First footsteps in East Africa
by Richard F. Burton
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Our road lay between low brown hills of lime and sandstone, the Sub-Ghauts forming a scattered line between the maritime mountains and the sea. Presently the path was choked by dense scrub of the Arman Acacia: its yellow blossoms scented the air, but hardly made amends for the injuries of a thorn nearly two inches long, and tipped with a wooden point sharp as a needle. Emerging, towards evening, from this bush, we saw large herds of camels, and called their guardians to come and meet us. For all reply they ran like ostriches to the nearest rocks, tittering the cry of alarm, and when we drew near each man implored us to harry his neighbour's cattle. Throughout our wanderings in Somaliland this had never occurred: it impressed me strongly with the disturbed state of the regions inhabited by the Habr Awal. After some time we persuaded a Bedouin who, with frantic gestures, was screaming and flogging his camels, to listen: reassured by our oaths, he declared himself to be a Bahgoba, and promised to show us a village of the Ayyal Gedid. The Hammal, who had married a daughter of this clan, and had constituted his father-in-law my protector at Berberah, made sure of a hospitable reception: "To-night we shall sleep under cover and drink milk," quoth one hungry man to another, who straightways rejoined, "And we shall eat mutton!"

After dark we arrived at a kraal, we unsaddled our mules and sat down near it, indulging in Epicurean anticipations. Opposite us, by the door of a hut, was a group of men who observed our arrival, but did not advance or salute us. Impatient, I fired a pistol, when a gruff voice asked why we disturbed the camels that were being milked. "We have fallen upon the Ayyal Shirdon"—our bitterest enemies—whispered the End of Time. The same voice then demanded in angrier accents, "Of what tribe be ye?" We boldly answered, "Of the Habr Gerhajis." Thereupon ensued a war of words. The Ayyal Shirdon inquired what we wanted, where we had been, and how we dared, seeing that peace had not been concluded between the tribes, to enter their lands. We replied civilly as our disappointment would permit, but apparently gained little by soft words. The inhospitable Bedouins declared our arrival to be in the seventeenth house of Geomancy—an advent probable as the Greek Kalends—and rudely insisted upon knowing what had taken us to Harar. At last, a warrior, armed with two spears, came to meet us, and bending down recognized the End of Time: after a few short sentences he turned on his heel and retired. I then directed Long Guled to approach the group, and say that a traveller was at their doors ready and willing to give tobacco in exchange for a draught of milk. They refused point-blank, and spoke of fighting: we at once made ready with our weapons, and showing the plain, bade them come on and receive a "belly full." During the lull which followed this obliging proposal we saddled our mules and rode off, in the grimmest of humours, loudly cursing the craven churls who knew not the value of a guest.

We visited successively three villages of the Ayyal Gedid: the Hammal failed to obtain even a drop of water from his connexions, and was taunted accordingly. He explained their inhospitality by the fact that all the warriors being at Berberah, the villages contained nothing but women, children, servants, and flocks. The Donkey when strictly questioned declared that no well nearer than Bulhar was to be found: as men and mules were faint with thirst, I determined to push forward to water that night. Many times the animals were stopped, a mute hint that they could go no further: I spurred onwards, and the rest, as on such occasions they had now learned to do, followed without a word. Our path lay across a plain called Banka Hadla, intersected in many places by deep watercourses, and thinly strewed with Kulan clumps. The moon arose, but cast a cloud-veiled and uncertain light: our path, moreover, was not clear, as the guide, worn out by fatigue, tottered on far in the rear.

About midnight we heard—delightful sound!—the murmur of the distant sea. Revived by the music, we pushed on more cheerily. At last the Donkey preceded us, and about 3 A.M. we found, in a Fiumara, some holes which supplied us with bitter water, truly delicious after fifteen hours of thirst. Repeated draughts of the element, which the late rains had rendered potable, relieved our pain, and hard by we found a place where coarse stubbly grass saved our mules from starvation. Then rain coming on, we coiled ourselves under the saddle cloths, and, reckless alike of Ayyal Ahmed and Ayyal Shirdon, slept like the dead.

At dawn on the 30th January, I arose and inspected the site of Bulhar. It was then deserted, a huge heap of bleached bones being the only object suggestive of a settlement. This, at different times, has been a thriving place, owing to its roadstead, and the feuds of Berberah: it was generally a village of Gurgis, with some stone-houses built by Arabs. The coast, however, is open and havenless, and the Shimal wind, feared even at the Great Port, here rages with resistless violence. Yet the place revives when plundering parties render the plain unsafe: the timid merchants here embark their goods and persons, whilst their camels are marched round the bay.

Mounting at 6 A.M. we started slowly along the sea coast, and frequently halted on the bushy Fiumara-cut plain. About noon we bathed in the sea, and sat on the sands for a while, my people praying for permission to pass the kraals of their enemies, the Ayyal Ahmed, by night. This, their last request, was graciously granted: to say sooth, rapid travelling was now impossible; the spear failed to urge on one mule, and the Hammal was obliged to flog before him another wretched animal. We then traversed an alluvial plain, lately flooded, where slippery mud doubled the fatigue of our cattle; and, at 3 P.M., again halted on a patch of grass below the rocky spur of Dabasenis, a hill half way between Bulhar and Berberah. On the summit I was shown an object that makes travellers shudder, a thorn- tree, under which the Habr Gerhajis [13] and their friends of the Eesa Musa sit, vulture-like, on the look-out for plunder and murder. Advancing another mile, we came to some wells, where we were obliged to rest our animals. Having there finished our last mouthful of food, we remounted, and following the plain eastward, prepared for a long night-march.

As the light of day waned we passed on the right hand a table-formed hill, apparently a detached fragment of the sub-Ghauts or coast range. This spot is celebrated in local legends as "Auliya Kumbo," the Mount of Saints, where the forty-four Arab Santons sat in solemn conclave before dispersing over the Somali country to preach El Islam. It lies about six hours of hard walking from Berberah.

At midnight we skirted Bulho Faranji, the Franks' Watering-place [14], a strip of ground thickly covered with trees. Abounding in grass and water, it has been the site of a village: when we passed it, however, all was desert. By the moon's light we descried, as we silently skirted the sea, the kraals and folds of our foe the Ayyal Ahmed, and at times we could distinguish the lowing of their cattle: my companions chuckled hugely at the success of their manoeuvre, and perhaps not without reason. At Berberah we were afterwards informed that a shepherd in the bush had witnessed and reported our having passed, when the Ayyal Ahmed cursed the star that had enabled us to slip unhurt through their hands.

Our mules could scarcely walk: after every bow-shot they rolled upon the ground and were raised only by the whip. A last halt was called when arrived within four miles of Berberah: the End of Time and Long Guled, completely worn out, fell fast asleep upon the stones. Of all the party the Hammal alone retained strength and spirits: the sturdy fellow talked, sang, and shouted, and, whilst the others could scarcely sit their mules, he danced his war-dance and brandished his spear. I was delighted with his "pluck."

Now a long dark line appears upon the sandy horizon—it grows more distinct in the shades of night—the silhouettes of shipping appear against sea and sky. A cry of joy bursts from every mouth: cheer, boys, cheer, our toils here touch their end!

The End of Time first listened to the small still voice of Caution. He whispered anxiously to make no noise lest enemies might arise, that my other attendants had protectors at Berberah, but that he, the hated and feared, as the locum tenens of Sharmarkay,—the great bete noire,— depended wholly upon my defence. The Donkey led us slowly and cautiously round the southern quarter of the sleeping town, through bone heaps and jackals tearing their unsavoury prey: at last he marched straight into the quarter appropriated to the Ayyal Gedid our protectors. Anxiously I inquired if my comrades had left Berberah, and heard with delight that they awaited me there. It was then 2 A.M. and we had marched at least forty miles. The Somal, when in fear of forays, drive laden camels over this distance in about ten hours.

I dismounted at the huts where my comrades were living. A glad welcome, a dish of rice, and a glass of strong waters—pardon dear L., these details —made amends for past privations and fatigue. The servants and the wretched mules were duly provided for, and I fell asleep, conscious of having performed a feat which, like a certain ride to York, will live in local annals for many and many a year.


[1] It is an Arab as well as a Somali ceremony to throw a little Kaliyah or Salul (toasted grain) over the honored traveller when he enters hut or tent.

[2] Bread made of holcus grain dried and broken into bits; it is thrown into broth or hot water, and thus readily supplies the traveller with a wholesome panade.

[3] The Somal invariably call Berberah the "Sahil," (meaning in Arabic the sea-shore,) as Zayla with them is "Audal," and Harar "Adari."

[4] "Al Nar wa la al Ar," an Arabic maxim, somewhat more forcible than our "death rather than dishonor."

[5] This is the second great division of the Somal people, the father of the tribe being Awal, the cadet of Ishak el Hazrami.

The Habr Awal occupy the coast from Zayla and Siyaro to the lands bordering upon the Berteri tribe. They own the rule of a Gerad, who exercises merely a nominal authority. The late chief's name was "Bon," he died about four years ago, but his children have not yet received the turban. The royal race is the Ayyal Abdillah, a powerful clan extending from the Dabasanis Hills to near Jigjiga, skirting the Marar Prairie.

