Richard Lepsius.

Letters from Egypt, Ethiopia, and the peninsula of Sinai online

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have peculiar words for all native animals, tame and wild ;
Arabic words for everything connected with house-building,
and even navigation ; it is only the boat they themselves call
Icuh, which, most likely, has nothing to do with the Arabic
inerkab. They have only one word — heti (fenti) — for the
date-fruit and the date-tree, which are expressed by different
terms in Arabic — hellah and nacliele. The sycamore-tree they
call by an Arabic name; but it is remarkable, that they
designate the sont (acacia) tree by the same word as tree
generally — g'uui. Spirit, God, slave, the ideas of relation-
ship, the different parts of the body, weapons, the produce
of the field, and all that belongs to the preparation of bread,
have Nubian names ; on the other hand, servant, friend,
enemy, temple, to pray, believe, read, is Arabic. It is
striking that they have special words for writing, and book ;
but not for style, ink, paper, letter. They call aU the
metals by Arabic names, with the exception of iron. Tliey
are rich, in the Berber tongue ; jooor, in Arabic ; and, in
fact, they are all rich in their miserable home, which they
cling to like the Swiss, and, devoid of wants, they despise
the Arabic gold, which they might earn in Egypt, where
their services are much sought for, as bouse watchmen, and
in all confidential posts.

We are now waiting for the arrival of the camels, to com-
mence our desert journey. TiU we reach Abu Hammed,
eight days hence, we shall only once find water fit to drink.
We shall travel four days longer on camels, as far as Berber ;
there, by the arrangement of Achmed Pascha, we shaU. find
boats ready for us. We must go to Kartum, to supply
ourselves again with provisions ; if we may believe Linant, to


go still higlier up as far as Abu Haras, and thence to Han-
dera, in the eastern desert, will scarcely repay us; but
Achmed Pasclia has promised to send an officer to Maudera,
to test once more the statements of the natives.

I shall send this report, with other letters, by an express
messenger to Qeneh.


Korusko, the 5th January, 1844.
It is with no small regret that I have to inform you that
we shall, perhaps, be compelled to give up our Ethiopian
journey, the second principal task of our expedition, and
return to the north from this spot. "We have waited, in
vain, since the 17th November for the camels, always pro-
mised, but never appearing, that were to take us to Berber,
and we have still no more prospect of seeing them than at
the beginning. I am sorry to say that what we heard on
our arrival is confirmed ; the Arab tribes, who alone manage
the transport, are discontented with Mohammed All's re-
duction of the charge from eighty to sixty piastres for each
camel from hence to Berber ; they have agreed among each
other to send no more camels here, and no Eirman, no pro-
mises, no thi-eats, are of any avail. A great number of
chests, with ammunition, destined for Chartum, have been
lying here these ten months past, and they are unable to
convey them any farther. We had hoped for the assistance
of Achmed Pascha Menekle, the new governor of the Southern
Provinces, as he had been most friendly and unbounded in
his promises. The officer, who remained behind here with
the ammunition, received a direct order from him to detain
the first camels that should arrive, for our use ; nevertheless,
we are not at all nearer to our object. The Pascha himself
had scarcely means to pursue his journey onward, although
he required but few camels. He had brought some of them

LOAVEil >UEIA. 131

with him from tlie north, and he caused some to be foreiblv
driven together here. Notwithstanding this, he was verv
ill-provided on liis departure, and it is said that hall' of his
beasts either died, or fell sick in the desert.

On the 3rd December, as no camels had yet come, thougli
the Pascha must have passed the province of Berber, from
whence he was to send us the requisite number, I sent our
own excellent and trustworthy Kawass, Ibrahim Aga, with
Mohammed Ali's Firman, across the desert of nine days'
journey, to Berber. Meanwhile, we went up as far as "Wadi
Haifa, to the second Cataract, and visited the numerous
monuments which are to be found in this region, returning
here, three weeks afterwards, with a rich harvest.

It is now thirty-one days since our Kawass set out on his
journey, and a few days ago I received a letter from the
Mudhir of Berber, by w^hich I learn that he was still unable
to furnish me with camels, although, after the amval of our
Kawass, and the reception of the letter of the Mudhir in this
place, he had immediately despatched soldiers, in order to
collect the necessary number of sixty camels. Thus they
are in the same situation there, as we here ; the authorities
can do nothing in opposition to the ill-will of the Arabs.

