THE Arab may be divided into three races—a classification which agrees equally well with genesitic genealogy, the traditions of the country, and the observations of modern physiologists.1
The first race, indigens or autochthones, are those sub-Caucasian tribes which may still be met with in the province of Mahrah, and generally along the coast between Maskat and Hazramaut. 2 The Mahrah, the Janabah, and the Gara especially show a low development, for which hardship and privation alone will not satisfactorily account.3 These are Arab al-Aribah for whose inferiority oriental fable accounts as usual by thaumaturgy.
The principal advenŠ are the Noachians, a great Chaldaean or Mesopotamian tribe which entered Arabia about 2200 A.C., and by slow and gradual encroachments drove before them the ancient owners and seized the happier lands of the Peninsula. The great Anzah and the Nijdi families are types of this race, which is purely Caucasian, and shows a highly nervous temperament, together with those signs of “blood” which distinguish even the lower animals, the horse and the camel, the greyhound and the goat of Arabia. These advenae would correspond with the Arab al-Mutarribah or Arabicized Arabs of the eastern historians.4
The third family, an ancient and a noble race dating from A.C. 1900, and typified in history by Ishmael, still occupies the so-called Sinaitic Peninsula. These Arabs, however, do not, and never did, extend beyond the limits of the mountains, where, still dwelling in the presence of their brethren, they retain all the wild customs and the untamable spirit of their forefathers. They are distinguished from the pure stock by an admixture of Egyptian blood,5 and by preserving the ancient characteristics of the Nilotic family. The Ishmaelities are sub-Caucasian, and are denoted in history as the Arab al-Mustarribah, the insititious or half-caste Arab.
Oriental ethnography, which, like most Eastern sciences, luxuriates in nomenclative distinction, recognises a fourth race under the name of Arab al-Mustajamah. These “barbarized Arabs” are now represented by such a population as that of Meccah.
That Aus and Khazraj, the Himyaritic tribes which emigrated to Al-Hijaz, mixed with the Amalikah, the Jurham, and the Katirah, also races from Al-Yaman, and with the Hebrews, a northern branch of the Semitic family, we have ample historical evidence. And they who know how immutable is race in the Desert, will scarcely doubt that the Badawi of Al-Hijaz preserves in purity the blood transmitted to him by his ancestors.6
I will not apologise for entering into details concerning the personale of the Badawin7; a precise physical portrait of race, it has justly been remarked, is the sole deficiency in the pages of Bruce and of Burckhardt.
The temperament of the Hijazi is not unfrequently the pure nervous, as the height of the forehead and the fine texture of the hair prove. Sometimes the bilious, and rarely the sanguine, elements predominate; the lymphatic I never saw. He has large nervous centres, and well-formed spine and brain, a conformation favourable to longevity. Bartema well describes his colour as a “dark leonine”; it varies from the deepest Spanish to a chocolate hue, and its varieties are attributed by the people to blood. The skin is hard, dry, and soon wrinkled by exposure. The xanthous complexion is rare, though not unknown in cities, but the leucous does not exist. The crinal hair is frequently lightened by bleaching, and the pilar is browner than the crinal. The voice is strong and clear, but rather barytone than bass: in anger it becomes a shrill chattering like the cry of a wild animal. The look of a chief is dignified and grave even to pensiveness; the “respectable man’s” is self-sufficient and fierce; the lower orders look ferocious, stupid, and inquisitive. Yet there is not much difference in this point between men of the same tribe, who have similar pursuits which engender similar passions. Expression is the grand diversifier of appearance among civilised people: in the Desert it knows few varieties.
The Badawi cranium is small, ooidal, long, high, narrow, and remarkable in the occiput for the development of Gall’s second propensity: the crown slopes upwards towards the region of firmness, which is elevated; whilst the sides are flat to a fault. The hair, exposed to sun, wind, and rain, acquires a coarseness not natural to it8: worn in Kurun9—ragged elf-locks,—hanging down to the breast, or shaved in the form Shushah, a skull-cap of hair, nothing can be wilder than its appearance. The face is made to be a long oval, but want of flesh detracts from its regularity. The forehead is high, broad, and retreating: the upper portion is moderately developed; but nothing can be finer than the lower brow, and the frontal sinuses stand out, indicating bodily strength and activity of character. The temporal fossa are deep, the bones are salient, and the elevated zygomata combined with the “lantern-jaw,” often give a “death’s-head” appearance to the face. The eyebrows are long, bushy, and crooked, broken, as it were, at the angle where “Order” is supposed to be, and bent in sign of thoughtfulness. Most popular writers, following De Page,10 describe the Arab eye as large, ardent, and black. The Badawi of the Hijaz, and indeed the race generally, has a small eye, round, restless, deep-set, and fiery, denoting keen inspection with an ardent temperament and an impassioned character. Its colour is dark brown or green-brown, and the pupil is often speckled. The habit of pursing up the skin below the orbits, and half closing the lids to exclude glare, plants the outer angles with premature crows’-feet. Another peculiarity is the sudden way in which the eye opens, especially under excitement. This, combined with its fixity of glance, forms an expression now of lively fierceness, then of exceeding sternness; whilst the narrow space between the orbits impresses the countenance in repose with an intelligence not destitute of cunning. As a general rule, however, the expression of the Badawi face is rather dignity than that cunning for which the Semitic race is celebrated, and there are lines about the mouth in variance with the stern or the fierce look of the brow. The ears are like those of Arab horses, small, well-cut, “castey,” and elaborate, with many elevations and depressions. The nose is pronounced, generally aquiline, but sometimes straight like those Greek statues which have been treated as prodigious exaggerations of the facial angle. For the most part, it is a well-made feature with delicate nostrils, below which the septum appears: in anger they swell and open like a blood mare’s. I have, however, seen, in not a few instances, pert and offensive “pugs.” Deep furrows descend from the wings of the nose, showing an uncertain temper, now too grave, then too gay. The mouth is irregular. The lips are either bordes, denoting rudeness and want of taste, or they form a mere line. In the latter case there is an appearance of undue development in the upper portion of the countenance, especially when the jaws are ascetically thin, and the chin weakly retreats. The latter feature, however, is generally well and strongly made. The teeth, as usual among Orientals, are white, even, short and broad—indications of strength. Some tribes trim their mustaches according to the “Sunnat”; the Shafe’i often shave them, and many allow them to hang Persian-like over the lips. The beard is represented by two tangled tufts upon the chin; where whisker should be, the place is either bare or is thinly covered with straggling pile.
The Badawin of Al-Hijaz are short men, about the height of the Indians near Bombay, but weighing on an average a stone more. As usual in this stage of society, stature varies little; you rarely see a giant, and scarcely ever a dwarf. Deformity is checked by the Spartan restraint upon population, and no weakly infant can live through a Badawi life. The figure, though spare, is square and well knit; fulness of limb seldom appears but about spring, when milk abounds: I have seen two or three muscular figures, but never a fat man. The neck is sinewy, the chest broad, the flank thin, and the stomach in-drawn; the legs, though fleshless, are well made, especially when the knee and ankle are not bowed by too early riding. The shins do not bend cucumber-like to the front as in the African race.11 The arms are thin, with muscles like whipcords, and the hands and feet are, in point of size and delicacy, a link between Europe and India. As in the Celt, the Arab thumb is remarkably long, extending almost to the first joint of the index,12 which, with its easy rotation, makes it a perfect prehensile instrument: the palm also is fleshless, small-boned, and elastic. With his small active figure, it is not strange that the wildest Badawi gait should be pleasing; he neither unfits himself for walking, nor distorts his ankles by turning out his toes according to the farcical rule of fashion, and his shoulders are not dressed like a drill-sergeant’s, to throw all the weight of the body upon the heels. Yet there is no slouch in his walk; it is light and springy, and errs only in one point, sometimes becoming a strut.
Such is the Badawi, and such he has been for ages. The national type has been preserved by systematic intermarriage. The wild men do not refuse their daughters to a stranger, but the son-in-law would be forced to settle among them, and this life, which has its charms for a while, ends in becoming wearisome. Here no evil results are anticipated from the union of first cousins, and the experience of ages and of a mighty nation may be trusted. Every Badawi has a right to marry his father’s brother’s daughter before she is given to a stranger; hence “cousin” (Bint Amm) in polite phrase signifies a “wife.13” Our physiologists14 adduce the Sangre Azul of Spain and the case of the lower animals to prove that degeneracy inevitably follows “breeding-in.15”
Either they have theorised from insufficient facts, or civilisation and artificial living exercise some peculiar influence, or Arabia is a solitary exception to a general rule. The fact which I have mentioned is patent to every Eastern traveller.
After this long description, the reader will perceive with pleasure that we are approaching an interesting theme, the first question of mankind to the wanderer—“What are the women like?” Truth compels me to state that the women of the Hijazi Badawin are by no means comely. Although the Benu Amur boast of some pretty girls, yet they are far inferior to the high-bosomed beauties of Nijd. And I warn all men that if they run to Al-Hijaz in search of the charming face which appears in my sketch-book as “a Badawi girl,” they will be bitterly disappointed: the dress was Arab, but it was worn by a fairy of the West. The Hijazi woman’s eyes are fierce, her features harsh, and her face haggard; like all people of the South, she soon fades, and in old age her appearance is truly witch-like. Withered crones abound in the camps, where old men are seldom seen. The sword and the sun are fatal to
“A green old age, unconscious of decay.”
The manners of the Badawin are free and simple: “vulgarity” and affectation, awkwardness and embarrassment, are weeds of civilised growth, unknown to the People of the Desert.16 Yet their manners are sometimes dashed with a strange ceremoniousness. When two frends meet, they either embrace or both extend the right hands, clapping palm to palm; their foreheads are either pressed together, or their heads are moved from side to side, whilst for minutes together mutual inquiries are made and answered. It is a breach of decorum, even when eating, to turn the back upon a person, and if a Badawi does it, he intends an insult. When a man prepares coffee, he drinks the first cup: the Sharbat Kajari of the Persians, and the Sulaymani of Egypt,17 render this precaution necessary. As a friend approaches the camp,—it is not done to strangers for fear of startling them,—those who catch sight of him shout out his name, and gallop up saluting with lances or firing matchlocks in the air. This is the well-known La’ab al-Barut, or gunpowder play. Badawin are generally polite in language, but in anger temper is soon shown, and, although life be in peril, the foulest epithets—dog, drunkard, liar, and infidel—are discharged like pistol-shots by both disputants.
The best character of the Badawi is a truly noble compound of determination, gentleness, and generosity. Usually they are a mixture of worldly cunning and great simplicity, sensitive to touchiness, good-tempered souls, solemn and dignified withal, fond of a jest, yet of a grave turn of mind, easily managed by a laugh and a soft word, and placable after passion, though madly revengeful after injury. It has been sarcastically said of the Benu-Harb that there is not a man
“Que s’il ne violoit, voloit, tuoit, bruloit
Ne fut assez bonne personne.”