The Habr Awal are divided into a multitude of clans: of these I shall specify only the principal, the subject of the maritime Somal being already familiar to our countrymen. The Esa Musa inhabit part of the mountains south of Berberah. The Mikahil tenant the lowlands on the coast from Berberah to Siyaro. Two large clans, the Ayyal Yunis and the Ayyal Ahmed, have established themselves in Berberah and at Bulhar. Besides these are the Ayyal Abdillah Saad, the Ayyal Geraato, who live amongst the Ayyal Yunis,—the Bahgobo and the Ayyal Hamed.

[6] My property arrived safe at Aden after about two months. The mule left under the Kalendar's charge never appeared, and the camels are, I believe, still grazing among the Eesa. The fair Shehrazade, having amassed a little fortune, lost no time in changing her condition, an example followed in due time by Deenarzade. And the Kalendar, after a visit to Aden, returned to electrify his Zayla friends with long and terrible tales of travel.

[7] "Moga's eye-tooth."

[8] As a rule, twelve hours without water in the desert during hot weather, kill a man. I never suffered severely from thirst but on this occasion; probably it was in consequence of being at the time but in weak health.

[9] I have never shot this feathered friend of man, although frequent opportunities presented themselves. He appears to be the Cuculus Indicator (le Coucou Indicateur) and the Om-Shlanvo of the Kafirs; the Somal call him Maris. Described by Father Lobo and Bruce, he is treated as a myth by Le Vaillant; M. Wiedman makes him cry "Shirt! Shirt! Shirt!" Dr. Sparrman "Tcherr! Tcherr!" Mr. Delegorgue "Chir! Chir! Chir!" His note suggested to me the shrill chirrup of a sparrow, and his appearance that of a greenfinch.

Buffon has repeated what a traveller had related, namely, that the honey- bird is a little traitor who conducts men into ambuscades prepared by wild beasts. The Lion-Slayer in S. Africa asserts it to be the belief of Hottentots and the interior tribes, that the bird often lures the unwary pursuer to danger, sometimes guiding him to the midday retreat of a grizzly lion, or bringing him suddenly upon the den of the crouching panther. M. Delegorgue observes that the feeble bird probably seeks aid in removing carrion for the purpose of picking up flies and worms; he acquits him of malice prepense, believing that where the prey is, there carnivorous beasts may be met.

The Somal, however, carry their superstition still farther. The honey-bird is never trusted by them; he leads, they say, either to the lions' den or the snakes' hiding-place, and often guides his victim into the jaws of the Kaum or plundering party.

[10] The Somal have several kinds of honey. The Donyale or wasp-honey, is scanty and bad; it is found in trees and obtained by smoking and cutting the branch. The Malab Shinni or bee-honey, is either white, red or brown; the first is considered the most delicate in flavour.

[11] The Somal call it Arrah As.

[12] The sand-grouse of Egypt and Arabia, the rock-pigeon of Sindh and the surrounding countries.

[13] The Habr Gerhajis, or eldest branch of the sons of Ishak (generally including the children of "Arab"), inhabit the Ghauts behind Berberah, whence they extend for several days' march towards Ogadayn, the southern region. This tribe is divided into a multitude of clans. The Ismail Arrah supply the Sultan, a nominal chief like the Eesa Ugaz; they extend from Makhar to the south of Gulays, number about 15,000 shields and are subdivided into three septs. The Musa Arrah hold the land between Gulays and the seats of the Mijjarthayn and Warsangeli tribes on the windward coast. The Ishak Arrah count 5000 or 6000 shields, and inhabit the Gulays Range. The other sons of Arrah (the fourth in descent from Ishak), namely, Mikahil, Gambah, Daudan, and others, also became founders of small clans. The Ayyal Daud, facetiously called "Idagallah" or earth-burrowers, and sprung from the second son of Gerhajis, claim the country south of the Habr Awal, reckon about 4000 shields, and are divided into 11 or 12 septs.

As has been noticed, the Habr Gerhajis have a perpetual blood feud with the Habr Awal, and, even at Aden, they have fought out their quarrels with clubs and stones. Yet as cousins they willingly unite against a common enemy, the Eesa for instance, and become the best of friends.

[14] So called from the Mary Anne brig, here plundered in 1825.



It is interesting to compare the earliest with the latest account of the great emporium of Eastern Africa.

Bartema, writing in the sixteenth century "of Barbara and the Island of Ethiope," offers the following brief description:—"After that the tempests were appeased, we gave wind to our sails, and in short time arrived at an island named Barbara, the prince whereof is a Mahometan. [1] The island is not great but fruitful and well peopled: it hath abundance of flesh. The inhabitants are of colour inclining to black. All their riches is in herds of cattle."

Lieut. Cruttenden of the I. N., writing in 1848, thus describes the place:—"The annual fair is one of the most interesting sights on the coast, if only from the fact of many different and distant tribes being drawn together for a short time, to be again scattered in all directions. Before the towers of Berbera were built [2], the place from April to the early part of October was utterly deserted, not even a fisherman being found there; but no sooner did the season change, than the inland tribes commenced moving down towards the coast, and preparing their huts for their expected visitors. Small craft from the ports of Yemen, anxious to have an opportunity of purchasing before vessels from the gulf could arrive, hastened across, followed about a fortnight to three weeks later by their larger brethren from Muscat, Soor, and Ras el Khyma, and the valuably freighted Bagalas [3] from Bahrein, Bussorah, and Graen. Lastly, the fat and wealthy Banian traders from Porebunder, Mandavie, and Bombay, rolled across in their clumsy Kotias [3], and with a formidable row of empty ghee jars slung over the quarters of their vessels, elbowed themselves into a permanent position in the front tier of craft in the harbour, and by their superior capital, cunning, and influence soon distanced all competitors."

"During the height of the fair, Berbera is a perfect Babel, in confusion as in languages: no chief is acknowledged, and the customs of bygone days are the laws of the place. Disputes between the inland tribes daily arise, and are settled by the spear and dagger, the combatants retiring to the beach at a short distance from the town, in order that they may not disturb the trade. Long strings of camels are arriving and departing day and night, escorted generally by women alone, until at a distance from the town; and an occasional group of dusky and travel-worn children marks the arrival of the slave Cafila from Hurrur and Efat."

"At Berbera, the Gurague and Hurrur slave merchant meets his correspondent from Bussorah, Bagdad, or Bunder Abbas; and the savage Gidrbeersi (Gudabirsi), with his head tastefully ornamented with a scarlet sheepskin in lieu of a wig, is seen peacefully bartering his ostrich feathers and gums with the smooth-spoken Banian from Porebunder, who prudently living on board his ark, and locking up his puggree [4], which would infallibly be knocked off the instant he was seen wearing it, exhibits but a small portion of his wares at a time, under a miserable mat spread on the beach."

"By the end of March the fair is nearly at a close, and craft of all kinds, deeply laden, and sailing generally in parties of three and four, commence their homeward journey. The Soori boats are generally the last to leave, and by the first week in April, Berbera is again deserted, nothing being left to mark the site of a town lately containing 20,000 inhabitants, beyond bones of slaughtered camels and sheep, and the framework of a few huts, which is carefully piled on the beach in readiness for the ensuing year. Beasts of prey now take the opportunity to approach the sea: lions are commonly seen at the town well during the hot weather; and in April last year, but a week after the fair had ended, I observed three ostriches quietly walking on the beach." [5]

Of the origin of Berberah little is known. El Firuzabadi derives it, with great probability, from two Himyar chiefs of Southern Arabia. [6] About A.D. 522 the troops of Anushirwan expelled the Abyssinians from Yemen, and re-established there a Himyari prince under vassalage of the Persian Monarch. Tradition asserts the port to have been occupied in turns by the Furs [7], the Arabs, the Turks, the Gallas, and the Somal. And its future fortunes are likely to be as varied as the past.

The present decadence of Berberah is caused by petty internal feuds. Gerhajis the eldest son of Ishak el Hazrami, seized the mountain ranges of Gulays and Wagar lying about forty miles behind the coast, whilst Awal, the cadet, established himself and his descendants upon the lowlands from Berberah to Zayla. Both these powerful tribes assert a claim to the customs and profits of the port on the grounds that they jointly conquered it from the Gallas. [8] The Habr Awal, however, being in possession, would monopolize the right: a blood feud rages, and the commerce of the place suffers from the dissensions of the owners.

Moreover the Habr Awal tribe is not without internal feuds. Two kindred septs, the Ayyal Yunis Nuh and the Ayyal Ahmed Nuh [9], established themselves originally at Berberah. The former, though the more numerous, admitted the latter for some years to a participation of profits, but when Aden, occupied by the British, rendered the trade valuable, they drove out the weaker sept, and declared themselves sole "Abbans" to strangers during the fair. A war ensued. The sons of Yunis obtained aid of the Mijjarthayn tribe. The sons of Ahmed called in the Habr Gerhajis, especially the Musa Arrah clan, to which the Hajj Sharmarkay belongs, and, with his assistance, defeated and drove out the Ayyal Yunis. These, flying from Berberah, settled at the haven of Bulhar, and by their old connection with the Indian and other foreign traders, succeeded in drawing off a considerable amount of traffic. But the roadstead was insecure: many vessels were lost, and in 1847 the Eesa Somal slaughtered the women and children of the new-comers, compelling them to sue the Ayyal Ahmed for peace. Though the feud thus ended, the fact of its having had existence ensures bad blood: amongst these savages treaties are of no avail, and the slightest provocation on either side becomes a signal for renewed hostilities.

