The Land of Midian, Vol 2 by Richard Burton

Produced by JC Byers and proofread by MaryAnn Short The Land of Midian (Revisited). By Richard F. Burton. In Two Volumes. Vol. II. C. Kegan Paul & Co. London: 1879. To the Memory of My Much Loved Niece, Maria Emily Harriet Stisted, Who Died at Dovercourt, November 12, 1878. CONTENTS PART II. The March Through
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Produced by JC Byers and proofread by MaryAnn Short

The Land of Midian (Revisited).

By Richard F. Burton.

In Two Volumes.

Vol. II.

C. Kegan Paul & Co.


To the Memory of My Much Loved Niece, Maria Emily Harriet Stisted,
Who Died at Dovercourt,
November 12, 1878.


The March Through Central and Eastern Midian. (Continued)

Chapter XI. The Unknown Lands South of the Hismá–Ruins of Shuwák and Shaghab
Chapter XII. From Shaghab to Zibá–Ruins of El-Khandakí and Umm Ámil–The Turquoise Mine–Return to El-Muwaylah Chapter XIII. A Week Around and Upon the Shárr Mountain–Résumé of the March Through Eastern or Central Midian Chapter XIV. Down South–To El-Wijh–Notes on the Quarantine– The Hutaym Tribe.
Chapter XV. The Southern Sulphur-Hill–The Cruise to El-Haurá- -Notes on the Baliyy Tribe and the Volcanic Centres of North-Western Arabia
Chapter XVI. Our Last March–The Inland Fort–Ruins of the Gold-Mines at Umm El-Karáyát and Umm El-Haráb Chapter XVII. The March Continued to El-Badá–Description of the Plain Badais
Chapter XVIII. Coal a “Myth”–March to Marwát–Arrival at the Wady Hamz
Chapter XIX. The Wady Hamz–The Classical Ruin–Abá’l- Marú, The Mine of “Marwah”–Return to El- Wijh–Résumé of the Southern Journey Conclusion

Appendix I. Dates of the Three Journeys (Northern, Central, and Southern) made by the Second Khedivial Expedition
Appendix II. EXpenses of the Expedition to Midian, Commanded by Captain R. F. Burton, H.B.M. Consul, Trieste
Appendix III. Preserved Provisions and other Stores, Supplied by Messrs. Voltéra Bros., of the Ezbekiyyah, Cairo
Appendix IV. Botany and List of Insects Appendix V. Meteorological Journal


The March Through Central and Eastern Midian. (Continued.)

Chapter XI.
The Unknown Lands South of the Hismá–Ruins of Shuwák and Shaghab.

We have now left the region explored by Europeans; and our line to the south and the south-east will lie over ground wholly new. In front of us the land is no longer Arz Madyan: we are entering South Midian, which will extend to El-Hejáz. As the march might last longer than had been expected, I ordered fresh supplies from El-Muwaylah to meet us in the interior viâ Zibá. A very small boy acted dromedary-man; and on the next day he reached the fort, distant some thirty-five and a half direct geographical miles eastward with a trifling of northing.

We left the Jayb el-Khuraytah on a delicious morning (6.15 a.m., February 26th), startling the gazelles and the hares from their breakfast graze.

The former showed in troops of six; and the latter were still breeding, as frequent captures of the long-eared young proved. The track lay down the Wady Dahal and other influents of the great Wady Sa’lúwwah, a main feeder of the Dámah. We made a considerable détour between south-south-east and south-east to avoid the rocks and stones discharged by the valleys of the Shafah range on our left. To the right rose the Jibál el-Tihámah, over whose nearer brown heights appeared the pale blue peaks of Jebel Shárr and its southern neighbour, Jebel Sa’lúwwah.

At nine a.m. we turned abruptly eastward up the Wady el-Sulaysalah, whose head falls sharply from the Shafah range. The surface is still Hismá ground, red sand with blocks of ruddy grit, washed down from the plateau on the left; and, according to Furayj, it forms the south-western limit of the Harrah. The valley is honeycombed into man-traps by rats and lizards, causing many a tumble, and notably developing the mulish instinct. We then crossed a rough and rocky divide, Arabicè a Majrá, or, as the Bedawin here pronounce it, a “Magráh,”[EN#1] which takes its name from the tormented Ruways ridge on the right. After a hot, unlively march of four hours (= eleven miles), on mules worn out by want of water, we dismounted at a queer isolated lump on the left of the track. This Jebel el-Murayt’bah (“of the Little Step”) is lumpy grey granite of the coarsest elements, whose false strata, tilted up till they have become quasi-vertical, and worn down to pillars and drums, crown the crest like gigantic columnar crystallizations. We shall see the same freak of nature far more grandly developed into the “Pins” of the Shárr. It has evidently upraised the trap, of which large and small blocks are here and there imbedded in it. The granite is cut in its turn by long horizontal dykes of the hardest quadrangular basalt, occasionally pudding’d with banded lumps of red jasper and oxydulated iron: from afar they look like water-lines, and in places they form walls, regular as if built. The rounded forms result from the granites flaking off in curved laminæ, like onion-coats. Want of homogeneity in the texture causes the granite to degrade into caves and holes: the huge blocks which have fallen from the upper heights often show unexpected hollows in the under and lower sides. Above the water we found an immense natural dolmen, under which apparently the Bedawin take shelter. After El-Murayt’bah the regular granitic sequence disappears, nor will it again be visible till we reach Shaghab (March 2nd).

About noon we remounted and rounded the south of the block, disturbing by vain shots two fine black eagles. I had reckoned upon the “Water of El-Murayt’bah,” in order to make an exceptional march after so many days of deadly slow going. But the cry arose that the rain-puddle was dry. We had not brought a sufficient supply with us, and twenty-two miles to and from the Wady Dahal was a long way for camels, to say nothing of their owners and the danger of prowling Ma’ázah. In front water lay still farther off, according to the guides, who, it will be seen, notably deceived us. So I ordered the camp to be pitched, after reconnoitering the locale of the water; and we all proceeded to work, with a detachment of soldiers and quarrymen. It was not a rain-puddle, but a spring rising slowly in the sand, which had filled up a fissure in the granite about four feet broad; of these crevices three were disposed parallel to one another, and at different heights. They wanted only clearing out; the produce was abundant, and though slightly flavoured with iron and sulphur, it was drinkable. The thirsty mules amused us not a little: they smelt water at once; hobbled as they were, all hopped like kangaroos over the plain, and with long ears well to the fore, they stood superintending the operation till it was their turn to be happy.

Our evening at the foot of El-Ruways was cheered, despite the flies, the earwigs, and the biting Ba’úzah beetle, which here first put in an appearance, by the weird and fascinating aspect of the southern Hismá-wall, standing opposite to us, and distant about a mile from the dull drab-coloured basin, El-Majrá. Based upon mighty massive foundations of brown and green trap, the undulating junction being perfectly defined by a horizontal white line, the capping of sandstone rises regular as if laid in courses, with a huge rampart falling perpendicular upon the natural slope of its glacis. This bounding curtain is called the Taur el-Shafah, the “inaccessible part of the Lip-range.” Further eastward the continuity of the coping has been broken and weathered into the most remarkable castellations: you pass mile after mile of cathedrals, domes, spires, minarets, and pinnacles; of fortresses, dungeons, bulwarks, walls, and towers; of platforms, buttresses, and flying buttresses. These Girágir (Jirájir), as the Bedawin call them, change shape at every new point of view, and the eye never wearies of their infinite variety. Nor are the tints less remarkable than the forms. When the light of day warms them with its gorgeous glaze, the buildings wear the brightest hues of red concrete, like a certain house near Prince’s Gate, set off by lambent lights of lively pink and balas-ruby, and by shades of deep transparent purple, while here and there a dwarf dome or a tumulus gleams sparkling white in the hot sun-ray. The even-glow is indescribably lovely, and all the lovelier because unlasting: the moment the red disc disappears, the glorious rosy smile fades away, leaving the pale grey ghosts of their former selves to gloom against the gloaming of the eastern sky. I could not persuade M. Lacaze to transfer this vividity of colour to canvas: he had the artist’s normal excuse, “Who would believe it?”

The next morning saw the Expedition afoot at six a.m., determined to make up for a half by the whole day’s work so long intended. The track struck eastward, and issued from the dull hollow, Majrá el-Ruways, by a made road about a mile and a half long, a cornice cut in the stony flanks of a hill whose head projected southwards into the broad Wady Hujayl (“the Little Partridge”). This line seems to drain inland; presently it bends round by the east and feeds the Wady Dámah. Rain must lately have fallen, for the earth is “purfled flowers,” pink, white, and yellow. The latter is the tint prevailing in Midian, often suggesting the careless European wheat-field, in which “shillock” or wild mustard rears its gamboge head above the green. Midian wants not only the charming oleander and the rugged terebinth, typical of the Desert; but also the “blood of Adonis,” the lovely anemone which lights up the Syrian landscape like the fisherman’s scarlet cap in a sea-piece. This stage introduced us to the Hargul (Harjal, Rhazya stricta), whose perfume filled the valley with the clean smell of the henna-bloom, the Eastern privet–Mr. Clarke said “wallflowers.” Our mules ate it greedily, whilst the country animals, they say, refuse it: the flowers, dried and pounded, cure by fumigation “pains in the bones.” Here also we saw for the first time the quaint distaff-shape of the purple red Masrúr (Cynomorium coccineum, Linn.), from which the Bedawi “cook bread.” It is eaten simply peeled and sun-dried, when it has a vegetable taste slightly astringent as if by tannin, something between a potato and a turnip; or its rudely pounded flour is made into balls with soured milk. This styptic, I am told by Mr. R. B. Sharpe, of the British Museum, was long supposed to be peculiar to Malta; hence its pre-Linnaean name (Fungus Melitensis).[EN#2] Now it is known to occur through the Mediterranean to India. Let me here warn future collectors of botany in Midian that throughout the land the vegetable kingdom follows the rule of the mineral: every march shows something new; and he who neglects to gather specimens, especially of the smaller flowers, in one valley, will perhaps find none of them in those adjoining.

A denser row of trees lower down the Wady Hujayl led to the water of Amdán (Mídán?), about an hour and a half from our last nighting-place; yesterday it had been reported six hours distant. High towering on our left (north) rose three huge buttresses of the Girágir. In front stood a marvellous background of domes and arches, cones and ninepins, all decayed Hismá, blurred and broken by the morning mist, which could hardly be called a fog; and forming a perspective of a dozen distances. Now they curve from north-east to south-west in a kind of scorpion’s tail, with detached vertebrae torn and wasted by the adjacent plutonic outcrops; and looking from the west they suggest blood-red islets rising above the great gloomy waves of trap and porphyry. This projection will remain in sight until we reach Shuwák; and in places we shall see it backed by the basalts and lavas of the straightlined Harrah.

Presently turning sharp to the right (south-east), we struck across a second divide, far more shallow than the first; and fell into the northern basin of the great Dámah valley, also known as El-Rahabah, “the Open;”–the Rehoboth (“spaces”) of the Hebrews. Like yesterday’s, the loose red sand is Hismá; and it is also scattered with Harrah lava. After a four hours’ ride we halted to enable the caravan to come up. Our Shaykhs were bent upon making twelve miles the average day’s work; and their “little game” was now to delay as much as possible. Here we again found flocks of sheep and goats tended by young girls, who ran away like ostriches, and by old women who did not: on the contrary, Sycorax enjoyed asking the news and wrangling over a kid. The camels throughout this country seem to be always under the charge of men or boys.

Here began our study of the great Wady Da’mah, whose fame as an Arabian Arcadia extends far and wide, and whose possession has caused many a bloody battle. We now see it at its best, in early spring morning, when

“The landscape smiles
Calm in the sun, and silent are the hills And valleys, and the blue serene of air.”

