The Island of Elephanta is about six or eight miles distant from Bombay. Herr Wattenbach was so kind as to take me there one day. I saw some rather high mountains, which, however, we did not ascend; we visited only the temples, which are very near to the landing- place.
The principal temple resembles the larger viharas at Adjunta, with the single exception, that it is separated on both sides from the solid rock, and is connected with it only above, below, and at the back. In the sanctuary stands a gigantic three-headed bust. Some believe that it represents the Hindoo Trinity; one of the heads is full-faced, the two others in profile, one right, the other left. The bust, including the head-dress, measures certainly as much as eight feet. On the walls and in the niches, there are a number of giant statues and figures; in fact, whole scenes of the Hindoo mythology. The female figures are remarkable; they all have the left hip turned out, the right turned inwards. The temple appears to be devoted to the god Shiva.
In the neighbourhood of the large temple stands a smaller one, whose walls are also covered with deities. Both temples were much injured by the Portuguese, who, when they conquered the island, in their noble religious zeal planted cannon before them, in order to destroy the shocking Pagan temples; in which attempt they succeeded much better than in the conversion of the Pagans. Several columns are quite in ruins; nearly all are more or less damaged, and the ground is covered with fragments. None of either the gods or their attendants escaped uninjured.
There is a most enchanting view across the sea of the extensive town, and the delightful hills surrounding it, from the facade of the large temple. We passed a whole day here very agreeably. During the hot hours of noon, we amused ourselves by reading in the cool shadows of the temple. Herr Wattenbach had sent on several servants previously; among others, the cook, together with tables, chairs, provisions, books, and newspapers. In my opinion, this was rather superfluous; but what would my countrywomen have said could they have seen the English family which we accidentally met with here; they carried several couches, easy chairs, enormous foot- stools, a tent, etc., with them. That is what I call a simple country party!
Salsetta (also called Tiger Island) is united to Bombay by means of a short artificial dam. The distance from the fort to the village, behind which the temples are situated, is eighteen miles, which we travelled, with relays of horses, in three hours. The roads were excellent, the carriage rolled along as if on a floor.
The natural beauty of this island far exceeds that of Bombay. Not mere rows of hills, but magnificent mountain chains here raise their heads, covered even to their summits with thick woods, from which bare cliffs here and there project; the valleys are planted with rich fields of corn, and slender green palms.
The island does not appear to be densely populated. I saw only a few villages and a single small town inhabited by Mahrattas, whose appearance is as needy and dirty as those near Kundalla.
From the village where we left the carriage we had still three miles to go to the temples.
The principal temple alone is in the style of a chaitza; but it is surrounded by an uncommonly high porch, at both extremities of which idols one-and-twenty feet high stand in niches. Adjoining to the right is a second temple, which contains several priests' cells, allegorical figures of deities, and reliefs. Besides these two, there are innumerable other smaller ones in the rocks, which extend on both sides from the principal temple; I was told there were more than a hundred. They are all viharas with the exception of the principal temple; the greater number, however, are scarcely larger than ordinary small chambers, and are destitute of any peculiarity.
The rock temples of Elephanta and Salsetta rank, in respect to magnitude, grandeur, and art, far below those of Adjunta and Elora, and are of interest only to those who have not seen the latter.
It is said that the temples at Salsetta are not much visited, because there is considerable danger attending it; the country is represented to be full of tigers, and so many wild bees are said to swarm round the temples that it is impossible to enter them; and moreover the robbers, which are known by the name of bheels, live all round here. We fortunately met with none of these misfortunes. Later, indeed, I wandered about here alone. I was not satisfied with a single sight, and left my friends privately while they were taking their noon rest, and clambered from rock to rock as far as the most remote temple. In one I found the skin and horns of a goat that had been devoured, which sight somewhat frightened me; but trusting to the unsociability of the tiger, who will rather fly from a man in broad day than seek him out, I continued my ramble. We had, as I have said, no danger to resist; it was different with two gentlemen who, some days later, nearly fell victims, not indeed to wild beasts, but to wild bees. One of them knocked upon an opening in the side of the rock, when an immense swarm of bees rushed out upon them, and it was only by the greatest exertion that they escaped, miserably stung on the head, face, and hands. This occurrence was published in the newspapers as a warning for others.
The climate of Bombay is healthier than that of Calcutta; even the heat is more tolerable on account of the continual sea-breezes, although Bombay lies five degrees further south. The mosquitoes here, as in all hot countries, are very tormenting. A centipede slipped into my bed one evening, but I fortunately discovered it in time.
I had already decided upon taking my passage in an Arabian boat, which was to leave for Bassora on the 2nd of April, when Herr Wattenbach brought the news that on the 10th a small steamer would make its first voyage to Bassora. This afforded me great pleasure— I did not suspect that it would happen with a steamer as with a sailing vessel, whose departure is postponed from day to day; nevertheless, we did not leave the harbour of Bombay until the 23rd of April.
CHAPTER XVII. FROM BOMBAY TO BAGHDAD.
DEPARTURE FROM BOMBAY—SMALL-POX—MUSCAT—BANDR-ABAS—THE PERSIANS— THE KISHMA STRAITS—BUSCHIR—ENTRANCE INTO THE SCHATEL-ARAB— BASSORA—ENTRANCE INTO THE TIGRIS—BEDOUIN TRIBES—CTESIPHON AND SELEUCIA—ARRIVAL AT BAGHDAD.
The steamer "Sir Charles Forbes" (forty horse-power, Captain Lichfield) had only two cabins, a small and a large one. The former had already been engaged for some time by an Englishman, Mr. Ross; the latter was bespoken by some rich Persians for their wives and children. I was, therefore, obliged to content myself with a place upon deck; however, I took my meals at the captain's table, who showed me the most extreme attention and kindness during the whole voyage.
The little vessel was, in the fullest sense of the word, overloaded with people; the crew alone numbered forty-five; in addition to that there were 124 passengers, chiefly Persians, Mahomedans, and Arabs. Mr. Ross and myself were the only Europeans. When this crowd of persons were collected, there was not the smallest clear space on the deck; to get from one place to another it was necessary to climb over innumerable chests and boxes, and at the same time to use great caution not to tread upon the heads or feet of the people.
In such critical circumstances I looked about immediately to see where I could possibly secure a good place. I found what I sought, and was the most fortunate of all the passengers, more so than even Mr. Ross, who could not sleep any night in his cabin on account of the heat and insects. My eye fell upon the under part of the captain's dinner-table, which was fixed upon the stern deck; I took possession of this place, threw my mantle round me, so that I had a pretty secure position, and no cause to fear that I should have my hands, feet, or indeed my head trodden upon.
I was somewhat unwell when I left Bombay, and on the second day of the voyage a slight attack of bilious fever came on. I had to contend with this for five days. I crept painfully from my asylum at meal times to make way for the feet of the people at table. I did not take any medicine (I carried none with me), but trusted to Providence and my good constitution.
A much more dangerous malady than mine was discovered on board on the third day of the voyage. The small-pox was in the large cabin. Eighteen women and seven children were crammed in there. They had much less room than the negroes in a slave-ship; the air was in the highest degree infected, and they were not allowed to go on the deck, filled as it was with men; even we deck passengers were in great anxiety lest the bad air might spread itself over the whole ship through the opened windows. The disease had already broken out on the children before they were brought on board; but no one could suspect it, as the women came late at night, thickly veiled, and enveloped in large mantles, under which they carried the children. It was only on the third day, when one of the children died, that we discovered our danger.
The child was wrapped in a white cloth, fastened upon a plank, which was weighted by some pieces of coal or stone, and lowered into the sea. At the moment that it touched the water, the waves closed over it, and it was lost to our sight.
I do not know whether a relation was present at this sad event; I saw no tears flow. The poor mother might, indeed, have sorrowed, but she dare not accompany her child; custom forbade it.
Two more deaths occurred, the other invalids recovered, and the contagion happily did not spread any further.
30th April. Today we approached very near to the Arabian coast, where we saw a chain of mountains which were barren and by no means attractive. On the following morning (1st of May) small forts and watch-towers made their appearance, here and there, upon the peaks of beautiful groups of rock, and presently, also, a large one was perceptible upon an extensive mountain at the entrance of a creek.
We came to anchor off the town of Muscat, which lies at the extremity of the creek. This town, which is subject to an Arabian prince, is very strongly fortified, and surrounded by several ranges of extraordinarily formed rocks, all of which are also occupied by forts and towers. The largest of these excites a sad reminiscence: it was formerly a cloister of Portuguese monks, and was attacked by the Arabs one night, who murdered the whole of its inmates. This occurrence took place about two centuries since.
The houses of the town are built of stone, with small windows and terraced roofs. Two houses, distinguished from the others only by their larger dimensions, are the palaces of the mother of the reigning prince, and of the sheikh (governor). Some of the streets are so narrow that two persons can scarcely walk together. The bazaar, according to the Turkish custom, consists of covered passages, under which the merchants sit cross-legged before their miserable stalls.
In the rocky valley in which Muscat lies the heat is very oppressive (124 degrees Fah. in the sun), and the sunlight is very injurious to the eyes, as it is not in the slightest degree softened by any vegetation. Far and wide there are no trees, no shrubs or grass to be seen. Every one who is in any way engaged here, go as soon as their business is finished to their country-houses situated by the open sea. There are no Europeans here; the climate is considered fatal to them.
At the back of the town lies a long rocky valley, in which is a village containing several burial-places, and, wonderful to say, a little garden with six palms, a fig, and a pomegranate-tree. The village is larger and more populous than the town; containing 6,000 inhabitants, while the latter has only 4,000. It is impossible to form any conception of the poverty, filth, and stench in this village; the huts stand nearly one over the other, are very small, and built only of reeds and palm-leaves; every kind of refuse was thrown before the doors. It requires considerable self-denial to pass through such a place, and I wonder that plague, or some other contagion, does not continually rage there. Diseases of the eyes and blindness are, however, very frequent.
