Travels in the Great Desert of Sahara, in the Years of 1845 and 1846
by James Richardson
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IN THE YEARS OF 1845 AND 1846.












THE sentiment of Antiquity—that "The life of no man is pleasing to the gods which is not useful to his fellows,"—has been my guiding principle of action during the last twelve years of my life. To live for my own simple and sole gratification, to have no other object in view but my own personal profit and renown, would be to me an intolerable existence. To be useful, or to attempt to be useful, in my day and generation, was the predominant motive which led me into The Desert, and sustained me there, alone and unprotected, during a long and perilous journey.

But, in presenting this work to the British public, I have to state, that it is only supplementary and fragmentary. If, therefore, any one were to judge of the results of my Saharan Tour merely by what is here given, he would do me a great injustice. I had expected, by this time, that certain Reports on the Commerce and Geography of The Great Desert, as well as a large Map of the Routes of this part of Africa, would have been given to the public. It is not my fault that their publication is still delayed. I can only regret it, because what I am now publishing comes first, instead of last, and consequently deranges my plan, the following pages being, indeed, supplementary to the Reports and Map. I come, therefore, before the public with no small disadvantage.

With regard to these supplementary and fragmentary extracts from my journal, I have also to state, they consist only of about two-thirds of the journal. For the present, I deemed it prudent to suppress the rest. But this likewise may disturb the harmony and mar the completeness of the work. However, if these portions of the journal are favourably received, other extracts may yet be published.

On entering The Desert, my principal object was to ascertain how and to what extent the Saharan Slave-Trade was carried on; although but a comparatively small portion of the following pages is devoted to this subject. I have already reported fully on this traffic, and it was unnecessary to go over the ground again, which might defeat, by disagreeable repetitions and endless details, the object which I have in view,—that of exciting an abhorrence of the Slave-Trade in the hearts of my fellow countrymen and countrywomen.

In these published extracts from my journal, I have endeavoured to give a truthful and faithful picture of the Saharan Tribes; their ideas, thoughts, words, and actions; and, where convenient, I have allowed them to speak and act for themselves. This is the main object which I have undertaken to accomplish in this Narrative of my Personal Adventures in The Sahara. The public must, and will, I doubt not, judge how far I have succeeded, and award me praise or blame, as may be my desert. If I have failed, I shall not abandon myself to despair, but shall console myself with the thought that I have done the best I was able to do under actual circumstances, and in my then state of health. It would, indeed, ill become me to shrink from public criticism, after having braved the terrors and hardships of The Desert. However, the publication of this journal may induce others to penetrate The Desert,—persons better qualified, and more ably and perfectly equipped than myself, and who may so accomplish something more permanently advantageous than what I have been able to compass. Acting, then, as pioneer to others, my Saharan labours will not be fruitless.

But, if any persons obstinately object to the style and matters of my Narrative of Desert Travel, I shall likewise as obstinately endeavour to hold my ground. To all such I say,—"Go to now, ye objectors and gainsayers, and do better." My mission was motu proprio, and I plunged in The Desert without your permission. But I am but one of the two hundred millions of Europe. You can surely get volunteers. You have the money, the rank, the patronage, and the learned and philanthropic Societies of Europe at your back. Send others; inspire them yourselves, and they may produce something which you like better than what I have given you. If I am not orthodox enough,—if I have not reviled the Deism of The Desert sufficiently to your taste,—send those who will. A little less zeal in Exeter Hall, and a little more in The Desert, would do neither you nor the world any harm. A little less clamour about Church orthodoxy, or any other doxy[1], and a little more anxiety for the welfare of all mankind, would infinitely more become you, as Englishmen and Christians, and be more in harmony with that divine injunction, which sent out the first teachers of Christianity amongst the Greeks and Barbarians, in The City and The Desert, to preach the Gospel to every creature under heaven. If I be too much of an abolitionist, send one who admires slavery, and who will write up the Slave-Trade of The Desert. I have written in my way: you write in your way. If my pages disclose no discoveries in science, this I can only lament. When a man has no science in him, or no education in science, he can give you none. But what are your European Societies of Science for? Are they play-things, or are they serious affairs? Have you neither money nor zeal to equip a scientific expedition to The Desert? If not, I cannot help you. By the way, I was astonished to receive, since my return, a note from one of your eminent geologists, repudiating and protesting against all knowledge of the subject of "The Geology of The Desert." And The Desert is a fifth part of the African Continent! Yet this gentleman dogmatizes and theorizes on all geological formations, and can tell the whole history of the geology of our planet, from the first moment when it was bowled by the hand of The Omnipotent in the immensity of space, of suns and systems! If such presumption and self-willed ignorance discover themselves in great men, what are we to expect of little men?

In the following pages, I have encroached upon my Reports, to describe several of the Oases of The Desert, besides giving as much of the routes as was necessary to render the Narrative of my journey intelligible. But this is all I could conscientiously do. For the rest of the geographical information, the public must wait.

I return for a moment to the traffic in slaves. Born with an innate hatred of oppression, whatever form, or shape, or name it may take, and under what modes soever it may be developed, mentally or bodily, in chaining men down under a political despotism, or in forging for them a creed and forcing it on their consciences,—I have, since I could exercise the power of reflection, always looked upon the traffic in human flesh and blood as the most gigantic system of wickedness the world ever saw; and which I most deplore, in this our late, more humane and enlightened age, stands forth and raises its horrid head, impiously defying Heaven! In very truth, it is a system of crime, which dares

"Defy the Omnipotent to arms!"

The reader must, therefore, excuse the language with which I have execrated this traffic in the pages of my Journal. There may be some men who think it no crime to buy and sell their fellow-men; I have seen many such amongst the Moslems. But he who thinks the traffic in slaves to be a crime against the human race, has a right to denounce it accordingly. I must therefore make a few preliminary observations, though painful to my feelings.

It is notorious that the agitations of the Anti-Corn-Law League have given very lately a powerful impulse to the Slave-Trade, and slaves have risen in Cuba to 30 and 50 per cent. above their previous average value, since slave sugar has been admitted upon the same terms, or nearly so, as free-labour sugar, into England. This is entirely the work of The League. Some of these gentlemen think we must have cheap sugar at any risk, at any cost, even if wetted with the blood of the slaves. A ridiculous incident occurs to me. I once saw a child frightened into a dislike for white loaf sugar, by holding up a piece to the candle, and pretending it dropped blood. But there is no delusion or metaphor here, for the sugars of slave-plantations are really obtained by the blood-whippings and scourgings of the victimized slaves!

As to Cobden, his Cobdenites, and Satellites, they would sell their own souls, and the whole human race into bondage, to have a free trade in slaves and sugar. This new generation of impostors—who teach that all virtue and happiness consist in buying in the cheapest, and selling in the dearest markets—are now dogging at the heels of Government, in combination with the West India agents, to get them to re-establish a species of mitigated Slave-Trade, because, forsooth, there should be right and liberty to buy and sell a man, as there is right and liberty to buy and sell a beast.

I am not an enemy to Free Trade. I have duly noticed and praised the free-trade mart of Ghat, and shown how it prospers in comparison with the restricted system of the Turks, prevalent at Mourzuk. But this I do say, the case of Slavery was an exceptional case, as the Ten Hours' Factory Bill was an exceptional case in the regulation and restriction of labour. I fear, however, there are some of the Leaguers so outrageous in their advocacy of abstract principles, that they would have a free-trade in vice—a free-trade in consigning people to perdition! They are of the calibre of the men who wielded that dread engine of the "Reign of Terror," the "Committee of Public Safety," and made it death to speak a word against the "One Indivisible Republic[2]." These Leaguers are bent upon establishing an equal, although differently-formed, tyranny amongst us, and we cannot too soon and too energetically resist their odious and intolerable pretensions.

But I know not, whether these civil tyrants be so bad as the spiritual tyrants who have just set up for themselves what they call a "Free Kirk." These reverend gentlemen have received the fruits of the blood of the slaves, employed on the laborious fields of the Southern States of America, to build up their new Free Church, pretending they have a Divine right to receive the value of the forced-labour of slaves, and quoting Scripture like the Devil himself. When called upon to refund they refuse, and make the contributions of the Presbyterian slave-dealers of the United States a sort of corner-stone of their Free Kirk. Why these priests of religion out-O'Connell-O'Connell, who point-blank refused, for the support of his sham Repeal, and sent back contemptuously, the dollars spotted and tainted with the blood of the slaves! . . . . . . . . It is the old story, the old trick of our good friends, the Scottish divines, and their old leaven of Scottish fanaticism. We know them of ancient date. We have read a line of Milton, who in his time so admirably resisted their bigotry. It is immortal like all that our divine bard wrote. Here is the line—

"New Presbyter is but old Priest writ large."

The Free Kirk has cut its connexion with the State, because it says the State wishes to enslave its ministers. Yet it has no objection to receive monies from the slave-holders in America. The Free Kirk will build up its boasted freedom on the wasting blood and bones of the unhappy children of Africa! Why, indeed, should these Scottish divines, headed by the Presbyters Candlish and Cunningham, seek or advocate the freedom of the slaves held by their fellow Presbyters of the United States? Is it not enough that they seek and maintain their own freedom, and at whatsoever cost? Have they not received the pro-slavery mantle of the late venerated Dr. Chalmers, and can they, poor pigmies, possibly shake it off? Would it not be impious to do so? No, they cannot,—dare not do this. For, as it was said by Lord George Bentinck, of a quondam champion of the people, in the last Session of Parliament, "Liberty is on their tongues, but despotism is in their hearts."

