A voyage to Abyssinia (Salt)/Chapter 3
Voyage along the Coast—Account of the Islands of Zanzebar and Pemba—Sterile and uniform appearance of the Coast above Mugdasho—Soundings to the southward of Cape Baasas—Description of the Capes D'Orfui and Gardafui—Excursion on Shore near Somauli Point—Remarks relative to this Voyage, as applied to the Theory respecting Ophir by Mr. Bruce. Arrival at Aden—Observations respecting that place—its Ruins—Ancient Towers—Aqueduct, &c.—Plan to render Black Bay safe against an Enemy—Journey to Lahadj—Interview with the Sultan of the Country—Description of his Territory, and Character of its Inhabitants.—Return to Aden. Singular Effects of the Atmosphere produced by Refraction. Character of the Banians. Voyage from Aden to Mocha—Residence at the Factory—Abstract of occurrences in Yemen since 1805—Preparations for Abyssinian Journey—Deputation of Mr. Stuart, in the service of the African Association, to Zeyla, with the intention that he should proceed to Hurrur and Efat—Departure from Mocha for the Abyssinian Coast.
AS the track from Mosambique to the Red Sea is little known, I have been induced to give a nautical journal of our passage as far as Aden, and particular care has been taken to mark the variation of the compass, (which was regularly observed whenever occasion offered,) on account of the existence of similar observations made on the same coast as early as the year 1620, in order that, from a comparison between the different remarks, the change that has taken place in the variation may be ascertained.
On the 16th of September, we sailed from Mosambique at day break, and stood out from the land until twelve o'clock, when we steered a regular course N. by E. with the intention of keeping in a direction parallel to the coast. At noon the latitude observed was 14° 30' S. the wind blowing fresh from the southward, with a heavy sea from the S.S.E. the variation 22° 20' W.
On September the 17th, we continued the same course; the weather remaining extremely mild, and the wind veering round a little to the eastward. In the course of the day we met with a strong current setting to the southward, at the rate of thirty miles in twenty-four hours, Lat. at noon 12° 37′ 30″ S., Long. per chron. 41° 24′ E., Ther. 78, Var. in the morning 22° 2′, in the afternoon 20° 2′ W.
September 18. Being anxious to get a sight of the land, in order to determine its position, we bore towards it in the afternoon, and at sunset made Cape Delgado, distant seven leagues, bearing S.W. when from our reckoning we concluded that the coast from Mosambique is in most charts made to incline too much to the eastward, and this remark is confirmed by a valuable chart of this part of the coast, copied from one lent me by the Governor of Mosambique, which on my return to England I presented to the Admiralty. This chart comprehends a complete survey, from Mosambique Harbour to Cape Delgado, embracing the whole of the Querimbo Islands, on an extended scale of twenty-seven inches to a degree. It was taken at the expense of the Portuguese government, by a colonel of engineers, whose name I have now forgotten, and it carries the appearance of being extremely accurate. A few valuable remarks are annexed to it respecting the rivers, the depth of water, and other subjects interesting to nautical men. I have employed it in my general chart of the coast. Lat. at noon 10° 26′ 30″ S., Long. 41° 45′ E., Therm. 77, Var. in the morning 20° 0′ in the afternoon 19° 2′ W.
September 19. Our course was this day N.b.E. In the afternoon, we saw a great many medusæ and other species of molluscæ floating by the sides of the vessel. Lat. at noon 8° 6′ S., Long. 41° 54′ E., Therm. 78, Var. A.M. 18° 30′, P.M. 19° W.
September 20. We had this day a strong current, running one mile and a quarter per hour in our favour, Lat. at noon 6° 1′ 30″ S., Long. 42° 31′, Therm. 79, Var. P.M. 16° W., the wind S.S.E. to S.E.
September 21. Lat. 3° 43′ S. course N. 28 E., Therm. 79, Wind S.S.E. to south; no current.
September 22. Lat. at noon 1° 19′ S., Long. 44° 54′ E., Therm. 79, Var. A.M. 12° 0′, Wind S.S.W., Current setting N.E. half a mile an hour.
September 23. Lat. at noon 1° 2′ 30″ N., Long. 46° 0′, Therm. 79, Var. A.M., 8° 30′ W. The wind S. to S.S.W., current running 1¾ mile per hour in our favour. At four P.M. we saw the land situated between the towns of Brava and Magadoxa, (by the Arabs termed Berawa and Mugdasho,) extending from west ½ south to north-east. The nearest point was distant about six leaguess bearing N.W. by N. and appeared to be a sandy hill. The whole coast was moderately high, barren, and sandy with an irregularly swelling outline that had no remarkable points by which it could be particularized. We sounded with seventy-five fathoms of line, but found no bottom.
At this time we had passed the deep bay, as it may be justly termed, in which are situated the islands of Monfia, Zanzebar and Pemba. It was our intention to have visited these, but the season was so far advanced that it was deemed necessary to make the best of our way to Aden before the change of the monsoon should have taken place; for when the northerly monsoon has once set in, which it does in about the month of October, there is no possibility of beating up against it. This circumstance was proved by the ships under Admiral Blanket in 1798-9, which, though some of the best in our navy, were completely baffled in attempting it. (Vide Captain Bissell's Voyage to the Red Sea.) The fleet left Johanna on the 11th of November, 1798, and did not get round Cape Gardafui until the 8th of April, 1799. "It is to be hoped," Captain Bissell observes, "nobody will ever attempt it again; we were forty weeks on this voyage, and ran 18029 miles."
I much regretted at the time the above-mentioned deviation from our plan; but, as I collected in the course of my voyage many particulars concerning these islands, it compensated in some degree for the disappointment of not visiting them, and, as they are very little known, I shall venture to lay before the reader a short account of their present condition.
The Island of Zanzebar is about forty-five miles in length, and fifteen in breadth. It has an excellent harbour on the western shore abreast of the town, with good anchorage in ten fathoms water, which is capable of holding a great number of vessels in perfect security throughout the year, owing to an extensive range of surrounding shoals, which break the force of the sea in every direction. The island is difficult of approach on account of a very strong current running in its neighbourhood, against which Captain Thomlinson, attempting to bear with a leading wind, lost twenty miles per day. The eastern shore is bold and woody, and as the hills seldom rise to any great elevation, the sea breeze holds an uninterrupted course over the island, which renders the climate tolerably healthy, notwithstanding its vicinity to the equator.
The inhabitants are Mahomedans of Arab extraction, under the rule of a Sheik, appointed by the Imaum of Muscat, to whom the jurisdiction of the island belongs, which was said in the years 1807-8 to have yielded a revenue of from thirty to forty thousand Spanish dollars per annum, arising almost entirely from an extinsive trade carried on with the Isles of France, Madagascar, and the Arabian Gulph. The exports consisted of slaves, gums, ivory, antimony, blue vitriol, and senna; and in return, the French supplied Zanzebar with arms, gunpowder, cutlery, coarse Indian cloths, and Spanish dollars. Dows or grabs of two hundred tons burthen are built on the island, which is well calculated for a small naval station, as the ebb and flow of the tide in the harbour exceeds twelve feet.
The Sheik has under his command about one hundred native troops, chiefly employed in the regulation of the police; but the island is said to be in a very defenceless state. It is well wooded, plentifully supplied with water, and abounds in excellent pasturage. The only grains cultivated are juwarry and rice, which, as in Arabia, form the principal food of the inhabitants. Other provisions are very abundant. An ox sells for only five dollars, a
sheep for half a dollar, fowls are extremely reasonable, and a constant supply of fish is found in the market. Captain Bissell remarks in his Journal: "Here you can obtain many kinds of refreshments, but, as the governor or chief made a monopoly of the sale of all kinds of articles, we paid exorbitantly dear for them. The inhabitants sell their things much cheaper. We got very fine bullocks, goats, poultry, rice, dholl, cocoa-nut oil, &c. Their fruits are very delicious, and they have all kinds." The provisions supplied to the fleet during its stay at Zanzebar amounted to about 2500 dollars. (Vide, for a more particular account, pages 35-6 and 7, of the same work.)
The Island of Pemba is low and about fourteen leagues long, and is represented to be still more fertile and woody than Zanzebar. Captain Fisher spoke in terms of rapture with respect to its aspect, climate, and resources. Its chief has long been desirous of putting himself under the protection of the English, and the offer was actually made to the Bombay Government. Should we retain the Isles of France, which our interests in India seem to demand, I should think this offer might prove worthy of the attention of the British Government, as, connected with these islands, it might prove a valuable settlement, from its affording a considerable export of corn and cattle. These articles hitherto have been carried to Zanzebar, to supply food for great numbers of slaves, which are generally kept ready for exportation on that island.
