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The Land of Midian, Vol. 1 by Richard Burton

Part 4 out of 5

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marches. During rain-floods the site is an island: to the west
flows the surface-water of the Wady el-'Arabah, and eastward the
drainage of the Wady Yitm has dug a well-defined bed. A line of
larger heaps to the north shows where, according to the people,
ran the city wall: finding it thickly strewed with scoriae, old
and new, I decided that this was the Siyághah or "smiths'
quarter." Between it and the sea the surface is scattered with
glass, shards, and slag: I inquired in vain for "written stones,"
and for the petroleum reported to exist in the neighbourhood.

Shaykh Mohammed declared that of old a chain stretched from the
Pharaohnic island-castle to the Jebel el-Burayj or Kasr el-Bedawi
on the Midianite shore: this chain is a lieu commun of Eastern
legends. The "Bedawi's Castle" is mentioned by Robinson and
Burckhardt ("Syria," p. 510), as lying one hour south of
El-'Akabah. Moreover, the Wady Yitm, whose upper bed shows two
ruins, was closed, at the narrow above the mouth, by a fortified
wall of stone and lime, thus cutting off all intercourse with the
interior. The Bedawin declare it to be the work of King Hadíd
(Iron), who thus kept out the Bení Hilál of El-Nejd. We were
shown large earth-dams, thrown across the embouchure of the
torrent to prevent the floods injuring the palm-groves of New
'Akabah. These may date from ancient days, when the old city here
extended its south-eastern suburb; as usual, they have become a
cemetery, modern and Moslem; and on the summit of the largest the
holy Shaykh el-Girmí (Jirmí) still names his ruined tomb.

Walking round the eastern bay, where the ubiquitous black sand
striped the yellow shore, we observed that the tide here rises
only one foot,[EN#134] whereas at Suez it may reach a metre and a
half to seven feet. According to the chart, the springs attain
four feet at "Omeider" (El-Humayzah), some nineteen direct knots
to the south; and in the Sharm Yáhárr we found them about one
metre. Presently we entered, by wooden doors with locks and keys,
the carefully kept palm-groves, walled with pisé and dry stone.
Wells were being sunk; and a depth of nine to ten feet gave
tolerably sweet water. Striking the broad northern trail which
leads to the Wady Yitm and to the upper El-'Arabah, still a
favourite camping-ground of the tribes,[EN#135] we reached the
modern settlement, which has something of the aspect of a
townlet, not composed, like El-Muwaylah, of a single house. The
women fled at our approach, as we threaded the alleys formed by
the mud tenements.

The fort[EN#136] is usually supposed to have been built by
Sulta'n Selim I., in A.D. 1517, or three years before his death,
after he had subdued the military aristocracy of the Mamlúks, who
had ruled Egypt for three centuries. Much smaller than that of
El-Muwaylah, it is the normal affair: an enceinte once striped
red and white; curtains flanked by four Burj, all circular,
except the new polygon to the north-west; and a huge, gloomy
main-gateway fronting north, and flanked by two bastions. On the
proper right side is a circle of stone bearing, without date, the
name of "Sultán Selim Khan el-Fátih," who first laid out the
pilgrim-route along the Red Sea shore. Inside the dark cool porch
a large inscription bears the name "El-Ashraf Kansúr
(sic)[EN#137] El-Ghori," the last but one of the Circassian
Mamlúk kings of Egypt, who was defeated and slain by the Turkish
conqueror near Aleppo in A.D. 1501. Above it stand two stone
shields dated A.H. 992 (= A.D. 1583--1584). In the southern wall
of the courtyard is the mosque, fronted by a large deep well dug,
they say, during the building of the fort: it still supplies the
whole Hajj-caravan with warmish sweet water. On the ground lies a
good brass gun with Arabic inscription and numerals; and the
towers, commanding the little kitchen-gardens outside the
fort-wall, are armed with old iron carronades. The garrison,
consisting of half a dozen gunners and a few Ba'sh-Buzuks, looks
pale, bloodless, and unwholesome: the heats of summer are almost
unsupportable; and 'Akabah has the name of a "little hell."
Moreover, they eat, drink, smoke, sleep, chat, quarrel, and never
take exercise: the officers complained sadly that I had made them
walk perhaps a mile round the bay-head. And yet they have, within
two days of sharp ride, that finest of sanitaria, the Hismá,
which extends as far north and south as they please to go.

I at once made arrangements for a dromedary-post to Suez, and
wrote officially to Prince Husayn Pasha, requesting that his
Highness would exchange the Mukhbir for a steamer less likely to
drown herself. Moreover, the delay at Magháir Shu'ayb had
exhausted our resources; and the Expedition required a month's
additional rations for men and mules. The application was, it
will appear, granted in the most gracious manner, with as little
delay as possible; and my wife, who had reached Cairo, saw that
the execution of the order was not put off till the end of March.
Messrs. Voltéra Brothers were also requested to forward another
instalment of necessaries and comforts; and they were as punctual
and satisfactory as before. For this postal service, and by way
of propitiatory present, Shaykh Mohammed received ten dollars, of
which probably two were disbursed. We therefore parted fast
friends, he giving me an especial invitation to his home in the
Hismá, and I accepting it with the firm intention of visiting him
as soon as possible.

Meanwhile Mr. Clarke and Ali Marie were busy with buying up such
stores as El-'Akabah contains; and the officers of the fort, who
stayed with us to the last, were profuse in kind expressions and
in little gifts which, as usual, cost us double their worth. In
these lands one must expect to be "done" as surely as in Italy.
What the process will be, no one knows till it discloses itself;
but all experts feel that it is in preparation.


The following is a list of the stores with their prices. It must
be borne in mind that the Hajj-caravan was passing at the time we
visited El-'Akabah.

A large sheep cost half a napoleon; the same was the price of a
small sheep, with a kid.

Fowls (seventy-one bought), thirteen pence each; pigeons,
sixpence a head.

Eggs (sixty), two for threepence.

Tobacco (8 lbs.), coarse and uncut, but welcome to the Bedawin,
one shilling per pound.

Samn ("liquefied butter" for the kitchen) also one shilling per
pound. This article is always dear in Arabia, but much cheaper
than in Egypt.

Pomegranates (fifty), four shillings a hundred.

Onions (one kanta'r or cwt.), one sovereign.

Thin-skinned Syrian raisins, fivepence per pound.

Dried figs, twopence halfpenny per pound.

Matches (sixteen boxes), three halfpence per box.

A small quantity of grain may be bought. Lentils (Revalenta
Arabica) are to be had in any quantity, and they make an
admirable travelling soup. Unfortunately it is supposed to be a
food for Fellahs, and the cook shirks it--the same is the case
with junk, salt pork, and pease-pudding on board an English
cruiser. Sour limes are not yet in season; they will be plentiful
in April. A little garden stuff may be had for salads. The list
of deficiencies is great; including bread and beef, potatoes,
'Ráki, and all forms of "diffusable stimulants."

Here, as at Cairo, the piastre is of two kinds, metallic (debased
silver) and non-metallic. Government pays in the former, which is
called Ságh ("coin"); and the same is the term throughout Egypt.
The value fluctuates, but 97-1/2 may be assumed = one sovereign
(English), and one hundred to the Egyptian "lira." The second
kind, used for small purchases, is not quite half the value of
the former (205:100); in North-Western Arabia it is called Abyas
("white"), and Tarífá ("tariff"); the latter term in Cairo always
signifying the Ságh or metallic. The dodges of the Shroffs, or
"money-changers," make housekeeping throughout Egypt a study of
arithmetic. They cannot change the value of gold, but they "rush"
the silver as they please; and thus the "dollar-sinko" (i.e. the
five-franc piece), formerly fetching 19.10, has been reduced to
18.30. The Khurdah, or "copper-piastre," was once worth a
piastre; now this "coin of the realm" has been so debased, that
it has gradually declined through 195 to 500 and even 650 for the
sovereign. Moreover, not being a legal tender, it is almost
useless in the market.

As regards the money to be carried by such expeditions, anything
current in Egypt will do. The Bedawin prefer sovereigns when
offered five-franc pieces, and vice versa. The Egyptian sovereign
of 100 piastres (metallic) or 250 "current" must not be
confounded with the Turkish = 87.30 (curr. 175.20 to 180). The
napoleon averages 77.6 (curr. 160); the dollar varies according
to its kind; the shilling is 3.35 (curr. 10), and the franc 3.35
(curr. 8). It is necessary to lay in a large quantity of small
change by way of "bakhshísh," such as ten and twenty parah bits
(40 = 1 piastre).

Chapter VIII.
Cruise from El-'Akabah to El-Muwaylah--the Shipwreck
Escaped–Résumé of the Northern Journey.

I resolved upon hastening back with all speed to El-Muwaylah,
finishing, by the way, our work of quartz-prospecting on the
'Akabah Gulf. Thus far it had been a success; we heard of "Marú"
in all directions. But all had not gone equally well. We had
already on two occasions been prevented by circumstances from
visiting the mysterious Hismá, and we now determined to devote
all our energies to its exploration.

Two heavy showers having fallen during the dark hours, on
February 8th Aurora looked as if she had passed a very bad night
indeed. The mist-rack trailed along the rock slopes, and rested
upon the Wady-sands; the mountains veiled their heads in clouds,

"Above them lightnings to and fro ran coursing evermore,
Till, like a red, bewildered map, the skies were
scribbled o'er."

Meanwhile, in the north-west and south-west we saw--rare thing in
Arabia!--Iris holding two perfect bows at the same time, not to
speak of "wind dogs." Zephyrus, the wester, here a noted bad
character, rose from his rocky couch strong and rough, beating
down the mercury to 56 degrees F.: after an hour he made way for
Eurus; and the latter was presently greeted by Boreas in one of
his most boisterous and blustering moods.

We steamed off, with only a single stoppage for half an hour to
cool the engine-bearings, at 7.30 a.m.; and, after one mile we
passed, on the Arabian side, a ruin called Kasr el-Bint--"the
Girl's Palace." Beyond it lies the Kasr el-Bedawi, alias
El-Burayj ("of the Little Tower or Bastion"), the traditional
holding-pier of the great chain. When Wellsted (ii. 146) says,
"Here (i.e. at the Kasr el-Bedawi), I am told, there is a chain
extending from the shore to a pier built in the sea"--he
evidently misunderstood the Arabs. The eastern coast of
El-'Akabah begins with an abrupt mountain-wall, like that which
subtends the whole of the Sinai shore, till it trends south of
the Mí'nat el-Dahab. After three miles the heights fall into a
stony, sandy plain, which rises regularly as a "rake," or
stage-slope, to the Shará' (Seir) range, which closes the
horizon. After two hours and forty five minutes we passed into
the fine, open, treacherous Bay of "Hagul" (El-Hakl), distant
thirteen knots from El-'Akabah Fort, to which it is the nearest
caravan-station. On the north-east, and stretching eastward, are
the high "horse," or dorsum, and the big buttresses of the long,
broad Wady, which comes winding from the south-east. They appear
to be a body of sand; but, as usual on this coast, the
superficial sheet, the skin, hardly covers the syenite and
porphyritic trap that form the charpente. Between west and south,
a long spit, high inland, and falling low till where its
sandstone blufflet meets the sea, proves to be the base of a
large and formidable reef, which extends in verdigris patches
over the blue waters of the bay. It is not mentioned by Wellsted
(ii. 149), who describes "Ha'gool on the Arabian shore," as "a
small boat-harbour much exposed to the northerly winds." The
embouchure of the Wady nourishes four distinct clumps of
date-trees, well walled round; a few charred and burnt, the most
of them green and luxuriant. These lines are broken by the
channels which drain the surface water; and between the two
western sections appear the ragged frond-huts. Not a soul was
seen on shore.

The wind blew great guns outside the bay, and the inside proved
anything but calm. As the water was fifty-eight fathoms deep near
the coast, our captain found no moorings for his ship, except to
the dangerous reef; and we kept drifting about in a way which
would have distracted sensitive nerves. I had been told of ruins
and tumuli at El-Hakl, which denote, according to most
authorities, the Mesogeian town (Ancale): Ptolemy
(vi. 7, 27) places this oppidum Mediterraneum between Mákna or
Maína (Madyan), and Madiáma (Magháir Shu'ayb), the old capital.

