Part 2 out of 5
of the Gháts, granites and traps with large veins and outcrops of
quartz; and Wadys lined with thick beds of conglomerate. 2. The
Jibál el-Tihámah, the majestic range that bounds the seaboard
inland, with its broad valleys and narrow gorges forming the only
roads. 3. The Jibál el-Shafah, or interior ridge, the "lip" of
North-Western Arabia; in fact, the boundary-wall of the Nejd
The main object of this travel was to ascertain the depth from
west to east of the quartz-formations, which had been worked by
the Ancients. I had also hoped to find a virgin region lying
beyond El-Harrah, the volcanic tract subtending the east of the
Hismá, or plateau of New Red Sandstone. We ascertained, by
inquiry, that the former has an extent wholly unsuspected by Dr.
Wallin and by the first Expedition; and that a careful
examination of it is highly desirable. But we were stopped upon
the very threshold of the Hismá by the Ma'ázah, a tribe of
brigands which must be subjected to discipline before the
province of Madyan can be restored to its former status.
This northern portion had been visited by Dr. Wallin; the other
two-thirds of the march lay, I believe, over untrodden ground. We
brought back details concerning the three great parallel Wadys;
the Salmá, the Dámah, that "Arabian Arcadia," and the
‘Aslah-Aznab. We dug into, and made drawings and plans of, the
two principal ruined cities, Shuwák and Shaghab, which probably
combined to form the classical
important sites, El-Khandaki and Umm Ámil.
The roads of this region, and indeed of all Midian, are those of
Iceland without her bogs and snows: for riding considerations we
may divide them into four kinds:--
1. Wady--the Fiumara or Nullah; called by travellers
"winter-brook" and "dry river-bed." It is a channel without
water, formed, probably, by secular cooling and contraction of
the earth's surface, like the fissures which became true streams
in the tropics, and in the higher temperate zones. Its geological
age would be the same as the depressions occupied by the ocean
and the "massive" eruptions forming the mountain-skeleton of the
globe. Both the climate and the vegetation of Midian must have
changed immensely if these huge features, many of them five miles
broad, were ever full of water. In modern days, after the
heaviest rains, a thin thread meanders down a wilderness of bed.
The Wady-formation shows great regularity. Near the mouth its
loose sands are comfortable to camels and distressing to man and
mule. The gravel of the higher section is good riding; the upper
part is often made impassable by large stones and overfalls of
rock; and the head is a mere couloir. Flaked clay or mud show the
thalweg; and the honeycombed ground, always above the line of
highest water, the homes of the ant, beetle, jerboa, lizard, and
(Girdi) rat, will throw even the cautious camel.
2. Ghadír--the basin where rain-water sinks. It is mostly a
shining bald flat of hard yellow clay, as admirable in dry as it
is detestable in wet weather.
3. Majrá--here pronounced "Maghráh"[EN#29]--the divide;
literally, the place of flowing. It is the best ground of all,
especially where the yellow or brown sands are overlaid by hard
gravel, or by a natural metalling of trap and other stones.
4. Wa'r--the broken stony surface, over which camels either
cannot travel, or travel with difficulty: it is the horror of the
Bedawi; and, when he uses the word, it usually means that it
causes man to dismount. It may be of two kinds; either the Majrá
proper ("divide") or the Nakb ("pass"), and the latter may safely
be left to the reader's imagination.
The partial ascent of the mighty Shárr gave an admirable study of
the mode in which the granites have been enfolded and enveloped
by the later eruptions of trap. Nor less curious, also, was it to
remark how, upon this Arabian Alp, vegetation became more
important; increasing, contrary to the general rule, not only in
quantity but in size, and changing from the date and the Daum to
the strong smelling Ferula, the homely hawthorn, and the tall and
balmy juniper-tree. There is game, ibex and leopard, in these
mountains; but the traveller, unless a man of leisure, must not
expect to shoot or even to sight it.
Down South--to El-Wijh–Notes on the Quarantine--the Hutaym Tribe.
There remained work to do before we could leave El-Muwaylah. The
two Shaykhs, ‘Alayán and Hasan el-‘Ukbi, were to be paid off end
dismissed with due ceremony; provisions were to be brought from
the fort to the cove; useless implements to be placed in store;
mules to be embarked--no joke without a pier!--and last, but not
least, the ballastless Mukhbir was to be despatched with a mail
for Suez. The whole Expedition, except only the sick left at the
fort, was now bound southwards. The Sayyid and our friend Furayj
accepted formal invitations to accompany us: Bukhayt, my
"shadow," with Husayn, chef and romancer-general, were shipped as
their henchmen; and a score of soldiers and quarrymen represented
the escort and the working-hands. Briefly, the Sinnár, though
fretting her vitals out at the delay, was detained two days
(March 19--20) in the Sharm Yáhárr. Amongst other things that
consoled us for quitting the snug dock, was the total absence of
fish. At this season the shoals leave the coast, and gather round
their wonted spawning-grounds, the deep waters near the Sha'b
("reefs"), where they find luxuriant growths of seaweed, and
where no ships disturb them.
Bidding a temporary adieu to our old fellow voyagers on board the
Mukhbir, including the excellent engineer, Mr. David Duguid, we
steamed out of the quiet cove, at a somewhat late hour (6.30
a.m.) on March 21st; and, dashing into the dark and slaty sea,
stood to the south-east. For two days the equinoctial weather had
been detestable, dark, cloudy, and so damp that the dry and the
wet bulbs showed a difference of only 4°--5°. This morning, too,
the fire of colour had suddenly gone out; and the heavens were
hung with a gloomy curtain. The great Shárr, looming unusually
large and tall in the Scandinavian mountain-scene, grey of shadow
and glancing with sun-gleams that rent the thick veils of
mist-cloud, assumed a manner of Ossianic grandeur. After three
hours and a half we were abreast of Zibá, around whose dumpy
tower all the population had congregated. Thence the regular
coralline bank, whose beach is the Bab, runs some distance down
coast, allowing passage to our ugly old friend, Wady Salmá. The
next important mouth is the Wady ‘Amúd, showing two Sambúks at
anchor, and a long line of vegetation like the palm-strips of the
‘Akabah Gulf: this valley, I have said, receives the Mutadán,
into which the Abú Marwah gorge discharges.[EN#30]
It would appear that this "‘Amúd" represents the "Wady el-‘Aúníd," a
name utterly unknown to the modern Arabs, citizens and Bedawin, at
least as far south as El-Haurá. Yet it is famed amongst mediaeval
geographers for its fine haven with potable water; and for its
flourishing city, where honey was especially abundant. El-Idrísí
settles the question of its site by placing it on the coast opposite
the island El-Na'mán (Nu'mán), but can El-Idrísí be trusted?
Sprenger (p. 24), induced, it would appear, by similarity of sound,
and justly observing that in Arabic the letters Ayn and Ghayn are
often interchanged, would here place the
of Ptolemy (north lat. 25 degrees 40'). According to my friend,
also, the Ras Abú Masárib, the long thin point north of which the
Wady Dámah, half-way to the Wady Azlam, falls in, represents the
suspecting that both lie further south--in fact, somewhere about El-
Here the maritime heights, known as the Jibál ("Mountains" of
the) Tihámat-Balawiyyah (of "the Baliyy tribe"), recede from the
sea, and become mere hills and hillocks; yet the continuity of
the chain is never completely broken. At noon we slipped into the
channel, about a mile and a half broad, which separates the
mainland from the Jebel ("Mount") Nu'mán, as the island is
called: so the Arabs speak of Jebel (never Jezírat)
Hassáni.[EN#32] The surface of the water was like oil after the
cross seas on all sides, the tail of an old gale which the Arab
pilots call Bahr madfún ("buried sea"), corresponding with the
Italian mar vecchio. On our return northwards we landed upon
Nu'mán, whose name derives from the red-flowered Euphorbia
retusa; bathed, despite the school of sharks occupying the waters
around; collected botany, and examined the ground carefully. Like
the Dalmatian Archipelago, it once formed part of the mainland,
probably separated by the process that raised the maritime range.
The rolling sandy plateau and the dwarf Wadys are strewed with
trap and quartz, neither of which could have been generated by
the new sandstones and the yellow corallines. It has two fine
bays, facing the shore and admirably defended from all winds; the
southern not a little resembles Sináfir-cove.
The "top," or dwarf plateau, commands a fine view of the coast
scenery; the "Pins" of the Shárr; the Mutadán Mountain, twin ridges
of grey white granite, and, further south, the darker forms of
Raydán and Zigláb. Here, during springtide, the Huwaytát transport
their flocks in the light craft called Katirah, and feed them till
the pasture is browsed down. We made extensive inquiries, but could
hear of no ruins. Yet the islet, some three to four miles long by
one broad, forming a natural breakwater to the coast, is important
enough to bear, according to Sprenger, a classical name, the
(Timagenis Insula) of Ptolemy. If this be the case, either the
Pelusian or his manuscripts are greatly in error. He places the bank
in north lat. 25° 45', whilst its centre would be in north lat. 27°
5'; and the sixty miles of distance from the coast, evidently the
blunder of a copyist, must be reduced to a maximum of three.
Passing another old friend, the Aslah-Aznab, down whose head we
had ridden to Shaghab, about two p.m. we steamed along the mouth
of the Wady Azlam, the Ezlam of Wellsted,[EN#33] which he unduly
makes the southern frontier of the Huwaytát, and the northern of
the Baliyy tribes. Beyond it is the gape of the once populous
Wady Dukhán--of "the (furnace?) Smoke"--faced by a large splay of
tree-grown sand. Ruins are reported in its upper bed. Beyond
Marsá Zubaydah (not Zebaider), the sea is bordered by the
red-yellow coast-range; and the fretted sky line of peaks and
cones, "horses" and "hogs'-backs," is cut by deep valleys and
drained by dark "gates." The background presents a long, regular
curtain of black hill, whose white sheets and veins may be
granite and quartz. We were then shown the Mínat el-Marrah, one
of the many Wady-mouths grown with vegetation; and here the ruins
El-Nabagah (Nabakah) are spoken of. At four p.m. we doubled the
Ras Labayyiz (not Lebayhad), a long flat tongue projecting from
the coast range, and defending its valley to the south. In the
Fara't or upper part, some five hours' march from the mouth, lie
important remains of the Mutakkadimín ("ancients"). The report
was confirmed by an old Arab Básh-Buzúk at El-Wijh; he declared
that in his youth he had seen a tall furnace, and a quantity of
scoriæ from which copper could be extracted, lying northwards at
a distance of eighteen hours' march and five by sea.
The next important feature is the Wady Salbah, the Telbah of the
Chart, up whose inland continuation, the Wady el-Nejd, we shall
travel. Here the coast-range again veers off eastward; and the
regular line is cut up into an outbreak of dwarf cones, mere
thimbles. Above the gloomy range that bounds it southwards,
appear the granitic peaks and "Pins" of Jebel Libn, gleaming
white and pale in the livid half-light of a cloudy sunset. After
twelve hours' steaming over seventy to seventy-two knots of reefy
sea, we ran carefully into the Sharm Dumayghah.[EN#34] This
lake-like, land-locked cove is by far the best of the many good
dock-harbours which break the Midian coast. Its snug retreat gave
hospitality to half a dozen Juhayni Sambúks, fishers and divers
for mother-of-pearl, riding beyond sight of the outer world, and
utterly safe from the lighthouse dues of El-Wijh.
I resolved to pass a day at these old quarters of a certain Háji
‘Abdullah. The hydrographers have given enlarged plans of Yáhárr
and Jibbah, ports close to each other; while they have ignored
the far more deserving Sharm Dumayghah. Distant only thirty miles
of coasting navigation, a line almost clear of reefs and shoals,
it is the natural harbour for the pilgrim-ships, which ever run
the danger of being wrecked at El-Wijh; and it deserves more
notice than we have hitherto vouchsafed to it. The weather also
greatly improved on the next day (March 22nd): the cloud-canopy,
the excessive moisture, and the still sultriness which had
afflicted us since March 19th, were in process of being swept
away by the strong, cool, bright norther.
The survey of the Egyptian officers shows an oval extending from
north-west to south-east, with four baylets or bulges in the
northern shore. The length is upwards of a knot, and the breadth
twelve hundred yards. It may be described as the embouchure of
the Wady Dumayghah, which falls into its head, and which,
doubtless, in olden times, when the land was wooded, used to roll
a large and turbulent stream. As is often seen on this coast, the
entrance is defended by a natural breakwater which appears like a
dot upon the Chart. Capped with brown crust, falling bluff
inland, and sloping towards the main, where the usual stone-heaps
act as sea-marks, this bank of yellowish-white coralline,
measuring 310 metres by half that width, may be the remains of
the bed in which the torrents carved out the port. The northern
inlet is a mere ford of green water: my "Pilgrimage" made the
mistake of placing a fair-way passage on either side of the
islet. The southern channel, twenty-five fathoms deep and three
hundred metres broad, is garnished on both flanks with a hundred
metres of dangerous shallow, easily distinguished by green
blazoned upon blue. The bay is shoal to the south-east; the best
anchorage for ships lies to the north-west, almost touching land.
