Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah and Meccah, by Richard Burton

Chapter XXXII.

Life at Meccah, and Umrah, or the Little Pilgrimage.

MY few remaining days at Meccah sped pleasantly enough. Omar Effendi visited me regularly, and arranged to accompany me furtively to Cairo. I had already consulted Mohammed Shiklibha — who suddenly appeared at Muna, having dropped down from Suez to Jeddah, and having reached Meccah in time for pilgrimage — about the possibility of proceeding Eastward. The honest fellow’s eyebrows rose till they almost touched his turband, and he exclaimed in a roaring voice, “Wallah! Effendi! thou art surely mad.” Every day he brought me news of the different Caravans. The Badawin of Al-Hijaz were, he said, in a ferment caused by the reports of the Holy War, want of money, and rumours of quarrels between the Sharif and the Pasha: already they spoke of an attack upon Jeddah. Shaykh Mas’ud, the camel man, from whom I parted on the best of terms, seriously advised my remaining at Meccah for some months even before proceeding to Sana’a. Others gave the same counsel. Briefly I saw that my star was not then in the ascendant, and resolved to reserve myself for a more propitious conjuncture by returning to Egypt.

The Turkish colonel and I had become as friendly as two men ignoring each other’s speech could be. He had derived benefit from some prescription; but, like all his countrymen, he was pining to leave Meccah.1 Whilst the pilgrimage lasted, said they, no mal de pays came to trouble them; but, its excitement over, they could think of nothing but their wives and children. Long-drawn faces and continual sighs evidenced nostalgia. At last the house became a scene of preparation. Blue chinaware and basketed bottles of Zemzem water appeared standing in solid columns, and pilgrims occupied themselves in hunting for mementoes of Meccah; ground-plans; combs, balm, henna, tooth-sticks; aloes-wood, turquoises, coral, and mother-o’-pearl rosaries; shreds of Kiswah-cloth and fine Abas, or cloaks of camels’-wool. It was not safe to mount the stairs without shouting “Tarik” (Out of the way!) at every step, on peril of meeting face to face some excited fair.2 The lower floor was crowded with provision-vendors; and the staple article of conversation seemed to be the chance of a steamer from Jeddah to Suez.

Weary of the wrangling and chaffering of the hall below, I had persuaded my kind hostess, in spite of the surly skeleton her brother, partially to clear out a small store-room in the first floor, and to abandon it to me between the hours of ten and four. During the heat of the day clothing is unendurable at Meccah. The city is so “compacted together” by hills, that even the Samum can scarcely sweep it; the heat reverberated by the bare rocks is intense, and the normal atmosphere of an Eastern town communicates a faint lassitude to the body and irritability to the mind. The houses being unusually strong and well-built, might by some art of thermantidote be rendered cool enough in the hottest weather: they are now ovens.3 It was my habit to retire immediately after the late breakfast to the little room upstairs, to sprinkle it with water, and to lie down on a mat. In the few precious moments of privacy notes were committed to paper, but one eye was ever fixed on the door. Sometimes a patient would interrupt me, but a doctor is far less popular in Al-Hijaz than in Egypt. The people, being more healthy, have less faith in physic: Shaykh Mas’ud and his son had never tasted in their lives aught more medicinal than green dates and camel’s milk. Occasionally the black slave-girls came into the room, asking if the pilgrim wanted a pipe or a cup of coffee: they generally retired in a state of delight, attempting vainly to conceal with a corner of tattered veil a grand display of ivory consequent upon some small and innocent facetiousness. The most frequent of my visitors was Abdullah, the Kabirah’s eldest son. This melancholy Jacques had joined our caravan at Al-Hamra, on the Yambu’ road, accompanied us to Al-Madinah, lived there, and journeyed to Meccah with the Syrian pilgrimage; yet he had not once come to visit me or to see his brother, the boy Mohammed. When gently reproached for this omission, he declared it to be his way — that he never called upon strangers until sent for. He was a perfect Saudawi (melancholist) in mind, manners, and personal appearance, and this class of humanity in the East is almost as uncomfortable to the household as the idiot of Europe. I was frequently obliged to share my meals with him, as his mother — though most filially and reverentially entreated — would not supply him with breakfast two hours after the proper time, or with a dinner served up forty minutes before the rest of the household. Often, too, I had to curb, by polite deprecation, the impetuosity of the fiery old Kabirah’s tongue. Thus Abdullah and I became friends, after a fashion. He purchased several little articles required, and never failed to pass hours in my closet, giving me much information about the country; deploring the laxity of Meccan morals, and lamenting that in these evil days his countrymen had forfeited their name at Cairo and at Constantinople. His curiosity about the English in India was great, and I satisfied it by praising, as a Moslem would, their politike, their evenhanded justice, and their good star. Then he would inquire into the truth of a fable extensively known on the shores of the Mediterranean and of the Red Sea. The English, it is said, sent a mission to Mohammed, inquiring into his doctrines, and begging that the heroic Khalid bin Walid4 might be sent to proselytise them. Unfortunately, the envoys arrived too late — the Prophet’s soul had winged its way to Paradise. An abstract of the Moslem scheme was, however, sent to the “Ingreez,” who declined, as the Founder of the New Faith was no more, to abandon their own religion; but the refusal was accompanied with expressions of regard. For this reason many Moslems in Barbary and other countries hold the English to be of all “People of the Books” the best inclined towards them. As regards the Prophet’s tradition concerning the fall of his birthplace, “and the thin-calved from the Habash (Abyssinians) shall destroy the Ka’abah,” I was informed that towards the end of time a host will pass from Africa in such multitudes that a stone shall be conveyed from hand to hand between Jeddah and Meccah. This latter condition might easily be accomplished by sixty thousand men, the distance being only forty-four miles, but the citizens consider it to express a countless horde. Some pious Moslems have hoped that in Abdullah bin Zubayr’s re-erection of the Ka’abah the prophecy was fulfilled5: the popular belief, however, remains that the fatal event is still in the womb of time. In a previous part of this volume I have alluded to similar evil presentiments which haunt the mind of Al-Islam; and the Christian, zealous for the propagation of his faith, may see in them an earnest of its still wider diffusion in future ages. 6

