From this unfortunate expedition, however, some information was obtained respecting a part of Africa, not visited for several centuries. No trace indeed was seen of the great kingdoms, or of the cities and armies described by the Portuguese missionaries, so that though the interior may very probably be more populous than the banks of the river, there must in these pious narratives be much exaggeration; indeed it is not unworthy of remark, that all the accounts of the early missionaries, into whatever part of the world they undertook to intrude themselves, can only be looked upon as a tissue of falsehood, and hyperbolical misrepresentation.
The largest towns, or rather villages, did not contain above one hundred houses, with five hundred or six hundred inhabitants. They were governed by chenoos, with a power nearly absolute, and having mafooks under them, who were chiefly employed in the collection of revenue. The people were merry, idle, good-humoured, hospitable, and liberal, with rather an innocent and agreeable expression of countenance. The greatest blemish in their character appeared in the treatment of the female sex, on whom they devolved all the laborious duties of life, even more exclusively than is usual among negro tribes, holding their virtues also in such slender esteem, that the greatest chiefs unblushingly made it an object of traffic. Upon this head, however, they have evidently learned much evil from their intercourse with Europeans. The character of the vegetation, and the general aspect of nature, are pretty nearly the same on the Congo, as on the other African rivers.
Meantime the other part of the expedition, under Major Peddie, whose destination it was to descend the Niger, arrived at the mouth of the Senegal. Instead of the beaten track along the banks of that river or of the Gambia, he preferred the route through the country of the Foulahs, which, though nearer, was more difficult and less explored. On the 17th November 1816, he sailed from the Senegal, and on the 14th December, the party, consisting of one hundred men, and two hundred animals, landed at Kakundy, on the Rio Nunez; but before they could begin their march, Major Peddie was attacked with fever, and died. Captain Campbell, on whom the command devolved, proceeded on the line proposed till he arrived at a small river, called the Ponietta, on the frontier of the Foulah territory. By this time many of the beasts of burden had sunk, and great difficulty was found in obtaining a sufficient supply of provisions. The king of the Foulahs, on being asked permission to pass through his territory, seemed alarmed at hearing of so large a body of foreigners about to enter his country. He contrived, under various pretexts, to detain them on the frontier four months, during which their stock of food and clothing gradually diminished, while they were suffering all the evils that arise from a sickly climate and a scanty supply of necessaries. At length, their situation became such as to place them under the absolute necessity of returning. All their animals being dead, it was necessary to hire the natives to carry their baggage, an expedient which gave occasion to frequent pillage. They reached Kakundy with the loss only of Mr. Kum-Doer, the naturalist; but Captain Campbell, overcome by sickness and exertion, died two days after, on the 13th of June 1817. The command was then transferred to Lieutenant Stokoe, a spirited young naval officer, who had joined the expedition as a volunteer. He had formed a new scheme for proceeding into the interior; but unhappily he also sunk under the climate and the fatigues of the, journey.
A sentence of death seemed pronounced against all, who should attempt to penetrate the African continent, and yet were still some, daring spirits, who did not shrink from the undertaking. Captain Gray, of the Royal African corps, who had accompanied the last-mentioned expedition, under Major Peddie and Captain Campbell, undertook, in 1818, to perform a journey by Park's old route along the Gambia. He reached, without any obstacle, Boolibani, the capital of Bondou, where he remained from the 20th June 1818 to the 22nd May 1819; but, owing to the jealousy of the monarch, he was not permitted to proceed any further. With some difficulty he reached Gallam, where he met Staff-surgeon Dockard, who had gone forward to Sego, to ask permission to proceed through Bambarra, a request which had also been evaded. The whole party then returned to Senegal.
In 1821, Major Laing was sent on a mission from Sierra Leone, through the Timannee, Kooranko, and Soolima countries, with the view of forming some commercial arrangements. On this journey he found reason to believe, that the source of the Niger lay much further to the south than was supposed by Park. At Falabo he was assured that it might have been reached in three days, had not the Kissi nation, in whose territory it was situated, been at war with the Soolimanas, with whom Major Laing then resided. He was inclined to fix the source of this great river a very little above the ninth degree of latitude.
The British government was in the mean time indefatigable in their endeavours to find out the channels for exploring the interior of Africa. The pashaw of Tripoli, although he had usurped the throne by violent means, showed a disposition to improve his country, by admitting the arts and learning of Europe, while the judicious conduct of Consul Warrington inclined him to cultivate the friendship of Britain. Through his tributary kingdom of Fezzan, he held close and constant communication with Bornou, and the other leading states of central Africa, and he readily undertook to promote the views of any English expedition in that direction. The usual means were supplied by the government, and the ordinary inducements held forth by the association.
In consequence of these amicable dispositions evinced by the bashaw of Tripoli towards the British government, it was resolved to appoint a vice-consul to reside at Mourzouk, the capital of Fezzan; and the late Mr. Ritchie, then private secretary to Sir Charles Stuart, the British ambassador at Paris, was selected for the undertaking. He was joined at Tripoli by Captain G. F. Lyon, who had volunteered his services as his companion; and to this enterprising and more fortunate traveller, who has braved alike the rigours of an Arctic winter, and the scorching heats of central Africa, we are indebted for the narrative of the expedition.
On the 25th March 1819, the coffle, (kafila, kefla,) consisting of about two hundred men, and the same number of camels, commenced its march from Tripoli for the interior. They were accompanied by Mohammed el Mukni, the sultan of Fezzan, from whose protection and friendship the greatest advantages were anticipated. By the express advice of the bashaw, the English travellers assumed the moorish costume, with the character of Moslem. Mr. Ritchie's name was converted into Yusuf al Ritchie; Captain Lyon called himself Said Ben Abdallah; and Belford, a ship-wright, who had entered into their service, took the name of Ali. In the coffle were several parties of liberated blacks, all joyful at the idea of once more returning to their native land, though the means of their support were very slender, and many of them, with their young children, had to walk a distance of two thousand miles before they could reach their own country.
The route lay for the first two days over a sandy irregular desert, and then entered the mountains of Terkoona, situated to the south-east of Tripoli, and which seems to be a continuation of the Gharian or Wahryan range. Several little streams flow from the sides of the hills, abounding with game, particularly snipes and partridges. On the sixth day, passing over a stony desert, they reached Benioleed, an Arab town, with about two thousand inhabitants. It consists of several straggling mud villages, on the sides of a fertile ravine, several miles in length, and bounded by rocks of difficult access. The centre is laid out in gardens, planted with date and olive trees, and producing also corn, vegetables, and pulse. The valley is subject to inundation during the winter rains, but in summer requires to be watered with great labour, by means of wells of extraordinary depth. It is inhabited by the Orfella tribe, subsisting chiefly by agriculture, and the rearing of cattle, aided only in a trifling degree by a manufacture of nitre; they are accounted hardy and industrious, but at the same time dishonest and cruel. Benioleed castle stands in latitude 31=B0 45' 38" N., longitude 14=B0 12' 10" E.
The houses are built of rough stones, on each side of the Wady, none are above eight feet in height, receiving their light only through the doors, and their appearance is that of a heap of ruins. The wells are from 100 to 200 feet in depth, the water excellent. During the rains, the valley frequently became flooded by the torrents, and the water has been known to rise so nigh as to hide from view the tallest olive trees in the low grounds. Men and animals are often drowned in the night, before they have time to escape. The torrents from the hill-sides rushing down with such impetuosity, that in an hour or two, the whole country is inundated.
On leaving Benioleed, it was necessary to take a supply of water for three days. The country presented an alternation of stony desert, and plains not incapable of cultivation, but having at this season no water. On the fifth day (6th April), they crossed Wady Zemzem, which runs into the Gulf of Syrtis, and passing over a plain strewed in some parts with cockle-shells, reached the well of Bonjem, which is the northern boundary of Fezzan.
On the 7th April, the camels being loaded with four days' water, the caravan left Bonjem, and proceeded over a barren desert called Klia. At the end of three hours and a half, they passed a remarkable mound of limestone and sand, resembling, until a very near approach, a white turret. It is called by the natives the Bowl of Bazeen, the latter word signifying an Arab dish, somewhat resembling a hasty pudding. The halt was made at the end of ten hours, in a sandy wady, called Boo-naja, twenty-two miles south-southeast of Bonjem.
