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El Hamra is the 3rd station from El Medina, in the Darb Sultani (Sultan's road), the westerly highway along the seashore to Mecca. When robbers permit them, pilgrims prefer this route to all others, on account of the facility of procuring supplies, and passing through the holy place " Bedr." After midday on the 21st, a caravan en route from Mecca to El Medina entered El Hamra, and the new travellers had interest enough to procure an escort, and permission to proceed without delay. A little after 4 P.m. we urged our camels over the fiery sands to join these Meccans, who were standing ready for the march on the other side of the fiumara; and at 5 we started in an easterly direction up the bed. My companions had found relations and friends in the caravan, so they piously dismounted from their dromedaries during the sunset halt, and prayed with unction. I seldom joined in their devotions, because, in the first place, a sore foot excused me; and secondly, because the character, though highly respectable, is a very inconvenient one in these regions. Shortly after the night set in we came to a dead stop: a dozen different reports arose to account for this circumstance, which was occasioned by a band of Badawin having manned a pass, and positively objected to admit our escort of 200 irregulars. So the horsemen galloped home, and we resumed our journey. This night brought forth no other adventure: we traversed rising ground eastwards, and about midnight passed through another long straggling line of village, called Jadaydah,* or El Khayf.f The body of the place lies on the left of the road leading to El Medina: like El Hamra it has a fort, springs of tolerably sweet water, and a date ground. A celebrated saint, Abd-el Rahim el Barai, has left his holy bones here. A little beyond it is the Bughaz,J or defile, where the Egyptians under Tussum Bey were totally defeated by the Harbi Badawin and the Wahhabis, in A.d. 1811. At 4 A.m., having travelled about 24 miles due E., we encamped at Bir Abbas.
22nd.—The position of Bir Abbas resembles that of El Hamra, a bulge in the hill-girt fiumara, about 2 miles wide. There is the usual stone fort, where troops are stationed to protect travellers, hovels, and a coffee-house of date-leaves, and a hut or two, called a bazar, but no village. We encamped in loose sand, with which the samum filled the air; not a tree nor a bush was in sight, and the animal creation was represented by hardy locusts and swarms of flies. Before noon a caravan brought in two dead
t Khayf, a "declivity," or a " place built upon a declivity," is a common name in this part of Arabia.
I Vincent (Periplus) derives this word from the It. bocca, a mouth. It is Turkish, and literally means a throat or gorge. The pure Arabic is nakb, still used by the Badawin.
bodies, a horseman shot by the Badawin, and an Albanian killed by sunstroke, or the poison-wind. Shortly after mid-day we saw a caravan travelling Mecca-wards: it was composed chiefly of Indian pilgrims in "ihram," * who had been allowed to pass, because a pound sterling could not have been collected by spilling the life-blood of a hundred of them, and Saad the Robber sometimes does a cheap good deed. In the evening, when strolling about, we met some shaykhs entering Bir Abbas to receive their pensions. They were men of Harb, dignified ancients, habited in the picturesque Badawi costume, with erect forms, fierce, thin features, and white beards, well armed, and mounted on.high-bred and handsomely-equipped dromedaries. Preceded by half-naked clansmen, carrying spears 12 or 13 feet long, garnished with single or double tufts of black ostrich feathers, and ponderous matchlocks, which they discharged on approaching the fort, these shaykhs were a perfect picture. Evening was ushered in by the dropping of distant shots, a sign that the troops and hillmen were at work. My companions pointed with a fearful meaning to the far blue peak where terrible Saad holds his court, and we slept upon our boxes in "doleful dumps/' for none could say how long we might be confined in our dreary dungeon.
