satin umbrella born[e] by an attendant on foot.29 Scattered around him were about forty matchlock men, mostly slaves. At long intervals, after their father, came his four sons, Riza Bey, Abdullah, Ali, and Ahmad, the latter still a child. The three elder brothers rode splendid dromedaries at speed; they were young men of light complexion, with the true Meccan cast of features, showily dressed in bright coloured silks, and armed, to denote their rank, with sword and gold-hilted dagger.30
We halted as evening approached, and strained our eyes, but all in vain, to catch sight of Meccah, which lies in a winding valley. By Shaykh Abdullah’s direction I recited, after the usual devotions, the following prayer. The reader is for[e]warned that it is difficult to preserve the flowers of Oriental rhetoric in a European tongue.
O Allah! verily this is Thy Safeguard (Amn) and Thy (Harim)! Into it whoso entereth becometh safe (Amin). So deny (Harrim) my Flesh and Blood, my Bones and Skin, to Hell-fire. O Allah! save me from Thy Wrath on the Day when Thy Servants shall be raised from the Dead. I conjure Thee by this that Thou art Allah, besides whom is none (Thou only), the Merciful, the Compassionate. And have Mercy upon our Lord Mohammed, and upon the Progeny of our Lord Mohammed, and upon his Followers, One and All!” This was concluded with the “Talbiyat,” and with an especial prayer for myself.
We again mounted, and night completed our disappointment. About one A.M. I was aroused by general excitement. “Meccah! Meccah!” cried some voices; “The Sanctuary! O the Sanctuary!” exclaimed others; and all burst into loud “Labbayk,” not unfrequently broken by sobs. I looked out from my litter, and saw by the light of the Southern stars the dim outlines of a large city, a shade darker than the surrounding plain. We were passing over the last ridge by a cutting called the Saniyat Kuda’a, the winding-place of the cut.31 The “winding path” is flanked on both sides by watch-towers, which command the Darb al-Ma’ala or road leading from the North into Meccah. Thence we passed into the Ma’abidah (Northern suburb), where the Sharif’s Palace is built.32 After this, on the left hand, came the deserted abode of the Sharif bin Aun, now said to be a “haunted house.33” Opposite to it lies the Jannat al-Ma’ala, the holy cemetery of Meccah. Thence, turning to the right, we entered the Sulaymaniyah or Afghan quarter. Here the boy Mohammed, being an inhabitant of the Shamiyah or Syrian ward, thought proper to display some apprehension. The two are on bad terms; children never meet without exchanging volleys of stones, and men fight furiously with quarterstaves. Sometimes, despite the terrors of religion, the knife and sabre are drawn. But their hostilities have their code. If a citizen be killed, there is a subscription for blood-money. An inhabitant of one quarter, passing singly through another, becomes a guest; once beyond the walls, he is likely to be beaten to insensibility by his hospitable foes.
At the Sulaymaniyah we turned off the main road into a byway, and ascended by narrow lanes the rough heights of Jabal Hindi, upon which stands a small whitewashed and crenellated building called a fort. Thence descending, we threaded dark streets, in places crowded with rude cots and dusky figures, and finally at two A.M. we found ourselves at the door of the boy Mohammed’s house.
From Wady Laymun to Meccah the distance, according to my calculation, was about twenty-three miles, the direction South-East forty-five degrees. We arrived on the morning of Sunday, the 7th Zu’l Hijjah (11th September, 1853), and had one day before the beginning of the pilgrimage to repose and visit the Harim.