The next day, the road led through a defile, called Hormut Em-halla (the pass of the army); then passing a range of table-mountains, running north-east and south-west, called Elood, it crossed a stony and very uneven plain, encircled with mountains, to the pass of Hormut Tazzet. Having cleared the pass, the road opened upon a plain called El Grazat Arab Hoon, where the caravan encamped, after a march of twelve hours and a half. Here one of the camels died; three others were unable to come up, and all of the camels in the coffle were much distressed, not having for several days tasted any kind of food. Two hours and a half further, they came to a solitary tree, which is reckoned a day's journey from water. Slaves, in coming from the water, are not allowed to drink until they reach the tree, which is one of the longest stages from Fezzan. At the end of nearly eleven hours, the route led through a pass called Hormut Taad Abar, and after wading through a wady, closely hemmed in by mountains, opened into a small circular plain, in which was found a well of brackish, stinking water. In hot seasons, the well is dry, and even at this time it was very low; but the horses sucked up with avidity the mud that was thrown out of it. Still there was not any fodder for the camels, till, about the middle of the next day's march, they reached a small wady, in which there were some low bushes. A strong sand-wind from the southward now rendered the march extremely harassing. The sand flew about in such quantities, that the travellers were unable to prepare any food, and they could not even see thirty yards before them. In the evening they encamped amid a plantation of palms, near two wells of tolerably fresh water, at a short distance from Sockna. Of this town, which is about half-way between Tripoli and Mourzouk, Captain Lyon gives the following description:—
Sockna stands on an immense plain of gravel, bounded to the south by the Soudah mountains, at about fifteen miles; by the mountains of Wadam, about thirty miles to the eastward; a distant range to the west, and those already mentioned on the north. The town is walled, and may contain two thousand persons. There are small projections from the walls, having loop-holes for musketry. It has seven gates, only one of which will admit a loaded camel. The streets are very narrow, and the houses are built of mud and small stones mixed, many of them having a story above the ground-floor. A small court is open in the centre, and the doors, which open from this area, give the only light which the rooms receive. The water of Sockna is almost all brackish or bitter. There are 200,000 date trees in the immediate neighbourhood of the town, which pay duty; also an equal number, not yet come into bearing, which are exempt. These dates grow in a belt of sand, at about two or three miles distant from the town, and are of a quality far superior to any produced in the north of Africa. Owing to their excellence, they are sold at a very high price at Tripoli. The adjoining country is entirely destitute of shrubs, or any kind of food for camels, which are therefore sent to graze about five miles off; while in the town, all animals are fed on dates. Sheep are brought here from Benioleed, and are, in consequence of coming from such a distance, very dear. In the gardens about three miles from the town, barley, maize, and gussob ohourra are cultivated, as well as a few onions, turnips, and peppers. The number of flies here are immense, and all the people carry little flappers, made of bunches of wild bulls' hair tied to a short stick, in order to keep those pests at a distance. The dates all being deposited in store-houses in the town, may account in some degree for the multitude of these insects, which in a few minutes fill every dish or bowl containing any liquid.
The costume is here the same as that of the Bedouins, consisting generally of a shirt and barracan, a red cap, and sandals. A few, whose circumstances allow of it, dress in the costume of Tripoli. The neat appearance of the men in general is very striking, compared with that of the Arabs about the coast. The women are considered exceedingly handsome, indeed one or two were really so, and as fair as Europeans, but they are noted for their profligacy and love of intrigue.
The first day of spring is at Sockna a day of general rejoicing. It is then the custom, to dress out little tents or bowers on the tops of the houses, decorating them with carpets, jereeds, shawls, and sashes. A gaudy handkerchief on a pole, as a standard, completes the work, which is loudly cheered by the little children, who eat, drink, and play during the day in these covered places, welcoming the spring by songs, and crying continually, "O welcome spring, with pleasure bring us plenty." The women give entertainment in their houses, and the day is quite a holiday. From the top of the houses in which Captain Lyon lodged, these little bowers had a very pretty effect, every roof in the town being ornamented with one. Four ears of corn were this day seen perfectly ripe, which was very early for the season. The gardens here are excellent, compared with the others in Fezzan.
Ten miles east by south from Sockna is the town of Hoon. It is smaller than Sockna, but is built and walled in the same manner. It has three gates, three mosques, and a large building, which is dignified with the name of a castle, but it does not appear to have even a loop-hole for musketry. The palm groves and gardens come up close to the walls of the town, and completely conceal it. The soil is sand, but is fertilized by being constantly refreshed by little channels, from wells of brackish water. The inhabitants, who are of the tribe Fateima, bear a good character.
The town of Wadan is between twelve and thirteen miles east by north of Hoon. It appeared much inferior to either of the other two in point of neatness, comfort, and convenience; although its aspect is much more pleasing; it is built on a conical hill, on the top of which are some enclosed houses, called the castle. Here is a well of great depth, cut through the solid rock, evidently not the work of the Arabs. The tombs and mosques, both here and at Hoon, were ornamented with numbers of ostrich eggs. The inhabitants of Wadan are sheerefs, who are the pretended descendants of the prophet, and form the bulk of the resident population, and Arabs of the tribe Moajer, who spend the greater part of the year with their flocks in the Syrtis. A few miles eastward of the town, there is a chain of mountains, which, as well as the town itself, derives its name from a species of buffalo called wadan, immense herds of which are found there. The wadan is of the size of an ass, having a very large head and horns, a short reddish hide, and large bunches of hair hanging from each shoulder, to the length of eighteen inches or two feet; they are very fierce. There are two other specimens found here, the bogra el weish, evidently the bekker el wash of Shaw, a red buffalo, slow in its motions, having large horns, and of the size of a cow; and the white buffalo, of a lighter and more active make, very shy and swift, and not easily procured. The wadan seems best to answer to the oryx.
There are great numbers of ostriches in these mountains, by hunting of which, many of the natives subsist. At all the three towns, Sockna, Hoon, and Wadan, it is the practice to keep tame ostriches in a stable, and in two years to take three cullings of the feathers.
Captain Lyon supposes that all the fine white ostrich feathers sent to Europe are from tame birds, the wild ones being in general so ragged and torn, that not above half a dozen perfect ones can be found. The black, being shorter and more flexible, are generally good. All the Arabs agree in stating, that the ostrich does not leave its eggs to be hatched by the heat of the sun. The parent bird forms a rough nest, in which she covers from fourteen to eighteen eggs, and regularly sits on them, in the same manner as the common fowl does on her chickens, the male occasionally relieving the female.[Footnote] It is during the breeding season that the greatest numbers are procured, the Arabs shooting the old ones on their nests.
[Footnote: There is one peculiarity attending the ostrich, which is, that although the female lays from about twenty-five to thirty eggs, yet she only sits upon about fifteen, throwing the remainder outside the nest, where they remain until the young ones are hatched, and these eggs form the first food of the young birds.—EDITOR.]
On the 22d April, Captain Lyon and his companions left Sockna, in company with Sultan Mukni, for Mourzouk, which they entered upon the 4th May. The whole way is an almost uninterrupted succession of stony plains and gloomy wadys, with no water but that of wells, generally muddy, brackish, or bitter, and at fearful intervals. On the first evening, the place of encampment was a small plain, with no other vegetation than a few prickly talk bushes, encircled by high mountains of basalt, which gave it the appearance of a volcanic crater. Here, at a well of tolerably good water, called Gatfa, the camels were loaded with water for five days. The next day, the horse and foot men passed over a very steep mountain called Nufdai, by a most difficult path of large irregular masses of basalt; the camels were four hours in winding round the foot of this mountain, which was crossed in one hour. From the wady at its foot, called Zgar, the route ascended to a flat covered with broken basalt, called Dahr t'Moumen (the believer's back): it then led through several gloomy wadys, till, having cleared the mountainous part of the Soudah (Jebel Assoud), it issued in the plain called El Maitba Soudah, from its being covered in like manner with small pieces of basalt. Three quarters of an hour further, they reached El Maitba Barda, a plain covered with a very small white gravel, without the slightest trace of basalt.
"We did not see any where," says Captain Lyon, "the least appearance of vegetation, but we observed many skeletons of animals, which had died of fatigue in the desert, and occasionally the grave of some human being. All their bodies were so dried by the extreme heat of the sun, that putrifaction did not appear to have taken place after death. In recently dead animals, I could not perceive the slightest offensive smell; and in those long dead, the skin, with the hair on it, remained unbroken and perfect, although so brittle as to break with a slight blow. The sand-winds never cause these carcases to change their places, as in a short time, a slight mound is formed round them, and they become stationary."
Afterwards, passing between low, table-topped hills, called El Gaaf, the coffle encamped on the third evening in a desert, called Sbir ben Afeen, where the plain presented on all sides so perfect a horizon, that an astronomical observation might have been taken as well as at sea. From the excessive dryness of the air, the blankets and barracans emitted electric sparks, and distinctly crackled on being rubbed. The horses' tails, also, in beating off the flies, had the same effect.
The fourth day, the route passed over sand lulls to a sandy irregular plain, very difficult and dangerous. Here the wind, being southerly, brought with it such smothering showers of burning sand, that they frequently lost the track, being unable to distinguish objects at the distance of only a few yards.
The next day's march, the fifth from Sockna, over a rocky country, led to the walled village of Zeighan, or Zeghren, situated in the midst of a large forest of palms, in latitude 27=B0 26' N. Eight miles further, on basaltic hillocks, is another village, somewhat larger, and more neatly walled, called Samnoo. The houses are very neatly built, and the rooms are washed with a yellow mud, which has a pretty effect. Three tolerably built white-washed minarets, the first that had been seen since leaving Tripoli, rose to some height above the houses, and have a pleasing appearance. Palm trees encircle the town, and the gardens are considered good. This town, as well as Zeighan, is famed for the number and sanctity of its marabouts. A stage of twenty miles, over a barren plain of gravel, leads to another, but inconsiderable town, called Timen-hint. On the next day but one, they reached Sebha, a mud-walled town, picturesquely situated on rising ground, surrounded with its palm groves, in the midst of a dreary, desert plain; it has a high, square, white-washed minaret to its principal mosque. At this place, Captain Lyon remarked a change of colour in the population, the people being mulattoes. Two marches more led to Ghroodwa, a miserable collection of mud huts, containing about fifty people, who appeared a ragged drunken set, as the immense number of tapped palms testified. From the ruins of some large mud edifices, this place seems once to have been of more importance. The palms, which extend for ten or fifteen miles, east and west, are the property of the sultan, and appeared in worse condition than any they had seen. On leaving this place, the route again entered on a barren, stony plain, and in five hours and a half passed a small wady, called Wad el Nimmel (the valley of ants), from the number of ants, of a beautiful pink colour, that are found there. A few scattered palms, and some ill-built ruined huts occurring at intervals, and betokening the greatest wretchedness, alone relieved the dreariness of the remainder of the journey.
