The Land of Midian (Revisited).
By Richard F. Burton.
In Two Volumes.
C. Kegan Paul & Co. London:
To the Memory of My Much Loved Niece, Maria Emily Harriet Stisted, Who Died at Dovercourt, November 12, 1878.
"Gold shall be found, and found In a land that's not now known." MOTHER SHIPTON, A.D. 1448.
A few pages by way of "Forespeache."
The plain unvarnished tale of the travel in Midian, undertaken by the second Expedition, which, like the first, owes all to the liberality and the foresight of his Highness Ismail I., Khediv of Egypt, forms the subject of these volumes. During the four months between December 19, 1877, and April 20, 1878, the officers employed covered some 2500 miles by sea and land, of which 600, not including by-paths, were mapped and planned; and we brought back details of an old-new land which the civilized world had clean forgotten.
The public will now understand that one and the same subject has not given rise to two books. I have to acknowledge with gratitude the many able and kindly notices by the Press of my first volume ("The Gold Mines of Midian," etc. Messrs. C. Kegan Paul & Co., 1878). But some reviewers succeeded in completely misunderstanding the drift of that avant courier. It was an introduction intended to serve as a base for the present more extensive work, and—foundations intended to bear weight must be solid. Its object was to place before the reader the broad outlines of a country whose name was known to "every schoolboy," whilst it was a vox et praeterea nihil, even to the learned, before the spring of 1877. I had judged advisable to sketch, with the able assistance of learned friends, its history and geography; its ethnology and archaeology; its zoology and malacology; its botany and geology. The drift was to prepare those who take an interest in Arabia generally, and especially in wild mysterious Midian, for the present work, which, one foresaw, would be a tale of discovery and adventure. Thus readers of "The Land of Midian (Revisited)" may feel that they are not standing upon ground utterly unknown; and the second publication is shortened and lightened—perhaps the greatest advantage of all—by the prolegomena having been presented in the first.
The purpose of the last Expedition was to conclude the labours begun, during the spring of 1877, in a mining country unknown, or rather, fallen into oblivion. Hence its primary "objective" was mineralogical. The twenty-five tons of specimens, brought back to Cairo, were inspected by good judges from South Africa, Australia, and California; and all recognized familiar metalliferous rocks. The collection enabled me to distribute the mining industry into two great branches—(1) the rich silicates and carbonates of copper smelted by the Ancients in North Midian; and (2) the auriferous veins worked, but not worked out, by comparatively modern races in South Midian, the region lying below the parallel of El-Muwaylah. It is, indeed, still my conviction that "tailings" have been washed for gold, even by men still living. We also brought notices and specimens of three several deposits of sulphur; of a turquoise-mine behind Ziba; of salt and saltpetre, and of vast deposits of gypsum. These are sources of wealth which the nineteenth century is not likely to leave wasted and unworked.
In geography the principal novelties are the identification of certain ruined cities mentioned by Ptolemy, and the "Harrahs" or plutonic centres scattered over the seaboard and the interior. I venture to solicit the attention of experts for my notes on El-Harrah, that great volcanic chain whose fair proportions have been so much mutilated by its only explorer, the late Dr. Wallin. Beginning with Damascan Trachonitis, and situated, in the parallel of north lat. 28 degrees, about sixty direct miles east of the Red Sea, it is reported to subtend the whole coast of North-Western Arabia, between El-Muwaylah (north lat. 27 degrees 39') and El-Yambu' (north lat. 24 degrees 5'). Equally noticeable are the items of information concerning the Wady Hamz, the "Land's End" of Egypt, and the most important feature of its kind in North-Western Arabia. Its name, wrongly given by Wallin, is unknown to the Hydrographic Chart, and to the erudite pages of my friend Professor Aloys Sprenger, who, however, suspects with me that it may be the mouth of the celebrated Wady el-Kura. For further topographical details the reader is referred to the "Itineraries" of the Expedition, offered to the Royal Geographical Society of London.
Some of the principal sites were astronomically determined by Commanders Ahmed Musallam and Nasir Ahmed, of the Egyptian navy. The task of mapping and planning was committed to the two young Staff-lieutenants sent for that purpose. They worked well in the field; and their sketches were carefully executed whilst under my superintendence. But it was different when they returned to Cairo. The maps sent to the little Exposition at the Hippo-drome (see conclusion) were simply a disgrace to the Staff-bureau. My departure from Egypt caused delay; and, when the chart reached me, it was far from satisfactory: names had been omitted, and without my presence it could not have been printed. With the able assistance of Mr. William J. Turner, of the Royal Geographical Society, who found the work harder than he expected, it has been reduced to tolerable shape. Still, it is purely provisional; and, when mining operations shall begin, a far more careful survey will be required.
As regards archaeology, the second Expedition visited, described, and surveyed eighteen ruins of cities and towns, some of considerable extent, in North Midian, besides seeing or hearing of some twenty large Mashghal, apparently the ateliers of vagrant Gypsy-like gangs. This total of thirty-eight is not far short of the forty traditional Midianite settlements preserved by the mediaeval Arab geographers. Many others are reported to exist in the central or inland region; and fifteen were added by the South Country, including the classical temple or shrine, found upon the bank of the Wady Hamz before mentioned. The most interesting sites were recommended to M. Lacaze, whose portfolio was soon filled with about two hundred illustrations, in oil and water-colours, pencil croquis and "sun-pictures." All, except the six coloured illustrations which adorn this volume, have been left in Egypt. His Highness resolved to embody the results of our joint labours in a large album, illustrated with coloured lithographs, maps, and plans, explained by letter-press, and prepared at the Citadel, Cairo.
The Meteorological Journal was kept by myself, assisted at times by Mr. Clarke. Mr. David Duguid, engineer of the Mukhbir, whose gallant conduct will be recorded (Chap. VIII.), and Commander Nasir Ahmed, of the Sinnar, obliged me by registering simultaneous observations at sea-level. The whole was reduced to shape by Mr. W. J. Turner, of the Royal Geographical Society.
My private collection of mineralogical specimens was deposited with Professor M. H. N. Story-Maskelyne. The spirit-specimens of zoology filled three large canisters: and the British Museum also received a hare and five birds (Mr. R. B. Sharpe); four bats (Rhinopoma) and a mouse; six reptiles, five fishes, thirty-five crustaceans, and about the same number of insects; five scorpions, six leeches, sixty molluscs, four echinoderms, and three sponges. Dr. A. Gunther (Appendix III.) determined and named two new species of reptiles. Mr. Frederick Smith (Appendix III.) took charge of the insects. Mr. Edward J. Miers, F. L.S., etc., described the small collection of crustaceae (Annals and Magazine of Natural History for November, 1878). Finally, Edgar A. Smith examined and named the shells collected on the shores of the 'Akabah Gulf and the north-eastern recess of the Red Sea.
The main interest of the little hortus siccus was the Alpine Flora, gathered at an altitude of five thousand feet above sea-level. The plants were offered to Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker, of Kew; and Professor D. Oliver, of the Herbarium, has kindly furnished me with a list of the names (Appendix IV.). Mr. William Carruthers and his staff also examined the spirit-specimens of fleshy plants (Appendix IV.).
Mr. Reginald Stuart Poole, Keeper of Coins and Medals, and Mr. Barclay V. Head were good enough to compare with their rich collections the coins of ancient Midian found (Chap. III.), for the first time, at Maghair Shu'ayb[EN#1]. Some years ago, Mr. Robert Ready, of the British Museum, had bought from a Jew, Yusuf Kalafat (?), a miscellaneous collection, which included about sixty of the so-called Midianitic coins. But the place of discovery is wholly unknown. The Assistant Keeper read a paper "On Arabian Imitations of Athenian Coins," Midianitic, Himyaritic, and others, at a meeting of the Numismatic Society (November 21, 1878); and I did the same at the Royal Asiatic Society, December 16, 1878. The little "find" of stone implements, rude and worked; and the instruments illustrating the mining industry of the country, appeared before the Anthropological Section of the British Association, which met at Dublin (August, 1878), and again before the Anthropological Institute of London, December 10, 1878.
Finally, the skulls and fragments of skulls from Midian were submitted to Professor Richard Owen, the Superintendent of Natural History; and my learned friend kindly inspected the Egyptian and Palmyrene crania which accompanied them. The whole was carefully described by Dr. C. Carter Blake, Ph.D., before the last-named seance of the Anthropological Institute (December 10, 1878).
The tons of specimens brought to Cairo were, I have said, publicly exhibited there, and created much interest. But the discovery of a mining-country, some three hundred miles long, once immensely wealthy, and ready to become wealthy once more, is not likely to be accepted by every one. Jealous and obstructive officials "did not think much of it." Rivals opposed it with even less ceremony. A mild "ring" in Egypt attempted in vain to run the Hamamat and Dar-For mines (Chap. III.) against Midian. Consequently the local Press was dosed with rumours, which, retailed by the home papers, made the latter rife in contradictory reports. To quote one case only. The turquoise-gangue from Ziba (Chap. XII.) was pronounced, by the inexpert mineralogists at the Citadel, Cairo, who attempted criticism, to be carbonate of copper, because rich silicates of that metal were shown at the Exposition. No one seemed to know that the fine turquoises of Midian have been sold for years at Suez, and even at Cairo.