I conclude this chapter with a few remarks upon the watershed of Al-Hijaz. The country, in my humble opinion, has a compound slope, Southwards and Westwards. I have, however, little but the conviction of the modern Arabs to support the assertion that this part of Arabia declines from the North. All declare the course of water to be Southerly, and believe the fountain of Arafat to pass underground from Baghdad. The slope, as geographers know, is still a disputed point. Ritter, Jomard, and some old Arab authors, make the country rise towards the south, whilst Wallin and others express an opposite opinion. From the sea to Al-Musahhal is a gentle rise. The water-marks of the Fiumaras show that Al-Madinah is considerably above the coast, though geographers may not be correct in claiming for Jabal Radhwa a height of six thousand feet; yet that elevation is not perhaps too great for the plateau upon which stands the Apostle’s burial-place. From Al-Madinah to Al-Suwayrkiyah is another gentle rise, and from the latter to Al-Zaribah stagnating water denotes a level. I believe the report of a perennial lake on the eastern boundary of Al-Hijaz, as little as the river placed by Ptolemy between Yambu’ and Meccah. No Badawi could tell me of this feature, which, had it existed, would have changed the whole conditions and history of the country; we know the Greek’s river to be a Fiumara, and the lake probably owes its existence to a similar cause, a heavy fall of rain. Beginning at Al-Zaribah is a decided fall, which continues to the sea. The Arafat torrent sweeps from East to West with great force, sometimes carrying away the habitations, and even injuring the sanctuary.34
1 There are certain officers called Zemzemi, who distribute the holy water. In the case of a respectable pilgrim they have a large jar of the shape described in Chap. iv., marked with his names and titles, and sent every morning to his lodgings. If he be generous, one or more will be placed in the Harim, that men may drink in his honour. The Zemzemi expects a present varying from five to eleven dollars.
2 The shishah, smoked on the camel, is a tin canister divided into two compartments, the lower half for the water, the upper one for the tobacco. The cover is pierced with holes to feed the fire, and a short hookah-snake projects from one side.
3 The Hindustani “sir.” Badawin address it slightingly to Indians, Chapter xii.
4 When Indians would say “he was killed upon the spot,” they use the picturesque phrase, “he asked not for water.”
5 The Arabs are curious in and fond of honey: Meccah alone affords eight or nine different varieties. The best, and in Arab parlance the “coldest,” is the green kind, produced by bees that feed upon a thorny plant called “sihhah.” The white and red honeys rank next. The worst is the Asal Asmar (brown honey), which sells for something under a piastre per pound. The Abyssinian mead is unknown in Al-Hijaz, but honey enters into a variety of dishes.
6 “La Siwa Hu,” i.e., where there is none but Allah.
7 This article, an iron cylinder with bands, mounted on a long pole, corresponds with the European cresset of the fifteenth century. The Pasha’s cressets are known by their smell, a little incense being mingled with the wood. By this means the Badawin discover the dignitary’s place.
8 “Abu Sham,” a familiar address in Al-Hijaz to Syrians. They are called “abusers of the salt,” from their treachery, and “offspring of Shimr” (the execrated murderer of the Imam Hosayn), because he was a native of that country. Such is the detestation in which the Shi’ah sect, especially the Persians, hold Syria and the Syrians, that I hardly ever met with a truly religious man who did not desire a general massacre of the polluted race. And history informs us that the plains of Syria have repeatedly been drenched with innocent blood shed by sectarian animosity. Yet Jalal al-Din (History of Jerusalem) says, “As to Damascus, all learned men fully agree that it is the most eminent of cities after Meccah and Al-Madinah.” Hence its many titles, “the Smile of the Prophet,” the “Great Gate of Pilgrimage,” “Sham Sharif,” the “Right Hand of the Cities of Syria,” &c., &c. And many sayings of Mohammed in honour of Syria are recorded. He was fond of using such Syriac words as “Bakhun! Bakhun!” to Ali, and “Kakhun! Kakhun!” to Hosayn. I will not enter into the curious history of the latter word, which spread to Egypt, and, slightly altered, passed through Latin mythology into French, English, German, Italian, and other modern European tongues.
9 There is a regular language to camels. “Ikh! ikh!” makes them kneel; “Yahh! Yahh!” urges them on; “Hai! Hai!” induces caution, and so on.
10 Both these names of the Almighty are of kindred origin. The former is generally used when a woman is in danger of exposing her face by accident, or an animal of falling.
11 A “birkat” in this part of Arabia may be an artificial cistern or a natural basin; in the latter case it is smaller than a “ghadir.” This road was a favourite with Harun al-Rashid, the pious tyrant who boasted that every year he performed either a pilgrimage or a crusade. The reader will find in d’Herbelot an account of the celebrated visit of Harun to the Holy Cities. Nor less known in Oriental history is the pilgrimage of Zubaydah Khatun (wife of Harun and mother of Amin) by this route.