Unwilling, however, to risk the safety of the gunboat, where
nothing was to be expected beyond what we had seen at El-'Akabah,
I resolved, after waiting half an hour, not to land. The Sambúk
received a cargo of quarrymen and sacks, in order to ship at
Makná the "argentiferous galena" and other rocks left by
Lieutenant Yusuf and M. Philipin upon the shore; and, that done,
she was directed to rejoin us at Tírán Island. As long as the
norther coursed high, she beat us hollow; in the afternoon,
however, when the gale, as usual, abated, she fell off, perhaps
purposely, not wishing to pass a night in the open. By sunset her
white sail had clean disappeared, having slipped into some snug

The Arabian shore is here of simpler construction than that of
Sinai; consequently the chart has had a better chance. The
Mukhbir resumed her way southwards in glorious weather, a fresh
breath blowing from the north; and fleecy clouds variegating the
sky, which was almost as blue as the waves After six miles and a
half from El-Hakl and nearly twenty from El-Akabah, she ran to
the west of El-Humayzah Island, the "Omasír" of Wellsted (ii.
149), between which and the mainland is a well sheltered berth.
It is a great contrast with the "Hill of the Fort," the
Pharaohnic rock, this lump some eighty feet high, built of
Secondary gypsum and yellow serpentine like the coast behind it.
Gleaming deadly white, pale as a corpse in the gorgeous sunshine,
and utterly bare, except for a single shrub, it is based upon a
broad, dark-coloured barrier-reef. Local tradition here places
the Kasr el-Bedawíyyah, "Palace of the Bedawi Woman (or Girl),"
but we saw neither sign of building nor trace of population in
the second island which the Gulf el-'Akabah owns.

We then passed sundry uninteresting features, and night fell upon
us off Jebel Tayyib Ism, where familiar scenes began to present
themselves. The captain had already reduced speed from four and a
half to three knots, his object being to reach the Bugház or
"Gulf-mouth" after dawn. But as midnight drew near it became
necessary to ride out the furious gale with the gunboat's head
turned northwards. M. Lacaze, a stout-hearted little man, worked
half the night at the engine, assisting Mr. Duguid. About four
a.m. (February 8th) a lull in the storm allowed her to resume her
southerly course; but two hours afterwards, an attempt to make
the Makná shore, placing her broadside on to the wind, created
much confusion in the crockery and commotion among the men.
Always a lively craft, she now showed a Vokes-like agility; for,
as is ever the case, she had no ballast, and who would take the
trouble to ship a few tons of sand? At such moments the engine
was our sole stand-by: had it played one of its usual tricks, the
Mukhbir, humanly speaking, was lost; that is, she would have been
swamped and water-logged. As for setting sail, it was not till
our narrow escape that I could get the canvas out of stowage in
the hold.

As the morning wore on the Gulf became even rougher, with its
deep and hollow waves; they seemed to come from below, as if bent
upon hoisting us in the air. The surface-water shivered; and the
upper spray was swept off by the north wind, which waxed colder
and more biting as we steered sunwards. The Sinaitic side now
showed its long slopes; and at 9.45 a.m. we passed the palms of
the Nebíkí anchorage, some six miles from the "Gate." On the
shore of Midian, south of the dark Fahísát Mountains, four
several buttresses of gypsum, decreasing in size as they followed
one another eastwards, trended diagonally away from the sea. This
part of the Arabian coast ends in a thin point: the maps call it
"Ras Fartak;" and the pilots "Shaykh Hamí,"[EN#138] from a holy
man's tomb to which pious visitation is made. The other
land-tongue, adjoining to the south, is known as the Umm Ruús, or
"Mother of Heads." I cannot find out whence Ruppell borrowed his
"Omel Hassanie" (Umm el-Hassání?).

As we approached the ugly gape of the formidable Gulf, the waves
increased in size, and coursed to all directions, as if distorted
by the sunken reefs. The eastern jamb is formed by Tírán Island;
the western by the sandy Ras Nasráni, whose glaring tawny slope
is dotted with dark basaltic cones, detached and disposed like
great ninepins. Beyond this cape the Sinaitic coast, as far as
Ras Mohammed, the apex of the triangle, is fretted with little
indentations; hence its name, El-Shurúm--"the Creeks." Near one
of these baylets, Wellsted chanced upon "volcanic rocks which are
not found in any other part of the peninsula:" this sporadic
outbreak gives credibility to the little "Harrah" reported to be
found upon the bank of the Midianitish "Wady Sukk." A hideous,
horrid reef, dirty brown and muddy green, with white horses madly
charging the black diabolitos, whose ugly heads form chevaux de
frise, a stony tongue based upon Tírán Island, and apparently
connected from the eastern coast behind, extends its tip to
mid-channel. The clear way of the dreaded Bugház is easily found
in the daytime: at night it would be almost impossible; and when
Midian shall be "rehabilitated," this reef will require a Pharos.

Adieu, small spitfire of a Gulf! The change from the inside to
the outside of the Birkat el-Akabah was magical. We at once
glided into summer seas, a mosaic of turquoise and amethyst,
fanned by the softest of breezes, the thermometer showing on deck
63 deg F. Perhaps the natural joy at our lucky escape from
"making a hole in the water" caused the beauties of the weather
and the glories of the scenery to appear doubly charming. Our
captain might have saved fifteen miles by taking the short cut
north of Tírán Island, under whose shelter we required a day for
boiler-tinkering. His pilot, however, would not risk it, and we
were compelled, nothing loth and little knowing what we did, to
round for a second time the western and southern shores.

The "Hill of Birds," which some have identified with the
classical Island of Isis,[EN#139] shows a triune profile, what
the Brazilians call a Moela or "gizzard." Of its three peaks the
lowest is the eastern; and the central is the highest, reaching
seven hundred, not a thousand, feet. Viewed from within the Gulf,
it is a slope of sand which has been blown in sheets up the
backing hills. The ground plan, as seen from a balloon, would
represent a round head to the north, a thin neck, and a body
rudely triangular, the whole measuring a maximum of five miles in
length: the sandy northern circlet, connected by the narrowest of
isthmuses, sweeping eastward, forms the noted port. The material
is the normal Secondary formation, sulphates and carbonates of
lime supporting modern corallines and conglomerates of shell.
Horizontal lines of harder stone are disposed in huge steps or
roads that number three to six on the flank of the western peak:
the manganese-coloured strata which appeared at Magháir Shu'ayb,
and in the rent bowels of the Rughámat Makná, are conspicuous
from the south. The whole has been upheaved by syenite, which,
again, has been cut by dykes of plutonic stone, trap and

At two p.m. we anchored in a roadstead to the south-east of the
island, open to every wind except the norther. I had sent
Lieutenant Amir and sundry quarrymen ashore, to inspect what
looked like a vein of sulphur. They delayed two hours, instead of
a few minutes; the boiler was grumbling for rest, and, not
wishing to leave them adrift in an open boat, I imprudently
consented to await them in a roadstead where the coast was
dangerous, instead of proceeding, as had been intended, to the
fine land-locked port, nature-hollowed in the eastern side of the
island. The old captain pitifully represented to me that his crew
could not row; and this I found to be generally the case: ten
miles with the oar would be considered a terrible corvée by the
Egyptian man-o'-war's man.

After blowing off steam, we at once went a-fishing. The only
remarkable result was the discovery that this corner of the Red
Sea is a breeding-ground for sharks: we had not seen one in the
Gulf of El-'Akabah, where last April they swarmed. Here, however,
the school contained all sizes and every age, and they regarded
us curiously with their cat's eyes, large, dark, and
yellow-striped down the middle. A small specimen, that had just
cut its teeth, was handed over to the cook, despite his loudly
expressed disgust. The meat was somewhat mealy and shortfibred;
but we pronounced in committee the seadog to be thoroughly
eatable when corrected by pepper, garlic, and Worcester sauce.
The corallines near the shore were finely developed: each bunch,
like a tropical tree, formed a small zoological museum; and they
supplied a variety of animalculae, including a tiny shrimp. The
evening saw a well-defined halo encircling the moon at a
considerable distance; and Mr. Duguid quoted the Scotch saw--

"A far-awa' bruch's a near-awa' blast."

The blast was nearer than we expected; and, during the rest of
the journey, the "bruch" rarely if ever deceived us. Yet the
night was not much disturbed by the furious northerly gusts,
showing that the storm which we had escaped was raging in the
still-vexed 'Akabah.

Next morning we landed to the south-west of Tírán's easternmost
peak, with a view of prospecting and adding to our collections.
On the shore, about three hundred feet from the sea, is a bank of
dead shells which are not found on the northern or sandy end of
the island: near the water most of them are tenanted by paguri
("hermits"). We caught a number of crabs and small fish, and we
carried off a single rock-oyster: as yet we had not found out
that the Ustrída--the vulgar form of the Hellenic and classical
"Istiridiyá"--abounds in these seas. After thirty minutes' walk
up the southern plane of the prism, composed of gypseous and
coralline rocks, veins of white petrosilex resembling broken
columels, streaks of magnetic black sand, and scatters of grit
and harder stones, we reached the summit of the little ridge. It
afforded a fine bird's-eye view of the splendid middle port; of
the false harbour; of the real shoal to its south-east, and of
the basin which seems to form Sináfir Island.

We now bent to the south-west. Here the surface is much cut and
broken by sandy Wadys, dotted with a few straggling plants: to
our right was a Goz or inclined arenaceous bank, where the south
wind had sifted the sand from the gravel, disposing the former in
the hollows, and the latter on the crest of the ripples.
Presently we reached a strange formation which, seen from the
east, appears a huge vein, red and rusty, beginning close to the
sea, and crossing the body of the island from south to north,
while a black cone is so disposed that its southern front
simulates a crater. A narrow gorge opens upon a semicircular
hollow lined with ochraceous or ferruginous matter; in fact, part
of the filon, which sends off fibrils in all directions. The
confusion of formations was startling. The floor was here of
white petrosilex, there of grey granite, variegated with squares
and lozenges, drops and pineapples, red, green, neutral tinted,
and disposed by oxides of iron and copper in natural designs that
looked artificial. Scattered over the bed of the upper ravine
beyond the hollow, were carbonates of lime, ruddy brown and
chocolate-hued, here a pudding-stone, there porous like basalt:
the calcareous sulphates were both amorphous and crystalline, the
latter affected by contact with plutonic matter. The walls of the
gash showed a medley of clay breccias, disposed in every
imaginable way; and divided by horizontal veins of heat-altered
quartz. A few paces further led to the head of the ravine, where
a tumble of huge rocks, choking the bed, showed that the
rain-torrents must at times be violent.

Meanwhile, Mr. Clarke and Lieutenant Amir had walked to the large
central harbour, hoping there to hit upon sweet water and some
stray Hutaym fishermen, who would show us what we wanted. They
did not find even the vestige of a hut. The two exploring parties
saw only three birds in the "Isle of Birds," and not one of the
venomous snakes mentioned at "Tehran" by Wellsted (II. ix.), and
described as "measuring about thirty inches, of a slender form,
with black and white spots." We also utterly failed to discover
the sulphur which was once abundant and the naphtha which,
according to the same authority, was produced here in
considerable quantities, and was used "by the Arab mariners to
pay their boats."

The evening was exceptionally fine and calm; and we expected on
the morrow (February 11th) a quiet return to El-Muwaylah. Yet a
manner of presentiment induced me to summon the engineer and his
native assistants, and to promise the latter a liberal
"bakhshísh," if by hard work at the boiler all night, and by
rigging up the ship's pump instead of a donkey-engine, they could
steam off at dawn.

