Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter 16

Palgrave’s Travels—Eastern Arabia

“Our stay at Hofhoof was very pleasant and interesting, not indeed through personal incidents and hair-breadth escapes—of which we had our fair portion at Ri’ad and elsewhere—but in the information here acquired, and in the novel character of everything around us, whether nature, art, or man.  Aboo-’Eysa was very anxious that we should see as much as possible of the country, and procured us all means requisite for so doing, while the shelter of his roof, and the precautions which he adopted or suggested, obviated whatever dangers and inconveniences we had experienced in former stages of the journey. Besides, the general disposition of the inhabitants of Hasa is very different from that met with in Nedjed, and even in Shomer or Djowf, and much better adapted to make a stranger feel himself at home.  A sea-coast people, looking mainly to foreign lands and the ocean for livelihood and commerce, accustomed to see among them not unfrequently men of dress, manners, and religion different from their own, many of them themselves travellers or voyagers to Basrah, Bagdad, Bahreyn, Oman, and some even farther, they are commonly free from that half-wondering, half-suspicious feeling which the sight of a stranger occasions in the isolated, desert-girded centre.  In short, experience, that best of masters, has gone far to unteach the lessons of ignorance, intolerance, and national aversion.

“Hofhoof, whose ample circuit contained during the last generation about thirty thousand inhabitants, now dwindled to twenty-three or twenty-four thousand, is divided into three quarters or districts.  The general form of the town is that of a large oval.  The public square, an oblong space of about three hundred yards in length by a fourth of the same in width, occupies the meeting point of these quarters; the Kôt lies on its northeast, the Rifey’eeyah on the northwest and west, and the Na’athar on the east and south.  In this last quarter was our present home; moreover, it stood in the part farthest removed from the Kôt and its sinister influences, while it was also sufficiently distant from the overturbulent neighborhood of the Rifey’eeyah, the centre of anti-Wahabee movements, and the name of which alone excited distrust and uneasiness in Nedjean minds.

“The Kôt itself is a vast citadel, surrounded by a deep trench, with walls and towers of unusual height and thickness, earth-built, with an occasional intermixture of stone, the work of the old Carmathian rulers; it is nearly square, being about one-third of a mile in length by one-quarter in breadth.

“On the opposite side of the square, and consequently belonging to the Rifey’eeyah, is the vaulted market-place, or ‘Keysareeyah,’ a name by which constructions of this nature must henceforth be called up to Mascat itself, though how this Latinism found its way across the peninsula to lands which seem to have had so little commerce with the Roman or Byzantine empires, I cannot readily conjecture.  This Keysareeyah is in form a long barrel-vaulted arcade, with a portal at either end; the folding doors that should protect the entrances have here in Hofhoof been taken away, elsewhere they are always to be found.  The sides are composed of shops, set apart in general for wares of cost, or at least what is here esteemed costly; thus, weapons, cloth embroidery, gold and silver ornament, and analogous articles, are the ordinary stock-in-hand in the Keysareeyah.  Around it cluster several alleys, roofed with palm-leaves against the heat, and tolerably symmetrical; in the shops we may see the merchandise of Bahreyn, Oman, Persia, and India exposed for sale, mixed with the manufactured produce of the country; workshops, smithies, carpenters’ and shoemakers’ stalls, and the like, are here also.  In the open square itself stand countless booths for the sale of dates, vegetables, wood, salted locusts, and small ware of many kinds.

“The Rifey’eeyah, or noble quarter, covers a considerable extent, and is chiefly composed of tolerable, in some places of even handsome, dwellings.  The comparative elegance of domestic architecture in Hofhoof is due to the use of the arch, which, after the long interval from Ma’an to Hasa, now at last reappears, and gives to the constructions of this province a lightness and a variety unknown in the monotonous and heavy piles of Nedjed and Shomer.  Another improvement is that the walls, whether of earth or stone, or of both mixed, as is often the case, are here very generally coated with fine white plaster, much resembling the ‘chunam’ of Southern India; ornament, too, is aimed at about the doorways and the ogee-headed windows, and is sometimes attained.

“The Na’athar is the largest quarter; it forms, indeed, a good half of the town, and completes its oval.  In it every description of dwelling is to be seen—for rich and poor, for high and low, palace or hovel.  Here, too, but near the Kôt, has the pious policy of Feysul constructed the great mosque.