Late in the afternoon I used to rise, perform ablution, and repair to the Harim, or wander about the bazars till sunset. After this it was necessary to return home and prepare for supper — dinner it would be called in the West.

The meal concluded, I used to sit for a time outside the street-door in great dignity, upon a broken-backed black-wood chair, traditionally said to have been left in the house by one of the princes of Delhi, smoking a Shishah, and drinking sundry cups of strong green tea with a slice of lime, a fair substitute for milk. At this hour the seat was as in a theatre, but the words of the actors were of a nature somewhat too Fescennine for a respectable public. After nightfall we either returned to the Harim or retired to rest. Our common dormitory was the flat roof of the house; under each cot stood a water-gugglet; and all slept, as must be done in the torrid lands, on and not in bed.

I sojourned at Meccah but a short time, and, as usual with travellers, did not see the best specimens of the population. The citizens appeared to me more civilised and more vicious than those of Al-Madinah. They often leave

“Home, where small experience grows,”

and — qui multum peregrinatur, raro sanctificatur — become a worldly-wise, God-forgetting, and Mammonish sort of folk. Tuf w’ asaa, w’ aamil al-saba —“Circumambulate and run (i.e. between Safa and Marwah) and commit the Seven (deadly sins)”— is a satire popularly levelled against them. Hence, too, the proverb Al-haram f’ il Haramayn —“Evil (dwelleth) in the two Holy Cities”; and no wonder, since plenary indulgence is so easily secured.7 The pilgrim is forbidden, or rather dissuaded, from abiding at Meccah after the rites, and wisely. Great emotions must be followed by a re-action. And he who stands struck by the first aspect of Allah’s house, after a few months, the marvel waxing stale, sweeps past with indifference or something worse.

There is, however, little at Meccah to offend the eye. As among certain nations further West, a layer of ashes overspreads the fire: the mine is concealed by a green turf fair to look upon. It is only when wandering by starlight through the northern outskirts of the town that citizens may be seen with light complexions and delicate limbs, coarse turbands, and Egyptian woollen robes, speaking disguise and the purpose of disguise. No one within the memory of man has suffered the penalty of immorality. Spirituous liquors are no longer sold, as in Burckhardt’s day,8 in shops; and some Arnaut officers assured me that they found considerable difficulty in smuggling flasks of Araki from Jeddah.