Since the sudden death by poison, at Chartum, of Achmcd
Pascha, who had been placed at the head of the whole Sudan,
and wlio, as it is asserted, has for some time past been en-
gaged in a conspiracy, in order to make himself independent
of Mohammed Ali, the Southern Kingdom has been divided
into five provinces, and placed under five Paschas, who are
to be installed in their several offices by Achmed Pascha
Menekle. One of their number. Emir Pascha, has been
hitherto Bey at Chartum, under Achmed Pascha, who, it
appears, he iDetrayed. Three others arrived at Korusko soon
after Achmed Pascha Menekle. The most powerful of them,
Hassan Pascha, went to his province of Dongola by water,
as far as Wadi Haifa ; he had scarcely any attendants, and
wanted but few camels to proceed on his journey. The
Second, Mustafla Pascha, who is destined for Kordofan, has

K 2

132 LOAVEE ^'l7BIA.

seized bj force a mercantile caravan returning from Berber.
However, hj the Arabs' report, some of the wearied beasts
became unserviceable when they reached the well, which is
situated about four days' joiumey in the desert; there he
found some merchants, whom he robbed of eight camels ;
the rest of this caravan did not make its appearance here,
fearing probably that it would be again detained, it has
taken another route to Egypt. The third Pascha, Ferhat, is
still waiting here with us, and uses all the means in his
power to collect some camels from the north or the south
for himself. Hence our last hope has vanished with respect
to this province, as we are less capable than he to arouse the
small force of the authorities ; and at this moment we have
neither Firman nor'Kawass with us. Every one, and the
Paschas more than all, endeavour to console us in the most
friendly manner from day to day ; but meanwhile the winter
is passing away, the only season when we can work in the
upper country. In addition to this, the Mudhir, till now of
Lower Nubia, with whom we were on friendly terms, has
been complained of by the Xubian Sheikh of his province to
Mohammed Ali, and has just been recalled by him. This
part of the country has, therefore, been temporarily placed
under the Mudhir of Esneh, whose deputy is a young, but
otherwise well-disposed man, not however yet acquainted
with the province, so we must expect still less from him.

I have, therefore, at length made up my mind for the last
course which remains open to me. I shall, myself, go to
Berber with Abekeu, and a very few camels, and leave
Erbkam here, with the rest of our party, and all the baggage.
There I shall be better able to see the state of affairs on the
spot, and, by aid of the Eii-man and the Kawass, whose autho-
rity I am much in want of here, I shall try what can be
done. "We were received here, by Achmed Pascha Menekle,
■with the greatest courtesy, and are already assured of his
most efficient support, through the interposition of his bod} -
physician, our countryman and personal friend, Dr. Koch.
Perhaps money and threats, even though late in the day.


maj carry our point. By mere chance I have myself been
able to procure six camels. Two more are still absolutely
necessary for the completion of our little caravan ; but the
deputy of the Mudhir, with the best will towards us, cannot
even procure these two camels. We have already been
waiting three days for them, and still do not know whether
we shall receive them.


E' Ddmcr, the 24th Januan/, 1844.

Our difficulties, though at a late hour, are terminated.
I arrived here yesterday with Abeken, still two days' journey
from the Pyramids of ^leroe, and probably the whole of our
camp also arrived yesterday at the southern extremity of the
Great Desert at Abu Hammed. After my last discouraging
account from Berber, I set out on the 8th January, about
mid-day, with Abeken, the dragoman Jussuf Scherebieh, a
cook, and our little Kubian boy Auad. We had eight
camels, two of them, however, scarcely in a fit state to make
the journey, and two asses. As the promised guide was not
at hand, I compelled the Sheikh of the camels, Achmed, to
accompany us himself, as he might be of service to us, on
account of his reputation among the tribes of the Ababde
Arabs dwelling here. We had besides these, another guide,
Adar, who had been given us instead of the promised one,
and five camel-drivers ; and soon after our departure several
other foot-passengers joined our party, besides two people
Avith asses, who availed themselves of this opportunity to
return to Berber. AVe took with us ten water-skins, some
stores of rice, macaroni, biscuit, and cold meat, besides a light
tent, our coverlets on which to ride and sleep, the requisite
changes of linen, and a few books ; and, in addition, a proper
.supply of good courage, of which I scarcely ever feel the want


in starting on a jonrney. Our friends accompanied us a
short way into tlie rocky valley, which very soon entirely
concealed the neighbouring banks of the river, and its pleasant

