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Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah & Meccah by Sir Richard Francis Burton

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Review would not translate “Al-Layl,” by lenes sub nocte susurri: the Arab
bard alluded to no such effeminacies.
[FN#30] The subject of “Dakhl” has been thoroughly exhausted by Burckhardt
and Layard. It only remains to be said that the Turks, through
ignorance of the custom, have in some cases made themselves
contemptible by claiming the protection of women.
[FN#31] It is by no means intended to push this comparison of the Arab’s
with the Hibernian’s poetry. The former has an intensity which prevents
our feeling that “there are too many flowers for the fruit”; the latter is
too often a mere blaze of words, which dazzle and startle, but which,
decomposed by reflection, are found to mean nothing. Witness

“The diamond turrets of Shadukiam,
And the fragrant bowers of Amberabad!”

[FN#32] I am informed that the Benu Kahtan still improvise, but I never
heard them. The traveller in Arabia will always be told that some
remote clan still produces mighty bards, and uses in conversation the
terminal vowels of the classic tongue, but he will not believe these
assertions till personally convinced of their truth. The Badawi
dialect, however, though debased, is still, as of yore, purer than the
language of the citizens. During the days when philology was a passion
in the East, those Stephens and Johnsons of Semitic lore, Firuzabadi
and Al-Zamakhshari, wandered from tribe to tribe and from tent to tent,
collecting words and elucidating disputed significations. Their
grammatical expeditions are still remembered, and are favourite stories
with scholars.
[FN#33] I say “skilful in reading,” because the Arabs, like the Spaniards,
hate to hear their language mangled by mispronunciation. When
Burckhardt, who spoke badly, began to read verse to the Badawin, they
could not refrain from a movement of impatience, and used to snatch the
book out of his hands.
[FN#34] The civilized poets of the Arab cities throw the charm of the
Desert over their verse, by images borrowed from its scenery—the
dromedary, the mirage, and the well—as naturally as certain of our
songsters, confessedly haters of the country, babble of lowing kine,
shady groves, spring showers, and purling rills.
[FN#35] Some will object to this expression; Arabic being a harsh and
guttural tongue. But the sound of language, in the first place, depends
chiefly upon the articulator. Who thinks German rough in the mouth of a
woman, with a suspicion of a lisp, or that English is the dialect of
birds, when spoken by an Italian? Secondly, there is a music far more
spirit-stirring in harshness than in softness: the languages of Castile
and of Tuscany are equally beautiful, yet who does not prefer the sound
of the former? The gutturality of Arabia is less offensive than that of
the highlands of Barbary. Professor Willis, of Cambridge, attributes
the broad sounds and the guttural consonants of mountaineers and the
people of elevated plains to the physical action of cold. Conceding
this to be a partial cause, I would rather refer the phenomenon to the
habit of loud speaking, acquired by the dwellers in tents, and by those
who live much in the open air. The Todas of the Neilgherry Hills have
given the soft Tamil all the harshness of Arabic, and he who hears them
calling to each other from the neighbouring peaks, can remark the
process of broadening vowel and gutturalising consonant. On the other
hand, the Gallas and the Persians, also a mountain-people, but
inhabiting houses, speak comparatively soft tongues. The Cairenes
actually omit some of the harshest sounds of Arabia, turning Makass
into Ma’as, and Sakka into Sa’a. It is impossible to help remarking the
bellowing of the Badawi when he first enters a dwelling-place, and the
softening of the sound when he has become accustomed to speak within
walls. Moreover, it is to be observed there is a great difference of
articulation, not pronunciation, among the several Badawi clans. The
Benu Auf are recognised by their sharp, loud, and sudden speech, which
the citizens compare to the barking of dogs. The Benu Amr, on the
contrary, speak with a soft and drawling sound. The Hutaym, in addition
to other peculiarities, add a pleonastic “ah,” to soften the termination of
words, as A’atini hawajiyah, (for hawaiji), “Give me my clothes.”
[FN#36] The Germans have returned for inspiration to the old Eastern
source. Ruckert was guided by Jalal al-Din to the fountains of Sufyism.
And even the French have of late made an inroad into Teutonic mysticism
successfully enough to have astonished Racine and horrified La Harpe.
[FN#37] This, however, does not prevent the language becoming
optionally most precise in meaning; hence its high philosophical
character. The word “farz,” for instance, means, radically “cutting,”
secondarily “ordering,” or “paying a debt,” after which come numerous meanings
foreign to the primal sense, such as a shield, part of a tinder-box, an
unfeathered arrow, and a particular kind of date. In theology it is
limited to a single signification, namely, a divine command revealed in
the Koran. Under these circumstances the Arabic becomes, in grammar,
logic, rhetoric, and mathematics, as perfect and precise as Greek. I
have heard Europeans complain that it is unfit for mercantile
[FN#38] As a general rule there is a rhyme at the end of every second
line, and the unison is a mere fringe—a long a, for instance, throughout
the poem sufficing for the delicate ear of the Arab. In this they were
imitated by the old Spaniards, who, neglecting the consonants, merely
required the terminating vowels to be alike. We speak of the “sort of
harmonious simple flow which atones for the imperfect nature of the
rhyme.” But the fine organs of some races would be hurt by that ponderous
unison which a people of blunter senses find necessary to produce an
impression. The reader will feel this after perusing in “Percy’s Reliques”
Rio Verde! Rio Verde! and its translation.
[FN#39] In our knightly ages the mare was ridden only by jugglers and
charlatans. Did this custom arise from the hatred of, and contempt for,
the habits of the Arabs, imported into Europe by the Crusaders?
Certainly the popular Eastern idea of a Frank was formed in those days,
and survives to these.
[FN#40] Baron Von Hammer-Purgstall, in the “Falkner-Klee,” calls this bird
the “Saker-falke.” Hence the French and English names sacre and saker. The
learned John Beckmann (History of Inventions, Discoveries, and Origins:
sub voce) derives falconry from India, where, “as early as the time of
Ctesias, hares and foxes were hunted by means of rapacious birds.” I
believe, however, that no trace of this sport is found in the writings
of the Hindus. Beckmann agrees with Giraldus, against other literati,
that the ancient Greeks knew the art of hawking, and proves from
Aristotle, that in Thrace men trained falcons. But Aristotle alludes to
the use of the bird, as an owl is employed in Italy: the falcon is
described as frightening, not catching the birds. Œlian corroborates
Aristotle’s testimony. Pliny, however, distinctly asserts that the hawks
strike their prey down. “In Italy it was very common,” says the learned
Beckmann, “for Martial and Apuleius speak of it as a thing everywhere
known. Hence the science spread over Europe, and reached perfection at
the principal courts in the twelfth century.” The Emperor Frederic II.
wrote “De Arte Venandi cum Avibus,” and the royal author was followed by a
host of imitators in the vulgar tongue. Though I am not aware that the
Hindus ever cultivated the art, Œlian, it must be confessed, describes
their style of training falcons exactly similar to that in use among
the modern Persians, Sindians, and Arabs. The Emperor Frederic owes the
