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First footsteps in East Africa by Richard F. Burton

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I have ventured, my dear Lumsden, to address you in, and inscribe to you,
these pages. Within your hospitable walls my project of African travel was
matured, in the fond hope of submitting, on return, to your friendly
criticism, the record of adventures in which you took so warm an interest.
Dis aliter visum! Still I would prove that my thoughts are with you, and
thus request you to accept with your wonted _bonhommie_ this feeble token
of a sincere good will.


Averse to writing, as well as to reading, diffuse Prolegomena, the author
finds himself compelled to relate, at some length, the circumstances which
led to the subject of these pages.

In May 1849, the late Vice-Admiral Sir Charles Malcolm, formerly
Superintendent of the Indian Navy, in conjunction with Mr. William John
Hamilton, then President of the Royal Geographical Society of Great
Britain, solicited the permission of the Court of Directors of the
Honorable East India Company to ascertain the productive resources of the
unknown Somali Country in East Africa. [1] The answer returned, was to the
following effect:--

"If a fit and proper person volunteer to travel in the Somali Country, he
goes as a private traveller, the Government giving no more protection to
him than they would to an individual totally unconnected with the service.
They will allow the officer who obtains permission to go, during his
absence on the expedition to retain all the pay and allowances he may be
enjoying when leave was granted: they will supply him with all the
instruments required, afford him a passage going and returning, and pay
the actual expenses of the journey."

The project lay dormant until March 1850, when Sir Charles Malcolm and
Captain Smyth, President of the Royal Geographical Society of Great
Britain, waited upon the chairman of the Court of Directors of the
Honorable East India Company. He informed them that if they would draw up
a statement of what was required, and specify how it could be carried into
effect, the document should be forwarded to the Governor-General of India,
with a recommendation that, should no objection arise, either from expense
or other causes, a fit person should be permitted to explore the Somali

Sir Charles Malcolm then offered the charge of the expedition to Dr.
Carter of Bombay, an officer favourably known to the Indian world by his
services on board the "Palinurus" brig whilst employed upon the maritime
survey of Eastern Arabia. Dr. Carter at once acceded to the terms proposed
by those from whom the project emanated; but his principal object being to
compare the geology and botany of the Somali Country with the results of
his Arabian travels, he volunteered to traverse only that part of Eastern
Africa which lies north of a line drawn from Berberah to Ras Hafun,--in
fact, the maritime mountains of the Somal. His health not permitting him
to be left on shore, he required a cruizer to convey him from place to
place, and to preserve his store of presents and provisions. By this means
he hoped to land at the most interesting points and to penetrate here and
there from sixty to eighty miles inland, across the region which he
undertook to explore.

On the 17th of August, 1850, Sir Charles Malcolm wrote to Dr. Carter in
these terms:--"I have communicated with the President of the Royal
Geographical Society and others: the feeling is, that though much valuable
information could no doubt be gained by skirting the coast (as you
propose) both in geology and botany, yet that it does not fulfil the
primary and great object of the London Geographical Society, which was,
and still is, to have the interior explored." The Vice-Admiral, however,
proceeded to say that, under the circumstances of the case, Dr. Carter's
plans were approved of, and asked him to confer immediately with Commodore
Lushington; then Commander in Chief of the Indian Navy.

In May, 1851, Vice-Admiral Sir Charles Malcolm died: geographers and
travellers lost in him an influential and an energetic friend. During the
ten years of his superintendence over the Indian Navy that service rose,
despite the incubus of profound peace, to the highest distinction. He
freely permitted the officers under his command to undertake the task of
geographical discovery, retaining their rank, pay, and batta, whilst the
actual expenses of their journeys were defrayed by contingent bills. All
papers and reports submitted to the local government were favourably
received, and the successful traveller looked forward to distinction and

During the decade which elapsed between 1828 and 1838, "officers of the
Indian Navy journeyed, as the phrase is, _with their lives in their
hands_, through the wildest districts of the East. Of these we name the
late Commander J. A. Young, Lieutenants Wellsted, Wyburd, Wood, and
Christopher, retired Commander Ormsby, the present Capt. H. B. Lynch C.B.,
Commanders Felix Jones and W. C. Barker, Lieutenants Cruttenden and
Whitelock. Their researches extended from the banks of the Bosphorus to
the shores of India. Of the vast, the immeasurable value of such
services," to quote the words of the Quarterly Review (No. cxxix. Dec.
1839), "which able officers thus employed, are in the mean time rendering
to science, to commerce, to their country, and to the whole civilized
world, we need say nothing:--nothing we could say would be too much."

"In five years, the admirable maps of that coral-bound gulf--the Red Sea--
were complete: the terrors of the navigation had given place to the
confidence inspired by excellent surveys. In 1829 the Thetis of ten guns,
under Commander Robert Moresby, convoyed the first coal ship up the Red
Sea, of the coasts of which this skilful and enterprising seaman made a
cursory survey, from which emanated the subsequent trigonometrical
operations which form our present maps. Two ships were employed, the
'Benares' and 'Palinurus,' the former under Commander Elwon, the latter
under Commander Moresby. It remained, however, for the latter officer to
complete the work. Some idea may be formed of the perils these officers
and men went through, when we state the 'Benares' was forty-two times

"Robert Moresby, the genius of the Red Sea, conducted also the survey of
the Maldive Islands and groups known as the Chagos Archipelago. He
narrowly escaped being a victim to the deleterious climate of his station,
and only left it when no longer capable of working. A host of young and
ardent officers,--Christopher, Young, Powell, Campbell, Jones, Barker, and
others,--ably seconded him: death was busy amongst them for months and so
paralyzed by disease were the living, that the anchors could scarcely be
raised for a retreat to the coast of India. Renovated by a three months'
stay, occasionally in port, where they were strengthened by additional
numbers, the undaunted remnants from time to time returned to their task;
and in 1837, gave to the world a knowledge of those singular groups which
heretofore--though within 150 miles of our coasts--had been a mystery
hidden within the dangers that environed them. The beautiful maps of the
Red Sea, drafted by the late Commodore Carless [2], then a lieutenant,
will ever remain permanent monuments of Indian Naval Science, and the
daring of its officers and men. Those of the Maldive and Chagos groups,
executed by Commander then Acting Lieutenant Felix Jones, were, we hear,
of such a high order, that they were deemed worthy of special inspection
by the Queen."

"While these enlightening operations were in progress, there were others
of this profession, no less distinguished, employed on similar
discoveries. The coast of Mekran westward from Scinde, was little known,
but it soon found a place in the hydrographical offices of India, under
Captain, then Lieutenant, Stafford Haines, and his staff, who were engaged
on it. The journey to the Oxus, made by Lieut. Wood, Sir. A. Burnes's
companion in his Lahore and Afghan missions, is a page of history which
may not be opened to us again in our own times; while in Lieut. Carless's
drafts of the channels of the Indus, we trace those designs, that the
sword of Sir Charles Napier only was destined to reveal."

"The ten years prior to that of 1839 were those of fitful repose, such as
generally precedes some great outbreak. The repose afforded ample leisure
for research, and the shores of the island of Socotra, with the south
coast of Arabia, were carefully delineated. Besides the excellent maps of
these regions, we are indebted to the survey for that unique work on Oman,
by the late Lieut. Wellsted of this service, and for valuable notices from
the pen of Lieut. Cruttenden. [3]

"Besides the works we have enumerated, there were others of the same
nature, but on a smaller scale, in operation at the same period around our
own coasts. The Gulf of Cambay, and the dangerous sands known as the
Molucca Banks, were explored and faithfully mapped by Captain Richard
Ethersey, assisted by Lieutenant (now Commander) Fell. Bombay Harbour was
delineated again on a grand scale by Capt. R. Cogan, assisted by Lieut.
Peters, now both dead; and the ink of the Maldive charts had scarcely
dried, when the labours of those employed were demanded of the Indian
Government by Her Majesty's authorities at Ceylon, to undertake
trigonometrical surveys of that Island, and the dangerous and shallow
gulfs on either side of the neck of sand connecting it with India. They
were the present Captains F. F. Powell, and Richard Ethersey, in the
Schooner 'Royal Tiger' and 'Shannon,' assisted by Lieut. (now Commander)
Felix Jones, and the late Lieut. Wilmot Christopher, who fell in action
before Mooltan. The first of these officers had charge of one of the
tenders under Lieut. Powell, and the latter another under Lieut. Ethersey.
The maps of the Pamban Pass and the Straits of Manaar were by the hand of
Lieut. Felix Jones, who was the draftsman also on this survey: they speak
for themselves." [4]

In 1838 Sir Charles Malcolm was succeeded by Sir Robert Oliver, an "old
officer of the old school"--a strict disciplinarian, a faithful and honest
servant of Government, but a violent, limited, and prejudiced man. He
wanted "sailors," individuals conversant with ropes and rigging, and
steeped in knowledge of shot and shakings, he loved the "rule of thumb,"
he hated "literary razors," and he viewed science with the profoundest
contempt. About twenty surveys were ordered to be discontinued as an
inauguratory measure, causing the loss of many thousand pounds,
independent of such contingencies as the "Memnon." [5] Batta was withheld
from the few officers who obtained leave, and the life of weary labour on
board ship was systematically made monotonous and uncomfortable:--in local
phrase it was described as "many stripes and no stars." Few measures were
omitted to heighten the shock of contrast. No notice was taken of papers
forwarded to Government, and the man who attempted to distinguish himself
by higher views than quarter-deck duties, found himself marked out for the
angry Commodore's red-hot displeasure. No place was allowed for charts and
plans: valuable original surveys, of which no duplicates existed, lay
tossed amongst the brick and mortar with which the Marine Office was being
rebuilt. No instruments were provided for ships, even a barometer was not
supplied in one case, although duly indented for during five years. Whilst
Sir Charles Malcolm ruled the Bombay dockyards, the British name rose high
in the Indian, African, and Arabian seas. Each vessel had its presents--
guns, pistols, and powder, Abbas, crimson cloth and shawls, watches,
telescopes, and similar articles--with a suitable stock of which every
officer visiting the interior on leave was supplied. An order from Sir
Robert Oliver withdrew presents as well as instruments: with them
disappeared the just idea of our faith and greatness as a nation
entertained by the maritime races, who formerly looked forward to the
arrival of our cruizers. Thus the Indian navy was crushed by neglect and
routine into a mere transport service, remarkable for little beyond
constant quarrels between sea-lieutenants and land-lieutenants, sailor-
officers and soldier-officers, their "passengers." And thus resulted that
dearth of enterprise--alluded to _ex cathedra_ by a late President of the
Royal Geographical Society of Great Britain--which now characterises
Western India erst so celebrated for ardour in adventure.

To return to the subject of East African discovery. Commodore Lushington
and Dr. Carter met in order to concert some measures for forwarding the
plans of a Somali Expedition. It was resolved to associate three persons,
Drs. Carter and Stocks, and an officer of the Indian navy: a vessel was
also warned for service on the coast of Africa. This took place in the
beginning of 1851: presently Commodore Lushington resigned his command,
and the project fell to the ground.

The author of these pages, after his return from El Hajaz to Bombay,
conceived the idea of reviving the Somali Expedition: he proposed to start
in the spring of 1854, and accompanied by two officers, to penetrate _via_
Harar and Gananah to Zanzibar. His plans were favourably received by the
Right Hon. Lord Elphinstone, the enlightened governor of the colony, and
by the local authorities, amongst whom the name of James Grant Lumsden,
then Member of Council, will ever suggest the liveliest feelings of
gratitude and affection. But it being judged necessary to refer once more
for permission to the Court of Directors, an official letter bearing date
the 28th April 1854 was forwarded from Bombay with a warm recommendation.
Lieut. Herne of the 1st Bombay European Regiment of Fusileers, an officer
skilful in surveying, photography, and mechanics, together with the
writer, obtained leave, pending the reference, and a free passage to Aden
in Arabia. On the 23rd August a favourable reply was despatched by the
Court of Directors.

Meanwhile the most painful of events had modified the original plan. The
third member of the Expedition, Assistant Surgeon J. Ellerton Stocks,
whose brilliant attainments as a botanist, whose long and enterprising
journeys, and whose eminently practical bent of mind had twice recommended
him for the honors and trials of African exploration, died suddenly in the
prime of life. Deeply did his friends lament him for many reasons: a
universal favourite, he left in the social circle a void never to be
filled up, and they mourned the more that Fate had not granted him the
time, as it had given him the will and the power, to trace a deeper and
more enduring mark upon the iron tablets of Fame.

