Morning.—The air is mild and balmy as that of an Italian spring; thick mists roll down the valleys along the sea, and a haze like mother-o’-pearl crowns the headlands. The distant rocks show Titanic walls, lofty donjons, huge projecting bastions, and moats full of deep shade. At their base runs a sea of amethyst, and as earth receives the first touches of light, their summits, almost transparent, mingle with the jasper tints of the sky. Nothing can be more delicious than this hour. But as
“les plus belles choses|
Ont le pire destin,”
so lovely Morning soon fades. The sun bursts up from behind the main, a fierce enemy, a foe that will force every one to crouch before him. He dyes the sky orange, and the sea “incarnadine,” where its violet surface is stained by his rays, and he mercilessly puts to flight the mists and haze and the little agate-coloured masses of cloud that were before floating in the firmament. The atmosphere is so clear that now and then a planet is visible. For the two hours following sunrise the rays are endurable; after that they become a fiery ordeal. The morning beams oppress you with a feeling of sickness; their steady glow, reflected by the glaring waters, blinds your eyes, blisters your skin, and parches your mouth: you now become a monomaniac; you do nothing but count the slow hours that must “minute by” before you can be relieved.1
Midday.—The wind, reverberated by the glowing hills is like the blast of a lime-kiln. All colour melts away with the canescence from above. The sky is a dead milk-white, and the mirror-like sea so reflects the tint that you can scarcely distinguish the line of the horizon. After noon the wind sleeps upon the reeking shore; there is a deep stillness; the only sound heard is the melancholy flapping of the sail. Men are not so much sleeping as half-senseless; they feel as if a few more degrees of heat would be death.
Sunset.—The enemy sinks behind the deep cerulean sea, under a canopy of gigantic rainbow which covers half the face of heaven. Nearest to the horizon is an arch of tawny orange; above it another of the brightest gold, and based upon these a semi-circle of tender sea-green blends with a score of delicate gradations into the sapphire sky. Across the rainbow the sun throws its rays in the form of giant wheel-spokes tinged with a beautiful pink. The Eastern sky is mantled with a purple flush that picks out the forms of the hazy Desert and the sharp-cut Hills. Language is a thing too cold, too poor, to express the harmony and the majesty of this hour, which is as evanescent, however, as it is lovely. Night falls rapidly, when suddenly the appearance of the Zodiacal Light2 restores the scene to what it was. Again the grey hills and the grim rocks become rosy or golden, the palms green, the sands saffron, and the sea wears a lilac surface of dimpling waves. But after a quarter of an hour all fades once more; the cliffs are naked and ghastly under the moon, whose light falling upon this wilderness of white crags and pinnacles is most strange—most mysterious.
Night.—The horizon is all darkness, and the sea reflects the white visage of the night-sun as in a mirror of steel. In the air we see giant columns of pallid light, distinct, based upon the indigo-coloured waves, and standing with their heads lost in endless space. The stars glitter with exceeding brilliance.3 At this hour are
“—river and hill and wood,|
With all the numberless goings on of life,
Inaudible as dreams”;
while the planets look down upon you with the faces of smiling friends. You feel the “sweet influence of the Pleiades.” You are bound by the “bond of Orion.” Hesperus bears with him a thousand things. In communion with them your hours pass swiftly by, till the heavy dews warn you to cover up your face and sleep. And with one look at a certain little Star in the north, under which lies all that makes life worth living through—surely it is a venial superstition to sleep with your eyes towards that Kiblah!—you fall into oblivion.