A reef or rock is reported to be in the middle ground, where we
lay with ten fathoms under us: it was seen, they say, at night,
by the aid of lanterns; but next morning Lieutenants Amir and
Yusuf were unable to find it. Native craft usually make fast in
three fathoms to a lumpy natural mole of modern sandstone, north
of the entrance: a little trimming would convert it into a
At this place we landed to prospect the country, and to gather
information from the Sambúk crews before they had time to hoist
sail and be off. The owners of the land are not Juhaynah, the
"Wild Men" with whom the Rais of the Golden Wire had threatened
us in 1853. The country belongs to the Baliyy; now an inoffensive
tribe well subject to Egypt, mixed with a few Kura'án-Huwaytát
and Karáizah-Hutaym. The fishermen complained that no fish was to
be caught, and the strong tides, setting upon the stony flank of
the mole, had broken most of the shells, not including, however,
the oysters. The usual eight-ribbed turtle appeared to be common.
On the sands to the north, M. Lacaze picked up a large old and
bleached skull, which went into my collection; we failed to find
any neighbouring burial-ground. Striking inland, however, towards
the dotted square, marked "Fort (ruin)" in the Chart, we came
upon an ancient cemetery to the north of the bay, and concluded
that these graves had been mistaken for remains of building.
We then bent eastward towards the Jibál el-Salbah, and examined
the two dwarf valleys which, threading the heights, feed the Wady
Dumayghah. That to the south showed us a perfectly familiar
formation; conglomerates of water-rolled pebbles in the lower
levels, and hills of the normal dark porphyries, with large
quartz-seams of many colours trending in every direction. The
mouth of the northern gorge was blocked by a vein of finely
crystallized carbonate of lime, containing geodes and bunches.
The taste is astringent, probably from the alumina; and it is
based upon outcrops of a sandy calcaire apparently fit for
hydraulic cement. The only novelty in the vegetation was the
Fashak-tree, a creeper like a gigantic constrictor, with sweet
yellow wood somewhat resembling liquorice.
Signs of Arab everywhere appeared, but there were no tents.
Consequently we were unable to ascertain the extent of the
water-supply--an important matter if this is to become the port
of El-Wijh. The Sambúks might bring it, but the people on shore
would be dependent upon what they can find. The Hajj-road,
running some miles inland, is doubtless supplied with it. Even,
however, were the necessary wanting, the pilgrim-ships, whilst
taking refuge here, could easily transport it from the south.
Shaykh Furayj; pointed out to us the far northern blue peaks of
the ‘Amúd Zafar, in whose branch-Wady lie the ruins of M'jirmah.
The day ended with a sudden trembling of the ship, as if
straining at anchor; but the crew was again performing fantasia,
and the earthquake or sea-quake rolled unheededly away.
Apparently the direction was from north to south: I noted the
hour, 9.10 p.m., and the duration, twenty seconds. According to
the Arabs the Zilzilah is not uncommon in Midian, especially
about the vernal equinox: on this occasion it ended the spell of
damp and muggy weather which began on March 19th, and which may
have been connected with it.
The survey soundings were not finished till nearly eight a.m.
(March 23rd), when the old corvette swung round on her heel; and,
with the black hills of Salbah to port, resumed her rolling,
rollicking way southwards. Her only ballast consisted of some six
hundred conical shot, or twelve tons for a ship of eight hundred.
After one hour of steaming (= seven miles) we passed the green
mouth of the Wady ‘Antar, in whose Istabl ("stable"), or upper
valley-course, the pilgrimage-caravan camps. It drains a small
inland feature to the north-east, the true "Jebel ‘Antar," which
the Hydrographic Chart has confounded with the great block,
applying, moreover, the term Istabl to the height instead of the
hollow. This Jebel Libn, along which we are now steaming, is a
counterpart on a small scale, a little brother, of the Shárr,
measuring 3733 instead of 6000 to 6500 feet. We first see from
the north a solid block capped with a mural crown of three peaks.
When abreast of us the range becomes a tall, fissured, and
perpendicular wall: this apical comb, bluff to the west, reposes
upon a base sloping, at the angle of rest, to the environing
sandy Wady. To complete the resemblance, even the queer "Pins"
are not wanting; and I should expect to find in it all the
accidents of the giant of El-Muwaylah.
The complexion of the Libn, which the people pronounce "Libin,"
suggests grey granite profusely intersected with white quartz:
hence, probably, the name, identical with Lebanon and
Libanus--"the Milk Mountain." The title covers a multitude of
peaks: the Bedawin have, doubtless, their own terms for every
head and every hollow. The citizens comprehensively divide the
block into two, El-Áli ("the Upper") being its southern, and
El-Asfal ("the Lower") its northern, section. It is said to
abound in water; and a Nakhil ("date-grove") is described as
growing near the summit. The Hutaym, who own most of it, claim
the lover and hero-poet, ‘Antar, as one of their despised
tribe--hence, probably, his connection with the adjoining
mountain and "the stable."
"Jebel Libin" is the great feature of the Tihámat-Balawíyyah; for
many days it will appear to follow us, and this is the proper
place for assigning its rank and status to it. About El-‘Akabah,
the northern head of the Gháts or coast-range, we have prospected
the single chain of Jebel Shará'; the "Sa'ar of the tribes of the
Shasu" (Bedawin)[EN#35] in the papyri, and the Hebrew Mount Seir,
the "rough" or "rugged." Further south we have noted how this
tall eastern bulwark of the great Wady el-‘Arabah bifurcates;
forming the Shafah chain to the east, and westward of it, in
Madyan Proper, the Jibál el-Tihámah, of which the Shárr is
perhaps the culmination. We have noted the accidents of the
latter as far as Dumayghah Cove, and now we descry in the offing
the misty forms--how small they look!--of the Jebel el-Ward; the
Jibál el-Safhah; the two blocks, south of the Wady Hamz, known as
the Jibál el-Rál; and their neighbours still included in the
Tihámat-Balawíyyah. Lastly, we shall sight, behind El-Haurá, the
Abú Ghurayr and a number of blocks which, like the former, are
laid down, but are not named, in the Chart.
Beyond El-Haurá the chain stretches southwards its mighty links
with smaller connections. The first is the bold range Jebel
Radwah, the "Yambo Hills" of the British sailor, some six
thousand feet high and lying twenty-five miles behind the new
port.[EN#36] Passing it to left on the route to El-Medínah, I
heard the fables which imposed upon Abyssinian Bruce: "All sorts
of Arabian fruits grew to perfection on the summit of these
hills; it is the paradise of the people of Yenbo, those of any
substance having country-houses there." This was hardly probable
in Bruce's day, and now it is impossible. The mountain is held by
the Beni Harb, a most turbulent tribe, for which see my
"Pilgrimage."[EN#37] Their head Shaykh, Sa'd the Robber, who
still flourished in 1853, is dead; but he has been succeeded by
one of his sons, Shaykh Hudayfah, who is described with simple
force as being a "dog more biting than his sire." Between these
ill-famed haunts of the Beni Harb and Jeddah rises the Jebel
Subh, "a mountain remarkable for its magnitude" (4500 feet),
inhabited by the Beni Subh, a fighting clan of the "Sons of
The largest links of these West-Arabian Gháts are of white-grey
granite, veined and striped with quartz; and they are subtended
inland by the porphyritic traps of the Jibál el-Shafah, which we
shall trace to the parallel of El-Hamz, the end of Egypt. I
cannot, however, agree with Wellsted (II. xii.) that the ridges
increase in height as they recede from the sea; nor that the
veins of quartz run horizontally through the "dark granite." The
greater altitudes (three to six thousand feet) are visible from
an offing of forty to seventy miles; and they are connected by
minor heights: some of these, however, are considerable, and here
and there they break into detached pyramids. All are maritime,
now walling the shore, like the Tayyib Ism; then sheering away
from it, where a broad "false coast" has been built by Time.
These western Gháts, then, run down, either in single or in
double line, the whole length of occidental Arabia; and, meeting
a similar and equally important eastern line, they form a mighty
nucleus, the mountains of El-Yemen. After carefully inspecting,
and making close inquiries concerning, a section of some five
hundred miles, I cannot but think that the mines of precious
ores, mentioned by the mediæval Arabian geographers,[EN#38] lay
and lie in offsets from the flanks either of the maritime or the
inland chain; that is, either in the Tihámah, the coast lowlands,
or in the El-Nejd, the highland plateau of the interior.
What complicates the apparently simple ground is the long line of
volcanic action which, forming the eastern frontier of the
plutonic granites and of the modern grits, may put forth veins
even to the shores of the ‘Akabah Gulf and the Red Sea.[EN#39]
The length, known to me by inquiry, would be about three degrees
between north lat. 28° and 25°, the latter being the parallel of
El-Medínah; others make them extend to near Yambú', in north lat.
24° 5'. They may stretch far to the north, and connect, as has
been suggested, with the Syrian centres of eruption, discovered
by the Palestine Exploration. I have already explained[EN#40] how
and why we were unable to visit "the Harrah" lying east of the
Hismá; but we repeatedly saw its outlines, and determined that
the lay is from north-west to south-east. Further south, as will
be noticed at El-Haurá, the vertebrae curve seawards or to the
south-west; and seem to mingle with the main range, the mountains
of the Tihámat-Jahaníyyah ("of the Juhaynah"). Thus the formation
assumes an importance which has never yet been attributed to it;
and the five several "Harrahs," reported to me by the Bedawin,
must be studied in connection with the mineralogical deposits of
the chains in contact with them. It must not be forgotten that a
fragment of porous basalt, picked up by the first Expedition near
Makná, yielded a small button of gold.[EN#41]
Dreadfully rolled the Sinnár, as she ran close in-shore before
the long heavy swell from the north-west, and the old saying, Bon
rouleur, bon marcheur, is cold consolation to an active man made
to idle malgré lui. This section of the coast, unlike that to the
north, is remarkably free from reefs. A little relief was felt
while sheltered by the short tract of channel between the
mainland and the shoals. But the nuisance returned in force as,
doubling the Ras Muraybit (not Marabat), we sighted the two
towers of El-Wijh, both beflagged, the round Burj of the fort,
and the cubical white-washed lighthouse crowning its rocky point.
And we were quiet once more when the Sinnár, having covered the
thirty miles in four hours and thirty minutes, cast anchor in the
usual place, south-east of the northern jaw. The main objection
to our berth is that the prevailing north wind drives in a
rolling sea from the open west. The log showed a total of 102
miles between the Sharms Yáhárr and El-Wijh, or 107 from the
latter to El-Muwaylah.
"El-Wijh," meaning the face, a word which the Egyptian Fellah
perverts to "Wish," lies in north lat. 26° 14'. It is the
northernmost of the townlets on the West Arabian shore, which
gain importance as you go south; e.g., Yambá', Jeddah, Mocha, and
Aden. It was not wholly uncivilized during my first visit, a
quarter of a century ago, when I succeeded in buying opium for
feeble patients. Distant six stations from Yambá', and ten from
El-Medínah, it has been greatly altered and improved. The
pilgrim-caravan, which here did penance of quarantine till the
last two years, has given it a masonry pier for landing the
unfortunates to encamp upon the southern or uninhabited side of
the cove. A tall and well-built lighthouse, now five years old,
boasts of a good French lantern, wanting only soap and decent
oil. Finally, guardhouses and bakehouses, already falling to
ruins like the mole, and an establishment for condensing water,
still kept in working order, are the principal and costly
novelties of the southern shore.
The site of El-Wijh is evidently old, although the ruins have
been buried under modern buildings. Sprenger (p. 21) holds the
townlet to be the port of "Egra, a village" (El-Hajar, or "the
town, the townlet"?) "in the territory of Obodas," whence,
according to Strabo (xvi. c. 4, § 24), Ælius Gallus embarked his
baffled troops for Myus Hormus.[EN#42] Formerly he believed
El-Aúníd to be Strabo's "Egra," the haven for the north; as
El-Haurá was for the south, and El-Wijh for the central regions.
Pliny (vi. 32) also mentions the "Tamudæi, with their towns of
Domata and Hegra, and the town of Badanatha." It is generally
remarked that "Egra" does not appear in Ptolemy's lists; yet one
of the best texts (Nobbe, Lipsia, 1843) reads
of the "Negran" which Pirckheymerus (Lugduni, MDXXXV.) and others
placed in north lat. 26°.
