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ENTRANCE INTO TIMBUKTU. 281
I therefore took the hint of A'lawate, who recommended me to make a start in advance, in order to anticipate the salute of these people who had come to meet us; and, putting my horse to a gallop, and gun in hand, I galloped up to meet them, when I was received with many salams. But a circumstance occurred which might have proved fatal, not only to my enterprise, but even to my own personal safety, as there was a man among the group who addressed me in Turkish, which I had almost entirely forgotten; so that I could with difficulty make a suitable answer to his compliment; but, avoiding farther indiscreet questions, I pushed on, in order to get under safe cover.
-Having then traversed the rubbish which has accumulated round the ruined clay wall of the town, and left on one side a row of dirty reed huts which encompass the whole of the place, we entered the narrow streets and lanes, or, as the people of Timbuktu say, the tijeraten, which scarcely allowed two horses to proceed abreast. But I was not a little surprised at the populous and wealthy character which this quarter of the town, the SaneGungu, exhibited, many of the houses rising to the height of two stories, and in their facade evincing even an attempt at architectural adornment. Thus, taking a more westerly turn, and followed by a numerous troop of people, we passed the house of the Sheikh El Bakay, where I was desired to fire a pistol; but as I had all my arms loaded with ball, I prudently declined to do so, and left it to one of my people to do honor to the house of our host. We thus reached the house on the other side of the street, which was destined for my residence, and I was glad when I found myself safely in my new quarters.
But before describing my residence in this town, I shall make a few general remarks with regard to the history of Songhay and Timbuktu.
General Observations On The History Of Songhay And
Previously to my journey into the region of the Niger, scarcely any data were known with regard to the history of this wide and important tract, except a few isolated facts, elicited with great intelligence and research by Mr. Cooley* from El Bekrf, the history of Ebn Khaldun, the obscure and confused report of Leo about the great Ischia, and the barren statement of the conquest of Timbuktu and Gagho, or Gogo, by Mulay A'hmed el Dhdhebi, as mentioned by some historians of Morocco and Spain. But I myself was so successful as to have an opportunity of perusing a complete history of the kingdom of Songhay, from the very-dawn of historical records down to the year 1640 of our era; although, unfortunately, circumstances prevented my bringing back a complete copy of this manuscript, which forms a respectable quarto volume, and I was only able, during the few days that I had this manuscript in my hands during my stay in Gand6, to make short extracts of those passages from its contents which I thought of the highest interest in an historical and geographical point of view.
These annals, according to the universal statement of the learned people of Negroland, were written by a distinguished person of the name of A'hmed Baba, although in the work itself that individual is only spoken of in the third person; and it would seem that additions had been made to the book by another hand; but on this point I can not speak with certainty, as I had not sufficient time to read over the latter portion of the work with the necessary attention and care. As for A'hmed Baba, wc know from other interesting documents which have lately come to light, f that he was a man of great learning, considering the country in which he was born, having composed a good many books or essays, and instructed a considerable number of pupils. Moreover, we learn that he was a man of the highest respectability, so that even after he had been carried away prisoner by the victorious army of Mulay A'hmed el Dhehcbi, his very enemies treated him with the greatest respect, and the inhabitants of Morocco, in general, regarded him with the highest veneration.:}:
This character of the author would alone be sufficient to guarantee the trustworthiness of his history, as far as he was able to go back into the past with any degree of accuracy, from the oral
* Cooley, "Negroland of the Arabs."
t Revue Africaine, vol. i., p. 287, "Conquetc da Soudan par lea Marocains," par le Baron Macpuckin do Slane. Journal Asiatiquc, 1855, "Literature du Soudan," par M. lc Professor Cherbonneau.
J This character is most Htrikintrly indicated in those very remarks which M. le Baron de Slane has published in the notice (see preceding note) which was intended to depreciate the m?rit of A'hmed Baba as a historian.
A'HMED BA'BA' THE HISTORIAN. 283
traditions of the people or from written documents of an older period: for that the beginning of his annals, like that of every other nation, should be enveloped in a certain degree of mystery and uncertainty is very natural, and our author himself is prudent enough to pass over the earlier part in the most rapid and cursory manner, only mentioning the mere name of each king, except that he states the prominent facts with regard to the founder of each dynasty. Nay, even what he says of the founder of the dynasty of the Za, allowance being made for the absurd interpretation of names, which is usual with Arabs and Orientals in general, and also the particulars which he gives with regard to Kilun, or Kilnu, founder of the dynasty of the Sonni,* are very characteristic, and certainly true in the main. For there is no doubt that the founder of the first dynasty immigrated from a foreign country—a circumstance which is confirmed by other accounts—and nothing is more probable than that he abolished the most striking features of pagan superstition, namely, the worship of a peculiar kind of fish, which was probably the famous ayii, or Manalus, of which I have spoken on a former occasion,! and of whose habitat in the waters of the Niger I shall say more farther on; while 'All Killun succeeded in usurping the royal power by liberating his country from the sovereignty of the kings of Melle, who had conquered Songhay about the middle of the fourteenth century. 'Nor can there be any doubt of the truth of the statement that ZaKasi, the fifteenth king of the dynasty of the Za, about the year 400 of the Hejra, or in the beginning of the eleventh century of our era, embraced Islam, and was the first Mohammedan king of Songhay. No man who studies impartially those very extracts which I have been able to make from the manuscript, in great haste and under the most unfavorable circumstances, and which were translated and published in the journal of the Leipsic Oriental Society:}: by Mr. Ralfe, can deny that they contain a vast amount of valuable information. But the knowledge which Europeans possessed of those countries, before my discoveries, was so limited as to render the greater part of the contents of my extracts, which are intimately related to localities formerly entirely unknown, or in connection with historical facts not better ascertained, difficult of comprehension. But with the light
* According to Leo, this dynasty emigrated from Libya.
t Vol. ii., p. 193.
I Journal of the Leipsic Oriental Society, vol. ix., p. SI 8.