There was, indeed, much to criticise in the collection, which had been made with a marvellous carelessness. But we must not be hard upon M. Marie. He is an engineer, utterly ignorant of mineralogy and of assaying: he was told off to do the duty, and he did it as well as he could—in other words, very badly. He neglected to search for alluvial gold in the sands. Every Wady which cuts, at right angles, the metalliferous maritime chains, should have been carefully prospected; these sandy and quartzose beds are natural conduits and sluice-boxes. But the search for "tailings" is completely different from that of gold-veins, and requires especial practice. The process, indeed, may be called purely empirical. It is not taught in Jermyn Street, nor by the Ecole des Mines. In this matter theory must bow to "rule of thumb:" the caprices of alluvium are various and curious enough to baffle every attempt at scientific induction. Thus the "habits" of the metal, so to speak, must be studied by experiment with patient labour, the most accomplished mineralogist may pass over rich alluvium without recognizing its presence, where the rude prospector of California and Australia will find an abundance of stream-gold. Evidently the proportion of "tailings" must carefully be laid down before companies are justified in undertaking the expensive operation of quartz-crushing. Hence M. Tiburce Morisot, a practical digger from South Africa, introduced at Cairo by his compatriot, M. Marie, to my friend M. Yacoub Artin Bey, found a fair opportunity of proposing to his Highness the Khediv (October, 1878) a third Expedition in search of sand-gold. The Viceroy, however, true to his undertaking, refused to sanction any "interloping."
The highly distinguished M. Ferdinand de Lesseps, when en route to Paris, kindly took charge of some cases of specimens for analysis. But the poorest stuff had been supplied to him by M. Marie; and the results, of which I never heard, were probably nil. The samples brought to England, by order of his Highness the Khediv, were carefully assayed. The largest collection was submitted to Dr. John Percy, F.R.S. Smaller items were sent to the well-known houses, Messrs. Johnston and Matthey, of Hatton Garden, and Messrs. Edgar Jackson and Co., Associates of the Royal School of Mines (fourteen samples). Finally, special observations were made by Mr. John L. Jenken, of Carrington, through Mr. J. H. Murchison, of "British Lead Mines," etc., etc., etc.; by Lieut.-Colonel Ross, the distinguished author of "Pyrology;" and by Lieut.-Colonel Bolton, who kindly compared the rocks with those in his cabinet. M. Gastinel-Bey's analysis of the specimens brought home by the first Expedition will be found at the end of Chap. VIII.
The following is the text of Dr. Percy's report:—
Metallurgical Laboratory, Royal School of Mines, Jermyn Street, London Dec 13 1878.
I now send the results of the analytical examination of the specimens which you submitted to me for that purpose. The examination has been conducted with the greatest care, in the metallurgical laboratory of the Royal School of Mines, by Mr. Richard Smith, who, for the last thirty years, has been constantly engaged in such work; and in whose accuracy I have absolute confidence. It is impossible that any one should have taken greater interest in, or have devoted himself with greater earnestness to, the investigation. I have almost entirely confined myself to a statement of facts, as I understand that was all you required for the guidance of his Highness the Khedive.
Examination of the mineral specimens contained in the boxes marked as under.
(An average representative sample of each specimen, of about six pounds in weight, was prepared for examination from portions broken off, or otherwise taken, by Mr. Richard Smith at the Victoria Docks.[EN#2]
No. 1. "Box 22," Quartz from Mugnah (Makna). Quartz coloured black and red-brown with oxides of iron. These were of two varieties, marked 22a and 22b respectively.
No. 2. The magnetic ironstone (22a) was examined and found to contain of— Peroxide of iron (per cent.). . . .85.29 Protoxide of iron (per cent.) . . . 9.83 Silica (quartz)(per cent.). . . . . 3.28
The oxides of iron together contain of metallic iron 66.8 per cent.
No. 3. The micaceous ironstone (22b) was examined and found to contain of Peroxide of iron (per cent.). . . . 91.0 Silica. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5.52
The peroxide of iron contains of metallic iron 63.7 per cent.
No. 4. "Box No. 14," Quartz from Mugnah, gave no results.
No. 5. "Box No. 27," Iron from Mugnah, proved to be haematite (which is magnetic), with some red-brown oxide of iron and quartz. It was found to contain of— Peroxide of iron (per cent.). . . .75.46 Protoxide of iron (per cent.) . . . 4.69
The oxides of iron together contain of metallic iron 56.4 per cent.
No. 6. "Box No. 7," Conglomerate from Mugnah, yielded no results.
No. 7 "Box No. 25," Quartz from Mugnah. This quartz, veined and coloured black and red-brown with oxides of iron, was assayed with the following results:— Gold and Silver . . . . . . . None[EN#3]
Nos. 8 and 9. "Boxes Nos. 50 and 37,"[EN#4] Quartz and red dust from Mugnah, yielded no results.
No. 10. "Box No. 37a," Sulphur from Mugnah. Lumps of sulphur, crystallized and massive, irregularly distributed through a white, dull, porous rock. The latter was examined, and found to be hydrated sulphate of lime (gypsum), with a small quantity of magnesia; some of the lumps of rock were coloured with oxides of iron, and others intermixed with sand.
Nos. 11. and 12. "Boxes Nos. 3 and 6," Black quartz and white quartz from the Jebel el-Abyaz, gave no results except a small portion of copper pyrites in a lump of quartz (Box No. 6).
No. 13. "Box No. 47," Quartz from El-Wedge (Wijh), gave only oxide of iron.[EN#5]
No. 14. "Box No. 5," Red quartz from El-Wedge, a quartz with red-brown oxide of iron and earthy substances, was assayed with the following results:— Gold (per statute ton = 3240 lbs.)2 dwts. 15 grs. Silver. . . . . . . . . . . . . .Traces.
No. 15. "Box No. 16," Mica schist from El-Wedge. This mica-schist undergoing decomposition from weathering action, mixed with small lumps of quartz, was assayed with the following results :— Gold (per statute ton). . . . .6 grains. Silver. . . . . . . . . . . . . .Traces.
No. 16. "Box No. 32," White quartz from El-Wedge. This quartz coloured with red-brown oxide of iron, mixed with mica-schist, was assayed with the following results:— Gold (per statute ton). .3 dwts. 22 grs. Silver. . . . . . . . . . . . . .Traces.
No. 17. "Box No. 48,"[EN#6] Red sulphur from Sharm Yaharr, was found to have the following composition, while it was free from "native sulphur":—
Peroxide of iron (per cent. ) . . .44.36 Sand, clay, carbonates and sulphates of lime and magnesia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14.90 Salts soluble in water, chiefly alkaline chlorides and chlorites, and sulphates of lime and magnesia . . . . . . . . . . . . . .29.70 Water . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11.40 100.00
No. 18. "Box No. 48a," Gypsum from Sharm Yaharr. Partly semi-transparent and granular, and partly dull white and opaque. It was found to be hydrated sulphate of lime, or gypsum, with carbonate of lime, and some sand, magnesia, and chloride of sodium.
No. 19 "Box No. 35," Dust and stones from Sharma, yielded no results.
Examination of the mineral specimens contained in a box sent from Egypt. As the specimens were unlabelled, they were marked A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, and I, respectively.
No. 21. A. "Copper ore." A fair average specimen was prepared for examination from the several lumps of ore and marked a.
a. It was submitted to analysis, and found to contain carbonates of lime and magnesia; silica, alumina, and oxides of iron; and of— Copper (metallic) . . . .5.72 per cent. b. A portion of the copper mineral, from which the rock or vein-stuff had been detached as far as practicable, was found to consist of impure hydrated silicate of copper (bluish-green chrysocolla) and carbonate of copper. It was assayed and found to contain of— Copper (metallic) . . . .23.14 per cent.
No. 22. "B." A lump of soft, ochrey red-brown ironstone, coated with a thin layer of greyish white substance. A fair average sample, inclusive of this external layer, was prepared for examination, and was found to consist of Peroxide of iron (per cent. ) . . .81.14 Water . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11.50 Silica. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.07 Sulphuric acid, lime, magnesia, alumina 4.29 100.00
The peroxide of iron contains 56.8 per cent. of metallic iron. The greyish white substance was found to consist of silica, alumina, sulphate of lime, and a little oxide of iron and magnesia.
No. 23. "C." Lump of red ironstone associated with sand and earthy substances, containing Peroxide of iron (per cent.). . . 68.09 Water of iron (per cent.) . . . . . 1.93 Silica and sand . . . . . . . . . .18.17 Lime, magnesia (in small quantity), alumina, carbonic acid, sulphuric acid (traces) .11.81 _ 100.00 The peroxide of iron contains 47.66 of metallic iron.
No. 24. "D." Lump of white quartz said to contain visible gold. I did not observe any, but found a few minute specks of pyrites, and partially resembling mica.
No. 25. Lump of quartz associated with red-brown oxide of iron. It yielded no results.
No. 26. Lump of rock in which the "turquoise" occurs. There was a thin layer of greenish blue turquoise mineral on one surface, and minute seams of a similar substance throughout the specimen.
a. The layer of turquoise mineral, from which the rock or vein-stuff had been detached as far as practicable, was found to contain phosphoric acid, alumina, oxide of copper, oxide of iron, and water; which occur in turquoise.
b. After the layer a had been separated, a fair average sample of the rock was found to contain 1.69 per cent. of metallic copper. It was also assayed and found to be free from silver[EN#7] and gold.