“capella,” or hood to the Badawi, and talks of the “most expert falconers” sent
to him with various kinds of birds by some of the kings of Arabia. The
origin of falconry is ascribed by Al-Mas’udi, on the authority of Adham
bin Muhriz, to the king Al-Haris bin Mu’awiyah, and in Dr. Sprenger’s
admirable translation the reader will find (pp. 426, 428), much
information upon the subject. The Persians claim the invention for
their just King, Anushirawan, contemporary with Mohammed. Thence the
sport passed into Turkey, where it is said the Sultans maintained a
body of 6000 falconers. And Frederic Barbarossa, in the twelfth
century, brought falcons to Italy. We may fairly give the honour of the
invention to Central Asia.
[FN#41] Here called “bandukiyah bi ruhayn,” or the two-mouthed gun. The
leathern cover is termed “gushat”; it is a bag with a long-ringed tassel at
the top of the barrel, and a strap by which it is slung to the owner’s
[FN#42] I described elsewhere the Mirzak, or javelin.
[FN#43] Ostriches are found in Al-Hijaz, where the Badawin shoot after
coursing them. The young ones are caught and tamed, and the eggs may be
bought in the Madinah bazar. Throughout Arabia there is a belief that
the ostrich throws stones at the hunter. The superstition may have
arisen from the pebbles being flung up behind by the bird’s large feet in
his rapid flight, or it may be a mere “foolery of fancy.” Even in lands
which have long given up animal-worship, wherever a beast is
conspicuous or terrible, it becomes the subject of some marvellous
tale. So the bear in Persia imitates a moolah’s dress; the wolf in France
is a human being transformed, and the beaver of North America, also a
metamorphosis, belts trees so as to fell them in the direction most
suitable to his after purpose.
[FN#44] Not that the “Agrebi” of Bir Hamid and other parts have much to
learn of us in vice. The land of Al-Yaman is, I believe, the most
demoralised country, and Sana’a the most depraved city in Arabia. The
fair sex distinguishes itself by a peculiar laxity of conduct, which is
looked upon with an indulgent eye. And the men drink and gamble, to say
nothing of other peccadilloes, with perfect impunity.
[FN#45] In Al-Yaman, it is believed, that if a man eat three heads of
garlic in good mountain-samn (or clarified butter) for forty days, his
blood will kill the snake that draws it.
[FN#46] Circumcisionis causa apud Arabos manifestissima, ulceratio enim
endemica, abrasionem glandis aut praeputii, maxima cum facilitate
insequitur. Mos autem quem vocant Arabes Al-Salkh ([Arabic] i.e.
scarificatio) virilitatem animumque ostendendi modus esse videtur.
Exeunt amici paterque, et juvenem sub dio sedentem circumstant. Capit
tunc pugionem tonsor et præputio abscisso detrahit pellem [Greek] ab
umbilico incipiens aut parum infra, ventremque usque ad femora nudat.
Juvenis autem dextra pugionem super tergum tonsoris vibrans magna
clamat voce [Arabic] i.e. caede sine timore. Vae si haesitet tonsor aut
si tremeat manus! Pater etiam filium si dolore ululet statim occidit.
Re confecta surgit juvenis et [Arabic] “Gloria Deo” intonans, ad tentoria
tendit, statim nefando oppressus dolore humi procumbit. Remedia Sal, et
[Arabic] (tumerica); cibus lac cameli. Nonnullos occidit ingens
suppuratio, decem autem excoriatis supersunt plerumque octo: hi pecten
habent nullum, ventremque pallida tegit cutis.
[FN#47] The Spanish dollar is most prized in Al-Hijaz; in Al-Yaman the
Maria Theresa. The Spanish Government has refused to perpetuate its
Pillar-dollar, which at one time was so great a favourite in the East.
The traveller wonders how “Maria Theresas” still supply both shores of the
Red Sea. The marvel is easily explained: the Austrians receive silver
at Milan, and stamp it for a certain percentage. This coin was
doubtless preferred by the Badawin for its superiority to the currency
of the day: they make from it ornaments for their women and decorations
for their weapons. The generic term for dollars is “Riyal Fransah.”
[FN#48] Torale, sicut est mos Judaicus et Persicus, non inspiciunt.
Novae nuptae tamen maritus mappam manu capit: mane autem puellae mater
virginitatis signa viris mulieribusque domi ostendit eosque jubilare
jubet quod calamitas domestica, sc. filia, intacta abiit. Si non
ostendeant mappam, maeret domus, “prima enim Venus” in Arabia, “debet esse
cruenta.” Maritus autem humanior, etiamsi absit sanguis, cruore palumbino
mappam tingit et gaudium fingens cognatis parentibusque ostendit;
paululum postea puellae nonnulla causa dat divortium. Hic urbis et
ruris mos idem est.
[FN#49] An explanation of this term will be found below.
[FN#50] It is the plural of “Kaum,” which means “rising up in rebellion or
enmity against,” as well as the popular signification, a “people.” In some
parts of Arabia it is used for a “plundering party.”
[FN#51] Bayt (in the plural Buyut) is used in this sense to denote the
tents of the nomades. “Bayt” radically means a “nighting-place”; thence a tent,
a house, a lair, &c., &c.
[FN#52] Some tribes will not sell their sheep, keeping them for guests
or feasts.
[FN#53] So the word is pronounced at Meccah. The dictionaries give “Aakal,”
which in Eastern Arabia is corrupted to “Igal.”
[FN#54] Called “Tatarif,” plural of Tatrifah, a cartridge.
[FN#55] The liver and the spleen are both supposed to be “congealed blood.”
Niebuhr has exhausted the names and the description of the locust. In
Al-Hijaz they have many local and fantastic terms: the smallest kind,
for instance, is called Jarad Iblis, Satan’s locust.
[FN#56] This is the Kurut of Sind and the Kashk of Persia. The
butter-milk, separated from the butter by a little water, is simmered
over a slow fire, thickened with wheaten flour, about a handful to a
gallon, well-mixed, so that no knots remain in it, and allowed to cool.
The mixture is then put into a bag and strained, after which salt is
sprinkled over it. The mass begins to harden after a few hours, when it
is made up into balls and dried in the sun.
[FN#57] The North American trappers adopted this natural prejudice: the
“free trapper” called his more civilized confrere, “mangeur de lard.”
[FN#58] Burckhardt shrank from the intricate pedigree of the Meccan
Sharifs. I have seen a work upon the subject in four folio volumes in
point of matter equivalent to treble the number in Europe. The best
known genealogical works are Al-Kalkashandi (originally in seventy-five
books, extended to one hundred); the Umdat al-Tullab by Ibn Khaldun;
the “Tohfat al-Arab fi Ansar al-Arab,” a well-known volume by Al-Siyuti;
and, lastly, the Sirat al-Halabi, in six volumes 8vo. Of the latter
work there is an abridgment by Mohammed al-Banna al-Dimyati in two
volumes 8vo.; but both are rare, and consequently expensive.
[FN#59] I give the following details of the Harb upon the authority of
my friend Omar Effendi, who is great in matters of genealogy.
[FN#60]The first word is the plural, the second the singular form of
the word.
[FN#61] In the singular Aufi and Amri.
[FN#62] To these Mr. Cole adds seven other sub-divisions, viz.:—
1. Ahali al-Kura (“the people of Kura?”), 5000.
2. Radadah, 800.
3. Hijlah, 600.
4. Dubayah, 1500.
5. Benu Kalb, 2000.
6. Bayzanah, 800.
7. Benu Yahya, 800.
And he makes the total of the Benu Harb about Al-Jadaydah amount to
35,000 men. I had no means of personally ascertaining the correctness
of this information.
[FN#63] The reader will remember that nothing like exactitude in
numbers can be expected from an Arab. Some rate the Benu Harb at 6000;
others, equally well informed, at 15,000; others again at 80,000. The
reason of this is that, whilst one is speaking of the whole race,
another may be limiting it to his own tribe and its immediate allies.
[FN#64] “Sham” which, properly speaking, means Damascus or Syria, in
Southern Arabia and Eastern Africa is universally applied to Al-Hijaz.