No longer hoping to carry out his first project, the writer determined to
make the geography and commerce of the Somali country his principal
objects. He therefore applied to the Bombay Government for the assistance
of Lieut. William Stroyan, I. N., an officer distinguished by his surveys
on the coast of Western India, in Sindh, and on the Panjab Rivers. It was
not without difficulty that such valuable services were spared for the
deadly purpose of penetrating into Eastern Africa. All obstacles, however,
were removed by their ceaseless and energetic efforts, who had fostered
the author's plans, and early in the autumn of 1854, Lieut. Stroyan
received leave to join the Expedition. At the same time, Lieut. J. H.
Speke, of the 46th Regiment Bengal N. I., who had spent many years
collecting the Fauna of Thibet and the Himalayan mountains, volunteered to
share the hardships of African exploration.

In October 1854, the writer and his companions received at Aden in Arabia
the sanction of the Court of Directors. It was his intention to march in a
body, using Berberah as a base of operations, westwards to Harar, and
thence in a south-easterly direction towards Zanzibar.

But the voice of society at Aden was loud against the expedition. The
rough manners, the fierce looks, and the insolent threats of the Somal--
the effects of our too peaceful rule--had pre-possessed the timid colony
at the "Eye of Yemen" with an idea of extreme danger. The Anglo-Saxon
spirit suffers, it has been observed, from confinement within any but
wooden walls, and the European degenerates rapidly, as do his bull-dogs,
his game-cocks, and other pugnacious animals, in the hot, enervating, and
unhealthy climates of the East. The writer and his comrades were
represented to be men deliberately going to their death, and the Somal at
Aden were not slow in imitating the example of their rulers. The savages
had heard of the costly Shoa Mission, its 300 camels and 50 mules, and
they longed for another rehearsal of the drama: according to them a vast
outlay was absolutely necessary, every village must be feasted, every
chief propitiated with magnificent presents, and dollars must be dealt out
by handfuls. The Political Resident refused to countenance the scheme
proposed, and his objection necessitated a further change of plans.

Accordingly, Lieut. Herne was directed to proceed, after the opening of
the annual fair-season, to Berberah, where no danger was apprehended. It
was judged that the residence of this officer upon the coast would produce
a friendly feeling on the part of the Somal, and, as indeed afterwards
proved to be the case, would facilitate the writer's egress from Harar, by
terrifying the ruler for the fate of his caravans. [6] Lieut. Herne, who
on the 1st of January 1855, was joined by Lieut. Stroyan, resided on the
African coast from November to April; he inquired into the commerce, the
caravan lines, and the state of the slave trade, visited the maritime
mountains, sketched all the places of interest, and made a variety of
meteorological and other observations as a prelude to extensive research.

Lieut. Speke was directed to land at Bunder Guray, a small harbour in the
"Arz el Aman," or "Land of Safety," as the windward Somal style their
country. His aim was to trace the celebrated Wady Nogal, noting its
watershed and other peculiarities, to purchase horses and camels for the
future use of the Expedition, and to collect specimens of the reddish
earth which, according to the older African travellers, denotes the
presence of gold dust. [7] Lieut. Speke started on the 23rd October 1854,
and returned, after about three months, to Aden. He had failed, through
the rapacity and treachery of his guide, to reach the Wady Nogal. But he
had penetrated beyond the maritime chain of hills, and his journal
(condensed in the Appendix) proves that he had collected some novel and
important information.

Meanwhile the author, assuming the disguise of an Arab merchant, prepared
to visit the forbidden city of Harar. He left Aden on the 29th of October
1854, arrived at the capital of the ancient Hadiyah Empire on the 3rd
January 1855, and on the 9th of the ensuing February returned in safety to
Arabia, with the view of purchasing stores and provisions for a second and
a longer journey. [8] What unforeseen circumstance cut short the career of
the proposed Expedition, the Postscript of the present volume will show.

The following pages contain the writer's diary, kept daring his march to
and from Harar. It must be borne in mind that the region traversed on this
occasion was previously known only by the vague reports of native
travellers. All the Abyssinian discoverers had traversed the Dankali and
other northern tribes: the land of the Somal was still a _terra
incognita_. Harar, moreover, had never been visited, and few are the
cities of the world which in the present age, when men hurry about the
earth, have not opened their gates to European adventure. The ancient
metropolis of a once mighty race, the only permanent settlement in Eastern
Africa, the reported seat of Moslem learning, a walled city of stone
houses, possessing its independent chief, its peculiar population, its
unknown language, and its own coinage, the emporium of the coffee trade,
the head-quarters of slavery, the birth-place of the Kat plant, [9] and
the great manufactory of cotton-cloths, amply, it appeared, deserved the
trouble of exploration. That the writer was successful in his attempt, the
following pages will prove. Unfortunately it was found impossible to use
any instruments except a pocket compass, a watch, and a portable
thermometer more remarkable for convenience than correctness. But the way
was thus paved for scientific observation: shortly after the author's
departure from Harar, the Amir or chief wrote to the Acting Political
Resident at Aden, earnestly begging to be supplied with a "Frank
physician," and offering protection to any European who might be persuaded
to visit his dominions.

The Appendix contains the following papers connected with the movements of
the expedition in the winter of 1854.

1. The diary and observations made by Lieut. Speke, when attempting to
reach the Wady Nogal.

2. A sketch of the grammar, and a vocabulary of the Harari tongue. This
dialect is little known to European linguists: the only notices of it
hitherto published are in Salt's Abyssinia, Appendix I. p. 6-10.; by Balbi
Atlas Ethnogr. Tab. xxxix. No. 297.; Kielmaier, Ausland, 1840, No. 76.;
and Dr. Beke (Philological Journal, April 25. 1845.)

3. Meteorological observations in the cold season of 1854-55 by Lieuts.
Herne, Stroyan, and the Author.

4. A brief description of certain peculiar customs, noticed in Nubia, by
Brown and Werne under the name of fibulation.

5. The conclusion is a condensed account of an attempt to reach Harar from
Ankobar. [10] On the 14th October 1841, Major Sir William Cornwallis
Harris (then Captain in the Bombay Engineers), Chief of the Mission sent
from India to the King of Shoa, advised Lieut. W. Barker, I. N., whose
services were imperatively required by Sir Robert Oliver, to return from
Abyssinia _via_ Harar, "over a road hitherto untrodden by Europeans." As
His Majesty Sahalah Selassie had offered friendly letters to the Moslem
Amir, Capt. Harris had "no doubt of the success of the enterprise."
Although the adventurous explorer was prevented by the idle fears of the
Bedouin Somal and the rapacity of his guides from visiting the city, his
pages, as a narrative of travel, will amply reward perusal. They have been
introduced into this volume mainly with the view of putting the reader in
possession of all that has hitherto been written and not published, upon
the subject of Harar. [11] For the same reason the author has not
hesitated to enrich his pages with observations drawn from Lieutenants
Cruttenden and Rigby. The former printed in the Transactions of the Bombay
Geographical Society two excellent papers: one headed a "Report on the
Mijjertheyn Tribe of Somallies inhabiting the district forming the North
East Point of Africa;" secondly, a "Memoir on the Western or Edoor Tribes,
inhabiting the Somali coast of North East Africa; with the Southern
Branches of the family of Darood, resident on the banks of the Webbe
Shebayli, commonly called the River Webbe." Lieut. C. P. Rigby, 16th
Regiment Bombay N. I., published, also in the Transactions of the
Geographical Society of Bombay, an "Outline of the Somali Language, with
Vocabulary," which supplied a great lacuna in the dialects of Eastern

A perusal of the following pages will convince the reader that the
extensive country of the Somal is by no means destitute of capabilities.
Though partially desert, and thinly populated, it possesses valuable
articles of traffic, and its harbours export the produce of the Gurague,
Abyssinian, Galla, and other inland races. The natives of the country are
essentially commercial: they have lapsed into barbarism by reason of their
political condition--the rude equality of the Hottentots,--but they appear
to contain material for a moral regeneration. As subjects they offer a
favourable contrast to their kindred, the Arabs of El Yemen, a race
untameable as the wolf, and which, subjugated in turn by Abyssinian,
Persian, Egyptian, and Turk, has ever preserved an indomitable spirit of
freedom, and eventually succeeded in skaking off the yoke of foreign
dominion. For half a generation we have been masters of Aden, filling
Southern Arabia with our calicos and rupees--what is the present state of
affairs there? We are dared by the Bedouins to come forth from behind our
stone walls and fight like men in the plain,--British _proteges_ are
slaughtered within the range of our guns,--our allies' villages have been
burned in sight of Aden,--our deserters are welcomed and our fugitive
felons protected,--our supplies are cut off, and the garrison is reduced
to extreme distress, at the word of a half-naked bandit,--the miscreant
Bhagi who murdered Capt. Mylne in cold blood still roams the hills
unpunished,--gross insults are the sole acknowledgments of our peaceful
overtures,--the British flag has been fired upon without return, our
cruizers being ordered to act only on the defensive,--and our forbearance
to attack is universally asserted and believed to arise from mere
cowardice. Such is, and such will be, the character of the Arab!

The Sublime Porte still preserves her possessions in the Tahamah, and the
regions conterminous to Yemen, by the stringent measures with which
Mohammed Ali of Egypt opened the robber-haunted Suez road. Whenever a Turk
or a traveller is murdered, a few squadrons of Irregular Cavalry are
ordered out; they are not too nice upon the subject of retaliation, and
rarely refuse to burn a village or two, or to lay waste the crops near the
scene of outrage.

A civilized people, like ourselves, objects to such measures for many
reasons, of which none is more feeble than the fear of perpetuating a
blood feud with the Arabs. Our present relations with them are a "very
pretty quarrel," and moreover one which time must strengthen, cannot
efface. By a just, wholesome, and unsparing severity we may inspire the
Bedouin with fear instead of contempt: the veriest visionary would deride
the attempt to animate him with a higher sentiment.

"Peace," observes a modern sage, "is the dream of the wise, war is the
history of man." To indulge in such dreams is but questionable wisdom. It
was not a "peace-policy" which gave the Portuguese a seaboard extending
from Cape Non to Macao. By no peace policy the Osmanlis of a past age
pushed their victorious arms from the deserts of Tartary to Aden, to
Delhi, to Algiers, and to the gates of Vienna. It was no peace policy
which made the Russians seat themselves upon the shores of the Black, the
Baltic, and the Caspian seas: gaining in the space of 150 years, and,
despite war, retaining, a territory greater than England and France
united. No peace policy enabled the French to absorb region after region
in Northern Africa, till the Mediterranean appears doomed to sink into a
Gallic lake. The English of a former generation were celebrated for
gaining ground in both hemispheres: their broad lands were not won by a
peace policy, which, however, in this our day, has on two distinct
occasions well nigh lost for them the "gem of the British Empire"--India.
The philanthropist and the political economist may fondly hope, by outcry
against "territorial aggrandizement," by advocating a compact frontier, by
abandoning colonies, and by cultivating "equilibrium," to retain our rank
amongst the great nations of the world. Never! The facts of history prove
nothing more conclusively than this: a race either progresses or
retrogrades, either increases or diminishes: the children of Time, like
their sire, cannot stand still.

The occupation of the port of Berberah has been advised for many reasons.

In the first place, Berberah is the true key of the Red Sea, the centre of
East African traffic, and the only safe place for shipping upon the
western Erythroean shore, from Suez to Guardafui. Backed by lands capable
of cultivation, and by hills covered with pine and other valuable trees,
enjoying a comparatively temperate climate, with a regular although thin
monsoon, this harbour has been coveted by many a foreign conqueror.
Circumstances have thrown it as it were into our arms, and, if we refuse
the chance, another and a rival nation will not be so blind.

Secondly, we are bound to protect the lives of British subjects upon this
coast. In A.D. 1825 the crew of the "Mary Ann" brig was treacherously
murdered by the Somal. The consequence of a summary and exemplary
punishment [12] was that in August 1843, when the H.E.I.C.'s war-steamer
"Memnon" was stranded at Ras Assayr near Cape Guardafui, no outrage was
attempted by the barbarians, upon whose barren shores our seamen remained
for months labouring at the wreck. In A.D. 1855 the Somal, having
forgotten the old lesson, renewed their practices of pillaging and
murdering strangers. It is then evident that this people cannot be trusted
without supervision, and equally certain that vessels are ever liable to
be cast ashore in this part of the Red Sea. But a year ago the French
steam corvette, "Le Caiman," was lost within sight of Zayla; the Bedouin
Somal, principally Eesa, assembled a fanatic host, which was, however,
dispersed before blood had been drawn, by the exertion of the governor and
his guards. It remains for us, therefore, to provide against such
contingencies. Were one of the Peninsular and Oriental Company's vessels
cast by any accident upon this inhospitable shore, in the present state of
affairs the lives of the passengers, and the cargo, would be placed in
imminent peril.