No. 27. "G." A variety of jasper, having a somewhat polished, and irregular and deeply indented surface, the result of sand-action. The fractured surface was red, with patches of yellow. It was found to consist chiefly of silica, coloured with oxides of iron.
No. 28. "H." Lump of "sard," of a pale-red flesh colour. A variety of chalcedony. It was found to consist almost entirely of silica[EN#8].
No. 29. "I." Lumps of pure ironstone.
A small lump of metal[EN#9], supposed to contain antimony[EN#10] and platinum, was brought for examination by Captain R. F. Burton. It was submitted to analysis, and found to be iron and combined carbon, or white cast-iron, containing small quantities of lead, copper, and silver, and free from antimony, platinum, and gold. It is evidently the product of a fusion operation. A few "shots" of lead were attached to the surface of the metal[EN#11].
Dr. Percy concludes the assays in these words:—
Three of the specimens (Nos. 14, 15, and 19) from the same locality contain gold. The amount of gold, however, is small. I consider these indications of the presence of the precious metal not altogether unsatisfactory; and certainly to justify further exploration. My conviction is, that the ancients were adepts in the art of extracting gold, and that, owing to the small value of human labour, they could get out as much of the metal as could now be done. They knew perfectly what was worth working and what was not; and I think it likely that what you have brought home, had been rejected by the ancients as unworkable[EN#12]. Further search may lead to the discovery of workable stuff; but would doubtless require a good deal of time, unless lucky accident should intervene.
The specimens Nos. 2, 3, 5, 22, and 23 contain sufficient iron to render them available as iron ores, provided they occur in large quantity. The copper present in No. 21a is too small in amount to render it available as a source of that metal [Footnote: Analyses of copper ore from Midian at the Citadel, Cairo, gave in certain cases forty percent.]. If it is practicable on a large scale, by hand-labour or other means, to separate the "copper mineral" (as in b), it would be sufficiently rich in copper, provided the cost of the transit were not too great.
The specimen No. 17 is only of scientific interest, as it gives off an acid vapour when heated; and this substance may have been used by the ancients in the separation of silver from gold by the process termed "cementation."
I remain, dear Sir, yours very truly,
(Signed) JOHN PERCY, M.D., F.R.S. Lecturer on Metallurgy at the Royal School of Mines, London.
Capt. R. F. Burton, etc.
Upon this able report I would offer the following observations. We, who have travelled through a country like Midian, finding everywhere extensive works for metallurgy; barrages and aqueducts, cisterns and tanks ; furnaces, fire-bricks, and scoriae; open mines, and huge scatters of spalled quartz, with the remains of some eighteen cities and towns which apparently fell to ruin with the industry that founded and fed them;—we, I say, cannot but form a different and a far higher idea of its mineral capabilities than those who determine them by the simple inspection of a few specimens. The learned Dr. Percy at once hits the mark when he surmises that worthless samples were brought home; and this would necessarily occur when no metallurgist, no practical prospector, was present with the Expedition. As will appear from the following pages, all the specimens were collected a ciel ouvert, and wholly without judgment.
I therefore expect that future exploration will develop Midian as it has done India. The quartzose outcrop called the "Wynaad reef" (Madras Presidency) produced only a few poor penny-weights per ton, two and seven being the extremes, while much of it was practically unproductive. Presently, in February, 1878, the district was visited by Sir Andrew Clarke, of Australian experience, member of the Viceregal Council. He invited Mr. Brough Smyth, of Victoria, to explore and test the capabilities of the country; and that eminent practical engineer discovered, in an area of twenty-five by thirteen miles, ninety outcrops, some yielding, they say, two hundred ounces per ton of gold, fine and coarse, "with jagged pieces as large as peas." And British India now hopes to draw her gold coinage from Wynaad.
I conclude this abstract of the book, which would have been reduced in size had the mass of matter permitted, with the heartfelt hope that the grand old Land of Midian will not be without attraction to the public of Europe.
RICHARD F. BURTON.
PART I. The March Through Madyan Proper (North Midian).
Chapter I. Preliminary—from Trieste to Midian Chapter II. The Start—from El Muwaylah to the "White Mountain" and 'Aynunah Chapter III. Breaking New Ground to Maghair Shu'ayb Chapter IV. Notices of Precious Metals in Midian—the Papyri and the Mediaeval Arab Geographers Chapter V. Work At, and Excursions From, Maghair Shu'ayb Chapter VI. To Makna, and Our Work There—the Magani or Maknawis Chapter VII. Cruise from Makna to El'akabah Chapter VIII. Cruise from El'akabah to El Muwaylah—the Shipwreck Escaped—resume of the Northern Journey
PART II The March Through Central and Eastern Midian.
Chapter IX. Work in and Around El Muwaylah Chapter X. Through East Midian to the Hisma
PART I. The March Through Madyan Proper (North Midian).
Chapter I. Preliminary—from Trieste to Midian.
Throughout the summer of 1877 I was haunted by memories of mysterious Midian. The Golden Region appeared to me in the glow of primaeval prosperity described by the Egyptian hieroglyphs; as rich in agriculture and in fertility, according to the old Hellenic travellers, as in its Centres of civilization, and in the precious metals catalogued by the Sacred Books of the Hebrews. Again I saw the mining works of the Greek, the Roman, and the Nabathan, whose names are preserved by Ptolemy; the forty cities, mere ghosts and shadows of their former selves, described in the pages of the mediaeval Arab geographers; and the ruthless ruin which, under the dominion of the Bedawin, gradually crept over the Land of Jethro. The tale of her rise and fall forcibly suggested Algeria, that province so opulent and splendid under the Masters of the World; converted into a fiery wilderness by the representatives of the "gentle and gallant" Turk, and brought to life once more by French energy and industry. And such was my vision of a future Midian, whose rich stores of various minerals will restore to her wealth and health, when the two Khedivial Expeditions shall have shown the world what she has been, and what she may be again.
I was invited to resume my exploration during the winter of 1877-78, by the Viceroy of Egypt, Ismail I., a prince whose superior intelligence is ever anxious to develop the resources of his country. His Highness was perhaps the only man in his own dominions who, believing in the buried wealth of Midian, had the perspicacity to note the advantages offered by its exploitation. For the world around the Viceroy pronounced itself decidedly against the project. My venerable friend, Linant Pasha, suggested a comparison with the abandoned diggings of the Upper Nile; forgetting that in at least half of Midian land, only the "tailings" have been washed: whereas in the Bishr country, and throughout the "Etbaye," between the meridians of Berenike and Sawkn, the very thinnest metallic fibrils have been shafted and tunnelled to their end in the rock by those marvellous labourers, the old Egyptians. In the Hammt country, again, the excessive distances, both from the Nile and from the Red Sea, together with the cost of transport, must bar all profit. Even worse are the conditions of Fayzoghl and Dr-For; whilst the mines of Midian begin literally at the shore.
Another Pasha wrote to me from Alexandria, congratulating me upon having discovered, during our first Expedition, "a little copper and iron." Generally, the official public, knowing that I had brought back stones, not solid masses of gold and silver, loudly deplored the prospective waste of money; and money, after the horse-plague, the low Nile, and the excessive exigencies of the short-sighted creditor, was exceptionally scarce. The truly Oriental view of the question was taken by an official, whom I shall call rif Pasha—the "Knowing One." When told that M. George Marie, the Government engineer detailed to accompany the first Expedition, had sent in official analyses with sample tubes of gold and silver, thus establishing the presence of auriferous and argentiferous rocks on the Arabian shore, Son Excellence exclaimed, "Imprudent jeune homme, thus to throw away the chances of life! Had he only declared the whole affair a farce, a flam, a sell, a canard, the Viceroy would have held him to be honest, and would have taken care of his future."
Still, through bad report the Khediv, who had mastered, with his usual accuracy of perception and judgment, the subject of Midian and her Mines, was staunch to his resolve; and when one of his European financiers, a Controleur Gnral de Dpenses, the normal round peg in the square hole, warned him that there were no public funds for such purpose, his Highness warmly declared, on dit, that the costs of the Expedition should be defrayed at his own expense.
Meanwhile I had passed the summer of 1877 in preparation for the work of the ensuing winter. A long correspondence with many learned friends, and a sedulous study of the latest geographers, especially German, taught me all that was known of mining in Arabia generally, and particularly in Midian. During my six months' absence from Egypt my vision was fixed steadily upon one point, the Expedition that was to come; and when his Highness was pleased to offer me, in an autograph letter full of the kindest expressions, the government of Dr-For, I deferred accepting the honour till Midian had been disposed of.
Unhappily, certain kindly advisers persuaded me to make well better by a visit to Karlsbad, and a course of its alkaline "Fountains of Health." Never was there a greater mistake! The air is bad as the water is good; the climate is reeking damp, like that of Western Africa; and, as in St. Petersburg, a plaid must be carried during the finest weather. Its effects, rheumatic and neuralgic, may be judged by the fact that the doctors must walk about with pocketed squirts, for the hypodermal injection of opium. Almost all those whom I knew there, wanting to be better, went away worse; and, in my own case, a whole month of Midian sun, and a sharp attack of ague and fever were required to burn out the Hexenschuss and to counteract the deleterious effects of the "Hygeian springs."