My learned friend writes to me--"El-Wijh, on the coast of Arabia,
is opposite to Qoçayr (El-Kusayr), where Ælius Gallus landed his
troops. We know that ‘Egra' is the name of a town in the
interior, and it was the constant habit to call the port after
the capital of the country, e.g., Arabia Emporium = Aden. We have
now only to inquire whether El-Wijh had claims to be considered
the seaport of El-Hijr." This difficulty is easily settled.
El-Wijh is still the main, indeed the only, harbour in South
Midian; and, during our stay there, a large caravan brought
goods, as will be seen, from the upper Wady Hamz.
Under the influence of the quarantine, El-Wijh, the town on the
northern bank of its cove, has blossomed into a hauteville,
dating from the last dozen years. The ancient basseville,
probably the site of many former settlements, is now used chiefly
for shops and stores. Another and a more pretentious mosque has
supplanted the little old Záwiyah ("chapel") with its barbarous
minaret, whose finial, a series of inverted crescents, might be
taken for a cross; while a Jámi' or "cathedral," begun in the
upper town, has stopped short through want of funds. Some of the
best houses now extend towards the northern point. As usual in
Arab settlements, they are long, tall claret-cases of coral-rag
and burnt lime; flat-roofed, whitewashed in front, and provided
with wooden doors and shutters. Lastly, on the slope still
appears the smoky coffee-shed that witnessed the memorable
encounter between its surly proprietor and "Saad the
Stony ramps, stiff as those of Gibraltar, connect the low with
the high town, the cool breezy new settlement upon the crest of
the northern cliff, whose noble view of the Jebel Libn and the
palm-scattered Wady el-Wijh were formerly monopolized by the fort
and its round tower. This work, only sixty-five years old, now
stands so perilously near the undermined edge of the
rock-cornice, that some day it will come down with a run. It is
used by the garrison, and serves as a jail; but lately a Bedawi
prisoner, like a certain Mamlúk Bey, jumped down the precipitous
cove-face and effected his escape. Behind it are the "Doctors'
Quarters," empty and desolate, because the sanitary officers have
been removed. They are sheds of white-washed boarding, brought
from the Crimea, like those of the Suez Canal; and comfortably
distributed into Harem, kitchens, offices, and other necessaries.
The inhabitants of El-Wijh may number twelve hundred, without
including chance travellers and the few wretched Bedawin, Hutaym
and others, who pitch their black tents, like those of
Alexandrian "Ramleh," about and beyond the town. The people live
well; and the merchants are large and portly men, who evidently
thrive upon meat and rice. Flesh is retailed in the bazar, and
mutton is cheap, especially when the Bedawin are near; a fine
large sheep being dear at ten shillings. Water is exceptionally
abundant, even without the condenser's aid. The poorer classes
and animals are watered at the pits and the two regular wells
near the valley's mouth, half an hour's trudge from the town. The
wealthy are supplied by the inland fort, which we shall presently
visit: the distance going and coming would be about four slow
hours, and the skinful costs five Khurdah, or copper piastres =
three halfpence. The inner gardens grow a small quantity of green
meat: water-melons are brought from Yambá(?): opium and Hashísh
abound, but no spirits are for sale since the one Greek Bakkál,
or petty shopkeeper, "made tracks." He borrowed from a certain
Surúr Selámah, negro merchant and head miser, 150 napoleons, in
order to buy on commission certain bales of cotton shipwrecked up
coast; he left in pledge the keys of his miserable store, which,
by-the-by, la loi refuses to open; he was never seen again, and
poor rich Surur is in the depths of despair.
One of the small industries of El-Wijh is the pearl trade. Mr.
Clarke bought for £4 (twenty dollars) a specimen of good round
form but rather yellow colour; and presently refused £5 for it.
Those of pear-shape easily fetch thirty-six to forty dollars.
Turquoises set in sealing-wax are sold cheap by the returning
Persian pilgrims: the Zib el-Bahr ("Sea-wolf"), an Egyptian
cruiser, had carried off the best shortly before our arrival. The
people speak of an ‘Akík ("carnelian") which, rubbed down in
vinegar, enters into the composition of a favourite philtre--we
could not, however, find any for sale. On our return, an ‘Anezah
caravan of some ninety camels, driven by a hundred or so of
spearmen and matchlockmen, came in loaded with valuable Samn or
clarified butter: the fact suggests that the time has come for
establishing a Gumruk ("custom-house") at El-Wijh. Another source
of wealth will be El-Melláhah, "the salina," along which we shall
travel: every man who has a donkey may carry off what he pleases,
and sell to pilgrims and Bedawin the kilogramme for four piastres
copper (= one piastre currency = five farthings). This again
should be taken in hand by Government; and regular "salterns,"
like those of Triestine Capodistria, would greatly increase the
quantity. Nothing can be better than the quality except
rock-salt. There is another salina about one hour down the coast,
formed by a reef, near the Ras el-Ma'llah.
The afternoon of arrival was spent in receiving visits. The
Muháfiz or "civil governor," Hasan Bey, calls himself a
Circassian: he is a handsome old man, whose straight features
suggest the Greek slave, and who served in the Syrian campaigns
under Ibrahim Pasha. Forty years ago he left his home; he has
been here six years, and yet he knows absolutely nothing of the
interior. He ought to reside at the inland fort, but he prefers
the harbour-town; and he had not the common-sense to ride out
with us. He shows his zeal by inventing obstacles; for instance,
he suggests that the Bedawin should leave, during our journey,
hostages at the fort: this is wholly unnecessary, and means only
piastres. The Yuzbáshi, or "military commandant," Sid-Ahmed
Effendi, has charge of the forty-five regulars, half a company,
who garrison the post and outpost. The chief merchant, who
afterwards volunteered to be our travelling companion, is
Mohammed Shahádah, formerly Wakil ("agent") of the fort, a charge
now abolished by a pound-foolish policy: he is an honest and
intelligent, a charitable and companionable man, who has
travelled far and wide over the interior, and who knows the
tribes by heart. I strongly recommended him to his Highness the
Viceroy. His brothers, Bedawi and Ali Shahádah, are also
open-handed to the poor; very unlike their brother-in-law Surúr
Selámah, formerly a slave to the father of Mohammed Selámah whom
we had met at Zibá. The list of notables ends with the Sayyid
Ibrahim El-Mara'í and with the sturdy Abd el-Hakk, pearl and
general merchant. All recognized our friend the Sayyid, whom even
the "gutter-boys" saluted by name; and, although the Arab manner
is blunt and independent, all showed perfect civility. It is
needless to say that our late work, and our future plans, were
known to everybody at El-Wijh as well as to ourselves; and that
the tariffs of pay and hire, established in the North Country, at
once became the norm of the South.
Our favourite walk at old "Egra" was to the quarantine-ground and
the lighthouse. The situation of the town is by no means
satisfactory, and the heavy dews of April, wetting the streets,
cause frequent fevers. En revanche, nothing can be more healthy
or exhilarating than the air of the tall plateau to the south of
the cove. The quarantine-ground, with its grand view of the
mountains inland, ends seawards in the Pharos that commands an
horizon of blue water. The latter, according to the charts, is
one hundred and six feet above sea-level, and is theoretically
visible for fourteen miles; practice would reduce this radius to
ten, and the least haze to six and even five.
The lighthouse-charges are strongly objected to by the skippers
of Arab fishing-boats, although very small in their case.
Square-rigged vessels pay per ton twenty parahs (tariff): thus it
costs a ship of five hundred tons £2 10s. (Turkish). The keeper.
under Admiral M'Killop (Pasha), a young Greek named "Gurjí," as
"George" here sounds, is assisted by a Moslem lad, Mohammed
Effendi of Alexandria. They serve for three years, and they look
forward to the end of them. The former also superintends the
condensing establishment: this office is a sinecure, except
during the three months of pilgrim-passage. The machine can
distil eighteen tons per diem; and there is another
water-magazine, an old paddle-wheeler moored to the beach under
the town. Behind the establishment lies the pilgrim-cemetery.
frequented by hyenas that prowl around the lighthouse,
threatening the canine guard. I found a new use for this vermin's
brain: it is administered by the fair ones at El-Wijh to jealous
husbands, upon whom, they tell me, it acts as a sedative.
El-Wijh has been heard of in England as the prophylactic against
the infected Hejaz. It is admirably suited for quarantine
purposes, and it has been abolished, very unwisely, in favour of
"Tor harbour." The latter, inhabited by a ring of thievish
Syro-Greek traders; backed by a wretched wilderness, alternately
swampy and sandy, is comfortless to an extent calculated to make
the healthiest lose health. Moreover, its climate, says Professor
Palmer (p. 222), is very malarious: "owing to the low and marshy
nature of the ground, there is a great deal of miasma even in the
winter season." Finally, and worst of all, it is near enough to
Suez for infection to travel easily. A wealthy pilgrim has only
to pay a few gold pieces, his escape to the mountains is winked
at; and thence he travels or voyages comfortably to Suez and
Cairo. Even without such irregularities, the transmission of
contaminated clothing, or other articles, would suffice to spread
cholera, typhus, and smallpox. Tor is, in fact, an excellent
medium for focussing and for propagating contagious disease; and
its vicinity to Egypt, and consequently to Europe, suggests that
it should at once be abolished.
At first I lent ear to the popular statement at El-Wijh; namely,
that the visiting doctors and the resident sanitary officers
naturally prefer the shorter to the longer voyage, and the nearer
station to that further from home. Moreover, inasmuch as, if
inclined to be dishonest, they find more opportunities in the
north, it was their interest to transfer the establishment to
Tor. The local authorities, the people assured me, were induced
to report that the single fort-well had run dry; that the
condensers had proved a failure, and that the old
steamer-magazine, into which they had poured brine, was leaky and
inefficient. But what was my astonishment when, after return to
Cairo, I was told that the change had been strongly advocated by
the English Government?
The objections to El-Wijh are two, both equally invalid. The port
is dangerous, especially when westerly winds are blowing: ships
during the pilgrimage-season must bank their fires, ever ready to
run out. True; but it has been shown that Sharm Dumayghah, the
best of its kind, lies only thirty knots to the north. The
second, want of water, or of good water, is even less cogent. We
have seen that the seaboard wells supply the poorer classes and
animals; and we shall presently see the Fort-wells, which, in
their day, have watered caravans containing twenty to thirty
thousand thirsty men and beasts. So far from the condensers being
a failure, the tank still holds about twenty tons of distilled
water, although it gives drink to some thirty mouths composing
the establishment. Finally, the old steamer has done its duty
well, and, like the proverbial Marine, is still ready to do its
Thus the expense of laying out the quarantine-ground at El-Wijh
has been pitifully wasted. That, however, is a very small matter;
the neglect of choosing a proper position is serious, even
ominous. Unlike Tor, nothing can be healthier or freer from fever
than the pilgrims' plateau. From El-Wijh, too, escape is
hopeless: the richest would not give a piastre to levant;
because, if a solitary traveller left the caravan, a Bedawi
bullet would soon prevail on him to stop. This, then, should be
the first long halt for the "compromised" travelling northwards.
When contagious disease has completely disappeared, the second
precautionary delay might be either at Tor or, better still, at
the "Wells of Moses" (‘Uyun Músá), near the head of the Suez
Gulf: here sanitary conditions are far more favourable; and here
supplies, including medical comforts, would be cheaper as well as
more abundant. Briefly, it is my conviction that, under present
circumstances, "Tor" is a standing danger, not only to Egypt, but
to universal Europe.
The coast about El-Wijh is famed for shells; the numerous reefs
and shoals favouring the development of the molluscs. We were
promised a heavy haul by the citizens, who, however, contented
themselves with picking up the washed-out specimens found
everywhere on the shore: unfortunately we had no time to
superintend the work. A caseful was submitted to the British
Museum, and a few proved interesting on account of their
locality. The list printed at the end of this chapter was kindly
supplied to me by Mr. Edgar A. Smith, superintendent of the
I will conclude this chapter with a short notice the Hutaym or
Hitaym, a people extremely interesting to me. They are known to
travellers only as a low caste. Wellsted (II. xii.) tells us that
the "Huteimi," whom he would make the descendants of the
Ichthyophagi described by Diodorus Siculus and other classics,
are noticed by several Arabian authorities. "In one, the Kitab
el-Mush Serif[EN#45] (Musharrif?), they are styled ‘Hooteïn,' the
descendants of ‘Hooter,' a servant of Moses." He also relates a
legend that the Apostle of Allah pronounced them polluted,
because they ate the flesh of dogs. Others declare that they
opposed Mohammed when he was rebuilding the Ka'bah; and thereby
drew upon themselves the curse that they should be held the
"basest of the Arabs." These tales serve to prove one fact, the
antiquity of the race.