The reader will inquire, like the critics of a certain modern humourist, how the fabric of society can be supported by such material. In the first place, it is a kind of societe leonine, in which the fiercest, the strongest, and the craftiest obtains complete mastery over his fellows, and this gives a keystone to the arch. Secondly, there is the terrible blood-feud, which even the most reckless fear for their posterity. And, thirdly, though the revealed law of the Koran, being insufficient for the Desert, is openly disregarded, the immemorial customs of the Kazi al-Arab (the Judge of the Arabs)18 form a system stringent in the extreme.
The valour of the Badawi is fitful and uncertain. Man is by nature an animal of prey, educated by the complicated relations of society, but readily relapsing into his old habits. Ravenous and sanguinary propensities grow apace in the Desert, but for the same reason the recklessness of civilisation is unknown there. Savages and semi-barbarians are always cautious, because they have nothing valuable but their lives and limbs. The civilised man, on the contrary, has a hundred wants or hopes or aims, without which existence has for him no charms. Arab ideas of bravery do not prepossess us. Their romances, full of foolhardy feats and impossible exploits, might charm for a time, but would not become the standard works of a really fighting people.19 Nor would a truly valorous race admire the cautious freebooters who safely fire down upon Caravans from their eyries. Arab wars, too, are a succession of skirmishes, in which five hundred men will retreat after losing a dozen of their number. In this partisan-fighting the first charge secures a victory, and the vanquished fly till covered by the shades of night. Then come cries and taunts of women, deep oaths, wild poetry, excitement, and reprisals, which will probably end in the flight of the former victor. When peace is to be made, both parties count up their dead, and the usual blood-money is paid for excess on either side. Generally, however, the feud endures till, all becoming weary of it, some great man, as the Sharif of Meccah, is called upon to settle the terms of a treaty, which is nothing but an armistice. After a few months’ peace, a glance or a word will draw blood, for these hates are old growths, and new dissensions easily shoot up from them.
But, contemptible though their battles be, the Badawin are not cowards. The habit of danger in raids and blood-feuds, the continual uncertainty of existence, the desert, the chase, the hard life and exposure to the air, blunting the nervous system; the presence and the practice of weapons, horsemanship, sharpshooting, and martial exercises, habituate them to look death in the face like men, and powerful motives will make them heroes. The English, it is said, fight willingly for liberty, our neighbours for glory; the Spaniard fights, or rather fought, for religion and the Pundonor; and the Irishman fights for the fun of fighting. Gain and revenge draw the Arab’s sword; yet then he uses it fitfully enough, without the gay gallantry of the French or the persistent stay of the Anglo-Saxon. To become desperate he must have the all-powerful stimulants of honour and of fanaticism. Frenzied by the insults of his women, or by the fear of being branded as a coward, he is capable of any mad deed.20 And the obstinacy produced by strong religious impressions gives a steadfastness to his spirit unknown to mere enthusiasm. The history of the Badawi tells this plainly. Some unobserving travellers, indeed, have mistaken his exceeding cautiousness for stark cowardice. The incongruity is easily read by one who understands the principles of Badawi warfare; with them, as amongst the Red Indians, one death dims a victory. And though reckless when their passions are thoroughly aroused, though heedless of danger when the voice of honour calls them, the Badawin will not sacrifice themselves for light motives. Besides, they have, as has been said, another and a potent incentive to cautiousness. Whenever peace is concluded, they must pay for victory.
There are two things which tend to soften the ferocity of Badawi life. These are, in the first place, intercourse with citizens, who frequently visit and entrust their children to the people of the Black tents ; and, secondly, the social position of the women.
The Rev. Charles Robertson, author of a certain “Lecture on Poetry, addressed to Working Men,” asserts that Passion became Love under the influence of Christianity, and that the idea of a Virgin Mother spread over the sex a sanctity unknown to the poetry or to the philosophy of Greece and Rome.21 Passing over the objections of deified Eros and Immortal Psyche, and of the Virgin Mother—symbol of moral purity—being common to every old and material faith,22 I believe that all the noble tribes of savages display the principle. Thus we might expect to find, wherever the fancy, the imagination, and the ideality are strong, some traces of a sentiment innate in the human organisation. It exists, says Mr. Catlin, amongst the North American Indians, and even the Gallas and the Somal of Africa are not wholly destitute of it. But when the barbarian becomes a semi-barbarian, as are the most polished Orientals, or as were the classical authors of Greece and Rome, then women fall from their proper place in society, become mere articles of luxury, and sink into the lowest moral condition. In the next stage, “civilisation,” they rise again to be “highly accomplished,” and not a little frivolous.
Miss Martineau, when travelling through Egypt, once visited a harim, and there found, among many things, especially in ignorance of books and of book-making, materials for a heart-broken wail over the degradation of her sex. The learned lady indulges, too, in sundry strong and unsavoury comparisons between the harim and certain haunts of vice in Europe. On the other hand, male travellers generally speak lovingly of the harim. Sonnini, no admirer of Egypt, expatiates on “the generous virtues, the examples of magnanimity and affectionate attachment, the sentiments ardent, yet gentle, forming a delightful unison with personal charms in the harims of the Mamluks.”
As usual, the truth lies somewhere between the two extremes. Human nature, all the world over, differs but in degree. Everywhere women may be “capricious, coy, and hard to please” in common conjunctures: in the hour of need they will display devoted heroism. Any chronicler of the Afghan war will bear witness that warm hearts, noble sentiments, and an overflowing kindness to the poor, the weak, and the unhappy are found even in a harim. Europe now knows that the Moslem husband provides separate apartments and a distinct establishment for each of his wives, unless, as sometimes happens, one be an old woman and the other a child. And, confessing that envy, hatred, and malice often flourish in polygamy, the Moslem asks, Is monogamy open to no objections? As far as my limited observations go, polyandry is the only state of society in which jealousy and quarrels about the sex are the exception and not the rule of life.
In quality of doctor I have seen a little and heard much of the harim. It often resembles a European home composed of a man, his wife, and his mother. And I have seen in the West many a “happy fireside” fitter to make Miss Martineau’s heart ache than any harim in Grand Cairo.
Were it not evident that the spiritualising of sexuality by sentiment, of propensity by imagination, is universal among the highest orders of mankind,—c’est l’etoffe de la nature que l’imagination a brodee, says Voltaire,—I should attribute the origin of “love” to the influence of the Arabs’ poetry and chivalry upon European ideas rather than to mediaeval Christianity. Certain “Fathers of the Church,” it must be remembered, did not believe that women have souls. The Moslems never went so far.
In nomad life, tribes often meet for a time, live together whilst pasturage lasts, and then separate perhaps for a generation. Under such circumstances, youths who hold with the Italian that
“Perduto e tutto il tempo
Che in amor non si spende,”
will lose heart to maidens, whom possibly, by the laws of the clan, they may not marry,23 and the light o’ love will fly her home. The fugitives must brave every danger, for revenge, at all times the Badawi’s idol, now becomes the lodestar of his existence. But the Arab lover will dare all consequences. “Men have died and the worms have eaten them, but not for love,” may be true in the West: it is false in the East. This is attested in every tale where love, and not ambition, is the groundwork of the narrative.24 And nothing can be more tender, more pathetic than the use made of these separations and long absences by the old Arab poets. Whoever peruses the Suspended Poem of Labid, will find thoughts at once so plaintive and so noble, that even Dr. Carlyle’s learned verse cannot wholly deface their charm.
The warrior-bard returns from afar. He looks upon the traces of hearth and home still furrowing the Desert ground. In bitterness of spirit he checks himself from calling aloud upon his lovers and his friends. He melts at the remembrance of their departure, and long indulges in the absorbing theme. Then he strengthens himself by the thought of Nawara’s inconstancy, how she left him and never thought of him again. He impatiently dwells upon the charms of the places which detain her, advocates flight from the changing lover and the false friend, and, in the exultation with which he feels his swift dromedary start under him upon her rapid course, he seems to seek and finds some consolation for women’s perfidy and forgetfulness. Yet he cannot abandon Nawara’s name or memory. Again he dwells with yearning upon scenes of past felicity, and he boasts of his prowess—a fresh reproach to her,—of his gentle birth, and of his hospitality. He ends with an encomium upon his clan, to which he attributes, as a noble Arab should, all the virtues of man. This is Goldsmith’s deserted village in Al-Hijaz. But the Arab, with equal simplicity and pathos, has a fire, a force of language, and a depth of feeling, which the Irishman, admirable as his verse is, could never rival.
As the author of the Peninsular War well remarks, women in troubled times, throwing off their accustomed feebleness and frivolity, become helpmates meet for man. The same is true of pastoral life. 25 Here, between the extremes of fierceness and sensibility, the weaker sex, remedying its great want, power, rises itself by courage, physical as well as moral. In the early days of Al-Islam, if history be credible, Arabia had a race of heroines. Within the last century, Ghaliyah, the wife of a Wahhabi chief, opposed Mohammed Ali himself in many a bloody field. A few years ago, when Ibn Asm, popularly called Ibn Rumi, chief of the Zubayd clan about Rabigh, was treacherously slain by the Turkish general, Kurdi Osman, his sister, a fair young girl, determined to revenge him. She fixed upon the “Arafat-day” of pilgrimage for the accomplishment of her designs, disguised herself in male attire, drew her kerchief in the form Lisam over the lower part of her face, and with lighted match awaited her enemy. The Turk, however, was not present, and the girl was arrested to win for herself a local reputation equal to the “maid” of Salamanca. Thus it is that the Arab has learned to swear that great oath “by the honour of my women.”
The Badawin are not without a certain Platonic affection, which they call Hawa (or Ishk) uzri—pardonable love.26 They draw the fine line between amant and amoureux: this is derided by the tow[n]speople, little suspecting how much such a custom says in favour of the wild men. Arabs, like other Orientals, hold that, in such matters, man is saved, not by faith, but by want of faith. They have also a saying not unlike ours—
“She partly is to blame who has been tried;
He comes too near who comes to be denied.”
The evil of this system is that they, like certain Southerns—pensano sempre al male—always suspect, which may be worldly-wise, and also always show their suspicions, which is assuredly foolish. For thus they demoralise their women, who might be kept in the way of right by self-respect and by a sense of duty.
