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 7 of 9)
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of the people inhabiting the kingdom of Sennaar; but I am obliged to
consider the inhabitants of the capital as a very detestable people.
They are exceedingly avaricious, extortionate, faithless, filthy and
cruel.[64] The men are generally tall and well shaped, but the females
are, almost universally, the ugliest I ever beheld; this is probably
owing to their being obliged to do all sorts of drudgery.

The children of these people, and indeed of all the tribes on the Upper
Nile, go quite naked till near the age of puberty. A girl unmarried
is distinguished by a sort of short leather apron, composed of a great
number of leather thongs hanging like tassels from a leather belt
fastened round the waist: and this is all her clothing, being no longer
than that of our mother Eve after her fall. The married women, however,
are generally habited in long coarse cotton clothes, which they wrap
round them so as to cover their whole person, except when they are at
work, when they wrap the whole round the waist.

As to the manufactures of the people of the Upper Nile, they are
limited, I believe, to the following articles, Earthenware for domestic
uses and bowls for pipes; cotton cloths for clothing; knives, mattocks,
hoes and ploughs, for agriculture, water-wheels for the same; horse
furniture, such as the best formed saddles I ever rode on, very neatly
fabricated; stirrups in the European form, made of silver for the
chiefs, and not like those of the Turks; large iron spurs, bits with
small chains for reins, to prevent them from being severed by the stroke
of an enemy's broadsword; long and double edged broadswords, with the
guard frequently made of silver; iron heads for lances, and shields
made of the hide of the elephant; to which may be added, that the women
fabricate very beautiful straw mats.

There is a general resemblance, in domestic customs, among all the
peoples who inhabit the borders of the Nile from Assuan to Sennaar. They
differ, however, somewhat in complexion and character. The people of
the province of Succoot are generally not so black as the Nubian or the
Dongolese. They are also frank and prepossessing in their deportment.
The Dongolese is dirty, idle, and ferocious. The character of the
Shageian is the same, except that he is not idle, being either an
industrious peasant or a daring freebooter. The people on the third
cataract are not very industrious, but have the character of being
honest and obliging. The people of Berber are by far the most civilized
of all the people of the Upper Nile. The inhabitants of the provinces of
Shendi and Halfya are a sullen, scowling, crafty, and ferocious people;
while the peasants of Sennaar inhabiting the villages we found on our
route, are a respectable people in comparison with those of the
capital. Throughout the whole of these countries there is one general
characteristic, in which they resemble the Indians of America, namely,
courage and self-respect. The chiefs, after coming to salute the Pasha,
would make no scruple of sitting down facing him, and converse with him
without embarrassment, in the same manner as they are accustomed to
do with their own Maleks, with whom they are very familiar. With the
greatest apparent simplicity they would frequently propose troublesome
questions to the Pasha, such as, "O great Sheck, or O great Malek; (for
so they called the Pasha) what have we done to you, or your country,
that you should come so far to make war upon us? Is it for want of food
in your country that you come to get it in ours?" and others similar.

On the 14th of the moon Shawal, Cogia Achmet returned to Sennaar,
bringing with him about two thousand prisoners as slaves, consisting
almost entirely of women and children. The events of his expedition were
related to me as follows: He marched rapidly for ten days in a direction
about south-west of Sennaar, (the capital) without resistance, through
a well-peopled country, without meeting with any opposition till he came
to the mountains of Bokki, inhabited by Pagans, the followers of
the chief who had rejected the Pasha's letter. They were posted on a
mountain of difficult access; but their post was stormed, and after a
desperate struggle, they found that spears and swords, though wielded by
stout hearts and able hands, were not a match for fire-arms. They fled
to another mountain, rearward of their first position. They were again
attacked by cannon and musketry, and obliged to fly toward a third
position: in their flight, they were in part hemmed in by the cavalry
of Cogia Achmet, and about fifteen hundred of them put to the sword.
Those who escaped took refuge in a craggy mountain, inaccessible to
cavalry. Cogia Achmet, believing he had made a sufficient proof to them
that resistance on their part was unavailing, and the troops having
suffered great distress by reason of the almost continual rains, after
sweeping the villages of these people of all the population they could
find in them, resumed his march for Sennaar. On their return, they had
to ford several deep streams, at this season running from the mountains,
and both horse and man were almost worn out before they reached Sennaar.