At last the happy hour for departure struck; and on October 19, 1877, the Austro-Hungarian Espero (Capitano Colombo) steamed out of Trieste. On board were Sefer Pasha, our host of Castle Bertoldstein; and my learned friends, the Aulic Councillor Alfred von Kremer, Austrian Commissioner to Egypt, and Dr. Heinrich Brugsch-Bey. The latter gave me a tough piece of work in the shape of his "gypten," which will presently be quoted in these pages. It would be vain to repeat a description of the little voyage described in "The Gold-Mines of Midian." The Dalmatian, or first day; the second, or day of Corfu loved and lost; and the third, made memorable by Cephalonia and the glorious Canale, all gave fine smooth weather. But the usual rolling began off still-vexed Cape Matapan. It lasted through the fourth day, or of Candia, this insula nobilis et amna—
"Crete, the crown of all the isles, flower of Levantine waters"
—while the fifth, or Mediterraneo-Alexandrian day, killed two of the seventeen fine horses, Yuckers and Anglo-Normans, which Sefer Pasha was conveying to Cairo.
On Thursday morning (October 25), after rolling through the night off the old port Eunostus, which now looks brand-new, we landed, and the next day saw me at Cairo. Such was my haste that I could pay only a flying visit to the broken beer-bottles, the burst provision-tins, the ice-plants, and the hospitable society of Ramleh the Sand-heap; and my many acquaintances had barely time to offer their congratulations upon the prospects of my "becoming an Egyptian."
My presence at the capital was evidently necessary. A manner of association for utilizing the discoveries of the first Expedition had been formed in London by the Messieurs Vignolles, who knew only the scattered and unofficial notices; issued, without my privity, by English and continental journals. Their representative, General Nuthall, formerly of the Madras army, had twice visited Cairo, in August and October, 1877, seeking a concession of the mines, and offering conditions which were perfectly unacceptable. The Viceroy was to allow, contrary to convention, the free importation of all machinery; to supply guards, who were not wanted; and, in fact, to guarantee the safety of the workmen, who were perfectly safe. In return, ten per cent. on net profits, fifteen being the royalty of the Suez Canal, was the magnificent inducement offered to the viceregal convoitise. I could not help noting, by no means silently, this noble illustration of the principle embodied in Sic vos non vobis. I was to share in the common fate of originators, discoverers, and inventors: the find was mine, the profits were to go—elsewhere. General Nuthall professed inability to regard the matter in that light; while to all others it appeared in no other. However, after a few friendly meetings, the representative left Egypt, with the understanding that possibly we might work together when the exploration should have been completed. His Highness, who had verbally promised me either the concession or four per cent. on gross produce, acted en prince, simply remarking that the affair was in my hands, and that he would not interfere with me.
I must not trouble the reader with the tedious tale of the pains and the labour which accompany the accouchement of such an Expedition. All practicals know that to organize a movement of sixty men is not less troublesome—indeed, rather more so—than if it numbered six hundred or six thousand. The Viceroy had wisely determined that we should not only carry out the work of discovery by tracing the precious metals to their source; but, also, that we should bring back specimens weighing tons enough for assay and analysis, quantitive and qualitive, in London and Paris. Consequently, miners and mining apparatus were wanted, with all the materials for quarrying and blasting: my spirit sighed for dynamite, but experiments at Trieste had shown it to be too dangerous. The party was to consist of an escort numbering twenty-five Sdn soldiers of the Line, negroes liberated some two years ago; a few Ma'danjiyyah ("mine-men"), and thirty Haggrah ("stone-men" or quarrymen).
The Government magazines of Cairo contain everything, but the difficulty is to find where the dispersed articles are stored: there is a something of red-tapeism; but all is plain sailing, compared with what it would be in Europe. The express orders of his Highness Husayn Kmil Pasha, Minister of Finance and Acting Minister of War, at once threw open every door. Had this young prince not taken in the affair a personal interest of the liveliest and most intelligent nature, we might have spent the winter at Cairo. And here I cannot refrain from mentioning, amongst other names, that of Mr. Alfred E. Garwood, C.E., locomotive superintendent; who, in the short space of four months, has introduced order and efficiency into the chaos known as the Bulk magazines. With his friendly cooperation, and under his vigorous arm, difficulties melted away like hail in a tropical sun. General Stone (Pasha), the Chief of Staff, also rendered me some assistance, by lending the instruments which stood in his own cabinet de travail.[EN#13]
Poor Cairo had spent a seedy autumn. The Russo-Turkish campaign, which had been unjustifiably allowed, by foreign Powers, to drain Egypt of her gold and life-blood—some 25,000 men since the beginning of the Servian prelude—not only caused "abundant sorrow" to the capital, but also frightened off the stranger-host, which habitually supplies the poorer population with sovereigns and napoleons. The horse-pest, a bad typhus, after raging in 1876 and early 1877, had died out: unfortunately, so had the horses; and the well-bred, fine-tempered, and high-spirited little Egyptians were replaced by a mongrel lot, hastily congregated from every breeding ground in Europe. The Fellahs, who had expected great things from the mission of MM. Goschen and Joubert, asked wonderingly if those financiers had died; while a scanty Nile, ten to twelve feet lower, they say, than any known during the last thousand years, added to the troubles of the poor, by throwing some 600,000 feddans (acres) out of gear, and by compelling an exodus from the droughty right to the left bank. Finally, when the river of Egypt did rise, it rose too late, and brought with it a feverish and unwholesome autumn. Briefly, we hardly escaped the horrors of Europe—
"Herbstesahnung! Triste Spuren In den Wldern, auf den Fluren! Regentage, bses Wetter," etc.
Meanwhile, in the Land of the Pharaohs, whose scanty interest about the war was disguised by affected rejoicings at Ottoman successes, the Prophet gallantly took the field, as in the days of Ysuf bin Ishk. This time the vehicle of revelation was the learned Shayhk (m? ) Alaysh, who was ordered in a dream by the Apostle of Allah (upon whom be peace!) to announce the victory of the Moslem over the Infidel; and, as the vision took place in Jemdi el-Akhir (June), the first prediction was not more unsuccessful than usual. Shortly afterwards, the same reverend man again dreamt that, seeing two individuals violently quarreling, with voies de fait, he had hastened, like a true believer, to separate and to reconcile them. But what was his surprise when the brawlers proved to be the Sultan and the Czar, the former administering condign personal punishment to his hereditary foe. This, the enlightened Shaykh determined, was a sign that in September the Osmanli would be gloriously triumphant. Nor was he far wrong. The Russians, who had begun the campaign, like the English in India, with a happy contempt both for the enemy and for the elementary rules of war, were struck with a cold fit of caution: instead of marching straight upon and intrenching themselves in Adrianople, they vainly broke their gallant heads against the improvised earthworks of Plevna. And ignorant Europe, marvelling at the prowess of the "noble Turk," ignored the fact that all the best "Turkish" soldiers were Slavs, originally Christians, renegades of old, unable to speak a word of Turkish; preserving their Bosniac family-names, and without one drop of Turkish blood in their veins. Sulayman Pashs army was about as "Turkish" as are the Poles or the Hungarians.
Not the less did Cairo develop the normal season-humours of the Frank. Among the various ways of "doing the Pyramids," I registered a new one: Mr. A—— , junior, unwilling wholly to neglect them, sent his valet with especial orders to stand upon the topmost plateau. The "second water" of irrigation made November dangerous; many of the "Shepheards" suffered from the Ayn el-Mulk, the "Evil of Kings" (gout), in the gloomy form as well as the gay; and whisky-cum-soda became popular as upon the banks of the Thames and the Tweed. As happens on dark days, the money-digger was abroad, and one anecdote deserves record. Many years ago, an old widow body had been dunned into buying, for a few piastres, a ragged little manuscript from a pauper Maghrabi. These West Africans are, par excellence, the magicians of modern Egypt and Syria; and here they find treasure, like the Greeks upon the shores of the Northern Adriatic. Perhaps there may be a basis for the idea; oral traditions and written documents concerning buried hoards would take refuge in remote regions, comparatively undisturbed by the storms of war, and inhabited by races more or less literary. At any rate, the Maghrabi Darwaysh went his ways, assuring his customer that, when her son came of age, a fortune would be found in the little book. And true enough, the boy, reaching man's estate, read in its torn pages ample details concerning a Dafi'nah (hoard) of great value. He was directed, by the manuscript, to a certain spot upon the Mukattam range, immediately behind the Cairene citadel, where the removal of a few stones would disclose a choked shaft: the latter would descend to a tunnel, full of rubbish, and one of the many sidings would open upon the golden chamber. The permission of Government was secured, the workmen began, and the directions proved true—"barring" the treasure, towards which progress was still being made. Such was the legend of Cairo, as recounted to me by my good friend, Yacoub Artin Bey; I can only add to it, Allaho A'alam!—Allah is all-knowing!
The sole cause of delay in beginning exploration was the want of money; and this, of course, even the Prince Minister of Finance could not coin. Egypt, the fertile, the wealthy, the progressive, was, indeed, at the time all but insolvent. At the suggestion of foreigners, "profitable investments," which yielded literally nothing, had been freely made for many a year, and the sole results were money difficulties and debt. The European financiers had managed admirably for their shareholders; but, having assumed the annual national income at a maximum, instead of a minimum, they had brought the goose of the golden eggs to the very verge of death. The actionnaires were to receive, with a punctuality hardly possible in the East, the usurious interest of six per cent., not including one per cent. for sinking fund. Meanwhile, the officers and officials, military, naval, and civil, had been in arrears of salary for seven to fifteen months; and even the Jews refused to cash at any price their pay certificates.