This notable feature is a Haddúdah (“frontier divider”), which in ancient days separated the ‘Ukbíyyah (“Ukbah-land”) to the north from the Balawi’yyah (“Baliyy-land”) south. The latter still claim it as their northern limit; but the intrusive Egypto-Arabs have pushed their way far beyond this bourne. Its present Huwayti owners, the Sulaymiyyín, the Sulaymát, the Jeráfín, and other tribes, are a less turbulent race than the northerns because they are safe from the bandit Ma’ázah: they are more easily managed, and they do not meet a fair offer with the eternal Yaftah ‘Allah–“Allah opens.”[EN#3]

The head of the Dámah, a great bay in the Hismá-wall to the east, is now in sight of us; and we shall pass its mouth, which debouches into the sea below Zibá. This tract is equally abundant in herds (camels), flocks, and vegetation: in places a thin forest gathers, and the tree-clumps now form a feature in the scenery. The sole, a broad expanse of loose red arenaceous matter, the washings of the plateau, is fearfully burrowed and honeycombed; it is also subject, like its sister the Sadr, to the frequent assault of “devils,” or sand-pillars. That it is plentifully supplied with water, we learn from the presence of birds. The cries of the caravane, the “knock-kneed” plover of Egypt, yellow-beaked and black-eyed, resounded in the more barren belts. A lovely little sun-bird (Nectarinia oseœ?), which the Frenchmen of course called colibri, with ravishing reflections of green and gold, flashed like a gem thrown from shrub to shrub: this oiseau mouche is found scattered throughout Midian; we saw it even about El-Muwaylah, but I had unfortunately twice forgotten dust-shot. The Egyptian Rakham (percnopter), yellow with black-tipped wings; a carrion-eater, now so rare, and the common brown kite, still so common near civilized Cairo, soared in the sky; while the larger vultures, perching upon the rock-ridges, suggested Bedawi sentinels. The ravens, here as elsewhere, are a plague: flights of them occupy favourite places, and they prey upon the young lambs, hares, and maimed birds.

We advanced another five miles, and crossed to the southern side of the actual torrent-bed, whose banks, strewed with a quantity of dead flood-wood entangling the trees, and whose flaky clays, cracked to the shape of slabs and often curling into tubes of natural pottery, show that at times the Hismá must discharge furious torrents. We camped close to the Dámah at the foot of the Jebel el-Balawi; the water, known as Máyat el-Jebayl (“of the Hillock”), lay ahead in a low rocky snout: it was represented as being distant a full hour, and the mules did not return from it till three had passed; but thirty minutes would have been nearer the truth. The Nile-drinkers turned up their fastidious noses at the supply, but Lieutenant Amir, who had graduated in the rough campaigning-school of the Súdán, pronounced it “regular.”

The nighting-place on the Dámah was as pretty and picturesque as the Majrá was tame and uncouth. While the west was amber clear, long stripes of purpling, crimson, flaming cloud, to the south and the east, set off the castled crags disposed in a semicircle round the Wady-head; and the “buildings” appeared art-like enough to be haunted ground, the domain of the Fata Morgana, a glimpse of the City of Brass built by Shaddaá, son of ‘Ad. When the stars began to glitter sharp and clear, our men fell to singing and dancing; and the boy Husayn Ganinah again distinguished himself by his superior ribaldry. Our work was more respectable and prosaic, firing a mule with a swollen back.

Within a mile or so of us stood some Bedawi tents, which we had passed on the march: they were deserted by the men, here Sulaymát, who drive their camels to the wilds sometimes for a week at a time. An old wife who brought us a goat for sale, and who begged that Husayn, the Básh-Buzúk, might pass the night with her, in order to shoot an especially objectionable wolf, had a long tale to tell of neighbouring ruins. She also reported that near the same place there is a well with steps, into which the Arabs had descended some seven fathoms; presently they found houses occupying the galleries at the bottom, and fled in terror.

Lieutenant Amir was sent to sketch and survey the site next morning; and he was lucky enough to be guided by one Sa’id bin Zayfullah, the Sulaymi, whose prime dated from the palmy days of the great Mohammed Ali Pasha. He acknowledged as his friends the grandfather, and even the father, of our guide Furayj; but the latter he ignored, looking upon him as a mere Walad (“lad”). Moreover, he remembered the birth of Shaykh Mohammed ‘Afnán, chief of the Baliyy, which took place when he himself had already become a hunter of the gazelle.[EN#4] According to him, the remains are still known as the Dár (“house”) or Diyár (“houses”) El-Nasárá–“of the Nazarenes,” that is, of the Nabathaeans. The former term is retained here, as in Sinai, by popular tradition; and the latter is clean forgotten throughout Midian.[EN#5]

Riding down the Wady Dámah to the southwest, Lieutenant Amir came upon a spring in a stone-revetted well near the left bank: this Ayn el-Bada’ is not to be confounded with the Badí’ water, or with the Badá plain, both of which we shall presently visit. A strew of broken quartz around it showed the atelier, and specimens of scattered fragments, glass and pottery, were gathered. The settlement-ruins, which the guide called El-Kantarah, lie further down upon a southern influent of the main line: they are divided into two blocks, one longer than the other. Lieutenant Amir made a careful plan of the remains, and then pushed forward to Shuwák by the direct track, westward of that taken by the caravan. He arrived in camp, none the worse for a well-developed “cropper;” his dromedary had put its foot in a hole, and had fallen with a suddenness generally unknown to the cameline race.

By way of geographical exercitation, we had all drawn our several plans, showing, after Arab statement, the lay of Shaghab and Shuwák, the two ruins which we were about to visit. Nothing could be more ridiculous when the sketch-maps came to be compared. This was owing to the route following the three sides of a long parallelogram; whilst the fourth is based upon the Wady Dámah, causing considerable complication. And, the excursus ended, all were convinced that we had made much southing, when our furthest point was not more than five miles south of Zibá (north lat. 27° 20′).

We quitted the great valley at six a.m. (February 28th), and struck up the Wady Shuwák, an influent that runs northwards to the Dámah’s left bank. On the stony ground above the right side of this Fiumara lay six circles of stones, disposed in a line from north-east to south-west: they may have been ruins of Hufrah (“water-pits”). As we rose the Nullah surface was pied with white flowers, the early growth which here takes the place of primroses. I had some difficulty in persuading our good friend Furayj, who had not seen the country for fifteen years, to engage as guide one of the many Bedawin camel-herds: his course seemed to serpentine like that of an animal grazing–he said it was intended to show the least stony road–and, when he pointed with the wave of the maimed right hand, he described an arc of some 90°. The Sulaymi lad caught the nearest camel, climbed its sides as you would a tree, and, when the animal set off at a lumbering gallop, pressed the soles of his feet to the ribs, with exactly the action of a Simiad; clinging the while, like grim Death, to the hairy hump.

After some six miles we attempted a short cut, a gorge that debouched on the left bank of the Shuwák valley. It showed at once a complete change of formation: the sides were painted with clays of variegated colours, crystallized lime and porphyritic conglomerates, tinted mauve-purple as if by manganese. Further on, the path, striking over broken divides and long tracts of stony ground, became rough riding: it was bordered by the usual monotonous, melancholy hills of reddish and greenish trap, whose slaty and schist-like edges in places stood upright. On the summit of the last Col appeared the ruins of an outwork, a large square and a central heap of boulder-stones. Straight in front rose the block that backs our destination, the Jebel el-Sáni’, or “Mountain of the Maker,” the artificer par excellence, that is, the blacksmith: it is so called from a legendary shoer of horses and mules, who lived there possibly in the days before Sultán Selim. It is remarkable for its twin peaks, sharp-topped blocks, the higher to the east, and called by the Bedawin Naghar and Nughayr. The guides spoke of a furnace near the summit of these remarkable cones; excellent landmarks which we shall keep in sight during several marches. At length, after ten miles of slow work, we saw before us, stretched as upon a map, the broad valley with its pink sands; the Daum-trees, the huge ‘Ushr or “Apple of Sodom,” the fan-palm bush, and the large old Jujubes–here an invariable sign of former civilization–which informed us that there lay fair Shuwák.

The dull gorge introduced us to what was then a novelty in Midian; but we afterwards found it upon the cold heights of the Shárr, where it supplied us with many a dainty dish. This was the Shinnár[EN#6] (caccabis), a partridge as large as a pheasant, and flavoured exactly like the emigrant from Phasis.

The coat, the clock! clock! and the nimble running over the rocks, ever the favourite haunt, denote the “perdix.” The head is black, as in the C. melanocephala of Abyssinia, and the legs and feet are red like the smaller “Greek” caccabis that inhabits the Hismá; the male birds have no spurs, and they are but little larger than their mates. There seems to be no difficulty in keeping them; we bought a hen and chicks caged at El-Wijh, but whether they lived or not I neglected to note. Here, too, we learned the reason why the falcons and the hawks (Falco milvus, F. gentilis, etc.) are so fierce and so well-fed. The tyrant of the air raises the partridge or the quail by feinting a swoop, and, as it hurries away screaming aloud, follows it leisurely at a certain distance. Finally, when the quarry reaches the place intended–at least, the design so appears–the falcon stoops and ends the chase. The other birds were ring-doves, turtles, and the little “butcher” impaling, gaily as a “gallant Turk,” its live victim upon a long thorn.

Shuwák, which lies in about north lat. 27° 15′, can be no other than the placed by Ptolemy (vi. 7) in north lat. 26° 15′; and, if so, we must add one degree to his latitudes, which are sixty miles too low.[EN#7] According to Sprenger (“Alt. Geog.,” p. 25),
and do not fit into any of the Alexandrian’s routes; and were connected only with their ports Rhaunathos (M’jirmah?) and Phoenicon Vicus (Zibá?). But both these cities were large and important centres, both of agriculture and of mining industry, forming crucial stations on the great Nabathæan highway, the overland between Leukè Kóme and Petra. The line was kept up by the Moslems until Sultán Selim’s superseded it; and hence the modern look of the remains which at first astonished us so much. The tradition of the Hajj-passage is distinctly preserved by the Bedawin; and I have little doubt that metal has been worked here as lately, perhaps, as the end of the last century. But by whom, again, deponent ventures not to say, even to guess.

The site of Shuwák is a long island in the broad sandy Wady of the same name, which, as has been remarked, feeds the Dámah. Its thalweg has shifted again and again: the main line now hugs the southern or left bank, under the slopes and folds of the Jebel el-Sáni’; whilst a smaller branch, on the northern side, is subtended by the stony divide last crossed. At the city the lay of the valley is from north-east to south-west, and the altitude is about seventeen hundred feet (aner. 28.28). The head still shows the castellations of the Hismá. Looking down-stream, beyond the tree-dotted bed and the low dark hills that divide this basin from the adjoining Wady to the south, we see the tall grey tops of the Jebel Zigláb (Zijláb) and of the Shahbá-Gámirah–the “ashen-coloured (Peak) of Gámirah”–the latter being the name of a valley. Both look white by the side of the dark red and green rocks; and we shall presently find that they mark the granite region lying south and seaward of the great trap formations. We were not sorry to see it again–our eyes were weary of the gloomy plutonic curtains on either side.

At Shuwák we allowed the camels a day of rest, whilst we planned and sketched, dug into, and described the ruins. A difficulty about drinking-water somewhat delayed us. The modern wells, like those of the Haurán, are rudely revetted pits in a bald and shiny bit of clay-plain below the principal block of ruins: only one in the dozen holds water, and that has been made Wahsh (“foul”) by the torrent sweeping into it heaps of the refuse and manure strewed around. The lower folds of the Sáni’ block also supply rain-pools; but here, again, the Arabs and their camels had left their marks. The only drinkable water lies a very long mile down the southern (left) bank, above the old aqueduct, in a deep and narrow gorge of trap. The perennial spring, still trickling down the rocks, was dammed across, as remnants of cement show us, in more places than one. There are also signs of cut basins, which the barrages above and below once divided into a series of tanks. Up the rough steps of the bed the camel-men drove their beasts; and the name of a Gujráti maker, printed upon a sack of Anglo-Indian canvas, had a curious effect among such Bedawi surroundings.

At last we sank a pit some five feet deep in a re-entering angle of the northern or smaller branch; we lined it with stone down-stream, where the flow made the loose sand fall in, and we obtained an ample and excellent supply. Doubtless it was spoiled, as soon as our backs were turned, by the half-Fellah Jeráfín-Huwaytát, to whom the place belongs. The sea-breeze during the day was high and dust-laden, but we passed a cool delicious night upon the clean sweet sand, which does not stick or cling. At this altitude there is no fear of bugs and fleas–the only dread is Signor “Pediculus.”