What can be more humiliating to a generous and tolerant mind, than to see a body of Christian ministers struggling to obtain by a Parliamentary enactment, the cession of plots of land for building of churches for the worship of God in liberty and truth, from the tyrannical holders of the soil; and, at the same time, this very body of priests does not scruple to receive the money of American slave-holders, to build and endow these self-same churches? Such incredible inconsistency makes one sick at heart, and inclined to question the existence of Christian feelings in the professors and teachers of Christianity!

It is deeply to be deplored that our Anti-Slavery Society confines itself so much to protests, and what it calls "the moral principle." No people of the world has done more for the liberties of Africa than the Society of Friends in England, and no people more admirably exemplify in their conduct the humane and pacific morals of Christianity. But when the Founder of our religion resisted his enemies by the remonstrance, "Why strikest thou me?" something more was meant than a protest. We have had lately a triste example of the end of protests in a neighbouring country. The annual protest of the French Chamber of Deputies against the extinction of the nationality of Poland, not only ended in barren results, and excited public ridicule, but actually terminated in the triumph of the nefarious scheme against which it was made. Never was a country so humiliated as France in this case!—Its Chief, the Sovereign of its choice, consenting at the time, to the damning act of the extinction of Polish nationality, for the sake of accomplishing a low and scandalous family intrigue in Spain! This was something more than ridiculous, and is one of the many infamies of our age, perpetrated on so large a scale. Now, I do not assert, that the protests of the Anti-Slavery Society will end in the re-enactment of the Slave-Trade by the British Parliament. But the last and present Sessions of Imperial Parliament, show symptoms of our country abandoning Africa, after the labours of half a century, to all the horrors of the Slave-Trade. Mr. P. Borthwick and Mr. Hume, more especially the latter, pleaded, in conjunction with others, during last Session, for the withdrawal of the British cruisers from off the Western Coast of Africa, and free trade in emigration, if not in slaves. In this good work, of course, they have the sympathies of the Anti-Slavery Free Trading League. Some of our journals opine, in their late articles, that a change has come over the spirit of our abolition dream, and suggest that the clerk, in charge of the Anti-Slavery Papers at the Foreign Office, is an old antiquated, superannuated being. In a word, these journals and Mr. Hume's pro-slavery clique, see no reason why Great Britain should not exhibit to this and succeeding ages, the most dreadful bad faith in the case of British abolition. They would have us say to the world:—"All our Anti-Slavery efforts, our Parliamentary enactments against Slavery, our huge blue books of published Anti-Slavery papers, our protocols and treaties with Foreign Powers, all, each, and singular, are one grand organized system of selfishness and hypocrisy." I know very well that, in general, foreigners give us no credit whatever for our anti-slavery feelings and public acts for the suppression of the Slave-Trade. This they have reiterated in my ears. And, how can they give us credit for sincerity in abolition, when our public men and public writers call for something like the re-enactment of the British Slave-Trade?—and, whilst our quondam champions of Free Churches receive the blood-stained money of slave-labour to build up their new ecclesiastical establishments? Mankind reason from actions, and not from verbal or written declarations. Our Act of Abolition, and the famous twenty millions, are not such wonderful things after all, when we owed a hundred millions to the descendants of our slaves. We were also nearly half a century in abolishing the traffic, after it had been denounced as robbery and murder by our highest and greatest statesmen, Pitt and Fox[3]. This slowness of our work has given the cue to the suspicions of our national enemies; and, certainly, to use a gross vulgarism, has "taken out the shine," or very much dimmed the lustre of this great act of justice to the African race.

Here I cannot restrain myself from giving a word of caution to the working-classes of our country, to those more especially who head the new "National Society," and form other and similar leagues. You say the politicians of the Anti-Corn Law League are your men; you adore your Humes, and Duncombes, and Wakleys. You, English democrats, or reformers, as you may call yourselves, admire the self-government and cheap government of the Transatlantic Model Republic. You do well. But now read some of their latest handiworks, without note or comment on my part. The violent impulse given to the Slave-Trade in Cuba and the Brazils—the advocacy of a free trade in Slaves by the Leaguers in and out the British Parliament—the invasion and subjugation of Mexico, on the joint principles of lust of conquest and the extension of Slavery. Deny these facts if you can. Learn, then, to think, there may be democracy and republicanism without liberty or freedom.

I pray God, that the protests and public appeals and remonstrances to Government of the Anti-Slavery Society may not end in barren results. But if the Leaguers and Democrats have their own way, its voice, though just and righteous, will be at length reduced to a faint cry, a last shriek of despair—overwhelmed by the loud laughs and jeers of the fiends, which possess the dealers in human flesh and blood, and surround unhappy and doomed Africa with a cordon of rapine and murder, of blood and flames!

"Where the vultures and vampires of Mammon resort, Where Columbia exulting drains Her life-blood from Africa's veins, Where the image of God is accounted as base, And the image of Cśsar set up in its place."

If I were asked, "What can be done for Africa?" I should reply with no new thing, no nostrums of my own concocting, but what has been reiterated again and again. Teach her children to till the soil—to cultivate available exports by which they may obtain in exchange, through the medium of a legitimate commerce, the European products and manufactures necessary for their use and enjoyment. Until this be done, nothing effectual will be done. In vain you send missionaries of religion, or agents of abolition; in vain you contract treaties with the Princes of Africa. It is humiliating to think, equally a disgrace to our religion as to our civilization, that our connexion with Africa has only served to plunge her into deeper misery and profounder degradation. With truth we here may apply the strong censure of a Chinese Emperor, "That the march of Christians is whitened with human bones." Wherever we have touched her western shores there our footsteps have been marked with blood and devastation. We have fostered and encouraged within the heart of Africa the most odious and unnatural passions. We have stimulated the prince to sell his subjects, the father to sell his child, the brother to sell the sister, the husband the wife, into thrice-accursed and again accursed slavery! We have done all and more than this, whilst we have convulsed every state and kingdom of Africa with war, for the supply of cargoes of human beings. And for what? To cultivate our miserable cotton and sugar plantations! These are the doctrines of mercy and charity which we have taught the poor untutored children of Africa. Happy for poor forlorn, dusky, naked Africa, had she never seen the pale visage or met the Satanic brow of the European Christian! Does any man in his senses, who believes in God and Providence, think that the wrongs of Africa will go on for ever unavenged? Already, has not Providence avenged the wrongs of Africa upon Spain and Portugal, by reducing their national character and consideration to the lowest in the European family of nations? And as to the United States of America, has not the boasted liberty of our Republican countrymen, who colonized America, become a by-word, a hissing, and a scorn, amongst the nations of the earth? Have not these slave-holding Americans committed acts, nationally, within the last few years, which the most absolute Governments of Europe would blush to be guilty of? And what is one of their last acts, on a smaller scale, but not less decisively indicative of their national morality? The New York Bible Society has declared that it will not give the Bible to slaves, even when they are able to read the Bible! Would the Czar of Russia permit such an impious rule as this to be made by his nobles for their slaves or serfs? Such an action would render the liberties of a thousand republics a mockery, a snare, and a delusion, and their names infamous throughout the world.

And the time of us Englishmen will come next—our day of infamy! unless we show ourselves worthy that transcendant position in which Providence has placed us, at the pinnacle of the empires of Earth, as the leaders and champions of universal freedom.

In noticing the efforts made for raising Africa from her immemorial degradation, we are bound to confess our obligations to the Mahometans for what they have done. If they have extirpated Christianity from the soil of North Africa, and planted, instead of this tree of fair and pure fruit, the more glaring and showy plant of Islamism, they have, at the same time, endeavoured to raise Africa to their own level of demi-civilization. Whilst we condemn their slave-traffic as we condemn our own, we must do justice to the efforts which they have made, by the spread of their creed and the diffusion of their commerce, during a series of ten or twelve centuries, for promoting the civilization of Africa. They have succeeded, they have done infinitely more for Africa than we ourselves. They have organized and established regular governments through all Central Africa, and inculcated a taste for the occupation and the principles of commerce. A great portion of this internal trade is untainted by slavery. Bornou, Soudan, Timbuctoo, and Jinnee, exhibit to us groups of immense and populous cities, all regularly governed and trading with one another. They have abolished human sacrifice, which lingers in our East India possessions to this day. They have regulated marriage and restrained polygamy. They have made honour and reverence to be paid to grey hairs, superseding the diabolical custom of exposing or destroying the aged. They have introduced a knowledge of reading and writing. The oases of Ghat and Ghadames furnish more children, in proportion, who can read and write, than any of our English towns. The Koran is transcribed in beautiful characters by Negro Talebs on the banks of the Niger. The Moors have likewise introduced many common useful trades into Central Africa. But above all, the Mohammedans have introduced the knowledge of the one true God! and destroyed the fetisch idols. Let us then take care how we arrogate to ourselves the right and fact of civilizing the world. Nay, there cannot be a question, if we would abandon Africa to the Mohammedans, and leave off our man-stealing trade and practices on the Western Coast, the dusky children of the torrid zones would gradually advance in civilization. But is not the bare idea of such an alternative an indelible disgrace to Christendom?

