After a prayer of peace, we committed ourselves to the Desert. Our party consisted of Ismael the Turk, two Greek servants besides Georgis, who was almost blind and useless, two Barbarins, who took care of the camels, Idris, and a young man a relation of his; in all nine persons. We were all well armed with blunderbusses, swords, pistols, and double-barrelled guns, except Idris and his lad, who had lances, the only arms they could use. Five or six naked wretches of the Turcorory joined us at the watering place, much against my will, for I knew that we should probably be reduced to the disagreeable alternative of either seeing them perish of thirst before our eyes, or, by assisting them, running a great risk of perishing along with them.
We left Gooz on the 9th of November, at noon, and halted at the little village of Hassa, where we filled our water-skins—an operation which occupied a whole day, as we had to take every means to secure them from leaking or evaporation. While the camels were loading, I bathed myself with infinite pleasure for a long half hour in the Nile, and thus took leave of my old acquaintance, very doubtful if we should ever meet again. We then turned to the north-east, leaving the Nile, and entering into a bare desert of fixed gravel, without trees, and of a very disagreeable whitish colour, mixed with small pieces of white marble, like alabaster. Our camels, we found, were too heavily loaded; but we comforted ourselves with the reflection, that this fault would be remedied by the daily consumption of our provisions. We had been travelling only two days when our misfortunes began, from a circumstance we had not attended to. Our shoes, that had long needed repair, became at last absolutely useless, and our feet were much inflamed by the burning sand.
On the 13th, we saw, about a mile to the northwest of us, Hambily, a rock not considerable in size, but, from the plain country in which it is situated, having the appearance of a great tower or castle. South of it were too smaller hills, forming, along with it, landmarks of the utmost consequence to caravans, because they are too considerable in size to be at any time covered by the moving sands. We alighted on the following day among some acacia trees, after travelling about twenty miles. We were here at once surprised and terrified by a sight, surely one of the most magnificent in the world. In that vast expanse of desert, we saw a number of prodigious pillars of sand at different distances, at one time moving with great celerity, at another stalking on with majestic slowness. At intervals we thought they were coming to overwhelm us; and again they would retreat, so as to be almost out of sight, their tops reaching to the very clouds. There the tops often separated from the bodies; and these, once disjoined, dispersed in the air, and did not appear more. Sometimes they were broken near the middle, as if struck with a large cannon shot.