In advocating the establishment of an armed post at Berberah no stress is
laid upon the subject of slavery. To cut off that traffic the possession
of the great export harbour is by no means necessary. Whenever a British
cruizer shall receive positive and _bona fide_ orders to search native
craft, and to sell as prizes all that have slaves on board, the trade will
receive a death-blow.

Certain measures have been taken during the last annual fair to punish the
outrage perpetrated by the Somal at Berberah in A.D. 1855. The writer on
his return to Aden proposed that the several clans implicated in the
offence should at once be expelled from British dominions. This
preliminary was carried out by the Acting Political Resident at Aden.
Moreover, it was judged advisable to blockade the Somali coast, from
Siyaro to Zayla, not concluded, until, in the first place, Lieut.
Stroyan's murderer, and the ruffian who attempted to spear Lieut. Speke in
cold blood, should be given up [13]; and secondly, that due compensation
for all losses should be made by the plunderers. The former condition was
approved by the Right Honorable the Governor-General of India, who,
however, objected, it is said, to the money-demand. [14] At present the
H.E. I.C.'s cruizers "Mahi," and "Elphinstone," are blockading the harbour
of Berberah, the Somal have offered 15,000 dollars' indemnity, and they
pretend, as usual, that the murderer has been slain by his tribe.

To conclude. The writer has had the satisfaction of receiving from his
comrades assurances that they are willing to accompany him once more in
task of African Exploration. The plans of the Frank are now publicly known
to the Somali. Should the loss of life, however valuable, be an obstacle
to prosecuting them, he must fall in the esteem of the races around him.
On the contrary, should he, after duly chastising the offenders, carry out
the original plan, he will command the respect of the people, and wipe out
the memory of a temporary reverse. At no distant period the project will,
it is hoped, be revived. Nothing is required but permission to renew the
attempt--an indulgence which will not be refused by a Government raised by
energy, enterprise, and perseverance from the ranks of merchant society to
national wealth and imperial grandeur.

14. St. James's Square,
10th February, 1856.


[1] It occupies the whole of the Eastern Horn, extending from the north of
Bab el Mandeb to several degrees south of Cape Guardafui. In the former
direction it is bounded by the Dankali and the Ittoo Gallas; in the latter
by the Sawahil or Negrotic regions; the Red Sea is its eastern limit, and
westward it stretches to within a few miles of Harar.

[2] In A.D. 1838, Lieut. Carless surveyed the seaboard of the Somali
country, from Ras Hafun to Burnt Island; unfortunately his labours were
allowed by Sir Charles Malcolm's successor to lie five years in the
obscurity of MS. Meanwhile the steam frigate "Memnon," Capt. Powell
commanding, was lost at Ras Assayr; a Norie's chart, an antiquated
document, with an error of from fifteen to twenty miles, being the only
map of reference on board. Thus the Indian Government, by the dilatoriness
and prejudices of its Superintendent of Marine, sustained an unjustifiable
loss of at least 50,000_l._

[3] In A.D. 1836-38, Lieut. Cruttenden published descriptions of travel,
which will be alluded to in a subsequent part of this preface.

[4] This "hasty sketch of the scientific labours of the Indian navy," is
extracted from an able anonymous pamphlet, unpromisingly headed
"Grievances and Present Condition of our Indian Officers."

[5] In A.D. 1848, the late Mr. Joseph Hume called in the House of Commons
for a return of all Indian surveys carried on during the ten previous
years. The result proved that no less than a score had been suddenly
"broken up," by order of Sir Robert Oliver.

[6] This plan was successfully adopted by Messrs. Antoine and Arnauld
d'Abbadie, when travelling in dangerous parts of Abyssinia and the
adjacent countries.

[7] In A.D. 1660, Vermuyden found gold at Gambia always on naked and
barren hills embedded in a reddish earth.

[8] The writer has not unfrequently been blamed by the critics of Indian
papers, for venturing into such dangerous lands with an outfit nearly
1500_l._ in value. In the Somali, as in other countries of Eastern Africa,
travellers must carry not only the means of purchasing passage, but also
the very necessaries of life. Money being unknown, such bulky articles as
cotton-cloth, tobacco, and beads are necessary to provide meat and milk,
and he who would eat bread must load his camels with grain. The Somal of
course exaggerate the cost of travelling; every chief, however, may demand
a small present, and every pauper, as will be seen in the following pages,
expects to be fed.

[9] It is described at length in Chap. III.

[10] The author hoped to insert Lieut. Berne's journal, kept at Berberah,
and the different places of note in its vicinity; as yet, however, the
paper has not been received.

[11] Harar has frequently been described by hearsay; the following are the
principal authorities:--

Rochet (Second Voyage Dans le Pays des Adels, &c. Paris, 1846.), page 263.

Sir. W. Cornwallis Harris (Highlands of AEthiopia, vol. i. ch. 43. et

Cruttenden (Transactions of the Bombay Geological Society A.D. 1848).

Barker (Report of the probable Position of Harar. Vol. xii. Royal
Geographical Society).

M'Queen (Geographical Memoirs of Abyssinia, prefixed to Journals of Rev.
Messrs. Isenberg and Krapf).

Christopher (Journal whilst commanding the H. C.'s brig "Tigris," on the
East Coast of Africa).

Of these by far the most correct account is that of Lieut. Cruttenden.

[12] In A.D. 1825, the Government of Bombay received intelligence that a
brig from the Mauritius had been seized, plundered, and broken up near
Berberah, and that part of her crew had been barbarously murdered by the
Somali. The "Elphinstone" sloop of war (Capt. Greer commanding) was sent
to blockade the coast; when her guns opened fire, the people fled with
their wives and children, and the spot where a horseman was killed by a
cannon ball is still shown on the plain near the town. Through the
intervention of El Hajj Sharmarkay, the survivors were recovered; the
Somal bound themselves to abstain from future attacks upon English
vessels, and also to refund by annual instalments the full amount of
plundered property. For the purpose of enforcing the latter stipulation it
was resolved that a vessel of war should remain upon the coast until the
whole was liquidated. When attempts at evasion occurred, the traffic was
stopped by sending all craft outside the guard-ship, and forbidding
intercourse with the shore. The "Coote" (Capt. Pepper commanding), the
"Palinurus" and the "Tigris," in turn with the "Elphinstone," maintained
the blockade through the trading seasons till 1833. About 6000_l._ were
recovered, and the people were strongly impressed with the fact that we
had both the will and the means to keep their plundering propensities
within bounds.

[13] The writer advised that these men should be hung upon the spot where
the outrage was committed, that the bodies should be burned and the ashes
cast into the sea, lest by any means the murderers might become martyrs.
This precaution should invariably be adopted when Moslems assassinate

[14] The reason of the objection is not apparent. A savage people is
imperfectly punished by a few deaths: the fine is the only true way to
produce a lasting impression upon their heads and hearts. Moreover, it is
the custom of India and the East generally, and is in reality the only
safeguard of a traveller's property.

[Illustration: Map to illustrate LIEUT. BURTON'S Route to HARAR _from a
Sketch by the late Lieut. W. Stroyan, Indian Navy._]

[Illustration: BERBERAH]



Departure from Aden

Life in Zayla

Excursions near Zayla

The Somal, their Origin and Peculiarities

From Zayla to the Hills

From the Zayla Hills to the Marar Prairie

From the Marar Prairie to Harar

Ten Days at Harar

A Ride to Berberah

Berberah and its Environs




Harar, from the Coffe Stream
Map of Berberah
Route to Harar
The Hammal
Costume of Harar
H. H. Ahmed Bin Abibakr, Amir of Harar




I doubt not there are many who ignore the fact that in Eastern Africa,
scarcely three hundred miles distant from Aden, there is a counterpart of
ill-famed Timbuctoo in the Far West. The more adventurous Abyssinian
travellers, Salt and Stuart, Krapf and Isenberg, Barker and Rochet,--not
to mention divers Roman Catholic Missioners,--attempted Harar, but
attempted it in vain. The bigoted ruler and barbarous people threatened
death to the Infidel who ventured within their walls; some negro Merlin
having, it is said, read Decline and Fall in the first footsteps of the
Frank. [1] Of all foreigners the English were, of course, the most hated
and dreaded; at Harar slavery still holds its head-quarters, and the old
Dragon well knows what to expect from the hand of St. George. Thus the
various travellers who appeared in beaver and black coats became persuaded
that the city was inaccessible, and Europeans ceased to trouble themselves
about Harar.

It is, therefore, a point of honor with me, dear L., to utilise my title
of Haji by entering the city, visiting the ruler, and returning in safety,
after breaking the guardian spell.

The most auspicious day in the Moslem year for beginning a journey is,
doubtless, the 6th of the month Safar [2], on which, quoth the Prophet, El
Islam emerged from obscurity. Yet even at Aden we could not avail
ourselves of this lucky time: our delays and difficulties were a fit
prelude for a journey amongst those "Blameless Ethiopians," with whom no
less a personage than august Jove can dine and depart. [3]

On Sunday, the 29th October, 1854, our manifold impediments were
pronounced complete. Friend S. threw the slipper of blessing at my back,
and about 4 P.M. embarking from Maala Bunder, we shook out our "muslin,"
and sailed down the fiery harbour. Passing the guard-boat, we delivered
our permit; before venturing into the open sea we repeated the Fatihah-
prayer in honor of the Shaykh Majid, inventor of the mariners' compass
[4], and evening saw us dancing on the bright clear tide, whose "magic
waves," however, murmured after another fashion the siren song which
charmed the senses of the old Arabian voyagers. [5]

Suddenly every trace of civilisation fell from my companions as if it had
been a garment. At Aden, shaven and beturbaned, Arab fashion, now they
threw off all dress save the loin cloth, and appeared in their dark
morocco. Mohammed filled his mouth with a mixture of coarse Surat tobacco
and ashes,--the latter article intended, like the Anglo-Indian soldier's
chili in his arrack, to "make it bite." Guled uncovered his head, a member
which in Africa is certainly made to go bare, and buttered himself with an
unguent redolent of sheep's tail; and Ismail, the rais or captain of our
"foyst," [6] the Sahalah, applied himself to puffing his nicotiana out of
a goat's shank-bone. Our crew, consisting of seventy-one men and boys,
prepared, as evening fell, a mess of Jowari grain [7] and grease, the
recipe of which I spare you, and it was despatched in a style that would
have done credit to Kafirs as regards gobbling, bolting, smearing lips,
licking fingers, and using ankles as napkins. Then with a light easterly
breeze and the ominous cliffs of Little Aden still in sight, we spread our
mats on deck and prepared to sleep under the moon. [8]

My companions, however, felt, without perhaps comprehending, the joviality
arising from a return to Nature. Every man was forthwith nicknamed, and
pitiless was the raillery upon the venerable subjects of long and short,
fat and thin. One sang a war-song, another a love-song, a third some song
of the sea, whilst the fourth, an Eesa youth, with the villanous
expression of face common to his tribe, gave us a rain measure, such as
men chaunt during wet weather. All these effusions were _naive_ and
amusing: none, however, could bear English translation without an amount
of omission which would change their nature. Each effort of minstrelsy was
accompanied by roars of laughter, and led to much manual pleasantry. All
swore that they had never spent, intellectually speaking, a more charming
_soiree_, and pitied me for being unable to enter thoroughly into the
spirit of the dialogue. Truly it is not only the polished European, as was
said of a certain travelling notability, that lapses with facility into
pristine barbarism.

I will now introduce you to my companions. The managing man is one
Mohammed Mahmud [9], generally called El Hammal or the porter: he is a
Havildar or sergeant in the Aden police, and was entertained for me by
Lieut. Dansey, an officer who unfortunately was not "confirmed" in a
political appointment at Aden. The Hammal is a bull-necked, round-headed
fellow of lymphatic temperament, with a lamp-black skin, regular features,
and a pulpy figure,--two rarities amongst his countrymen, who compare him
to a Banyan. An orphan in early youth, and becoming, to use his own
phrase, sick of milk, he ran away from his tribe, the Habr Gerhajis, and
engaged himself as a coaltrimmer with the slaves on board an Indian war-
steamer. After rising in rank to the command of the crew, he became
servant and interpreter to travellers, visited distant lands--Egypt and
Calcutta--and finally settled as a Feringhee policeman. He cannot read or
write, but he has all the knowledge to be acquired by fifteen or twenty
years, hard "knocking about:" he can make a long speech, and, although he
never prays, a longer prayer; he is an excellent mimic, and delights his
auditors by imitations and descriptions of Indian ceremony, Egyptian
dancing, Arab vehemence, Persian abuse, European vivacity, and Turkish
insolence. With prodigious inventiveness, and a habit of perpetual
intrigue, acquired in his travels, he might be called a "knowing" man, but
for the truly Somali weakness of showing in his countenance all that
passes through his mind. This people can hide nothing: the blank eye, the
contracting brow, the opening nostril and the tremulous lip, betray,
despite themselves, their innermost thoughts.