We will begin, with our surveyors, at the valley head, and note the ruins as we stroll down. This section, Shuwák proper, is nearly a mile and a half long, and could hardly have lodged less than twenty thousand souls. But that extent by no means represents the whole; our next march will prolong it along the valley for a total of at least four miles. The material is various–boulders of granite and syenite; squares of trap and porphyry; the red sandstones of the Hismá; the basalts of the Harrah; and the rock found in situ, a brown and crumbling grit, modern, and still in process of agglutination. The heaps and piles which denote buildings are divided by mounds and tumuli of loose friable soil, white with salt,–miniatures of Babylon, Nineveh, and Troy. On either flanks of the river-holm the periodical torrents have done their worst, cutting up the once regular bank into a succession of clay buttresses. On the right side we find a large fort, half sliced away, but still showing the concrete flooring of a tower. About the centre of the length are the remnants of a round Burj; blocks of buildings, all levelled to the foundations, lie to the north-west, and on the west appear signs of a square. Perhaps the most interesting discovery is that of catacombs, proving a civilization analogous to Magháir Shu’ayb, but ruder, because more distant from the centre. The “caves” are hollowed in a long reef of loose breccia, which, fronting eastward, forms the right bank of the smaller branch. They are now almost obliterated by being turned into sheep-folds; the roofs have fallen in, and only one preserves the traces of two loculi.

The arrangements touching fuel and water in this great metal-working establishment are on a large scale. The biggest of the Afrán (“furnaces”) lies to the north-west, near the right bank of the valley: all are of the ordinary type, originally some five or six feet high, to judge from the bases. They are built of fire-brick, and of the Hismá stone, which faces itself into a natural latex. We dug deep into several of them; but so careful had been the workmen, or perhaps those who afterwards ransacked these places, that not the smallest tear of metal remained: we found only ashes, pottery, and scoriae, as usual black and green, the latter worked sub-aerially; many of them had projections like stalactite. Round the furnaces are strewed carbonate of lime, stained black with iron, like that of Sharmá; and a quantity of the chlorite-enamelled serpentine still used in the Brazil as a flux.

Quartz was absent, and we were at a loss to divine what stone had been worked. At last we observed near the catacombs sundry heaps of pinkish earth, evidently washed out; and our researches in the South Country afterwards suggested that this may have been the remains of the micaceous schist, whose containing quartz was so extensively worked at Umm el-Haráb. Moreover, a short study of Shaghab threw more light on the matter.

Water also had been stored up with prodigious labour. We could easily trace the lines of half a dozen aqueducts, mostly channelled with rough cement, overlying a fine concrete; some of them had grooved stones to divert the stream by means of lashers. The Fiskíyyah or “tanks,” as carefully built, were of all sizes; and the wells, which appeared to be mediaeval, were lined with stones cut in segments of circles: we shall see the same curve in Sultán Selim’s work near Zibá. The greatest feat is an aqueduct which, sanded over in the upper part, subtends the left side of the valley. It is carefully but rudely built, and where it crosses a gully, the “horizontal arch” is formed of projecting stone tiers, without a sign of key. This magnum opus must date from the days when the southern part of the Wady was nearly what it is now.

About a mile and a quarter below our camp, the Wady, which broadens to a mile, shows on the left bank a wall measuring a thousand metres long, apparently ending in a tank of 110 feet each way. Around it are ruined parallelograms of every size, which in ancient times may have been workshops connected with the buildings in the island higher up. The torrents have now washed away the continuation, if ever there was any; and, though the lower remnants are comparatively safe upon their high ledge, the holm is evidently fated to disappear.

I did not learn till too late that a single day’s march southwards from the Wady Shuwák, along the old main line of traffic, leads to the Wady Nejd, upon whose upper course is the plain of Badá; and which, after assuming four different names, falls, as will be seen, into the sea about thirty-five miles north of El-Wijh.

We left Shuwák considerably posed, puzzled, and perplexed by what it had shown us. A little pottery had been picked up, but our diggings had not produced a coin or even a bit of glass. The evidences of immense labour are the more astonishing when compared with the utter absence of what we call civilization. The Greek and Latin inscriptions of the Hauranic cities declare their origin: these, absolutely unalphabetic, refuse a single hint concerning the mysterious race which here lived and worked, and worked so nobly. And, finally, who were the Moslems that succeeded them in a later day, when the Hajj-caravan, some three centuries and a half ago, ceased to march by this road? How is it that the annalists say nothing of them? that not a vestige of tradition remains concerning any race but the Nazarenes?

From Shuwák to the Wady Dámah there are two roads, a direct and an indirect; the latter passing by the ruins of Shaghab. The caravan begged hard to take the former, but was summarily refused. At six a.m. we rode down the Shuwák valley, again noting its huge constructions, and then striking away from it to the left, we passed over a short divide of brown hill, where the narrow Pass was marked only by Bedawi graves. The morning showed a peculiar rainbow, if a bow may be called so when no rain appeared; a perpendicular stripe, brilliant enough, and lasting at least twenty minutes. The cloud behind it had no skirt, no droop in fact, no sign of dissolution; and what made it the stranger was that this “bull’s-eye” lay north of, and not opposite to, but quite near, the rising sun. We shall note another of these exceptional rainbows at El-Badá.[EN#8]

After marching some seven miles to the south with westing, we saw inform heaps to the left: half an hour afterwards, boulder-encircled pits of a brighter green on the right, the Themáil el-Má (“artificial cisterns”) of the Arabs, announced that we were reaching Shaghab. The caravan punished us by wasting five hours on the way, in order to force a halt; and by camping at the wrong place, when I objected to the delay. It brought with it, however, a fine young Beden (ibex), killed by one of the Bedawin; and we determined to stuff, to bury, and to bake it, Arab fashion, under the superintendence of the Básh-Buzúk Husayn. Unfortunately it was served to us on the next day cold, whereas it should have been eaten at once, piping hot. The meat was dark, with a beefy rather than a gamey flavour, palatable, but by no means remarkable. There were loud regrets that a cuisse de chevreuil had not been marinée; in fact, an infect odour of the Quartier Latin everywhere followed us; and when a guide told us the pattern lie, that we should not reach Umm ‘Amir before the fourth day, the poor “Frogs” croaked, and croaked audibly as dismally. Their last bottle of ordinaire was finished; Gabr, the Kázi, had come into camp, bearing a long official Arabic document from Lieutenant Yusuf, but not a single Journal de Genève; there was no news of a steamer being sent with rations and forage from Suez: briefly, c’était embetant–to use the milder of the two favourite synonyms.

The ruins of Shaghab are built upon a more complicated site than those of Shuwák. The position is charming. The Wady Shaghab, flowing to the south, here spreads out in a broad bulge or basin open to the west. Down-stream we see a “gate” formed by the meeting of two rocky tongue-tips, both showing large works. Beyond these narrows the valley bends to the south-west and feeds the Wady Aznab, which falls into the sea south of the Dámah. The mass of the ruined city lies upon the left bank, where a high and artificial-looking remblai of earth masks an eastern influent, the Wady el-Aslah (Athlah), or “of the Kali-plant.” It drains the mountain of the same name, and the Jebel Zigláb (Zijláb), the cones of pale granite visible from Shuwák; and upon its broad mouth the old settlement stood à cheval. A little north of west rises profiled the great Shárr, no longer a ridge with a coping of four horns, but a tall and portly block, from whose summit spring heads and peaks of airy blue-pink. Slightly east of north the twins Naghar and Nughayr, combining to form the “Mountain of the Maker” (Jebel el-Sáni’), tower in the shape of a huge pyramid. Lastly, a regular ascent, the Majrá el-Wághir, fronts the city, sloping up to the west-north-west, and discloses a view of the Jibál el-Tihámah: this broad incline was, some three centuries ago, the route of the Hajj-caravan.

We walked down the Shaghab valley-bed, whose sides, like those of the Dámah, are chevaux de frise of dead wood. The characteristic rock is a conglomerate of large and small stones, compacted by hard silicious paste, and stained mauve-purple apparently by manganese: we had seen it on the way to Shuwák; and the next day’s march will pave the uplands with it. The wells in the sole are distinctly Arab, triangular mouths formed and kept open by laying down tree-trunks, upon which the drawer of water safely stands. On the right bank up-stream no ruins are perceptible; those on the left are considerable, but not a quarter the size of Shuwák. Here again appear the usual succession of great squares: the largest to the east measures 500 metres along the sides; and there are three others, one of 400 metres by 192. They are subtended by one of many aqueducts, whose walls, two feet thick, showed no signs of brick: it is remarkable for being run underground to pierce a hillock; in fact, the system is rather Greek or subterranean, than Roman or subaerial. Further down are the remains apparently of a fort: heaps of land-shells lie about it; they are very rare in this region, and during our four months’ march we secured only two species.[EN#9]

Still descending, we found the ancient or mediaeval wells, numbering about a dozen, and in no wise differing from those of Shuwák. At the gorge, where the Wady escapes from view, Lieutenant Amir planned buildings on the lower right bank, and on the left he found a wall about half a mile long, with the remains of a furnace and quartz scattered about it. This stone had reappeared in large quantities, the moment we crossed the divide; the pale grey of the Jebel Zigláb and its neighbours was evidently owing to its presence; and from this point it will be found extending southwards and seawards as far as El-Hejaz. He brought with him a hard white stone much resembling trachyte, and fragments of fine green jasper.

A cursory inspection of Shaghab removed some of the difficulties which had perplexed us at Shuwák and elsewhere. In the North Country signs of metal-working, which was mostly confined to the Wadys, have been generally obliterated; washed away or sanded over. Here the industry revealed itself without mistake. The furnaces were few, but around each one lay heaps of Negro and copper-green quartz, freshly fractured; while broken handmills of basalt and lava, differing from the rubstones and mortars of a softer substance, told their own tale.

At Shaghab, then, the metalliferous “Marú” brought from the adjacent granitic mountains was crushed, and then transported for roasting and washing to Shuwák, where water, the prime necessary in these lands, must have been more abundant. Possibly in early days the two settlements formed one, the single of
Ptolemy; and the south end would have been the headquarters of the wealthy. Hence the Bedawin always give it precedence–Shaghab wa Shuwák; moreover, we remarked a better style of building in the former; and we picked up glass as well as pottery.

As a turkey buzzard (vulture) is the fittest emblem for murderous Dahome, so I should propose for Midian, now spoiled and wasted by the Wild Man, a broken handmill of basalt upon a pile of spalled Negro quartz.

Chapter XII.

From Shaghab to Zibá–ruins of El-Khandakí’ and Umm Ámil–the Turquoise Mine–Return to El-Muwaylah.

Leaving Lieutenant Amir to map the principal ruins, we followed the caravan up the Majrá el-Wághir, the long divide rising to the west-north-west. The thin forest reminded me of the wooded slopes of the Anti-Libanus about El-Kunaytarah: there, however, terebinths and holm-oaks take the place of these unlovely and uncomfortable thorn-trees. They are cruelly beaten–an operation called El-Ramá–by the Bedawi camel-man, part of whose travelling kit, and the most important part too, here as in Sinai, is the flail (Murmár or Makhbat) and the mat to receive the leaves: perhaps Acacias and Mimosas are not so much bettered by “bashing” as the woman, the whelp, and the walnut-tree of the good old English proverb. After three miles we passed, on the left, ruins of long walls and Arab Wasm, with white memorial stones perched on black. In front rose the tall Jebel Tulayh, buttressing the right or northern bank of the Dámah; and behind it, stained faint-blue by distance, floated in the flickering mirage the familiar forms of the Tihámah range, a ridge now broken into half a dozen blocks. I had ordered the caravan to march upon the Tuwayl el-Súk; but, after one hour and fifteen minutes, we found the tents pitched some three miles short of it, on a bleak and ugly wave of the Wághir. The Shaykhs swore, by all holy things, that this was the veritable Tuwayl; and a Bedawi, who declared that he knew where water lay in the neighbourhood, refused to show it sans the preliminary “bakhshísh.” Mashallah! It is a noble race.