The entry into Mourzouk, the capital of Sultan Mukni, was attended with the usual ceremonial. On drawing near to the palm groves and gardens, which encompass the city, a large body of horse and foot was seen approaching with silken flags. When the horsemen had advanced within five hundred yards of the party, they set off at full speed, and, on coming up, threw themselves from their horses, and ran to kiss the sultan's hand. On drawing nearer to the town, the cavalcade was met by the dancers, drummers, and pipers. Two men, bearing fans of ostrich feathers, stationed themselves on each side of the sultan, beating off the flies. Thus preceded by the led horses and silken flags, they made their entry, the horsemen continuing to skirmish till they reached the gate. The soldiers then raced up every broad street, shouting and firing, whilst the women uttered their shrill cry, and on passing a large open space, a salute was fired from two six-pounders. The scene was altogether highly interesting.
Mourzouk is a walled town, containing about 2,500 inhabitants, who are blacks, and who do not, like the Arabs, change their residence. The walls are of mud, having round buttresses, with loopholes for musketry, rudely built, but sufficiently strong to guard against attack; they are about fifteen feet in height, and at the bottom eight feet in thickness, tapering, as all the walls in this country do, towards the top. The town has seven gates, four of which are built up, in order to prevent the people escaping when they are required to pay their duties. A man is appointed by the sultan to attend each of these gates, day and night, lest any slaves or merchandise should be smuggled into the town. The people, in building the walls and houses, fabricate a good substitute for stones, which are not to be found in those parts, by forming clay into balls, which they dry in the sun, and use with mud as mortar; the walls are thus made very strong, and as rain is unknown, durable also. The houses, with very few exceptions, are of one story, and those of the poorer sort, receive all their light from the doors. They are so low as to require stooping nearly double to enter them; but the large houses have a capacious outer door, which is sufficiently well contrived, considering the bad quality of the wood, that composes them. Thick palm planks, of four or five inches in breadth, for the size and manner of cutting a tree will not afford more, have a square hole punched through them at the top and bottom, by which they are firmly wedged together with thick palm sticks; wet thongs of camels' hide are then tied tightly over them, which, on drying, draw the planks more strongly and securely together. There are not any hinges to the doors, but they turn on a pivot, formed on the last plank near the wall, which is always the largest on that account. The locks and keys are very large and heavy, and of curious construction. The houses are generally built in little narrow streets, but there are many open places, entirely void of buildings, and covered with sand, on which the camels of the traders rest. Many palms grow in the town, and some houses have small square enclosures, in which are cultivated a few red peppers and onions. The street of entrance is a broad space, of at least a hundred yards, leading to the wall that surrounds the castle, and is extremely pretty. Here the horsemen have full scope to display their abilities, when they skirmish before the sultan. The castle itself is an immense mud building, rising to the height of eighty or ninety feet, with little battlements on the walls, and at a distance really looks warlike. Like all the other buildings, it has no pretensions to regularity. The lower walls are fifty or sixty feet in thickness, the upper taper off to about four or five feet. In consequence of the immense mass of wall, the apartments are very small, and few in number. The rooms occupied by the sultan are of the best quality, that is to say, comparatively, for the walls are tolerably smooth and white-washed, and have ornamental daubs of red paint in blotches, by way of effect. His couch is spread on the ground, and his visitors squat down on the sandy floor, at a respectful distance. Captain Lyon and his party were always honoured by having a corner of the carpet offered to them. The best and most airy part of the castle is occupied by the women, who have small rooms round a large court, in which they take exercise, grind corn, cook, and perform other domestic offices. The number of great ladies, called kibere, seldom exceed six. This dignified title is generally given to the mothers of the sultan's children, or to those, who having been once great favorites, are appointed governesses to the rest; there are, altogether about fifty women, all black and very comely, and from what stolen glances we could obtain, they appeared extremely well dressed. They are guarded by five eunuchs, who keep up their authority by occasionally beating them.
The sultan has three sons and two daughters, who live with him in this cage, the doors of which are locked at night, and the keys brought to him, so that he remains free from any fear of attack. The castle is entered by a long winding passage in the wall, quite dark and very steep. At the door is a large shed, looking on a square place capable of containing three or four hundred men, closely huddled together. Under this shed is a great chair of state, once finely gilt and ornamented, with a patchwork quilt thrown over it, and behind it are the remains of two large looking-glasses. In this chair the sultan receives homage every Friday, before he ascends the castle, after returning from the mosque. This place is the Mejlees, and was the scene of all the cruelties practised by Mukni, when he first took possession of the country.
The habitation in which Captain Lyon and his party were lodged, was a very good one, and as all the houses are built upon nearly the same plan, the following description will give an idea of all the rest. A large door, sufficiently high to admit a camel, opened into a broad passage or skeefa, on one side of which was a tolerable stable for five horses, and close to it, a small room for the slaves, whose duty it might be to attend the house. A door opposite to that of the stable opened into the kowdi, a large square room, the roof of which at the height of eighteen feet, was supported by four palm trees as pillars. In the centre of the roof was a large open space, about twelve feet by nine, from this, the house and rooms receive light, not to mention dust and excessive heat in the afternoon. At the end of the room facing the door, a large seat of mud was raised about eighteen inches high, and twelve feet in length. Heaps of this description, though higher, are found at the doors of most houses, and are covered with loungers in the cool of the morning and evening. The large room was fifty feet by thirty-nine. From the sides, doors opened into smaller ones, which might be used as sleeping or store rooms, but were generally preferred for their coolness. Their only light was received from the door. Ascending a few steps, there was a kind of gallery over the side rooms, and in it were two small apartments, but so very hot as to be almost useless. From the large room was a passage leading to a yard, having also small houses attached to it in the same manner, and a well of comparatively good water. The floors were of sand, and the walls of mud roughly plastered, and showing every where the marks of the only trowel used in the country—the fingers of the right hand. There are no windows to any of the houses, but some rooms have a small hole in the ceiling, or high up the wall.
Near the house was the principal mosque, to which the sultan and the Christian party went every Friday, as a matter of course, and every other day they found it necessary to appear there once or twice. It is a low building, having a shed projecting over the door, which, being raised on a platform, is entered by a few steps. A small turret, intended to be square and perpendicular, is erected for the Mouadden to call to prayers. One of the great lounges is on the seat in front of the mosque, and every morning and evening they are full of idle people, who converse on the state of the markets, and on their own private affairs, or in a fearful whisper canvass the sultan's conduct.
In Mourzouk there are sixteen mosques, which are covered in, but some of them are very small. Each has an imaum, but the kadi is their head, of which dignity he seems not a little proud. This man had never, been beyond the boundaries of Fezzan, and could form no idea of any thing superior to mud houses and palms; he always fancied the Europeans to be great romancers, when they told him of their country, and described it as being in the midst of the sea.
They had many opportunities of observing the fighi and their scholars sitting on the sand. The children are taught their letters by having them written on a flat board, of a hard wood, brought from Bornou and Soudan, and repeating them after their master. When quite perfect in their alphabet, they are allowed to trace over the letters already made, they then learn to copy sentences, and to write small words dictated to them. The master often repeats verses from the Koran, in a loud voice, which the boys learn by saying them after him, and when they begin to read a little, he sings aloud, and all the scholars follow him from their books, as fast as they can. Practice at length renders them perfect, and in three or four years their education is considered complete. Thus it is, that many who can read the Koran with great rapidity, cannot peruse a line of any other book. Arithmetic is wholly put of the question. On breaking up for the day, the master and all the scholars recite a prayer. The school-hours are by no means regular, being only when the fighi has nothing else to do. Morning early, or late in the evening, are the general times for study. The punishments are beating with a stick on the hands or feet and whipping, which is not unfrequently practised. Their pens are reeds—their rubber sand. While learning their tasks, and perhaps each boy has a different one, they all read aloud, so that the harmony of even a dozen boys may be easily imagined.
In the time of the native sultans, it was the custom, on a fixed day, annually, for the boys who had completed their education, to assemble on horseback, in as fine clothes as their friends could procure for them, on the sands to the westward of the town. On an eminence stood the fighi, bearing in his hand a little flag rolled on a staff; the boys were stationed at some distance, and on his unfurling the flag and planting it in the ground, all started at full speed. He who first arrived and seized it, was presented by the sultan with a fine suit of clothes, and some money, and rode through the town at the head of the others. These races ceased with the arrival of Mukni, and parents now complain that their sons have no inducement to study.