The Meccan is a darker man than the Madinite. The people explain this by the heat of the climate. I rather believe it to be caused by the number of female slaves that find their way into the market. Gallas, Sawahilis, a few Somalis, and Abyssinians are embarked at Suakin, Zayla, Tajurrah, and Berberah, carried in thousands to Jeddah, and the Holy City has the pick of every batch. Thence the stream sets Northwards, a small current towards Al-Madinah, and the main line to Egypt and Turkey.9

Most Meccans have black concubines, and, as has been said, the appearance of the Sharif is almost that of a negro. I did not see one handsome man in the Holy City, although some of the women appeared to me beautiful. The male profile is high and bony, the forehead recedes, and the head rises unpleasantly towards the region of firmness. In most families male children, when forty days old, are taken to the Ka’abah, prayed over, and carried home, where the barber draws with a razor three parallel gashes down the fleshy portion of each cheek, from the exterior angles of the eyes almost to the corners of the mouth. These Mashali, as they are called,10 may be of modern date: the citizens declare that the custom was unknown to their ancestors. I am tempted to assign to it a high antiquity, and cannot but attribute a pagan origin to a custom still prevailing, despite all the interdictions of the Olema. In point of figure the Meccan is somewhat coarse and lymphatic. The ludicrous leanness of the outward man, as described by Ali Bey, survives only in the remnants of themselves belonging to a bygone century. The young men are rather stout and athletic, but in middle age — when man “swills and swells”— they are apt to degenerate into corpulence.

The Meccan is a covetous spendthrift. His wealth, lightly won, is lightly prized. Pay, pension, stipends, presents, and the Ikram, here, as at Al-Madinah, supply the citizen with the means of idleness. With him everything is on the most expensive scale, his marriage, his religious ceremonies, and his household expenses. His house is luxuriously furnished; entertainments are frequent, and the junketings of his women make up a heavy bill at the end of the year. It is a common practice for the citizen to anticipate the pilgrimage season by falling into the hands of the usurer. If he be in luck, he catches and “skins” one or more of the richest Hajis. On the other hand, should fortune fail him, he will feel for life the effect of interest running on at the rate of at least fifty per cent., the simple and the compound forms of which are equally familiar to the wily Sarraf.11

The most unpleasant peculiarities of the Meccan[s]12 are their pride and coarseness of language. Looking upon themselves as the cream of earth’s sons, they resent with extreme asperity the least slighting word concerning the Holy City and its denizens. They plume themselves upon their holy descent, their exclusion of Infidels,13 their strict fastings, their learned men, and their purity of language.14 In fact, their pride shows itself at every moment; but it is not the pride which makes a man too proud to do “dirty work.” My predecessor did not remark their scurrility: he seems, on the contrary, rather to commend them for respectability in this point. If he be correct, the present generation has degenerated. The Meccans appeared to me distinguished, even in this foul-mouthed East, by the superior licentiousness of their language. Abuse was bad enough in the streets, but in the house it became intolerable. The Turkish pilgrims remarked, but they were too proud to notice it. The boy Mohammed and one of his tall cousins at last transgressed the limits of my endurance. They had been reviling each other vilely one day at the house-door about dawn, when I administered the most open reprimand: “In my country (Afghanistan) we hold this to be the hour of prayer, the season of good thoughts, when men remember Allah; even the Kafir doth not begin the day with curses and abuse.” The people around approved, and the offenders could not refrain from saying, “Thou hast spoken truth, O Effendi!” Then the bystanders began, as usual, to “improve the occasion.” “See,” they exclaimed, “this Sulaymani gentleman, he is not the Son of a Holy City, and yet he teacheth you — ye, the children of the Prophet! — repent and fear Allah!” They replied, “Verily we do repent, and Allah is a Pardoner and the Merciful!”— were silent for an hour, and then abused each other more foully than before. Yet it is a good point in the Meccan character, that it is open to reason, it can confess itself in error, and it displays none of that doggedness of vice which distinguishes the sinner of a more stolid race. Like the people of Southern Europe, the Semite is easily managed by a jest: though grave and thoughtful, he is by no means deficient in the sly wit which we call humour, and the solemn gravity of his words contrasts amusingly with his ideas. He particularly excels in the Cervantic art, the spirit of which, says Sterne, is to clothe low subjects in sublime language. In Mohammed’s life we find that he by no means disdained a joke, sometimes a little hasarde, as in the case of the Paradise-coveting old woman. The redeeming qualities of the Meccan are his courage, his bonhommie, his manly suavity of manners, his fiery sense of honour, his strong family affections, his near approach to what we call patriotism, and his general knowledge: the reproach of extreme ignorance which Burckhardt directs against the Holy City has long ago sped to the Limbo of things that were. The dark half of the picture is formed by pride, bigotry, irreligion, greed of gain, immorality, and prodigal ostentation. Of the pilgrimage ceremonies I cannot speak harshly. It may be true that “the rites of the Ka’abah, emasculated of every idolatrous tendency, still hang a strange unmeaning shroud around the living theism of Islam.” But what nation, either in the West or in the East, has been able to cast out from its ceremonies every suspicion of its old idolatry? What are the English mistletoe, the Irish wake, the Pardon of Brittany, the Carnival, and the Worship at Iserna? Better far to consider the Meccan pilgrimage rites in the light of Evil-worship turned into lessons of Good than to philosophize about their strangeness, and to blunder in asserting them to be insignificant. Even the Badawi circumambulating the Ka’abah fortifies his wild belief by the fond thought that he treads the path of “Allah’s friend.”