Nothing could be more unwise or unjust than the exactions of the creditors. Men must live; if not paid, they perforce pay themselves; and thus, of every hundred piastres, hardly thirty find their way into the treasury. Ten times worse was the condition of the miserable Fellhn, who were selling for three or four napoleons the bullocks worth fifteen per head. Thus they would tide over the present year; but a worse than Indian famine was threatened for the following. And the "Bakkl," at once petty trader and money-lender, whose interest and compound interest here amount, as in Bombay, to hundreds per cent., would complete the ruin which the "low Nile" and the Christian creditor had begun.
A temporary reduction of interest to three per cent., with one per cent of amortization, should content the greedy shareholder, who seeks to combine high profits with perfect security. During November, 1877, there were five M.P.'s at Shepheard's; and all cried shame upon the financial condition of the country. Sir George Campbell opened the little game. In his "Inside View of Egypt" (Fortnightly Review, Dec., 1877) he drew a graphic picture of the abnormal state of poor Egypt; he expressed the sensible opinion that, in the settlement, the claims of the bond-holders have been too exclusively considered, and he concluded that no more payments of debt-interest should be made until official arrears are discharged.
At last the Phare d'Alexandrie (November 29, 1877), doubtless under official inspiration, put forth the following article, greatly to the satisfaction of the unfortunate employs:—
"Si nos renseignements particuliers sont exacts, le comit des finances vient de prendre une excellente dcision. Elle consiste en ce que, aussitt l'argent pour le paiement du prochain coupon, prpar, le ministe're, avant tout autre, procdera au paiement des appointements arrirs des employs.
"Nous apprenons, on outre, que S. A. le ministre des finances, mme, a dclar, molu proprio, que jusqu'au complet paiement des arrirs ds aux employs, et dans le cas o il se prsenterait une dpense de grande importance, prvue mme par le budget, de ne pas en ordonner le paiement sans, au pralable, le sommettre l'adhsion du comit.
"Nous applaudissons de toutes nos forces cette bonne nouvelle d'abord, parcequ'elle affirme une fois de plus la scrupuleuse exactitude qu'on apporte au paiement des coupons, ensuite elle prouve le vif intrt qu' inspire au gouvernement la situation de ses nombreux employs, enfin elle nous fait esprer qu'aprs avoir song eux, on s'occupera aussi payer les autres sommes portes et pre'vues au budget de l'anne."
Accordingly, on December 2nd, the Prince Minister of Finance took heart of grace, and distributed among the officials one month's pay, with a promise that all arrears should presently be made good. On the same day his Highness issued to the Expedition 2000 napoleons, in addition to the 620 already expended upon instruments and provisions. This was the more liberal, as I had calculated the total at 1500: the more, however, the better. In such work it is money versus time, the former saving the latter; and we were already late in the year—it had been proposed to start on November 15th, and we had lost three precious weeks of fine autumnal weather. The stores were equally abundant: I wanted one forge, and received three.
Of course, many details had been forgotten; e.g., a farrier and change of mule-irons, a tinsmith and tinning tools, a sulphur-still, boots for the soldiers and the quarrymen, small shot for specimens, and so forth. I had carried out my idea of a Dragoman with two servants; and the result had been a model failure, especially in the most important department. The true "Desert cook" is a man sui generis; he would utterly fail at the Criterion, and even at Shepheard's; but in the wilderness he will serve coffee within fifteen minutes, and dish the best of dinners within the hour after the halt.
Mr. Clarke and Lieutenant Amir worked with a will; and they were ably seconded by Colonel Ali Bey Robi and Lieutenant-Colonel (of the Staff) Mohammed Bey Bligh. But the finishing touch to such preparations must be done by the master hand; and my unhappy visit to Karlsbad rendered that impossible. The stores and provisions were supplied by MM. Voltra Brothers, of Cairo: I cannot say too much in their praise; and the packing was as good as the material. M. Gross, of Shepheard's, was good enough to let me have a barrel of claret; which improved every week by travelling, and which cost only a franc a bottle: it began as a bon ordinaire, and the little that returned to Cairo ranked with a quasi-grand vin, at least as good as the four-shilling Medoc. Finally, Dr. Lowe, of Cairo, kindly prepared for us a medicine chest, containing about 10 worth of the usual drugs and appliances—calomel, tartar emetic, and laudanum; blister, plaster, and simple ointment.[EN#14]
A special train was made ready for Thursday, December 6th; and, at ten a.m., after taking leave of their Highnesses, who courteously wished me good luck and God-speed, the Expedition found itself under weigh. We were accompanied to the station by many kind friends: my excellent kinsman Lord Francis, and Lady F. Conyngham, Yacoub Artin Bey, General Stone, and MM. George, Garwood, Girard, and Guillemine.
The change from the damp air of Cairo to the drought of the Desert was magical: light ailments and heavy cares seemed to fall off like rags and tatters. We halted at Zagzig, remarking that this young focus of railway traffic has become the eastern key of Lower Egypt, as Benh is to the western delta; and prophesying that some day, not far distant, will see the glories of Bubastis revived. Here we picked up my old friend Haji Wali, whom age—he declares that he was born in the month Mzn of 1797—had made only a little fatter and greedier. We gave a wide berth to the future Alexandria, Ismailyyah, whose splendid climate has been temporarily spoilt by the sweet-water canal of the same name. The soil became literally sopped; and hence the intermittent fevers which have lately assailed it. A similar disregard for drainage has ingeniously managed to convert into pest-houses Simla and other Himalayan sanitaria.
The day ended with running the train into the Suez Docks, so as to embark all our impediments on the next morning; and I fondly expected Saturday to see us sail. But the weather-wise had been true in their forecasts. Friday opened with howling, screaming gusts of southerly wind; and, during the night we were treated to a fierce display of storm,—thunder and lightning, and rain. The gale caused one collision on the Canal, and twenty-five steamers were delayed near the Bitter Lake; it broke down the railway and sanded it up for miles, and it levelled fifty English and forty Egyptian telegraph-posts—an ungentle hint to prefer the telephone. Saturday, the beginning of winter, opened with a cold raw souther and a surging sea, which washed over the Dock-piers; in such weather it was impossible to embark ten mules without horse-boxes. On Sunday the waves ran high, but the gale fell about sunset to a dead calm; as usual in the Gulf, the breakers and white horses at once disappeared; and the slaty surface, fringed with dirty yellow, immediately reassumed its robes of purple and turquoise blue. The ill wind, however, had blown us some good by deluging with long-hoped-for rain the now barren mountains of Midian.
This "Fortuna," according to the people, sets in with the fourth Coptic month, Kayhak,[EN#15] which begins the first Arba'n ("Forty-day period"); and the fourth day is known as the Imtizj el-Faslayn, or "Mixture of the two Seasons"—autumn and winter. The storm is expected to blow three days from the Azyab (south-east) or from the Shirs (south-west). The qualities of the several winds are described in the following distich:—
"Mirsi Shaytn, wa Gharbi Wazrhu; Tiyb Sultn, wa Sharki Nazrhu."
"The south-wester's a Satan, and the wester's his minister; The norther's a Sultan, and the easter's his man."
On the other hand, fair weather was predicted after the first quarter of the moon (December 12th), according to the saying of the Arab sailor:—
"When the moon sleeps, the seaman may sleep; When the moon stands, the seaman must stand."
The "sleeping" moon—nim or rkid, also called Yemni—is that of the first quarter, which we mark concave to the left; the "standing" moon is that of the last.
Our stay at Suez was saddened by the sudden death of Marius Isnard, who had acted cook to the first Khedivial Expedition. The poor lad, aged only eighteen, had met us at the Suez station, delighted with the prospect of another journey; he had neglected his health; and, after a suppression of two days, which he madly concealed, gangrene set in, and he died a painful death at the hospital during the night preceding our departure.
On December 10th we ran down from Suez Quay in the Bird of the Sea (Tayr el-Bahr), the harbour mouche, or little steam-launch, accompanied by the Governor, Sa'd Bey, who has not yet been made a Pasha; by Mr. Consul West; by the genial Ra'f Bey, Wakl el-Komandanyyah or acting commodore of the station; by Mr. Willoughby Faulkner, my host at Suez; by the Messieurs Levick, and by other friends. In the highest spirits we boarded our "gun-carriage," the aviso Mukhbir (Captain Mohammed Sirj); and, after many mutual good wishes, we left the New Docks at 6.10 p.m.
Nothing could be more promising than the weather, a young moon mirrored in a sea smooth as oil. The "Giver of Good News" (El-Mukhbir), however, for once failed in her mission. She had lately conducted herself well upon a trial trip round the Zenobia lightship ("Newport Rock").[EN#16] But the two Arab firemen who acted engineers, worn-out grey-beards that hated the idea of four months on the barbarous Arabian shore, had choked the tubes with wastage, and had filled the single boiler, taking care to plug up, instead of opening, the relief-pipe. The consequence was that the engines sweated at every pore; steam instead of water streamed from the sides; and the chimney discharged, besides smoke, a heavy shower of rain. The engine (John Jameson, engineer, Newcastle-on-Tyne, 1866), a good article, in prime condition as far as a literally rotten boiler would allow, presently revenged itself by splitting the air-pipe of the condenser from top to bottom; and after two useless halts the captain reported to me that we must return to Suez. What a beginning! The fracture somewhat relieved the machinery; we did better work after than before the accident, but we were ignobly towed into dock by the ship's boats.