Early next morning (six a.m., March 3rd) we followed the right bank of the Wady el-Khandakí, which runs north with westing. Beyond it lay the foot-hills of gloomy trap leading to the Jebel el-Raydán, a typical granitic form, a short demi-pique saddleback with inwards-sloping pommel like the Pao d’Assucar of picturesque Rio de Janeiro. Here as elsewhere, the granites run parallel with and seaward of the traps. The Tuwayl el-Súk is nothing but an open and windy flat, where the Hajj-caravan used to camp an adjoining ridge, the Hamrá el-Tuwayl, shows spalled quartz, Wasm and memorial stones. The principal formation here is the mauve-purple conglomerate before described.

After riding nine miles we came unexpectedly upon a large and curious ruin, backed by the broad Wady Dámah gleaming white in the sun. The first feature noticed was a pair of parallel walls, or rather their foundations, thirty-five feet apart, and nearly a kilometre in length: it looked like a vast hangar. To the left lie three tracings of squares; the central is a work of earth and stone, not unlike a rude battery; and, a few paces further north, a similar fort has a cistern attached to its western curtain. Heaps of rounded boulders, and the crumbling white-edged mounds which, in these regions, always denote old habitations, run down the right bank of the Wady el-Khandakí to its junction with the Dámah. For want of a better name I called this old settlement Kharábát (the “Ruins of”) el-Khandakí, and greatly regretted that we had not time enough to march down the whole line of the Dámah.

Half an hour more placed us at the great Wady, whose general direction is here west with a little southing, and which still merits its fame as an Arabian Arcadia. The banks were thickly bordered with secular tamarisks (T. orientalis), those hardy warriors with the Hebrew-Arabic name Asl (Athl), that battle against wind and weather, as successfully at Dovercourt (Essex) as at Haydarábád (Sind).

The tint was the normal grey-green, not unlike that of the traps in arrière plan. The clumps sheltered goats, sheep, and camels; and our mules now revel every day on green meat, growing fatter and fatter upon the Aristida grass, the Panicum, the Hordeum murinum, and the Bromus of many varieties. Fronting us rose the twin granitic peaks of Jebel Mutadán, one with a stepped side like an unfinished pyramid. They are separated from the Dámah by a rough and stony divide; and ruins with furnaces are reported to be found in their valley-drain, which feeds the great Wady ‘Amúd.

We halted, after some sixteen to seventeen miles, at the water El-Ziyayb, slightly brackish but relished by our animals; and resumed our way in the cool sea-breeze at one p.m., passing the Jebel Tulayh on the north bank. The track then left the Dámah and turned up a short broad bed to the north-west. On the right rose a block of syenite, ruddy with orthose, all rounded lumps and twisted finials; it discharged a quantity of black sand that streaked the gravel plain. At four p.m. we camped on a broad divide, El-Kutayyifah, where an adjacent Sha’b, or “fold,” supplied fresh rain-water. The march had teen long (seven hours = twenty-two miles); and Shaykhs and camel-men looked, the Sayyid said, as if they had “smelt Jehannum.”

This divide, also called the Jayb el Sa’lúwwah, with granites to the east, and traps mixed with granites on the west, shows signs of labour. Hard by, to the south-west, some exceptionally industrious Bedawi, of the Jeráfín-Huwaytát, had laid out a small field with barley. In the evening we walked westward to the hills that bound the slope; and came upon a rock-cut road leading to an atalier, where “Marú” has been spalled from the stone in situ. Some specimens had a light-bluish tinge, as if stained by cobalt, a metal found in several slags; and there were veins of crystalline amethyst-quartz, coloured, said the engineer by chlorure of silver (?). The filons and filets cut the granite in all directions; and the fiery action of frequent trap-dykes had torn the ground-rock to tatters. The western side of El-Kutayyifah also showed modern ruins.

The guides reported, as usual when too late, that to the west-south-west lies a Nakb, called Abú’l Marwah (“Father of the Quartz-place”), whose waters flow viâ the Mutadán to the ‘Amúd valley. For some days I had cold shudders lest this Pass, thus left unvisited, might be the Zúl-Marwah, the classical “Móchoura,” one of the objects of our Expedition. The alarm proved, however, as will be seen, false. A Bedawi youth also volunteered a grand account of three “written stones;” a built well surrounded by broken quartz; and, a little off the road from El-Kutayyifah to Umm Ámil, the remains of El-Dayr (“the Convent”). As Leake well knew, the latter is “a name which is often indiscriminately applied by the Arabs to ancient ruins.” The lad said they were close by, but the Garíb (“near”) and the Gurayyib (“nearish”) of the Midianite much resemble the Egyptian Fellah’s Taht el-Wish, “Under the face”–we should say “nose”–or Taht el-Ka’b, “Under the heel.” They may mean a handful of miles. As he refused to guide us, we secured the services of an old shepherd, who, objecting to sleep in camp, caused abundant trouble and delay next morning.

From this divide two roads lead to the ruins of Umm Ámil: one makes a considerable detour up a branch-valley in order to avoid an ugly Pass on the direct line. I again refused the camel-men permission to proceed by the indirect route, well knowing that they would do their best to miss us. On March 4th, at six a.m., a long descent and a similar rise led us to a Col, which presently became a broad open plain, 2100 feet above sea-level (aner. 28.85). Tents were scattered about the valleys; the lads tended their goats, and we greatly admired one fellow who had fallen asleep in the hot ascending steams. Here the old guide halted us, and declared that on the top of the dark trap-block the left (south) was a Mashghal, or “work-place,” with a strew of quartz and nothing else. Thus ended the “built well.” Descending to a lower plane, bounded in front by low rolling hills, I sent Lieutenant Amir to examine the “Convent” and the “written stones.” He came up with us at the halt; having been led over a rough divide by an abominable path; and he had seen only a few ruined heaps and three Arab Wusúm. Moreover, he had not dared to show disappointment before the old shepherd, who would probably have bolted in fear, and left him to find his own way.

Meanwhile the caravan continued its course down the broad smooth Wady Ruways, on whose left side was a large atelier, with broken walls and spalled quartz of the Negro variety. Here we found, for the first time, the handmills made of the hardest grey granite, so beautifully worked further south; they explained the fine and carefully polished tube which had been brought to the first Expedition at Zibá.[EN#10] Several of these articles were all but whole, an exception in this land of “‘clasts.” We then struck over the stony divide to the left, towards a fine landmark–a Khitm, or “block,” shaped like a seal cut en cabochon: its name is the barbarous sounding Khurm el-Badaríyyah. During the ascent, which was easy, we passed a second strew and scatter of the white stone broken into small pieces. From the Col, reached at 9.45 a.m., a descent, vile for camels not for mules, presently landed us in the Wady Umm Ámil. The left bank of the hideous narrow gorge showed a line of wells or water-pits, made, said Furayj, by the Mutakaddimín (veteres),–the Ancients who were probably Mediævals. Crossing the torrent-gully we left on its right bank the ruins of large works, especially the upper parallelogram. After a thirteen miles’ ride we halted at 10.40 a.m. under a rock on the left side, opposite three couthless heaps of water-rolled stones surrounded by fine quartz. By far the poorest thing we had yet seen, this “town” had been grandiosely described to the first Expedition at Zibá. Many blessings were heaped upon the head of Ámil and his mother: the name, however, as the Sayyid suggested, is evidently a corruption of Mu’ámil–“the workman, the employee.”[EN#11] I would conjecture that here the slave-miners were stationed, Old Zibá being the master’s abode: our caravan entitled it El-Lomán–“the bagnio, the prison for galériens.” On the coast-town I procured some specimens of heavy red copper which had been dug out of a ruined furnace; the metal is admirable, and it retrieves to a certain extent the lost reputation of Umm Ámil.

At noon we resumed a hot ride down the ugly, rocky watercourse, both of whose banks showed long lines of ruins. Presently, crossing a divide marked by two stone-heaps, we fell into the broader but equally unpicturesque Wady Salmá. It is on about the same parallel as Ziba’ (north lat. 27° 20′); and more than the usual allowance for the error of low latitude must be admitted if we would identify it with the Mediterranean of
Ptolemy (vi. 7), , in north lat. 260°, or fifteen
miles south of Sóaka.

Wady Salmá is the smallest and the northernmost of the three basins which we have just visited; the central being the Dámah, and the southern Wady Shaghab-Aslah-Aznab. Steaming southwards we shall note the mouths of all these watercourses. We presently passed on the right bank the debouchure of the Wady Ruways, and left there a guard to direct the caravan, in case it should disobey orders, and march up to Umm Ámil. Here the valley gave forage to a herd of milch-camels, apparently unguarded; each had her foal, some newborn, others dating from January or February. After one hour and forty-five minutes (= six miles) we camped on the fine sands that floor the dull line hemmed in by tall masses of red and green trap. The adjacent scatter of Arab wells in the bed is known as the Má el-Badí’ah. I carefully inquired concerning ruins in the neighbourhood; and we climbed the torrent-sides to command a (very limited) bird’s-eye view of the hills. According to the guides, there are no remains of the “old ones” nearer than Umm Ámil

Setting out early next morning (5.45 a.m., March 5th), after half an hour down the Wady Salmá, we saw its lower course becoming a mere gorge, constricted by two opposite rocks. On the left bank, above this narrow, lies a group of Arab graves, which may have been built upon older foundations. The right side here receives the Wady Haraymal (“Little Peganum-plant”), the Haráímil of the broad-speaking Bedawin. As we struck up its dull ascent, the southern form of the Shárr-giant suddenly broke upon us, all glorious in his morning robes of ethereal gauzy pink. The foreshortened view, from the south as well as the north, shows a compact prism-formed mass which has been compared with an iceberg. The main peak, Abú Shenázir, here No. 4 from the north, proudly bears a mural crown of granite towers, which it hides from El-Muwaylah; and the southern end, a mere vanishing ridge at this angle, but shown en face to the seaboard abreast of it, breaks into three distinctly marked bluffs and heads.[EN#12]

A divide then led upwards and downwards to the Wady Abá Rikayy, remarkable only for warm pools, and crystal-clear runners, springing from the sole. The fringings of white show the presence of salt; the shallows are covered with the greenest mosses, and beetles chase one another over the depths where the waters sleep. The lower course takes the name of Wady Kifáfí, and discharges into the sea north of the Wady Salmá, with which it has erroneously been united, as in Niebuhr’s Selmá wa Kafâfa. According to the Kátib Chelebi, who, over two centuries ago, made the “Kabr Shaykh el-Kifáfí” the second pilgrim-station south of El-Muwaylah, a certain Bedawi chief, El-Kifáfí, was killed with a spear, and his tomb became a place of pious visitation. It is said still to exist between the Wadys Salmá and Kifáfí. A third divide to the north led along the eastern flank of the Jebel Abú Rísh, which exposes its head to the sea; and, reaching the Col, we had the pleasure of once more greeting the blue cove that forms the port of Zibá.

We then descended into the Wady Sidrah, whose left bank is formed by the Safrá Zibá–“the Yellow (hill) of Zibá.” This small outlying peak is clad in the gaudiest of colours, especially a vivid citron-yellow, set off by red and rusty surroundings, which are streaked with a dead chalky-white. The citizens declare that it is absolutely useless, because it does not supply sulphur. During our day’s halt at Zibá, M. Marie brought from it quartz of several kinds; the waxy, the heat-altered, and the blue, stained with carbonate of copper. Possibly this metal may be abundant at a lower horizon

The “Valley of the (one) Jujube-tree,” after narrowing to a stony gut, suddenly flares out into the Wady Zibá, the vulgar feature of these regions, provided with the normal “Gate” some three hundred yards broad. Beyond it, the flat surrounding the head of the cove is remarkably well grown with palms, clumps of the Daum, and scattered date-trees, of which one is walled round. Hence I am disposed to consider Zibá the , or Phoenicon Vicus, of Ptolemy: although he places it in north lat. 26° 20′, or between Sharm Dumayghah and El-Wijh, when it lies in north lat. 27° 20′. I have already protested against the derivation of the word–which is written “Dhoba” by Wallin, “Deba” by Niebuhr, and “Zibber” by the Hydrographic Chart–proposed by my learned friend Sprenger.[EN#13] His theory was probably suggested by El-Yákút (iii. 464), who, in the twelfth century, describes “Dhabba” as “a village on the coast, opposite to which is a settlement with flowing water, called Badá: the two are separated by seventy miles.” An older name for the station is Bir el-Sultáni–the “Well of the Sultán” (Selim?): we shall presently inspect these remains. Itineraries also give Kabr el-Tawáshi, “the Eunuch’s Tomb;” and this we still find near the palms at the head of the inner baylet. It is a square measuring six paces each way, mud and coralline showing traces of plaster outside. Like Wellsted (II. X.) we failed to discover any sign of the Birkat (“tank”) mentioned in a guide-book which Burckhardt quotes; nor had the citizens ever heard of a “reservoir.”