* * * * *

After this dry disquisition we will return, dear L., to my doings at Berberah.

Great fatigue is seldom followed by long sleep. Soon after sunrise I awoke, hearing loud voices proceeding from a mass of black face and tawny wig, that blocked up the doorway, pressing forward to see their new stranger. The Berberah people had been informed by the Donkey of our having ridden from the Girhi hills in five days: they swore that not only the thing was impossible, but moreover that we had never sighted Harar. Having undergone the usual catechising with credit, I left the thatched hat in which my comrades were living, and proceeded to inspect my attendants and cattle. The former smiled blandly: they had acquitted themselves of their trust, they had outwitted the Ayyal Ahmed, who would be furious thereat, they had filled themselves with dates, rice, and sugared tea—another potent element of moral satisfaction—and they trusted that a few days would show them their wives and families. The End of Time's brow, however, betrayed an arriere pensee; once more his cowardice crept forth, and he anxiously whispered that his existence depended upon my protection. The poor mules were by no means so easily restored. Their backs, cut to the bone by the saddles, stood up like those of angry cats, their heads drooped sadly, and their hams showed red marks of the spear-point. Directing them to be washed in the sea, dressed with cold-water bandages, and copiously fed, I proceeded to inspect the Berberah Plain.

The "Mother of the Poor," as the Arabs call the place, in position resembles Zayla. The town,—if such name can be given to what is now a wretched clump of dirty mat-huts,—is situated on the northern edge of alluvial ground, sloping almost imperceptibly from the base of the Southern hills. The rapacity of these short-sighted savages has contracted its dimensions to about one sixth of its former extent: for nearly a mile around, the now desert land is strewed with bits of glass and broken pottery. Their ignorance has chosen the worst position: Mos Majorum is the Somali code, where father built there son builds, and there shall grandson build. To the S. and E. lies a saline sand-flat, partially overflowed by high tides: here are the wells of bitter water, and the filth and garbage make the spot truly offensive. Northwards the sea-strand has become a huge cemetery, crowded with graves whose dimensions explain the Somali legend that once there were giants in the land: tradition assigns to it the name of Bunder Abbas. Westward, close up to the town, runs the creek which forms the wealth of Berberah. A long strip of sand and limestone—the general formation of the coast—defends its length from the northern gales, the breadth is about three quarters of a mile, and the depth varies from six to fifteen fathoms near the Ras or Spit at which ships anchor before putting out to sea.

Behind the town, and distant about seven miles, lie the Sub-Ghauts, a bold background of lime and sandstone. Through a broad gap called Duss Malablay [10] appear in fine weather the granite walls of Wagar and Gulays, whose altitude by aneroid was found to be 5700 feet above the level of the sea. [11] On the eastward the Berberah plain is bounded by the hills of Siyaro, and westwards the heights of Dabasenis limit the prospect. [12]

It was with astonishment that I reflected upon the impolicy of having preferred Aden to this place.

The Emporium of Eastern Africa has a salubrious climate [13], abundance of sweet water—a luxury to be "fully appreciated only after a residence at Aden" [14]—a mild monsoon, a fine open country, an excellent harbour, and a soil highly productive. It is the meeting-place of commerce, has few rivals, and with half the sums lavished in Arabia upon engineer follies of stone and lime, the environs might at this time have been covered with houses, gardens, and trees.

The Eye of Yemen, to quote Carlyle, is a "mountain of misery towering sheer up like a bleak Pisgah, with outlooks only into desolation, sand, salt water, and despair." The camp is in a "Devil's Punchbowl," stiflingly hot during nine months of the year, and subject to alternations of sandstorm and Simum, "without either seed, water, or trees," as Ibn Batutah described it 500 years ago, unproductive for want of rain,—not a sparrow can exist there, nor will a crow thrive, [15]—and essentially unhealthy. [156] Our loss in operatives is only equalled by our waste of rupees; and the general wish of Western India is, that the extinct sea of fire would, Vesuvius-like, once more convert this dismal cape into a living crater.

After a day's rest—physical not spiritual, for the Somal were as usual disputing violently about the Abbanship [17]—I went with my comrades to visit an interesting ruin near the town. On the way we were shown pits of coarse sulphur and alum mixed with sand; in the low lands senna and colocynth were growing wild. After walking a mile south-south-east, from present Berberah to a rise in the plain, we found the remains of a small building about eight yards square divided into two compartments. It is apparently a Mosque: one portion, the sole of which is raised, shows traces of the prayer niche; the other might have contained the tomb of some saint now obsolete, or might have been a fort to protect a neighbouring tank. The walls are of rubble masonry and mud, revetted with a coating of cement hard as stone, and mixed with small round pebbles. [18] Near it is a shallow reservoir of stone and lime, about five yards by ten, proved by the aqueduct, part of which still remains, to be a tank of supply. Removing the upper slabs, we found the interior lined with a deposit of sulphate of lime and choked with fine drift sand; the breadth is about fifteen inches and the depth nine. After following it fifty yards toward the hills, we lost the trace; the loose stones had probably been removed for graves, and the soil may have buried the firmer portion.

Mounting our mules we then rode in a south-south-east direction towards the Dubar Hills, The surface of the ground, apparently level, rises about 100 feet per mile. In most parts a soft sand overlying hard loam, like work en pise, limestone and coralline; it shows evidences of inundation: water-worn stones of a lime almost as compact as marble, pieces of quartz, selenite, basalt, granite, and syenite in nodules are everywhere sprinkled over the surface. [19] Here and there torrents from the hills had cut channels five or six feet below the level, and a thicker vegetation denoted the lines of bed. The growth of wild plants, scanty near the coast, became more luxuriant as we approached the hills; the Arman Acacia flourished, the Kulan tree grew in clumps, and the Tamarisk formed here and there a dense thicket. Except a few shy antelope, [20] we saw no game.

A ride of seven or eight miles led us to the dry bed of a watercourse overgrown with bright green rushes, and known to the people as Dubar Wena, or Great Dubar. This strip of ground, about half a mile long, collects the drainage of the hills above it: numerous Las or Pits, in the centre of the bed, four or five feet deep, abundantly supply the flocks and herds. Although the surface of the ground, where dry, was white with impure nitre, the water tasted tolerably sweet. Advancing half a mile over the southern shoulder of a coarse and shelly mass of limestone, we found the other rushy swamp, called Dubar Yirr or Little Dubar. A spring of warm and bitter water flowed from the hill over the surface to a distance of 400 or 500 yards, where it was absorbed by the soil. The temperature of the sources immediately under the hill was 106o Fahr., the thermometer standing at 80o in the air, and the aneroid gave an altitude of 728 feet above the sea.

The rocks behind these springs were covered with ruins of mosques and houses. We visited a little tower commanding the source; it was built in steps, the hill being cut away to form the two lower rooms, and the second story showed three compartments. The material was rubble and the form resembled Galla buildings; we found, however, fine mortar mixed with coarse gravel, bits of glass bottles and blue glazed pottery, articles now unknown to this part of Africa. On the summit of the highest peak our guides pointed out remains of another fort similar to the old Turkish watchtowers at Aden.

About three quarters of a mile from the Little Dubar, we found the head of the Berberah Aqueduct. Thrown across a watercourse apparently of low level, it is here more substantially built than near the beach, and probably served as a force pipe until the water found a fall. We traced the line to a distance of ten yards, where it disappeared beneath the soil, and saw nothing resembling a supply-tank except an irregularly shaped natural pool. [21]

A few days afterwards, accompanied by Lieut. Herne, I rode out to inspect the Biyu Gora or Night-running Water. After advancing about ten miles in a south-east direction from Berberah, we entered rough and broken ground, and suddenly came upon a Fiumara about 250 yards broad. The banks were fringed with Brab and Tamarisk, the Daum palm and green rushes: a clear sparkling and shallow stream bisected the sandy bed, and smaller branches wandered over the surface. This river, the main drain of the Ghauts and Sub-Ghauts, derives its name from the increased volume of the waters during night: evaporation by day causes the absorption of about a hundred yards. We found its temperature 73o Fahr. (in the air 78o), and our people dug holes in the sand instead of drinking from the stream, a proof that they feared leeches. [22] The taste of the water was bitter and nauseous. [23]

Following the course of the Biyu Gora through two low parallel ranges of conglomerate, we entered a narrow gorge, in which lime and sandstone abound. The dip of the strata is about 45o west, the strike north and south. Water springs from under every stone, drops copiously from the shelves of rock, oozes out of the sand, and bubbles up from the mould. The temperature is exceedingly variable: in some places the water is icy cold, in others, the thermometer shows 68o Fahr., in others, 101o—the maximum, when we visited it, being 126o. The colours are equally diverse. Here, the polished surface of the sandstone is covered with a hoar of salt and nitre. [24] There, where the stream does not flow, are pools dyed greenish-black or rust-red by iron sediment. The gorge's sides are a vivid red: a peculiar creeper hangs from the rocks, and water trickles down its metallic leaves. The upper cliffs are crowned with tufts of the dragon's- blood tree.