At Arafat the good Moslem worships in imitation of the “Pure of Allah15”; and when hurling stones and curses at three senseless little buttresses which commemorate the appearance of the fiend, the materialism of the action gives to its sentiment all the strength and endurance of reality. The supernatural agencies of pilgrimage are carefully and sparingly distributed. The angels who restore the stones from Muna to Muzdalifah; the heavenly host whose pinions cause the Ka’abah’s veil to rise and to wave, and the mysterious complement of the pilgrim’s total at the Arafat sermon, all belong to the category of spiritual creatures walking earth unseen — a poetical tenet, not condemned by Christianity. The Meccans are, it is true, to be reproached with their open Mammon-worship, at times and at places the most sacred and venerable; but this has no other effect upon the pilgrims than to excite disgust and open reprehension. Here, however, we see no such silly frauds as heavenly fire drawn from a phosphor-match; nor do two rival churches fight in the flesh with teeth and nails, requiring the contemptuous interference of an infidel power to keep around order. Here we see no fair dames staring with their glasses, braques at the Head of the Church; or supporting exhausted nature with the furtive sandwich; or carrying pampered curs who, too often, will not be silent; or scrambling and squeezing to hear theatrical music, reckless of the fate of the old lady who — on such occasions there is always one — has been “thrown down and cruelly trampled upon by the crowd.” If the Meccan citizens are disposed to scoff at the wild Takruri, they do it not so publicly or shamelessly as the Roman jeering with ribald jest at the fanaticism of strangers from the bogs of Ireland. Finally, at Meccah there is nothing theatrical, nothing that suggests the opera; but all is simple and impressive, filling the mind with

“A weight of awe not easy to be borne,”

and tending, I believe, after its fashion, to good.

As regards the Meccan and Moslem belief that Abraham and his son built the Ka’abah, it may be observed the Genesitic account of the Great Patriarch has suggested to learned men the idea of two Abrahams, one the son of Terah, another the son of Azar (fire), a Prometheus who imported civilisation and knowledge into Arabia from Harran, the sacred centre of Sabaean learning.16 Moslem historians all agree in representing Abraham as a star-worshipper in youth, and Eusebius calls the patriarch son of Athar; his father’s name, therefore, is no Arab invention. Whether Ishmael or his sire ever visited Meccah to build the Ka’abah is, in my humble opinion, an open question. The Jewish Scripture informs us only that the patriarch dwelt at Beersheba and Gerar, in the south-west of Palestine, without any allusion to the annual visit which Moslems declare he paid to their Holy City. At the same time Arab tradition speaks clearly and consistently upon the subject, and generally omits those miraculous and superstitious adjuncts which cast shadows of sore doubt upon the philosophic mind.

The amount of risk which a stranger must encounter at the pilgrimage rites is still considerable. A learned Orientalist and divine intimated his intention, in a work published but a few years ago, of visiting Meccah without disguise. He was assured that the Turkish governor would now offer no obstacle to a European traveller. I would strongly dissuade a friend from making the attempt. It is true that the Frank is no longer, as in Captain Head’s day,17 insulted when he ventures out of the Meccan Gate of Jeddah; and that our Vice-Consuls and travellers are allowed, on condition that their glance do not pollute the shrine, to visit Taif and the regions lying Eastward of the Holy City. Neither the Pasha nor the Sharif would, in these days, dare to enforce, in the case of an Englishman, the old law, a choice thrice offered between circumcision and death. But the first Badawi who caught sight of the Frank’s hat would not deem himself a man if he did not drive a bullet through the wearer’s head. At the pilgrimage season disguise is easy on account of the vast and varied multitudes which visit Meccah exposing the traveller only to “stand the buffet with knaves who smell of sweat.” But woe to the unfortunate who happens to be recognised in public as an Infidel — unless at least he could throw himself at once upon the protection of the government.18 Amidst, however, a crowd of pilgrims, whose fanaticism is worked up to the highest pitch, detection would probably ensure his dismissal at once al numero de’ piu. Those who find danger the salt of pleasure may visit Meccah; but if asked whether the results justify the risk, I should reply in the negative. And the Vice-Consul at Jeddah would only do his duty in peremptorily forbidding European travellers to attempt Meccah without disguise, until the day comes when such steps can be taken in the certainty of not causing a mishap; an accident would not redound to our reputation, as we could not in justice revenge it.19