All the houses are infested with multitudes of small ants, which destroyed all the animals which the party had preserved, and even penetrated into their boxes. Their bite was very painful, and they were fond of coming into the blankets. One singularity is worthy of remark in Fezzan, which is, that fleas are unknown there, and those of the inhabitants, who have not been on the sea-coast, cannot imagine what they are like. Bugs are very numerous, and it is extraordinary that they are called by the same name as with us. There is a species of them which is found in the sands, where the coffles are in the habit of stopping; they bite very sharply, and fix in numbers round the coronet of a horse; the animals thus tormented, often become so outrageous as to break their tethers.
There are several pools of stagnant salt water in the town, which it is conceived in a great measure promote the advance of the summer fever and agues. The burying places are outside the walls, and are of considerable extent. In lieu of stones, small mud embankments are formed round the graves, which are ornamented with shreds of cloth tied to small sticks, with broken pots, and sometimes ostrich eggs. One of the burying places is for slaves, who are laid very little below the surface, and in some places the sand has been so carried away by the wind, as to expose their skeletons to view. Owing to the want of wood, no coffins are used. The bodies are merely wrapped in a mat, or linen cloth, and covered with palm branches, over which the earth is thrown. When the branches decay, the earth falls in, and the graves are easily known by being concave, instead of convex. The place where the former sultans were buried, is a plain near the town; their graves are only distinguished from those of other people, by having a larger proportion of broken pots scattered about them. It is a custom for the relations of the deceased to visit, and occasionally to recite a prayer over the grave, or to repeat a verse of the Koran. Children never pass within sight of the tombs of their parents, without stopping to pay this grateful tribute of respect to their memory. Animals are never buried, but thrown on mounds outside the walls, and there left. The excessive heat soon dries up all their moisture, and prevents their becoming offensive; the hair remains on them, so that they appear like preserved skins.
The men of Mourzouk of the better sort, dress nearly like the people of Tripoli. The lower orders wear a large shirt of white or blue cotton, with long loose sleeves, trousers of the same, and sandals of camel's hide. The shirts being long, many wear no other covering. When leaving their houses, and walking to the market or gardens, a jereed or aba is thrown round them, and a red cap, or a neatly quilted cotton white one, completes the dress. On Fridays, they perhaps add a turban, and appear in yellow slippers. In the gardens, men and women wear large broad-brimmed straw hats, to defend their eyes from the sun, and sandals made from the leaves and fibres of the palm trees. Very young children go entirely naked, those who are older have a shirt, many are quite bare-headed, and in that state exposed all day to the sun and flies. The men have but little beard, which they keep closely clipped. The dress of the women here, differs materially from that of the moorish females, and their appearance and smell are far from agreeable. They plait their hair in thick bobbins, which hang over their foreheads, nearly as low down as the eye-brows, and are there joined at the bottom, as far round to each side as the temples. The hair is so profusely covered with oil, that it drops down over the face and clothes. This is dried up, by sprinkling it with plenty of a preparation made of a plant resembling wild lavender, cloves, and one or two more species pounded into powder, and called atria; it forms a brown dirty-looking paste, and combined with perspiration and the flying sand, becomes in a few days far from savoury. The back hair is less disgusting, as it is plaited into a long tress on each side, and is brought to hang over the shoulders; from these tresses, ornaments of silver or of coral are suspended. Black wool is frequently worked in with their black locks, to make them appear longer. In the centre of the forehead, an ornament of coral or beads is placed, hanging down to the depth of an inch or two. A woollen handkerchief is fastened on the back of the head; it falls over behind, and is tied by a leathern strap under the chin. Each ear is perforated for as many rings as the woman possesses, some wearing even six on one side. The largest, which is about five inches in diameter, hanging lowest, supported by a string from the head. Round the neck, a tight flat collar of beads, arranged in fancy patterns, is worn with coral necklaces, and sometimes a broad gold plate immediately in front. A large blue shirt is generally worn, the collar and breast ornamented with needle-work. The women also wear white shirts, and striped silk ones called shami, which are brought from Egypt; a jereed and red slippers complete their dress. They generally have their wrappers of a darker colour than those of the men. Some of the better class of women wear trousers, not fuller in the leg than those worn in Europe; they are very prettily embroidered with silk at the bottom of the leg, and form a handsome contrast to the black skin of the wearer. Cornelians or agates, roughly shaped in the form of hearts, are much worn as necklaces, and they have a variety of rings for the thumbs and fingers. A band of silk cord hanging round the body from one shoulder, is generally filled with pendent leather or cloth bags, containing charms. Round the wrists and above the elbows, armlets of silver, gold, glass, horn or ivory are worn, according to the ability of the wearer to purchase them, and on the ankles they have silver, brass, copper or iron shackles. A pair of silver ones were seen, which weighed one hundred and twenty-eight ounces, but these ponderous ornaments produce a callous lump on the leg, and entirely deform the ankle. The poorest people have only the jereed and sandals. Both men and women have a singular custom of stuffing their nostrils with a twisted leaf of onions or clover, which has a very disgusting appearance. The men, not using oil, are much cleaner than the women, but the whole race of them, high and low, apparently clean, are otherwise stocked with vermin, and they make no secret of it. The sultan has been frequently observed, when detecting an interloper, to moisten his thumb to prevent its escape, and then demolish it with great composure and dignity. Some of the neighbours, whom Captain Lyon visited, while reposing on their carpets, would send for a slave to hunt for these tormentors on their shirts, and it is a great recommendation to a female slave on sale to say that she is well skilled in this art, and in that of shampooing.
The natives have a variety of dances, of which two or three are peculiar to the country. The parties assemble on the sands in the dusk of the evening, when a number of young men and women range themselves side by side, and dance to the sound of drums, to which they keep good time. The men have a rude kind of iron cymbal in each hand, which opens and shuts; this they beat in the manner of castanets, both sexes singing at the same time in chorus. The movements consist in stepping forward, the whole line at once, at a particular turn of the tune, as if to catch something with their two hands, which they hold out; they balance themselves a short time on the advanced foot, and then step back, turning half round, first to one side and then to the other, the whole line then moves slowly in a circle round the musicians, who form the centre, and who all join in the dance. There is nothing improper nor immodest in this exhibition, but on the contrary, from its slowness and the regularity of its movements, it is extremely pleasing and elegant. Another dance is performed by women only, who form a circle round the drummers, and occasionally sing a lively chorus; one advances, and with her arms extended, foots it to and from the drummers, two or three times, until a change of tune, when she runs quickly backwards and falls flat down, the women behind are ready to receive her, and by a jerk of their arms throw her again upright, on which she once more turns round and resumes her place, leaving the one next in succession to her, to go through the same movements, all of which are performed in the most just time; the whole party occasionally enlivening the music, by their skill and extraordinary shout of joy. The dancing in the houses is not so pleasing as that in public, and as for decency, it is quite out of the question. The male slaves have many dances, in which great activity and exertion are requisite. One consists in dancing in a circle, each man armed with a stick, they all move, first half and then quite round, striking as they turn, the sticks of those on each side of them, and then jumping off the ground as high as they can. Another is performed by boys, and they have no drum, but keep chorus by singing in a particular manner, la ilia il alia, (there is no God, but God.)
The sultan had frequently requested Mr. Ritchie to visit his children, and some of his negresses when they were indisposed, and he had in consequence frequently attended them, but being himself confined by illness, Captain Lyon was allowed to prescribe for them, and had therefore frequent opportunities of observing the interior of his family, which would not otherwise have been afforded him. He was much struck with the appearance of his daughters, one of three, the other of one year and a half old, who were dressed in the highest style of barbarian magnificence, and were absolutely laden with gold. From their necks were suspended large ornaments of the manufacture of Timbuctoo; and they had massive gold armlets and anklets of two inches in breadth, and half an inch in thickness, which, from their immense weight had produced callous rings round the legs and arms of the poor infants. They wore silk shirts composed of ribbons sewed together, in stripes of various colours, which hung down over silk trousers. An embroidered waistcoat and cap completed this overwhelming costume. Their nails, the tips of their fingers, the palms of their hands and soles of their feet were dyed dark-brown with henna. Captain Lyon viewed with amazement and pity the dress of these poor little girls, borne down as they were with finery; but that of the youngest boy, a stupid looking child of four years old, was even more preposterous than that of his sisters. In addition to the ornaments worn by them, he was loaded with a number of charms, enclosed in gold cases, slung round his body, while in his cap were numerous jewels, heavily set in gold, in the form of open hands, to keep off the evil eye. These talismans were sewn on the front of his cap, which they entirely covered. His clothes were highly embroidered, and consisted of three waistcoats, a shirt of white silk, the women only wearing coloured ones, and loose cloth, silk, or muslin trousers.
The costume of the sultan's court or hangers-on, is strictly Tripoline, and as fine as lace or presents of cast off-clothes can make them. It is the custom with Mukni, in imitation of the bashaw, to bestow occasionally on his principal people some article of dress. Those presents are made with much affected dignity, by throwing the garment to the person intended to be honoured, and saying, "Wear that," the dress is immediately put on in his presence, and the receiver kneels and kisses his hand in token of gratitude. Captain Lyon once saw the old kadi, who was very corpulent, receive as a gift a kaftan, which was so small for him, that when he had squeezed himself into it, he was unable to move his arms, and was in that condition obliged to walk home.