The second servant, whom I bring before you is Guled, another policeman at
Aden. He is a youth of good family, belonging to the Ismail Arrah, the
royal clan of the great Habr Gerhajis tribe. His father was a man of
property, and his brethren near Berberah, are wealthy Bedouins: yet he ran
away from his native country when seven or eight years old, and became a
servant in the house of a butter merchant at Mocha. Thence he went to
Aden, where he began with private service, and ended his career in the
police. He is one of those long, live skeletons, common amongst the Somal:
his shoulders are parallel with his ears, his ribs are straight as a
mummy's, his face has not an ounce of flesh upon it, and his features
suggest the idea of some lank bird: we call him Long Guled, to which he
replies with the Yemen saying "Length is Honor, even in Wood." He is brave
enough, because he rushes into danger without reflection; his great
defects are weakness of body and nervousness of temperament, leading in
times of peril to the trembling of hands, the dropping of caps, and the
mismanagement of bullets: besides which, he cannot bear hunger, thirst, or

The third is one Abdy Abokr, also of the Habr Gerhajis, a personage whom,
from, his smattering of learning and his prodigious rascality, we call the
Mulla "End of Time." [10] He is a man about forty, very old-looking for
his age, with small, deep-set cunning eyes, placed close together, a hook
nose, a thin beard, a bulging brow, scattered teeth, [11] and a short
scant figure, remarkable only for length of back. His gait is stealthy,
like a cat's, and he has a villanous grin. This worthy never prays, and
can neither read nor write; but he knows a chapter or two of the Koran,
recites audibly a long Ratib or task, morning and evening [12], whence,
together with his store of hashed Hadis (tradition), he derives the title
of Widad or hedge-priest. His tongue, primed with the satirical sayings of
Abn Zayd el Helali, and Humayd ibn Mansur [13], is the terror of men upon
whom repartee imposes. His father was a wealthy shipowner in his day; but,
cursed with Abdy and another son, the old man has lost all his property,
his children have deserted him, and he now depends entirely upon the
charity of the Zayla chief. The "End of Time" has squandered considerable
sums in travelling far and wide from Harar to Cutch, he has managed
everywhere to perpetrate some peculiar villany. He is a pleasant
companion, and piques himself upon that power of quotation which in the
East makes a polite man. If we be disposed to hurry, he insinuates that
"Patience is of Heaven, Haste of Hell." When roughly addressed, he

"There are cures for the hurts of lead and steel,
But the wounds of the tongue--they never heal!"

If a grain of rice adhere to our beards, he says, smilingly, "the gazelle
is in the garden;" to which we reply "we will hunt her with the five."
[14] Despite these merits, I hesitated to engage him, till assured by the
governor of Zayla that he was to be looked upon as a son, and, moreover,
that he would bear with him one of those state secrets to an influential
chief which in this country are never committed to paper. I found him an
admirable buffoon, skilful in filling pipes and smoking them; _au reste_,
an individual of "many words and little work," infinite intrigue,
cowardice, cupidity, and endowed with a truly evil tongue.

The morning sun rose hot upon us, showing Mayyum and Zubah, the giant
staples of the "Gate under the Pleiades." [15] Shortly afterwards, we came
in sight of the Barr el Ajam (barbarian land), as the Somal call their
country [16], a low glaring flat of yellow sand, desert and heat-reeking,
tenanted by the Eesa, and a meet habitat for savages. Such to us, at
least, appeared the land of Adel. [17] At midday we descried the Ras el
Bir,--Headland of the Well,--the promontory which terminates the bold
Tajurrah range, under which lie the sleeping waters of the Maiden's Sea.
[18] During the day we rigged out an awning, and sat in the shade smoking
and chatting merrily, for the weather was not much hotter than on English
summer seas. Some of the crew tried praying; but prostrations are not
easily made on board ship, and El Islam, as Umar shrewdly suspected, was
not made for a seafaring race. At length the big red sun sank slowly
behind the curtain of sky-blue rock, where lies the not yet "combusted"
village of Tajurrah. [19] We lay down to rest with the light of day, and
had the satisfaction of closing our eyes upon a fair though captious

On the morning of the 31st October, we entered the Zayla Creek, which
gives so much trouble to native craft. We passed, on the right, the low
island of Masha, belonging to the "City of the Slave Merchant,"--
Tajurrah,--and on the left two similar patches of seagirt sand, called
Aybat and Saad el Din. These places supply Zayla, in the Kharif or hot
season [20], with thousands of gulls' eggs,--a great luxury. At noon we
sighted our destination. Zayla is the normal African port,--a strip of
sulphur-yellow sand, with a deep blue dome above, and a foreground of the
darkest indigo. The buildings, raised by refraction, rose high, and
apparently from the bosom of the deep. After hearing the worst accounts of
it, I was pleasantly disappointed by the spectacle of white-washed houses
and minarets, peering above a long low line of brown wall, flanked with
round towers.

As we slowly threaded the intricate coral reefs of the port, a bark came
scudding up to us; it tacked, and the crew proceeded to give news in
roaring tones. Friendship between the Amir of Harar and the governor of
Zayla had been broken; the road through the Eesa Somal had been closed by
the murder of Masud, a favourite slave and adopted son of Sharmarkay; all
strangers had been expelled the city for some misconduct by the Harar
chief; moreover, small-pox was raging there with such violence that the
Galla peasantry would allow neither ingress nor egress. [21] I had the
pleasure of reflecting for some time, dear L., upon the amount of
responsibility incurred by using the phrase "I will;" and the only
consolation that suggested itself was the stale assurance that

"Things at the worst most surely mend."

No craft larger than a canoe can ride near Zayla. After bumping once or
twice against the coral reefs, it was considered advisable for our good
ship, the Sahalat, to cast anchor. My companions caused me to dress, put
me with my pipe and other necessaries into a cock-boat, and, wading
through the water, shoved it to shore. Lastly, at Bab el Sahil, the
Seaward or Northern Gate, they proceeded to array themselves in the
bravery of clean Tobes and long daggers strapped round the waist; each man
also slung his targe to his left arm, and in his right hand grasped lance
and javelin. At the gate we were received by a tall black spearman with a
"Ho there! to the governor;" and a crowd of idlers gathered to inspect the
strangers. Marshalled by the warder, we traversed the dusty roads--streets
they could not be called--of the old Arab town, ran the gauntlet of a
gaping mob, and finally entering a mat door, found ourselves in the
presence of the governor.

I had met Sharmarkay at Aden, where he received from the authorities
strong injunctions concerning my personal safety: the character of a
Moslem merchant, however, requiring us to appear strangers, an
introduction by our master of ceremonies, the Hammal, followed my
entrance. Sharmarkay was living in an apartment by no means splendid,
preferring an Arish or kind of cow-house,--as the Anglo-Indian Nabobs do
the bungalow

"with mat half hung,
The walls of plaster and the floors of * * * *,"

--to all his substantial double-storied houses. The ground was wet and
comfortless; a part of the reed walls was lined with cots bearing
mattresses and silk-covered pillows, a cross between a divan and a couch:
the only ornaments were a few weapons, and a necklace of gaudy beads
suspended near the door. I was placed upon the principal seat: on the
right were the governor and the Hammal; whilst the lowest portion of the
room was occupied by Mohammed Sharmarkay, the son and heir. The rest of
the company squatted upon chairs, or rather stools, of peculiar
construction. Nothing could be duller than this _assemblee_: pipes and
coffee are here unknown; and there is nothing in the East to act
substitute for them. [22]

The governor of Zayla, El Hajj Sharmarkay bin Ali Salih, is rather a
remarkable man. He is sixteenth, according to his own account, in descent
from Ishak el Hazrami [23], the saintly founder of the great Gerhajis and
Awal tribes. His enemies derive him from a less illustrious stock; and the
fairness of his complexion favours the report that his grandfather Salih
was an Abyssinian slave. Originally the Nacoda or captain of a native
craft, he has raised himself, chiefly by British influence, to the
chieftainship of his tribe. [24] As early as May, 1825, he received from
Captain Bagnold, then our resident at Mocha, a testimonial and a reward,
for a severe sword wound in the left arm, received whilst defending the
lives of English seamen. [25] He afterwards went to Bombay, where he was
treated with consideration; and about fifteen years ago he succeeded the
Sayyid Mohammed el Barr as governor of Zayla and its dependencies, under
the Ottoman Pasha in Western Arabia.

The Hajj Sharmarkay in his youth was a man of Valour: he could not read or
write; but he carried in battle four spears [26], and his sword-cut was
recognisable. He is now a man about sixty years old, at least six feet two
inches in stature, large-limbed, and raw-boned: his leanness is hidden by
long wide robes. He shaves his head and upper lip Shafei-fashion, and his
beard is represented by a ragged tuft of red-stained hair on each side of
his chin. A visit to Aden and a doctor cost him one eye, and the other is
now white with age. His dress is that of an Arab, and he always carries
with him a broad-bladed, silver-hilted sword. Despite his years, he is a
strong, active, and energetic man, ever looking to the "main chance." With
one foot in the grave, he meditates nothing but the conquest of Harar and
Berberah, which, making him master of the seaboard, would soon extend his
power as in days of old even to Abyssinia. [27] To hear his projects, you
would fancy them the offspring of a brain in the prime of youth: in order
to carry them out he would even assist in suppressing the profitable
slave-trade. [28]

After half an hour's visit I was led by the Hajj through the streets of
Zayla [29], to one of his substantial houses of coralline and mud
plastered over with glaring whitewash. The ground floor is a kind of
warehouse full of bales and boxes, scales and buyers. A flight of steep
steps leads into a long room with shutters to exclude the light, floored
with tamped earth, full of "evening flyers" [30], and destitute of
furniture. Parallel to it are three smaller apartments; and above is a
terraced roof, where they who fear not the dew and the land-breeze sleep.
[31] I found a room duly prepared; the ground was spread with mats, and
cushions against the walls denoted the Divan: for me was placed a Kursi or
cot, covered with fine Persian rugs and gaudy silk and satin pillows. The
Hajj installed us with ceremony, and insisted, despite my remonstrances,
upon occupying the floor whilst I sat on the raised seat. After ushering
in supper, he considerately remarked that travelling is fatiguing, and
left us to sleep.

The well-known sounds of El Islam returned from memory. Again the
melodious chant of the Muezzin,--no evening bell can compare with it for
solemnity and beauty,--and in the neighbouring mosque, the loudly intoned
Amin and Allaho Akbar,--far superior to any organ,--rang in my ear. The
evening gun of camp was represented by the Nakkarah, or kettle-drum,
sounded about seven P.M. at the southern gate; and at ten a second
drumming warned the paterfamilias that it was time for home, and thieves,
and lovers,--that it was the hour for bastinado. Nightfall was ushered in
by the song, the dance, and the marriage festival,--here no permission is
required for "native music in the lines,"--and muffled figures flitted
mysteriously through the dark alleys.

* * * * *

After a peep through the open window, I fell asleep, feeling once more at


[1] "A tradition exists," says Lieut. Cruttenden, "amongst the people of
Harar, that the prosperity of their city depends upon the exclusion of all
travellers not of the Moslem faith, and all Christians are specially
interdicted." These freaks of interdiction are common to African rulers,
who on occasions of war, famine or pestilence, struck with some
superstitious fear, close their gates to strangers.

[2] The 6th of Safar in 1864 corresponds with our 28th October. The Hadis
is [Arabic] "when the 6th of Safar went forth, my faith from the cloud
came forth."

[3] The Abyssinian law of detaining guests,--Pedro Covilhao the first
Portuguese envoy (A.D. 1499) lived and died a prisoner there,--appears to
have been the Christian modification of the old Ethiopic rite of
sacrificing strangers.

