Page images
PDF
EPUB

serves, that he had not seen the narrative itself, but only that part of it which is contained in the Quarterly Review. We have turned to the Article in question, and though it does not bear the construction put upon it, yet, as we find it liable to be misunderstood, we consider it but just to the reputation of Adams, to take the blame to ourselves for any misunderstanding that may arise. Adams says that, at Tudenny, where there were four wells of excellent water, they remained fourteen days to recruit the strength of the ransomed Moors; that on setting out they loaded their four camels with water, dates, and four; that from thence they travelled, in one directioò, nine and twenty days across the Desert, without meeting with one human being; the whole way being a sandy plain, like a sea, without either tree, shrub, or grass ; that at the end of fourteen days, their stock of water began to run short; that, in six days after this, they arrived at a place where it was expected water would be found; but, to their great disappointment, owing to the dryness of the season, there was none; that, at this time, all their stock of water consisted of four goat skins, and those not full, holding from one to two gallons each--but that, as it was known they had yet ten days to travel before they could reckon on a supply, they mixed the remaining water with camel's urine, so as to give to each camel about a quart for the whole ten days, and for each man about half a pint a day. So that, in fact, the camels were only stinted for water the last ten days of the thirty.

But to return to Sidi Hamet. This Arab trader stated that, about ten years before, having married the daughter of Scheik Ali, he and his brother Seid were advised by him to join the caravan at Wed-noon for Tombuctoo ; that it consisted of three thousand camels and eight hundred men; the whole under the command of Scheik Ben Soleyman of Woldelein, (Woled d'leim ;) that having prepared the necessary quantity of charcoal, (for a purpose we shall notice presently,) they first crossed the hard level desert four days, then through the moving sand hills six days, and again over the bard naked surface ten days more, wben they reached the watering-place called Biblah, where they stopped seven days. Travelling from hence to the $. W. (it should be S. E.) twenty days, they came to the well called Kiber Jibil, but there was no water in it. They were therefore obliged to go six days towards the sea coast, till they came to a well whose water was very black and salt ; but there was nothing for the camels to eat, and they were obliged to give thein of the coals to eat, once a day, for many days; this kept them alive, but it made their milk almost as black as the coals themselves.' Feeding camels with charcoal is, we confess, perfectly new to us. At first we apprehended that it was either some mistake of Riley or an error of the press, and

that

that 'coals for the camels' meant coals carried by the camels' for dressing the men's victuals in the Desert, where nothing was to be had to kindle a fire; but he repeats it so frequently, and on the second journey observes that they cut wood and burned coals for the camels, for the caravans never attempt to cross the Desert without this article, that it will not admit of such an explanation. If we could conceive that the water in the living stomach of the camel was liable to become fetid, charcoal, being a well known sweetener of water, might be used to correct this tendency—but neither is this very probable; and we only regret that Mr. Riley has not thought fit to give any explanation of a fact of so novel and extraordinary a nature, in his tedious and unnecessary description of this useful animal. Can it be some particular plant, or part of some plant, which is merely roasted, as we are in the habit of roasting coffee? Something of this sort is the only rational suggestion we are able to form on the subject.* It was four moons before they had crossed the Desert and entered Soudan, in which time more than three hundred camels had died of hunger and fatigue, but not a single man. Two moons more brought them to Tonbuctoo. It was a year and a half before they again reached Wed-noon, having lost in the whole journey, or killed for food, about five hundred camels : thirty-four of the people together with about eighty slaves had died.

His second journey was far more disastrous. His brother and he again joined the great caravan at Wed-noon, consisting of more than one thousand men and four thousand camels, under the command of Sidi Ishrel, but the greater part belonging to the chief Sidi Ishem. They now went the direct course from the south point of Mount Atlas, the usual route of the Morocco caravans, having first cut wood and burned coals for the camels. For fifteen days they travelled over a smooth surface, so hard that not a track was to be seen, shaping their course by the sun and the stars. In one spot only were found shrubs sufficient to satisfy the appetite of the camels, but the wells were dry. At the end of fifteen days, however, they came to a fine deep valley, with twenty wells, of which six only had water in them; but there was sufficient to replenish their skinbags and to satisfy the camels. In three days more they came to drifts of fiue loose sand, among which they travelled other six days, when