Each of the sultan's sons has a large troop of slaves, who attend him wherever he goes; they are generally about the same age as their master, and are his playmates, though they are obliged to receive from him many hearty cuffs, without daring to complain. The suite of the youngest boy in particular, formed a very amusing groupe, few of them exceeding five years of age. One bears his master's bornouse, another holds one shoe, walking next to the boy who carries its fellow. Some are in fine cast-off clothes, with tarnished embroidery, whilst others are quite or nearly naked, without even a cap on their heads, and the procession is closed by a boy, tottering under the weight of his master's state gun, which is never allowed to be fired off.
In Mourzouk, the luxuries of life are very limited, the people principally subsisting on dates. Many do not, for months together, taste corn; when obtained, they make it into a paste called asooda, which is a softer kind of bazeen. Fowls have now almost disappeared in the country, owing to the sultan having appropriated all he could find for the consumption of his own family. The sheep and goats are driven from the mountains near Benioleed, a distance of four hundred miles; they pass over one desert, which, at their rate of travelling, occupies five days, without food or water. Numbers therefore die, which in course raises the price of the survivors, They are valued at three or four dollars each, when they arrive, being quite skeletons, and are as high as ten and twelve, when fatted. Bread is badly made, and is baked in ovens formed of clay in holes in the earth, and heated by burning wood; the loaves, or rather flat cakes are struck into the side, and are thus baked by the heat which rises from the embers. Butter is brought in goat-skins from the Syrtis, and is very dear. Tobacco is very generally chewed by the women, as well as by the men. They use it with the trona (soda). Smoking is the amusement of a great man, rather than of the lower class, the mild tobacco being very dear, and pipes not easily procured.
The revenues of the sultan of Fezzan arise from slaves, merchandise, and dates. For every slave, great or small, he receives, on their entering his kingdom, two Spanish dollars; in some years the number of slaves amount to 4,000; for a camel's load of oil or butter, seven dollars; for a load of beads, copper, or hardware, four dollars; and of clothing, three dollars. All Arabs, who buy dates pay a dollar duty on each load, equal at times to the price of the article, before they are allowed to remove it. Above 3,000 loads are sold to them annually. Date trees, except those of the kadi and mamlukes, are taxed at the rate of one dollar for every two hundred; by this duty, in the neighbourhood of Mourzouk, or more properly in the few immediately neighbouring villages, the sultan receives yearly 10,000 dollars. Of all sheep or goats, he is entitled to a fifth. On the sale of every slave, he has, in addition to the head-money, a dollar and a half, which, at the rate of 4,000, gives another 6,000 dollars. The captured slaves are sold by auction, at which the sultan's brokers attend, bidding high only for the finest. The owner bids against them until he has an offer equal to what he considers as the value of the slave; he has then three-fourths of the money paid to him, while one-fourth is paid by the purchaser to the sultan. Should the owner not wish to part with his slaves, he buys them in, and the sum which he last names, is considered as the price, from which he has to pay the sultan's share. The trees, which are his private property, produce about 6,000 camel loads of dates, each load 400 pounds weight, and which may be estimated at 18,000 dollars. Every garden pays a tenth of the corn produced. The gardens are very small, and are watered, with great labour, from brackish wells. Rain is unknown, and dews never fall. In these alone corn is raised, as well as other esculents. Pomegranates and fig-trees are sometimes planted in the water-channels. Presents of slaves are frequently made, and fines levied. Each town pays a certain sum, which is small; but as the towns are numerous, it may be averaged to produce 4,000 dollars. Add to this his annual excursions for slaves, sometimes bringing 1,000 or 1,600, of which one-fourth are his, as well as the same proportion of camels. He alone can sell horses, which he buys for five or six dollars, when half starved, from the Arabs, who come to trade, and cannot maintain them, and makes a great profit by obtaining slaves in exchange for them. All his people are fed by the public, and he has no money to pay, except to the bashaw, which is about 15,000 dollars per annum. There are various other ways, in which he extorts money. If a man dies childless, the sultan inherits great part of his property; and if he thinks it necessary to kill a man, he becomes his entire heir.
In Mourzouk, about a tenth part of the population are slaves, though many of them have been brought away from their native country so young as hardly to be considered in that light. With respect to the household slaves, little or no difference is to be perceived between them and freemen, and they are often entrusted with the affairs of their master. These domestic slaves are rarely sold, and on the death of any of the family to which they belong, one or more of them receive their liberty; when, being accustomed to the country, and not having any recollection of their own, they marry, settle, and are consequently considered as naturalised. It was the custom, when the people were more opulent, to liberate a male or female on the feast of Bairam, after the fast of Rhamadan. This practice is not entirely obsolete, but nearly so. In Mourzouk there are some white families, who are called mamlukes, being descended from renegades, whom the bashaw had presented to the former sultan. These families and their descendants are considered noble, and, however poor and low their situation may be, are not a little vain of their title.
The general appearance of the men of Fezzan is plain, and their complexion black. The women are of the same colour, and ugly in the extreme. Neither sex are remarkable for figure, weight, strength, vigour, or activity. They have a very peculiar cast of countenance, which distinguishes them from other blacks; their cheek-bones are higher and more prominent, their faces flatter, and their noses less depressed, and more peaked at the tip than those of the negroes. Their eyes are generally small, and their mouths of an immense width; but their teeth are frequently good; their hair is woolly, though not completely frizzled. They are a cheerful people, fond of dancing and music, and obliging to each other. The men almost all read and write a little, but in every thing else they are very dull and heavy; their affections are cold and selfish, and a kind of general indifference to the common incidents of life, mark all their actions. They are neither prone to sudden anger, nor at all revengeful. In Mourzouk the men drink a great quantity of lackbi, or a drink called busa, which is prepared from the dates, and is very intoxicating. The men are good-humoured drunkards, and when friends assemble in the evening, the ordinary amusement is mere drinking; but sometimes a kadanka (singing girl) is sent for. The Arabs practise hospitality generally; but among the Fezzaners that virtue does not exist, they are, however, very attentive and obsequious to those in whose power they are, or who can repay them tenfold for their pretended disinterestedness. Their religion enjoins, that, should a stranger enter while they are at their meals, he must be invited to partake, but they generally contrive to evade this injunction by eating with closed doors. The lower classes are from necessity very industrious, women as well as men, as they draw water, work in the gardens, drive the asses, make mats, baskets, &c. in addition to their other domestic duties. People of the better class, or, more properly, those who can afford to procure slaves to work for them, are, on the contrary, very idle and lethargic; they do nothing but lounge or loll about, inquiring what their neighbours have had for dinner, gossip about slaves, dates, &c., or boast of some cunning cheat, which they have practised on a Tibboo or Tuarick, who, though very knowing fellows, are, comparatively with the Fezzaners, fair in their dealings. Their moral character is on a par with that of the Tripolines, though, if any thing, they are rather less insincere. Falsehood is not considered odious, unless when detected; and when employed in trading, they affirm that it is allowed by the Koran, for the good of merchants. However this may be, Captain Lyon asserts, that he never could find any one able to point out the passage authorizing these commercial falsehoods.
The lower classes work neatly in leather; they weave a few coarse barracans, and make iron-work in a solid, though clumsy manner. One or two work in gold and silver with much skill, considering the badness of their tools, and every man is capable of acting as a carpenter or mason; the wood being that of the date tree, and the houses being built of mud, very little elegance or skill is necessary. Much deference is paid to the artists in leather or metals, who are called, par excellence, sta, or master, as leather-master, iron-master, &c.
From the constant communication with Bornou and Soudan, the languages of both these countries are generally spoken, and many of their words are introduced into the Arabic. The family slaves and their children by their masters, constantly speak the language of the country, whence they originally come. Their writing is in the Mogrebyn character, which is used, as is supposed by Captain Lyon, universally in western Africa, and differs much from that of the east. The pronunciation is also very different, the kaf being pronounced as a G, and only marked with one nunnation, and F is pointed below; they have no idea of arithmetic, but reckon every thing by dots on the sand, ten in a line; many can hardly tell how much two and two amount to. They expressed great surprise at the Europeans being able to add numbers together without fingering. Though very fond of poetry, they are incapable of composing it. The Arabs, however, invent a few little songs, which the natives have much pleasure in learning, and the women sing some of the negro airs very prettily, while grinding their corn.
The songs of the kadankas (singing girls), who answer to the Egyptian almehs, is Soudanic. Their musical instrument is called rhababe, or erhab. It is an excavated hemisphere, made from the shell of a gourd lime, and covered with leather; to this a long handle is fixed, on which is stretched a string of horse hairs, longitudinally closed, and compact as one cord, about the thickness of a quill. This is played upon with a bow. Captain Lyon says, the women really produced a very pleasing, though a wild melody; their songs were pretty and plaintive, and generally in the Soudan language, which is very musical. What is rather singular, he heard the same song sung by the same woman that Horneman mentions, and she recollected having seen that traveller at the castle.
The lower classes and the slaves, who, in point of colour and appearance, are the same, labour together. The freeman has, however, only one inducement to work, which is hunger; he has no notion of laying by any thing for the advantage of his family, or as a reserve for himself in his old age; but if by any chance he obtains money, he remains idle until it is expended, and then returns unwillingly to work. The females here are allowed greater liberty than those of Tripoli, and are more kindly treated. Though so much better used than those of Barbary, their life is still a state of slavery. A man never ventures to speak of his women; is reproached, if he spends much time in their company, never eats with them; but is waited upon at his meals, and fanned by them while he sleeps. Yet these poor beings, never having known the sweets of liberty, are, in spite of their humiliation, comparatively happy.