23rd.—After a day of heat, sand, samum, wrangling, and general discomfort, we were revived by a report that Arnaut troops would be in the saddle that night. No one believed in such good luck; before sleeping, however, we made preparations for starting at a moment's notice. About 11 P.m., as the moon passed over the eastern wall of rock, we heard the glad sound of the little kettle-drum beating the "General." Within 10 minutes we had loaded the camels, and hurriedly crossing the sandy flat, we found ourselves in company with three or four small caravans, forming one large body for better defence. By dint of elbowing, arms in hand, we, though the last comers, secured a place in the middle of the line. On such occasions all push for the van, none aspiring to occupy that dangerous seat of honour, the rear.
24th.—We threaded the fiumara eastwards, and at dawn entered an ill-famed gorge, Shuab el Haj, the Pilgrim's Pass. As we neared it, loud talkers became silent, and in their faces fear was written in a fine clear hand. Presently, from the cliff on the left a thin curl of blue smoke rose in the morning air, preluding the matchlock's loud ring. A number of Badawin, boys and men, were swarming like hornets over the crest, and clambering with admirable agility up the precipices, till comfortably seated behind a breastwork of stones, piled up as a defence and a rifle-rest, they fired down upon us with perfect convenience to themselves. It
* The pilgrim's costume.
was useless to invite them to fight us upon the plain like men; on the eastern coast the robbers will sometimes do this, but not in El Hejaz, and it was equally unprofitable to shoot at stones. Moreover, had a Badawi been killed, the country would have risen en masse: 3000 or 4000 robbers might have the courage to overpower a caravan, in which case there would have been a general cutting of throats. Their fire was directed principally against the Arnauts, who called for assistance from the party of shaykhs that had accompanied us from Bir Abbas. But those dignified ancients, dismounting and squatting round their pipes in council, came to the conclusion, that as the Badawin would probably turn a deaf ear to their words, they had better spare themselves the trouble of speaking; so we blazed away as much powder, and veiled ourselves in as thick a veil as possible. We lost twelve men, besides camels and other beasts of burden.
After an hour of hurrying on we passed Shuhada, an unremarkable spot, with a few ruined walls, and a cluster of graves, each an oval of rough stones, containing the "martyrs" crowned with glory in one of the Prophet's plundering expeditions. In 30 minutes we reached Bir el Hindi, a favourite halting-place, where some forgotten Indian had dug a well: we jogged on, being scarcely out of the cut-throat gorge and the nests of the Ham 'dah. Then leaving the fiumara, we struck off northwards into a welltrodden road running over stony rising ground. The heat became sickening: at no time is the sun in these regions more dangerous than between 8 and 10 A.m., and it was 11 o'clock before we encamped. The station, Suwaykah, is a rugged plain covered with stones, coarse gravel, and thorn trees, and surrounded by inhospitable rocks, pinnacle-shaped, and calcareous, on a granite base. The well was at least 2 miles distant, not a hovel was in sight, or sign of life, save a few Badawi children feeding their starveling flocks; but my companions looked lovingly upon the hideous spot—their boxes were now safe. That night we travelled about '22 miles due E. up a steady rise.
We pitched the tent under a villainous mimosa, the tree whose shade is compared by these poetical thieves to the false one that deserts you when most needed; and I enlivened a long, hot, dull day by the excitement of recovering certain small sums lent to divers friends, the "almighty dollar" having been the talisman with which I opened their hearts. At 4 P.m. we mounted, all of us in the crossest of moods, and travelled towards the N.E., up rocky hill and down stony vale, which made the camels stumble and tumble regularly once per mile.
25th.—Day dawned before I had shaken off the lethargic effects of such a night. All my companions were hurrying on with reckless haste. "More robbers?' I inquired of a neighbour; "No, we are walking upon our eyes—in a minute we shall sight ElMedina." Rapidly we crossed the muse-loved fiumara, El Akik; it was dry as summer's dust, and its "beautiful trees" were stunted fire-wood.* Presently we came to a mudarraj, a broad flight of steps cut in the rock : t arrived at the summit, we passed through a lane of lava with steep banks, and suddenly saw the holy city lying upon the pUin before us.