From ancient periods of the Arab’s history we find him practising knight-errantry, the wildest form of chivalry.27 “The Songs of Antar,” says the author of the “Crescent and the Cross,” “show little of the true chivalric spirit.” What thinks the reader of sentiments like these28? “This valiant man,” remarks Antar (who was “ever interested for the weaker sex,”) “hath defended the honour of women.” We read in another place, “Mercy, my lord, is the noblest quality of the noble.” Again, “it is the most ignominious of deeds to take free-born women prisoners.” “Bear not malice, O Shibub,” quoth the hero, “for of malice good never came.” Is there no true greatness in this sentiment?—“Birth is the boast of the faineant; noble is the youth who beareth every ill, who clotheth himself in mail during the noontide heat, and who wandereth through the outer darkness of night.” And why does the “knight of knights” love Ibla? Because “she is blooming as the sun at dawn, with hair black as the midnight shades, with Paradise in her eye, her bosom an enchantment, and a form waving like the tamarisk when the soft wind blows from the hills of Nijd”? Yes! but his chest expands also with the thoughts of her “faith, purity, and affection,”—it is her moral as well as her material excellence that makes her the hero’s “hope, and hearing, and sight.” Briefly, in Antar I discern
“a love exalted high,
By all the glow of chivalry;”
and I lament to see so many intelligent travellers misjudging the Arab after a superficial experience of a few debased Syrians or Sinaites. The true children of Antar, my Lord Lindsay, have not “ceased to be gentlemen.”
In the days of ignorance, it was the custom for Badawin, when tormented by the tender passion, which seems to have attacked them in the form of “possession,” for long years to sigh and wail and wander, doing the most truculent deeds to melt the obdurate fair. When Arabia Islamized, the practice changed its element for proselytism.
The Fourth Caliph is fabled to have travelled far, redressing the injured, punishing the injurer, preaching to the infidel, and especially protecting women—the chief end and aim of knighthood. The Caliph Al-Mu’tasim heard in the assembly of his courtiers that a woman of Sayyid family had been taken prisoner by a “Greek barbarian” of Ammoria. The man on one occasion struck her: when she cried “Help me, O Mu’tasim!” and the clown said derisively, “Wait till he cometh upon his pied steed!” The chivalrous prince arose, sealed up the wine-cup which he held in his hand, took oath to do his knightly devoir, and on the morrow started for Ammoria with seventy thousand men, each mounted on a piebald charger. Having taken the place, he entered it, exclaiming, “Labbayki, Labbayki!”—“Here am I at thy call!” He struck off the caitiff’s head, released the lady with his own hands, ordered the cupbearer to bring the sealed bowl, and drank from it, exclaiming, “Now, indeed, wine is good!”
To conclude this part of the subject with another far-famed instance. When Al-Mutanabbi, the poet, prophet, and warrior of Hams (A.H. 354) started together with his son on their last journey, the father proposed to seek a place of safety for the night. “Art thou the Mutanabbi,” exclaimed his slave, “who wrote these lines,—
“‘I am known to the night, the wild, and the steed,
To the guest, and the sword, to the paper and reed29’?”
The poet, in reply, lay down to sleep on Tigris’ bank, in a place haunted by thieves, and, disdaining flight, lost his life during the hours of darkness.
It is the existence of this chivalry among the “Children of Antar” which makes the society of Badawin (“damned saints,” perchance, and “honourable villains,”) so delightful to the traveller who[,] like the late Haji Wali (Dr. Wallin), understands and is understood by them. Nothing more na´ve than his lamentations at finding himself in the “loathsome company of Persians,” or among Arab townspeople, whose “filthy and cowardly minds” he contrasts with the “high and chivalrous spirit of the true Sons of the Desert.” Your guide will protect you with blade and spear, even against his kindred, and he expects you to do the same for him. You may give a man the lie, but you must lose no time in baring your sword. If involved in dispute with overwhelming numbers, you address some elder, Dakhil-ak ya Shaykh!—(I am) thy protected, O Sir,—and he will espouse your quarrel with greater heat and energy, indeed, than if it were his own.30 But why multiply instances?
The language of love and war and all excitement is poetry, and here, again, the Badawi excels. Travellers complain that the wild men have ceased to sing. This is true if “poet” be limited to a few authors whose existence everywhere depends upon the accidents of patronage or political occurrences. A far stronger evidence of poetic feeling is afforded by the phraseology of the Arab, and the highly imaginative turn of his commonest expressions. Destitute of the poetic taste, as we define it, he certainly is: as in the Milesian, wit and fancy, vivacity and passion, are too strong for reason and judgment, the reins which guide Apollo’s car.31 And although the Badawin no longer boast a Labid or a Maysunah, yet they are passionately fond of their ancient bards.32 A man skilful in reading Al-Mutanabbi and the suspended Poems would be received by them with the honours paid by civilisation to the travelling millionaire.33 And their elders have a goodly store of ancient and modern war songs, legends, and love ditties which all enjoy.
I cannot well explain the effect of Arab poetry to one who has not visited the Desert.34 Apart from the pomp of words, and the music of the sound,35 there is a dreaminess of idea and a haze thrown over the object, infinitely attractive, but indescribable. Description, indeed, would rob the song of indistinctness, its essence. To borrow a simile from a sister art; the Arab poet sets before the mental eye, the dim grand outlines of picture,—which must be filled up by the reader, guided only by a few glorious touches, powerfully standing out, and by the sentiment which the scene is intended to express;—whereas, we Europeans and moderns, by stippling and minute touches, produce a miniature on a large scale so objective as to exhaust rather than to arouse reflection. As the poet is a creator, the Arab’s is poetry, the European’s versical description. 36 The language, “like a faithful wife, following the mind and giving birth to its offspring,” and free from that “luggage of particles” which clogs our modern tongues, leaves a mysterious vagueness between the relation of word to word, which materially assists the sentiment, not the sense, of the poem. When verbs and nouns have, each one, many different significations, only the radical or general idea suggests itself.37 Rich and varied synonyms, illustrating the finest shades of meaning, are artfully used; now scattered to startle us by distinctness, now to form as it were a star about which dimly seen satellites revolve. And, to cut short a disquisition which might be prolonged indefinitely, there is in the Semitic dialect a copiousness of rhyme which leaves the poet almost unfettered to choose the desired expression.38 Hence it is that a stranger speaking Arabic becomes poetical as naturally as he would be witty in French and philosophic in German. Truly spake Mohammed al-Damiri, “Wisdom hath alighted upon three things—the brain of the Franks, the hands of the Chinese, and the tongues of the Arabs.”
The name of Harami—brigand—is still honourable among the Hijazi Badawin. Slain in raid or foray, a man is said to die Ghandur, or a brave. He, on the other hand, who is lucky enough, as we should express it, to die in his bed, is called Fatis (carrion, the corps creve of the Klephts); his weeping mother will exclaim, “O that my son had perished of a cut throat!” and her attendant crones will suggest, with deference, that such evil came of the will of Allah. It is told of the Lahabah, a sept of the Auf near Rabigh, that a girl will refuse even her cousin unless, in the absence of other opportunities, he plunder some article from the Hajj Caravan in front of the Pasha’s links. Detected twenty years ago, the delinquent would have been impaled; now he escapes with a rib-roasting. Fear of the blood-feud, and the certainty of a shut road to future travellers, prevent the Turks proceeding to extremes. They conceal their weakness by pretending that the Sultan hesitates to wage a war of extermination with the thieves of the Holy Land.
It is easy to understand this respect for brigands. Whoso revolts against society requires an iron mind in an iron body, and these mankind instinctively admires, however misdirected be their energies. Thus, in all imaginative countries, the brigand is a hero; even the assassin who shoots his victim from behind a hedge appeals to the fancy in Tipperary or on the Abruzzian hills. Romance invests his loneliness with grandeur; if he have a wife or a friend’s wife, romance becomes doubly romantic, and a tithe of the superfluity robbed from the rich and bestowed upon the poor will win to Gasparoni the hearts of a people. The true Badawi style of plundering, with its numerous niceties of honour and gentlemanly manners, gives the robber a consciousness of moral rectitude. “Strip off that coat, O certain person! and that turband,” exclaims the highwayman, “they are wanted by the daughter of my paternal uncle (wife).” You will (of course, if necessary) lend ready ear to an order thus politely attributed to the wants of the fair sex. If you will add a few obliging expressions to the bundle, and offer Latro a cup of coffee and a pipe, you will talk half your toilette back to your own person; and if you can quote a little poetry, you will part the best of friends, leaving perhaps only a pair of sandals behind you. But should you hesitate, Latro, lamenting the painful necessity, touches up your back with the heel of his spear. If this hint suffice not, he will make things plain by the lance’s point, and when blood shows, the tiger-part of humanity appears. Between Badawin, to be tamely plundered, especially of the mare,39 is a lasting disgrace; a man of family lays down his life rather than yield even to overpowering numbers. This desperation has raised the courage of the Badawin to high repute amongst the settled Arabs, who talk of single braves capable, like the Homeric heroes, of overpowering three hundred men.
I omit general details about the often-described Sar, or Vendetta. The price of blood is $800 = 200l., or rather that sum imperfectly expressed by live stock. All the Khamsah or A’amam, blood relations of the slayer, assist to make up the required amount, rating each animal at three or four times its proper value. On such occasions violent scenes arise from the conflict of the Arab’s two pet passions, avarice and revenge. The “avenger of blood” longs to cut the foe’s throat. On the other hand, how let slip an opportunity of enriching himself? His covetousness is intense, as are all his passions. He has always a project of buying a new dromedary, or of investing capital in some marvellous colt; the consequence is, that he is insatiable. Still he receives blood-money with a feeling of shame; and if it be offered to an old woman,—the most revengeful variety of our species, be it remarked,—she will dash it to the ground and clutch her knife, and fiercely swear by Allah that she will not “eat” her son’s blood.
The Badawi considers himself a man only when mounted on horseback, lance in hand, bound for a foray or a fray, and carolling some such gaiety as—
“A steede! a steede of matchlesse speede!
A sword of metal keene!
All else to noble minds is drosse,
All else on earth is meane.”
Even in his sports he affects those that imitate war. Preserving the instinctive qualities which lie dormant in civilisation, he is an admirable sportsman. The children, men in miniature, begin with a rude system of gymnastics when they can walk. “My young ones play upon the backs of camels,” was the reply made to me by a Jahayni Badawi when offered some Egyptian plaything. The men pass their time principally in hawking, shooting, and riding. The “Sakr,40” I am told, is the only falcon in general use; they train it to pursue the gazelle, which greyhounds pull down when fatigued. I have heard much of their excellent marksmanship, but saw only moderate practice with a long matchlock rested and fired at standing objects. Double-barreled guns are rare amongst them.41 Their principal weapons are matchlocks and firelocks, pistols, javelins, spears, swords, and the dagger called Jambiyah; the sling and the bow have long been given up. The guns come from Egypt, Syria, and Turkey; for the Badawi cannot make, although he can repair, this arm. He particularly values a good old barrel seven spans long, and would rather keep it than his coat; consequently, a family often boasts of four or five guns, which descend from generation to generation. Their price varies from two to sixty dollars. The Badawin collect nitre in the country, make excellent charcoal, and import sulphur from Egypt and India; their powder, however, is coarse and weak. For hares and birds they cut up into slugs a bar of lead hammered out to a convenient size, and they cast bullets in moulds. They are fond of ball-practice, firing, as every sensible man does, at short distances, and striving at extreme precision. They are ever backing themselves with wagers, and will shoot for a sheep, the loser inviting his friends to a feast: on festivals they boil the head, and use it as mark and prize. Those who affect excellence are said to fire at a bullet hanging by a thread; curious, however, to relate, the Badawin of Al-Hijaz have but just learned the art, general in Persia and Barbary, of shooting from horseback at speed.