Our conjecture was not far from the truth : since this Article went to the press, we have learned from Mr. Renshaw that the pulp of the argan olive, after the oil is ex. tracted, is formed into balls by the Arabs, after undergoing a sort of baking, and that these balls serve them for fuel in the Desert, and food for their camels. We recollect, indeed, that Ali Bey, and some other travellers, mention the pulp of the argan fruit as being good food for cattle. These balls, therefore, which we understand are as black as charcoal, are the food which Riley, through the medium of his Spanish interpreter, mistook for charcoal.

• There

*There began to-blow a fierce wind from the south-east, called the wind of the desert, (Shume,) bringing death and destruction with it; we could not advance nor retreat, so we took the loading from off our camels, and piled it in one great heap, and made the camels lie down. The dust flew so thick that we could not see each other nor our camels, and were scarcely able to breathe; so we lay down with our faces in the dust, and cried aloud with one voice to God—“Great and merciful God, spare our lives!" but the wind blew dreadfully for the space of two days, and we were obliged to move ourselves whenever the sand got so heavy on us that it shut out all the air, and prevented us from breathing; but at length it pleased the Most High to hear our supplications: the wind ceased to blow; all was still again; and we crawled out of the sand that had buried us for so long a time-but not all; for when the company was numbered, three hundred were missing. All that were left joined in thanks to God for his mercy in sparing our lives; we then proceeded to dig out the camels from the sand thai had buried their bodies, which, together with the re-loading of them, took us two days. About two hundred of them were dead—there was no green thing to be seen, and we were obliged to give the camels a little water from the skins to wash their parched throats, and some charcoal to eat: then we kept on twenty-four days as fast as we could through the dry, deep, and hot sand, without finding any green bushes worth noticing for our camels to eat, when we came to a famous valley and watering place, called Haherah.'

The camels were dying fast, and they had already been obliged to throw away the salt, which was the heavy part of their loading : the caravan was now reduced to about six hundred men and thirtyfive hundred camels. All authority was at an end. The Scheik proposed that all the camels, except three hundred, should be killed, that the water in their stomachs, together with their blood, might support the rest and the people, till by the aid of Providence they should find water. But when this advice was about to be carried into effect, a furious quarrel arose, and the Scheik, 'though a man of God,' was killed in a moment. Between two and three hundred are stated to have been butchered on that day, and the blood of the slain was drunk to allay the thirst of those who shed it.' Five hundred camels also were slain. Sidi Hamet, and his brother, who was wounded in the affray, killed four out of their six camels, and preserved their blood and the water in their stomachs for the other two; and, with about thirty of their friends, and thirtytwo camels, set off during the night. On the twelfth day the rain fell in torrents, but at this time they had only eighteen camels left, and nine of the people had died; and on coming to a negro town at the foot of the Desert called Wabill, on the bank of the river Wod Tenij, or, as the negroes call it, Gozen-zair, twelve camels only were remaining. The negroes treated them kindly when they learned their misfortunes and saw them unarmed; these harmless people live in little towns inclosed with fences of strong reeds, covered with clay. In ten days they reached Tombuctoo. Here

they

they waited two moons for the arrival of the rest of the caravan, but it came not-it had perished in the Desert.

The total destruction of those caravans is no unusual occurrence. Jackson mentions one from Tombuctoo to Tafilelt, in 1805, consisting of two thousand persons, and one thousand eight hundred camels, the whole of which perished in the Desert for want of water. These horrible catastrophes are sufficiently attested by the multitude of human bones, and those of camels and other animals, strewed on the Desert, but more particularly in the neighbourhood of the usual watering places.