“But perhaps my reader, after accompanying me thus far, may feel thirsty, for the heat, even in December, is almost oppressive, and the sky cloudless as though it were June or July.  So let us turn aside into that grassy plantation, where half a dozen buffaloes are cooling their ugly hides in a pool, and drink a little from the source that supplies it.  When behold! the water is warm, almost hot.  Do not be surprised; all the fountain sources and wells of Hasa are so, more or less; in some one can hardly bear to plunge one’s hand; others are less above the average temperature, while a decidedly sulphurous taste is now and then perceptible.  In fact, from the extreme north of this province down to its southern-most frontier, this same sign of subterranean fire is everywhere to be found.  The rocks, too, are here very frequently of tufa and basalt, another mark of igneous agency.

“The products of Hasa are many and various; the monotony of Arab vegetation, its eternal palm and ithel, ithel and palm, are here varied by new foliage, and growths unknown to Nedjed and Shomer.  True, the date-palm still predominates, nay, here attains its greatest perfection.  But the nabak, with its rounded leaves and little crab-apple fruit, a mere bush in Central Arabia, becomes in Hasa a stately tree; the papay, too, so well known in the more easterly peninsula, appears, though seldom, and stunted in growth, along with some other trees, common on the coast from Cutch to Bombay.  Indigo is here cultivated, though not sufficiently for the demands of commerce; cotton is much more widely grown than in Yemamah; rice fields abound, and the sugar-cane is often planted, though not, I believe, for the extraction of the sugar.  The peasants of Hasa sell the reed by retail bundles in the market-place, and the purchasers take it home to gnaw at leisure in their houses.  Corn, maize, millet, vetches of every kind, radishes, onions, garlic, beans, in short, almost all legumina and cerealia, barley excepted (at least I neither saw nor heard of any), cover the plain, and under a better administration might be multiplied tenfold.

“The climate of Hasa, as I have already implied, is very different from that of the uplands, and not equally favorable to health and physical activity.  Hence, a doctor, like myself, if my readers will allow me the title, has here more work and better fees; this latter circumstance is also owing to the greater amount of ready money in circulation, and the higher value set on medical science by men whose intellects are much more cultivated than those of their Nedjean neighbors.  In appearance, the inhabitants of Hasa are generally good-sized and well-proportioned, but somewhat sallow in the face, and of a less muscular development than is usual inland; their features, though regular, are less marked than those of the Nedjeans, and do not exhibit the same half-Jewish type.  On the contrary, there is something in them that reminds a beholder of the Rajpoot or the Guzeratee.  They are passionately fond of literature and poetry.

“I have already said that our great endeavor in Hasa was to observe unobserved, and thus to render our time as barren as might be in incidents and catastrophes.  Not that we went into the opposite extreme of leading an absolutely retired and therefore uneventful life.  Aboo-’Eysa took care from the first to bring us into contact with the best and the most cultivated families of the town, nor had my medical profession anywhere a wider range for its exercise, or better success than in Hofhoof.  Friendly invitations, now to dinner, now to supper, were of daily occurrence; and we sat at tables where fish, no longer mere salted shrimps, announced our vicinity to the coast; vermicelli, too, and other kinds of pastry, denoted the influence of Persian art on the kitchen.  Smoking within doors was general; but the nargheelah often replaced, and that advantageously, the short Arab pipe; perfumes are no less here in use than in Nedjed.

“We had passed about a week in the town when Aboo-’Eysa entered the side room where Barakat and I were enjoying a moment of quiet, and copying out ‘Nabtee’ poetry, and shut the door behind him.  He then announced to us, with a face and tone of serious anxiety, that two of the principal Nedjean agents belonging to the Kôt had just come into the k’hawah, under pretext of medical consultation, but in reality, said he, to identify the strangers.  We put on our cloaks—a preliminary measure of decorum equivalent to face- and hand-washing in Europe—and presented ourselves before our inquisitors with an air of conscious innocence and scientific solemnity.  Conversation ensued, and we talked so learnedly about bilious and sanguine complexions, cephalic veins, and Indian drugs, with such apposite citations from the Koran, and such loyal phrases for Feysul, that Aboo-’Eysa was beside himself for joy; and the spies, after receiving some prescriptions of the bread-pill and aromatic-water formula, left the house no wiser than before.  Our friends, too, and they were now many, well guessing what we might really be, partly from our own appearance and partly from the known character of our host (according to old Homer’s true saying, Heaven always leads like to like), did each and all their best to throw sand into Wahabee eyes, and everything went on sociably and smoothly.  A blessing on the medical profession!  None other gives such excellent opportunities for securing everywhere confidence and friendship.