A telegram with a procs-verbal was at once sent off to the Prince; Sa'd Bey and Ra'f Bey hastened to our aid, and Mr. Williams, superintending engineer of the Khedivyyah line, with the whole of his staff, stripped and set to work at the peccant tubes and air-pump. They commenced with extinguishing a serious fire which burst from the waste-room—by no means pleasant when close to kegs of blasting-powder carefully sewn up in canvas. They laboured with a will, and before sunset Mr. Williams informed us that he would guarantee the engines for eight days, when we were starting on a dangerous cruise for four months. He also supplied us with an Egyptian boiler-maker and with eleven instead of sixty new tubes: we lost forty-two of the old ones between Suez and El-Muwaylah. Before sunset we made a trial trip, the wretched old kettle acting tant bien que mal; we returned to re-embark the soldiers and the mules, and we set out for the second time at 5.30 p.m.
The Mukhbir, 130 feet long, 380 tons, and 80 to go horse-power, under charge of the English or rather Scotch engineer, Mr. David Duguid, who had taken the place of the two Arab firemen, began with 7 1/2 knots an hour, 68 revolutions per minute, and a pressure of 9 lbs. to the square inch. The condenser-vacuum was 26 inches (30 being complete)—13 lbs. Next morning the rate declined to six miles in consequence of the boiler leaking, and matters became steadily worse. As a French writer says of the genre humain, we were placed, not entre le bien et le mal, but entre le mal et le pire. After sundry narrow escapes in the Gulf of 'Akabah, we were saved, as will be seen, by a manner of miracles. Briefly, the Mukhbir caused us much risk, heartburn, and loss of time.
Seven a.m. (December 11th) found us crossing the Birkat Fara'n—Pharaoh's Gulf—some sixty miles from the great port. Its horrors to native craft I have already described in my "Pilgrimage." Between this point and Ras Za'farnah, higher up, the wind seems to split: a strong southerly gale will be blowing, whilst a norther of equal pressure prevails at the Gulf-head, and vice vers. Suez, indeed, appears to be, in more ways than one, a hydrographical puzzle. When it is low water in and near the harbour, the flow is high between the Straits of Jobal and the Daedalus Light; and the ebb tide runs out about two points across the narrows, whilst the flood runs in on a line parallel with it. Finally, when we returned, hardly making headway against an angry norther, Suez, enjoying the "sweet south," was congratulating the voyagers upon their weather.
The loss of a good working day soon made itself felt. The north wind rose, causing the lively Mukhbir, whose ballast, by-the-by, was all on deck, to waddle dangerously for the poor mules; and it was agreed, nem. con., to put into Tor harbour. We found ourselves at ten a.m. (December 12th) within the natural pier of coralline, and we were not alone in our misfortune; an English steamer making Suez was our companion. This place has superseded El Wijh as the chief quarantine station for the return pilgrimage; and I cannot sufficiently condemn the change.[EN#17] The day lagged slowly, as we
"Walked in grief by the merge of the many-voiced sounding sea."
But we looked in vain for our "tender," a Sambk of fifty tons, El-Musahhil (Rais Ramazan), which Prince Husayn had thoughtfully sent with us as post-boat. She disappeared on the evening of the 11th, and she did not make act of presence until the 16th, when her master was at once imprisoned in the fort of El-Muwaylah. Moreover, the owner, Mohammed Bukhayt, of Suez, who had received 90 as advance for three months—others said 60 for four—provided her with only a few days' provisions, leaving us to ration his crew.
A wintry norther in these latitudes is not easily got rid of. According to the people, here, as in the 'Akabah Gulf, it lasts three days, and dies after a quiet noon; whereas on the 13th, when we expected an escape, it rose angrily at one p.m. I was much cheered by the pleasant news of M. Bianchi, the local Deputato di Sanit, who assured us that a pernicieuse was raging at El-Muwaylah, and that it was certain death to pass one night in the fort. The only fire that emitted all this smoke was the fact that during the date-harvest of North-Western Arabia, July and August, agues are common; and that at all seasons the well water is not "honest," and is supposed to breed trifling chills. In the Prairies of the Far West I heard of a man who rode some hundreds of miles to deliver himself of a lie. Nothing like solitude and the Desert for freshening the fancy. Another individual who was much exercised by our journey was Khwjeh Konstantin, a Syrian-Greek trader, son of the old agent of the convent, whose blue goggles and comparatively tight pantaloons denoted a certain varnish and veneer. It is his practice to visit El-Muwaylah once every six months; when he takes, in exchange for cheap tobacco, second-hand clothes, and poor cloth, the coral, the pearls fished for in April, the gold dust, the finds of coin, and whatever else will bring money. Such is the course and custom of these small monopolists, who, at "Raitha" and elsewhere, much dislike to see quiet things moved.
At length, after a weary day of far niente, when even le sommeil se faisait prier, we "hardened our hearts," and at nine p.m., as the gale seemed to slumber, we stood southwards. The Mukhbir rolled painfully off Ras Mohammed, which obliged us with its own peculiar gusts; and the 'Akabah Gulf, as usual, acted wind-sail. A long dtour was necessary in order to spare the mules, which, however, are much less liable to injury, under such circumstances, than horses, having a knack of learning to use sea-legs.
The night was atrocious; so was the next morning; but about noon we were cheered by the sight of the glorious mountain-walls of well-remembered Midian, which stood out of the clear blue sky in passing grandeur of outline, in exceeding splendid dour of colouring, and in marvellous sharpness of detail. Once more the "power of the hills" was on us.
Three p.m. had struck before we found ourselves in broken water off the fort of El-Muwaylah, where our captain cast a single anchor, and where we had our first escape from drifting upon the razor-like edges of the coralline reefs. In fact, everything looked so menacing, with surging sea around and sable storm-clouds to westward, that I resolved upon revisiting our old haunt, the safe and dock-like Sharm Yhrr. Here we entered without accident; and were presently greeted by the Sayyid 'Abd el-Rahm, our former Kfilah-bshi, who had ridden from El-Muwaylah to receive us. The news was good: a truce of one month had been concluded between the Huwaytt and the Ma'zah, probably for the better plundering of the pilgrims. This year the latter were many: the "Wakfah," or standing upon Mount Ararat, fell upon a Friday; consequently it was a Hajj el-Akbar, or "Greater Pilgrimage," very crowded and very dangerous, in more ways than one.
I had given a free passage to one Sulaymn Afthi, who declared himself to be of the Beni 'Ukbah, when he was a Huwayti of the Jerfn clan. After securing a free passage and provision gratis, when the ship anchored, he at once took French leave. On return I committed him to the tender mercies of the Governor, Sa'd Bey. The soldiers, the quarry-men, and the mules were landed, and the happy end of the first stage brought with it a feeling of intense relief, like that of returning to Alexandria. Hitherto everything had gone wrong: the delays and difficulties at Cairo; at Suez, the death of poor Marius Isnard and the furious storm; the break-down of the engine; the fire in the wasteroom; and, lastly, the rough and threatening gale between the harbour and El-Muwaylah. What did the Wise King mean by "better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof"? I only hope that it may be applicable to the present case. In the presence of our working ground all evils were incontinently forgotten; and, after the unusual dankness of the Egyptian capital, and the blustering winds of the Gulf and the sea, the soft and delicate air of the Midian shore acted like a cordial. For the first time after leaving Alexandria, I felt justified in taper de l'oeil with the clearest of consciences.
The preliminary stage ended with disembarking at the Fort, El-Muwaylah, all our stores and properties, including sundry cases of cartridges and five hundred pounds of pebble-powder, which had been stored immediately under the main cabin and its eternal cigarettes and allumettes. The implements, as well as the provisions, were made over to the charge of an old Albanian, one Rajab Agh, who at first acted as our magazine-man for a consideration of two napoleons per month, in advance if possible. This done, the Mukhbir returned into the dock Yhrr, in order to patch up her kettle, which seemed to grow worse under every improvement. We accompanied her, after ordering a hundred camels to be collected; well knowing that as this was the Bairam, 'Id, or "Greater Festival," nothing whatever would be done during its three days' duration.
The respite was not unwelcome to me; it seemed to offer an opportunity for recovering strength. At Cairo I had taken the advice of a learned friend (if not an "Apostle of Temperance," at any rate sorely afflicted with the temperance idea), who, by threats of confirmed gout and lumbago, fatty degeneration of the heart and liver, ending in the possible rupture of some valve, had persuaded me that man should live upon a pint of claret per diem. How dangerous is the clever brain with a monomania in it! According to him, a glass of sherry before dinner was a poison, whereas half the world, especially the Eastern half, prefers its potations preprandially; a quarter of the liquor suffices, and both appetite and digestion are held to be improved by it. The result of "turning over a new leaf," in the shape of a phial of thin "Gladstone," was a lumbago which lasted me a long month, and which disappeared only after a liberal adhibition of "diffusible stimulants."
It required no small faith in one's good star to set out for a six weeks' work in the Desert under such conditions. My consolation, however, was contained in the lines attributed to half a dozen who wrote good English:—
"He either fears his fate too much, Or his deserts are small, Who dares not put it to the touch, To gain or lose it all."