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

[p.125] 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,[FN#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),[FN#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

[p.126] 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

[p.127] a woman of the “Miyan.[FN#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

[p.128] 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,[FN#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

[p.129] 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

[p.130] 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,[FN#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

[p.131] 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.[FN#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

[p.132] 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,[FN#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

[p.133] 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 Syria[FN#8]!” 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! Hai[FN#9]!” and
an occasional switching. Shaykh Abdullah the Asiatic commended himself
to Allah by repeated ejaculations of Ya Satir! Ya Sattar[FN#10]!

[p.134]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

[p.135] 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.

[p.136]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.[FN#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.[FN#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

[p.137] 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 ground[FN#13]; the Senna, with its small
green leaf; the Rhazya stricta[FN#14]; and a large luxuriant variety of
the Asclepias gigantea,[FN#15] cottoned over with

[p.138] 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.[FN#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

[p.139] 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.[FN#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.[FN#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,[FN#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

“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—

[p.140] No partner hast Thou, here am I[FN#20]!” 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 destruction[FN#21]; 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 sheep[FN#22]; and it is commonly said by Moslems that none

[p.141] 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.[FN#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

[p.142] 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.

[p.143] 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

[p.144] 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.[FN#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
[p.145] 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

“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

[p.146] 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

[p.147] 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

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

[p.148] 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.[FN#26] I told Shaykh Mas’ud to break off a

[p.149] 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. [FN#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

[p.150] 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,[FN#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.[FN#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

[p.151]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.

[p.152]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.[FN#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.[FN#32] After this, on the
left hand, came

[p.153] the deserted abode of the Sharif bin Aun, now said to be a
“haunted house.[FN#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.

[p.154]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 [p.155] 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.[FN#34]

[FN#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.
[FN#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.
[FN#3] The Hindustani “sir.” Badawin address it slightingly to Indians,
Chapter xii.
[FN#4] When Indians would say “he was killed upon the spot,” they use the
picturesque phrase, “he asked not for water.”
[FN#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.
[FN#6] “La Siwa Hu,” i.e., where there is none but Allah.
[FN#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
[FN#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.
[FN#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.
[FN#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.
[FN#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.
[FN#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.
[FN#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.
[FN#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.”
[FN#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.
[FN#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.
[FN#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.”
[FN#18] Sandals are made at Meccah expressly for the pilgrimage: the
poorer classes cut off the upper leathers of an old pair of shoes.
[FN#19] This Niyat, as it is technically called, is preferably
performed aloud. Some authorities, however, direct it to be meditated
[FN#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.
[FN#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.
[FN#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.
[FN#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.
[FN#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.
[FN#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.).
[FN#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.
[FN#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).
[FN#28] This attire was customary even in Al-Idrisi’s time.
[FN#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
[FN#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.
[FN#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.
[FN#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.
[FN#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.”
[FN#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 Miles
2. From Ja al-Sharifah to Ghurab, S.W. 10° - 24 Miles
3. From Ghurab to Al-Hijriyah, S.E. 22° - 25 Miles
4. From Al-Hijriyah to Al-Suwayrkiyah, S.W. 11° - 28 Miles
5. From Al-Suwayrkiyah to Al-Sufayna, S.E. 5° - 17 Miles
6. From Al-Sufayna to the “Benu Mutayr,” S.W. 20° - 18 Miles
7. From the “Benu Mutayr” to Al-Ghadir, S.W. 21° - 20 Miles
8. From Al-Ghadir to Al-Birkat, S.E. 10° - 24 Miles
9. From Al-Birkat to Al-Zaribah, S.E. 56° - 23 Miles
10.From Al-Zaribah to Wady Laymun, S.W. 50° - 24 Miles
11.From Wady Laymun to Meccah, S.E. 45° - 23 Miles
Total English miles 248

[p.157]PART III.




THE boy Mohammed left me in the street, and having at last persuaded
the sleepy and tired Indian porter, by violent kicks and testy answers
to twenty cautious queries, to swing open the huge gate of his
fortress, he rushed up stairs to embrace his mother. After a minute I
heard the Zaghritah,[FN#1] Lululu, or shrill cry which in these lands
welcomes the wanderer home; the sound so gladdening to the returner
sent a chill to the stranger’s heart.

Presently the youth returned. His manner had changed from a boisterous
and jaunty demeanour to one of grave and attentive courtesy—I had become
his guest. He led me into the gloomy hall, seated me upon a large
carpeted Mastabah, or platform, and told his bara Miyan[FN#2] (great
Sir), the Hindustani porter, to bring a light.
[p.160] Meanwhile a certain shuffling of slippered feet above informed
my ears that the Kabirah,[FN#3] the mistress of the house, was intent
on hospitable thoughts. When the camels were unloaded, appeared a dish
of fine vermicelli, browned and powdered with loaf sugar. The boy
Mohammed, I, and Shaykh Nur, lost no time in exerting our right hands;
and truly, after our hungry journey, we found the Kunafah delicious.
After the meal we procured cots from a neighbouring coffee-house, and
we lay down, weary, and anxious to snatch an hour or two of repose. At
dawn we were expected to perform our Tawaf al-Kudum, or “Circumambulation
of Arrival,” at the Harim.

Scarcely had the first smile of morning beamed upon the rugged head of
the eastern hill, Abu Kubays,[FN#4] when we arose, bathed, and
proceeded in our pilgrim-garb to the Sanctuary. We entered by the Bab
al-Ziyadah, or principal northern door, descended two long flights of
steps, traversed the cloister, and stood in sight of the Bayt Allah.

There at last it lay, the bourn of my long and weary Pilgrimage,
realising the plans and hopes of many and many a year. The mirage
medium of Fancy invested the

[p.161] huge catafalque and its gloomy pall with peculiar charms. There
were no giant fragments of hoar antiquity as in Egypt, no remains of
graceful and harmonious beauty as in Greece and Italy, no barbarous
gorgeousness as in the buildings of India; yet the view was strange,
unique—and how few have looked upon the celebrated shrine! I may truly
say that, of all the worshippers who clung weeping to the curtain, or
who pressed their beating hearts to the stone, none felt for the moment
a deeper emotion than did the Haji from the far-north. It was as if the
poetical legends of the Arab spoke truth, and that the waving wings of
angels, not the sweet breeze of morning, were agitating and swelling
the black covering of the shrine. But, to confess humbling truth,
theirs was the high feeling of religious enthusiasm, mine was the
ecstasy of gratified pride.

