We were up early on the morning of the 18th, and prepared to make our official approach to the town of Ghat, which was now distant only two hours. I had already visited the place, and was familiar with its aspect; but must introduce a few words of description for the sake of the reader of the present narrative. Ghat is situated on the spur of a lofty hill, which overlooks it from the north. It is surrounded by miserable walls not more than ten feet high, pierced by six weak gates. The houses are not whitewashed, like those of Moorish towns, but retain the dirty hue of the unburnt brick and mud with which they are built. A single minaret worthy the name, and one large building used as a general lodging-house, rise above the flat roofs of the rest of the town. Some few palm-trees bend gracefully here and there; but, in general, the groves of the oasis are a little distant from the walls. There is a suburb of some fifty houses of stone and mud; and a number of huts, made of straw and palm-branches. The whole oasis is not more than three miles in extent; the gardens produce only a little wheat, barley, and ghaseb, with some few kinds of fruit. Good water is supplied by wells; but all the palm vegetation is stunted.
From the hill that overlooks the town, a fine view is to be obtained of the little oasis and the vast extent of desert that encircles it on every side. Far to the south wave in the air the summits of the palm-groves of Berket, on the way to Aheer. To the west, hills and ridges succeed one another to the horizon; and to the east, above a line of glittering sand-hills, rises the unbroken wall of the Wareerat range—the rampart thrown up by the demons to protect their favourite Tuaricks from the inroads of the conqueror. The contrast of the bright green of the oasis with the stony waste beyond is striking; and when the sun sheds its bright rays over the scene, it may really be called beautiful.
But these are reminiscences. This day, as soon as we saw the town appearing over the trees between the rocks, we hailed it with delight; not, however, as the termination, but as the starting-point of a journey. Beyond, southward, everything to us was unknown, and, we believed, to all Europeans. Every step further, then, promised to be a discovery. Should we be allowed to proceed unmolested? Would no obstacle, natural or artificial, intervene? Much would depend on our reception in Ghat. On my former visit I had not, on the whole, reason to complain of the Sheikhs of the Tuaricks, whose chief place this is. I remembered the venerable Shafou, the dashing Khanouhen, with Jabour, and all the others, from whom I had received what might be called kindness. Hateetah, it is true, had hitherto somewhat disappointed me; and I know that great expectation had been already aroused in this little secluded territory of profit to be made out of my mission. Whether I should be able to meet all demands was a serious question with me. I am pleased to say that the Governor’s son came out to meet us, and conduct us to the housed of his father, who, with several of the notables of Ghat, were assembled, and gave us, in truth, a cordial reception.