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Bedouin tribes of the Euphrates online

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across, but that Siiliman was anxious to show us a mare there
which had a great reputation ; and we were a little curious to see
the place nearer. We left our horses with one of the Zaptiehs,
and were ferried to the opposite shore in an unwieldy boat, some-
thing like a Noah's ark cut in two. The Euphrates is about a
quarter of a mile wide at this point, and there is a sloping beach
on either shore, which is unusual on the river. I thought I should
have had to walk up to the town but Siiliman, in the high-handed'
way common to Zaptiehs, took possession of a mare and foal teth-

* Three of these lions were shot from the English steamer which plies be-
tween Bagdad and Bussora, only three years since. One of them, when wound-
ed, charged into the water, and attempted to board the boat. This happened on
a part of the Tigris where there is no jungle.


ered hard by, and impressed her into our service. Wilfrid walked,

and shot a good many francolins, which abound here. Mr. S

rode the sergeant's horse, which he had managed to bring over
with him in the boat. There is some cultivation here, and we met
a number of Arabs, men and women, on their way to the ferry ;
the former I thought very good-looking, with regular features, and
teeth dazzlingly white. The women, who were driving donkeys
before them loaded with brushwood, and looking at a distance ex-
actly like porcupines, stopped us to ask news of the war. "El
Sultan mansurT' ("Is the Sultan victorious?") " Shueya" we an-
swered (" Not very ") ; and they burst into roars of laughter. The
fact is, there is little love lost here between the Arabs and the
Turks. This was when Suliman was out of hearing, or we should
have said " Inshallah," the proper way of turning an indiscreet

Rakka was a Saracenic town, built, it is said, by the Caliph
Haroun al Rashid as a summer residence. The walls only of the
city are standing, with two gates, in what we call the Moorish style
of architecture that is to say, they are built of brick, ingeniously
and fantastically arranged about a horseshoe arch.* They are
crumbling away at the base. All ruins seem to perish in this way,
like trees, at the root, I hardly know why.

We were disappointed at finding no houses within the walls
nothing but a few tents. The Kaimakam received us with much
formality, and the usual cups of coffee, and a narghileh for Mr.

S , who conversed with him in Turkish. He was a little man,

in a loose, wadded smoking-coat and worked slippers, European
trousers, and a fez. He had a fair complexion and rusty beard,
untrimmed and very dirty. He seemed stupid, and, like all the
Turks in this country, supremely wretched. A little bright-eyed
secretary, probably a Greek, explained to him all he was too slow
to understand ; for the talk was of politics and the war. After
this he took us out to see the mare which had been sent for, a

* Zengui, son of Ak Sonkor, assassinated before Jaber, was buried at Rakka.



Seglawfeh Jedran, own sister, they told us, to a celebrated horse
we had seen at Aleppo. She was a handsome bay, but without
action, and her hocks were badly capped. We had thought of
exchanging the Maneghieh with the sore back for her, but the
negotiation did not proceed far. Some other mares were then
driven in from below the town, and came galloping up, headed
by a little wahash, or wild ass, which had been caught as a foal.
It was now a year old, and seemed tame enough till touched ; then
it lashed out furiously. In color it was ruddy, with a broad dark
line down the back. It had short ears, a drooping hind-quarter,
and legs like a deer. The Kaimakam complained of its mischiev-
ous disposition, and of a trick it had of biting the tails of the
mares it was with. We asked for news of Jedaan and the Anazeh,
but nobody could give us any information ; so we wished the of-
ficial and his friends good-bye, and departed the way we had come.
Once over the ferry, we had a long gallop to find our caravan,
which had stopped at some tents on the plain opposite Rakka.