The camping-ground of the pilgrims lies between the “Gate” and the cove-head. Around the wells sat at squat a small gathering of the filthy “Moghrebin” (Allah yakharrib-hum!). About 260 of these rufffians were being carried gratis, by some charitable merchant, in a Sambúk that lay at the harbour-mouth. A party had lately slaughtered a camel, of course not their own property; and yet they wondered that the Bedawin shoot them. They showed their insolence by threatening with an axe the dog Juno, when she sportively sallied out to greet them; and were highly offended because, in view of cholera and smallpox, I stationed sentries to keep them at a distance. Had there been contagious disease among them, it would have spread in no time. They haunted the wells, which were visited all day by women driving asses from the settlement; even the single old beggar of Zibá–unfailing sign of civilization–was here; and the black tents of the Arabs, who grazed their flocks at the cove-head, lay within easy shot of infection. On the evening of the next day, when the Sambúk made sail, the shouting and screaming, the brawling, cudgelling, and fighting, heard a mile off, reminded me of the foul company of Maghrabís on board the Golden Wire.

“Sultán Selim’s Well” has now grown to four, all large and masonry-lined. That to the south-east is dry; travellers are confined to the western, whose strong coping they have managed to tear down; whilst the northern shows hard old kerb-stones, deeply grooved and rope-channelled like that of Beersheba. We breakfasted at the head of the inner bay, whilst the Sayyid rode forward to meet his brother Mahmúd, who had kindly brought us the news from El-Muwaylah. Here we could see the townlet covering a low point projecting into the Sharm; a few large and some small tenements formed the body, whilst the head was the little Burj built, some fourteen years ago, upon the tall sea-bank to the north. It bore, by way of welcome, the Viceroy’s flag.

The camp was pitched upon the northern shore of the inner cove, behind the new town, and sheltered by the tall sea-cliff: here stood Old Zibá, whose stones, buried for ages under the sand, are now dug up to build its successor. I thought better of the settlement and of the port after visiting them a second time. We had looked forward to it even as to a petit Paris: so Damascus and the Syrian cities appear centres of civilization to Westerns coming from the East–not from the West. It is far superior, especially in the article water, to El-Muwaylah; it exports charcoal in large quantities, and it does a thriving business with the Bedawi. Here are signs of a pier, and a mosque is to be built. The fish is excellent and abundant; lobsters are caught by night near the reef, and oysters in the bay when the tide is out. We succeeded, at last, in having our batterie de cuisine properly tinned, and we replenished our stores.[EN#14] As at El-‘Akabah, “Hashísh” may be bought in any quantity, but no ‘Ráki–hence, perhaps, the paleness and pastiness of the local complexion–and yet our old acquaintance, Mohammed el-Musalmáni, is a Copt who finds it convenient to be a Moslem. He aided us in collecting curiosities, especially a chalcedony (agate) intended for a talisman and roughly inscribed in Kufic characters, archaic and pointed like Bengali, with the Koranic chapter (xcii.) that testifies the Unity, “Kul, Huw’ Allah,” etc. As regards the port, Wellsted (Il. X.) is too severe upon it: “At Sherm Dhobá the anchorage is small and inconvenient, and could only be made available for boats or small vessels.” Dredging the sand-bar and cutting a passage in the soft coralline reef will give excellent shelter and, some say, a depth of seventeen fathoms.

Our first care was to walk straight into the sea, travelling clothes and all. I then received the notables, including Mohammed Selámah of El-Wijh, and at once began to inquire about the Jebel el-Fayrúz. The chief trader pleaded ignorance: he was a stranger, a new-comer; he had never been out of the settlement. The others opposed to me hard and unmitigated Iying: they knew nothing about turquoises; there were no such stones; the mines were exhausted.

And yet I knew that this coast is visited for turquoises by Europeans; and that the gem has been, and still is, sold at Suez and Cairo. Mr. Clarke had many uncut specimens at Zagázig, embedded in a dark gangue, which he called “porphyry,” as opposed to the limestone which bears the silicate of copper. Upon our first Expedition, we had noticed a splendid specimen, set in a Bedawi matchlock; and the people of El-‘Akabah praised highly the produce of the Jebel el-Ghál. Lastly, I happened to have heard that an Arab lately brought to Zibá a turquoise which sold there for £3. Evidently the mine, like the gold-sands before alluded to, would be carefully hidden from us. This reticence explained how, on our first visit, the two Staff-officers sent to prospect the diggings had been misdirected to a block lying north of the townlet, the “Red Hills,” alias the Jebel el-Shegayg.

Shortly after I left Egypt an Italian, Sig. F–, returned to Suez from El-Muwaylah, with some fine pearls worth each from £20 to £30, and turquoises which appeared equally good. He was then bound for Italy, but he intended returning to Midian in a month or two. These are the men who teach the ready natives the very latest “dodges;” such as stimulating the peculiar properties of the pearl-oyster by inserting grains of sand.

I also collected notes concerning the ruins of M’jirmah, of which we had heard so many tales. The site, they said, is a branch of the Wady Azlam, the first of the three marches between Zibá and El-Wijh, and seven and a half hours’ sail along the coast. This watercourse shows, above the modern Hajj-station, the ruins of a fort built by Sultán Selim: Wellsted (II. X.) also mentions a castle lying three miles inland. From the head of the Sharm Dumayghah, seventy to seventy-two knots south of El-Muwaylah, Shaykh Furayj pointed out to us the pale-blue peaks of the Jebel Zafar:[EN#15] in the upper part of its Wady, the ‘Amúd Zafar, a southern branch valley of the Azlam, lies the ruin. He made it six hours’ march from the seaboard. It was an ancient gold-mine (?), whose house-foundations and a “well with steps” still remain. “M’jirmah,” which must not be confounded with the “Umm Jirmah,” an atelier that we shall visit to-morrow, has been identified with the (Rhaunathi Pagus) of Ptolemy
(north lat. 25° 40′). We will return to this subject when steaming down coast.

Our day of rest ended, at seven p.m., with a heavy storm of wind and rain from the north: the sun had been unusually hot for some days, and the sky looked ugly in the evening. As usual, all assured us that the clouds contained wind, not rain. Despite which, when the mess-tent had been nearly blown down, owing to our men being unwilling to leave their warm retreats, a heavy drenching downfall set in, and continued till eleven p.m. After a short lull, wind and rain again raged at midnight; and then the gale gradually blew itself out. The next two mornings were delightfully brisk and bracing; and deep puddles dotted the rocks.

On March 7th the caravan marched straight northwards, by the Hajj-road, along the shore to its camping-ground, an affair of two hours, while M. Marie and I set off for the turquoise mine. Furayj, who had never passed that way, engaged as guide one Sulaym el-Makrafi; and this old dromedary-rider’s son had been sent on to bring into camp all the Fayruz he could find. Crossing at six a.m. the broad pilgrim-track, we struck eastward at a place where the Secondary gypsum subtends the old coralline cliff. After three-quarters of an hour, we traversed the Wady Zahakán, the southernmost Pass over the Shárr (proper); and presently we ascended a branch that falls into the right bank. As we advanced, it became a rock-walled, stonesoled tunnel; winding, contracting and widening, rising and flattening, and generally interesting, compared with the dull flat breadth of such features as the Wady Salmá. The overfalls of rock and the unfriendly thorn-trees, selfishly taking up all the room, necessitate frequent zigzags up and down the rocky, precipitous banks. After a number of divides we entered the Wady Háskshah, which was wider and good for riding; and at 8.30 a.m. we passed into the Wady Umm Jirmah.

In this broad basin we found none of the ruins so often reported; but immense quantities of broken quartz showed the Mashghal or atelier. The material was distinguished, from all the outcrops hitherto observed, by its pretty pink, stained with oxide of iron: it appeared in large ramifications mostly striking east-west, and in little pitons dotting the valley sole and sides. A subsequent visit to Wady Umm Jirmah found many furnaces surrounded by well-worked scoriae; of these, specimens were secured.

After another half-hour, we dismounted at the watershed of the Wady el-Ghál, where the old guide lost no time in losing his head. The Jebel el-Ghál, whose folds fall into its watercourse, is a detached block, rising nearly due south of the “Sharp Peak,” as the Chart calls Abú Kusayb, the northernmost horn of the Shárr; while the Ghál cove, breaking the sea-cliff, bears 270° (mag.) from the summit. The hill, which may measure 250 feet above sea-level (aner. 29.75), is composed of porphyritic trap and of the hardest felspars, veined with chocolate-coloured quartz, the true gangue. While we examined the formation, Furayj and old Sulaym, who became more and more “moony,” ransacked the block in all directions, and notably failed to find a trace of mining. Evidently Athor, the genius of the “Turquoise Mountain,” was not to be conquered by a coup de main; so I determined to tire her out.

After building a stone-man on the finial of the Jebel el-Ghál, and a short rest in the north-western Wady, we remounted and struck seawards. Some ugly divides led us, after half an hour, to a broad Fiumara, well grown with palm-bush, the veritable Wady el-Ghál. From this point a total of four miles, and a grand total of fourteen, led us to the camp: it had been pitched at the Mahattat el-Gha’l, on the north bank, where the “winter-torrent,” falling into the cove, has broken through the sea cliff.

Here the best of news was in store for us. Lieutenant Yusuf, who had this morning rejoined the Expedition, brought our mails from the Sambúk, which I had ordered by letter at El-‘Akabah; and reported that his Highness’s frigate Sinnár, an old friend, would relieve the lively Mukhbir in taking us to our last journey southwards. Rations for men and mules, and supplies for ourselves, all were coming. We felt truly grateful to the Viceroy and the Prince Minister for the gracious interest they had taken in the Expedition; and we looked forward with excitement to the proper finish of our labours. Without the third march, the exploration of Midian would have been Abtar, as the Arabs say, “tail-less;” that is, lame and impotent in point of conclusion.

But I would not be beaten by the enemy upon the subject of the lapis Pharanitis mine. During the course of the day, a Jeráfín Bedawi, Selím ibn Musallim, brought in scoriae of copper and iron; and on the morrow I sent him as guide to Lieutenant Yusuf, with an escort of two soldiers and eight quarrymen on seven camels. After three days’ absence (March 8–10) the officer rejoined us and reported as follows:–

Leaving the Mahattat el-Ghál, he rode up its watercourse, and then turned southwards into the long Wady Umm Jirmah. After seven miles and a half (= direct five and three-quarters), he came upon the Jebel el-Fayrúz. It is a rounded eminence of no great height, showing many signs of work, especially three or four cuttings some twenty metres deep. A hillock to the north-west supplied the scoriæ before mentioned. Lieutenant Yusuf blasted the chocolate-coloured quartzose rock in four places, filled as many sacks, and struck the pilgrim-road in the Wady el-Mu’arrash, leaving its red block, the Hamrá el-Mu’arrash, to the left. His specimens were very satisfactory; except to the learned geologists of the Citadel, Cairo, who pronounced them to be carbonate of copper! Dr. L. Karl Moser, of Trieste, examined them and found crystals of turquoise, or rather “johnite,” as Dana has it, embedded in or spread upon the quartz. One specimen, moreover, contained silver. So much for the Zibá or southern turquoise-diggings.