Those thirty-six hours were a trial even to the hard-headed Badawin. The Syrian and his two friends fell ill. Omar Effendi, it is true, had the courage to say his sunset prayers, but the exertion so altered him that he looked another man. Salih Shakkar in despair ate dates till threatened with a dysentery. Sa’ad the Demon had rigged out for himself a cot three feet long, which, arched over with bent bamboo, and covered with cloaks, he had slung on to the larboard side; but the loud grumbling which proceeded from his nest proved that his precaution had not been a cure. Even the boy Mohammed forgot to chatter, to scold, to smoke, and to make himself generally disagreeable. The Turkish baby appeared to be dying, and was not strong enough to wail. How the poor mother stood her trials so well, made every one wonder. The most pleasant trait in my companions’ characters was the consideration they showed to her, and their attention to her children. Whenever one of the party drew forth a little delicacy—a few dates or a pomegranate—they gave away a share of it to the children, and most of them took their turns to nurse the baby. This was genuine politeness—kindness of heart. It would be well for those who sweepingly accuse Easterns of want of gallantry, to contrast this trait of character with the savage scenes of civilisation that take place among the “Overlands” at Cairo and Suez.4 No foreigner could be present for the first time without bearing away the lasting impression that the sons of Great Britain are model barbarians.5 On board the “Golden Wire” Salih Shakkar was the sole base exception to the general geniality of my companions.
As the sun starts towards the West, falling harmlessly upon our heads, we arise, still faint and dizzy, calling for water—which before we had not the strength to drink—and pipes, and coffee, and similar luxuries. Our primitive kitchen is a square wooden box, lined with clay, and filled with sand, upon which three or four large stones are placed to form a hearth. Preparations are now made for the evening meal, which is of the simplest description. A little rice, a few dates, or an onion, will keep a man alive in our position; a single “good dinner” would justify long odds against his seeing the next evening. Moreover, it is impossible in such cases to have an appetite—fortunately, as our store of provisions is a scanty one. Arabs consider it desirable on a journey to eat hot food once in the twenty-four hours; so we determine to cook, despite all difficulties. The operation, however, is by no means satisfactory; twenty expectants surround the single fire, and there is sure to be a quarrel amongst them every five minutes.
As the breeze, cooled by the dew, begins to fan our parched faces, we recover our spirits amazingly. Songs are sung; tales are told; and rough jests are bandied about till, not unfrequently, Oriental sensitiveness is sorely tried. Or, if we see the prospect of storm or calm, we draw forth, and piously peruse, a “Hizb al-Bahr.” As this prayer is supposed to make all safe upon the ocean wave, I will not selfishly withhold it from the British reader. To draw forth all its virtues, the reciter should receive it from the hands of his Murshid or spiritual guide, and study it during the Chillah, or forty days of fast, of which, I venture to observe, few Sons of Bull are capable.
“O Allah, O Exalted, O Almighty, O All-pitiful, O All-powerful, Thou art my God, and sufficeth to me the knowledge of it! Glorified be the Lord my Lord, and glorified be the Faith my Faith! Thou givest Victory to whom Thou pleasest, and Thou art the Glorious, the Merciful! We pray Thee for Safety in our goings forth and our standings still, in our Words and our Designs, in our Dangers of Temptation and Doubt, and the secret Designs of our Hearts. Subject unto us this Sea, even as Thou didst subject the Deep to Musa” (Moses), “and as Thou didst subject the Fire to Ibrahim6” (Abraham), “and as Thou didst subject the Iron to Daud7” (David), “and as Thou didst subject the Wind and the Devils and Jinnis and Mankind to Sulayman8” (Solomon), “and as Thou didst subject the Moon and Al-Burak to Mohammed, upon whom be Allah’s Mercy and His Blessing! And subject unto us all the Seas in Earth and Heaven, in Thy visible and in Thine invisible Worlds, the Sea of this Life, and the Sea of Futurity. O Thou who reignest over everything, and unto whom all Things return, Khyas! Khyas! Khyas9!”
And lastly, we lie down upon our cribs, wrapped up in thickly padded cotton coverlets; we forget the troubles of the past day, and we care nought for the discomforts of that to come.
