other place, which gives itself airs of metropolitan
importance, is not more than double. How they
have not abandoned the place long ago to jackals and
hawks is a mystery. They do not possess a single
camel; only two or three asses and some flocks of
sheep; and depend, in a great measure, on chance profits
from caravans, for their valley often only affords
provision for a couple of months or so. At intervals,
it is true, when there has been much rain, they sell
barley in the neighbouring valleys; but this season
has been a dry one, and the crop has consequently
fallen short. When they have no barley, they say,
they eat dates; and when the dates are out, they fast—a
long, continual fast—and famine takes them
off one by one. The melancholy remnant preserve
traditions of prosperity in comparatively recent times.
Notwithstanding their miserable condition, however,
these wretched people are drained by taxation of thirty
mahboubs per annum—so many drops of blood!
The eastern village pays in proportion. Possibly
in a few years this cluster of wadys may be abandoned
to chance Arab visitors, so that the starting-point
for the traverse of the Hamadah will be removed farther
back, perhaps to Mizdah. There is no life in the
civilisation which claims lordship over these countries
unfriended by nature. The only object of those
who wield paramount authority over them seems to be
to extract money in the most vexatious and expeditious
I purchased of the people of Ghareeah a greyhound
bitch for four Tunisian piastres, so that we may now
expect some hares and gazelles. In returning
to the encampment I observed the phenomenon of a column
of dust carried into the heavens in a spiral form
by the wind, whilst all around was perfectly calm.
Such columns are not of so frequent occurrence in
the desert as is imagined, but from time to time, as
in this instance, are seen.
The evening was spent in making arrangements with
Dr. Barth and Dr. Overweg, who had agreed to traverse
the Hamadah by day, whilst I was to follow by night,
with the blacks. Next morning, accordingly, the
caravan separated into two portions, and my companions
rode slowly away over the burning desert.
This important day could not be allowed to pass by
my people without a tremendous quarrel. Our blacks
seemed to be in a peculiarly excitable state.
Ali, especially, who has distinguished himself for
several days in the obstreperous line, has had a regular
turn-to with his father-in-law; and not satisfied
with this, nearly strangled Moknee’s son.
The Mandara black threw himself on the ground and called
out,—“Load my pistol, O Chaouch; I
must shoot this reprobate Ali!”
This fellow is a pest in the caravan, and I have been
obliged to send him off and insist on his return to
Tripoli. He may be brought to his senses in this