Mr. Cooley, in his learned work, entitled "The Negroland of the Arabs[4]," seems to doubt if the Slave-Trade can be abolished or civilization advanced, in Central Africa, because of the neighbourhood of The Desert. This, however, is transferring the guilt of slavery and of voluntary barbarism, if barbarism can be crime, from the volition of responsible man to a great natural fact, or circumstance of creation—The Desert; and is a style of observation perfectly indefensible, as well as contrary to philosophy and facts. First, we cannot limit the stretch or progress of the Negro mind any more than that of the European intellect. Mr. Cooley himself admits that the Nigritian people have advanced in civilization. And if they have advanced, why not continue to advance? But so far contrary are facts to Mr. Cooley's theory, that The Desert, instead of being an obstacle to civilization, is favourable to it, whilst the Nigritian countries beyond the influence of The Desert are plunged into deeper barbarism. The reader will only have to compare my account of the Touaricks, with the recently published account of the social state of the kingdom of Dahomy, to convince himself how completely fallacious in application is Mr. Cooley's theory[5]. Slaves, too, abound in thickly populated countries as well as desert countries: witness China and India. The Sahara, also, has its paradisical spots, or oases of enjoyment, as well as its wastes and hardships. It is likewise, not true, that the Saharan tribes depend for their happiness on the possession of slaves, or that life in The Desert is galling and insupportable. Many a happy oasis is without a slave. However this may be, it is always an extremely dangerous line of argument, to represent moral depravity as springing necessarily from certain physical and unalterable circumstances of creation. Finally, to represent The Great Desert as the buttress of the Slave-Trade, is contrary to all our experience. In deserts and mountains we find always the free-men: in soft and luxurious countries we find the slaves. It is not the free-born Touarick who is the slave-dealer, or the stimulator of the slave-traffic, but the Moorish merchant, and the voluptuary on the coast who sends him. All that the Saharan tribes do, is to escort the merchants over The Desert; and they would still escort them over The Desert did they not deal in slaves, carrying on only legitimate commerce.

I may conclude by a word on Discoveries in The Sahara. It is now twenty years or more since The Sahara was explored, or before my present hap-hazard tour. From what I have seen since my return, and the little encouragement given to this sort of enterprise,—the public of Great Britain being so much occupied with railways, free-trade, and currency questions, educational schemes, and State endowed, or voluntary ecclesiastical establishments,—it is difficult to foresee how and when another tour may be undertaken, or how a tourist will have the heart to make another experiment. Unhappily, the spirit of discovery, like Virtue's self, is difficult to be satisfied with its own reward. Something, however, may in time be expected from the French, who will get restless in their Algerian limits, and make a bold effort to disenthral themselves, by leaping the bounds of the mysterious Sahara. Evidently the French Government have prohibited all isolated attempts. But should their colony succeed, and they must make it succeed, then a grand stroke of policy and action will be struck upon the lines of the Saharan routes, for diverting The Desert trade, if possible, into Algerian channels. We must wait patiently this time for further researches. Necessity propels nations in the march of discovery. England has some considerable stake likewise in the commerce of The Great Desert. But our governmental affairs are so vast, and ramify over so large a space of the world, that it is extremely difficult to get a Minister to strike out a new path, unless he has the sympathies and hearty support of the public with him. And certainly the last thing in the imagination of the British public is the undertaking Discoveries in The Great Desert.

A remark may be made respecting the English spelling of Arabic words and names. I have not adopted the new system, as very few people understand it. I have endeavoured to represent the sounds of the original words in the ordinary way, giving sometimes the Arabic letters for those who prefer greater correctness. The spelling of Oriental and African names is also occasionally varied for the sake of variety, and sometimes I have written the words in various ways, according to the style of pronunciation amongst different Saharan tribes. I have also omitted accents and italics as much as possible, to avoid confusion and trouble to the printer. With respect to the contents at the head of the chapters, numberless little things and circumstances are besides unavoidably omitted in the enumeration.

I have few acknowledgments to make to those who rendered me assistance in the prosecution of my Saharan tour and researches. I have rather complaints to prefer against professed friends. I was unable to get up in The Desert a single thing, the most trifling, to aid me in my observations, when I had determined to penetrate farther into the interior; whilst, somehow or other, a Memorandum was obtained from the Porte to recal me instead of a Firman to help me on my way. Fortunately I was beyond its power when it arrived at Tripoli, from Constantinople. But if I feel the bitterness of this want of sympathy, and these acts of hostility, I have the pleasure of being triumphant over all the obstacles thrown in my way. I felt freer in The Desert, unloaded by obligations. Indeed, the fewer of these a traveller has, the better. He always supports his trials and privations with lighter spirits and a more cheerful heart. His success is his own, if his failure is his own also. Nevertheless I have not forgotten, nor can I ever forget, to the latest day of my life, the acts of kindness shown to me by the rude and simple-minded people of The Desert, and I have duly and most scrupulously chronicled them all.


LONDON, December, 1847.

POSTSCRIPT.—It is hoped, for the honour and humanity of our Government, that they will resist the clamour to withdraw the Cruisers from the Western Coast of Africa, and that they will NOT WITHDRAW the British Cruisers. If a blow is to be struck, let it be struck at Cuba, or the Brazils, and not on the defenceless Africans, because they are defenceless. If a burglar prowls about, a whole neighbourhood is on the alert to protect itself against his depredations. If a band of pirates swarm in a sea or infest our coasts, a fleet is fitted out to capture them. But it is attempted to let loose upon weak, defenceless Africa a legion of pirates and murderers—for such will be the result if the British Cruisers are withdrawn from the Western Coast.


[1] See the newspapers for the correspondence between some of the Bishops of our Church and the Premier. As the question is, Whether Dr. Hampden be a Heretic or a Christian? I may here observe that the term "Christian" is used in the following pages for "European." To the epithet "Christian," in the strict sense of the term, I have no other pretensions than that of being a conscientious reader of the New Testament.

[2] "Une et indivisible."

[3] Lord Brougham, in his Life of Pitt, very properly takes off some discount from the Anti-Slavery zeal of this great Statesman, for being so tardy in the work of Abolition, and allowing his Under Secretaries and subordinate Ministers to support the Slave-Trade against himself, and whilst he was advocating its extinction.

[4] "It is impossible to deny the advancement of civilization in that zone of the African continent which has formed the field of our inquiry. Yet barbarism is there supported by natural circumstances with which it is vain to think of coping. It may be doubted whether, if mankind had inhabited the earth only in populous and adjoining communities, slavery would have ever existed. The Desert, if it be not absolutely the root of the evil, has, at least, been from the earliest times the great nursery of slave hunters. The demoralization of the towns on the Southern borders of The Desert has been pointed out; and if the vast extent be considered of the region in which man has no riches but slaves, no enjoyment but slaves, no article of trade but slaves, and where the hearts of wandering thousands are closed against pity by the galling misery of life, it will be difficult to resist the conviction that the solid buttress on which slavery rests in Africa, is—The Desert." (p. 139.)

[5] See MR. DUNCAN'S Travels in Western Africa.



PLATES. Portrait of the Author Map of the Desert Slave Caravan

WOOD-CUTS. Arab Tents Facsimile Specimen of the Writing of a Young Taleb Manner of drawing Water from Wells Great Spring of Ghadames Bas-Relief Square of Fountains City of Ghadames Cistern of an Ancient Tower Negro's Head Ancient Ruins of Ghadames Region of Sands Rocking Rock






Project of Journey.—Opinions of People upon its practicability.—Moral character of Europeans in Barbary.—Leave the Isle of Jerbah for Tripoli in the coaster Mes‚oud.—Return back.—Wind in Jerbah.—Start again for Tripoli.—S‚keeah.—Zarzees.—Biban.—The Salinś, or Salt-pits.—Rais-el-Makhbes.—Zouwarah.—Foul Wind, and put into the port of Tripoli Vecchia.—Quarrel of Captain with Passengers.—Description of this Port.—My fellow-travellers, and Said the runaway Slave.—Arrival at Tripoli, and Health-Office.—Colonel Warrington, British Consul-General.—The British Garden.—Interview with Mehemet Pasha.—Barbary Politics.—Aspect of Tripoli.—Old Castle of the Karamanly Bashaws.—Manuvring of the Pasha's Troops.—The Pasha's opinion of my projected Tour.—Resistance of the Pasha to my Voyage, and overcome by the Consul.—Departure from Tripoli to Ghadames.

ACCIDENT often determines the course of a man's life. The greater part of human actions, however humiliating to our moral and intellectual dignity, is the result of sheer accident. That the accidents of life should harmonize with the immutable decrees of Providence, is the great mystery of an honest and thinking mind. The reading accidentally of a fugitive brochure, thrown upon the table of the public library of Algiers, gave me the germ of the idea, which, fructifying and expanding, ultimately led me to the design of visiting and exploring the celebrated Oasis of Ghadames, planted far-away amidst the most appalling desolations of the Great Saharan Wilderness. This should teach us to lower our pretensions, and take a large discount from our merits in originating our various enterprises; but, alas! our over-weening self-love always manages to get the better of us. The brochure alluded to was a number of the Revue de L'Orient, published at Paris, containing a notice of Ghadames by M. Subtil, the notorious sulphur[6]-explorer and adventurer of Tripoli.

