First footsteps in East Africa
by Richard F. Burton
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Our supper, also provided by the hospitable Hajj, is the counterpart of the midday dinner. After it we repair to the roof, to enjoy the prospect of the far Tajurrah hills and the white moonbeams sleeping upon the nearer sea. The evening star hangs like a diamond upon the still horizon: around the moon a pink zone of light mist, shading off into turquoise blue, and a delicate green like chrysopraz, invests the heavens with a peculiar charm. The scene is truly suggestive: behind us, purpling in the night-air and silvered by the radiance from above, lie the wolds and mountains tenanted by the fiercest of savages; their shadowy mysterious forms exciting vague alarms in the traveller's breast. Sweet as the harp of David, the night- breeze and the music of the water come up from the sea; but the ripple and the rustling sound alternate with the hyena's laugh, the jackal's cry, and the wild dog's lengthened howl.

Or, the weather becoming cold, we remain below, and Mohammed Umar returns to read out more "Book of Lights," or some pathetic ode. I will quote in free translation the following production of the celebrated poet Abd el Rahman el Burai, as a perfect specimen of melancholy Arab imagery:

"No exile is the banished to the latter end of earth, The exile is the banished to the coffin and the tomb

"He hath claims on the dwellers in the places of their birth Who wandereth the world, for he lacketh him a home.

"Then, blamer, blame me not, were my heart within thy breast, The sigh would take the place of thy laughter and thy scorn.

"Let me weep for the sin that debars my soul of rest, The tear may yet avail,—all in vain I may not mourn! [22]

"Woe! woe to thee, Flesh!—with a purer spirit now The death-day were a hope, and the judgment-hour a joy!

"One morn I woke in pain, with a pallor on my brow, As though the dreaded Angel were descending to destroy:

"They brought to me a leech, saying, 'Heal him lest he die!' On that day, by Allah, were his drugs a poor deceit!

"They stripped me and bathed me, and closed the glazing eye, And dispersed unto prayers, and to haggle for my sheet.

"The prayers without a bow [23] they prayed over me that day, Brought nigh to me the bier, and disposed me within.

"Four bare upon their shoulders this tenement of clay, Friend and kinsmen in procession bore the dust of friend and kin.

"They threw upon me mould of the tomb and went their way— A guest, 'twould seem, had flitted from the dwellings of the tribe!

"My gold and my treasures each a share they bore away, Without thanks, without praise, with a jest and with a jibe.

"My gold and my treasures each his share they bore away, On me they left the weight!—with me they left the sin!

"That night within the grave without hoard or child I lay, No spouse, no friend were there, no comrade and no kin.

"The wife of my youth, soon another husband found— A stranger sat at home on the hearthstone of my sire.

"My son became a slave, though not purchased nor bound, The hireling of a stranger, who begrudged him his hire.

"Such, alas, is human life! such the horror of his death! Man grows like a grass, like a god he sees no end.

"Be wise, then, ere too late, brother! praise with every breath The hand that can chastise, the arm that can defend:

"And bless thou the Prophet, the averter of our ills, While the lightning flasheth bright o'er the ocean and the hills."

At this hour my companions become imaginative and superstitious. One Salimayn, a black slave from the Sawahil [24], now secretary to the Hajj, reads our fortunes in the rosary. The "fal" [25], as it is called, acts a prominent part in Somali life. Some men are celebrated for accuracy of prediction; and in times of danger, when the human mind is ever open to the "fooleries of faith," perpetual reference is made to their art. The worldly wise Salimayn, I observed, never sent away a questioner with an ill-omened reply, but he also regularly insisted upon the efficacy of sacrifice and almsgiving, which, as they would assuredly be neglected, afforded him an excuse in case of accident. Then we had a recital of the tales common to Africa, and perhaps to all the world. In modern France, as in ancient Italy, "versipelles" become wolves and hide themselves in the woods: in Persia they change themselves into bears, and in Bornou and Shoa assume the shapes of lions, hyenas, and leopards. [26] The origin of this metamorphic superstition is easily traceable, like man's fetisism or demonology, to his fears: a Bedouin, for instance, becomes dreadful by the reputation of sorcery: bears and hyenas are equally terrible; and the two objects of horror are easily connected. Curious to say, individuals having this power were pointed out to me, and people pretended to discover it in their countenances: at Zayla I was shown a Bedouin, by name Farih Badaun, who notably became a hyena at times, for the purpose of tasting human blood. [27] About forty years ago, three brothers, Kayna, Fardayna, and Sollan, were killed on Gulays near Berberah for the crime of metamorphosis. The charge is usually substantiated either by the bestial tail remaining appended to a part of the human shape which the owner has forgotten to rub against the magic tree, or by some peculiar wound which the beast received and the man retained. Kindred to this superstition is the belief that many of the Bedouins have learned the languages of birds and beasts. Another widely diffused fancy is that of the Aksar [28], which in this pastoral land becomes a kind of wood: wonderful tales are told of battered milk-pails which, by means of some peg accidentally cut in the jungle, have been found full of silver, or have acquired the qualities of cornucopiae. It is supposed that a red heifer always breaks her fast upon the wonderful plant, consequently much time and trouble have been expended by the Somal in watching the morning proceedings of red heifers. At other times we hear fearful tales of old women who, like the Jigar Khwar of Persia, feed upon man's liver: they are fond of destroying young children; even adults are not ashamed of defending themselves with talismans. In this country the crone is called Bidaa or Kumayyo, words signifying a witch: the worst is she that destroys her own progeny. No wound is visible in this vampyre's victim: generally he names his witch, and his friends beat her to death unless she heal him: many are thus martyred; and in Somali land scant notice is taken of such a peccadillo as murdering an old woman. The sex indeed has by no means a good name: here, as elsewhere, those who degrade it are the first to abuse it for degradation. At Zayla almost all quarrels are connected with women; the old bewitch in one way, the young in another, and both are equally maligned. "Wit in a woman," exclaims one man, "is a habit of running away in a dromedary." "Allah," declares another, "made woman of a crooked bone; he who would straighten her, breaketh her." Perhaps, however, by these generalisms of abuse the sex gains: they prevent personal and individual details; and no society of French gentlemen avoids mentioning in public the name of a woman more scrupulously than do the misogynist Moslems.

After a conversazione of two hours my visitors depart, and we lose no time—for we must rise at cockcrow—in spreading our mats round the common room. You would admire the Somali pillow [29], a dwarf pedestal of carved wood, with a curve upon which the greasy poll and its elaborate frisure repose. Like the Abyssinian article, it resembles the head-rest of ancient Egypt in all points, except that it is not worked with Typhons and other horrors to drive away dreadful dreams. Sometimes the sound of the kettledrum, the song, and the clapping of hands, summon us at a later hour than usual to a dance. The performance is complicated, and, as usual with the trivialities easily learned in early youth, it is uncommonly difficult to a stranger. Each dance has its own song and measure, and, contrary to the custom of El Islam, the sexes perform together. They begin by clapping the hands and stamping where they stand; to this succeed advancing, retiring, wheeling about, jumping about, and the other peculiarities of the Jim Crow school. The principal measures are those of Ugadayn and Batar; these again are divided and subdivided;—I fancy that the description of Dileho, Jibwhayn, and Hobala would be as entertaining and instructive to you, dear L., as Polka, Gavotte, and Mazurka would be to a Somali.

On Friday—our Sunday—a drunken crier goes about the town, threatening the bastinado to all who neglect their five prayers. At half-past eleven a kettledrum sounds a summons to the Jami or Cathedral. It is an old barn rudely plastered with whitewash; posts or columns of artless masonry support the low roof, and the smallness of the windows, or rather air- holes, renders its dreary length unpleasantly hot. There is no pulpit; the only ornament is a rude representation of the Meccan Mosque, nailed like a pothouse print to the wall; and the sole articles of furniture are ragged mats and old boxes, containing tattered chapters of the Koran in greasy bindings. I enter with a servant carrying a prayer carpet, encounter the stare of 300 pair of eyes, belonging to parallel rows of squatters, recite the customary two-bow prayer in honor of the mosque, placing sword and rosary before me, and then, taking up a Koran, read the Cow Chapter (No. 18.) loud and twangingly. At the Zohr or mid-day hour, the Muezzin inside the mosque, standing before the Khatib or preacher, repeats the call to prayer, which the congregation, sitting upon their shins and feet, intone after him. This ended, all present stand up, and recite every man for himself, a two-bow prayer of Sunnat or Example, concluding with the blessing on the Prophet and the Salam over each shoulder to all brother Believers. The Khatib then ascends his hole in the wall, which serves for pulpit, and thence addresses us with "The peace be upon you, and the mercy of Allah, and his benediction;" to which we respond through the Muezzin, "And upon you be peace, and Allah's mercy!" After sundry other religious formulas and their replies, concluding with a second call to prayer, our preacher rises, and in the voice with which Sir Hudibras was wont

"To blaspheme custard through the nose,"

preaches El Waaz [30], or the advice-sermon. He sits down for a few minutes, and then, rising again, recites El Naat, or the Praise of the Prophet and his Companions. These are the two heads into which the Moslem discourse is divided; unfortunately, however, there is no application. Our preacher, who is also Kazi or Judge, makes several blunders in his Arabic, and he reads his sermons, a thing never done in El Islam, except by the modice docti. The discourse over, our clerk, who is, if possible, worse than the curate, repeats the form of call termed El Ikamah; then entering the Mihrab or niche, he recites the two-bow Friday litany, with, and in front of, the congregation. I remarked no peculiarity in the style of praying, except that all followed the practice of the Shafeis in El Yemen,—raising the hands for a moment, instead of letting them depend along the thighs, between the Rukaat or bow and the Sujdah or prostration. This public prayer concluded, many people leave the mosque; a few remain for more prolonged devotions.

There is a queer kind of family likeness between this scene and that of a village church, in some quiet nook of rural England. Old Sharmarkay, the squire, attended by his son, takes his place close to the pulpit; and although the Honoratiores have no padded and cushioned pews, they comport themselves very much as if they had. Recognitions of the most distant description are allowed before the service commences: looking around is strictly forbidden during prayers; but all do not regard the prohibition, especially when a new moustache enters. Leaving the church, men shake hands, stand for a moment to exchange friendly gossip, or address a few words to the preacher, and then walk home to dinner. There are many salient points of difference. No bonnets appear in public: the squire, after prayers, gives alms to the poor, and departs escorted by two dozen matchlock-men, who perseveringly fire their shotted guns.