The Hutaym, meaning the "Broken" (tribe), hold, in Midian and
Egypt, the position of Pariahs, like the Akhdám "serviles", or
Helots, of Maskat and El-Yemen. No clan of pure Arabs will
intermarry with them; and when the Fellahs say, Tatahattim
(=tatamaskin or tatazalli), they mean, "Thou cringest, thou makest
thyself contemptible as a Hutaymi." Moreover, they must pay the
dishonouring Akháwat, or "brother-tax," to all the Bedawin
amongst whom they settle.
The Hutaym are scattered as they are numerous. They have
extended, probably in ancient times, to Upper Egypt, and occupy
parts of Nubia; about Sawákin they are an important clan. They
number few in the Sinaitic Peninsula and in Midian, but they
occupy the very heart of the Arabian Peninsula. Those settled on
Jebel Libn, we have seen, claim as their kinsman the legendary
‘Antar, who was probably a negro of the noble Semitic stock. A
few are camped about El-Wijh; and they become more important down
coast. In the eastern regions bordering upon Midian, they form
large and powerful bodies, such as the Nawámisah and the
Sharárát, whose numbers and bravery secure for them the respect
of their fighting equestrian neighbours, the Ruwalá-‘Anezah.
Like other Arabs, the Hutaym tribe is divided into a multitude of
clans, septs, and families, each under its own Shaykh. All are
Moslems, after the Desert pattern, a very rude and inchoate
article. Wellsted knew them by their remarkably broad chins: the
Bedawi recognize them by their look; by their peculiar accent,
and by the use of certain peculiar words, as Harr! when
donkey-driving. The men are unwashed and filthy; the women walk
abroad unveiled, and never refuse themselves, I am told, to the
The Arabs of Midian always compare the Hutaym with the Ghagar
(Ghajar) or Gypsies of Egypt; and this is the point which gives
the outcasts a passing interest. I have not yet had an
opportunity of carefully studying the race; nor can I say whether
it shows any traces of skill in metal-working. Meanwhile, we must
inquire whether these Helots, now so dispersed, are not old
immigrants of Indian descent, who have lost their Aryan language,
like the Egyptian Ghajar. In that case they would represent the
descendants of the wandering tribes who worked the most ancient
ateliers. Perhaps they may prove to be congeners of the men of
the Bronze Age, and of the earliest waves of Gypsy-immigration
A list of the shells collected by the second Khedivial Expedition
on the shore of Midian and the Gulf of ‘Akabah, by Edgar A.
Smith, Esq., British Museum.
1. Conus textile, Linné.
2. Conus sumatrensis, Hwass.
3. Conus catus var., Hwass.
4. Conus larenatus, Hwass.
5. Conus hebræus, Linné.
6. Conus ividus(?), Hwass.
6a. Conus ceylanensis, Hwass.
7. Terebra maculata, Linné.
8. Terebra dimidiata, Linné.
9. Terebra consobrina, Deshayes.
10. Terebra (Impages) cærulescens, Lamarck.
11. Pleurotoma cingulifera, Lamarck.
11a. Murex tribulus, Linn.
12. Murex (Chicoreus) inflatus, Lamarck.
13. Cassidulus paradisiacus, Reeve.
14. Nassa coronata, Lamarck.
15. Nassa pulla, Linné.
16. Engina (Pusiostoma) mendicaria, Lamarck.
17. Cantharus (Tritonidea) sp. juv.
18. Purpura hippocastanum, Lamarck.
19. Sistrum arachnoides, Lamarck.
20. Sistrum fiscellum, Chemnitz.
21. Sistrum tuberculatum, Blainville.
22. Harpa solida, A. Adams.
23. Fasciolaria trapezium, Lamarck.
24. Turbinella cornigera, Lamarck.
25. Dolium (Malea) pomum, Linné.
26. Triton maculosus, Reeve.
27. Triton aquatilis, Reeve.
28. Triton (Persona) anus, Lamarck.
29. Natica (Polinices) mamilla, Linné.
30. Natica albula(?), Récluz.
31. Natica (Mamilla) melanostoma, Lamarck.
32. Solarium perspectivum, Linné.
33. Cypræa arabica, Linné.
34. Cypræa pantherina, Linné.
35. Cypræa camelopardalis, Perry.
36. Cypræa carneola, Linné.
37. Cypræa scurra, Chemnitz.
38. Cypræa erosa, Linné.
39. Cypræa tabescens(?), Solander.
40. Cypræa caurica, Linné.
41. Cypræa talpa, Linné.
41B. Cypraea lynx, Linné.
42. Cerithium tuberosum, Fabricius.
43. Turritella torulosa(?), Kiener.
44. Strombus tricornis, Lamarck.
45. Strombus gibberulus, Linné.
46. Strombus floridus, Lamarck.
47. Strombus fasciatus, Born.
48. Pterocera truncatum, Lamarck.
49. Planaxis breviculus, Deshayes.
50. Nerita marmorata, Reeve.
51. Nerita quadricolor, Gmelin.
52. Nerita rumphii Récluz.
53. Turbo petholatus, Linné.
54. Turbo chrysostoma var.(?), Linné.
55. Trochus (Pyramis) dentatus, Forskâl.
56. Trochus (Cardinalia) virgatus, Gmelin.
57. Trochus (Polydonta) sanguinolentus, Chemnitz.
58. Trochus (Clanculus) pharaonis, Linné.
59. Trochus (Monodonta) sp.
60. Patella variabilis(?), Krauss.
61. Chiton sp.
62. Bulla ampulla, Linné.
63. Dione florida, Lamarck.
64. Dione sp.
65. Tellina staurella, Lamarck.
66. Paphia glabrata, Gmelin.
67. Chama Ruppellii, Reeve.
68. Arca (Barbatia) sp.
68a Arca (Senilia) sp.
69. Cardium leucostoma, Born.
70. Venericardia Cumingii, Deshayes.
71. Modiola auriculata, Krauss.
72. Pectunculus lividus, Reeve.
73. Pectunculus pectenoides, Deshayes.
74. Avicula margaritifera, Linné.
75. Tridacna gigas, Linné.
The Southern Sulphur-hill--the Cruise to El-Haurá--Notes on the
Baliyy Tribe and the Volcanic Centres of North--Western Arabia.
On the day of our arrival at El-Wijh I sent a hurried letter of
invitation to Mohammed ‘Afnán, Shaykh of the Baliyy tribe;
inviting him to visit the Expedition, and to bring with him
seventy camels and dromedaries. His tents being pitched at a
distance of three days' long march in the interior, I determined
not to waste a precious week at the end of the cold season; and
the party was once more divided. Anton, the Greek, was left as
storekeeper, with orders to pitch a camp, to collect as much
munition de bouche as possible, and to prepare for this year's
last journey into the interior. MM. Marie and Philipin, with
Lieutenant Yusuf, Cook Giorji, and Body-servant Ali Marie, were
directed to march along the shore southwards. After inspecting a
third Jebel el-Kibrít, they would bring back notices of the Wady
Hamz, near whose banks I had heard vague reports of a Gasr
(Kasr), "palace" or "castle," built by one Gurayyim Sa'íd.
Meanwhile, the rest of us would proceed in the Sinnár to
El-Haurá, a roundabout cruise of a hundred miles to the south.
M. Philipin lost time in shoeing very imperfectly his four mules;
and M. Marie, who could have set out with eight camels at any
moment, delayed moving till March 26th. The party was composed of
a single Básh-Buzúk from the fort, and two quarrymen: the Ras
Káfilah was young Shaykh Sulaymán bin ‘Afnán--of whom more
presently--while his brother-in-law Hammád acted guide. At 6.40
a.m. they struck to the south-east of the town, and passed the
two brackish pits or wells, Bir el-Isma'íl and El-Sannúsi, which
supply the poor of the port. Thence crossing the broad Wady
el-Wijh, they reached, after a mile's ride, Wady Melláhah, or
"the salina." It is an oval, measuring some eighteen hundred
yards from north to south: the banks are padded with brown slush
frosted white; which, in places, "bogs" the donkeys and admits
men to the knee. Beyond it lie dazzling blocks of pure
crystallized salt; and the middle of the pond is open, tenanted
by ducks and waterfowl, and visited by doves and partridges. At
the lower or northern end, a short divide separates it from the
sea; and the waves, during the high westerly gales, run far
inland: it would be easy to open a regular communication between
the harbour and its saltern. The head is formed by the large Wady
Surrah, whose many feeders at times discharge heavy torrents. The
walls of the valley-mouth are marked, somewhat like the Hárr,
with caverned and corniced cliffs of white, canary-yellow, and
They then left to the right the long point Ras el-Ma'llah,
fronting Mardúnah Island. Here, as at El-‘Akabah and Makná, sweet
water springs from the salt sands of the shore; a freak of
drainage, a kind of "Irish bull" of Nature, so common upon the
dangerous Somali seaboard. The tract leads to the south-east,
never further from the shore than four or five miles, but
separated by rolling ground which hides the main. For the same
reason the travellers were unable to sight the immense
development of granite-embedded quartz, which lurks amongst the
hills to the inland or east, and which here subtends the whole
coast-line. They imagined themselves to be in a purely Secondary
formation of gypsum and conglomerates, cut by a succession of
Wady-beds like the section between El-Muwaylah and ‘Aynúnah. Thus
they crossed the mouths of the watercourses, whose heads we shall
sight during the inland march, and whose mid-lengths we shall
pass when marching back to El-Wijh.
These exceedingly broad beds are divided, as usual, by long lines
of Nature-metalled ground. The first important feature is the
Wady Surrah, which falls into the Wady el-Wijh a little above the
harbour-pier: its proper and direct mouth, El-Gá'h (Ká'h), or
"the Hall," runs along-shore into the Melláhah. It drains the
Hamíratayn, or "Two Reds;" the Hamírat Surrah in the Rughám or
Secondary formation, and the granitic mass Hamírat el-Nabwah,
where the plutonic outbreaks begin. Amongst the number of
important formations are:--the Wady el-Miyáh, which has a large
salt-well near the sea, and down whose upper bed we shall travel
after leaving Umm el-Karáyát; the Wady el-Kurr, whose
acquaintance we shall make in the eastern region; and the Wady
el-‘Argah (‘Arjah). The latter is the most interesting. Near its
head we shall find knots of ruins, and the quartz-reef
Abá'l-Marú; while lower down the bed, on the north-east side of a
hill facing the valley, Lieutenant Yusuf came upon a rock
scrawled over with religious formulæ, Tawakkaltu ‘al' Allah ("I
rely upon Allah"), and so forth, all in a comparatively modern
Arabic character. The inscriptions lie to the left of the shore
road, and to the right of the pilgrim-highway; thus showing that
miners, not passing travellers, have here left their mark.
After riding five hours and forty minutes (= seventeen miles) the
party reached the base of the third sulphur-hill discovered by
the Expedition on the coast of Midian. Also known as the Tuwayyil
el-Kibrít, the "Little-long (Ridge) of Brimstone," it appears
from afar a reddish pyramid rising about two miles inland of an
inlet, which is said to be safe navigation. Thus far it resembles
the Jibbah find: on the other hand, it is not plutonic, but
chalky like those of Makná and Sinai, the crystals being
similarly diffused throughout the matrix. In the adjoining hills
and cliffs the Secondaries and the conglomerates take all shades
of colour, marvellous to behold when the mirage raises to giant
heights the white coast-banks patched with pink, red, mauve, and
dark brown. Moreover, the quarries of mottled alabaster, which
the Ancients worked for constructions, still show themselves.
The travellers slept at the base of the Tuwayyil. Next morning M.
Philipin proceeded to collect specimens of the sulphur and of the
chalcedony-agate strewed over the plain, and here seen for the
first time. M. Marie and Lieutenant Yusuf rode on to the banks of
the Wady Hamz; and, after three hours (= nine miles), they came
upon the "Castle" and unexpectedly turned up trumps. I had
carelessly written for them the name of a ruin which all,
naturally enough, believed would prove to be one of the normal
barbarous Hawáwít. They brought back specimens of civilized
architecture; and these at once determined one of the objectives
of our next journey. The party returned to El-Wijh on the next
day, in the highest of spirits, after a successful trip of more
than fifty miles.
Meanwhile I steamed southwards, accompanied by the rest of the
party, including the Sayyid, Shaykh Furayj, and the ex-Wakíl,
Mohammed Shahádah, who is trusted by the Bedawin, and who brought
with him a guide of the Fawá'idah-Juhaynah, one Rájih ibn ‘Ayid.
This fellow was by no means a fair specimen of his race: the
cynocephalous countenance, the cobweb beard, and the shifting,
treacherous eyes were exceptional; the bellowing voice and the
greed of gain were not. He had a free passage for himself, his
child, and eight sacks of rice, with the promise of a napoleon by
way of "bakhshísh;" yet he complained aloud that he had no meat
to break his fast at dawn--an Arab of pure blood would rather
have starved. He shirked answering questions concerning the
number of his tribe. "Many, many!" was all the information we
could get from him; and his Arabic wanted the pure pronunciation,
and the choice vocabulary, that usually distinguish the Juhayni
pilots. Arrived at his own shore, he refused to make arrangements
for disembarking his rice; he ordered, with bawling accents and
pointed stick, the sailors of the man-of-war to land it at the
place chosen by himself; and he bit his finger when informed that
a sound flogging was the normal result of such impudence.