On leaving Algiers, in January, 1845, I carried the idea of Ghadames with me to Tunis; and thence, after agitating an exploration to The Desert amongst my friends, some of whom plainly told me, if I went I should never return, I should be consumed with the sun and fever, or murdered by the natives, and to attempt such a thing was altogether madness, I journeyed on to Tripoli, where I entered with all my soul and might into the undertaking. But as in Tunis so in Tripoli, I heard the birds of evil-omen uttering the same mournful notes of discouragement:—"I should never reach Ghadames, no one else had done so, or no one else had gone and returned. I should perish by the hand of banditti, or sink under the burning heat. I was not the man; it required a frame of iron. Enthusiasm was very well in its way, but it required a man who was expert in arms, and who could fight his way through The Desert." And such is the absurd character of men, and some people pretending to be friends of African discovery, that, on hearing of my safe return after nine months' absence, they felt chagrined their sagacious vaticinations were not verified. Like a man who writes a book, and ever so bad a book, he cannot afterwards adopt a right sentiment, or course of action, because he has written his book. It is true, the fate of Davidson, in Western Barbary, and the late disastrous mishap of the young Tuscan on his return from Mourzuk, favoured the pretensions of these Barbary-coast prophets, who cannot comprehend a deviation from what had happened before, but it is equally true that the violent deaths of these individuals, so far as we can gather from the details, were brought about by the greatest possible imprudence on their part. However, I may say without hesitation, no people dread The Desert so much, and have in them so little of the spirit of enterprise and African discovery, as the naturalized Europeans of Tunis and Tripoli, and other parts of Barbary. To purchase the co-operation of a volunteer in these countries would require more money than defraying the expense of an expedition, and after all, from the love of intrigue and double-dealing which Europeans long resident in Barbary acquire, as well as other drawbacks, you would be very badly served.

I shall begin the narrative of my personal adventures in The Sahara with my departure from the island of Jerbah to Tripoli.

May 7th, 1845.—Left Jerbah in the evening for Tripoli in the coaster Mes‚oud ("happy"). The captain and owner was a Maltese, but the colours under which we sailed were Tunisian. Generally, a Moorish captain di bandeira commands these coasters, because it saves them dues at the various ports. Indeed, most of the small coasting craft of Tunis and Tripoli, though the property of Europeans, sail under the Turkish, rather Mahometan (red) flag. Although May, our captain told me, it was the worst month in the year for coasting in Barbary. The wind comes in sudden puffs and gales, blowing with extreme violence everything before it, prostrating and rooting up the stoutest and strongest palm-trees. So, in fact, as soon as we got out, a gregale ("north-easter") came on terrifically, and occasioned us to return early next morning to Jerbah. During the night, we were nearly swamped a few miles from the shore. The gregale continued the next two days, striking down several of the date-trees with great fury. When these trees are so struck down, the people do not make use of the wood for months, nay years, because it is ill-luck. Jerbah is a grand focus of wind, and it sometimes blows from every point of the compass in twelve hours. ∆olus seems to patronize this isle; and, as at Mogador on the Atlantic, wind here supplies the place of rain. The inhabitants of Mogador have wind nine months out of twelve; but seasons pass without a shower of rain.

10th.—Evening. Left again for Tripoli. We passed the night about ten miles off the island, amongst the fishing apparatus, which looks at a distance like so many little islets. They consist of mere palm-tree boughs, struck deep into the mud as piles are driven; and large spaces are thus enclosed. When the tide[7] falls, the fish get entangled or enclosed in these enclosures, and are caught. Very fine fish are taken, and a fifth of the ordinary sustenance of the islanders is derived from this fishing. Unhappily the poor fishermen are obliged to pay from twenty-five to fifty per cent. of the fish caught to Government; so the poor in all countries are the worse treated because they are poor.

11th.—The wind becoming again foul, we put into a little place called S‚keeah, a port of the island in the S.E. Here is nothing in the shape of a port town, only a small square ruinous hovel of mud and plaster, and a rude hut put up temporarily by a Maltese, who is building a boat. I often think the Maltese are the Irish of the South. Maltese enterprise is prevalent in all parts of the Mediterranean but in their own country. The port, such as it is, is defended by a little round battery, four feet high, with three rusty pieces of cannon. If these could be fired off, the masonry would tumble to pieces. This is the present state of all the fortifications of Mahometan Barbary. It frequently happens that when a vessel of war visits the smaller Barbary ports, and wishes to fire a salute in honour of the governors, it is kindly requested this may not be done, because it is necessary etiquette to return the salute, and, if returned, the masonry of the fortifications may tumble down. The scene was wild and bare; the colours of the landscape light and bright. There were some Moors winnowing barley. An ox was treading out the corn, in Scripture fashion. Crops of barley and other grain are grown all over this fertile isle, under the date-palm and olive trees. Small boats were waiting to carry off the grain to Tunis. As in Ireland, little remains to feed the people. They must feed on dates, or fish, or vegetables and roots.

12th.—Left S‚keeah with a strong breeze. On looking back on the island it had the appearance of thousands of date-palms, boldly standing out of the sea, the land being so low as not to be discernible a few miles' distance. Jerbah, from this appearance, as from reality, deserves the name of the "Isle of Palms." After crossing the channel, which runs between the island and the continent, whose waters were deep and rough, we got aground in the Shallows, off Zarzees. This place is a round tower (burge) on the continent, with a few houses and plantations of olives and dates. Here commences the shoal-water, or bassa-fondo, as our semi-Italian boatmen called it, which continues east along the coast for eighty miles, as far as Rais-el-Makhbes. When we got off again, at the flow of the tide, we passed Biban ("two doors"), the frontier place of the Tunisian dominions. Biban is a castle, with some fifty Arab houses, built of palm-wood and leaves in the shape of hay-stacks, and is situate on an islet, on each side of which the sea passes inland and forms a large lagoon. There is at Biban a single European resident, an Italian, who acts as a French agent and spy on the frontiers of Tunis and Tripoli. He is paid about eighteen-pence a day, cheap enough for his high political mission. The French are mighty fond of planting spies all over Barbary; but espionage is their forte. In the evening we arrived at the Salinś[8], "salt pits," on the coast, where we found several small coasters loading with salt for Tripoli. Salt is also exported from this place to Europe. Here we brought up for the night, creeping and feeling our way as in the days of ancient navigation. Our bringing up, however, was fortunate, for the wind suddenly blew a gale from the N.W., continuing all night, and until next day, when it fell a dead calm again. Strange weather for the fine month of May. But the Mediterranean, which is called the "home station," is one of the nastiest chafing seas in the world, and in this fair season of the year is exposed to the most tremendous squalls, nay, continuous gales of wind.

13th.—We weighed again our little anchor, and in the afternoon cast it before Rais-el-Makhbes, the last anchoring ground of the bassa-fondo. The shore from Zarzees to Rais-el-Makhbes is extremely low. The bassa-fondo stretches off the coast in some places at least thirty or forty miles, and is so shallow, that boats of the smallest burden often ground. Here our Maltese captain observed to me, with great mystery, "See, Signore, we must now be very cautious how we act, and watch the wind, so as to take it on the very first breath of its being favourable, for from here it is all deep water to Tripoli." In general, however, the Maltese captains display more courage than the Italians in these coasters.

14th.—In the morning we cleared Cape Makhbes. The captain was to have rounded it and entered the little port of Zouwarah, where there is a quarantine agent, and landed me there according to agreement. I had letters for this place, and was to have gone thence to Tripoli by land, two or three days' journey. On remonstrating, he gravely asked, "Whether I wished to do him an injury, compelling him to go to Zouwarah, from which port he couldn't get out for the wind?" Perceiving the captain had fully made up his mind to break a written agreement, signed before the Consul, for the temporary advantage now offering, I left off remonstrating, though extremely dissatisfied. We continued our course. It soon fell calm, and, as usual, the calm was again succeeded with a violent gregale, against which we could not make head. I now told our Palinurus it was necessary to look out for the port of Tripoli Vecchia, otherwise we should be obliged to go back or keep the open sea all night, for we could not reach Tripoli to-day. Half an hour elapsed, and the wind continuing to freshen, the captain took my advice. We turned direct south, and sought the port. After experiencing some difficulty, during which the captain, to my surprise, discovered the most serious alarm, we found and entered the wished-for haven. It was a real miracle of good luck, for the wind came on dreadfully, the angry spray was covering us with water, and our sufferings would have been beyond description if we had been obliged to keep the sea. Our bark was a mere cockle-shell, into which were rammed and jammed and crammed twenty-two mortal and immortal beings: C'est ŗ dire, four sailors, fourteen Moorish passengers, including a woman and a child, two Jews, myself, and a runaway slave. So that our heartfelt thankfulness to a good Providence, pitying our folly and imprudence, may be easily imagined. In the midst of our confusion while searching for the port—having only three or four hours' daylight before us—the most ludicrous scene was enacted, which might have ended in the tragic. Some of the Moors professed to know the port of Tripoli Vecchia. Hereupon each fellow gave a different description, a thing perfectly natural, as each would have seen the port under different circumstances of time and place. "It was surrounded with white cliffs,—it was black,—rocky,—it was a sandy shore." All bawled and clamoured together. The captain put his fingers in his ears with rage. He had never been in before, or his men. At last, losing all patience, the Maltese fire got up, blown to fury, and, seizing a knife, the captain swore he would cut their throats if they didn't hold their tongues, or give a more distinct account of the port. This menace cowed them down like so many bullies, and they fell into a moody but vindictive silence, their looks discovering the internal oaths of revenge. It was really droll, if the words used allow the expression, to hear how the captain blended Italian, Maltese, and Arabic oaths and abuse in his rage. Now "Santo Dio!" now "Scomunicat!" Sacrament! now "Allah!" "Imshe," "Kelb," "Andat," "per Bacco!" &c. At length, when a sailor from the mast-head descried the port, and a tremendous surf was seen or said to be seen rolling near the entrance, the Moors, who although mostly sulky under the influence of their fatalism, and show very little courage in the dangers of the sea, cried out with fear, "Allah, Allah!" "Ya, Mohammed!" (O God! O God! O Mahomet!) The captain even felt disposed to blubber at the sight of the furious surf, so nothing less could be expected from the passengers. A bad example is this to the sailors and people, but one which often occurs aboard Italian and Maltese vessels.