We have before observed that Sidi Hamet's description of Tombuctoo agrees, in the main points, with that given by Adams; and he mentions a small river of brackish water running past it, which being dried up on one of their journeys, the Arabs were under the necessity of going to a large river to the southward of the town, and two hours distant from it, for water; this river was called Zolibib. This stream running past Tombuctoo to the westward, is mentioned by all travellers. Mr. Legh's friend states that his information gives it that direction; and Denon heard the same thing from the Nubian prince, brother to the king of Darfur. The population is stated to be negro for the most part; but negroes, and Arabs, and Moors, Sidi says, all mix together and marry with one another, as if they were all of one colour. He describes the chief, as · Adams did, to be a large, old, grey-headed negro, called Shegar, 'which means sultan, or king.' Adams, whose visit to Tombuctoo was not long subsequent to that of Sidi Hamet, calls this old chief, or king, Woollo; and in 1800, Jackson says, the name of the king was Woollo, and that he was also king of Bambarra ; this, if true, would not easily be reconciled with Park's account of Mansong being the name of the king of Bambarra, from 1795 to 1805, at both which times, having had communications with bim, Park could not well be mistaken. But it also appears from a note in Isaaco's Jour nal, that the name of Mansong's father was Woollo. The traveller before mentioned has explained these apparent contradictions: hy his inforniation Woollo is not a surname, but an epithet signifying 'great chief or commander,' which is a further testimony in favour of Adams's residence at Tombuctoo.

The king's dress, his ornaments, his turban, the loose shirt worn by the negroes, the dress of the women, their round hoop ear-rings, their necklaces, bracelets, &c. are described precisely as Adams has described them. Their manners also, and their amusements of dancing, their stained faces, the common practice of circumcision,

though not Moslemins, are all noticed, so that we entertain as little doubt of Sidi Hamet having been at Tombuctoo, as Adams—but we have our doubts, and very strong ones too, of the fidelity of Riley's edition of his narrative, through the medium of another Arab,

who

who spoke Spanish. This we regret the more, as we now approach the most curious and interesting part of Sidi Hamet's adventures, being his account of a journey to the south-east of Tombuctoo, over a country wholly new to Europeans, and to a city twice the size of Tombuctoo, whose name, we believe, was never before sounded in the ears of an European—the city of Wassanah,* situated on the Niger, about sixty days journey to the southward and eastward of Tombuctoo. Whether the details be true or false, is a poiut that must be decided hereafter; if they are not corroborated by any living or recorded evidence, we know of no living or recorded evidence, at least, to contradict them; and if any part of this curious narrative should be found to militate against received opinions, it must be recollected that those opinions rest on no better authority than the contradictory statements of Arab travellers, oftentimes collected at second hand or still more remote from the original source. In fact, we know not a step to the eastward and southward of Tombuctoo excepting from Moorish or Arab testimonies, no two of which exactly correspond; we consider, therefore, the story of Sidi Hamet just as good as any other Arab story; he is not an illiterate man, but writes his own language well, and is considered by Mr. Willshire among the most respectable of the Arabs of the Desert. Mr. Riley may not have been minutely accurate; but we see no reason whatever for discrediting the narrative of Sidi Hamet because he suppresses all mention of the Haoussa country, the Bahar Soudan, Kassina, Ghana, and the lakes and swamps of Wangara, whose positions, if they exist at all, are merely conjectural; in fact, by his account, their positions are not disturbed ; but are only cut off from any communication with the Niger by a chain of mountains in the east, which give a southerly direction to this mysterious stream.

The king of Tombuctoo being about to send a large caravan loaded with iron, salt, tobacco, &c. to trade with the king of Wassanah, in exchange for slaves, gold, elephants' teeth, &c. pressed Sidi Hamet and his brother Seid to accompany it with their two surviving camels, the negroes having few of these animals, but using asses chiefly as beasts of burden. The command of the caravan was entrusted to the king's brother, whose name was Shelbaa. They departed from Tombuctoo in the month of Shual. They first went to a small town of about two hundred houses on the banks of the Zolibib, at the distance of two hours from Tombuctoo, (Kabra ?) from thence over a plain even country for six days, the river on their right band, and every day in sight, running the same way they travelled, which was a little to the southward of east, when they came to a small town called Bimbinah. Here the

* We anticipate that Wassanah will be considered the same as Kassina; which, howcver, is impossible : for, in the first place, Kasina is to the northward of Kabra, and sccondly, forty leagues distant from ihe Niger.

« PreviousContinue »