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First footsteps in East Africa by Richard F. Burton

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travelling from Keelulho to Shoa: they informed us that Demetrius had been
plundered and stripped by the Takyle tribe, that one Arab and three male
slaves had been slain, and that another Arab had fled on horseback to the
Etoh (Ittu) Gallas, whence nothing more had been heard of him: the rest of
the party were living under the protection of Shaykh Omar Buttoo of the
Takyle. The Bedoos added that plunderers were lying in wait on the banks
of the river Howash for the white people that were about to leave Shoa.
The Ras el Caffilah communicated to me this intelligence, and concluded by
saying: 'Now, if you wish to return, I will take you back, but if you say
forward, let us proceed!' I answered, 'Let us proceed!' I must own that
the intelligence pleased me not; two of my servants were for returning,
but they were persuaded to go on to the next station, where we would be
guided by circumstances. About 2 o'clock P.M. we again proceeded, after a
long "Cullam" or talk, which ended in Datah Mahomed sending for assistance
to a neighbouring tribe. During a conversation with the Ras el Caffilah, I
found out that the Bedoos were lying in wait, not for the white people,
but for our caravan. It came out that these Bedouins had had the worst of
a quarrel with the last Caffilah from Tajoorah: they then threatened to
attack it in force on its return. The Ras el Caffilah was assured that as
long as we journeyed together, I should consider his enemies my enemies,
and that being well supplied with firearms, I would assist him on all
occasions. This offer pleased him, and we became more friendly. We passed
several deserted villages of the Bedoos, who had retired for want of water
towards the Wadys, and about 7 o'clock P.M. halted at the lake Leadoo.

"On the morning of Thursday the 20th, Datah Mahomed came to me and
delivered himself though Deeni as follows: 'My son! our father the
Wallasena entrusted you to my care, we feasted together in Gouchoo--you
are to me as the son of my house! Yesterday I heard that the Bedoos were
waiting to kill, but fear not, for I have sent to the Seedy Habroo for
some soldiers, who will be here soon. Now these soldiers are sent for on
your account; they will want much cloth, but you are a sensible person,
and will of course pay them well. They will accompany us beyond the
Howash!' I replied,' It is true, the Wallasena entrusted me to your care.
He also told me that you were a great chief, and could forward me on my
journey. I therefore did not prepare a large supply of cloth--a long
journey is before me--what can be spared shall be freely given, but you
must tell the soldiers that I have but little. You are now my father!'

"Scarcely had I ceased when the soldiers, fine stout-looking savages,
armed with spear, shield, and crease, mustering about twenty-five, made
their appearance. It was then 10 A.M. The word was given to load the
camels, and we soon moved forward. I found my worthy protector exceedingly
good-natured and civil, dragging on my asses and leading my mules. Near
the Howash we passed several villages, in which I could not but remark the
great proportion of children. At about 3 P.M. we forded the river, which
was waist-deep, and on the banks of which were at least 3000 head of
horned cattle. Seeing no signs of the expected enemy, we journeyed on till
5 P.M., when we halted at the south-eastern extremity of the Howash Plain,
about one mile to the eastward of a small pool of water.

"At daylight on Friday the 21st it was discovered that Datah Mahomed's
horse had disappeared. This was entirely his fault; my servants had
brought it back when it strayed during the night, but he said, 'Let it
feed, it will not run away!' When I condoled with him on the loss of so
noble an animal, he replied, 'I know very well who has taken it: one of my
cousins asked me for it yesterday, and because I refused to give it he has
stolen it; never mind, Inshallah! I will steal some of his camels.' After
a 'Cullam' about what was to be given to our worthy protectors, it was
settled that I should contribute three cloths and the Caffilah ten;
receiving these, they departed much satisfied. Having filled our water-
skins, we resumed our march a little before noon. Several herds of
antelope and wild asses appeared on the way. At 7 P.M. we halted near
Hano. Prevented from lighting a fire for fear of the Galla, I was obliged
to content myself with some parched grain, of which I had prepared a large