15th.—The wind continued all night and the following day. It dropped down on the afternoon of the 16th; on the 17th a pleasant breeze sprung up, and continued until we got within a couple of miles off Tripoli. We were followed for three hours by a shoal of porpoises, some nearly as big as our bark, which enjoyed highly the run with us, "perceiving," as the captain said, "our motion." The first night of our anchorage in the Tripoli Vecchia, we had several alarms that the tiny bark had dragged its anchor, and was about to take us out into the open sea: no one could sleep. After the wind subsided, our Christian sailors were alarmed that we might have our throats cut by the Ishmaelite Arabs from the shore the next night. When it was quite calm we went on shore to search for water; we found a well of good water on the N.E. landing of the port. A palm beckoned us to the spring, but a single palm is often found where there is no well or water; and it is not true, as vulgarly supposed, that where there are date-palms there must be water. The country in this vicinity is a perfect desert, yet on this arid waste shepherds drive their flocks in the spring, and up to May and June. The captain considered Tripoli Vecchia, which is a very ancient port, and the site of a once famous city, more secure than that of Tripoli itself, though certainly much smaller. Whilst we were here no bark visited it. Good-sized ships occasionally anchor in it. Like Tripoli, it is defended with a sunken reef of rocks, some peaks of which rise several feet out of the water. Along this line is a strong surf always chafing and roaring. There are two mouths of entrance; the deepest water within is about twelve or fourteen feet. There is another but much smaller port, two miles further east; the coast from this to Tripoli offers nothing to the tourist. Twelve miles this way begin those forests of fine broad-waving palms, which form so noble a feature in the suburban landscape of Tripoli. When we got off Tripoli we had a dead calm, and myself looking about for the wind, the Moors got angry, and said, "Be still; if you restlessly stare about, and wish the wind to come, it will never come: you cast the 'eye malign' upon it." These superstitious ideas are not peculiar to the Moors. An English captain once told me, if I continued to stay below, the wind would never be fair. Tripoli looked here very bold, massive, and imposing from the sea; its broad lime-washed towers, and the graceful minarets beyond, all dazzling white in the sun, contrasting with the dark blue waters of the Mediterranean. Such is the delusion of all these sea-coast Barbary towns; at a distance and without, beauty and brilliancy, but near and within, filth and wretchedness.

A word of my fellow passengers and crew. Our Maltese Rais, although he broke his agreement with me, behaved well; I therefore paid him, requesting the Chancellor of our Consulate only to scold him, and warn him for the future. He is a good Maltese Christian; and when I told him Malta had fifty years' possession of Tripoli, he replied, "Ah, how the world changes! what a pity God has given this fine country into the hands of rascally Turks." Sometimes he would kick the Moors about and through the ship like cattle: at other times he would say, "Aye, come, bismillah[9]," and help them to a part of his supper. The Moors provided for only four days' provisions, a day over the average time, and they were all out of bread before arriving at Tripoli. The captain consulted me as to what was to be done; we arranged to supply them with a few biscuits every day, I taking the responsibility of payment, pitying the poor devils. If a Moor has a good passage at sea, he says, "Thank God!" if not, Maktoub, ("It is written,") and quietly submits to the evils which he has brought on himself by sheer imprudence. Their provisions, in this case, consisted of barley-meal, olive-oil, a few loaves of wheaten bread, and a little dried paste for making soup. The soup was made of a few onions, dried peppers, salt, oil, and the paste. On first starting, some of the more respectable had a few hard-boiled eggs, with which the Jews most frequently travel; and others had a little pickled fish. When the paste was finished, the barley-meal was attacked, and when this was gone, the greater part lived on biscuits sopped in water. We tried to buy a sheep from a flock driven by the shore, for which I furnished a dollar; but the current was so strong, that the man could not reach the land. One poor old Moor lived actually on bread and water all the time he was on board, and would have nothing else, telling me, "What God gives is enough." Yet he was cheerful and talkative. One of the two Jews was also a very old blind man, clothed in rags. He, too, mostly fared on biscuits sopped in water; nevertheless, he also was quite happy! "Where are you going, Abraham?" I said to him. "Where God wills I go," he replied; "but I wish to lay my poor bones in the land of our fathers. Many long years God has afflicted us for our sins, but it will not be for ever." The old gentleman was going to get a passage from Tripoli to the Holy Land. How little suffices some! How much does faith! So mysterious are the ways of the Creator in distributing contentment. For myself, I fared extremely well in the midst of this happy melťe of misery and starvation, Mr. Pariente, of Jerbah, having filled for me a large box of provisions, consisting of a leg of lamb, a fowl, pigeons, fish and bread, besides wine and spirits. But this was as liberally distributed amongst all as given to me, and not a crumb was left on arriving at Tripoli. When we were getting safe into port, I gave the grog to the crew; they had often cast wistful eyes at the acquavite, but none was poured out whilst at sea. Two or three drunken sailors would have sent our cockle-shell to the bottom; still, in spite of the coffee-drinking vessels, a little spirits may occasionally be very usefully distributed to men, fighting and wrestling with the wild waves and the tempest. Our bark was from six to eight tons' burden, and the cabin was just big enough for me and the captain to move in; the woman and child slept in the forecastle, and all the rest on deck. Each Moorish passenger paid half a dollar for the voyage. I have been thus particular in describing our coaster and its live freight, to show what misery is endured in these coasting voyages. It was, however, a fit introduction to my painful journeyings through the still more inhospitable ocean desert.

I have now to mention my runaway servant, Said. This negro was the slave of Sidi Mustapha, Consular Agent of France in Jerbah. Mustapha was formerly Consular Agent of England, and being found to possess slaves, he was dismissed. He got up however false documents, to show that he had disposed of his slaves; but this being discovered, the cheat did not avail, and he was not allowed to be any longer England's Consul. Then, seeing his imposture had failed, he again resumed power over his slaves, and Said was still his slave on my arrival at Jerbah. Hearing of this, I told Said to go on board, and wait till the boat left. He did so. The captain winked at it, and apparently every one else, for Said was securely numbered on the vessel's papers as a passenger. This, of course, happened before the Bey of Tunis finally abolished slavery, which important event took place in the beginning of the year 1846, to the eternal honour of the reigning Mussulman prince. But, even if slavery had continued in Tunis, Mustapha, the French Consular Agent in Jerbah, could have had no legal right over Said, after having given a document to the British Consul-General, certifying that he had liberated all his slaves. The runaway Said was in reality a freed man. The reader, however, will be pleased to understand that I am not justifying my conduct for enticing a slave to run away. I despise such an attempted justification. On the contrary, I consider that every man, who has the means of striking off the chains from a slave, and does not embrace the opportunity of doing so, is the rather the man who commits an offence against natural right. As to the French Consular Agent, I asked some people why the French Government did not dismiss him also for his premeditated forgery of public documents? I was told that, on the contrary, this was a reason for keeping him French Consul—that he could not be disavowed in connexion with British affairs, or, if disavowed, he must be pensioned off. A French Consul, whose acquaintance I made in North Africa, replied to me, on rallying him on the various disavowals of French functionaries in different parts of the world: "I assure you, the only way to get distinction in our consular service is to get disavowed. When disavowed about English differences, we must be decorated, or the mob of Paris and its journals would not be satisfied."

Our captain gave me a hint that, on arriving at Tripoli, there would be exhibited a good deal of fantazia, ("humbug[10]") by the health-office department. Accordingly, after we had been an hour in port, the health officer came alongside, and affected great surprise at our not having passports, and asked me, with great pomposity, what was my "reverito nome?" The Turks always adopt and caricature the worst parts of European civilization, leaving its better forms wholly unimitated. This is, perhaps, in the nature of the struggles which a semi-barbarous power may make to attain the standard of its civilized neighbour.

On landing, I went off with Said to the British Consulate. Although I had seen Colonel Warrington at Malta, I was now so sea-worn and browned with sun and wind, with an incipient desert beard, that he did not immediately recollect me. I therefore presented my letter of introduction, mentioning my name, when at once the Colonel recognized me. "Ah!" observed the Colonel, "I don't believe our Government cares one straw about the suppression of the slave-trade, but, Richardson, I believe in you, so let's be off to my garden." I rode one of the Colonel's horses, which had been so long in the stable without exercise, that I found the Barbary barb no joke. A most violent gregale swept the bare beach of the harbour as we proceeded to the gardens and plantations of the Masheeah, and the restive prancing of the horse was not unlike the dancing about of the cockle-shell bark to which I had been condemned for the last ten days. The British Garden I found to be a splendid horticultural developement, containing the choicest fruit-trees of North Africa, with ornamental trees of every shape, and hue, and foliage—all the growth of thirty years, and the greater part of them planted by the hands of Colonel Warrington himself. The villa is on the site of an ancient haunted house—for what country does not boast of its haunted house? The spot which once was visited nightly by some Saracen's-head ghost, in the midst of a waste, is now the fairest, loveliest garden of Tripoli! Amongst its rich fruit-trees is an immense peach-tree—the largest in all this part of Africa. It is a round, squatting, wide-spreading tree, not nailed up to the walls, but the size of its girth of boughs is enormous.