12 Some believe this literally, others consider it a phrase expressive of blood-thirstiness. It is the only suspicion of cannibalism, if I may use the word, now attaching to Al-Hijaz. Possibly the disgusting act may occasionally have taken place after a stern fight of more than usual rancour. Who does not remember the account of the Turkish officer licking his blood after having sabred the corpse of a Russian spy? It is said that the Mutayr and the Utaybah are not allowed to enter Meccah, even during the pilgrimage season.
13 Coloquintida is here used, as in most parts of the East, medicinally. The pulp and the seeds of the ripe fruit are scooped out, and the rind is filled with milk, which is exposed to the night air, and drunk in the morning.
14 Used in Arabian medicine as a refrigerant and tonic. It abounds in Sind and Afghanistan, where, according to that most practical of botanists, the lamented Dr. Stocks, it is called “ishwarg.”
15 Here called Ashr. According to Seetzen it bears the long-sought apple of Sodom. Yet, if truth be told, the soft green bag is as unlike an apple as can be imagined; nor is the hard and brittle yellow rind of the ripe fruit a whit more resembling. The Arabs use the thick and acrid milk of the green bag with steel filings as a tonic, and speak highly of its effects; they employ it also to intoxicate or narcotise monkeys and other animals which they wish to catch. It is esteemed in Hindu medicine. The Nubians and Indians use the filaments of the fruit as tinder; they become white and shining as floss-silk. The Badawin also have applied it to a similar purpose. Our Egyptian travellers call it the “Silk-tree”; and in Northern Africa, where it abounds, Europeans make of it stuffing for the mattresses, which are expensive, and highly esteemed for their coolness and cleanliness. In Bengal a kind of gutta percha is made by boiling the juice. This weed, so common in the East, may one day become in the West an important article of commerce.
16 “Al-Ihram” literally meaning “prohibition” or “making unlawful,” equivalent to our “mortification,” is applied to the ceremony of the toilette, and also to the dress itself. The vulgar pronounce the word “heram,” or “l’ehram.” It is opposed to “ihlal,” “making lawful” or “returning to laical life.” The further from Meccah it is assumed, provided that it be during the three months of Hajj, the greater is the religious merit of the pilgrim; consequently some come from India and Egypt in the dangerous attire. Those coming from the North assume the pilgrim-garb at or off the village of Rabigh.
17 These sheets are not positively necessary; any clean cotton cloth not sewn in any part will serve equally well. Servants and attendants expect the master to present them with an “ihram.”
18 Sandals are made at Meccah expressly for the pilgrimage: the poorer classes cut off the upper leathers of an old pair of shoes.
19 This Niyat, as it is technically called, is preferably performed aloud. Some authorities, however, direct it to be meditated sotto-voce.
20 “Talbiyat” is from the word Labbayka (“here I am”) in the cry — “Labbayk’ Allahumma, Labbayk’! (Labbayka) La Sharika laka, Labbayk’! Inna ’l-hamda wa ’l ni’amata laka wa ’l mulk! La Sharika laka, Labbayk’!” Some add, “Here I am, and I honour thee, I the son of thy two slaves: beneficence and good are all between thy hands.” A single Talbiyah is a “Shart” or positive condition, and its repetition is a Sunnat or Custom of the Prophet. The “Talbiyat” is allowed in any language, but is preferred in Arabic. It has a few varieties; the form above given is the most common.
21 The object of these ordinances is clearly to inculcate the strictest observance of the “truce of God.” Pilgrims, however, are allowed to slay, if necessary, “the five noxious,” viz., a crow, a kite, a scorpion, a rat, and a biting dog.
22 The victim is sacrificed as a confession that the offender deems himself worthy of death: the offerer is not allowed to taste any portion of his offering.
23 The reason why this “ugly” must be worn, is, that a woman’s veil during the pilgrimage ceremonies is not allowed to touch her face.
24 The Sharifs are born and bred to fighting: the peculiar privileges of their caste favour their development of pugnacity. Thus, the modern diyah, or price of blood, being 800 dollars for a common Moslem, the chiefs demand for one of their number double that sum, with a sword, a camel, a female slave, and other items; and, if one of their slaves or servants be slain, a fourfold price. The rigorous way in which this custom is carried out gives the Sharif and his retainer great power among the Arabs. As a general rule, they are at the bottom of all mischief. It was a Sharif (Hosayn bin Ali) who tore down and trampled upon the British flag at Mocha; a Sharif (Abd al-Rahman of Waht) who murdered Captain Mylne near Lahedge. A page might be filled with the names of the distinguished ruffians.