The situation and state of Monfia are at present absolutely unknown; though it is said to resemble the others in fertility.
September 24th.—At three in the morning we were alarmed with a violent rippling in the water, resembling the noise of breakers, which probably proceeded from the meeting of two currents; for on heaving the lead, we found no bottom with seventy-five fathoms of line. In the morning the water began to change its colour, and at nine o'clock A.M. we found ourselves in thirty-two fathoms, sand and shells, with the land distant about three leagues and a half, and at ten we gained soundings of twenty-two fathoms, on a shoal running off from the coast. At eleven we were again in deep water, and at twelve we passed the point of Doaro, which stands out distinguished from the main land like an island. The line of the coast had hitherto taken a NE. ½ E. direction, and thence it appears to decline more to the northward. At four we again had soundings in twenty-two fathoms, which gradually lessened to nineteen, at which time we were about four leagues from the land, the appearance of which continued uniformly uninteresting, sandy, and barren. The wind was fair and the weather mild.
In the evening, we observed the sun before it set put on a very unusual appearance. At the moment of emerging from a dark cloud, when its disk touched the horizon, it seemed to expand beyond its natural dimensions, became of a palish red hue, and assumed a form greatly resembling a portion of a column. This is one of the many singular effects produced by the refraction of the atmosphere, common in this part of the world; and something of the same kind may have given rise to the extraordinary appearances of the heavenly bodies mentioned by Agatharchides, to have occurred at the mouth of the Red Sea (καὶ τὸ σχημα δὲ ȣ δισκοειδὲς ἔκειν τὸν ηλιον φασὶν, ἀλλα κίονι παχεῖ τα γε πρῶτα ἐμφερη, &c.) which have been too hastily discredited by succeeding writers. Our latitude at noon was 4° 53′ 30″ N., long. 49° 0′, therm. 78, var. P.M. 5.53 W. Current one mile and a half hour, setting to the N.E.
September 25th.—We lost soundings in the morning off Cape Bassas, where the land for a short time appeared somewhat loftier, but continued to preserve the same uninteresting aspect. In the afternoon the atmosphere became hazy, and the wind freshened.
September 26th.—Lat. 8° 0′ N., long. 50° 0′, therm. 78° at noon: in the evening it fell to 68°, when the weather became extremely cold to the feelings; var. 5° 0′.; wind S.W. At one o'clock in the afternoon, when distant about five leagues from the land, we met with a shoal of dead fish, many thousands of which lay floating on the surface of the water, and we continued to pass through them about five and thirty minutes, sailing at the rate of two leagues in the hour. Many of these fish were of a large size, and of several different species, chiefly of the genera sparus, labrus, and tetrodon. They bore the appearance of not having been long killed, from the freshness of their colour and the redness of their gills. The atmosphere continued hazy, and a heavy dew fell in the night.
September 27th.—Lat. 10° 13′ 30″ N. at noon; long. 51° 19′, therm. 80° var. 4.33. The wind blew fresh from the south-west during the night, and in the morning land of considerable height appeared at no great distance, which proved to be Cape Delaqua, and soon afterwards we came in sight of Cape d'Orfui. The bay between these two Capes is so deep, that we could not discern the land at the bottom as we passed across it. The form of Cape d'Orfui resembles that of an island with a bluff point towards the sea, and it is backed by lofty and singular-shaped mountains. Admiral Beaulieu anchored under this Cape during a heavy storm, in July 1620, and attempted, but in vain, to have communication with the natives. The anchorage he describes to be in latitude 10° 1′. The variation of the needle was at that time 17⅔ west, which is 13° more west than we found it to be.
This part of the coast is inhabited by the Mijertayne Somauli, commanded by a chief, styled Sultaun Hussan. The Imaum of Muscat some time ago sent presents of considerable value to this tribe, and solicited permission to build a small fort on the promontory of d'Orfui (called by the natives Hafoon;) but a compliance with his request was very prudently declined, and the presents rejected. This anecdote was communicated to me by a member of the tribe. By a good observation at noon, we ascertained the lat. of d'Orfui to be 10° 30′ 30″ N., its long. 51° 12′ E. In the evening we passed another shoal of dead fish, which had become white and putrid. An occurrence of this nature is extremely rare, especially in deep water, and I cannot in any way pretend to account for it.
At ten in the evening we came abreast of the land behind Gardafui, which, owing to a slight haze in the atmosphere, appeared prodigiously high. Sailing on with a fresh breeze, we came up at midnight with the Cape itself, and passed within half a mile of it. The moon glittering on the water, the boldness of the promontory, the sea breaking on the beach, and the lofty mountains in the back-ground changing their aspect every moment as we swept rapidly round the point, united to the awful stillness which prevailed on board the ship, rendered the scene strikingly sublime. Its effect on my mind was also greatly heightened by the recollection of my former voyage, which seemed to familiarize the objects in sight, and made, me appear as if surrounded by old acquaintance. Scarcely had we got round the Cape, when the wind deadened, and the air, as is usual here, became sensibly warmer. This Cape is situated, by our observations, in lat. 11° 50′ and in long. 51° 22′ east from Greenwich.
September 28.—At day-light in the morning we found that, notwithstanding the breeze had continued during the night, we had scarcely made any perceptible progress, owing to a rapid current which headed the ship, and occasioned a strong rippling in the water. Our efforts during the whole day, indeed, put me strongly in mind of the clown in the pantomime, moving his legs constantly forward without making any actual advance. The same marks on the shore remained the whole day abreast of us; the same points of land a-head, and to add to the irksomeness of our situation, the heat became intense and scorching, though the thermometer never exceeded 89°. As the moon changed on the 23d, about which time the current set against us, it should seem to favour the idea expressed by Dr. Vincent, in his observations on this part of the coast, that the current runs out of the gulph during the wane of the moon, and in, during its increase. Lat. at noon 12° 5′ N., long. 51° 15′ E., var. 4.33.
September 29.—We had just wind enough during the night to enable the ship to stem the current, and in consequence we found ourselves at noon in the same position. The thermometer was 90° at mid-day, yet the heat was by no means so oppressive as on the preceding day, a circumstance which may be accounted for by our having become in some degree more accustomed to it. Nothing indeed more depends on relative comparison, than the effects of heat and cold on the human frame; for I have observed that it often feels as oppressive when the thermometer is at 85°, as when it exceeds 100. In the evening, being about five miles only from Somauli Point, and in forty-one fathoms, we determined to go on shore. We found gradually decreasing soundings as we approached the land, and three fathoms water close to the beach, which renders the landing unpleasant; for, in spite of the fine weather, we experienced a surf that completely wetted us through in getting out of the boat. We met with few objects on shore worthy of observation. The herbage was scanty, the soil sandy, and much impregnated with salt; and at no great distance from the coast a lagune extended inland over a flat plain, which from the distant view we took of it, appeared to be covered with trees. This lagune abounded with wild fowl, and on the borders of it stood birds of a species called by the Arabs Abou Hannes, which is the true ibis of the Egyptians, as described by Herodotus. A fact strongly marked by the head and neck being bare, and of a deep black colour. It may be worthy of remark also, that Strabo mentions this bird as frequenting the coast to the eastward of the Straits of Δειρη or Babelmandeb, (ὀρῶντας γαρ δὲ ἴβεις περὶ τὸν τόπον.) At some distance from the spot where we landed stood a few huts, and we saw some of the natives engaged in fishing; but the evening was too far advanced to admit of our attempting any intercourse with them. There is a very curious account of two attempts made to communicate with the natives of this coast in a work entitled, Voyage de l'Arabie Heureuse, published at Amsterdam in 1716. In the first instance the French captain went boldly on shore, and with all the nonchalance characterising his nation, addressed the natives with the Arabic word "marhaba," signifying commonly, "very well," but which he interprets "soiez le bien venu," 'terme de civilité fort en usage en Afrique et en Arabie,' and the poor man expresses himself quite astonished that the natives did not understand this language. In this expedition, the seamen discovered a large stock of fish hoarded in a small cavern. "Je fis prendre" (says the captain) "la moitié des sardines et des thons, et je leur laissai dans un plat une piastre et demie." This imprudent step cost him dear, for on a second attempt to land, the natives assembled and killed no less than seven of the boat's crew, "et tout le monde assura, qu'on se souviendroit longtemps de l'Abyssinie."