We set out at 4.30 p.m. (March 24th); and steamed due west till
we had rounded the northern head of El-Raykhah, a long low island
which, lying west-south-west of El-Wijh, may act breakwater in
that direction. Then we went south-west, and passed to port the
white rocks of Mardu'nah Isle, which fronts the Ras el-Ma'llah,
capping the ugly reefs and shoals that forbid tall ships to hug
this section of the shore. It is described as a narrow ridge of
coralline, broken into pointed masses two to three hundred feet
high, whose cliffs and hollows form breeding-places for wild
pigeons: the unusually rugged appearance is explained by the fact
that here the "Jinns" amuse themselves with hurling rocks at one
another. Before night we had sighted the Ras Kurkumah, so called
from its "Curcuma" (turmeric) hue, the yellow point facing the
islet-tomb of Shaykh Marbat.[EN#46] Upon this part of the shore,
I was told, are extensive ruins as yet unvisited by Europeans,
the dangerous Juhaynah being the obstacle. To the south-east
towered tall and misty forms, the Gháts of the
Tihámat-Jahaníyyah. Northernmost, and prolonging the Libn, that
miniature Shárr, is the regular wall of the Jebel el-Ward; then
come the peaks and pinnacles of the Jibál el-Safhah; and lastly,
the twin blocks El-Rál, between which passes the Egyptian Hajj
when returning from El-Medínah. Faint resemblances of these
features sprawl, like huge caterpillars, over the Hydrographic
Chart, but all sprawl unnamed.
By way of extra precaution we stood to the south instead of the
south-east, thus lengthening to one hundred and twenty knots the
normal hundred (dir. geog. sixty-eight) separating El-Wijh from
the Jebel Hassáni. Moreover, we caught amidships a fine lumpy
sea, that threatened to roll the masts out of the stout old
corvette. As the Sinnár, which always reminded me of her
Majesty's steamship Zebra, is notably the steadiest ship in the
Egyptian navy, the captain was asked about his ballast. He
replied, "I have just taken command, but I don't think there is
any; the engine (El-‘iddah) is our Saburra"--evidently he had
never seen the hold. This state of things, which, combined with
open ports, foundered her Majesty's sailing frigate Eurydice,
appears the rule of the Egyptian war-navy. I commend the
consideration to English sailors.
The steering also was detestable; and the man at the wheel could
not see the waves--a sine quâ non to the mariner in these
latitudes, who "broaches to" whenever he can. A general remark:
The Egyptian sailor is first-rate in a Dahabiyyah (Nile-boat),
which he may capsize once in a generation; and ditto in a Red Sea
Sambúk, where he is also thoroughly at home. The same was the
case with the Sultan of Maskat's Arabo-English navy: the Arabs
and Sídís (negroes) were excellent at working their Mtepe-craft;
on frigates they were monkeys, poor copies of men. Our European
vessels are beyond and above the West Asiatic and the African. He
becomes at the best a kind of imitation Jack Tar. He will not, or
rather he cannot, take the necessary trouble, concentrate his
attention, fix his mind upon his "duties." He says "Inshallah;"
he relies upon Allah; and he prays five times a day, when he
should be giving or receiving orders. The younger generation of
officers, it is true, drinks wine, and does not indulge in
orisons whilst it should be working; but its efficiency is
impaired by the difficulties and delay in granting pensions. The
many grey beards, however carefully dyed, suggest an equipage de
The consequence of yawing and of running half-speed by night was
that we reached Jebel Hassáni just before noon, instead of eight
a.m., on the 25th. The island, whose profile slopes to the
south-eastward, is a long yellow-white ridge, a lump of coralline
four hundred feet high, bare and waterless in summer: yet it
feeds the Bedawi flocks at certain seasons. It is buttressed and
bluff to the south-west, whence the strongest winds blow; and it
is prolonged by a flat spit to the south-east, and by a long tail
of two vertebrae, a big and a little joint, trending north-west.
Thus it gives safe shelter from the Wester to Arab
barques;[EN#47] and still forms a landmark for those navigating
between Jeddah, Kusayr, and Suez. Its parallel runs a few miles
north of the Dædalus Light (north lat. 24° 55' 30") to the west;
and it lies a little south of El-Haurá on the coast, and of
El-Medínah, distant about one hundred and thirty direct miles in
the interior. If Ptolemy's latitudes are to be consulted, Jebel
Hassáni would be the Timagenes Island in north lat. 25° 40'; and
the corresponding Chersónesus Point is represented by the
important and well-marked projection "Abú Madd," which intercepts
the view to the south.
After rounding the southern spit, we turned to north-east and by
east, and passed, with a minimum of seven fathoms under keel,
between Hassáni the Giant and the dwarf Umm Sahr, a flat sandbank
hardly visible from the shore. This is the only good approach to
the secure and spacious bay that bore the southernmost Nabathæan
port-town: there are northern and north-western passages, but
both require skilful pilots; and every other adit, though
apparently open, is sealed by reefs and shoals. With the blue and
regular-lined curtain of Abú el-Ghurayr in front, stretching down
coast to Ras Abú Madd, we bent gradually round to the north-east
and east. We then left to starboard the settlement El-Amlij, a
long line of separate ‘Ushash, the usual Ichthyophagan huts,
dull, dark-brown wigwams. They were apparently deserted; at
least, only two women appeared upon the shore, but sundry
Katírahs and canoes warned us that fishermen were about. We ran
for safety a mile and three-quarters north of the exposed Ras
el-Haurá; and at 1.30 p.m. (= twenty-one hours) we anchored, in
nine fathoms, under the Kutá'at el-Wazamah. The pea-green
shallows, which defended us to the north and south, had lately
given protection to the Khedivíyyah[EN#48] steamer El-Hidayyidah,
compelled by an accident to creep along-shore like a Sambúk.
El-Haura' is not found either in the charts, or in Ptolemy's and
Sprenger's maps. It lies in north lat. 25° 6', about the same
parallel as El-Medínah; and in east long. (Gr.) 37° 13'
30".[EN#49] Wellsted (II. x.) heard of its ruins, but never saw
it: at least, he says, "In the vicinity of El-Haurá, according to
the Arabs, are some remains of buildings and columns, but our
stay on the coast was too limited to permit our examining the
spot." He is, however, greatly in error when he adds, "Near this
station the encampments of the Bili' (Baliyy) tribe to the
southward terminate, and those of the Joheïnah commence." As has
been seen, the frontier is nearly fifty miles further north. He
notices (chap. ix.) the "White Village" to differ with Vincent,
who would place it at El-Muwaylah; but he translates the word
(ii. 461) "the bright-eyed girl," instead of Albus (Vicus). He
quotes, however, the other name, Dár el-‘ishrin ("Twentieth
Station"), so called because the Cairo caravan formerly reached
it in a score of days, now reduced to nineteen. He seems,
finally, to have landed in order to inspect "a ruined town on the
main," and to have missed it.
According to Sprenger, the "White Village, or Castle," was not a
Thamudite, but a Nabathæan port. Here Æelius Gallius disembarked
his troops from Egypt. Strabo (xvi. c. 4, § 24) shows that
the Nile route to Alexandria was opened, carried to Petra the
merchandise of India and of Southern Arabia. Thence the imports
were passed on to Phoenicia and Egypt:--these pages have shown
why the journey would be preferred to the voyage northward. He is
confirmed by the "Periplus," which relates (chap. xix.) that
"from the port, and the castellum of Leukè Kóme, a road leads to
Petra, the capital of the Malicha (El-Malik), King of the
Nabathæans: it also serves as an emporium to those who bring
wares in smaller ships from Arabia (Mocha, Múza, and Aden). For
the latter reason, a Perceptor or toll-taker, who levies
twenty-five per cent. ad valorem, and a Hekatontarches
(centurion), with a garrison, are there stationed." As the Nabatæ
were vassals of Rome, and the whole region had been ceded to the
Romans (Byzantines) by a chief of the Beni Kudá' tribe, this
Yuzbáshi or "military commandant" was probably a Roman.
El-Haurá, like most of the ruined settlements upon this coast,
shows two distinct "quarters;" a harbour-town and what may be
called a country-town. The latter, whose site is by far the more
picturesque and amene, lay upon a long tongue of land backing the
slope of the sea-cliff, and attached to the low whitish hillocks
and pitons rising down south. It is now a luxuriant orchard of
emerald palms forming three large patches. Behind it swells a
dorsum of golden-yellow sand; and the horizon is closed by ranges
of hills and highlands, red and white, blue and black. Our eyes
are somewhat startled by the amount of bright and vivid green:
for some reason, unknown to us, the shore is far more riant than
the northern section; and the land might be called
quasi-agricultural. The whole coast seems to be broken with
verdant valleys; from the Wady el-‘Ayn, with its numerous
branches beautifying the north, to the Wady el-Daghaybaj in the
south, supplying water between its two paps.
On the evening of our arrival, we landed in a shallow bay bearing
north-north-east (30° mag.) from the roads where the corvette lay
at anchor; and walked a few yards inland to the left bank of the
Wady el-Samnah, the unimportant Fiumara draining low hills of the
same name. The loose sand is everywhere strewed with bits of
light porous lava, which comes from the Harrat el-Buhayr, a bluff
quoin to the north-west. About El-Haurá, I have said, the
volcanic formations, some sixty miles inland on the parallel of
El-Muwaylah, approach the coast.
We were guided to the ruins by the shouts of sundry Arabs
defending their harvest against a dangerous enemy, the
birds--rattles and scarecrows were anything but scarce.
Apparently the sand contains some fertilizing matter. A field of
dry and stunted Dukhn (Holcus Dochna), or small millet, nearly
covers the site of the old castle, whose outline, nearly buried
under the drift of ages, we could still trace. There are two
elevations, eastern and western; and a third lies to the north,
on the right side of the Wady Samnah. Scatters of the usual
fragments lay about, and the blocks of white coralline explained
the old names--Whitton, Whitworth, Whitby. The Bedawin preserve
the tradition that this was the most important part of the
settlement, which extended southwards nearly four miles. The
dwarf valley-mouth is still a roadstead, where two small craft
were anchored; and here, doubtless, was the corner of the hive
allotted to the community's working-bees. An old fibster, Hámid
el-Fá'idi, declared that he would bring us from the adjacent
hills a stone which, when heated, would pour forth metal like
water--and never appeared again. It was curious to remark how
completely the acute Furayj believed him, because both were Arabs
and brother Bedawin.
Next morning we set out, shortly after the red and dewy sunrise,
to visit the south end of Leukè Kóme. The party consisted of
twenty marines under an officer, besides our escort of ten negro
"Remingtons:" the land was open, and with these thirty I would
willingly have met three hundred Bedawin. Our repulse from the
Hismá had rankled in our memories, and we only wanted an
opportunity of showing fight. After rowing a mile we landed,
south-east of the anchorage (127° mag.), at a modern ruin, four
blocks of the rudest masonry, built as a store by a Yambú'
merchant. Unfortunately he had leased the ground from the
Fawá'idah clan, when the Hámidah claim it: the result was a
"faction fight"--and nothing done.
A few minutes' walking, over unpleasantly deep sand, placed us
upon the Hajj-road. It is paved, like the shore, with natural
slabs and ledges of soft modern sandstone; and, being foot-worn,
it makes a far better road than that which connects Alexandria
with Ramleh. The broad highway, scattered with quartz and basalt,
greenstone, and serpentine, crossed one of the many branches of
the Wady el-‘Ayn: in the rich and saltish sand grew crops of
Dukhn, and the Halfá-grass (Cynosures durus) of the Nile Valley,
with tamarisk-thickets, and tufts of fan-palm. On its left bank a
lamp-black vein of stark-naked basalt, capped by jagged blocks,
ran down to the sea, and formed a conspicuous buttress. The
guides spoke of a similar volcanic outcrop above Point Abú Madd
to the south; and of a third close to Yambá' harbour.
An hour of "stravaguing" walk showed us the first sign of the
ruins: wall-bases built with fine cement, crowning the summit of
a dwarf mound to the left of the road; well-worked scoriæ were
also scattered over its slopes. We now entered the date orchards
conspicuous from the sea: on both sides of us were fences of
thorn, tamped earth, and dry stone; young trees had been planted,
and, beyond the dates, large fields of Dukhn again gave an
agricultural touch to the scene. Flocks of sheep and goats were
being grazed all around us; and the owners made no difficulty, as
they would have done further north, in selling us half a dozen.