The people of Bokki are a hardy race of mountaineers - tall, stout, and
handsome. They are Pagans, worshippers of the sun, which planet they
consider it as profane to look at. The prisoners brought in by Cogia
Achmet resembled in their dress the savages of America; they were almost
covered with beads, bracelets, and trinkets, made out of pebbles, bones,
and ivory. Their complexion is almost black, and their manners and
deportment prepossessing. The arms of these people gave me great
surprise: they consisted of well-formed and handsome helmets of iron,
coats of mail, made of leather and overlaid with plates of iron, long
and well fashioned lances, and a hand-weapon exactly resembling the
ancient bills formerly used in England by the yeomanry. They were
represented to me by the Turks as dangerous in personal combat. They had
never seen fire-arms before, and they nevertheless withstood them
with great intrepidity. They said, I was informed, that a fusee was "a
coward's weapon, who stands at a safe distance from his enemy, and kills
him by an invisible stroke."[65]

On the 17th, the courier carrying the information to Cairo of this
expedition and its results, embarked in a canja to descend the river
as far as Berber, from whence he would proceed by the desert to Egypt.
Agreeably to the promise of the Pasha, I accompanied him. We arrived at
Nousreddin in Berber in five days and nights. Having the favor of the
current, and sixteen oarsmen on board, we descended with great rapidity.
The view of the country from the river is not pleasing, as the villages
lie almost invariably far off from the river; the country, therefore,
has the appearance of being almost uninhabited. We saw great numbers of
hippopotami, who, in the night, would lift their heads out of the water
at no great distance from the canja. They were sometimes fired at, but
without apparent effect. We stopped, during the night, for an hour at
Shendi, to leave orders from the Pasha to a small garrison of Turkish
troops stationed there.[66] The river Nile, below the point of junction
with the great Bahar el Abiud, presents a truly magnificent spectacle.[67]
Between Halfya and Shendi, the river is straitened and traverses a deep
and gloomy defile formed by high rocky hills, between which the Nile
runs dark, deep, and rapidly for about twelve or fifteen miles. On
emerging from this defile, the river again spreads itself majestically,
and flows between immense plains of herbage, bounded only by the
horizon: its banks nearly full, but not yet overflowed. About thirty
miles above Nousreddin, we passed the mouth of the Bahar el Iswood (on
the eastern shore); it is the last river that empties into the Nile. I
estimated it at about two-thirds of a mile broad at its embouchure.
The Nile, below the point of junction with this river, is more than two
miles from bank to bank, at this season. During the two first days of
our voyage, we had some severe squalls and very heavy rains; but after
passing the territory of Sennaar, we had a sky almost without a cloud.

On our arrival at Nousreddin, no more dromedaries could be immediately
obtained than were sufficient to mount the courier and his two guides. I
was, therefore, obliged to tarry five days in Nousreddin before I could
find a caravan journeying to Egypt.

On the 28th of Shawal, I quitted Nousreddin, along with a caravan on
its way to Egypt from Sennaar, conducted by a soldier attached to the
Cadilaskier of the army of Ismael Pasha, who was conducting to Egypt
twenty-two dromedaries and camels, and some slaves, belonging to the
Cadilaskier, and four fine horses belonging to the Pasha.

We started at about three hours before noon, and after marching for
three hours, stopped at a village named Sheraffey, to obtain rations for
the horses and camels to subsist them through the desert. Our route lay
on the outside of the villages, and on the border of the desert. The
villages are numerous and well built of sun-dried bricks, and the face
of the country, on our side of the river, perfectly level.

We stayed at Sheraffey until the next morning: the conductor of the
caravan not being able to obtain at this place the durra he wanted for
his cattle, we proceeded to a village called Hassah, which is about an
hour's march from Sheraffey. We stayed there till next morning.