After our return to the ship, a strong breeze sprung up, and at midnight we passed over a shoal projecting from a low point to the eastward of Mount Felix, on which we had ten fathoms water only, the mountain bearing at the time W. by S. ½ south, distant about five leagues. This shoal is not laid down in the charts, and evidently proves the danger of trusting to the assertion made in some Oriental Directories, that "the shore between Guardafui and Mount Felix is so bold, that if occasion require, you may come within a mile of it." Var. 4° 40′ W.
September 30. Having lost the current in the night, we passed Mount Felix, or as it might with more propriety be called, Cape Elephant, from the Arabic "Ras el Feel," which is its true name (being the Elephas Mons also of the Romans,) and we continued all day sailing along the coast, to which the high mountains inland seem to run parallel. Therm. 89°, var. 5° 43′ W.
We continued to proceed in sight of the coast with light breezes, which invariably blew from the north-east, until the second of October, when we quitted the land, and steered directly over to the Arabian coast. The thermometer kept up at 88°, but we found the air much cooler after we had got into the open channel.
On the 3d of October, in the morning, we came in sight of the rugged mountains of Aden, and at two in the afternoon arrived abreast of the town. On our firing a gun, a boat came off with three native fishermen, by whom we were advised to carry the vessel into Back Bay, as the roads in front of the town were considered unsafe at this season of the year. Captain Weatherhead complied with this advice, and soon brought the ship to an anchor behind the rock, in an excellent situation, in four fathoms water, with good holding ground.
From the observations made in the course of this voyage up the coast of Africa, it appears that no natural obstacles exist to have prevented early navigators from making a direct voyage from Sofala to the Red Sea. I shall not attempt at any length to discuss the question, whether Sofala corresponds to the Ophir of the Hebrews, as I am of opinion that the Old Testament does not supply sufficient data to enable any one to decide upon the matter, and I shall therefore content myself with merely pointing out the extreme inaccuracy of the statements on which a late celebrated author, Mr. Bruce, has founded his theory on the subject. The principal argument on which he seems to rely depends on "the time of the going and coming of the fleet," which, as he expresses it, "was precisely three years, at no period more nor less," and that from this circumstance, it could not have been done "with variable winds, but must have been accomplished by monsoons." The expression in the Scriptures, however, is not so positive; "once in three years," and "every three years once," are very indefinite phrases, and might allow of any reasonable variation as to the period of time occupied in the voyage. Supposing, however, that he were correct as to this statement, I shall proceed to prove the fallacy of the grounds on which his arguments depend.
His first position relative to the winds prevailing in the Red Sea is strikingly incorrect, as the 'monsoon' there (if it may be so termed) does by no means continue for six months steadily in the same point, either one way or the other, but, as nearly as can be ascertained, blows the northern part nine months down, and in the southern nine months up, while in the centre of the sea the winds are often extremely variable. It happens during the height of the south-west monsoon in the Indian Seas, in the months of June, July and August, that the Etesian winds from the north-west prevailing in the Mediterranean appear to find their way down the whole extent of the Red Sea, and it is in the height of the north-east monsoon in the Indian Seas, during the months of November, December and January, that the south-east wind (which is a part of the same current of air, I conceive, as the north-east monsoon, only changed into a different direction by the shape of the coasts) forces its way up as far as Suez. Even this general character of the prevailing winds must be taken with some allowance, as nothing tends so much to mislead as the too general assertions by which some authors are accustomed to tie down the winds, weather and seasons, all of which are known to be somewhat variable in every part of the globe.
The next points to which Mr. Bruce leads his readers are the mines of silver at Sofala mentioned by Dos Santos, and the existence of certain ancient towers in the neighbourhood, built of stone and lime, but the slight account given of the former proves nothing, and the latter rests entirely on a story received from the Moors; being by no means "a tradition common to all the Kaffers in that country."
The extract that follows from Eupolemus, and the use made of it, is such a master-piece in the art of reasoning, that I cannot forbear quoting it. "Eupolemus, an ancient author, speaking of David, says, that he built ships at Eloth, a city in Arabia, and thence sent miners, or as he calls them, metal-men, to Orphi, or Ophir, an island in the Red Sea. Now, by the Red Sea, he understands the Indian Ocean, and by Orphi, he probably meant the Island of Madagascar; or Orphi, (or Ophir) might have been the name of the continent, instead of Sofala; that is, Sofala, where the mines are, might have been the main land of Orphi," (Vide Mr. Bruce's Travels, Vol. II. p. 352.) or, by the same chain of reasoning, it might have been any other place that the caprice of human imagination should choose to suggest. With respect to the winds in the Indian Seas, Mr. Bruce's assertions are still more contradicted by facts. Supposing that a vessel sailed down the Red Sea early in August, she might have had three months of favourable winds and weather till November, which surely is ample time for her voyage to Gardafui. In November, as Mr. Bruce himself allows, the north-east monsoon becomes settled in the Indian seas, and the vessel might then have continued her voyage, and must have had full six months of continual fair wind and strong currents in her favour, which could not have failed to carry her down to Sofala; for as to "the anomalous south-west monsoon in the beginning of November, which was to cut off her voyage to Sofala, and oblige her to put into the small harbour of Mocha, near to Melinda, but nearer still to Tarshish, there to continue six months," it is all absolutely without foundation. No such anomalous wind existing, as is sufficiently proved by Admiral Blanket's fleet, which was in this part of the sea from December to April, (vide the accurate observations of Captain Bissell) and no such places as Mocha or Tarshish being known on the coast. The authority I have already quoted is sufficient to bear me out in these facts, but I may, in confirmation, mention, that the Arab boats run this voyage every year at least so far as the Querimbo Islands, and the Portuguese vessels, during the same season, are constantly in the habit of sailing from the Querimbo Islands down to Sofala.
The common track pursued by the Arab traders is as follows: they depart from the Red Sea in August, (before which it is dangerous to venture out of the gulph) then proceed to Muscat, and thence to the coast of Malabar. In December, they cross over to the coast of Africa, visit Mugdasho, Marea, Brava, Lamo, Melinda, and the Querimbo Islands. They then direct their course to the Comoro Islands, and the northern ports of Madagascar, or sometimes stretch down southward as far as Sofala. This occupies them till after April, when they run up into the Red Sea, where they arrive in time to refit and prepare a fresh cargo for the following year. This is the regular course of the trade. As to the ease with which the return might be effected, I beg leave to refer the reader once more to Captain Bissell's Journal, where he will find that in April, the English fleet ran with a fair wind from Mugdasho to the Red Sea; and the concurrent testimony of the Portuguese and Arabs, together with our own voyage, proves that the same winds continue without intermission till the end of September.
Thus "the change of the monsoon six times," and the assertion that there is not another combination of winds over the globe capable to effect the same voyage, falls totally to the ground. As to the map given by Mr. Bruce "to remove the difficulties of his reader," it is absolutely unworthy of notice, were it not for the errors to which it may lead from its extreme inaccuracy and from its being founded entirely on visionary principles.
The additional mistakes and even absurdities in this treatise are very numerous, but the edifice being pulled down it is not worth while to meddle with the materials. One circumstance, however, ought not to be passed over in silence. In this same treatise, Mr. Bruce gives a very detailed account of some magnificent ruins at Asab. "The blocks of marble," composing which "were joined with thick cramps or bars of brass:" and he adds soon afterwards, "but upon analysing this on my return to England, I found it copper without mixture, or virgin copper." Now the whole of this proves to be pure fiction, for, the late editor of his works has confessed, that the whole voyage from Loheia to Babelmandeb and Asab, (which was first suspected by Mr. Laing, the well-known author of "The History of Scotland,") must be given up as being totally inconsistent with the observations and dates found among Mr. Bruce's own Journals." The proof given by Mr. Murray is as follows.