Late on the evening of the 11th July we passed in sight of the narrow mouth of Al-’Akabah, whose famosi rupes are a terror to the voyagers of these latitudes. Like the Gulf of Cambay, here a tempest is said to be always brewing, and men raise their hands to pray as they cross it. We had no storm that day from without, but a fierce one was about to burst within our ship. The essence of Oriental discipline is personal respect based upon fear. Therefore it often happens that the commanding officer, if a mild old gentleman, is the last person whose command is obeyed,—his only privilege being that of sitting apart from his inferiors. And such was the case with our Rais. On the present occasion, irritated by the refusal of the Maghrabis to stand out of the steerman’s way, and excited by the prospect of losing sight of shore for a whole day, he threatened one of the fellows with his slipper. It required all our exertions, even to a display of the dreaded quarter-staves, to calm the consequent excitement. After passing Al-’Akabah, we saw nothing but sea and sky, and we spent a weary night and day tossing upon the waters, our only exercise; every face brightened as, about sunset on the 12th July, we suddenly glided into the mooring-place.
Marsa (anchorage) Damghah,10 or rather Dumayghah, is scarcely visible from the sea. An islet of limestone rock defends the entrance, leaving a narrow passage to the south. It is not before he enters that the mariner discovers the extent and the depth of this creek, which indents far into the land, and offers 15 to 20 feet of fine clear anchorage which no swell can reach. Inside it looks more like a lake, and at night its colour is gloriously blue as Geneva itself. I could not help calling to mind, after dinner, the old school lines
“Est in secessu longo locus; insula portum|
Efficit objectu laterum; quibus omnis ab alto
Frangitur, inque sinus scindit sese unda reductos.”
Nothing was wanted but the “atrum nemus.” Where however, shall we find such luxuries in arid Arabia?
The Rais, as usual, attempted to deter us from landing, by romancing about the “Bedoynes and Ascopards,” representing them to be “folke ryghte felonouse and foule and of cursed kynde.” To which we replied by shouldering our Nabbuts and scrambling into the cock-boat. On shore we saw a few wretched-looking beings, Juhaynah11 or Hutaym, seated upon heaps of dried wood, which they sold to travellers; and three boat-loads of Syrian pilgrims who had preceded us. We often envied them their small swift craft, with their double latine sails disposed in “hare-ears” which, about eventide in the far distance, looked like a white gull alighting upon the purple wave; and they justified our jealousy by arriving at Yambu’ two days before us. The pilgrims had bivouacked upon the beach, and were engaged in drinking their after-dinner coffee. They received us with all the rights of hospitality, as natives of Al-Madinah should everywhere be received; we sat an hour with them, ate a little fruit, satisfied our thirst, smoked their pipes, and when taking leave blessed them. Then returning to the vessel we fed, and lost no time in falling asleep.
The dawn of the next day saw our sail flapping in the idle air. And it was not without difficulty that in the course of the forenoon we entered Wijh Harbour, distant from Dumayghah but very few miles. Al-Wijh is also a natural anchorage, in no way differing from that where we passed the night, except in being smaller and shallower and less secure. From this place to Cairo the road is safe. The town is a collection of round huts meanly built of round stones, and clustering upon a piece of elevated rock on the northern side of the creek. It is distant about six miles from the inland fort of the same name, which receives the Egyptian caravan, and which thrives, like its port, by selling water and provisions to pilgrims. The little bazar, almost washed by every high tide, provided us with mutton, rice, baked bread, and the other necessaries of life at a moderate rate. Luxuries also were to be found: a druggist sold me an ounce of opium at a Chinese price.