“Before we leave Hasa I must add a few remarks to complete the sketch given of the province and of its inhabitants.  Want of a suitable opportunity for inserting them before has thrown them together at this point of my narrative.

“My fair readers will be pleased to learn that the veil and other restraints inflicted on the gentle sex by Islamitic rigorism, not to say worse, are much less universal, and more easily dispensed with in Hasa; while in addition, the ladies of the land enjoy a remarkable share of those natural gifts which no institutions, and even no cosmetics, can confer; namely, beauty of face and elegance of form.  Might I venture on the delicate and somewhat invidious task of constructing a ‘beauty-scale’ for Arabia, and for Arabia alone, the Bedouin women would, on this kalometer, be represented by zero, or at most 1°; a degree higher would represent the female sex of Nedjed; above them rank the women of Shomer, who are in their turn surmounted by those of Djowf.  The fifth or sixth degree symbolizes the fair ones of Hasa; the seventh those of Katar; and lastly, by a sudden rise of ten degrees at least, the seventeenth or eighteenth would denote the pre-eminent beauties of Oman.  Arab poets occasionally languish after the charmers of Hedjaz; I never saw anyone to charm me, but then I only skirted the province.  All bear witness to the absence of female loveliness in Yemen; and I should much doubt whether the mulatto races and dusky complexions of Hadramaut have much to vaunt of.  But in Hasa a decided improvement on this important point is agreeably evident to the traveller arriving from Nedjed, and he will be yet further delighted on finding his Calypsos much more conversible, and having much more, too, in their conversation than those he left behind him in Sedeyr and ’Aared.

“During our stay at Hofhoof, Aboo-’Eysa left untried no arts of Arab rhetoric and persuasion to determine me to visit Oman, assuring me again and again that whatever we had yet seen, even in his favorite Hasa, was nothing compared to what remained to see in that more remote country.  My companion, tired of our long journey, and thinking the long distance already laid between him and his Syrian home quite sufficient in itself without further leagues tacked on to it, was very little disposed for a supplementary expedition.  Englishmen, on the contrary, are rovers by descent and habit; my own mind was now fully made up to visit Oman at all risks, whether Barakat came with me or not.  Meanwhile, we formed our plan for the next immediate stage of our route.  My companion and I were to quit Hofhoof together, leaving Aboo-’Eysa behind us for a week or two at Hasa, while we journeyed northward to Kateef, and thence took ship for the town of Menamah in Bahreyn.  In this latter place Aboo-’Eysa was to rejoin us.  Our main reason for thus separating our movements in time and in direction, was to avoid the too glaring appearance of acting in concert while yet in a land under Wahabee government and full of Wahabee spies and reporters, especially after the suspicions thrown on us at Ri’ad.  The Oman arrangements were to be deferred till we should all meet again.

“Barakat and myself prepared for our departure; we purchased a few objects of local curiosity, got in our dues of medical attendance, paid and received the customary P. P. C. visits, and even tendered our respects to the negro governor Belal, where he sat at his palace door in the Kôt, holding a public audience, and looking much like any other well-dressed black.  No passport was required for setting out on the road to Kateef, which in the eyes of government forms only one and the same province with Hasa, though in many respects very different from it.  The road is perfectly secure; plundering Bedouins or highway robbers are here out of the question.  However, we stood in need of companions, not for escort, but as guides.  Aboo-’Eysa made inquiries in the town, and found three men who chanced to be just then setting out on their way for Kateef, who readily consented to join band with us for the road.  Our Abyssinian hostess supplied us with a whole sack of provisions, and our Hofhoof associates found us in camels.  Thus equipped and mounted, we took an almost touching leave of Aboo-’Eysa’s good-natured wife, kissed the baby, exchanged an au revoir with its father, and set out on the afternoon of December 19th, leaving behind us many pleasant acquaintances, from some of whom I received messages and letters while at Bahreyn.  So far as inhabitants are concerned, to no town in Arabia should I return with equal confidence of finding a hearty greeting and a welcome reception, than to Hofhoof and its amiable and intelligent merchants.