Unexpectedly, about four a.m., a violent sandy and misty wester
began to blow; and all fancied that we had set sail to the south.
Quite the contrary! The engine was still under repair. The
Mukhbir was being tossed and rolled by the inshore set, and the
sequel is quickest told by an extract from my "Penny":--

"Written in sight of Death. Wind roaring furiously for victims:
waves worse. No chain can stand these sledge-hammer shocks. Chain
parts,[EN#140] and best sheet-anchor with it. Bower and kedge
anchors thrown out and drag. Fast stranding broadside on: sharp
coralline reef to leeward, distant 150 yards. Sharks! Packed up
necessaries. Sambúk has bolted, and quite right too! Engine
starts some ten minutes before the bump. Engineer admirably cool;
never left his post for a moment, even to look at the sea. Giorgi
(cook) skinning a sheep: he has been wrecked four times, and
don't care. Deck-pump acting poorly. Off in very nick of time,
9.15 a.m. General joy, damped by broadside turned to huge
billows. Lashed down boxes of specimens on deck, and wore round
safely. Made for Sináfir, followed by waves threatening to poop
us. Howling wind tears mist to shreds. Second danger worse than
first. Run into green water: fangs of naked rock on both sides
within biscuit-throw; stumps show when the waves yawn. Nice
position for a band-box of old iron! With much difficulty slipped
into blue water. Rounded south end of spit, and turned north into
glorious Sináfir Bay. Safe anchorage in eight fathoms. Anchor
down at 10:15 a.m., after one hour of cold sweat. Distance seven
miles on chart, nine by course: Mukhbir never went so fast; blown
like chaff before wind. Faces cleared up. All-round shaking of
hands; ‘El-Hamdu li'lláhi,' followed by a drink. Some wept for

The engine, or rather the engineer, had saved us: as the saying
is, it was touch and go--the nearest thing I ever did see. Had
the rotten old boiler struck work for five minutes when we were
clearing out of Tírán, or steaming along Sináfir shore, nothing
could have kept the ship afloat. Those who behaved best, a
fireman, a boy who crept into the combustion-chamber to clear it,
and helmsman who, having been at Liverpool, spoke a little
English, were duly "bakhshísh'd." The same reward was given by
mistake to the boilermaker, Mohammed Sa'íd Haddád, who had
malingered, instead of working, through the night. At Suez he had
the impudence to ask me for a Shahádah ("testimony") to his good
character. On the whole the conduct of the crew was worthy of all

In a decently equipped English steamer we should have laughed at
this storm, and whistled for more wind; but the condition of the
Mukhbir quite changed the case. The masts might have rolled out,
or she might have sprung a leak at any moment. And supposing that
we had escaped the crash upon the reef, the huge waves, and the
schools of sharks, our situation would have been anything but
pleasant. The Island of Tírán, as has been shown, is a grisly
scrap of desert: it has no sweet water; and its three birds would
not long have satisfied thirty hungry men. It is far from the
mainland; the storm, which lasted through two days, was too
violent for raft or boat to live, and at so early a season native
craft are never seen on these seas. Briefly, a week might have
elapsed before our friends at El-Muwaylah, who were startled by
the wildness of the wind, could have learned our plight, or could
have taken measures to relieve the castaways.

Sináfir Island, which we have to thank for giving us hospitality
on two occasions, consists mainly of a bay. Viewed by the norma
verticalis, it is shaped like an ugly duckling, with an oval
(Wellsted says a circular) body of high ground disposed
north-east to south-west; and with head and neck drooping
westward so as to form a mighty pier or breakwater. The watery
plain within is out of all proportion to the amount of terra
firma. The body-profile shows straight-backed heaps of gypsum,
some two hundred feet high, which become quoin-shaped about the
middle of the isle: these hillocks are connected by low strips of
sand growing the usual vegetation, especially the pink Statice

Presently our Sambúk, which had also lost chain and anchor before
she could run out of the storm, appeared to the north-west of the
bay; and a pilgrim-craft, bound for Suez, was our companion in
good fortune. A party landed to examine Sináfir, which still
shows signs of a junction with Tírán. In days when the Secondary
formation was an unbroken street, the whole segment of a circle,
extending from Sharm Yáhárr to northern Sinai, must have been dry
land; these reefs and islands are now the only remnants. The
islet itself seems lately to have been two: the neck and head are
one, and the body is another; an evident sea-cliff marks the
junction, and what appears like a Wady below it, is the upraised
sea-bed of coralline. To the north-west, and outside this strip,
lies the little port defended by a network of reefs, in which our
Sambúk had first taken refuge. The bay-shore bears traces of more
than one wreck; and in the graveyard used by the native sailor,
an open awning of flotsam and jetsam looks from afar like a
tumble-down log-hut. The number of reefs and shoals shown by
stripes of vivid green water promised excellent fishing, and
failed to keep its promise.

At length, after a third wasted day, we managed, despite a new
hole in the old boiler, to steam out of hospitable Sináfir at
6:30 a.m. on the auspicious Wednesday, February 13. The
appearance of the Mukhbir must have been originale enough: her
canvas had been fished out of the hold, but in the place of a
mainsail she had hoisted a topsail. We passed as close as
possible to the islet-line of Secondary formation, beginning with
Shu'shu', the wedge bluff-faced to south: the Palinurus anchored
here in a small bight on the north-east side, between two reefs,
and narrowly escaped being wrecked by a northerly gale. At 10:45
a.m. we were alongside of Baráhkán, a double feature, lumpy and
cliffy, connected by a low sandy isthmus: the eastern flank gives
good shelter to native crafts. Lastly came Yubá', the compound
quoin, the loftiest of the group, upwards of 350 feet high, with
its low-lying neighbour Wálih. These islets have classical names,
as I have before mentioned,[EN#141] and appear once to have been
inhabited: even at Yubú', the least likely of all, we heard from
several authorities of a deep rock-cut well, covered with a stone
which the Arabs could not raise.

And now we were able to cast an intelligent glance in review of
the scenes made familiar by our first or northern march. The
surpassing purity of the transparent atmosphere, especially at
this season, causes the land to look as near at twenty as at ten
miles; and thus both distances, showing the horizon with the
utmost distinctness, appear equally close to the ship. Beginning
towards El-‘Akabah, the Jebel el-Zánah behind Magháir Shu'ayb,
and its mighty neighbour, the Jebel el-Lauz, form the horizon of
mountains which are not the least amongst the giants. Southwards
appear the Jibál el-Tihámah, the noble forms of the seaboard, the
parallel chains noting the eastern boundary of Madyan (Proper);
while behind them the Jibál el-Shafah, reduced to blue heads and
fragments of purple wall, are evidently disposed on a far more
distant plane.

As regards the Jibál el-Tihámah, I have registered ad nauseam the
names of the eight several blocks into which, between El-Zahd
north and El-Shárr south, the curtain, rising from a sea-horizon,
seems to divide itself. Every one consulted gave me a new or a
different term; and apparently seamen and landsmen have their
separate nomenclature. Thus, the pilots call the Fás, Harb and
Dibbagh blocks, Jibál el-Musaybah, Tiryam, and Dámah, after the
Wadys and main valleys that drain them. The Bedawin, again, will
name the whole block after the part most interesting to them:
thus the tower-like formation characterizing Jebel Dibbagh was
often called "Jebel el-Jimm," and even this, as will afterwards
appear, was not quite exact.[EN#142]

We fired a gun off El-Muwaylah, where our camp, ranged in long
line, looked clean and natty. At five p.m. we were once more at
home in our old quarters, the Sharm Yáhárr: the day's work had
numbered fifty direct geographical miles between Sina'fir and
El-Muwaylah, with five more to our dock.


Our journey through Madyan Proper (North Midian) had lasted
fifty-four days (December 19, 1877, to February 13, 1878). During
nearly two months the Expedition had covered only 105 to 107
miles of ground: this, however, does not include the various
by-trips made by the members, which would more than double the
total; nor the cruise of two hundred miles round the Gulf of
‘Akabah, ending at El-Muwaylah. The total of camels employed
varied from 106 to 61, and their hire, including "bakhshísh" and
all minor charges, amounted, according to Mr. Clarke, to £316
14s. 3d.

This section of North Midian may be described as essentially a
mining country, which, strange to say of a province so near
Egypt, has been little worked by the Ancients. The first
Khedivial Expedition brought back specimens of free gold found in
basalt, apparently eruptive, and in corundophyllite, which the
engineer called greenstone porphyry: silver appeared in the red
sands, in the chloritic quartz, and in the titaniferous iron of
the Jebel el-Abayz; the value being 265 to 300 francs per ton,
with traces in the scoriæ. The second Expedition failed to find
gold, but brought back argentiferous galena in copper-stained
quartz, and possibly in the ochraceous red veins seaming the
Secondary gypsum; with silicates and carbonates of copper: select
specimens of the latter yielding the enormous proportion of forty
per cent. In this northern region the great focus of metallic
deposit appears to lie between north lat. 28° 40' and 27° 50';
that is, from the Jebel Tayyib Ism, north of Makná, to the
southern basin which contains the Jebel el-Abyaz or "White
Mountain." Its characteristics are the argentiferous and
cupriferous ores, whereas in South Midian gold and silver were
worked; and the parallelogram whose limits are assigned above,
might be converted into a Northern Grant. Concerning the immense
abundance of gypsum, and the sulphur which is suspected to be
diffused throughout the Secondary formation, ample details have
been given in the preceding pages.

The principal ruins of ancient settlements, and the ateliers, all
of them showing vestiges of metal-working, numbered eight: these
are, beginning from the south, Tiryam, Sharmá, ‘Aynúnah, the
Jebel el-Abyaz, Magháir Shu'ayb, Makná', Tayyib Ism, and
El-‘Akabah. Magháir Shu'ayb, the Madiáma of Ptolemy, is evidently
the ancient capital of the district. It was the only place which
supplied Midianitish (Nabathæan) coins. Moreover, it yielded
graffiti from the catacombs; fragments of bronze which it will be
interesting to compare by assay with the metal of the European
prehistoric age; and, finally, stone implements, worked as well
as rude.

I will end with a few words concerning the future industry of
North Midian.

For the success of these mines the greatest economy will be
necessary. The poorest ore can be treated on the spot by crushing
and washing, where no expenditure of fuel is required. The richer
stone, that wants roasting and smelting, would be shipped, when
worth the while, from North Midian to Suez: there coal is
abundant, and the deserted premises of Dussaud-Bey, belonging to
the Egyptian Government, would form an excellent site for a great
usine centrale. Finally, the richest specimens--especially those
containing, as many do, a medley of metals--would be treated with
the least expenditure, and the greatest advantage, at Swansea or
in other parts of England, where there are large establishments
which make such work their specialty.

The following analyses of the specimens brought home by the first
Khedivial Expedition, were made at the Citadel, Cairo, by the
well-known chemist, Gastinel-Bey, in conjunction with M. George
Marie, the engineer attached to the Expedition:--

Analyses (Mm. Gastinel-bey and George Marie of Cairo) of Rocks
Brought Home by the First Khedivial Expedition.

(All by Voie Sèche.)

Gold (assay on 100 grammes)--

1. In basalt (lava?).

2. In serpentine.
(None in white quartz.)


1. In Filon Husayn, 1/1000 = 265 to 300 francs per ton (very

2. In red sands, 1/10,000 (= 20 francs per ton).

3. In scoriæ, traces.
(None in white quartz or in the black sands.)


1. In ‘Aynúnah quartz, 4 1/2 per 100.

2. In Filon Husayn, 2 1/2 to 3.40 per cent.
Filon Husayn = Titaniferous iron, 86.50
Silica, 10.10
Copper, 3.40.

3. In chloritic slate, 1.40 per cent.
(Chloritic slate of Makná' =
Silica, 90.50
Carbonate of lime, 5.60
Oxide of iron, 2.30
Copper, 1.40.)

Sulphur (Jebel el-Kibri't of El-Muwaylah)--
4 per cent. above. 9 ditto below.

Lead everywhere.

Calamine (zinc) very rich.

Part II.

The March Through Central and Eastern Midian.

Chapter IX.

Work in and Around El-Muwaylah.

We arrived at El-Muwaylah too late to meet the Hajj-caravan,
which, home returning, had passed hurriedly through the station
on February 9th. This institution has sadly fallen off from its
high estate of a quarter of a century ago. Then commanded by an
Amir el-Hajj--"Lord of the Pilgrimage"--in the shape of two
Pashas (generals), it is now under the direction of a single Bey
(colonel). The "True Believers," once numbering thousands, were
reduced in 1877-78 to some eight hundred souls, of whom only
eighty appeared at El-Muwaylah; and the peculiar modification of
modern days is that the Mahmal is escorted only by paupers. Yet
the actual number of the Hájis who stand upon Jebel ‘Arafát,
instead of diminishing, has greatly increased. The majority
prefer voyaging to travelling; the rich hire state-cabins on
board well-appointed "Infidel" steamers, and the poor content
themselves with "Faithful" Sambúks. Indeed, it would seem that
all the present measures, quarantines of sixty days (!) and
detention at wretched Tor, comfortless enough to make the
healthiest lose health, are intended to discourage and deter
"palmers" from proceeding by land. If this course be continued, a
very few years will see the venerable institution represented by
only the Mahmal and its guard. The late Sa'id Pasha of Egypt once
consigned the memorial litter per steam-frigate to Jeddah: the
innovation saved Ghafr ("blackmail") to the Bedawin; but it was
not approved of by the Moslem world.