"Mr. Bruce arrived at Loheia on the 18th of July, 1769, where he remained till his departure for Abyssinia. He made observations of latitude or longitude there on July 21st, 26th, August 5th, &c. Balugani's journal of this period is complete." (Vide Mr. Murray's Appendix to Bruce, Vol. II. page 264, last edition.) It was within this period, from the 27th of July to the 6th of August, that Mr. Bruce pretends to have made the voyage to Babelmandeb and Asab. The voyage from Cosseir to the Emerald Island and back, is also given up by Mr. Murray, as Mr. Bruce did not arrive at Cosseir till the 22d of March, though he describes the voyage to have taken place between the 14th and 20th of that month. (Vide Appendix to Book First, in Vol. II. page 262.) As both these voyages contain a vast number of very minute details, both of observations and transactions, the reader may form from them a pretty just estimate of the inventive talents of this author. Had not the testimony on the subject been unquestionable, I should have scarcely thought it possible to have carried on a narrative with so much apparent internal evidence of authenticity; and, indeed, at the time that Lord Valentia started his doubts on both points, I differed in opinion from him on the subject, as I had not at that time sufficiently investigated the question.
I shall now return to the general course of my narrative.
Soon after our coming to an anchor the super-cargo of the ship, Mr. Coffin, went on shore with the three native fishermen, who, before they left us, saluted us with the accustomed greeting; "allah, meschine, bukshis," meaning literally, "in the name of God, poor man, a present," an appeal, which the wretchedness of their appearance rendered irresistible. In the evening, Mr. Coffin returned on board, and brought us the satisfactory intelligence, that Captain Rudland, my former companion in Abyssinia, was stationed at Mocha as Agent to the East India Company.
October 4.—The Banians in the morning sent down a mule, a camel, and several asses to convey us to Aden; and with this ill-assorted train the captain, the surgeon and myself, proceeded to the town. The road to it leads over a low ridge of the mountain, and for some distance is cut through the solid rock, in the narrowest part of which a strong gate protects the passage.
On our arrival at Aden we were received with great attention by the Banians, who had fitted up a house belonging to Mr. Benzoni for our reception. This gentleman had resided here in a commercial capacity from the time of my quitting the Red Sea in 1806; till 1808, when he went over to Bombay, where, on account of the information he possessed respecting the trade, and from the estimation he was held in by the Banians, whom he had much conciliated by his judicious conduct, he was appointed by the Governor, assistant to Captain Rudland at Mocha.
Aden, as a place of trade, is still of some consequence. It is the chief mart for the gums brought over by the Somauli traders from the north-eastern districts of Africa; and coffee of the best quality may be procured in considerable quantities, though not so expeditiously as at Mocha, owing to the want of a regular demand. The price of the principal articles at this time was as follows:
|Uddeen coffee||70 dollars per bale of 305lbs. nett.|
|Gum myrrh||4½ dollars per frasil of 32lbs. English.|
|Gum aloes||2 dollars per frasil, ditto.|
|Gum Libanum||1 dollar per frasil, ditto.|
|Gum mastich||2 dollars per frasil, ditto.|
The town itself is a wretched heap of ruins and miserable huts, and none but Arabs of the lowest description would think of inhabiting it, owing to the scorching heat of the climate and the total want of every convenience of life, excepting water, under which it labours. The natives themselves are squalid and unhealthy in their appearance, and the lower classes are equally depraved in their habits with those inhabiting most Arabian towns.
Among the ruins some fine remains of ancient splendour are to be met with; but these only serve to cast a darker shade over the general desolation of the scene. The most remarkable of these remains consists of a line of cisterns situated on the north-west side of the town, three of which are full eighty feet square and proportionally deep, all excavated out of the solid rock, and lined with a thick coat of fine stucco, which externally bears a strong resemblance to marble. A broad aqueduct may still be traced, which formerly conducted the water to these cisterns from a deep ravine in the mountain above. Higher up there is another still entire, which at the time we visited it was partly filled with water. In front of it extends a handsome terrace, formerly covered with stucco, and behind it rise some immense masses of granite, which being in some parts perpendicular and in others overhanging it, form during the hot weather a most delightful retreat. Some Arab children, who attended us in our excursions, were highly pleased when we arrived at this spot, and plunging headlong into the water much amused us with their sportive tricks. In most Mahomedan towns the insolence of the children is particularly annoying to strangers; but here, from their having been a good deal accustomed to Englishmen, their behaviour had altered its character, and their playfulness was often exceedingly diverting; they ran about collecting flowers for us, and as we went along entertained us with their singing, tumbling, and wrestling; and sometimes they pretended to cry from fatigue, or feigned to have hurt themselves, and, if we expressed any concern for them, would jump up and laugh at the deception they had practised upon us. In one excursion up the mountain a little female child not more than five years old accompanied us the whole way, though the road was very steep and difficult of access. A few commassi, given as a reward on such occasions, made these wild urchins completely happy.
Aden, on the northern and western sides, is protected by a steep and craggy mountain, on the pinnacles of which stand several ancient towers erected by the Turks. The striking appearance of these from a distance had long made me entertain a wish to examine them; and for this purpose, on Friday the 6th, I resolved to ascend the mountain. The road is extremely steep, and much incommoded by loose stones and pieces of rock, so that it was not long before our resolution was severely put to the test. After surmounting the first difficulty we came to a deep gully, in which we found two or three small pits of rain-water, some trees, and a few straggling goats. After traversing this gully another steep presented itself, that took us up to a rugged plain about a mile in extent, which, though at this time parched up, affords, after the rains, sustenance enough for a considerable number of goats. Beyond this, the ascent became so abrupt, that our guide assured us it was inaccessible; notwithstanding which we persisted in advancing, and at last, after great exertion, reached one of the highest ridges of the mountain, which was so extremely narrow along the top as to present on both sides the terrific aspect of a perpendicular abyss. At this point my companions sat down on the rock, and could not be induced to proceed further, though we were then at no great distance from the principal tower, to visit which formed the chief object of the excursion. My desire if possible to find an inscription, which I had reason to think might exist there, determined me to persist in the attempt, and after reaching the tower with great difficulty and considerable hazard, I succeeded in getting into it, by clinging with my arms round an angle of the wall, where, supported only by one loose stone, I had to pass, over a perpendicular precipice of many hundred feet, down which it was impossible to look without shuddering. I had now done my utmost to attain my object, but found nothing to reward me for the danger I had encountered, except the view, which was indeed magnificent; and at this moment, I confess, I could not help looking round with a feeling of gratification, somewhat bordering on pride, at beholding my less adventurous companions, and the inhabitants of the town gazing up from beneath, together with the lofty hills, and the broad expanse of ocean extended at my feet. The pleasure however which this prospect afforded was greatly allayed by the necessity there existed of retracing my steps, which required a much stronger effort than the entrance itself had done, for after a few moments reflection, I found a feeling of hesitation coming over my mind, which would, I am convinced, in a few minutes have actually disabled me from the undertaking, and nothing but the absolute necessity of making the attempt enabled me, with a sort of desperation, to surmount the difficulties of the situation into which I had unwarily drawn myself.
On our return we passed close by the wall erected by Colonel Murray at the time the British troops were stationed at Aden, preparatory to their expedition into Egypt. The plan appears to have been formed with judgment, and would have effectually protected the town on the only point where it was before assailable.
On the 8th of October a brig came in sight at day-break, steering direct into the harbour as if her pilot had been accustomed to the bay. As we could not distinguish the flag she carried, the Dola hastened with a party of soldiers to the water-gate, while I proceeded with a few others to the ship. Our alarm arose from the fear that it might be a French privateer, as the ships of that nation have been in the habit of frequently running to this port for refreshment, notwithstanding it has been repeatedly refused; an instance of which occurred in the early part of this year. Fortunately on the present occasion the vessel proved to be an American, which gratified us with the pleasing intelligence of the continuance of peace between our respective nations, a circumstance which we had strong reason to doubt, from information received in the Mosambique.
This occurrence led me to notice the exposed situation of the anchorage in this bay, where a French privateer or pirate might, with facility, cut any vessel out of the harbour, without the possibility of her receiving aid from the shore. The means of remedying this evil are very obvious, and might be accomplished at a small expense; I therefore ventured to suggest to the Governor of Bombay, in a subsequent visit to that Settlement, that it should be carried into effect at the charge of the East India Company. The plan which I proposed was that the Governor should send two pieces of cannon, (many of which are now lying useless at Bombay) as a present to the Sultaun of Aden, on condition of their being placed on a point near the tomb of Sheik Hamed, in which position they would completely command and protect the anchorage. This is now become more particularly advisable should any commercial intercourse take place with the Red Sea, on account of our being at war with the Americans, who are intimately acquainted with these ports, and whose ships are generally of a force superior to any of our merchant vessels likely to be employed in the service. The plan above-mentioned would not only benefit our own concerns, but prove a just return for the alliance of a chief, who has, by repeated and substantial acts of kindness, evinced his attachment to the British interests. If a small fort were erected for the guns, it might render them still more serviceable.