Pistols have been lately introduced into the Hijaz, and are not common amongst the Badawin. The citizens incline to this weapon, as it is derived from Constantinople. In the Desert a tolerable pair with flint locks may be worth thirty dollars, ten times their price in England.
The spears42 called Kanat, or reeds, are made of male bamboos imported from India. They are at least twelve feet long, iron shod, with a tapering point, beneath which are one or two tufts of black ostrich feathers.43 Besides the Mirzak, or javelin, they have a spear called Shalfah, a bamboo or a palm stick garnished with a head about the breadth of a man’s hand.
No good swords are fabricated in Al-Hijaz. The Khalawiyah and other Desert clans have made some poor attempts at blades. They are brought from Persia, India, and Egypt; but I never saw anything of value.
The Darakah, or shield, also comes from India. It is the common Cutch article, supposed to be made of rhinoceros hide, and displaying as much brass knob and gold wash as possible. The Badawin still use in the remoter parts Diraa, or coats of mail, worn by horsemen over buff jackets.
The dagger is made in Al-Yaman and other places: it has a vast variety of shapes, each of which, as usual, has its proper names. Generally they are but little curved (whereas the Gadaymi of Al-Yaman and Hazramaut is almost a semicircle), with tapering blade, wooden handle, and scabbard of the same material overlaid with brass. At the point of the scabbard is a round knob, and the weapon is so long, that a man when walking cannot swing his right arm. In narrow places he must enter sideways. But it is the mode always to appear in dagger, and the weapon, like the French soldier’s coupe-choux, is really useful for such bloodless purposes as cutting wood and gathering grass. In price they vary from one to thirty dollars.
The Badawin boast greatly of sword-play; but it is apparently confined to delivering a tremendous slash, and to jumping away from the return-cut instead of parrying either with sword or shield. The citizens have learned the Turkish scimitar-play, which, in grotesqueness and general absurdity, rivals the East Indian school. None of these Orientals knows the use of the point which characterises the highest school of swordsmanship.
The Hijazi Badawin have no game of chance, and dare not, I am told, ferment the juice of the Daum palm, as proximity to Aden has taught the wild men of Al-Yaman.44 Their music is in a rude state. The principal instrument is the Tabl, or kettle-drum, which is of two kinds: one, the smaller, used at festivals; the other, a large copper “tom-tom,” for martial purposes, covered with leather, and played upon, pulpit-like, with fist, and not with stick. Besides which, they have the one-stringed Rubabah, or guitar, that “monotonous but charming instrument of the Desert.” In another place I have described their dancing, which is an ignoble spectacle.
The Badawin of Al-Hijaz have all the knowledge necessary for procuring and protecting the riches of savage life. They are perfect in the breeding, the training, and the selling of cattle. They know sufficient of astronomy to guide themselves by night, and are acquainted with the names of the principal stars. Their local memory is wonderful. And such is their instinct in the art of asar, or tracking, that it is popularly said of the Zubayd clan, which lives between Meccah and Al-Madinah, a man will lose a she-camel and know her four-year-old colt by its foot. Always engaged in rough exercises and perilous journeys, they have learned a kind of farriery and a simple system of surgery. In cases of fracture they bind on splints with cloth bands, and the patient drinks camel’s milk and clarified butter till he is cured. Cuts are carefully washed, sprinkled with meal gunpowder, and sewn up. They dress gunshot wounds with raw camel’s flesh, and rely entirely upon nature and diet. When bitten by snakes or stung by scorpions, they scarify the wound with a razor, recite a charm, and apply to it a dressing of garlic.45 The wealthy have Fiss or ring-stones, brought from India, and used with a formula of prayer to extract venom. Some few possess the Tariyak (Theriack) of Al-Irak—the great counter-poison, internal as well as external, of the East. The poorer classes all wear the Za’al or Hibas of Al-Yaman; two yarns of black sheep’s wool tied round the leg, under the knee and above the ankle. When bitten, the sufferer tightens these cords above the injured part, which he immediately scarifies; thus they act as tourniquets. These ligatures also cure cramps—and there is no other remedy. The Badawi knowledge of medicine is unusually limited in this part of Arabia, where even simples are not required by a people who rise with dawn, eat little, always breathe Desert air, and “at night make the camels their curfew.” The great tonic is clarified butter, and the Kay, or actual cautery, is used even for rheumatism. This counter-irritant, together with a curious and artful phlebotomy, blood being taken, as by the Italians, from the toes, the fingers, and other parts of the body, are the Arab panaceas. They treat scald-head with grease and sulphur. Ulcers, which here abound, without, however, assuming the fearful type of the “Helcoma Yemenense,” are cauterised and stimulated by verdigris. The evil of which Fracastorius sang is combated by sudorifics, by unguents of oil and sulphur, and especially by the sand-bath. The patient, buried up to the neck, remains in the sun fasting all day; in the evening he is allowed a little food. This rude course of “packing” lasts for about a month. It suits some constitutions; but others, especially Europeans, have tried the sand-bath and died of fever. Mules’ teeth, roasted and imperfectly pounded, remove cataract. Teeth are extracted by the farrier’s pincers, and the worm which throughout the East is supposed to produce toothache, falls by fumigation. And, finally, after great fatigue, or when suffering from cold, the body is copiously greased with clarified butter and exposed to a blazing fire.
Mohammed and his followers conquered only the more civilised Badawin; and there is even to this day little or no religion amongst the wild people, except those on the coast or in the vicinity of cities. The faith of the Badawi comes from Al-Islam, whose hold is weak. But his customs and institutions, the growth of his climate, his nature, and his wants, are still those of his ancestors, cherished ere Meccah had sent forth a Prophet, and likely to survive the day when every vestige of the Ka’abah shall have disappeared. Of this nature are the Hijazi’s pagan oaths, his heathenish names (few being Moslem except “Mohammed”), his ordeal of licking red-hot iron, his Salkh, or scarification,—proof of manliness,—his blood revenge, and his eating carrion (i.e., the body of an animal killed without the usual formula), and his lending his wives to strangers. All these I hold to be remnants of some old creed; nor should I despair of finding among the Badawin bordering upon the Great Desert some lingering system of idolatry.
The Badawin of Al-Hijaz call themselves Shafe’i but what is put into the mouths of their brethren in the West applies equally well here. “We pray not, because we must drink the water of ablution; we give no alms, because we ask them; we fast not the Ramazan month, because we starve throughout the year; and we do no pilgrimage, because the world is the House of Allah.” Their blunders in religious matters supply the citizens with many droll stories. And it is to be observed that they do not, like the Greek pirates or the Italian bandits, preserve a religious element in their plunderings; they make no vows, and they carefully avoid offerings.
The ceremonies of Badawi life are few and simple—circumcisions, marriages, and funerals. Of the former rite there are two forms, Taharah, as usual in Al-Islam, and Salkh, an Arab invention, derived from the times of Paganism.46 During Wahhabi rule it was forbidden under pain of death, but now the people have returned to it. The usual age for Taharah is between five and six; among some classes, however, it is performed ten years later. On such occasions feastings and merrymakings take place, as at our christenings.
Women being a marketable commodity in barbarism as in civilisation, the youth in Al-Hijaz is not married till his father can afford to buy him a bride. There is little pomp or ceremony save firing of guns, dancing, singing, and eating mutton. The “settlement” is usually about thirty sound Spanish dollars,47 half paid down, and the other owed by the bridegroom to the father, the brothers, or the kindred of his spouse. Some tribes will take animals in lieu of ready money. A man of wrath not contented with his bride, puts her away at once. If peaceably inclined, by a short delay he avoids scandal. Divorces are very frequent among Badawin, and if the settlement money be duly paid, no evil comes of them.48
The funerals of the wild men resemble those of the citizens, only they are more simple, the dead being buried where they die. The corpse, after ablution, is shrouded in any rags procurable; and, women and hired weepers not being permitted to attend, it is carried to the grave by men only. A hole is dug, according to Moslem custom; dry wood, which everywhere abounds, is disposed to cover the corpse, and an oval of stones surrounding a mound of earth keeps out jackals and denotes the spot. These Badawin have not, like the wild Sindis and Baluchis, favourite cemeteries, to which they transport their dead from afar.
The traveller will find no difficulty in living amongst the Hijazi Badawin. “Trust to their honour, and you are safe,” as was said of the Crow Indians; “to their honesty and they will steal the hair off your head.” But the wanderer must adopt the wild man’s motto, omnia mea mecum porto; he must have good nerves, be capable of fatigue and hardship, possess some knowledge of drugs, shoot and ride well, speak Arabic and Turkish, know the customs by reading, and avoid offending against local prejudices, by causing himself, for instance, to be called Taggaa. The payment of a small sum secures to him a Rafik,49 and this “friend,” after once engaging in the task, will be faithful. “We have eaten salt together” (Nahnu Malihin) is still a bond of friendship: there are, however, some tribes who require to renew the bond every twenty-four hours, as otherwise, to use their own phrase, “the salt is not in their stomachs.” Caution must be exercised in choosing a companion who has not too many blood feuds. There is no objection to carrying a copper watch and a pocket compass, and a Koran could be fitted with secret pockets for notes and pencil. Strangers should especially avoid handsome weapons; these tempt the Badawin’s cupidity more than gold. The other extreme, defencelessness, is equally objectionable. It is needless to say that the traveller must never be seen writing anything but charms, and must on no account sketch in public. He should be careful in questioning, and rather lead up to information than ask directly. It offends some Badawin, besides denoting ignorance and curiosity, to be asked their names or those of their clans: a man may be living incognito, and the tribes distinguish themselves when they desire to do so by dress, personal appearance, voice, dialect, and accentuation, points of difference plain to the initiated. A few dollars suffice for the road, and if you would be “respectable,” a taste which I will not deprecate, some such presents as razors and Tarbushes are required for the chiefs.
The government of the Arabs may be called almost an autonomy. The tribes never obey their Shaykhs, unless for personal considerations, and, as in a civilised army, there generally is some sharp-witted and brazen-faced individual whose voice is louder than the general’s. In their leonine society the sword is the greater administrator of law.