We halted our beasts as if by word of command; and all of us, tired and hungry as we were, dismounted, and sat down to enjoy the view. "O Allah! this is the sanctuary of the Prophet; make it to us a protection from hell-fire, and a place of refuge from eternal punishment 1 O open the gates of thy mercy, and let us pass through them to the land of joy!" And again—" Live for ever, O best of Prophets! Live in the shadow of happiness, whilst the bird of the tamarisk (the dove) moaneth like a childless mother—whilst the west wind bloweth gently over the highland of Nejd—whilst the lightning flasheth bright in the firmament of El Hejaz!" Such were the poetical exclamations around me, whilst features were working with excitement, and eyes swam with tears. . I now fully understood the meaning of a dark phrase in the Moslem ritual: "And when his (the pilgrim's) sight falls upon the trees of El Medina, let him raise voice and bless the Prophet with the choicest of blessings." In all the fair view before us, no feature more striking, after the desolation of the journey, than the gardens and orchards of the town.
The distance traversed that night was about 20 miles, in a direction varying from E. to N.E. We reached El Medina on the 25th July, thus taking nearly eight days to travel about 130 miles.
1 subjoin my computation of the stages:—
From Yambu . . to . . . Musahhal 16 miles.
Musahhal . ,, . . . Bir Said 34 ,,
Bir Said . „ . . .El Hamra 14 „ = 64, half way.
El Hamra . ,, . . .Bir Abbas 24 „
Bir Abbas. „ . . . Suwaykah 22 ,,
Suwaykah „ . . .El Medina 20 „ = 66.
Total . . 130 miles.
* El Akik, said the Badawin, is a branch of the fiumara of El Hamra.
t This is one of the Harratain or Two Ridges of which the Prophet said, "Verily there is healing to the sight, if it fall upon Mount Ohod, and the Two Ridges near." The other lies N. of the city, on the road to Hamzah's tomb, which lies at the foot of Ohod. El Harratain is the popular form of E Harratani, the oblique case usurping the place of the dual-nominative in the colloquial dialect of El Hejaz, as in Syria, Egyot, and the Maghrab. Both these harrahs are long, broad ridges of the black scoriated lava, of which buildings in this part of El Hejaz are composed.
example and the profession of taking in pilgrims. They made no difficulty in answering my questions about the country. To obviate curiosity or suspicion, I had an abstract of Arab genealogies, and always began my questionings with, " You men of Harb, on what lineage do ye pride yourselves?" Notes must be kept private, and sketches must never be seen; but these people do not object to a learned man writing in a MS., as if commenting upon it, and for other purposes he may retire into solitude and pray. The best pretext for avoiding company is "sauda"—a melancholic temperament—all Orientals, especially the Arabs, being subject to fits of nervous depression, when they fly to soli-" tude as to a friend. Without some such excuse a traveller would be overwhelmed with society: his hosts will eat with him, drink, smoke, talk, pray, and rather than leave him alone, sleep with him.
My next communication, if you desire it, will be my Itinerary from El Medina to Mecca.* Once more offering my best excuses for the delay in forwarding this paper,
I have the honour to be, Sir,
Your most obedient servant,
Richard F. Burton,
Lieut. Bombay Army.
Dr. Norton Shaw, Sec. B. G. S.
VI.—Notice on the Variation of the Magnetic Needle at Aden.
Communicated by the East India Company.
In my letter of January 8, 1852, relative to the probability of a change in the magnetic variation, I then gave proof that, between the year 1800 and my observations in 1834, a change of 3° 47' 30" had taken place; and that experiments might prove a still further change, rendering it necessary that it should be ascertained, so that due allowance might be made for it by navigators.
I have now the honour to report that, having had a very superior 10-inch theodolite lent to me, in addition to my own, I have taken, during September and October, many observations in order to ascertain the change of variation at Aden since I surveyed it in 1834; and beg to submit the results to Government, as they prove that my opinion last year was correct, and that since 1834 the variation has diminished westerly 2° 12' 40", being in
* Since received.—Ed. VOL. XXIV. Q