The ship not being likely to complete her stock of water in less than three days, I determined to take the opportunity of making a journey to Lahadj, the residence and capital of the Sultaun; and as soon as we were satisfied respecting the vessel, we set out on this expedition, accompanied by Duroz, one of the Banians, under the protection of Aboo Buckr, the Dola of Aden, who had received orders from the Sultaun to attend us with a guard of his Ascari. This chieftain, who was descended from a tribe of Abada Bedowee, was one of the handsomest men I ever saw. He was taller than the generality of his countrymen, active, and of a daring disposition, and displayed a high spirit of manly independence that seemed to excite universal admiration.
The first part of our road conducted us round the bottom of Back Bay, near which stands a small building called "beit el mi," or the 'water-house,' now forming a shelter for the natives who bring supplies to the town, behind which the remains of some large stone walls are observable, carried a considerable way across the adjacent peninsula. These appear to have formed part of an immense reservoir, which, at a very early period, was constructed for the supply of the shipping in Back Bay.
About half a mile further, a causeway built on seven arches connects to the continent, the 'peninsula' of Aden, as it is called, though it might with more propriety be termed an island, as at high tide a considerable body of salt water rushes through the arches, uniting two inlets of the sea.
Directly north from this causeway runs an ancient aqueduct, now out of repair, constructed of solid stone work about five feet wide, of an uniform breadth, and rising about two feet above the present level of the ground, the ruins of which may be clearly traced for about eight miles into the country, a circumstance that may serve to give some idea of the importance of Aden during the period of its flourishing condition. There is reason to believe, from a passage in a curious tract written in Latin by Resendius, bearing date 1530, and entitled "Epitome Rerum gestarum in Indiâ a Lusitanis:" that this aqueduct, as well as the towers on the summits of the mountains, were constructed subsequently to this period, for he there remarks, "that the hills were only accessible to the birds," and, "that the water was daily brought in on camels, which on some days amounted to fifteen or sixteen hundred, and even to two thousand," and, that "if they came in the day time the water was taken into the city, but if in the evening was deposited in a large cistern near the water-house," the ruins of which have been before noticed. It was, in all probability, to obviate the necessity of this practice and to render the town independent of the Arabs, that the Turks were induced, when fortifying the heights, to construct the aqueduct: the first mention of it that I can find is given by a French officer who visited the place in 1709, and it was then in use.
At the end of the plain over which the aqueduct is conducted stands a tomb and a caravan-serai dedicated to Sheik Othman. Here our party, which had been greatly augmented by a number of Bedowee soldiers who had joined us during the march, stopped to shelter during the heat of the mid-day; and to refresh us, the Dola ordered a repast consisting of broiled fish and a mixture of juwarry meal, to be prepared with hot ghee; of which chiefs, masters, soldiers and servants partook in a truly Arabic and primitive style, forming altogether a scene which would probably not have been very well suited to the fastidious delicacy of some European stomachs. After this refreshment every one as usual took a nap, and, on awaking, those who could afford it regaled themselves with a pipe; the accustomed antidote in use among the Arabs, to alleviate all their cares.
At three, we re-commenced our journey. About half a mile from the tomb we entered a deep wood of large and spreading trees, of a species of mimosa, called by the Arabs Sa-muk. This wood extends about eight miles across, and is said to occupy two days march in length, lying in an east and west direction. Numbers of goats and camels are seen in every quarter wandering about it, which, at this season of the year, are chiefly fed on the leaves and tender branches of the trees. From the flesh and milk of these animals, whole tribes of Bedewee derive their subsistence.
The road leading out of the wood opens upon a barren plain, covered with hillocks composed of a fine loose sand, which, constantly drifting from place to place, presents the growth of a single blade of vegetation. This desolate scene, though only five miles across, conveyed to my mind a much stronger image of "a desert that might be fatal to man and beast," than any I had before passed. When we had crossed it, the return to the gradual appearance of verdure was peculiarly grateful to the eye, and soon afterwards we reached a highly rich and cultivated track of land, bordering on the town of Lahadj. Here we found wheat, juwarry and cotton flourishing with great luxuriance, the ground being intersected by artificial dykes, supplied with water by means of those simple machines common throughout Arabia and Egypt. The whole country, besides, was interspersed with date trees.
As we approached the town of Lahadj, we were met by a deputation, headed by the Dola of the place, who conducted us forwards, surrounded by his Ascari, who marched on wildly dancing, singing, tossing up their matchlocks, and shouting in the same manner as practised at Mocha, when the Dola returns on public occasions from mosque. This scene lasted till we reached the first entrance of the Sultaun's house, when three irregular vollies of musquetry ended the ceremony. We were conducted thence through several passages, strongly barricaded at each end, up to an apartment opening to the sky, (somewhat resembling the hall of audience at Sana, of which a drawing is given by Niebuhr,) on the far side of which the Sultaun Hamed was waiting to receive us. We found him an old man, of a very patriarchal appearance, with a benign yet intelligent expression in his countenance. He received us in a very friendly manner, and seemed truly in his heart, as he repeated over and over again, in the manner of the Arabians, to feel great delight in once more beholding an Englishman before he died. Those British subjects who formerly visited him have left an impression very favourable to our national character, and I have strong reason to believe, from what subsequently passed, that, should we ever have occasion for the friendship of this chief, in any arrangement with the Arabian states, his good offices would be exerted to the utmost in our favour.
After drinking "café à la Sultane," as it is termed by French writers, hookahs were offered to us, and soon afterwards, to my great surprise, dinner was announced. We accordingly retired with the Dola of Aden to another apartment, where a kid broiled and cut into small pieces with a quantity of pillaued rice, was served up to us, agreeably to the fashion of the country. When dinner was over, Abu Bukr rose up, and considerately observed, that, as he knew it was usual for us to take wine after our meals, (of which we had brought a small stock from Aden,) he would leave us for a short time to the enjoyment of it, an instance of politeness very rare in a mussulman.
Of the town of Lahadj, which I had an opportunity of examining in the evening and in the course of the ensuing day, I have but few observations to make. The houses are, in general, formed of mud, and even the Sultaun's palace, which towers above the rest, is constructed of the same material, in the rude form of an ancient castle. The inhabitants manufacture a species of fine coloured striped cloths, peculiar to the country, which forms the common dress of Arabs of rank. Much misery and wretchedness appear to prevail among the lower classes of the townspeople, affording a striking contrast to the happy appearance of the Bedowee in the neighhourhood, who, though poorer in reality, feel a pride in their native independence, which renders them better satisfied with a more scanty sustenance.
To the north of the town flourishes an extensive grove of date, mango, sycamore, and pomegranate trees, among which I observed several very lofty and fine trees, called by the Arabs bédan; the leaves of these trees grow in clusters, and in shape are somewhat similar to those of the laurel; the fruit, in form and size resembling an almond, and being not unpleasant, though very astringent to the taste. The quantity of water required for cultivation in this place is astonishing; the soil round the trees is obliged to be kept constantly moist, which, during the dry season, is entirely supplied by the assistance of art. This season, fortunately, does not last more than two months; during the remaining ten, occasional showers intervene, and in December, the rains on the adjacent mountains fall so heavily, that the river which passes Lahadj, though at times nearly dry, swells into a prodigious torrent.
The verdant strip of land, bordering on each side of the river, is about three miles broad, and forms a very valuable part of the territory, as is generally the case with respect to the banks of most eastern rivers. Beyond it, to the northward, lies a barren and rocky district, which extends to the foot of the mountains occupied by tribes of the Abada Arabs, who, when occasion requires, flock in multitudes to join the standard of the Sultaun. They are a small, but a stout and compact race of men, and constitute some of the best soldiers in Arabia.
It would be difficult to find a person whose lot is more to be envied, than that of Sultaun Hamed. By his able and judicious line of conduct, he has raised his seignory to a respectable rank among the principalities of Yemen, and by his constant solicitude for the welfare of his subjects, has fully become entitled to the appellation of "Father of his country," which is now commonly bestowed upon him by his people. The more respectable Arabs of this district seem, indeed, to inherit a peculiar and distinctive character, bearing a very near affinity to the patriarchal simplicity of their forefathers. From the descriptions given by the accurate Niebuhr, I am led to suspect that this honourable distinction prevails throughout a great part of the interior, forming a very striking contrast to the debauched manners of the inhabitants dwelling on the upper coast.