On the 30th of the Moon, at day-light, we mounted our camels, and
proceeded on our road, which lay on the skirts of the desert. We passed
a continual succession of large, well-built and populous villages, lying
about a mile distant from the river; the weather serene and cool, as it
has been since our arrival in Berber. We halted at about the middle of
the forenoon, by a village called Abdea, until an hour and a half before
sunset, when we again set forward, and after marching for three hours
and a half, halted for the remainder of the night in a small village,
half in ruins. The reason of our short marches and frequent stoppages
was, to give the conductor of the caravan opportunities to make
provision for passing the desert. He might have done it at any of the
villages, had he been content to pay the price demanded; but as he was
a man who seemed to hold hard bargains in horror, and to love money
with great affection, he did not give the latter for durra till he was
absolutely obliged to make the afflictive exchange.

On the 1st of Zilkade we started at daylight, and marched till about two
hours after sunrise, when we stopped at some villages called Gannettee.
The country we passed since yesterday is the desert, which comes down
close to the river's bank, presenting but few spots fit for cultivation.
We were informed last night, that the camp of Mehemmet Bey, who is on
his way from Egypt with five thousand men, to take possession of Darfour
and Kordofan, is on the other side of the river.[68] The weather continues
serene and not very hot. Stayed at Gannettee till about the middle of
the afternoon, when we proceeded on our journey through a a desert and
dreary country, without either habitations or cultivation, as the desert
comes here down to the river. The rocks and stones of the desert are
generally of black granite. No verdure was to be seen, except on the
margin of the river. The river hereabouts is much impeded by rocks and
rapids, but contains many beautiful islands, some of them very large,
fertile, populous, and well cultivated. Malek Mohammed el Hadgin
commands this country. His province, called "El Raba Tab," contains
eighty-eight large and fertile islands, and the shores of the river
adjacent. He has a very high character for courage, morals, and
generosity; he resides on the great island of Mograt, which is said to
be about sixty miles long.[69]

We halted at about three hours before midnight on the bank of the river,
within hearing of a Shellal, where the river forms a regular cataract,
except a small pass on the easterly shore. After reposing the camels an
hour and a half, and refreshing ourselves with bread and the muddy
water of the Nile, we recommenced our march, which was continued without
cessation till an hour before noon next morning, always through the
desert, in order to cut a point of land formed by an angle in the river,
when we stopped under the shade of some fine date trees on the bank
of the river, and in view of one of its large and ever verdant isles,
called Kandessee, in a small island adjoining which Khalil Aga, my
companion, says he saw, when he ascended the third cataract,[70] a pyramid
more modern and fresh than any he had seen in these countries. Possibly
the island of Kandessee takes its name from the celebrated Candace, who,
in the reign of Nero, repulsed and defeated the Roman legions, and this
pyramid may be her tomb. Under the date trees, on the bank of the river
opposite to this island, we refreshed ourselves with our usual repast,
bread and water, as the people of a village close by would give us meat
neither for love, money, nor soap,[71] of which latter article they stand
in great but unconscious need.

3d of Zilkade quitted our station about two hours after midnight, and
went on our way. Our route continued to lie through the desert, but not
far from the bank of the river; about three hours before noon in the
morning came to a small village, named Haphasheem, lying on the margin
of the river, opposite a verdant island it was delightful to look
at. The river on the third cataract, Khalil Aga tells me, contains a
continual chain of such.[72] I could not get any thing to relish our usual
repast of bread and water, except some dates.

