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NOTES OF A RIDE FROM HEBRON TO PETRA IN
THE SPRING OF 1865.
March 9.--It took a long time to effect a start this morning. Forage and provisions kept coming in, chickens, and turkeys, and partridges were bought, camels were laden, and at last we got away. I made
a slight sketch of the Hebron mosque. It is surrounded by walls ; parts of them are of remote antiquity. To-day our progress was slow, as we have now to keep watch over our train of baggage animals. We are in a wild and rather unsettled region. Our camping-ground is close to the Arab village of Dhohrizeh, and our position with regard to the inhabitants is rather an equivocal one. We have a Bedouin guide with us, an emissary from the tribe who are to give us safe-conduct to Petra ; this tribe and the villagers are at feud, owing to a raid of the former into this country some twenty days ago, when they drove off many cattle and camels, and killed some six or seven men. Consequently, on our arrival a wild-looking Bedouin rushed forward to meet us, and he turned out to be a neutral emissary, sent by our tribe to warn us. The villagers were not disposed to be friendly, and made difficulties about our having water. However, Michael soon settled the matter, and we are now quietly encamped, but of course we have to be on our guard. The horses are picketed close round the tents, and the muleteers sleep round us to keep watch. Michael has got seven men of responsibility from the village to mount guard too. The head of these is a Bashi-Bazouk, in Turkish pay.
To-morrow we shall be all right, for we reach the Bedouin encampment of our friends, and then they are responsible for us. These villagers are armed with a kind of tomahawk and pistols. I saw a graceful salute pass between some of them and one of our camel-drivers, who was a friend of theirs. They clasped hands, and then allowed their foreheads to meet gently. It is such a glorious night, with a full moon, and quite mild. The sunset, too, was so beautiful, and we had a regular "after-glow."
March 10.-We were quite undisturbed last night, except by the incessant story-telling of our Arab guardians, who, to keep themselves awake, were indulging largely in that solace. The braying of the donkeys is a terrible puisance to me at night. We got away all safe from the village, under the guidance of the neutral Bedouin who had come to meet us on our arrival. We rode straight here to the chief camp of Solyman Ali Hyzaid, of the Tiahâh tribe, arriving here by mid-day. Our first sight of a real Bedouin encampment was, of course, very interesting
rode up to the brow of a range of low stony hills, bare of all vegetation save a little grass and a sprinkling of dwarf aromatic shrubs, there lay before us a plain dotted all over with the flocks and herds of the tribe we were about visit. There were great numbers of camels, and sheep and goats. On the other side of the plain, partly on the slope of the hill, lay three large Bedouin encampments
, the low black tents being very conspicuous against the grey hill-side. As we descended into the plain, we came across the track of a great light of golden locusts; they extended in a broad column two and a half miles, as far as
we could see; how much farther I do not know. There were such numbers that their flight made quite a noise in the air. As we passed the first camp, we saw something of a marriage festival going on. A number of women were leading about a huge white camel heavily laden with what we were told was the bride's dowry. They sang as they marched slowly up and down; the happy couple themselves were not visible. We were very cordially received on our arrival at the head camp. The sheik himself was absent, but was expected home shortly, and his brothers received us. We got off our horses, and were presented by Michael, and shook hands with the worthies. A dirty-looking set they are, but most friendly. Our tents were immediately pitched close to a corner of the wide circle of Bedouin tents, and immense numbers of the men, women, and children came to inspect us. I cannot say they were troublesome, only of course very curious, and they seemed much pleased with our courteous return of their salutations. One woman came and talked so pathetically at the door of the tent about Wady Mûsa (the Valley of Petra), that I sent for an interpreter to know what she said, and found that her home was in the Wady Mûsa, and she was lamenting over it. About three o'clock the sheik came home, and was brought to our tent; he shook hands, and listened attentively, and with a grave smile, to the flowery little speeches I made up for Michael to translate to him. He is quite lame from a wound received in a Bedouin raid, and has rather a handsome face, which is more than can be said for the men of his tribe ; he is better dressed, too. He had a long confabulation with Michael about the dromedaries he is to supply for our journey to Petra. I proposed a visit to his tent. E. had gone out shortly before to try and get a shot at a large bird like a vulture, which was sailing about ; so Elise and I set off, accompanied by Michael and Ibrahim Hana (our Arab guide from Jerusalem) and the sheik, for a tour of inspection in the camp. The tents are all pitched in a circle, and in the centre of this circle the flocks repose at night to guard against surprise. At the door of several tents were tethered favourite mares, generally with foals. One or two were fine-looking animals, but this tribe is not famous for its horses, as are the Beni Sakre, or the Anazeh.