25 In these lines of Labid, the “Mina” alluded to must not, we are warned by the scholiast, be confounded with “Mina” (vulg. “Muna”), the Valley of Victims. Ghul and Rayyan are hills close to the Wady Laymun. The passage made me suspect that inscriptions would be found among the rocks, as the scholiast informs us that “men used to write upon rocks in order that their writing might remain.” (De Sacy’s Moallaka de Lebid, p. 289.) I neither saw nor heard of any. But some months afterwards I was delighted to hear from the Abbe Hamilton that he had discovered in one of the rock monuments a “lithographed proof” of the presence of Sesostris (Rhameses II.).
26 The “balsamon” of Theophrastus and Dioscorides, a corruption of the Arabic “balisan” or “basham,” by which name the Badawin know it. In the valley of the Jordan it was worth its weight in silver, and kings warred for what is now a weed. Cleopatra by a commission brought it to Egypt. It was grown at Heliopolis. The last tree died there, we are told by Niebuhr, in the early part of the seventeenth century (according to others, in A.D. 1502); a circumstance the more curious, as it was used by the Copts in chrisome, and by Europe for anointing kings. From Egypt it was carried to Al-Hijaz, where it now grows wild on sandy and stony grounds; but I could not discover the date of its naturalisation. Moslems generally believe it to have been presented to Solomon by Bilkis, Queen of Sheba. Bruce relates that it was produced at Mohammed’s prayer from the blood of the Badr-Martyr. In the Gospel of Infancy (book i. ch. 8) we read — “9. Hence they (Joseph and Mary) went out to that sycamore, which is now called Matarea (the modern and Arabic name for Heliopolis). 10. And in Matarea the Lord Jesus caused a well to spring forth, in which St. Mary washed his coat; 11. And a balsam is produced or grows in that country from the sweat which ran down there from the Lord Jesus.” The sycamore is still shown, and the learned recognise in this ridiculous old legend the “hiero-sykaminon,” of pagan Egypt, under which Isis and Horus sat. Hence Sir J. Maundeville and an old writer allude reverently to the sovereign virtues of “bawme.” I believe its qualities to have been exaggerated, but have found it useful in dressing wounds. Burckhardt (vol. ii. p. 124) alludes to, but appears not to have seen it. The best balsam is produced upon stony hills like Arafat and Muna. In hot weather incisions are made in the bark, and the soft gum which exudes is collected in bottles. The best kind is of the consistence of honey, and yellowish-brown, like treacle. It is frequently adulterated with water, when, if my informant Shaykh Abdullah speak truth, it becomes much lighter in weight. I never heard of the vipers which Pliny mentions as abounding in these trees, and which Bruce declares were shown to him alive at Jeddah and at Yambu’. Dr. Carter found the balm, under the name of Luban Dukah, among the Gara tribe of Eastern Arabia, and botanists have seen it at Aden. We may fairly question its being originally from the banks of the Jordan.
27 This being one of the “Muharramat,” or actions forbidden to a pilgrim. At all times, say the Moslems, there are three vile trades, viz., those of the Harik al-Hajar (stone-burner), the Kati’ al-Shajar (tree-cutter, without reference to Hawarden, N.B.), and the Bayi’ al-Bashar (man-seller, vulg. Jallab).
28 This attire was customary even in Al-Idrisi’s time.
29 From India to Abyssinia the umbrella is the sign of royalty: the Arabs of Meccah and Sena’a probably derived the custom from the Hindus.