"At sunrise on the 22nd we resumed our journey, the weather becoming warm
and the grass scanty. At noon we halted near Shaykh Othman. I was glad to
find that Deeni had succeeded in converting the Ras el Caffilah from an
avowed enemy to a staunch friend, at least outwardly so; he has now become
as civil and obliging as he was before the contrary. There being no water
at this station, I desired my servant Adam not to make any bread,
contenting myself with the same fare as that of the preceding evening.
This displeasing Datah Mahomed, some misunderstanding arose, which, from
their ignorance of each other's language, might, but for the interference
of the Ras el Caffilah and Deeni, have led to serious results. An
explanation ensued, which ended in Datah Mahomed seizing me by the beard,
hugging and embracing me in a manner truly unpleasant. I then desired Adam
to make him some bread and coffee, and harmony was once more restored.
This little disturbance convinced me that if once left among these savages
without any interpreter, that I should be placed in a very dangerous
situation. The Ras el Caffilah also told me that unless he saw that the
road was clear for me to Hurrur, and that there was no danger to be
apprehended, that he could not think of leaving me, but should take me
with him to Tajoorah. He continued, 'You know not the Emir of Hurrur: when
he hears of your approach he will cause you to be waylaid by the Galla.
Why not come with me to Tajoorah? If you fear being in want of provisions
we have plenty, and you shall share all we have!' I was much surprised at
this change of conduct on the part of the Ras el Caffilah, and by way of
encouraging him to continue friendly, spared not to flatter him, saying it
was true I did not know him before, but now I saw he was a man of
excellent disposition. At three P.M. we again moved forward. Grass became
more abundant; in some places it was luxuriant and yet green. We halted at
eight P.M. The night was cold with a heavy dew, and there being no fuel, I
again contented myself with parched grain.

"At daylight on the 23rd we resumed our march. Datah Mahomed asked for two
mules, that he and his friend might ride forward to prepare for my
reception at his village. I lent him the animals, but after a few minutes
he returned to say that I had given him the two worst, and he would not go
till I dismounted and gave him the mule which I was riding. About noon we
arrived at the lake Toor Erain Murroo, where the Bedouins were in great
numbers watering their flocks and herds, at least 3000 head of horned
cattle and sheep innumerable. Datah Mahomed, on my arrival, invited me to
be seated under the shade of a spreading tree, and having introduced me to
his people as his guest and the friend of the Wallasena, immediately
ordered some milk, which was brought in a huge bowl fresh and warm from
the cow; my servants were similarly provided. During the night Adam shot a
fox, which greatly astonished the Bedouins, and gave them even more dread
of our fire-arms. Hearing that Demetrius and his party, who had been
plundered of everything, were living at a village not far distant, I
offered to pay the Ras el Caffilah any expense he might be put to if he
would permit them to accompany our caravan to Tajoorah. He said that he
had no objection to their joining the Caffilah, but that he had been
informed their wish was to return to Shoa. I had a long conversation with
the Ras, who begged of me not to go to Hurrur; 'for,' he said, 'it is well
known that the Hurruri caravan remained behind solely on your account. You
will therefore enter the town, should you by good fortune arrive there at
all, under unfavourable circumstances. I am sure that the Emir [2], who
may receive you kindly, will eventually do you much mischief, besides
which these Bedouins will plunder you of all your property.' The other
people of the caravan, who are all my friends, also spoke in the same
strain. This being noted as a bad halting place, all kept watch with us
during the night.

"The mules and camels having had their morning feed, we set out at about
10 A.M. on Monday the 24th for the village of Datah Mahomed, he having
invited the Caffilah's people and ourselves to partake of his hospitality
and be present at his marriage festivities. The place is situated about
half a mile to the E. N. E. of the lake; it consists of about sixty huts,
surrounded by a thorn fence with separate enclosures for the cattle. The
huts are formed of curved sticks, with their ends fastened in the ground,
covered with mats, in shape approaching to oval, about five feet high,
fifteen feet long, and eight broad. Arrived at the village, we found the
elders seated under the shade of a venerable Acacia feasting; six bullocks
were immediately slaughtered for the Caffilah and ourselves. At sunset a
camel was brought out in front of the building and killed--the Bedoos are
extremely fond of this meat. In the evening I had a long conversation with
Datah Mahomed, who said, 'My son! you have as yet given me nothing. The
Wallasena gave me everything. My horse has been stolen--I want a mule and
much cloth.' Deeni replied for me that the mules were presents from the
king (Sahala Salassah) to the Governor of Aden: this the old man would not
believe. I told him that I had given him the horse and Tobe, but he
exclaimed, 'No, no! my son; the Wallasena is our father; he told me that
he had given them to me, and also that you would give me great things when
you arrived at my village. My son! the Wallasena would not lie.' Datah was
then called away.