“We quitted the town by the northeastern gate of the Rifey-’eeyah, where the friends, who, according to Arab custom, had accompanied us thus far in a sort of procession, wished us a prosperous journey, took a last adieu, and returned home.  After some hours we bivouacked on a little hillock of clean sand, with the dark line of the Hofhoof woods on our left, while at some distance in front a copious fountain poured out its rushing waters with a noise distinctly audible in the stillness of the night, and irrigated a garden worthy of Damascus or Antioch.  The night air was temperate, neither cold like that of Nedjed, nor stifling like that of Southern India; the sky clear and starry.  From our commanding position on the hill I could distinguish Soheyl or Canopus, now setting; and following him, not far above the horizon, the three upper stars of the Southern Cross, an old Indian acquaintance; two months later in Oman I had the view of the entire constellation.

“Next morning we traversed a large plain of light and sandy soil, intersected by occasional ridges of basalt and sandstone.

“We journeyed on all day, meeting no Bedouins and few travellers.  At evening we encamped in a shallow valley, near a cluster of brimming wells, some sweet, some brackish, where the traces of half-obliterated watercourses and the vestiges of crumbling house-walls indicated the former existence of a village, now also deserted.  We passed a comfortable night under the shelter of palms and high brushwood, mixed with gigantic aloes and yuccas, and rose next morning early to our way.  Our direction lay northeast.  In the afternoon we caught our first glimpse of Djebel Mushahhar, a pyramidical peak some seven hundred feet high and about ten miles south of Kateef.  But the sea, though I looked toward it and for it with an eagerness somewhat resembling that of the Ten Thousand on their approach to the Euxine, remained shut out from view by a further continuation of the heights.

“Next day we rose at dawn, and crossed the hills of Kateef by a long winding path, till after some hours of labyrinthine track we came in sight of the dark plantation-line that girdles Kateef itself landward.  The sea lies immediately beyond; this we knew, but we could not obtain a glimpse of its waters through the verdant curtain stretched between.

“About midday we descended the last slope, a steep sandstone cliff, which looks as though it had been the sea-limit of a former period.  We now stood on the coast itself.  Its level is as nearly as possible that of the Gulf beyond; a few feet of a higher tide than usual would cover it up to the cliffs.  Hence it is a decidedly unhealthy land, though fertile and even populous; but the inhabitants are mostly weak in frame and sallow in complexion.  The atmosphere was thick and oppressive, the heat intense, and the vegetation hung rich and heavy around; my companions talked about suffocation, and I remembered once more the Indian coast.  Another hour of afternoon march brought us to Kateef itself, at its western portal; a high stone arch of elegant form, and flanked by walls and towers, but all dismantled and ruinous.  Close by the two burial-grounds, one for the people of the land, the other for the Nedjean rulers and colony—divided even after death by mutual hatred and anathema.  Folly, if you will, but folly not peculiar to the East.

“The town itself is crowded, damp, and dirty, and has altogether a gloomy, what for want of a better epithet I would call a mouldy, look; much business was going on in the market and streets, but the ill-favored and very un-Arab look of the shopkeepers and workmen confirms what history tells of the Persian colonization of this city.  Indeed, the inhabitants of the entire district, but more especially of the capital, are a mongrel race, in which Persian blood predominates, mixed with that of Bassora, Bagdad, and the ’Irak.

“We urged our starting dromedaries across the open square in front of the market-place, traversed the town in its width, which is scarce a quarter of its length (like other coast towns), till we emerged from the opposite gate, and then looked out with greedy eyes for the sea, now scarce ten minutes distant.  In vain as yet, so low lies the land, and so thick cluster the trees.  But after a turn or two we came alongside of the outer walls, belonging to the huge fortress of Karmoot, and immediately afterward the valley opening out showed us almost at our feet the dead shallow flats of the bay.  How different from the bright waters of the Mediterranean, all glitter and life, where we had bidden them farewell eight months before at Gaza!  Like a leaden sheet, half ooze, half sedge, the muddy sea lay in view, waveless, motionless; to our left the massive walls of the castle went down almost to the water’s edge, and then turned to leave a narrow esplanade between its circuit and the Gulf.  On this ledge were ranged a few rusty guns of large calibre, to show how the place was once guarded; and just in front of the main gate a crumbling outwork, which a single cannon-shot would level with the ground, displayed six pieces of honey-combed artillery, their mouths pointing seaward.  Long stone benches without invited us to leave our camels crouching on the esplanade, while we seated ourselves and rested a little before requesting the governor to grant us a day’s hospitality, and permission to embark for Bahreyn.

