George Bethune English.

A Narrative of the Expedition to Dongola and Sennaar Under the Command of His Excellence Ismael Pasha, undertaken by Order of His Highness Mehemmed Ali Pasha, Viceroy of Egypt, By An American In The S online

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Online LibraryGeorge Bethune EnglishA Narrative of the Expedition to Dongola and Sennaar Under the Command of His Excellence Ismael Pasha, undertaken by Order of His Highness Mehemmed Ali Pasha, Viceroy of Egypt, By An American In The S → online text (page 5 of 9)
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cotton, barley, fine horses, camels, dromedaries, kine, sheep, goats and
fowls, as does all the country of Berber. I found in these villages some
caravan merchants, who at present had nothing to sell but coarse cotton
cloths. These cotton cloths form the only clothing of the inhabitants;
both men and women wear them, wrapped round their middle, with one end
thrown over the shoulder or head.[33] The Berber, though resembling the
fellah of Upper Egypt in complexion, is generally not so well formed
in figure and feature. Many of them have defective teeth, probably
occasioned by the habit of chewing bad tobacco, (of which they have
plenty,) which is common here.

The greater part of their household and field work is done by slaves
they purchase from the caravans, coming either from Abyssinia or
Darfour. Some of the owners of female slaves would, for a dollar,
without scruple, permit the soldiers of our camp to sleep with them.
The women of Berber, contrary to the custom in Egypt, go with the face
unveiled, without embarrassment. Both men and women never consider
themselves in full dress, unless the hair of the head has been combed
sleek, then braided and platted together, and afterwards plentifully
anointed with butter. They never cut the hair, I believe; it
consequently forms an immense bunch behind the head, similar to that
observable in some of the ancient statues of Egypt.[34] The barbarous
practice of excision is universally performed upon all their females,
whether free or slaves; as is the case also among all the tribes
inhabiting the banks of the Nile above Assuan.

The people of Berber are, in their exterior deportment, mild and polite.
Every man we meet, uniformly gives us the greeting of peace, "Salaam
aleikoum," and uniformly shows a disposition to accommodate us in every
thing reasonable. This is probably owing to their being, in a very
considerable degree, a commercial people; Berber being every year
visited and traversed by numerous caravans from Abyssinia, Sennaar,
Darfour, and Kordofan.

23d of Jamisalachar. This day arrived the Divan Effendi, from Shendi,
accompanied by the Malek of that province, and the son of Malek Shouus,
the chief of the fugitive Shageias. The Malek of Shendi was accompanied
by a considerable suite, and two most beautiful horses, intended as a
present to the Pasha.[35] On being introduced to his Excellence, he kissed
his hand, and pressed it to his forehead, and told him that he had come
to surrender himself and his country to his favor and protection.
His Excellence received him graciously, presented him with splendid
habiliments, and a horse richly caparisoned. After his presentation
was finished, he was conducted to the tent of the Hasnardar, who was
directed by the Pasha to treat him with due hospitality. The son of
Malek Shouus came in behalf of his father, and other distinguished
chiefs of the Shageias, to implore the mercy of the Pasha for these
chiefs and the fugitive remnant of their followers, who were opposite
Shendi, awaiting the decision of the Pasha, as to what was to be their
fate. I was told that the determination of the Pasha continued in their
regard the same, making the surrender of their arms and horses the sine
qua non of peace between him and them. Three days after, the chief of
Shendi returned home the friend of the Pasha.