On the evening of the 9th, having taken a friendly leave of the Sultaun, we returned on our way to Aden, as far as the caravan-serai of Sheik Othman, where we rested for the night, in order that we might pursue our route early on the following day, before the heat should set in, which is here very oppressive. Our lodging was not particularly agreeable, on account of the building being hardly large enough to contain the party, but slight inconveniences and difficulties only serve, by contrast, to give a zest to the enterprises of the traveller.
Tuesday 10th.—At day-break we continued our route to Aden. As we approached the peninsula, we were much struck with the singular appearances which the sun put on as it rose. When it had risen about half way above the horizon, its form somewhat resembled a castellated dome; when three parts above the horizon, its shape appeared like that of a balloon, and at length the lower limb suddenly starting up from the horizon, it assumed the general form of a globe, flattened at either axis. These singular changes may be attributed to the refraction produced by the different layers of atmosphere through which the sun was viewed in its progress. The same cause made our ship in the bay look as if it had been lifted out of the water, and her bare masts seemed to be crowded with sail. A low rock also appeared to rise up like a vessel, and a projecting point of land to rest on no other foundation than the air. The space between these objects and the horizon having a grey pellucid tinge very distinct from the darker colour of the sea. This deception of the atmosphere, as far as it affects the relative positions of the heavenly bodies with regard to the eye, is a subject which has been much attended to by astronomers, and tables have been constructed to obviate the errors it occasions, which are perhaps as accurate as the difficulties in which the subject is involved will permit, but as the deception affects the visible horizon and other objects on the earth's surface, it seems to merit a still more strict investigation, as it produces great incorrectness, particularly in warm latitudes, with respect to all observations taken by means of the visible horizon, as well as in those geometrical admeasurements which depend on a distant object, and are to be ascertained with a theodolite, or other instrument on shore. On this account an artificial horizon possesses decided advantages over the visible one in point of accuracy, and is, whenever it can be used, to be greatly preferred.
In the evening, the Captain having completed his stock of water, a precaution which it is advisable for every ship to take at this place previously to entering the Red Sea, I returned to the Marian, after having had the trouble of settling my account with the Banians. Though these traders possess a remarkable suavity in their manners, and an immoveable command of temper, yet there are no individuals in the world more keen, artful, and rapacious in their dealing, and consequently in all communications with them undue exactions must be expected and carefully guarded against, notwithstanding there may be an appearance of minute and scrupulous accuracy in their accounts. This may generally be best effected by mild behaviour, yet unalterable steadiness in resisting their impositions. With respect to other points of character, I have been induced to think, from what I have witnessed, that they are a quiet, and estimable people; and even in that point, which I have seen reason to condemn, some allowance ought to be made in their favour from the unprincipled character of those persons with whom they are generally obliged to transact business. Duroz, the principal Banian at Aden, appeared to be one of the most respectable of the class I have ever met with.
On the 11th of October we left Aden with a fair wind and a favourable current, the weather being pleasant and the water smooth, and we continued all day coasting along the shore, the mountains of which are very remarkable in their forms. At sunset, by an amplitude, we found the variation to be 7° 10′ west.
13th.—We passed Cape St. Anthony in the night, and, at day-break, had it still in sight, bearing NE. b, E. distant eight leagues, Babelmandeb Straits, NW. b. W. nine leagues, and the coast of Africa W. S. W. seven leagues. In this situation it is particularly important for strangers unacquainted with the coast to keep near the Arabian shore until the Island of Perim appear in sight, as many ships, by not attending to this caution, have got entangled in the deep Bay of Tajoura, a remarkable instance of which is to be met with in the Voyage de l'Arabie Heureuse, page 59, 64, where, in December 1708, owing to a mistake of this nature, the vessel Le Curieux was very nearly lost on one of the shoals in this dangerous Bay. At eleven in the morning we passed through the Straits of Babelmandeb, with a strong current setting in N W. b. N. and at half past three came to an anchor in Mocha roads. Soon afterwards I received a letter from Captain Rudland inviting me on shore, and in the evening I took up my residence at the British factory.
Captain Rudland, shortly afterwards, was obliging enough to disclose his orders from the Bombay Government, for opening a commercial intercourse with Abyssinia, the plans which he had adopted for this purpose, and the correspondence and transactions which had consequently taken place. Immediately on his arrival in the Red Sea he had, in May 1809, dispatched letters to Ras Welled Selassé, in which he informed him of his arrival at Mocha, as agent to the East India Company, and expressed the desire of the Indian Government to keep up a regular communication with Abyssinia. He also had written at the same time to Mr. Nathaniel Pearce, the person whom I had left in the country on my former expedition.
In July 1809, Captain Rudland received a very satisfactory answer from Ras Welled Selassé through Mr. Pearce, who in a very simple, clear, though singular narrative, gave a general account of the adventures he had encountered. He mentioned thewhich the Ras had unceasingly expressed at not hearing for so long a time from the English, and strongly confirmed his anxiety to encourage an intercourse with our nation. Mr. Pearce also added many useful observations on the description of articles likely to answer for the Abyssinian market.
In consequence of these letters, Captain Rudland soon afterwards had sent over his assistant, Mr. Benzoni, in a country boat, with some articles of commerce, and a few presents, to Madir, a village in the Bay of Amphila on the Abyssinian coast, to which place he had appointed Mr. Pearce to come down and receive them. The difficulties which Mr. Benzoni met with, and the dangers to which this ill-concerted expedition exposed Mr. Pearce, will be given in a subsequent narrative of transactions, which the latter related to me at Chelicut.
In a short time after this the Ras had sent over one of the Mahomedan traders in his employ, named Hadjee Hamood, who had returned with a few other articles by way of Massowa, but of his arrival at Chelicut no intelligence had been received, and Captain Rudland seemed to entertain the opinion, that he was likely to meet with serious obstacles in passing Massowa, owing to a Sirdar, named Omar Aga, having arrived at the latter place from Jidda, who had dispossessed the Nayib of his authority, and taken upon himself the command. It may be necessary to observe, that at this time our relative situation with Jidda was extremely precarious, owing to the unprincipled character of its chief, who had very lately committed an act of great injustice against the British, in detaining some goods belonging to them, which had been landed under particular circumstances in his port.
This state of affairs rendered it incumbent on me to obtain, if possible, a communication with the Ras previously to my attempting to penetrate into Abyssinia, I therefore hired at Mocha a trusty servant, named Hadjee Alli, and sent him over immediately to the Abyssinian coast with letters for the Ras and Mr. Pearce, in a country boat belonging to Yunus Beralli, a faithful Somauli, who had before rendered important services to the English. In these letters I announced my arrival with his Majesty's letter and presents for the Emperor Ayto Egwala Sion, (or Ayto Guaio, as he is commonly called) expressing my anxiety to advance as soon as possible to the presence; and requesting that the Ras would send down Mr. Pearce, with a proper number of mules and people, to whatever point of the coast he might judge it most advisable for me to land.
This dispatch was sent off on the 14th of October, and as I conceived it advisable, on account of many necessary preparations for my journey, I determined to wait at Mocha for an answer. During the time which this delay afforded me, I several times visited the Dola, (styled Sultaun Hassan,) the Baskatib, and other natives of rank, and I found them, in general, more favourably inclined to the English than they appeared to have been during our former residence at Mocha. The Dola granted me an unlimited permission to hire whatever servants I might require, and otherwise facilitated my views as much as lay in his power, and frequently sent presents of fruits and vegetables to the factory, which were at this time peculiarly acceptable, owing to the unsettled state of affairs in the town.
That the reader may become acquainted with the situation to which I allude, it will be necessary to take a retrospective view of the events which had occurred in Yemen from the time of our residence at Mocha in 1805, which being connected with the transactions of the Wahabee in this part of Arabia, and with the general history of Yemen, may not prove unworthy of his attention.
It appered at the time we left Arabia, that the political affairs of Yemen were drawing to a crisis. The weakness of the old Imaum, Ali Mansoor, and the incapacity of his minister, had occasioned the loss of some of its most valuable possessions, particularly Loheia and Hodeida, which, from the want of timely support, had been obliged to submit to the power of the Wahabee, and nothing but the walls of Mocha prevented their gaining absolute dominion of the sea coast together with the control over the commerce of the country.