On the 14th Zu’l Hijjah we started to perform the rite of Umrah, or Little Pilgrimage. After performing ablution, and resuming the Ihram with the usual ceremonies, I set out, accompanied by the boy Mohammed and his brother Abdullah. Mounting asses which resembled mules in size and speed,20 we rode to the Harim, and prayed there. Again remounting, we issued through the Bab al-Safa towards the open country north-east of the city. The way was crowded with pilgrims, on foot as well as mounted, and their loud Labbayk distinguished those engaged in the Umrah rite from the many whose business was with the camp of the Damascus Caravan. At about half a mile from the city we passed on the left a huge heap of stones, where my companions stood and cursed. This grim-looking cairn is popularly believed to note the place of the well where Abu Lahab laid an ambuscade for the Prophet. This wicked uncle stationed there a slave, with orders to throw headlong into the pit the first person who approached him, and privily persuaded his nephew to visit the spot at night: after a time, anxiously hoping to hear that the deed had been done, Abu Lahab incautiously drew nigh, and was precipitated by his own bravo into the place of destruction.21 Hence the well-known saying in Islam, “Whoso diggeth a well for his brother shall fall into it himself.” We added our quota of stones,22 and proceeding, saw the Jeddah road spanning the plain like a white ribbon. In front of us the highway was now lined with coffee-tents, before which effeminate dancing-boys performed to admiring Syrians; a small whitewashed “Bungalow,” the palace of the Emir al-Hajj, lay on the left, and all around it clustered the motley encampment of his pilgrims. After cantering about three miles from the city, we reached the Alamayn, or two pillars that limit the Sanctuary; and a little beyond it is the small settlement popularly called Al-Umrah.23 Dismounting here, we sat down on rugs outside a coffee-tent to enjoy the beauty of the moonlit night, and an hour of Kayf, in the sweet air of the Desert.

Presently the coffee-tent keeper, after receiving payment, brought us water for ablution. This preamble over, we entered the principal chapel; an unpretending building, badly lighted, spread with dirty rugs, full of pilgrims, and offensively close. Here we prayed the Isha, or night devotions, and then a two-bow prayer in honour of the Ihram,24 after which we distributed gratuities to the guardians, and alms to the importunate beggars. And now I perceived the object of Abdullah’s companionship. The melancholy man assured me that he had ridden out for love of me, and in order to perform as Wakil (substitute) a vicarious pilgrimage for my parents. Vainly I assured him that they had been strict in the exercises of their faith. He would take no denial, and I perceived that love of me meant love of my dollars. With a surly assent, he was at last permitted to act for the “pious pilgrim Yusuf (Joseph) bin Ahmad and Fatimah bint Yunus,”— my progenitors. It was impossible to prevent smiling at contrasts, as Abdullah, gravely raising his hands, and directing his face to the Ka’abah, intoned, “I do vow this Ihram of Umrah in the name of Yusuf Son of Ahmad, and Fatimah Daughter of Yunus; then render it attainable unto them, and accept it of them! Bismillah! Allaho Akbar!”

Remounting, we galloped towards Meccah, shouting Labbayk, and halting at every half-mile to smoke and drink coffee. In a short time we entered the city, and repairing to the Harim by the Safa Gate, performed the Tawaf, or circumambulation of Umrah. After this dull round and necessary repose we left the temple by the same exit, and mounting once more, turned towards Al-Safa, which stands about a hundred yards South-East of the Mosque, and as little deserves its name of “Mountain” as do those that undulate the face of modern Rome. The Safa end is closed by a mean-looking building, composed of three round arches, with a dwarf flight of stairs leading up to them out of a narrow road. Without dismounting, we wheeled our donkeys25 round, “left shoulders forward,” no easy task in the crowd, and, vainly striving to sight the Ka’abah through the Bab al-Safa, performed the Niyat, or vow of the rite Al-Sai, or the running.26 After Tahlil, Takbir, and Talbiyat, we raised our hands in the supplicatory position, and twice repeated,27 “There is no god but Allah, Alone, without Partner; His is the Kingdom, unto Him be Praise; He giveth Life and Death, He is alive and perisheth not; in His Hand is Good, and He over all Things is Omnipotent.” Then, with the donkey-boys leading our animals and a stout fellow preceding us with lantern and a quarter-staff to keep off the running Badawin, camel-men, and riders of asses, we descended Safa, and walked slowly down the street Al-Massa, towards Marwah.28