The valley ^Yas both wild and monotonous, nothing but
sandstone rock, the surface of which was burnt as black as
coal, but in every quarry, and every hollow, this changed into
a brilliant golden yellow ; from these a multitude of streams
of sand, like streams of fire out of black dross, trickled down,
and filled the valleys. AYe were preceded by the guides ; they
had simple folds of drapery round their shoulders and hips ; in
their hands were either one or two spears, made of firm, but
light wood, provided with iron points and shafts ; a round,
or lightly carved shield, with a very prominent boss made of
giraffe skin covered their naked backs ; their other shields
were oblong in form, and usually made of hippopotamus
skin, or of the dorsal hide of the crocodile. During the
night, and often in the daytime also, they bound sandals
under their feet, the thongs of which, not unfrequently cut
out of one piece with the sole, are drawn between the great
toe and the second toe, and then surround the foot in the
manner of a skate.

Sheikh Achmed was a magnificent man, youthful, but tall
and noble in stature ; he had extremely supple limbs, of a
brilliant brown-black colour, his features were very expres-
sive of emotion, a brilliant dark eye, which had both a gentle
and sly look, and his mode of speech was so incomparably
beautiful, with such harmonious expression, that I liked to
have him constantly beside me, although we had a continual
contest with him in Korusko, as he was bound to furnish the
camels and all appurtenances, and on account of circum-
stances he neither would nor could procure them. He gave
us a proof in the desert of his agility and the elasticity of his
limbs, for taking a long run on the sandy ground, peculiarly
unfavourable for leaping, he made a bound of 14-^ feet in
width ; I measured the distance between the footmarks with
his lance, which was rather more than two metres long


(G feet 7 inches English), Adar. our second guide, alone
\entured to make the leap after him, but he did not nearly
reacli the same distance.

The first day we had started early, about eleven o'clock in
the morning, and wc rode on till about five ; we then stopped
lor an hour and a half, and went on again till about half-past
twelve. "We then pitched our tents on the hard ground,
and laid down to sleep, after a march of twelve hours. The
liiost refreshing thing, after these hot and fatiguing days'
journeys, was our tea in the evening; we were, however,
»»bliged to habituate ourselves to the leathery taste of the
\sat»T, which we perceived even through the tea and cofiee.
The second day we were fourteen hours on our camels ;
starting about eight in the morning, we halted about four
o'clock in the afternoon to eat something, proceeded on our
journey about half-past five, and about half-past twelve we
struck our encampment for the night, having left the hills,
and about ten o'clock, with the rising moon, descended into
a vast plain. Hitherto we had not seen a tree, nor a blade
uf grass, not even a creature, except some white eagles and
ravens, who fed upon the carrion of the camels which had
iiillcn. On the third day, after setting off early in the morn-
ing, we met a troop of one hundred and fifty camels, which
had been purchased by the Government, to be sent into
Egj'pt. The Pascha is anxious to import several thousand
camels from Berber, that he may thereby, in some measure,
repair the consequences of the cattle-disease of last year. A
great number had already passed through Korusko, without
our venturing to make use of them, as they are the private
property of the Pascha ; we could not have mounted them
besides, as they had no saddles.

The guide o*f the troop, whom we met to-day, brought us
at last the long desired intelligence that our Kawass, Ibrahim
Aga, had left Berber with sixty camels, and was already
marching quite close to us, but on another route, which led
across the desert a little more to the west. Sheikh Achmed
was sent after him, that he might bring us three good camels,


in place of our feeble ones ; and also to gain some further
intelligence about bim. He said that be sbould overtake us
the following nigbt, or at latest the second. I sent a couple
of lines to Erbkam, by tbe Cbabir (guide) of the troop. "We
baited about balf-past five, and remained all nigbt, boping
to see Sbeikb Acbmed arrive sooner. Towards evening we
saw tbe first scanty vegetation of tbe desert ; tbe yellowisb-
grey dry blades of grass, wbicb were bardly visible wben
near, in tbe distance gave a pale greenisb-yellowisb colour
to tbe ground, wbicb alone called my attention to it.