January i^t/i. Hagar, who is generally " as good as gold,"
played us a trick this morning after she was saddled by galloping
off to some mares, which were grazing on the plain half a mile
from where we had camped. It was a brisk morning, and I sup-
pose she wanted to warm her limbs, poor thing ; besides, she had
had a good feed of barley overnight, instead of the usual millet.
Sill i man and I set off in pursuit, but she would not let him get
near her, and I had a good deal of cantering about too before
I could persuade her to let me take the rein. This delayed us,
and we made but a short day's journey, nothing more remarkable
occurring than a successful stalk of pigeons, which brought eight
to the bag at a double shot. We are of necessity "pot-hunters,"
and Wilfrid has no cartridges to waste on fancy shooting. It was
a desolate day's ride, or else the sameness of the river scenery is
beginning to tell on us ; and we have been glad to stop at the first
pleasant spot we came to early in the afternoon. This is a little
different from the camps we have chosen, or had to choose, lately.
The cliffs on the side of the valley here give place to green slopes


not unlike downs ; and in the hollows of these, a little way back
from the river, we found a camp of Subkha Arabs, with their flock
of lambs, which never goes far from the tents, in a circular depres-
sion, well sheltered from the wind and green as a spinach bowl.
Here we have stopped, and laid our beds out on the slope, where
they look most comfortable. Wilfrid is off, as usual, to the river
and the tamarisk woods, where he likes to wander till it is dark.
I have asked him to write a description of one of these woods. It
is as follows :

"The tamarisks are about as high as a ten years' growth of
alder copse in England, and stand about as close together. They
are generally open at the stem, so that you can make your way
through them with a little stooping. There are paths, too, made
by the wild boars, which it is easy to follow; and the ground is
clear of rubbish, so that you need make no noise in walking. It is
as well, before plunging in, to take your bearings by sun or wind,
as the jungle is lower than the surrounding land, marking, in fact,
the high-water level of the river in times of flood ; and you cannot
often see more than a few yards before you. The boughs above
are thick with magpies' nests, the accumulation of years, and their
owners chatter and scream at you as you pass. You go forward
cautiously, recollecting the wild-beast stories the Arabs told you,
and at which you laughed a little while ago. Now the snapping
of a twig makes you look quickly round, half expecting to see the
quiet eyes of a lion glaring at you through the underwood. But
this is soon forgotten ; for you hear birds calling about fifty yards
in front of you, apparently from the trees. The francolins are just
beginning to roost, and you stop and listen till they call again. A
bird seems close to you, and yet you cannot see him ; and at last
he flutters clown from a great thicket where he had his perch, and
is hidden again before you can get your gun to your shoulder.
While you are looking into the tangled mass of brambles and
honeysuckles around you, out jumps a pig with a great rush, and
you fire without seeing him. It is just as well to miss, for if you
chance to wound him, and he turns, he has you here at his mercy.


Your shot, however, has probably flushed the francolin, and you
get a snap shot at him as he rises. You wander on and on, still
lured by the expectation of something new ; and following a fairly
straight track, well trodden by the feet of pigs, you come suddenly
on the river flowing silently and swiftly, a mass of turbid water,
some dozen feet below you. There you see geese, if there happens
to be a bit of backwater, or maybe a pelican. You are glad, at
any rate, to correct your dead-reckoning here by a look at the open
sky ; and you generally find that you are considerably out. But
the sun has set, and it is time to go home, in as straight a line as
you can keep. The jackals are beginning their whining chorus ;
and far away across the river you hear a roar. Is it a lion or a
camel ? Most probably the latter. On your way back, you come
to an opening, cut by the Arabs for firewood, and sit down to take
breath. A bird flits noiselessly past you, and alights on the ground
almost at your feet. It is joined presently by another, and, for an
instant, you think they must be owls. You jump to your feet and
fire. They are woodcocks. You wait for another flight, but can-
not wait long, for it is getting dark. You are afraid now of being
benighted, and stumble back through the wood as fast as you can,
coming now and then upon a jackal slinking across the path.
You look with some anxiety for the watch-fire your friends will
have lighted on some high ground to guide you back. The moon
begins to show, and by its light, just as you are at the edge of the
wood, you perceive, walking parallel with you, and apparently in-
tent on cutting you ofT from the open ground, a gaunt, red beast,
moving swiftly through the trees. Your heart jumps to your
mouth, as it stops with a loud, impatient roar, and you feel that
you have been a fool to stay out so late only an instant, and it
moves on, and you recognize a belated cow hurrying back to her
calf, tied up since morning in the camp where you have stopped.
So, as romance writers say, you ' breathe once more,' and follow
her. Then, in another minute, you are emptying your pockets,
amidst the * mashallahs' of Hanna, Jurgy, and your other friends."
January i^th. In the middle of the night we were woke by a


startling clap of thunder just over our heads, and by the horses
breaking loose and careering wildly about. Another flash and a
clap, almost together, sent Hagar right over us ; and it is lucky
nobody was hurt. Then the rain came down. We thought we
were in for a regular ducking, but fortunately it did not last long
enough to wet us through, and we slept on again quietly till morn-
ing. We resolved, however, to take this as a warning, and to pitch
our tents for the future. They will save us, at least, from the
heavy dews, which are almost as bad as rain.

