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The Land of Midian, Vol. 2 by Richard Burton

Part 3 out of 5

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influents by the dozen, falls into the Salbah (Thalbah) of Sharm
Dumaghah. The Sirr, though still far from its mouth, is at least
three miles broad; and the guides speak of it as the Asl
el-Balawíyyah, or "Old Home of the Baliyy." The view from its bed
is varied and extensive. Behind us lies the Tihámat-Balawíyyah,
the equivalent of the Gháts of North Midian, from the Zahd to the
Shárr. The items are the little Jebel ‘Antar, which, peeping over
the Fiumara's high left bank, is continued south by the lower
Libn. The latter attaches to the higher Libn, whose triad of
peaks, the central and highest built of three distinct
castellations, flush and blush with a delicate pink-white cheek
as it receives the hot caresses of the sun. We are now haunted by
the Libn, which, like its big brother the Shárr, seems everywhere
to accompany us.

Beyond the neutral ground, over which we are travelling, appear
in front the pale-blue heights bordering the Wady Nejd to the
north-west, and apparently connected with the Jebelayn el-Jayy in
the far north (30° mag.). To the north-east the view is closed by
the lumpy Jebel el-Kurr (the Qorh of Arabian geographers?);
followed southwards by the peaked wall of the Jebel el-Ward, and
by El-Safhah with its "Pins." For the last eighteen miles we had
seen no quartz, which, however, might have veined the
underground-rock. The sole of the Sirr now appeared spread with
snow, streaked and patched with thin white paint; the stones were
mostly water-rolled, the discharge of valleys draining from afar.
The ground was unpleasantly pitted and holed; the camels were
weak with semi-starvation and the depressing south-wester;
Lieutenant Amir put his dromedary to speed, resulting in a
nose-flattening fall; and the Sayyid nearly followed suit.

This is our second day of Khamsin; yet on the northern slope of
the great Fiumara we meet the cool land-wind. Either it or the
sea-breeze generally sets in between seven and eight a.m., when
the stony, sandy world has been thoroughly sunned. The short
divide beyond the far bank of the Sirr is strewn with glittering
mica-schist that takes the forms of tree-trunks and rotten wood;
and with dark purple-blue fragments of clay-slate looking as if
they had been worked. A counterslope of the same material, which
makes excellent path-metal placed us in the Wady Rubayyigh ("the
Little Rábigh" or "Green-grown Spring"), a short and
proportionally very broad branch draining to the Sirr. Here large
outcrops of quartz mingled with the clay slate. A few yards
further it abutted upon a small gravelly basin with ruins and a
huge white reef of "Mará," which caused a precipitate
dismounting. We had marched only four hours (= thirteen miles);
but the loss of time has its compensations. Our Arabs, who
consider this a fair day's work, will now, in hopes of a halt,
show us every strew of quartz and every fragment of wall. They
congratulated us upon reaching a part of their country absolutely
unvisited by Europeans.

The site of our discovery was the water-parting of the Wady
Rubayyigh with the Wady Rábigh, both feeders of the Sirr; this to
the north, that to the south. The ruins, known as Umm el-Haráb,
"Mother of Desolation," are the usual basement-lines: they lie in
the utterly waterless basin, our camping-ground, stretching west
of Mará Rubayyigh, the big white reef. This "Mother" bears nearly
north of Umm el-Karáyát, in north lat. 26° 33' 36" (Ahmed
Kaptán): her altitude was made upwards of a thousand feet above
sea-level (aner. 28.92)

At Umm el-Haráb we saw for the first time an open mine,
scientifically worked by the men of old. They chose a pear-shaped
quartz-reef; the upper dome exposed, the converging slopes set
and hidden in green trap to the east and west, and the invisible
stalk extending downwards, probably deep into Earth's bowels.
They began by sinking, as we see from certain rounded apertures,
a line of shafts striking north-north-east (45°--50° mag.) to
south-south-west across the summit, which may measure one hundred
and twenty yards. The intervening sections of the roof are now
broken away; and a great yawning crevasse in the hill-top gives
this saddleback of bare cream-coloured rock, spangled with white
where recently fractured, the semblance of a "comb" or cresting

We descended into this chasm, whose slope varies from a maximum
of 45° to a minimum of 36° at the south. The depth apparently did
not exceed thirty feet, making allowance for the filling up of
centuries; but in places the hollow sound of the hammer suggested
profounder pits and wells. I should greatly doubt that such
shallow sinking as this could have worked out any beyond the
upper part of the vein. Here it measures from six to eight feet
in diameter, diminishing to four and a half and even three below.
The sloping roof has been defended from collapse by large pillars
of the rock, left standing as in the old Egyptian quarries; it
shows the clumsy but efficient practice that preceded timbering.
The material worked was evidently the pink-coloured and
silver-scaled micaceous schist; but there was also a whitish
quartz, rich in geodes and veinlets of dark-brown and black dust.
The only inhabitants of the cave, bats and lizards (Gongylus
ocellatus, L., etc.), did not prevent M. Lacaze making careful
study of the excavation; the necessity of brown shadows, however,
robs the scene of its charm, the delicate white which still
shimmers under its transparent veil of shade. Similar features
exist at El-Muwaylah and El-Aujah, in the wilderness of Kadesh:
but those are latomiæ; these are gold mines.[EN#62]

Another sign of superior labour is shown by the quartz-crushing
implements. Here they are of three kinds: coarse and rough
basaltic lava for the first and rudest work; red granite and
syenitic granite for the next stage; and, lastly, an admirable
handmill of the compactest grey granite, smooth as glass and hard
as iron. Around the pin-hole are raised and depressed concentric
circles intended for ornament; and the "dishing" towards the rim
is regular as if turned by machinery. We have seen as yet nothing
like this work; nor shall we see anything superior to it. All are
nether millstones, so carefully smashed that one can hardly help
suspecting the kind of superstitious feeling which suggested
iconoclasm. The venerable Shaykh ‘Afnán showed a touching
ignorance concerning the labours of the ancients; and, when
lectured about the Nabat (Nabathæans), only exclaimed, "Allah,

In the evening we ascended the porphyry hills to the north of the
little camping-basin; and we found the heights striped by two
large vertical bands of quartz. The eastern vein, like the Jebel
el-Marú, has a north-east to south-west strike (45° mag.); the
western runs east-west with a dip to south. From the summit we
could see that the quartz-mountain, as usual an exaggerated vein,
is hemmed in on both sides by outcrops and hills of trap, black,
green, and yellow, which culminate eastward in the Jebel el-Guráb
(Juráb). We had a fine bird's-eye view of the Wady Rábigh, and of
our next day's march towards the Shafah Mountains: the former was
white with quartz as if hail-strewn. Far beyond its right bank
rose an Ash'hab, or "grey head," which seemed to promise
quartzose granite: it will prove an important feature. Before
sleeping, I despatched to El-Wijh two boxes of micaceous schist
and two bags of quartz, loads for a pair of camels.

Chapter XVII.
The March Continued to El-Badá–Description of the Plain Badais.

After the exciting scenes of the last three days, this stage was
dull riding, and consequently, I fear, it will be dull reading as
well as writing. We set off afoot betimes (5.10 a.m.) in the
still warm morning that augured Khamsín: the third day was now
telling heavily on man and beast. A walk of ten minutes led down
the rough line of the little water-course draining the Marú
Rubayyigh to the Wady Rábigh. At a re-entering angle of the
junction, a shallow pit was sunk; the sand became moist and red,
and presently it was underlaid by a rubble of porphyritic trap.
Nothing more!

We then crossed the Wady Rábigh, another of the short broad
valleys which distinguish this section of South Midian. The bed
sides, especially the right, are heaps and mounds of snowy
quartz, with glittering crowns of block and boulder: all prove to
be veins in the grey granite, whose large coarse elements are
decomposed by weather. The dark and rusty walls of the valley
also discharge the white stone in shunts and shoots: here and
there they might be mistaken for Goz ("sand-banks") heaped up by
the wind, except that these are clad in thin vegetation, whereas
the "Maru'" is mostly mother-naked. We halted here for rest and
to examine these features: despite the Khamsín, the Great Gaster
became querulous; hunger was now the chief complaint, and even
the bon ordinaire had lost much of its attraction. A harmless
snake was killed and bottled; its silver robe was beautifully
banded with a line, pink as the circles of the "cobra coral,"
which ran along the whole length of the back. It proved to be a
new species; and Dr. Gunther named it Zamenis elegantissimus.

Beyond the Rábigh, we ascended a lateral valley, whence a low
divide led to the Wady el-Bahrah ("of the Basin"), another feeder
of the Sirr. It was also snow-white, and on the right of the path
lay black heaps, Hawáwít, "ruins" not worth the delay of a visit.
Then began a short up-slope with a longer counterslope, on which
we met a party of Huwaytát, camel-men and foot-men going to buy
grain at El-Wigh. Another apparition was a spear-man bestriding a
bare-backed colt; after reconnoitering us for some time, he
yielded to the temptations of curiosity. It afterwards struck us
that, mounted on our mules, preceded and followed by the Shaykhs
riding their dromedaries, we must have looked mighty like a party
of prisoners being marched inland. The horseman was followed by a
rough-coated, bear-eared hound of the kind described by
Wellsted[EN#63] as "resembling the English mastiff"--he did not
know how common is the beast further north. The Kalb gasúr
(jasur) or "bold dog," also called Kalb el-hámi, or "the hot"
(tempered), is found even amongst the Bedawin to the east of the
Suez Canal; but there the half-bred is more common than the
whole-blood. It is trained to tend the flocks; it never barks,
nor bites its charges; and it is said to work as well as the
shepherd-dog of Europe.

The Wady Mulaybij shows fine specimens of mica dorí in the
quartz-vein streaking the slate: it deceived all the caravan,
save those who tested it with their daggers. The bed, after
forming a basin, narrows to a sandy gut, smooth and pleasant
riding; and, after crossing several valley-heads, the path
debouches upon the Wady Abál-Gezaz. This "Father of Glass,"
though a day and a half's march from the sea, is even broader
than the great Sirr to which it is tributary. Its line, which
reminded us of the Dámah, is well marked by unusually fine
vegetation: and the basin bears large clumps of fan-palm,
scattered Daum-trees, the giant asclepiad El-‘Ushr,[EN#64]
thickets of tamarisk and scatters of the wild castor-plant, whose
use is unknown to the Arabs. Water wells up abundantly from a
dozen shallow pits, old and new, in the sand of the southern or
left bank. Here the flow is apparently arrested by a tall
buttress of coarse granite, red with orthose, and sliced by a
trap-dyke striking north-south.

Our day's work had been only four slow hours; but we were
compelled to await the caravan, which did not arrive till after
noon. It had passed round by the Wady Rábigh, into and up the
"Father of Glass;" in fact, it had described an easy semicircle;
while we had ridden in a series of zigzags, over rough and
difficult short cuts. A delay was also necessary for our mappers
to connect this march with their itinerary of the central region.
Already the Wady Mulaybij had shown us the familiar peak and
dorsum of Jebel Raydán; and we had "chaffed" Furayj about his
sudden return home. From our camp in the Abá'l-Gezáz, the Zigláb
block of Shaghab bore nearly north (350° mag.); and the adjoining
Jebel el-Aslah, also a blue cone on the horizon, rose about two
degrees further north.

After the big mess-tent had been duly blown down, and the usual
discipline had been administered for washing in the
drinking-pool; we crossed to the left of the Wady by way of an
evening stroll, and at once came upon an atelier of some
importance. The guides seemed to ignore its existence, so we
christened it Mashghal Alá'l-Gezáz. On the slope of a trap-hill
facing the Wady el-Ghami's, the southern valley which we had last
crossed, stood a square of masonry scattered round with fragments
of pottery, glass, and basalt. Below it, on the "mesopotamian"
plain, lay the foundations of houses still showing their cemented
floors. The lowlands and highlands around the settlement looked
white-patched with mounds, veins, and scatters of quartz. The
evening was stillness itself, broken only by the cries of the
Katás, which are now nesting, as they flocked to drink; and the
night was cool--a promise, and a false promise, that the Khamsín
had ended on its usual third day.