[1] This style of profile—highly oval, with the chin and brow receding— is very conspicuous in Eastern Africa, where the face, slightly prognathous, projects below the nose.

[2] Gall-nuts form the base of the tattooing dye. It is worked in with a needle, when it becomes permanent: applied with a pen, it requires to be renewed about once a fortnight.

[3] Mats are the staple manufacture in Eastern, as in many parts of Western, Africa. The material is sometimes Daum or other palm: there are, however, many plants in more common use; they are made of every variety in shape and colour, and are dyed red, black, and yellow,—madder from Tajurrah and alum being the matter principally used.

[4] When woman addresses woman she always uses her voice.

[5] The Tobe, or Abyssinian "Quarry," is the general garment of Africa from Zayla to Bornou. In the Somali country it is a cotton sheet eight cubits long, and two breadths sewn together. An article of various uses, like the Highland plaid, it is worn in many ways; sometimes the right arm is bared; in cold weather the whole person is muffled up, and in summer it is allowed to full below the waist. Generally it is passed behind the back, rests upon the left shoulder, is carried forward over the breast, surrounds the body, and ends hanging on the left shoulder, where it displays a gaudy silk fringe of red and yellow. This is the man's Tobe. The woman's dress is of similar material, but differently worn: the edges are knotted generally over the right, sometimes over the left shoulder; it is girdled round the waist, below which hangs a lappet, which in cold weather can be brought like a hood over the head. Though highly becoming, and picturesque as the Roman toga, the Somali Tobe is by no means the most decorous of dresses: women in the towns often prefer the Arab costume,—a short-sleeved robe extending to the knee, and a Futah or loin-cloth underneath.

As regards the word Tobe, it signifies, in Arabic, a garment generally: the Somal call it "Maro," and the half Tobe a "Shukkah."

[6] Abu Kasim of Gaza, a well known commentator upon Abu Shujaa of Isfahan, who wrote a text-book of the Shafei school.

[7] The Hajj had seven sons, three of whom died in infancy. Ali and Mahmud, the latter a fine young man, fell victims to small pox: Mohammed is now the eldest, and the youngest is a child called Ahmed, left for education at Mocha. The Hajj has also two daughters, married to Bedouin Somal.

[8] It is related that a Hazrami, flying from his fellow-countrymen, reached a town upon the confines of China. He was about to take refuge in a mosque, but entering, he stumbled over the threshold. "Ya Amud el Din"— "0 Pillar of the Faith!" exclaimed a voice from the darkness, calling upon the patron saint of Hazramaut to save a Moslem from falling. "May the Pillar of the Faith break thy head," exclaimed the unpatriotic traveller, at once rising to resume his vain peregrinations.

[9] Mercenaries from Mocha, Hazramaut, and Bir Hamid near Aden: they are armed with matchlock, sword, and dagger; and each receives from the governor a monthly stipend of two dollars and a half.

[10] The system of caste, which prevails in El Yemen, though not in the northern parts of Arabia, is general throughout the Somali country. The principal families of outcasts are the following.

The Yebir correspond with the Dushan of Southern Arabia: the males are usually jesters to the chiefs, and both sexes take certain parts at festivals, marriages, and circumcisions. The number is said to be small, amounting to about 100 families in the northern Somali country.

The Tomal or Handad, the blacksmiths, originally of Aydur race, have become vile by intermarriage with serviles. They mast now wed maidens of their own class, and live apart from the community: their magical practices are feared by the people,—the connection of wits and witchcraft is obvious,—and all private quarrels are traced to them. It has been observed that the blacksmith has ever been looked upon with awe by barbarians on the same principle that made Vulcan a deity. In Abyssinia all artisans are Budah, sorcerers, especially the blacksmith, and he is a social outcast as among the Somal; even in El Hejaz, a land, unlike Yemen, opposed to distinctions amongst Moslems, the Khalawiyah, who work in metal, are considered vile. Throughout the rest of El Islam the blacksmith is respected as treading in the path of David, the father of the craft.

The word "Tomal," opposed to Somal, is indigenous. "Handad "is palpably a corruption of the Arabic "Haddad," ironworker.

The Midgan, "one-hand," corresponds with the Khadim of Yemen: he is called Kami or "archer" by the Arabs. There are three distinct tribes of this people, who are numerous in the Somali country: the best genealogists cannot trace their origin, though some are silly enough to derive them, like the Akhdam, from Shimr. All, however, agree in expelling the Midgan from the gentle blood of Somali land, and his position has been compared to that of Freedman amongst the Romans. These people take service under the different chiefs, who sometimes entertain great numbers to aid in forays and frays; they do not, however, confine themselves to one craft. Many Midgans employ themselves in hunting and agriculture. Instead of spear and shield, they carry bows and a quiver full of diminutive arrows, barbed and poisoned with the Waba,—a weapon used from Faizoghli to the Cape of Good Hope. Like the Veddah of Ceylon, the Midgan is a poor shot, and scarcely strong enough to draw his stiff bow. He is accused of maliciousness; and the twanging of his string will put to flight a whole village. The poison is greatly feared: it causes, say the people, the hair and nails to drop off, and kills a man in half an hour. The only treatment known is instant excision of the part; and this is done the more frequently, because here, as in other parts of Africa, such stigmates are deemed ornamental.

In appearance the Midgan is dark and somewhat stunted; he is known to the people by peculiarities of countenance and accent.

[11] The reason why Europeans fail to explain their thoughts to Orientals generally is that they transfer the Laconism of Western to Eastern tongues. We for instance say, "Fetch the book I gave you last night." This in Hindostani, to choose a well-known tongue, must be smothered with words thus: "What book was by me given to you yesterday by night, that book bringing to me, come!"

[12] I have alluded to these subjects in a previous work upon the subject of Meccah and El Medinah.

[13] This is one of the stock complaints against the Moslem scheme. Yet is it not practically the case with ourselves? In European society, the best are generally those who prefer the companionship of their own sex; the "ladies' man" and the woman who avoids women are rarely choice specimens.

[14] The Shantarah board is thus made, with twenty-five points technically called houses. The players have twelve counters a piece, and each places two at a time upon any of the unoccupied angles, till all except the centre are filled up. The player who did not begin the game must now move a man; his object is to inclose one of his adversary's between two of his own, in which case he removes it, and is entitled to continue moving till he can no longer take. It is a game of some skill, and perpetual practice enables the Somal to play it as the Persians do backgammon, with great art and little reflection. The game is called Kurkabod when, as in our draughts, the piece passing over one of the adversary's takes it.

Shahh is another favourite game. The board is made thus, and the pieces as at Shantarah are twelve in number. The object is to place three men in line,—as the German Muhle and the Afghan "Kitar,"— when any one of the adversary's pieces may be removed.

Children usually prefer the game called indifferently Togantog and Saddikiya. A double line of five or six holes is made in the ground, four counters are placed in each, and when in the course of play four men meet in the same hole, one of the adversary's is removed. It resembles the Bornou game, played with beans and holes in the sand. Citizens and the more civilised are fond of "Bakkis," which, as its name denotes, is a corruption of the well-known Indian Pachisi. None but the travelled know chess, and the Damal (draughts) and Tavola (backgammon) of the Turks.

[15] The same objection against "villanous saltpetre" was made by ourselves in times of old: the French knights called gunpowder the Grave of Honor. This is natural enough, the bravest weapon being generally the shortest—that which places a man hand to hand with his opponent. Some of the Kafir tribes have discontinued throwing the Assegai, and enter battle wielding it as a pike. Usually, also, the shorter the weapon is, the more fatal are the conflicts in which it is employed. The old French "Briquet," the Afghan "Charay," and the Goorka "Kukkri," exemplify this fact in the history of arms.

[16] In the latter point it differs from the Assegai, which is worked by the Kafirs to the finest temper.

[17] It is called by the Arabs Kubabah, by the Somal Goasa. Johnston (Travels in Southern Abyssinia, chap. 8.) has described the game; he errs, however, in supposing it peculiar to the Dankali tribes.

[18] This is in fact the pilgrim dress of El Islam; its wide diffusion to the eastward, as well as west of the Red Sea, proves its antiquity as a popular dress.

[19] I often regretted having neglected the precaution of a bottle of walnut juice,—a white colour is decidedly too conspicuous in this part of the East.

[20] The strict rule of the Moslem faith is this: if a man neglect to pray, he is solemnly warned to repent. Should he simply refuse, without, however, disbelieving in prayer, he is to be put to death, and receive Moslem burial; in the other contingency, he is not bathed, prayed for, or interred in holy ground. This severe order, however, lies in general abeyance.

[21] "Tuarick grandiloquence," says Richardson (vol. i. p. 207.), "savours of blasphemy, e.g. the lands, rocks, and mountains of Ghat do not belong to God but to the Azghar." Equally irreverent are the Kafirs of the Cape. They have proved themselves good men in wit as well as war; yet, like the old Greenlanders and some of the Burmese tribes, they are apparently unable to believe in the existence of the Supreme. A favourite question to the missionaries was this, "Is your God white or black?" If the European, startled by the question, hesitated for a moment, they would leave him with open signs of disgust at having been made the victims of a hoax.

The assertion generally passes current that the idea of an Omnipotent Being is familiar to all people, even the most barbarous. My limited experience argues the contrary. Savages begin with fetisism and demon- worship, they proceed to physiolatry (the religion of the Vedas) and Sabaeism: the deity is the last and highest pinnacle of the spiritual temple, not placed there except by a comparatively civilised race of high development, which leads them to study and speculate upon cosmical and psychical themes. This progression is admirably wrought out in Professor Max Muller's "Rig Veda Sanhita."

[22] The Moslem corpse is partly sentient in the tomb, reminding the reader of Tennyson:

"I thought the dead had peace, but it is not so; To have no peace in the grave, is that not sad?"

[23] The prayers for the dead have no Rukaat or bow as in other orisons.

[24] The general Moslem name for the African coast from the Somali seaboard southwards to the Mozambique, inhabited by negrotic races.

[25] The Moslem rosary consists of ninety-nine beads divided into sets of thirty-three each by some peculiar sign, as a bit of red coral. The consulter, beginning at a chance place, counts up to the mark: if the number of beads be odd, he sets down a single dot, if even, two. This is done four times, when a figure is produced as in the margin. Of these there are sixteen, each having its peculiar name and properties. The art is merely Geomancy in its rudest shape; a mode of vaticination which, from its wide diffusion, must be of high antiquity. The Arabs call it El Baml, and ascribe its present form to the Imam Jaafar el Sadik; amongst them it is a ponderous study, connected as usual with astrology. Napoleon's "Book of Fate" is a specimen of the old Eastern superstition presented to Europe in a modern and simple form.