I must take the liberty of leaving off daily dates here. I detest daily note-writing, although the reader may find for his peculiar infliction so long a journal as these pages.

19th.—A ghiblee day. The wind from The Desert is coming with a vengeance. Its breath is the pure flame of the furnace. I am obliged to tie a handkerchief over my face in passing through the verandahs of the garden. I had not the least idea it could be so hot here in the middle of May. At 2 P.M. the thermometer in the sun was at 142į Fahrenheit.

Neither Tunis nor Tripoli has been sufficiently appreciated by the politicians of Europe. Indian and American affairs are the two ideas which occupy our merchants. And yet the best informed of the consuls in Tripoli say, "The future battles of Europe will be fought in North Africa." At this time there is considerable agitation and political intrigue afoot here. Algerian politics, also, envenom these squabbles.

The aspect of the city of Tripoli is the most miserable of all the towns I have seen in North Africa. And they say, "It grows worse and worse." Yet the present Pasha, Mehemet, is esteemed as a good and sensible man. Unfortunately, a Turkish Governor can have very little or no interest in the permanent prosperity of this country. His tenure of office is very insecure, and rarely extends beyond four or five years; so that whilst here he only thinks of providing for himself. The country is therefore in a continual state of impoverishment as governed by successive pashas. Each successive high functionary works and fleeces the people to the uttermost. Even in our own colonies the exception is, that the Governor cares more for the welfare of the colony than for his own immediate benefit. In Turkish colonies we must therefore expect the rule to be, that the Pasha should govern only for his private benefit and personal aggrandizement.

21st.—This afternoon His Highness Mehemet Pasha had arranged to grant me an interview. I was introduced, of course, by our Consul-General, Colonel Warrington. Mr. Casolaina, the Chancellor of the Consulate, and his son, were in attendance as interpreters. His Highness receives all strangers and transacts all business in an apartment of the celebrated old castle of the Karamanly Bashaws, whose legends of blood and intrigue have been so vividly and terrifically transcribed in Tully's Tripoline Letters. On entering this place I was astonished at its ruinous and repulsive appearance. Nothing could better resemble a prison, and yet a prison in the most dilapidated condition. Walking through the dark, winding, damp, mildewy passages, shedding down upon us a pestiferous dungeon influence, Colonel Warrington suddenly stopped, as if to breathe and repel the deadly miasma, and turning to me, said: "Well, Richardson, what do you think of this? Capital place this for young ladies to dance in, so light and airy. Many a poor wretch has entered here, with promises of fortune and royal favour, and has met his doom at the hand of the assassin! In my long course of service, how many KaŽds and Sheikhs I have known, who have come in here and have never gone out. I'm a great reader of Shakspeare. It's the next book after the Bible. But a thousand Shakspeares, with all their tragic genius, could never describe the passions which have worked, and the horrors which have been perpetrated, in this place." The Colonel's tragic harangue was not without its effect in these dungeon passages, and the old gentleman seemed to enjoy the shiver which he saw involuntarily agitate me. Indeed, the darksome noisome atmosphere, without this tragic appeal, could not fail to make itself felt, as Egyptian darkness was felt, after leaving the fiery heat and bright dazzling sun-light without. Winding about from one ruinous room to another, and ascending various flights of tumbling-down steps and stairs, we got up at length to the eastern end, where there are two or three new apartments constructed in the modern style. In one of them, not unlike a city merchant's receiving-parlour, we found the Pasha and his court. We were immediately introduced, and somewhat to my surprise, I found His Highness an extremely plain unmilitary-looking Turkish gentleman, of about fifty years of age, and dressed without the least pretensions of any kind. How unlike the ancient gemmed and jewelled Bashaws! flaming in "Barbaric pearl and gold." The present Ottoman costume is most simple. His Highness had only the Nisham, or Turkish decoration of brilliants upon his breast, to distinguish him from his own domestics, coffee-bearers, or others. As soon as he saw us, he hurriedly came up to us and seized hold of our hands and shook them cordially. The troops were at the moment being reviewed, and we had a good sight of them from our elevated position. They were manuvring on the sea-beach between the city and the Masheeah. "Tell the Bashaw," cried out the Colonel to Casolaina, "I never saw such splendid manuvring in all the course of my life. They do His Highness and Ahmed Bashaw, the Commander-in-Chief, infinite credit." This compliment was interpreted and graciously received though its value was no doubt properly appreciated by the politic Turk. The Colonel continued:—"Tell the Bashaw, that as long as the Sultan has such troops as these, he will be invincible." This was answered by, "Enshallah, enshallah, (If God pleases, if God pleases)". The Colonel still laid it on:—"Casolaina, tell the Bashaw, I myself should not like to command even English troops against these fine fellows." To which the Bashaw and his Court replied, "Ajeeb, (Wonderful!)" Ahmed Bashaw, the Commander-in-Chief, a most ferocious-looking Turk, seized hold of my shoulders and pushed me to the window to admire his brilliant men. I could just see that their manuvrings were in the style of the "awkward squad;" but their arms and white pantaloons dazzled beautifully in the sun upon the margin of the deep-blue sea.

After we had satisfied our curiosity or admiration in looking at the troops, the windows were shut down, and all sat down to business. His Highness began by asking my name, when I came, and what I was going to be about? The Consul replied to these first and usual questions of Turkish functionaries, and more particularly explained my projected visit to Ghadames. The Pasha immediately consented, as a matter of course, with Turkish politeness; but before the interview was concluded, various objections were started and insisted upon, showing the not suddenly excited jealousy of these functionaries, who, previous to my interview, knew all about my anti-slavery and literary projects. His Highness observed:—"The heat is killing now, the distance is great, the road is infested with robbers; I shall have to send an escort of five hundred troops with your friend, (addressing the Consul); not long ago two hundred banditti attacked a caravan. All Tunisian Arabs are robbers; the Bey of that country cannot maintain order in his country; besides, an Arab will kill ten men to get one pair of pistols; but I'll make further inquiries." His Highness also related a feat of his own troops, who captured seven camels from the banditti, which he said he distributed amongst the captors. He also gave his own people, the Tripolines, a very bad character. But, of course, the Tripolines and the Turks must mutually hate one another. We were served with pipes, coffee, and sherbet. I pretended to sip the pipe two or three times, as a matter of politeness, for though I have been in Barbary some time, where smoking is universal, I have not adopted the dirty vice. Near the Pasha sat the second in command, or Commander-in-Chief of the forces, the Pasha himself devoting his attention almost exclusively to civil affairs. As I have said, this functionary was a most savage-looking fellow, and his acts in Tripoli and his reputation accord with the character broadly stamped on his countenance. He has risen from the lowest ranks—one of the canaille of the Levant—and is blood-thirsty and vindictive whenever he has the means of showing these dreadful passions. How many tyrants have risen from the ranks of those who are the victims and objects of tyranny!

The Consul hinted to me afterwards, that this military tyrant would oppose my journey to the interior, and throw all sorts of obstacles in the way, but thought the Pasha would not listen to his insinuations. On asking the Consul what he thought of the objections of the Pasha? he said: "Oh, they are only to increase the merit of his facilitating your trip." Mehemet Pasha has the rank of three tails, and the Pasha of the Troops two tails. There was present also Mohammed Aly, a Moor, who interprets between the Moors and Arabs, and the Turks. He is said to be entirely in the interest of the English. He frequently visits the Vice-Consul, Mr. Herbert Warrington, who treats the interpreter with a bottle of champaigne, and in this way things are greatly smoothed down before His Highness. A glass of wine is often more potent than an elaborate speech in these and other diplomatic transactions. It is but justice to these functionaries to say, whatever money they may take away from Tripoli, that they are very moderate in their style of living and dress in this place. The apartment in which we were received was exceedingly plain. All the furniture was of the most ordinary European stuff; there was nothing oriental in it but a large square ottoman. A few flowers were placed gracefully on the table, and there was a pretty bronzed lamp. We visitors sat on cane-bottomed chairs. The costume of these high functionaries was the usual large Turkish frock-coat, tightly buttoned up, and white or other light-coloured pantaloons, for summer wear, and these strapped over thick heavy black leather shoes, the straps often inside the shoes as an Ottoman improvement on the European fashion. The head was covered with the shasheeah, or fez, with a large blue silk tassel hanging prettily from the crown. On the breast hung the Nisham decoration, distinguishing the various grades and rank.

We left His Highness under the impression that he would do every thing in his power to forward our views, and never dreamt of a future memorandum of recall after having reached Ghadames with His Highness's permission.

It is not now my intention to give an account of Tripoli, so I pass on to a second interview I had with the Bashaw. This was on the 7th of July. In this long interval, I had been waiting for letters from England, and in every way was learning lessons of most imperturbable patience.