The next morning (April 3rd) showed us El-Bada', the whole march
lying up the Wady Abá'l-Gezáz, which changes its name with every
water. The early air was delightfully fresh and brisk, and the
cattle stepped out as if walking were a pleasure: yet the Arabs
declared that neither camels nor mules had found a full feed in
the apparently luxuriant vegetation of the Fiumara-bed. The tract
began badly over loose sandy soil, so honeycombed that neither
man nor beast could tread safely: the Girdi (Jirdi), or "field
rat," is evidently nocturnal like the jerboa, during the whole
journey we never saw a specimen of either. A yellow wolf was
descried skulking among the bushes, and a fine large hare was
shot; porcupine-quills were common, and we picked up the mummy of
a little hedgehog. The birds were swift-winged hawks and owls,
pigeons and ring-doves; crows again became common, and the
water-wagtail was tame as the Brazilian thrush, João de Barros:
it hopped about within a few feet of us, quite ignoring the
presence of Frenchmen armed with murderous guns. I cannot discern
the origin of the pseudo-Oriental legend which declares that the
"crow of the wilderness" (raven) taught Cain to bury his brother
by slaying a brother crow, and scraping a grave for it with beak
and claw. The murderous bird then perched upon a palm-tree, whose
branches, before erect, have ever drooped, and croaked the truth
into Adam's ear: hence it has ever been of evil augury to
mankind. The hoopoe, which the French absurdly call coq de
montagne, also trotted by the path-side without timidity; and the
butcher-bird impudently reviewed the caravan from its
vantage-ground, a commanding tree. The large swift shot screaming
overhead; and the cries of the troops of Merops, with
silver-lined wings, resembled those of the sand-grouse.

After some five miles the "Father of Glass" changed his name to
Abú Daumah (of the "one Theban Palm"). Porphyritic trap lay on
both sides of us. To the right rose the Jebel ‘Ukbal, whose grey
form (El-Ash'hab) we had seen from the heights above Umm
el-Haráb: the whole range of four heads, forming the
south-western rim of the Badá saucer, is known as El-‘Akábil.
Below these blocks the Wady-sides were cut into buttresses of
yellow clay, powdered white with Sabkh, or "impure salt." Charred
circlets in the sand showed where alkali had been burned: the
ashes, packed in skins, are shipped at El-Wijh for Syria, where
they serve to make soap. The Bedawin call it Aslah (Athlah); the
Egyptians Ghassálah ("the washer"), because, when rubbed in the
hands, its succulent shoots clean the skin. Camels eat it,
whereas mules refuse it, unless half-starved. This plant
apparently did not extend all up the Wady. The water, where there
is any, swings under the left bank; an ample supply had been
promised to us, with the implied condition that we should camp at
this Mahattat el-‘Urbán ("Halting place of the Arabs"), after a
marching day of two hours! Seeing that we rode on, the Baliyy
declared that they had searched for the two principal pools, and
that both were dry, or rather had been buried by the Bedawin.
But, with characteristic futility, they had allowed me to
overhear their conversation; and the word was passed to the
soldiers, who at once filled themselves and their water-skins.

Hitherto we had been marching south of east. Presently, where the
pretty green Wady el-Surám falls into the left bank, we turned a
corner, and sighted in front, or to the north, the great plain of
Badá. The block, El-‘Akábil, had projected a loop of some ten
miles to be rounded, whereas a short cut across it would not have
exceeded three. And now the Wady Abá Daumah abruptly changed
formation. The red and green traps of the right side made way for
grey granite, known by its rounded bulging blocks on the sides
and summit, by its false stratification, by its veins of quartz
that strewed the sand, and by its quaint weathering--one rock
exactly resembled a sitting eagle; a second was a turtle, and a
third showed a sphinx in the rough. The Badá plain is backed by a
curtain so tall that we seemed, by a common optical delusion, to
be descending when we were really ascending rapidly.

Anxiety to begin our studies of the spot made the ride across the
basin, soled with rises comfortably metalled, and with falls of
sand unpleasantly loose and honeycombed, appear very long. The
palm-clump, where men camp, with its two date-trees towering over
the rest, receded as it were. At last, after a total of four
hours and forty-five minutes (= sixteen miles), we dismounted at
the celebrated groves, just before the ugly Khamsín arose and
made the world look dull, as though all its colours had been
washed out.

The dates form a kind of square with a sharp triangle to the
south, upon the left bank of the thalweg, which overflows them
during floods. The enceinte is the normal Arab "snake-fence" of
dry and barked branches, which imperfectly defends the nurseries
of young trees and the plots of Khubbayzah ("edible mallows")
from the adjoining camping-place of bald yellow clay. The wells,
inside and outside the enclosure, are nine; three stone-revetted,
and the rest mere pits in the inchoate modern sandstone. The
trees want thinning; the undergrowth is so dense as to be
impenetrable; but the heads are all carefully trimmed, the first
time we have seen such industry in Midian. The shade attracts
vipers, chiefly the Echis: and I was startled by hearing the gay
warble of the Bulbul--a nightingale in Arabia!

The next day was devoted to inspecting this far-famed site, with
the following results. We have already seen a Bada' and
a Badí'a , whilst there is a Badí'ah [EN#65]
further north. We are now at a Badá which fulfils all
the conditions required by the centre and head-quarters of
"Thamuditis." The site of the Bújat Badá, "the Wide Plain of
Badá," as it is distinguished by the Arabs, represents,
topographically speaking, a bulge in the Wady Nejd, before it
becomes the Wady Abú Daumah, between the Shafah Mountains to the
east and the Tihámah range seawards. The latitude is 26° 45' 30"
= 0° 31' 30" north of El-Wijh [Footnote: Ahmed Kaptán's
observation of Polaris. The (Bades) of Ptolemy is
in north lat. 25° 30'.]. From its centre, a little south of our
camping-place, the Jebel Zigláb of Shaghab, distant, according to
Yákút, one march, bears 32°, and the Aslah (Athlah) cone 30°
(both mag.): it lies therefore south of Shuwák, with a little
westing. The altitude is upwards of twelve hundred feet above
sea-level (aner. 28.72). The size of the oval is about nine
statute miles from north to south, where the main watercourse
breaks; and twelve miles from east to west, giving an area of
some 108 square miles. The general aspect of the basin suggests
that of El-Haurá; the growth is richer than the northern, but not
equal to that of the southern country. The ruins belong to the
Magháir Shu'ayb category, and the guides compare the Hawáwít with
those of Madáin Sálih.

Such is the great station on the Nabathæan overland highway
between Leukè' Kóme and Petra; the commercial and industrial,
the agricultural and mineral centre, which the Greeks called
the Romans, Badanatha (Pliny, vi. 32); and the
mediæval Arab geographers, Badá Ya'kúb, in the days when the
Hajj-caravan used to descend the Wadys Nejd and the "Father of
Glass." Now it is simply El-Badá: the name of the "Prophet"
Jacob, supposed to have visited it from Egypt or Syria, being
clean forgotten.

The rolling plain is floored with grey granite, underlying
sandstones not unlike coral-rag, and still in course of
formation. Through this crust outcrop curious hillocks, or rather
piles of hard, red, and iron-revetted rock, with a white or a
rusty fracture--these are the characteristics of the basin. The
lower levels are furrowed with their threads of sand, beds of
rain-torrents discharged from the mountains; and each is edged by
brighter growths of thorn and fan-palm. The fattening Salíb grass
is scattered about the water; the large sorrel hugs the
Fiumara-sides; the hardy ‘Aushaz-thorn (Lycium), spangled with
white bloom and red currants, which the Arabs say taste like
grapes, affects the drier levels; and Tanzubs, almost all timber
when old, become trees as large as the Jujube.

The Bújat is everywhere set in a regular rim of mountains. The
Shafah curtain to the north is fretted with a number of peaks,
called as usual after their Wadys;[EN#66] the west is open with a
great slope, the Wady Manab, whose breadth is broken only by the
"Magráh" Naza'án, a remarkable saddleback with reclining cantle.
It is distant a ride of two hours, and we have now seen it for
three marches. A little south of east yawns the gorge-mouth of
the Wady Nejd, the upper course of the Abá'l-Gezáz: a jagged
black curtain, the Jebel Dausal, forms its southern jaw. Further
south the Tihámah Mountains begin with the peaky Jebel el-Kurr,
another remarkable block which has long been in sight. Its
neighbour is the bluff-headed Jebel el-Wásil of Marwát; whilst
the trap-blocks, already mentioned as the Jibál el-‘Akábil,
finish the circle.

The better to understand the shape of the ruins, we will ascend
the irregular block which rises a few furlongs to the north-east
of the palm-orchard. It has only three names: ‘Araygat Badá
("Veinlet of Badá"); Zeba'yat Badá, "the Low-lying (Hill) of
Badá;" and Shahíb el-Búm, "the Ash-coloured (Hill) of the Owl." I
will prefer the latter, as we actually sighted one of those dear
birds on its western flank. It is an outcrop of grey granite,
pigeon-holed by weather, and veined by a variety of dykes. Here
we find greenstone breccia'd with the blackest hornblende; there
huge filons of hard, red, heat-altered clays, faced with iron,
whilst the fracture is white as trachyte; and there filets of
quartz, traversing large curtains and sheets of light-coloured
argils. This was evidently the main quarry: the sides still show
signs of made zigzags; and the red blocks and boulders, all round
the hill, bear the prayers and pious ejaculations of the
Faithful. The characters range between square Kufic, hardly
antedating four centuries, and the cursive form of our day. Some
are merely scraped; others are deeply and laboriously cut in the
hard material, a work more appropriate for the miner than for the
passing pilgrim.

From the ruined look-out on the summit the shape of the city
shows a highly irregular triangle of nine facets, forming an apex
at the east end of our "Owl's Hill:" the rises and falls of the
ground have evidently determined the outline. The palm-orchard,
whose total circumference is five hundred and thirty-six metres,
occupies a small portion of its south-eastern corner; and our
camping-place, further east, was evidently included in the
ancient enceinte. The emplacement, extending along the eastern
bank of the main watercourse, is marked by a number of mounds
scattered over with broken glass and pottery of all kinds: no
coins were found, but rude bits of metal, all verdigris, were
picked up north of the palm-orchard. Here, too, lay queer
fish-bones, with tusks and teeth, chiefly the jaws of Scaridæ and
Sparidæ (seabreams).[EN#67]

Descending the Shahíb el-Búm, and passing a smaller black and
white block appended to its south-south-western side, we now
cross to the left bank of the main drain. Here lies the broken
tank, the normal construction of El-Islam's flourishing days. It
is a square of thirty-two metres, whose faces and angles do not
front the cardinal points. At each corner a flight of steps has
been; two have almost disappeared, and the others are very shaky.
The floor, originally stone-paved, is now a sheet of hard silt,
growing trees and bush: dense Tanzub-clumps (Sodada decidua),
with edible red berries, sheltering a couple of birds'-nests,
suggested a comparison between the present and the past. At the
east end is the Makhzan el-Máyah, or "smaller reservoir," an
oblong of 7.80 by 6.60 metres: the waggon-tilt roof has
disappeared, and the fissures show brick within the ashlar. Along
the eastern side are huge standing slabs of the coarse new
sandstone with which the tank is lined: these may be remains of a
conduit. Around the cistern lies a ruined graveyard, whose
yawning graves supplied a couple of skulls. A broken line of
masonry, probably an aqueduct, runs south-south-east (143° mag.)
towards the palms: after two hundred metres all traces of it are

The mining industry could not have been a prominent feature at
Badá, or we should have found, as in Shaghab and Shuwák, furnaces
and scoriæ. Yet about the tank we lit upon large scatters of
spalled quartz, which, according to the Baliyy, is brought from
the neighbouring mountains. Some of it was rosy outside: other
specimens bore stains of copper; and others showed, when broken,
little pyramids of ore. Tested in England, it proved to be pure
lead, a metal so rare that some metallurgists have doubted its
existence: the finds have been mostly confined to auriferous
lands. The blow-pipe soon showed that it was not galena (the
sulphide), but some of it contained traces of silver. Without
knowing the rarity of these specimens, certain American officers
at the Citadel, Cairo, compared them with the true galenas of the
Dár-Forian mines, called Mahattat el-Risás (the "Deposit of
Lead"), in the Wady Gotam, three days north-east of the capital
El-Fashr. The African metal is rich. Large quantities, analyzed
by Gastinel Bey, gave fifty per cent. of lead, and of silver
fifty dollars per ton; but the distance from any possible market
will reserve these diggings for the use of the future. Some were
sanguine enough to propose smelting the metal at Khartúm, where
Risás is ever in demand; and accordingly, for a time Dar-For was
"run," by a mild "ring," against Midian.