Leaving our mules with an attendant, we began to climb the rough and rocky gorge which, as the breadth diminishes, becomes exceedingly picturesque. In one part, the side of a limestone hill hundreds of feet in height, has slipped into the chasm, half filling it with gigantic boulders: through these the noisy stream whirls, now falling in small cascades, then gliding over slabs of sheet rock: here it cute grooved channels and deep basins clean and sharp as artificial baths in the sandstone, there it flows quietly down a bed of pure sparkling sand. The high hills above are of a tawny yellow: the huge boulders, grisly white, bear upon their summits the drift wood of the last year's inundation. During the monsoon, when a furious torrent sweeps down from the Wagar Hills, this chasm must afford a curiously wild spectacle.

Returning from a toilsome climb, we found some of the Ayyal Ahmed building near the spot where Biyu Gora is absorbed, the usual small stone tower. The fact had excited attention at Berberah; the erection was intended to store grain, but the suspicious savages, the Eesa Musa, and Mikahil, who hold the land, saw in it an attempt to threaten their liberties. On our way home we passed through some extensive cemeteries: the tombs were in good preservation; there was nothing peculiar in their construction, yet the Somal were positive that they belonged to a race preceding their own. Near them were some ruins of kilns,—comparatively modern, for bits of charcoal were mixed with broken pieces of pottery,—and the oblong tracery of a dwelling-house divided into several compartments: its material was the sun-dried brick of Central Asia, here a rarity.

After visiting these ruins there was little to detain me at Berberah. The town had become intolerable, the heat under a mat hut was extreme, the wind and dust were almost as bad as Aden, and the dirt perhaps even worse. As usual we had not a moment's privacy, Arabs as well as the Somal assuming the right of walking in, sitting down, looking hard, chatting with one another, and departing. Before the voyage, however, I was called upon to compose a difficulty upon the subject of Abbanship. The Hammal had naturally constituted his father-in-law, one Burhale Nuh, of the Ayyal Gedid, protector to Lieut. Herne and myself. Burhale had proved himself a rascal: he had been insolent as well as dishonest, and had thrown frequent obstacles in his employer's way; yet custom does not permit the Abban to be put away like a wife, and the Hammal's services entitled him to the fullest consideration. On the other hand Jami Hasan, a chief and a doughty man of the Ayyal Ahmed, had met me at Aden early in 1854, and had received from me a ring in token of Abbanship. During my absence at Harar, he had taken charge of Lieut. Stroyan. On the very morning of my arrival he came to the hut, sat down spear in hand, produced the ring and claimed my promise. In vain I objected that the token had been given when a previous trip was intended, and that the Hammal must not be disappointed: Jami replied that once an Abban always an Abban, that he hated the Hammal and all his tribe, and that he would enter into no partnership with Burhale Nuh:—to complicate matters, Lieut. Stroyan spoke highly of his courage and conduct. Presently he insisted rudely upon removing his protege to another part of the town: this passed the limits of our patience, and decided the case against him.

For some days discord raged between the rivals. At last it was settled that I should choose my own Abban in presence of a general council of the Elders. The chiefs took their places upon the shore, each with his followers forming a distinct semicircle, and all squatting with shield and spear planted upright in the ground. When sent for, I entered the circle sword in hand, and sat down awaiting their pleasure. After much murmuring had subsided, Jami asked in a loud voice, "Who is thy protector?" The reply was, "Burhale Nuh!" Knowing, however, how little laconism is prized by an East-African audience, I did not fail to follow up this answer with an Arabic speech of the dimensions of an average sermon, and then shouldering my blade left the circle abruptly. The effect was success. Our wild friends sat from afternoon till sunset: as we finished supper one of them came in with the glad tidings of a "peace conference." Jami had asked Burhale to swear that he intended no personal offence in taking away a protege pledged to himself: Burhale had sworn, and once more the olive waved over the braves of Berberah.

On the 5th February 1855, taking leave of my comrades, I went on board El Kasab or the Reed—such was the ill-omened name of our cranky craft—to the undisguised satisfaction of the Hammal, Long Guled, and the End of Time, who could scarcely believe in their departure from Berberah with sound skins. [25] Coasting with a light breeze, early after noon on the next day we arrived at Siyaro, a noted watering-place for shipping, about nineteen miles east of the emporium. The roadstead is open to the north, but a bluff buttress of limestone rock defends it from the north-east gales. Upon a barren strip of sand lies the material of the town; two houses of stone and mud, one yet unfinished, the other completed about thirty years ago by Farih Binni, a Mikahil chief.

Some dozen Bedouin spearmen, Mikahil of a neighbouring kraal, squatted like a line of crows upon the shore to receive us as we waded from the vessel. They demanded money in too authoritative a tone before allowing us to visit the wells, which form their principal wealth. Resolved not to risk a quarrel so near Berberah, I was returning to moralise upon the fate of Burckhardt—after a successful pilgrimage refused admittance to Aaron's tomb at Sinai—when a Bedouin ran to tell us that we might wander where we pleased. He excused himself and his companions by pleading necessity, and his leanness lent conviction to the plea.

The larger well lies close to the eastern wall of the dwelling-house: it is about eighteen feet deep, one third sunk through ground, the other two thirds through limestone, and at the bottom is a small supply of sweet clear water, Near it I observed some ruined tanks, built with fine mortar like that of the Berberah ruins. The other well lies about half a mile to the westward of the former: it is also dug in the limestone rock. A few yards to the north-east of the building is the Furzeh or custom-house, whose pristine simplicity tempts me to describe it:—a square of ground surrounded by a dwarf rubble enclosure, and provided with a proportional mosque, a tabular block of coralline niched in the direction of Meccah. On a little eminence of rock to the westward, rise ruined walls, said by my companions to have been built by a Frank, who bought land from the Mikahil and settled on this dismal strand.

Taking leave of the Bedouins; whose hearts were gladdened by a few small presents, we resumed our voyage eastwards along the coast. Next morning, we passed two broken pyramids of dark rock called Dubada Gumbar Madu—the Two Black Hills. After a tedious day's sail, twenty miles in twenty-four hours, the Captain of El Kasab landed us in a creek west of Aynterad. A few sheep-boats lay at anchor in this "back-bay," as usual when the sea is heavy at the roadstead; and the crews informed us that a body of Bedouins was marching to attack the village. Abdy Mohammed Diban, proprietor of the Aynterad Fort, having constituted me his protector, and remained at Berberah, I armed my men, and ordering the Captain of the "Reed" to bring his vessel round at early dawn, walked hurriedly over the three miles that separated us from the place. Arrived at the fort, we found that Abdy's slaves knew nothing of the reported attack. They received me, however, hospitably, and brought a supper of their only provision, vile dates and dried meat. Unwilling to diminish the scanty store, the Hammal and I but dipped our hands in the dish: Long Guled and the End of Time, however, soon cleared the platters, while abusing roundly the unpalatable food. After supper, a dispute arose between the Hammal and one of the Habr Tul Jailah, the tribe to whom the land belongs. The Bedouin, not liking my looks, proposed to put his spear into me. The Hammal objected that if the measure were carried out, he would return the compliment in kind. Ensued a long dispute, and the listeners laughed heartily at the utter indifference with which I gave ear. When it concluded, amicably as may be expected, the slaves spread a carpet upon a coarse Berberah couch, and having again vented their hilarity in a roar of laughter, left me to sleep.

We had eaten at least one sheep per diem, and mutton baked in the ship's oven is delicious to the Somali mouth. Remained on board another dinner, a circumstance which possibly influenced the weak mind of the Captain of the "Reed." Awaking at dawn, I went out, expecting to find the vessel within stone's throw: it was nowhere visible. About 8 A.M., it appeared in sight, a mere speck upon the sea-horizon, and whilst it approached, I inspected the settlement.

Aynterad, an inconsiderable place lying east-north-east of, and about forty miles from, Berberah, is a favourite roadstead principally on account of its water, which rivals that of Siyaro. The anchorage is bad: the Shimal or north wind sweeps long lines of heavy wave into the open bay, and the bottom is a mass of rock and sand-reef. The fifty sunburnt and windsoiled huts which compose the settlement, are built upon a bank of sand overlying the normal limestone: at the time when I visited it, the male population had emigrated en masse to Berberah. It is principally supported by the slave trade, the Arabs preferring to ship their purchases at some distance from the chief emporium. [26] Lieut. Herne, when he visited it, found a considerable amount of "black bullion" in the market.

The fort of Aynterad, erected thirty years ago by Mohammed Diban, is a stone and mud house square and flat-roofed, with high windows, an attempt at crenelles, and, for some reason intelligible only to its own Vitruvius, but a single bastion at the northern angle. There is no well, and the mass of huts cluster close to the walls. The five guns here deposited by Sharmarkay when expelled from Berberah, stand on the ground outside the fort, which is scarcely calculated to bear heavy carronades: they are unprovided with balls, but that is a trifle where pebbles abound. Moreover, Abdy's slaves are well armed with matchlock and pistol, and the Bedouin Tul Jailah [27] find the spear ineffectual against stone walls. The garrison has frequently been blockaded by its troublesome neighbours, whose prowess, however, never extended beyond preliminaries.