On the 25th of the moon, I passed over to the eastern side of the river,
to purchase camels; as there were many buyers at this time from our
camp, I did not find any good enough for the exorbitant price demanded.
I passed the greater part of the day, and the night following, at the
town of Nousreddin, in the house of one of the principal chiefs of the
Berbers. He bears the title of Malek, as do all the distinguished chiefs
of Berber, Shageia, and Dongola. Their dignity is hereditary, generally
passing from father to son. I have noticed that the families of the
Maleks exceed the common people in respect of stature and stoutness. The
Malek, in whose house I lodged, a man about 60 years of age, was near
seven feet high, and very stout. His eldest son, a young man about
22 years of age, was about 6 feet 4 inches in stature, stout and well
proportioned. I imagine, that this superiority in size is owing to the
circumstance that they eat well and heartily, and have no work to
do beside seeing that others work for them. The family of this Malek
carried their hospitality towards me to a very extraordinary length for
people professing Islam. I was offered, by the mother and mistress of
the house, my choice of two of her daughters for a bedfellow. They were
both young, and the handsomest women I have seen in Berber, but married
to husbands whose houses were at the other end of the town. When
I understood this circumstance, I told the mother, that a genuine
Mussulman ought to regard lying with his neighbor's wife as a crime
almost as bad as murdering him in his bed.[36] I am sorry to be obliged
to say, that though the Berbers are a quiet and industrious people, very
civil and disposed to oblige all for whom they have any regard, yet,
with respect to their women, they appear to be unconscious that their
conduct is quite irreconcilable with the precepts of the Koran, and the
customs of their co-religionists. They suffer them to go about with the
face exposed - to converse with the other sex in the roads, the streets,
and the fields; and if the women are accustomed to grant their favors
to their countrymen, as liberally and as frequently as they did to our
soldiers, I should imagine that it must be more than commonly difficult,
in this country, for a man to know his own father.[37]

On my return to camp, I was amused on the way by a dispute in connection
with this subject, between the Malek I have mentioned and a soldier; it
happened in the boat that brought me back to camp. The boat was heavily
laden, and this gigantic Malek was stepping into it, when the soldier I
have mentioned intimated a determination to exclude him, calling him by
several opprobrious names, and among other terms, "a pimp." Upon this,
I checked the soldier, telling him that this man was a considerable
personage in his country, and extremely hospitable to the Osmanlis. This
mollified the soldier, and the Malek took a place as well as he could.
The Malek then addressed the soldier in a mild manner, and asked him why
he had bestowed such appellations upon one who was a Mussulman, as well
as himself. The soldier positively refused to allow the Malek's claims
to this honorable appellation. The chief demanded upon what grounds
the soldier denied it: "Because," said the soldier, "the women of your
country are all whores, and the men all get drunk with bouza, araky,
and other forbidden liquors, which you make out of durra and dates;" and
turning to me, he demanded "whether he was not right?" The poor
chief appeared to be much vexed that he was unable to reply to this
accusation, and remained silent. The soldier, not content with humbling
the unlucky Malek, pursued his advantage without mercy. "Come," said
he to the chief, "I do not believe that you know any thing about your
religion, and I will soon make you sensible of it" He then asked the
chief how many prophets had preceded Mohammed? If he knew any thing
about the history of Dhulkamein and Gog and Magog? and many others of a
similar tenor: how to answer which the unfortunate Malek was obliged to
own his ignorance. The soldier then told him that "the Commander of the
Faithful,"[38] the chief of the Mussulmans, had authorized his Vizier, the
Pasha Mehemmed Ali, to set the people on the upper parts of the Nile
to rights, and that now the Osmanlis were come among them they would
probably learn how to behave themselves. The Malek might, however, have
had his revenge upon the edifying soldier, had he known as well as I
did that he had gone over to the town of Nousreddin expressly to amuse
himself with the women of the country, and had doubtless paid as much
attention to the bouza as the most sturdy toper in Berber.

The country of the Berbers, after the best in formation I have been
able to obtain, is small, not extending, from the upper end of the third
cataract, more than eight days march in length on both sides of the
Nile. The Bahar el Uswood, or Black river, bounds it (i.e. on the
eastern bank) on the south, and separates it from the territory of
Shendi. The cultivable land reaches generally to the distance of one or
two miles from the river. It is overflowed generally at the inundation,
and its produce is very abundant, consisting in durra, wheat, barley,
beans, cotton, a small grain called "duchan," tobacco, and some garden
vegetables similar to those of Egypt. Berber also raises great numbers
of horned cattle, sheep, goats, camels, asses, and very fine horses.
It is very populous, the succession of villages being almost continued
along the road on both sides of the river. The houses are built of clay,
covered with a flat roof of beams overlaid generally with straw; but the
houses of the Maleks have generally terraced roofs of beaten clay, This
manner of building is sufficient in a country where no great quantity of
rain falls throughout the year. Some of the houses of the peasants
are formed of trusses of cornstalks, and placed side by side in a
perpendicular position, and lashed together, with roofs of the same
materials. All the people sleep upon bedsteads, as they do also in
Dongola and Shageia: these bedsteads are composed of an oblong frame of
wood, standing on four short legs, the sides of the frame supporting
a close network of leathern thongs, on which the person sleeps; it is
elastic and comfortable.