The plain, I have said, is everywhere broken by piles of stone
forming knobby hills. Leaving the outlined sphinx to the right,
we ascended a second block, which rises on the west of the chief
watercourse, further down than the "Owl's Hill." This Tell
el-Ahmar ("Red Hill"), alias Ja'dat Badá (the "Curved Hill of
Bada'"), is a quoin of grey granite bluff to the south-west. The
north-eastern flank shows the normal revetment of ruddy and black
heat-altered grit, which gives a red back to the pale-sided,
drab-coloured heap. Over the easy ascent is run a zigzag path;
half-way, up it passes piles of stone that denote building, and
it abuts at the summit upon one of those "look-outs" which are
essentially Arab.

Again, to the south-east of the palms is the Huzaybat Badá, the
"(Isolated) Hillock of Badá," a low ridge of naked grey granite,
much scaled and pigeon-holed. On the plain to its north stretch
regular lines of stone, probably the remnants of a work intended
to defend the city's eastern approach. South of the Huzaybah
appear the usual signs of an atelier: these workshops are
doubtless scattered all around the centre; but a week, not a day,
would be required to examine them. On the very eve of our
departure the guides pointed northwards (350° mag.) to a
"Mountain of Marú," called El-Arayfát, and declared that it
contained a Zaríbat el-Nasárá, or "enclosure made by the
Nazarenes." I offered a liberal present for specimens; all,
however, swore that the distance ranged from two to three hours
of dromedary, and that no mounted messenger could catch us unless
we halted the next day.

The Bedawin, still relegated to the upper country, were sending
their scouts to ascertain if the water-supply was sufficient in
Badá plain. The adjacent valleys were dotted with she-camels and
their colts. The adult animal here sells for twelve to thirty
dollars. During the cotton-full in Egypt, and the cotton-famine
of the United States, they fetched as many pounds sterling at the
frontier; and the traders of El-Wijh own to having made two
hundred per cent., which we may safely double. I asked them why
they did not import good stallions from the banks of the Nile;
and the reply was that of the North Country--the experiment had
ended in the death of the more civilized brutes. This is easily
understood: the Baliyy camel seems to live on sand.

The camp was visited by a few Bedawi stragglers, and the reports
of their immense numbers were simply absurd. The males were not
to be distinguished, in costume and weapons, from their
neighbours; and the "females" were all dark and dressed in
amorphous blue shirts. At last came an old man and woman of the
Huwaytát tribe, bringing for sale a quantity of liquefied butter.
They asked a price which would have been dear on the seaboard;
and naively confessed that they had taken us for pilgrims,--birds
to be plucked. But sheep and goats were not to be found in the
neighbourhood: yesterday we had failed to buy meat; and to-day
the young Shaykh, Sulaymán, was compelled to mount his dromedary
and ride afar in quest of it. The results were seven small sheep,
which, lean with walking, cost eleven dollars; and all were
slaughtered before they had time to put on fat.

During our stay a pitiable object, with a hide- bandaged lower
leg, often limped past the tents; and, thinking the limb broken,
I asked the history of the accident. Our hero, it appears, was a
doughty personage, famed for valour, who had lately slipped into
the Juhayni country with the laudable intention of "lifting" a
camel. He had, indeed, "taken his sword, and went his way to rob
and steal," under the profound conviction that nothing could be
more honourable--in case of success. He was driving off the
booty, when its master sallied out to recover the stolen goods by
force and by arms. Both bared their blades and exchanged cuts,
when the Baliyy found that his old flamberge was too blunt to do
damage. Consequently he had the worse of the affair; a slicing of
the right hand forced him to drop his "silly sword." He then
closed with his adversary, who again proved himself the better
man, throwing the assailant, and at the same time slashing open
his left leg. The wounded man lay in the "bush" till he gathered
strength to "dot and go one" homewards. Amongst these tribes the
Diyat, or "blood-money," reaches eight hundred dollars;
consequently men will maim, but carefully avoid killing, one

The evening of our halt, with its lurid haze and its ominous
brooding stillness, was distinguished by a storm, a regular Arab
affair, consisting of dust by the ton to water by the drop. This
infliction of the "fearful fiend, Samiel, fatal to caravans,"
began in the west. A cloud of red sand advanced like a
prairie-fire at headlong speed before the mighty rushing wind,
whose damp breath smelt of rain; and presently the mountain-rim
was veiled in brown and ruddy and purple earth-haze. A bow in the
eastern sky strongly suggested, in the apparent absence of a
shower, refraction by dust--if such thing be possible. We were
disappointed, by the sinister wind, in our hopes of collecting a
bottle of rain-water for the photographer; nor did the storm,
though it had all the diffused violence of a wintry gale,
materially alter the weather. The next two nights were brisk and
cool, but the afternoons blew either the Khamsín ("south-wester")
or the Azyab ("south-easter").

The only Bedawi tradition concerning the Bada' plain is the
following. Many centuries ago, some say before the Apostle, the
Baliyy held the land, which was a valley of gardens, a foretaste
of Irem; the people were happy as the martyrs of Paradise, and
the date-trees numbered two thousand. The grove then belonged to
a certain Ibn Mukarrib, who dwelt in it with his son and a slave,
not caring to maintain a large guard of Arabs. Consequently he
became on bad terms with the Ahámidah-Baliyy tribe, who began
systematically to rob his orchard. At last one of a large
plundering party said to him, "O Ibn Mukarrib! wilt thou sell
this place of two thousand (trees), and not retreat (from thy
bargain)?" He responded "Buy!" (i.e. make an offer). The other,
taking off his sandal, exclaimed. "With this!" and the
proprietor, in wrath, rejoined, "I have sold!"

Ibn Mukarrib then arose and went forth, with his son and the
slave, to the place whence came the water (that fed the palms):
this he closed up, and fared towards the north. One day it so
happened that the three were sitting under the shade of a
Marakh-tree and eating its berries. Quoth the sire to the son,
"Say, which is the sweeter, the eating of the Marakh fruit or the
dates of our orchard?" And the youth rejoined, "O my father! far
sweeter is the eating of the fruit of our palm-yard;" when his
sire at once arose and slew him with the sword (to wipe away the
disgrace of such want of manliness).

Then Ibn Mukarrib turned to the slave, and asked him the question
which he had asked of his son. Whereupon the slave replied in
this quatrain:

"Eating wild grain in the house of respect;
And not eating dates in the house of contempt:
And walking in honour but a single day;
And not sitting in disgrace for a thousand years!"

Ibn Mukarrib, pleased with these words, forthwith adopted the
slave; both marched to the north and dwelt there till the end of
their days. The palm-trees, deprived of irrigation, all died; and
Bújat-Badá, the beautiful, became a wilderness. About twenty
years ago, the wells were reopened and the dates were replanted.
So much for the past: as for the future, we may safely predict
that, unless occupied by a civilized people, the Badá plain will
again see worse times. Nothing would be easier than to rebuild
the town, and to prepare the basin for irrigation and
cultivation; but destruction is more in the Bedawi line.

Chapter XVIII.
Coal a "Myth"--March to Marwát--Arrival at the Wady Hamz.

Before leaving Badá I was careful to make all manner of inquiries
concerning stone-coal; and the guides confirmed the suspicions
which had long suggested themselves. His Highness the Viceroy had
laid great stress upon the search: the first question to me on
return was whether the fuel had been found; and a shade of
disappointment appeared when the answer distinctly declared it a

This coal, it appears, is an old story. My learned friend
Sprenger wrote to me (June 13, 1877): "It is likely that west of
Marwa, on the way to Hawrá (which lies on the sea-shore), coal is
found: I confess that the prospect of discovering much coal in
Arabia does not appear to me very great; still it would be worth
while to make inquiries." Subsequently (December 8, 1877), he
gave up all hopes of the pure mineral, but he still clave to
bituminous schist. El-Mukaddasi (p. 103),[EN#68] treating of the
marvels of the land, has the following passage unconnected with
those which precede and succeed it:--"A fire arose between
El-Marwat and El-Haurá, and it burned, even as charcoal (el-Fahm)
burns." Probably Sprenger had read, "and it (the stone) burned as
charcoal burns," suggesting that the houses and huts were built
of inflammable material, like the bituminous schist of the
Brazil; and that the Arabs were surprised to find them taking
fire. Evidently, however, the text refers to an eruption in one
of the many Harrahs or volcanic districts. El-Mukaddasi describes
the "houses artful (farihín, alluding to the Thamúdites in the
Koran, xxvi. 149), and made of admirable stone (alabaster?); over
the doors were knots (‘Ukúd), and ornaments (Turúh), and carvings

Landing at El-Wijh, I at once consulted our intelligent friend,
the Wakíl Mohammed Shahádah. He had sent for a camel-load of the
stuff, which, he declared, would not burn, although it had burned
his money. He then travelled in person to the Jebel el-Muharrak
("Burnt Mountain"), five short marches inland from El-Badá plain,
and behind its northern curtain, the Jibál el-Shafah. According
to him, El-Muharrak is part of the great Harrah; and the
unexplored Jaww, which lies north (?) of it, is a prolongation of
the Hismá plateau, here belonging to the Balawíyyah or
Baliyy-land. The mountain is tall and black, apparently
consisting of the "coal." Near its summit lies the Bir el-Shifá'
("Well of Healing"), a pit of cold sulphur-water, excellent for
the eyes; and generally a "Pool of Bethesda," whither Arabs flock
from afar. At Abá'l-Gezáz, Mohammed destroyed all our surviving
hopes by picking up a black stone which, he declared, belonged to
El-Muharrak. It was schist, with a natural fracture not unlike
coal, and weathered into the semblance of wood: unfortunately it
was hard as iron, and it did not contain an atom of bitumen.

At Badá old Shaykh ‘Afnán, whose tents are now pitched one day
ahead of us, was taken into consultation upon the subject. He
confirmed these statements of the Wakíl, adding that the Shafah
Mountains are a mere ridge, not the seaward walls of a plateau,
and that the land east of them is exactly that which we have
already traversed. He had bathed in the sulphur-water; he spoke
of brimstone being picked up on the hill-flanks, and he had heard
of El-Kohl (stibium, collyrium, antimony) being found about

These details, apparently authentic, did not tempt me to waste
precious time upon El-Muharrak. I do not yet despair, as has been
said, of finding coal in Arabia; but we must hardly expect
volcanic ground to yield it.

Our preparations for a march southwards were made under
difficulties. The Baliyy evidently like the prospect of some £6
per diem; and do not like the idea of approaching the frontier,
where their camels may be stolen. Every silly, childish pretext
was used to suggest delay. We ought not to move without seeing
the "Nazarenes' Ruin" at El-‘Arayfát. Again, I had sent a certain
Salim, a cousin of the Shaykh, with orders for fresh supplies
from El-Wijh: he was certain to miss us if we marched. Still
again, old ‘Afnán's dromedary had a thorn in the foot--u. s. w.

Nevertheless, an order was given for the return march on April

No matter how philosophical the traveller may be, I defy him not
to feel some emotion when, his Desert work being duly done, he
throws his leg over the saddle, and turn the animal's head
homewards--towards London. Such was our pleasant predicament;
for, though the détour would be considerable, and the delay still
more so, I could distinguish the bourne at the far end of the
very long perspective.

We were now in excellent marching order, not, however, including
the mules, of which two had broken down with sore backs, and the
others were breaking fast. The réveillé sounded at 3 to 3.30
p.m.; the "general" followed at four; and the start took place
immediately afterwards. The camels are wretched animals, that
work equally badly full and fasting: when hungry, they break
their halters to graze along the path; and when gorged they are
too lazy to go beyond a saunter of two miles an hour. Yet they
can work well when pushed: the man Sa'lim came up with us on the
evening of the fourth day, after a forced march of thirty-two

We took the track which crosses the Bújat-Badá to the south-east.
For a short way it was vilely rat-eaten; presently it issued upon
good, hard, stony ground; and, after four miles, it entered the
Wady el-Marwát. This gorge, marked by the Jebel Wásil, a round
head to the north, is a commonplace affair of trap and white
clay; broad, rough, and unpicturesque. The sole shows many piles
of dry stone, ruins of "boxes," in which the travelling Arab
passes the night, whilst his camels are tethered outside. The
watercourse heads in a Khuraytah, the usual rock-ladder; we
reached it after eleven miles' riding. Nájí, the sea-lawyer of
the party, assured us that we had not finished a third of the
way, when two-thirds would have been nearer the truth.