Few Moslems contemplate for the first time the Ka’abah, without fear and
awe: there is a popular jest against new comers, that they generally
inquire the direction of prayer. This being the Kiblah, or fronting
place, Moslems pray all around it; a circumstance which of course
cannot take place in any spot of Al-Islam but the Harim. The boy
Mohammed, therefore, left me for a few minutes to myself; but presently
he warned me that it was time to begin. Advancing, we entered through
the Bab Benu Shaybah, the “Gate of the Sons of the Shaybah[FN#5]” (old
woman). There we raised our

[p.162] hands, repeated the Labbayk, the Takbir, and the Tahlil; after
which we uttered certain supplications, and drew our hands down our
faces. Then we proceeded to the Shafe’is’ place of worship—the open pavement
between the Makam Ibrahim and the well Zemzem—where we performed the
usual two-bow prayer in honour of the Mosque. This was followed by a
cup of holy water and a present to the Sakkas, or carriers, who for the
consideration distributed, in my name, a large earthen vaseful to poor

The word Zemzem has a doubtful origin. Some derive it from the Zam Zam,
or murmuring of its waters, others from Zam! Zam! (fill! fill! i.e. the
bottle), Hagar’s impatient exclamation when she saw the stream. Sale
translates it stay! stay! and says that Hagar called out in the
Egyptian language, to prevent her son wandering. The Hukama, or
Rationalists of Al-Islam, who invariably connect their faith with the
worship of Venus, especially, and the heavenly bodies generally, derive
Zemzem from the Persian, and make it signify the “great luminary.” Hence
they say the Zemzem, as well as the Ka’abah, denoting the Cuthite or
Ammonian worship of sun and fire, deserves man’s reverence. So the
Persian poet Khakani addresses these two buildings:—

“O Ka’abah, thou traveller of the heavens!”
“O Venus, thou fire of the world!”

Thus Wahid Mohammed, founder of the Wahidiyah sect, identifies the
Kiblah and the sun; wherefore he says the door fronts the East. By the
names Yaman (“right-hand”), Sham (“left-hand”), Kubul, or the East wind
(“fronting”), and Dubur, or the West wind (“from the back”), it is evident that
worshippers fronted the rising sun. According to the Hukama, the
original Black Stone represents Venus, “which in the border of the
heavens is a star of the planets,” and symbolical of the

[p.163] generative power of nature, “by whose passive energy the universe
was warmed into life and motion.” The Hindus accuse the Moslems of
adoring the Bayt Ullah.

“O Moslem, if thou worship the Ka’abah,
Why reproach the worshippers of idols?”

says Rai Manshar. And Musaylimah, who in his attempt to found a fresh
faith, gained but the historic epithet of “Liar,” allowed his followers to
turn their faces in any direction, mentally ejaculating, “I address
myself to thee, who hast neither side nor figure;” a doctrine which might
be sensible in the abstract, but certainly not material enough and
pride-flattering to win him many converts in Arabia.

The produce of Zemzem is held in great esteem. It is used for drinking
and religious ablution, but for no baser purposes; and the Meccans
advise pilgrims always to break their fast with it. It is apt to cause
diarrhoea and boils, and I never saw a stranger drink it without a wry
face. Sale is decidedly correct in his assertion: the flavour is a
salt-bitter, much resembling an infusion of a teaspoonful of Epsom
salts in a large tumbler of tepid water. Moreover, it is exceedingly
“heavy” to the digestion. For this reason Turks and other strangers prefer
rain-water, collected in cisterns and sold for five farthings a
gugglet. It was a favourite amusement with me to watch them whilst they
drank the holy water, and to taunt their scant and irreverent potations.

The strictures of the Calcutta Review (No. 41, art. 1), based upon the
taste of Zemzem, are unfounded. In these days a critic cannot be
excused for such hasty judgments; at Calcutta or Bombay he would easily
find a jar of Zemzem water, which he might taste for himself. Upon this
passage Mr. W. Muir (Life of Mahomet, vol. i, p. cclviii.) remarks that
“the flavour of stale water bottled up for months would not be a
criterion of the same water freshly drawn.” But it might easily be

The water is transmitted to distant regions in glazed

[p.164] earthern jars covered with basket-work, and sealed by the
Zemzemis. Religious men break their lenten fast with it, apply it to
their eyes to brighten vision, and imbibe a few drops at the hour of
death, when Satan stands by holding a bowl of purest water, the price
of the departing soul. Of course modern superstition is not idle about
the waters of Zemzem. The copious supply of the well is considered at
Meccah miraculous; in distant countries it facilitates the
pron[o]unciation of Arabic to the student; and everywhere the nauseous
draught is highly meritorious in a religious point of view.

We then advanced towards the eastern angle of the Ka’abah, in which is
inserted the Black Stone; and, standing about ten yards from it,
repeated with upraised hands, “There is no god but Allah alone, Whose
Covenant is Truth, and Whose Servant is Victorious. There is no god but
Allah, without Sharer; His is the Kingdom, to Him be Praise, and He
over all Things is potent.” After which we approached as close as we
could to the stone. A crowd of pilgrims preventing our touching it that
time, we raised our hands to our ears, in the first position of prayer,
and then lowering them, exclaimed, “O Allah (I do this), in Thy Belief,
and in verification of Thy Book, and in Pursuance of Thy Prophet’s
Example—may Allah bless Him and preserve! O Allah, I extend my Hand to
Thee, and great is my Desire to Thee! O accept Thou my Supplication,
and diminish my Obstacles, and pity my Humiliation, and graciously
grant me Thy Pardon!” After which, as we were still unable to reach the
stone, we raised our hands to our ears, the palms facing the stone, as
if touching it, recited the various religious formulae, the Takbir, the
Tahlil, and the Hamdilah, blessed the Prophet, and kissed the
finger-tips of the right hand. The Prophet used to weep when he touched
the Black Stone, and said that it was the place for the pouring forth
of tears. According to most authors, the

[p.165] second Caliph also used to kiss it. For this reason most
Moslems, except the Shafe’i school, must touch the stone with both hands
and apply their lips to it, or touch it with the fingers, which should
be kissed, or rub the palms upon it, and afterwards draw them down the
face. Under circumstances of difficulty, it is sufficient to stand
before the stone, but the Prophet’s Sunnat, or practice, was to touch it.
Lucian mentions adoration of the sun by kissing the hand.

Then commenced the ceremony of Tawaf,[FN#6] or circumambulation, our
route being the Mataf—the low oval of polished granite immediately
surrounding the Ka’abah. I

[p.166] repeated, after my Mutawwif, or cicerone,[FN#7] “In the Name of
Allah, and Allah is omnipotent! I purpose to circuit seven circuits
unto Almighty Allah, glorified and exalted!” This is technically called
the Niyat (intention) of Tawaf. Then we began the prayer, “O Allah (I do
this), in Thy Belief, and in Verification of Thy Book, and in
Faithfulness to Thy Covenant, and in Perseverance of the Example of the
Apostle Mohammed—may Allah bless Him and preserve!” till we reached the
place Al-Multazem, between the corner of the Black Stone and the Ka’abah
door. Here we ejaculated, “O Allah, Thou hast Rights, so pardon my
transgressing them.” Opposite the door we repeated, “O Allah, verily the
House is Thy House, and the Sanctuary Thy Sanctuary, and the Safeguard
Thy Safeguard, and this is the Place of him who flies to Thee from
(hell) Fire!” At the little building called Makam Ibrahim we said, “O
Allah, verily this is the Place of Abraham, who took Refuge with and
fled to Thee from the Fire!—O deny my Flesh and Blood, my Skin and Bones
to the (eternal) Flames!” As we paced slowly round the north or Irak
corner of the Ka’abah we exclaimed, “O Allah, verily I take Refuge with
Thee from Polytheism, and Disobedience, and Hypocrisy, and evil
Conversation, and evil Thoughts concerning Family, and Property, and
Progeny!” When fronting the Mizab, or spout, we repeated the words, “O
Allah, verily I beg of Thee Faith which shall not decline, and a
Certainty which shall not perish, and the good Aid of Thy Prophet
Mohammed—may Allah bless Him and preserve! O Allah, shadow me in Thy
Shadow on that Day when there is no Shade but Thy Shadow, and cause me
to drink from the Cup of Thine Apostle Mohammed—may Allah bless Him and
preserve!—that pleasant Draught after which is no Thirst to all Eternity,
O Lord of Honour and Glory!” Turning the