Berber contains plenty of salt, which the natives find in some
calcareous mountains between the desert and the fertile land. In its
natural state, it is found mingled with a brown earth, with which the
stone of those mountains is intermixed. This earth the natives dilute
with water, which absorbs the salt and leaves the earth at the bottom;
they then pour off the water into another vessel, and, by exposing it to
the sun or fire, the water is evaporated and the salt remains.

The assemblage of villages which compose the capital of Nousreddin,
contains houses enough for a population of five or six thousand souls,
but I do not believe that the actual population of those villages is so

The language is Arabic, perfectly intelligible to the natives of Egypt,
but containing some ancient words at present disused on the lower Nile;
for instance, the Berber calls a sheep "Kebesh."[39'

As to the climate, the difference between the heat at two hours
afternoon in the month of the vernal equinox, and at an hour before
sunrise, has been as great as ten degrees of the thermometer of Reaumur,
as I have been informed by one of the medical staff attached to the
army, who was in possession of that instrument. It is at present the
commencement of spring, and the heat at two hours after mid-day, at
least to the sense, is as great as in the month of the summer solstice,
in Cairo. I have seen no ferocious animals, either in Berber or the
country below, and believe that they are rare.

5th of Regeb. The camp continues in Berber, awaiting the arrival of the
remainder of the cannon, ammunition, provisions and troops, from the
boats at the cataract. The reason why these have not been transported
hither before this time, is the want of camels, a large part of the
camels attached to the army having perished, by reason of having been
over fatigued by the Pasha's forced march over the desert, and up the
country of Berber. A considerable number of camels have been obtained
from Berber and sent to the cataract, and more are expected to arrive
from Shendi, to which place the Divan Effendi has accompanied the chief
of that country when he left our camp, in order to receive them. Abdin
Cacheff departed two days past for Dongola, with his division. He is
charged, by Mehemmed Ali, with the government of the country between the
second and third cataracts.[40] Twelve hundred men, under the command of
Ibrihim Cacheff, are said to be on the way to replace the vacancy left
in our camp by the departure of Abdin Cacheff. They are expected to
arrive in a few days, if not delayed by the sickness of Ibrihim Cacheff,
who, it is said in the camp, is dangerously ill on the road.

7th of Regeb. This day Nousreddin, the Malek of Berber, came to kiss the
hand of the Pasha. He had been prevented from paying his homage to the
conqueror heretofore by sickness. He brought with him, as a present to
the Pasha, fifty fine horses, and fifty dromedaries of prime breed. He
was well received by his Excellence, and his presents were returned by
the Pasha, by others of great value. Nousreddin is a very tall and very
large man, about sixty years of age. Two days after, having occasion to
go to the other side of the river, I found Nousreddin upon the shore,
awaiting the arrival of a boat to carry him and some of his chiefs
over. I paid him some compliments relative to the handsome horses he had
presented to the Pasha, which pleased him considerably; he invited me
to come to his house and partake of his hospitality. I told him, if
circumstances would admit it, I would visit him in a few days.

From the 10th of Regeb to the end of the moon, nothing worth notice took
place, except the successive and gradual arrival of the remainder of
the cannon,[41] ammunition, stores and troops from the cataract, which
had been left there when the Pasha quitted it, for want of camels to
transport them. On the last day of the month, arrived the cavalry
of Ibrihim Cacheff from Egypt, consisting of four hundred excellent
horsemen; one thousand infantry were yet far distant, but on their way
to join us. Ibrihim Cacheff is at Wady Halfa, severely sick.

On the 2d of the moon Shaban, shortly after the hour of afternoon
prayer, the signal was fired and the tents fell. We mounted our snorting
horses, now lusty from long repose, and commenced our march to traverse
the famous country of the Ethiopian shepherds, at present subject to the
Malek of Shendi. We arrived opposite Shendi, by easy marches, in eight
days, and encamped on the west side of the river, near a very large
village called "Shendi el Garb," i.e. Shendi on the west bank.