With reeling limbs we landed at Al-Wijh,12 and finding a large coffee-house above and near the beach, we installed ourselves there. But the Persians who preceded us had occupied all the shady places outside, and were correcting their teeth with their case knives; we were forced to content ourselves with the interior. It was a building of artless construction, consisting of little but a roof supported by wooden posts, roughly hewn from date trees: round the tamped earthen floor ran a raised bench of unbaked brick, forming a diwan for mats and sleeping-rugs. In the centre a huge square Mastabah, or platform, answered a similar purpose. Here and there appeared attempts at long and side walls, but these superfluities had been allowed to admit daylight through large gaps. In one corner stood the apparatus of the “Kahwahji,” an altar-like elevation, also of earthen-work, containing a hole for a charcoal fire, upon which were three huge coffee-pots dirtily tinned. Near it were ranged the Shishas, or Egyptian hookahs, old, exceedingly unclean, and worn by age and hard work. A wooden framework, pierced with circular apertures, supported a number of porous earthenware gullehs (gargoulettes, or monkey jars) full of cold, sweet water; the charge for each was, as usual in Al-Hijaz, five paras. Such was the furniture of the café, and the only relief to the barrenness of the view was a fine mellowing atmosphere composed of smoke, steam, flies, and gnats in about equal proportions. I have been diffuse in my description of the coffee-house, as it was a type of its class: from Alexandria to Aden the traveller will everywhere meet with buildings of the same kind.
Our happiness in this Paradise—for such it was to us after the “Golden Wire”—was nearly sacrificed by Sa’ad the Demon, whose abominable temper led him at once into a quarrel with the master of the café. And the latter, an ill-looking, squint-eyed, low-browed, broad-shouldered fellow, showed himself nowise unwilling to meet the Demon half way. The two worthies, after a brief bandying of bad words, seized each other’s throats leisurely, so as to give the spectators time and encouragement to interfere. But when friends and acquaintances were hanging on to both heroes so firmly that they could not move hand or arm, their wrath, as usual, rose, till it was terrible to see. The little village resounded with the war, and many a sturdy knave rushed in, sword or cudgel in hand, so as not to lose the sport. During the heat of the fray, a pistol which was in Omar Effendi’s hand went off—accidentally of course—and the ball passed so close to the tins containing the black and muddy Mocha, that it drew the attention of all parties. As if by magic, the storm was lulled. A friend recognised Sa’ad the Demon, and swore that he was no black slave, but a soldier at Al-Madinah—“no waiter, but a Knight Templar.” This caused him to be looked upon as rather a distinguished man, and he proved his right to the honour by insisting that his late enemy should feed with him, and when the other decorously hung back, by dragging him to dinner with loud cries.
My alias that day was severely tried. Besides the Persian pilgrims, a number of nondescripts who came in the same vessel were hanging about the coffee-house; lying down, smoking, drinking water, bathing and picking their teeth with their daggers. One inquisitive man was always at my side. He called himself a Pathan (Afghan settled in India); he could speak five or six languages, he knew a number of people everywhere, and he had travelled far and wide over Central Asia. These fellows are always good detectors of an incognito. I avoided answering his question about my native place, and after telling him that I had no longer name or nation, being a Darwaysh, I asked him, when he insisted upon my having been born somewhere, to guess for himself. To my joy he claimed me for a brother Pathan, and in course of conversation he declared himself to be the nephew of an Afghan merchant, a gallant old man who had been civil to me at Cairo. We then sat smoking together with “effusion.” Becoming confidential, he complained that he, a Sunni, or orthodox Moslem, had been abused, maltreated, and beaten by his fellow-travellers, the heretical Persian pilgrims. I naturally offered to arm my party, to take up our cudgels, and to revenge my compatriot. This thoroughly Sulaymanian style of doing business could not fail to make him sure of his man. He declined, however, wisely remembering that he had nearly a fortnight of the Persians’ society still to endure. But he promised himself the gratification, when he reached Meccah, of sheathing his Charay13 in the chief offender’s heart.