[p.167] west corner, or the Rukn al-Shami, we exclaimed, “O Allah, make
it an acceptable Pilgrimage, and a Forgiveness of Sins, and a laudable
Endeavour, and a pleasant Action (in Thy sight), and a store which
perisheth not, O Thou Glorious! O Thou Pardoner!” This was repeated
thrice, till we arrived at the Yamani, or south corner, where, the
crowd being less importunate, we touched the wall with the right hand,
after the example of the Prophet, and kissed the finger-tips. Finally,
between the south angle and that of the Black Stone, where our circuit
would be completed, we said, “O Allah, verily I take Refuge with Thee
from Infidelity, and I take Refuge with Thee from Want, and from the
Tortures of the Tomb, and from the Troubles of Life and Death. And I
fly to Thee from Ignominy in this World and the next, and I implore Thy
Pardon for the Present and for the Future. O Lord, grant to me in this
Life Prosperity, and in the next Life Prosperity, and save me from the
Punishment of Fire.”

Thus finished a Shaut, or single course round the house. Of these we
performed the first three at the pace called Harwalah, very similar to
the French pas gymnastique, or Tarammul, that is to say, “moving the
shoulders as if walking in sand.” The four latter are performed in
Ta’ammul, slowly and leisurely; the reverse of the Sai, or running. These
seven Ashwat, or courses, are called collectively one Usbu ([Arabic]).
The Moslem origin of this custom is too well known to require mention.
After each Taufah[,] or circuit, we, being unable to kiss or even to
touch the Black Stone, fronted towards it, raised our hands to our
ears, exclaimed, “In the Name of Allah, and Allah is omnipotent!” kissed
our fingers, and resumed the ceremony of circumambulation, as before,
with “Allah, in Thy Belief,” &c.

At the conclusion of the Tawaf it was deemed advisable to attempt to
kiss the stone. For a time I stood

[p.168] looking in despair at the swarming crowd of Badawi and other
pilgrims that besieged it. But the boy Mohammed was equal to the
occasion. During our circuit he had displayed a fiery zeal against
heresy and schism, by foully abusing every Persian in his path[FN#8];
and the inopportune introduction of hard words into his prayers made
the latter a strange patchwork; as “Ave Maria purissima,—arrah, dont ye be
letting the pig at the pot,—sanctissima,” and so forth. He might, for
instance, be repeating “And I take Refuge with Thee from Ignominy in this
World,” when “O thou rejected one, son of the rejected!” would be the
interpolation addressed to some long-bearded Khorasani,—“And in that to come”—“O
hog and brother of a hoggess!” And so he continued till I wondered that
none dared to turn and rend him. After vainly addressing the pilgrims,
of whom nothing could be seen but a mosaic of occupits and
shoulder-blades, the boy Mohammed collected about half a dozen stalwart
Meccans, with whose assistance, by sheer strength, we wedged our way
into the thin and light-legged crowd. The Badawin turned round upon us
like wild-cats, but

[p.169] they had no daggers. The season being autumn, they had not
swelled themselves with milk for six months; and they had become such
living mummies, that I could have managed single-handed half a dozen of
them. After thus reaching the stone, despite popular indignation
testified by impatient shouts, we monopolised the use of it for at
least ten minutes. Whilst kissing it and rubbing hands and forehead
upon it I narrowly observed it, and came away persuaded that it is an
aerolite. It is curious that almost all travellers agree upon one
point, namely, that the stone is volcanic. Ali Bey calls it
“mineralogically” a “block of volcanic basalt, whose circumference is
sprinkled with little crystals, pointed and straw-like, with rhombs of
tile-red feldspath upon a dark background, like velvet or charcoal,
except one of its protuberances, which is reddish.” Burckhardt thought it
was “a lava containing several small extraneous particles of a whitish
and of a yellowish substance.”

Having kissed the stone we fought our way through the crowd to the
place called Al-Multazem. Here we pressed our stomachs, chests, and
right cheeks to the Ka’abah, raising our arms high above our heads and
exclaiming, “O Allah! O Lord of the Ancient House, free my Neck from
Hell-fire, and preserve me from every ill Deed, and make me contented
with that daily bread which Thou hast given to me, and bless me in all
Thou hast granted!” Then came the Istighfar, or begging of pardon; “I beg
Pardon of Allah the most high, who, there is no other God but He, the
Living, the Eternal, and unto Him I repent myself!” After which we
blessed the Prophet, and then asked for ourselves all that our souls
most desired.[FN#9]

[p.170] After embracing the Multazem, we repaired to the Shafe’is’ place of
prayer near the Makam Ibrahim, and there recited two prostrations,
technically called Sunnat al-Tawaf, or the (Apostle’s) practice of
circumambulation. The chapter repeated in the first was “Say thou, O
Infidels”: in the second, “Say thou He is the one God.[FN#10]” We then went
to the door of the building in which is Zemzem: there I was condemned
to another nauseous draught, and was deluged with two or three skinfuls
of water dashed over my head en douche. This ablution causes sins to
fall from the spirit like dust.[FN#11] During the potation we prayed, “O
Allah, verily I beg of Thee plentiful daily Bread, and profitable
Learning, and the healing of every Disease!” Then we returned towards the
Black Stone, stood far away opposite, because unable to touch it,
ejaculated the Takbir, the Tahlil, and the Hamdilah; and thoroughly
worn out with scorched feet and a burning head,—both extremities, it must
be remembered, were bare, and various delays had detained us till ten
A.M.,—I left the Mosque.[FN#12]

The boy Mohammed had miscalculated the amount of lodging in his mother’s
house. She, being a widow

[p.171] and a lone woman, had made over for the season all the
apartments to her brother, a lean old Meccan, of true ancient type,
vulture-faced, kite-clawed, with a laugh like a hyena, and a mere shell
of body. He regarded me with no favouring eye when I insisted as a
guest upon having some place of retirement; but he promised that, after
our return from Arafat, a little store-room should be cleared out for
me. With that I was obliged to be content, and to pass that day in the
common male drawing-room of the house, a vestibule on the ground floor,
called in Egypt a Takhta-bush.[FN#13] Entering, to the left (A) was a
large Mastabah, or platform, and at the bottom (B) a second, of smaller
dimensions and foully dirty. Behind this was a dark and unclean
store-room (C) containing the Hajis’ baggage. Opposite the Mastabah was a
firepan for pipes and coffee (D), superintended by a family of lean
Indians; and by the side (E) a doorless passage led to a bathing-room
(F) and staircase (G).