[26] In this country, as in Western and Southern Africa, the leopard, not the wolf, is the shepherd's scourge.

[27] Popular superstition in Abyssinia attributes the same power to the Felashas or Jews.

[28] Our Elixir, a corruption of the Arabic El Iksir.

[29] In the Somali tongue its name is Barki: they make a stool of similar shape, and call it Barjimo.

[30] Specimens of these discourses have been given by Mr. Lane, Mod. Egypt, chap. 3. It is useless to offer others, as all bear the closest resemblance.



We determined on the 9th of November to visit the island of Saad el Din, the larger of the two patches of ground which lie about two miles north of the town. Reaching our destination, after an hour's lively sail, we passed through a thick belt of underwood tenanted by swarms of midges, with a damp chill air crying fever, and a fetor of decayed vegetation smelling death. To this succeeded a barren flat of silt and sand, white with salt and ragged with salsolaceous stubble, reeking with heat, and covered with old vegetation. Here, says local tradition, was the ancient site of Zayla [1], built by Arabs from Yemen. The legend runs that when Saad el Din was besieged and slain by David, King of Ethiopia, the wells dried up and the island sank. Something doubtless occurred which rendered a removal advisable: the sons of the Moslem hero fled to Ahmed bin El Ashraf, Prince of Senaa, offering their allegiance if he would build fortifications for them and aid them against the Christians of Abyssinia. The consequence was a walled circuit upon the present site of Zayla: of its old locality almost may be said "periere ruinae."

During my stay with Sharmarkay I made many inquiries about historical works, and the Kazi; Mohammed Khatib, a Harar man of the Hawiyah tribe, was at last persuaded to send his Daftar, or office papers, for my inspection. They formed a kind of parish register of births, deaths, marriages, divorces, and manumissions. From them it appeared that in A.H. 1081 (A.D. 1670-71) the Shanabila Sayyids were Kazis of Zayla and retained the office for 138 years. It passed two generations ago into the hands of Mohammed Musa, a Hawiyah, and the present Kazi is his nephew.

The origin of Zayla, or, as it is locally called, "Audal," is lost in the fogs of Phoenician fable. The Avalites [2] of the Periplus and Pliny, it was in earliest ages dependent upon the kingdom of Axum. [3] About the seventh century, when the Southern Arabs penetrated into the heart of Abyssinia [4], it became the great factory of the eastern coast, and rose to its height of splendour. Taki el Din Makrizi [5] includes under the name of Zayla, a territory of forty-three days' march by forty, and divides it into seven great provinces, speaking about fifty languages, and ruled by Amirs, subject to the Hati (Hatze) of Abyssinia.

In the fourteenth century it became celebrated by its wars with the kings of Abyssinia: sustaining severe defeats the Moslems retired upon their harbour, which, after an obstinate defence fell into the hands of the Christians. The land was laid waste, the mosques were converted into churches, and the Abyssinians returned to their mountains laden with booty. About A.D. 1400, Saad el Din, the heroic prince of Zayla, was besieged in his city by the Hatze David the Second: slain by a spear- thrust, he left his people powerless in the hands of their enemies, till his sons, Sabr el Din, Ali, Mansur, and Jemal el Din retrieved the cause of El Islam.

Ibn Batuta, a voyager of the fourteenth century, thus describes the place: "I then went from Aden by sea, and after four days came to the city of Zayla. This is a settlement, of the Berbers [6], a people of Sudan, of the Shafia sect. Their country is a desert of two months' extent; the first part is termed Zayla, the last Makdashu. The greatest number of the inhabitants, however, are of the Rafizah sect. [7] Their food is mostly camels' flesh and fish. [8] The stench of the country is extreme, as is also its filth, from the stink of the fish and the blood of camels which are slaughtered in its streets."

About A.D. 1500 the Turks conquered Yemen, and the lawless Janissaries, "who lived upon the very bowels of commerce" [9], drove the peaceable Arab merchants to the opposite shore. The trade of India, flying from the same enemy, took refuge in Adel, amongst its partners. [10] The Turks of Arabia, though they were blind to the cause, were sensible of the great influx of wealth into the opposite kingdoms. They took possession, therefore, of Zayla, which they made a den of thieves, established there what they called a custom-house [11], and, by means of that post and galleys cruising in the narrow straits of Bab el Mandeb, they laid the Indian trade to Adel under heavy contributions that might indemnify them for the great desertion their violence and injustice had occasioned in Arabia.

This step threatened the very existence both of Adel and Abyssinia; and considering the vigorous government of the one, and the weak politics and prejudices of the other, it is more than probable that the Turks would have subdued both, had they not in India, their chief object, met the Portuguese, strongly established.

Bartema, travelling in A.D. 1503, treats in his 15th chapter of "Zeila in AEthiopia and the great fruitlessness thereof, and of certain strange beasts seen there."

"In this city is great frequentation of merchandise, as in a most famous mart. There is marvellous abundance of gold and iron, and an innumerable number of black slaves sold for small prices; these are taken in War by the Mahomedans out of AEthiopia, of the kingdom of Presbyter Johannes, or Preciosus Johannes, which some also call the king of Jacobins or Abyssins, being a Christian; and are carried away from thence into Persia, Arabia Felix, Babylonia of Nilus or Alcair, and Meccah. In this city justice and good laws are observed. [12] ... It hath an innumerable multitude of merchants; the walls are greatly decayed, and the haven rude and despicable. The King or Sultan of the city is a Mahomedan, and entertaineth in wages a great multitude of footmen and horsemen. They are greatly given to war, and wear only one loose single vesture: they are of dark ash colour, inclining to black."

In July 1516 Zayla was taken, and the town burned by a Portuguese armament, under Lopez Suarez Alberguiera. When the Turks were compelled to retire from Southern Arabia, it became subject to the Prince of Senaa, who gave it in perpetuity to the family of a Senaani merchant.

The kingdom of Yemen falling into decay, Zayla passed under the authority of the Sherif of Mocha, who, though receiving no part of the revenue, had yet the power of displacing the Governor. By him it was farmed out to the Hajj Sharmarkay, who paid annually to Sayyid Mohammed el Barr, at Mocha, the sum of 750 crowns, and reserved all that he could collect above that sum for himself. In A.D. 1848 Zayla was taken from the family El Barr, and farmed out to Sharmarkay by the Turkish Governor of Mocha and Hodaydah.

The extant remains at Saad el Din are principally those of water-courses, rude lines of coralline, stretching across the plain towards wells, now lost [13], and diminutive tanks, made apparently to collect rain water. One of these latter is a work of some art—a long sunken vault, with a pointed arch projecting a few feet above the surface of the ground; outside it is of rough stone, the interior is carefully coated with fine lime, and from the roof long stalactites depend. Near it is a cemetery: the graves are, for the most part, provided with large slabs of close black basalt, planted in the ground edgeways, and in the shape of a small oblong. The material was most probably brought from the mountains near Tajurrah: at another part of the island I found it in the shape of a gigantic mill-stone, half imbedded in the loose sand. Near the cemetery we observed a mound of rough stones surrounding an upright pole; this is the tomb of Shaykh Saad el Din, formerly the hero, now the favourite patron saint of Zayla,—still popularly venerated, as was proved by the remains of votive banquets, broken bones, dried garbage, and stones blackened by the fire.

After wandering through the island, which contained not a human being save a party of Somal boatmen, cutting firewood for Aden, and having massacred a number of large fishing hawks and small sea-birds, to astonish the natives, our companions, we returned to the landing-place. Here an awning had been spread; the goat destined for our dinner—I have long since conquered all dislike, dear L., to seeing dinner perambulating—had been boiled and disposed in hunches upon small mountains of rice, and jars of sweet water stood in the air to cool. After feeding, regardless of Quartana and her weird sisterhood, we all lay down for siesta in the light sea-breeze. Our slumbers were heavy, as the Zayla people say is ever the case at Saad el Din, and the sun had declined low ere we awoke. The tide was out, and we waded a quarter of a mile to the boat, amongst giant crabs who showed grisly claws, sharp coralline, and sea-weed so thick as to become almost a mat. You must believe me when I tell you that in the shallower parts the sun was painfully hot, even to my well tried feet. We picked up a few specimens of fine sponge, and coral, white and red, which, if collected, might be valuable to Zayla, and, our pic-nic concluded, we returned home.

On the 14th November we left the town to meet a caravan of the Danakil [14], and to visit the tomb of the great saint Abu Zarbay. The former approached in a straggling line of asses, and about fifty camels laiden with cows' hides, ivories and one Abyssinian slave-girl. The men were wild as ourang-outangs, and the women fit only to flog cattle: their animals were small, meagre-looking, and loosely made; the asses of the Bedouins, however, are far superior to those of Zayla, and the camels are, comparatively speaking, well bred. [15] In a few minutes the beasts were unloaded, the Gurgis or wigwams pitched, and all was prepared for repose. A caravan so extensive being an unusual event,—small parties carrying only grain come in once or twice a week,—the citizens abandoned even their favourite game of ball, with an eye to speculation. We stood at "Government House," over the Ashurbara Gate, to see the Bedouins, and we quizzed (as Town men might denounce a tie or scoff at a boot) the huge round shields and the uncouth spears of these provincials. Presently they entered the streets, where we witnessed their frantic dance in presence of the Hajj and other authorities. This is the wild men's way of expressing their satisfaction that Fate has enabled them to convoy the caravan through all the dangers of the desert.