To allay my impatience, that morning I was invited into several huts for the purpose of drinking sour milk. A malicious joy filled my soul, as about noon, the Machiavellian Captain of the "Reed" managed to cast anchor, after driving his crazy craft through a sea which the violent Shimal was flinging in hollow curves foam-fringed upon the strand. I stood on the shore making signs for a canoe. My desires were disregarded, as long as decency admitted. At last, about 1 P.M., I found myself upon the quarter-deck.

"Dawwir el farman,"—shift the yard!—I shouted with a voice of thunder.

The answer was a general hubbub. "He surely will not sail in a sea like this?" asked the trembling Captain of my companions.

"He will!" sententiously quoth the Hammal, with a Burleigh nod.

"It blows wind—" remonstrated the Rais.

"And if it blew fire?" asked the Hammal with the air goguenard, meaning that from the calamity of Frankish obstinacy there was no refuge.

A kind of death-wail arose, during which, to hide untimely laughter, I retreated to a large drawer, in the stern of the vessel, called a cabin. There my ears could distinguish the loud entreaties of the crew vainly urging my attendants to propose a day's delay. Then one of the garrison, accompanied by the Captain who shook as with fever, resolved to act forlorn hope, and bring a feu d'enfer of phrases to bear upon the Frank's hard brain. Scarcely, however, had the head of the sentence been delivered, before he was playfully upraised by his bushy hair and a handle somewhat more substantial, carried out of the cabin, and thrown, like a bag of biscuit, on the deck.

The case was hopeless. All strangers plunged into the sea,—the popular way of landing in East Africa,—the anchor was weighed, the ton of sail shaken out, and the "Reed" began to dip and rise in the yeasty sea laboriously as an alderman dancing a polka.

For the first time in my life I had the satisfaction of seeing the Somal unable to eat—unable to eat mutton. In sea-sickness and needless terror, the captain, crew, and passengers abandoned to us all the baked sheep, which we three, not being believers in the Evil Eye, ate from head to trotters with especial pleasure. That night the waves broke over us. The End of Time occupied himself in roaring certain orisons, which are reputed to calm stormy seas: he desisted only when Long Guled pointed out that a wilder gust seemed to follow as in derision each more emphatic period. The Captain, a noted reprobate, renowned on shore for his knowledge of erotic verse and admiration of the fair sex, prayed with fervour: he was joined by several of the crew, who apparently found the charm of novelty in the edifying exercise. About midnight a Sultan el Bahr or Sea-king—a species of whale—appeared close to our counter; and as these animals are infamous for upsetting vessels in waggishness, the sight elicited a yell of terror and a chorus of religious exclamations.

On the morning of Friday, the 9th February 1855, we hove in sight of Jebel Shamsan, the loftiest peak of the Aden Crater. And ere evening fell, I had the pleasure of seeing the faces of friends and comrades once more.


[1] I cannot guess why Bartema decided "Barbara" to be an island, except that he used "insula" in the sense of "peninsula." The town is at very high tides flooded round, but the old traveller manifestly speaks of the country.

[2] These are the four martello towers erected, upon the spot where the town of huts generally stands, by the Hajj Sharmarkay, who garrisoned them with thirty Arab and Negro matchlockmen. They are now in ruins, having been dismantled by orders from Aden.

[3] The former is an Arab craft, the latter belongs to the Northern Coasts of Western India.

[4] A turban.

[5] The wild animals have now almost entirely disappeared. As will afterwards be shown, the fair since 1848 has diminished to one third its former dimensions.

[6] This subject has been fully discussed in Chap. IV.

[7] The old Persians.

[8] Especially the sea-board Habr Gerbajis clans,—the Musa Arrah, the Ali Said, and the Saad Yunis—are interested in asserting their claims.

[9] Yunis and Ahmed were brothers, children of Nuh, the ninth in descent from Ishak el Hazrami. The former had four sons, Hosh Yunis, Gedid Yunis, Mahmud Yunis, and Shirdon Yunis; their descendants are all known as the Ayyal or progeny of Yunis. The Ayyal Ahmed Nuh hold the land immediately behind the town, and towards the Ghauts, blend with the Eesa Musa. The Mikahil claim the Eastern country from Siyaro to Illanti, a wooded valley affording good water and bad anchorage to wind-bound vessels.

[10] In the centre of the gap is a detached rock called Daga Malablay.

[11] It was measured by Lt. Herne, who remarks of this range that "cold in winter, as the presence of the pine-tree proves, and cooled in summer by the Monsoon, abounding in game from a spur fowl to an elephant; this hill would make an admirable Sanitarium." Unfortunately Gulays is tenanted by the Habr Gerhajis, and Wagar by the Eesa Musa, treacherous races.

[12] This part of Somali land is a sandy plain, thinly covered with thorns and bounded by two ranges, the Ghauts and Sub-Ghauts. The latter or maritime mountains begin at Tajurrah, and extend to Karam (long. 46o E.), where they break into detached groups; the distance from the coast varies from 6 to 15 miles, the height from 2000 to 3000 feet, and the surface is barren, the rock being denuded of soil by rain. The Ghauts lie from 8 to 40 miles from the sea, they average from 4000 to 6000 feet, are thickly covered with gum-arabic and frankincense trees, the wild fig and the Somali pine, and form the seaward wall of the great table-land of the interior. The Northern or maritime face is precipitous, the summit is tabular and slopes gently southwards. The general direction is E. by N. and W. by S., there are, however, some spurs at the three hills termed "Ourat," which project towards the north. Each portion of the plain between these ranges has some local name, such as the "Shimberali Valley" extending westwards from the detached hill Dimoli, to Gauli, Dinanjir and Gularkar. Intersected with Fiumaras which roll torrents during the monsoon, they are covered with a scrub of thorns, wild fig, aloe, and different kinds of Cactus.

[13] The climate of Berberah is cool during the winter, and though the sun is at all times burning, the atmosphere, as in Somali land generally, is healthy. In the dry season the plain is subject to great heats, but lying open to the north, the sea-breeze is strong and regular. In the monsoon the air is cloudy, light showers frequently fall, and occasionally heavy storms come up from the southern hills.

[14] I quote Lieut. Cruttenden. The Berberah water has acquired a bad name because the people confine themselves to digging holes three or four feet deep in the sand, about half-a-mile from high-water mark. They are reconciled to it by its beneficial effects, especially after and before a journey. Good water, however, can be procured in any of the Fiumaras intersecting the plain; when the Hajj Sharmarkay's towers commanded the town wells, the people sank pits in low ground a few hundred yards distant, and procured a purer beverage. The Banyans, who are particular about their potations, drink the sweet produce of Siyaro, a roadstead about nineteen miles eastward of Berberah.

[15] The experiment was tried by an officer who brought from Bombay a batch of sparrows and crows. The former died, scorbutic I presume; the latter lingered through an unhappy life, and to judge from the absence of young, refused to entail their miseries upon posterity.

[16] The climate of Aden, it may be observed, has a reputation for salubrity which it does not deserve. The returns of deaths prove it to be healthy for the European soldier as London, and there are many who have built their belief upon the sandy soil of statistics. But it is the practice of every sensible medical man to hurry his patients out of Aden; they die elsewhere,—some I believe recover,—and thus the deaths caused by the crater are attributed statistically to Bombay or the Red Sea.

Aden is for Asiatics a hot-bed of scurry and ulcer. Of the former disease my own corps, I am informed, had in hospital at one time 200 cases above the usual amount of sickness; this arises from the brackish water, the want of vegetables, and lastly the cachexy induced by an utter absence of change, diversion, and excitement. The ulcer is a disease endemic in Southern Arabia; it is frequently fatal, especially to the poorer classes of operatives, when worn out by privation, hardship, and fatigue.

[17] The Abban is now the pest of Berberah. Before vessels have cast anchor, or indeed have rounded the Spit, a crowd of Somal, eager as hotel- touters, may be seen running along the strand. They swim off, and the first who arrives on board inquires the name of the Abban; if there be none he touches the captain or one of the crew and constitutes himself protector. For merchandise sent forward, the man who conveys it becomes answerable.

The system of dues has become complicated. Formerly, the standard of value at Berberah was two cubits of the blue cotton-stuff called Sauda; this is now converted into four pice of specie. Dollars form the principal currency; rupees are taken at a discount. Traders pay according to degree, the lowest being one per cent., taken from Muscat and Suri merchants. The shopkeeper provides food for his Abban, and presents him at the close of the season with a Tobe, a pair of sandals, and half-a-dozen dollars. Wealthy Banyans and Mehmans give food and raiment, and before departure from 50 to 200 dollars. This class, however, derives large profits; they will lend a few dollars to the Bedouin at the end of the Fair, on condition of receiving cent. per cent., at the opening of the next season. Travellers not transacting business must feed the protector, but cannot properly be forced to pay him. Of course the Somal take every advantage of Europeans. Mr. Angelo, a merchant from Zanzibar, resided two months at Bulhar; his broker of the Ayyal Gedid tribe, and an Arab who accompanied him, extracted, it is said, 3000 dollars. As a rule the Abban claims one per cent. on sales and purchases, and two dollars per head of slaves. For each bale of cloth, half-a-dollar in coin is taken; on gums and coffee the duty is one pound in twenty-seven. Cowhides pay half-a-dollar each, sheep and goat's skins four pice, and ghee about one per cent.