The Hájis were so poor that they had nothing for barter or for
sale. Happily, however, there was a farrier amongst them, and
Lieutenant Yusuf took care that our mules were properly shod. M.
Philipin had been a maréchal ferrant, but a kick or two had left
him no stomach for the craft. Our two fellow-travellers, with the
whole camp, had set out from Makná on February 6th, and marched
up the great Wady el-Kharaj. Along the eastern flank of the Jebel
el-Fahísát, the "Iron Mountain," they found many outcrops of
quartz, a rock which appears sporadically all the way to the
northern soufrière. In two places it was green-stained, showing
copper, while in another hydrated oxide and chromate of iron
(hematite)[EN#143] abounded. After a stage of four hours and
twenty minutes they left the caravan, struck off to the west,
accompanied by Shaykh Furayj, and reached their destination.
Here, however, they met with accidents: the mules bolted,
followed by the Shaykh's dromedary, and they were obliged to
hurry off for fear of losing the caravan, now well ahead of them.
Thus, when I had ordered Lieutenant Yusuf to make a detailed plan
of the formation, he had spent exactly ten minutes on the spot,
and he appeared not a little proud of his work.

This young officer was not a pleasant companion. He had doubtless
received his orders, but he carried them out in a peculiarly
disagreeable way, taking notes of all our proceedings under our
eyes. Together with Lieutenant Amir, he began to make a
collection of geology: both, being utterly innocent of all
knowledge, imitated us in picking up specimens; mixed them
together without notes or labels; and, on return to Cairo, duly
presented them at the Citadel. This was all that was required.
The papers were "written to" and reported as follows: "Closer
examination has shown that the ‘turquoises' brought to Cairo are
merely malachite (!); and that the existence of any such quantity
of gold as would pay for the working is, to say the least of it,
very doubtful."[EN#144]

The whole camp, indeed, was seized with a mania for collecting:
old Háji Wali again gathered bits of quartz, which he once more
presented as gold-stone to his friends and acquaintances at
Zagázig; and Anton, the dragoman, triumphantly bore away
fragments bristling with mica-slate, whose glitter he fondly
conceived to be silver.

Lieutenant Yusuf was presently despatched with three soldiers,
three quarrymen, Jází, the Arab guide of a former visit, and
eight camels, to bring back specimens of the copper silicate to
the south of ‘Aynánah, and to make a regular survey of the
northern solfatara. He set out early on February 18th, and after
twenty-one hours of caravan-marching reached the Jebel el-Fara'.
Here the outcrop is bounded north by the Wady el-Fara', and south
by the Wadys el-Maríkhah and Umm Nírán, the latter forming the
general recipient of these Nullahs. The Jebel is about 120 feet
high, of oval form, stretching 1750 metres from north-north-west
to south-south-east. The rich silicate (not carbonate) of copper,
which disdains a streak and affects the file, is found, as usual
with this ore, only in one part of the valley to the south-west,
some thirty-five feet above the sole: it is a pocket, a
"circumscribed deposit," as opposed to a "true vein" or a
"vein-fissure." The adjoining rocks contain carbonates of iron
and copper, and the ore-mass is apparently carbonate of lime.
This second visit generally confirmed the report of Ahmed Kaptán,
except that there were no signs of working, as he had supposed.
The travellers passed the whole of February 20th at the diggings,
made a plan, and sent back two camel-loads (four sacks) of the
gangue, in charge of a soldier, to the Fort of El-Muwaylah.

On the next day the little party made for the Wady ‘Aynúnah, and,
striking to the left of the straight line, crossed the maritime
country, here a mass of Wadys, including our old friend the
‘Afál. This highway to the northern Hismá falls, I have said,
into the Mínat el-‘Ayánát, a portlet useful to Sambúks: its
sickle-shaped natural breakwater, curving from west to south,
resembles that of Sinaitic Marsá el-Ginái, and those which are so
common in Western Iceland. On February 22nd, a very devious path,
narrow and rocky, lasting for one hour, led them, about noon, to
the northern Jebel el-Kibrít. The distance from El-Muwaylah is
about sixty-six miles; and the country west of a line drawn from
‘Aynúnah to Makná was, before this march, utterly unknown to us,
consequently to all the civilized world.

Lieutenant Yusuf's two journals checking each other, his plan and
his specimens enable me to describe the northern deposit with
more or less accuracy. The Sulphur-hill is a long oval of four
hundred metres (east-west), by a maximum of one hundred and
eighty (north-south); but it extends branches in all directions:
the mineral was also found in a rounded piton, a knob on the Wady
Musayr, attached to the north-eastern side. The flattened dome is
from fifty to sixty feet high, and the piton one hundred and
forty. The metal underlying a dark crust, some twelve to fifteen
centimetres thick, appears in regular crystals and amorphous
fragments of pure brimstone pitting the chalky sulphate of lime:
blasting was not required; the soft material yielded readily to
the pick. This gypseous or Secondary formation was found to
extend, not only over the adjacent hills, but everywhere along
the road to Makná. The important point which now remains to be
determined is, I repeat, whether sulphur-veins can be found
diffused throughout these non-plutonic rocks.

Lieutenant Yusuf fixed his position by climbing the adjacent
hills, whence Sina'fir bore 190°, and Shu'shu' 150° (both
magnetic); while greater elevations to the west shut out the view
of lofty Ti'ra'n, and even of the Sinaitic range. The nearest
water in the Wady el-Nakhil to the north-east was reported to be
a two hours' march with loaded camels (= five miles) Several
little ports, quite unknown to the Hydrographic Chart, were
visited. These are, beginning from the north, the Mínat Hamdán,
lying between Makná and Dabbah; a refuge for Sambúks defended,
like that of old "Madyan," by rising ground to the north. About
three miles and a quarter further south is the Sharm Dabbah, the
"Sherm Dhaba, good anchorage" of the Chart: this mass of reefs
and shoals may have been one of the "excellent harbours"
mentioned by Procopius. It receives the Wady Sha'b el-Gánn
(Jánn), "the Watercourse of the Demons' (Ja'nn) Ravine," flowing
from a haunted hill of red stone, near which no Arab dares to
sleep. From that point the travellers struck nine miles and a
half to south-east of Ghubbat Suwayhil: this roadstead, used only
by native craft, lies eastward of the long point forming the
Arabian staple of the Gulf el-‘Akabah's gate, where the
coast-line of Midian bends at a right angle towards the rising
sun. Adjoining it to the east, and separated by a long thin spit,
is the Ghubbat el-Wagab (Wajb), the mouth of the watercourse
similarly named: it is also known to the Katírah or "smaller
vessel," and about a mile up its bed, which comes from the
north-east, there is a well. According to Jázi, the guide, this
Ghubbah ("gulf"), distant only four to five hours of slow
marching from the Sulphur-hill, will be the properest place for
shipping produce. In another eastern feature, the Wady Giyál
(Jiyál), distant some eleven miles and a half from ‘Aynúnah and
ending in a kind of sink, there is a fine growth of palms, about
a quarter of a mile long, and a supply of "wild" (brackish) water
in wells and rain-pools. These uninteresting details will become
valuable when the sulphur-mines of North Midian are ripe for

From the Ghubbat el-Wagab, the path, easy travelling over flat
ground, strikes to the north-east; and, fourteen miles and a half
beyond, joins the ‘Aynúnah highway. On February 26th, at the end
of nine days' work, Lieutenant Yusuf returned to El-Muwaylah with
two sacks of sulphur-bearing chalk which justified his previous
report. As will appear, the Expedition was still travelling
through the interior: after a halt for rest at head-quarters, he
rejoined us on our northward route from Zibá, and I again found
useful occupation for his energies.

Upon our happy return "home," i.e. Sharm Yáhárr, preparations for
a march upon the Hismá were at once begun. My heart was firmly
fixed upon this project, hoping to find an "unworked California"
to the east of the Harrah volcanoes; but the Shaykhs and
camel-men, who did not like the prospect of a rough reception by
the Ma'ázah bandits, threw sundry small stumbling-blocks in our
path. It was evidently useless to notice them so far from the
spot; they would develop themselves only too well as we
approached the tribal frontier. While these obstacles were being
cleared away, we carefully examined the little dock that had so
often given us shelter in the hour of need; and I set a small
party to work at the central Jebel el-Kibri't, which had been
explored by the first Expedition.

Sharm Yáhárr is the usual distorted T, a long channel heading in
a shorter cross-piece: it is formed by the confluence of four
valleys, all composed of corallines and conglomerates of new
sandstone. Those to the north and the north-west show distinct
signs of upheaval; the two eastern features, known as the Wady
el-Hárr ("the Hot Watercourse"), of which Yáhárr appears to be a
corruption, bear marks of man's hand. The dock is divided into an
outer and inner "port" by a projecting northern point which is
not sufficiently marked in the Chart (enlarged plan). At this
place, where the tide rises a full metre, the crew of the Mukhbir
had built a jetty of rough boulders, by way of passe-temps and to
prevent wading. Native craft lie inside, opposite the ruins of a
stone house: the existence of a former population is shown by the
many graves on the upper plateau. In the northern Wady el-Hárr,
also, we picked up specimens of obsidian, oligistic iron, and
admirably treated modern (?) slags showing copper and iron;
evidently some Gypsy-like atelier must once have worked upon the
Wady Yáhárr. The obsidian also has apparently been subjected to
the artificial fire; and a splinter of it contains a paillette of
free copper.

What concerned us most, however, was the discovery of oysters,
which, adhering to the reefs projected under water from the rocky
northern cliff, formed a live conglomerate; and from the present
time forwards we found the succulent molluscs in almost every
bay. Those to the south, where the shallows overlie sand and mud,
are not so good. At this season the Ustrída is flat, fleshy, and
full sized; the shell has a purple border, and the hinge muscle
of the savage, far stronger than that of the civilized animal,
together with its exceeding irregularity of shape, giving no
purchase to the knife, makes oyster-opening a sore trouble. We
tried fire, but the thick-skinned things resisted it for a long
time; and, when they did gape, the liquor had disappeared,
thereby spoiling the flavour. The "beard" was neither black, like
that of the Irish, nor colourless, as in the English oyster. The
Bedawin, who ignore the delicacy, could not answer any questions
about the "spatting season"--probably it is earlier than ours,
which extends through June; whether also a close time is
required, as in England to August 4th, we could not guess. The
young probably find a natural "culch" in the many shells, cockle
and others, that strew the rock, sand, and clay.

Knowing that my gallant friend, Admiral McKillop (Pasha) of
Alexandria, takes great interest in "ostreoculture," I sent him
from Suez a barrel of the best Midianites The water had escaped
by the carelessness of the magazine-man: enough, however,
remained alive to be thrown into the harbour Eunostos, where they
will, I hope, become the parents of a fine large progeny of
"natives." Similarly we had laid in a store of forty-two
langoustes (crayfish) for presentation at Court, and to gladden
the hearts of Cairéne friends: our Greeks placed the tubs in the
sun and so close to the funnel, that, after about three hours,
all the fine collection perished ignobly.

We will now proceed to the central Jebel el-Kibri't; a
superficial examination of which by the first Expedition[EN#145]
proved that the upper rock yielded four, and the lower nine, per
cent. of tolerably pure brimstone. The shortest cut from the
dock-harbour lies up the southern Wady Ha'rr, with its strangely
weathered sandstone rocks, soft modern grits that look
worm-eaten. Amongst them is a ledge-like block with undermined
base projecting from the left bank: both the upper and the lower
parts are scattered over with Wasm, or Arab tribal marks. On our
return from El-Wijh we found this sandstone tongue broken in two:
the massive root remained in situ, but the terminal half had
fallen on the ground. This was probably the work of an earthquake
which we felt at Sharm Dumayghah on March 22nd.[EN#146] The track
then strikes the modern Hajj-road, which runs west of and close
to the Sulphur-hill; the line is a succession of
watercourses,[EN#147] and in Wady Khirgah we found blocks of the
hydrous silicate, corundophyllite which may be Serpentine: it is
composed of a multitude of elements, especially pyrites. After an
hour and a quarter's sharp walking, we hit the broad Wady
el-Kibrít, which rounds its Jebel to the south-east, and which
feeds the Wady el-Jibbah, itself a feeder of the Sharm Jibbah.
The latter, which gave us shelter in the corvette Sinnár (Captain
Ali Bey), is a long blue line of water bounding the western base
of the Sulphur-hill.