The authority of parents over their children is very great; some fathers of the better class do not allow their sons even to eat or sit down in their presence, until they become men; the poorer orders are less strict.
There are no written records of events amongst the Fezzaners, and their traditions are so disfigured, and so strangely mingled with religious and superstitious falsehoods, that no confidence can be placed in them. Yet the natives themselves look with particular respect on a man capable of talking of the people of the olden time. Several scriptural traditions are selected and believed. The Psalms of David, the Pentateuch, the Books of Solomon, and many extracts from the inspired writers, are universally known, and most reverentially considered. The New Testament, translated into the Arabic, which Captain Lyon took with him, was eagerly read, and no exception was made to it, but that of our Saviour being designated as the son of God. St. Paul, or Baulus, bears all the blame of Mahomet's name not being inserted in it, as they believe that his coming was foretold by Christ, but that Paul erased it; he is therefore called a kaffir, and his name is not used with much reverence.
Captain Lyon had not been more than ten days at Mourzouk, before he was attacked with severe dysentery, which confined him to his bed during twenty-two days, and reduced him to the last extremity. His unadorned narrative conveys an affecting account of the sufferings to which the party were exposed from the insalubrity of the climate; the inadequate arrangements which had been made for their comfort, or even subsistence, and the sordid and treacherous conduct of the sultan. "Our little party," he says, "was at this time miserably poor; for we had money only sufficient for the purchase of corn to keep us alive, and never tasted meat, unless fortunate enough to kill a pigeon in the gardens. My illness was the first break up in our little community, and from that time, it rarely happened that one or two of us were not confined to our beds. The extreme saltness of the water, the poor quality of our food, together with the excessive heat and dryness of the climate, long retarded my recovery, and when it did take place, it was looked on as a miracle by those who had seen me in my worst state, and who thought it impossible for me to survive. I was no sooner convalescent than Mr. Ritchie fell ill, and was confined to his bed with an attack of bilious fever, accompanied with delirium, and great pain in his back and kidneys, for which he required frequent cupping. When a little recovered, he got up for two days, but his disorder soon returned with redoubled and alarming violence. He rejected every thing but water, and, excepting about three hours in the afternoon, remained either constantly asleep or in a delirious state. Even had he been capable of taking food, we had not the power of purchasing any which could nourish or refresh him. Our money was now all expended, and the sultan's treacherous plans to distress us, which daily became too apparent, were so well arranged, that we could not find any one to buy our goods. For six entire weeks we were without animal food, subsisting on a very scanty portion of corn and dates. Our horses were mere skeletons, added to which, Belford became totally deaf, and so emaciated as to be unable to walk. My situation was now such as to create the most gloomy apprehensions. My naturally sanguine mind, however, and above all, my firm reliance on that Power which had so mercifully protected me on so many trying occasions, prevented my giving way to despondency; and Belford beginning soon to rally a little, we united, and took turns in nursing and attending on our poor companion. At this time, having no servant, we performed for Mr. Ritchie the most menial offices. Two young men, brothers, whom we had treated with great kindness, and whom we had engaged to attend on us, so far from commiserating our forlorn condition, forsook us in our distress, and even carried off our little store of rice and cuscoussou; laughing at our complaints, and well knowing that our poverty prevented the redress which we should otherwise have sought and obtained."
Rhamadan, the Mahommedan Lent, was announced on the 22nd June. The strictest fast was immediately commenced, lasting from before day, about three a.m., till sunset, seven p.m. In order to support their assumed character as Moslem; they were now obliged, during the sixteen hours, to eat only by stealth, their friend Mukni having surrounded them with spies. Mr. Ritchie only, being confined to his bed by illness, was privileged to take food or drink. The excessive heat, which now raged, added to their sufferings. During the month of June, the thermometer, at five o'clock a.m., stood at from 86 deg. to 93 deg., but at two o'clock p.m., it rose to 117 deg., 122 deg., 124 deg., and at length, on the 19th and 20th, to 131 deg. and 133 deg. of Fahrenheit. In the early part of July, the heat somewhat abated; the thermometer, at two p.m., ranging between 110 deg. and 117 deg.. Towards the close of the month, it again rose to 125 deg., in August to 130 deg. and 133 deg., in September it ranged between 119 deg. and 133 deg., with little difference in the temperature of the mornings; and in October, the average was about 110 deg.. The minimum, in December, was 51 deg. at five a.m., and 77 deg. in the afternoon.
The close of the Rhamadan, on the 22d July, was attended, in the city, with the most extravagant demonstrations of rejoicing. Everybody was in motion, screaming, dancing, firing guns, eating and drinking. Poor Mr. Ritchie, after having been confined to his bed for fifty-eight days, was now able to sit up a little, and by the 20th August had tolerably recovered. About the same time, Belford was again attacked with giddiness and deafness, and fell into a very weak state. Their rate of living was now reduced to a quart of corn per diem, with occasionally a few dates, divided amongst four persons. No one would purchase their merchandize, owing, as it became apparent to Mukni's treacherous orders. Mr. Ritchie, for reasons not explained, did not think it right to draw for money on the treasury, and they were reduced to the last extremity, when the sultan graciously condescended to advance them eight dollars, and at this time a neighbour repaid them ten dollars, which they had lent soon after their arrival. They were now able to treat themselves with a little meat. About the 20th September, Mr. Ritchie, who had never recovered his spirits, but had latterly shunned the society even of his companions, again relapsed, and was confined to his bed, and Belford, though better in health, was entirely deaf; their condition became every day more destitute. They had hired a woman to cook for them at a dollar a month. She was required to come only once a day, to bake their bread or make their cuscoussou; and it often happened, that when she had stolen half the allowance to which they had restricted themselves, they were obliged to fast till the morrow. They were saved, when on the very brink of starvation, by a supply of seven dollars, the munificent reward conferred upon Belford by the sultan, for constructing a rude kind of carriage for him. Soon afterwards, they sold a horse for seventy dollars. This seasonable supply was carefully economized; but it had become much reduced when Captain Lyon and Belford both fell ill again. The former rose from his bed, after being confined to it for a week, a skeleton. Under this exigency they met with a remarkable instance of disinterested friendship on the part of a native, Yusuf el Lizari, who, as well as his brother, had previously shown them much kindness. "One night," says Captain Lyon, "as we were all sitting pensively on our mat, our friend Yusuf came in, and, addressing Mr. Ritchie, said, 'Yusuf, you, and Said are my friends. Mukni has hopes you may die, that he may secure to himself all your goods. You seem very melancholy; do you want money?' Mr. Ritchie having acknowledged that he did, Yusuf rejoined, 'I have none myself, but I will borrow some for you.' Twenty dollars being the sum named, our kind friend went out, and soon returned with thirty, an act of generosity so unlocked for, that we were incapable of thanking him as he deserved. This seasonable supply enabled us to buy some good food, and to make some amends for our late privations. Our health soon improved, and Mr. Ritchie's spirits began to brighten."
But this interval of hope was soon darkened. On the 8th of November, poor Ritchie was again attacked by illness, and after lying for three or four days in a state of torpor, without taking any refreshment, he again became delirious, and on the 20th expired. The two survivors of this ill-fated party were themselves reduce to the lowest state of debility, and the only prospect before them, was that of probably following, in a few days, their lamented companion. "And now, for the first time in all our distresses," says Captain Lyon, "my hopes did indeed fail me. Belford, as well as he was able, hastened to form a rough coffin out of their chests, while the washers of the dead came to perform their melancholy office. The protestant burial service was read over the body, in secret, during the night, and on the next day, the remains were committed to the grave. At the grave, it was deemed necessary to keep up the farce of Mahommadism, by publicly reciting the first chapter of the Koran, which the most serious Christian would consider as a beautiful and applicable form on such an occasion."
Within an hour after the funeral, a courier arrived from Tripoli, announcing that a further allowance of L1,000 had been made by the British government towards the expenses of the expedition. Had this welcome intelligence reached them a little sooner, many of their distresses would have been prevented. The efforts and mental exertions which the survivors of the party had undergone, proved, however, too much for their strength, and, for ten days, both were again confined to their beds. During this time, they were most humanely attended by Yusuf and Haji Mahmoud, and by a little girl, who was their principal nurse. At length, Captain Lyon sufficiently recovered his health, to undertake, during the months of December and January, two excursions to the east and south of Mourzouk, preparatory to his return to England. On the 9th of February, he finally left Mourzouk; and on the 25th March, exactly one year from the day on which the party left Tripoli, the Captain and Belford, his surviving companion, re-entered that capital.