Our journey ended on March 8th with a dull ride along the Hajj-road northwards. Passing the creek Abú Sharír, which, like many upon this coast, is rendered futile by a wall of coral reef, we threaded a long flat, and after two hours (= seven miles) we entered a valley where the Secondary formation again showed its débris. Here is the Mahattat el-Husan (“the Stallion’s Leap”), a large boulder lying to the left of the track, and pitted with holes which a little imagination may convert into hoof-prints. The name of the noble animal was El-Mashhúr; that of its owner is, characteristically enough, forgotten by the Arabs: it lived in the Days of Ignorance; others add, more vaguely still, when the Beni ‘Ukbah, the lords of the land, were warring with the Baliyy. The gorge was then a mere cutting, blocked up by this rock. El-Mashhúr “negotiated” it, alighting upon the surface like a Galway hunter taking a stone wall; and carried to Wady Tiryam its rider, whose throat was incontinently cut by the foeman in pursuit. The legend is known to all, and the Bedawin still scrape away the sands which threaten to bury the boulder: it has its value, showing that in regions where the horse is now unknown, where, in fact, nothing but a donkey can live, noble blood was once bred. The same remark is made by Professor Palmer (“The Desert of the Exodus,” p. 42) concerning the Mangaz Hisán Abú Zená (“Leap of the Stallion of the Father of Adultery”), two heaps of stone near the Sinaitic Wady Gharandal. There, however, the animal is cursed, while here it is blessed: perhaps, also, the Midianite tradition may descend from a source which, still older, named the . Is this too far-fetched? And yet, peradventure, it may be true.

We then fell into the Wady Jibbah; passed the Jebel el-Kibrít, examined M. Philipin’s work, and, led over a very vile and very long “short cut,” found ourselves once more on board the Mukhbir.

Note on the Supplies Procurable at Zibá.

The chief stores are:–

Rice (good Yemani), per Kis, or bag of five and a half Kaylah (each twenty-one Ratl = eighteen pounds), four to six dollars.

Durrah (Sorghum), per Ardebb (each = twelve Kaylah), seven and a half to eight dollars.

Dukhn (millet), not common, per Ardebb, eight dollars.

Wheat, always procurable, per Ardebb, ten to twelve dollars.

Barley, always procurable, per Ardebb, five to six dollars.

‘Adas (lentils, Revalenta Arabica), per Ardebb, ten to twelve

Samn (liquified butter), per Ratl, seven and a half to eight dollars.

Coffee (green), per pound, eighteen-pence.

‘Ajwah (pressed dates), 100 to 110 piastres per Kantar (= 100 Ratl).

Eggs, thirty-five to the shilling.

It is generally possible to buy small quantities of Hummus (lupins or chick-peas), Kharru’b (carob-pods), “hot” and coarse tobacco for the Arabs, and cigarette-paper, matches, etc.

Chapter XIII.
A Week Around and upon the Shárr Mountain–Résumé of the March Through Eastern or Central Midian.

For months the Jebel Shárr, the grand block which backs El-Muwaylah, had haunted us, starting up unexpectedly in all directions, with its towering heads, that shifted shape and colour from every angle, and with each successive change of weather. We could hardly leave unexplored the classical “Hippos Mons,” the Moslem’s El-Ishárah (“the Landmark”), and the Bullock’s Horns of the prosaic British tar.[EN#16] The few vacant days before the arrival of the Sinnár offered an excellent opportunity for studying the Alpine ranges of maritime Midian. Their stony heights, they said, contain wells and water in abundance, with palms, remains of furnaces, and other attractions. Every gun was brought into requisition, by tales of leopard and ibex, the latter attaining the size of bullocks (!) and occasionally finding their way to the fort:–it was curious to hear our friends, who, as usual, were great upon “le shport,” gravely debating whether it would be safe to fire upon le léopard. I was anxious to collect specimens of botany and natural history from an altitude hitherto unreached by any traveller in Western Arabia; and, lastly, there was geography as well as mineralogy to be done.

The Hydrographic Chart gives the Mountain a maximum of nine thousand[EN#17] feet, evidently a clerical error often repeated–really those Admiralty gentleman are too incurious: Wellsted, who surveyed it, remarks (II. X.), “The height of the most elevated peak was found to be 6500 feet, and it obtained from us the appellation of ‘Mowilabh High Peak”‘–when there are native names for every head. We had been convinced that the lesser is the true measure, by our view from the Hismá plateau, 3800 feet above sea-level. Again, the form, the size, and the inclination of the noble massif are wrongly laid down by the hydrographers. It is a compact block, everywhere rising abruptly from low and sandy watercourses, and completely detached from its neighbours by broad Wadys–the Surr to the north and east, while southwards run the Kuwayd and the Zahakán. The huge long-oval prism measures nineteen and a half by five miles (= ninety-seven and a half square miles of area); and its lay is 320° (mag.), thus deflected 40° westward of the magnetic north. The general appearance, seen in profile from the west, is a Pentedactylon, a central apex, with two others on each side, tossed, as it were, to the north and south, and turning, like chiens de faïence, their backs upon one another.

Moreover, the Chart assigns to its “Mount Mowilah” only two great culminations–“Sharp Peak, 6330 feet,” to the north; and south of it, “High Peak, 9000.” The surveyors doubtless found difficulty in obtaining the Bedawi names for the several features, which are unknown to the citizens of the coast; but they might easily have consulted the only authorities, the Jeráfín-Huwaytát, who graze their flocks and herds on and around the mountain. As usual in Arabia, the four several main “horns” are called after the Fiumaras that drain them. The northernmost is the Abú Gusayb (Kusayb) or Ras el-Gusayb (the “Little Reed”), a unity composed of a single block and of three knobs in a knot; the tallest of the latter, especially when viewed from the south, resembles an erect and reflexed thumb–hence our “Sharp Peak.” Follows Umm el-Furút (the “Mother of Plenty”), a mural crest, a quoin-shaped wall, cliffing to the south: the face, perpendicular where it looks seawards, bears a succession of scars, upright gashes, the work of wind and weather; and the body which supports it is a slope disposed at the natural angle. An innominatus, in the shape of a similar quoin, is separated by a deep Col, apparently a torrent-bed, from a huge Beco de Papagaio–the “Parrot’s Bill” so common in the Brazil. This is the Abú Shenázir or Shaykhánib (the “Father of Columns”); and, as if two names did not suffice, it has a third, Ras el-Huwayz (“of the Little Cistern”). It is our “High Peak,” the most remarkable feature of the sea-façade, even when it conceals the pair of towering pillars that show conspicuously to the north and south. From the beak-shaped apex the range begins to decline and fall; there is little to notice in the fourth horn, whose unimportant items, the Ras Lahyánah, the Jebel Maí’h, and the Umm Gisr (Jisr), end the wall. Each has its huge white Wady, striping the country in alternation with dark-brown divides, and trending coastwards in the usual network.

The material of the four crests is the normal grey granite, enormous lumps and masses rounded by degradation; all chasms and naked columns, with here and there a sheet burnished by ancient cataracts, and a slide trickling with water, unseen in the shade and flashing in the sun like a sheet of crystal. The granite, however, is a mere mask or excrescence, being everywhere based upon and backed by the green and red plutonic traps which have enveloped it. And the prism has no easy inland slopes, as a first glance suggests; instead of being the sea-wall of a great plateau, it falls abruptly to the east as well as to the west. The country behind it shows a perspective of high and low hills, lines of dark rock divided from one another by Wadys of the usual exaggerated size. Of these minor heights only one, the Jebel el-Sahhárah looks down upon the sea, rising between the Dibbagh-Kh’shabríyyah block to the north, and the Shárr to the south. Beyond the broken eastern ground, the ruddy Hismá and the gloomy Harrah form the fitting horizon.

After this much for geography, we may view the monarch of Midianite mountains in the beauty and the majesty of his picturesque form. Seen from El-Muwaylah, he is equally magnificent in the flush of morning, in the still of noon, and in the evening glow. As the rays, which suggested the obelisk, are shooting over the southern crests, leaving the basement blue with a tint between the amethyst and the lapis lazuli, its northern third lies wrapped in a cloak of cold azure grey, and its central length already dons a half-light of warmer hue. Meanwhile, the side next the sun is flooded with an aerial aureole of subtle mist, a drift of liquid gold, a gush of living light, rippling from the unrisen orb, decreasing in warmth and brilliancy, paling and fading and waxing faint with infinite gradations proportioned to the increase of distance. Again, after the clear brooding sheen of day has set off the “stark strength and grandeur of rock-form contrasted with the brilliancy and sprightliness of sea,” the sinking sun paints the scene with the most gorgeous of blazonings. The colours of the pale rock-skeleton are so faint that there is nothing to interfere with the perfect development of atmospheric effects: it is a white sheet spread to catch the grand illumination, lambent lights of saffron and peach-blossom and shades of purple and hyacinth. As indescribably lovely is the after-glow, the zodiacal light which may have originated the pyramid; the lively pink reflection from the upper atmosphere; the vast variety of tints with which the greens and the reds, the purples and the fiery crimsons of the western sky tincture the receptive surface of the neutral-hued granites; and the chameleon-shiftings of the dying day, as it sinks into the arms of night. Nor less admirable are the feats of the fairy Refraction. The mighty curtain seems to rise and fall as if by magic: it imitates, as it were, the framework of man. In early morning the dancing of the air adds many a hundred cubits to its apparent stature: it is now a giant, when at midnight, after the equipoise of atmospheric currents, it becomes a dwarf replica of its former self.

* * * * * *

I had neglected to order overnight the camels from El-Muwaylah, a penny-wise proceeding which delayed our departure. It was nearly nine a.m. (March 13th) before we left the Mukhbir, whose unhappies still sighed and yearned for the civilization and dissipation of Suez; landed at the head of the Sharm Yáhárr, and marched up the Wady Hárr. We were guided by two Jeráfín, Sulayman ibn Musallim and Farj ibn ‘Awayz; the former a model hill-man, a sturdy, thick-legged, huge-calved, gruff-voiced, full-bearded fellow, hot-tempered, good-humoured, and renowned as an ibex-hunter. His gun, marked “Lazari Coitinaz,” was a long-barrelled Spanish musket, degraded to a matchlock: it had often changed hands, probably by theft, and the present owner declared that he had bought it for seventy dollars–nearly £15! Yet its only luxury was the bottom of a breechloader brass cartridge, inlaid and flanked by the sharp incisors of the little Wabar, or mountain coney. These Bedawin make gunpowder for themselves; they find saltpetre in every cavern, and they buy from Egypt the sulphur which is found in their own hills.

After a few minutes we left the Hárr, which drains the tallest of the inland hillock-ranges, and the red block “Hamrá el-Maysarah;” and we struck south-east into the Wady Sanawíyyah. It is a vulgar valley with a novelty, the Tamrat Faraj. This cairn of brick-coloured boulders buttressing the right bank has, or is said to have, the Memnonic property of emitting sounds–Yarinn is the Bedawi word. The boomings and bellowings are said to be loudest at sunrise and sunset. The “hideous hum” of such subterraneous thunderings is alluded to by all travellers in the Dalmatian Island of Melada, and in the Narenta Valley. The marvel has been accounted for by the escape of imprisoned air unequally expanded, but “a veil of mystery hangs over the whole.”[EN#18] The valley-sides of dark trap were striped with white veins of heat-altered argil; the sole with black magnetic sand; and patches of the bed were buttercup-yellow with the Handán (dandelion), the Cytisus, and the Zaram (Panicum turgidum) loved by camels. Their jaundiced hue contrasted vividly with the red and mauve blossoms of the boragine El-Kahlá, the blue flowerets of the Lavandula (El-Zayti), and the delicate green of the useless[EN#19] asphodel (El-Borag), which now gave a faint and shadowy aspect of verdure to the slopes. Although the rise was inconsiderable, the importance of the vegetation palpably decreased as we advanced inland.