During our descent we recited aloud, “O Allah, cause me to act according to the Sunnat of Thy Prophet, and to die in His faith, and defend me from errors and disobedience by Thy Mercy, O most Merciful of the Merciful!” Arrived at what is called the Batn al-Wady (Belly of the Vale), a place now denoted by the Milayn al-Akhzarayn (the two green pillars29), one fixed in the Eastern course of the Harim, the other in a house on the right side,30 we began the running by urging on our beasts. Here the prayer was, “O Lord, pardon and pity, and pass over what Thou knowest, for Thou art the most dear and the most generous! Save us from Hell-fire safely, and cause us safely to enter Paradise! O Lord, give us Happiness here and Happiness hereafter, and spare us the Torture of the Flames!” At the end of this supplication we had passed the Batn, or lowest ground, whose farthest limits were marked by two other pillars.31 Again we began to ascend, repeating, as we went, “Verily, Safa and Marwah are two of the Monuments of Allah. Whoso, therefore, pilgrimeth to the Temple of Meccah, or performeth Umrah, it shall be no Crime in him (to run between them both). And as for him who voluntarily doeth a good Deed, verily Allah is Grateful and Omniscient32!” At length we reached Marwah, a little rise like Safa in the lower slope of Abu Kubays. The houses cluster in amphitheatre shape above it, and from the Masa’a, or street below, a short flight of steps to a platform, bounded on three sides like a tennis-court, by tall walls without arches. The street, seen from above, has a bowstring curve: it is between eight and nine hundred feet long,33 with high houses on both sides, and small lanes branching off from it. At the foot of the platform we brought “right shoulders forward,” so as to face the Ka’abah, and raising hands to ears, thrice exclaimed, “Allaho Akbar.” This concluded the first course, and, of these, seven compose the ceremony Al-Sai, or the running. There was a startling contrast with the origin of this ceremony —

“When the poor outcast on the cheerless wild,

Arabia’s parent, clasped her fainting child,”—

as the Turkish infantry marched, in European dress, with sloped arms, down the Masa’a to relieve guard. By the side of the half-naked, running Badawin, they look as if Epochs, disconnected by long centuries, had met. A laxity, too, there was in the frequent appearance of dogs upon this holy and most memorial ground, which said little in favour of the religious strictness of the administration.34

Our Sai ended at Mount Marwah. There we dismounted, and sat outside a barber’s shop, on the right-hand of the street. He operated upon our heads, causing us to repeat, “O Allah, this my Forelock is in Thy Hand, then grant me for every Hair a light on the Resurrection-day, O Most Merciful of the Merciful!” This, and the paying for it, constituted the fourth portion of the Umrah, or Little Pilgrimage.

Throwing the skirts of our garments over our heads, to show that our “Ihram” was now exchanged for the normal state, “Ihlal,” we cantered to the Harim, prayed there a two-bow prayer, and returned home not a little fatigued.

1 Not more than one-quarter of the pilgrims who appear at Arafat go on to Al-Madinah: the expense, the hardships, and the dangers of the journey account for the smallness of the number. In theology it is “Jaiz,” or admissible, to begin with the Prophet’s place of burial. But those performing the “Hajjat al-Islam” are enjoined to commence at Meccah.

2 When respectable married men live together in the same house, a rare occurrence, except on journeys, this most ungallant practice of clearing the way is and must be kept up in the East.

3 I offer no lengthened description of the town of Meccah: Ali Bey and Burckhardt have already said all that requires saying. Although the origin of the Bayt Ullah be lost in the glooms of past time, the city is a comparatively modern place, built about A.D. 450, by Kusay and the Kuraysh. It contains about 30,000 to 45,000 inhabitants, with lodging room for at least treble that number; and the material of the houses is brick, granite, and sandstone from the neighbouring hills. The site is a winding valley, on a small plateau, half-way “below the Ghauts.” Its utmost length is two miles and a half from the Mab’dah (North) to the Southern mount Jiyad; and three-quarters of a mile would be the extreme breadth between Abu Kubays Eastward — upon whose Western slope the most solid mass of the town clusters — and Jabal Hindi Westward of the city. In the centre of this line stands the Ka’abah. I regret being unable to offer the reader a sketch of Meccah, or of the Great Temple. The stranger who would do this should visit the city out of the pilgrimage season, and hire a room looking into the quadrangle of the Harim. This addition to our knowledge is the more required, as our popular sketches (generally taken from D’Ohsson) are utterly incorrect. The Ka’abah is always a recognisable building; but the “View of Meccah” known to Europe is not more like Meccah than like Cairo or Bombay.