Death had hitherto been the lot of the African adventurers, but nothing could shake the determination of the British government, to obtain, by some means or other, a competent degree of information respecting the unknown countries of Africa. The great favour enjoyed at the court of Tripoli, was still regarded as an advantageous circumstance. It was chiefly due to the prudence and ability of Mr. Warrington, without whose advice scarcely any thing of importance was transacted. The bashaw was therefore disposed to renew his protection to whatever mission Britain might send; nor could the support of any sovereign have been more efficient, for the influence of this petty prince, and the terror of his name, were almost unbounded in the greatest kingdoms of central Africa. One weapon, the gun, in the hands of his troops, gives him all this superiority; for the remoter nations, from the Nile to the Atlantic, scarcely know any other arms besides the spear, the bow, and the javelin. A musket among those tribes is an object of almost supernatural dread; individuals have been seen kneeling down before it, speaking to it in whispers, and addressing to it earnest supplications. With troops thus armed, the bashaw of Tripoli is esteemed, in northern Africa, the most potent monarch on earth; and it is a matter of surprise amongst the natives, that he has not ere now compelled all Europe to embrace the Mahommedan faith. He could, therefore, assure the English, that for any but physical obstacles, they might travel in safety from Tripoli to Bornou, as from Edinburgh to London.
Under the confidence inspired by these circumstances, government prepared another expedition, and without difficulty procured a fresh band of adventurers, who undertook to brave all its perils. Major Denham, Lieutenant Clapperton, of the navy, and Dr. Oudney, a naval surgeon, possessing a considerable knowledge of natural history, were appointed to the service. Without delay they proceeded to Tripoli, where they arrived on the 18th November, 1821. They were immediately introduced to the bashaw, whom they found sitting cross-legged on a carpet, attended by armed negroes. After treating them to sherbet and coffee, he invited them to a hawking party, where he appeared mounted on a milk-white Arabian steed, superbly caparisoned, having a saddle of crimson velvet, richly studded with gold nails and with embroidered trappings. The hunt began on the borders of the desert, where parties of six or eight Arabs dashed forward quick as lightning, fired suddenly, and rushed back with loud cries. The skill, with which they manoeuvred their steeds, whirling the long muskets over their heads, as they rode at full gallop, appeared quite surprising.
On the 5th March, the party left Tripoli for Benioleed. Here the consul and his son, who had accompanied them from Tripoli, took their leave, with many hearty good wishes for their success and prosperity.
On the day previously to their approach to Sockna, the uniformity of the journey was somewhat enlivened, by meeting with a kafila, or coffle of slaves from Fezzan, in which were about seventy negresses, much better looking and more healthy than any they had seen near the sea coast. They were marching in parties of fifteen or twenty, and on inquiring of one of these parties from whence they came, the poor things divided themselves with the greatest simplicity, and answered, "Soudan, Berghami and Kanem," pointing out the different parcels from each country as they spoke. Those from Soudan had the most regular features, and an expression of countenance particularly pleasing.
Passing a small wadey and plantation of date trees, they had soon a view of Sockna, and were met on the plain on which it stands, by the governor and principal inhabitants, accompanied by some hundreds of the country people, who all crowded round their horses, kissing their hands, and welcoming them with every appearance of sincerity and satisfaction, and in this way they entered the town; the words Inglesi, Inglesi, were repeated by a hundred voices. This was to them highly satisfactory, as they were the first English travellers in Africa, who had resisted the persuasion that a disguise was necessary, and who had determined to travel in their real character as Britons and Christians, and to wear on all occasions their English dresses; nor had they at any future period occasion to regret that they had done so. There was here neither jealousy nor distrust of them as Christians, on the contrary, Major Denham was perfectly satisfied that their reception would have been less friendly, had they assumed a character that would have been at the best but ill supported. In trying to make themselves appear as Mussulmans, they would have been set down as real impostors.
Of the inhabitants of Sockna, we have already given a full account in the foregoing travels of Captain Lyon, nor does the history given by Major Denham differ in any of the essential points. Of the affability of the females, the travellers had however many proofs, and whilst only two of them were walking through the town one morning, with a little army of ragged boys following them, two of rather the better order quickly dispersed them, and invited the English to enter a house, saying that a mara zene, a beautiful woman, wished to see them. They put themselves under their guidance, and entering a better sort of dwelling house, were quickly surrounded by half a dozen ladies, most of them aged, but who asked them a thousand questions, and when satisfied that their visitors were not dangerous people, called several younger ones, who appeared to be but waiting for permission to show themselves. The dresses of the visitors were then minutely examined; the yellow buttons on their waistcoats, and their watches created the greatest astonishment. Major Denham wore a pair of loose white trousers, into the pockets of which he accidentally put his hands, which raised the curiosity of the ladies to a wonderful degree; the major's hands were pulled out, and those of three or four of the ladies thrust in, in their stead; these were replaced by others, all demanding their use so violently and loudly, that he had considerable difficulty in extricating himself, and was glad to make his escape.
The remaining half of their journey to Mourzouk was pretty nearly the same kind of surface as they had passed before, but in some places worse. Sometimes two, and once three days, they were without finding a supply of water, which was generally muddy, bitter, or brackish. Nor is this the worst which sometimes befals the traveller; the overpowering effect of a sudden sand-wind, when nearly at the close of the desert, often destroys a whole kafila, already weakened by fatigue, and the spot was pointed out to them strewed with bones and dried carcasses, where the year before, fifty sheep, two camels, and two men perished from thirst and fatigue, when within eight hours march of the well, for which they were then anxiously looking.
Indeed the sand storm they had the misfortune to encounter in crossing the desert, gave them a pretty correct idea of the dreaded effects of these hurricanes. The wind raised the fine sand, with which the extensive desert was covered, so as to fill the atmosphere, and render the immense space before them impenetrable to the eye beyond a few yards. The sun and clouds were entirely obscured, and a suffocating and oppressive weight accompanied the flakes and masses of sand, which it might be said they had to penetrate at every step. At times they completely lost sight of the camels, though only a few yards before them. The horses hung their tongues out of their mouths, and refused to face the torrents of sand. A sheep that accompanied the kafila, the last of their stock, lay down in the road, and they were obliged to kill him and throw the carcass on a camel; a parching thirst oppressed them, which nothing alleviated. They had made but little way by three o'clock in the afternoon, when the wind got round to the eastward, and imparted to them a little refreshment. With this change they moved on until about five, when they halted, protected a little by three several ranges of irregular hills, some conical, and some table-topped. As they had but little wood, their fare was confined to tea, and they hoped to find relieve from their fatigues by a sound sleep. That, however, was denied them; the tent had been imprudently pitched, and was exposed to the east wind, which blew a hurricane during the night: the tent was blown down, and the whole detachment were employed a full hour in getting it up again; their bedding and everything within it was during that time completely buried, by the constant driving of the sand. Major Denham was obliged three times during the night, to get up for the purpose of strengthening the pegs, and when he awoke in the morning, two hillocks of sand were formed on each side of his head, some inches high. On the 7th April, they arrived at a village in the midst of a vast multitude of palm trees, just one day's journey short of Mourzouk. As it was to be the last day's march, they were all in good spirits at the prospect of rest, and had they made their arrangements with judgment, every thing would have gone on well. They had, however, neglected sending an axant courier, to advise the sultan of their arrival, a practice which ought particularly to have been attended to, and consequently their reception was not what it ought to have been. They arrived at D'leem, a small plantation of date trees, at noon, and finding no water in the well, were obliged to proceed, and it was three in the afternoon before they arrived at the wells near Mourzouk. Here they were obliged to wait till the camels came up, in order that they might advance in form. They might, however, have saved themselves the trouble. No one came out to meet them, except some naked boys, and a mixture of Tibboos, Tuaricks, and Fezzanese, who gazed at them with astonishment, and no very pleasant aspect.
They determined on not entering the town, in a manner so little flattering to those whom they represented, and retiring to a rising ground, a little distance from the gates of the town, waited the return of a chaoush, who had been despatched to announce their arrival. After half an hour's delay, the Shiek el Blad, the governor of the town came out, and in the sultan's name requested they would accompany him to the house, which had been prepared for them, and he added, to their great surprise, the English consul is there already. The fact was, a very ill-looking Jew servant of Major Denham's, mounted on a white mule, with a pair of small canteens under him, had preceded the camels and entered the town by himself. He was received with great respect by all the inhabitants, conducted through the streets to the house which was destined to receive the party, and from the circumstance of the canteens being all covered with small brass shining nails, a very high idea, of his consequence was formed. He very sensibly received ail their attentions in silence, and drank the cool water and milk which were handed to him, and they always had the laugh against them afterwards, for having shown so much civility to an Israelite, a race which are heartily despised. "We thought the English," said they, "were better looking than Jews—death to their race! but the God made us all, though not all handsome like Mussulmans, so who could tell?"
As they were all this time exposed to a burning sun, they were well inclined to compromise a little of their dignity, and determined on entering the town, which they did by the principal gate. Their interview with the sultan of Mourzouk was anything but encouraging; he told them that there was no intention, as they had been led to expect, of any expedition to proceed to the southward for some time to come; that an army could only move in the spring of the year; that the arrangements for moving a body of men through a country, where every necessary must be carried on camels, both for men and horses, were go numerous, that before the following spring it was scarcely possible to complete them, that two camels were required for every man and horse, and one for every two men on foot. And as to their proceeding to Bornou, it would be necessary had the bashaw instructed him to forward them, that they should be accompanied by an escort of two hundred men. He said, he would read to them the bashaw's letter, and they should see the extent to which he could forward their wishes. The letter was then handed to his fighi, or secretary, and they found that they were entrusted to the protection of the sultan of Fezzan, who was to charge himself with their safety, and to ensure their being treated with respect and attention by all his subjects. That they were to reside at Sebha or Mourzouk, or wherever they chose in the kingdom of Fezzan, and to await his return from Tripoli. With this their audience ended, and they returned to their habitation.