This central Tuwayyil el-Kibrít is an isolated knob, rising
abruptly from Wady-ground; measuring some 240 feet in height, and
about 880 metres in diameter, not including its tail of four
vertebræ which sets off from north-west to south-east. Viewed
from the north it is, as the Egyptian officers remarked, a
regular Haram ("pyramid"), with a kidney-formed capping of
precipitous rock. Drinkable water, like that of the Wady el-Ghál,
is said to be found in the Wady el-Kibrít to the north-east; and
the country is everywhere tolerably wooded. The Bedawin brought
us small specimens of rock-crystal and fragments of Negro-quartz,
apparently rich in metal, from a neighbouring "Maru." They placed
it amongst the hill-masses to the east and south; and we
afterwards found it for ourselves.[EN#148]

Our middle Sulphur-hill differs essentially from the other two
deposits, the northern near Makná, and the southern near El-Wijh,
in being plutonic and not sedimentary. One would almost say that
it smokes, and the heat-altered condition of the granite, the
greenstone, and other rocks, looking as if fresh from a fire,
suggests that it may be one of the igneous veins, thrown westward
by the great volcanic region, El-Harrah. In parts it is a
conglomerate, where a quantity of quartz takes the place of chalk
and gypsum. Other deposits are iron-stained and have the
appearance of the decomposed iron pyrites which abounds in this
neighbourhood. Usually the yield is the normal brimstone-yellow,
yet some of the beds are deep red, as if coloured by ochre or
oxide of iron: this variety is very common in the solfataras of
Iceland; and I have heard of it in the Jebel Mokattam, near
Cairo. The colour is probably due to molecular changes, and
possibly shows greater age than the yellow.

M. Philipin was directed to take charge of Sergeant Mabrúk, the
nine quarrymen, and the Bedawi owners of two camels to carry his
boring-irons, forge, and water from El-Muwaylah. I advised him to
dig at least forty feet down all round the pyramid, wherever
surface-indications attracted notice: old experience had taught
me that such depth is necessary before one can expect to find
brimstone beds like those of Sicily. The borings brought up
sulphur from fourteen metres; beyond these, six were pierced, but
they yielded nothing. In and around the pyramid M. Philipin sank
five pits; the northernmost shaft, half-way up the hill, gave
crystals of the purest sulphur.

If the depth of the deposit be not great, the surface extent is.
The pyramid evidently forms the apex of a large vein which
strikes north-south. The field consists of this cone with its
dependencies, especially the yellow cliffs to the north and the
south, facing, in the latter direction, a large plain cut by the
Wady el-Kibrít. Moreover, a vein of the red variety, about three
kilometres long by twenty-five to thirty metres broad, lies to
the south-east near a gypsum hill: the latter also yields the
crystallized salt which so often accompanies sulphur, and heaps
of gigantic half-fossilized oyster-shells are strewed about it.

M. Philipin here remained sixteen days (February 18--March 5),
during our absence in the East Country; on return we found our
good blacksmith much changed for the worse. Whilst in hard work
he had been half-starved, the Jeráfín Bedawin of the
neighbourhood having disappeared with their flocks; he had been
terribly worried by the cameleers, and he had been at perpetual
feud with the miserable quarrymen. I never saw a man less fitted
to deal with (two-legged) "natives." The latter instinctively
divined that he would rather work himself than force others to
work; and they acted accordingly.

The Expedition was thus divided into four, three working parties
and one of idlers. Anton and Petros were left behind to do
nothing as magazine-men.

Lieutenant Darwaysh (the linesman) who was too weak to ride, and
Sub-Lieutenant Mohammed (the miner) who was too old to travel,
had charge of the sick; both found the far niente equally sweet.
On February 17th I again bade adieu to the gunboat Mukhbir, and
marched with the largest party upon our camp at El-Muwaylah,
distant about six miles (=one hour and forty-five minutes). The
path from Sharm Yáhárr crosses the hard sands of the maritime
plain, metalled with the natural macadam of the Desert. The stone
is mostly dark silex, the "hen's liver" of the Brazil, and its
surface is kept finely polished, and free from "patina," by the
friction of the dust-laden winds. The line is deeply gashed by
short, broad gullies: the Hajj-road, running further east, heads
these ugly Nullahs. The third and largest channel is Wady Surr,
the great valley of El-Muwaylah, which may be regarded as the
southern frontier of "Madyan" (Proper): we shall trace it to its
head in the Hismá.

I had left the camp-pitching at El-Muwaylah to the Egyptian
officers, who naturally chose the site nearest the two northern
wells; a wave of ground hot by day, cold at night, windy and
dusty at all times; moreover, the water was near enough to be
horribly fouled. No wonder that in such a place many of the men
fell ill, and that one subsequently died--our only loss during
the four months' march.

On February 18th we proceeded, under the misguidance of a
Básh-Buzúk of the fort, Ahmed Sálih el-Mal'ún, to inspect a
neighbouring ruin called Abá Hawáwít--"the Father of (Dwelling-)
Walls." Wallin (p. 30) declares that, "finding no mention made of
Muweilih in Arab manuscripts, nor traces or traditions among the
existing generation in the land, pointing to a high antiquity,"
he is inclined to consider it a town of modern origin, in fact
the growth of the Egyptian pilgrimage. His error is excusable. He
was a passing traveller; and I well remember that for a whole
year the true name of a hill immediately behind our house at
Damascus remained unknown to me: we had called it after our own
fashion, and the term had at once been adopted by all our
over-polite native friends. Indeed, this is one of the serious
difficulties to be encountered, throughout the East, by the
scrupulous traveller whose greatest fear is that of misleading
others. The Expedition had paid four several visits to
El-Muwaylah, and had never heard a word about ruins, when I
happened to read out before the Shaykhs assembled at Magháir
Shu'ayb a passage from El-Makrízi treating of the destroyed
cities of Madyan. They at once mentioned half a dozen names lying
within short distances of the "little salt." Amongst them was Abú
Hawáwít, literally meaning "tenement walls," but here applied, in
the short form Hawáwít, to ruins in general.

Had "Wali Háji," as Wallin was called by the Bedawin, looked only
ten feet beyond the north-eastern tower of the fort, near the ruins
of a modern Mastabah ("masonry bench"), he would have found long-
forgotten vestiges of ovens and slags containing copper and iron.
The same will prove to be the case about the inland defence of El-
Wijh; in fact, all these works seem for obvious reasons to have been
built upon sites that have been utilized long before their modern
day. El-Muwaylah was probably a more important place than it is at
present, when the reef-harbour, which now admits native craft only
by a gap to the south-west, had not been choked by shoals. The sandy
soil wants only water to produce a luxuriant perennial growth, and
every garden can have its well. But more life is wanting; a man
heaps up a thorn-hedge, or builds a swish-wall of the brick-clay
underlying the Wady, and he forgets only to lay out the field
within. Local history does not, it is true, extend beyond two
hundred years or so, the probable date of Shaykh Abdullah's
venerated sepulchre, a truncated parallelogram of cut coralline on
the Wady Sughayyir to the north of the settlement. Yet this "little
salt" is too remarkable a site to have remained unoccupied. Possibly
it is the "," the Horse Village (and fort ?), which Ptolemy
(vi. II) places in north lat. 26° 40' (true 27° 40'), whilst his
"" would be the glorious Shárr, correctly consigned to north
lat. 27° 20'. This argues an error of nearly sixty miles by the
geographer or his copyists. But Chapter XII. will attempt to show
that the latitude of , the modern Shuwák, is also one degree
too low. So on the East African coast Ptolemy places his Aromata
Promontorium, which can only be "Guardafui," between north lat. 5°
and 7°, whereas it lies in north lat. 11° 41' 4".

The Awwal Hawáwít, or first ruins, begin on the right bank of the
Surr after one mile and three quarters from camp; and bear
north-east (55° mag.) from the minaret of El-Muwaylah Fort. The
position is a sandy basin, containing old Bedawi graves, bounded
by a low ridge forming a boulder-clad buttress to the Wady, while
the circuit of the two may be a mile and a half. A crumbling
modern tower, crowning the right bank, and two Mahrákah
("rub-stones") were the principal remains. The situation must
have been well chosen in the days when the heights were wooded,
and the Wady was a river. We afterwards mapped the body of the
place, lying about three miles from the fort, showing the Yubú'
bank to north-west (298° mag.); and nearly due west (260° mag.)
El-Muwaylah's only house, the Sayyid's. The site is a holm or
island in the Wady Surr, which here runs east-west, and splits:
the main line is the southern, and a small branch, a mere gully,
occupies the northern bed-side.

The chief ruin is an oblong of twenty metres by sixteen, the
short ends facing 195° (mag.); the whole built of huge pebbles.
The interior is composed of one large room to the north, with
sundry smaller divisions to the south, east, and west. Defence
was secured by a wall, distant 142 metres, thrown across the
whole eastern part of the islet: outside it are three large pits,
evidently the site of cisterns. The people also told us of a
well, the Bir el-Ashgham, which has long been mysteriously
hidden. Immense labour has also been expended in revetting the
northern and southern banks, both of the islet and the smaller
branch-bed, for many hundreds of yards with round and
water-rolled boulders, even on a larger scale than at Magháir
Shu'ayb. What all this work meant we were unable to divine.
Perhaps it belonged to the days when the seaboard of Midian was
agricultural; and it was intended as a protection against the two
torrents, the Wadys el-Zila' and Abú Zabah, which here fall into
the northern bank.

The 18th of February also made itself memorable to the second
Expedition. M. Marie was strolling near the old furnaces to the
north-east of the fort where, in 1877, he had picked up an
auriferous specimen, unfortunately lost before it reached Cairo.
Here he again found a fragment of serpentine, broken and
water-rolled into the semblance of half a globe; it showed crust
and stains of iron, filets of white quartz, and a curve (~) of
bright yellow dots, disposed like the chainlet of an aneroid.
Thereupon, we gravely debated whether these were the remains of a
vein, or had been brought to the surface by the rubbing and
polishing of the stone in water.

I could not but remark that the interior, which appeared
pyritiferous, did not show the slightest trace of precious metal.
Still the discovery gave fresh courage to all our people. The
trophy was shown to every Bedawi, far and near, with the promise
of a large reward (fifty dollars) to the lucky wight who could
lead us to the rock in situ. The general voice declared that the
"gold-stone" was the produce of Jebel Malayh (Malíh): we
afterwards ascertained by marching up the Wady Surr that it was
not. In fact, the whole neighbourhood was thoroughly well
scoured; but the results were nil. In due course of time the
tarnishing and the disappearance of the metal reduced my
scepticism to a certainty: the "gold dots" were the trace of some
pilgrim or soldier's copper-nailed boot. It was the first time
that this ludicrous mistake arose, but not the last--our native
friends were ever falling into the same trap.

Amongst the minor industries of the Fort el-Muwaylah must be
reckoned selling gazelles. The Bedawin bring them in, and so
succeed in taming the timid things that they will follow their
owner like dogs, and amuse themselves with hopping upon his
shoulders. When thus trained, "Ariel" is supposed to be worth
half a napoleon. The wild ones may be bought at almost every
fort, as Zibá or El-Wijh.

Chapter X.

Through East Midian to the Hismá.

The Land of Midian is by no means one of the late Prince
Metternich's "geographical expressions." The present tenants of
the soil give a precise and practical definition of its limits.
Their Arz Madyan extends from El-‘Akabah north (north lat. 29°
28') to El-Muwaylah with its Wady, El-Surr (north lat. 27° 40').
It has thus a total latitudinal length of 108 direct geographical
miles.[EN#149] South of this line, the seaboard of North-Western
Arabia, as far as El-Hejaz, has no generic name. The Bedawin are
contented with such vague terms, derived from some striking
feature, as "the Lands of Zibá," "of Wady Salmá," "of Wady
Dámah," "of El-Wijh," to denote the tract lying between the
parallels of El-Muwaylah and of Wady Hamz () in north
lat. 25° 55' 15. Thus the north-south length of the southern
moiety would be 105 direct geographical miles, or a little less
than the northern; and the grand total would be 213 miles.