Fortunately for the reigning dynasty, Sheriffe Hamood, the Chief of Abu Arish, though he assumed the guise of a Wahabee, was in reality averse from the principles of reform which they had introduced, and therefore only waited for the first favourable opportunity to throw off the yoke. With this view, he privately entered into an arrangement with Sydee Achmed, the eldest son of the Imaum, by which the latter was induced to set aside his father's command, and to take the reins of government into his own hands. This was easily effected, and without bloodshed, which is difficult to account for, without thoroughly understanding the peculiar disposition of the inhabitants of Yemen. Fakkee Hassan, the Vizier, and a few of the principal men under the old government, were reduced to poverty, and imprisoned, while the old Imaum, though excluded from interference in state affairs, of which it is supposed he was scarcely conscious, was still permitted to enjoy all the comforts of domestic retirement.
Sydee Achmed, on his establishment, chose Ali Ishmel Furrea for his vizier, a man of considerable ability, from whose advice the judicious line of conduct which the prince has since pursued is supposed to originate. Immediately after this event, which happened in February 1809, Sheriffe Hamood threw off the yoke of the Wahabee, resumed his allegiance, and restored to the sovereignty of the young Imaum, not only the provinces of Loheia, Hodeida, and Abu Arish, but also those of Beit el Fackee and Zebid (of which, in conjunction with the Wahabee, he had recently gained possession) under a stipulation, as might naturally be expected, that he should be continued in his command. The revenue of these provinces from this time has reverted to the Imaum.
The defection of Sheriffe Hamood soon drew upon him attack from the Wahabee, and in the following July, Abu Nookta, chief of the province of Kubtool Bucker, which lies to the south of Confuda, marched under the orders of Shorood to subdue him. Though Sheriffe Hamood's whole force did not at this time amount to more than five hundred men, he was rash enough to meet the Wahabee in the field, and in the first onset, which took place at Ghezan, two stages from Abu Arish, he suffered a signal defeat, which compelled him to make a precipitate retreat.
This failure produced great alarm throughout the provinces; and the inhabitants and merchants of Loheia and Hodeida began to embark their property, through fear of the ravages which the Wahabee were likely to commit in following up their conquest. A measure of this kind, it should seem, would have promoted their interests, but owing to some unknown reason, such a step was delayed. This gave time to Sheriffe Hamood to recruit his army, and enabled him to receive large reinforcements from Sana, which, as the safety of the state depended upon it, consisted of four thousand men, and a supply of forty thousand dollars; by the help of which he is said to have augmented his forces to the number of twenty-five thousand men; four thousand of which were mounted, either on dromedaries or horses. This may be an exaggerated statement, but in a country, where the profession of every man is that of a soldier, an army of Bedowee may soon be raised by the assistance of money.
With the above force the Sheriffe again moved forward, and in a battle which lasted a whole day, completely beat the army of Abu Nookta, who, together with several of his principal officers, fell in the engagement.
This victory for a time gave security to Yemen though its effects have been ultimately attended with throwing a larger share of power in to the hands of Sheriffe Hamood, than perhaps ought ever to be entrusted to a subject. This chieftain is a native of Aboo Arish, the eldest of sixteen brothers, most of whom are now living, having each from six to eight children. Many of these hold very distinguished commands throughout the provinces, and one of them is supposed to be destined by the government for the office of Dola of Mocha. Such extensive connections, in a country where the ties of kindred are held almost as sacred as in the patriarchal ages, render this chieftain very powerful, and give him an almost unlimited sway over the affairs of the country.
This sudden and important change of rulers was not however acknowledged at Mocha. Sultaun Hassan, a slave of the late vizier, had for an unusual length of time been Dola of this place, and for some years back had not only been very remiss in his returns of revenue to Sana, but, as was evident from his strengthening the fortifications, and building a new castellated house at the expense of forty thousand dollars, had entertained intentions of postponing the period of his return, and, if possible, of rendering himself independent. With such views, the deposition of his patron, and the accession of a more vigorous administration, were by no means consistent, and in consequence he openly refused, whilst the old Imaum should survive, to acknowledge any but his superior authority.
At this period, the struggle against the Wahabee and the necessity of strengthening himself in his government precluded Sydee Achmed from any active measure of resentment. In the mean time he was not remiss in preparing a force that might be ready to carry his future intentions into execution; and for this purpose five thousand men were raised under his orders by Ali Suad, the chief of Uddeen.
On the other side, Sultaun Hassan was equally alert, and in order to augment his force, raised about fifteen hundred Abada soldiers, by permission of Sultaun Hamed, in the territories of Aden. These troops, when joined to the troops before commanded by Sultaun Hassan, formed an army of about three thousand men, which in a fortified town, were likely to make a formidable resistance, against opponents who had no cannon to bring into the field. To support this force, he was under the necessity of raising contributions upon the merchants, by very unjustifiable means, against which, as far as the Banians under British protection were concerned, our resident, Captain Rudland, made a very spirited remonstrance, and this, as will always be the case, when urged with a due degree of firmness and temper, had a very sensible effect in restraining the Dola's injustice.
This uncertain state of affairs continued till September, when they were brought to a crisis by a strange concurrence of events, which in their progress strongly mark the anxious desire to avoid the shedding of blood, which characterises the natives of Yemen, except in those instances where personal resentment is concerned.
On September the 7th, the Vizier's brother, after several vain attempts to prevail upon the Dola to desist from measures hostile to the government, seized the opportunity, as he was taking refreshments in the evening, to give into the Dola's hands an order from the government to deliver up the command of Mocha to Syed Guderat, the Emir Muckatah, or commander of the troops. This dangerous commission was no sooner executed than he hastily withdrew; and as soon as the Dola saw the contents of the order, he called aloud to his soldiers to pursue the fugitive; but before they could overtake him he had, fortunately for himself, reached the Emir's house.
This officer on the following day went to the Dola, attended by an adequate guard, and officially required him to deliver up his charge. This the Dola still declined; and a reference was then made to the troops, to ascertain whose authority they would recognise; on this the old Mocha troops declared their acquiescence in the order from Sana, and in consequence delivered up the gates: the mercenary troops from Aden still remained attached to the Dola.
On the same day an attack was made by the latter on the Emir's house, to which it was proposed to set fire, but on the approach of the party, and on one of the soldiers being wounded, the intention was abandoned. Soon afterwards, an assembly of the principal men in the town took place, and with some difficulty a suspension of hostilities was agreed upon, till reference could again be made to Sana; and a tom-tom was sent round the town to promulgate this satisfactory intelligence among the inhabitants.
Though it may readily be conceived that so precarious a state of affairs rendered a residence at Mocha very unpleasant, yet it did not make so material an alteration in our situation at the factory as might have been expected. During a few days we were put to some inconvenience by the gates being shut, and all supplies of fruit, vegetables, and water, being denied; but as we were able to keep up an uninterrupted communication with the ship, we did not suffer from this privation in any degree, compared with what the inhabitants themselves endured. It was not indeed considered very safe to extend our walks through the town, and yet, though we still continued this practice, not a single insult or outrage occurred.
To add to the distresses of the Dola, a son of Sheriffe Hamood came down from Aboo Arish, early in October, to demand a sum of eight thousand dollars due to the government. A claim had been made some months before of four thousand, which having met with no attention, the government doubled the demand, and declared at the same time, that if it were not paid within a month, it should be augmented to sixteen thousand. To raise this money, the Dola went so far as to arrest all the hamauls, (porters) and keepers of coffee-houses; and he was actually brutal enough to keep some of these poor people, who had no money, in prison, until their friends came forward with the ransom required for their release.
As the period approached for the answer from Sana, considerable agitation prevailed in the town; wood, water, and provisions being laid in by the inhabitants as preparatory for a siege. Similar precautions were taken by Captain Rudland, but on the 31st of October all existing differences were unexpectedly put an end to, by accounts arriving from Sana of the death of the old Imaum, Ali el Mansoor. He died the 25th of October, at the age of eighty-five, after reigning thirty-five years; and his son Achmed then came into undisputed possession of the throne, on which occasion he assumed the title of "Sydee Achmed Ameer al Mookmun ul metwokkel Allah Rubbil Ailameen!"*
All pretext for disobedience being by this event removed, the Dola returned to his allegiance, and great rejoicings were made on account of the accession of the new sovereign. At my request Captain Weatherhead fired a royal salute from the Marian, which was returned by an equal number of guns from one of the forts in the town, and during this day and the three following, there was a continual firing of cannon and musquetry, with other tokens of festivity. The inhabitants were all dressed out in their holiday clothes, and a gaiety spread itself through the town that strongly confirms the remark made by Niebuhr, "que les Arabes d'Yemen sont plus vifs que ceux d'Hedjas et infiniment plus que les Turcs;" which indeed in its full extent is perfectly true.