It is quite impossible to express the disheartening feelings, with which they left the castle. The heat was intense; the thermometer standing at 97 deg. in the coolest spot in the house during the of the day; and the nights were scarcely less oppressive; the flies were in such myriads, that darkness was the only refuge from their annoyance.
They received visits from all the principal people of Mourzouk, the day after their arrival, and remarking a very tall Turiack, with a pair of expressive, large, benevolent looking eyes, above the black mask, with which they always cover the lower part of their face, hovering about the door, Major Denham made signs to him to come near, and inquired after Hateeta, the chief, of whom Captain Lyon had spoken so highly, and for whom at his request, he was the bearer of a sword. To the great surprise of Major Denham, striking his breast, he exclaimed, "I am Hateeta, Are you a countryman of Said? (Captain Lyon's travelling name,) How is he? I have often longed to hear of him." Major Denham found that Hateeta had been but once in Mourzouk, since the departure of Captain Lyon, and was to remain only a few days. On the following morning, he came to the house, and the sword was presented to him. It would be difficult to describe his delight, he drew the sword and returned it repeatedly, pressed it to his breast, exclaimed, Allah! Allah! took the hand of Major Denham, and pressing it, said, katar heyrick yassur yassur, (thank you very, very much,) nearly all the Arabic he could speak. It was shortly reported all over the town, that Hateeta had received a present from Said, worth one hundred dollars.
They had been several times visited, and their hopes and spirits raised by a person called Boo Bucker, Boo Khaloom. He said that it was in the sultan's power to send them on to Bornou, if he pleased, he even hinted that a bribe for himself might induce him to do so; this, however, was found not to be the case. Boo Khaloom was represented to them, and truly, as a merchant of very considerable riches and affluence in the interior. He was on the eve of starting for Tripoli, with really superb presents for the bashaw. He had five hundred slaves, the handsomest that could be procured, besides other things. He stated in secret, that his principal object in going to Tripoli, was to obtain the removal of the sultan of Fezzan, and he wished that they should make application to the bashaw, for him to accompany them further into the interior; they were not, however, to hint that the proposition had come from him. Boo Khaloom said, that he should be instantly joined by upwards of one hundred merchants, who waited for his going, and no further escort would be necessary; that he should merely remain a few weeks in Tripoli, and on his return they should instantly move on.
Boo Khaloom left Mourzouk for Tripoli with his slaves and presents, loading upwards of thirty camels, apparently reconciled to, and upon good terms with the sultan. It was, however, very well known, that Sultan Mustapha had set every engine at work to have Boo Khaloom's head taken off, on his arrival at Tripoli, and that the other was willing to sacrifice all that he was worth to displace and ruin Mustapha in the bashaw's favour.
It was not until the 18th, that the sultan, after attending the mosque, started for Tripoli; all his camels and suite had marched in divisions for three days previously; in slaves he had alone more than 1,500. He was attended by about ten horsemen, his particular favourites, and four flags were carried before him, through the town. The inhabitants complained dreadfully of his avarice, and declared that he had not left a dollar, or an animal worth one, in all Fezzan.
Nothing was now to be done but to make their arrangements for a favourable start the following spring. By the sultan's departure, every necessary for their proceeding was withdrawn from the spot where they were. Not a camel was to be procured, and every dollar, that he could by any means force from his subjects, was forwarded to Tripoli. To that place, therefore, were they to look for supplies of every kind, and it was unanimously decided, that the departure of Major Denham for Tripoli should follow that of the sultan or as soon as possible.
In pursuance of this determination to represent to the bashaw of Tripoli, how necessary it was that something more than promises should be given them for their sterling money, on Monday, the 20th May, Major Denham left Mourzouk, with only his own negro servant, three camels, and two Arabs, and after a most dreary journey of twenty days, over the same uninteresting country which he had already traversed, the more dreary for want of his former companions, he arrived at Tripoli on the 12th June, where he was received by the consul, with his usual hospitality and kindness, and he assigned him apartments in the consulate.
Major Denham requested an immediate audience of the bashaw, which, in consequence of the Rhamadan, was not granted him until the following evening. The consul, Captain Smyth of the navy, and Major Denham, attended. The latter represented, in the strongest terms, how greatly they were disappointed at the unexpected and ruinous delay, which they had experienced at Mourzouk, and requested a specific time being fixed for their proceeding to Bornou, stating also, that were the answer not satisfactory, he should proceed forthwith to England, and represent to the government how grievously they had been deceived. The I bashaw denied having intentionally broken his word, and solemnly declared that the will of God, in visiting the sultan of Fezzan with sickness, had alone prevented their being now on the road to Bornou.
Not receiving the full satisfaction which was expected, Major Denham lost no time in setting sail for England, to lodge a complaint with his own court. This news was painfully felt by the bashaw, who sent vessel after vessel, one of which at last overtook Major Denham, while performing quarantine at Marseilles, and announced to him, that arrangements were actually made with Boo Khaloom, for escorting him to the capital of Bornou. Major Denham immediately re-embarked, and a seven days' passage brought him once more to the shores of Barbary. Boo Khaloom and part of the escort were already at the entrance of the desert; and on the 17th September, they re-entered the pass of Melghri in the Tarhona Mountains.
Hope and confidence had now taken possession of the mind of Major Denham, in the place of anxiety and disappointment; there was now an air of assurance and success in all their arrangements, and, with this conviction, Major Denham felt his health and spirits increase. But little beyond the casualties attendant on desert travelling, occurred previously to their arriving again at Sockna, which took place on the 2nd October.
Major Denham found that the great failing of his friend, Boo Khaloom, was pomp and show; and feeling that he was on this occasion the representative of the bashaw, he was evidently unwilling that any sultan of Fezzan should exceed him in magnificence. On entering Sockna, his six principal followers, handsomely attired in turbans and fine barracans, and mounted on his best horses, kept near his person, whilst the others at a little distance, formed the flanks. Major Denham rode on his right hand, dressed in his British uniform, with loose Turkish trousers, a red turban, red boots, with a white bornouse over all, as a shade from the sun, and this, though not strictly according to orders, was by no means an unbecoming dress. Boo Khaloom was mounted on a beautiful white Tunisian horse, a present from the bashaw, the peak and rear of the saddle covered with gold, and his housings were of scarlet cloth, with a border of gold six inches broad. His dress consisted of red boots, richly embroidered with gold, yellow silk trousers, a crimson velvet caftan with gold buttons, a silk benise of sky blue, and a silk sidria underneath. A transparent white silk barraca was thrown lightly over this, and on his shoulder hung a scarlet bornouse with wide gold lace, a present also from the bashaw, which had cost at least four hundred dollars, and a cashmere shawl turban crowned the whole. In this splendid array they moved on, until, as they approached the gates of the town, the dancing and singing men and women met them, and amidst these, the shouts and firing of the men, who skirmished before them, and the loo! loo! of the women, they entered Sockna.
They found that houses were provided for them in the town, but the kafila bivouacked outside the gates. It had always been their intention to halt at Sockna for three or four days, and here they expected to be joined by a party of Megarha Arabs, whom their sheik, Abdi Smud ben Erhoma, had left them for the purpose of collecting together. Hoon and Wadan were also to furnish them with another quota.
The house of Major Denham consisted of a court yard eighteen feet square, and a small dark room, leading out of it by two steps. The court, however, was the greater part of the day shaded, and here on a carpet, the major received his visitors. The Arabs, as they arrived, were all sent to him by Boo Khaloom, and their presentation has a form in it, not much in character with their accustomed rudeness: they all come armed with their long guns, and the same girdle which confines their barracan, contains also two long pistols; the chief enters, and salutes, dropping on one knee, and touching the stranger's right hand with his, which he carries afterwards to his lips; he then says, "Here are my men, who are come to say health to you." On receiving permission, they approached Major Denham one by one, saluting in the same manner as their chief, who continued to remain at his side; they then sat down, forming a sort of semi-circle round the major, with their guns upright between their knees, and after a little time, on the sheik's making a signal, they all quitted the presence.
Boo Khaloom at this time became so alarmingly ill, that their departure was of necessity postponed. He requested Major Denham to prescribe for him. All the fighis' (writers,) and marabouts in Sockna, were employed on this occasion by the friends of Boo Khaloom; and one night the tassels of his cap were literally loaded with their charms. Boo Khaloom assured Major Denham, when alone, that he had no faith in such things, and smiled when he said his friends would think ill of him, were he to refuse; his faith was, however, stronger than he chose to acknowledge; for entering one morning unexpectedly, the major found him with a dove, that had just been killed and cut open, lying on his head, which, as he assured him, was, because a very great marabout had come from Wadan on purpose to perform the operation. Major Denham was nevertheless still more surprised to find him seated on a carpet, in the centre of the little court yard of his house, in the middle of the day, with five of his hordes round him, which had been brought from the tents by his order. The major was convinced, that this was some superstitious idea of the mystic influence which his horses were supposed to have upon his fate, and on expressing his surprise, he made him sit down and told him the following story.