Lieut. Herne calculates that the total money dues during the Fair-season amount to 2000 dollars, and that, in the present reduced state of Berberah, not more than 10,000l. worth of merchandize is sold. This estimate the natives of the place declare to be considerably under the mark.

[18] The similarity between the Persian "Gach" and this cement, which is found in many ruins about Berberah, has been remarked by other travellers.

[19] The following note by Dr. Carter of Bombay will be interesting to Indian geologists.

"Of the collection of geological specimens and fossils from Berberah above mentioned, Lieut. Burton states that the latter are found on the plain of Berberah, and the former in the following order between the sea and the summits of mountains (600 feet high), above it—that is, the ridge immediate behind Berberah.

"1. Country along the coast consists of a coralline limestone, (tertiary formation,) with drifts of sand, &c. 2. Sub-Ghauts and lower ranges (say 2000 feet high), of sandstone capped with limestone, the former preponderating. 3. Above the Ghauts a plateau of primitive rocks mixed with sandstone, granite, syenite, mica schiste, quartz rock, micaceous grit, &c.

"The fawn-coloured fossils from his coralline limestone are evidently the same as those of the tertiary formation along the south-east coast of Arabia, and therefore the same as those of Cutch; and it is exceedingly interesting to find that among the blue-coloured fossils which are accompanied by specimens of the blue shale, composing the beds from which they have been weathered out, are species of Terebratula Belemnites, identical with those figured in Grant's Geology of Cutch; thus enabling us to extend those beds of the Jurassic formation which exist in Cutch, and along the south-eastern coast of Arabia, across to Africa."

[20] These animals are tolerably tame in the morning, as day advances their apprehension of man increases.

[21] Lieut. Cruttenden in considering what nation could have constructed, and at what period the commerce of Berberah warranted, so costly an undertaking, is disposed to attribute it to the Persian conquerors of Aden in the days of Anushirwan. He remarks that the trade carried on in the Red Sea was then great, the ancient emporia of Hisn Ghorab and Aden prosperous and wealthy, and Berberah doubtless exported, as it does now, ivory, gums, and ostrich feathers. But though all the maritime Somali country abounds in traditions of the Furs or ancient Persians, none of the buildings near Berberah justify our assigning to them, in a country of monsoon rain and high winds, an antiquity of 1300 years.

The Somal assert that ten generations ago their ancestors drove out the Gallas from Berberah, and attribute these works to the ancient Pagans. That nation of savages, however, was never capable of constructing a scientific aqueduct. I therefore prefer attributing these remains at Berberah to the Ottomans, who, after the conquest of Aden by Sulayman Pacha in A.D. 1538, held Yemen for about 100 years, and as auxiliaries of the King of Adel, penetrated as far as Abyssinia. Traces of their architecture are found at Zayla and Harar, and according to tradition, they possessed at Berberah a settlement called, after its founder, Bunder Abbas.

[22] Here, as elsewhere in Somali land, the leech is of the horse-variety. It might be worth while to attempt breeding a more useful species after the manner recommended by Capt. R. Johnston, the Sub-Assistant Commissary General in Sindh (10th April, 1845). In these streams leeches must always be suspected; inadvertently swallowed, they fix upon the inner coat of the stomach, and in Northern Africa have caused, it is said, some deaths among the French soldiers.

[23] Yet we observed frogs and a small species of fish.

[24] Either this or the sulphate of magnesia, formed by the decomposition of limestone, may account for the bitterness of the water.

[25] They had been in some danger: a treacherous murder perpetrated a few days before our arrival had caused all the Habr Gerbajis to fly from the town and assemble 5000 men at Bulhar for battle and murder. This proceeding irritated the Habr Awal, and certainly, but for our presence, the strangers would have been scurvily treated by their "cousins."

[26] Of all the slave-dealers on this coast, the Arabs are the most unscrupulous. In 1855, one Mohammed of Muscat, a shipowner, who, moreover, constantly visits Aden, bought within sight of our flag a free-born Arab girl of the Yafai tribe, from the Akarib of Bir Hamid, and sold her at Berberah to a compatriot. Such a crime merits severe punishment; even the Abyssinians visit with hanging the Christian convicted of selling a fellow religionist. The Arab slaver generally marries his properly as a ruse, and arrived at Muscat or Bushire, divorces and sells them. Free Somali women have not unfrequently met with this fate.

[27] The Habr Tul Jailah (mother of the tribe of Jailah) descendants of Ishak el Hazrami by a slave girl, inhabit the land eastward of Berberah. Their principal settlements after Aynterad are the three small ports of Karam, Unkor, and Hays. The former, according to Lieut. Cruttenden, is "the most important from its possessing a tolerable harbour, and from its being the nearest point from Aden, the course to which place is N. N. W., —consequently the wind is fair, and the boats laden with sheep for the Aden market pass but one night at sea, whilst those from Berberah are generally three. What greatly enhances the value of Kurrum (Karam), however, is its proximity to the country of the Dulbahanteh, who approach within four days of Kurrum, and who therefore naturally have their chief trade through that port. The Ahl Tusuf, a branch of the Habertel Jahleh, at present hold possession of Kurrum, and between them and the tribes to windward there exists a most bitter and irreconcileable feud, the consequence of sundry murders perpetrated about five years since at Kurrum, and which hitherto have not been avenged. The small ports of Enterad, Unkor, Heis, and Rukudah are not worthy of mention, with the exception of the first-named place, which has a trade with Aden in sheep."


On Saturday, the 7th April 1855, the H. E. I. Company's Schooner "Mahi," Lieut. King, I. N., commanding, entered the harbour of Berberah, where her guns roared forth a parting salute to the "Somali Expedition."

The Emporium of East Africa was at the time of my landing, in a state of confusion. But a day before, the great Harar caravan, numbering 3000 souls, and as many cattle, had entered for the purpose of laying in the usual eight months' supplies, and purchase, barter, and exchange were transacted in most hurried and unbusiness-like manner. All day, and during the greater part of night, the town rang with the voices of buyer and seller: to specify no other articles of traffic, 500 slaves of both sexes were in the market. [1] Long lines of laden and unladen camels were to be seen pacing the glaring yellow shore; rumours of plundering parties at times brought swarms of spear-men, bounding and yelling like wild beasts, from the town; already small parties of travellers had broken ground for their return journey; and the foul heap of mat hovels, to which this celebrated mart had been reduced, was steadily shrinking in dimensions.

Our little party consisted of forty-two souls. At Aden I had applied officially for some well-trained Somali policemen, but as an increase of that establishment had been urged upon the home authorities, my request was refused. We were fain to content ourselves with a dozen recruits of various races, Egyptian, Nubian, Arab and Negro, whom we armed with sabres and flint muskets. The other members of the expedition were our private servants, and about a score of Somal under our rival protectors Jami Hasan and Burhale Nuh. The Ras or Captain of the Kafilah was one Mahmud of the Mijjarthayn, better known at Aden as El Balyuz or the Envoy: he had the reputation of being a shrewd manager, thoroughly acquainted with the habits and customs, as well as the geography, of Somaliland.

Our camp was pitched near the site of the proposed Agency, upon a rocky ridge within musket-shot of the southern extremity of the creek, and about three quarters of a mile distant from the town. This position had been selected for the benefit of the "Mahi's" guns. Political exigencies required the "Mahi" to relieve the "Elphinstone," then blockading the seaboard of our old Arab foe, the Fazli chief; she was unable to remain upon the coast, and superintend our departure, a measure which I had strongly urged. Our tents were pitched in one line: Lieut. Stroyan's was on the extreme right, about a dozen paces distant was the "Rowtie" [2] occupied by Lieut. Herne and myself, and at a similar distance on the left of the camp was that in which Lieut. Speke slept. The baggage was placed between the two latter, the camels were tethered in front upon a sandy bed beneath the ridge our camping-ground, and in rear stood the horses and mules. During day-time all were on the alert: at night two sentries were posted, regularly relieved, and visited at times by the Ras and ourselves.

I had little reason to complain of my reception at Berberah. The chiefs appeared dissatisfied with the confinement of one Mohammed Sammattar, the Abban who accompanied Lieut. Speke to the Eastern country: they listened, however, with respectful attention to a letter in which the Political Resident at Aden enjoined them to treat us with consideration and hospitality.

