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Chap. LIII. CHARACTER OF THE KOMA'DUGU.
partridges, would prove worthy of his attention, while occasional encounters with monkeys would cause him some diversion and amusement.
At present the water was decreasing rapidly * ; but this part had been entirely dry at the beginning of September, when the late Mr. Overweg had visited it, and the conclusion then drawn by him, that the river inundates its banks in November, was entirely confirmed by my own experience. There was a great deal of cultivation along this luxuriant border, and even a little cotton was grown; but a very large amount of the latter article might be obtained here with a greater degree of industry. Besides a village at a short distance to the S.E., inhabited by Koyám, and which bears the same name as this branch of the river, there is a hamlet, consisting of about thirty cottages, inhabited by Fülbe, or Felláta, of the tribe of the Hillega, the same tribe whom we have met in A'damáwa. They seemed to possess a considerable number of cattle, and appeared to lead a contented and retired life in this fertile but at present almost desolate region. But, unfortunately, they have been induced, by their close contact with the Kanúri, to give up the nice manner of preparing their milk which so distinguishes the Fülbe in other provinces ; and even the cheerful way in which the women offered us their ware could not induce me to purchase of them
* Compare what I have said with regard to the periods of the rising and decreasing of this river in Vol. III. p. 474.
their unclean species of sour milk, which is prepared by means of the urine of cattle.
Beautiful and rich as was the scenery of this locality, it had the disadvantage of harbouring immense swarms of mosquitoes; and our night's rest, in consequence, was greatly disturbed.
Thursday, ' Winding round the swamp (for the naDecember 2nd. ture of a swamp or kulúgu was more apparent, at present, than that of a branch of the river), we reached, after a march of about three miles, the site of the ancient capital of the Bórnu empire, Ghasr-eggomo, which, as I have stated on a former occasion *, was built by the king ‘Ali Ghajidéni, towards the end of the fifteenth century, after the dynasty had been driven from its ancient seats in Kánem, and, after a desperate struggle between unsettled elements, began to concentrate itself under the powerful rule of this mighty king. The site was visited by the members of the former expedition, and it has been called by them by the half-Arabic name of Birni-Kadím, the " old capital," — even the Bórnu people in general designating the place only by the name birni, or burni. The town had nearly a regular oval shape, but, notwithstanding the great exaggerations of former Arab informants, who have asserted that this town surpassed Cairo (or Masr el Káhira) in size, and was a day's march across, was little more than six English miles in circumference, being encoin
* Vol. II. p. 644.
passed by a strong wall, with six or seven * gates; which, in its present dilapidated state, forms a small ridge, and seems clearly to indicate that, when the town was conquered by the Fúlbe or Felláta, the attack was made from two different sides, viz., the south-west and north-west, where the lower part of the wall had been dug away. The interior of the town exhibits very little that is remarkable. The principal buildings consist of baked bricks; and in the present capital not the smallest approach is made to this more solid mode of architecture. † The dimensions of the palace appear to have been very large, although nothing but the ground plan of large einpty areas can be made out at present, while the very small dimensions of the mosque, which had five aisles, seem to afford sufficient proof that none but the people intimately connected with the court used to attend the service, just as is the case at the present time; and it serves, moreover, clearly to establish the fact that even in former times, when the empire was most flourishing, there was no such thing as a médresé,
* The intelligent Arab Ben 'Alí, in the interesting account which he gave to Lucas (Proceedings of the African Association, vol. i. p. 148), distinctly states the number of gates as seven ; but it is remarkable that, in all the accounts of the taking of the place by the Fúlbe, mention is only made of two gates, and it is still evident, at the present time, that the western and the eastern gates were the only large ones.
† It must be this circumstance (which to the natives themselves, in the degenerate age of their later kings, appeared as a miracle) which caused the report that in Ghámbarú and Ghasr-eggomo there were buildings of the time of the Christians.
or college, attached to the mosque. The fact is, that although Bórnu at all times has had some learned
men, study has always been a private affair, amongst a few individuals, encouraged by some distinguished men who had visited Egypt and Arabia. Taking into consideration the great extent of the empire during the period of its grandeur, and the fertility and wealth of some of its provinces, which caused gold dust at that time to be brought to market here in considerable quantity, it cannot be doubted that this capital contained a great deal of barbaric magnificence, and even a certain degree of civilization, much more so than is at present to be found in this country; and it is certainly a speculation not devoid of interest to imagine, in this town of Negroland, a splendid court,
with a considerable number of learned and intelligent men gathering round their sovereign, and a priest writing down the history of the glorious achievements of his master, and thus securing them from oblivion. Pity that he was not aware that his work might fall into the hands of people from quite another part of the world, and of so different a stage of civilization, language, and learning! else he would certainly not have failed to have given to posterity a more distinct clue to the chronology of the history of his native country.
It is remarkable that the area of the town, although thickly overgrown with rank grass, is quite bare of trees, while the wall is closely hemmed in by a dense forest; and when I entered the ruins, I found them to be the haunt of a couple of tall ostriches, the only present possessors of this once animated ground: but on the south-west corner, at some distance from the wall, there was a small hamlet.
The way in which the komádugu, assisted probably by artificial means, spreads over this whole region is very remarkable. The passage of the country at the present season of the year, covered as it is with the thickest forest, was extremely difficult, and we had to make a very large circuit in order to reach the village of Zéngirí, where the river could be most easily crossed. I myself went, on this occasion, as far south-west as Zaraima, a village lying on a steep bank near a very strong bend or elbow of the river, which, a little above, seems to be formed by the