This time, however, Mind was tranquil, whatever Matter might suffer. As the novelist says, "Lighting upon a grain of gold or silver betokens that a mine of the precious metal must be in the neighbourhood." It had been otherwise with my first Expedition: a forlorn hope, a miracle of moral audacity; the heaviest of responsibilities incurred upon the slightest of justifications, upon the pinch of sand which a tricky and greedy old man might readily have salted. It reminds me of a certain "Philip sober," who in the morning fainted at the sight of the precipice which he had scaled when "Philip drunk." I look back with amazement upon No. I.
The second Khedivial Expedition to Midian was composed of the following officers and men. The European staff numbered four, not including the commander, viz.:—
M. George Marie, of the tat-Major, Egyptian army, an engineer converted into a geologist and mineralogist; he was under the orders of his Highness Prince Husayn Pasha.
Mr. J. Charles J. Clarke, telegraphic engineer, ranking as major in Egypt, commissariat officer.
M. mile Lacaze, of Cairo, artist and photographer.
M. Jean Philipin, blacksmith.
Besides these, Mr. David Duguid,—not related to "Hafed, Prince of Persia,"—chief engineer of the gunboat Mukhbir (Captain Mohammed Srj), accompanied us part of the way on temporary leave, and kindly assisted me in observing meteorology and in making collections.
The Egyptian commissioned officers numbered six, viz.:—
Ahmed Kaptn Musallam, commander in the navy, and ranking as Sakulghsi (major). He had been first officer in the Sinnr, and he was sent to make astronomical observations; but he proved to be a confirmed invalid.
Of the Arkn-Harb (Staff) were:—
Lieutenant Amir Rushdi, who had accompanied me before.
Lieutenant Yusuf Taufik.
Lieutenant Darwaysh Ukkb, of the Piydah or infantry. He was also a great sufferer on a small scale.
Sub-Lieutenant Mohammed Faraht, of the Muhandism (Engineers), in charge of the Laggmgiyyah or Haggrah (blasters and quarrymen). He ended by deserting his duty on arrival at Cairo.
The non-commissioned officers, all Egyptians, amounted to seven:—
Bulk-amn (writer) Mohammed Sharkwi (infantry).
Chawush (serjeant) 'Atwah El-Ashr (infantry).
Chawush (serjeant) Mabrk Awadh (quarryman); deserted at Cairo.
Onbshi (corporal) Higzi Ammr (Staff).
Onbshi (corporal) Mohammed Sulaymn (infantry) : also our barber, and a good man.
Onbshi (corporal) Mahmu'd Abd el-Rahmn (infantry): I had to put him in irons.
Onbshi (corporal) Ibrhm Hedb.
There were three Nafar (privates) of the Staff:—
'Ali 'Brahim Ma'danji, generally known as Ali Marie, from the officer whom he served; a hard-working man, over-devoted to his master. I recommended him for promotion.
Hasan Mohammed. He proved useful, as he brought with him all the necessary tools for mending saddles.
The twenty-five privates of infantry were emancipated negroes, a few being from the Sdn; composed of every tribe, it was a curious mixture, good, bad, and indifferent. Some were slaves who had been given, in free gift, by their owners to the Mr (Government), and men never part with a good "chattel," except for a sufficient cause. As will be seen, many of the names are "fancy":—
Sayyid Ahmed El-Tawl.
Ysuf Faragallah (Faraj-Allah).
Sa'd Hasan Bsha'. His owner was a Fellah called Hasan Bsh—peasants often give this title as a name to a boy who is born under fortunate circumstances. Sa'd was a fat, jolly fellow, a Sidi Bh from the Mrm, or mainland of Zanzibar, who had wholly forgotten his Kisawhl. Corporal Mahmd was punished for keeping him eighteen hours on guard. He was one of the very few to whom I gave "bakhshsh" after returning to Cairo.
Abdullah Mohammed Zaghl.
Faragallah Sharaf el-Dn.
Salmat el-Nahhs; an excellent and intelligent man, who was attached to the service of M. Lacaze. He distinguished himself by picking up antiques, until his weakness, the D el-Faranj, found him out.
Farag Ahmed Bura'.
Farag Mohammed Amn.
Mabrk Hasan Osmn.
Khayr Ramazn, a large and sturdy negro, from Dr-Wadi, with long cuts down both sides of his face; a hard-working and intelligent soldier, who naturally took command of his fellows. I made him an acting corporal, and on return recommended him for promotion.
Fadl 'Allah 'Ali el-Kholi, a Shillk, one of the worst tribes of the Upper Nile, whom it is forbidden to enlist. He began by refusing to obey an order, he pushed an officer out of his way, and he struck an Arab Shaykh. Consequently, he passed the greater part of the time in durance vile at the fort of El-Muwaylah.
Mirgn Ysuf; flogged for insolence to his officer, January 19.
Mabrk Mansr Agwah.
The Boruji (bugler) Mersl Ab Duny, a "character" who retires for practice to lonely hills and vales. His progress is not equal to his zeal and ambition.
The thirty quarrymen were all Egyptians, and it would be hard to find a poorer lot; they never worked, save under compulsion, and they stole whatever they could. I examined their packs during the homeward cruise, and found that many of them had secreted Government gunpowder:—
5. Mustaf Husayn.
Ali 'Abd el-Rahmn.
10. 'Al Bedawi.
Mustaf Sa'dni (died of fever at El-Muwaylah).
15. Mahmu'd Gum'ah.,
Ab Zayd Hass'nah.
20. 'Ali Atwadh.
Ibra'hi'm 'Ali Mohammed.
Mohammed 'Abd el-Zhir.
25. 'Ali Wahish.
Abbsi Mansr (a tinman by trade, but without tools).
30. Mohammed Ajzah.
And lastly (31), the carpenter, 'Ali Sulaymn; a "knowing dodger," who brought with him a little stock-in-trade of tobacco, cigarette-paper, and similar comforts.
There were five soldiers, or rather matchlock-men, engaged from the fort-garrison, El-Muwaylah:—
Husayn Bayrakdr; a man who has travelled, and has become too clever by half. He was equally remarkable as a liar and as a cook.
Bukhyt Ahmed, generally known as El-Ahmar from his red coat; a Dink slave, some sixty years old, and looking forty-five. He was still a savage, never sleeping save in the open air.
Bukhayt Mohammed, popularly termed El-Aswad; a Forwi (Dr-Forian) and a good man. He was called "The Shadow of the Bey."
Ahmed Slih; a stout fellow, and the worst of guides.
The head of the caravan was the Sayyid' Abd el-Rahm, accountant at the Fort el-Muwaylah, of whom I have spoken before. He was subsequently recommended by me to his Highness for the post of Nzir or commandant.
Haji Wali, my old Cairene friend, who lost no time in bolting.
There were also generally three Bedawi Shaykhs, who, by virtue of their office, received each one dollar (twenty piastres) per diem.
The servants and camp followers were:—
Anton Dimitriadis, the dragoman; a Bakkl or small shopkeeper at Zagzig, and a tenant of Haji Wali.
Giorgi (Jorgos) Sifenus, the cook, whose main disadvantage was his extreme and ultra-Greek uncleanliness.
Petro Giorgiadis, of Zante; a poor devil who has evidently been a waiter in some small Greek caf which supplies a cup per hour.
These three men were a great mistake; but, as has been said, poor health at Cairo prevented my looking into details.
Ysuf el-Fazi, Dumnji or quartermaster from the Mukhbir, acting servant to Captain Ahmed, and a thoroughly good man. He was also recommended for promotion.
Ahmed, the Sas or mule-groom; another pauvre diable, rascally withal, who was flogged for selling the mules' barley to the Bedawin. He was assisted by the Corporal (and barber) Mohammed Sulaymn and by five quarrymen.
Husayn Gannah; a one-eyed little Fellh, fourteen years old, looking ten, and knowing all that a man of fifty knows. He was body-servant to Lieutenant Yusuf.
As usual, the caravan was accompanied by a suttler from El-Muwaylah, one Hamad, who sold tobacco, coffee, clarified butter, and so forth. He was chaffed with the saying, Hamad fi' bayt ak—"Thy house is a pauper."
Finally, there were two dogs: Juno, a Clumber spaniel, young and inexperienced; Pik, a pariah, also a pup.
Besides these two permanents, various "casuals," the dog 'Brahim, etc., attached themselves to our camp.
Chapter II. The Start—from El-muwaylah to the "White Mountain" and 'Aynah.
I landed at El-Muwaylah, described in my last volume,[EN#18] on the auspicious Wednesday, December 19, 1877, under a salute from the gunboat Mukhbir, which the fort answered with a rattle and a patter of musketry. All the notables received us, in line drawn up on the shore, close to our camp. To the left stood the civilians in tulip-coloured garb; next were the garrison, a dozen Bsh-Buzuks en bourgeois, and mostly armed with matchlocks; then came out quarrymen in uniform, but without weapons; and, lastly, the escort (twenty-five men) held the place of honour on the right. The latter gave me a loud "Hip! hip! hurrah!" as I passed. The tents, a total of twenty, including two four-polers for our mess and for the stores, with several large canvas sheds—pls, the Anglo-Indian calls them—gleamed white against the dark-green fronds of the date-grove; and the magnificent background of the scene was the "Dibbagh" block of the Tiha'mah, or lowland mountains.