The Shaykh Ibrahim Abu Zarbay [16] lies under a whitewashed dome close to the Ashurbara Gate of Zayla: an inscription cut in wood over the doorway informs us that the building dates from A.H. 1155=AD. 1741-2. It is now dilapidated, the lintel is falling in, the walls are decaying, and the cupola, which is rudely built, with primitive gradients,—each step supported as in Cashmere and other parts of India, by wooden beams,— threatens the heads of the pious. The building is divided into two compartments, forming a Mosque and a Mazar or place of pious visitation: in the latter are five tombs, the two largest covered with common chintz stuff of glaring colours. Ibrahim was one of the forty-four Hazrami saints who landed at Berberah, sat in solemn conclave upon Auliya Kumbo or Holy Hill, and thence dispersed far and wide for the purpose of propagandism. He travelled to Harar about A.D. 1430 [17], converted many to El Islam, and left there an honored memory. His name is immortalised in El Yemen by the introduction of El Kat. [17]

Tired of the town, I persuaded the Hajj to send me with an escort to the Hissi or well. At daybreak I set out with four Arab matchlock-men, and taking a direction nearly due west, waded and walked over an alluvial plain flooded by every high tide. On our way we passed lines of donkeys and camels carrying water-skins from the town; they were under guard like ourselves, and the sturdy dames that drove them indulged in many a loud joke at our expense. After walking about four miles we arrived at what is called the Takhushshah—the sandy bed of a torrent nearly a mile broad [19], covered with a thin coat of caked mud: in the centre is a line of pits from three to four feet deep, with turbid water at the bottom. Around them were several frame-works of four upright sticks connected by horizontal bars, and on these were stretched goats'-skins, forming the cattle-trough of the Somali country. About the wells stood troops of camels, whose Eesa proprietors scowled fiercely at us, and stalked over the plain with their long, heavy spears: for protection against these people, the citizens have erected a kind of round tower, with a ladder for a staircase. Near it are some large tamarisks and the wild henna of the Somali country, which supplies a sweet-smelling flower, but is valueless as a dye. A thick hedge of thorn-trees surrounds the only cultivated ground near Zayla: as Ibn Said declared in old times, "the people have no gardens, and know nothing of fruits." The variety and the luxuriance of growth, however, prove that industry is the sole desideratum. I remarked the castor-plant,—no one knows its name or nature [20],—the Rayhan or Basil, the Kadi, a species of aloe, whose strongly scented flowers the Arabs of Yemen are fond of wearing in their turbans. [21] Of vegetables, there were cucumbers, egg-plants, and the edible hibiscus; the only fruit was a small kind of water-melon.

After enjoying a walk through the garden and a bath at the well, I started, gun in hand, towards the jungly plain that stretches towards the sea. It abounds in hares, and in a large description of spur-fowl [22]; the beautiful little sand antelope, scarcely bigger than an English rabbit [23], bounded over the bushes, its thin legs being scarcely perceptible during the spring. I was afraid to fire with ball, the place being full of Bedouins' huts, herds, and dogs, and the vicinity of man made the animals too wild for small shot. In revenge, I did considerable havoc amongst the spur-fowl, who proved equally good for sport and the pot, besides knocking over a number of old crows, whose gall the Arab soldiers wanted for collyrium. [24] Beyond us lay Warabalay or Hyaenas' hill [25]: we did not visit it, as all its tenants had been driven away by the migration of the Nomads.

Returning, we breakfasted in the garden, and rain coming on, we walked out to enjoy the Oriental luxury of a wetting. Ali Iskandar, an old Arab mercenary, afforded us infinite amusement: a little opium made him half crazy, when his sarcastic pleasantries never ceased. We then brought out the guns, and being joined by the other escort, proceeded to a trial of skill. The Arabs planted a bone about 200 paces from us,—a long distance for a people who seldom fire beyond fifty yards;—moreover, the wind blew the flash strongly in their faces. Some shot two or three dozen times wide of the mark and were derided accordingly: one man hit the bone; he at once stopped practice, as the wise in such matters will do, and shook hands with all the party. He afterwards showed that his success on this occasion had been accidental; but he was a staunch old sportsman, remarkable, as the Arab Bedouins generally are, for his skill and perseverance in stalking. Having no rifle, I remained a spectator. My revolvers excited abundant attention, though none would be persuaded to touch them. The largest, which fitted with a stock became an excellent carbine, was at once named Abu Sittah (the Father of Six) and the Shaytan or Devil: the pocket pistol became the Malunah or Accursed, and the distance to which it carried ball made every man wonder. The Arabs had antiquated matchlocks, mostly worn away to paper thinness at the mouth: as usual they fired with the right elbow raised to the level of the ear, and the left hand grasping the barrel, where with us the breech would be. Hassan Turki had one of those fine old Shishkhanah rifles formerly made at Damascus and Senaa: it carried a two-ounce ball with perfect correctness, but was so badly mounted in its block-butt, shaped like a Dutch cheese, that it always required a rest.

On our return home we met a party of Eesa girls, who derided my colour and doubted the fact of my being a Moslem. The Arabs declared me to be a Shaykh of Shaykhs, and translated to the prettiest of the party an impromptu proposal of marriage. She showed but little coyness, and stated her price to be an Audulli or necklace [26], a couple of Tobes,—she asked one too many—a few handfuls of beads, [27] and a small present for her papa. She promised, naively enough, to call next day and inspect the goods: the publicity of the town did not deter her, but the shamefacedness of my two companions prevented our meeting again. Arrived at Zayla after a sunny walk, the Arab escort loaded their guns, formed a line for me to pass along, fired a salute, and entered to coffee and sweetmeats.

On the 24th of November I had an opportunity of seeing what a timid people are these Somal of the towns, who, as has been well remarked, are, like the settled Arabs, the worst specimens of their race. Three Eesa Bedouins appeared before the southern gate, slaughtered a cow, buried its head, and sent for permission to visit one of their number who had been imprisoned by the Hajj for the murder of his son Masud. The place was at once thrown into confusion, the gates were locked, and the walls manned with Arab matchlock men: my three followers armed themselves, and I was summoned to the fray. Some declared that the Bedouins were "doing" [28] the town; others that they were the van of a giant host coming to ravish, sack, and slay: it turned out that these Bedouins had preceded their comrades, who were bringing in, as the price of blood [29], an Abyssinian slave, seven camels, seven cows, a white mule, and a small black mare. The prisoner was visited by his brother, who volunteered to share his confinement, and the meeting was described as most pathetic: partly from mental organisation and partly from the peculiarities of society, the only real tie acknowledged by these people is that which connects male kinsmen. The Hajj, after speaking big, had the weakness to let the murderer depart alive: this measure, like peace-policy in general, is the best and surest way to encourage bloodshed and mutilation. But a few months before, an Eesa Bedouin enticed out of the gates a boy about fifteen, and slaughtered him for the sake of wearing the feather. His relations were directed to receive the Diyat or blood fine, and the wretch was allowed to depart unhurt—a silly clemency!

You must not suppose, dear L., that I yielded myself willingly to the weary necessity of a month at Zayla. But how explain to you the obstacles thrown in our way by African indolence, petty intrigue, and interminable suspicion? Four months before leaving Aden I had taken the precaution of meeting the Hajj, requesting him to select for us an Abban [30], or protector, and to provide camels and mules; two months before starting I had advanced to him the money required in a country where nothing can be done without a whole or partial prepayment. The protector was to be procured anywhere, the cattle at Tajurrah, scarcely a day's sail from Zayla: when I arrived nothing was forthcoming. I at once begged the governor to exert himself: he politely promised to start a messenger that hour, and he delayed doing so for ten days. An easterly wind set in and gave the crew an excuse for wasting another fortnight. [31] Travellers are an irritable genus: I stormed and fretted at the delays to show earnestness of purpose. All the effect was a paroxysm of talking. The Hajj and his son treated me, like a spoilt child, to a double allowance of food and milk: they warned me that the small-pox was depopulating Harar, that the road swarmed with brigands, and that the Amir or prince was certain destruction,—I contented myself with determining that both were true Oriental hyperbolists, and fell into more frequent fits of passion. The old man could not comprehend my secret. "If the English," he privately remarked, "wish to take Harar, let them send me 500 soldiers; if not, I can give all information concerning it." When convinced of my determination to travel, he applied his mind to calculating the benefit which might be derived from the event, and, as the following pages will show, he was not without success.

Towards the end of November, four camels were procured, an Abban was engaged, we hired two women cooks and a fourth servant; my baggage was reformed, the cloth and tobacco being sewn up in matting, and made to fit the camels' sides [32]; sandals were cut out for walking, letters were written, messages of dreary length,—too important to be set down in black and white,—were solemnly entrusted to us, palavers were held, and affairs began to wear the semblance of departure. The Hajj strongly recommended us to one of the principal families of the Gudabirsi tribe, who would pass us on to their brother-in-law Adan, the Gerad or prince of the Girhi; and he, in due time, to his kinsman the Amir of Harar. The chain was commenced by placing us under the protection of one Raghe, a petty Eesa chief of the Mummasan clan. By the good aid of the Hajj and our sweetmeats, he was persuaded, for the moderate consideration of ten Tobes [33], to accompany us to the frontier of his clan, distant about fifty miles, to introduce us to the Gudabirsi, and to provide us with three men as servants, and a suitable escort, a score or so, in dangerous places. He began, with us in an extravagant manner, declaring that nothing but "name" induced him to undertake the perilous task; that he had left his flocks and herds at a season of uncommon risk, and that all his relations must receive a certain honorarium. But having paid at least three pounds for a few days of his society, we declined such liberality, and my companions, I believe, declared that it would be "next time:"—on all such occasions I make a point of leaving the room, since for one thing given at least five are promised on oath. Raghe warned us seriously to prepare for dangers and disasters, and this seemed to be the general opinion of Zayla, whose timid citizens determined that we were tired of our lives. The cold had driven the Nomads from the hills to the warm maritime Plains [34], we should therefore traverse a populous region; and, as the End of Time aptly observed, "Man eats you up, the Desert does not." Moreover this year the Ayyal Nuh Ismail, a clan of the Habr Awal tribe, is "out," and has been successful against the Eesa, who generally are the better men. They sweep the country in Kaum or Commandos [35], numbering from twenty to two hundred troopers, armed with assegai, dagger, and shield, and carrying a water skin and dried meat for a three days' ride, sufficient to scour the length of the low land. The honest fellows are not so anxious to plunder as to ennoble themselves by taking life: every man hangs to his saddle bow an ostrich [36] feather,—emblem of truth,—and the moment his javelin has drawn blood, he sticks it into his tufty pole with as much satisfaction as we feel when attaching a medal to our shell-jackets. It is by no means necessary to slay the foe in fair combat: Spartan-like, treachery is preferred to stand-up fighting; and you may measure their ideas of honor, by the fact that women are murdered in cold blood, as by the Amazulus, with the hope that the unborn child may prove a male. The hero carries home the trophy of his prowess [37], and his wife, springing from her tent, utters a long shrill scream of joy, a preliminary to boasting of her man's valour, and bitterly taunting the other possessors of noirs faineants: the derided ladies abuse their lords with peculiar virulence, and the lords fall into paroxysms of envy, hatred, and malice. During my short stay at Zayla six or seven murders were committed close to the walls: the Abban brought news, a few hours before our departure, that two Eesas had been slaughtered by the Habr Awal. The Eesa and Dankali also have a blood feud, which causes perpetual loss of life. But a short time ago six men of these two tribes were travelling together, when suddenly the last but one received from the hindermost a deadly spear thrust in the back. The wounded man had the presence of mind to plunge his dagger in the side of the wayfarer who preceded him, thus dying, as the people say, in company. One of these events throws the country into confusion, for the vendetta is rancorous and bloody, as in ancient Germany or in modern Corsica. Our Abban enlarged upon the unpleasant necessity of travelling all night towards the hills, and lying perdu during the day. The most dangerous times are dawn and evening tide: the troopers spare their horses during the heat, and themselves during the dew-fall. Whenever, in the desert,—where, says the proverb, all men are enemies—you sight a fellow creature from afar, you wave the right arm violently up and down, shouting "War Joga! War Joga!"—stand still! stand still! If they halt, you send a parliamentary to within speaking distance. Should they advance [38], you fire, taking especial care not to miss; when two saddles are emptied, the rest are sure to decamp.