I was visiting some sick officers in the castle with a Maltese doctor of the name of Gameo, whose acquaintance I had made, and whom I found useful in collecting information on Tripoli and the interior, when one of the functionaries of the Castle came to tell me the Bashaw would like to see me. I felt some delicacy in going, but thought it better to comply with the wish of His Highness. There was immediately presented to me, as usual to all visitors, a pipe, coffee, and sherbet. Our interview lasted about half an hour, and the conversation was to the point, referring solely to my journey to the interior. But, although I exerted all my skill and tact, I could not remove the jealousies of His Highness, and I believe for one, and only one reason. It had been given out in Tripoli that I was to be appointed Consul at Ghadames. The Bashaw fearing that such an appointment would interfere with his system of extorting money from the inhabitants of that country (the treasury being empty in Tripoli), set his face against my journey, and endeavoured to delay it until he could get a counter order from Constantinople. His Highness was however very polite, and promised to furnish me with tents, if I had need, and a large escort. The Turks are getting sensitive of the press. The Bashaw said he had heard I was a great newspaper writer, and asked me if I had any objection to writing an article in his praise.

At the end of the month of July (30th), Colonel Warrington suggested to me the propriety of writing to him a letter, stating my wish and objects in visiting the interior. I did so, and received an answer from the Colonel the same day. Mr. Frederick Warrington, who had great influence with several people about His Highness, and myself, went again to the Bashaw, in order to conciliate His Highness and persuade him to give a bon‚ fide protection to me through the interior of Tripoli, as also to obtain a passport. It unfortunately happened, that about a week ago, a Ghadames caravan had been captured by some hostile Arabs on the frontiers of Tunis. His Highness immediately produced this case, and said it was impossible for me to go whilst the routes were so insecure. He also alleged, and with more reason:—"The season was now too late, the heat was intolerable, and an European of my delicate constitution must succumb." We therefore returned much depressed. Colonel Warrington then, annoyed at the Bashaw's resistance, wrote the next day a letter to his Chancellor, requesting him to wait upon the Bashaw, and demand formally a passport for me, my servant, and camel-driver. I went with Mr. Casolaina, but did not see His Highness, waiting only at the door of the hall of audience, in case I should be wanted. His Highness apologized for his opposition, stating his objections of the season and the insecurity of the routes, but gave the order for the passports. I find the following note in my journal:—"Left Tripoli for Ghadames on the 2nd August, 1845; I had grown completely tired of Tripoli, and left it without a single regret, having suffered much from several sources of annoyance, including both the Consulate and the Bashaw."


[6] Many newspaper articles have been written, and companies formed, for the promotion of exploring for sulphur in Tripoli (the Syrtis); but somehow or other, all these schemes have failed. I have been told there is sulphur in the Syrtis, and the failure of obtaining it in remunerative quantity is to be attributed alone to the chicanery or want of skill in the agent.

[7] There is a far greater ebb and flow of tide here than at any other coast of the Mediterranean, the sea rising and falling no less than ten feet. This tidal phenomenon extends to the Lesser Syrtis and to Sfax.

[8] Like the fish-lakes of Biserta in Tunis, these salt-pits were worked by the ancients, and have been inexhaustible and unchangeable through two thousand years. Whatever may be the geological changes in other regions of the globe, those of North Africa are not very rapid, beyond filling up a few of the artificial harbours, or cothons, with mud. Barbary contains several Roman bridges which have spanned a stream remaining the same size, and running in the same bed, through a course of centuries. The salt of the Salinś is of good quality.

[9] Bismillah, "In the name of God," the formula used by Moslems when they partake of food. In the Lingua Franca we have sometimes "Avete bismillah?" or "bismillahato?" that is, "taken your meal?"

[10] In the present application, for this Lingua Franca word generally means "vain silly shewing off." The "playing at powder," or "firing off matchlocks for amusement," is also called a fantazia in Algeria and Morocco.



Leave Tripoli for the Interior.—Feelings on Starting.—Ghargash.—Gameo, the great quack of Tripoli.—Janzour.—Account of my Equipment.—Camels fond of the Cactus.—Arab Tents.—Jedaeen.—Zouweeah.—The Sahara.—Beer-el-Hamra.—Squabbling at the Wells.—The strength of Caravan, and character of Escort.—Shouwabeeah.—Difficulty of keeping the Caravan together.—Camels cropping herbage en route.—The Kailah or Siesta.—Arab Troops seize the Water of the Merchants.—Wady Lethel.—Irregular March of the Caravan.—A‚eeat.—Descent into Wells.—Learn the value of Water.—The Atlas and its Tripoline divisions and subdivisions.—The ascent of Yefran, and its Castle.

NOTHING is more common than that, after long delay and various negotiations, in waiting and preparing for a journey, everything at last is hurried with a most reckless dispatch; this, at least, was the case with me. I was to have been escorted out of Tripoli by the Consular corps, with the British Consul at their head, in the wonted style of Europeans setting out for the interior. But on the morning of the 2nd August, before I could finish my letters for England, or get my luggage together, came my camel-driver Mohammed, who, at the sight of my papers all spread out, began whining and blubbering, protesting, "The ghafalah[11] is gone; we can't overtake it—we shall be murdered, if we delay behind." Without saying a word in reply, I amassed and bundled up everything together, and gave him the baggage; then went off to the Souk, or market-place, to buy some fresh bread,—and found myself on the way to Ghadames, before I was conscious of having left Tripoli. Such is the excitement and vagaries of human feeling! Not being accustomed to mount the camel, I determined to hire some donkeys to ride to the first station; Gameo and one of his brothers accompanied me. When I could breathe freely, as I rode on my unknown way, with a boundless prospect before me, I felt my heart rebound with joy, and commended myself humbly to the care of a good God, not knowing what was to happen to me. I had consumed three months of most suffering patience in Tripoli before I could start on this journey, and was otherwise schooled for what was about to take place. But I must not begin too early the record of my complaints.

Our first day's ride was mostly through desert lands, for The Desert reaches to the walls of the city of Tripoli. The little village of Gargash was seen at our right, near the margin of the sea. Gameo exclaimed, "There's the little mosque—there's the little cemetery—there are the little gardens, little palms!"—and little this, and little the other: indeed, it was a perfect miniature of congregated human existence. Arrived at Janzour, Gameo and his brother prepared to return. But previous to his leaving, Gameo, who was a tabeeb of great notoriety, determined to display his healing art. He took out his lancet, and forthwith bled everybody in the KaŽd's caravanseria. When his brother begged of him not to bleed any more people unless they paid him something—not to be such a sciocco ("ninny,") he turned round upon him, and indignantly exclaimed "Ancora voglio lasciare il mio nome qui" (Here I will leave my name also!) It was the delight of Gameo to be the grand tabeeb of Tripoli, and even to prescribe for the officers and subordinate bashaws; and yet Gameo and his family many days were without bread to eat, to my certain knowledge. I relieved them as much as I could. The Moors and Arabs are very funny about bleeding, and the matters of the tabeeb; they will ask you to bleed them when in perfect health. All these persons who were bled at Janzour had no ailments; they will also swallow physic, whether well or ill. One of them consulted Gameo privately how he was to obtain children from his wife, who was barren. Another wished to obtain the affections of a girl by administering to her a dose of medicine. They consider a doctor in the light, in which our fathers of the time of Friar Bacon did, of a magician, and a person who holds some sort of illicit intercourse with the devil, or, at any rate, with the genii. They never give the doctor credit for his skill, but attribute his wit and success to the blessing or interposition of God.

After taking leave of Gameo, I waited for Mohammed and Said; we had gone on quickly with the donkeys. They came up with the camels, but instead of encamping within the village, the ghafalah had brought up outside. This annoyed Mohammed, who kept exclaiming, as we went to the rendezvous of the merchants, "Ah! Gameo, that's him, Gameo, Gameo! What trouble he has brought upon us, Gameo! Gameo! he a tabeeb? Not fit to give physic to a dog. Gameo! Gameo! always talking—always talking; the devil take him, for he's his son." We reached the encampment as the shadows of night fell fast; we did not take supper, or pitch tent. My spirits gave way, and I felt fearful and saddened at the prospect of going into the interior absolutely alone. I had not a single letter of recommendation to any one, after waiting so long at Tripoli, and so much talk with all sorts of people about the necessity of having letters for the chiefs of The Desert. This was, indeed, bad management; yet I could not insist upon the Pasha giving me a letter, nor could I importune the British Consul: but it often happens, where there is less help from man, there is more from God. Many of the Ghadamsee merchants, whose acquaintance I had made in Tripoli, came now to me and welcomed me as a fellow-traveller. Janzour is a small village, with gardens of olives and date plantations.

August 3rd.—Before starting to-day, it is necessary to give some account of my equipment. I had two camels on hire, for which I paid twelve dollars. I was to ride one continually. We had panniers on it, in which I stowed away about two months' provisions. A little fresh provision we were to purchase en route. Upon these panniers a mattress was placed, forming with them a comfortable platform. As a luxury, I had a Moorish pillow for leaning on, given me by Mr. Frederick Warrington. The camel was neither led nor reined, but followed the group. I myself was dressed in light European clothes, and furnished with an umbrella for keeping off the sun. This latter was all my arms of offence and defence. The other camel carried a trunk and some small boxes, cooking utensils, and matting, and a very light tent for keeping off sun and heat. We had two gurbahs, or "skin-bags for water," and another we were to buy in the mountains, so each having a skin of water to himself. Said was to ride this camel, and now and then give a ride to Mohammed the camel-driver, to whom the camels belonged. We were roused before daylight. I made coffee with my spirit apparatus (spiriterio). In half an hour after the dawn, we were all on the move, and soon started. The ghafalah presented an interminable line of camels, as it wound its slow way through narrow sandy lanes, hedged on each side with the cactus or prickly-pear. We progressed very irregularly, and the camels kept throwing off their burdens. The Moors and Arabs, who manage almost everything badly, even hardly know how to manage their camels, after ages of experience. It is, however, very difficult to drive the camels past a prickly-pear hedge, they being voraciously fond of the huge succulent leaves of this plant, and crop them with the most savage greediness, regardless of the continual blows, accompanied with loud shouts, which they receive from the vociferous drivers to get them forward. I wore my cloak for two hours after dawn, and felt chilly, and yet at noonday the thermometer was at least 130į Fah., in the sun. We emerged from the prickly-pear hedges upon an open desert land. Here was an encampment of Arabs, with tents as "black" and "comely" in this glare and fire of the full morning sun, as "the tents of Kedar!" (See Solomon's Songs i. 5.) Nothing indeed is more refreshing than the sight of these black camel's-hair tents, when travelling over these arid thirsty plains. The whole households of the tents were alive, but their various occupations will be seen better in the following sketch than pictured to the mind by any elaborate description.