Relations between the Badawi tribes of Al-Hijaz are of a threefold character: they are either Ashab, Kiman, or Akhwan.
Ashab, or “comrades,” are those who are bound by oath to an alliance offensive and defensive: they intermarry, and are therefore closely connected.
Kiman,50 or foes, are tribes between whom a blood feud, the cause and the effect of deadly enmity, exists.
Akhawat, or “brotherhood,” denotes the tie between the stranger and the Badawi, who asserts an immemorial and inalienable right to the soil upon which his forefathers fed their flocks. Trespass by a neighbour instantly causes war. Territorial increase is rarely attempted, for if of a whole clan but a single boy escape he will one day assert his claim to the land, and be assisted by all the Ashab, or allies of the slain. By paying to man, woman, or child, a small sum, varying, according to your means, from a few pence worth of trinkets to a couple of dollars, you share bread and salt with the tribe, you and your horse become Dakhil (protected), and every one must afford you brother-help. If traveller or trader attempt to pass through the land without paying Al-Akhawah or Al-Rifkah, as it is termed, he must expect to be plundered, and, resisting, to be slain: it is no dishonour to pay it, and he clearly is in the wrong who refuses to conform to custom. The Rafik, under different names, exists throughout this part of the world; at Sinai he was called a Ghafir, a Rabia in Eastern Arabia, amongst the Somal an Abban, and by the Gallas a Mogasa. I have called the tax “black-mail”; it deserves a better name, being clearly the rudest form of those transit-dues and octrois which are in nowise improved by “progress.” The Ahl Bayt,51 or dwellers in the Black Tents, levy the tax from the Ahl Hayt, or the People of Walls; that is to say, townsmen and villagers who have forfeited right to be held Badawin. It is demanded from bastard Arabs, and from tribes who, like the Hutaym and the Khalawiyah, have been born basely or have become “nidering.” And these people are obliged to pay it at home as well as abroad. Then it becomes a sign of disgrace, and the pure clans, like the Benu Harb, will not give their damsels in marriage to “brothers.”
Besides this Akhawat-tax and the pensions by the Porte to chiefs of clans, the wealth of the Badawi consists in his flocks and herds, his mare, and his weapons. Some clans are rich in horses; others are celebrated for camels; and not a few for sheep, asses, or greyhounds. The Ahamidah tribe, as has been mentioned, possesses few animals; it subsists by plunder and by presents from pilgrims. The principal wants of the country are sulphur, lead, cloths of all kinds, sugar, spices, coffee, corn, and rice. Arms are valued by the men, and it is advisable to carry a stock of Birmingham jewellery for the purpose of conciliating womankind. In exchange the Badawin give sheep,52 cattle, clarified butter, milk, wool, and hides, which they use for water-bags, as the Egyptians and other Easterns do potteries. But as there is now a fair store of dollars in the country, it is rarely necessary to barter.
The Arab’s dress marks his simplicity; it gives him a nationality, as, according to John Evelyn, “prodigious breeches” did to the Swiss. It is remarkably picturesque, and with sorrow we see it now confined to the wildest Badawin and a few Sharifs. To the practised eye, a Hijazi in Tarbush and Caftan is ridiculous as a Basque or a Catalonian girl in a cachemire and a little chip. The necessary dress of a man is his Saub (Tobe), a blue calico shirt, reaching from neck to ankles, tight or loose-sleeved, opening at the chest in front, and rather narrow below; so that the wearer, when running, must either hold it up or tuck it into his belt. The latter article, called Hakw, is a plaited leathern thong, twisted round the waist very tightly, so as to support the back. The trousers and the Futah, or loin-cloth of cities, are looked upon as signs of effeminacy. In cold weather the chiefs wear over the shirt an Aba, or cloak. These garments are made in Nijd and the Eastern districts; they are of four colours, white, black, red, and brown-striped. The best are of camels’ hair, and may cost fifteen dollars; the worst, of sheep’s wool, are worth only three; both are cheap, as they last for years. The Mahramah (head-cloth) comes from Syria; which, with Nijd, supplies also the Kufiyah or headkerchief. The Ukal,53 fillets bound over the kerchief, are of many kinds; the Bishr tribe near Meccah make a kind of crown like the gloria round a saint’s head, with bits of wood, in which are set pieces of mother-o’-pearl. Sandals, too, are of every description, from the simple sole of leather tied on with thongs, to the handsome and elaborate chaussure of Meccah; the price varies from a piastre to a dollar, and the very poor walk barefooted. A leathern bandoleer, called Majdal, passed over the left shoulder, and reaching to the right hip, supports a line of brass cylinders for cartridges.54 The other cross-belt (Al-Masdar), made of leather ornamented with brass rings, hangs down at the left side, and carries a Kharizah, or hide-case for bullets. And finally, the Hizam, or waist-belt, holds the dagger and extra cartridge cases. A Badawi never appears in public unarmed.
Women wear, like their masters, dark blue cotton Tobes, but larger and looser. When abroad they cover the head with a Yashmak of black stuff, or a poppy-coloured Burka (nose-gay) of the Egyptian shape. They wear no pantaloons, and they rarely affect slippers or sandals. The hair is twisted into Majdul, little pig-tails, and copiously anointed with clarified butter. The rich perfume the skin with rose and cinnamon-scented oils, and adorn the hair with Al-Shayh (Absinthium), sweetest herb of the Desert; their ornaments are bracelets, collars, ear and nose-rings of gold, silver, or silver-gilt. The poorer classes have strings of silver coins hung round the neck.
The true Badawi is an abstemious man, capable of living for six months on ten ounces of food per diem; the milk of a single camel, and a handful of dates, dry or fried in clarified butter, suffice for his wants. He despises the obese and all who require regular and plentiful meals, sleeps on a mat, and knows neither luxury nor comfort, freezing during one quarter and frying for three quarters of the year. But though he can endure hunger, like all savages, he will gorge when an opportunity offers. I never saw the man who could refrain from water upon the line of march; and in this point they contrast disadvantageously with the hardy Wahhabis of the East, and the rugged mountaineers of Jabal Shammar. They are still “acridophagi,” and even the citizens far prefer a dish of locusts to the Fasikh, which act as anchovies, sardines, and herrings in Egypt. They light a fire at night, and as the insects fall dead they quote this couplet to justify their being eaten—
“We are allowed two carrions and two bloods,
The fish and locust, the liver and the spleen.55”
Where they have no crops to lose, the people are thankful for a fall of locusts. In Al-Hijaz the flights are uncertain; during the last five years Al-Madinah has seen but few. They are prepared for eating by boiling in salt water and drying four or five days in the sun: a “wet” locust to an Arab is as a snail to a Briton. The head is plucked off, the stomach drawn, the wings and the prickly part of the legs are plucked, and the insect is ready for the table. Locusts are never eaten with sweet things, which would be nauseous: the dish is always “hot,” with salt and pepper, or onions fried in clarified butter, when it tastes nearly as well as a plate of stale shrimps.
The favourite food on the line of march is meat cut into strips and sun-dried. This, with a bag of milk-balls56 and a little coffee, must suffice for journey or campaign. The Badawin know neither fermented nor distilled liquors, although Ikhs ya’l Khammar! (Fie upon thee, drunkard!) is a popular phrase, preserving the memory of another state of things. Some clans, though not all, smoke tobacco. It is generally the growth of the country called Hijazi or Kazimiyah; a green weed, very strong, with a foul smell, and costing about one piastre per pound. The Badawin do not relish Persian tobacco, and cannot procure Latakia: it is probably the pungency of the native growth offending the delicate organs of the Desert-men, that caused nicotiana to be proscribed by the Wahhabis, who revived against its origin a senseless and obsolete calumny.
The almost absolute independence of the Arabs, and of that noble race the North American Indians of a former generation, has produced a similarity between them worthy of note, because it may warn the anthropologist not always to detect in coincidence of custom identity of origin. Both have the same wild chivalry, the same fiery sense of honour, and the same boundless hospitality: elopements from tribe to tribe, the blood feud, and the Vendetta are common to the to. Both are grave and cautious in demeanour, and formal in manner,—princes in rags or paint. The Arabs plunder pilgrims; the Indians, bands of trappers; both glory in forays, raids, and cattle-lifting; and both rob according to certain rules. Both are alternately brave to desperation, and shy of danger. Both are remarkable for nervous and powerful eloquence; dry humour, satire, whimsical tales, frequent tropes; boasts, and ruffling style; pithy proverbs, extempore songs, and languages wondrous in their complexity. Both, recognising no other occupation but war and the chase, despise artificers and the effeminate people of cities, as the game-cock spurns the vulgar roosters of the poultry-yard.57 The chivalry of the Western wolds, like that of the Eastern wilds, salutes the visitor by a charge of cavalry, by discharging guns, and by wheeling around him with shouts and yells. The “brave” stamps a red hand upon his mouth to show that he has drunk the blood of a foe. Of the Utaybah “Harami” it is similarly related, that after mortal combat he tastes the dead man’s gore.
Of these two chivalrous races of barbarians, the Badawi claims our preference on account of his treatment of women, his superior development of intellect, and the glorious page of history which he has filled.
The tribes of Al-Hijaz are tediously numerous: it will be sufficient to enumerate the principal branches of the Badawi tree, without detailing the hundred little offshoots which it has put forth in the course of ages.58
Those ancient clans the Abs and Adnan have almost died out. The latter, it is said, still exists in the neighbourhood of Taif; and the Abs, I am informed, are to be found near Kusayr (Cosseir), on the African coast, but not in Al-Hijaz. Of the Aus, Khazraj, and Nazir details have been given in a previous chapter. The Benu Harb is now the ruling clan in the Holy Land. It is divided by genealogists into two great bodies, first, the Benu Salim, and, secondly, the Masruh,59 or “roaming tribes.”
The Benu Salim, again, have eight subdivisions, viz.:—
1. Ahamidah (Ahmadi)60: this clan owns for chief, Shaykh Sa’ad of the mountains. It is said to contain about 3500 men. Its principal sub-clan is the Hadari.
2. Hawazim (Hazimi), the rival tribe, 3000 in number: it is again divided into Muzayni and Zahiri.
3. Sobh (Sobhi), 3500, habitat near Al-Badr.
4. Salaymah (Salimi), also called Aulad Salim.
5. Sa’adin (Sa’adani).
6. Mahamid (Mahmadi), 8000.
7. Rahalah (Rihayli), 1000.
8. Timam (Tamimi).
The Masruh tree splits into two great branches, Benu Auf, and Benu Amur.61 The former is a large clan, extending from Wady Nakia [Arabic] near Nijd, to Rabigh and Al-Madinah. They have few horses, but many dromedaries, camels, and sheep, and are much feared by the people, on account of their warlike and savage character. They separate into ten sub-divisions, viz.:—
1. Sihliyah (Sihli), about 2000 in number.
2. Sawaid (Sa’idi), 1000.
3. Rukhasah (Rakhis).
4. Kassanin (Kassan): this sub-clan claims origin from the old “Gassan”stock, and is found in considerable numbers at Wady Nakia and other places near Al-Madinah.