I had scarcely composed myself upon the carpeted Mastabah, when the
remainder was suddenly invaded by the Turkish, or rather Slavo-Turk,
pilgrims inhabiting the house, and a host of their visitors. They were
large, hairy men, with gruff voices and square figures; they did not
take the least notice of me, although[,] feeling the intrusion, I
stretched out my legs with a provoking nonchalance.[FN#14] At last one
of them addressed me in Turkish, to which I

[p.172] replied by shaking my head. His question being interpreted to
me in Arabic, I drawled out, “My native place is the land of Khorasan.”
This provoked a stern and stony stare from the Turks, and an “ugh!” which
said plainly enough, “Then you are a pestilent heretic.” I surveyed them
with a self-satisfied simper, stretched my legs a trifle farther, and
conversed with my water-pipe. Presently, when they all departed for a
time, the boy Mohammed raised, by request, my green box of medicines,
and deposited it upon the Mastabah; thus defining, as it were, a line
of demarcation, and asserting my privilege to it before the Turks. Most
of these men were of one party, headed by a colonel of Nizam, whom they
called a Bey. My acquaintance with them began roughly enough, but
afterwards, with some exceptions, who were gruff as an English butcher
when accosted by a lean foreigner, they proved to be kind-hearted and
not unsociable men. It often happens to the traveller, as the charming
Mrs. Malaprop observes, to find intercourse all the better by beginning
with a little aversion.

In the evening, accompanied by the boy Mohammed, and followed by Shaykh
Nur, who carried a lantern and a praying-rug, I again repaired to the
“Navel of the World[FN#15]; this time aesthetically, to enjoy the
delights of the hour after the “gaudy, babbling, and remorseful day.” The
moon, now approaching the full, tipped the brow of Abu Kubays, and lit
up the spectacle with a more solemn light. In the midst stood the huge
bier-like erection,—

“Black as the wings
Which some spirit of ill o’er a sepulchre flings,”—

[p.173] except where the moonbeams streaked it like jets of silver
falling upon the darkest marble. It formed the point of rest for the
eye; the little pagoda-like buildings and domes around it, with all
their gilding and fretwork, vanished. One object, unique in appearance,
stood in view—the temple of the one Allah, the God of Abraham, of
Ishmael, and of their posterity. Sublime it was, and expressing by all
the eloquence of fancy the grandeur of the One Idea which vitalised
Al-Islam, and the strength and steadfastness of its votaries.

The oval pavement round the Ka’abah was crowded with men, women, and
children, mostly divided into parties, which followed a Mutawwif; some
walking staidly, and others running, whilst many stood in groups to
prayer. What a scene of contrasts! Here stalked the Badawi woman, in
her long black robe like a nun’s serge, and poppy-coloured face-veil,
pierced to show two fiercely flashing orbs. There an Indian woman, with
her semi-Tartar features, nakedly hideous, and her thin legs, encased
in wrinkled tights, hurried round the fane. Every now and then a
corpse, borne upon its wooden shell, circuited the shrine by means of
four bearers, whom other Moslems, as is the custom, occasionally
relieved. A few fair-skinned Turks lounged about, looking cold and
repulsive, as their wont is. In one place a fast Calcutta Khitmugar
stood, with turband awry and arms akimbo, contemplating the view
jauntily, as those “gentlemen’s gentlemen” will do. In another, some poor
wretch, with arms thrown on high, so that every part of his person
might touch the Ka’abah, was clinging to the curtain and sobbing as
though his heart would break.

From this spectacle my eyes turned towards Abu Kubays. The city extends
in that direction half-way up the grim hill: the site might be
compared, at a humble distance, to Bath. Some writers liken it to
Florence; but conceive a Florence without beauty! To the South

[p.174] lay Jabal Jiyad the Greater,[FN#16] also partly built over and
crowned with a fort, which at a distance looks less useful than
romantic[FN#17]: a flood of pale light was sparkling upon its stony
surface. Below, the minarets became pillars of silver, and the
cloisters, dimly streaked by oil lamps, bounded the views of the temple
with horizontal lines of shade.

Before nightfall the boy Mohammed rose to feed the Mosque pigeons, for
whom he had brought a pocketful of barley. He went to the place where
these birds flock—the line of pavement leading from the isolated arch to
the Eastern cloisters. During the day women and children are to be seen
sitting here, with small piles of grain upon little plaited trays of
basket-work. For each they demand a copper piece; and religious
pilgrims consider it their duty to provide the reverend blue-rocks with
a plentiful meal.

The Hindu Pandits assert that Shiwa and his spouse, under the forms and
names of Kapot-Eshwara (pigeon god) and Kapotesi, dwelt at Meccah. The
dove was the device of the old Assyrian Empire, because it is supposed
Semiramis was preserved by that bird. The Meccan pigeons, resembling
those of Venice, are held sacred probably in consequence of the wild
traditions of the Arabs about Noah’s dove. Some authors declare that in
Mohammed’s time, among the idols of the Meccan Pantheon, was a pigeon
carved in wood, and above it another, which Ali, mounting upon the
Prophet’s shoulder, pulled down. This might have been a Hindu, a Jewish,
or a Christian symbol. The Moslems connect the pigeon

[p.175] on two occasions with their faith: first, when that bird
appeared to whisper in Mohammed’s ear; and, secondly, during the flight
to Al-Madinah. Moreover, in many countries they are called “Allah’s
Proclaimers,” because their movement when cooing resembles prostration.

Almost everywhere the pigeon has entered into the history of religion,
which probably induced Mr. Lascelles to incur the derision of our
grandfathers by pronouncing it a “holy bird.” At Meccah they are called the
doves of the Ka’abah, and they never appear at table. They are remarkable
for propriety when sitting upon the holy building. This may be a minor
miracle: I would rather believe that there is some contrivance on the
roof. My friend Mr. Bicknell remarks: “This marvel, however, having of
late years been suspended, many discern another omen of the approach of
the long-predicted period when unbelievers shall desecrate the sacred

Late in the evening I saw a negro in the state called Malbus—religious
frenzy. To all appearance a Takruri, he was a fine and a powerful man,
as the numbers required to hold him testified. He threw his arms wildly
about him, uttering shrill cries, which sounded like le le le le! and
when held, he swayed his body, and waved his head from side to side,
like a chained and furious elephant, straining out the deepest groans.
The Africans appear unusually subject to this nervous state which, seen
by the ignorant and the imaginative, would at once suggest “demoniacal
possession.[FN#18]” Either their organisation is more impressionable, or
more probably, the hardships, privations, and fatigues endured whilst
wearily traversing inhospitable wilds, and perilous seas, have exalted

[p.176] imaginations to a pitch bordering upon frenzy. Often they are
seen prostrate on the pavement, or clinging to the curtain, or rubbing
their foreheads upon the stones, weeping bitterly, and pouring forth
the wildest ejaculations.