At 8 A.M. on the 14th July we left Al-Wijh, after passing a night, tolerably comfortable by contrast, in the coffee-house. We took with us the stores necessary, for though our Rais had promised to anchor under Jabal Hassani that evening, no one believed him. We sailed among ledges of rock, golden sands, green weeds, and in some places through yellow lines of what appeared to me at a distance foam after a storm. All day a sailor sat upon the masthead, looking at the water, which was transparent as blue glass, and shouting out the direction. This precaution was somewhat stultified by the roar of voices, which never failed to mingle with the warning, but we wore every half hour, and we did not run aground. About midday we passed by Shaykh Hasan al-Marabit’s tomb. It is the usual domed and whitewashed building, surrounded by the hovels of its guardians, standing upon a low flat island of yellow rock, vividly reminding me of certain scenes in Sind. Its dreary position attracts to it the attention of passing travellers; the dead saint has a prayer and a Fatihah for the good of his soul, and the live sinner wends his way with religious refreshment.
Near sunset the wind came on to blow freshly, and we cast anchor together with the Persian pilgrims upon a rock. This was one of the celebrated coral reefs of the Red Sea, and the sight justified Forskal’s emphatic description—luxus lususque naturæ. It was a huge ledge or platform rising but little above the level of the deep; the water-side was perpendicular as the wall of a fort; and, whilst a frigate might have floated within a yard of it, every ripple dashed over the reef, replenishing the little basins and hollows in the surface. The colour of the waves near it was a vivid amethyst. In the distance the eye rested upon what appeared to be meadows of brilliant flowers resembling those of earth, only far brighter and more lovely. Nor was this Land of the Sea wholly desolate. Gulls and terns here swam the tide; there, seated upon the coral, devoured their prey. In the air, troops of birds contended noisily for a dead flying fish,14 and in the deep water they chased a shoal, which, in fright and hurry to escape the pursuers, veiled the surface with spray and foam. And as night came on the scene shifted, displaying fresh beauties. Shadows clothed the background, whose features, dimly revealed, allowed full scope to the imagination. In the forepart of the picture lay the sea, shining under the rays of the moon with a metallic lustre; while its border, where the wavelets dashed upon the reef, was lit by what the Arabs call the “jewels of the deep15”—brilliant flashes of phosphoric light giving an idea of splendour which Art would vainly strive to imitate. Altogether it was a bit of fairyland, a spot for nymphs and sea-gods to disport upon: you might have heard, without astonishment, old Proteus calling his flocks with the writhed conch; and Aphrodite seated in her shell would have been only a fit and proper climax for its loveliness.
But—as philosophically remarked by Sir Cauline the Knyghte—
“Every whyte must have its blacke,|
And every sweete its soure—”
this charming coral reef was nearly being the scene of an ugly accident. The breeze from seaward set us slowly but steadily towards the reef, a fact of which we soon became conscious. Our anchor was not dragging; it had not rope enough to touch the bottom, and vainly we sought for more. In fact the “Golden Wire” was as disgracefully deficient in all the appliances of safety, as any English merchantman in the nineteenth century,—a circumstance which accounts for the shipwrecks and for the terrible loss of life perpetually occurring about the Pilgrimage-season in these seas. Had she struck upon the razor-like edges of the coral-reef, she would have melted away like a sugar-plum in the ripple, for the tide was rising at the time. Having nothing better to do, we began to make as much noise as possible. Fortunately for us, the Rais commanding the Persian’s boat was an Arab from Jeddah; and more than once we had treated him with great civility. Guessing the cause of our distress, he sent two sailors overboard with a cable; they swam gallantly up to us; and in a few minutes we were safely moored to the stern of our useful neighbour. Which done, we applied ourselves to the grateful task of beating our Rais, and richly had he deserved it. Before noon, when the wind was shifting, he had not once given himself the trouble to wear; and when the breeze was falling, he preferred dosing to taking advantage of what little wind remained. With energy we might have been moored that night comfortably under the side of Hassani Island, instead of floating about on an unquiet sea with a lee-shore of coral-reef within a few yards of our counter.