From this valley I passed into a second, which contains the greatest curiosity of Muscat, a rather extensive garden, which, with its date-palms, flowers, vegetables, and plantations, constitutes a true picture of an oasis in the desert. The vegetation is only kept up, for the most part, by continual watering. The garden belongs to the Arabian prince. My guide seemed to be very proud of this wonderful garden, and asked me whether there were such beautiful gardens in my country!
The women in Muscat wear a kind of mask of blue stuff over the face, fastened upon springs or wires, which project some distance beyond the face; a hole is cut in the mask between the forehead and nose, which allows something more than the eyes to be seen. These masks are worn by the women only when they are at some distance from home; in and near their houses they are not used. All the women that I saw were very ugly; the men, also, had not the fine, proud features which are so frequently met with among the Arabians. Great numbers of negroes are employed here as slaves.
I made this excursion at the time of the greatest heat (124 degrees Fah. in the sun), and rather weakened by my illness, but did not experience the slightest ill consequences. I had been repeatedly warned that in warm countries the heat of the sun was very injurious to Europeans who were not accustomed to it, and frequently caused fever and sometimes even sun-stroke. If I had attended to every advice, I should not have seen much. I did not allow myself to be led astray—went out in all weathers, and always saw more than my companions in travel.
On the 2nd of May we again set sail, and on the 3rd of May entered the Persian Sea, and passed very near to the island of Ormus. The mountains there are remarkable for a variegated play of colours; many spots shine as if they were covered with snow. They contain large quantities of salt, and numbers of caravans come annually from Persia and Arabia to procure it. In the evening we reached the small Persian town of Bandr-Abas, off which we anchored.
May 4th. The town is situated on low hills of sand and rocks, which are separated from higher mountains by a small plain. Here also the whole country is barren and wild; solitary groups of palms are found only in the plains.
I looked wistfully towards the land,—I would gladly have visited Persia. The captain, however, advised me not to do so in the dress I wore; because, as he informed me, the Persians were not so good- natured as the Hindoos, and the appearance of a European woman in this remote district was too uncommon an event; I might probably be greeted with a shower of stones.
Fortunately there was a young man on board who was half English and half Persian (his father, an Englishman, had married an Armenian from Teheran), and spoke both languages equally well. I asked him to take me on shore, which he very readily did. He conducted me to the bazaar, and through several streets. The people indeed flocked from all sides and gazed at me, but did not offer me the slightest annoyance.
The houses here are small, and built in the Oriental style, with few windows, and terraced roofs. The streets are narrow, dirty, and seemingly uninhabited; the bazaar only appeared busy. The bakers here prepare their bread in the most simple manner, and, indeed, immediately in the presence of their customers: they knead some meal with water into a dough, in a wooden dish, separate this into small pieces, which they squeeze and draw out with their hands, until they are formed into large thin flakes, which are smeared over with salt water, and stuck into the inner side of a round tube. These tubes are made of clay, are about eighteen inches in diameter, and twenty-two in length; they are sunk one half in the ground, and furnished with an air-draft below. Wood-charcoal is burnt inside the tube at the bottom. The cakes are baked on both sides at once; at the back by the red-hot tube, and in front by the charcoal fire. I had half-a-dozen of such cakes baked—when eaten warm, they are very good.
It is easy to distinguish the Persians from the Arabs, of whom there are many here. The former are larger, and more strongly built; their skin is whiter, their features coarse and powerful, and their general appearance rude and wild. Their dress resembles that of the Mahomedans. Many wear turbans, others a conical cap of black Astrachan, from a foot to one and a half high.
I was told of so great an act of gratitude of the young man, Mr. William Hebworth, who accompanied me to Bandr-Abas, that I cannot omit to mention it. At the age of sixteen he went from Persia to Bombay, where he met with the kindest reception in the house of a friend of his father's, by whom he was assisted in every way, and even obtained an appointment through his interest. One day his patron, who was married, and the father of four children, had the misfortune to be thrown from his horse, and died from the effects of the fall. Mr. Hebworth made the truly noble resolve of marrying the widow, who was much older than himself, and, instead of property, possessed only her four children, that he might in this way pay the debt of gratitude which he owed to his deceased benefactor.
In Bandr-Abas we hired a pilot to take us through the Straits of Kishma. About noon we sailed.
The passage through these straits is without danger for steamers, but is avoided by sailing vessels, as the space between the island Kishma and the mainland is in parts very narrow, and the ships might be driven on to the shore by contrary winds.
The inland forms an extended plain, and is partially covered with thin underwood. Great numbers of people come from the neighbouring mainland to fetch wood from here.
The captain had spoken very highly of the remarkable beauty of this voyage, the luxuriance of the island, the spots where the sea was so narrow that the tops of the palms growing on the island and mainland touched each other, etc. Since the last voyage of the good captain, a very unfrequent phenomenon would seem to have taken place—the lofty slender palms were transformed into miserable underwood, and, at the narrowest point, the mainland was at least half a mile from the island. Strange to say, Mr. Ross afterwards gave the same description of the place; he believed the captain in preference to his own eyes.
At one of the most considerable contractions stands the handsome fort Luft. Fifteen years since the principal stronghold of the Persian pirates was in this neighbourhood. A severe battle was fought between them and the English, near Luft, in which upwards of 800 were killed, many taken prisoners, and the whole gang broken up. Since that event, perfect security has been restored.
5th May. We left the straits, and three days later came to anchor off Buschir.
There are considerable quantities of sea-weeds and molluscae in the Persian Gulf; the latter had many fibres, were of a milk-white colour, and resembled a forest agaric in form; others had a glistening rose colour with small yellow spots. Conger eels of two or three feet in length were not uncommon.
8th May. The town of Buschir is situated on a plain six miles from the mountains, whose highest peak, called by the Persians Hormutsch, by the English Halala, is 5,000 feet high.
The town contains 15,000 inhabitants, and has the best harbour in Persia; but its appearance is very dirty and ugly.
The houses stand quite close together, so that it is easy to pass from one to the other over the terraces, and it requires no great exertion to run over the roofs, as the terraces are enclosed only by walls one or two feet high. Upon some houses, square chambers (called wind-catchers), fifteen or twenty feet high, are erected, which can be opened above and at the sides, and serve to intercept the wind and lead it into the apartments.
The women here cover up their faces to such a degree that I cannot imagine how they find their way about. Even the smallest girls imitate this foolish custom. There is also no lack of nose-rings, bracelets, sandals, etc.; but they do not wear nearly so many as the Hindoos. The men are all armed; even in the house they carry daggers or knives, and besides these, pistols in the streets.
We remained two days in Buschir, where I was very well received by Lieutenant Hennelt, the resident.
I would gladly have left the ship here to visit the ruins of Persepolis, and travel by land from thence to Shiraz, Ispahan, Teheran, and so onwards; but serious disturbances had broken out in these districts, and numerous hordes of robbers carried on their depredations. I was in consequence compelled to alter my plan, and to go straight on to Baghdad.
10th May. In the afternoon we left Buschir.
11th May. Today I had the gratification of seeing and sailing on one of the most celebrated rivers in the world, the Schatel-Arab (river of the Arabs), which is formed by the junction of the Euphrates, Tigris, and Kaurun, and whose mouth resembles an arm of the sea. The Schatel-Arab retains its name as far as the delta of the Tigris and Euphrates.
12th May. We left the sea and the mountains behind at the same time, and on both shores immense plains opened before us whose boundaries were lost in the distance.
Twenty miles below Bassora we turned off into the Kaurun to set down some passengers at the little town of Mahambrah, which lies near the entrance of that river. We immediately turned back again, and the captain brought the vessel round in the narrow space in an exceedingly clever way. This proceeding caused the uninitiated some anxiety; we expected every moment to see either the head or stern run a-ground, but it succeeded well beyond all measure. The whole population of the town was assembled on the shore; they had never before seen a steamer, and took the most lively interest in the bold and hazardous enterprise.
About six years ago, the town Mahambrah experienced a terrible catastrophe; it was at that time under Turkish rule, and was surprised and plundered by the Persians; nearly all the inhabitants, amounting to 5,000, were put to death. Since that period it has been retained by the Persians.
Towards noon we arrived at Bassora. Nothing is visible from the river but some fortified works and large forests of date-trees, behind which the town is situated far inland.
The journey from Bombay to this place had occupied eighteen days, in consequence of the unfavourable monsoon, and was one of the most unpleasant voyages which I ever made. Always upon deck in the midst of a dense crowd of people, with a heat which at noon time rose to 99 degrees 5' Fah., even under the shade of a tent. I was only once able to change my linen and dress at Buschir, which was the more annoying as one could not prevent the accumulation of vermin. I longed for a refreshing and purifying bath.
Bassora, one of the largest towns of Mesopotamia, has among its inhabitants only a single European. I had a letter to the English agent, an Armenian named Barseige, whose hospitality I was compelled to claim, as there was no hotel. Captain Lichfield presented my letter to him and made known my request, but the polite man refused to grant it. The good captain offered me accommodation on board his ship, so that I was provided for for the present.
The landing of the Persian women presented a most laughable spectacle: if they had been beauties of the highest order, or princesses from the sultan's harem, there could not have been more care taken to conceal them from the possibility of being seen by men.