The breadth of this Egyptian province is determined by the
distance from the sea to the maritime mountains. In Madyan
Proper, or North Midian, the extremes would be twenty-four and
thirty-five miles. For the southern half these figures may be
doubled. Here, again, the Bedawin are definitive as regards
limits. All the Tihámah or "lowlands" and their ranges belong to
Egypt; east of it the Daulat Shám, or Government of Syria, claims

I have taken the liberty of calling the whole tract Midian; the
section above El-Muwaylah (Madyan Proper) I would term "North
Midian," and that below it "South Midian." In the days of the
ancient Midianites the frontiers were so elastic that, at times,
but never for a continuity, they embraced Sinai, and were pushed
forward even into Central Palestine. Moreover, I would prolong
the limits eastward as far as the Damascus-Medínah road. This
would be politically and ethnologically correct. With the
exception of the Ma'ázah country, the whole belongs to Egypt; and
all the tribes, formerly Nabathæan, are now more or less
Egypto-Arab, never questioning the rights of his Highness the
Viceroy, who garrisons the seaboard forts. Of the other points,
historical and geographical, I am not so sure. My learned friend,
Aloys Sprenger, remarks: "Let me observe that your extending the
name ‘Midian' over the whole country, as far south as the
dominions of the Porte, appears to me an innovation by which the
identity of the race along the shore of the Gulf of ‘Akabah,
coast down to Wajh and Hawrá, is prejudged. Would it not be
better to leave Midian where it always has been, and to consider
Badá[EN#150] the centre of Thamûditis, as it was at the time of
Pliny and Ptolemy, and as it continued to be until the Balee
(Baliyy), and other Qodhâ' (Kudá') tribes, came from Southern
Arabia, and exterminated the Thamûdites?" This is, doubtless, a
valid objection: its only weak point is that it goes too far
back. We cannot be Conservatives in geography and ethnology; nor
can we attach much importance, in the nineteenth century, to a
race, the Beni Tamúd, which had wholly disappeared before the
seventh. On the whole, it still appears to me that by adopting my
innovation we gain more than we lose; but the question must be
left for others to decide.

In our days, two great Sultánis or "highways" bound Madyan the
Less and Midian the Greater. The western, followed by the Hajj
el-Misri (Egyptian caravan), dates from the age of Sultán Selim
Khán the Conqueror; who, before making over the province to the
later Mamlúk Beys, levelled rocks, cut through ridges, dug wells,
laid out the track, and defended the line by forts. Before that
time the road ran, for convenience of water, to the east or
inland: it was, in fact, the old Nabathaean highway which,
according to Strabo, connected Leukè Kóme with the western
capital, Petra. Further east, and far beyond the double chain of
maritime mountains, is the highway followed by the Hajj el-Shámi
(Syrian or Damascus caravan), which sets out from Constantinople,
musters at Damascus, and represents the Sultan. On both these
main lines water is procurable at almost every station; and to
them military expeditions are perforce limited. The parallelogram
between the two, varying in breadth, according to Wallin, from 90
to 120 miles (direct and geographical), is irregularly supplied
in places with springs, wells, and rain-pits, which can always be
filled up or salted by the Bedawin.

The main body of the Expedition, Mr. Clarke, MM. Marie and
Lacaze, Ahmed Kaptán, and Lieutenant Amir, set out from
El-Muwaylah at 6.30 a.m. (February 19th), escorted by the Sayyid
and the three salaried Shaykhs, including our friend Furayj. The
Remingtons numbered ten, and there were also ten picks, of whom
five waited upon the mules; of the sixty-one camels six were
dromedaries, and as the road grew lighter our beasts of burden
increased, somehow or other, to sixty-four. The caravan now loads
in twenty minutes instead of five hours; and when politiké, or
fear of danger, does not delay us, we start in a quarter of an
hour after the last bugle-sound. This operation is under charge
of Lieutenant Amir, who does his best to introduce Dar-Forian
discipline: the camels being first charged with the Finátís
("metal water-barrels"), then with the boxes, and lastly with the

After passing the ruins of Abú Hawáwit, we began at 9:15 a.m. to
exchange the broad Wady Surr of the flat seaboard, with its tall
banks of stiff drab clay, for a gorge walled with old
conglomerates, and threading the ruddy and dark-green foot-hills
of the main Ghát. As in the Wady el-Maka'dah and other
"winter-brooks," the red porphyritic trap, heat-altered argil,
easily distinguished by its fracture from the syenites of the
same hue, appeared to be iron-clad, coated with a thin crust of
shiny black or brown peroxide (?). This peculiarity was noticed
by Tuckey in the Congo, by Humboldt in the Orinoco, and by myself
in the São Francisco river; I also saw it upon the sandstones of
the wild mountains east of Jerusalem, where, as here, air and not
water must affect the oxide of iron. In both cases, however, the
cause would be the same, and the polish would be a burnishing of
Nature on a grand scale.

After six very slow miles we halted, for rest and refection, at a
thread of water in the section of the Surr which receives the
Wady el-Najil. The sides were crowded with sheep and goats, the
latter, as in the Syrian lowlands, almost invariably black; and
the adjoining rocks had peculiar attractions for hares, hawks,
and partridge. In these upland regions water is almost
everywhere, and generally it is drinkable; hence the Bedawin
naturally prefer them to the coast. An umbrella-shaped
thorn-tree, actually growing on a hill-top, and defined by the
sky-line, excited our wonder and admiration; for here, as in

"Rara, nec hæc felix, in apertis eminet arvis
Arbor, et in terra est altera forma maris."

Indeed, throughout our journey this spectacle always retained its
charms, aiding Fancy to restore the barrens to what they had been
in the prosperous days of yore.

The Wady Surr now began to widen out, and to become more riant,
whilst porphyry was almost the only visible rock. After a total
of ten "dawdling" miles, marching almost due east, we found our
tents pitched in a broad and quasi-circular basin, called El-Safh
("the level ground of") Jebel Malíh ("Mount Pleasant"?), which
the broad-speaking Bedawin lengthen to Malayh. Our camel-men had
halted exactly between two waters, and equally distant from both,
so as to force upon us the hire of extra animals. We did not
grumble, however, as we were anxious to inspect the Afrán
("furnaces") said to be found upon the upper heights of the
Shárr--of these apocryphal features more hereafter. Fresh
difficulties! The Jeráfín-Huwaytát tribe, that owns the country
south of the Surr, could not be reached under a whole day of
dromedary-riding: in reality they were camped a few furlongs off,
but anything to gain £8 per diem for doing nothing! Two Bedawi
shepherd-lads promised to act guides next morning, and duly
failed to appear, or, more probably, were forbidden to appear.
They had also romanced about ruins, fountains, palms, and rushes
in the Wady el-Kusayb, the south-eastern influent. At night Ahmed
el-‘Ukbi, surnamed Abú Khartúm, arrived in camp: he had travelled
more than once to Tabúk, carrying grain, and though he had failed
as a merchant, he retained his reputation as a guide. As regards
the furnaces, he also, like Furayj, could speak only from
hearsay. Opinions were divided in camp: I saw clearly that a
stand was being made to delay us for four or five days; and,
despite grumbling, I resolved upon deferring the visit till our
return from the interior.

The first march had led us eastward, instead of north-eastward,
in order to inspect the Wady Surr. From the seaboard, this line,
which drains the northern flank of the Shárr Mountains, appears
the directest road into the interior. We shall presently see,
however, why the devious northern way of the Wady Sadr has become
the main commercial route connecting El-Muwaylah with
Tabúk.[EN#151] During the evening we walked up the Wady Surr,
finding, in its precipitous walls, immense veins of serpentine
and porphyritic greenstone, but not a speck of gold. The upper
part of the Fiumara also showed abundant scatters of water-rolled
stones, serpentines, and hard felspars, whose dove-coloured
surface was streaked with fibrils and at times with regular veins
of silvery lustre, as if brought out by friction of the surface.
I offered a considerable sum to a Jeráfín Bedawi if he would show
the rock in situ; he was evidently ignorant of it, but, like
others, he referred us to Jebel Malíh.

The whole of the next day (February 20th) was spent in northing.
Leaving the noisy braying caravan to march straight on its
destination, we set out (6.15 a.m.) up the Wady Guwaymarah,
guided by Hasan el-‘Ukbí, who declared that he well knew the
sites of the ruined settlements El-Khulasah and El-Zibayyib.
After walking half an hour we turned eastward into a feeder of
the Surr, the Wady el-Khulasah, whose aspect charmed me: this
drain of the inner Jedayl block was the replica of a Fiumara in
Somali-land, a broad tree-dotted flat of golden sand, bordered on
either side by an emerald avenue of dense Mimosas, forming line
under the green-stone hills to the right, and the red-stone
heights to the left. The interior, we again remarked, is
evidently more rained upon, and therefore less sterile and
desolate, than the coast and the sub-maritime regions; and here
one can well imagine large towns being built. At last, after
walking about an hour and a half (= four miles and a half)
towards the Shárr, with our backs turned upon our goal, the
rat-faced little intriguer, Hasan, declared that he knew nothing
about El-Khulasah, but that Zibayyib lay there! pointing to a
bright-red cliffy peak, "Abá'l-bárid," on the left bank of the
Wady, and to others whose heads were blue enough and low enough
to argue considerable distance. He had intended his cousin Gabr
to be the real guide, and to take to himself all the credit; but
I had sent off the parlous "judge" in another direction.

Mr. Clarke, whose cantering mule had no objection to leave its
fellows, rode off with the recreant Hasan, whilst we awaited his
return under a tree.

Instead of hugging Abá'l-bárid, behind which a watercourse would
have taken him straight to his destination, he struck away from
the Wady el-Khulasah. Then crossing on foot, and hauling his
animal over, a rough divide, he fell, after six miles instead of
two, into the upper course of the Wady Surr, which he reported to
be choked with stones, and refusing passage to loaded camels--as
will afterwards appear, the reverse is the case. The ruins of
El-Zibayyib lie at a junction of three, or rather four,
watercourses. The eastern is the Surr, here about five hundred
yards broad, forming a bulge in the bed, and then bending
abruptly to the south; a short line from the south-west, the Wady
Zibayyib, drains the Aba'‘l-bárid peak; and the northernmost is
the Wady el-Safrá,[EN#152] upon which the old place stands à
cheval. The western part is the larger and the more ruinous. The
thin line, three hundred yards long by thirty broad, never shows
more than two tenements deep, owing to the hill that rises behind
it: here the only furnace was found. The eastern block measures
one hundred yards by forty; both are razed to their basements,
resembling the miners' settlement on the Sharmá cliff. They
attract attention only by their material, red boulders being used
instead of the green porphyries of the hills; and the now
desolate spot shows no signs of water or of palm-groves.

Mr. Clarke rejoined us after a couple of hours, having lost the
dog ‘Brahim: under a sudden change of diet it had become too
confident of its strength, and thus it is that dogs and men come
to grief. We retraced our steps down the Wady el-Khulasah, whose
Jebel is the crupper of the little block Umm Jedayl. The lower
valley shows a few broken walls, old Arab graves, and other signs
of ancient habitation; but I am convinced that we missed the
ruins which lay somewhere in the neighbourhood. One Sulaymán, a
Bedawi of the Selálimah-Huwaytát tribe, who had been rascalized
by residence at El-Muwaylah, was hunted up by the energetic
Sayyid; hoping, as usual, that no action would be taken upon mere
words, he declared that El-Khulasah stood on the top of a
trap-lump. We halted to inspect it, and Lieutenant Amir rode the
Shaytánah, his vicious little she-mule, up and down steeps fit
only for a goat. Again all was in vain.