After four miles we reached the Wady-head, and wasted a couple of hours awaiting the camels that carried our supplies. The path then struck over a stony divide, with the Hamrá to the left or north, and on the other side the Hamrá el-Mu’arrash, made familiar to us by our last march. The latter ends in an isolated peak, the Jebel Gharghúr, which, on our return, was mistaken for the sulphur-hill of Jibbah. Presently we renewed acquaintance with the Wady el-Bayzá, whose lower course we had crossed south of Sharm Yáhárr: here it is a long and broad, white and tree-dotted expanse, glaring withal, and subtending all this section of the Shárr’s sea-facing base. We reached, after a total of eight miles, the Jibál el-Kawáim, or “the Perpendiculars,” one of the features which the Bedawin picturesquely call the Aulád el-Shárr (“Sons of the Sha’rr”). The three heads, projected westwards from the Umm Furút peak and then trending northwards, form a lateral valley, a bay known as Wady el-Káimah. It is a picturesque feature with its dark sands and red grit, while the profile of No. 3 head, the Káimat Abú Rákí, shows a snub-nosed face in a judicial wig, the trees forming an apology for a beard. I thought of “Buzfuz Bovill.”

We camped early, as the Safh el-Shárr (the “Plain of the Shárr”) and the lateral valley were found strewed with quartzes, white, pink, and deep slate-blue. The guides had accidentally mentioned a “Jebel el-Marú,” and I determined to visit it next morning. The night was warm and still. The radiation of heat from the huge rock-range explained the absence of cold, so remarkable during all this excursion–hence the African traveller ever avoids camping near bare stones. Dew, however, wetted our boxes like thin rain: the meteor, remarked for the first time on March 13th, will last, they say, three months, and will greatly forward vegetation. It seems to be uncertain, or rather to be influenced by conditions which we had no opportunity of studying: at times it would be exceptionally heavy, and in other places it was entirely absent. Before evening new contract-boots, bought from the Mukhbir, were distributed to the soldiers and all the quarrymen, who limped painfully on their poor bare feet:–next day all wore their well-hidden old boots.

Early on March 14th we ascended the Wady el-Káimah, which showed a singular spectacle, and read us another lecture upon the diversity of formation which distinguishes this region. An abrupt turn then led over rough ground, the lower folds of the Umm Furút, where a great granite gorge, the Nakb Abú Shár, ran up to a depression in the dorsum, an apparently practicable Col. Suddenly the rocks assumed the quaintest hues and forms. The quartz, slaty-blue and black, was here spotted and streaked with a dull, dead white, as though stained by the droppings of myriad birds: there it lay veined and marbled with the most vivid of rainbow colours– reds and purples, greens and yellows, set off by the pale chalky white. Evident signs of work were remarked in a made road running up to the Jebel el-Marú (proper), whose strike is 38° (mag.), and whose dip is westward. It is an arête, a cock’s-comb of snowy quartz some sixty feet high by forty-five broad at the base; crowning a granitic fold that descends abruptly, with a deep fall on either side, from the “Mother of Plenty.” This strangely isolated wall, left standing by the denudation that swept away the containing stone, had been broken by perpendicular rifts into four distinct sections; the colour became whiter as it neared the coping, and each rock was crowned with a capping that sparkled like silver in the sudden glance of the “cloud-compelling” sun. The sight delighted us; and M. Lacaze here made one of his most effective croquis, showing the explorers reduced to the size of ants. As yet we had seen nothing of the kind; nor shall we see a similar vein till we reach Abú’l-Marwah, near our farthest southern point. I expected a corresponding formation upon the opposite eastern versant: we found only a huge crest, a spine of black plutonic rock, intensely ugly and repulsive. As we rode back down the “Valley of the Perpendiculars,” the aspect of the Jebel el-Marú was épâtant–to use another favourite camp-word. Standing sharply out from its vague and gloomy background made gloomier by the morning mists, the Col, whose steep rain-cut slopes and sole were scattered with dark trees and darker rocks, this glittering wall became the shell of an enchanted castle in Gustave Doré.

Returning to our old camping-ground after a ride of three hours and thirty minutes (= nine miles), we crossed two short divides, and descended the Wady el-Kusayb, which gives a name to “Sharp Peak.” Here a few formless stone-heaps and straggling bushes represented the ruins, the gardens of palms, and the bullrushes of the Bedawi shepherd lads.[EN#20] Our tents had been pitched in the rond-point of the Wady Surr, which before had given us hospitality (February 19th), on a Safh or high bouldery ledge of the left bank, where it receives the broad Kusayb watercourse. The day had been sultry; the sun was a “rain sun,” while the clouds massed thick to the south-west; and at night the lamps of heaven shone with a reddish, lurid light. The tent-pegs were weighted with camel-boxes against the storm; nevertheless, our mess-tent was levelled in a moment by the howling north-easter–warm withal–which, setting in about midnight, made all things uncomfortable enough.

Whilst the caravan was ordered to march straight up the noble Wady Surr, we set off next morning at six a.m. up the Wady Malíh, the north-eastern branch of the bulge in the bed. A few Arab tents were scattered about the bushes above the mouth; and among the yelping curs was a smoky-faced tyke which might have been Eskimo-bred:–hereabouts poor ‘Brahim had been lost, and was not fated to be found. A cross-country climb led to the Jebel Malíh, whose fame for metallic wealth gave us the smallest expectations–hitherto all our discoveries came by surprise. A careful examination showed nothing at all; but a few days afterwards glorious specimens of cast copper were brought in, the Bedawi declaring that he had found them amongst the adjoining hills. In the re-entering angles of the subjacent Wady the thrust of a stick is everywhere followed by the reappearance of stored-up rain, and the sole shows a large puddle of brackish and polluted water. Perhaps the Malayh of the Bedawin may mean “the salt” (Málih), not “the pleasant” (Malíh). Malíh, or Mallih, is also the name of a plant, the Reaumuria vernice of Forskâl.

Resuming our ride up the torrent-bed, and crossing to the Wady Daumah (of the “Single Daum-palm”), we dragged our mules down a ladder of rock and boulder, the left bank of the upper Surr. The great valley now defines, sharply as a knife-cut, the northernmost outlines of the Shárr, whose apex, El-Kusayb, towered above our heads. Thorn-trees are abundant; fan-palm bush grows in patches; and we came upon what looked like a flowing stream ruffled by the morning breeze: the guides declared that it is a rain-pool, dry as a bone in summer. Presently the rocky bed made a sharp turn; and its “Gate,” opened upon another widening, the meeting place of four Wadys, the northern being the Wady Zibayyib that drains ruddy Abá‘l-bárid.

After a short halt to examine the rude ruins reported by Mr. Clarke,[EN#21] we resumed the ascent of the Surr, whose left bank still defines the eastern edge of the Shárr. The latter presently puts forth the jagged spine of black and repulsive plutonic rock, which notes the Sha’b Makhúl, the corresponding versant of the Nakb Abú Sha’r. The Bedawin, who, as usual, luxuriate in nomenclature, distinguish between the eastern and western faces of the same block, and between the Wadys of the scarp and the counter-scarp. For instance, the eastern front of the Ras el-Kusayb is called Abú Kurayg (Kurayj). This is natural, as the formations, often of a different material, show completely different features.

A little further on, the continuity of the right bank is broken by the Wady el-Hámah. It receives the Wady Kh’shabríyyah, which, bifurcating in the upper bed, drains the Dibbagh and the Umm Jedayl blocks; and in the fork lie, we were told, the ruins of El-Fara’, some five hours’ march from this section of the Surr. At the confluence of El-Hámah we found the camels grazing and the tents pitched without orders: the two Shaykhs were determined to waste another day, so they were directed to reload while we breakfasted. Everything was in favour of a long march; the dusty, gusty north-easter had blown itself out in favour of a pleasant southerly wind, a sea breeze deflected from the west.

After marching three miles we camped at the foot of the ridge to be ascended next morning: the place is called Safhat el-Mu’ayrah from a slaty schistose hill on the eastern bank. The guides declared that the only practicable line to the summit was from this place; and that the Sha’bs (Cols) generally cannot be climbed even by the Arabs–I have reason to believe the reverse. Musallim, an old Bedawi, brought, amongst other specimens from the adjacent atelier, the Mashghal el-Mu’ayrah, a bright bead about the size of No. 5 shot: in the evening dusk it was taken for gold, and it already aroused debates concerning the proper direction of the promised reward, fifty dollars. The morning light showed fine copper. Here free metal was distinctly traceable in the scoriæ, and it was the first time that we had seen slag so carelessly worked. Not a little merriment was caused by the ostentatious display of “gold-stones,” marked by M. Philipin’s copper-nailed boots. Sulaymán, the Bedawi, had killed a Wabar, whose sadly mutilated form appeared to be that of the Syrian hill coney: these men split the bullet into four; “pot” at the shortest distance, and, of course, blow to pieces any small game they may happen to hit.

Early on March 16th we attacked the Shárr in a general direction from north to south, where the ascent looked easy enough. On the left bank a porphyritic block, up whose side a mule can be ridden, is disposed in a slope of the palest and most languid of greens, broken by piles of black rock so regular as to appear artificial. This step leads to a horizontal crest, a broken wall forming its summit: it is evidently an outlier; and experience asked, What will be behind it? The more distant plane showed only the heads of the Shenázir or “Pins,” the two quaint columns which are visible as far as the Shárr itself. This lower block is bounded, north and south, by gorges; fissures that date from the birth of the mountain, deepened by age and raging torrents: apparently they offered no passage. In the former direction yawns the Rushúh Abú Tinázib, so called from its growth–the Tanzub-tree[EN#22] (Sodada decidua); and in the latter the Sháb Umm Khárgah (Khárjah). I should have preferred a likely looking Nakb, south of this southern gorge, but the Bedawin, and especially Abú Khartúm, who had fed his camels and sheep upon the mountain, overruled me.

The ascent of the outlier occupied three very slow hours, spent mostly in prospecting and collecting. At nine a.m. we stood 3200 feet above sea-level (aner. 26.79), high enough to make our tents look like bits of white macadam. What most struck us was the increased importance of the vegetation, both in quantity and quality; the result, doubtless, of more abundant dew and rain, as well as of shade from each passing mist-cloud. The view formed a startling contrast of fertility and barrenness. At every hundred yards the growths of the plain became more luxuriant in the rich humus filling the fissures, and, contrary to the general rule, the plants, especially the sorrel (Rumex) and the dandelion (Taraxacum), instead of dwindling, gained in stature. The strong-smelling Ferula looked like a bush, and the Sarh grew into a tree: the Ar’ar,[EN#23] a homely hawthorn (hawthorn-leaved Rhus), whose appearance was a surprise, equalled the Cratœgus of Syria; and the upper heights must have been a forest of fine junipers (Habíbah = Juniperus Phœnicea), with trunks thick as a man’s body. The guides spoke of wild figs, but we failed to find them. Our chasseurs, who had their guns, eagerly conned over the traces of ibex and hyenas, and the earths, as well as the large round footprints, of un léopard; but none of the larger animals were seen. The Bedawi matchlock has made them wary; chance might give a shot the first day: on the other hand, skill might be baffled for a month or two–I passed six weeks upon the Anti-Libanus before seeing a bear. The noble Shinnár-partridge again appeared; an eagle’s feather lay on the ground; two white papillons and one yellow butterfly reminded me of the Camarones Mountain; the wild bee and the ladybird-like Ba’úzah stuck to us as though they loved us; and we were pestered by the attentions of the common fly. The Egyptian symbol for “Paul Pry” is supposed to denote an abundance of organic matter: it musters strong throughout Midian, even in the dreariest wastes; and it accompanies us everywhere, whole swarms riding upon our backs.

The only semblance of climbing was over the crest of brown, burnished, and quartzless traps. Even there the hands were hardly required, although our poor feet regretted the want of Spartelles.[EN#24] Here the track debouched upon an inverted arch, with a hill, or rather a tall and knobby outcrop of rock, on either flank of the keystone. The inland or eastward view was a map of the region over which we had travelled; a panorama of little chains mostly running parallel with the great range, and separated from it by Wadys, lateral, oblique, and perpendicular. Of these torrent-beds some were yellow, others pink, and others faint sickly green with decomposed trap; whilst all bore a fair growth of thorn-trees–Acacias and Mimosas. High over and beyond the monarch of the Shafah Mountains, Jebel Sahhárah, whose blue poll shows far out at sea, ran the red levels of the Hismá, backed at a greater elevation by the black-blue Harrah. The whole Tihámah range, now so familiar to us, assumed a novel expression. The staple material proved to be blocks and crests of granite, protruding from the younger plutonics, which enfolded and enveloped their bases and backs. The one exception was the dwarf Umm Jedayl, a heap composed only of grey granite. The Jebel Kh’shabríyyah in the Dibbagh block attracted every eye; the head was supported by a neck swathed as with an old-fashioned cravat.