The Wady sides and head showed traces of hard work, especially
where three veins of snowy quartz had been deeply cut into. The
summit of the Col, some 2100 feet above sea-level, carried a fine
reef of "Marú," measuring eight feet at the widest, and trending
332° (mag.) Around it lay the usual barbarous ruins, mere
basements, surrounded by spalled stone: from this place I carried
off a portable Kufic inscription. The view down the regular and
tree-dotted slope of the Wady el-Marwát, as far as the flats of
Badá, was charming, an Argelèz without its over-verdure.

From the Col two roads lead to our day's destination. The short
cut to the right was reported stony: as most of our mules were
casting their irons and falling lame, I avoided it by the advice
of Furayj, thereby giving huge offence to old ‘Afnán. We followed
the long slope trending to the Wady el-Kurr, which drains the
notable block of that name. Seeing the Wakíl, and the others in
front, cutting over the root to prevent rounding a prodigiously
long tongue-tip, I was on the qui vive for the normal dodge; and
presently the mulatto Abdullah screamed out that the Nakb must be
avoided, as it was all rock. We persisted and found the path
almost as smooth as a main road. The object was to halt for the
night at a neighbouring water-hole in the rocks; and, when their
trick failed, the Baliyy with a naive infantine candour, talked
and laughed over their failure, sans vergogne and within earshot.

Despite the many Zawábahs ("dust-devils"), this was one of our
finest travelling days. After the usual ante-meridian halt, we
pushed on down the valley, meeting only a few donkey-drivers. At
2.15 p.m. (seven hours = twenty miles and a half), we reached the
beautiful ‘Ayn el-Kurr, some ten direct miles east of the Wady
Rábigh; and the caravan was only one hour behind us. This Wady is
a great and important affluent of the Wady el-Miyáh already
mentioned. The reach where we camped runs from north to south;
and the "gate" of porphyritic trap, red, green, yellow, and white
with clay, almost envelops the quartz-streaked granite. The walls
are high enough to give shade between eight a.m. and 2.15 p.m.;
and the level sole of the cleanest sand is dotted, near the right
side, with holes and pools of the sweetest water. Here "green
grow the rushes," especially the big-headed Kasbá (Arundo donax);
the yellow-tipped Namas or flags (Scirpus holoschænus) form a
dense thicket; the ‘Ushr, with its cork-like bark which makes the
best tinder, is a tree, not a shrub; and there are large natural
plantations of the saffron-flowered, tobacco-like Verbascum, the
Arab's Uzn el-Humár ("Donkey's Ear"). Add scattered clusters of
date-trees, domineering over clumps of fan-palm; and, lastly,
marvellous to relate, a few hundred feet of greensward, of
regular turf--a luxury not expected in North-Western Arabia--a
paradise for frogs and toads (Bufo vulgaris), grasshoppers, and
white pigeons; and you will sympathize with our enjoyment at the
‘Ayn el-Kurr. In such a place extensive ruins of the "Old Ones"
were to be expected. Apparently there is no trace of man beyond
Wasm on the rocks; a few old Bedawi graves in a dwarf Wady
inflowing from the west; a rude modern watercourse close above
its mouth, and Arab fences round the trimmed dates and newly set
palm shoots.

During the afternoon the Shaykhs came to us with very long faces.
At this season, and as long as the Baliyy are in the Shafah
uplands, the almost deserted frontier districts, which we are
about to enter, suffer from the Gaum, or razzia, of the
neighbouring ‘Anezah and the Juhaynah;--the two tribes, however,
not mixing. The bandits, numbering, they say, from fifty to
sixty, mounted on horses and dromedaries, only aspire to plunder
some poor devil-shepherd of a few camels, goats, and muttons.
They never attack in rear; they always sleep at night, save when
every moment is precious for "loot"-driving; and their weapons,
which may be deadly in the narrows, are despicable in the open

I suspected at first that this was another "dodge" to enhance the
services of our Arabs, but the amount of risk we were to run was
soon found out by consulting Furayj. He said that we must march
in rear of the caravan for a day or two; and that such attacks
were possible, but only once in a hundred cases. There might have
been treachery in camp; the Egyptian officers suggested that a
Baliyy scout could have been sent on to announce the approach of
a rich caravan. Accordingly, I ordered an evening review of our
"Remingtons;" and chose a large mark purposely, that the Bedawi
lookers-on might not have cause to scoff. The escort redeemed
many a past lâche, by showing that their weapons had been kept
bright and clean, and by firing neatly enough. The Baliyy, who
had never seen a breech-loader, were delighted; but one of our
party so disliked the smell of powder, that he almost quarrelled
with me for bringing him into such imminent deadly risk. He was
hardly to be blamed; his nerves had been terribly shaken by a
viper killed in his tent.

Next morning (April 6th) saw the most unpleasant of our marches.
The young Shaykh Sulaymán, accompanied by his cousin Sálim, set
out in the dark as éclaireurs: they were supposed to lead eight
or ten of the best matchlock-men, whereas I doubt whether the
whole camp contained that total. Presently it appeared that they
were alone, and the farce was hardly kept up through the next
day. At 5.15 a.m. we followed them, marching militairement, as my
friend Sefer Pasha had strongly advised at Cairo. It is no joke
to follow starveling beasts whose best speed seldom attains two
miles and a half per hour. However, the effect was excellent:
never had there been so little straggling; never had the
halting-places been reached in such good time and good order.

A pleasant surprise awaited us in the grandest display of quartz
that we had yet seen. The descent of the Wady el-Kurr seemed to
be as flat, stale, and profitless as possible, when "Mará"
appeared on the left side in mounds, veins, and strews. Presently
we turned south, and passed the brackish well, El-Hufayrah ("the
Little Pit"), in a bay of the left bank, distant about eight
miles from our last camp. Here the whole Wady, some two miles
broad, was barred with quartz, in gravel of the same rock, and in
veins which, protruding from the dark schist, suggested that it
underlies the whole surface. Nothing more remarkable than the
variety of forms and tints mingling in the mighty mass--the
amorphous, the crystallized, the hyaline, the burnt; here mottled
and banded, there plain red and pink, green and brown, slaty and
chocolate, purple, kaolin-white; and, rarest of all,
honeycomb-yellow. The richest part was at the Majrá el-Kabsh
("Divide of the Ram"), where we alighted and secured specimens.

From this point the Wady el-Kurr flows down the right side of its
valley, and disappears to the west; while the far side of the
Majrá shows the Wady Gámirah (Kámirah), another influent of the
Wady el-Miyáh. Various minor divides led to the Wady el-Laylah,
where ruins were spoken of by our confidant, ‘Audah, although his
information was discredited by the Shaykhs. Quartz-hills now
appeared on either side, creamy-coated cones, each capped by its
own sparkle whose brilliancy was set off by the gloomy traps
which they sheeted and topped. In some places the material may
have been the usual hard, white, heat-altered clay; but the
valley-sole showed only the purest "Marú." The height of several
hills was nearly double that of the northern Jebel el-Abyaz; and
the reef-crests were apparently unworked.

After the march had extended to seven hours (= 18 miles), there
were loud complaints about its length, the venerable ‘Afnán
himself begging us to spare his camels--which, being interpreted,
meant spoiling our pockets. I therefore gave orders to camp in
the broad and open Wady Laylah. We were far from water, but the
evening was pleasant, and the night was still more agreeable.

At five a.m. next day (April 7th) we rode up the Wady Laylah,
which gave us another surprise, and an unexpected joy, in the
shifting scenery of the Jibál el-Safhah. The "Mountains of the
Plain," so called because they start suddenly from a dead level,
are a section of the Tihámat-Balawíyyah range; yet they are
worthy links of a chain which boasts of a Shárr. Rising hard on
our left, beyond the dull traps that hem in the Wadys, these
blocks, especially the lower features, the mere foot-hills,
assume every quaintest nuance of hue and form. The fawn-grey
colour, here shining as if polished by "slickensides," there dull
and roughened by the rude touch of Time, is a neutral ground that
takes all the tints with which sun and moon, mist and cloud,
paint and glaze the world: changeable as the chameleon's, the
coating is never the same for two brief hours. The protean shape,
seen in profile and foreshortened from the north or south,
appears a block bristling with "Pins" and points, horns and
beaks. Viewed from the east the range splits into a double line,
whose ranks have never been "dressed" nor sized; whilst a
diagonal prospect so alters their forms and relations that they
apparently belong to another range.

The background, lying upon the most distant visible plane, is the
white-streaked and regular wall of the Jebel el-Ward, which we
have already seen from the sea. Its northern foot-ranges are the
pale-white and jagged ‘Afayr, whose utter isolation makes it
interesting; and the low and long, the dark and dumpy Jebel
Tufayyah. It is separated by a broad valley from its southern
neighbour, the Jebel el-Ughlub, or El-Ghalab as some call it.
This typical block consists chiefly of a monstrous "Parrot's
Beak" of granite, continued by a long dorsum to the south. Its
outliers number four. These are, first, the Umm Natash, two sets
of perpendicular buttresses pressed together like sausages or
cigars. Then comes the Talát Muhajjah, a broken saddleback, whose
cantle from the south-east appears split into a pair of
steeple-like boulders--an architect of Alexander the Great's day
would have easily cut and trimmed them into such towers as the
world has never seen. Follows the Umm el-Natákah, bristling like
the fretful porcupine, and apparently disdaining to receive the
foot of man; while the last item, the Jebel el-Khausilah, has
outlines so thoroughly architectural that we seem to gaze upon a
pile of building.

About five miles behind or south of El-Khausilah runs the Wady
Hamz. Thus the two blocks, El-Ward and El-Ughlub, form the Safhah
proper. The line is continued, after a considerable break, by the
two blue and conical peaks in the Tihámat-Jahaníyyah, known as
the Jebelayn el-Rál. They are divided and drained to the Wady
Hamz by the broad Wady el-Sula'; and the latter is the short cut
down which the Egyptian Hajj, returning northwards from
El-Medínah, debouches upon the maritime plain of South Midian.

The Wady Laylah, draining both the Shafah and the Tihámah ranges,
including the block El-Ward, assumes, as usual, various names: we
shall follow it till it is received into the mighty arms of the
Wady Hamz, some three miles from the sea. After riding eight
hours, we sighted the long line of Daum-palms which announce the
approach to El-Birkah, "the Tank." Here the huge Fiumara,
sweeping grandly from north-east to south-west, forms a charming
narrow and a river-like run about a mile and a half
long--phenomenal again in sun-scorched Arabia. The water,
collecting under the masses of trap which wall in the left bank,
flows down for some distance in threads, à ciel ouvert, and
finally combines in a single large blue-green pool on the right
side. A turquoise set in enamel of the brightest verdure, it
attracts by its dense and shady beds of rushes a variety of
water-fowl--one of our Bedawin killed a black-headed duck with a
bullet, which spoilt it as a specimen. About the water-run are
dwarf enclosures, and even water-melons were sown; unhappily the
torrent came down and carried all away.

We halted near the upper spring at 8.20 a.m., after the usual
accident which now occurred daily about that hour. On this
occasion Lieutenant Yusuf's shoe stuck in the stirrup when he was
dismounting from an unsteady mule; the animal threw him, and he
had a somewhat narrow escape from being dragged to death. Man and
beast would have lingered long over the pleasures of watering and
refection, but I forced them onwards at nine a.m., whilst the hot
sun-rays were still tempered by the cool land-breeze. The threads
of water and the wet ground extended some two kilometres beyond
the Birkat. Further on was another fine "gate," whose eastern or
right jamb was the Jibál el-Tibgh, fronting the Wady M'jirmah.
The narrows showed two Arab wells, with the usual platform of dry
trunks that make a footing round the mouth. There was no break in
the continuity of the quartz: the black trap enclosed, here
sheets, there veins, and there almonds in puddings.

At the halting-place a "cerastes" (Echis carinata, Merr.), so
called from the warty hollows over the eyes (?), was brought to
me in a water-bag; the bearer transferred it to the spirit-bottle
by neatly thrusting a packing-needle through the head. The pretty
specimen of an amiable, and much oppressed, race did not show an
atom of vice. I cannot conceive what has caused the absurd
prejudice against snakes, even the most harmless. Perhaps we must
trace it to the curious resemblance of the profile, with the
flattened forehead, the steely bright eye, the formidable biting
apparatus, and the vanishing chin, to the genus woman, species
Lorette. It is hard to imagine that this little beast, which some
one called a "Cleopatra's hasp," could be fatal: its small bag
can hardly contain a couple of drops. Yet the vox populi is
distinctly against me.