5. Ruba’ah (Rabai).
6. Khazarah (Khuzayri).
7. Lahabah (Lahaybi), 1500 in number.
8. Faradah (Faradi).
9. Benu Ali (Alawi).
10. Zubayd (Zubaydi), near Meccah, a numerous clan of fighting thieves.
Also under the Benu Amur—as the word is popularly pronounced—are ten sub-families.
1. Marabitah (Murabti). They [nrs. 1-5] principally inhabit the land about Al-Fara [Arabic] a collection of settlements four marches South of Al-Madinah, number about 10,000 men, and have droves of sheep and camels but few horses.
2. Hussar (Hasir).
3. Benu Jabir (Jabiri).
4. Rabaykah (Rubayki).
5. Hisnan (Hasuni).
6. Bizan (Bayzani).
7. Badarin (Badrani).
8. Biladiyah (Biladi).
9. Jaham (the singular and plural forms are the same).
10. Shatarah (Shitayri).62
The great Anizah race now, I was told, inhabits Khaybar, and it must
not visit Al-Madinah without a Rafik or protector. Properly speaking
there are no outcasts in Al-Hijaz, as in Al-Yaman and the Somali
country. But the Hitman (pl. of Hutaym or Hitaym), inhabiting the
sea-board about Yambu’, are taxed by other Badawin as low and vile of
origin. The unchastity of the women is connived at by the men, who,
however, are brave and celebrated as marksmen: they make, eat, and sell
cheese, for which reason that food is despised by the Harb. And the
Khalawiyah (pl. of Khalawi) are equally despised; they are generally
blacksmiths, have a fine breed of greyhounds, and give asses as a
dowry, which secures for them the derision of their fellows.
Mr. C. Cole, H. B. M.’s Vice-Consul at Jeddah, was kind enough to collect for me notices of the different tribes in Central and Southern Hijaz. His informants divide the great clan Juhaynah living about Yambu’ and Yambu’ al-Nakhl into five branches, viz.:—
1. Benu Ibrahimah, in number about 5000.
2. Ishran, 700.
3. Benu Malik, 6000.
4. Arwah, 5000.
5. Kaunah, 3000.
Thus giving a total of 19,700 men capable of carrying arms.63
The same gentleman, whose labours in Eastern Arabia during the coast survey of the “Palinurus” are well known to the Indian world, gives the following names of the tribes under allegiance to the Sharif of Meccah.
1. Sakif (Thakif) al-Yaman, 2000.
2. Sakif al-Sham,64 1000.
3. Benu Malik, 6000.
4. Nasirah, 3000.
5. Benu Sa’ad, 4000.
6. Huzayh (Hudhayh), 5000.
7. Bakum (Begoum), 5000.
8. Adudah, 500.
9. Bashar, 1000.
10. Sa’id, 1500.
11. Zubayd, 4000.
12. Aydah, 1000.
The following is a list of the Southern Hijazi tribes, kindly forwarded
to me by the Abbe Hamilton, after his return from a visit to the Sharif
1. Ghamid al-Badawy (“of the nomades”), 30,000.
2. Ghamid al-Hazar (“the settled”), 40,000.
3. Zahran, 38,000.
4. Benu Malik, 30,000.
5. Nasirah, 15,000.
6. Asir, 40,000.
7. Tamum, *
8. Bilkarn, * * together, 80,000.
9. Benu Ahmar, 10,000.
10. Utaybah, living north of Meccah: no number given.
12. Daraysh, 2000.
13. Benu Sufyan, 15,000.
14. Al-Hullad, 3000.
It is evident that the numbers given by this traveller include the
women, and probably the children of the tribes. Some exaggeration will
also be suspected.
The principal clans which practise the pagan Salkh, or excoriation, are, in Al-Hijaz, the Huzayl and the Benu Sufyan, together with the following families in Al-Tahamah:
3. Benu Fahm.
4. Benu Mahmud.
5. Saramu (?)
7. Benu Yazid.
I now take leave of a subject which cannot but be most uninteresting to
1 In Holy Writ, as the indigens are not alluded to—only the Noachian race being described—we find two divisions: 1 The children of Joktan (great grandson of Shem), Mesopotamians settled in Southern Arabia, “from Mesha (Musa or Meccah?) to Sephar” (Zafar), a “Mount of the East,”—Genesis, x. 30: that is to say, they occupied the lands from Al-Tahamah to Mahrah. 2. The children of Ishmael, and his Egyptian wife; they peopled only the Wilderness of Paran in the Sinaitic Peninsula and the parts adjacent. Dr. Aloys Sprenger (Life of Mohammed, p. 18), throws philosophic doubt upon the Ishmaelitish descent of Mohammed, who in personal appearance was a pure Caucasian, without any mingling of Egyptian blood. And the Ishmaelitish origin of the whole Arab race is an utterly untenable theory. Years ago, our great historian sensibly remarked that “the name (Saracens), used by Ptolemy and Pliny in a more confined, by Ammianus and Procopius in a larger sense, has been derived ridiculously from Sarah the wife of Abraham.” In Gibbon’s observation, the erudite Interpreter of the One Primaeval Language,—the acute bibliologist who metamorphoses the quail of the wilderness into a “ruddy goose,”—detects “insidiousness” and “a spirit of restless and rancorous hostility” against revealed religion. He proceeds on these sound grounds to attack the accuracy, the honesty and the learning of the mighty dead. This may be Christian zeal; it is not Christian charity. Of late years it has been the fashion for every aspirant to ecclesiastical honours to deal a blow at the ghost of Gibbon. And, as has before been remarked, Mr. Foster gratuitously attacked Burckhardt, whose manes had long rested in the good-will of man. This contrasts offensively with Lord Lindsay’s happy compliment to the memory of the honest Swiss and the amiable eulogy quoted by Dr. Keith from the Quarterly (vol. xxiii.), and thus adopted as his own. It may seem folly to defend the historian of the Decline and Fall against the compiler of the Historical Geography of Arabia. But continental Orientalists have expressed their wonder at the appearance in this nineteenth century of the “Voice of Israel from Mount Sinai” and the “India in Greece”[;] they should be informed that all our Eastern students are not votaries of such obsolete vagaries.
2 This is said without any theory. According to all historians of long inhabited lands, the advenae—whether migratory tribes or visitors—find indigens or [Greek].
3 They are described as having small heads, with low brows and ill-formed noses, (strongly contrasting with the Jewish feature), irregular lines, black skins, and frames for the most part frail and slender. For a physiological description of this race, I must refer my readers to the writings of Dr. Carter of Bombay, the medical officer of the Palinurus, when engaged on the Survey of Eastern Arabia. With ample means of observation he has not failed to remark the similarity between the lowest type of Badawi and the Indigens of India, as represented by the Bhils and other Jungle races. This, from a man of science who is not writing up to a theory, may be considered strong evidence in favour of variety in the Arabian family. The fact has long been suspected, but few travellers have given their attention to the subject since the downfall of Sir William Jones’ Indian origin theory. I am convinced that there is not in Arabia “one Arab face, cast of features and expression,” as was formerly supposed to be the case, and I venture to recommend the subject for consideration to future observers.
4 Of this Mesopotamian race there are now many local varieties. The subjects of the four Abyssinian and Christian sovereigns who succeeded Yusuf, the Jewish “Lord of the Pit,” produced, in Al-Yaman, the modern “Akhdam” or “Serviles.” The “Hujur” of Al-Yaman and Oman are a mixed race whose origin is still unknown. And to quote no more cases, the “Ebna” mentioned by the Ibn Ishak were descended from the Persian soldiers of Anushirwan, who expelled the Abyssinian invader.
5 That the Copts, or ancient Egyptians, were “Half-caste Arabs,” a mixed people like the Abyssinians, the Gallas, the Somal, and the Kafirs, an Arab graft upon an African stock, appears highly probable. Hence the old Nilotic race has been represented as woolly-headed and of negro feature. Thus Leo Africanus makes the Africans to be descendants of the Arabs. Hence the tradition that Egypt was peopled by AEthiopia, and has been gradually whitened by admixture of Persian and Median, Greek and Roman blood. Hence, too, the fancied connection of Aethiopia with Cush, Susiana, Khuzistan or the lands about the Tigris. Thus learned Virgil, confounding the Western with the Eastern Aethiopians, alludes to
“Usque coloratos Nilus devexus ad Indos.”
And Strabo maintains the people of Mauritania to be Indians who had come with Hercules. We cannot but remark in Southern Arabia the footprints of the Hindu, whose superstitions, like the Phoenix which flew from India to expire in Egypt, passed over to Arabia with Dwipa Sukhatra (Socotra) for a resting place on its way to the regions of the remotest West. As regards the difference between the Japhetic and Semitic tongues, it may be remarked that though nothing can be more distinct than Sanscrit and Arabic, yet that Pahlavi and Hebrew (Prof. Bohlen on Genesis) present some remarkable points of resemblance. I have attempted in a work on Sind to collect words common to both families. And further research convinces me that such vocables as the Arabic Taur [Arabic] the Persian Tora [Persian] and the Latin “Taurus” denote an ancient rapprochement, whose mysteries still invite the elucidation of modern science.
6 The Sharif families affect marrying female slaves, thereby showing the intense pride which finds no Arab noble enough for them. Others take to wife Badawi girls: their blood, therefore, is by no means pure. The worst feature of their system is the forced celibacy of their daughters; they are never married into any but Sharif families; consequently they often die in spinsterhood. The effects of this custom are most pernicious, for though celibacy exists in the East it is by no means synonymous with chastity. Here it springs from a morbid sense of honour, and arose, it is popularly said, from an affront taken by a Sharif against his daughter’s husband. But all Arabs condemn the practice.
7 I use this word as popular abuse has fixed it. Every Orientalist knows that Badawin (Bedouin) is the plural form of Badawi, an “ism al-nisbah,” or adjective derived from Badu, a Desert. “Some words notoriously corrupt,” says Gibbon, “are fixed, and as it were naturalised, in the vulgar tongue.” The word “Badawi” is not insulting, like “Turk” applied to an Osmanli, or “Fellah” to the Egyptian. But you affront the wild man by mistaking his clan for a lower one. “Ya Hitaymi,” for instance, addressed to a Harb Badawi, makes him finger his dagger.
8 This coarseness is not a little increased by a truly Badawi habit of washing the locks with—[Arabic]. It is not considered wholly impure, and is also used for the eyes, upon which its ammonia would act as a rude stimulant. The only cosmetic is clarified butter freely applied to the body as well as to the hair.