[4] It would be wonderful if Orientals omitted to romance about the origin
of such an invention as the Dayrah or compass. Shaykh Majid is said to
have been a Syrian saint, to whom Allah gave the power of looking upon
earth, as though it were a ball in his hand. Most Moslems agree in
assigning this origin to the Dayrah, and the Fatihah in honor of the holy
man, is still repeated by the pious mariner.

Easterns do not "box the compass" after our fashion: with them each point
has its own name, generally derived from some prominent star on the
horizon. Of these I subjoin a list as in use amongst the Somal, hoping
that it may be useful to Oriental students. The names in hyphens are those
given in a paper on the nautical instrument of the Arabs by Jas. Prinseps
(Journal of the As. Soc., December 1836). The learned secretary appears
not to have heard the legend of Shaykh Majid, for he alludes to the
"Majidi Kitab" or Oriental Ephemeris, without any explanation.

North Jah [Arabic] East Matla [Arabic]
N. by E. Farjad [Arabic] E. by S. Jauza [Arabic]
(or [Arabic]) E.S.E. Tir [Arabic]
N.N.E. Naash [Arabic] S.E. by E. Iklil [Arabic]
N.E. by E. Nakab [Arabic] S.E. Akrab [Arabic]
N.E. Ayyuk [Arabic] S.E. by S. Himarayn [Arabic]
N.E. by E. Waki [Arabic] S.S.E. Suhayl [Arabic]
E.N.E. Sumak [Arabic] S. by E. Suntubar [Arabic]
E. by N. Surayya [Arabic] (or [Arabic])

The south is called El Kutb ([Arabic]) and the west El Maghib ([Arabic]).
The western points are named like the eastern. North-east, for instance is
Ayyuk el Matlai; north-west, Ayyuk el Maghibi. Finally, the Dayrah Jahi is
when the magnetic needle points due north. The Dayrah Farjadi (more common
in these regions), is when the bar is fixed under Farjad, to allow for
variation, which at Berberah is about 4° 50' west.

[5] The curious reader will find in the Herodotus of the Arabs, El
Masudi's "Meadows of gold and mines of gems," a strange tale of the blind
billows and the singing waves of Berberah and Jofuni (Cape Guardafui, the
classical Aromata).

[6] "Foyst" and "buss," are the names applied by old travellers to the
half-decked vessels of these seas.

[7] Holcus Sorghum, the common grain of Africa and Arabia: the Somali call
it Hirad; the people of Yemen, Taam.

[8] The Somal being a people of less nervous temperament than the Arabs
and Indians, do not fear the moonlight.

[9] The first name is that of the individual, as the Christian name with
us, the second is that of the father; in the Somali country, as in India,
they are not connected by the Arab "bin"--son of.

[10] Abdy is an abbreviation of Abdullah; Abokr, a corruption of Abubekr.
The "End of Time" alludes to the prophesied corruption of the Moslem
priesthood in the last epoch of the world.

[11] This peculiarity is not uncommon amongst the Somal; it is considered
by them a sign of warm temperament.

[12] The Moslem should first recite the Farz prayers, or those ordered in
the Koran; secondly, the Sunnat or practice of the Prophet; and thirdly
the Nafilah or Supererogatory. The Ratib or self-imposed task is the last
of all; our Mulla placed it first, because he could chaunt it upon his
mule within hearing of the people.

[13] Two modern poets and wits well known in Yemen.

[14] That is to say, "we will remove it with the five fingers." These are
euphuisms to avoid speaking broadly and openly of that venerable feature,
the beard.

[15] Bab el Mandeb is called as above by Humayd from its astronomical
position. Jebel Mayyum is in Africa, Jebel Zubah or Muayyin, celebrated as
the last resting-place of a great saint, Shaykh Said, is in Arabia.

[16] Ajam properly means all nations not Arab. In Egypt and Central Asia
it is now confined to Persians. On the west of the Red Sea, it is
invariably used to denote the Somali country: thence Bruce draws the Greek
and Latin name of the coast, Azamia, and De Sacy derives the word "Ajan,"
which in our maps is applied to the inner regions of the Eastern Horn. So
in Africa, El Sham, which properly means Damascus and Syria, is applied to
El Hejaz.

[17] Adel, according to M. Krapf, derived its name from the Ad Ali, a
tribe of the Afar or Danakil nation, erroneously used by Arab synecdoche
for the whole race. Mr. Johnston (Travels in Southern Abyssinia, ch. 1.)
more correctly derives it from Adule, a city which, as proved by the
monument which bears its name, existed in the days of Ptolemy Euergetes
(B.C. 247-222), had its own dynasty, and boasted of a conqueror who
overcame the Troglodytes, Sabaeans, Homerites, &c., and pushed his
conquests as far as the frontier of Egypt. Mr. Johnston, however,
incorrectly translates Barr el Ajam "land of fire," and seems to confound
Avalites and Adulis.

[18] Bahr el Banatin, the Bay of Tajurrah.

[19] A certain German missionary, well known in this part of the world,
exasperated by the seizure of a few dollars and a claim to the _droit
d'aubaine_, advised the authorities of Aden to threaten the "combustion"
of Tajurrah. The measure would have been equally unjust and unwise. A
traveller, even a layman, is bound to put up peaceably with such trifles;
and to threaten "combustion" without being prepared to carry out the
threat is the readiest way to secure contempt.

[20] The Kharif in most parts of the Oriental world corresponds with our
autumn. In Eastern Africa it invariably signifies the hot season preceding
the monsoon rains.

[21] The circumstances of Masud's murder were truly African. The slave
caravans from Abyssinia to Tajurrah were usually escorted by the Rer
Guleni, a clan of the great Eesa tribe, and they monopolised the profits
of the road. Summoned to share their gains with their kinsmen generally,
they refused upon which the other clans rose about August, 1854, and cut
off the road. A large caravan was travelling down in two bodies, each of
nearly 300 slaves; the Eesa attacked the first division, carried off the
wives and female slaves, whom they sold for ten dollars a head, and
savagely mutilated upwards of 100 wretched boys. This event caused the
Tajurrah line to be permanently closed. The Rer Guleni in wrath, at once
murdered Masud, a peaceful traveller, because Inna Handun, his Abban or
protector, was of the party who had attacked their proteges: they came
upon him suddenly as he was purchasing some article, and stabbed him in
the back, before he could defend himself.

[22] In Zayla there is not a single coffee-house. The settled Somal care
little for the Arab beverage, and the Bedouins' reasons for avoiding it
are not bad. "If we drink coffee once," say they, "we shall want it again,
and then where are we to get it?" The Abyssinian Christians, probably to
distinguish themselves from Moslems, object to coffee as well as to
tobacco. The Gallas, on the other hand, eat it: the powdered bean is mixed
with butter, and on forays a lump about the size of a billiard-ball is
preferred to a substantial meal.

[23] The following genealogical table was given to me by Mohammed

1. Ishak (ibn Ahmed ibn Abdillah).
2. Gerhajis (his eldest son).
3. Said (the eldest son; Daud being the second).
4. Arrah, (also the eldest; Ili, _i.e._ Ali, being the second).
5. Musa (the third son: the eldest was Ismail; then, in
succession, Ishak, Misa, Mikahil, Gambah, Dandan, &c.)
6. Ibrahim.
7. Fikih (_i.e._ Fakih.)
8. Adan (_i.e._ Adam.)
9. Mohammed.
10. Hamid.
11. Jibril (_i.e._ Jibrail).
12. Ali.
13. Awaz.
14. Salih.
15. Ali.
16. Sharmarkay.

The last is a peculiarly Somali name, meaning "one who sees no harm."--

[24] Not the hereditary chieftainship of the Habr Gerhajis, which belongs
to a particular clan.

[25] The following is a copy of the document:--

"This Testimonial, together with an Honorary Dress, is presented by the
British Resident at Mocha to Nagoda Shurmakey Ally Sumaulley, in token of
esteem and regard for his humane and gallant conduct at the Port of
Burburra, on the coast of Africa, April 10. 1825, in saving the lives of
Captain William Lingard, chief officer of the Brig Mary Anne, when that
vessel was attacked and plundered by the natives. The said Nagoda is
therefore strongly recommended to the notice and good offices of Europeans
in general, but particularly so to all English gentlemen visiting these

[26] Two spears being the usual number: the difficulty of three or four
would mainly consist in their management during action.

[27] In July, 1855, the Hajj Sharmarkay was deposed by the Turkish Pasha
of Hodaydah, ostensibly for failing to keep some road open, or, according
to others, for assisting to plunder a caravan belonging to the Dankali
tribe. It was reported that he had been made a prisoner, and the Political
Resident at Aden saw the propriety of politely asking the Turkish
authorities to "be easy" upon the old man. In consequence of this
representation, he was afterwards allowed, on paying a fine of 3000
dollars, to retire to Aden.

I deeply regret that the Hajj should have lost his government. He has ever
clung to the English party, even in sore temptation. A few years ago, the
late M. Rochet (soi-disant d'Hericourt), French agent at Jeddah, paying
treble its value, bought from Mohammed Sharmarkay, in the absence of the
Hajj, a large stone house, in order to secure a footing at Zayla. The old
man broke off the bargain on his return, knowing how easily an Agency
becomes a Fort, and preferring a considerable loss to the presence of
dangerous friends.

[28] During my residence at Zayla few slaves were imported, owing to the
main road having been closed. In former years the market was abundantly
stocked; the numbers annually shipped to Mocha, Hodaydah, Jeddah, and
Berberah, varied from 600 to 1000. The Hajj received as duty one gold
"Kirsh," or about three fourths of a dollar, per head.

[29] Zayla, called Audal or Auzal by the Somal, is a town about the size
of Suez, built for 3000 or 4000 inhabitants, and containing a dozen large
whitewashed stone houses, and upwards of 200 Arish or thatched huts, each
surrounded by a fence of wattle and matting. The situation is a low and
level spit of sand, which high tides make almost an island. There is no
Harbour: a vessel of 250 tons cannot approach within a mile of the
landing-place; the open roadstead is exposed to the terrible north wind,
and when gales blow from the west and south, it is almost unapproachable.
Every ebb leaves a sandy flat, extending half a mile seaward from the
town; the reefy anchorage is difficult of entrance after sunset, and the
coralline bottom renders wading painful.

The shape of this once celebrated town is a tolerably regular
parallelogram, of which the long sides run from east to west. The walls,
without guns or embrasures, are built, like the houses, of coralline
rubble and mud, in places dilapidated. There are five gates. The Bab el
Sahil and the Bab el Jadd (a new postern) open upon the sea from the
northern wall. At the Ashurbara, in the southern part of the enceinte, the
Bedouins encamp, and above it the governor holds his Durbar. The Bab Abd
el Kadir derives its name from a saint buried outside and eastward of the
city, and the Bab el Saghir is pierced in the western wall.

The public edifices are six mosques, including the Jami, or cathedral, for
Friday prayer: these buildings have queer little crenelles on whitewashed
walls, and a kind of elevated summer-house to represent the minaret. Near
one of them are remains of a circular Turkish Munar, manifestly of modern
construction. There is no Mahkamah or Kazi's court; that dignitary
transacts business at his own house, and the Festival prayers are recited
near the Saint's Tomb outside the eastern gate. The northeast angle of the
town is occupied by a large graveyard with the usual deleterious

The climate of Zayla is cooler than that of Aden, and, the site being open
all around, it is not so unhealthy. Much spare room is enclosed by the
town walls: evaporation and Nature's scavengers act succedanea for

Zayla commands the adjacent harbour of Tajurrah, and is by position the
northern port of Aussa (the ancient capital of Adel), of Harar, and of
southern Abyssinia: the feuds of the rulers have, however, transferred the
main trade to Berberah. It sends caravans northwards to the Dankali, and
south-westwards, through the Eesa and Gudabirsi tribes as far as Efat and
Gurague. It is visited by Cafilas from Abyssinia, and the different races
of Bedouins, extending from the hills to the seaboard. The exports are
valuable--slaves, ivory, hides, honey, antelope horns, clarified butter,
and gums: the coast abounds in sponge, coral, and small pearls, which Arab
divers collect in the fair season. In the harbour I found about twenty
native craft, large and small: of these, ten belonged to the governor.
They trade with Berberah, Arabia, and Western India, and are navigated by
"Rajput" or Hindu pilots.