"Early on the morning of Tuesday the 25th, Datah Mahomed invited me and
the elders of the Caffilah to his hut, where he supplied us liberally with
milk; clarified butter was then handed round, and the Tajoorians anointed
their bodies. After we had left his hut, he came to me, and in presence of
the Ras el Caffilah and Deeni said, 'You see I have treated you with great
honour, you must give me a mule and plenty of cloth, as all my people want
cloth. You have given me nothing as yet!' Seeing that I became rather
angry, and declared solemnly that I had given him the horse and Tobe, he
smiled and said, 'I know that, but I want a mule, my horse has been
stolen.'--I replied that I would see about it. He then asked for all my
blue cloth and my Arab 'Camblee' (blanket). My portmanteau being rather
the worse for wear--its upper leather was torn--he thrust in his fingers,
and said, with a most avaricious grin, 'What have you here?' I immediately
arose and exclaimed, 'You are not my father; the Wallasena told me you
would treat me kindly; this is not doing so.' He begged pardon and said,
'Do not be frightened, my son; I will take nothing from you but what you
give me freely. You think I am a bad man; people have been telling you ill
things about me. I am now an old man, and have given up such child's work
as plundering people.' It became, however, necessary to inquire of Datah
Mahomed what were his intentions with regard to myself. I found that I had
been deceived at Shoa; there it was asserted that he lived at Errur and
was brother to Bedar, one of the most powerful chiefs of the Adel, instead
of which it proved that he was not so highly connected, and that he
visited Errur only occasionally. Datah told me that his marriage feast
would last seven days, after which he would forward me to Doomi, where we
should find Bedar, who would send me either to Tajoorah or to Hurrur, as
he saw fit.

"I now perceived that all hope of reaching Hurrur was at an end. Vexed and
disappointed at having suffered so much in vain, I was obliged to resign
the idea of going there for the following reasons: The Mission treasury
was at so low an ebb that I had left Shoa with only three German crowns,
and the prospect of meeting on the road Mahomed Ali in charge of the
second division of the Embassy and the presents, who could have supplied
me with money. The constant demands of Datah Mahomed for tobacco, for
cloth, in fact for everything he saw, would become ten times more annoying
were I left with him without an interpreter. The Tajoorians, also, one
all, begged me not to remain, saying, 'Think not of your property, but
only of your and your servants' lives. Come with us to Tajoorah; we will
travel quick, and you shall share our provisions.' At last I consented to
this new arrangement, and Datah Mahomed made no objection. This
individual, however, did not leave me till he had extorted from me my best
mule, all my Tobes (eight in number), and three others, which I borrowed
from the caravan people. He departed about midnight, saying that he would
take away his mule in the morning.

"At 4 A.M. on the 26th I was disturbed by Datah Mahomed, who took away his
mule, and then asked for more cloth, which was resolutely refused. He then
begged for my 'Camblee,' which, as it was my only covering, I would not
part with, and checked him by desiring him to strip me if he wished it. He
then left me and returned in about an hour, with a particular friend who
had come a long way expressly to see me. I acknowledged the honour, and
deeply regretted that I had only words to pay for it, he himself having
received my last Tobe. 'However,' I continued, seeing the old man's brow
darken, 'I will endeavour to borrow one from the Caffilah people.' Deeni
brought me one, which was rejected as inferior. I then said, 'You see my
dress--that cloth is better than what I wear--but here; take my turban.'
This had the desired effect; the cloth was accepted. At length Datah
Mahomed delivered me over to the charge of the Ras el Caffilah in a very
impressive manner, and gave me his blessing. We resumed our journey at 2
P.M., when I joined heartily with the caravan people in their 'Praise be
to God! we are at length clear of the Bedoos!' About 8 P.M. we halted at