That night I stayed in the Harim till two A.M., wishing to see if it
would be empty. But the morrow was to witness the egress to Arafat;
many, therefore, passed the hours of darkness in the Harim. Numerous
parties of pilgrims sat upon their rugs, with lanterns in front of
them, conversing, praying, and contemplating the Ka’abah. The cloisters
were full of merchants, who resorted there to “talk shop,” and to vend such
holy goods as combs, tooth-sticks, and rosaries. Before ten P.M. I
found no opportunity of praying the usual two prostrations over the
grave of Ishmael. After waiting long and patiently, at last I was
stepping into the vacant place, when another pilgrim rushed forward;
the boy Mohammed, assisted by me, instantly seized him, and, despite
his cries and struggles, taught him to wait. Till midnight we sat
chatting with the different ciceroni who came up to offer their
services. I could not help remarking their shabby and dirty clothes,
and was informed that during pilgrimage, when splendour is liable to be
spoiled, they wear out old dresses; and appear endimanches for the
Muharram fete, when most travellers have left the city. Presently my
two companions, exhausted with fatigue, fell asleep; I went up to the
Ka’abah, with the intention of “annexing” a bit of the torn old Kiswat or
curtain, but too many eyes were looking on. At this season of the year
the Kiswat is much tattered at the base, partly by pilgrims’ fingers, and
partly by the strain of the cord which confines it when the wind is
blowing. It is considered a mere peccadillo to purloin a bit of the
venerable stuff; but as the officers of the temple make money by
selling it, they certainly would visit detection with an
[p.177] unmerciful application of the quarterstaff. The piece in my
possession was given to me by the boy Mohammed before I left Meccah.
Waistcoats cut out of the Kiswah still make the combatants invulnerable
in battle, and are considered presents fit for princes. The Moslems
generally try to secure a strip of this cloth as a mark for the Koran,
or for some such purpose. The opportunity, however, was favourable for
a survey, and with a piece of tape, and the simple processes of
stepping and spanning, I managed to measure all the objects concerning
which I was curious.

At last sleep began to weigh heavily upon my eyelids. I awoke my
companions, and in the dizziness of slumber they walked with me through
the tall narrow street from the Bab al-Ziyadah to our home in the
Shamiyah. The brilliant moonshine prevented our complaining, as other
travellers have had reason to do, of the darkness and the difficulty of
Meccah’s streets. The town, too, appeared safe; there were no watchmen,
and yet people slept everywhere upon cots placed opposite their open
doors. Arrived at the house, we made some brief preparations for
snatching a few hours’ sleep upon the Mastabah, a place so stifling, that
nothing but utter exhaustion could induce lethargy there.

[FN#1] The Egyptian word is generally pronounced “Zaghrutah,” the plural is
Zagharit, corrupted to Ziraleet. The classical Arabic term is “Tahlil”; the
Persians call the cry “Kil.” It is peculiar to women, and is formed by
raising the voice to its highest pitch, vibrating it at the same time
by rolling the tongue, whose modulations express now joy, now grief. To
my ear it always resembled the brain-piercing notes of a fife. Dr.
Buchanan likens it to a serpent uttering human sounds. The “unsavoury
comparison,” however, may owe its origin to the circumstance that Dr.
Buchanan heard it at the orgies of Jagannath.
[FN#2] As an Indian is called “Miyan,” sir, an elderly Indian becomes “bara
Miyan,” great or ancient sir. I shall have occasion to speak at a future
period of these Indians at Meccah.
[FN#3] “Sitt al-Kabirah,” or simply “Al-Kabirah,” the Great Lady, is the title
given to the mistress of. the house.
[FN#4] This hill bounds Meccah on the East. According to many Moslems,
Adam, with his wife and his son Seth, lie buried in a cave here. Others
place his tomb at Muna; the Majority at Najaf. The early Christians had
a tradition that our first parents were interred under Mount Calvary;
the Jews place their grave near Hebron. Habil (Abel), it is well known,
is supposed to be entombed at Damascus; and Kabil (Cain) rests at last
under Jabal Shamsan, the highest wall of the Aden crater, where he and
his progeny, tempted by Iblis, erected the first fire-temple. It
certainly deserves to be the sepulchre of the first murderer. The
worship, however, was probably imported from India, where Agni (the
fire god) was, as the Vedas prove, the object of man’s earliest adoration.
[FN#5] The popular legend of this gate is, that when Abraham and his
son were ordered to rebuild the Ka’abah, they found the spot occupied by
an old woman. She consented to remove her house on condition that the
key of the new temple should be entrusted to her and to her descendants
for ever and ever. The origin of this is, that Benu Shaybah means the
“sons of an old woman” as well as “descendants of Shaybah.” And history tells
us that the Benu Shaybah are derived from one Shaybah (bin Osman, bin
Talhah, bin Shaybah, bin Talhah, bin Abd al-Dar), who was sent by
Mu’awiyah to make some alterations in the Ka’abah. According to others, the
Ka’abah key was committed to the charge of Osman bin Talhah by the
[FN#6] The Moslem in circumambulation presents his left shoulder; the
Hindu’s Pradakshina consists in walking round with the right side towards
the fane or idol. Possibly the former may be a modification of the
latter, which would appear to be the original form of the rite. Its
conjectural significance is an imitation of the procession of the
heavenly bodies, the motions of the spheres, and the dances of the
angels. These are also imitated in the circular whirlings of the
Darwayshes. And Al-Shahristani informs us that the Arab philosophers
believed this sevenfold circumambulation to be symbolical of the motion
of the planets round the sun. It was adopted by the Greeks and Romans,
whose Ambarvalia and Amburbalia appear to be eastern superstitions,
introduced by Numa, or by the priestly line of princes, into their
pantheism. And our processions round the parish preserve the form of
the ancient rites, whose life is long since fled. Moslem moralists have
not failed to draw spiritual food from this mass of materialism. “To
circuit the Bayt Ullah,” said the Pir Raukhan (As. Soc. vol. xi. and
Dabistan, vol. iii., “Miyan Bayazid”), “and to be free from wickedness, and
crime, and quarrels, is the duty enjoined by religion. But to circuit
the house of the friend of Allah (i.e. the heart), to combat bodily
propensities, and to worship the Angels, is the business of the
(mystic) path.” Thus Sa’adi, in his sermons,—which remind the Englishman of
“poor Yorick,”—“He who travels to the Ka’abah on foot makes a circuit of the
Ka’abah, but he who performs the pilgrimage of the Ka’abah in his heart is
encircled by the Ka’abah.” And the greatest Moslem divines sanction this
visible representation of an invisible and heavenly shrine, by
declaring that, without a material medium, it is impossible for man to
worship the Eternal Spirit.
[FN#7] The Mutawwif, or Dalil, is the guide at Meccah.
[FN#8] In A.D. 1674 some wretch smeared the Black Stone with impurity,
and every one who kissed it retired with a sullied beard. The Persians,
says Burckhardt, were suspected of this sacrilege, and now their
ill-fame has spread far; at Alexandria they were described to me as a
people who defile the Ka’abah. It is scarcely necessary to say that a
Shi’ah, as well as a Sunni, would look upon such an action with lively
horror. The people of Meccah, however, like the Madani, have turned the
circumstance to their own advantage, and make an occasional “avanie.” Thus,
nine or ten years ago, on the testimony of a boy who swore that he saw
the inside of the Ka’abah defiled by a Persian, they rose up, cruelly
beat the schismatics, and carried them off to their peculiar quarter
the Shamiyah, forbidding their ingress to the Ka’abah. Indeed, till
Mohammed Ali’s time, the Persians rarely ventured upon a pilgrimage, and
even now that man is happy who gets over it without a beating. The
defilement of the Black Stone was probably the work of some Jew or
Greek, who risked his life to gratify a furious bigotry.
[FN#9] Prayer is granted at fourteen places besides Al-Multazem, viz.:—