Provisions at Zayla are cheap; a family of six persons live well for about
30_l._ per annum. The general food is mutton: a large sheep costs one
dollar, a small one half the price; camels' meat, beef, and in winter kid,
abound. Fish is rare, and fowls are not commonly eaten. Holcus, when dear,
sells at forty pounds per dollar, at seventy pounds when cheap. It is
usually levigated with slab and roller, and made into sour cakes. Some,
however, prefer the Arab form "balilah," boiled and mixed with ghee. Wheat
and rice are imported: the price varies from forty to sixty pounds the
Riyal or dollar. Of the former grain the people make a sweet cake called
Sabaya, resembling the Fatirah of Egypt: a favourite dish also is
"harisah"--flesh, rice flour, and boiled wheat, all finely pounded and
mixed together. Milk is not procurable during the hot weather; after rain
every house is full of it; the Bedouins bring it in skins and sell it for
a nominal sum.

Besides a large floating population, Zayla contains about 1500 souls. They
are comparatively a fine race of people, and suffer from little but fever
and an occasional ophthalmia. Their greatest hardship is the want of the
pure element: the Hissi or well, is about four miles distant from the
town, and all the pits within the walls supply brackish or bitter water,
fit only for external use. This is probably the reason why vegetables are
unknown, and why a horse, a mule, or even a dog, is not to be found in the

[30] "Fid-mer," or the evening flyer, is the Somali name for a bat. These
little animals are not disturbed in houses, because they keep off flies
and mosquitoes, the plagues of the Somali country. Flies abound in the
very jungles wherever cows have been, and settle in swarms upon the
traveller. Before the monsoon their bite is painful, especially that of
the small green species; and there is a red variety called "Diksi as,"
whose venom, according to the people, causes them to vomit. The latter
abounds in Gulays and the hill ranges of the Berberah country: it is
innocuous during the cold season. The mosquito bites bring on, according
to the same authority, deadly fevers: the superstition probably arises
from the fact that mosquitoes and fevers become formidable about the same

[31] Such a building at Zayla would cost at most 500 dollars. At Aden,
2000 rupees, or nearly double the sum, would be paid for a matted shed,
which excludes neither sun, nor wind, nor rain.



I will not weary you, dear L., with descriptions of twenty-six quiet,
similar, uninteresting days,--days of sleep, and pipes, and coffee,--spent
at Zayla, whilst a route was traced out, guides were propitiated, camels
were bought, mules sent for, and all the wearisome preliminaries of
African travel were gone through. But a _journee_ in the Somali country
may be a novelty to you: its events shall be succinctly depicted.

With earliest dawn we arise, thankful to escape from mosquitoes and close
air. We repair to the terrace where devotions are supposed to be
performed, and busy ourselves in watching our neighbours. Two in
particular engage my attention: sisters by different mothers. The daughter
of an Indian woman is a young person of fast propensities,--her chocolate-
coloured skin, long hair, and parrot-like profile [1] are much admired by
the _elegants_ of Zayla; and she coquettes by combing, dancing, singing,
and slapping the slave-girls, whenever an adorer may be looking. We sober-
minded men, seeing her, quote the well-known lines--

"Without justice a king is a cloud without rain;
Without goodness a sage is a field without fruit;
Without manners a youth is a bridleless horse;
Without lore an old man is a waterless wady;
Without modesty woman is bread without salt."

The other is a matron of Abyssinian descent, as her skin, scarcely darker
than a gipsy's, her long and bright blue fillet, and her gaudily fringed
dress, denote. She tattoos her face [2]: a livid line extends from her
front hair to the tip of her nose; between her eyebrows is an ornament
resembling a _fleur-de-lis_, and various beauty-spots adorn the corners of
her mouth and the flats of her countenance. She passes her day
superintending the slave-girls, and weaving mats [3], the worsted work of
this part of the world. We soon made acquaintance, as far as an exchange
of salams. I regret, however, to say that there was some scandal about my
charming neighbour; and that more than once she was detected making
signals to distant persons with her hands. [4]

At 6 A.M. we descend to breakfast, which usually consists of sour grain
cakes and roast mutton--at this hour a fine trial of health and cleanly
living. A napkin is passed under my chin, as if I were a small child, and
a sound scolding is administered when appetite appears deficient. Visitors
are always asked to join us: we squat on the uncarpeted floor, round a
circular stool, eat hard, and never stop to drink. The appetite of Africa
astonishes us; we dispose of six ounces here for every one in Arabia,--
probably the effect of sweet water, after the briny produce of the "Eye of
Yemen." We conclude this early breakfast with coffee and pipes, and
generally return, after it, to the work of sleep.

Then, provided with some sanctified Arabic book, I prepare for the
reception of visitors. They come in by dozens,--no man having apparently
any business to occupy him,--doff their slippers at the door, enter
wrapped up in their Tobes or togas [5], and deposit their spears, point-
upwards, in the corner; those who have swords--the mark of respectability
in Eastern Africa--place them at their feet. They shake the full hand (I
was reproved for offering the fingers only); and when politely disposed,
the inferior wraps his fist in the hem of his garment. They have nothing
corresponding with the European idea of manners: they degrade all ceremony
by the epithet Shughl el banat, or "girls' work," and pique themselves
upon downrightness of manner,--a favourite mask, by the by, for savage
cunning to assume. But they are equally free from affectation, shyness,
and vulgarity; and, after all, no manners are preferable to bad manners.

Sometimes we are visited at this hour by Mohammed Sharmarkay, eldest son
of the old governor. He is in age about thirty, a fine tall figure,
slender but well knit, beardless and of light complexion, with large eyes,
and a length of neck which a lady might covet. His only detracting feature
is a slight projection of the oral region, that unmistakable proof of
African blood. His movements have the grace of strength and suppleness: he
is a good jumper, runs well, throws the spear admirably, and is a
tolerable shot. Having received a liberal education at Mocha, he is held a
learned man by his fellow-countrymen. Like his father he despises
presents, looking higher; with some trouble I persuaded him to accept a
common map of Asia, and a revolver. His chief interest was concentrated in
books: he borrowed my Abu Kasim to copy [6], and was never tired of
talking about the religious sciences: he had weakened his eyes by hard
reading, and a couple of blisters were sufficient to win his gratitude.
Mohammed is now the eldest son [7]; he appears determined to keep up the
family name, having already married ten wives: the issue, however, two
infant sons, were murdered by the Eesa Bedouins. Whenever he meets his
father in the morning, he kisses his hand, and receives a salute upon the
forehead. He aspires to the government of Zayla, and looks forward more
reasonably than the Hajj to the day when the possession of Berberah will
pour gold into his coffers. He shows none of his father's "softness:" he
advocates the bastinado, and, to keep his people at a distance, he has
married an Arab wife, who allows no adult to enter the doors. The Somal,
Spaniard-like, remark, "He is one of ourselves, though a little richer;"
but when times change and luck returns, they are not unlikely to find
themselves mistaken.

Amongst other visitors, we have the Amir el Bahr, or Port Captain, and the
Nakib el Askar (_Commandant de place_), Mohammed Umar el Hamumi. This is
one of those Hazramaut adventurers so common in all the countries
bordering upon Arabia: they are the Swiss of the East, a people equally
brave and hardy, frugal and faithful, as long as pay is regular. Feared by
the soft Indians and Africans for their hardness and determination, the
common proverb concerning them is, "If you meet a viper and a Hazrami,
spare the viper." Natives of a poor and rugged region, they wander far and
wide, preferring every country to their own; and it is generally said that
the sun rises not upon a land that does not contain a man from Hazramaut.
[8] This commander of an army of forty men [9] often read out to us from
the Kitab el Anwar (the Book of Lights) the tale of Abu Jahl, that Judas
of El Islam made ridiculous. Sometimes comes the Sayyid Mohammed el Barr,
a stout personage, formerly governor of Zayla, and still highly respected
by the people on acount of his pure pedigree. With him is the Fakih Adan,
a savan of ignoble origin. [10] When they appear the conversation becomes
intensely intellectual; sometimes we dispute religion, sometimes politics,
at others history and other humanities. Yet it is not easy to talk history
with a people who confound Miriam and Mary, or politics to those whose
only idea of a king is a robber on a large scale, or religion to men who
measure excellence by forbidden meats, or geography to those who represent
the earth in this guise. Yet, though few of our ideas are in common, there
are many words; the verbosity of these anti-Laconic oriental dialects [11]
renders at least half the subject intelligible to the most opposite
thinkers. When the society is wholly Somal, I write Arabic, copy some
useful book, or extract from it, as Bentley advised, what is fit to quote.
When Arabs are present, I usually read out a tale from "The Thousand and
One Nights," that wonderful work, so often translated, so much turned
over, and so little understood at home. The most familiar of books in
England, next to the Bible, it is one of the least known, the reason being
that about one fifth is utterly unfit for translation; and the most
sanguine orientalist would not dare to render literally more than three
quarters of the remainder. Consequently, the reader loses the contrast,--
the very essence of the book,--between its brilliancy and dulness, its
moral putrefaction, and such pearls as

"Cast the seed of good works on the least fit soil.
Good is never wasted, however it may be laid out."

And in a page or two after such divine sentiment, the ladies of Bagdad sit
in the porter's lap, and indulge in a facetiousness which would have
killed Pietro Aretino before his time.


Often I am visited by the Topchi-Bashi, or master of the ordnance,--half a
dozen honeycombed guns,--a wild fellow, Bashi Buzuk in the Hejaz and
commandant of artillery at Zayla. He shaves my head on Fridays, and on
other days tells me wild stories about his service in the Holy Land; how
Kurdi Usman slew his son-in-law, Ibn Rumi, and how Turkcheh Bilmez would
have murdered Mohammed Ali in his bed. [12] Sometimes the room is filled
with Arabs, Sayyids, merchants, and others settled in the place: I saw
nothing amongst them to justify the oft-quoted saw, "Koraysh pride and
Zayla's boastfulness." More generally the assembly is one of the Somal,
who talk in their own tongue, laugh, yell, stretch their legs, and lie
like cattle upon the floor, smoking the common Hukkah, which stands in the
centre, industriously cleaning their teeth with sticks, and eating snuff
like Swedes. Meanwhile, I occupy the Kursi or couch, sometimes muttering
from a book to excite respect, or reading aloud for general information,
or telling fortunes by palmistry, or drawing out a horoscope.

It argues "peculiarity," I own, to enjoy such a life. In the first place,
there is no woman's society: El Islam seems purposely to have loosened the
ties between the sexes in order to strengthen the bonds which connect man
and man. [13] Secondly, your house is by no means your castle. You must
open your doors to your friend at all hours; if when inside it suit him to
sing, sing he will; and until you learn solitude in a crowd, or the art of
concentration, you are apt to become _ennuye_ and irritable. You must
abandon your prejudices, and for a time cast off all European
prepossessions in favour of Indian politeness, Persian polish, Arab
courtesy, or Turkish dignity.

"They are as free as Nature e'er made man;"

and he who objects to having his head shaved in public, to seeing his
friends combing their locks in his sitting-room, to having his property
unceremoniously handled, or to being addressed familiarly by a perfect
stranger, had better avoid Somaliland.

You will doubtless, dear L., convict me, by my own sentiments, of being an
"amateur barbarian." You must, however, remember that I visited Africa
fresh from Aden, with its dull routine of meaningless parades and tiresome
courts martial, where society is broken by ridiculous distinctions of
staff-men and regimental-men, Madras-men and Bombay-men, "European"
officers, and "black" officers; where literature is confined to acquiring
the art of explaining yourself in the jargons of half-naked savages; where
the business of life is comprised in ignoble official squabbles, dislikes,
disapprobations, and "references to superior authority;" where social
intercourse is crushed by "gup," gossip, and the scandal of small colonial
circles; where--pleasant predicament for those who really love women's
society!--it is scarcely possible to address fair dame, preserving at the
same time her reputation and your own, and if seen with her twice, all
"camp" will swear it is an "affair;" where, briefly, the march of mind is
at a dead halt, and the march of matter is in double quick time to the
hospital or sick-quarters. Then the fatal struggle for Name, and the
painful necessity of doing the most with the smallest materials for a
reputation! In Europe there are a thousand grades of celebrity, from
statesmanship to taxidermy; all, therefore, co-exist without rivalry.
Whereas, in these small colonies, there is but one fame, and as that leads
directly to rupees and rank, no man willingly accords it to his neighbour.
And, finally, such semi-civilised life abounds in a weary ceremoniousness.
It is highly improper to smoke outside your bungalow. You shall pay your
visits at 11 A.M., when the glass stands at 120°. You shall be generally
shunned if you omit your waistcoat, no matter what the weather be. And if
you venture to object to these Median laws,--as I am now doing,--you
elicit a chorus of disapproval, and acquire some evil name.