"At half-past 4 A.M. on the 27th we started; all the people of the
Caffilah were warm in their congratulations that I had given up the Hurrur
route. At 9 A.M. we halted at Codaitoo: the country bears marks of having
been thickly inhabited during the rains, but at present, owing to the want
of water, not an individual was to be met with. At Murroo we filled our
water-skins, there being no water between that place and Doomi, distant
two days' journey. As the Ras el Caffilah had heard that the Bedoos were
as numerous as the hairs of his head at Doomi and Keelulhoo, he determined
to avoid both and proceed direct to Warrahambili, where water was
plentiful and Bedoos were few, owing to the scarcity of grass. This, he
said, was partly on my account and partly on his own, as he would be much
troubled by the Bedouins of Doomi, many of them being his kinsmen. We
continued our march from 3 P.M. till 9 P.M., when we halted at Boonderrah.

"At 4 P.M., on January 28th, we moved forward through the Waddy
Boonderrah, which was dry at that season; grass, however, was still
abundant. From 11 A.M. till 4 P.M., we halted at Geera Dohiba. Then again
advancing we traversed, by a very rough road, a deep ravine, called the
"Place of Lions." The slaves are now beginning to be much knocked up, many
of them during the last march were obliged to be put upon camels. I forgot
to mention that one died the day we left Murroo. At 10 P.M. we halted at
Hagaioo Geera Dohiba: this was formerly the dwelling-place of Hagaioo,
chief of the Woemah (Dankali), but the Eesa Somali having made a
successful attack upon him, and swept off all his cattle, he deserted it.
During the night the barking of dogs betrayed the vicinity of a Bedoo
encampment, and caused us to keep a good look-out. Water being too scarce
to make bread, I contented myself with coffee and parched grain.

"At daylight on the 29th we resumed our journey, and passed by an
encampment of the Eesa, About noon we reached Warrahambili. Thus far we
have done well, but the slaves are now so exhausted that a halt of two
days will be necessary to recruit their strength. In this Wady we found an
abundance of slightly brackish water, and a hot spring.

"_Sunday, 30th January._--A Caffilah, travelling from Tajoorah to Shoa,
passed by. The people kindly offered to take my letters. Mahomed ibn
Boraitoo, one of the principal people in the Caffilah, presented me with a
fine sheep and a quantity of milk, which I was glad to accept. There had
been a long-standing quarrel between him and our Ras el Caffilah. When the
latter heard that I accepted the present he became very angry, and said to
my servant, Adam, 'Very well, your master chooses to take things from
other people; why did he not ask me if he wanted sheep? We shall see!'
Adam interrupted him by saying, 'Be not angry; my master did not ask for
the sheep, it was brought to him as a present; it has been slaughtered,
and I was just looking for you to distribute it among the people of the
Caffilah.' This appeased him; and Adam added, 'If my master hears your
words he will be angry, for he wishes to be friends with all people.' I
mention the above merely to show how very little excites these savages to
anger. The man who gave me the sheep, hearing that I wished to go to
Tajoorah, offered to take me there in four days. I told him I would first
consult the Ras el Caffilah, who declared it would not be safe for me to
proceed from this alone, but that from Dakwaylaka (three marches in
advance) he himself would accompany me in. The Ras then presented me with
a sheep.

"We resumed our journey at 1 P.M., January 31st, passed several parties of
Eesa, and at 8 P.M. halted at Burroo Ruddah.

"On February 1st we marched from 4 A.M. to 11 A.M., when we halted in the
Wady Fiahloo, dry at this season. Grass was abundant. At 3 P.M. we resumed
our journey. Crossing the plain of Amahdoo some men were observed to the
southward, marching towards the Caffilah; the alarm and the order to close
up were instantly given; our men threw aside their upper garments and
prepared for action, being fully persuaded that it was a party of Eesa
coming to attack them. However, on nearer approach we observed several
camels with them; two men were sent on to inquire who they were; they
proved to be a party of Somalis going to Ousak for grain. At 8 P.M. we
halted on the plain of Dakwaylaka.