Our route from Berber led us through a country consisting of immense
plains of fertile soil, extending many miles from the river, and mostly
covered with herbage; mountains or hills were rarely visible.[42]

We passed many large villages, most of which stood far off from the
river, to be out of the reach of the inundation. The houses of these
villages, particularly as we approached Shendi, were generally built
with sloping roofs of thatched straw, which indicated that this is a
country visited by the rains. We hardly ever, during our march, came in
view of the river, except to encamp. We found it at this season narrow
and shallow, though its bed was frequently a mile and a half broad. At
every halt we made, the chiefs of the country came to salute the Pasha,
and seemed to be well disposed towards the army, whose conduct was very

On the 9th of the moon, I visited the town of Shendi el Garb, in the
rear of our camp. It is large and well built, in comparison with the
other villages I have seen on the Upper Nile. It contains about six
thousand inhabitants, and has three market places, where the people of
the country exchange dollars and durra for what they have need of. Our
piasters they disliked, being ignorant of their value, but sometimes
received them for fowls, vegetables, butter, and meat, and for durra,
but for wheat they demanded dollars.

On the 10th of the moon, I went to Shendi on the east bank, which is
the capital of the country. I traversed the town with some surprise; the
houses are low, but well built of clay. Large areas, walled in for the
reception of the merchandize brought by the caravans, are to be seen in
various parts of the town, which is large, containing probably five or
six thousand inhabitants; the streets are wide and airy, regular
market places are found there, where, beside meat, butter,[43] grain and
vegetables are also to be purchased, spices brought from Jidda, gum
arabic, beads, and other ornaments for the women. The people of Shendi
have a bad character, being both ferocious and fraudulent. Great numbers
of slaves of both sexes, from Abyssinia and Darfour, are to be found
here, at a moderate price, a handsome Abyssinian girl selling for about
forty or fifty dollars. The chief of Shendi, the same who had come to
our camp in Berber, has done his uttermost to promote a good disposition
in his people towards the Osmanlis, and has made the Pasha a present
of several hundreds of very fine camels, within the last two days. His
house is not built of better materials than those of his people, and
differs from them only in being larger. Shendi stands about half a mile
from the easterly bank of the river. Its immediate environs are sandy;
it derives its importance solely from being the rendezvous of the
caravans of Sennaar and the neighboring countries going to Mecca or
Egypt. The territory belonging to the chief of Shendi is said to be very
large,[44] but by no means peopled in proportion to its extent. He can,
however, in conjunction with the Malek of Halfya, bring into the field
thirty thousand horsemen, mounted on steeds probably as beautiful as any
found in any country in the world.

On the 14th of the moon, some soldiers, who went to a village in
the neighborhood of the camp, to get their rations of durra from the
magazine in this village, which had been formed there by its chief,
for the service of the army, were insulted, maltreated, and two of
them killed outright with lances, and others severely wounded by the
inhabitants. On the news of this outrage reaching the camp, the soldiers
took arms, and mounted, to proceed to this village, with the full
determination to revenge the death of their comrades in the severest
manner. In five minutes nearly all the camp was upon the march for this
village, when the Pasha sent orders to stop them and leave the affair to
him. It was however impossible to prevent the greater part of them
from proceeding to the village, which they pillaged and destroyed,
sacrificing to their fury many of its inhabitants. The plunder which
they brought back was however seized by the Selictar, and by the Pasha's
orders restored to its owners.

The conduct of his Excellence on this occasion was highly laudable,
while it must be confessed that that of the soldiers was not much to
be blamed. Durra - a miserable pittance of durra, scarcely sufficient
to support nature, was all that was required from the people of these
countries, money free; and this, in the instance mentioned, was refused
by a people whose chief had already granted it - a people absolutely
within our power, and who extorted from the starving soldiery enormous
prices for every thing they sold us, and who frequently refused to sell
us any thing at all with great ferocity and insolence.

On the 15th of the moon, at two hours before sunset, the signal was
fired, and the camp of the Pasha rose to commence its march for Sennaar.
We marched till midnight, and reposed, as usual, on the bank of the
river till about the same hour of the afternoon of the 16th of the moon,
when we pursued our march for five hours, and halted by the river. We
stayed here till the 18th, in the afternoon, in order to obtain three
days rations for the horses from the villages in the neighborhood, which
are numerous and large, as the country through which our route would lie
for that time, is destitute of inhabitants and cultivation.