About 11 A.M., when the fresh water arrives from the Hissi or wells, the
Hajj sends us dinner, mutton stews, of exceeding greasiness, boiled rice,
maize cakes, sometimes fish, and generally curds or milk. We all sit round
a primitive form of the Round Table, and I doubt that King Arthur's
knights ever proved doughtier trenchermen than do my companions. We then
rise to pipes and coffee, after which, excluding visitors, my attendants
apply themselves to a siesta, I to my journal and studies.

At 2 P.M. there is a loud clamour at the door: if it be not opened in
time, we are asked if we have a Nazarene inside. Enters a crowd of
visitors, anxious to pass the afternoon. We proceed with a copy of the
forenoon till the sun declines, when it is time to escape the flies, to
repair to the terrace for fresh air, or to dress for a walk. Generally our
direction is through the town eastwards, to a plain of dilapidated graves
and salt sand, peopled only by land-crabs. At the extremity near the sea
is a little mosque of wattle-work: we sit there under the shade, and play
a rude form of draughts, called Shantarah, or at Shahh, a modification of
the former. [14] More often, eschewing these effeminacies, we shoot at a
mark, throw the javelin, leap, or engage in some gymnastic exercise. The
favourite Somali weapons are the spear, dagger, and war-club; the bow and
poisoned arrows are peculiar to the servile class, who know

"the dreadful art
To taint with deadly drugs the barbed dart;"

and the people despise, at the same time that they fear firearms,
declaring them to be cowardly weapons [15] with which the poltroon can
slay the bravest.

The Somali spear is a form of the Cape Assegai. A long, thin, pliant and
knotty shaft of the Dibi, Diktab, and Makari trees, is dried, polished,
and greased with rancid butter: it is generally of a dull yellow colour,
and sometimes bound, as in Arabia, with brass wire for ornament. Care is
applied to make the rod straight, or the missile flies crooked: it is
garnished with an iron button at the head, and a long thin tapering head
of coarse bad iron [16], made at Berberah and other places by the Tomal.
The length of the shaft may be four feet eight inches; the blade varies
from twenty to twenty-six inches, and the whole weapon is about seven feet
long. Some polish the entire spear-head, others only its socket or ferule;
commonly, however, it is all blackened by heating it to redness, and
rubbing it with cow's horn. In the towns, one of these weapons is carried;
on a journey and in battle two, as amongst the Tibboos,--a small javelin
for throwing and a large spear reserved for the thrust. Some warriors
especially amongst the Eesa, prefer a coarse heavy lance, which never
leaves the hand. The Somali spear is held in various ways: generally the
thumb and forefinger grasp the third nearest to the head, and the shaft
resting upon the palm is made to quiver. In action, the javelin is rarely
thrown at a greater distance than six or seven feet, and the heavier
weapon is used for "jobbing." Stripped to his waist, the thrower runs
forward with all the action of a Kafir, whilst the attacked bounds about
and crouches to receive it upon the round targe, which it cannot pierce.
He then returns the compliment, at the same time endeavouring to break the
weapon thrown at him by jumping and stamping upon it. The harmless
missiles being exhausted, both combatants draw their daggers, grapple with
the left hand, and with the right dig hard and swift at each other's necks
and shoulders. When matters come to this point, the duel is soon decided,
and the victor, howling his slogan, pushes away from his front the dying
enemy, and rushes off to find another opponent. A puerile weapon during
the day, when a steady man can easily avoid it, the spear is terrible in
night attacks or in the "bush," whence it can be hurled unseen. For
practice, we plant a pair of slippers upright in the ground, at the
distance of twelve yards, and a skilful spearman hits the mark once in
every three throws.

The Somali dagger is an iron blade about eighteen inches long by two in
breadth, pointed and sharp at both edges. The handle is of buffalo or
other horn, with a double scoop to fit the grasp; and at the hilt is a
conical ornament of zinc. It is worn strapped round the waist by a thong
sewed to the sheath, and long enough to encircle the body twice: the point
is to the right, and the handle projects on the left. When in town, the
Somal wear their daggers under the Tobe: in battle, the strap is girt over
the cloth to prevent the latter being lost. They always stab from above:
this is as it should be, a thrust with a short weapon "underhand" may be
stopped, if the adversary have strength enough to hold the stabber's
forearm. The thrust is parried with the shield, and a wound is rarely
mortal except in the back: from the great length of the blade, the least
movement of the man attacked causes it to fall upon the shoulder-blade.

The "Budd," or Somali club, resembles the Kafir "Tonga." It is a knobstick
about a cubit long, made of some hard wood: the head is rounded on the
inside, and the outside is cut to an edge. In quarrels, it is considered a
harmless weapon, and is often thrown at the opponent and wielded viciously
enough where the spear point would carefully be directed at the buckler.
The Gashan or shield is a round targe about eighteen inches in diameter;
some of the Bedouins make it much larger. Rhinoceros' skin being rare, the
usual material is common bull's hide, or, preferably, that of the Oryx,
called by the Arabs Waal, and by the Somal, Baid. These shields are
prettily cut, and are always protected when new with a covering of
canvass. The boss in the centre easily turns a spear, and the strongest
throw has very little effect even upon the thinnest portion. When not
used, the Gashan is slung upon the left forearm: during battle, the
handle, which is in the middle, is grasped by the left hand, and held out
at a distance from the body.

We are sometimes joined in our exercises by the Arab mercenaries, who are
far more skilful than the Somal. The latter are unacquainted with the
sword, and cannot defend themselves against it with the targe; they know
little of dagger practice, and were beaten at their own weapon, the
javelin, by the children of Bir Hamid. Though unable to jump for the
honour of the turban, I soon acquired the reputation of being the
strongest man in Zayla: this is perhaps the easiest way of winning respect
from a barbarous people, who honour body, and degrade mind to mere

When tired of exercise we proceed round the walls to the Ashurbara or
Southern Gate. Here boys play at "hockey" with sticks and stones
energetically as in England: they are fine manly specimens of the race,
but noisy and impudent, like all young savages. At two years of age they
hold out the right hand for sweetmeats, and if refused become insolent.
The citizens amuse themselves with the ball [17], at which they play
roughly as Scotch linkers: they are divided into two parties, bachelors
and married men; accidents often occur, and no player wears any but the
scantiest clothing, otherwise he would retire from the conflict in rags.
The victors sing and dance about the town for hours, brandishing their
spears, shouting their slogans, boasting of ideal victories,--the
Abyssinian Donfatu, or war-vaunt,--and advancing in death-triumph with
frantic gestures: a battle won would be celebrated with less circumstance
in Europe. This is the effect of no occupation--the _primum mobile_ of the
Indian prince's kite-flying and all the puerilities of the pompous East.

We usually find an encampment of Bedouins outside the gate. Their tents
are worse than any gipsy's, low, smoky, and of the rudest construction.
These people are a spectacle of savageness. Their huge heads of shock
hair, dyed red and dripping with butter, are garnished with a Firin, or
long three-pronged comb, a stick, which acts as scratcher when the owner
does not wish to grease his fingers, and sometimes with the ominous
ostrich feather, showing that the wearer has "killed his man:" a soiled
and ragged cotton cloth covers their shoulders, and a similar article is
wrapped round their loins.[18] All wear coarse sandals, and appear in the
bravery of targe, spear, and dagger. Some of the women would be pretty did
they not resemble the men in their scowling, Satanic expression of
countenance: they are decidedly _en deshabille,_ but a black skin always
appears a garb. The cantonment is surrounded by asses, camels, and a troop
of naked Flibertigibbets, who dance and jump in astonishment whenever they
see me: "The white man! the white man!" they shriek; "run away, run away,
or we shall be eaten!" [19] On one occasion, however, my _amour propre_
was decidedly flattered by the attentions of a small black girl,
apparently four or five years old, who followed me through the streets
ejaculating "Wa Wanaksan!"--"0 fine!" The Bedouins, despite their fierce
scowls, appear good-natured; the women flock out of the huts to stare and
laugh, the men to look and wonder. I happened once to remark, "Lo, we come
forth to look at them and they look at us; we gaze at their complexion and
they gaze at ours!" A Bedouin who understood Arabic translated this speech
to the others, and it excited great merriment. In the mining counties of
civilised England, where the "genial brickbat" is thrown at the passing
stranger, or in enlightened Scotland, where hair a few inches too long or
a pair of mustachios justifies "mobbing," it would have been impossible
for me to have mingled as I did with these wild people.

We must return before sunset, when the gates are locked and the keys are
carried to the Hajj, a vain precaution, when a donkey could clear half a
dozen places in the town wall. The call to evening prayer sounds as we
enter: none of my companions pray [20], but all when asked reply in the
phrase which an Englishman hates, "Inshallah Bukra"--"if Allah please, to-
morrow!"--and they have the decency not to appear in public at the hours
of devotion. The Somal, like most Africans, are of a somewhat irreverent
turn of mind. [21] When reproached with gambling, and asked why they
persist in the forbidden pleasure, they simply answer "Because we like."
One night, encamped amongst the Eesa, I was disturbed by a female voice
indulging in the loudest lamentations: an elderly lady, it appears, was
suffering from tooth-ache, and the refrain of her groans was, "O Allah,
may thy teeth ache like mine! O Allah, may thy gums be sore as mine are!"
A well-known and characteristic tale is told of the Gerad Hirsi, now chief
of the Berteri tribe. Once meeting a party of unarmed pilgrims, he asked
them why they had left their weapons at home: they replied in the usual
phrase, "Nahnu mutawakkilin"--"we are trusters (in Allah)." That evening,
having feasted them hospitably, the chief returned hurriedly to the hut,
declaring that his soothsayer ordered him at once to sacrifice a pilgrim,
and begging the horror-struck auditors to choose the victim. They cast
lots and gave over one of their number: the Gerad placed him in another
hut, dyed his dagger with sheep's blood, and returned to say that he must
have a second life. The unhappy pilgrims rose _en masse_, and fled so
wildly that the chief, with all the cavalry of the desert, found
difficulty in recovering them. He dismissed them with liberal presents,
and not a few jibes about their trustfulness. The wilder Bedouins will
inquire where Allah is to be found: when asked the object of the question,
they reply, "If the Eesa could but catch him they would spear him upon the
spot,--who but he lays waste their homes and kills their cattle and
wives?" Yet, conjoined to this truly savage incapability of conceiving the
idea of a Supreme Being, they believe in the most ridiculous
exaggerations: many will not affront a common pilgrim, for fear of being
killed by a glance or a word.

Our supper, also provided by the hospitable Hajj, is the counterpart of
the midday dinner. After it we repair to the roof, to enjoy the prospect
of the far Tajurrah hills and the white moonbeams sleeping upon the nearer
sea. The evening star hangs like a diamond upon the still horizon: around
the moon a pink zone of light mist, shading off into turquoise blue, and a
delicate green like chrysopraz, invests the heavens with a peculiar charm.
The scene is truly suggestive: behind us, purpling in the night-air and
silvered by the radiance from above, lie the wolds and mountains tenanted
by the fiercest of savages; their shadowy mysterious forms exciting vague
alarms in the traveller's breast. Sweet as the harp of David, the night-
breeze and the music of the water come up from the sea; but the ripple and
the rustling sound alternate with the hyena's laugh, the jackal's cry, and
the wild dog's lengthened howl.

Or, the weather becoming cold, we remain below, and Mohammed Umar returns
to read out more "Book of Lights," or some pathetic ode. I will quote in
free translation the following production of the celebrated poet Abd el
Rahman el Burai, as a perfect specimen of melancholy Arab imagery:

"No exile is the banished to the latter end of earth,
The exile is the banished to the coffin and the tomb

"He hath claims on the dwellers in the places of their birth
Who wandereth the world, for he lacketh him a home.

"Then, blamer, blame me not, were my heart within thy breast,
The sigh would take the place of thy laughter and thy scorn.

"Let me weep for the sin that debars my soul of rest,
The tear may yet avail,--all in vain I may not mourn! [22]

"Woe! woe to thee, Flesh!--with a purer spirit now
The death-day were a hope, and the judgment-hour a joy!

"One morn I woke in pain, with a pallor on my brow,
As though the dreaded Angel were descending to destroy:

"They brought to me a leech, saying, 'Heal him lest he die!'
On that day, by Allah, were his drugs a poor deceit!

"They stripped me and bathed me, and closed the glazing eye,
And dispersed unto prayers, and to haggle for my sheet.

"The prayers without a bow [23] they prayed over me that day,
Brought nigh to me the bier, and disposed me within.