There had been petty disputes with Burhale Nuh, and the elders of the Eesa Musa tribe, touching the hire of horse-keepers and camel-drivers: such events, however, are not worthy to excite attention in Africa. My friend at Harar, the Shaykh Jami, had repeatedly called upon us, ate bread and salt, recommended us to his fellow countrymen, and used my intervention in persuading avaricious ship-owners to transport, gratis, pauper pilgrims to Arabia. The people, after seeing the deaths of a few elephants, gradually lowered their loud boasts and brawling claims: they assisted us in digging a well, offered their services as guides and camel-drivers, and in some cases insisted upon encamping near us for protection. Briefly, we saw no grounds of apprehension. During thirty years, not an Englishman of the many that had visited it had been molested at Berberah, and apparently there was as little to fear in it as within the fortifications of Aden. [3]

Under these favourable circumstances we might have set out at once towards the interior. Our camels, fifty-six in number, had been purchased [4], and the Ogadayn Caravan was desirous of our escort. But we wished to witness the close of the Berberah fair, and we expected instruments and other necessaries by the mid-April mail from Europe. [5]

About 8 P.M., on the 9th April, a shower, accompanied by thunder and lightning, came up from the southern hills, where rain had been falling for some days, and gave notice that the Gugi or Somali monsoon had begun. This was the signal for the Bedouins to migrate to the Plateau above the hills. [6] Throughout the town the mats were stripped from their frameworks of stick and pole [7], the camels were laden, and thousands of travellers lined the roads. The next day Berberah was almost deserted except by the pilgrims who intended to take ship, and by merchants, who, fearful of plundering parties, awaited the first favourable hour for setting sail. Our protectors, Jami and Burhale, receiving permission to accompany their families and flocks, left us in charge of their sons and relations. On the 15th April the last vessel sailed out of the creek, and our little party remained in undisputed possession of the place.

Three days afterwards, about noon, an Aynterad craft en route from Aden entered the solitary harbour freighted with about a dozen Somal desirous of accompanying us towards Ogadayn, the southern region. She would have sailed that evening; fortunately, however, I had ordered our people to feast her commander and crew with rice and the irresistible dates.

At sunset on the same day we were startled by a discharge of musketry behind the tents: the cause proved to be three horsemen, over whose heads our guard had fired in case they might be a foraging party. I reprimanded our people sharply for this act of folly, ordering them in future to reserve their fire, and when necessary to shoot into, not above, a crowd. After this we proceeded to catechise the strangers, suspecting them to be scouts, the usual forerunners of a Somali raid: the reply was so plausible that even the Balyuz, with all his acuteness, was deceived. The Bedouins had forged a report that their ancient enemy the Hajj Sharmarkay was awaiting with four ships at the neighbouring port, Siyaro, the opportunity of seizing Berberah whilst deserted, and of re-erecting his forts there for the third time. Our visitors swore by the divorce-oath,—the most solemn which the religious know,—that a vessel entering the creek at such unusual season, they had been sent to ascertain whether it had been freighted with materials for building, and concluded by laughingly asking if we feared danger from the tribe of our own protectors. Believing them, we posted as usual two sentries for the night, and retired to rest in our wonted security.

Between 2 and 3 A.M. of the 19th April I was suddenly aroused by the Balyuz, who cried aloud that the enemy was upon us. [8] Hearing a rush of men like a stormy wind, I sprang up, called for my sabre, and sent Lieut. Herne to ascertain the force of the foray. Armed with a "Colt," he went to the rear and left of the camp, the direction of danger, collected some of the guard,—others having already disappeared,—and fired two shots into the assailants. Then finding himself alone, he turned hastily towards the tent; in so doing he was tripped up by the ropes, and as he arose, a Somali appeared in the act of striking at him with a club. Lieut. Herne fired, floored the man, and rejoining me, declared that the enemy was in great force and the guard nowhere. Meanwhile, I had aroused Lieuts. Stroyan and Speke, who were sleeping in the extreme right and left tents. The former, it is presumed, arose to defend himself, but, as the sequel shows, we never saw him alive. [9] Lieut. Speke, awakened by the report of firearms, but supposing it the normal false alarm,—a warning to plunderers,—he remained where he was: presently hearing clubs rattling upon his tent, and feet shuffling around, he ran to my Rowtie, which we prepared to defend as long as possible.

The enemy swarmed like hornets with shouts and screams intending to terrify, and proving that overwhelming odds were against us: it was by no means easy to avoid in the shades of night the jobbing of javelins, and the long heavy daggers thrown at our legs from under and through the opening of the tent. We three remained together: Lieut. Herne knelt by my right, on my left was Lieut. Speke guarding the entrance, I stood in the centre, having nothing but a sabre. The revolvers were used by my companions with deadly effect: unfortunately there was but one pair. When the fire was exhausted, Lieut. Herne went to search for his powder-horn, and that failing, to find some spears usually tied to the tent-pole. Whilst thus engaged, he saw a man breaking into the rear of our Rowtie, and came back to inform me of the circumstance.

At this time, about five minutes after the beginning of the affray, the tent had been almost beaten down, an Arab custom with which we were all familiar, and had we been entangled in its folds, we should have been speared with unpleasant facility. I gave the word for escape, and sallied out, closely followed by Lieut. Herne, with Lieut. Speke in the rear. The prospect was not agreeable. About twenty men were kneeling and crouching at the tent entrance, whilst many dusk figures stood further off, or ran about shouting the war-cry, or with shouts and blows drove away our camels. Among the enemy were many of our friends and attendants: the coast being open to them, they naturally ran away, firing a few useless shots and receiving a modicum of flesh wounds.

After breaking through the mob at the tent entrance, imagining that I saw the form of Lieut. Stroyan lying upon the sand, I cut my way towards it amongst a dozen Somal, whose war-clubs worked without mercy, whilst the Balyuz, who was violently pushing me out of the fray, rendered the strokes of my sabre uncertain. This individual was cool and collected: though incapacitated by a sore right-thumb from using the spear, he did not shun danger, and passed unhurt through the midst of the enemy: his efforts, however, only illustrated the venerable adage, "defend me from my friends." I turned to cut him down: he cried out in alarm; the well-known voice caused an instant's hesitation: at that moment a spearman stepped forward, left his javelin in my mouth, and retired before he could be punished. Escaping as by a miracle, I sought some support: many of our Somal and servants lurking in the darkness offered to advance, but "tailed off" to a man as we approached the foe. Presently the Balyuz reappeared, and led me towards the place where he believed my three comrades had taken refuge. I followed him, sending the only man that showed presence of mind, one Golab of the Yusuf tribe, to bring back the Aynterad craft from the Spit into the centre of the harbour [10]. Again losing the Balyuz in the darkness, I spent the interval before dawn wandering in search of my comrades, and lying down when overpowered with faintness and pain: as the day broke, with my remaining strength I reached the head of the creek, was carried into the vessel, and persuaded the crew to arm themselves and visit the scene of our disasters.

Meanwhile, Lieut. Herne, who had closely followed me, fell back, using the butt-end of his discharged sixshooter upon the hard heads around him: in so doing he came upon a dozen men, who though they loudly vociferated, "Kill the Franks who are killing the Somal!" allowed him to pass uninjured.

He then sought his comrades in the empty huts of the town, and at early dawn was joined by the Balyuz, who was similarly employed. When day broke he sent a Negro to stop the native craft, which was apparently sailing out of the harbour, and in due time came on board. With the exception of sundry stiff blows with the war-club, Lieut. Herne had the fortune to escape unhurt.

On the other hand, Lieut. Speke's escape was in every way wonderful. Sallying from the tent he levelled his "Dean and Adams" close to an assailant's breast. The pistol refused to revolve. A sharp blow of a war- club upon the chest felled our comrade, who was in the rear and unseen. When he fell, two or three men sprang upon him, pinioned his hands behind, felt him for concealed weapons,—an operation to which he submitted in some alarm,—and led him towards the rear, as he supposed to be slaughtered. There, Lieut. Speke, who could scarcely breathe from the pain of the blow, asked a captor to tie his hands before, instead of behind, and begged a drop of water to relieve his excruciating thirst. The savage defended him against a number of the Somal who came up threatening and brandishing their spears, he brought a cloth for the wounded man to lie upon, and lost no time in procuring a draught of water.

Lieut. Speke remained upon the ground till dawn. During the interval he witnessed the war-dance of the savages—a scene striking in the extreme. The tallest and largest warriors marched in a ring round the tents and booty, singing, with the deepest and most solemn tones, the song of thanksgiving. At a little distance the grey uncertain light disclosed four or five men, lying desperately hurt, whilst their kinsmen kneaded their limbs, poured water upon their wounds, and placed lumps of dates in their stiffening hands. [11] As day broke, the division of plunder caused angry passions to rise. The dead and dying were abandoned. One party made a rush upon the cattle, and with shouts and yells drove them off towards the wild, some loaded themselves with goods, others fought over pieces of cloth, which they tore with hand and dagger, whilst the disappointed, vociferating with rage, struck at one another and brandished their spears. More than once during these scenes, a panic seized them; they moved off in a body to some distance; and there is little doubt that had our guard struck one blow, we might still have won the day.