At daybreak we heard cries and lamentations in the Subkha
camp. A man had died in the night, and they were taking him to
the top of the hill to bury him. We asked how old he was. They
said " His beard was not yet white."

This has been a short day's journey ; a good deal of time wasted
stalking red geese, only one of which was bagged. While waiting
for the bird to be blown on shore (for it fell into the river) I saw
three enormous wild boars on the opposite bank, up which they
presently scrambled and disappeared in the tarfa. About mid-day
we came to some lagoons, or perhaps inlets from the river, quite
covered with ducks and coots ; and, seeing this, we agreed to halt
for the day. We have been very busy putting up the tents. Ours
looks very comfortable, with its red lining, and the prospect of
sleeping in it seems an unheard-of luxury after all these nights
spent out-of-doors. It is just as well, though, for the sky is very*
threatening, and it is very cold. Wilfrid came back from explor-
ing the lagoons and a peninsula beyond them, with ducks and
woodcocks, and is so pleased with the place that we are to stay
here the whole of to-morrow. \Ve saw a good-looking mare to-day
hobbled, some way from any tents. She has probably been left,
on account of some defect, by the Anazeh, when they went south.
They often do this, it appears, if for any reason their mares cannot
travel, giving part ownership in them to some Subkha, We'ldi, or
other low Arabs. The new owner has a right to the first filly born.
This mare was very like an English hunter, but \yith a better head.
She may have been fifteen hands high.


January i6th. A nice quiet day, in spite of the high wind
blowing. Wilfrid out shooting most of the time. I give his bag
nine francolins, one duck, one teal, one pochard, and three wood-
pigeons. He also saw a couple of wolves, and an infinite number
of water-fowl, but had more walking than shooting. However, our
kitchen is now in fine order. Hanna has turned out to be a capi-
tal cook, and he is very careful of the provisions given him. Our
Aleppo bread still holds out well, and is eatable enough when
toasted. We had it baked hard, to start with, which is the best

I forgot to say that yesterday we passed the graves of two Ger-
mans, murdered four years ago on their way up from Bagdad to
Aleppo. They had started, we were told, without any baggage, but
were well mounted. The people of Deyr, desirous to get their
mares, followed them when they had passed through the town, and
waylaid them. I suppose they made some resistance ; anyhow,
here by the wayside their journey ended, and their lives.

I woke in the night, hearing a sound of lapping in the tent, and
found a four-footed animal close to my pillow, with its nose in the
milk-pail. I had no time to think what it was, but caught it by
the hind legs and drove it out. Some think it was a jackal, others
a dog.

January \^th. A wild morning; flights of geese passing over-
*head at daybreak, and immense flocks of rooks and jackdaws,
wheeling and clamoring, as they do in England before a storm.
We were half inclined to put off our journey again, especially when
rain began to fall ; but the tents were soon down, and we started,
wrapped in our thickest cloaks and overcoats. The road to-day
led up the cliffs, and over a long tract of desert, across which the
wind blew pitilessly, and presently it began to snow so thickly that
we could only see a hundred yards or so in front of us. The wind
was fortunately at our back. There was no track visible, and it
seemed doubtful whether any of the party knew the right direc-
tion ; but we came upon a shepherd who put us right, and by
degrees the storm abated, and before mid-day the sun struggled


out, and then we got down into the valley again, and halted some
minutes under the lee of the cliffs. However, it was no use stop-
ping, as we hope to get to Deyr to-morrow ; and we pushed on all
day till near sunset, when we came to a ruined wall at the edge
of a tamarisk- wood, where there w.ere some tents, and a flock of
kids feeding under shelter of the wall. We were soon busy mak-
ing a fire, and warming at least our fingers, if no more. I don't
think I ever remember such a piercing wind, except, perhaps, when
we were snowed up on the Shdtt el Sherghi, in Algeria, four years
ago. It was quite dark before the katterjis arrived, and we were
frozen to the bones. Now we have got the tents up, and are out
of the wind. There is nothing so snug as a tent in windy weath-
er, for there are no draughts. It is nearly full moon, and the sky
is clear. The tent is already frozen stiff: so are my hands.