“Barakat and I sat still to gaze, speculating on the difference between the two sides of Arabia.  But our companions, like true Arabs, thought it high time for ‘refreshment,’ and accordingly began their inquiries at the castle-gate where the governor might be, and whether he was to be spoken to.  When, behold! the majesty of Feysul’s vicegerent issuing in person from his palace to visit the new man-of-war.  My abolitionist friends will be gratified to learn that this exalted dignitary is, no less than he of Hofhoof, a negro, brought up from a curly-headed imp to a woolly-headed black in Feysul’s own palace, and now governor of the most important harbor owned by Nedjed on the Persian Gulf, and of the town once capital of that fierce dynasty which levelled the Kaabah with the dust, and filled Kateef with the plunder of Yemen and Syria.  Farhat, to give him his proper name, common among those of his complexion, was a fine tall negro of about fifty years old, good-natured, chatty, hospitable, and furnished with perhaps a trifle more than the average amount of negro intellect.

“Aboo-’Eysa, who had friends and acquaintances everywhere, and whose kindly manner made him always a special favorite with negroes high or low, had furnished us with an introductory letter to Farhat, intended to make matters smooth for our future route.  But as matters went there was little need of caution.  The fortunate coincidence of a strong north wind, just then blowing down the Gulf, gave a satisfactory reason for not embarking on board of a Bassora cruiser, while it rendered a voyage to Bahreyn, our real object, equally specious and easy.  Besides, Farhat himself, who was a good, easy-going sort of man, had hardly opened Aboo-’Eysa’s note, than without more ado he bade us a hearty welcome, ordered our luggage to be brought within the castle precincts, and requested us to step in ourselves and take a cup of coffee, awaiting his return for further conversation after his daily visit of inspection to Feysul’s abridged fleet.

“The next day passed, partly in Farhat’s k’hawah, partly in strolling about the castle, town, gardens, and beach, making, meanwhile, random inquiries after boats and boatmen.

“It was noon when we fell in with a ship captain, ready to sail that very night, wind and tide permitting.  Farhat’s men had spoken with him, and he readily offered to take us on board.  We then paid a visit to the custom-house officer to settle the embarkation dues for men and goods.  This foreman of the Ma’asher, whether in accordance with orders from Farhat, or of his own free will and inclination, I know not, proved wonderfully gracious, and declared that to take a farthing of duty from such useful servants of the public as doctors, would be ‘sheyn w’khata’, ‘shame and sin.’  Alas, that European custom house officials should be far removed from such generous and patriotic sentiments!  Lastly, of his own accord he furnished us with men to carry our baggage through knee-deep water and thigh-deep mud to the little cutter, where she lay some fifty yards from shore.  Evening now came on, and Farhat sent for us to congratulate us, but with a polite regret on having found so speedy conveyance for our voyage.  Meanwhile he let us understand how he was himself invited for the evening to supper with a rich merchant of the town, and that we were expected to join the party; nor need that make us anxious about our passage, since our ship captain was also invited, nor could the vessel possibly sail before the full tide at midnight.

“From our town supper we returned by torchlight to the castle; our baggage, no great burden, had been already taken down to the sea gate, where stood two of the captain’s men waiting for us.  In their company we descended to the beach, and then with garments tucked up to the waist waded to the vessel, not without difficulty, for the tide was rapidly coming in, and we had almost to swim for it.  At last we reached the ship and scrambled up her side; most heartily glad was I to find myself at sea once more on the other side of Arabia.”

After a slow voyage of three days Palgrave reached Bahreyn, the headquarters of the pearl fisheries, and established himself in the little town of Moharrek, to wait for the arrival of Aboo-’Eysa before undertaking his projected exploration of Oman.  He and his companion enjoyed a grateful feeling of rest and security in this seaport among the sailors, to whom all varieties of foreigners were well known, and who, having no prejudices, felt no suspicion.

On January 9, 1863, Aboo-’Eysa arrived, and after much earnest consultation the following plan was adopted: Aboo-’Eysa was to send twenty loads of the best Hasa dates, and a handsome mantle, as presents to the Sultan of Oman, with three additional mantles for the three chiefs whose territories intervened between Bahreyn and Muscat.  Palgrave was to accompany these gifts, under his character of a skilled physician in quest of certain rare and mysterious herbs of Oman.  Meanwhile, Aboo-’Eysa and Barakat would take passage for Aboo-Shahr (Busheer), in Persia, where the former would be employed for three months in making up his next caravan of Mecca pilgrims.  Here Palgrave was to rejoin them after his journey.