I was indebted to my sex for the few glimpses which I caught of them in the cabin; but among the whole eighteen women I did not see a single good-looking one. Their husbands placed themselves in two rows from the cabin to the ship's ladder, holding large cloths stretched before them, and forming in this way a kind of opaque moveable wall on both sides. Presently the women came out of the cabin; they were so covered with large wrappers that they had to be led as if they were blind. They stood close together between the walls, and waited until the whole were assembled, when the entire party, namely, the moveable wall and the beauties concealed behind it, proceeded step by step. The scrambling over the narrow ship's ladders was truly pitiable; first one stumbled, and then another. The landing occupied more than an hour.
13th May. The captain brought me word that a German missionary was accidentally at Bassora, who had a dwelling with several rooms, and could probably give me shelter. I went to him immediately, and he was so obliging as to provide me with a room in which, at the same time, I found a fireplace. I took leave of the good captain with sincere regret. I shall never forget his friendliness and attentions. He was a truly good-hearted man, and yet the unfortunate crew, mostly Hindoos and negroes, were treated worse on board his ship than I had observed elsewhere. This was the fault of the two mates, who accompanied nearly every word with pushes and blows of the fist. In Muscat three of the poor fellows ran away.
The Christian Europeans excel the pagan Hindoos and Musselmen in learning and science; might they not also at least equal the latter in kindness and humanity?
A small English war-steamer was expected at Bassora in the course of a few days, which carried letters and dispatches between this place and Baghdad, and whose captain was so good as to take European travellers (of whom there are not many that lose themselves here) with him.
I availed myself of the few days of my stay to look about the town, and see what still remains of its ancient celebrity.
Bassora, or Bassra, was founded in the reign of the Caliph Omar, in the year 656. Sometimes under Turkish, sometimes under Persian dominion, it was at last permanently placed under the latter power. There are no vestiges of antiquity remaining; neither ruins of handsome mosques nor caravansaries. The fortified walls are much dilapidated, the houses of the town small and unattractive, the streets crooked, narrow, and dirty. The bazaar, which consists of covered galleries with wretched stalls, cannot show a single good stock of goods, although Bassora is the principal emporium and trading port for the Indian wares imported into Turkey. There are several coffee-stalls and a second-rate caravansary in the bazaar. A large open space, not very remarkable for cleanliness, serves in the day as a corn-market; and in the evening several hundred guests are to be seen seated before a large coffee-stall, drinking coffee and smoking nargillies.
Modern ruins are abundant in Bassora, the result of the plague which in the year 1832 carried off nearly one half of the inhabitants. Numbers of streets and squares consist only of forsaken and decaying houses. Where, a few years back, men were busily engaged in trade, there is now nothing left but ruins and rubbish and weeds, and palms grow between crumbling walls.
The position of Bassora is said to be particularly unhealthy: the plain surrounding it is intersected at one extremity with numerous ditches filled with mud and filth, which give off noxious exhalations, at the other it is covered with forests of date trees, which hinders the current of air. The heat is so great here, that nearly every house is furnished with an apartment, which lies several feet below the level of the street, and has windows only in the high arches. People live in these rooms during the day.
The inhabitants consist for the most part of Arabs; the rest are Persians, Turks, and Armenians. There are no Europeans. I was advised to wrap myself in a large cloth and wear a veil when I went out; the former I did, but I could not endure the veil in the excessive heat, and went with my face uncovered. The cloth (isar) I carried so clumsily that my European clothes were always visible; nevertheless I was not annoyed by any one.
On the 16th of May, the steamer Nitocris arrived. It was small (forty horse power), but very handsome and clean; the captain, Mr. Johns, declared himself ready to take me, and the first officer, Mr. Holland, gave up his cabin to me. They would not take any compensation either for passage or board.
The journey from Bassora to Baghdad would have been very fatiguing and inconvenient if I had not met with this opportunity. With a boat it would have required forty or fifty days, as the distance is 500 English miles, and the boat must have been for greater part of the distance drawn by men. The distance by land amounts to 390 miles; but the road is through deserts, which are inhabited by nomadic tribes of Bedouins, and over-run with hordes of robbers, whose protection must be purchased at a high price.
17th May. We weighed anchor in the morning at 11 o'clock, and availed ourselves of the current which extends 120 miles up the stream.
In the afternoon we reached the point Korne, also called the Delta (fifty miles from Bassora). The Tigris and Euphrates join here. Both rivers are equally large, and as it could not, probably, be decided which name should be retained, both were given up, and that of Schatel-Arab adopted.
Many learned writers attempt to give increased importance to this place, by endeavouring to prove by indubitable evidence that the garden of Eden was situated here. If this was the case, our worthy progenitor made a long journey after he was driven out of Paradise, to reach Adam's Peak in Ceylon.
We now entered the Tigris. For a distance of three miles further, we were gratified by the sight of beautiful forests of date-trees, which we had already enjoyed, almost without intermission, from the mouth of the Schatel-Arab; they now suddenly terminated. Both sides of the river were still covered with a rich vegetation, and beautiful orchards, alternated with extended plots of grass, which were partially covered with bushes or shrub-like trees. This fruitfulness, however, is said to extend only a few miles inland: more distant from the river the country is a barren wilderness.
We saw in several places large tribes of Bedouins, who had pitched their tents in long rows, for the most part close to the banks. Some of these hordes had large closely-covered tents; others again had merely a straw mat, a cloth, or some skins stretched on a pair of poles, scarcely protecting the heads of those lying under them from the burning rays of the sun. In winter, when the temperature frequently falls to freezing point, they have the same dwellings and clothing as in summer: the mortality among them is then very great. These people have a wild appearance, and their clothing consists of only a dark-brown mantle. The men have a part of this drawn between the legs, and another part hung round them; the women completely envelop themselves in it; the children very commonly go quite naked until the twelfth year. The colour of their skin is a dark brown, the face slightly tattooed: both the men and women braid their hair into four plaits, which hang down upon the back of the head and temples. The weapons of the men are stout knotted sticks; the women are fond of adorning themselves with glass beads, mussel-shells, and coloured rags; they also wear large nose-rings.
They are all divided into tribes, and are under the dominion of the Porte, to whom they pay tribute; but they acknowledge allegiance only to the sheikh elected by themselves, many of whom have forty or fifty thousand tents under their control. Those tribes who cultivate land have fixed dwellings; the pastoral tribes are nomadic.
Half-way between Bassora and Baghdad, the lofty mountain chain of Luristan becomes visible. When the atmosphere is clear, the summits, 10,000 feet high, and covered with perpetual snow, may be seen.
Every step in advance leads to the scene of the great deeds of Cambyses, Cyrus, Alexander, etc.: every spot of ground has historical associations. The country is the same; but what has become of its towns and its powerful empires? Ruined walls and heaps of earth and rubbish are the only remains of the most beautiful cities; and where firmly established empires formerly existed, are barren steppes overrun by robber hordes.
The Arabs engaged in agriculture are themselves exposed to the depredations of their nomadic countrymen, especially in harvest time. In order to avoid this evil as much as possible, they bring their crops into small fortified places, of which I observed many between Bassora and Baghdad.
We took in wood several times during the passage, and on these occasions I could approach the inhabitants without fear, as they were inspired with respect for the well-manned and armed vessel. In one instance, I was led far into the underwood in pursuit of some beautiful insects, when I found myself on a sudden surrounded by a swarm of women and children, so that I thought it advisable to hasten back again to the ship's people—not that any one offered me any violence; but they crowded round me, handled my dress, wanted to put on my straw bonnet; and this familiarity was far from pleasant on account of their extreme dirtiness. The children seemed shockingly neglected; many were covered with pimples and small sores; and both great and small had their hands constantly in their hair.
At the places where we stopped they generally brought sheep and butter, both of which were singularly cheap. A sheep cost at the utmost five krans (4s. 6d.). They were very large and fat, with long thick wool, and fat tails of about fifteen inches long and eight inches broad. Our crew had a better diet than I had ever noticed on board any ship. What pleased me even more was the equal good treatment of the natives, who were not in any particular less thought of than the English. I never met with greater order and cleanliness than here—a proof that blows and thumps are not indispensably necessary, as I had so often been assured.
In the districts where the ground was covered with underwood and grass, I saw several herds of wild swine; and there were said to be lions here, who come from the mountains, especially during the winter time, when they carried off cows and sheep: they very seldom attacked men. I was so fortunate as to see a pair of lions, but at such a distance, that I cannot say whether they exceeded in beauty and size those in European menageries. Among the birds, the pelicans were so polite as to make their respects to us by scraping.
21st May. Today we saw the ruins of the palace of Khuszew Anushirwan at Ctesiphon. Ctesiphon was formerly the capital of the Parthian, and afterwards of the new Persian empire: it was destroyed by the Arabs in the seventeenth century. Nearly opposite, on the right bank of the Tigris, lay Seleucia, one of the most celebrated towns of Babylon, and which, at the time of its prosperity, had a free independent government and a population of 600,000 souls. The chief portion were Greeks.
One obtained two views of Ctesiphon in passing, in consequence of the river winding considerably—almost running back again several miles. I made a trip there from Baghdad, and therefore reserve my account of it.
The old caliphate appears in marvellous magnificence and extent from a distance, but unfortunately loses this on nearer approach. The minarets and cupolas, inlaid with variegated earthenware tiles, glitter in the clear sunlight; palaces, gateways, and fortified works, in endless succession, bound the yellow, muddy Tigris; and gardens, with date and other fruit trees, cover the flat country for miles round.
We had scarcely anchored, when a number of natives surrounded the ship. They made use of very singular vehicles, which resemble round baskets: these are formed of thick palm leaves, and covered with asphalt. They are called "guffer;" are six feet in diameter and three feet in height; are very safe, for they never upset, and may be travelled in over the worst roads. Their invention is very ancient.