We then entered the Wady Haurá, where the caravan camps. It is a
cheery charming site for rich citizens, with its plain of rich
vegetation everywhere, say the natives, undermined by water; its
open sea-view to the west; its mound of clean yellow sand behind,
extending to the rocky horizon; and its pure fresh breezes
blowing from the Nejd with an indescribable sense of lightness
and health and enjoyment. In fact, it has all the accessories of
an "eligible position." At the third or southern palm patch, we
found the only public work which remains visible in the great
Nabathaean port. It was formerly a Káríz, the
underground-aqueduct so common in Persia; and it conducted
towards the sea the drainage of the Jebel Turham, a round knob
shown in the Chart, which bears south-east (121° mag.) from the
conduit-head. The line has long ago been broken down by the
Arabs; and the open waters still supply the Hajj-caravan. The
‘Ayn ("fountain") may be seen issuing from a dark cavern of white
coralline: the water then hides itself under several filled-up
pits, which represent the old air-holes; and, after flowing below
sundry natural arches, the remains of the conduit-ceiling, it
emerges in a deep fissure of saltish stone. From this part of its
banks we picked up fair specimens of saltpetre. The lower course
abounds in water-beetles, and is choked with three kinds of
aquatic weeds. After flowing a few yards it ends in a shallow
pool, surrounded by palms and paved with mud, which attracts
flights of snipes, sandpipers, and sandgrouse.
The turbulent "Dog's Sons"[EN#50] were mostly in the upper lands;
but a few wretched fellows, with swords, old spears, and
ridiculous matchlocks, assembled and managed to get up a squabble
about the right of leading strangers into "our country"
(Bilád-ná). The doughty Rájih ibn ‘Ayid, who, mounted upon a mean
dromedary, affected to be chief guide, seemed to treat their
pretensions as a serious matter, when we laughed them to scorn.
He and all the other experts gave us wholly discouraging details
concerning a ruin represented to lie, some hours off, in the
nearest of the southern Harrah. According to them, the Kasr
el-Bint ("Maiden's Palace") was in the same condition as
El-Haurá; showing only a single pillar, perhaps the "columns" to
which Wellsted alludes. We could learn nothing concerning the
young person whose vague name it bears; except that she preferred
settling on the mainland, whereas her brother built a
corresponding castle upon the islet Jebel Hassáni.[EN#51] He is
locally called Warakat ibn Naufal, a venerated name in the
Fatrah, or "interval," between Jesus and Mohammed; he was the
uncle of Khadijah the widow, and he is popularly supposed to have
been a Christian. Here, as at other places, I inquired, at the
suggestion of a friend, but of course in vain, about the human
skeleton which Ibn Mujáwar, some six centuries ago, found
embedded in a rock near the sea-shore.
Such is the present condition of the once famous emporium Leukè
Kóme. We returned along the shore to embark; and, shortly after
noon, the old corvette of Crimean date again swung round on her
heel, and resumed her wanderings, this time northwards. The run
of eighteen hours and fifteen minutes was semicircular, but the
sea had subsided to a dead calm. The return to El-Wijh felt like
being restored to civilization; we actually had a salad of radish
Our travel will now lie through the Baliyy country, and a few
words concerning this ancient and noble tribe may here be given.
Although they apparently retain no traditions of their origin,
they are known to genealogists as a branch of the Beni Kudá',
who, some fifteen centuries ago, emigrated from Southern Arabia,
and eventually exterminated the Thamudites. I have noted their
northern and southern frontiers: to the north-east they are
bounded by the vicious Ma'ázah and the Ruwalá-‘Anezahs, and to
the south-east by the Alaydán-‘Anezahs, under Shaykh Mutlak. Like
their northern nomadic neighbours, they have passed over to
Egypt, and even the guide-books speak of the "Billi" in the
valley of the Nile.
The Baliyy modestly rate their numbers at four thousand muskets,
by which understand four hundred. Yet they divide themselves into
a multitude of clans; our companion, the Wakíl Mohammed Shahádah,
can enumerate them by the score; and I wrote down the
twenty-three principal, which are common both to South Midian and
to Egypt. The chief Shaykh, Mohammed ‘Afnán ibn Ammár, can reckon
backwards seven generations, beginning from a certain Shaykh
Sultán. About ten years ago he allowed the tribe to indulge in
such dangerous amusements as "cutting the road" and plundering
merchants. It is even asserted, privily, that they captured the
fort of El-Wijh, by bribing the Turkish Topji ("head gunner"), to
fire high--like the half-caste artilleryman who commanded the
Talpúr cannoneers at Sir Charles Napier's Battle of "Meeanee." A
regiment of eight hundred bayonets was sent from Egypt, and the
Shaykh was secured by a Hílah, or "stratagem;" that is, he was
promised safe conduct: he trusted himself like a fool, he was
seized, clapped in irons, and sent to jail in the Citadel of
Cairo. Here he remained some seven months in carcere duro, daily
expecting death, when Fate suddenly turned in his favour; he was
sent for by the authorities, pardoned for the past, cautioned for
the future, and restored to his home with a Murátibah ("regular
pension") of eight hundred piastres per mensem, besides rations
and raiment. The remedy was, like cutting off the nose of a
wicked Hindú wife, sharp but effective. Shaykh ‘Afnan and his
tribe are now models of courtesy to strangers; and the traveller
must devoutly wish that every Shaykh in Arabia could be subjected
to the same discipline.
The Baliyy are a good study of an Arab tribe in the rough. The
Huwaytát, for example, know their way to Suez and to Cairo; they
have seen civilization; they have learned, after a fashion, the
outlandish ways of the Frank, the Fellah, and the Turk-fellow.
The Baliyy have to be taught all these rudiments. Cunning,
tricky, and "dodgy," as is all the Wild-Man-race, they lie like
the "childish-foolish," deceiving nobody but themselves. An
instance: Hours and miles are of course unknown to them, but they
began with us by affecting an extreme ignorance of comparative
distances; they could not, or rather they would not, adopt as a
standard the two short hours' march between the Port and the
inland Fort of El-Wijh. When, however, the trick was pointed out
to them, they at once threw it aside as useless. No pretext was
too flimsy to shorten a march or to cause a halt--the northerners
did the same, but with them we had a controlling power in the
shape of Shaykh Furayj. And like the citizens, they hate our
manner of travelling: they love to sit up and chat through half
the night; and to rise before dawn is an abomination to them.
At first their manners, gentle and pliable, contrast pleasantly
with the roughness of the half-breds, Huwaytát and Maknáwi, who
have many of the demerits of the Fellah, without acquiring the
merits of the Bedawi. As camel-men they were not difficult to
deal with; nor did they wrangle about their hire. Presently they
turned out to be "poor devils," badly armed, and not trained to
the use of matchlocks. Their want of energy in beating the bushes
and providing forage for their camels, compared with that of the
northerners, struck us strongly. On the other hand, they seem to
preserve a flavour of ancient civilization, which it is not easy
to describe; and they certainly have inherited the instincts and
tastes of the old metal-workers: they are a race of born miners.
That sharpest of tests, the experience of travel, at last
suggested to us that the Baliyy is too old a breed; and that its
blue blood wants a "racial baptism," a large infusion of
something newer and stronger.
Note on the "Harrahs" of Arabia.
The learned Dr. J. G. Wetzstein, in the appendix to his
"Reisebericht," etc.,[EN#52] records a conversation with A. von
Humboldt and Carl Ritter (April, 1859), respecting the specimens
which he had brought from the classical Trachonitis. Their
appearance led the latter to question whether the latest
eruptions of the Harrat Rájil, as it is called from an adjoining
valley, may not have taken place within the historic period; and
he referred to Psalm xviii. as seeming to note the occurrence,
during David's reign, of such a phenomenon in or near Palestine.
Humboldt deemed it probable that the Koranic legend (chap. iv.)
of the Abyssinian host under Abraha destroyed by a shower of
stones baked in hell-fire, referred, not to small-pox as is
generally supposed, but to an actual volcanic eruption in Arabia.
"With what interest would that great man have learnt," writes Dr.
Wetzstein, "that, as I was turning over the leaves of Yákút's
‘Geographical Lexicon,' only a few days ago, I found that the
Arabians knew of the existence of twenty-eight different volcanic
regions between Hauran and Bab el-Mandeb!" Later still, Dr. Otto
Loth published an elaborate paper "On the Volcanic Regions
(Harras) of Arabia, according to Yakut" (thirteenth century), in
which these eruptive sites are nearly all identified and
"Among the numerous volcanoes thus found to exist within the
Arabian Peninsula," remarks Dr. Beke,[EN#53] "the only one
recorded as having been in activity within the historic period is
the Harrat-el-Nar (‘Fire Harra'), situate to the north-east of
Medina, in the neighbourhood of Khaibur (Khaybar), in about 26°.
30' north lat., and 40°. east long.; which, being traditionally
said to have been in an active state six centuries before
Mohammed, had actually an eruption in the time of the Prophet's
successor, Omar. To the north-west of this ‘Fire Harra' lies that
known as the ‘Harra of (the tribe of) Udhra' (Azra): again, to
the north of this is the ‘Harra of Tabuk,' so called from the
station of that name on the Hajj-road from Damascus to Mekka, the
position of which is in about 28 deg. 15' north lat. and 37 deg.
east long.; and beyond this last, further to the north, and
consequently between it and the northernmost Harra of the Râdjil,
or Trachonitis, is the Harra Radjlâ. . . . Its designation, which
means ‘rough,' ‘pathless,' seems to indicate its peculiarly
rugged surface, and to lead to the inference that it is an
immense field of lava." He cites Irby and Mangles ("Travels in
Egypt," pp. 115, 116; reprinted by Murray, London, 1868),
describing their route between Kerak and Petra, on the east side
of the Ghor or Wady ‘Arabah. "We noticed three dark volcanic
summits, very distinguishable from the land. The lava that had
streamed from them forms a sort of island in the plain."
Hence my late friend concluded that his "true Mount Sinai" was
the focus and origin of this volcanic region; and that the latter
was the "great and terrible wilderness" (Deut. i. 19) through
which the children of Israel were led on their way to mysterious
Kadesh-Barnea. Thus, too, he explained the "pillar of the cloud
by day," and the "pillow of fire by night" (Exod. xiii. 21).
Our Last March--the Inland Fort--Ruins of the Gold-mines at Umm
El-Karáyát and Umm El-Haráb.
Again there were preliminaries to be settled before we could
leave El-Wijh for the interior. Shaykh Mohammed ‘Afnán had been
marrying his son; and the tale of camels came in slowly enough.
On the day after our return from El-Haurá the venerable old man
paid us a visit aboard Sinnár. He declares that he was a boy when
the Wahhábi occupied Meccah and El-Medínah--that is, in 1803-4.
Yet he has wives and young children. His principal want is a pair
of new eyes; and the train of thought is, "I can't see when older
men than myself can." The same idea makes the African ever
attribute his sickness and death to sorcery: "Why should I lose
life when all around me are alive?"--and this is the idea that
lies at the bottom of all witch-persecution. Two pair of
spectacles were duly despatched to him after our return to Cairo;
and M. Lacaze there exhibited a capital sketch of the
picturesque, white-bearded face, with the straight features and
the nutcracker chin, deep buried in the folds of a huge red
The son, Sulaymán, has been espoused to a cousin older, they say,
than himself; and he seems in no hurry to conclude the marriage.
He would willingly accompany us to Egypt, but he is the father's
favourite, and the old man can do nothing without him. A youth of
about eighteen, and even more handsome than his sire, he has the
pretty look, the sloping shoulders, the soft snaky movements, and
the quiet, subdued voice of a nice girl. During the first marches
he dressed in the finery of the Bedawin--the brilliant
head-kerchief, the parti-coloured sandals, and the loose cloak of
expensive broadcloth. The "toggery" looked out of place as the
toilettes of the Syrian ladies who called upon us in laces and
blue satins amid the ruins of Ba'lbek. Although all the hired
camels belonged, as is customary, to the tribe, not to the
Shaykh, the latter was accompanied by the usual "Hieland tail;"
by his two nephews, Hammád and Náji, the latter our head-guide,
addicted to reading, writing, and lying; by his favourite and
factotum, Abdullah, an African mulatto, Muwallid or "house-born;"
and by his Wakíl ("agent"), a big black slave, Abdullah Mohammed,
ready of tongue and readier of fist. Lastly, I must mention one
‘Audah ‘Adayni, a Huwayti bred in the Baliyy country, a traveller
to Cairo, passing intelligent and surpassing unscrupulous.
Confidential for a consideration, he told all the secrets of his
employers, and it is my firm conviction that he was liberally
paid for so doing by both parties of wiseacres.