I had given the Abban orders to be in readiness,—my patience being thoroughly exhausted,—on Sunday, the 26th of November, and determined to walk the whole way, rather than waste another day waiting for cattle. As the case had become hopeless, a vessel was descried standing straight from Tajurrah, and, suddenly as could happen in the Arabian Nights, four fine mules, saddled and bridled, Abyssinian fashion, appeared at the door. [39]


[1] Brace describes Zayla as "a small island, on the very coast of Adel." To reconcile discrepancy, he adopts the usual clumsy expedient of supposing two cities of the same name, one situated seven degrees south of the other. Salt corrects the error, but does not seem to have heard of old Zayla's insular position.

[2] The inhabitants were termed Avalitae, and the Bay "Sinus Avaliticus." Some modern travellers have confounded it with Adule or Adulis, the port of Axum, founded by fugitive Egyptian slaves. The latter, however, lies further north: D'Anville places it at Arkiko, Salt at Zula (or Azule), near the head of Annesley Bay.

[3] The Arabs were probably the earliest colonists of this coast. Even the Sawahil people retain a tradition that their forefathers originated in the south of Arabia.

[4] To the present day the district of Gozi is peopled by Mohammedans called Arablet, "whose progenitors," according to Harris, "are said by tradition to have been left there prior to the reign of Nagasi, first King of Shoa. Hossain, Wahabit, and Abdool Kurreem, generals probably detached from the victorious army of Graan (Mohammed Gragne), are represented to have come from Mecca, and to have taken possession of the country,—the legend assigning to the first of these warriors as his capital, the populous village of Medina, which is conspicuous on a cone among the mountains, shortly after entering the valley of Robi."

[5] Historia Regum Islamiticorum in Abyssinia, Lugd. Bat. 1790. [6] The affinity between the Somal and the Berbers of Northern Africa, and their descent from Canaan, son of Ham, has been learnedly advanced and refuted by several Moslem authors. The theory appears to have arisen from a mistake; Berberah, the great emporium of the Somali country, being confounded with the Berbers of Nubia.

[7] Probably Zaidi from Yemen. At present the people of Zayla are all orthodox Sunnites.

[8] Fish, as will be seen in these pages, is no longer a favourite article of diet.

[9] Bruce, book 8.

[10] Hence the origin of the trade between Africa and Cutch, which continues uninterrupted to the present time. Adel, Arabia, and India, as Bruce remarks, were three partners in one trade, who mutually exported their produce to Europe, Asia, and Africa, at that time the whole known world.

[11] The Turks, under a show of protecting commerce, established these posts in their different ports. But they soon made it appear that the end proposed was only to ascertain who were the subjects from whom they could levy the most enormous extortions. Jeddah, Zebid, and Mocha, the places of consequence nearest to Abyssinia on the Arabian coast, Suakin, a seaport town on the very barriers of Abyssinia, in the immediate way of their caravan to Cairo on the African side, were each under the command of a Turkish Pasha and garrisoned by Turkish troops sent thither from Constantinople by the emperors Selim and Sulayman.

[12] Bartema's account of its productions is as follows: "The soil beareth wheat and hath abundance of flesh and divers other commodious things. It hath also oil, not of olives, but of some other thing, I know not what. There is also plenty of honey and wax; there are likewise certain sheep having their tails of the weight of sixteen pounds, and exceeding fat; the head and neck are black, and all the rest white. There are also sheep altogether white, and having tails of a cubit long, and hanging down like a great cluster of grapes, and have also great laps of skin hanging down from their throats, as have bulls and oxen, hanging down almost to the ground. There are also certain kind with horns like unto harts' horns; these are wild, and when they be taken are given to the Sultan of that city as a kingly present. I saw there also certain kind having only one horn in the midst of the forehead, as hath the unicorn, and about a span of length, but the horn bendeth backward: they are of bright shining red colour. But they that have harts' horns are inclining to black colour. Living is there good and cheap."

[13] The people have a tradition that a well of sweet water exists unseen in some part of the island. When Saad el Din was besieged in Zayla by the Hatze David, the host of El Islam suffered severely for the want of the fresh element.

[14] The singular is Dankali, the plural Danakil: both words are Arabic, the vernacular name being "Afar" or "Afer," the Somali "Afarnimun." The word is pronounced like the Latin "Afer," an African.

[15] Occasionally at Zayla—where all animals are expensive—Dankali camels may be bought: though small, they resist hardship and fatigue better than the other kinds. A fair price would be about ten dollars. The Somal divide their animals into two kinds, Gel Ad and Ayyun. The former is of white colour, loose and weak, but valuable, I was told by Lieut. Speke, in districts where little water is found: the Ayyun is darker and stronger; its price averages about a quarter more than the Gel Ad.

To the Arabian traveller nothing can be more annoying than these Somali camels. They must be fed four hours during the day, otherwise they cannot march. They die from change of food or sudden removal to another country. Their backs are ever being galled, and, with all precautions, a month's march lays them up for three times that period. They are never used for riding, except in cases of sickness or accidents.

The Somali ass is generally speaking a miserable animal. Lieut. Speke, however, reports that on the windward coast it is not to be despised. At Harar I found a tolerable breed, superior in appearance but inferior in size to the thoroughbred little animals at Aden. They are never ridden; their principal duty is that of carrying water-skins to and from the walls.

[16] He is generally called Abu Zerbin, more rarely Abu Zarbayn, and Abu Zarbay. I have preferred the latter orthography upon the authority of the Shaykh Jami, most learned of the Somal.

[17] In the same year (A.D. 1429-30) the Shaykh el Shazili, buried under a dome at Mocha, introduced coffee into Arabia.

[18] The following is an extract from the Pharmaceutical Journal, vol. xii. No. v. Nov. 1. 1852. Notes upon the drugs observed at Aden Arabia, by James Vaughan, Esq., M.R.C.S.E., Assist. Surg., B.A., Civil and Port. Surg., Aden, Arabia.

"Kat [Arabic], the name of a drug which is brought into Aden from the interior, and largely used, especially by the Arabs, as a pleasurable excitant. It is generally imported in small camel-loads, consisting of a number of parcels, each containing about forty slender twigs with the leaves attached, and carefully wrapped so as to prevent as much as possible exposure to the atmosphere. The leaves form the edible part, and these, when chewed, are said to produce great hilarity of spirits, and an agreeable state of wakefulness. Some estimate may be formed of the strong predilection which the Arabs have for this drug from the quantity used in Aden alone, which averages about 280 camel-loads annually. The market price is one and a quarter rupees per parcel, and the exclusive privilege of selling it is farmed by the government for 1500 rupees per year. Forskal found the plant growing on the mountains of Yemen, and has enumerated it as a new genus in the class Pentandria, under the name of Catha. He notices two species, and distinguishes them as Catha edulis and Catha spinosa. According to his account it is cultivated on the same ground as coffee, and is planted from cuttings. Besides the effects above stated, the Arabs, he tells us, believe the land where it grows to be secure from the inroads of plague; and that a twig of the Kat carried in the bosom is a certain safeguard against infection. The learned botanist observes, with respect to these supposed virtues, 'Gustus foliorum tamen virtutem tantam indicare non videtur.' Like coffee, Kat, from its acknowledged stimulating effects, has been a fertile theme for the exercise of Mahomedan casuistry, and names of renown are ranged on both sides of the question, whether the use of Kat does or does not contravene the injunction of the Koran, Thou shalt not drink wine or anything intoxicating. The succeeding notes, borrowed chiefly from De Sacy's researches, may be deemed worthy of insertion here.

"Sheikh Abdool Kader Ansari Jezeri, a learned Mahomedan author, in his treatise on the use of coffee, quotes the following from the writings of Fakr ood Deen Mekki:—'It is said that the first who introduced coffee was the illustrious saint Aboo Abdallah Mahomed Dhabhani ibn Said; but we have learned by the testimony of many persons that the use of coffee in Yemen, its origin, and first introduction into that country are due to the learned All Shadeli ibn Omar, one of the disciples of the learned doctor Nasr ood Deen, who is regarded as one of the chiefs among the order Shadeli, and whose worth attests the high degree of spirituality to which they had attained. Previous to that time they made coffee of the vegetable substance called Cafta, which is the same as the leaf known under the name of Kat, and not of Boon (the coffee berry) nor any preparation of Boon. The use of this beverage extended in course of time as far as Aden, but in the days of Mahomed Dhabhani the vegetable substance from which it was prepared disappeared from Aden. Then it was that the Sheik advised those who had become his disciples to try the drink made from the Boon, which was found to produce the same effect as the Kat, inducing sleeplessness, and that it was attended with less expense and trouble. The use of coffee has been kept up from that time to the present.'