4 It is curious that the Afghans should claim this Kuraysh noble as their compatriot. “On one occasion, when Khalid bin Walid was saying something in his native tongue (the Pushtu or Afghani), Mohammed remarked that assuredly that language was the peculiar dialect of the damned. As Khalid appeared to suffer from the observation, and to betray certain symptoms of insubordination, the Prophet condescended to comfort him by graciously pronouncing the words “Ghashe linda raora,” i.e., bring me my bow and arrows. (Remarks on Dr. Dorn’s Chrestomathy of the Pushtu or Afghan Language. Trans. Bombay As. Society, 1848.)

5 See the ninth building of the Ka’abah, described in chap. iv.

6 It requires not the ken of a prophet to foresee the day when political necessity — sternest of [Greek]! — will compel us to occupy in force the fountain-head of Al-Islam.

7 Good acts done at Meccah are rewarded a hundred-thousand-fold in heaven; yet it is not auspicious to dwell there. Omar informs us that an evil deed receives the punishment of seventy.

8 It must be remembered that my predecessor visited Meccah when the Egyptian army, commanded by Mohammed Ali, held the town.

9 In another place I have ventured a few observations concerning the easy suppression of this traffic.

10 The act is called “Tashrit,” or gashing. The body is also marked, but with smaller cuts, so that the child is covered with blood. Ali Bey was told by some Meccans that the face-gashes served for the purpose of phlebotomy, by others that they were signs that the scarred was the servant of Allah’s house. He attributes this male-gashing, like female-tat[t]ooing, to coquetry. The citizens told me that the custom arose from the necessity of preserving children from the kidnapping Persians, and that it is preserved as a mark of the Holy City. But its wide diffusion denotes an earlier origin. Mohammed expressly forbad his followers to mark the skin with scars. These “beauty marks” are common to the nations in the regions to the West of the Red Sea. The Barabarah of Upper Egypt adorn their faces with scars exactly like the Meccans. The Abyssinians moxa themselves in hetacombs for fashion’s sake. I have seen cheeks gashed, as in the Holy City, among the Gallas. Certain races of the Sawahil trace around the head a corona of little cuts, like those of a cupping instrument. And, to quote no other instances, some Somalis raise ghastly seams upon their chocolate-coloured skins.

11 Sayrafi, money-changer; Sarraf, banker; the Indian “Shroff,” banker, money-changer, and usurer.

12 When speaking of the Meccans I allude only to the section of society which fell under my observation, and that more extensive division concerning which I obtained notices that could be depended upon.

13 The editor of Burckhardt’s “Travels in Arabia” supposes that his author’s “sect of light extinguishers” were probably Parsees from Surat or Bombay. The mistake is truly ludicrous, for no pious Parsee will extinguish a light. Moreover, infidels are not allowed by law to pass the frontiers of the Sanctuary. The sect alluded to is an obscure heresy in Central Asia; and concerning it the most improbable scandals have been propagated by the orthodox.

14 It is strange how travellers and linguists differ upon the subject of Arabic and its dialects. Niebuhr compares their relation to that of Provençal, Spanish, and Italian, whereas Lane declares the dialects to resemble each other more than those of some different counties in England. Herbin (Grammar) draws a broad line between ancient and modern Arabic; but Hochst (Nachrichten von Marokos und Fez) asserts that the difference is not so great as is imagined. Perhaps the soundest opinion is that proposed by Clodius, in his “Arabic Grammar”: “dialectus Arabum vulgaris tantum differt ab erudita, quantum Isocrates dictio ab hodierna lingua Græca.” But it must be remembered that the Arabs divide their spoken and even written language into two orders, the “Kalam Wati,” or vulgar tongue, sometimes employed in epistolary correspondence, and the “Nahwi,” or grammatical and classical language. Every man of education uses the former, and can use the latter. And the Koran is no more a model of Arabic (as it is often assumed to be) than “Paradise Lost” is of English. Inimitable, no man imitates them.

15 Safi Ullah — Adam.

16 The legend that Abraham was the “Son of Fire” might have arisen from his birthplace, Ur of the Chaldees. This Ur (whence the Latin uro) becomes in Persian Hir; in Arabic Irr or Arr. It explains the origin of “Orotalt” better than by means of “Allahu Ta’ala.” This word, variously spelt Ourotalt, Orotalt, and Orotal (the latter would be the masculine form in Arabic), is Urrat-ilat, or the goddess of fire, most probably the Sun (Al-Shams) which the Semites make a feminine. Forbiggen translates it Sonnen-gott, an error of gender, as the final consonant proves. The other deity of pagan Arabia, Alilat, is clearly Al-Lat. May not the Phoenicians have supplied the word “Irr,” which still survives in Erin and in Ireland? even so they gave to the world the name of Britain, Brettainke, Barrat et Tanuki ([Arabic lettering]), the land of tin. And I should more readily believe that Eeran is the land of fire, than accept its derivation from Eer (vir) a man.