The Shaykhs were anxious to push on for another half-hour, where,
they declared, a rain-hole is found in the next ravine, the Sha'b
el-Kahafah. But we had been privily told of another further down
the valley, at the Sha'b el-Hárr; and, although we much wanted a
bottleful for photography, we determined to run the risk. The
result is curious, showing how jealously water-secrets are kept
in these lands. The next thing I heard was that the water had
waxed salt; then it had dried up; and, lastly, it was in the best
condition, the truth being that there was none at all.
Consequently we were compelled to send back four camels and two
cameleers from our next camping-ground to the Kahafah. Venerable
‘Afnán made many a difficulty, and an uncommon favour, of risking
the plundering of the dromedaries and the lives of his caterans
by a razzia. The fellows set off after nightfall towards the
upper ravine, distant some two hours' slow march: they must there
have had a pleasant, refreshing sleep; and they did not return,
doubtless by order, till late next morning. This gave the Shaykhs
a good opportunity of fearing greatly for the safety of their
people, and of delaying our march as much as possible.

Resuming the road at 2.30 p.m., we entered the western
prolongation of the Wady el-Birkah. Here it becomes the Wady
Abá'l-‘Agág (‘Ajáj), and preserves that name till it anastomoses
with the Hamz. There have been some wells in the bed; but all are
now filled up, and water must be carried from El-Birkah. We
camped at a noble reach, garnished with a mimic forest of old
tamarisks, whose small voices, united in chorus, passably
imitated the mighty murmur of the sea. Our day's march had
covered a score of miles; hard work, considering the condition of
the mules.

After a splendid night, we set out London-wards at five a.m.,
April 8th, delayed, as has been said, by the politiké of the
Shaykhs. Moreover, one of the party, whose motto should have been
halt's maul, had remarked that the camels appeared fewer than
before--another reason for stopping to count them. Half an hour
placed us at a lower and a grander carrefour, abounding in fuel
and seducing with tamarisk-shade: its water is known as the Máyat
el-Badí'ah. Presently the hilly encasement of the Wady el-‘Ajáj
ended with El-‘Adrá, a red butte to the left, and the Jebel
el-Yakhmúm on the right. This knob was copiously veined with
quartz, of which a prodigious depôt, explored on the next day,
exists in the heights behind it. The Wady now flares out; we have
done with the Tihámah Mountains, and we are again in maritime
South Midian.

Although we were standing some four hundred feet above the
wassersspiegel, there was no view of the sea, and we had to cross
a wave of ground before we pulled off our hats to Father Neptune,
as he lay smiling in front of us. There was nothing monotonous in
the scene. The mirage raised high in air the yellow mound of Ras
Kurkumah ("Turmeric Head"), which bounded the water-line to the
south. Nearer, but still far to the left, ran the high right bank
of the Wady Hamz, sweeping with a great curve from north-east to
west, till it stood athwart our path. Knobby hills were scattered
over the plain; and on our right rose El-Juwayy, a black mound
with white-sided and scarred head, whose peculiar shape, a crest
upon a slope, showed us once more the familiar Secondary
formation of North-Western Arabia. Thus the gypsum has been
traced from the Sinaitic shore as far south as the Wady Hamz.

We rode sharply forwards, impatient to see the classical ruins,
leaving the caravan to follow us. The Girdi ("sand-rat") had
ceased to burrow the banks; but the jerboa had made regular
rabbit-warrens. At half-past seven we crossed a winding and
broad-spreading track, the upper Hajj-road, by which the Egyptian
Mahmal passes when returning from El-Medi'nah viâ the Wady Hamz.
A few yards further on showed us a similar line, the route taken
by the caravan when going to Meccah viâ Yambú', now distant five
marches. The two meet at the Wady Wafdíyyah, to the north-east of
the Abá'l-Marú range, which we shall visit to-morrow.

Shortly after 10 a.m. we crossed the deepest vein of the Wady
Hamz, urged the mules up the *stiff* left bank, and sprang from
the saddle to enjoy a first view of the Gasr (Kasr) Gurayyim

Chapter XIX.
The Wady Hamz--the Classical Ruin--Abá'l-Marú, the Mine of
"Marwah"--Return to El-Wijh--Résumé of the Southern Journey.

Before describing the Palace of Sa'íd the Brave, I must devote a
few lines to a notice of the Wady Hamz. The Wady Hamz, which has
been mentioned as the southern frontier of Egyptian Midian, and
the northern limit of the Ottoman Hejaz, is the most notable
feature of its kind upon the North-Western Arabian shore. Yet
Wallin has unjustifiably described and inscribed it "Wady Nejd,"
confusing it with a northern basin, whose mouth, the Salbah
(Thalbah), we passed before reaching Sharm Dumayghah. He appears
to identify it with the classical Wady el-Kura. Sprenger clean
ignores the name, although he mentions its branches; and of
course it is utterly neglected by the Hydrographic Chart. This
main approach to the Arabian interior is not a fissure, like the
vulgar Wadys, but rather an opening where the Gháts, or maritime
chain, break to the north and south. Distant one long or two
short marches from El-Wijh, its mouth is in north lat. 25° 55';
and it is said to head fifteen days inland, in fact beyond
El-Medínah, towards which it curves with a south-easterly bend.
It receives a multitude of important secondary valleys; amongst
which is the Wady el-‘Uwaynid, universally so pronounced. I
cannot help thinking that this is El-‘Aúníd of El-Mukaddasi,
which El-Idrísí (erroneously?) throws into the sea opposite
Nu'ma'n Island. If my conjecture prove true, we thus have a
reason why this important line has been inexplicably neglected.
Another branch is the Wady el-‘Is, Sprenger's "Al-‘Ys" (pp. 28,
29), which he calls "a valley in the Juhaynah country," and makes
the northern boundary of that tribe.

Ethnologically considered, the lower Wady Hamz is now the
southern boundary of the Balawíyyah (Baliyy country), and the
northern limit of the Jahaníyyah, or Juhaynah-land: the latter is
popularly described as stretching down coast to Wady Burmah, one
march beyond Yambú' (?). Higher up it belongs to the
Alaydán-‘Anezahs, under Shaykh Mutlak--these were the Bedawin
who, during our stay at the port, brought their caravan to
El-Wijh. Both tribes are unsafe, and they will wax worse as they
go south. Yet there is no difficulty in travelling up the Hamz,
at least for those who can afford time and money to engage the
escort of Shaykh Mutlak. A delay of twelve days to a fortnight
would be necessary, and common prudence would suggest the normal
precaution of detaining, as hostage in the seaboard settlement,
one of his Alaydán cousins. Water is to be found the whole way,
and the usual provisions are to be bought at certain places.

The following notes upon the ruins of the Wady Hamz were supplied
to me by the Baliyy Bedawin and the citizens of El-Wijh. Six
stages up the lower valley, whose direction lies nearly
north-east, lead to El-‘Ilá, Wallin's "Ela," which belongs to the
‘Anezah. Thence a short day, to the north with easting, places
the traveller at Madáin (not Madyan nor Medínat) Sálih--"the
cities of Sálih." The site is described to be somewhat off the
main valley, which is here broken by a Nakb (?); and those who
have visited both declared that it exactly resembles Nabathæan
Magháir Shu'ayb in extensive ruins and in catacombs caverning the

Also called El-Hijr, it is made by Sprenger (p. 20) the capital
of Thamuditis. This province was the head-quarters of the giant
race termed the "Sons of Anak" (Joshua xi. 21); the Thamudeni and
Thamudæ of Agatharkides and Diodorus; the Tamudæi of Pliny; the
Thamyditæ of Ptolemy; and the Arabian Tamúd (Thamúd), who,
extinct before the origin of El-Islam, occupied the seaboard
between El-Muwaylah and El-Wijh. Their great centre was the plain
El-Badá; and they were destroyed by a terrible sound from heaven,
the Beth-Kol of the Hebrews, after sinfully slaughtering the
miraculously produced camel of El-Sálih, the Righteous Prophet
(Koran, cap. vii.). The exploration of "Sálih's cities" will be
valuable if it lead to the collection of inscriptions
sufficiently numerous to determine whether the Tamúd were
Edomites, or kin to the Edomites; also which of the two races is
the more ancient, the Horites of Idumæa or the Horites in

And now to inspect the Gasr. The first sensation was one of
surprise, of the mental state which gave rise to the Italian's--

"Dear Columns, what do you here?
‘Not knowing, can't say, Mynheer!'"

And this incongruous bit of Greece or Rome, in the Arabian wild,
kept its mystery to the last: the more we looked at it, the less
we could explain its presence. Not a line of inscription, not
even a mason's mark--all dark as the grave; deaf-dumb as "the
olden gods."

The site of the Gasr is in north lat. 25° 55' 15";[EN#70] and the
centre of the Libn block bears from it 339° (mag.). It stands
upon the very edge of its Wady's left bank, a clifflet some
twenty-five feet high, sloping inland with the usual dark metal
disposed upon loose yellow sand. Thus it commands a glorious view
of the tree-grown valley, or rather valleys, beneath it; and of
the picturesque peaks of the Tihámat-Balawíyyah in the
background. The distance from the sea is now a little over three
miles--in ancient days it may have been much less.

The condition of the digging proves that the remains have not
long been opened: the Baliyy state less than half a century ago;
but exactly when or by whom is apparently unknown to them. Before
that time the locale must have shown a mere tumulus, a mound
somewhat larger than the many which pimple the raised valley-bank
behind the building. A wall is said to have projected above
ground, as at Uriconium near the Wrekin.[EN#71] This may have
suggested excavation, besides supplying material for the Bedawi
cemetery to the south-west. The torrent waters have swept away
the whole of the northern wall, and the treasure-seeker has left
his mark upon the interior. Columns and pilasters and bevelled
stones have been hurled into the Wady below; the large
pavement-slabs have been torn up and tossed about to a chaos; and
the restless drifting of the loose yellow Desert-sand will soon
bury it again in oblivion. The result of all such ruthless
ruining was simply null. The imaginative Nájí declared, it is
true, that a stone dog had been found; but this animal went the
way of the "iron fish," which all at El-Muwaylah asserted to have
been dug up at El-Wijh--the latter place never having heard of
it. Wallin (p. 316) was also told of a black dog which haunts the
ruins of Karáyyá, and acts guardian to its hidden treasures.
Years ago, when I visited the mouth of the Volta river on the
Gold Coast, the negroes of Cape Coast Castle were pleased to
report that I had unearthed a silver dog, at whose appearance my
companion, Colonel de Ruvignes, and myself fell dead. But why
always a dog? The "Palace" is a Roman building of pure style;
whether temple or nymphæum, we had no means of ascertaining. The
material is the Rughám or alabaster supplied by the Secondary
formation; and this, as we saw, readily crumbles to a white
powder when burnt. The people, who in such matters may be
trusted, declare that the quarries are still open at Abú
Makhárír, under the hills embosoming Abá'l-Marú. We should have
been less surprised had the ruin been built of marble, which
might have been transported from Egypt; but this careful and
classical treatment of the common country stone, only added to
the marvel.

It must have been a bright and brilliant bit of colouring in its
best days--hence, possibly, the local tradition that the stone
sweats oil. The whole building, from the pavement to the coping,
notched to receive the roof-joists, is of alabaster, plain-white
and streaked with ruddy, mauve, and dark bands, whose mottling
gives the effect of marble. Perhaps in places the gypsum has been
subjected to plutonic action; and we thought that the coloured
was preferred to the clear for the bases of the columns. The
exposed foundations of the eastern and western walls, where the
torrent has washed away the northern enceinte, show that, after
the fashion of ancient Egypt, sandstone slabs have been laid
underground, the calcaire being reserved for the hypaethral part.
The admirable hydraulic cement is here and there made to take the
place of broken corners, and flaws have been remedied by
carefully letting in small cubes of sound stone. There are also
cramp-holes for metal which, of course, has been carried off by
the Bedawin: the rusty stains suggest iron.

The building is square-shaped, as we see from the western wall,
and it evidently faced eastward with 25° (mag.) of southing. This
orientation, probably borrowed from the Jews, was not thoroughly
adopted in Christendom till the early fifth century, when it
became a mos. The southern wall, whose basement is perfect, shows
everywhere a thickness of 0.95 centimetre, and a total length of
8 metres 30 centimetres. At 2 metres 87 centimetres from the
south-western corner is a slightly raised surface, measuring in
length 2 metres 15 centimetres. Mr. James Fergusson supposes that
this projection, which directly fronts the eastern entrance, was
the base of the niche intended for the image. On each side of the
latter might have been a smaller colonette, which would account
for the capital carried off by us to Egypt. Thus, adding 2 metres
87 centimetres for the northern end swept into the valley, we
have a length of 7 metres 89 centimetres; and the additional half
thickness of the east wall would bring it to a total of 8 metres
30 centimetres.