The sheik's wife is absent, but his mother received us very kindly, and had a carpet spread, upon which I sat down in proper Eastern fashion; we had a little conversation, and then she offered us coffee, which of course we accepted as a most friendly sign. The interior of a Bedouin tent is a wonderful litter of children, chickens, mattresses, camel trappings, fresh bushes of thyme from the hill-side, which they put under the bedding at night, bags of coffee and rice, &c. &c. We were sitting in full conclave, every corner being filled with spectators, when E. joined us, just in time to have some coffee. It was handed first to the sheik, who drank his cup sip by sip, to prove that it was all right, before ours was even poured out. Capital coffee it was, too. After this we rose to go, and shook hands again all round. As we reached our own tent, the herds of camels, and sheep, and goats were coming in from all directions in long procession. It was so picturesque to watch them as the sun was sinking and the short twilight faded. It was quite moonlight before the last string of camels came into the camp, uttering their curious grunts and growls, and followed by their young ones. VOL. LX.
March 11.-We actually made a start this morning, although we felt rather in despair at one time of getting away. The talking and arrangements seemed endless. Solyman Ali Hyzaid is a respectable and very powerful chief, it appears. We had a letter from the Pasha of Jerusalem to him, and he is, besides, a friend of Michael's, so I hope we shall get to Petra without more than the usual amount of bother. Our little company consists of thirteen camels and thirteen Arabs, ourselves, with the cook, waiter, and two muleteers. The rest of our people, with the mules and horses, wait at Solyman's camp. The first time we mounted our dromedaries was great fun. We have the usual pack-saddle, piled up with rugs and cushions, and on the top we are perched. I had always heard that the motion of a camel was so disagreeable, and made you sea-sick, but this is all nonsense. It is very easy, and only tiring because one is unaccustomed to it. There is also much misapprehension in England on the subject of the difference between camels and dromedaries, it being popularly believed that one animal has two humps, the other one. But the fact is, the two are identical, only dromedaries are generally better bred, and are trained to carry riders at a particularly easy pace ;
the same trouble, of course, is not taken with baggage animals. My drome. dary is rather a handsome one, small, and quite docile. It has only one bad trick, and that is, jumping up from its knees while I am in the act of getting on or off, which naturally pitches me into the arms of the nearest bystander, so I am very particular now in making my Arab stand on the beast's legs, so that he cannot get up. It is difficult to keep one's seat while the dromedary is either rising up or kneeling down; the former is the most disagreeable process, I think, and if the creature is in a hurry and jumps up, it is ludicrously difficult not to get pitched off when one's balance is not secured by custom. The sheik accompanied us with some of his head men for a short distance ; they were not well mounted. When we parted, Michael's watch was presented to Solyman, as he asked for it instead of money. Late in the afternoon we reached the famous wells of Beersheba, and stopped to get a supply of water. It had been very hot all day, and we were all very thirsty ; never shall I forget the first delicious draught of pure clear water from Abraham's well! We blessed the Patriarch from our hearts, I am sure. The wells are very deep, and the sides of them are worn and furrowed in an extraordinary manner from the cords used to draw the water for the last three thousand years. We could not encamp there, as it was not considered safe, being too much frequented by tribes, and we might have fallen in with some hostile tribe ; so, after filling our water-skins, which took some time, we mounted again, and rode on a couple of miles to our campingground for the night. The Arabs call Beersheba “ Moya-Seba.” It is a glorious night, with a full moon. Our camels are all “ moored like ships” round the fire the Bedouins have made to sleep by. They look strangely picturesque.
March 12.-There is nothing to record of to-day's proceedings. Our way lay over the undulating desert, the very sparse vegetation, in some places, disappearing entirely for miles; nothing to be seen above but the hot sun in the cloudless blue sky, nothing below but the burnt-up soil, and the rocky, stony track we passed over. We are encamped in a small wady where there is a little more vegetation, a few dwarf shrubs
and some flowers; the one which caught my attention was a handsome iris, of a dark brownish purple colour, and as soon as we dismounted I possessed myself of some roots. The asphodel is abundant. As a proof of how well Michael provides for our comfort, I may mention that we have a milch camel to supply us with milk for breakfast, and most beautiful rich milk it is. This is a luxury one can have nowhere but in the desert. Our Bedouins are already becoming very troublesome, and poor Michael has a hard time of it. It is necessary to be quite firm with them, but at the same time conciliatory. Their demands for tobacco are unceasing, and of course have to be supplied. We are the only travellers who have been able to attempt Petra by Beersheba for five years, except the French Duke de Luynes, owing to the feuds that have been raging among the Bedouins, and when the Duke de Luynes came through he had a swindling Greek dragoman, who cheated both his master and the Arabs, paying exorbitantly at the same time. This makes the dealings of all the travellers an object of suspicion to the Bedouins, who found out that they had been defrauded, and are of course furious. This place is Kurnub, perhaps the Tamar of the Bible.
