Having completed all our business at Basora, I and my companion, William Shales, embarked in company with seventy barks, all laden with merchandize; every bark having fourteen men to drag it up the river, like our west country barges on the river Thames; and we were forty-four days in going up against the stream to Bagdat. We there, after paying our custom, joined with other merchants, to form a caravan, bought camels, and hired men to load and drive them, furnished ourselves with rice, butter, dates, honey made of dates, and onions; besides which, every merchant bought a certain number of live sheep, and hired certain shepherds to drive them along with us. We also bought tents to lie in, and to put our goods under; and in this caravan of ours there were four thousand camels laden with spices and other rich goods. These camels can subsist very well for two or three days without water, feeding on thistles, wormwood, magdalene, and other coarse weeds they find by the way. The government of the caravans, the deciding of all quarrels that occur, and the apportionment of all duties to be paid, are committed to the care of some one rich and experienced merchant in the company, whose honour and honesty can best be confided in. We spent forty days in our journey from Bagdat to Aleppo, travelling at the rate of from twenty to twenty-four miles a-day, resting ourselves commonly from two in the afternoon till three next morning, at which time we usually began our journey.
Eight days journey from Bagdat, near to a town called Heit, where we cross the Euphrates in boats, and about three miles from that place, there is a valley in which are many mouths, or holes, continually throwing out, in great abundance, a black kind of substance like tar, which serves all this country for paying their boats and barks. Every one of these springs makes a noise like a smith’s forge, continually puffing and blowing; and the noise is so loud, that it may be heard a mile off. This vale swalloweth up all heavy things that are thrown into it. The people of the country call it Bab-el-gehenam, or the gate of hell. In passing through these deserts we saw certain wild beasts, such as asses, all white, roebucks, leopards, foxes, and many hares, a considerable number of which last we chaced and killed. Aborise, the king of the wandering Arabs in these deserts, receives a duty of 40 shillings value for every loaded camel, which he sends his officers to receive from the caravans; and, in consideration of this, he engages to convoy the caravans in safety, if need be, and to defend them against the prowling thieves.