At dawn the next day (15th July) we started. We made Jabal Hassani16 about noon, and an hour or so before sunset we glided into Marsa Mahar. Our resting-place resembled Marsa Dumayghah at an humble distance; the sides of the cove, however, were bolder and more precipitous. The limestone rocks presented a peculiar appearance; in some parts the base and walls had crumbled away, leaving a coping to project like a canopy; in others the wind and rain had cut deep holes, and pierced the friable material with caverns that looked like the work of art. There was a pretty opening of backwood at the bottom of the cove; and palm trees in the blue distance gladdened our eyes, which pined for the sight of something green. The Rais, as usual, would have terrified us with a description of the Hutaym tribe that holds these parts, and I knew from Welsted and Moresby that it is a debased race. But forty-eight hours of cramps on board ship would make a man think lightly of a much more imminent danger.
Wading to shore we cut our feet with the sharp rocks. I remember to have felt the acute pain of something running into my toe: but after looking at the place and extracting what appeared to be a bit of thorn,17 I dismissed the subject, little guessing the trouble it was to give me. Having scaled the rocky side of the cove, we found some half-naked Arabs lying in the shade; they were unarmed, and had nothing about them except their villainous countenances wherewith to terrify the most timid. These men still live in limestone caves, like the Thamud tribe of tradition; also they are Ichthyophagi, existing without any other subsistence but what the sea affords. They were unable to provide us with dates, flesh, or milk, but they sold us a kind of fish called in India “Bui”: broiled upon the embers, it proved delicious.
After we had eaten and drunk and smoked, we began to make merry; and the Persians, who, fearing to come on shore, had kept to their conveyance, appeared proper butts for the wit of some of our party: one of us stood up and pronounced the orthodox call to prayer, after which the rest joined in a polemical hymn, exalting the virtues and dignity of the first three Caliphs.18 Then, as general on such occasions, the matter was made personal by informing the Persians in a kind of rhyme sung by the Meccan gamins, that they were the “slippers of Ali and the dogs of Omar.” But as they were too frightened to reply, my companions gathered up their cooking utensils, and returned to the “Golden Wire,” melancholy, like disappointed candidates for the honours of Donnybrook.
Our next day was silent and weary, for we were all surly, and heartily sick of being on board ship. We should have made Yambu’ in the evening but for the laziness of the Rais. Having duly beaten him, we anchored on the open coast, insufficiently protected by a reef, and almost in sight of our destination. In the distance rose Jabal Radhwah or Radhwa,19 one of the “Mountains of Paradise20” in which honoured Arabia abounds. It is celebrated by poetry as well as by piety.
“Did Radhwah strive to support my woes,|
Radhwah itself would be crushed by the weight,”
says Antar.21 It supplies Al-Madinah with hones. I heard much of its valleys and fruits and bubbling springs, but afterwards I learned to rank these tales with the superstitious legends which are attached to it. Gazing at its bare and ghastly heights, one of our party, whose wit was soured by the want of fresh bread, surlily remarked that such a heap of ugliness deserved ejection from heaven,—an irreverence too public to escape general denunciation. We waded on shore, cooked there, and passed the night; we were short of fresh water, which, combined with other grievances, made us as surly as bears. Sa’ad the Demon was especially vicious; his eyes gazed fixedly on the ground, his lips protruded till you might have held up his face by them, his mouth was garnished with bad wrinkles, and he never opened it but he grumbled out a wicked word. He solaced himself that evening by crawling slowly on all-fours over the boy Mohammed, taking scrupulous care to place one knee upon the sleeper’s face. The youth awoke in a fiery rage: we all roared with laughter; and the sulky Negro, after savouring the success of his spite, grimly, as but half satisfied, rolled himself, like a hedgehog, into a ball; and, resolving to be offensive even in his forgetfulness, snored violently all night.