I had a letter to the English resident, Major Rawlinson; but as Mr. Holland, the first officer of the ship, offered me the use of his house, I took advantage of this, on account of his being a married man, which Mr. Rawlinson was not. I found Mrs. Holland a very pretty, amiable woman (a native of Baghdad), who, though only three- and-twenty, had already four children, the eldest of whom was eight years old.
CHAPTER XVIII. MESOPOTAMIA, BAGHDAD, AND BABYLON.
BAGHDAD—PRINCIPAL BUILDINGS—CLIMATE—ENTERTAINMENT AT THE ENGLISH RESIDENT'S—HAREM OF THE PASCHA OF BAGHDAD—EXCURSION TO THE RUINS OF CTESIPHON—THE PERSIAN PRINCE, IL-HANY-ALA-CULY-MIRZA—EXCURSION TO THE RUINS OF BABYLON—DEPARTURR FROM BAGHDAD.
Baghdad, the capital of Assyria, was founded during the reign of the Caliph Abu-Jasar-Almansor. A century later, in the reign of Haroun- al-Raschid, the best and most enlightened of all the caliphs, the town was at its highest pitch of prosperity; but at the end of another century, it was destroyed by the Turks. In the sixteenth century it was conquered by the Persians, and continued to be a perpetual source of discord between them and the Turks, although it at length became annexed to the Ottoman Empire. Nadir Schah again endeavoured to wrest it from the Turks in the eighteenth century.
The present population, of about 60,000 souls, consists of about three-fourths Turks, and the remainder of Jews, Persians, Armenians, and Arabs. There are only fifty or sixty Europeans living there.
The town is partly situated on both sides of the Tigris, but chiefly on the east. It is surrounded by fortified walls of brick, with numerous towers at regular intervals; both walls and towers, however, are weak, and even somewhat dangerous, and the cannons upon them are not in good condition.
The first thing that it was necessary for me to provide myself with here, was a large linen wrapper, called isar, a small fez, and a kerchief, which, wound round the fez, forms a little turban; but I did not make use of the thick, stiff mask, made of horse-hair, which covers the face, and under which the wearer is nearly suffocated. It is impossible to imagine a more inconvenient out-door dress for our sex than the one worn here. The isar gathers the dust from the ground, and it requires some dexterity to hold it together in such a way as to envelop the whole body. I pitied the poor women greatly, who were often obliged to carry a child, or some other load, or perhaps even to wash linen in the river. They never came from this work, except dripping with water. Even the smallest girls here are clothed in this way whenever they go out.
In my Oriental dress I could walk about without any covering on my face, perfectly uninterrupted. I first examined the town, but there was not much to see, as there are no remains of the old Caliphate buildings. The houses are of burnt bricks, and are only one story high; the backs are all turned towards the streets, and it is but rarely that a projecting part of the house is seen with narrow latticed windows. Those houses only whose facades are towards the Tigris make an exception to this rule; they have ordinary windows, and are sometimes very handsome. I found the streets rather narrow, and full of dirt and dust. The bridge of boats over the Tigris, which is here 690 feet broad, is the most wretched that I ever saw. The bazaars are very extensive. The old bazaar, a relic of the former town, still shows traces of handsome columns and arabesques, and Chan Osman is distinguished by its beautiful portal and lofty arches. The principal passages are so broad, that there is room for a horseman and two foot passengers, to go through side by side. The merchants and artisans here, as in all eastern countries, live in separate streets and passages. The better shops are to be found in private houses, or in the chans at the bazaars. Miserable coffee- stalls are everywhere numerous.
The palace of the pascha is an extensive building, but neither tasteful nor costly; it is imposing only from a distance. There are but few mosques, and those present nothing costly or artistic, except the inlaid tiles.
To be able to overlook the whole of Baghdad, I mounted, with great difficulty, the exterior of the dome of the Osman Chan, and was truly astounded at the extent and beautiful position of the town. It is impossible to form any idea of an Oriental town by passing through the narrow and uniform streets, no matter how often, as these are all alike, and, one with the other, resemble the passages of a jail. But, from above, I looked down over the whole town, with its innumerable houses, many of which are situated in pretty gardens. I saw thousands and thousands of terraces spread at my feet, and before all, the beautiful river, rolling on through dark orchards and palm groves, to the town, which extends along its banks for five miles.
All the buildings are, as already remarked, constructed of unburnt bricks, of which the greater part are stated to have been brought down the Euphrates, from the ruins of the neighbouring city of Babylon. By a close examination, traces of the old architecture are to be found on the fortifications; the bricks of which they are built are about two feet in diameter, and resemble fine slabs of stone.
The houses are prettier inside than out; they have clean plastered courts, numerous windows, etc. The rooms are large and lofty, but not nearly so magnificently furnished as those in Damascus. The summer is so hot here, that people find it necessary to change their rooms three times a-day. The early part of the morning is passed in the ordinary rooms; towards 9 o'clock they retire, during the remainder of the day, into the underground rooms, called sardab, which, like cellars, are frequently situated fifteen or twenty feet below the surface; at sunset they go up on to the terraces, where they receive visits, gossip, drink tea, and remain until night. This is the most pleasant time, as the evenings are cool and enlivening. Many affirm the moonlight is clearer here than with us, but I did not find this to be the case. People sleep on the terraces under mosquito nets, which surround the whole bed. The heat rises in the rooms, during the day, as high as 99 degrees; in the sun, to 122 or 131 degrees Fah.; it seldom exceeds 88 degrees 25' in the sardabs. In winter, the evenings, nights, and mornings are so cold, that fires are necessary in the rooms.
The climate of this place is considered very healthy, even by Europeans. Nevertheless, there is a disease here of which the young females are terribly afraid, and which not only attacks the natives, but strangers, when they remain several months here. This is a disgusting eruption, which is called the Aleppo Boil, or Date-mark.
This ulcer, which is at first no larger than a pin's head, gradually increases to the size of a halfcrown piece, and leaves deep scars. It generally breaks out on the face; there is scarcely one face among a hundred, to be seen without these disfiguring marks. Those who have only one have reason to consider themselves fortunate; I saw many with two or three of them. Other parts of the body are also not exempt. The ulcers generally appear with the ripening of the dates, and do not go away until the next year, when the same season returns again. This disease does not occur more than once in a lifetime; it attacks children for the most part during their infancy. No remedy is ever applied, as experience has shown that it cannot be prevented; the Europeans have tried inoculation, but without success.
This disease is met with in several districts on the Tigris; there are no traces of it to be found at a distance from the river. It would appear, therefore, to be, in some way, connected with the evaporation from the stream, or the mud deposited on its banks; the former seems less probable, as the crews of the English steamers, which are always on the river, escape, while all the Europeans who live on land fall victims to it. One of the latter had forty such boils, and I was told that he suffered horribly. The French consul, who expected to remain here for several years, would not bring his wife with him, to expose her face to the danger of these ineradicable marks. I had only been here some weeks, when I discovered slight indications of a boil on my hand, which became large, but did not penetrate very deep, and left no permanent scar. I exulted greatly at escaping so easily, but my exultation did not continue long; only six months afterwards, when I had returned to Europe, this disease broke out with such violence that I was covered with thirteen of those boils, and had to contend with them more than eight months.
On the 24th of May I received an invitation from the English resident, Major Rawlinson, to an entertainment in honour of the queen's birthday. There were only Europeans present at dinner, but in the evening, all denominations of the Christian world were admitted—Armenians, Greeks, etc. This entertainment was given upon the handsome terraces of the house. The floor was covered with soft carpets; cushioned divans invited the fatigued to rest, and the brilliant illumination of the terraces, courts, and gardens diffused a light almost equal to that of day. Refreshments of the most delicate kind made it difficult for Europeans to remember that they were so far from their native country. Less deceptive were two bands of music, one of which played European, the other native pieces, for the amusement of the guests. Fire-works, with balloons and Bengal lights, were followed by a sumptuous supper, which closed the evening's entertainments. Among the women and girls present, there were some remarkably beautiful, but all had most bewitching eyes, which no young man could glance at with impunity. The art of dyeing the eyelids and eyebrows principally contributes to this. Every hair on the eyebrows which makes its appearance in an improper place, is carefully plucked out, and those which are deficient have their place most artistically supplied by the pencil. The most beautiful arched form is thus obtained, and this, together with the dyeing of the eyelids, increases uncommonly the brightness of the eye. The desire for such artificial beauty extends itself even to the commonest servant girls.
The fair sex were dressed in Turkish-Greek costume; they wore silk trousers, gathered together round the ankles, and over these, long upper garments, embroidered with gold, the arms of which were tight as far as the elbow, and were then slit open, and hung down. The bare part of the arm was covered by silk sleeves. Round their waists were fastened stiff girdles of the breadth of the hand, ornamented in front with large buttons, and at the sides with smaller ones. The buttons were of gold, and worked in enamel. Mounted pearls, precious stones, and gold coins, decorated the arms, neck, and breast. The head was covered with a small, pretty turban, wound round with gold chains, or gold lace; numerous thin tresses of hair stole from underneath, falling down to the hips. Unfortunately, many of them had the bad taste to dye their hair, by which its brilliant black was changed into an ugly brown-red.
Beautiful as this group of women were in appearance, their society was very uninteresting, for an unbroken silence was maintained by these members of our garrulous sex, and not one of their pretty faces expressed an emotion or sentiment. Mind and education, the zests of life, were wanting. The native girls are taught nothing; their education is completed when they are able to read in their mother tongue (Armenian or Arabian), and then, with the exception of some religious books, they have no other reading.
It was more lively at a visit which I made, some days later, to the harem of the pasha; there was then so much chatting, laughing, and joking, that it was almost too much for me. My visit had been expected, and the women, fifteen in number, were sumptuously dressed in the same way that I have already described; with the single exception, that the upper garment (kaftan) was shorter, and made of a more transparent material, and the turbans ornamented with ostrich feathers.