-January i8t/i. The water in the pail under the eaves of the
tent had an inch of ice on it this morning; and a rope, which had
given way during the night, still stuck out straight and stiff where
it had broken. Hanna has enlivened the morning by a little
theatrical scene about a piece of cord, secreted by some of the
Arabs who have supplied us with milk. These are Aghedaar,
another low tribe ; and small thefts must, I suppose, be expected.
However, Hanna insisted upon the lost article being restored, and

appealed to Mr. S . Seeing that the matter was becoming

serious, the Aghedaat began to accuse each other, and at last gave
up two men as the culprits, and with them the lost cord. It was
amusing to hear Hanna lecturing these poor thieves on the folly
and wickedness of their conduct, and to see him theatrically fasten-
ing horse-hobbles to their ancles. Siiliman, more practically in-
clined, gave each a sound box on the ear, and there the matter

These Aghedaat, it appears, have some good mares, which they
get from the Anazeh ; and there had been some talk overnight
about an extraordinary horse of the Maneghi Hddruj breed to be
seen somewhere in the neighborhood ; so when, shortly after start-
ing, we met some men who offered to take us to see this beast, we


readily agreed to go with them. The Maneghi breed, though
much esteemed, is not usually handsome ; but this they declared
was an exception. "Maneghi ibn Sbe'yel "* they kept on repeating,
in a tone of tenderness, and as if tasting the flavor of each sylla-
ble ; for the reverence of blood here amounts to fanaticism. We
turned out of the track, and went for a mile or so through brush-
wood, coming at last to an open space where some women were
rolling up a tent they had just pulled down. The "goodman"
was away, they said, on his horse, gone to borrow donkeys to move
his camp with to fresh quarters. A horse of the Maneghi's no-
bility could not, of course, be used for baggage purposes. We had
hardly done talking when Mohammed appeared, driving half a
dozen asses in front of him, and mounted on a meek-looking lit-
tle black pony, all mane and tail. This was the celebrated sire of
which we had heard so much ; and I feel sure that the people
about had a real belief in his good qualities, and could not under-
stand why we should find fault, merely on account of his looks,
with an animal so nobly bred. We did not stop long, but, excus-
ing ourselves for our lack of enthusiasm by saying that black was
not our lucky color, we departed.

We were now determined to reach Deyr to-day, so, leaving the
baggage to follow, and sending Siiliman forward to announce our
arrival, we pushed on. It seemed a long way, to our impatience ;
but at last, from some rising ground, we caught sight of a point on
the horizon which we knew must be the minaret of Deyr. A little
later, we met three travellers, merchants of Bagdad the only way-
farers, except AH Beg, whom we had met with in our ten days' ride
who told us the town was close at hand. Then, as we were cross-
ing a little plain, behold a cavalcade of horsemen advancing to-
ward us, and in their front an elegant young gentleman in Euro-
pean clothes, who introduced himself as the Pasha's secretary, and
delivered a polite message from his master entreating us to honor

* Ibn Sbeyel, of the Gomussa, a tribe of Sebaa Anazeh, possesses the most
esteemed strain of Maneghi Hedruj.


him with our company at the Serai, where the oxen and fallings
had been killed for us, and all things were ready. This we were
not at all prepared for, and we at first hoped that some com-
promise might be come to in the way of pitching our tents in the
Pasha's neighborhood ; but the young man was inexorable, and
would hear of nothing less than an unconditional acceptance. So
we consented, and Wilfrid, rising to the dignity of the occasion,
assumed all possible gravity in answering the salute of the fifteen
men, who represent the military force of the Pashalik, drawn up-by
the roadside in our honor. Next, a deputation of the principal
townsmen, on their best horses, and, in fact, everybody who could
get up a four-footed beast, came out to escort us to the town, form-
ing a cavalcade of some forty or fifty horsemen. These from time
to time, and instigated by the young man who again led the way
on his sorry nag, with his trousers much tucked up, and showing
a pair of neat "side-spring boots," started to perform ihe fantasia,
the common form of polite welcome among Turks and Arabs
alike. This I need not describe. Lastly, at the first house of the
town, mounted on a handsome black mule with trappings and
tassels of black and gold, and attended by half a dozen servants,
stood His Excellency Hiiseyn Pasha, waiting in state to receive
us. There was no refusing such noble offers of entertainment, so
we are now at the Serai, not altogether loath, after all, to exchange
our rough life out-of-doors for clean rooms with carpets spread,
and, oh luxury! in an inner chamber the paraphernalia of an
almost Christian bed !