9 “Kurun” ([Arabic]) properly means “horns.” The Sharifs generally wear their hair in “Haffah” ([Arabic]), long locks hanging down both sides of the neck and shaved away about a finger’s breadth round the forehead and behind the neck.
10 This traveller describes the modern Mesopotamian and Northern race, which, as its bushy beard—unusual feature in pure Arab blood—denotes, is mixed with central Asian. In the North, as might be expected, the camels are hairy; whereas, in Al-Hijaz and in the low parts of Al-Yaman, a whole animal does not give a handful fit for weaving. The Arabs attribute this, as we should, to heat, which causes the longer hairs to drop off.
11 “Magnum inter Arabes et Africanos discrimen efficit [Greek]. Arabum parvula membra sicut nobilis aequi. Africanum tamen flaccum, crassum longumque: ita quiescens, erectum tamen parum distenditur. Argumentum validissimum est ad indagandam Egyptorum originem: Nilotica enim gens membrum habet Africanum.”
12 Whereas the Saxon thumb is thick, flat, and short, extending scarcely half way to the middle joint of the index.
13 A similar unwillingness to name the wife may be found in some parts of southern Europe, where probably jealousy or possibly Asiatic custom has given rise to it. Among the Maltese it appears in a truly ridiculous way, e.g., “dice la mia moglie, con rispetto parlando, &c.,” says the husband, adding to the word spouse a “saving your presence,” as if he were speaking of something offensive.
14 Dr. Howe (Report on Idiotcy in Massachusetts, 1848,) asserts that “the law against the marriage of relations is made out as clearly as though it were written on tables of stone.” He proceeds to show that in seventeen households where the parents were connected by blood, of ninety-five children one was a dwarf, one deaf, twelve scrofulous, and forty-four idiots—total fifty-eight diseased!
15 Yet the celebrated “Flying Childers” and all his race were remarkably bred in. There is still, in my humble opinion, much mystery about the subject, to be cleared up only by the studies of physiologists.
16 This sounds in English like an “Irish bull.” I translate “Badu,” as the dictionaries do, “a Desert.”
17 The Sharbat Kajari is the “Acquetta” of Persia, and derives its name from the present royal family. It is said to be a mixture of verdigris with milk; if so, it is a very clumsy engine of state policy. In Egypt and Mosul, Sulaymani (the common name for an Afghan) is used to signify “poison”; but I know not whether it be merely euphuistic or confined to some species. The banks of the Nile are infamous for these arts, and Mohammed Ali Pasha imported, it is said, professional poisoners from Europe.
18 Throughout the world the strictness of the Lex Scripta is in inverse ratio to that of custom: whenever the former is lax, the latter is stringent, and vice versa. Thus in England, where law leaves men comparatively free, they are slaves to a grinding despotism of conventionalities, unknown in the land of tyrannical rule. This explains why many men, accustomed to live under despotic governments, feel fettered and enslaved in the so-called free countries. Hence, also, the reason why notably in a republic there is less private and practical liberty than under a despotism. The “Kazi al-Arab” (Judge of the Arabs) is in distinction to the Kazi al-Shara, or the Kazi of the Koran. The former is, almost always, some sharp-witted greybeard, with a minute knowledge of genealogy and precedents, a retentive memory and an eloquent tongue.
19 Thus the Arabs, being decidedly a parsimonious people, indulge in exaggerated praises and instances of liberality. Hatim Tai, whose generosity is unintelligible to Europeans, becomes the Arab model of the “open hand.” Generally a high beau ideal is no proof of a people’s practical pre-eminence, and when exaggeration enters into it and suits the public taste, a low standard of actuality may be fairly suspected. But to convince the oriental mind you must dazzle it. Hence, in part, the superhuman courage of Antar, the liberality of Hatim, the justice of Omar, and the purity of Laila and Majnun under circumstances more trying than aught chronicled in Mathilde, or in the newest American novel.
20 At the battle of Bissel, when Mohammed Ali of Egypt broke the 40,000 guerillas of Faisal son of Sa’ud the Wahhabi, whole lines of the Benu Asir tribe were found dead and tied by the legs with ropes. This system of colligation dates from old times in Arabia, as the “Affair of Chains” (Zat al-Salasil) proves. It is alluded to by the late Sir Henry Elliot in his “Appendix to the Arabs in Sind,”—a work of remarkable sagacity and research. According to the “Beglar-Nameh,” it was a “custom of the people of Hind and Sind, whenever they devote themselves to death, to bind themselves to each other by their mantles and waistbands.” It seems to have been an ancient practice in the West as in the East: the Cimbri, to quote no other instances, were tied together with cords when attacked by Marius. Tactic truly worthy of savages to prepare for victory by expecting a defeat!
21 Though differing in opinion, upon one subject, from the Rev. Mr. Robertson, the lamented author of this little work, I cannot refrain from expressing the highest admiration of those noble thoughts, those exalted views, and those polished sentiments which, combining the delicacy of the present with the chivalry of a past age, appear in a style
“As smooth as woman and as strong as man.”
Would that it were in my power to pay a more adequate tribute to his memory!
22 Even Juno, in the most meaningless of idolatries, became, according to Pausanias (lib. ii. cap. 38), a virgin once every year. And be it observed that Al-Islam (the faith, not the practice) popularly decided to debase the social state of womankind, exalts it by holding up to view no fewer than two examples of perfection in the Prophet’s household. Khadijah, his first wife, was a minor saint, and the Lady Fatimah is supposed to have been spiritually unspotted by sin, and materially ever a virgin, even after giving birth to Hasan and to Hosayn.
23 There is no objection to intermarriage between equal clans, but the higher will not give their daughters to the lower in dignity.
24 For instance: “A certain religious man was so deeply affected with the love of a king’s daughter, that he was brought to the brink of the grave,” is a favourite inscriptive formula. Usually the hero “sickens in consequence of the heroine’s absence, and continues to the hour of his death in the utmost grief and anxiety.” He rarely kills himself, but sometimes, when in love with a pretty infidel, he drinks wine and he burns the Koran. The “hated rival” is not a formidable person; but there are for good reasons great jealousy of female friends, and not a little fear of the beloved’s kinsmen. Such are the material sentiments; the spiritual part is a thread of mysticism, upon which all the pearls of adventure and incident are strung.
25 It is curious that these pastoral races, which supply poetry with namby-pamby Colinades, figure as the great tragedians of history. The Scythians, the Huns, the Arabs, and the Tartars were all shepherds. They first armed themselves with clubs to defend their flocks from wild beasts. Then they learned warfare, and improved means of destruction by petty quarrels about pastures; and, finally, united by the commanding genius of some skin-clad Caesar or Napoleon, they fell like avalanches upon those valleys of the world—Mesopotamia, India, and Egypt—whose enervate races offered them at once temptations to attack, and certainty of success.
26 Even amongst the Indians, as a race the least chivalrous of men, there is an oath which binds two persons of different sex in the tie of friendship, by making them brother and sister to each other.
27 Richardson derives our “knight” from Nikht ([Arabic]), a tilter with spears, and “Caitiff” from Khattaf, ([Arabic]) a snatcher or ravisher.
28 I am not ignorant that the greater part of “Antar” is of modern and disputed origin. Still it accurately expresses Arab sentiment.
29 I wish that the clever Orientalist who writes in the Saturday Review would not translate “Al-Layl,” by lenes sub nocte susurri: the Arab bard alluded to no such effeminacies.
30 The subject of “Dakhl” has been thoroughly exhausted by Burckhardt and Layard. It only remains to be said that the Turks, through ignorance of the custom, have in some cases made themselves contemptible by claiming the protection of women.
31 It is by no means intended to push this comparison of the Arab’s with the Hibernian’s poetry. The former has an intensity which prevents our feeling that “there are too many flowers for the fruit”; the latter is too often a mere blaze of words, which dazzle and startle, but which, decomposed by reflection, are found to mean nothing. Witness
“The diamond turrets of Shadukiam,
And the fragrant bowers of Amberabad!”
32 I am informed that the Benu Kahtan still improvise, but I never heard them. The traveller in Arabia will always be told that some remote clan still produces mighty bards, and uses in conversation the terminal vowels of the classic tongue, but he will not believe these assertions till personally convinced of their truth. The Badawi dialect, however, though debased, is still, as of yore, purer than the language of the citizens. During the days when philology was a passion in the East, those Stephens and Johnsons of Semitic lore, Firuzabadi and Al-Zamakhshari, wandered from tribe to tribe and from tent to tent, collecting words and elucidating disputed significations. Their grammatical expeditions are still remembered, and are favourite stories with scholars.
33 I say “skilful in reading,” because the Arabs, like the Spaniards, hate to hear their language mangled by mispronunciation. When Burckhardt, who spoke badly, began to read verse to the Badawin, they could not refrain from a movement of impatience, and used to snatch the book out of his hands.
34 The civilized poets of the Arab cities throw the charm of the Desert over their verse, by images borrowed from its scenery—the dromedary, the mirage, and the well—as naturally as certain of our songsters, confessedly haters of the country, babble of lowing kine, shady groves, spring showers, and purling rills.
35 Some will object to this expression; Arabic being a harsh and guttural tongue. But the sound of language, in the first place, depends chiefly upon the articulator. Who thinks German rough in the mouth of a woman, with a suspicion of a lisp, or that English is the dialect of birds, when spoken by an Italian? Secondly, there is a music far more spirit-stirring in harshness than in softness: the languages of Castile and of Tuscany are equally beautiful, yet who does not prefer the sound of the former? The gutturality of Arabia is less offensive than that of the highlands of Barbary. Professor Willis, of Cambridge, attributes the broad sounds and the guttural consonants of mountaineers and the people of elevated plains to the physical action of cold. Conceding this to be a partial cause, I would rather refer the phenomenon to the habit of loud speaking, acquired by the dwellers in tents, and by those who live much in the open air. The Todas of the Neilgherry Hills have given the soft Tamil all the harshness of Arabic, and he who hears them calling to each other from the neighbouring peaks, can remark the process of broadening vowel and gutturalising consonant. On the other hand, the Gallas and the Persians, also a mountain-people, but inhabiting houses, speak comparatively soft tongues. The Cairenes actually omit some of the harshest sounds of Arabia, turning Makass into Ma’as, and Sakka into Sa’a. It is impossible to help remarking the bellowing of the Badawi when he first enters a dwelling-place, and the softening of the sound when he has become accustomed to speak within walls. Moreover, it is to be observed there is a great difference of articulation, not pronunciation, among the several Badawi clans. The Benu Auf are recognised by their sharp, loud, and sudden speech, which the citizens compare to the barking of dogs. The Benu Amr, on the contrary, speak with a soft and drawling sound. The Hutaym, in addition to other peculiarities, add a pleonastic “ah,” to soften the termination of words, as A’atini hawajiyah, (for hawaiji), “Give me my clothes.”