I did not see any very handsome women here; they had only good eyes, but neither noble nor expressive features.
The summer harem, in which I was received, was a pretty building, in the most modern style of European architecture, with lofty, regular windows. It stood in the middle of a small flower-garden, which was surrounded by a large fruit-garden.
After I had been here rather more than an hour, a table was laid, and chairs placed round it. The principal woman invited me to join them, and leading the way, seated herself at the table, when, without waiting till we were seated, she hastily picked out her favourite morsels from the various dishes with her hands. I was also compelled to help myself with my hands, as there was no knife and fork in the whole house, and it was only towards the end of the meal that a large gold teaspoon was brought for me.
The table was profusely covered with excellent meat-dishes, with different pilaus, and a quantity of sweet-meats and fruits. I found them all delicious, and one dish so much resembled our fritters, that I almost thought it was meant for them.
After we had finished, those who had not room to sit down with us took their seats together with some of the principal attendants: after them came, in succession, the inferior slaves, among whom were some very ugly negresses; these also seated themselves at the table, and ate what remained.
After the conclusion of the meal, strong coffee was handed round in small cups, and nargillies brought. The cups stood in little golden bowls, ornamented with pearls and turquoises.
The pasha's women are distinguished from their attendants and slaves only by their dress and jewellery; in demeanour I found no difference. The attendants seated themselves without hesitation upon the divans, joined, uninvited, in the conversation, smoked, and drank coffee as we did. Servants and slaves are far better and more considerately treated by the natives than by the Europeans. Only the Turks hold slaves here.
Although such strict decorum is observed in all public places, there is an utter disregard of it in the harems and baths. While a part of the women were engaged in smoking and drinking coffee, I slipped away, and went into some of the adjoining apartments, where I saw enough, in a few minutes, to fill me with disgust and commiseration for these poor creatures; from slothfulness and the want of education, morality appeared to be so degraded as to profane the very name of humanity.
I was not less grieved by a visit to a public female bath. There were young children, girls, women, and mothers; some having their hands, feet, nails, eyebrows, hair, etc., washed and coloured: others were being bathed with water, or rubbed with fragrant oils and pomades, while the children played about among them. While all this was going on, the conversation that prevailed was far from being remarkable for its decency. Poor children! how are they to acquire a respect for modesty, when they are so early exposed to the influence of such pernicious examples.
Among the other curiosities of Baghdad, I saw the funeral monument of Queen Zobiede, the favourite wife of Haroun-al-Raschid. It is interesting, because it differs very much from the ordinary monuments of the Mahomedans. Instead of handsome cupolas and minarets, it consists of a moderate sized tower, rising from an octagon building; the tower has a considerable resemblance to those of the Hindoo temples. In the interior stand three plainly built tombs, in one of which the queen is buried; in the other two, relations of the royal family. The whole is constructed of bricks, and was formerly covered with handsome cement, coloured tiles, and arabesques, of which traces still remain.
Mahomedans consider all such monuments sacred; they frequently come from great distances to offer up their devotions before them. They think it equally desirable to erect a burial-place near such a monument, which they show with pride to their friends and relations. Round this monument there were large spaces covered with tombs.
On the return from this monument, I went a little out of my way to see that part of the town which had fallen into ruins, and been desolated by the last plague. Herr Swoboda, an Hungarian, gave me a dreadful picture of the state of the town at that time. He had shut himself closely up with his family and a maid servant, and being well furnished with provisions, received nothing from outside but fresh water. He carefully plastered up the doors and windows, and no one was allowed to go out upon the terraces, or, indeed, into the air at all.
These precautions were the means of preserving his whole family in health, while many died in the neighbouring houses. It was impossible to bury all the dead, and the bodies were left to decompose where they died. After the plague had ceased, the Arabs of the desert made their appearance for the purpose of robbing and plundering. They found an easy spoil, for they penetrated without resistance into the empty houses, or without difficulty overpowered the few enfeebled people who remained. Herr Swoboda, among the rest, was obliged to make an agreement with the Arabs, and pay tribute.
I was glad to leave this melancholy place, and directed my steps towards some of the pleasant gardens, of which there are great numbers in and round Baghdad. None of these gardens, however, are artificial; they consist simply of a thick wood of fruit-trees, of all species (dates, apple, apricot, peach, fig, mulberry, and other trees), surrounded by a brick wall. There is, unfortunately, neither order nor cleanliness observed, and there are neither grass plots nor beds of flowers, and not a single good path; but there is a considerable number of canals, as it is necessary to substitute artificial watering for rain and dew.
I made two long excursions from Baghdad; one to the ruins of Ctesiphon, the other to those of Babylon. The former are eighteen, the latter sixty miles distant from Baghdad. On both occasions, Major Rawlinson provided me with good Arabian horses, and a trusty servant.
I was obliged to make the journey to Ctesiphon and back again in one day, to avoid passing the night in the desert; and, indeed, had to accomplish it between sunrise and sunset, as it is the custom in Baghdad, as in all Turkish towns, to close the gates towards sunset, and to give up the keys to the governor. The gates are again opened at sunrise.
My considerate hostess would have persuaded me to take a quantity of provisions with me; but my rule in travelling is to exclude every kind of superfluity. Wherever I am certain to find people living, I take no eatables with me, for I can content myself with whatever they live upon; if I do not relish their food, it is a sign that I have not any real hunger, and I then fast until it becomes so great that any kind of dish is acceptable. I took nothing with me but my leathern water flask, and even this was unnecessary, as we frequently passed creeks of the Tigris, and sometimes the river itself, although the greater part of the road lay through the desert.
About half-way, we crossed the river Dhyalah in a large boat. On the other side of the stream, several families, who live in huts on the bank, subsist by renting the ferry. I was so fortunate as to obtain here some bread and buttermilk, with which I refreshed myself. The ruins of Ctesiphon may already be seen from this place, although they are still nine miles distant. We reached them in three hours and a half.
Ctesiphon formerly rose to be a very powerful city on the Tigris; it succeeded Babylon and Seleucia; the Persian viceroys resided in the summer at Ecbatania, in the winter at Ctesiphon. The present remains consist only of detached fragments of the palace of the Schah Chosroes. These are the colossal arched gate-porch, together with the gate, a part of the principal front, and some side walls, all of which are so strong that it is probable that travellers may still continue to be gratified with a sight of them for centuries. The arches of the Tauk-kosra gate is the highest of the kind that is known; it measures ninety feet, and is therefore about fifteen feet higher than the principal gate at Fattipore-Sikri, near Agra, which is erroneously represented by many as being the highest. The wall rises sixteen feet above the arch.
On the facade of the palace, small niches, arches, pillars, etc., are hewn out from the top to bottom; the whole appears to be covered with fine cement, in which the most beautiful arabesques are still to be seen. Opposite these ruins on the western shore of the Tigris, lie a few remains of the walls of Seleucia, the capital of Macedonia.
On both banks, extensive circles of low mounds are visible in every direction; these all contain, at a slight depth, bricks and rubbish.
Not far from the ruins stands a plain mosque, which holds the tomb of Selamam Pak. This man was a friend of Mahomet's, and is on that account honoured as a saint. I was not allowed to enter the mosque, and was obliged to content myself with looking in through the open door. I saw only a tomb built of bricks, surrounded by a wooden lattice, painted green.
I had already observed a number of tents along the banks of the Tigris on first reaching the ruins; my curiosity induced me to visit them, where I found everything the same as among the desert Arabs, except that the people were not so savage and rough; I could have passed both day and night among them without apprehension. This might be from my having been accustomed to such scenes.
A much more agreeable visit was before me. While I was amusing myself among the dirty Arabs, a Persian approached, who pointed to a pretty tent which was pitched at a short distance from us, and said a few words to me. My guide explained to me that a Persian prince lived in this tent, and that he had politely invited me by this messenger. I accepted the invitation with great pleasure, and was received in a very friendly manner by the prince, who was named Il- Hany-Ala-Culy-Mirza.
The prince was a handsome young man, and said that he understood French; but we soon came to a stop with that, as his knowledge of it did not extend beyond "Vous parlez Francais!" Luckily, one of his people had a better acquaintance with English, and so we were able to carry on some conversation.
The interpreter explained to me that the prince resided in Baghdad, but on account of the oppressive heat, he had taken up his residence here for some time. He was seated upon a low divan under an open tent, and his companions reclined upon carpets. To my surprise, he had sufficient politeness to offer me a seat by his side upon the divan. Our conversation soon became very animated, and his astonishment when I related to him my travels increased with every word. While we were talking, a nargilly of most singular beauty was placed before me; it was made of light-blue enamel on gold, ornamented with pearls, turquoises, and precious stones. For politeness' sake, I took a few puffs from it. Tea and coffee were also served, and afterwards the prince invited me to dinner. A white cloth was spread upon the ground, and flat cakes of bread, instead of plates, laid upon it: an exception was made for me, as I had a plate and knife and fork. The dinner consisted of a number of dishes of meat, among which was a whole lamb with the head, which did appear very inviting; besides these, several pilaus, and a large roast fish. Between the eatables stood bowls of curds and whey, and sherbet: in each bowl was a large spoon. The lamb was carved by a servant with a knife and the hand; he distributed the parts among the guests, placing a piece upon the cake of bread before each one. They ate with their right hand. Most of them tore off small morsels of meat or fish, dipped them in one of the pilaus, kneaded them into a ball, and put them into their mouths. Some, however, ate the fat dishes without pilau; after each mouthful they wiped off the fat, which ran over their fingers, on the bread. They drank a great deal while eating, all using the same spoons. At the conclusion of the meal, the prince, in spite of the strict prohibition of wine, ordered some to be brought (my presence serving as an excuse). He then poured out a glass for me, and drank a couple himself—one to my health and one to his own.