"At daylight on February the 2nd, the Ras el Caffilah, Deeni, and Mahomed
accompanied me in advance of the caravan to water our mules at Dakwaylaka.
Arriving there about 11 A.M. we found the Bedoos watering their cattle.
Mahomed unbridled his animal, which rushed towards the trough from which
the cattle were drinking; the fair maid who was at the well baling out the
water into the trough immediately set up the shrill cry of alarm, and we
were compelled to move about a mile up the Wady, when we came to a pool of
water black as ink. Thirsty as I was I could not touch the stuff. The
Caffilah arrived about half-past 1 P.M., by which time the cattle of the
Bedoos had all been driven off to grass, so that the well was at our
service. We encamped close to it. Ibrahim recommended that Adam Burroo of
the Assoubal tribe, a young Bedoo, and a relation of his should accompany
our party. I promised him ten dollars at Tajoorah. [3] At 3 P.M., having
completed my arrangements, and leaving one servant behind to bring up the
luggage, I quitted the Caffilah amidst the universal blessings of the
people. I was accompanied by Ibrahim, the Ras el Caffilah, Deeni ibn
Hamid, my interpreter, three of my servants, and the young Bedoo, all
mounted on mules. One baggage mule, fastened behind one of my servants'
animals, carried a little flour, parched grain, and coffee, coffee-pot,
frying-pan, and one suit of clothes for each. Advancing at a rapid pace,
about 5 P.M. we came up with a party consisting of Eesa, with their
camels. One of them instantly collected the camels, whilst the others
hurried towards us in a suspicious way. The Bedoo hastened to meet them,
and we were permitted, owing, I was told, to my firearms, the appearance
of which pleased them not, to proceed quietly. At 7 P.M., having arrived
at a place where grass was abundant, we turned off the road and halted.

"At 1:30 A.M., on Thursday, 3rd February, as the moon rose we saddled our
mules and pushed forward at a rapid pace. At 4 A.M. we halted and had a
cup of coffee each, when we again mounted. As the day broke we came upon
an encampment of the Debeneh, who hearing the clatter of our mules' hoofs,
set up the cry of alarm. The Bedoo pacified them: they had supposed us to
be a party of Eesa. We continued our journey, and about 10 A.M. we halted
for breakfast, which consisted of coffee and parched grain. At noon we
again moved forward, and at 3 P.M., having arrived at a pool of water
called Murhabr in the Wady Dalabayah, we halted for about an hour to make
some bread. We then continued through the Wady, passed several Bedoo
encampments till a little after dark, when we descended into the plain of
Gurgudeli. Here observing several fires, the Bedoo crawled along to
reconnoitre, and returned to say they were Debeneh. We gave them a wide
berth, and about 8:30 P.M. halted. We were cautioned not to make a fire,
but I had a great desire for a cup of coffee after the fatigue of this
long march. Accordingly we made a small fire, concealing it with shields.

"At 3 A.M. on Friday, the 4th February, we resumed our journey. After
about an hour and a half arriving at a good grazing ground, we halted to
feed the mules, and then watered them at Alooli. At 1 P.M. I found the sun
so oppressive that I was obliged to halt for two hours. We had struck off
to the right of the route pursued by the Embassy, and crossed, not the
Salt Lake, but the hills to the southward. The wind blowing very strong
considerably retarded our progress, so that we did not arrive at Dahfurri,
our halting-place, till sunset. Dahfurri is situated about four miles to
the southward of Mhow, the encampment of the Embassy near the Lake, and
about 300 yards to the eastward of the road. Here we found a large basin
of excellent water, which the Tajoorians informed me was a mere mass of
mud when we passed by to Shoa, but that the late rains had cleared away
all the impurities. After sunset a gale of wind blew.

"At 1 A.M. on the 5th February, the wind having decreased we started.
Passing through the pass of the Rer Essa, the barking of dogs caused us
some little uneasiness, as it betrayed the vicinity of the Bedoo, whether
friend or foe we knew not. Ibrahim requested us to keep close order, and
to be silent. As day broke we descended into the plain of Warrah Lissun,
where we halted and ate the last of the grain. After half an hour's halt
we continued our journey. Ibrahim soon declared his inability to keep up
with us, so he recommended me to the care of the Bedoo and Deeni, saying
he would follow slowly. We arrived at Sagulloo about 11 A.M., and Ibrahim
about two hours afterwards. At 3 P.M. we resumed our march, and a little
before sunset arrived at Ambaboo.