30 I purposely omit long descriptions of the Sharif, my fellow-travellers, Messrs. Didier and Hamilton, being far more competent to lay the subject before the public. A few political remarks may not be deemed out of place. The present Sharif, despite his civilised training at Constantinople, is, and must be a fanatic, bigoted man. He applied for the expulsion of the British Vice-Consul at Jeddah, on the grounds that an infidel should not hold position in the Holy Land. His pride and reserve have made him few friends, although the Meccans, with their enthusiastic nationality, extol his bravery to the skies, and praise him for conduct as well as for courage. His position at present is anomalous. Ahmad Pasha of Al-Hijaz rules politically as representative of the Sultan. The Sharif, who, like the Pope, claims temporal as well as spiritual dominion, attempts to command the authorities by force of bigotry. The Pasha heads the Turkish, now the ruling party. The Sharif has in his interest the Arabs and the Badawin. Both thwart each other on all possible occasions; quarrels are bitter and endless; there is no government, and the vessel of the State is in danger of being water-logged, in consequence of the squabbling between her two captains. When I was at Meccah all were in a ferment, the Sharif having, it is said, insisted upon the Pasha leaving Taif. The position of the Turks in Al-Hijaz becomes every day more dangerous. Want of money presses upon them, and reduces them to degrading measures. In February, 1853, the Pasha hired a forced loan from the merchants, and but for Mr. Cole’s spirit and firmness, the English proteges would have been compelled to contribute their share. After a long and animated discussion, the Pasha yielded the point by imprisoning his recusant subjects, who insisted upon Indians paying, like themselves. He waited in person with an apology upon Mr. Cole. Though established at Jeddah since 1838, the French and English Consuls, contented with a proxy, never required a return of visit from the Governor. If the Turks be frequently reduced to such expedients for the payment of their troops, they will soon be swept from the land. On the other hand, the Sharif approaches a crisis. His salary, paid by the Sultan, may be roughly estimated at £15,000 per annum. If the Turks maintain their footing in Arabia, it will probably be found that an honourable retreat at Stambul is better for the thirty-first descendant of the Prophet than the turbulent life of Meccah; or that a reduced allowance of £500 per annum would place him in a higher spiritual, though in a lower temporal position. Since the above was written the Sharif Abd al-Muttalib has been deposed. The Arabs of Al-Hijaz united in revolt against the Sultan, but after a few skirmishes they were reduced to subjection by their old ruler the Sharif bin Aun.
31 Saniyat means a “winding path,” and Kuda’a, “the cut.” Formerly Meccah had three gates: 1. Bab al-Ma’ala, North-East; 2. Bab al-Umrah, or Bab al-Zahir, on the Jeddah road, West; and 3[.] Bab al-Masfal on the Yaman road. These were still standing in the twelfth century, but the walls were destroyed. It is better to enter Meccah by day and on foot; but this is not a matter of vital consequence in pilgrimage.
32 It is a large whitewashed building, with extensive wooden balconied windows, but no pretensions to architectural splendour. Around it trees grow, and amongst them I remarked a young cocoa. Al-Idrisi (A.D. 1154) calls the palace Al-Marba’ah. This may be a clerical error, for to the present day all know it as Al-Ma’abidah (pronounced Al-Mab’da). The Nubian describes it as a “stone castle, three miles from the town, in a palm garden.” The word “Ma’abidah,” says Kutb al-Din, means a “body of servants,” and is applied generally to this suburb because here was a body of Badawin in charge of the Masjid al-Ijabah, a Mosque not now existing.
33 I cannot conceive what made the accurate Niebuhr fall into the strange error that “apparitions are unknown in Arabia.” Arabs fear to sleep alone, to enter the bath at night, to pass by cemeteries during dark, and to sit amongst ruins, simply for fear of apparitions. And Arabia, together with Persia, has supplied half the Western world with its ghost stories and tales of angels, demons, and fairies. To quote Milton, the land is struck “with superstition as with a planet.”
34 This is a synopsis of our marches, which, protracted on Burckhardt’s map, gives an error of ten miles.
|1. From Al-Madinah to Ja al-Sharifah,||S.E. 50°||— 22|
|2. From Ja al-Sharifah to Ghurab,||S.W. 10°||— 24|
|3. From Ghurab to Al-Hijriyah,||S.E. 22°||— 25|
|4. From Al-Hijriyah to Al-Suwayrkiyah,||S.W. 11°||— 28|
|5. From Al-Suwayrkiyah to Al-Sufayna,||S.E. 5°||— 17|
|6. From Al-Sufayna to the “Benu Mutayr,”||S.W. 20°||— 18|
|7. From the “Benu Mutayr” to Al-Ghadir,||S.W. 21°||— 20|
|8. From Al-Ghadir to Al-Birkat,||S.E. 10°||— 24|
|9. From Al-Birkat to Al-Zaribah,||S.E. 56°||— 23|
|10.From Al-Zaribah to Wady Laymun,||S.W. 50°||— 24|
|11.From Wady Laymun to Meccah,||S.E. 45°||— 23|
|Total English miles 248|
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:06