36 The Germans have returned for inspiration to the old Eastern source. Ruckert was guided by Jalal al-Din to the fountains of Sufyism. And even the French have of late made an inroad into Teutonic mysticism successfully enough to have astonished Racine and horrified La Harpe.
37 This, however, does not prevent the language becoming optionally most precise in meaning; hence its high philosophical character. The word “farz,” for instance, means, radically “cutting,” secondarily “ordering,” or “paying a debt,” after which come numerous meanings foreign to the primal sense, such as a shield, part of a tinder-box, an unfeathered arrow, and a particular kind of date. In theology it is limited to a single signification, namely, a divine command revealed in the Koran. Under these circumstances the Arabic becomes, in grammar, logic, rhetoric, and mathematics, as perfect and precise as Greek. I have heard Europeans complain that it is unfit for mercantile transactions.—Perhaps!
38 As a general rule there is a rhyme at the end of every second line, and the unison is a mere fringe—a long a, for instance, throughout the poem sufficing for the delicate ear of the Arab. In this they were imitated by the old Spaniards, who, neglecting the consonants, merely required the terminating vowels to be alike. We speak of the “sort of harmonious simple flow which atones for the imperfect nature of the rhyme.” But the fine organs of some races would be hurt by that ponderous unison which a people of blunter senses find necessary to produce an impression. The reader will feel this after perusing in “Percy’s Reliques” Rio Verde! Rio Verde! and its translation.
39 In our knightly ages the mare was ridden only by jugglers and charlatans. Did this custom arise from the hatred of, and contempt for, the habits of the Arabs, imported into Europe by the Crusaders? Certainly the popular Eastern idea of a Frank was formed in those days, and survives to these.
40 Baron Von Hammer-Purgstall, in the “Falkner-Klee,” calls this bird the “Saker-falke.” Hence the French and English names sacre and saker. The learned John Beckmann (History of Inventions, Discoveries, and Origins: sub voce) derives falconry from India, where, “as early as the time of Ctesias, hares and foxes were hunted by means of rapacious birds.” I believe, however, that no trace of this sport is found in the writings of the Hindus. Beckmann agrees with Giraldus, against other literati, that the ancient Greeks knew the art of hawking, and proves from Aristotle, that in Thrace men trained falcons. But Aristotle alludes to the use of the bird, as an owl is employed in Italy: the falcon is described as frightening, not catching the birds. Œlian corroborates Aristotle’s testimony. Pliny, however, distinctly asserts that the hawks strike their prey down. “In Italy it was very common,” says the learned Beckmann, “for Martial and Apuleius speak of it as a thing everywhere known. Hence the science spread over Europe, and reached perfection at the principal courts in the twelfth century.” The Emperor Frederic II. wrote “De Arte Venandi cum Avibus,” and the royal author was followed by a host of imitators in the vulgar tongue. Though I am not aware that the Hindus ever cultivated the art, Œlian, it must be confessed, describes their style of training falcons exactly similar to that in use among the modern Persians, Sindians, and Arabs. The Emperor Frederic owes the “capella,” or hood to the Badawi, and talks of the “most expert falconers” sent to him with various kinds of birds by some of the kings of Arabia. The origin of falconry is ascribed by Al-Mas’udi, on the authority of Adham bin Muhriz, to the king Al-Haris bin Mu’awiyah, and in Dr. Sprenger’s admirable translation the reader will find (pp. 426, 428), much information upon the subject. The Persians claim the invention for their just King, Anushirawan, contemporary with Mohammed. Thence the sport passed into Turkey, where it is said the Sultans maintained a body of 6000 falconers. And Frederic Barbarossa, in the twelfth century, brought falcons to Italy. We may fairly give the honour of the invention to Central Asia.
41 Here called “bandukiyah bi ruhayn,” or the two-mouthed gun. The leathern cover is termed “gushat”; it is a bag with a long-ringed tassel at the top of the barrel, and a strap by which it is slung to the owner’s back.
42 I described elsewhere the Mirzak, or javelin.
43 Ostriches are found in Al-Hijaz, where the Badawin shoot after coursing them. The young ones are caught and tamed, and the eggs may be bought in the Madinah bazar. Throughout Arabia there is a belief that the ostrich throws stones at the hunter. The superstition may have arisen from the pebbles being flung up behind by the bird’s large feet in his rapid flight, or it may be a mere “foolery of fancy.” Even in lands which have long given up animal-worship, wherever a beast is conspicuous or terrible, it becomes the subject of some marvellous tale. So the bear in Persia imitates a moolah’s dress; the wolf in France is a human being transformed, and the beaver of North America, also a metamorphosis, belts trees so as to fell them in the direction most suitable to his after purpose.
44 Not that the “Agrebi” of Bir Hamid and other parts have much to learn of us in vice. The land of Al-Yaman is, I believe, the most demoralised country, and Sana’a the most depraved city in Arabia. The fair sex distinguishes itself by a peculiar laxity of conduct, which is looked upon with an indulgent eye. And the men drink and gamble, to say nothing of other peccadilloes, with perfect impunity.
45 In Al-Yaman, it is believed, that if a man eat three heads of garlic in good mountain-samn (or clarified butter) for forty days, his blood will kill the snake that draws it.
46 Circumcisionis causa apud Arabos manifestissima, ulceratio enim endemica, abrasionem glandis aut praeputii, maxima cum facilitate insequitur. Mos autem quem vocant Arabes Al-Salkh ([Arabic] i.e. scarificatio) virilitatem animumque ostendendi modus esse videtur. Exeunt amici paterque, et juvenem sub dio sedentem circumstant. Capit tunc pugionem tonsor et prŠputio abscisso detrahit pellem [Greek] ab umbilico incipiens aut parum infra, ventremque usque ad femora nudat. Juvenis autem dextra pugionem super tergum tonsoris vibrans magna clamat voce [Arabic] i.e. caede sine timore. Vae si haesitet tonsor aut si tremeat manus! Pater etiam filium si dolore ululet statim occidit. Re confecta surgit juvenis et [Arabic] “Gloria Deo” intonans, ad tentoria tendit, statim nefando oppressus dolore humi procumbit. Remedia Sal, et [Arabic] (tumerica); cibus lac cameli. Nonnullos occidit ingens suppuratio, decem autem excoriatis supersunt plerumque octo: hi pecten habent nullum, ventremque pallida tegit cutis.
47 The Spanish dollar is most prized in Al-Hijaz; in Al-Yaman the Maria Theresa. The Spanish Government has refused to perpetuate its Pillar-dollar, which at one time was so great a favourite in the East. The traveller wonders how “Maria Theresas” still supply both shores of the Red Sea. The marvel is easily explained: the Austrians receive silver at Milan, and stamp it for a certain percentage. This coin was doubtless preferred by the Badawin for its superiority to the currency of the day: they make from it ornaments for their women and decorations for their weapons. The generic term for dollars is “Riyal Fransah.”
48 Torale, sicut est mos Judaicus et Persicus, non inspiciunt. Novae nuptae tamen maritus mappam manu capit: mane autem puellae mater virginitatis signa viris mulieribusque domi ostendit eosque jubilare jubet quod calamitas domestica, sc. filia, intacta abiit. Si non ostendeant mappam, maeret domus, “prima enim Venus” in Arabia, “debet esse cruenta.” Maritus autem humanior, etiamsi absit sanguis, cruore palumbino mappam tingit et gaudium fingens cognatis parentibusque ostendit; paululum postea puellae nonnulla causa dat divortium. Hic urbis et ruris mos idem est.
49 An explanation of this term will be found below.
50 It is the plural of “Kaum,” which means “rising up in rebellion or enmity against,” as well as the popular signification, a “people.” In some parts of Arabia it is used for a “plundering party.”
51 Bayt (in the plural Buyut) is used in this sense to denote the tents of the nomades. “Bayt” radically means a “nighting-place”; thence a tent, a house, a lair, &c., &c.
52 Some tribes will not sell their sheep, keeping them for guests or feasts.
53 So the word is pronounced at Meccah. The dictionaries give “Aakal,” which in Eastern Arabia is corrupted to “Igal.”
54 Called “Tatarif,” plural of Tatrifah, a cartridge.
55 The liver and the spleen are both supposed to be “congealed blood.” Niebuhr has exhausted the names and the description of the locust. In Al-Hijaz they have many local and fantastic terms: the smallest kind, for instance, is called Jarad Iblis, Satan’s locust.
56 This is the Kurut of Sind and the Kashk of Persia. The butter-milk, separated from the butter by a little water, is simmered over a slow fire, thickened with wheaten flour, about a handful to a gallon, well-mixed, so that no knots remain in it, and allowed to cool. The mixture is then put into a bag and strained, after which salt is sprinkled over it. The mass begins to harden after a few hours, when it is made up into balls and dried in the sun.
57 The North American trappers adopted this natural prejudice: the “free trapper” called his more civilized confrere, “mangeur de lard.”
58 Burckhardt shrank from the intricate pedigree of the Meccan Sharifs. I have seen a work upon the subject in four folio volumes in point of matter equivalent to treble the number in Europe. The best known genealogical works are Al-Kalkashandi (originally in seventy-five books, extended to one hundred); the Umdat al-Tullab by Ibn Khaldun; the “Tohfat al-Arab fi Ansar al-Arab,” a well-known volume by Al-Siyuti; and, lastly, the Sirat al-Halabi, in six volumes 8vo. Of the latter work there is an abridgment by Mohammed al-Banna al-Dimyati in two volumes 8vo.; but both are rare, and consequently expensive.
59 I give the following details of the Harb upon the authority of my friend Omar Effendi, who is great in matters of genealogy.
60The first word is the plural, the second the singular form of the word.
61 In the singular Aufi and Amri.
62 To these Mr. Cole adds seven other sub-divisions, viz.:—
1. Ahali al-Kura (“the people of Kura?”), 5000.
2. Radadah, 800.
3. Hijlah, 600.
4. Dubayah, 1500.
5. Benu Kalb, 2000.
6. Bayzanah, 800.
7. Benu Yahya, 800.
And he makes the total of the Benu Harb about Al-Jadaydah amount to 35,000 men. I had no means of personally ascertaining the correctness of this information.
63 The reader will remember that nothing like exactitude in numbers can be expected from an Arab. Some rate the Benu Harb at 6000; others, equally well informed, at 15,000; others again at 80,000. The reason of this is that, whilst one is speaking of the whole race, another may be limiting it to his own tribe and its immediate allies.
64 “Sham” which, properly speaking, means Damascus or Syria, in Southern Arabia and Eastern Africa is universally applied to Al-Hijaz.