In place of Barakat his companion was a curious individual named Yoosef, whom Aboo-’Eysa had rescued from misery and maintained in a decent condition.  He was a native of Hasa, half a jester and half a knave; witty, reckless, hare brained to the last degree, full of jocose or pathetic stories, of poetry, traditions, and fun of every description.  When everything had been arranged the four parted company, Palgrave and his new companion sailing for the port of Bedaa’, on the Arabian coast, where resided the first of the three chiefs whose protection it was necessary to secure.  They reached there after a cruise of five or six days, finding the place very barren and desolate, with scarcely a tree or a garden; but, as the chief said to Palgrave, “We are all, from the highest to the lowest, the slaves of one master—Pearl.”  The bay contains the best pearl-fishery on the coast, and the town depends for its existence on the trade in these gems.

The chief was intelligent and friendly, and appears to have interposed no obstacle to the proposed journey into the interior, but Palgrave decided to go on by sea to the town of Sharjah, on the northern side of the peninsula of Oman.  Embarking again on February 6th, the vessel was driven by violent winds across to the Persian shore, and ten days elapsed before it was possible to reach Sharjah.  Here, again, although their reception was hospitable, the travellers gave up their land journey and re-embarked in another vessel to pass around the peninsula, through the Straits of Ormuz, and land on the southern shore, in the territory of Muscat.

In three days they reached the island of Ormuz, of which Palgrave says: “I was not at all sorry to have an opportunity of visiting an island once so renowned for its commerce, and of which its Portuguese occupants used to say, ‘that, were the world a golden ring Ormuz would be the diamond signet.’  The general appearance of Ormuz indicates an extinguished volcano, and such I believe it really is; the circumference consists of a wide oval wall, formed by steep crags, fire-worn and ragged; these enclose a central basin, where grow shrubs and grass; the basaltic slopes of the outer barrier run in many places clean down into the sea, amid splinter-like pinnacles and fantastic crags of many colors, like those which lava often assumes on cooling.  Between the west and north a long triangular promontory, low and level, advances to a considerable distance, and narrows into a neck of land, which is terminated by a few rocks and a strong fortress, the work of Portuguese builders, but worthy of taking rank among Roman ruins—so solid are the walls, so compact the masonry and well-selected brickwork, against which three long centuries of sea-storm have broken themselves in vain.  The greater part of the promontory itself is covered with ruins.  Here stood the once thriving town, now a confused extent of desolate heaps, amid which the vestiges of several fine dwellings, of baths, and of a large church may yet be clearly made out.  Close by the fort cluster a hundred or more wretched earth-hovels, the abode of fishermen or shepherds, whose flocks pasture within the crater; one single shed, where dried dates, raisins, and tobacco are exposed for sale, is all that now remains of the trade of Ormuz.”

After being detained three days at Ormuz by a storm, the vessel passed through the Strait, skirted the southern coast of the peninsula, and reached the harbor of Sohar on March 3d.  Palgrave determined to set off with Yoosef the same evening on the land-journey of eight or nine days to Muscat; but he had already lost so much time by delays since leaving Bahreyn that he yielded to the persuasions of the captain of another vessel, who promised to take him to Muscat by sea in two days.  He sailed on the 6th, weighed down with a vague presentiment of coming evil, which was soon to be justified.  His wanderings in Arabia, and also in this world, very nearly came to an end.  The vessel slowly glided on for two days, and Muscat was almost in sight when a dead, ominous calm befell them near the Sowadah Islands—some low reefs of barren rocks, about three leagues from shore.  It proved to be a calm, ominous indeed for Palgrave, as well as for the captain of the vessel and all on board.  It was followed by a furious storm that ended in the wreck of the dhow, and the loss of several lives, together with the entire outfit of the expedition.  Palgrave and the survivors of the crew and passengers, nine in number, barely escaped with their lives, and reached the shore utterly exhausted, with nothing but the shirts they wore.

In sorry plight the traveller made his way along the coast to Muscat.  He was obliged to give up the idea of exploring the interior of Oman, partly on account of the loss of the stores but chiefly because his identity as a European had been disclosed; and so in this disastrous manner ended the most important and interesting journey that had yet been made by any traveller in Arabia.

Bayard Taylor

Sorry, no summary available yet.