It was on the 16th that Malek Shouus, the chief of the fugitive
Shageias, who had fled as the army approached up the country, came at
length to the camp to surrender himself to the discretion of the Pasha.
He addressed the Pasha, as I have been informed, as follows: "I have
fought against you to the utmost of my means and power, and am now
ready, if you will, to fight under the orders of my conqueror." The
courage this man had shown in battle, and his firmness in adversity, had
engaged the respect of the Osmanlis, and he is as graciously received by
the Pasha, who created him a Bimbashi, and received him, his companions,
and followers, into his service. Malek Shouus is a large stout man, of a
pleasing physiognomy though black, of about forty years of age, and was
considered as the greatest warrior among the people of the Upper Nile,
who all stood in awe of him.[45]

The 19th, 20th, and 21st of the moon, were employed in traversing the
naked country before-mentioned, which is barren, rocky, and without
cultivation. We marched for three days, from the middle of the afternoon
till midnight. It was not till the second hour after midnight, however,
of the third day, that we arrived at a country on the border of the
Nile, containing several villages, where we remained till the middle
of the afternoon of the 21st. On our arrival at these villages, the
darkness and severe hunger engaged several of the soldiers to take, by
force, sheep and goats from the inhabitants. The officers of the Pasha
vigorously interposed to prevent this infraction of the orders of his
Excellence, and several of the guilty were severely punished for taking
forbidden means to gratify the demands of nature.

At the hour of afternoon prayer the signal was fired, and the camp
proceeded onwards. We left the villages afore-mentioned, and passed
through a sandy tract covered with bushes and the thorny acacia, which
embarrassed our march, and, by occasioning several detours, caused the
army to lose its way. After wandering about till midnight, the camp at
length arrived on the bank of the Nile.

On the 22d, at the rising of the moon, the camp proceeded, and halted
in the forenoon on the beach of the river, opposite Halfya, a very large
village on the easterly bank. We stayed here till the twenty-sixth to
obtain durra from this territory, whose chief brought, as a present to
the Pasha, some fine horses and many camels, and received, in return,
some valuable presents. Our side of the river is desert, and covered
with trees and bushes. During our stay opposite Halfya, the Nile, on the
night of the 23d, rose suddenly about two feet, and inundated some parts
of the sandy flats where we were encamped; the water entering the
tents of several, my own among others, and wetting my bed, arms, and
baggage.[46] It had risen a little shortly after the equinox, while the
army was in Berber, and afterwards subsided more than it had risen.
We find the sky every day more and more overcast; distant thunder and
lightning, accompanied with violent squalls, (which have overset my tent
twice,) are, within a few days, frequent, and drops of rain have fallen
in our camp.

On the 26th, at one hour after noon, we proceeded to the Bahar el Abiud,
about five hours march above our present position, where the Pasha
intends to cross into the territory of Sennaar. The camp arrived at
sunset at a position a little above where the Nile falls into the Bahar
el Abiud, and stopped. Immediately on my arrival, I drank of this river,
being, probably, the first man of Frank origin that ever tasted its

The Nile is not half as broad as the Bahar el Abiud, which is, from bank
to bank, one mile higher than where the Nile joins it, about a mile
and a quarter in breadth. It comes, as far as we can see it, from the
west-south-west. The Nile of Bruce must, therefore, after the expedition
of Ismael Pasha, be considered as a branch of a great and unexplored
river, which may possibly be found to be connected with the Niger.

On the 27th, early in the morning, the Pasha commenced transporting the
army over the Bahar el Abiud, by means of nine small boats, which had
been able to pass the third Cataract, and follow the army. The country
on our side of the Bahar el Abiud, is uncultivated, and apparently
without inhabitants. The army is encamped by the side of the river, on
a beautiful plain of good soil, extending a considerable distance back
towards the desert. During the inundation, this plain becomes evidently
an island, as there is a channel worn by water, in the rear of it, at
this season dry. The tracks of the hippopotamus are found throughout
this plain.

By the 29th, in the afternoon, i.e. in two days and a half, the Pasha
had finished transporting into Sennaar the whole of his camp, consisting
of about six thousand persons, with the artillery, ammunition, tents,
baggage, horses, camels, and asses, by the aid of nine boats, none of

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Online LibraryGeorge Bethune EnglishA Narrative of the Expedition to Dongola and Sennaar Under the Command of His Excellence Ismael Pasha, undertaken by Order of His Highness Mehemmed Ali Pasha, Viceroy of Egypt, By An American In The S → online text (page 5 of 9)