"Four bare upon their shoulders this tenement of clay,
Friend and kinsmen in procession bore the dust of friend and kin.

"They threw upon me mould of the tomb and went their way--
A guest, 'twould seem, had flitted from the dwellings of the tribe!

"My gold and my treasures each a share they bore away,
Without thanks, without praise, with a jest and with a jibe.

"My gold and my treasures each his share they bore away,
On me they left the weight!--with me they left the sin!

"That night within the grave without hoard or child I lay,
No spouse, no friend were there, no comrade and no kin.

"The wife of my youth, soon another husband found--
A stranger sat at home on the hearthstone of my sire.

"My son became a slave, though not purchased nor bound,
The hireling of a stranger, who begrudged him his hire.

"Such, alas, is human life! such the horror of his death!
Man grows like a grass, like a god he sees no end.

"Be wise, then, ere too late, brother! praise with every breath
The hand that can chastise, the arm that can defend:

"And bless thou the Prophet, the averter of our ills,
While the lightning flasheth bright o'er the ocean and the hills."

At this hour my companions become imaginative and superstitious. One
Salimayn, a black slave from the Sawahil [24], now secretary to the Hajj,
reads our fortunes in the rosary. The "fal" [25], as it is called, acts a
prominent part in Somali life. Some men are celebrated for accuracy of
prediction; and in times of danger, when the human mind is ever open to
the "fooleries of faith," perpetual reference is made to their art. The
worldly wise Salimayn, I observed, never sent away a questioner with an
ill-omened reply, but he also regularly insisted upon the efficacy of
sacrifice and almsgiving, which, as they would assuredly be neglected,
afforded him an excuse in case of accident. Then we had a recital of the
tales common to Africa, and perhaps to all the world. In modern France, as
in ancient Italy, "versipelles" become wolves and hide themselves in the
woods: in Persia they change themselves into bears, and in Bornou and Shoa
assume the shapes of lions, hyenas, and leopards. [26] The origin of this
metamorphic superstition is easily traceable, like man's fetisism or
demonology, to his fears: a Bedouin, for instance, becomes dreadful by the
reputation of sorcery: bears and hyenas are equally terrible; and the two
objects of horror are easily connected. Curious to say, individuals having
this power were pointed out to me, and people pretended to discover it in
their countenances: at Zayla I was shown a Bedouin, by name Farih Badaun,
who notably became a hyena at times, for the purpose of tasting human
blood. [27] About forty years ago, three brothers, Kayna, Fardayna, and
Sollan, were killed on Gulays near Berberah for the crime of
metamorphosis. The charge is usually substantiated either by the bestial
tail remaining appended to a part of the human shape which the owner has
forgotten to rub against the magic tree, or by some peculiar wound which
the beast received and the man retained. Kindred to this superstition is
the belief that many of the Bedouins have learned the languages of birds
and beasts. Another widely diffused fancy is that of the Aksar [28], which
in this pastoral land becomes a kind of wood: wonderful tales are told of
battered milk-pails which, by means of some peg accidentally cut in the
jungle, have been found full of silver, or have acquired the qualities of
cornucopiae. It is supposed that a red heifer always breaks her fast upon
the wonderful plant, consequently much time and trouble have been expended
by the Somal in watching the morning proceedings of red heifers. At other
times we hear fearful tales of old women who, like the Jigar Khwar of
Persia, feed upon man's liver: they are fond of destroying young children;
even adults are not ashamed of defending themselves with talismans. In
this country the crone is called Bidaa or Kumayyo, words signifying a
witch: the worst is she that destroys her own progeny. No wound is visible
in this vampyre's victim: generally he names his witch, and his friends
beat her to death unless she heal him: many are thus martyred; and in
Somali land scant notice is taken of such a peccadillo as murdering an old
woman. The sex indeed has by no means a good name: here, as elsewhere,
those who degrade it are the first to abuse it for degradation. At Zayla
almost all quarrels are connected with women; the old bewitch in one way,
the young in another, and both are equally maligned. "Wit in a woman,"
exclaims one man, "is a habit of running away in a dromedary." "Allah,"
declares another, "made woman of a crooked bone; he who would straighten
her, breaketh her." Perhaps, however, by these generalisms of abuse the
sex gains: they prevent personal and individual details; and no society of
French gentlemen avoids mentioning in public the name of a woman more
scrupulously than do the misogynist Moslems.

After a conversazione of two hours my visitors depart, and we lose no
time--for we must rise at cockcrow--in spreading our mats round the common
room. You would admire the Somali pillow [29], a dwarf pedestal of carved
wood, with a curve upon which the greasy poll and its elaborate _frisure_
repose. Like the Abyssinian article, it resembles the head-rest of ancient
Egypt in all points, except that it is not worked with Typhons and other
horrors to drive away dreadful dreams. Sometimes the sound of the
kettledrum, the song, and the clapping of hands, summon us at a later hour
than usual to a dance. The performance is complicated, and, as usual with
the trivialities easily learned in early youth, it is uncommonly difficult
to a stranger. Each dance has its own song and measure, and, contrary to
the custom of El Islam, the sexes perform together. They begin by clapping
the hands and stamping where they stand; to this succeed advancing,
retiring, wheeling about, jumping about, and the other peculiarities of
the Jim Crow school. The principal measures are those of Ugadayn and
Batar; these again are divided and subdivided;--I fancy that the
description of Dileho, Jibwhayn, and Hobala would be as entertaining and
instructive to you, dear L., as Polka, Gavotte, and Mazurka would be to a

On Friday--our Sunday--a drunken crier goes about the town, threatening
the bastinado to all who neglect their five prayers. At half-past eleven a
kettledrum sounds a summons to the Jami or Cathedral. It is an old barn
rudely plastered with whitewash; posts or columns of artless masonry
support the low roof, and the smallness of the windows, or rather air-
holes, renders its dreary length unpleasantly hot. There is no pulpit; the
only ornament is a rude representation of the Meccan Mosque, nailed like a
pothouse print to the wall; and the sole articles of furniture are ragged
mats and old boxes, containing tattered chapters of the Koran in greasy
bindings. I enter with a servant carrying a prayer carpet, encounter the
stare of 300 pair of eyes, belonging to parallel rows of squatters, recite
the customary two-bow prayer in honor of the mosque, placing sword and
rosary before me, and then, taking up a Koran, read the Cow Chapter (No.
18.) loud and twangingly. At the Zohr or mid-day hour, the Muezzin inside
the mosque, standing before the Khatib or preacher, repeats the call to
prayer, which the congregation, sitting upon their shins and feet, intone
after him. This ended, all present stand up, and recite every man for
himself, a two-bow prayer of Sunnat or Example, concluding with the
blessing on the Prophet and the Salam over each shoulder to all brother
Believers. The Khatib then ascends his hole in the wall, which serves for
pulpit, and thence addresses us with "The peace be upon you, and the mercy
of Allah, and his benediction;" to which we respond through the Muezzin,
"And upon you be peace, and Allah's mercy!" After sundry other religious
formulas and their replies, concluding with a second call to prayer, our
preacher rises, and in the voice with which Sir Hudibras was wont

"To blaspheme custard through the nose,"

preaches El Waaz [30], or the advice-sermon. He sits down for a few
minutes, and then, rising again, recites El Naat, or the Praise of the
Prophet and his Companions. These are the two heads into which the Moslem
discourse is divided; unfortunately, however, there is no application. Our
preacher, who is also Kazi or Judge, makes several blunders in his Arabic,
and he reads his sermons, a thing never done in El Islam, except by the
_modice docti_. The discourse over, our clerk, who is, if possible, worse
than the curate, repeats the form of call termed El Ikamah; then entering
the Mihrab or niche, he recites the two-bow Friday litany, with, and in
front of, the congregation. I remarked no peculiarity in the style of
praying, except that all followed the practice of the Shafeis in El
Yemen,--raising the hands for a moment, instead of letting them depend
along the thighs, between the Rukaat or bow and the Sujdah or prostration.
This public prayer concluded, many people leave the mosque; a few remain
for more prolonged devotions.

There is a queer kind of family likeness between this scene and that of a
village church, in some quiet nook of rural England. Old Sharmarkay, the
squire, attended by his son, takes his place close to the pulpit; and
although the _Honoratiores_ have no padded and cushioned pews, they
comport themselves very much as if they had. Recognitions of the most
distant description are allowed before the service commences: looking
around is strictly forbidden during prayers; but all do not regard the
prohibition, especially when a new moustache enters. Leaving the church,
men shake hands, stand for a moment to exchange friendly gossip, or
address a few words to the preacher, and then walk home to dinner. There
are many salient points of difference. No bonnets appear in public: the
squire, after prayers, gives alms to the poor, and departs escorted by two
dozen matchlock-men, who perseveringly fire their shotted guns.


[1] This style of profile--highly oval, with the chin and brow receding--
is very conspicuous in Eastern Africa, where the face, slightly
prognathous, projects below the nose.

[2] Gall-nuts form the base of the tattooing dye. It is worked in with a
needle, when it becomes permanent: applied with a pen, it requires to be
renewed about once a fortnight.

[3] Mats are the staple manufacture in Eastern, as in many parts of
Western, Africa. The material is sometimes Daum or other palm: there are,
however, many plants in more common use; they are made of every variety in
shape and colour, and are dyed red, black, and yellow,--madder from
Tajurrah and alum being the matter principally used.

[4] When woman addresses woman she always uses her voice.

[5] The Tobe, or Abyssinian "Quarry," is the general garment of Africa
from Zayla to Bornou. In the Somali country it is a cotton sheet eight
cubits long, and two breadths sewn together. An article of various uses,
like the Highland plaid, it is worn in many ways; sometimes the right arm
is bared; in cold weather the whole person is muffled up, and in summer it
is allowed to full below the waist. Generally it is passed behind the
back, rests upon the left shoulder, is carried forward over the breast,
surrounds the body, and ends hanging on the left shoulder, where it
displays a gaudy silk fringe of red and yellow. This is the man's Tobe.
The woman's dress is of similar material, but differently worn: the edges
are knotted generally over the right, sometimes over the left shoulder; it
is girdled round the waist, below which hangs a lappet, which in cold
weather can be brought like a hood over the head. Though highly becoming,
and picturesque as the Roman toga, the Somali Tobe is by no means the most
decorous of dresses: women in the towns often prefer the Arab costume,--a
short-sleeved robe extending to the knee, and a Futah or loin-cloth

As regards the word Tobe, it signifies, in Arabic, a garment generally:
the Somal call it "Maro," and the half Tobe a "Shukkah."

[6] Abu Kasim of Gaza, a well known commentator upon Abu Shujaa of
Isfahan, who wrote a text-book of the Shafei school.

[7] The Hajj had seven sons, three of whom died in infancy. Ali and
Mahmud, the latter a fine young man, fell victims to small pox: Mohammed
is now the eldest, and the youngest is a child called Ahmed, left for
education at Mocha. The Hajj has also two daughters, married to Bedouin

[8] It is related that a Hazrami, flying from his fellow-countrymen,
reached a town upon the confines of China. He was about to take refuge in
a mosque, but entering, he stumbled over the threshold. "Ya Amud el Din"--
"0 Pillar of the Faith!" exclaimed a voice from the darkness, calling upon
the patron saint of Hazramaut to save a Moslem from falling. "May the
Pillar of the Faith break thy head," exclaimed the unpatriotic traveller,
at once rising to resume his vain peregrinations.

[9] Mercenaries from Mocha, Hazramaut, and Bir Hamid near Aden: they are
armed with matchlock, sword, and dagger; and each receives from the
governor a monthly stipend of two dollars and a half.

[10] The system of caste, which prevails in El Yemen, though not in the
northern parts of Arabia, is general throughout the Somali country. The
principal families of outcasts are the following.

The Yebir correspond with the Dushan of Southern Arabia: the males are
usually jesters to the chiefs, and both sexes take certain parts at
festivals, marriages, and circumcisions. The number is said to be small,
amounting to about 100 families in the northern Somali country.

The Tomal or Handad, the blacksmiths, originally of Aydur race, have
become vile by intermarriage with serviles. They mast now wed maidens of
their own class, and live apart from the community: their magical
practices are feared by the people,--the connection of wits and witchcraft
is obvious,--and all private quarrels are traced to them. It has been
observed that the blacksmith has ever been looked upon with awe by
barbarians on the same principle that made Vulcan a deity. In Abyssinia
all artisans are Budah, sorcerers, especially the blacksmith, and he is a
social outcast as among the Somal; even in El Hejaz, a land, unlike Yemen,

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