When I told him that I intended to go to Persia, and in particular to Teheran, he offered to give me a letter to his mother, who was at court, and under whose protection I could be introduced there. He wrote immediately, using his knee for want of a table, pressed his signet ring upon the letter, and gave it to me; but told me laughingly not to say anything to his mother about his having drank wine.
After meal time, I asked the prince whether he would allow me to pay a visit to his wife,—I had already learned that one of his wives was with him. My request was granted, and I was led immediately into a building, near which had formerly been a small mosque.
I was here received in a cool arched apartment by a remarkably handsome young creature. She was the most beautiful of all the women I had ever yet seen in harems. Her figure, of middling proportions, was most exquisitely symmetrical; her features were noble and truly classical; and her large eyes had a melancholy expression: the poor thing was alone here, and had no society but an old female servant and a young gazelle. Her complexion, probably not quite natural, was of dazzling whiteness, and a delicate red tinted her cheeks. The eyebrows only, in my opinion, were very much deformed by art. They were in the form of a dark-blue streak, an inch wide, which extended in two connected curves from one temple to the other, and gave the face a somewhat dark and very uncommon appearance. The principal hairs were not dyed; her hands and arms, however, were slightly tattooed. She explained to me that this shocking operation was performed upon her when she was only a child, a custom which is also practised by the Mahomedan women in Baghdad.
The dress of this beauty was like that of the women in the pasha's harem, but instead of the small turban, she wore a white muslin cloth lightly twisted round the head, which she could also draw over her face as a veil.
Our conversation was not very lively, as the interpreter was not allowed to follow me into this sanctum. We were therefore obliged to content ourselves with making signs and looking at one another.
When I returned to the prince, I expressed to him my wonder at the rare beauty of his young wife, and asked him what country was the cradle of this true angel. He told me the north of Persia, and assured me, at the same time, that his other wives, of whom he had four in Baghdad and four in Teheran with his mother, very much excelled this one in beauty.
When I would have taken my leave of the prince to return home, he proposed to me that I should remain a little while longer and hear some Persian music. Two minstrels presently appeared, one of whom had a kind of mandolin with five strings; the other was a singer. The musician preluded very well, played European as well as Persian melodies, and handled his instrument with great facility; the singer executed roulades, and, unfortunately, his voice was neither cultivated nor pure; but he seldom gave false notes, and they both kept good time. The Persian music and songs had considerable range of notes and variations in the melody; I had not heard anything like them for a long time.
I reached home safely before sunset, and did not feel very much fatigued, either by the ride of thirty-six miles, the terrible heat, or the wandering about on foot. Only two days afterwards, I set out on my road to the ruins of the city of Babylon. The district in which these ruins lie is called Isak-Arabia, and is the seat of the ancient Babylonia and Chaldea.
I rode, the same evening, twenty miles, as far as the Chan Assad. The palms and fruit-trees gradually decreased in number, the cultivated ground grew less and less, and the desert spread itself before me, deadening all pleasure and animation. Here and there grew some low herbage scarcely sufficient for the frugal camel; even this ceases a few miles before coming to Assad, and from thence to Hilla the desert appeared uninterruptedly in its sad and uniform nakedness.
We passed the place where the town of Borossippa formerly stood, and where it is said that a pillar of Nourhwan's palace is yet to be seen; but I could not discover it anywhere, although the whole desert lay open before me and a bright sunset afforded abundance of light. I therefore contented myself with the place, and did not, on that account, remember with less enthusiasm the great Alexander, here at the last scene of his actions, when he was warned not to enter Babylon again. Instead of the pillar, I saw the ruins of one large and several smaller canals. The large one formerly united the Euphrates with the Tigris, and the whole served for irrigating the land.
31st May. I had never seen such numerous herds of camels as I did today; there might possibly have been more than 7,000 or 8,000. As most of them were unloaded and carried only a few tents, or women and children, it was probably the wandering of a tribe in search of a more fruitful dwelling-place. Among this enormous number, I saw only a few camels that were completely white. These are very highly prized by the Arabians; indeed, almost honoured as superior beings. When I first saw the immense herd of these long-legged animals appearing in the distant horizon, they looked like groups of small trees; and I felt agreeably surprised to meet with vegetation in this endless wilderness. But the wood, like that in Shakspere's Macbeth, shortly advanced towards us, and the stems changed into legs and the crowns into bodies.
I also observed a species of bird today to which I was a complete stranger. It resembled, in colour and size, the small green papagien, called paroquets, except that its beak was rather less crooked and thick. It lives, like the earth-mouse, in small holes in the ground. I saw flocks of them at two of the most barren places in the desert, where there was no trace of a blade of grass to be discovered, far and wide.
Towards 10 o'clock in the morning, we halted for two hours only at Chan Nasri, as I was resolved to reach Hilla today. The heat rose above 134 degrees Fah.; but a hot wind, that continually accompanied us, was still more unbearable, and drove whole clouds of hot sand into the face. We frequently passed half-ruined canals during the day.
The chans upon this road are among the best and the most secure that I have ever met with. From the exterior, they resemble small fortresses; a high gateway leads into a large court-yard, which is surrounded on all sides by broad, handsome halls built with thick brick walls. In the halls, there are niches arranged in rows; each one being large enough to serve three or four persons as a resting- place. Before the niches, but also under the halls, are the places for the cattle. In the court-yard, a terrace is also built five feet high for sleeping in the hot summer nights. There are likewise a number of rings and posts for the cattle in the court, where they can be in the open air during the night.
These chans are adapted for whole caravans, and will contain as many as 500 travellers, together with animals and baggage; they are erected by the government, but more frequently by wealthy people, who hope by such means to procure a place in heaven. Ten or twelve soldiers are appointed to each chan as a guard. The gates are closed in the evening. Travellers do not pay anything for staying at these places.
Some Arabian families generally live outside the chans, or even in them, and they supply the place of host, and furnish travellers with camel's milk, bread, coffee, and sometimes, also, with camel's or goat's flesh. I found the camel's milk rather disagreeable, but the flesh is so good that I thought it had been cow-beef, and was greatly surprised when my guide told me that it was not.
When travellers are furnished with a pasha's firman (letter of recommendation), they can procure one or more mounted soldiers (all the soldiers at the chans have horses) to accompany them through dangerous places, and at times of disturbances. I had such a firman, and made use of it at night.
In the afternoon we approached the town of Hilla, which now occupies a part of the space where Babylon formerly stood. Beautiful woods of date-trees indicated from afar the inhabited country, but intercepted our view of the town.
Four miles from Hilla we turned off the road to the right, and shortly found ourselves between enormous mounds of fallen walls and heaps of bricks. The Arabs call these ruins Mujellibe. The largest of these mounds of bricks and rubbish is 2,110 feet in circumference, and 141 feet in height.
Babylon, as is known, was one of the greatest cities of the world. With respect to its founder there are various opinions. Some say Ninus, others Belus, others Semiramis, etc. It is said that, at the building of the city (about 2,000 years before the birth of Christ), two million of workmen, and all the architects and artificers of the then enormous Syrian empire, were employed. The city walls are described as having been 150 feet high, and twenty feet thick. The city was defended by 250 towers; it was closed by a hundred brazen gates, and its circumference was sixty miles. It was separated into two parts by the Euphrates. On each bank stood a beautiful palace, and the two were united by an artistic bridge, and even a tunnel was constructed by the Queen Semiramis. But the greatest curiosities were the temples of Belus and the hanging gardens. The tower of the temple was ornamented with three colossal figures, made of pure gold, and representing gods. The hanging gardens (one of the seven wonders of the world) are ascribed to Nebuchadnezar, who is said to have built them at the wish of his wife Amytis.
Six hundred and thirty years before Christ, the Babylonian empire was at the highest point of its magnificence. At this time it was conquered by the Chaldeans. It was afterwards subject in succession to the Persians, Osmans, Tartars, and others, until the year A.D. 1637, since which time it has remained under the Osman government.
The temple of Belus or Baal was destroyed by Xerxes, and Alexander the Great would have restored it; but as it would have required 10,000 men for two months (others say two years) merely to remove the rubbish, he did not attempt it.
One of the palaces is described as having been the residence of the king, the other a castle. Unfortunately they are so fallen to decay, that they afford no means of forming a satisfactory opinion even to antiquarians. It is supposed, however, that the ruins called Mujellibe are the remains of the castle. Another large heap of ruins is situated about a mile distant, called El Kasir. According to some, the temple of Baal stood here, according to others the royal palace. Massive fragments of walls and columns are still to be seen, and in a hollow a lion in dark grey granite, of such a size that at some distance I took it for an elephant. It is very much damaged, and, to judge from what remains, does not appear to have been the work of a great artist.
The mortar is of extraordinary hardness; it is easier to break the bricks themselves, than to separate them from it. The bricks of all the ruins are partly yellow and partly red, a foot long, nearly as broad, and half an inch thick.
In the ruins El Kasir stands a solitary tree, which belongs to a species of firs which is quite unknown in this district. The Arabs call it Athale, and consider it sacred. There are said to be several of the same kind near Buschir—they are there called Goz or Guz.
Many writers see something very extraordinary in this tree; indeed they go so far as to consider it as a relic of the hanging gardens, and affirm that it gives out sad melancholy tones when the wind plays through its branches, etc. Everything, indeed, is possible with God; but that this half-stunted tree which is scarcely eighteen feet high, and whose wretched stem is at most only nine inches in diameter, is full 3,000 years old, appears to me rather too improbable!