My eyes to-day were much inflamed by the reflection of the sun's rays
from the sand, and at night were very painful and running with matter.
Stayed here till about the same hour after midnight as yesterday, when
we again set forward. The country the same as yesterday, except that
we saw several stony mountains in the desert, some of them at no great
distance from the river. Some of these mountains must contain ruins, as
at the village where we halted to-day, which we did at about noon, we
found a very large and well-fashioned burnt brick, which the peasants
said was brought from one of these mountains. The whole of the country
through which we have passed for four days contains no cultivable land
on this side of the river, except on its margin; but in compensation
for this sterility, the islands in this part of the river, which are
numerous, very large, and very beautiful, are without a superior for
luxuriance of vegetation. Every day when we have come to the river to
halt and refresh ourselves, we found one or more in view. At this last
station I was lucky enough to purchase a small kid at the enormous price
of twelve piasters, the first meat we had eaten for four days. Applied
at night a poultice of dates to my eyes, which were much inflamed by
today's march, and found some relief from the remedy. At about three
hours after midnight we again resumed our travel, and marched till an
hour before noon of to-day, the 5th of Zilkade expecting to arrive at
the place where the road quits the river, and plunges into the great
eastern desert of Africa; but the weather becoming close and very hot,
and the camels fatigued, we halted to repose them and ourselves on the
bank of the river. Shortly after our arrival two of the camels of the
caravan died. Our route still lay through plains and over hills of rock
and sand, which come down to the river's edge, but the river, as usual,
presented a continual succession of beautiful islands.

The death of the two camels having alarmed the conductor of the caravan
for the others, we stayed in this place till the middle of the second
day after to repose and refresh them previous to entering the desert.
During our stay here I engaged a man to swim over to the island
opposite, to purchase some durra flour and dates. He could, however,
obtain only some dates. I was obliged, in consequence, to reconcile
myself to entering the desert short of provisions. I had made provision
in Berber for fifteen days, being assured that in twelve days we should
have passed the desert, and arrive at the villages on the bank of the
Nile four days march above Assuan. The unexpected retardments of our
march from Berber had, however, made us nine days in arriving at the
place where the road turns into the desert. On the 7th of the moon, at
about two hours before sunset, we quitted our halting-place, and after
only one hour's march by the border of the river came to a place where
the Nile suddenly turns off toward the south-west.[73] At this place the
guide told us we were to fill our waterskins, and to quit the river for
the desert.

We stayed here till the afternoon of the 8th of the moon.

The two last nights we have kept watch, and only slept with our hands
upon our arms, robbers being, we were told, in this neighborhood, who
had lately pillaged some caravans. We were not, however, molested. The
desert, on the border of the river hereabouts, abounds with doum trees,
which are inhabited by great numbers of monkeys. Its fruit furnishes
their food. This fruit consists in a large nut, on the outside covered
with a brown substance almost exactly resembling burned gingerbread.
It is, however, so hard that no other teeth and jaws, except those of a
monkey or an Arab, are well capable of biting it. About one hour's march
below our present position is an encampment of Bedouins and the tomb
of a Marabout. The people of the country and the caravans had piled his
grave with camels' and asses saddles, probably intended as offerings to
interest his good offices in the other world.

At about four hours after the noon of the 8th, we quitted the banks of
the Nile, and turned into the desert, carrying as much water as we well
could, myself taking four water-skins for myself, Khalil Aga, and a
black slave of mine. We marched till about an hour before midnight,
when we halted for an hour to breathe the camels and to eat a morsel of
bread, after which we continued our way till nearly day-break, when
one of the Pasha's horses falling down and refusing to rise, it was
necessary to wait till the animal had taken a little rest. We threw
ourselves upon the sand, and slept profoundly for two hours, when we
were roused to continue our journey. We proceeded till about two hours
before noon, when we halted in a low sandy plain, sprinkled here and
there with thorny bushes. These bushes afforded food for the camels, and
a miserable shelter from the sun for ourselves. We shoved embodies under
them as closely to their roots as the thorns would admit, to sleep as
well sheltered as possible from the burning rays of the vertical sun.
But sound sleep in this condition was impossible, as every half-hour
the sun advancing in his course contracted or changed the shadow of the
bush, and obliged us to change our position; as to sleep in his rays
in this climate is not only almost impossible but dangerous, it almost
infallibly producing a fever of the brain.