We then travelled over granite gravel along the western
foot-hills of Umm Jedayl, in which a human figure or statue had
been reported to me: now, however, it became a Sarbút, or
"upright stone." Along the flanks of the chief outlier, the Jebel
el-Ramzah, distinguished by its red crest and veins, the slope
was one strew of quartz, whole and broken; like that which we had
seen to the north, and which we were to see on our southern
journey. Despising the "rotten water" offered in two places by
the Umm Jedayl, we pitched camp on the fine gravel of the Sayl
Wady el-Jimm. Here I heard for the first time, after sighting it
for many weeks, that the latter is the name, not of a
mountain,[EN#153] but of a Sha'b or "gully" in the Jebel Dibbagh
where waters "meet." The Wady Kh'shabriyyah, separating the Umm
Jedayl from its northern neighbour, the Dibbagh, looks like a
highway; but all declare that it is closed to camels by Wa'r, or
"stony ground." Of its ruins more when we travel to the Shárr.
This day's march of four hours (= ten miles and a half) had been
a series of zigzags--north, north-east, west, and again north.

After a cool, pleasant night we set out at 6.30 a.m. (February
21st), across the broad Sayl, towards a bay in the mountains
bearing north-north-west, the mouth of the Wady Zennárah.
Entering the block, we made two short cuts to save great bends in
the bed. The first was the Sha'b el-Liwéwi', the Weiwî of Wallin
(p. 304)--wild riding enough; the path often winding almost due
east, when the general direction was north-north-east. We saw,
for the first time, pure greenish-yellow chlorite outcropping
from the granite. The animals were apparently hibernating, and
plants were rare; we remarked chiefly the sorrel and the blue
thistle, or rather wild artichoke, the Shauk el-Jemel, a thorn
loved by camels (Blepharis edulis), which recalled to mind the
highlands of Syria. The second short-cut, the Wady el-Ga'agah,
alias Sawáwín, was the worse of the two: the deep drops and
narrow gutters in the quartz-veined granite induced even the
Shaykhs to dismount before attacking the descents. This is rarely
done when ascending, for their beasts climb like Iceland ponies.
One of M. Lacaze's most effective croquis is that showing monture
and man disappearing in the black depths of a crevice. Some of
the hill-crests were weathered with forms resembling the
artificial. At the mid-day halting-ground we saw a stone-mother
nursing a rock-child, which might still be utilized in lands
where "thaumaturgy" is not yet obsolete.

Our course thence lay eastward up the easy bed of the Fiumara, an
eastern section of an old friend, the Wady Tiryam; it now takes
the well-known name "Wady Sadr," and we shall follow it to its
head in the Hismá. The scene is rocky enough for Scotland or
Scandinavia, with its huge walls bristling in broken rocks and
blocks, its blue slides, and its polished sheets of dry
watercourse which, from afar, flash in the sun like living
cataracts. On the northern or right bank rises the mighty Harb,
whose dome, single when seen from the west, here becomes a
Tridactylon, splitting into three several heads. Facing it, the
northernmost end of the Dibbagh range forms a truncated tower,
conspicuous far out at sea: having no name, it was called by us
Burj Jebel Dibbagh. A little further to the east it will prove to
be the monstrous pommel of a dwarf saddleback, everywhere a
favourite shape with the granite outcrop.

MM. Clarke and Lacaze, who had never before seen anything higher
that the hillocks of the Isle of Wight or the Buttes de
Montmartre were hot upon ascending the almost perpendicular sides
of the Burj, relying upon the parallel and horizontal fissures in
the face, which were at least ten to twenty feet apart. These
dark marks, probably stained by oxide of iron, reminded me of
those which wrinkle the granitic peaks about Rio de Janeiro, and
which have been mistaken for "hieroglyphs."

The valley-sole is parti-coloured; the sands of the deeper line
to the right are tinctured a pale and sickly green by the
degradation of the porphyritic traps, here towering in the
largest masses yet seen; while the gravel of the left bank is
warm, and lively with red grit and syenitic granite. Looking down
the long and gently waving line, we feel still connected with the
civilized world by the blue and purple screen of Sinai forming
the splendid back-ground. Everything around us appears deserted;
the Ma'ázah are up country, and the Beni ‘Ukbah have temporarily
quitted these grazing-grounds for the Surr of El-Muwaylah. We
camped for the night, after a total march of eleven miles, at the
Sayl el-Nagwah, a short Nullah at the foot of a granite block
similarly named; and a gap supplied us with tolerable rain-water.

On the next day (February 22nd) we left the "Nagwah" at seven
instead of six a.m., and passed to the right a granitic outcrop
in the Wady bed, a reduced edition of the Burj. After an hour's
slow walking we were led by a Bedawi lad, Hasan bin Husayn, to a
rock-spur projected northwards from the left side and separating
two adjacent Sayls or "torrent-beds," mere bays in the bank of
mountains. A cut road runs to the top of the granite tongue,
which faces the westernmost or down-stream outbreaks of the huge
porphyritic masses on the other side of the Wady Sadr. The ridge
itself is strewed with spalled stone, quartz broken from the
veins that seam the granite, and with slag as usual admirably
worked. Not a trace of human habitation appears, nor is there any
tradition of a settlement having existed here; consequently we
concluded that this was another atelier of wandering workmen.
Below the rock-tongue we found for the first time oxydulated iron
and copper, either free or engaged in trap and basaltic dykes:
the former metal, also attached in layers to dark-red vermeilled
jasper, here appears streaked with white quartz.

Resuming our ride, we dismounted, after four miles, at the
half-way Mahattah ("halting-place"): it is a rond-point in the
Wady Sadr, marked from afar by a tall blue pyramid, the Jebel
el-Ga'lah (Jálah). We spent some time examining this interesting
bulge. Here the Jibál el-Tihámah end, and the eastern parallel
range, the Jibál el-Shafah, begins. The former belong to the
Huwaytát and to Egypt; the latter, partly to the Ma'ázah and to
Syria. The geographical frontier is well marked by two large
watercourses disposed upon a meridian, and both feeding the main
drain, the Sadr-Tiryam. To the north the Wady Sawádah divides the
granitic Harb from the porphyritic Jebel Sawádah; while the
southern Wady Aylán separates the Dibbagh from the Jebel Aylán, a
tall form distinctly visible from the Upper Shárr. The rest of
our eastward march will now be through the Shafah massif. It
resembles on a lower scale the Tihámah Gháts; but it wholly wants
their variety, their beauty, and their grandeur. The granites
which before pierced the porphyritic traps in all directions, now
appear only at intervals; and this, I am told, is the case
throughout the northern, as we found it to be in the southern,
prolongation of the "Lip"-range. At the same time there is no
distinct geographical separation between the two parallels; and
both appear, not as if parted by neutral ground, but rather as
topographical continuations of each other.

While breaking our fast and resting the mules, a few shots
ringing ahead caused general excitement: we were now on the edge
of the enemy's country. Presently three of the Ma'ázah came in
and explained, with their barking voices, that their people had
been practicing at the Níshán ("target"); which meant "We have
powder in abundance." One of them, at once dubbed El-Nasnás ("the
Satyr") from his exceeding monstrous ugliness--a baboon's muzzle
with a scatter of beard--kindly volunteered to guide us, with the
intention of losing the way. The dialogue that took place was
something as follows:--

What are your names ?

A. Na'akal wa nashrab! Our names are "We eat and We drink!"

Where do we find water to-day?

Furayj ejaculates, "The water of the Rikáb!"

A. No, by Allah! The Arabs will never allow you to drink! You
should be killed for carrying off in Dumús ("skins") the sand of
the Wady Jahd (alluding to Lieutenant Amir's trip).

We did not pay much heed to these evil signs. Ahmed el-‘Ukbí had
been sent forward to obtain a free pass from the chiefs, and we
hardly expected that the outlying thieves would be daring enough
to attack us.

Resuming our way, in a cold wind and a warm sun, up the upper
Wady Sadr, we threaded the various bends to the south and
south-east, with a general south-south-eastern direction. The
normal dark-green traps and burnished red porphyries and grits
were sparsely clad with the Shauhat and the Yasár trees,
resembling the Salvadora and the Tamarix. The country began to
show a few donkeys and large flocks of sheep and goats; the
muttons have a fine "tog," and sell for three dollars and a half.
The women in charge, whose complexions appeared notably lighter
than those of the seaboard, barked like the men. They were much
puzzled by a curious bleating which came from the mules; and
hurriedly counted their kids, suspecting that one had been
purloined, whilst they had some trouble to prevent the whole
flock following us. All roared with laughter when they found that
Mr. Clarke was the performer.

We crossed two short cuts over long bends in the Wady; and at the
second found a pot-hole of rain-water by no means fragrant,
except to nostrils that love impure ammonia. It has a grand name,
Muwah (for Miyáh) el-Rikáb ("the Waters of the Caravan"); and we
made free with it, despite the morning's threats. We again camped
in the valley at an altitude of 2200 feet (aner. 27.80); and,
though the thermometer showed 66° F. at five p.m., fires inside
and outside the mess-tent were required. A wester or sea-breeze,
deflected by the ravines to a norther, was blowing; and in these
regions, as in the sub-frigid zones of Europe, wind makes all the
difference of temperature. During the evening we were visited by
the Ma'ázah Bedawin of a neighbouring encampment: they began to
notice stolen camels and to wrangle over past times--another bad

Setting out on a splendidly lucent morning (6:45 a.m., February
23rd), when the towering heads of Harb and Dibbagh looked only a
few furlongs distant, we committed the imprudence of preceding,
as usual, the escort. Our men had become so timid, starting at
the sight of every wretched Bedawi, that they made one long for a
"rash act." After walking about a mile and a half, we passed some
black tents on the left bank, where the Sadr enters a narrow
rocky gorge; and suddenly about a dozen varlets were seen
scampering over the walls, manning the Pass, and with lighted
matches threatening to fire. Then loud rang the war-song--

"Hill el-Zawáib, hilla-há;
W'abdi Nuhúdak kulla-há!"

"Loose thy top-locks with a loosing (like a lion's mane);
And advance thy breast, all of it (opponite pectora without

Other varieties of the slogan are:--

"O man of small mouth (un misérable)!
If we fail, who shall win?"


"By thy eyes (I swear), O she-camel, if we go (to the
attack) and gird (the sword),
We will make it a day of sorrow to them, and avert from
ourselves every ill."

We dismounted, looked to our weapons, and began to parley. The
ragged ruffians, some of them mere boys, and these always the
readiest to blow the matches of guns longer than themselves,
began with high pretensions. They declared that they would be
satisfied with nothing less than plundering us; they flouted
Shaykh Furayj, and they insulted the Sayyid, threatening to take
away his sword.

Presently the escort and the Arab camel-men were seen coming up
at the double. The Ma'ázah at once became abject; kissed our
heads and declared "there was some mistake." I had already
remarked, whilst the matchlock-men were swarming up the
Wady-sides, that the women and children remained in camp, and the
sheep and goats were not driven off. This convinced me that
nothing serious had been intended: probably the demonstration was
ordered from head-quarters in order to strike us with a wholesome

The fellows gently reproached us with travelling through their
country without engaging (and paying) Ghafír--"guides and
protectors." So far, as owners of the soil, they were "in their
right;" and manning a pass is here the popular way of levying
transit dues. On this occasion the number of our Remingtons
sufficed to punish their insolence by putting the men to flight,
and by carrying off their camels and flocks; but such a step
would have stopped the journey, and what would not the
"Aborigines Protection Society" have said and done? I therefore
hired one of the varlets, and both parties went their ways
rejoicing that the peace had not been broken.

The valley, winding through the red and green hills, was dull and
warm till the cool morning easter, which usually set about eight
a.m., began to blow. The effect of increasing altitude showed
itself in the vegetation. We now saw for the first time the Kidád
(Astragalus), with horrid thorns and a flower resembling from
afar the gooseberry: it is common on the Hismá and in the South
Country. The Kahlá (Echium), a bugloss, a borage-like plant, with
viscous leaves and flowers of two colours,--the young light-pink
and the old dark-blue,--everywhere beautified the sands, and
reminded me of the Istrian hills, where it is plentiful as in the
Nile Valley. The Jarad-thorn was not in bloom; and the same was
the case with the hyacinth (Dipcadi erythraeum), so abundant in
the Hisma', which some of us mistook for a "wild onion." The
Zayti (Lavandula) had just donned its pretty azure bloom. There
were Reseda, wild indigo, Tribulus (terrestris), the blue
Aristida, the pale Stipa, and the Bromus grass, red and yellow.
The Ratam (spartium), with delicate white and pink blossoms, was
a reminiscence of Tenerife and its glorious crater; whilst a
little higher up, the amene Cytisus, flowering with gold, carried
our thoughts back to the far past.