" This accident may, at least, serve as a warning for us all to let well alone."

Huseyn Pasha's Paternal Government. The Ottoman Policy in the Desert.
" Divide et Impera." We are placed under Surveillance, and hospitably
thwarted in our Design of visiting the Anazeh. Deyr, the best Market for
pure Arabian Horses. First Talk of the Shammar. Their Hero, Abd ul
Kerim, his Adventures and Death. They threaten Deyr. A dishonest Zap-
tieh. I fall into a Well, and am Rescued. We depart for Bagdad.

HUSEYN PASHA, Governor of Deyr, is a man of fifty or there-
abouts, with a dignified exterior, and decidedly handsome features,
in spite of a grizzled beard, and of the inevitable button which af-
flicts all faces in these regions. He is an Aleppine by birth, and
in sympathy is an Arab rather than a Turk, being only Ottoman
in so far as he represents the traditional policy of the empire by
paternally misgoverning his province. I do not say this to his dis-
credit, for I believe him to be as honest an official as can be found
between Aleppo and Biissora ; but the Turkish Government has
never sanctioned any other system of administration in Arabia
than one of oppression toward the weak and deceit toward the
strong. This Huseyn loyally carries out. In manner he has all
the courtesy of the Turk joined to something of the Arab frank-
ness, which impressed us very favorably, and made us hesitated n
the final adoption of a title for him which more than once suggest-
ed itself to us that of the faux bonhomme. I am still ashamed to
say anything but what is good of a host so hospitable, and a pro-
tector so lavish of kind protestations as was this amiable muteshe-
rif; and, if it were possible to dissociate his early reception of us
from the tiresome insincerity of his subsequent behavior, I should
say that he was one of the best and kindest friends we met with


on our travels. A disagreeable suspicion, however, recurs, as I
write, that from the first his hospitality was not altogether without
motive. I sometimes fancy that, even before our arrival at Deyr,
he must have had notice of the object of our journey, and received
a hint to throw pleasant obstacles in our way; and that, bein"- a
shrewd man, as Orientals are shrewd, he had resolved on a little
plan of action which should load us with civilities and polite at-
tentions from the outset, and conduct us in the end with all honor
and despatch to the nearest point of his frontier. Nor is this

The Turkish Government has always been very jealous of for-
eign intrigues among the Bedouin tribes, whom it is their policy to
keep as children in ignorance of all that passes in the outer world.
It has equally been their policy to sow dissensions among them ;
and, as I have already described, by good fortune or good manage-
ment, the most dangerous tribes were this winter hotly engaged in
civil war. It would be a pity, the authorities doubtless thought,
that so satisfactory a state of things should be interfered with
by mere busybodies from Europe, who might possibly inform the
Bedouins of the ill turn things had taken for the Sultan in Bulga-
ria, and of the denuded state of the garrison towns and military
roads of Syria. " Divide and rule," was an excellent motto ; and
Europeans had before now attempted to unite the tribes against
Ottoman rule, or patch up peaces between them out of foolish hu-
manitarian motives. Moreover, any clay might bring the news of
a crisis in the affairs of the empire ; and England was known to
have her eye on the Euphrates. What, then, more likely than that
ours should be a semi-official mission, to spy out the nakedness of
the land ? A British consul would hardly have come so far from

his post without political motive; and Mr. S was with us.

Hiiseyn, wise in his generation, may well have argued in this way.
Only he would have been wiser still if he could have guessed that
honesty in dealing with us would be the best policy, and that by
sending us, under pledge of silence, to the Arabs he would have
gained all his object. The details of his plan, if plan there was,


were ably carried out. His hospitality was absolute and complete

Online LibraryAnne BluntBedouin tribes of the Euphrates → online text (page 7 of 38)