The summit of the outlier is tolerably level, and here the shepherds had built small hollow piles of dry stone, in which their newly yeaned lambs are sheltered from the rude blasts. The view westwards, or towards the sea, which is not seen, almost justifies by its peculiarity the wild traditions of built wells, of a “moaning mountain,” and of furnaces upon the loftiest slopes: it is notable that the higher we went, the less we heard of these features, which at last vanished into thin air. Our platform is, as I suspected, cut off from the higher plane by a dividing gorge; but the depth is only three hundred feet, and to the south it is bridged by a connecting ridge. Beyond it rises the great mask of granite forming the apex, a bonier skeleton than any before seen. Down the northern sheet-rocks trickled a thin stream that caught the sun’s eye; thus the ravine is well supplied with water in two places. South of it rises a tempting Col, with a slope apparently easy, separating a dull mass of granite on the right from the peculiar formation to the left. The latter is a dome of smooth, polished, and slippery grey granite, evidently unpleasant climbing; and from its landward slope rise abrupt, as if hand-built, two isolated gigantic “Pins,” which can hardly measure less than four hundred feet in stature. They are the remains of a sharp granitic comb whose apex was once the “Parrot’s Beak.” The mass, formerly mammilated, has been broken and denticulated by the destruction of softer strata. Already the lower crest, bounding the Sha’b Umm Khárgah, shows perpendicular fissures which, when these huge columns shall be gnawed away by the tooth of Time, will form a new range of pillars for the benefit of those ascending the Shárr, let us say in about A.D. 10,000. Such are the “Pins” which name the mountain; and which, concealed from the coast, make so curious a show to the north, south, and east of this petrified glacier.

After breaking their fast, M.M. Clarke, Lacaze, and Philipin volunteered to climb the tempting Col. None of them had ever ascended a mountain, and they duly despised the obstacles offered by big rocks distance-dwarfed to paving-stones; and of sharp angles, especially the upper, perspective-blunted to easy slopes. However, all three did exceeding well: for such a “forlorn hope” young recruits are better than old soldiers. They set out at eleven a.m., and lost no time in falling asunder; whilst the quarrymen, who accompanied them with the water-skins, shirked work as usual, lagged behind, sat and slept in some snug hollow, and returned, when dead-tired of slumber, declaring that they had missed the “Effendis.”

M. Philipin took singly the sloping side of the connecting ridge; and, turning to the right, made straight for the “Pins,” below which was spread a fleck of lean and languid green. The ascent was comparatively mild, except where it became a sheet of smooth and slippery granite; but when he reached a clump of large junipers, his course was arrested by a bergschrund, which divides this block–evidently a second outlier–from the apex of the Shárr, the “Dome” and the “Parrot’s Beak.” It was vain to attempt a passage of the deep gash, with perpendicular upper walls, and lower slopes overgrown with vegetation; nor could he advance to the right and rejoin his companions, who were parted from him by the precipices on the near side of the Col. Consequently, he beat a retreat, and returned to us at 2.30 p.m., after three hours and thirty minutes of exceedingly thirsty work: the air felt brisk and cool, but the sun shone pitilessly, unveiled by the smallest scrap of mist. He brought with him an ibex-horn still stained with blood, and a branch of juniper, straight enough to make an excellent walking-stick.

The other two struck across the valley, and at once breasted the couloir leading to the Col, where we had them well in sight. They found the ascent much “harder on the collar” than they expected: fortunately the sole of the huge gutter yielded a trickle of water. The upper part was, to their naive surprise, mere climbing on all fours; and they reached the summit, visible from our halting-place, in two hours. Here they also were summarily stopped by perpendicular rocks on either side, and by the deep gorge or crevasse, shedding seawards and landwards, upon whose further side rose the “Parrot’s Beak.” The time employed would give about two thousand feet, not including the ascent from the valley (three hundred feet); and thus their highest point could hardly be less than 5200 feet. Allowing another thousand for the apex, which they could not reach,[EN#25] the altitude of the Shárr would be between 6000 and 6500 feet.

The shadows were beginning to lengthen before the two reappeared, and the delay caused no small apprehension; the Sayyid showed a kindly agitation that was quite foreign to his calm and collected demeanour, when threatened by personal danger. To be benighted amongst these cruel mountains must be no joke; nor would it have been possible to send up a tent or even mouth-munition. However, before the sun had reached the west, they came back triumphant with the spoils of war. One was a snake (Echis colorata, Günther), found basking upon the stones near the trickle of water. It hissed at them, and, when dying, it changed colour, they declared, like a chameleon–that night saw it safely in the spirit-tin. They were loaded with juniper boughs, and fortunately they had not forgotten the berries; the latter establish the identity of the tree with the common Asiatic species. M. Lacaze brought back several Alpine plants, a small Helix which he had found near the summit, and copious scrawls for future croquis–his studies of the “Pins” and the “Dome” were greatly admired at Cairo.

Ere the glooms of night had set in, we found ourselves once more at the tents. Only one man suffered from the ascent, and his sunstroke was treated in Egyptian fashion. Instead of bleeding like that terrible, murderous Italian school of Sangrados, the Fellahs tie a string tightly round the head; and after sunset–which is considered de rigueur–they fill the ears with strong brine. According to them the band causes a bunch of veins to swell in the forehead, and, when pressed hard, it bursts like a pistol-shot. The cure is evidently effected by the cold salt-and-water. The evening ended happily with the receipt of a mail, and with the good news that the Sinnár corvette had been sent to take the place of El-Mukhbir, the unfortunate. Once more we felt truly grateful to the Viceroy and the Prince who so promptly and so considerately had supplied all our wants, and whose kindness would convert our southern cruise into a holiday gîte, without the imminent deadly risk of a burst boiler.

We set out in high spirits on the next morning (6.15 a.m., March 17th), riding, still southwards, up the Surr: the stony, broken surface now showed that we were fast approaching its source. Beyond the Umm Khárgah gorge on the western bank, rose a tall head, the Ras el-Rukabíyyah; and beyond it was a ravine, in which palms and water are said to be found. The opposite side raised its monotonous curtain of green and red traps, whose several projections bore the names of Jebel el-Wu’ayrah–the hill behind our camping-ground–Jebel el-Maín, and Jebel Sháhitah. A little beyond the latter debouched the Darb el-Kufl (“Road of Caravans”), alias Darb el-Ashárif (“Road of the Sherifs”), a winding gap, the old line of the Egyptian pilgrims, by which the Sulaymáyyán Bedawin still wend their way to Suez. The second name, perhaps, conserves the tradition of long-past wars waged between the Descendants of the Apostle and the Beni ‘Ukbah.[EN#26] The broad mouth was dotted with old graves, with quartz-capped memorial-cairns, and, here and there, with a block bearing some tribal mark. The Wady-sole grew a “stinkhorn” held to be poisonous, and called, from its fetor, “Faswat el-‘Agúz” (Cynophallus impudicus): one specimen was found on the tip of an ibex-horn, and the other had been impaled with a stick. After two hours and thirty minutes (= seven miles) we sighted the head of the Wady Surr proper, whose influents drain the southern Khurayatah or Hismá Pass. Here the amount of green surface, and the number of birds, especially the blue-rock and the insect-impaling “butcher,” whose nests were in the thin forest of thorn-trees, argue that water is not far off. The Ras Wady Surr is a charming halting-place.

Our Arabs worked hard to gain another day. The only tolerable Pass rounding the southern Shárr was, they declared, the Wady Aújar, an influent of the Wady Zahakán, near Zibá. The Col el-Kuwayd, now within a few yards of us, is so terrible that the unfortunate camels would require, before they could attempt it, at least twenty-four hours of preparatory rest and rich feeding; and so forth. However, we pushed them on with flouts and jeers, and we ourselves followed at eleven a.m.

The Pass proved to be one of the easiest. It began with a gradual rise up a short broad Wady, separating the southernmost counterforts of the Shárr from the north end of the Jebel el-Ghuráb. This “Raven Mountain” is a line of similar but lower formation, which virtually prolongs the great “Landmark,” down coast. The bottom was dotted with lumps of pure “Marú,” washed from the upper levels. We reached the summit in forty minutes, and the seaward slope beyond it was a large outcrop of quartz in situ, that assumed the strangest appearance,–a dull, dead chalky-white, looking as if heat-altered or mixed with clay. The rock-ladder leading to the lower Wady Kuwayd, which has an upper branch of the same name, offered no difficulty to man or beast; and the aneroid showed its height to be some 470 feet (28.13–28.50). The caravan, having preceded us, revenged itself by camping at the nearest pool, distant nineteen and a half direct geographical miles from our destination.

This day was the first of the Khamsín or, as M. Loufti (?), a Coptic student, writes it, “Khamasín,” from Khama (“warm”) and Sina (“air”).[EN#27] The Midianites call it El-Daufún, the hot blasts, and expect it to blow at intervals for a couple of months. This scirocco has been modified in Egypt, at least during the spring, apparently by the planting of trees. About a quarter-century ago, its regular course was three days: on the first it set in; the second was its worst; and men knew that it would exhaust itself on the third. Now it often lasts only a single day, and even that short period has breaks.

The site of the camp made sleep well-nigh impossible–a bad preparation for the only long ride of this excursion. Setting off at dark (4.20 a.m., March 18th), we finished the monotonous Wady Kuwayd, which mouths upon the rolling ground falling coastwards. The track then struck to the north-west, across and sometimes down the network of Wadys that subtends the south-western Shárr–their names have already been mentioned. As we sighted the cool green-blue sea, its horizon-line appeared prodigiously uplifted, as if the Fountains of the great Deep were ready for another Deluge. I remembered the inevitable expressions of surprise with which, young Alpinists and ballooners, expecting the rim of the visible circle to fall away, see it rising around them in saucer-shape. The cause is simply that which breaks the stick in water, and which elevates the Sha’rr every morning–Refraction.

After a march of seven hours (= twenty-two miles), we debouched, viâ the Wady Hárr, upon our old Sharm, the latter showing, for the first time since its creation, two war-steamers, with their “tender,” a large Sambúk. The boats did not long keep us waiting; and we were delighted to tread once more the quarter-deck of the corvette Sinnár. Captain Ali Bey Shukri’s place had been taken by Captain Hasan-Bey, an Osmanli of Cavala who, having been forty-eight years in the service, sighed for his pension. He did, however, everything in his power to make us feel “at home;” and the evening ended with a fantasia of a more pronounced character than anything that I had yet seen.[EN#28]

Résumé of the March Through Eastern or Central Midian.

Our journey through Eastern or Central Midian lasted eighteen days (February 19–March 8), with an excursion of six (March 13–18) to its apex, the mighty Shárr, which I would add to our exploration of Central Midian. Despite enforced slow marches at the beginning of the first section, we visited in round numbers, according to my itinerary, 197 miles: Lieutenant Amir’s map gives a linear length of 222 miles, not including the offsets. The second part covered fifty-five miles, besides the ascent of the mountain to a height of about five thousand feet: the mapper also increased this figure to 59 2/3. Thus the route-line shows a grand total of 252 to 281 2/3 in direct statute miles. The number of camels engaged from Shaykhs ‘Alayán and Hasan was sixty-one; and the hire, according to Mr. Clarke, represented £147 6s. 6d., not including the £40 of which we were plundered by the bandit Ma’ázah. The ascent of the Shárr also cost £40, making a grand total of £187 6s. 6d.

The march to the Hismá gave us a fair idea of the three main formations of Madyan, which lie parallel and east of one another:–1. The sandy and stony maritime region, the foot-hills