The shrine was not in antis, and the site hardly admits of a
peristyle; besides which, excavations failed to find it. That it
might have had a small external atrium is made probable by the
peculiarity of the entrance. Two rounded pilasters, worked with
the usual care inside, but left rough in other parts because they
could not be seen, were engaged in the enceinte wall, measuring
here, as elsewhere, 0.95 centimetre in thickness. Nothing
remained of them but their bases, whose lower diameters were 0.95
centimetre, and the upper 0.65; the drums found elsewhere also
measured 0.65. The interval between the lowest rings was 1 metre
63 centimetres; and this would give the measure of the doorway,
here probably a parallelogram. Lying on the sand-slope to the
north, a single capital showed signs of double brackets, although
both have been broken off:[EN#72] the maximum diameter across the
top was 0.60 centimetre, diminishing below to 0.50 and 0.44,
whilst the height was 0.40. The encircling wall was probably
adorned with pilasters measuring 0.62 centimetre below, 0.45
above, and 0.11 in height: they are not shown in the plan; and I
leave experts to determine whether they supported the inside or
the outside surface. Several stones, probably copings, are cut
with three mortice-joints or joist-holes, each measuring 0.15
centimetre, at intervals of 0.14 to 0.15.

In the tossed and tumbled interior of this maison carrée the
pavement-slabs, especially along the south-western side, appear
in tolerable order and not much disturbed; whilst further east a
long trench from north to south had been sunk by the treasure
seeker. The breadth of the free passage is 1 metre 92
centimetres; and the disposal suggested an inner peristyle,
forming an impluvium. Thus the cube could not have been a heroön
or tomb. Four bases of columns, with a number of drums, lie in
the heap of ruins, and in the torrent-bed six, of which we
carried off four. They are much smaller than the pilasters of the
entrance; the lower tori of the bases measure 0.60 centimetre in
diameter, and 0.20 in height (to 0.90 and 0.25), while the drums
are 0.45, instead of 0.65. It is an enormous apparatus to support
what must have been a very light matter of a roof. The only
specimen of a colonette-capital has an upper diameter of 0.26, a
lower of 0.17, and a height of 0.16.

Although the Meccan Ka'bah is, as its name denotes, a "cube,"
this square alabaster box did not give the impression of being
either Arab or Nabathæan. The work is far too curiously and
conscientiously done; the bases and drums, as the sundries
carried to Cairo prove, look rather as if turned by machinery
than chiselled in the usual way. I could not but conjecture that
it belongs to the days of such Roman invasions as that of Ælius
Gallus. Strabo[EN#73] tells us of his unfortunate friend and
companion, that, on the return march, after destroying
Negrán[EN#74] (Pliny, vi. 32), he arrived at Egra or Hegra
(El-‘Wijh), where he must have delayed some time before he could
embark "as much of his army as could be saved," for the opposite
African harbour, Myus Hormus. It is within the limits of
probability that this historical personage[EN#75] might have
built the Gasr, either for a shrine or for a nymphæum, a
votive-offering to the Great Wady, which must have cheered his
heart after so many days of "Desert country, with only a few
watering-places." Perhaps an investigation of the ruins at Ras
Kurkumah and the remains of Madáin Sálih may throw some light
upon the mystery. In our travel this bit of classical temple was

Mr. Fergusson, whose authority in such matters will not readily
be disputed, calls the building a small shrine; and determines
that it can hardly be a tomb, as it is hypæthral. The only
similar temple known to him is that of "Soueideh" (Suwaydah), in
the Haurán (De Vogüé, "Syrie Centrale," Plate IV.). The latter,
which is Roman, and belonging to the days of Herod Augustus, has
a peristyle here wanting: in other respects the resemblance is

M. Lacaze photographed, under difficulties such as bad water and
a most unpleasant drift of sand-dust, the interior of the
building, the stones lying in the Wady below, and the various
specimens which we carried off for the inspection of his Highness
the Viceroy. Meanwhile we "pottered about," making small
discoveries. The exposed foundations of the north-western wall,
where the slabs of grit rest upon the sands of the cliff,
afforded signs of man in the shape of a jaw-bone, with teeth
apparently modern; and above it, in the terreplein, we dug down
upwards of a yard, without any result beyond unearthing a fine
black scorpion. The adjoining Arab graveyard, adorned with the
mutilated spoils of the classical building, gave two imperfect
skulls and four fragments. We opened one of the many mounds that
lie behind the Gasr, showing where most probably stood the ruined
town; and we found the interior traversed by a crumbling wall of
cut alabaster--regular excavation may some day yield important
results. A little to the south-west lies a kind of ossuary, a
tumulus slightly raised above the wavy level, and showing a
central pit choked with camels' bones: at least, we could find no

And here I was told the Arab legend by the Wakíl; who, openly
deriding the Bedawi idea that the building could be a "Castle,"
opined that it was a Kanísah, a "Christian or pagan place of
worship." Gurayyim Sa'íd, "Sa'íd the Brave," was an African
slave, belonging to an Arab Shaykh whose name is forgotten. One
day it so happened that a razzia came to plunder his lord, when
the black, whose strength and stature were equal to his courage
and, let us add, his appetite, did more than his duty. Thus he
obtained as a reward the promise of a bride, his master's
daughter. But when the day of danger was past, and the slave
applied for the fair guerdon, the Shaykh traitorously refused to
keep his word. The Brave, finding a fit opportunity, naturally
enough carried off the girl to the mountains; solemnly thrashed
every pursuing party; and, having established a "reign of
terror," came to the banks of the Wady Hamz, and built the
"Palace" for himself and his wife. But his love for
butcher's-meat did not allow him to live happily ever after. As
the land yielded little game, he took to sallying out every day
and carrying off a camel, which in the evening he slew, and
roasted, and ate, giving a small bit of it to his spouse. This
extravagance of flesh-diet ended by scandalizing the whole
country-side, till at last the owner of the plundered herds,
Diyáb ibn Ghánim, one of the notables celebrated in the romance
called Sírat Abu' Zayd,[EN#76] assembled his merry men, attacked
the Gurayyim, and slew him. Wa' s' salám!

Here Egypt ends. We have done our work--

"And now the hills stretch home."

I must, however, beg the reader to tarry with me awhile. The next
march to the north will show him what I verily believe to be the
old gold-mine lying around El-Marwah. It acquires an especial
interest from being the northernmost known to the mediaeval

El-Mukaddasi (vol. I. p. 101), in an article kindly copied by my
friend, the Aulic Councillor, Alfred Von Kremer, says, "Between
Yambú' and El-Marwah are mines of gold;" adding ("Itinerary,"
vol. i. p. 107) the following route directions: "And thou takest
from El-Badr (‘the New Moon')[EN#77] to El-Yambú' two stages;
thence to the Ras el-‘Ayn (?),[EN#78] one stage; again to the
mine (subaudi, of gold), one stage; and, lastly, to El-Marwah,
two stages. And thou takest from El-Badr to El-Jár[EN#79] one
stage; thence to El-Jahfah (?), or to El-Yambu', two stages each.
And thou takest from El-Jiddah (Jedda) to El-Jár, or to
El-Surrayn (?), four stages each. And thou takest from El-Yasrib
(Jatrippa or El-Medínah) to El-Suwaydíyyah (?), or to Batn
el-Nakhil (?), two stages each; and from El-Suwaydíyyah to
El-Marwah, an equal distance (i.e. four marches); and from the
Batn el-Nakhil to the mine of silver, a similar distance. And if
thou seek the Jáddat Misr,[EN#80] then take from El-Marwah to
El-Sukyá[EN#81] (?), and thence to Badá Ya'kúb,[EN#82] three
marches; and thence to El-‘Aúníd, one march." Hence Sprenger
would place Zú'l-Marwah "four days from El-Hijr, on the western
road to Medina;" alluding to the western (Syrian) road, now

And now for our march. On the finest possible morning (April
9th), when the world was all ablaze with living light, I walked
down the Wady Hamz. It has been abundantly supplied with water;
in fact, the whole vein (thalweg) subtending the left bank would
respond to tapping. The well El-Kusayr, just below the ruin,
though at present closed, yielded till lately a large quantity:
about half a mile to the westward is, or rather was, a saltish
pit surrounded by four sweet. Almost all are now dry and filled
up with fuel. A sharp trudge of three-quarters of an hour leads
to the Bir el-Gurnah (Kurnah), the "Well of the Broad," in a
district of the same name, lying between the ruin and the shore.
It is a great gash in the sandy bed: the taste of the turbid
produce is distinctly sulphurous; and my old white mule, being
dainty in her drink, steadfastly refused to touch it. The
distinct accents of the Red Sea told us that we were not more
than a mile from its marge.

We then struck north-east, over the salt maritime plain, till we
hit the lower course of the Wady Umm Gilifayn (Jilifayn). It
heads from the seaward base of the neighbouring hills; and its
mouth forms a Marsá, or "anchorage-place," for native craft. A
little to the north stands the small pyramidal Tuwayyil
el-Kibrít, the "little Sulphur Hill," which had been carefully
examined by MM. Marie and Philipin. A slow ride of eight miles
placed us in a safe gorge draining a dull-looking, unpromising
block. Here we at once found, and found in situ for the first
time, the chalcedony which strews the seaboard-flat. This agate,
of which amulets and signet-rings were and are still made, and
which takes many varieties of tints, lies in veins mostly
striking east-west; and varying in thickness from an inch to
several feet. The sequence is grey granite below, the band of
chalcedony, and above it a curious schistose gneiss-formation.
The latter, composing the greater part of these hills, is striped
dark-brown and yellow; and in places it looks exactly like rotten
wood. The small specimens of chalcedony in my private collection
were examined at Trieste, and one of them contained dendritic
gold, visible to the naked eye. Unfortunately the engineer had
neglected this most important rock, and only a few ounces of it,
instead of as many tons, were brought back for analysis.

A short and easy ascent led to a little counter-slope, the Majrá
Mujayrah (Mukayrah), whose whitening sides spoke of quartz. We
rode down towards a granite island where the bed mouths into the
broad Wady Mismáh, a feeder of the Wady ‘Argah. Here, after some
ten miles, the guide, Na'ji', who thus far had been very misty in
the matter of direction, suddenly halted and, in his showman
style, pointed to the left bank of the watercourse, exclaiming,
"Behold Abá'l-Marú!" (the "Father of Quartz"). It was another
surprise, and our last, this snowy reef with jagged crest, at
least 500 metres long, forming the finest display of an exposed
filon we had as yet seen; but--the first glance told us that it
had been worked.

We gave the rest of the day to studying and blasting the
quartz-wall. It proved to be the normal vein in grey granite,
running south-north and gradually falling towards the
valley-plain. Here a small white outlier disappears below the
surface, rising again in filets upon the further side. The dip is
easterly: in this direction a huge strew of ore-mass and rubbish
covers the slope which serves as base to the perpendicular reef.
The Negro quartz, which must have formed half the thickness, had
been carried bodily away. If anything be left for the moderns it
is hidden underground: the stone, blasted in the little outlier,
looked barren. Not the least curious part of this outcrop is the
black thread of iron silicate which, broken in places, subtends
it to the east: some specimens have geodes yielding brown powder,
and venal cavities lined with botryoidal quartz of amethystine
tinge. In other parts of the same hills we found, running along
the "Mará," single and double lines of this material, which
looked uncommonly like slag.

The open Wady Mismáh showed, to the east of our camp, the ruins
of a large settlement which has extended right across the bed: as
the guides seemed to ignore its existence, we named it the
Kharábat Abá'l-Marú. Some of the buildings had been on a large
scale, and one square measured twenty yards. Here the peculiarity
was the careful mining of a granitic hillock on the southern
bank. The whole vein of Negro quartz had been cut out of three
sides, leaving caves that simulated catacombs. Further west
another excavation in the same kind of rock was probably the
town-quarry. The two lieutenants were directed next morning to
survey this place, and also a second ruin and reef reported to be
found on the left bank, a little below camp.