Encamped at Jedaeem about 10 o'clock, A.M. Remained here only two hours and proceeded to Zouweeah, a large village, situate in the midst of most pleasant gardens, or rather cultivated lands, overshadowed with date groves. These gardens are considered superior to those of the Masheeah around Tripoli. Passed through the whole district by 3 P.M., and then entered what is usually called the Sahara, this side the Mountains. This desert presents sand hills, loose stones scattered about, dwarf shrubs, long coarse grass, and sometimes small undulations of rocky ground. It is, however, overrun by a few nomade tribes, who feed their flocks on the ungrateful and scant herbage which it affords. Tripoli, in general offers a remarkable contrast to Tunis and other parts of Barbary, in having its Arab tribes located in stone and mud houses or fixed douwars, whilst nomade Arabs are found thickly scattered all over the West, as far as the Atlantic. Zouweeah is the last belad, or paesi, (i. e., "cultivated country,") before we reach The Mountains, which are two days' journey distant. I therefore sent Mohammed to buy a small sheep, but he could not succeed although there were many flocks about, the people absurdly refusing to sell them, even when the full price was offered. The Arabs themselves never eat meat as the rule, but the exception, supporting themselves on the milk of their flocks and farinaceous matter. Olive-oil and fat and fruit they devour. Of vegetables they eat, but with little gusto. Their flocks are kept as a sort of reserve wealth, and to pay their contributions. Our course to-day and yesterday was west and south-west. At sunset we encamped at Beer-el-Hamra ("red-well"), which is a well-spring of very good water, ten feet deep, the water issuing from the sides of the rocky soil. Here we found artificial pits or troughs for the sheep and cattle to drink from, and trunks of the date-palms hollowed out for the camels. When a ghafalah passes a well there is the greatest confusion to get all the camels to drink, and the people quarrel and fight about this, as well as for their turn to fill their water-skins. This quarrelling at the wells forcibly reminds the Biblical reader of the contest of Moses in favour of the daughters of Jethro against the ungallant shepherds. (Exodus i. 17.) We take in no more water till we get to The Mountains.

Here mention must be made of the strength of our caravan, as all are to rendezvous at this well for safety, to start together over The Desert to The Mountains. It was half a day's advance of this where the Ghadamsee ghafalah had been lately plundered of all its goods and camels. As soon as the Seb‚ah banditti appeared, the merchants, who were without escort, all ran away like frightened gazelles. One man alone had his arm scratched. Our ghafalah, besides casual travellers going to The Mountains, consisted of some two hundred camels, laden chiefly with merchandize for the interior, Soudan, and Timbuctoo. Thirty or forty merchants, nearly all of Ghadames, to whom the goods belong, accompany these camels. To ascertain its value would be hopeless, for the merchants, with the real jealousy of mercantile rivalry, conceal their affairs from one another. Two of the principal Ghadamsee merchants are with us, the Sheikh Makouran and Haj Mansour, besides a son of the great house of Ettence. These merchants belong to the rival factions of the city, and accordingly have separate encampments. The greater number of the merchants of our ghafalah are only petty traders, some with only a camel-load of merchandize. We are escorted by sixty Arab troops on foot, with a commandant and some subordinate sheikhs on horseback. They are to protect us to The Mountains, where it is said all danger ends. They are poor, miserable devils to look at, hungry, lank, lean, and browned to blackness, armed with matchlocks, which continually miss fire, and covered with rags, or mostly having only a single blanket to cover their dirty and emaciated bodies. Some are without shoes, and others have a piece of camel's skin cut in the shape of a sole of the foot, and tied up round the ankles: some have a scull-cap, white or red, and others are bare-headed. I laughed when I surveyed with my inexperienced eye these grisly, skeleton, phantom troops, and thought of the splendid invincible guard which the Pasha promised me. And yet amongst these wretched beings was riding sublime an Arab Falstaff.

4th.—Morning. Find the greater part of the ghafalah has not yet come up. We are to wait for them, being the advanced body. Expect them in the afternoon. It is exceedingly difficult to keep these various groups of merchants together; each group is its own sovereign master and will have its own way. The commandant is constantly swearing at each party to get all to march together; now and then he draws his sword and shakes it over their heads. "You are dogs," he says to one; "you are worse than this Christian Kafer amongst us," (myself,) he bawls to another.

Have, thank God, suffered little up to now, although intensely hot in the day-time, and my eyes so bad that I cannot look at the sun, and scarcely on daylight without a shade. They were bad on leaving Tripoli, having caught a severe ophthalmia from the refraction of the hot rocks when bathing. My left arm is also still very weak, from the accident of falling into a dry well a little before I started. I can't mount the camel without assistance, but begin to ride without that sickly sensation, not unlike sea-sickness, which I felt the first day's riding. Drink brandy frequently, but in small quantities and greatly diluted, and find great benefit from it; drink also coffee and tea. Eat but little, and scarcely any meat. The Arabs of the country brought a few sheep to sell this morning, but asked double the Tripoli price; so nobody purchased. Bought myself a fowl for eighty Turkish paras. The people of the ghafalah civil, but all the lower classes will beg continually if you are willing to give. Each one offers his advice and consolation on my tour; but Mohammed keeps all the hungry Arabs at a respectable distance, lest I should give to them what belongs to his share, like servants who don't wish their masters to be generous to others if it interferes with their own prerogatives.

We left in the afternoon and encamped in The Desert at Shouwabeeah. The Desert here presents nothing but long coarse grass and undulating ground. I observed a patch which had been cultivated, the stubble of barley remaining, which the camels devoured most voraciously. Chopped barley-straw is the favourite food of all animals of burden in North Africa; horses will feed on it for six months together, and get fat. En route the chief of the escort had great trouble to keep the caravan together; he made the advanced parties wait till the others came up, so as all to be ready in case of attack. One would think the merchants, for their own sakes, would keep together; but no, it's all maktoub with them; "If they are to be robbed and murdered they must be robbed and murdered, and the Bashaw and all his troops can't prevent it." This they reiterated to me whilst the commandant bullied them; and yet these same men had each of them a matchlock and pistols besides. The Sheikh Makouran had no less than four guns on his camel. I asked him what they were for. He coolly replied, "I don't know. God knows." The camels browse or crop herbage all the way along, daintily picking and choosing the herbage and shrubs which they like best. My chief occupation in riding is watching them browse, and observing the epicurean fancies of these reflective, sober-thinking brutes of The Desert. I observe also as a happy trait in the Arab, that nothing delights him more than watching his own faithful camel graze. The ordinary drivers sometimes allow them to graze, and wait till they have cropped their favourite herbage and shrubs, and at other times push them forward according to their caprice. The camel, with an intuitive perception, knows all the edible and delicate herbs and shrubs of The Desert, and when he finds one of his choicest it is difficult to get him on until he has cropped a good mouthful. But I shall have much to write of this sentient "ship of The Desert." It is hard to forget the ship which carries one safely over the ocean, whose plank intervenes between our life and a bottomless grave of waters: so we tourists of The Desert acquire a peculiar affection for the melancholy animal, whose slow but faithful step carries us through the hideous wastes of sand and stone, where all life is extinct, and where, if left a moment behind the camel's track, certain death follows.

5th.—Rose at daybreak, and pursued our way through the Desert. Saw the mountains early, stretching far away east and west in undefined and shadowy but glorious magnificence,—some of deep black hue, and others reddened over with the morning sunbeams. It is a gladdening, elevating sight. The presence of a vast range of mountains always raises the mind and imagination of man. Encamped during the Kailah , or from 10 o'clock A.M., to 3 P.M. This is the siesta of the Spaniards, and it is probable the Moors introduced it into Spain. It is also the mezzogiorno of the Italians and the Frank population of Barbary. But the Italians usually dine before they take their midday nap. Our object here is to shelter ourselves from the greatest force of the heat of the day. None of us dine. In the afternoon the Arab soldiers, being without water, began to seize that of the merchants, after having demanded it from them in vain. In one case they robbed a merchant under the pretext of getting water. They also attempted to take water from my camels, but I resisted, threatening to report them to the Bashaw. After a scuffle with my negro servant and camel-driver, in which affair Said drew out manfully from the scabbard the old rusty sword which I presented to him on leaving Tripoli—to gird round him as a warrior badge—they desisted and retreated. The sub-officer of the escort came up to me afterwards, and begged that I would say nothing about the business. I gave him a suck of brandy-and-water, and we were mighty good friends all the way. Our course was south to-day, striking directly at The Mountains. We encamped about midnight at the Wady Lethel, the name of which is derived from the tree Lethel , frequent in the Sahara.

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