Lieut. Speke's captor went to seek his own portion of the spoil, when a Somal came up and asked in Hindostani, what business the Frank had in their country, and added that he would kill him if a Christian, but spare the life of a brother Moslem. The wounded man replied that he was going to Zanzibar, that he was still a Nazarene, and therefore that the work had better be done at once:—the savage laughed and passed on. He was succeeded by a second, who, equally compassionate, whirled a sword round his head, twice pretended to strike, but returned to the plunder without doing damage. Presently came another manner of assailant. Lieut. Speke, who had extricated his hands, caught the spear levelled at his breast, but received at the same moment a blow from a club which, paralyzing his arm, caused him to lose his hold. In defending his heart from a succession of thrusts, he received severe wounds on the back of his hand, his right shoulder, and his left thigh. Pausing a little, the wretch crossed to the other side, and suddenly passed his spear clean through the right leg of the wounded man: the latter "smelling death," then leapt up, and taking advantage of his assailant's terror, rushed headlong towards the sea. Looking behind, he avoided the javelin hurled at his back, and had the good fortune to run, without further accident, the gauntlet of a score of missiles. When pursuit was discontinued, he sat down faint from loss of blood upon a sandhill. Recovering strength by a few minutes' rest, he staggered on to the town, where some old women directed him to us. Then, pursuing his way, he fell in with the party sent to seek him, and by their aid reached the craft, having walked and run at least three miles, after receiving eleven wounds, two of which had pierced his thighs. A touching lesson how difficult it is to kill a man in sound health! [12]

When the three survivors had reached the craft, Yusuf, the captain, armed his men with muskets and spears, landed them near the camp, and ascertained that the enemy, expecting a fresh attack, had fled, carrying away our cloth, tobacco, swords, and other weapons. [13] The corpse of Lieut. Stroyan was then brought on board. Our lamented comrade was already stark and cold. A spear had traversed his heart, another had pierced his abdomen, and a frightful gash, apparently of a sword, had opened the upper part of his forehead: the body had been bruised with war-clubs, and the thighs showed marks of violence after death. This was the severest affliction that befell us. We had lived together like brothers: Lieut. Stroyan was a universal favourite, and his sterling qualities of manly courage, physical endurance, and steady perseverance had augured for him a bright career, thus prematurely cut off. Truly melancholy to us was the contrast between the evening when he sat with us full of life and spirits, and the morning when we saw amongst us a livid corpse.

We had hoped to preserve the remains of our friend for interment at Aden. But so rapid were the effects of exposure, that we were compelled most reluctantly, on the morning of the 20th April, to commit them to the deep, Lieut. Herne reading the funeral service.

Then with heavy hearts we set sail for the near Arabian shore, and, after a tedious two days, carried to our friends the news of unexpected disaster.


[1] The Fair-season of 1864-56 began on the 16th November, and may be said to have broken up on the 15th April.

The principal caravans which visit Berberah are from Harar the Western, and Ogadayn, the Southern region: they collect the produce of the numerous intermediate tribes of the Somal. The former has been described in the preceding pages. The following remarks upon the subject of the Ogadayn caravan are the result of Lieuts. Stroyan and Herne's observations at Berberah.

"Large caravans from Ogadayn descend to the coast at the beginning and the end of the Fair-season. They bring slaves from the Arusa country, cattle in great quantities, gums of sorts, clarified butter, ivory, ostrich feathers, and rhinoceros horns to be made into handles for weapons. These are bartered for coarse cotton cloth of three kinds, for English and American sheeting in pieces of seventy-five, sixty-six, sixty-two, and forty-eight yards, black and indigo-dyed calicos in lengths of sixteen yards, nets or fillets worn by the married women, iron and steel in small bars, lead and zinc, beads of various kinds, especially white porcelain and speckled glass, dates and rice."

The Ayyal Ahmed and Ayyal Yunis classes of the Habr Awal Somal have constituted themselves Abbans or brokers to the Ogadayn Caravans, and the rapacity of the patron has produced a due development of roguery in the client. The principal trader of this coast is the Banyan from Aden find Cutch, facetiously termed by the Somal their "Milch-cows." The African cheats by mismeasuring the bad cotton cloth, and the Indian by falsely weighing the coffee, ivory, ostrich feathers and other valuable articles which he receives in return. Dollars and even rupees are now preferred to the double breadth of eight cubits which constitutes the well known "Tobe."

[2] A Sepoy's tent, pent-house shaped, supported by a single transverse and two upright poles and open at one of the long ends.

[3] Since returning I have been informed, however, by the celebrated Abyssinian traveller M. Antoine d'Abbadie, that in no part of the wild countries which he visited was his life so much perilled as at Berberah.

[4] Lieut. Speke had landed at Karam harbour on the 24th of March, in company with the Ras, in order to purchase camels. For the Ayyun or best description he paid seven dollars and a half; the Gel Ad (white camels) cost on an average four. In five days he had collected twenty-six, the number required, and he then marched overland from Karam to Berberah.

I had taken the precaution of detaching Lieut. Speke to Karam in lively remembrance of my detention for want of carriage at Zayla, and in consequence of a report raised by the Somal of Aden that a sufficient number of camels was not procurable at Berberah. This proved false. Lieuts. Stroyan and Herne found no difficulty whatever in purchasing animals at the moderate price of five dollars and three quarters a head: for the same sum they could have bought any reasonable number. Future travellers, however, would do well not to rely solely upon Berberah for a supply of this necessary, especially at seasons when the place is not crowded with caravans.

[5] The Elders of the Habr Awal, I have since been informed, falsely asserted that they repeatedly urged us, with warnings of danger, to leave Berberah at the end of the fair, but that we positively refused compliance, for other reasons. The facts of the case are those stated in the text.

[6] They prefer travelling during the monsoon, on account of the abundance of water.

[7] The framework is allowed to remain for use next Fair-season.

[8] The attacking party, it appears, was 350 strong; 12 of the Mikahil, 15 of the Habr Gerhajis, and the rest Eesa Musa. One Ao Ali wore, it is said, the ostrich feather for the murder of Lieut. Stroyan.

[9] Mohammed, his Indian servant, stated that rising at my summons he had rushed to his tent, armed himself with a revolver, and fired six times upon his assassins. Unhappily, however, Mohammed did not see his master fall, and as he was foremost amongst the fugitives, scant importance attaches to his evidence.

[10] At this season native craft quitting Berberah make for the Spit late in the evening, cast anchor there, and set sail with the land breeze before dawn. Our lives hung upon a thread. Had the vessel departed, as she intended, the night before the attack, nothing could have saved us from destruction.

[11] The Somal place dates in the hands of the fallen to ascertain the extent of injury: he who cannot eat that delicacy is justly decided to be in articulo.

[12] In less than a month after receiving such injuries, Lieut. Speke was on his way to England: he has never felt the least inconvenience from the wounds, which closed up like cuts in Indian-rubber.

[13] They had despised the heavy sacks of grain, the books, broken boxes, injured instruments, and a variety of articles which they did not understand. We spent that day at Berberah, bringing off our property, and firing guns to recall six servants who were missing. They did not appear, having lost no time in starting for Karam and Aynterad, whence they made their way in safety to Aden. On the evening of the 19th of April, unable to remove the heavier effects, and anxious to return with the least possible delay, I ordered them to be set on fire.




On the 28th October, 1854, Lieutenant Speke arrived at Kurayat, a small village near Las Kuray (Goree Bunder), in the country called by the Somal "Makhar," or the eastern maritime region. During the period of three months and a half he was enabled to make a short excursion above the coast-mountains, visiting the Warsingali, the Dulbahanta, and the Habr Gerhajis tribes, and penetrating into a region unknown to Europeans. The bad conduct of his Abban, and the warlike state of the country, prevented his reaching the "Wady Nogal," which, under more favourable circumstances and with more ample leisure than our plans allowed him, he conceives to be a work of little difficulty and no danger. He has brought back with him ample notices of the region visited, and has been enabled to make a valuable collection of the Fauna, which have been forwarded to the Curator of the Royal As. Society's Museum, Calcutta. On the 15th February, 1855, Lieutenant Speke revisited Kurayat, and there embarked for Aden.

Before proceeding to Lieutenant Speke's Journal, it may be useful to give a brief and general account of the region explored.

The portion of the Somali country visited by Lieutenant Speke may be divided into a Maritime Plain, a Range of Mountains, and an elevated Plateau.

The Maritime Plain, at the points visited by Lieutenant Speke, is a sandy tract overlying limestone, level to the foot of the hills, and varying from half a mile to two miles in breadth. Water is not everywhere procurable. At the village of Las Kuray, there is an old and well built well, about twelve feet deep, producing an abundant and excellent supply. It appears that the people have no implements, and are too barbarous to be capable of so simple an engineering operation as digging. The vegetation presents the usual appearance of salsolaceous plants thinly scattered over the surface, with here and there a stunted growth of Arman or Acacia. The watershed is of course from south to north, and the rain from the hills is carried off by a number of Fiumaras or freshets, with broad shallow beds, denoting that much of the monsoon rain falling in the mountains is there absorbed, and that little finds its way to the sea. At this season (the dry weather) the plain is thinly inhabited; there are no villages except on the sea-shore, and even these were found by the traveller almost entirely deserted, mostly women occupying the houses, whilst the men were absent, trading and tending cattle in the hills. The harbours are, generally speaking, open and shallow road-steads, where ships find no protection; there is, however, one place (Las Galwayta), where, it is said, deep water extends to the shore.

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