The country round Babylon is said to have been formerly so flourishing and fruitful, that it was called the Paradise of Chaldea. This productiveness ceased with the existence of the buildings.
As I had seen everything completely, I rode on as far as Hilla, on the other side of the Euphrates. A most miserable bridge of forty- six boats is here thrown across the river, which is four hundred and thirty feet broad. Planks and trunks of trees are laid from one boat to the other, which move up and down at every step; there is no railing at the side, and the space is so narrow that two riders can scarcely pass. The views along the river are very charming; I found the vegetation here still rich, and several mosques and handsome buildings give life to the blooming landscape.
In Hilla I was received by a rich Arab. As the sun was already very near setting, I was shown to a beautiful terrace instead of a room. A delicious pilau, roast lamb, and steamed vegetables were sent to me for supper, with water and sour milk.
The terraces here were not surrounded by any walls, a circumstance which was very agreeable to me, as it gave me an opportunity of observing the mode of life and customs of my neighbours.
In the court-yards I saw the women engaged in making bread, and in the same way as at Bandr-Abas. The men and children meanwhile spread straw mats upon the terraces, and brought dishes with pilaus, vegetables, or some other eatables. As soon as the bread was ready, they began their meal. The women also seated themselves, and I thought that the modern Arabs were sufficiently advanced in civilization to give my sex their place at table. But to my regret I saw the poor women, instead of helping themselves from the dishes, take straw fans to keep off the flies from the heads of their husbands. They may have had their meal afterwards in the house, for I did not see them eat anything, either upon the terraces or in the courts. They all slept upon the terraces. Both men and women wrapped themselves in rugs, and neither the one nor the other took off any of their clothing.
1st June. I had ordered for this morning two fresh horses and Arabs as a guard, that I might proceed with some safety to the ruins of Birs Nimroud. These ruins are situated six miles distant from Hilla, in the desert or plain of Shinar, near the Euphrates, upon a hill 265 feet high, built of bricks, and consist of the fragments of a wall twenty-eight feet long, on one side thirty feet high, and on the other thirty-five. The greater part of the bricks are covered with inscriptions. Near this wall lie several large blackish blocks which might be taken for lava, and it is only on closer examination that they are found to be remains of walls. It is supposed that such a change could only have been brought about by lightning.
People are not quite unanimous in their opinions with respect to these ruins. Some affirm that they are the remains of the Tower of Babel, others that they are those of the Temple of Baal.
There is an extensive view from the top of the hill over the desert, the town of Hilla with its charming palm-gardens, and over innumerable mounds of rubbish and brick-work. Near these ruins stands an unimportant Mahomedan chapel, which is said to be on the same spot where, according to the Old Testament, the three youths were cast into the furnace for refusing to worship idols.
In the afternoon I was again in Hilla. I looked over the town, which is said to contain 26,000 inhabitants, and found it built like all Oriental towns. Before the Kerbela gates is to be seen the little mosque Esshems, which contains the remains of the prophet Joshua. It completely resembles the sepulchre of the Queen Zobiede near Baghdad.
Towards evening the family of my obliging host, together with some other women and children, paid me a visit. Their natural good sense had deterred them from visiting me on the day of my arrival, when they knew I was fatigued by the long ride. I would willingly have excused their visit today also, for neither the rich nor poor Arabs have much idea of cleanliness. They, moreover, would put the little dirty children into my arms or on my lap, and I did not know how to relieve myself of this pleasure. Many of them had Aleppo boils, and others sore eyes and skin diseases. After the women and children had left, my host came. He was, at least, clean in his dress, and conducted himself with more politeness.
On the 2nd of July I left Hilla at sunrise, and went on, without stopping, to the Khan Scandaria (sixteen miles), where I remained some hours; and then went the same day as far as Bir-Zanus, sixteen miles further. About an hour after midnight I again halted, and took a soldier to accompany me. We had scarcely proceeded four or five miles from the khan when we perceived a very suspicious noise. We stopped, and the servant told me to be very quiet, so that our presence might not be detected. The soldier dismounted, and crept rather than walked in the sand to reconnoitre the dangerous spot. My exhaustion was so great that, although alone in this dark night on the terrible desert, I began to doze upon the horse, and did not wake up till the soldier returned with a cry of joy, and told us that we had not fallen in with a horde of robbers, but with a sheikh, who, in company with his followers, were going to Baghdad. We set spurs to our horses, hastened after the troop, and joined them. The chief greeted me by passing his hand over his forehead towards his breast; and, as a sign of his good will, offered me his arms, a club with an iron head, covered with a number of spikes. Only a sheikh is allowed to carry such a weapon.
I remained in the sheikh's company until sunrise, and then quickened my horse's pace, and at about 8 o'clock was again seated in my chamber at Baghdad, after having, in the short space of three days and a half, ridden 132 miles and walked about a great deal. The distance from Baghdad to Hilla is considered to be sixty miles, and from Hilla to Birs Nimroud six.
I had now seen everything in and around Baghdad, and was desirous of starting on my journey towards Ispahan. Just at this time the Persian prince, Il-Hany-Ala-Culy-Mirza, sent me a letter, informing me that he had received very bad news from his native country; the governor of Ispahan had been murdered, and the whole province was in a state of revolt. It was therefore impossible to enter Persia by this route. I decided in this case to go as far as Mosul, and there determine my further course according to circumstances.
Before concluding my account of Baghdad, I must state that at first I was greatly afraid of scorpions, as I had heard that there were great numbers there; but I never saw one, either in the sardabs or on the terraces, and during my stay of four weeks only found one in the court.
CHAPTER XIX. MOSUL AND NINEVEH.
JOURNEY OF THE CARAVAN THROUGH THE DESERT—ARRIVAL AT MOSUL— CURIOSITIES—EXCURSION TO THE RUINS OF NINEVEH AND THE VILLAGE OF NEBBI YUNUS—SECOND EXCURSION TO THE RUINS OF NINEVEH—TEL-NIMROUD— ARABIAN HORSES—DEPARTURE FROM MOSUL.
In order to travel from Baghdad to Mosul safely, and without great expense, it is necessary to join a caravan. I requested Herr Swoboda to direct me to a trustworthy caravan guide. I was indeed advised not to trust myself alone among the Arabs, at least to take a servant with me; but with my limited resources this would have been too expensive. Moreover, I was already pretty well acquainted with the people, and knew from experience that they might be trusted.
A caravan was to have left on the 14th of June, but the caravan guides, like the ship captains, always delay some days, and so we did not start until the 17th instead of the 14th.
The distance from Baghdad to Mosul is 300 miles, which occupy in travelling from twelve to fourteen days. Travellers ride either horses or mules, and in the hot months travel during the night.
I had hired a mule for myself and my little baggage, for which I paid the low price of fifteen krans (12s. 6d.), and had neither fodder nor anything else to provide.
Every one who intends proceeding with the caravan is obliged to assemble before the city gate about 5 o'clock in the evening. Herr Swoboda accompanied me there, and particularly recommended me to the care of the caravan guide, and promised him in my name a good bachshish if he saved me all the trouble he could during the journey.
In this way I entered upon a fourteen days' journey through deserts and steppes, a journey full of difficulties and dangers, without any convenience, shelter, or protection. I travelled like the poorest Arab, and was obliged, like him, to be content to bear the most burning sun, with no food but bread and water, or, at the most, a handful of dates, or some cucumbers, and with the hot ground for a bed.
I had, while in Baghdad, written out a small list of Arabian words, so that I might procure what was most necessary. Signs were easier to me than words, and by the aid of both, I managed to get on very well. I became in time so used to the signs that, in places where I could make use of the language, I was obliged to take some pains to prevent myself from using my hands at the same time.
While I was taking leave of Herr Swoboda, my little portmanteau, and a basket with bread and other trifles, had already been put into two sacks, which were hung over the back of the mule. My mantle and cushion formed a comfortable soft seat, and everything was in readiness—only the mounting was rather difficult, as there was no stirrup.
Our caravan was small. It counted only twenty-six animals, most of which carried merchandise, and twelve Arabs, of whom five went on foot. A horse or mule carries from two to three and a half hundredweight, according to the state of the road.
About 6 we started. Some miles outside the town several other travellers joined us, chiefly pedlars with loaded animals, so that presently our party increased in numbers to sixty. But our numbers changed every evening, as some always remained behind, or others joined us. We often had with us some shocking vagabonds, of whom I was more afraid than robbers. It is, moreover, said not to be uncommon for thieves to join the caravan, for the purpose of carrying on their depredations, if there should be an opportunity of doing so.
I should, on the whole, have no great faith in the protection which such a caravan is capable of affording, as the people who travel in this way are principally pedlars, pilgrims, and such like, who probably have never in their lives used a sword or fired a gun. A few dozen well-armed robbers would certainly get the better of a caravan of even a hundred persons.
On the first night we rode ten hours, until we reached Jengitsche. The country around was flat and barren, uncultivated and uninhabited. Some few miles outside Baghdad cultivation appeared to be suddenly cut off, and it was not until we came to Jengitsche that we saw again palms and stubble fields, showing that human industry is capable of producing something everywhere.
Travelling with caravans is very fatiguing: although a walking pace is never exceeded, they are on the road from nine to twelve hours without halting. When travelling at night the proper rest is lost, and in the day it is scarcely possible to get any sleep, exposed in the open air to the excessive heat, and the annoyances of flies and mosquitoes.
18th June. In Jengitsche we met with a chan, but it was by no means equal in appearance and cleanliness to that on the road to Babylon; its chief advantage was being situated near the Tigris.