"D'Herbelot states that the beverage called Calmat al Catiat or Caftah, was prohibited in Yemen in consequence of its effects upon the brain. On the other hand a synod of learned Mussulmans is said to have decreed that as beverages of Kat and Cafta do not impair the health or impede the observance of religious duties, but only increase hilarity and good- humour, it was lawful to use them, as also the drink made from the boon or coffee-berry. I am not aware that Kat is used in Aden in any other way than for mastication. From what I have heard, however, I believe that a decoction resembling tea is made from the leaf by the Arabs in the interior; and one who is well acquainted with our familiar beverage assures me that the effects are not unlike those produced by strong green tea, with this advantage in favour of Kat, that the excitement is always of a pleasing and agreeable kind. [Note: "Mr. Vaughan has transmitted two specimens called Tubbare Kat and Muktaree Kat, from the districts in which they are produced: the latter fetches the lower price. Catha edulis Forsk., Nat. Ord. Celastraceae, is figured in Dr. Lindley's Vegetable Kingdom, p. 588. (London, 1846). But there is a still more complete representation of the plant under the name of Catha Forskalii Richard, in a work published under the auspices of the French government, entitled, 'Voyage en Abyssinie execute pendant les annees 1839-43, par une commission scientifique composee de MM. Theophile Lefebvre, Lieut. du Vaisseau, A. Petit et Martin-Dillon, docteurs medecins, naturalistes du Museum, Vignaud dessinateur.' The botanical portion of this work, by M. Achille Richard, is regarded either as a distinct publication under the title of Tentamen Florae Abyssinicae, or as a part of the Voyage en Abyssinie. M. Richard enters into some of the particulars relative to the synonyms of the plant, from which it appears that Vahl referred Forskal's genus Catha to the Linnaean genus Celastrus, changing the name of Catha edulis to Celastrus edulis. Hochstetter applied the name of Celastrus edulis to an Abyssinian species (Celastrus obscurus Richard), which he imagined identical with Forskal's Catha edulis, while of the real Catha edulis Forsk., he formed a new genus and species, under the name of Trigonotheca serrata Hochs. Nat. Ord. Hippocrateaceae. I quote the following references from the Tentamen Florae Abyssinicae, vol. i. p. 134.: 'Catha Forskalii Nob. Catha No. 4. Forsk. loc. cit, (Flor. AEgypt. Arab. p. 63.) Trigonotheca serrata Hochs. in pl. Schimp. Abyss. sect. ii, No. 649. Celastrus edulis Vahl, Ecl. 1. 21.' Although In the Flora AEgyptiaco-Arabica of Forskal no specific name is applied to the Catha at p. 63, it is enumerated as Catha edulis at p. 107. The reference to Celastrus edulis is not contained in the Eclogae Americanae of Vahl, but in the author's Symbolae Botanicae (Hanulae, 1790, fol.) pars i. p. 21. (Daniel Hanbury signed.)]

[19] This is probably the "River of Zayla," alluded to by Ibn Said and others. Like all similar features in the low country, it is a mere surface drain.

[20] In the upper country I found a large variety growing wild in the Fiumaras. The Bedouins named it Buamado, but ignored its virtues.

[21] This ornament is called Musbgur.

[22] A large brown bird with black legs, not unlike the domestic fowl. The Arabs call it Dijajat el Barr, (the wild hen): the Somal "digarin," a word also applied to the Guinea fowl, which it resembles in its short strong fight and habit of running. Owing to the Bedouin prejudice against eating birds, it is found in large coveys all over the country.

[23] It has been described by Salt and others. The Somal call it Sagaro, the Arabs Ghezalah: it is found throughout the land generally in pairs, and is fond of ravines under the hills, beds of torrents, and patches of desert vegetation. It is easily killed by a single pellet of shot striking the neck. The Somal catch it by a loop of strong twine hung round a gap in a circuit of thorn hedge, or they run it down on foot, an operation requiring half a day on account of its fleetness, which enables it to escape the jackal and wild dog. When caught it utters piercing cries. Some Bedouins do not eat the flesh: generally, however, it is considered a delicacy, and the skulls and bones of these little animals lie strewed around the kraals.

[24] The Somal hold the destruction of the "Tuka" next in religious merit to that of the snake. They have a tradition that the crow, originally white, became black for his sins. When the Prophet and Abubekr were concealed in the cave, the pigeon hid there from their pursuers: the crow, on the contrary, sat screaming "ghar! ghar!" (the cave! the cave!) upon which Mohammed ordered him into eternal mourning, and ever to repeat the traitorous words.

There are several species of crows in this part of Africa. Besides the large-beaked bird of the Harar Hills, I found the common European variety, with, however, the breast feathers white tipped in small semicircles as far as the abdomen. The little "king-crow" of India is common: its bright red eye and purplish plume render it a conspicuous object as it perches upon the tall camel's back or clings to waving plants.

[25] The Waraba or Durwa is, according to Mr. Blyth, the distinguished naturalist, now Curator of the Asiatic Society's Museum at Calcutta, the Canis pictus seu venaticus (Lycaon pictus or Wilde Honde of the Cape Boers). It seems to be the Chien Sauvage or Cynhyene (Cynhyaena venatica) of the French traveller M. Delegorgue, who in his "Voyage dans l'Afrique Australe," minutely and diffusely describes it. Mr. Gordon Cumming supposes it to form the connecting link between the wolf and the hyaena. This animal swarms throughout the Somali country, prowls about the camps all night, dogs travellers, and devours every thing he can find, at times pulling down children and camels, and when violently pressed by hunger, men. The Somal declare the Waraba to be a hermaphrodite; so the ancients supposed the hyaena to be of both sexes, an error arising from the peculiar appearance of an orifice situated near two glands which secrete an unctuous fluid.

[26] Men wear for ornament round the neck a bright red leather thong, upon which are strung in front two square bits of true or imitation amber or honey stone: this "Mekkawi," however, is seldom seen amongst the Bedouins. The Audulli or woman's necklace is a more elaborate affair of amber, glass beads, generally coloured, and coral: every matron who can afford it, possesses at least one of these ornaments. Both sexes carry round the necks or hang above the right elbow, a talisman against danger and disease, either in a silver box or more generally sewn up in a small case of red morocco. The Bedouins are fond of attaching a tooth-stick to the neck thong.

[27] Beads are useful in the Somali country as presents, and to pay for trifling purchases: like tobacco they serve for small change. The kind preferred by women and children is the "binnur," large and small white porcelain: the others are the red, white, green, and spotted twisted beads, round and oblong. Before entering a district the traveller should ascertain what may be the especial variety. Some kind are greedily sought for in one place, and in another rejected with disdain.

[28] The Somali word "Fal" properly means "to do;" "to bewitch," is its secondary sense.

[29] The price of blood in the Somali country is the highest sanctioned by El Islam. It must be remembered that amongst the pagan Arabs, the Korayah "diyat," was twenty she-camels. Abd el Muttaleb, grandfather of Mohammed, sacrificed 100 animals to ransom the life of his son, forfeited by a rash vow, and from that time the greater became the legal number. The Somal usually demand 100 she-camels, or 300 sheep and a few cows; here, as in Arabia, the sum is made up by all the near relations of the slayer; 30 of the animals may be aged, and 30 under age, but the rest must be sound and good. Many tribes take less,—from strangers 100 sheep, a cow, and a camel;—but after the equivalent is paid, the murderer or one of his clan, contrary to the spirit of El Islam, is generally killed by the kindred or tribe of the slain. When blood is shed in the same tribe, the full reparation, if accepted by the relatives, is always exacted; this serves the purpose of preventing fratricidal strife, for in such a nation of murderers, only the Diyat prevents the taking of life.

Blood money, however, is seldom accepted unless the murdered man has been slain with a lawful weapon. Those who kill with the Dankaleh, a poisonous juice rubbed upon meat, are always put to death by the members of their own tribe.

[30] The Abban or protector of the Somali country is the Mogasa of the Gallas, the Akh of El Hejaz, the Ghafir of the Sinaitic Peninsula, and the Rabia of Eastern Arabia. It must be observed, however, that the word denotes the protege as well as the protector; In the latter sense it is the polite address to a Somali, as Ya Abbaneh, O Protectress, would be to his wife.

The Abban acts at once as broker, escort, agent, and interpreter, and the institution may be considered the earliest form of transit dues. In all sales he receives a certain percentage, his food and lodging are provided at the expense of his employer, and he not unfrequently exacts small presents from his kindred. In return he is bound to arrange all differences, and even to fight the battles of his client against his fellow-countrymen. Should the Abban be slain, his tribe is bound to take up the cause and to make good the losses of their protege. El Taabanah, the office, being one of "name," the eastern synonym for our honour, as well as of lucre, causes frequent quarrels, which become exceedingly rancorous.

According to the laws of the country, the Abban is master of the life and property of his client. The traveller's success will depend mainly upon his selection: if inferior in rank, the protector can neither forward nor defend him; if timid, he will impede advance; and if avaricious, he will, by means of his relatives, effectually stop the journey by absorbing the means of prosecuting it. The best precaution against disappointment would be the registering Abbans at Aden; every donkey-boy will offer himself as a protector, but only the chiefs of tribes should be provided with certificates. During my last visit to Africa, I proposed that English officers visiting the country should be provided with servants not protectors, the former, however, to be paid like the latter; all the people recognised the propriety of the step.

In the following pages occur manifold details concerning the complicated subject, El Taabanah.

[31] Future travellers would do well either to send before them a trusty servant with orders to buy cattle; or, what would be better, though a little more expensive, to take with them from Aden all the animals required.

[32] The Somal use as camel saddles the mats which compose their huts; these lying loose upon the animal's back, cause, by slipping backwards and forwards, the loss of many a precious hour, and in wet weather become half a load. The more civilised make up of canvass or "gunny bags" stuffed with hay and provided with cross bars, a rude packsaddle, which is admirably calculated to gall the animal's back. Future travellers would do well to purchase camel-saddles at Aden, where they are cheap and well made.

[33] He received four cloths of Cutch canvass, and six others of coarse American sheeting. At Zayla these articles are double the Aden value, which would be about thirteen rupees or twenty-six shillings; in the bush the price is quadrupled. Before leaving us the Abban received at least double the original hire. Besides small presents of cloth, dates, tobacco and rice to his friends, he had six cubits of Sauda Wilayati or English indigo-dyed calico for women's fillets, and two of Sauda Kashshi, a Cutch imitation, a Shukkah or half Tobe for his daughter, and a sheep for himself, together with a large bundle of tobacco.

[34] When the pastures are exhausted and the monsoon sets in, the Bedouins return to their cool mountains; like the Iliyat of Persia, they have their regular Kishlakh and Yaylakh.

[35] "Kaum" is the Arabic, "All" the Somali, term for these raids.

[36] Amongst the old Egyptians the ostrich feather was the symbol of truth. The Somal call it "Bal," the Arabs "Rish;" it is universally used here as the sign and symbol of victory. Generally the white feather only is stuck in the hair; the Eesa are not particular in using black when they can procure no other. All the clans wear it in the back hair, but each has its own rules; some make it a standard decoration, others discard it after the first few days. The learned have an aversion to the custom, stigmatising it as pagan and idolatrous; the vulgar look upon it as the highest mark of honor.