The immediate objective of this, our last march, was the Badá
plain, of which we first heard at Shaghab. I purposed
subsequently to collect specimens of a traditional coal-mine, to
which his Highness the Viceroy had attached the highest
importance. Then we would march upon the Móchoura of the
ancients, the mediaeval El-Marwah or Zú Marwah, the modern
Marwát-cum-Abá'l-Marú. Finally, we would return to El-Wijh, viâ
the Wady Hamz, inspecting both it and the ruins first sighted by
MM. Marie and Philipin.
On Friday, March 29th, I gave a breakfast, in the wooden
barracks, to the officers of the Sinnár and the officials of the
port. After which, some took their opium and went to sleep; while
others, it being church-day, went to Mosque. We ran out of
El-Wijh at 1.45 p.m., our convoy consisting of fifty-eight
camels, forty-four of which were loaded; seven were dromedaries,
and an equal number carried water. All had assured us that the
rains of the two past years had been wanting: last winter they
were scanty; this cold season they were nil. In truth, the land
was suffering terribly from drought. Our afternoon was hot and
unpleasant: about later March the Hawá el'-Uwwah, a violent
sand-raising norther, sets in and lasts through a fortnight. It
is succeeded, in early April, by the calms of El-Ni'ám ("the
Blessings"), which, divided into the Greater and the Less, last
forty days. After that the summer--Jehannum!
From the raised and metalled bank, upon which the Burj stands, we
descended to the broad mouth of the Wijh valley, draining the low
rolling blue-brown line of porphyritic hillocks on the east. To
our right lay the sparkling, glittering white plain and pool,
El-Melláhah, "the salina." After an hour and a quarter of sandy
and dusty ride, we passed through a "gate" formed by the
Hamírat-Wijh, the red range which, backing the gape of the valley
and apparently close behind the town, strikes the eye from the
offing. Here the gypsum, ruddy and mauve, white and black, was
underlaid by granite in rounded masses; and the Secondary
formation is succeeded by the usual red and green traps. Though
this part of our route lies in El-Tihámah, which, in fact, we
shall not leave, we are again threading the Wady Sadr of the
northern Shafah-range. A pleasant surprise was a fine vein of
sugary quartz trending north-south: at that period we little
suspected the sub-range to the south--perhaps also the
northern--of being, in places, one mighty mass of "white stone."
After covering six miles in an hour and three-quarters,
exaggerated by the guides to three, we suddenly sighted the
inland fort. Its approach is that of a large encamping-ground,
and such, indeed, it is; the Egyptian pilgrim-caravan here halts
on the fourth day from El-Muwaylah. The broken, untidy environs,
strewed with bones and rubbish, show low mounds that mean ovens;
stone rings, where tents are pitched; and the usual graves,
amongst which a reverend man, Shaykh Sálih, rests in a manner of
round tower. The site is, in one point at least, admirably
well-chosen, a kind of carrefour where four valleys and as many
roads meet; and thus it commands the mouths of all the gorges
Riding up to the fort, we were welcomed by its commandant,
Lieutenant Násir Ahmed, a peculiarly good specimen of his arm,
the infantry. His garrison consists of thirteen regulars, whose
clean uniforms show discipline, and whose hale and hearty
complexions testify to the excellence of the water and the air.
The men are paid annually by the treasurer of the Hajj-caravan.
They are supposed to be relieved after seven years; but they have
wives and families; and, like the British soldier in India half a
century ago, they are content to pass their working lives in
local service. The commandant showed us over his castle, which
was in excellent order; and brewed coffee, which we drank in the
cool porch of the single gate. He then led us about the
neighbourhood, and ended with inviting the Sáyyid, Furayj, and
the Wakíl Mohammed Shahádah to a copious feast.
The fort is the usual square, straight-curtained work of solid
masonry, with a circular bastion at each angle, and a huge arched
main-entrance in the western façade. It is, in fact, one of the
buildings that belong to the solid, sturdy age of Sultán Selim,
and of the Sinnán Pasha so well known about Damascus. An
inscription, with an illegible date, bears the name of Ahmed ibn
Taylún, the founder of the Taylunide dynasty, in A.D. 868--884:
this is another proof that the Mamlúk Soldans were lords of the
soil; and that, even in the ninth century, South Midian was a
province, or a dependency, of Egypt. Moreover, we picked up, to
the north-east of the work, old and well-treated scoriæ,
suggesting a more ancient settlement. Perhaps it was the locale
preferred by the proprietors of the slaves who worked the inner
mines, hidden from view and from the sea-breeze by the hills.
The castle being perfectly commanded by the heights behind, the
circular towers to the east have crests raised in that direction,
giving them a spoon-shape, and a peculiar aptitude for arresting
every cannon-ball coming from the west. The Bedawin, however,
have no great guns; and apparently this shelter has been added
since Wellsted's day.[EN#54] To the curtains are attached the
usual hovels, mat, palm-leaf, and walls of dry stone or mud,
which here, as at Palmyra, inevitably suggest wasp-nests. The
northern side is subtended by three large cisterns, all
strengthened at the inner angles by the stepped buttresses first
noticed when we were exploring Magháir Shu'ayb.
Up the valley and behind the fort, or to the north-east, lie the
palm-plantations, the small kitchen-gardens, and the far-famed
wells which, dug by Sultán Selim and repaired by Ibrahim Pasha in
A.D. 1524 (?), supply the Hajj-caravan. The sandy bed, disposed
east-west, is streaked, dotted, and barred with walls and
outcrops of the hardest greenstone porphyry; and those which run
north-south must arrest, like dykes, the flow of water
underground. One of these reefs is laboriously scraped with
Bedawi Wusúm, and with Moslem inscriptions comparatively modern.
The material is heavy, but shows no quartz; whereas the smaller
valleys which debouch upon the northern or right bank of the main
line, display a curious conformation of the "white stone,"
contorted like oyster shells, and embedded in the trap.
Of the six wells, revetted with masonry and resembling in all
points those of Ziba, four, including El-Tawílah, the deepest,
supply brackish water; and the same is the case with a fifth
inside the fort, close to the chapel of his Holiness, Shaykh
Abubakr. The water, however, appeared potable; and perhaps
cleaning out and deepening might increase the quantity. The sweet
element drunk by the richards of El-Wijh comes from the Bir
el-Za'faráníyyah ("of Saffron"), and from its north-eastern
neighbour, El-‘Ajwah ("the Date-paste"). The latter measures four
or five fathoms; and the water appears under a boulder in situ
that projects from the southern side. The reader will now agree
with me that El-Wijh is not too drouthy for a quarantine-ground.
The plots of green meat lie about the water, sheltered from the
burning sun by a luxuriant growth of date-trees. The Egyptian is
the best man in the world for dabbling in mud; and here, by
scraping away the surface-sand, he has come upon a clayey soil
sufficiently fertile to satisfy his wants. The growth is confined
to tobacco, potatoes, and cabbages, purslain (Portulaca,
pourpier), radishes, the edible Hibiscus, and tomatoes, which are
small and green. Lettuces do not thrive; cucumbers and
water-melons have been tried here and up country; and--man wants
little in Midian.
We set out early on the next day (5.30 a.m., March 30th) in
disorderly style. The night had been cool and comfortable, dry
and dewless; but the Shaykhs were torpid after the feast, and the
escort and quarrymen had been demoralized by a week of sweet
"do-nothing." Striking up the Wady el-Wijh, which now becomes
narrow and gorge-like, with old and new wells and water-pits
dotting the sole, we were stopped, after half an hour's walk, by
a "written rock" on the right side of the bed. None of the guides
seemed to know or, at any rate, to care for it; although I
afterwards learnt that Admiral M'Killop (Pasha), during his last
visit to El-Wijh, obtained a squeeze of the inscriptions.
Wellsted (II. x.) erroneously calls this valley "Wádí el-Moyah,"
the name of a feature further south--thus leading me to expect
the find elsewhere. Moreover, he has copied the scrawls with a
carelessness so prodigious, that we failed at first to recognize
the original. He has hit upon the notable expedient of massing
together in a single dwarf wood-cut (Vol. II. p. 189) what covers
many square feet of stone; and I was fool enough to republish his
A tall, fissured rock, of the hardest porphyritic greenstone,
high raised from the valley-sole, facing north-west, and
reducible to two main blocks, is scattered over with these
"inscriptions," that spread in all directions. Most of them are
Arab Wusum, others are rude drawings of men and beasts, amongst
which are conspicuous the artless camel and the serpent; and
there is a duello between two funny warriors armed with sword and
shield. These efforts of art resemble, not a little, the "Totem"
attempts of the "Red Indians" in North and South America. There
are, however, two scrapings evidently alphabetic, and probably
Nabathæan, which are offered to the specialists in epigraphy: six
appear in Wellsted's illustration, especially that with a long
line above it, near the left and lower corner of the cut. M.
Lacaze and I copied the most striking features in our carnets; he
taking the right or southern side and leaving the other block to
me. But the results did not satisfy us; and on April 10th I sent
him with M. Philipin to make photographs. The latter, again, are
hardly as satisfactory as they might be, because the inscriptions
have not been considered the central points of interest. We shall
pass during our present journey many of these Oriental "John
Joneses" and "Bill Browns:" they will suggest the similar
features of Sinaitic Wady Mukattib, which begot those monstrous
growths, "The One Primaeval Language" and "The Voice of Israel
from Mount Sinai."[EN#56] From the "written rock" the caravan
travelled westward up an easy watercourse, "El-Khaur,"
distinguished as El-Shimálí ("the Northern"): it winds round by
the north, and we shall descend it to-morrow. The mule-riders
left the Wady el-Wijh, which extends some two hours eastward, and
struck to the east-south-east. The bridle-path, running up the
left bank of an ugly rocky torrent, the Wady Zurayb, presently
reaches a plateau undulating in low rises. Burnt with heat,
almost bare of trees, and utterly waterless, it is the model of a
mining country: elevate it from five hundred to nine thousand
feet, and it would be the living (or dead) likeness of a Peruvian
cerro. The staple material, porphyritic trap, shows scatters of
quartz and huge veins, mostly trending north-south: large
trenches made, according to the guides, by the ancients, and
small cairns or stone piles, modern work, were also pointed out
Crossing the heads of sundry watercourses, we fell into the Wady
Umm el-Karáyat:[EN#57] it begins, as is here the rule, with a
gravelly bed, nice riding enough; it then breaks into ugly rocky
drops and slides, especially at the hill shoulders, where
thorn-trees and other obstacles often suggest that it is better
to dismount; and, finally, when nearing the mouth, it becomes a
matured copy of its upper self on an enlarged scale. Presently we
turned to the left over a short divide, and stared with
astonishment at the airy white heap, some two hundred feet high,
which, capped and strewed with snowy boulders, seemed to float
above our heads. The Wady-bed at our feet, lined along the left
bank with immense blocks of similar quartz, showed the bases of
black walls--ruins. "Behold Umm el-Karáyát!" exclaimed Nájí, the
guide, pointing with a wave of the arm, his usual theatrical
gesture, to the scene before us. We could hardly believe our
eyes: he had just assured us that the march from the fort is four
hours, and we had ridden it in two hours and fifteen minutes (=
six miles and a quarter).
Dismounting at once, and ordering the camp to be pitched near the
ruins, we climbed up the south-eastern face of the quartz-hill,
whose appearance was a novelty to us. Instead of being a regular,
round-headed cone, like the Jebel el-Abyaz for instance, the
summit was distinctly crateriform. The greater part of the day
was spent in examining it, and the following are the results.
This Jebel el-Marú showed, for the first time during the whole
journey, signs of systematic and civilized work. In many parts
the hill has become a mere shell. We found on the near side a
line of air-holes, cut in the quartz rock, disposed north-south
of one another; and preserving a rim, sunk like that of a
sarcophagus, to receive a cover. Possibly it was a precaution
against the plunder which ruined Brazilian Gongo Soco. The Arabs
have no fear of these places, as in Wellsted's day, and Abdullah,
the mulatto, readily descended into one about twelve feet below
the surface. Messrs. Clarke and Marie explored the deepest by
means of ropes, and declared that it measured sixty feet. They
had to be ready with their bayonets, as sign of hyenas was
common; and the beast, which slinks away in the open is apt, when
brought to bay in caverns, to rush past the intruder, carrying
off a jawful of calf or thigh.
This pit had two main galleries, both choked with rubbish,
leading to the east and west; and the explorers could see light
glimmering through the cracks and crevices of the roof--these
doubtless gave passage to the wild carnivore. In other parts the
surface, especially where the earth is red, was pitted with
shallow basins; and a large depression showed the sinking of the
hollowed crust. Negro quartz was evidently abundant; but we came
to the conclusion that the rock mostly worked was, like that of
Shuwák, a rosy, mauve-coloured schist, with a deep-red fracture,
and brilliant colours before they are tarnished by atmospheric
oxygen. It abounds in mica, which, silvery as fish-scales,
overspreads it in patches; and the precious metal had probably
been sought in the veinlets between the schist and its
quartz-walling. In two pieces, specks, or rather paillettes, of
gold were found lightly and loosely adhering to the "Marú ;" so
lightly, indeed, that they fell off when carelessly pocketed
Veins of schist still remained, but in the galleries they had
been followed out to the uttermost fibril.