Presently the great Fiumara opened upon a large basin denoting
the Ras ("head") Wady Sadr: native travellers consider this their
second stage from El-Muwaylah. In front the Jibál Sadr extended
far to the right and left, a slight depression showing the
Khuraytah, or "Pass," which we were to ascend on the morrow.
Buttressing the left bank of the broad watercourse was the dwarf
hill of which we had been told so many tales. By day its red
sands gleam and glisten like burnished copper; during the night
fire flashes from the summit: in truth, its sole peculiarity is
that of being yellow amongst the gloomy heights around it; whilst
the Wady el-Safrá, higher up to the left, discharges from its
Jebel a torrent of quartz and syenite, gravel and sand. Abú
Khartám, the author of the romance, was among the party: he only
smiled when complimented upon the power of his imagination.

This was a day of excitement: even the mules kept their ears
pricked up. After a short nine miles we had camped below the
Jebel Kibár, and we had remounted our animals to ascend a
neighbouring hill commanding a bird's-eye view of the Hismá
plain. There was evidently much excitement amongst the Bedawi
shepherds around us; and presently Ahmed el-‘Ukbí, our messenger,
appeared in sight, officially heading the five chiefs of the
Ma'ázah, who were followed by a tail of some thirty clansmen.
Only two rode horses, wretched garrons stolen from the Ruwalá,
the great branch of the Anezah, which holds the eastern regions;
the rest rode fine sturdy and long-coated camels, which looked
Syrian rather than Midianite.[EN#154] We returned hurriedly to
make arrangements for the reception: our Shaykhs could not,
without derogating, go forth to meet the strangers; but the
latter were saluted with due ceremony by the bugler and the
escort, drawn up in line before the mess-tent.

After the usual half-hour's delay, the "palaver," to speak
Africanicè, "came up," and M. Lacaze had a good opportunity of
privily sketching the scene. The Shaykh, Mohammed bin ‘Atíyyah,
who boasts (falsely) that he commands more than half the two
thousand males composing the tribe, is a tall, sinewy man of
about fifty, straight-featured, full-bearded, and gruff-voiced:
his official style of speaking from the throat, a kind of vaccine
low, imitated in camp for many a day, never failed to cause
merriment. His costume rose to the height of Desert-fashion,
described when pourtraying Shaykh Khizr the ‘Imráni; his manners
were those of a gentleman below the Pass, and above it he became
an unmitigated ruffian, who merited his soubriquet El-Kalb ("the
Hound"). On one side sat his son Sálim, a large, beardless lad,
who had begun work by presenting us with a sheep--Giorgi (cook)
said it cost us £40. On the other was his eldest brother and
alter ego: the wrinkled Sagr (Sakr) has been a resident at Cairo,
and still boasts that he received the "tribute" of a horse from
the Viceroy, whom he affects to treat as an equal or rather an
inferior. The others were old Sagr's ill-visaged son Ali, and,
lastly, a cunning-eyed villain, ‘Abayd bin Sálim, the rightful
heir to the chieftainship, which, however, he had been unable to
keep. All the Shaykhs were dressed in brand-new garments and
glaring glossy Kúfíyahs ("head-kerchiefs"); they trade chiefly
with Mezáríb in the Haurán; and, during the annual passage to and
fro of the Damascus caravan, they await it at Tabúk, and threaten
to cut off the road unless liberally propitiated with presents of
raiment and rations. The Murátibah (honorarium) contributed by
El-Shám would be about one hundred dollars in ready money to the
headman, diminishing with degree to one dollar per annum: this
would not include "free gifts" by pilgrims. The Ma'ázah are under
Syria, that is, under no rule at all; and they are supposed to be
tributary to, when in reality they demand tribute from, the
Porte. In fact, nothing can be more pronounced than the contrast
of the Bedawin who are subject to Egypt, and those supposed to be
governed by the wretched Ottoman.

During the palaver all outside was sweet as honey, to use the
Arab phrase, and bitter as gall inside. The Ma'ázah, many of whom
now saw Europeans for the first time, eyed the barnetá (hat)
curiously, with a certain facial movement which meant, "This is
the first time we have let Christian dogs into our land!" They
were minute in observing the escort, and not a little astonished
to find that all were negroes--in the old day Egyptian soldiers,
under the great Mohammed Ali Pasha and his stepson, Ibrahim
Pasha, had made themselves a terror to the Wild Man. "What had
now become of them?" was the mental question. When asked whence
they had procured the two horses, they answered curtly, Min
Rabbiná--"From our Lord," thus signifying stolen goods; and, like
mediaeval knights, they took a pride in avowing that not one of
their number could read or write. Finally a tent was assigned to
them; food was ordered, and they promised us escort to their dens
on the morrow.

During the raw and gusty night the mercury sank to 38° F., the
aneroid (26.91) showing about three thousand feet above
sea-level; and blazing fires kept up within and without the
tents, hardly sufficed for comfort. On the morning of February

"Over the wold the wind blew cold;"

and the Egyptian officers all donned their gloves. The early
hours were spent in a last struggle with our Shaykhs, who now
felt themselves and their camels hopelessly entering the lion's
lair. The sole available pretext for delay was that their animals
could never carry the boxes and tents up the Pass; but, though
very ugly reports prevailed concerning the reception of Ahmed
el-‘Ukbí, and the observations that had been made last night, not
a word was suffered to reach my ears until our retreat had been
resolved upon. Such concealment would have been inexcusable in a
European; in the East it is the rule.

At 7.15 a.m. we struck the camp at Jebel Kibár, and moved due
eastward towards the Pass. This north-eastern Khuraytah (Col) is
termed the Khuraytat el-Hismá or el-Jils, after a hillock on the
plateau-summit, to distinguish it from the similar feature to the
south-west: the latter is known as the Khuraytat el-Zibá; or
el-T h m , the local pronunciation of Tihámah. About two miles of
rough and broken ground lead to the foot of the ladder. The
zigzags then follow the line of a mountain torrent, the natural
Pass, crossing its bed from left to right and from right again to
left: the path is the rudest of corniches, worn by the feet of
man and beast; and showing some ugly abrupt turns. The absolute
height of the ascent is about 450 feet (aner. 26.70--26.25) and
the length half a mile. The ground, composed mostly of irregular
rock-steps, has little difficulty for horses and mules; but
camels laden with boards (the mess-table) and long tent-poles
must have had a queer time--I should almost expect after this to
see an oyster walking up stairs. Of course, they took their
leisure, feeling each stone before they trusted it, but they all
arrived without the shadow of an accident; and the same was the
case during the two subsequent descents.

We halted on the Sath el-Nakb ("the Passtop") to expect the
caravan, and to prospect the surrounding novelties. Heaps and
piles of dark trap dotted the summit like old graves; many of the
stones were inscribed with tribal marks, and not a few were
capped with snowy lumps of quartz detached from their veins in
the porphyry. This custom, which appears universal throughout
Midian, has many interpretations. According to some it denotes
the terminus of a successful raid; others make it show where a
dispute was settled without bloodshed; whilst as a rule it is an
expression of gratitude: the Bedawi erects it in honour of the
man who protected or who did a service to him, saying at the same
time, Abyaz ‘alayk yá Fula'n--"White (or happy) be it to thee!"
naming the person. Amongst these votive stones we picked up
copper-stained quartz like that of ‘Aynúnah, fine specimens of
iron, and the dove-coloured serpentine, with silvery threads, so
plentiful in the Wady Surr. The Wasm in most cases showed some
form of a cross, which is held to be a potent charm by the
Sinaitic Bedawin; and on two detached water-rolled pebbles were
distinctly inscribed lH and Vl, which looked exceedingly like
Europe. Apparently the custom is dying out: the modern Midianites
have forgotten the art and mystery of tribal signs (Wusúm). In
many places the people cannot distinguish between inscriptions
and "Bill Snooks his mark," and they can interpret very few of
the latter.

Looking westward through the inverted arch formed by the two
hill-staples of the Khuraytah, and down the long valley which had
given us passage, the eye distinguishes a dozen distances whose
several planes are marked by all the shades of colour that the
most varied vegetation can show. There are black-browns,
chocolate-browns, and light umber-browns; bright-reds and
dull-reds; grass-greens and cypress-greens; neutral tints and
French greys contrasting with the rosy pinks, the azures, the
purples, and the golden yellows with which distance paints the
horizon. From a few feet above the Col-floor appear the eastern
faces of the giants of the coast-range; and our altitude, some
3800 feet, gave us to a certain extent a measure of their grand

We now stand upon the westernmost edge of the great central
Arabian plateau, known as El-Nejd ("the Highlands"), opposed to
El-Tihámah, the lowland regions. In Africa we should call it the
"true" subtending the "false" coast; delightful Dahome compared
with leprous Lagos. This upland, running parallel with the
"Lip"-range and with the maritime Gháts, is the far-famed Hismá.
It probably represents a remnant of the old terrace which, like
the Secondary gypseous formation, has been torn to pieces by the
volcanic region to the east, and by the plutonic upheavals to the
west. The length may be 170 miles; the northern limit is either
close to or a little south of Fort Ma'án; and we shall see its
southern terminus sharply defined on a parallel with the central
Shárr, not including "El-Jaww."[EN#155] An inaccessible fortress
to the south, it is approached on the south-west by difficult
passes, easily defended against man and beast. Further north,
however, the Wadys ‘Afál near El-Sharaf, El-Hakl (Hagul), and
El-Yitm at El-‘Akabah, are easy lines without Wa'r ("stony
ground") or Nakb ("ravines").

The Hismá material is a loose modern sandstone, showing every hue
between blood-red, rose pink, and dead, dull white: again and
again fragments had been pointed out to us near the coast, in
ruined buildings and in the remains of handmills and rub-stones.
Possibly the true coal-measures may underlie it, especially if
the rocks east of Petra be, as some travellers state, a region of
the Old, not the New Red. According to my informants, the Hismá
has no hills of quartz, a rock which appears everywhere except
here; nor should I expect the region to be metalliferous.

We ascended the Jebel el-Khuraytah, a trap hillock some 120 feet
high, the southern jamb of the Khuraytah gate: the summit, where
stands a ruined Burj measuring fourteen metres in diameter, gives
a striking and suggestive view. After hard dry living on grisly
mountain and unlovely Wady, this fine open plain, slightly
concave in the centre, was a delightful change of diet to the
eye--the first enjoyable sensation of the kind, since we had
gazed lovingly upon the broad bosom of the Wady el-‘Arabah. The
general appearance is that of Eastern Syria, especially the
Haurán: at the present season all is a sheet of pinkish red,
which in later March will turn to lively green. On this parallel
the diameter does not exceed a day's march, but we see it
broadening to the north. Looking in that direction over the
gloomy-metalled porphyritic slopes upon which we stand, the
glance extends to a manner of sea-horizon; while the several
planes below it are dotted with hills and hill-ranges, white,
red, and black, all dwarfed by distance to the size of thimbles
and pincushions. The guides especially pointed out the ridge
El-Mukaykam, a red block upon red sands, and a far-famed
rendezvous for raid and razzia. Nearer, the dark lumps of
El-Khayráni rise from a similar surface; nearer still lie the two
white dots, El-Rakhamatayn; and nearest is the ruddy ridge Jebel
and Jils el-Rawiyán, containing, they say, ruins and inscriptions
of which Wallin did not even hear.

The eastern versant of the Hismá is marked by long chaplets of
tree and shrub, disposed along the selvage of the watercourses;
and the latter are pitted with wells sunk after the fashion of
the Bedawin. In this rhumb the horizon is bounded by El-Harrah,
the volcanic region whose black porous lavas and honey-combed
basalts, often charged with white zeolite, are still brought down
even to the coast to serve as mortars and handmills. The profile
is a long straight and regular line, as if formed under water,
capped here and there by a tiny head like the Syrian Kulayb
Haurán: its peculiar dorsum makes it distinguishable from afar,
and we could easily trace it from the upper heights of the Shárr.
It is evidently a section of the mighty plutonic outburst which
has done so much to change the aspect of the parallel Midian
seaboard. Wallin's account of it (p. 307) is confined to the
place where he crossed the lava-flood; and he rendered El-Harrah,
which in Arabic always applies to a burnt region, by
"red-coloured sandstone."

The Bedawin far more reasonably declare that this Harrah is not a

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