The country we traversed this first day's journey is a level plain of
sand and gravel, with scattered mountains of black granite here and
there in view, where no sound is heard but the rush of the wind. The
weather was cool enough during the day, and coldish in the night.[74] In
the afternoon we again set forward, proceeding and halting as yesterday,
viz. once for an hour about two hours before midnight, and once again a
little before day-break for an hour and a half. The desert continued to
exhibit the same aspect as before till about midnight, when we quitted
the plains to enter among gloomy defiles, winding between mountains of
black granite. We passed one chain, and at a little beyond the entrance
of another, lying about two leagues to the north of the first, the guide
told us that we were near the well Apseach; soon after we arrived at a
place containing bushes. Here the caravan halted, and those who wanted
fresh water filled their water-skins from the well which lies in the
mountains, about an hour's march from the place where we halted. This
well is at the bottom of an oblique passage leading into one of the
mountains, at the termination of which is found no great quantity of
sweet water deposited by the rains which fall in this country about the
time of the summer solstice.[75] During the last two days I traveled in
great pain; the reflection of the sun from the sand, and the strong wind
from the north (prevalent at this season in the desert), which blew its
finer particles into my eyes, in spite of all my precautions to shelter
them, exasperated and inflamed their malady to a great degree, which
the want of sufficient shelter from the sun, during the time of repose,
contributed to aggravate.

We stayed near the well till about sunset, when we resumed our travel,
and at about three hours after sunrise on the morning of the 10th, came
to a rock in a sandy plain, where the conductor of the caravan ordered
a halt. We distributed ourselves round this rock as well as we could, in
order to repose;[76] Khalil Aga and myself making a covering from the
sun by means of my carpet, propped up by our fusees and fastened by the
corners to stones we placed upon the rock, by means of our shawls and
sashes. We stayed here till the middle of the afternoon, when we mounted
our camels in order to reach the well Morat as soon as possible, in
order to water those patient and indispensable voyagers of the desert.[77]
We traversed a tolerably level but rocky tract till about two hours
after midnight, when we reached the well. It lies in a valley between
two high chains of mountains of black granite. Its water is somewhat
bitter, as its name imports, and is not drank by travelers except when
their water-skins are exhausted. It serves, however, for the camels
of the caravans, and for the inhabitants of two Arab villages in the
vicinity, named "Abu Hammak" and "Dohap" who brought their camels to
water here the morning after our arrival. These poor but contented
people are obliged to subsist, for the most part, upon their camels'
milk, their situation affording little other means of nourishment. They
are, however, independent, and remote from the tyranny and oppression
which afflicts the people of most of the countries of the east.[78]

On the rocks near the well we saw some rude hieroglyphics, representing
bulls, horses, and camels, cut in the granite, in the manner of those
found in the rocks near Assuan, on the south side of the cataract. Our
guide tells us that such cuttings in the rocks are found in many of the
mountains of the desert.

During our stay at Morat a violent dispute had arisen among the Arabs of
our caravan about some money which had been stolen from one of them. The
man suspected of the theft endeavored to justify himself by much hard
swearing, but circumstances being strong against him, I told the man
who had been robbed, that if the money was not restored previous to our
arrival at Assuan, I would speak to the Cacheff about the affair,
who would take the proper measures to detect and punish the thief.
In consequence of this menace, the man robbed, next morning had the
satisfaction to find unexpectedly that his money had been secretly
restored and deposited among the baggage, from whence it had been

On the 13th, at sunset, we quitted Morat; and after a winding march
among the hills for five hours, we arrived at a broad valley, surrounded
by high mountains and abounding in doum trees, the first we had seen
since we quitted the river. This place is called "El Medina." It
contains an Arab village, whose inhabitants gain something by supplying
the caravans with goats, of which they have many, and by furnishing
them with water, of which they possess several reservoirs filled by the
rains. We reposed for the rest of the night under the doum trees, and
in the morning regaled ourselves with the pure and wholesome water of
El Medina, which was to me particularly grateful after being obliged to
drink, for several days, either the muddy water we had brought from
the river, or that of Apseach, which had become heated by the sun, and
impregnated with a disgusting smell, derived from the new leather of the
water-bags which contained it. I bought here a fat goat and some milk,
which made us a feast, which hunger and several days fasting on bad
bread made delicious.

We stayed here to water and repose the camels till the afternoon 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 7 of 9)