March 13.--To-day our route has been in part very uninteresting, over bare desert hills and along stony valleys; every now and then we came upon small Bedouin encampments, beside which herds of camels were feeding. The vegetation is so very scarce that I wonder how the animals find sufficient to sustain life; but camels do exist upon wonderfully little. Our little escort of Bedouins, as I have mentioned, numbers thirteen : of these, eleven are men of the Abudaou tribe ; one of them is the Sheik Abudaou by name. The other two are Wady Mûsa (Petra) Bedouins : one is Sheik Ali, and the other a man called Abdallah. They happened to be at Suliman's camp, and undertook to return with us to Petra, and make things straight with the great sheik there. Ali is mounted on a shabby-looking bay mare, armed with the long Bedouin lance, and lots of pistols ; he canters about all day, making wide circuits, to look out for any sign of hostile tribes. He looks a great ruffian, and so does Abdallah. In the middle of the day we arrived at the
the pass of Sufêh, leading up a steep and rugged ridge of limestone rocks. From the top the view is very fine, looking up and down and across the Wady Arabah, the long wady which unites, as it were, the Dead Sea with the Gulf of Araba. It is intersected in all directions with low ridges of rocks, curiously shaped, like miniature table-lands-islands of limestone in the middle of the dry stony torrent. Travelling as we do here in the fine season, it is so difficult to realise these dry wadys with streams of water rushing down their dusty stony beds. We saw on our descent towards our camping-ground a small herd of four or five gazelles. They were within rifle range when they first became aware of our approach, and Michael fired, not a bad shot, but it hit the ground instead of the gazelle, and they were off like the wind: these are the first we have seen-beautiful little things they are. We encamped two hours past the foot of Sufêh. It is very hot in the middle of the day, and I am getting frightfully burnt up.
March 14.–Our way lay entirely in the Wady Arabah to-day; we are now encamped within sight of the Edomite mountains, and, if all goes well, we shall to-morrow be at the foot of Mount Hor, and within an
hour or so of Petra. It is anxious work, for the Wady Mûsa Bedouins are so capricious, that travellers never know till the last whether they will gain permission to visit Petra, or whether they may be ignominiously repulsed ! But Michael has great hopes that it will be all right. We stopped to lunch at the fountain of Ain-el-Weibey-supposed to be the Kadesh Barnea of Scripture, where Moses struck the rock and obtained water for the Israelites. Close round the spring is a thick cluster of dwarf date-palms, and tall reeds and fags—quite an oasis in the Desert. It was fearfully hot there; the sun is so powerful that our tin-plates at luncheon are literally too hot to touch by the time they have been exposed to it a few minutes ! and one's slice of bread is quite crisp and hard. Here the camels had their first drink of water since leaving their camp three days ago. We are getting quite accustomed to their motion now, and it does not tire us at all. My camel man's name is Hallil, and he is a very quiet individual for a Bedouin ; we are very good friends, and I have picked up a few words of Arabic to say to him; he is always asking if Hallil is good ? and his camel good ? and grins with delight when I say both are very good.
March 15.--To avoid the fearful nuisance of camping in Petra, we have arranged with Sheik Ali to encamp at the foot of Mount Hor, or, as the Bedouins call it, Harûn (Aaron), and so here we are in a deep rocky valley off the main track, and we hope to remain in peace, undiscovered, until to-morrow. After that, not one moment's peace or quietness shall we know until we are out of Wady Mûsa again.
There are four tribes here, and they unite to plunder the unfortunate traveller, for, besides the usual stipulated black mail, they never see a thing you have without asking for it, and getting it too, for what can you do with a crowd of armed savages round you but propitiate them?
We made an early start this morning, and a couple of hours brought us into the rocky valley which leads into the heart of the red mountains of Edom. It was intensely hot by mid-day—the thermometer was 118 degrees in the sun, and 90 under the shade of a rock (the aneroid, which was 29.8 in the Wady Arabah, went down to 25.5 at the top of Mount Hor). The pass which leads over into Wady Mûsa soon became very steep, and we had to walk-it is no joke walking up hill in such a sun-and I was very glad when Sheik Ali came up and offered me a mount on his mare; so I jumped on, and found myself for the first time in a Bedouin's saddle. I carried Ali's lance, and he led the mare up the rocky path. From the top the view is fine-over the sea of rugged peaks. There it was agreed that E. and I, accompanied by Ali and Abdallah, should turn aside for the ascent of Mount Hor, and our party should go on to the camping-ground. I rode as far as it was practicable, and then walked, or rather scrambled, up the rest of the way,
for Harûn has a grand rocky brow, and the ascent of the last twenty minutes is a severe scramble. Steps are cut in the rock, which assist one greatly; the height we made out to be over four thousand feet by our aneroid. On the summit is a small white-domed wely, under which Aaron lies buried. This is a very sacred spot in the eyes of the Mohammedans. The view is really very fine, and, to our great delight, one of the rock-hewn monuments of Petra was in sight; all the rest, and the ruined city, are hid by intervening ridges. The colouring of these mountains is a deep red, contrasting strongly with the white limestone of the Wady