We ougbt to bave arrived tbe fourtb day at tbe well of
brackisb water, fit bowever for tbe camels to drink ; but tbat
we migbt not basten on too quickly before Sbeikb Acbmed,
we terminated our day's journey as early as four o'clock,
about four bours distant from tbe well. At lengtb, about
mid-day, we left tbe great plain Bahb bela Ma (tbe River
wdtbout Water), wbicb unites witb tbe mountain cbain of
El Bab, two days' journey in lengtb, and wbicb we bad entered
coming out of Korusko, and we now approacbed otber cbains.
Hitberto we bad seen notbing but sandstone rocks, both be-
neatb and around us ; it was therefore really a joyful event,
wben looking down from my tall camel upon tbe sand, I saw
tbe first Plutonic Eock. I immediately glided down from
my saddle, and broke off a fragment ; it was a greyisb green
stone of very fine grain, and undoubtedly of tbe nature of
granite. Tbe preceding cbains of mountains were also cbiefly
composed of species of porphyry and granite of different colours,
not unfrequently associated witli broad veins of red syenite, such
as appears so abundantly on the surface at Assuan, and which
was so extensively worked by tbe ancient Egyptians. Far-
ther in tbe mountains, quartz was sometimes very prevalent,
and tbe appearance was very singular wben, here and there
at different heights, tbe snow-white silicious veins appeared
on tbe surface of the black mountains issuing like a spring
from a point in tbe mountain, and flowing into tbe valley,
where its white rolled fragments spread out like a lake. I
carried away witb me some small specimens of tbe different


kinds of rocks. After we had passed beliind a low mouutaiQ
defile and a small valley, Bahr' Hatab (the Wood Eiver, on
account of the wood, -^hicli is said to grow somewhat farther
away on some neighbouring mountains), and another valley,
AVadi Delah, inclining to the northern side of the principal
mountain which succeeds it, we reached the rocky hollow,
E' SuFR, wliere we expected to find rain water, and to re-fill
our slirunkcn water-skins {girle,pl. r/erah). During one
month of the year, about May, there is usually some rain in
this high mountaiu of primitive rock. The huge granite
basins in the hollow valleys are then filled, and retain the
water throughout the entire year. Some vegetation was to
be seen on this Plutonic Rock, resulting from the rain, and
because the granite itself seems to contain more fertilising
matter than the barren loose sand, almost wholly composed
of small grains of quartz. In Wadi Delah, which evidently
has water in the rainy season, we came to a loug continuous
row of Doum Palms ; the circular form of their leaves, and
tlieir bushy growth, has a less bare appearance than the long
slender-leaved date palm ; the latter cannot stand the rain,
and therefore cannot live in Berber, while the Doum Palm
appears in Upper Egypt for the first time, quite isolated, and
the farther we travel south, we see them in greater numbers,
larger in size, and of more luxuriant growth. If their fruit
drop ofi" when lunupe and dry, the small portion of pulp
round the stony kernel tastes like a coating of sugar ; if they
ripen, the yellowish woody pulp may be chewed; it has a
good taste, and some of their fruit had an aroma almost simi-
lar to the pine-apple. They are sometimes as large as the
largest apples.

About four o'clock we pitched our camp, the camels were
sent into the hollow, situated behind, to the rain water, and
Abeken and I got upon our asses, to accompany them to
these natural reservoirs. Hiding over coarse gravel and sharp
stones we penetrated deeper and deeper into the ascending
defile ; the first large basins were empty, we left our asses
and camels behind, clambered up the smooth granite sides of


the rock, and stepped from one basin to anotlier amidst these
huge masses of rock. All were empty ; the guide said there
must be water in the fissure which ]aj farthest back, that
there it was never exhausted ; but even in that spot not a
drop was to be found, so we were obliged to return without
any success, as dry as we came. The numerous herds of
cattle, which during the past year had been driven out of
the Sudan into Egypt, had consumed it all. Only three skins
of water had remained over for our party, and we were
therefore compelled to find out some means to procure
more. Other cisterns were said to exist higher up in the
mountains behind this defile. I was anxious to climb up
the rocks with the guide, but he considered it too dangerous
an undertaking. "We turned round, rode back to the en-
campment, and with the setting sun, the camels were forced
to start once more in search of water among the hills lying
to the north, about an horn' distant from this spot. They
returned at a late hour with four skins fidl ; the water was
good, and pleasant to the taste. Sheikh Aclimed, however,
did not either return this night, and we now hoped to find
him at the well, whither he might have preceded us by the
southern road.