A short time after this the Dola made his peace at court, and gradually dismissed his Abada troops, and thus with the loss I believe, of only one life, a rebellious commotion was terminated; that without much mutual forbearance, must have occasioned a most serious catastrophe.
The conduct of the young Imaum on his father's death was very conciliating to his subjects. A great portion of the taxes were in different provinces remitted for the ensuing year, all past offences forgiven, and liberal largesses distributed among his adherents, which served to give a very favourable impression both of his talents and his disposition, His whole behaviour indeed, throughout the arduous struggle in which he had been engaged, evidently evinced a superior degree of sagacity, and more judgment than might have been expected from the education which he had received; as Arabs of high rank, however important may be the situations they are destined to fill, are generally taught to place little reliance on their own abilities, and to trust too exclusively, perhaps, to the aid of providence for their support.
During our stay at Mocha I employed myself occasionally in gaining information respecting the countries of Efat and Hurrur, situated to the south-eastward of that portion of Abyssinia to which I was about to proceed, and the result of my enquiries proved even more interesting than I had reason to expect. Among the strangers resident at Mocha I met with a respectable old man, named Hadjee Abdelkauder, an inhabitant of Hurrur, then acting as commercial agent to the Sultaun of that country. This man was one of the best informed and most liberal-minded Mahomedans I have ever been acquainted with, though he did not appear to be particularly fitted for the situation he held, owing to his possessing a strange carelessness with respect to pecuniary concerns, very uncommon among his countrymen. He had read a great deal for an Arab. His powers of comprehension and personal activity were very extraordinary for his years, (which I conceive must have bordered on seventy) and there was besides a certain vivacity and drollery in his manner that rendered his conversation singularly agreeable. I once began a sketch of his features, but before it could be completed he found out my intention, and ran away, laughing and shaking his head, saying "he was too old and too ugly;" nor could he ever again be induced to sit quiet when he saw a pencil in my hand. At the time he became known to me he was suffering severely from ulcerations in his legs, a disease which very frequently occurs in this climate; but, by the daily use of a caustic application, which in the Red Sea is found to be extremely beneficial, he received so much relief that his gratitude became unbounded.
From this man, and another person named Hadjee Belal, who had also acted as a commercial agent to the Sultaun of Hurrur, and who afterwards attended me on my journey to Abyssinia, I learnt so many curious particulars respecting the natives of the former country, as well as of the Galla and other tribes in its neighbourhood, that I resolved, from repeated assurances of its practicability, to send a person into that part of Africa by the way of Zeyla. It was my intention that he should direct his way through Hurrur into Efat, and thence proceed, if it could be effected, to join me in the neighbourhood of Gondar or Antalo, as circumstances might direct, while I determined, if possible, to return by the same route.
I was enabled to execute the former part of this scheme without putting the government to any additional expense, through a power which the African Association vested in me to draw upon it for a sum not exceeding five hundred pounds, and fortunately, there was a young man named Stuart, on board the Marian, who had joined us at the Cape, who appeared to me well qualified for such an employment. I accordingly engaged him to undertake the enterprise, and drew up a detail of instructions for his guidance, which has since been approved of by the Society in a manner highly gratifying to my feelings.
On this occasion I addressed letters to the Sultaun of Hurrur and the Murd'azimaj of Efat, which were confided to Mr. Stuart's care. An Arab servant was engaged to attend him, (who spoke English very fluently) and they were supplied with every requisite for their journey out of my own store. It also happened at this time that Hadjee Abdelkauder himself was about to return, and he agreed, at my request, to take charge of the party on its way as far as Hurrur. The result of this expedition, and the information obtained in the course of it, will, for the sake of a clearer arrangement, be given to the reader on my return to Mocha.
As November passed away, and we received no intelligence respecting the messenger sent to Abyssinia, (excepting a report that Yunus Baralli had been imprisoned by the Nayib) I began to feel extremely impatient and somewhat alarmed, till at length, all my preparations being completed, and the Marian waiting my orders, I resolved at all hazard to pass over immediately to the African coast, where it was my intention to enter Abyssinia by the way of Amphila rather than by that of Massowa. To this determination I was led by the decided opinion of Captain Rudland on its eligibility, and my own experience of the difficulties attending the other route, which were not likely to have been decreased by the circumstance of a Turkish Aga being in command of the Island. The reasons which afterwards induced me to alter this determination will best appear in the regular narrative of subsequent transactions.
On December the 7th, we took leave of our friends at the factory, and went on board the Marian.
- Vide Beaulieu's Voyage to the East Indies.
- "The town of Brava makes a respectable appearance on the sea side, and on one of the small islands in front of it stands a light-house of a tolerable height. Its position is 1° 12′ and 44° 16′ east." (Captain Bissell's Journal.)
- My information is derived from a paper given me by Lord Caledon, from the journals of the Commanders of the Caledon and Racehorse, who visited Zanzebar in this same year; and from the accounts of two Arab traders who had frequented the islands.
- Agatharchidis quæ supersunt. Oxoniæ, 1597.
- A tolerably good specimen of this bird is to be seen in Mr. Bullock's valuable Museum.
- Vide Sir Home Popham's, Captain Bissell's, and Lord Valentia's remarks respecting these winds.
- These towers are said to exist in the interior of the kingdom of Butua, one hundred and sixty leagues west of Sofala, on the front of one of which is engraved an inscription in unknown characters. This account was received from the Moors, vide Joh. de Barros in Ramusio, Vol. I. p. 393; but the supposition of the inscription being placed there by the Kings of Axum, or of its having any relation to the Ophir of the Hebrews, as asserted by Marmol and other writers, appears to be entirely devoid of foundation.
- Tarshish is said by Mr. Bruce to have been mentioned in the Abyssinian chronicles as one of the districts opposed to Amda Sion: but as the whole of this king's expeditions certainly never extended above two hundred miles from Zeyla, very little importance can be attached to this remark, even if it be so mentioned, because it must have been in that case at least six hundred miles out of the scene of action. With respect to the rivers Yass and Aco, one actually lies to the north of Zeyla, and the other at no great distance, while in Mr. B.'s map they are carried ten degrees south of it!
- This is not the general map, but the particular one made to illustrate the course of Solomon's voyage to Ophir.
- The only mention of any thing like a building on this coast is to be found in Strabo, (L. xvi. p. 1114,) who places a column near the village of Δειρη, and attributes it to Sesostris. I made many enquiries on the subject, but never could learn the good tidings of any such column or other ruins being at present in existence.
- The public is greatly indebted to the relations of Mr. Bruce, and his publishers, for the very candid manner in which they have made known the important facts on which this testimony rests.
- An early description of this place is given by Ludovico Barthema, who was made captive by the Moors and sent up here in the year 1504. He calls it Laji. His narrative is very entertaining, and, I conceive, accurate, from his having given in the peculiar dialect of the country several of the conversations which took place, the greater part of which I have succeeded in making out, notwithstanding their being set down from the ear only in Roman characters, by which the words have been often strangely jumbled together. This dialect is supposed by the learned and indefatigable Niebuhr, to be more nearly related to that of the ancient Hamyarites, than any other now spoken in Arabia. Vide Itinerario di Ludovico di Barthema, stampato a Vinegia 1535. The same journal is given in Ramusio, but without the Arabic. Vide Vol. I. p. 154, et seq.
- The banks of rivers are in all countries the most productive part of the soil, and best adapted to afford comfortable residence to man. This is peculiarly the case in most parts of both Americas.
Note by the American Editor.
- I am informed that a very satisfactory explanation of the various effects of refraction has been given in the Philosophical Transactions by Dr. Wollaston.
- The real name of this chief was Abd' ul' Hukal; he was called Abu Nookta, or "Father blind-eye," from the loss of one of his eyes.
- Vide for the history of this family, Niebuhr, Description de l'Arabie, p. 170, et seq.
- The Arabs of Yemen are more lively than those of Hedjas, and infinitely more so than the Turks.