We slept upon the sands and arose before dawn (July 17), determined to make the Rais start in time that day. A slip of land separated us from our haven, but the wind was foul, and by reason of rocks and shoals, we had to make a considerable detour.
It was about noon on the twelfth day after our departure from Suez, when, after slowly beating up the narrow creek leading to Yambu’ harbour, we sprang into a shore-boat and felt new life when bidding an eternal adieu to the vile “Golden Wire.”
I might have escaped much of this hardship and suffering by hiring a vessel to myself. There would then have been a cabin to retire into at night, and shade from the sun; moreover, the voyage would have lasted five, not twelve, days. But I wished to witness the scenes on board a pilgrim ship,—scenes so much talked of by the Moslem palmer home—returned. Moreover, the hire was exorbitant, ranging from l.40 to l.50, and it would have led to a greater expenditure, as the man who can afford to take a boat must pay in proportion during his land journey. In these countries you perforce go on as you begin: to “break one’s expenditure,” that is to say, to retrench expenses, is considered all but impossible. We have now left the land of Egypt.
1. The reader who has travelled in the East will feel that I am not exaggerating. And to convince those who know it only by description, I will refer them to any account of our early campaigns in Sind, where many a European soldier has been taken up stone dead after sleeping an hour or two in the morning sun. [back]
2. The Zodiacal Light on the Red Sea, and in Bombay, is far brighter than in England. I suppose this is the “after-glow” described by Miss Martineau and other travellers: “flashes of light like coruscations of the Aurora Borealis in pyramidal form” would exactly describe the phenomenon. It varies, however, greatly, and often for some days together is scarcely visible. [back]
5. On one occasion I was obliged personally to exert myself to prevent a party of ladies being thrust into an old and bad transit-van; the ruder sex having stationed itself at some distance from the starting-place in order to seize upon the best. [back]
11. See “The Land of Midian (Revisited)” for a plan of Al-Dumayghah, and a description of Al-Wijh (al-Bahr) These men of the Beni Jahaynah, or “Juhaynah” tribe—the “Beni Kalb,” as they are also called,—must not be trusted. They extend from the plains north of Yambu’ into the Sinaitic Peninsula. They boast no connection with the great tribe Al-Harb; but they are of noble race, are celebrated for fighting, and, it is said, have good horses. The specimens we saw at Marsa Dumayghah were poor ones, they had few clothes, and no arms except the usual Jambiyah (crooked dagger). By their civility and their cringing style of address it was easy to see they had been corrupted by intercourse with strangers. [back]
14. These the Arabs, in the vulgar tongue, call Jarad al-Bahr, “sea locusts”; as they term the shrimp Burghut al-Bahr, or the sea-flea. Such compound words, palpably derived from land objects, prove the present Ichthyophagi and the Badawin living on the coast to be a race originally from the interior. Pure and ancient Arabs still have at least one uncompounded word to express every object familiar to them, and it is in this point that the genius of the language chiefly shows itself. [back]
15. The Arab superstition is, that these flashes of light are jewels made to adorn the necks and hair of the mermaids and mermen. When removed from their native elements the gems fade and disappear. If I remember right, there is some idea similar to this among the Scotch, and other Northern people. [back]
16. The word Jabal will frequently occur in these pages. It is applied by the Arabs to any rising ground or heap of rocks, and, therefore, must not always be translated “Mountain.” In the latter sense, it has found its way into some of the Mediterranean dialects. Gibraltar is Jabal al-Tarik, and “Mt. Ethne that men clepen Mounte Gybelle” is “Monte Gibello,”—the mountain, par excellence. [back]
17. It was most probably a prickle of the “egg-fruit,” or Echinus, so common in these seas, generally supposed to be poisonous. I found it impossible to cure my foot in Al-Hijaz, and every remedy seemed to make it worse. This was as much the effect of the climate of Arabia, as of the hardships and privations of a pilgrimage. After my return to Egypt in the autumn, the wound healed readily without medical treatment. [back]