Reaching the crateriform summit, we found that the head of the
cone had either "caved in," or had been carried off bodily to be
worked. Here traces of fire, seen on the rock, suggested that it
had been split by cold affusion. A view from the summit of this
burrowed mound gave us at once the measure of the past work and a
most encouraging prospect for the future. We determined that the
Marwah or "quartz-hill" of Umm el-Karáyát was the focus and
centre of the southern mining region, even as the northern
culminates in the Jebel el-Abyaz. Further experience rejected the
theory, and showed us half a dozen foci and centres in this true
quartz-region. The main hill projects a small southern spur, also
bearing traces of the miner. The block of green trap to the
south-west has a capping and a vein-network of quartz: here also
the surface is artificially pitted. Moreover, there are detached
white-yellow pitons to the north-east, the east, and the south;
whilst a promising hillock, bearing nearly due north, adjoins the
great outcrop. All have rounded conical summits and smooth sides,
proving that they are yet virgin; and here, perhaps, I should
prefer to begin work.
At our feet, and in north lat. 26° 13', lies the settlement, in a
short gravelly reach disposed north-west to south-east; and the
bed is enclosed by a rim of trap and quartz hills. The ruins lie
upon a fork where two gorges, running to the east and the
north-east, both fall into the broad Wady el-Khaur, and the
latter feeds the great Wady el-Miyáh, the "Fiumara of the
Waters," of which more presently. The remains on the upper
(eastern) branch-valley show where the rock was pulverized by the
number of grinding implements, large and small, coarse and fine,
all, save the most solid, broken to pieces by the mischievous
Bedawi. Some are of the normal basalt, which may also have served
for crushing grain; others are cut out of grey and ruddy
granites: a few are the common Mahrákah or "rub-stones," and the
many are handmills, of which we shall see admirable specimens
further on. One was an upper stone, with holes for the handle and
for feeding the mill: these articles are rare. I also secured the
split half of a ball, or rather an oblate spheroid, of serpentine
with depressions, probably where held by finger and thumb; the
same form is still used for grinding in the Istrian island of
Veglia. This is one of the few rude stone implements that
rewarded our careful search.
The north-eastern, which is the main Wady, has a sole uneven with
low swells and falls. It was dry as summer dust: I had expected
much in the way of botanical collection, but the plants were not
in flower, and the trees, stripped of their leaves, looked "black
as negroes out of holiday suits." Here lie the principal ruins,
forming a rude parallelogram from north-east to south-west. The
ground plan shows the usual formless heaps of stones and pebbles,
with the bases of squares and oblongs, regular and irregular,
large and small. There were no signs of wells or aqueducts; and
the few furnaces were betrayed only by ashen heaps, thin scatters
of scoriæ, and bits of flux--dark carbonate of lime. Here and
there mounds of the rosy micaceous schist, still unworked, looked
as if it had been washed out by the showers of ages. The general
appearance is that of an ergastulum like Umm Ámil: here perhaps
the ore was crushed and smelted, when not rich enough to be sent
down the Wady for water-working at the place where the inland
fort now is.
The quarrymen, placed at the most likely spots, were ordered to
spall rock for specimens: with their usual perversity, they
picked up, when unwatched, broken bits of useless stuff; they
spent the whole day dawdling over three camel-loads, and they
protested against being obliged to carry the sacks to their
tents. Meanwhile Nájí, who had told marvellous tales concerning a
well in the neighbouring hills, which showed the foundations of
houses in its bowels, was directed to guide Lieutenant Amir. He
objected that the enormous distance would be trying to the
stoutest mule, and yet he did not blush when it was reached after
a mile's ride to the southwest (240° mag.). It proved to be a
long-mouthed pit, sunk in the trap hill-slope some four fathoms
deep, but much filled up; and, so far from being built in, it had
not even the usual wooden platform. Eastward of it, and at the
head of the Wady Shuwaytanah, "the Devilling," lay a square ruin
like a small Mashghal of white quartz: here also were three
stones scribbled with pious ejaculations, such as Yá Allah! and
Bismillah, in a modern Kufic character.
Umm el-Karáyát, "the Mother of the Villages," derives her title,
according to the Baliyy, from the numerous offspring of minor
settlements scattered around her. We shall pass several on the
next day's march, and I am justified in setting down the number
at a dozen. The Wady el-Kibli, the southern valley, was visited
by Lieutenants Amir and Yusuf on April 8th, when we were encamped
below it at Abá'l-Marú[EN#58]. After riding about six miles to
the north-north-west, down the Wady el-Mismáh and up the Wady
el-‘Argah, they reached, on the left bank of the latter, the
ruins known as Marú el-Khaur. The remains of the daughter are
those of the "mother." There are two large heaps of quartz to the
north and to the south-east of the irregular triangle, whose
blunted apex faces northwards: the south-eastern hill shows an
irregular Fahr ("pit") in the reef of white stone, leading to a
number of little tunnels.
I lost all patience with Wellsted,[EN#59] whose blunders
concerning the Umm el-Karáyát are really surprising, even for a
sailor on camel-back. He reaches the ruins after ten miles from
the fort, when they lie between twelve and thirteen from El-Wijh.
He calls the porphyritic trap "dark granite." He makes the grand
quartz formation "limestone, of which the materials used for
constructing the town (coralline!) appear to have been chiefly
derived." He descends the "caves" with ropes and lights; yet he
does not perceive that they are mining shafts and tunnels, puits
d'air, adits for the workmen, and pits by which the ore was
"brought to grass." And the Hydrographic Chart is as bad. It
locates the inland fort six miles and three-quarters from the
anchorage, but the mine is thrust eastwards ten miles and a
quarter from the fort; the latter distance being, as has been
seen, little more than the former. Moreover, the ruins are placed
to the north, when they lie nearly on the same parallel of
latitude as El-Wijh. Ahmed Kaptán fixed them, by solar
observations, in north lat. 26° 13', so that we made only one
mile of southing. It ignores the porphyritic sub-range in which
the "Mother of the Villages" lies: and it brings close to the
east of it the tall peaks of the Tihámat-Balawíyyah' which, from
this point, rise like azure shadows on the horizon. Finally, it
corrupts Umm el-Karáyát to Feyrabat. "Impossible, but true!"
The night at the ruins was dry and cool, even cold; disturbed
only by the coughing of the men, the moaning of the camels, and
the bleating of the sheep. We would willingly have spent here
another day, but water and forage were absolutely wanting; and
the guides assured us that even greater marvels, in the shape of
ruins and quartz-reefs, lay ahead. We set out shortly after five
a.m. (March 31st): the morning was pearly and rosy; but puffs of
a warmer wind announced the Dufún (local Khamsin), which promised
us three days of ugly working weather. Leaving Umm el-Karáyát by
the upper or eastern valley-fork, we soon fell into and descended
its absorbent, the broad (northern) Wady el-Khaur. Upon the right
bank of the latter rose the lesser "Mountain of Quartz," a cone
white as snow, looking shadowy and ghostly in the petit jour, the
dim light of morning. For the next two hours (= seven miles) we
saw on both sides nothing but veins and outcrops of "Marú,"
worked as well as unworked. All was bare and barren as the
gypsum: the hardy ‘Aushaz (Lycium), allied to the tea-tree, is
the only growth that takes root in humus-filled hollows of the
Presently the quartz made way for long lines and broad patches of
a yellow-white, heat-altered clay, often revetted with iron, and
passably aping the nobler rock: from one reef I picked up what
appeared to be trachyte, white like that of Shaghab. The
hill-casing of the valley forms no regular line; the heaps of
black, red, and rusty trap are here detached and pyramidal, there
cliffing as if in presence of the sea. The vegetation improved as
we advanced; the trees were no longer black and heat-blasted; and
we recognized once more the dandelion, the thistle, the senna,
the Aristida grass, and other familiar growths. Tents, shepherds,
and large flocks of goats and kids showed that water was not
distant; and, here in Baliyy-land, even the few young women
seemed to have no fear of the white face.
After a slow, dull ride in the burning and sickly wind, we
crossed the head of our former route, Wady Zurayb the Ugly, and
presently entered the Wady el-Kubbah ("of the Cupola,"), where
our immediate destination rose before us. It is a grisly black
saddleback, banded with two perpendicular stripes of dark stone
that shines like specular iron; and upon its tall northern end,
the pommel, stands a small ruin, the oft spoken of "Dome."
Sketches of paths wind up the western flank; but upon this line,
we were assured, no ruins are seen save a few pits. So we rounded
the block by the north, following the broad Wady to the Máyat
el-Kubbah, water-pits in the sand whose produce had not been
libelled when described as salt, scanty, and stinking. The track
then turned up a short, broad branch-Wady, running from south to
north, and falling into the left bank of the "Dome Valley:" a few
yards brought us to a halt at the ruins of El-Kubbah. We had
pushed on sharply during the last half of the way, and our
morning's ride had lasted four hours (= thirteen miles).
The remains lie in the uneven quartzose basin at the head of the
little lateral watercourse: they are built with good cement, and
they evidently belong to the race that worked the "Mother of the
Villages;" but there is nothing to distinguish them except the
ruins of a large Sákiyah ("draw-well"), with its basin of
weathered alabaster. We were perplexed by the shallow conical
pits in the porphyritic trap, to the east and west of the "Dome
Hill;" the ground is too porous for rain cisterns, and the depth
is not sufficient for quarrying. The furnaces showed the normal
slag; but the only "metals" lying around them were poor
iron-clay, and a shining black porphyry, onyxed with the whitest
quartz. There were, however, extensive scatters of Negro, which
had evidently been brought there; and presently we found large
heaps of rosy-coloured, washed-out schist.[EN#60] These explained
the raison d'être of this dreary and dismal hole.
Meanwhile the juniors ascended the rocky "Kubbah" hill, which
proved to be a small matter of 120 feet (aner. 29.34) above the
valley-sole (aner. 29.46). The "Dome" was nothing but a truncated
circle of wall, porphyry and cement, just large enough to hold a
man; the cupola-roof, if there ever had been one, was clean gone;
and adjoining it yawned a rock-cut pit some fifteen feet deep. I
came to the conclusion that here might have been a look-out
where, possibly, the "bale-fire" was also lit. The
"ascensionists" brought back a very healthy thirst.
We rested till noon in the filmy shade of the thorn-trees. The
caravan was at once sent forward to reach the only good water,
lying, said the guides, many a mile beyond. We had made up our
minds for a good long march; and I was not a little vexed when,
after half an hour, we were led out of the Wady el-Kubbah, whose
head, our proper line, lies to the north, into its eastern
influent, the Wady el-Dasnah. Here, after an afternoon "spell" of
forty-five minutes (= two miles and a half), and a total of four
hours and forty-five minutes (= fifteen miles and a half), a day
nearly half wasted, we found the tents pitched. The heat had
strewed the Wady with soldiers and quarrymen; and the large pit
in the bed, supplying "water sweet as the Nile,', showed a swarm
of struggling blacks, which the Egyptian officers compared with
Aráfít or "demons;" we with large pismires. A sentinel was placed
to prevent waste and pollution at the Máyat el-Dasnah, whose
position is in north lat. 26° 23'.
April Fools' day was another that deserved to be marked with a
white stone. I aroused the camp at 3.30 a.m., in order that the
camels might load with abundance of water: we were to reach the
springs of Umm Gezáz, but a presentiment told me that we might
want drink. At that hour the camp was a melancholy sight: the
Europeans surly because they had discussed a bottle of cognac
when they should have slept; the good Sayyid without his coffee,
and perhaps without his prayers; Wakíl Mohammed sorrowfully
attempting to gnaw tooth-breaking biscuit; and the Bedawin
working and walking like somnambules. However, at 5.10 a.m. we
struck north, over a low divide of trap hill, by a broad and
evidently made road, and regained the Wady el-Kubbah: here it is
a pleasant spectacle rich in trees, and vocal with the cooing of
the turtle-dove. After an hour's sharp riding we reached its
head, a fair round plain some two miles across, and rimmed with
hills of red, green, and black plutonics, the latter much
resembling coal. It was a replica of the Sadr-basin below the
Hismá, even to the Khuraytah or "Pass" at the northern end. Here,
however, the Col is a mere bogus; that is, no raised plateau lies
We crossed a shallow prism and a feeding-basin: an ugly little
gorge then led to the important Wady Sirr. We are now in the
hydrographic area of the Wady Nejd,[EN#61] which, numbering