[37] This is an ancient practice in Asia as well as in Africa. The Egyptian temples show heaps of trophies placed before the monarchs as eyes or heads were presented in Persia. Thus in 1 Sam. xviii. 25., David brings the spoils of 200 Philistines, and shows them in full tale to the king, that he might be the king's son-in-law. Any work upon the subject of Abyssinia (Bruce, book 7. chap, 8.), or the late Afghan war, will prove that the custom of mutilation, opposed as it is both to Christianity and El Islam, is still practised in the case of hated enemies and infidels; and De Bey remarks of the Cape Kafirs, "victores caesis excidunt [Greek: tu aidoui], quae exsiccata regi afferunt."

[38] When attacking cattle, the plundering party endeavour with shoots and noise to disperse the herds, whilst the assailants huddle them together, and attempt to face the danger in parties.

[39] For the cheapest I paid twenty-three, for the dearest twenty-six dollars, besides a Riyal upon each, under the names of custom dues and carriage. The Hajj had doubtless exaggerated the price, but all were good animals, and the traveller has no right to complain, except when he pays dear for a bad article.



Before leaving Zayla, I must not neglect a short description of its inhabitants, and the remarkable Somal races around it.

Eastern Africa, like Arabia, presents a population composed of three markedly distinct races.

1. The Aborigines or Hamites, such as the Negro Sawahili, the Bushmen, Hottentots, and other races, having such physiological peculiarities as the steatopyge, the tablier, and other developments described, in 1815, by the great Cuvier.

2. The almost pure Caucasian of the northern regions, west of Egypt: their immigration comes within the range of comparatively modern history.

3. The half-castes in Eastern Africa are represented principally by the Abyssinians, Gallas, Somals, and Kafirs. The first-named people derive their descent from Menelek, son of Solomon by the Queen of Sheba: it is evident from their features and figures,—too well known to require description,—that they are descended from Semitic as well as Hamitic progenitors. [1] About the origin of the Gallas there is a diversity of opinion. [2] Some declare them to be Meccan Arabs, who settled on the western coast of the Red Sea at a remote epoch: according to the Abyssinians, however, and there is little to find fault with in their theory, the Gallas are descended from a princess of their nation, who was given in marriage to a slave from the country south of Gurague. She bare seven sons, who became mighty robbers and founders of tribes: their progenitors obtained the name of Gallas, after the river Gala, in Gurague, where they gained a decisive victory our their kinsmen the Abyssins. [3] A variety of ethnologic and physiological reasons,—into which space and subject prevent my entering,—argue the Kafirs of the Cape to be a northern people, pushed southwards by some, to us, as yet, unknown cause. The origin of the Somal is a matter of modern history.

"Barbarah" (Berberah) [4], according to the Kamus, is "a well known town in El Maghrib, and a race located between El Zanj—Zanzibar and the Negrotic coast—and El Habash [5]: they are descended from the Himyar chiefs Sanhaj ([Arabic]) and Sumamah ([Arabic]), and they arrived at the epoch of the conquest of Africa by the king Afrikus (Scipio Africanus?)." A few details upon the subject of mutilation and excision prove these to have been the progenitors of the Somal [6], who are nothing but a slice of the great Galla nation Islamised and Semiticised by repeated immigrations from Arabia. In the Kamus we also read that Samal ([Arabic]) is the name of the father of a tribe, so called because he thrust out ([Arabic], samala) his brother's eye. [7] The Shaykh Jami, a celebrated genealogist, informed me that in A.H. 666 = A.D. 1266-7, the Sayyid Yusuf el Baghdadi visited the port of Siyaro near Berberah, then occupied by an infidel magician, who passed through mountains by the power of his gramarye: the saint summoned to his aid Mohammed bin Tunis el Siddiki, of Bayt el Fakih in Arabia, and by their united prayers a hill closed upon the pagan. Deformed by fable, the foundation of the tale is fact: the numerous descendants of the holy men still pay an annual fine, by way of blood-money to the family of the infidel chief. The last and most important Arab immigration took place about fifteen generations or 450 years ago, when the Sherif Ishak bin Ahmed [8] left his native country Hazramaut, and, with forty-four saints, before mentioned, landed on Makhar,—the windward coast extending from Karam Harbour to Cape Guardafui. At the town of Met, near Burnt Island, where his tomb still exists, he became the father of all the gentle blood and the only certain descent in the Somali country: by Magaden, a free woman, he had Gerhajis, Awal, and Arab; and by a slave or slaves, Jailah, Sambur, and Rambad. Hence the great clans, Habr Gerhajis and Awal, who prefer the matronymic— Habr signifying a mother,—since, according to their dictum, no man knows who may be his sire. [9] These increased and multiplied by connection and affiliation to such an extent that about 300 years ago they drove their progenitors, the Galla, from Berberah, and gradually encroached upon them, till they intrenched themselves in the Highlands of Harar.

The old and pagan genealogies still known to the Somal, are Dirr, Aydur, Darud, and, according to some, Hawiyah. Dirr and Aydur, of whom nothing is certainly known but the name [10], are the progenitors of the northern Somal, the Eesa, Gudabirsi, Ishak, and Bursuk tribes. Darud Jabarti [11] bin Ismail bin Akil (or Ukayl) is supposed by his descendants to have been a noble Arab from El Hejaz, who, obliged to flee his country, was wrecked on the north-east coast of Africa, where he married a daughter of the Hawiyah tribe: rival races declare him to have been a Galla slave, who, stealing the Prophet's slippers [12], was dismissed with the words, Inna- tarad-na-hu (verily we have rejected him): hence his name Tarud ([Arabic]) or Darud, the Rejected. [13] The etymological part of the story is, doubtless, fabulous; it expresses, however, the popular belief that the founder of the eastward or windward tribes, now extending over the seaboard from Bunder Jedid to Ras Hafun, and southward from the sea to the Webbes [14], was a man of ignoble origin. The children of Darud are now divided into two great bodies: "Harti" is the family name of the Dulbahanta, Ogadayn, Warsangali and Mijjarthayn, who call themselves sons of Harti bin Kombo bin Kabl Ullah bin Darud: the other Darud tribes not included under that appellation are the Girhi, Berteri, Marayhan, and Bahabr Ali. The Hawiyah are doubtless of ancient and pagan origin; they call all Somal except themselves Hashiyah, and thus claim to be equivalent to the rest of the nation. Some attempt, as usual, to establish a holy origin, deriving themselves like the Shaykhash from the Caliph Abubekr: the antiquity, and consequently the Pagan origin of the Hawiyah are proved by its present widely scattered state; it is a powerful tribe in the Mijjarthayn country, and yet is found in the hills of Harar.

The Somal, therefore, by their own traditions, as well as their strongly marked physical peculiarities, their customs, and their geographical position, may be determined to be a half-caste tribe, an offshoot of the great Galla race, approximated, like the originally Negro-Egyptian, to the Caucasian type by a steady influx of pure Asiatic blood.

In personal appearance the race is not unprepossessing. The crinal hair is hard and wiry, growing, like that of a half-caste West Indian, in stiff ringlets which sprout in tufts from the scalp, and, attaining a moderate length, which they rarely surpass, bang down. A few elders, savans, and the wealthy, who can afford the luxury of a turban, shave the head. More generally, each filament is duly picked out with the comb or a wooden scratcher like a knitting-needle, and the mass made to resemble a child's "pudding," an old bob-wig, a mop, a counsellor's peruke, or an old- fashioned coachman's wig,—there are a hundred ways of dressing the head. The Bedouins, true specimens of the "greasy African race," wear locks dripping with rancid butter, and accuse their citizen brethren of being more like birds than men. The colouring matter of the hair, naturally a bluish-black, is removed by a mixture of quicklime and water, or in the desert by a lessive of ashes [15]: this makes it a dull yellowish-white, which is converted into red permanently by henna, temporarily by ochreish earth kneaded with water. The ridiculous Somali peruke of crimsoned sheepskin,—almost as barbarous an article as the Welsh,—is apparently a foreign invention: I rarely saw one in the low country, although the hill tribes about Harar sometimes wear a black or white "scratch-wig." The head is rather long than round, and generally of the amiable variety, it is gracefully put on the shoulders, belongs equally to Africa and Arabia, and would be exceedingly weak but for the beauty of the brow. As far as the mouth, the face, with the exception of high cheek-bones, is good; the contour of the forehead ennobles it; the eyes are large and well-formed, and the upper features are frequently handsome and expressive. The jaw, however, is almost invariably prognathous and African; the broad, turned- out lips betray approximation to the Negro; and the chin projects to the detriment of the facial angle. The beard is represented by a few tufts; it is rare to see anything equal to even the Arab development: the long and ample eyebrows admired by the people are uncommon, and the mustachios are short and thin, often twisted outwards in two dwarf curls. The mouth is coarse as well as thick-lipped; the teeth rarely project as in the Negro, but they are not good; the habit of perpetually chewing coarse Surat tobacco stains them [16], the gums become black and mottled, and the use of ashes with the quid discolours the lips. The skin, amongst the tribes inhabiting the hot regions, is smooth, black, and glossy; as the altitude increases it becomes lighter, and about Harar it is generally of a cafe au lait colour. The Bedouins are fond of raising beauty marks in the shape of ghastly seams, and the thickness of the epidermis favours the size of these stigmates. The male figure is tall and somewhat ungainly. In only one instance I observed an approach to the steatopyge, making the shape to resemble the letter S; but the shoulders are high, the trunk is straight, the thighs fall off, the shin bones bow slightly forwards, and the feet, like the hands, are coarse, large, and flat. Yet with their hair, of a light straw colour, decked with the light waving feather, and their coal-black complexions set off by that most graceful of garments the clean white Tobe [17], the contrasts are decidedly effective.

In mind the Somal are peculiar as in body. They are a people of most susceptible character, and withal uncommonly hard to please. They dislike the Arabs, fear and abhor the Turks, have a horror of Franks, and despise all other Asiatics who with them come under the general name of Hindi (Indians). The latter are abused on all occasions for cowardice, and a want of generosity, which has given rise to the following piquant epigram:

"Ask not from the Hindi thy want: Impossible that the Hindi can be generous! Had there been one liberal man in El Hind, Allah had raised up a prophet in El Hind!"