The chan was surrounded by a small village, to which I proceeded for the purpose of satisfying my hunger. I went from hut to hut, and at last fortunately succeeded in obtaining some milk and three eggs. I laid the eggs in the hot ashes and covered them over, filled my leathern flask from the Tigris, and thus loaded returned proudly to the chan. The eggs I ate directly, but saved the milk for the evening. After this meal, procured with such difficulty, I certainly felt happier, and more contented than many who had dined in the most sumptuous manner.
During my search through the village, I noticed, from the number of ruined houses and huts, that it seemed to have been of some extent formerly. Here, also, the last plague had carried off the greater part of the inhabitants; for, at the present time, there were only a few very poor families.
I here saw a very peculiar mode of making butter. The cream was put into a leathern bottle, and shaken about on the ground until the butter had formed. When made, it was put into another bottle filled with water. It was as white as snow, and I should have taken it for lard if I had not seen it made.
We did not start this evening before 10 o'clock, and then rode eleven hours without halting, to Uesi. The country here was less barren than that between Baghdad and Jengitsche. We did not, indeed, see any villages on the road; but small groups of palms, and the barking of dogs, led us to conclude that there were some very near. At sun-rise we were gratified by the sight of a low range of mountains, and the monotony of the plain was here and there broken at intervals, by small rows of hills.
19th June. Yesterday I was not quite satisfied with the chan at Jengitsche; but I should have been very thankful for a far worse one today, that we might have found any degree of shelter from the pitiless heat of the sun; instead, we were obliged to make our resting place in a field of stubble, far removed from human habitations. The caravan guide endeavoured to give me some little shade by laying a small cover over a couple of poles stuck into the ground; but the place was so small, and the artificial tent so weak, that I was compelled to sit quietly in one position, as the slightest movement would have upset it. How I envied the missionaries and scientific men, who undertake their laborious journeys furnished with horses, tents, provisions, and servants. When I wished, shortly afterwards, to take some refreshments, I had nothing but lukewarm water, bread so hard that I was obliged to sop it in water to be able to eat it, and a cucumber without salt or vinegar! However, I did not lose my courage and endurance, or regret, even for a moment, that I had exposed myself to these hardships.
We set out again about 8 o'clock in the evening, and halted about 4 in the morning at Deli-Abas. The low range of mountains still remained at our side. From Deli-Abas we crossed the river Hassei by a bridge built over it.
20th June. We found a chan here; but it was so decayed that we were obliged to encamp outside, as there is danger of snakes and scorpions in such ruins. A number of dirty Arab tents lay near the chan. The desire for something more than bread and cucumber, or old, half-rotten dates, overcame my disgust, and I crept into several of these dwellings. The people offered me buttermilk and bread. I noticed several hens running about the tents with their young, and eagerly looking for food. I would gladly have bought one, but as I was not disposed to kill and prepare it myself, I was obliged to be contented with the bread and buttermilk.
Some plants grow in this neighbourhood which put me in mind of my native country—the wild fennel. At home I scarcely thought them worth a glance, while here they were a source of extreme gratification. I am not ashamed to say, that at the sight of these flowers the tears came into my eyes, and I leant over them and kissed them as I would a dear friend.
We started again today, as early as 5 in the evening, as we had now the most dangerous stage of the journey before us, and were desirous of passing it before nightfall. The uniformly flat sandy desert in some degree altered in character. Hard gravel rattled under the hoofs of the animals; mounds, and strata of rock alternated with rising ground. Many of the former were projecting from the ground in their natural position, others had been carried down by floods, or piled over each other. If this strip had not amounted to more than 500 or 600 feet, I should have taken it to be the former bed of a river; but as it was, it more resembled the ground left by the returning of the sea. In many places saline substances were deposited, whose delicate crystals reflected the light in all directions.
This strip of ground, which is about five miles long, is dangerous, because the hills and rocks serve as a favourable ambush for robbers. Our drivers constantly urged the poor animals on. They were obliged to travel here over hills and rocks quicker than across the most convenient plains. We passed through in safety before darkness came on, and then proceeded more leisurely on our journey.
21st June. Towards 1 in the morning, we came up with the town Karatappa, of which, however, we saw only the walls. A mile beyond this we halted in some stubble fields. The extensive deserts and plains end here, and we entered upon a more cultivated and hilly country.
On the 22nd of June, we halted in the neighbourhood of the town Kuferi.
Nothing favourable can be said of any of the Turkish towns, as they so much resemble each other in wretchedness, that it is a pleasure not to be compelled to enter them. The streets are dirty, the houses built of mud or unburnt bricks, the places of worship unimportant, miserable stalls and coarse goods constitute the bazaars, and the people, dirty and disgusting, are of a rather brown complexion. The women increase their natural ugliness, by dyeing their hair and nails reddish brown with henna, and by tattooing their hands and arms. Even at twenty-five years old, they appear quite faded.
On the 23rd of June, we halted not far from the town of Dus, and took up our resting-place for the day.
In this place, I was struck by the low entrances of the houses; they were scarcely three feet high, so that the people were obliged to crawl rather than walk into them.
On the 25th of June, we came to Daug, where I saw a monument which resembled that of Queen Zobiede in Baghdad. I could not learn what great or holy man was buried under it.
25th June. At 4 this morning we came to the place where our caravan guide lived, a village about a mile from Kerku. His house was situated, with several others, in a large dirty court-yard, which was surrounded by a wall with only one entrance. This court-yard resembled a regular encampment: all the inhabitants slept there; and, besides these, there was no want of mules, horses, and asses. Our animals immediately went to their stalls, and trod so near to the sleepers, that I was quite anxious for their safety; but the animals are cautious, and the people know that, and remain perfectly quiet.
My Arab had been absent three weeks, and now returned only for a very short time; and yet none of his family came out to greet him except an old woman. Even with her, whom I supposed to be his mother, he exchanged no kind of welcome. She merely hobbled about here and there, but gave no help, and might as well have remained where she was lying, as the others.
The houses of the Arabs consist of a single, lofty, spacious apartment, separated into three parts by two partition walls, which do not extend quite across to the front wall. Each of these compartments is about thirty feet in length by nine in breadth, and serves as a dwelling for a family. The light fell through the common door-way and two holes, which were made in the upper part of the front wall. A place was set apart for me in one of these compartments, where I could pass the day.
My attention was first directed to the nature of the relationships between the several members of the family. At first this was very difficult, as it was only towards the very young children that any kind of attachment or love was shown. They appeared to be a common property. At last, however, I succeeded in ascertaining that three related families lived in the house—the patriarch, a married son, and a married daughter.
The patriarch was a handsome, powerful old man, sixty years of age, and the father of my guide, which I had learnt before, as he was one of our travelling party; he was a terrible scold, and wrangled about every trifle; the son seldom contradicted him, and gave way to all that his father wished. The caravan animals belonged, in common, to both, and were driven by themselves, and by a grandson fifteen years old, and some servants. When we had reached the house, the old man did not attend to the animals much, but took his ease and gave his orders. It was easy to see that he was the head of the family.
The first impression of the Arab character is that it is cold and reserved; I never saw either husband and wife, or father and daughter, exchange a friendly word; they said nothing more than was positively necessary. They show far more feeling towards children. They allow them to shout and make as much noise as they like, no one vexes or contradicts them, and every misconduct is overlooked. But as soon as a child is grown up, it becomes his duty to put up with the infirmities of his parents, which he does with respect and patience.
To my great astonishment, I heard the children call their mothers mama or nana, their fathers baba, and their grandmothers ete or eti.
The women lie lazily about during the whole day, and only in the evening exert themselves to make bread. I thought their dress particularly awkward and inconvenient. The sleeves of their shirts were so wide that they stuck out half a yard from the arms; the sleeves of the kaftan were still larger. Whenever they do any work, they are obliged to wind them round their arms, or tie them in a knot behind. Of course they are always coming undone, and causing delay and stoppage of their work. In addition to this, the good folks are not much addicted to cleanliness, and make use of their sleeves for blowing their noses on, as well as for wiping their spoons and plates. Their head coverings are not less inconvenient: they use first a large cloth, twice folded; over this two others are wound, and a fourth is thrown over the whole.
Unfortunately, we stayed here two days. I had a great deal to undergo the first day: all the women of the place flocked round me to stare at the stranger. They first commenced examining my clothes, then wanted to take the turban off my head, and were at last so troublesome, that it was only by force that I could get any rest. I seized one of them sharply by the arm, and turned her out of the door so quickly, that she was overcome before she knew what I was going to do. I signified to the others that I would serve them the same. Perhaps they thought me stronger than I was, for they retired immediately.
I then drew a circle round my place and forbade them to cross it, an injunction they scrupulously attended to.
I had now only to deal with the wife of my guide. She laid siege to me the whole day, coming as near to me as possible, and teasing me to give her some of my things. I gave her a few trifles, for I had not much with me, and she then wanted everything. Fortunately her husband came out of the house just then; I called him and complained of his wife, and at the same time threatened to leave his house, and seek shelter somewhere else, well knowing that the Arabs consider this a great disgrace. He immediately ordered her harshly out, and I at last had peace. I always succeeded in carrying out my own will. I found that energy and boldness have a weight with all people, whether Arabs, Persians, Bedouins, or others.
Towards evening I saw, to my great delight, a cauldron of mutton set on the fire. For eight days I had eaten nothing but bread, cucumber, and some dates; and, therefore, had a great desire for a hot and more nutritious meal. But my appetite was greatly diminished when I saw their style of cookery. The old woman (my guide's mother) threw several handsful of small grain, and a large quantity of onions, into a pan full of water to soften. In about half an hour she put her dirty hands into the water, and mixed the whole together, now and then taking a mouthful, and, after chewing it, spitting it back again into the pan. She then took a dirty rag, and strained off the juice, which she poured over the flesh in the pot.