17 Captain C. F. Head, author of “Eastern and Egyptian Scenery,” was, as late as A.D. 1829, pelted by the Badawin, because he passed the Eastern gate of Jeddah in a Frankish dress.

18 The best way would be to rush, if possible, into a house; and the owner would then, for his own interest, as well as honour, defend a stranger till assistance could be procured.

19 Future pilgrims must also remember that the season is gradually receding towards the heart of the hot weather. For the next fifteen years, therefore, an additional risk will attend the traveller.

20 Pliny is certainly right about this useful quadruped and its congeners, the zebra and the wild ass, in describing it as “animal frigoris maxime impatiens.” It degenerates in cold regions, unless, as in Afghanistan and Barbary, there be a long, hot, and dry summer. Aden, Cutch, and Baghdad have fine breeds, whereas those of India and South-Eastern Africa are poor and weak. The best and the highest-priced come from the Maghrib, and second to them ranks the Egyptian race. At Meccah careful feeding and kind usage transform the dull slave into an active and symmetrical friend of man: he knows his owner’s kind voice, and if one of the two fast, it is generally the biped. The asses of the Holy City are tall and plump, with sleek coats, generally ash or grey-coloured, the eyes of deer, heads gracefully carried, an ambling gait, and extremely sure-footed. They are equal to great fatigue, and the stallions have been known, in their ferocity, to kill the groom. The price varies from 25 to 150 dollars.

21 Such is the popular version of the tale, which differs in some points from that recorded in books. Others declare that here, in days gone by, stood the house of another notorious malignant, Abu Jahl. Some, again, suppose that in this place a tyrannical governor of Meccah was summarily “lynched” by the indignant populace. The first two traditions, however, are the favourites, the vulgar — citizens, as well as pilgrims — loving to connect such places with the events of their early sacred history. Even in the twelfth century we read that pilgrims used to cast stones at two cairns, covering the remains of Abu Lahab, and the beautiful termagant, his wife.

22 Certain credulous authors have contrasted these heaps with the clear ground at Muna, for the purpose of a minor miracle. According to them this cairn steadily grows, as we may believe it would; and that, were it not for the guardian angels, the millions of little stones annually thrown at the devils would soon form a mass of equal magnitude. This custom of lapidation, in token of hate, is an ancient practice, still common in the East. Yet, in some parts of Arabia, stones are thrown at tombs as a compliment to the tenant. And in the Somali country, the places where it is said holy men sat, receive the same doubtful homage.

23 It is called in books Al-Tanim (bestowing plenty); a word which readers must not confound with the district of the same name in the province Khaulan (made by Niebuhr the “Thumna,” “Thomna,” or “Tamna,” capital of the Catabanites). Other authors apply Al-Tanim to the spot where Abu Lahab is supposed to lie. There are two places called Al-Umrah near Meccah. The Kabir, or greater, is, I am told, in the Wady Fatimah, and the Prophet ordered Ayishah and her sister to begin the ceremonies at that place. It is now visited by picnic parties and those who would pray at the tomb of Maimunah, one of the Prophet’s wives. Modern pilgrims commence always, I am told, at the Umrah Saghir (the Lesser), which is about half-way nearer the city.

24 Some assume the Ihram garb at this place.

25 We had still the pretext of my injured foot. When the Sai rite is performed, as it should be, by a pedestrian, he mounts the steps to about the height of a man, and then turns towards the temple.

26 I will not trouble the reader with this Niyat, which is the same as that used in the Tawaf rite.

27 Almost every Mutawwif, it must be remembered, has his own set of prayers.

28 “Safa” means a large, hard rock; “Marwah,” hard, white flints, full of fire.

29 In former times a devastating torrent used to sweep this place after rains. The Fiumara bed has now disappeared, and the pillars are used as landmarks. Galland observes that these columns are planted upon the place which supported Eve’s knees, when, after 300 years’ separation, she was found by Adam.

30 This house is called in books Rubat al-Abbas.

31 Here once stood “As’af” and “Naylah,” two idols, some say a man and a woman metamorphosed for stupration in the Temple.

32 Koran, chap. ii.

33 Ibn Jubayr gives 893 steps: other authorities make the distance 780 short cubits, the size of an average man’s forearm.

34 The ceremony of running between Safa and Marwah is supposed to represent Hagar seeking water for her son. Usually pilgrims perform this rite on the morning of visiting the Ka’aba.


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