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N.W. It continues, I was told, without interruptions of mountains or undulations, as far as to the coast of the Red Sea, and it may perhaps be regarded as part of the old Wadi Alkura, running down from Higr, on one side towards the interior of the desert, and on the other through the present Wadi Negd, towards the seaport town of Wegh. In the centre of the plain to our left, we had a small village called Alhuleife, containing about 8 houses with some poor palm plantations, belonging to 'Eneze Bedawies. On the other side of the plain the mountain ridges recommenced as a continuation of the Aga, but the prevalent element of the rock was here sand and limestone, till we penetrated the land of Harb and the interior parts of Alhigaz, where granite chains again invariably formed the walls of the valleys through which our way led.
V.—Journey to Medina, with Route from Yambu. By Lieutenant
To the Secretary to the Royal Geographical Society.
[sir,—I Well recollect one of the last sentences addressed to me by the Committee of your learned Society on my departure—" We should wish to hear from you as soon as possible." And I am also aware that not having received a single notice from me since my departure, you have had ample reason to hold me " nidering." The reasons for my "faineance" appear to me—as usual in case of self-excuse—sufficient: I have been a sufferer from climate, and too dull to put pen to paper, leading the most unsettled life, when writing becomes wearisome to the writer and consequently to the reader: and, finally, I have been busily employed in proposing an Expedition to Eastern Africa. Assisted by the enlightened nobleman now at the head of the Bombay Government and by other influential persons, my exertions have every prospect of success : I need scarcely say, that if appointed to direct the course of discovery, I shall never forget that to the liberal patronage of the Royal Geographical Society I owe the opportunity lately afforded to me of proving, " par voie de faits," my fitness for so responsible a charge.
You may remember, Sir, that I started with the intention of crossing the breadth of Arabia from El Medina to Muscat, or of travelling south-eastwards in a diagonal line from Mecca to Maculla, on the Indian Ocean. Arrived at the Prophet's burial-place, I found the Badawin fighting in all directions: even Khaybar * was inaccessible, and the robber chiefs emphatically expressed their determination to "cut the throat of every man" found in their passes. Disguised as a mendicant 1 might have penetrated eastwards, but no guide would have accompanied me before the end of the pilgrimage-season—October or early November—and the limits of my leave did peremptorily forbid this delay. At Mecca also I was doomed to be disappointed. Some dispute between the Arab Sherif and the Turkish Pacha, and the excitement of a Holy War in prospect, had afforded the amiable Badawin of El Hejaz a reasonable excuse for recurring to their pet pastime—that of every man shooting his Moslem neighbour. Thus the roads swarmed with obstacles, all superable, but superable only to those who have at command unlimited time. I need not enlarge upon my disappointment at this failure in sight of success.
The secondary objects of my tour, I may remind you, were to find out if a market could be established for horses; to obtain information concerning the Great Eastern Desert; to inquire into the hydrography of El Hyar, its waterparting, the existence of perennial streams and the disputed slope of the country; and finally to try by the test of inspection the theory proposed by a distinguished member of your Society, Lieut.-Col. Sykes; namely, that in the population of the vast Peninsula there exist physiological differences sufficient to warrant our questioning the common origin of the Arabian family.
I satisfied myself that the Hejaz cannot supply India with horses. These animals, though high-bred in the " Holy Land," are " rats," as slender stunted bloods are generally called, of fabulous price, and to be bought only when necessity compels the owners to part with them.f
Of the Great Eastern Desert (the white blot in our maps marked Ruba el
* The position of this place is variably laid down in our maps. My Medina friends fixed it N.E. of, and distant 3 days' journey (with laden camels, say about 70 miles) from, El Medina.
f See preceding paper by Dr. Wallin.—Ed.
Khali, or the uninhabited region), I have heard from credible relators, that its horrid depths swarm with a large and half-starved population, amongst whom the hardy and daring explorer will find it possible to travel, and that it is a system of rocky hills, semi-fertile ravines, and valleys, sand-deserts, and plains of hard clay, covered with their vegetation by a scanty winter rain. At El Medina I heard 'a tradition that in days of yore a high road ran from the city, passing through this wild region to Hadramaut. It had, however, been deserted for ages, and my informants considered me demented when I talked of travelling by it.
I am satisfied that, despite all geography, between Ptolemy and Joniard, Arabia, so rich in fiumaras * and mountain rills, contains nothing that can properly be called a river, and I have reasons to believe that, contrary to Ritter and others, the general declivity of Arabia is from N. to S.—from Baghdad to Mecca.
My ethnographic researches, which I propose to detail at some future time, induce me to believe in three distinct races, viz. :—
1. The Aborigines of the country, now driven, like the Bheels and other autochthonic Indians, into the eastern wilds bordering upon the ocean. These are the people derived by a multitude of authors originally from India, a theory which, destitute of historic proof, relies upon strong and salient points of physical similarity between the aborigines of the two peninsulas.
2. The advense, a Syrian or Mesopotamian race (typified by Shem and Joktan f), that seized the finest tracts of country and now represents the great Arabian people, and
3. An impure Egypto-Arab clan, personified by Ishmael, his son Nebajoth and Edom (Esau) the son of Isaac, that populated and still holds the Sinaitic Peninsula and the lands immediately E. of it.