They have all the levity and instability of the Negro character; light- minded as the Abyssinians,—described by Gobat as constant in nothing but inconstancy,—soft, merry, and affectionate souls, they pass without any apparent transition into a state of fury, when they are capable of terrible atrocities. At Aden they appear happier than in their native country. There I have often seen a man clapping his hands and dancing, childlike, alone to relieve the exuberance of his spirits: here they become, as the Mongols and other pastoral people, a melancholy race, who will sit for hours upon a bank gazing at the moon, or croning some old ditty under the trees. This state is doubtless increased by the perpetual presence of danger and the uncertainty of life, which make them think of other things but dancing and singing. Much learning seems to make them mad; like the half-crazy Fakihs of the Sahara in Northern Africa, the Widad, or priest, is generally unfitted for the affairs of this world, and the Hafiz or Koran-reciter, is almost idiotic. As regards courage, they are no exception to the generality of savage races. They have none of the recklessness standing in lieu of creed which characterises the civilised man. In their great battles a score is considered a heavy loss; usually they will run after the fall of half a dozen: amongst a Kraal full of braves who boast a hundred murders, not a single maimed or wounded man will be seen, whereas in an Arabian camp half the male population will bear the marks of lead and steel. The bravest will shirk fighting if he has forgotten his shield: the sight of a lion and the sound of a gun elicit screams of terror, and their Kaum or forays much resemble the style of tactics rendered obsolete by the Great Turenne, when the tactician's chief aim was not to fall in with his enemy. Yet they are by no means deficient in the wily valour of wild men: two or three will murder a sleeper bravely enough; and when the passions of rival tribes, between whom there has been a blood feud for ages, are violently excited, they will use with asperity the dagger and spear. Their massacres are fearful. In February, 1847, a small sept, the Ayyal Tunis, being expelled from Berberah, settled at the roadstead of Bulhar, where a few merchants, principally Indian and Arab, joined them. The men were in the habit of leaving their women and children, sick and aged, at the encampment inland, whilst, descending to the beach, they carried on their trade. One day, as they were thus employed, unsuspicious of danger, a foraging party of about 2500 Eesas attacked the camp: men, women, and children were indiscriminately put to the spear, and the plunderers returned to their villages in safety, laden with an immense amount of booty. At present, a man armed with a revolver would be a terror to the country; the day, however, will come when the matchlock will supersede the assegai, and then the harmless spearman in his strong mountains will become, like the Arab, a formidable foe. Travelling among the Bedouins, I found them kind and hospitable. A pinch of snuff or a handful of tobacco sufficed to win every heart, and a few yards of coarse cotton cloth supplied all our wants, I was petted like a child, forced to drink milk and to eat mutton; girls were offered to me in marriage; the people begged me to settle amongst them, to head their predatory expeditions, free them from lions, and kill their elephants; and often a man has exclaimed in pitying accents, "What hath brought thee, delicate as thou art, to sit with us on the cowhide in this cold under a tree?" Of course they were beggars, princes and paupers, lairds and loons, being all equally unfortunate; the Arabs have named the country Bilad Wa Issi,—the "Land of Give me Something;"—but their wants were easily satisfied, and the open hand always made a friend.

The Somal hold mainly to the Shafei school of El Islam: their principal peculiarity is that of not reciting prayers over the dead even in the towns. The marriage ceremony is simple: the price of the bride and the feast being duly arranged, the formula is recited by some priest or pilgrim. I have often been requested to officiate on these occasions, and the End of Time has done it by irreverently reciting the Fatihah over the happy pair. [18] The Somal, as usual amongst the heterogeneous mass amalgamated by El Islam, have a diversity of superstitions attesting their Pagan origin. Such for instance are their oaths by stones, their reverence of cairns and holy trees, and their ordeals of fire and water, the Bolungo of Western Africa. A man accused of murder or theft walks down a trench full of live charcoal and about a spear's length, or he draws out of the flames a smith's anvil heated to redness: some prefer picking four or five cowries from a large pot full of boiling water. The member used is at once rolled up in the intestines of a sheep and not inspected for a whole day. They have traditionary seers called Tawuli, like the Greegree-men of Western Africa, who, by inspecting the fat and bones of slaughtered cattle, "do medicine," predict rains, battles, and diseases of animals. This class is of both sexes: they never pray or bathe, and are therefore considered always impure; thus, being feared, they are greatly respected by the vulgar. Their predictions are delivered in a rude rhyme, often put for importance into the mouth of some deceased seer. During the three months called Rajalo [19] the Koran is not read over graves, and no marriage ever takes place. The reason of this peculiarity is stated to be imitation of their ancestor Ishak, who happened not to contract a matrimonial alliance at such epoch: it is, however, a manifest remnant of the Pagan's auspicious and inauspicious months. Thus they sacrifice she- camels in the month Sabuh, and keep holy with feasts and bonfires the Dubshid or New Year's Day. [20] At certain unlucky periods when the moon is in ill-omened Asterisms those who die are placed in bundles of matting upon a tree, the idea being that if buried a loss would result to the tribe. [21]

Though superstitious, the Somal are not bigoted like the Arabs, with the exception of those who, wishing to become learned, visit Yemen or El Hejaz, and catch the complaint. Nominal Mohammedans, El Islam hangs so lightly upon them, that apparently they care little for making it binding upon others.

The Somali language is no longer unknown to Europe. It is strange that a dialect which has no written character should so abound in poetry and eloquence. There are thousands of songs, some local, others general, upon all conceivable subjects, such as camel loading, drawing water, and elephant hunting; every man of education knows a variety of them. The rhyme is imperfect, being generally formed by the syllable "ay" (pronounced as in our word "hay"), which gives the verse a monotonous regularity; but, assisted by a tolerably regular alliteration and cadence, it can never be mistaken for prose, even without the song which invariably accompanies it. The country teems with "poets, poetasters, poetitos, and poetaccios:" every man has his recognised position in literature as accurately defined as though he had been reviewed in a century of magazines,—the fine ear of this people [22] causing them to take the greatest pleasure in harmonious sounds and poetical expressions, whereas a false quantity or a prosaic phrase excite their violent indignation. Many of these compositions are so idiomatic that Arabs settled for years amongst the Somal cannot understand them, though perfectly acquainted with the conversational style. Every chief in the country must have a panegyric to be sung by his clan, and the great patronise light literature by keeping a poet. The amatory is of course the favourite theme: sometimes it appears in dialogue, the rudest form, we are told, of the Drama. The subjects are frequently pastoral: the lover for instance invites his mistress to walk with him towards the well in Lahelo, the Arcadia of the land; he compares her legs to the tall straight Libi tree, and imprecates the direst curses on her head if she refuse to drink with him the milk of his favourite camel. There are a few celebrated ethical compositions, in which the father lavishes upon his son all the treasures of Somali good advice, long as the somniferous sermons of Mentor to the insipid son of Ulysses. Sometimes a black Tyrtaeus breaks into a wild lament for the loss of warriors or territory; he taunts the clan with cowardice, reminds them of their slain kindred, better men than themselves, whose spirits cannot rest unavenged in their gory graves, and urges a furious onslaught upon the exulting victor.

And now, dear L., I will attempt to gratify your just curiosity concerning the sex in Eastern Africa.

The Somali matron is distinguished—externally—from the maiden by a fillet of blue network or indigo-dyed cotton, which, covering the head and containing the hair, hangs down to the neck. Virgins wear their locks long, parted in the middle, and plaited in a multitude of hard thin pigtails: on certain festivals they twine flowers and plaster the head like Kafir women with a red ochre,—the coiffure has the merit of originality. With massive rounded features, large flat craniums, long big eyes, broad brows, heavy chins, rich brown complexions, and round faces, they greatly resemble the stony beauties of Egypt—the models of the land ere Persia, Greece, and Rome reformed the profile and bleached the skin. They are of the Venus Kallipyga order of beauty: the feature is scarcely ever seen amongst young girls, but after the first child it becomes remarkable to a stranger. The Arabs have not failed to make it a matter of jibe.

"'Tis a wonderful fact that your hips swell Like boiled rice or a skin blown out,"

sings a satirical Yemeni: the Somal retort by comparing the lank haunches of their neighbours to those of tadpoles or young frogs. One of their peculiar charms is a soft, low, and plaintive voice, derived from their African progenitors. Always an excellent thing in woman, here it has an undefinable charm. I have often lain awake for hours listening to the conversation of the Bedouin girls, whose accents sounded in my ears rather like music than mere utterance.

In muscular strength and endurance the women of the Somal are far superior to their lords: at home they are engaged all day in domestic affairs, and tending the cattle; on journeys their manifold duties are to load and drive the camels, to look after the ropes, and, if necessary, to make them; to pitch the hut, to bring water and firewood, and to cook. Both sexes are equally temperate from necessity; the mead and the millet-beer, so common among the Abyssinians and the Danakil, are entirely unknown to the Somal of the plains. As regards their morals, I regret to say that the traveller does not find them in the golden state which Teetotal doctrines lead him to expect. After much wandering, we are almost tempted to believe the bad doctrine that morality is a matter of geography; that nations and races have, like individuals, a pet vice, and that by restraining one you only exasperate another. As a general rule Somali women prefer amourettes with strangers, following the well-known Arab proverb, "The new comer filleth the eye." In cases of scandal, the woman's tribe revenges its honour upon the man. Should a wife disappear with a fellow- clansman, and her husband accord divorce, no penal measures are taken, but she suffers in reputation, and her female friends do not spare her. Generally, the Somali women are of cold temperament, the result of artificial as well as natural causes: like the Kafirs, they are very prolific, but peculiarly bad mothers, neither loved nor respected by their children. The fair sex lasts longer in Eastern Africa than in India and Arabia: at thirty, however, charms are on the wane, and when old age comes on they are no exceptions to the hideous decrepitude of the East.

The Somal, when they can afford it, marry between the ages of fifteen and twenty. Connections between tribes are common, and entitle the stranger to immunity from the blood-feud: men of family refuse, however, to ally themselves with the servile castes. Contrary to the Arab custom, none of these people will marry cousins; at the same time a man will give his daughter to his uncle, and take to wife, like the Jews and Gallas, a brother's relict. Some clans, the Habr Yunis for instance, refuse maidens of the same or even of a consanguineous family. This is probably a political device to preserve nationality and provide against a common enemy. The bride, as usual in the East, is rarely consulted, but frequent tete a tetes at the well and in the bush when tending cattle effectually obviate this inconvenience: her relatives settle the marriage portion, which varies from a cloth and a bead necklace to fifty sheep or thirty dollars, and dowries are unknown. In the towns marriage ceremonies are celebrated with feasting and music. On first entering the nuptial hut, the bridegroom draws forth his horsewhip and inflicts memorable chastisement upon the fair person of his bride, with the view of taming any lurking propensity to shrewishness. [23] This is carrying out with a will the Arab proverb,

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