"We started soon after sunrise, on the fifth day, and pene-
trated deeper into the great mountain chain of Eoft, which
always exhibited tlie same rock, at first slaty in texture, then
more in the form of blocks, afterwards abounding in quartz.
The heat of the day was more oppressive in the mountains
than in the plains, where the north wind blowing almost
continuously, produces greater coolness. "With the exception
of the diiferent kinds of rock, there was little around to attract
our notice. I met with a great ant-hill in the middle of the
barren desert, and I looked at it for a long time ; there were
smaller and larger bright black ants, who were carrying all
the small pieces of earth which they were able to lift out of
their building, so that the coarser little stones alone re-
mained, and formed solid walls ; the larger ants were distin-
guished by their heads being in proportion to their size,


twice as thick as the others, and they did not themselves
work, but led the regiment, and gave a push to each of the
fimaller ants, who were carrying nothing, drove them for-
wards, and kept them more diligently at work.

The difficulty to converse when riding on the hard-pacing
camel is so much the greater because it is not easy to make
them keep the step beside each other, as with the horse or
ass. When upon a good dromedary (Heggin), and travelling
without, or with but very little baggage, the creature keeps
iu a trot. This is an easy pace, and is not very fatiguing,
l)ut it is difficult to get accustomed to the long step of the
ordinary baggage-camel, which throws the high load back-
\\ards and forwards. Yet even this was alleviated by our
being sometimes able to dismount from our camels and get
upon our asses, and we often went on foot for a considerable
distance botli early in the morning and in the evening.

I now return to the fifth day of our desert journey. "We
started about eight o'clock in the morning from the little
valley of E' Sufr, where we had encamped under some gum,
or sont-trees, and about half-past twelve, after turning to
our left into a flat valley for the distance of about half an
hour from our road among the hills, we reached the brackish
well in AVadi IMurhad. Here we had accomplished about
half our desert journey. AYe saw^ some huts built of small
stones and reeds, and near them a couple of starved goats
Avere fruitlessly searching for some pasture ; our black host
led us into a reed arbour, where we made ourselves as com-
fortable as we could in the shade.

In this rocky valley we had been struck for some time by
tiie snow-white crust of IN'atron, frequently appearing above
tlie sand which makes the water of the well brackish.
Towards the end of the valley, where it divides into two
branches, the water is to be found between five and six feet
beneath the surface, and has been discovered by digging
eight wells. The water in the wells which lie farthest back,
is greenish, rather salt, and has a bad taste, which, however,
satisfies the camels ; the three in front, on the contrary, yield


clear water, wlilcli might very well liave been drank by us in
a case of necessity. There is a government station here,
usually inhabited by six persons, but at the present moment
four of them had been sent out on an excursion, and only
two remained behind. From this spot there are two roads to
Korusko, a western and an eastern one. Ibrahim Aga had
chosen the former road, we the latter, and we had, therefore,
unfortunately missed each other. Sheikh Achmed was also
not to be found here ; probably he had not overtaken our
camels before the second day, and we were compelled to pro-
ceed on our journey without him.

The Aeabde Arabs, with whom we have now everywhere
to deal, are an honest and trustworthy people, from whom
we have less to fear than from the crafty and thievish Fellahs
in Egypt. To the north-east of their territory, the races of
the BiscHAEi are spread over the country, who have a pecu-
liar language, and are now in bitter enmity vdth. the Ababde
Arabs, because more than two years ago when they had at-
tacked and murdered some Turkish soldiers in the little valley
where we had spent the night, Hassan Cbalif, the superior
Sheikh of the Ababdes, to whose protection the road of com-
munication between Berber and Korusko had been confided,
caused forty of the Bischaris to be put to death. Besides,
by aid of the Ababdes, more than four-and-twenty years ago,
Ismael Pascha succeeded in bringing his army across the
desert, and taking possession of the Sudan. It is only upon
the road that we are now pursuing that guides are main-
tained by government ; there are none on the longer road,
from Berber to Assuan, which is, however, better supplied
with water, though now but little used. About half-past
four we rode away from the well, after we had inspected

Online LibraryRichard LepsiusLetters from Egypt, Ethiopia, and the peninsula of Sinai → online text (page 12 of 54)