The usual "palaver" at once took place; during which everything was "sweet as honey." After this pleasant prelude came the normal difficulties and disagreeables—it had been reported that I was the happy possessor of 22,000 mostly to be spent at El-MuwayIah. The unsettled Arabs plunder and slay; the settled Arabs slander and cheat.
A whole day was spent in inspecting the soldiers and mules; in despatching a dromedary-post to Suez with news of our unexpectedly safe arrival, and in conciliating the claims of rival Bedawin. His Highness the Viceroy had honoured with an order to serve us Hasan ibn Salim, Shaykh of the Beni 'Ukbah, a small tribe which will be noticed in a future page. Last spring these men had carried part of our caravan to 'Aynnah; and they having no important blood-feuds, I had preferred to employ them. But 'Abd el-Nabi, of the Tagayt-Huwaytt clan, had been spoilt by over-kindness during my reconnaissance of 1877; besides, I had given him a bowie-knife without taking a penny in exchange. In my first volume he appears as a noble savage, with a mixture of the gentleman; here he becomes a mere Fellah-Bedawi.
The claimants met with the usual ceremony; right hands placed on the opposite left breasts—this is not done when there is bad blood—foreheads touching, and the word of peace, "Salm," ceremoniously ejaculated by both mouths. Then came the screaming voices, the high words, and the gestures, which looked as if the Kurbj ("whip") were being administered. The Huwayti stubbornly refused to march with the other tribe, whom, moreover, he grossly insulted: he professed perfect readiness to carry me and mine gratis, the while driving the hardest bargain; he spoke of "our land," when the country belongs to the Khediv; he openly denied his allegiance; he was convicted of saying, "If these Christians find gold, there will be much trouble (fitneh) to us Moslems;" and at a subsequent time he went so far as to abuse an officer. I had "Shaykh'd" him (Shayyakht-uh), that is, promoted him in rank, said the Sayyid 'Abd el-Rahm; and the honour had completely changed his manners. "Nasaggharhu" (We will "small" him), was my reply. The only remedy, in fact, was to undo what had been done; to cut down, as Easterns say, the tree which I had planted. So he was solemnly and conspicuously disrated; the fee, one dollar per diem, allotted as travelling and escort-allowance to the chiefs, was publicly taken from him, and he at once subsided into an ignoble Walad ("lad"), under the lead of his uncle, Shaykh 'Alyan ibn Rab. The latter is a man of substance, who can collect at least two thousand camels. Though much given to sulking, on the whole, he behaved so well that, the Expedition ended, I recommended him to his Highness the Viceroy for appointment to the chieftainship of his tribe, and the usual yearly subsidy. With him was associated his cousin, Shaykh Furayj, an excellent man, of whom I shall have much to say; and thus we had to fee three Bedawi chiefs, including Hasan. The latter was a notable intriguer and mischief-maker, ever breeding bad blood; and his termper was rather violent than sullen. When insulted by a soldier, he would rush off for his gun, ostentatiously light the match, walk about for an hour or two threatening to "shyute," and then apparently forget the whole matter.
All wanted to let their camels by the day, whereas the custom of Arabia is to bargain for the march. Thus, the pilgrims pay one dollar per stage of twelve hours; and the post-dromedary demands the same sum, besides subsistence-money and "bakhshi'sh." But our long and frequent halts rendered this proceeding unfair to the Bedawin. I began by offering seven piastres tariff, and ended by agreeing to pay five per diem while in camp, and ten when on the road.[EN#19] Of course, it was too much; but our supply of money was ample, and the Viceroy had desired me to be liberal. In the Nile valley, where the price of a camel is some 20, the average daily hire would be one dollar: on the other hand, the animal carries, during short marches, 700 lbs. The American officers in Upper Egypt reduced to 300 lbs. the 500 lbs. heaped on by the Sdni merchants. In India we consider 400 lbs. a fair load; and the Midianite objects to anything beyond 200 lbs.
I have no intention of troubling the reader with a detailed account of our three first stages from El-Muwaylah to the Jebel el-Abyaz, or White Mountain.[EN#20] On December 21st, leaving camp with the most disorderly of caravans—106 camels instead of 80, dromedaries not included—we marched to the mouth of the Wady Tiryam, where we arrived before our luggage and provisions, lacking even "Adam's ale." The Shaykhs took all the water which could be found in the palm-boothies near the shore, and drank coffee behind a bush. This sufficed to give me the measure of these "wall-jumpers."
Early next morning I set the quarrymen to work, with pick and basket, at the north-western angle of the old fort. The latter shows above ground only the normal skeleton-tracery of coralline rock, crowning the gentle sand-swell, which defines the lip and jaw of the Wady; and defending the townlet built on the northern slope and plain. The dimensions of the work are fifty-five mtres each way. The curtains, except the western, where stood the Bb el-Bahr ("Sea gate"), were supported by one central as well as by angular bastions; the northern face had a cant of 32 degrees east (mag.); and the northwestern tower was distant from the sea seventy-two me'tres, whereas the south-western numbered only sixty. The spade showed a substratum of thick old wall, untrimmed granite, and other hard materials. Further down were various shells, especially bnitiers ( Tridacna gigantea) the harp (here called "Sirinbz"), and the pearl-oyster; sheep-bones and palm charcoal; pottery admirably "cooked," as the Bedawin remarked; and glass of surprising thinness, iridized by damp to rainbow hues. This, possibly the remains of lachrymatories, was very different from the modern bottle-green, which resembles the old Roman. Lastly, appeared a ring-bezel of lapis lazuli; unfortunately the "royal gem," of Epiphanus was without inscription.
Whilst we were digging, the two staff-officers rode to the date-groves of Wady Tiryam, and made a plan of the ancient defences—the results of the first Khedivial Expedition had either not been deposited at, or had been lost in, the Staff bureau, Cairo. They found that the late torrents had filled up the sand pits acting as wells; and the people assured them that the Fiumara had ceased to show perennial water only about five or six years ago.
The second march was disorderly as the first: it reminded me of driving a train of unbroken mules over the Prairies; the men were as wild and unmanageable as their beasts. It was every one's object to get the maximum of money for the minimum of work. The escort took especial care to see that all their belongings were loaded before ours were touched. Each load was felt, and each box was hand-weighed before being accepted: the heaviest, rejected by the rich, were invariably left to the poorest and the lowest clansmen with the weakest and leanest of animals. All at first especially objected to the excellent boxes—a great comfort—made for the Expedition[EN#21] at the Citadel, Cairo; but they ended with bestowing their hatred upon the planks, the tables, and the long tent-poles. As a rule, after the fellows had protested that their camels were weighted down to the earth, we passed them on the march comfortably riding—for "the 'Orbn can't walk." And no wonder. At the halting-place they unbag a little barley and wheat-meal, make dough, thrust it into the fire, "break bread," and wash it down with a few drops of dirty water. This copious refection ends in a thimbleful of thick, black coffee and a pipe. At home they have milk and Gh (clarified butter) in plenty during the season, game at times, and, on extraordinary occasions, a goat or a sheep, which, however, are usually kept for buying corn in Egypt. But it is a "caution" to see them feed alle spalle altrui.
Nothing shabbier than the pack-saddles; nothing more rotten than the ropes. As these "Desert ships" must weigh about half the sturdy animals of Syria and the Egyptian Delta, future expeditions will, perhaps, do well to march their carriage round by El-'Akabah. The people declare that the experiment has been tried, but that the civilized animal sickens and dies in these barrens; they forget, however, the two pilgrim-caravans.
At this season the beasts are half-starved. Their "kitchen" is a meagre ration of bruised beans, and their daily bread consists of the dry leaves of thorn trees, beaten down by the Makhbat, a flail-like staff, and caught in a large circle of matting (El-Khasaf). In Sinai the vegetation fares even worse: the branches are rudely lopped off to feed the flocks; only "holy trees" escape this mutilation. With the greatest difficulty we prevented the Arabs tethering their property all night close to our tents: either the brutes were cold; or they wanted to browse or to meet a friend: every movement was punished with a wringing of the halter, and the result may be imagined.
We slept that night at Wady Sharm. Of this ruined town a plan was made for "The Gold-Mines of Midian," by Lieutenant Amir, who alone is answerable for its correctness. We afterwards found layers of ashes, slag, and signs of metal-working to the north-east of the enceinte, where the furnace probably stood. The outline measures 1906 metres, not "several kilometres;" and desultory digging yielded nothing but charcoal, cinders, and broken pottery. It was not before nine a.m. on the next day that I could mount my old white, stumbling, starting mule; the delay being caused by M. Marie's small discovery, which will afterwards be noticed. We crossed both branches of the Sharm water; and, ascending the long sand-slope of the right bank, we again passed the Bedawi cemetery. I sent Lieutenants Amir and Yusuf to prospect certain stone-heaps which lay seawards of the graves; and they found a little heptangular demi-lune, concave to the north; the curtains varying from a minimum length of ten to a maximum of eighty me'tres, and the thickness averaging two metres, seventy-five centimetres. It was possibly intended, like those above Wady Tiryam, to defend the western approach; and, superficially viewed, it looks like a line of stones heaped up over the dead, with that fine bird's-eye view of the valley which the Bedawi loves for his last sleeping-place.