"The elders had a conference which lasted about a quarter of an hour, when
they came forward and welcomed me, directing men to look after my mules. I
was led to a house which had been cleaned for my reception. Ibrahim then
brought water and a bag of dates, and shortly afterwards some rice and
milk. Many villagers called to pay their respects, and remained but a
short time as I wanted repose: they would scarcely believe that I had
travelled in eighteen days from Shoa, including four day's halt.

"Early on the morning of the 6th February I set out for Tajoorah, where I
was received with every demonstration of welcome by both rich and poor.
The Sultan gave me his house, and after I had drunk a cup of coffee with
him, considerately ordered away all the people who had flocked to see me,
as, he remarked, I must be tired after so rapid a journey.

"It may not be amiss to mention here that the British character stands
very high at Tajoorah. The people assured me that since the British had
taken Aden they had enjoyed peace and security, and that from being
beggars they had become princes. As a proof of their sincerity they said
with pride, 'Look at our village, you saw it a year and a half ago, you
know what it was then, behold what is now!' I confessed that it had been
much improved."

(From Tajoorah the traveller, after awarding his attendants, took boat for
Zayla, where he was hospitably received by the Hajj Sharmarkay's agent.
Suffering severely from fever, on Monday the 14th February he put to sea
again and visited Berberah, where he lived in Sharmarkay's house, and
finally he arrived at Aden on Friday the 25th February, 1842. He concludes
the narrative of his adventure as follows.)

"It is due to myself that I should offer some explanation for the rough
manner in which this report is drawn up. On leaving Shoa the Caffilah
people marked with a jealous eye that I seemed to number the slaves and
camels, and Deeni reported to me that they had observed my making entries
in my note-book. Whenever the Bedoos on the road caught sight of a piece
of paper, they were loud in their demands for it. [4] Our marches were so
rapid that I was scarcely allowed time sufficient to prepare for the
fatigues of the ensuing day, and experience had taught me the necessity of
keeping a vigilant watch. [5] Aware that Government must be anxious for
information from the 'Mission,' I performed the journey in a shorter space
of time than any messenger, however highly paid, has yet done it, and for
several days lived on coffee and parched grain. Moreover, on arrival at
Aden, I was so weak from severe illness that I could write but at short

"It will not, I trust, be considered that the alteration in my route was
caused by trivial circumstances. It would have been absurd to have
remained with the Bedoos without an interpreter: there would have been
daily disputes and misunderstandings, and I had already sufficient insight
into the character of Datah Mahomed to perceive that his avarice was
insatiable. Supposing I had passed through his hands, there was the chief
of Bedar, who, besides expecting much more than I had given to Datah
Mahomed, would, it is almost certain, eventually have forwarded me to
Tajoorah. Finally, if I can believe the innumerable reports of the people,
both at Tajoorah and Zalaya, neither I myself nor my servants would ever
have passed through the kingdom of Hurrur. The jealousy of the prince
against foreigners is so great that, although he would not injure them
within the limits of his own dominions, he would cause them to waylaid and
murdered on the road."


[1] Thus in the original. It may be a mistake, for Captain Barker is, I am
informed, a proficient in conversational Arabic.

[2] This chief was the Emir Abubakr, father of Ahmed: the latter was
ruling when I entered Harar in 1855.

[3] As the youth gave perfect satisfaction, he received, besides the ten
dollars, a Tobe and a European saddle, "to which he had taken a great

[4] In these wild countries every bit of paper written over is considered
to be a talisman or charm.

[5] A sergeant, a corporal, and a Portuguese cook belonging to Captain
Harris's mission were treacherously slain near Tajoorah at night. The
murderers were Hamid Saborayto, and Mohammed Saborayto, two Dankalis of
the Ad All clan. In 1842 they seem to have tried a _ruse de guerre_ upon
M. Rochet, and received from him only too mild a chastisement. The
ruffians still live at Juddah (Jubbah ?) near Ambabo.

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