1. At the place of circumambulation.
2. Under the Mizab, or spout of the Ka’abah.
3. Inside the Ka’abah.
4. At the well Zemzem.
5. Behind Abraham’s place of prayer.
6 and 7. On Mounts Safa and Marwah.
8. During the ceremony called “Al-Sai.”
9. Upon Mount Arafat.
10. At Muzdalifah.
11. In Muna.
12. During the devil-stoning.
13. On first seeing the Ka’abah.
14. At the Hatim or Hijr.
[FN#10] The former is the 109th, the latter the 112th chapter of the
Koran (I have translated it in a previous volume).
[FN#11] These superstitions, I must remark, belong only to the vulgar.
[FN#12] Strictly speaking we ought, after this, to have performed the
ceremony called Al-Sai, or the running seven times between Mounts Safa
and Marwah. Fatigue put this fresh trial completely out of the question.
[FN#13] I have been diffuse in my description of this vestibule, as it
is the general way of laying out a ground-floor at Meccah. During the
pilgrimage time the lower hall is usually converted into a shop for the
display of goods, especially when situated in a populous quarter.
[FN#14] This is equivalent to throwing oneself upon the sofa in Europe.
Only in the East it asserts a decided claim to superiority; the West
would scarcely view it in that light.
[FN#15] Ibn Haukal begins his cosmography with Meccah “because the temple
of the Lord is situated there, and the holy Ka’abah is the navel of the
earth, and Meccah is styled in sacred writ the parent city, or the
mother of towns.” Unfortunately, Ibn Haukal, like most other Moslem
travellers and geographers, says no more about Meccah.
[FN#16] To distinguish it from the Jiyad (above the cemetery Al-Ma’ala)
over which Khalid entered Meccah. Some topographers call the Jiyad upon
which the fort is built “the lesser,” and apply “greater” to Jiyad Amir, the
hill north of Meccah.
[FN#17] The Meccans, however, do not fail to boast of its strength; and
has stood some sieges.
[FN#18] In the Mandal, or palm-divination, a black slave is considered
the best subject. European travellers have frequently remarked their
nervous sensibility. In Abyssinia the maladies called “bouda” and “tigritiya”
appear to depend upon some obscure connection between a weak
impressionable brain and the strong will of a feared and hated race—the



AT ten A.M., on the 8th Zu’l Hijjah, A.H. 1269 (Monday, 12th Sept.,
1853), habited in our Ihram, or pilgrim garbs, we mounted the litter.
Shaykh Mas’ud had been standing at the door from dawn-time, impatient to
start before the Damascus and the Egyptian caravans made the road
dangerous. Our delay arose from the tyrannical conduct of the boy
Mohammed, who insisted upon leaving his little nephew behind. It was
long before he yielded. I then placed the poor child, who was crying
bitterly, in the litter between us, and at last we started.

We followed the road by which the Caravans entered Meccah. It was
covered with white-robed pilgrims, some few wending their way on
foot[FN#1]; others riding, and all men barefooted and bareheaded. Most
of the wealthier classes mounted asses. The scene was, as usual, one of
strange contrasts: Badawin bestriding swift dromedaries; Turkish
dignitaries on fine horses; the most picturesque beggars, and the most
uninteresting Nizam. Not a little wrangling mingled with the loud
bursts of Talbiyat. Dead animals dotted the ground, and carcasses had
been cast into a dry tank, the Birkat al-Shami which caused every
Badawi to

[p.179] hold his nose.[FN#2] Here, on the right of the road, the poorer
pilgrims, who could not find houses, had erected huts, and pitched
their ragged tents. Traversing the suburb Al-Ma’b’dah (Ma’abadah), in a
valley between the two barren prolongations of Kayka’an and Khandamah, we
turned to the north-east, leaving on the left certain barracks of
Turkish soldiery, and the negro militia here stationed, with the
Saniyat Kuda’a in the background. Then, advancing about 3000 paces over
rising ground, we passed by the conical head of Jabal Nur,[FN#3] and
entered the plain of many names.[FN#4] It contained nothing but a few
whitewashed walls, surrounding places of prayer, and a number of stone
cisterns, some well preserved, others in ruins. All, however, were dry,
and water-vendors crowded the roadside. Gravel and lumps of granite
grew there like grass, and from under every large stone, as Shaykh Mas’ud
took a delight in showing, a small scorpion, with tail curled over its
back, fled, Parthian-like, from the invaders of its home. At eleven
A.M., ascending a Mudarraj, or flight of stone steps, about thirty
yards broad, we passed without difficulty, for we were in advance of
the caravans, over the Akabah, or Steeps,[FN#5] and the narrow,
hill-girt entrance, to the low gravel basin in which Muna lies.

[p.180] Muna, more classically called Mina,[FN#6] is a place of
considerable sanctity. Its three standing miracles are these: The
pebbles thrown at “the Devil” return by angelic agency to whence they came;
during the three Days of Drying Meat rapacious beasts and birds cannot
prey there; and, lastly, flies do not settle upon the articles of food
exposed so abundantly in the bazars.[FN#7] During pilgrimage, houses
are let for an exorbitant sum, and it becomes a “World’s Fair” of Moslem
merchants. At all other seasons it is almost deserted, in consequence,
says popular superstition, of the Rajm or (diabolical)
lapidation.[FN#8] Distant about three miles from Meccah, it is a long,
narrow, straggling village, composed of mud and stone houses of one or
two stories, built in the common Arab style. Traversing a narrow
street, we passed on the left the Great Devil, which shall be described
at a future time. After a quarter of an hour’s halt, spent over pipes and
coffee, we came to an open space, where stands the Mosque “Al-Khayf.” Here,
according to some Arabs, Adam lies, his head being at one end of one
long wall, and his feet at another, whilst the dome covers his omphalic
region. Grand preparations for fireworks were being made in this
square; I especially remarked a fire-ship,

[p.181] which savoured strongly of Stambul. After passing through the
town, we came to Batn al-Muhassir, “The Basin of the Troubler,[FN#9]”
(Satan) at the beginning of a descent leading to Muzdalifah (the
Approacher), where the road falls into the valley of the Arafat torrent.

At noon we reached the Muzdalifah, also called Mashar al-Haram, the
“Place dedicated to religious Ceremonies.[FN#10]” It is known in Al-Islam
as “the Minaret without the Mosque,” opposed to Masjid Nimrah, which is the
“Mosque without the Minaret.” Half-way between Muna and Arafat, it is about
three miles from both. There is something peculiarly striking in the
distant appearance of the tall, solitary tower, rising abruptly from
the desolate valley of gravel, flanked with buttresses of yellow rock.
No wonder that the ancient Arabs loved to give the high-sounding name
of this oratory to distant places in their giant Caliph-empire.

Here as we halted to perform the mid-day prayer, we were overtaken by
the Damascus Caravan. It was a grand spectacle. The Mahmil, no longer
naked as upon the line of march, flashed in the sun all green and gold.
Around the moving host of white-robed pilgrims hovered a crowd of
Badawin, male and female, all mounted on swift dromedaries, and many of
them armed to the teeth. As their drapery floated in the wind, and
their faces were veiled with the “Lisam,” it was frequently difficult to

[p.182] distinguish the sex of the wild being, flogging its animal to
speed. These people, as has been said, often resort to Arafat for

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