We have now seen, lying within short distances, three several
quartz-fields, known as--Marwah, "the single Place or Hill of
Maú'" (quartz); Marwát, "the Places of Quartz;" and Abá'l-Marú,
the "Father of Quartz;" not to speak of a Nakb Abú Marwah[EN#83]
further north. The conclusion forced itself upon me that the name
of the celebrated Arab mine Zú'l Marwah or El-Marwah, the more
ancient (Mochura), which Ptolemy places in north
lat. 24° 30', applied to the whole district in South Midian, and
then came to denote the chief place and centre of work. To judge
by the extent of the ruins, and the signs of labour, this focus
was at Umm el-Karáyát (the "Mother of the Villages"), which, as
has been shown, is surrounded by a multitude of miner-towns and
ateliers. And the produce of the "diggings" would naturally
gravitate to El-Badá, the great commercial station upon the
Nabathæan "Overland."

Thus El-Marwah would signify "the Place of Marú," or
"Quartz-land," even as Ophir means "Red Land." A reviewer of my
first book on Midian objects to the latter derivation; as
Seetzen, among others, has conclusively shown that Ophir, the
true translation of which is ‘riches,' is to be looked for in
Southern Arabia." Connu! But I question the "true translation;"
and, whilst owning that one of the Ophirs or "Red Lands" lay in
the modern Yemen, somewhere between Sheba (Sabá) and Havilah
(Khaulán), I see no reason for concluding that this was the only
Ophir. Had it been a single large emporium on the Red Sea, which
collected the produce of Arabia and the exports of India and of
West Africa, the traditional site could hardly have escaped the
notice of the inquiring Arabian geographers of our Middle Ages.
The ruins of a port would have been found, and we should not be
compelled theoretically to postulate its existence.

* * * * * *

And now nothing remained but to escape as quickly as possible
from the ugly Wady Mismáh; with its violent, dusty wester, or
sea-breeze, and its sun-glare which, reflected and reverberated
by the quartz, burned the grass and made the trees resemble
standing timber.

April 10th saw the last of our marches, a hurry back to the
stable, a sauve qui peut. The camel-men, reckless of orders,
began to load and to slip away shortly after midnight. Ali Marie,
who, as usual, had lost his head, when ordered to enjoin silence
gave the vain and vague direction, "Tell the Arabs to tell the
camels not to make so much noise." Even the bugler sounded the
"general" of his own accord; and the mules, now become painfully
intelligent, walked as if they knew themselves to be walking
homewards. Our last stage lay over the upper skirts of the
maritime plain which has already been noticed. At 10.15 am.,
after riding five hours and thirty minutes (= seventeen miles),
we found ourselves once more upon the seaboard. Our kind host,
Captain Hasan Bey, came to meet us in his gig: the quarter-deck
had been dressed with flags, as for a ball; and before twelve
bells struck, we had applied ourselves to an excellent breakfast
in the gun-room of our old favourite, the Sinnár. The auspicious
day of course ended with a fantasia.

Résumé of Our Last Journey.

We had left the Sharm Yáhárr on March 21st, and returned to it on
April 13th; a total of twenty-four days. Our actual march through
South Midian, which had lasted thirteen days (March 29--April
10), described a semicircle with El-Wijh about the middle of the
chord. The length is represented by 170 miles in round numbers:
as usual, this does not include the various offsets and the
by-paths explored by the members; nor do the voyages to El-Wijh
and El-Haurá, going and coming, figure in the line of route. The
camels varied from fifty-eight to sixty-four, when specimens were
forwarded to the harbour-town. The expenditure amounted to£92
13s., including pay and "bakhshísh" to the Baliyy Shaykhs, but
not including our friends the Sayyid, Furayj, and the Wakíl
Mohammed Shahádah.

This southern region differs essentially from the northern, which
was twice visited, and which occupied us two months, mostly
wasted. Had we known what we do now, I should have begun with the
south, and should have devoted to it the greater part of our
time. Both are essentially mining countries; but, whilst the
section near Egypt preserves few traces of the miner, here we
find the country carefully and conscientiously worked. The whole
eastern counterslope of the outliers that project from the
Ghát-section known as the mountains of the Tihámat-Balawíyyah, is
one vast outcrop of quartz. The parallelogram between north lat.
26 degrees, including the mouth of the Wady Hamz, and north lat.
27°, which runs some fifteen miles north of the Badá plain, would
form a Southern Grant, sufficiently large to be divided and
subdivided as soon as judged advisable.

If the characteristics of North Midian (Madyan Proper) are its
argentiferous, and especially its cupriferous ores, South Midian
worked chiefly gold and silver, both metals being mentioned by
the mediaeval geographers of Arabia. Free gold in paillettes was
noticed by the Expedition in the micaceous schists veining the
quartz, and in the chalcedony which parts the granite from the
gneiss. The argentiferous Negro quartz everywhere abounds, and
near the ruins of Badá lie strews of spalled "Marú," each
fragment showing its little block of pure lead. Saltpetre is
plentiful, and a third "Sulphur hill" rises from the maritime
plain north of the Wady Hamz.

The principal ruins and ateliers number five; these, beginning
from the north, are the Umm el-Karáyát, the Umm el-Haráb, the
Bújat-Badá, the Kharábat Abá'l-Marú, and the old Nabathean port,
E1-Haurá. Amongst them is not included the gem of our discovery,
the classical shrine, known as Gasr Gurayyim Sa'íd, nor the minor
ateliers, El-Kubbah, Abá'l-Gezáz, and the remains upon the Marwát
ridge. Good work was done by the Egyptian Staff-officers in
surveying the fine harbour of El-Dumayghah, so well fitted as a
refuge for pilgrim-ships when doing quarantine; and I venture
upon recommending, to the English and Egyptian Governments, my
remarks concerning the advisability of at once re-transferring
the station to El-Wijh. It is now at Tor; and, as has been said,
it forms a standing menace, not only to the Nile Valley, but to
the whole of Europe.

Whilst abounding in wood, the Southern Country is not so well
watered as are Central and Northern Midian On the other hand, the
tenants, confined to the Baliyy tribe, with a few scatters of the
despised Hutaym, are milder and more tractable than the Huwaytát.
As I have remarked, they are of ancient strain, and they still
conserve the instincts of their predecessors, or their
forefathers, the old mining race. It will be necessary to defend
them against the raids and incursions of the Juhaynah, or "Sons
of Dogs," who border upon them to the south, and from the
Alaydán-‘Anezah to the south-east; but nothing would be easier
than to come to terms with the respective Shaykhs. And the sooner
we explore the Jaww, or sandstone region in the interior, with
its adjacent "Harrahs," the better for geography and, perhaps not
less, for mineralogy. The great ruins of Madáin Sálih upon the
Wady Hamz still, I repeat, await the discoverer.


The next day saw us at El-Wijh, dispensing pay and "bakhshísh" to
the companions of our Desert march; and shipping the men and
mules, with the material collected during the southern journey.
The venerable Shaykh ‘Afnán and his Baliyy were not difficult to
deal with; and they went their way homewards fully satisfied. We
exchanged a friendly adieu, or rather an au revoir, with our
excellent travelling companion, Mohammed Shahádah; and I
expressed my sincere hopes to find him, at no distant time,
governor of the restored Quarantine-station.

On the morning of April 12th we set out betimes, and anchored for
the night in one of the snug bays of Jebel Nu'man. The next day
placed us at the Sharm Yáhárr, where the process of general
distribution happily ended. Here the final parting took place
with the gallant companions of our four months' travel. Shaykh
Furayj, delighted with the gift, in addition to his pay, of a
Styrian skean-dhu and an Austrian Werndl-carbine, at once set off
to rejoin the tribe up-country; while the Sayyid steadfastly
stayed with us to the last. These men had become our friends; and
my sorrow at leaving them was softened only by the prospect of
presently seeing them again.

Immediately after my return to Cairo I strongly recommended the
Sayyid for promotion, in these words:--"First and foremost is the
Sayyid ‘Abd el-Rahím, the head of a noble family, settled for
generations at El-Muwayláh, where he is now Kátib (‘accountant')
to the Fort. He knows thoroughly the whole Land of Midian; he is
loved and respected by all the Arabs, and both he and his are
devoted to the Government of your Highness. Evidently it would be
advantageous to promote such a man to the post of governor of the
place--a post which will presently become of high importance, and
which is actually held by an old officer, almost bed-ridden.

"The second is Shaykh Mohammed Shahádah, of El-Wijh, a man of
family and position; known far and wide, and made generally
popular by his generous and charitable actions. He was formerly
Wakíl, or ‘agent,' to the Fort el-Wijh, until that office was
abolished. The port will presently have its custom-house; and I
propose forwarding to her Britannic Majesty's Government my notes
upon the subject of the Quarantine-station, which has imprudently
been transferred from Arabia to Tor, in the Sinaitic Peninsula.
Meanwhile it would, I venture to suggest, be most advantageous if
Mohammed Shahádah were named governor of his native place."

The Expedition, in its urgent desire to return northwards, was
not seconded by weather. Despite an ugly gale, the Sinnár boldly
attempted giving the slip to Arabia on April 16th, but she was
beaten back before she reached El-Muwaylah. After another stormy
day, we again got up steam; and, fighting hard against adverse
winds and waves, greatly to the distress of the unfortunate mules
and gazelles, we reached Suez on April 20th.

At Suez my wife had been awaiting me for long weeks, preferring
the simplicity of the Desert to the complex life of Cairo. Some
delay was again necessary in order to telegraph our arrival, to
apply for a special train, and to sort and pack in the
travelling-cases our twenty-five tons of specimens. As often
happens, the return to civilization was in nowise cheery.
Everything seemed to go wrong. For instance, the Dragoman
despatched to town from the New Docks in order to lay in certain
comforts, such as beef and beer, prudently laid out the coin in a
brand-new travelling suit intended for his own service. Such an
apology for a dinner had not been seen during the last four
months of wild travel--unpleasant when guests have been bidden to
a feast! The night at the Docks, also, was a trifle mortuary,
over-silent and tranquil: all hands, officers and men, who could
not get leave to sleep ashore, simply took leave--I believe
myself to have been for a time both captain and crew of the
Sinnár. And, lastly, we heard that both our dog-companions, Juno
and Páijí, had died of some canine epidemic.

The next day ended our halt at Suez, with visits to slop-shops
and a general discussion of choppes. The old hotel, under the
charge of Mr. and Mrs. Adams, had greatly improved by the
"elimination" of the offensive Hindi element; and my old friends
of a quarter-century's standing received me with all their wonted
heartiness. Sa'íd Bey was still a Bey, but none the less jovial
and genial; Captain Ali Bey, who had commanded the Sinnár, was
now acting commodore; and my only regret was having again missed
Colonel Gordon (Pasha).

April 22nd convinced us that, even in these prosaic regions, our
misadventures and accidents had not reached their fated end. A
special train had been organized by Hanafi Effendi for eight a.m.
About ten miles from Suez one of the third-class carriages began
"running hot;" and, before we could dismount, the axle-box of a
truck became a young Vesuvius in the matter of vomiting smoke. I
ordered the driver, who was driving furiously, to make half
speed; but even with this precaution there were sundry stoppages;
and at the Naffíshah station, where my Bolognese acquaintances
still throve, we could not be supplied with a change of
"rolling-stock." About Tell el-Kabír, the brake-van also waxed
unsafely warm; but it reached Zagázig without developing more
caloric. Briefly, we caught fire three times in one morning.

These accidents must always be expected, where spare carriages
are placed for months upon sidings to become tinder in the sun;
and where the cracks and crevices of the woodwork fill up with
the silicious sand of the Desert, an admirable succedaneum for
flint and steel. One consolation, however, remained to us: the
Dragoman, brand-new clothes and all, was left behind at Suez. His
last chef d'œuvre of blundering has already been
noticed[EN#84]--the barrel of Midianitish oysters sent to Admiral
M'Killop (Pasha) had been so carelessly headed up, and so
carefully turned topsy-turvy, that the result was, to use my
friend's words, they could be nosed from the half-way station.
The "Kyrios" had probably passed a Bacchanalian night with his
Hellenic friends, and he subsequently made act of presence at
Cairo with a very British-looking black eye. His accident at Suez
was a bit of "poetical justice," which almost convinced one of
the "moral government."