The outline of my journey is this. Early in April 1853 I left Southampton disguised in Persian dress, and landed at Alexandria regretting that I had not at once assumed an Afghan costume. A friend, John Larking, gave me a room in his garden, and there I lived about 5 weeks, collecting information about El Hejaz, and refreshing my remembrance of things oriental. When duly prepared, a small Fakih or hedge-priest started by the Cairo steamer. My stay at the capital of Egypt lasted 6 weeks, during which time I became an Indian doctor, and supplied myself with the preposterous outfit with which Eastern travellers to El Hejaz are wont, about as sensibly as our East India cadets, to encumber themselves. In July, after some difficulty about passports at Cairo, I went to Suez, fell in with a Mecca boy and a party of respectable Medinites, who, believing me to be a Sulaymani or Afghan pilgrim, offered to take me to their native city. I should have been detained at Suez had it not been for the stout aid of Her Britannic Majesty's Vice-Consul,
* The English language contains, I believe, no single word to express a "hillwater course, which rolls a torrent after rain, and is either partially or wholly dry in the drought season;" in fact, what the Arabs denote by "misyal, masyal, masil, or masilah" (the place of flowing), and the Indians by "nullah." No reader of Niebuhr translated can fail to remark the ambiguity and ineflicacy of the term "river" in such passages as these : — " We crossed several times over the Wadi Suradsji, a considerably large and rapid river, even at that time, although no rain had fallen for a long while." And,—" We passed without wetting our feet over the river Suradsji, which we had lately seen so large among the hills." Though unwilling to naturalise a word unnecessarily, I propose to adopt " finmara," from a land in which the feature abounds.
t Typified, because the names of the descendants of Joktan (Gen. x. 26-29) are those of cities and regions, not of individuals. For instance, Hazar-maveth, the "home of death," would never be applied by Orientals to a person; whereas for centuries it has denoted, and still denotes, a place.
VOL. XXIV. P
Mr. West, who persuaded the Bey to overlook the informality of my passport and to allow me to embark on board a pilgrim ship. On the 12th day we landed at Yambu, and immediately started for El Medina, where I went to the house of a friend. This road is not unknown to Europe, but the Swiss traveller - BurckharcTt was so ill when he observed it, that his pages as well as his map cannot every where be trusted. At the Prophet's burial-place I found means to plot the Mosque—a desideratum—to sketch the town, of which our popular prints are absurdly incorrect, and to visit all the consecrated environs, except Khaybar, where the Badawin were "out." On the 31st of August I started with the Damascus Cafila by the "Darb el Sharki,"* or Eastern Road, through the great Nejd Desert, deeply grateful to the Schinderhannes who shut up the well-known Coast-Road described by my predecessor. Our 12 days' journey was through an unknpwn country, and though I could use nothing but watch and pocket-compass—the sight of my sextant at Suez having aroused such suspicions in the Arab mind, that I was compelled to leave it behind—my fieldbook will, it is hoped, supply a modicum of interesting matter. Arrived at Mecca on the 10th September, I went to the house of the boy Mohammed who had accompanied me from Suez, was most hospitably received by the old wifiow his mother, and had an opportunity of seeing all the ceremonies of the Haj ; I entered the Kaabah and made a plan whilst apparently praying, visited the environs of the city, and became a Haji Baba, which revered title may be really useful to me when wandering among Moslem races. Early in October I returned to Egypt with the intention of starting once more to Arabia, when Fate again interposed an obstacle in the shape of dysentery, and time creeping on made my return to India imperative.]
To begin my narrative—We embarked on board the' Golden Wire,' a pilgrim ship belonging to a Suez merchant. Her rig and build, like that of all the Red Sea craft, have a general resemblance to the Indian pattimar,t which I believe to be the most ancient shape in the Eastern world, after catamaran and the " toni," or hollowed mango trunk. The Western Arabs still know only two kinds of vessels, the "Sambuk" \ and the "Baghlah,"§ differing in tonnage, not in shape; whereas the Eastern Arabs have almost as many varieties of craft as we have. This arises from the circumstance that timber for ship-building is not to be found on the shores of the Red Sea, for which reason the people never were and are not a nation of mariners; whereas the inhabitants of Oman, Hadramaut, and Yemen easily supplied their want of wood by trading for teak with Malabar. This traffic, which began, doubtless, in early ages, gave the Eastern Arabs a spirit of adventure, familiarized them with navigation, afforded them an opportunity of colonising—their descendants the Moplahs are a standing proof of extensive immi
* There are four high roads between Mecca and Medina:—1, The Sharki or Desert Road; 2, the Sultani or Royal Way, along the coast and between them; 3, the Wady el Fara Road; and, 4, the Tarik el Ghair.
t A model of the pattimar was shown at the Great Exhibition; any description of it is therefore unnecessary.
X This name is the more remarkable, as Athenseus describes the musical instrument called "sambuca" as "resembling a ship with a ladder placed over it." -G.W.
§ A mule.—G. W.