A succulent breakfast à la fourchette, in the charming garden of
our friend M. Vetter, of Zagázig, duly discussed, we again went
"on board," amusing the lookers-on by our naive enjoyment of the
Nile-valley: they had not been in Arabia, and they found the
"emerald-green" dusty and yellow. We reached Cairo at 5.30 p.m.
More troubles! Ten minutes after arrival we found ourselves in
possession, in sole charge of the gare. The train was loaded with
Government property, officers, soldiers and escort, mules, boxes
and bags of specimens whose collecting had cost money. Yet
station-master, agent, and employés at once went their ways,
declining even to show the room allotted to our goods, although a
telegram from the railway authorities had advised me that one had
been made ready. The assistant-agent, when at last hunted up,
declared, before vanishing once more, that the porters for whom
we applied were busy loading cotton, and that we must e'en do the
best we could for ourselves. So the waggons were shunted and
unloaded by their tenants, and the minerals were deposited under
a kind of shed whose key was not forthcoming. We failed to find
even a light, till the local train from Suez was announced; and,
when it began whistling, the officials, who had returned like
rats from their holes, gave us peremptory directions to shunt
again. This time, however, I had the game in my hands; and
replied by taking due precautions against being turned out.

At first the soldier-escort worked as well as could be expected;
but the numbers fell off every quarter of an hour, till we were
left with a very select party; the only recipients, by-the-by, of
"bakhshísh." The Sub-Lieutenant Mohammed Effendi mounted a donkey
the moment he stepped out of the R.R. carriage; and, utterly
disregarding so vexatious a frivolity as asking leave, rode off
to his home at Torah. His example was followed by the Sergeant
Mabrúk ‘Awaz. And yet both these men had the impudence to call
upon me at the hotel, and to apply for especial Shahádahs, or
"testimonials" of good conduct. In short, we were detained at the
station for three mortal hours, working with our own hands. If
this be a fair specimen of European management in Egypt, and I am
told that it has now become worse, much worse in every way, the
sooner we return to Egyptian mismanagement the better. The latter
is, at any rate, cheap and civil.

On the next day the Viceroy graciously sent his junior Master of
Ceremonies, his Excellency Tonino Bey, to welcome me back; and I
was at once honoured with audiences at the Khedivial Palace,
‘Abidin, and by Prince Husayn Kámil Pasha at Gizah (Jízah). The
Khediv was pleased to express satisfaction with my past
exertions, and ordered several measures to be carried out at
once. Amongst them was a little exhibition of mineralogy and
archaeology, maps and plans, sketches and croquis, at the

I need hardly say that his Highness at once saw the gist of the
matter. Many concessions had been applied for, even from
Australia; but the Viceroy determined that, before any could be
granted, careful analyses of the specimens must be made, at his
Highness's private expense, in London. M. Ferdinand de Lesseps,
of world-wide fame, volunteered, in the most friendly way, to
submit échantillons of the rocks to the Parisian Académie des
Sciences, of which he is a distinguished member. The Viceroy was
also pleased spontaneously to remind me of, and to renew, the
verbal promise made upon my return from the first Expedition to
Midian; namely, that I should be honoured with a concession, or
that a royalty of five per cent. on the general produce of the
mines should be the reward of discovery. The young Minister of
Finance, Prince Husayn Kámil Pasha, after courteously
congratulating me upon the successful result of our labours, put
as usual the most pertinent of questions.

The opening of our little Exposition was delayed by sundry
difficulties. The Greek Easter set in with its usual severity
about later April. A general shop-shutting, a carouse unlimited,
catholic, universal; and, despite stringent police orders, a
bombardment of the town by squibs and crackers, were the
principal features of the fête. The 29th was the classical Shamm
el-Nasin, or "the Smelling of the Zephyr," a local May-day
religiously kept with utter idleness. Mr. W. E. Hayns and I
utilized it by going a flint-hunting on the left bank of the
Nile.[EN#85] Then the terrible "May coupon" gave immense trouble
and annoyance to the rulers; who, so far from making merry with
the lieges, had to work in person between five a.m. and midnight.
After such exertion as this, rest was of course necessary.
Subsequently, a grand review monopolized one day; another was
spent by the Court in despatching the young Prince Fu'ád to
Switzerland; and yet another was given to his Highness the Prince
Hasan Pasha, Commander-in-Chief of the Egyptian auxiliaries, who,
on the conclusion of the war, had returned to Cairo en route for

Briefly, it was not before May 9th that the Khediv, accompanied
by the Prince héritier, Taufík Pasha, found leisure personally to
open the Exhibition--the first, by-the-by, ever honoured with the
Viceregal presence. Despite all my efforts, the rooms, which
should have been kept clear till his Highness had passed through,
were crowded at an early hour. The maps prepared at the Citadel
by Lieutenants Amir and Yusuf, with the aid of three extra hands,
were very imperfect, half finished at the last moment, and
abounding in such atrocities as "Ouorh" for "El-Wijh." The
engineer, M. Marie, when asked aloud, and with all publicity, by
the Khediv whether he was sure that such and such specimens
contained gold, shirked a direct reply, evasively declaring that
"Midian is a fine mining country." He had pointed out to me the
precious metal during our exploration of Umm el-Karáyat; but such
is the wretched result of "knowing the people," instead of
telling the truth like a man. And one of the many jealous, a mild
Mephisto., whispered in the Viceregal ear, "There can't be much
gold there, or ces messieurs would have said more about it."

Despite these small contretemps the Exhibition[EN#86] was
pronounced a success, and served, as such things do, for a nine
days' wonder. Several travellers from England and Australia took
the opportunity of inspecting the rocks; and I was much
encouraged to find the general opinion so highly favourable.
Locally there were dissidents, but this must be expected where
interests differ.

Meanwhile his Highness kept me hard at work. I was directed to
draw up a concise general description of the province; to report
upon the political and other measures by which the Midian country
would be benefited; and, lastly, to suggest the means which, in
my humble opinion, were best calculated for successfully working
the mines. In former days the Viceroy would at once have
undertaken the task, and probably would have sent down five
thousand men to open the diggings. Now, however, the endless
trickery of European adventurers and speculators has made a wise
precaution absolutely necessary. During the last audience, his
Highness ably and lucidly resumed the history of the past
measures, and the steps which he proposed for the future. The
first Khedivial Expedition had been simply one of exploration,
sent to ascertain whether the precious metals really existed. The
second was intrusted with the charge of laying down the probable
limits of the mining formation; and of bringing back varied
specimens, in quantities sufficient for scientific analysis. The
third and next step would be to organize a Compagnie de
Recherche, with the object of beginning a serious exploitation.
The future thus settled, I was kindly and courteously dismissed,
with a desire that I should take charge of the specimens, and
personally superintend the work of assaying. Mr. Charles Clarke
received pay and leave for three months, and was ordered to
convey the boxes by "long sea."

On May 10th we left Cairo in company with our friend Mr. Garwood,
C.E. At Alexandria a great repose fell upon my spirit; it was
like gliding into a smooth port after a storm at sea. All the
petty troubles and worries of Cairo; the cancans, the intrigues,
the silly reports of the envious and the jealous, with the buzz
and sting of mosquitoes; the weary waiting; the visits of
"friends" whose main object in life seemed to be tuer le ver; and
the exigencies of my late fellow-travellers, who, after liberal
pay and free living for four months, seemed determined to quarter
themselves upon the Egyptian Government for the rest of their
natural lives;--all these small cares, not the less annoying
because they were small, disappeared like magic at the first
glimpse of blue water. I had barely time to pass an afternoon at
Ramleh, "the Sand-heap," with an intimate of twenty-five years'
standing, Hartley John Gisborne, an old servant of the Egyptian
"Crown," for whom new men and new measures have, I regret to see,
made the valley of the Nile no longer habitable.

The next Sunday placed us on board the Austro-Hungarian Lloyd's
screw-steamer Austria (Capitano Rossol). As usual, the commander
and officers did all they could to make their voyagers
comfortable; the Company did the contrary. At this spring season,
true, the migratory host of unfeathered bipeds crowds northwards;
even as in autumn it accompanies the birds southwards. But when
berths are full, passengers should be refused; and if the
commercial director prefers dead to live goods, travellers should
be duly warned. The accommodation would have been tolerable in a
second-class or third-class English steamer, which charges
fifteen shillings to a sovereign per diem; here, however, we were
paying between £2 and £3.

The Alexandrian agent had been asked to lodge us decently. My
wife found herself in a cabin occupied by two nurses. I was
placed in a manner of omnibus, a loose box for six, of whom one
was an Armenian and two were Circassians from Daghistán--good men
enough, but not pleasant as bedroom fellows. No extra service had
been engaged for an extra cargo of seventy-two; that is,
forty-two first, and thirty second class. There were only three
stewards, including the stewardess; and the sick were left to
serve themselves. At least half a dozen were required; and, in
such places as Trieste and Alexandria, a large staff of cooks and
waiters can always be engaged in a few hours. On board any
English ship some of the smartest and handiest seamen would have
been converted into temporary attendants--here no one seemed to
think of a proceeding so far out of the usual way. There was only
one, instead of three or four cooks; and the unfortunate had to
fill a total of one hundred and thirty-five mouths, the crew
included, three times a day. The other tenant of the close and
wretched little galley lay sick with spotted typhus; and, after
barbarous neglect, he died on the day following our arrival at
Trieste--I did not hear that the surgeon of the screw-steamer
Austria had met with his deserts by summary dismissal from the
service. The Austro-Hungarian Lloyd's was once famed for good
living; over-economy and high dividends have now made the cuisine
worse than the cheapest of tables d'hôte. Provisions as well as
their preparation were so bad that Sefer Pasha, an invalid,
confined himself to a diet of potatoes and eggs.

Add the quasi-impossibility of obtaining a bath; the
uncleanliness of the offices; the hard narrowness of the sofas;
the small basins, or rather bowls, and the tiny towels like
napkins; the clamorous pets of the small fry, cats and dogs; the
crowding of second-class passengers on the quarter-deck; and the
noise of the Armenian lady beating her maid, who objected to the
process in truly dreadful language: throw in an engine which,
despite the efforts of her energetic English engineer, Mr.
Wilkinson, managed only nine instead of eleven and a half knots
an hour; an ugly north-easter off Cape Matapan, bringing tropical
downfalls of rain; and a muggy Scirocco off Istria, when we
breathed almost as much water as air: and I think that the short
entry in my journal, "horridly uncomfortable," was to a certain
extent justified by the conduct of the poor Austria. Yet the
Austro-Hungarian Lloyd's boasts a dividend of seven per cent. She
shall see no more of my money: until she mend her ways I shall
prefer the Genoese Rubattino.

But, as the Persian poet has it, Ín níz bug'zared--"Even these
things pass away." At Corfu we were cheered by once more meeting
Sir Charles Sebright, who looked hale and hearty as of yore. When
we reached Trieste, his Excellency Baron Pino von Friendenthall,
accompanied by the most amiable of "better halves," came off in
his galley, happily unconscious of typhus; and carried us away
without the usual troubles and delays of landing in harbour
bumboats. Friendly faces smiled a welcome; and, after an absence
of some seven months, I found myself once more in the good town
which has given us a home during the last five years.

At Trieste I was delayed for some time, awaiting the report that
the specimens collected by the Expedition had arrived at their
destination, the warehouses of the London Docks. Mr. Clarke met
with obstacles at Suez; and, consequently, did not reach England
till June 20th, after twenty-three rough days. As her Majesty's
Foreign Office had been pleased to accord me two months of leave
to England, I determined to make the voyage by "long sea." Both
suffering from the same complaint, want of rest and of
roast-beef, as opposed to rosbif, we resolved to ship on board
the English steamer Hecla, of the B. and N. A. R. M. S. P.
Company, the old Cunard line, famous for never having lost a
life, a ship, or a letter. We left Trieste on July 7, 1878, in
charge of our excellent commander, Captain James Brown; and,
after a cruise of twenty days, viâ Venice, Palermo, and
Gibraltar--a comfortable, cheery, hygienic cruise in charming
weather over summer seas--we found ourselves once more (July
26th) in the city of the Liver.

Appendix I.

DATES OF THE THREE JOURNEYS (Northern, Central, and Southern)
made by the Second Khedivial Expedition.

First Journey.

(December 19, 1877, to February 13, 1878.)

December 6, 1877, left Cairo.
10 1877, left Suez.
14 1877, reached El-Muwaylah (Sharm Yáhárr)
on the "Day of 'Arafát."
* * * * *
December 19, 1877, landed at El-Muwaylah.
21 1877, marched upon Wady Tiryam.
22 1877, marched upon Wady Sharmá.
23 1877, marched upon Jebel el-Abyaz.
30 1877, returned to Wady Sharmá.
January 7, 1878, marched upon 'Aynúnah.
8 1878, halted at 'Aynúnah.
9 1878, halted at Wady el-'Usaylah.

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