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Chapter 7

Burton’s Pilgrimage


Captain Richard F. Burton, the discoverer of the great Lake Tanganyika, in Central Africa, first became known to the world by his daring and entirely successful visit to Medina and Mecca, in the year 1853, in the disguise of a Moslem pilgrim.  Although his journey was that of Burckhardt, reversed, and he describes the same ceremonies, his account supplies many deficiencies in the narrative of his predecessor, and has the merit of a livelier and more graphic style.

Burton’s original design was to cross the Arabian Peninsula from west to east, as Palgrave has since done, and the Royal Geographical Society was disposed to accept his services.  But he failed to obtain a sufficient leave of absence from the East India Company, which only granted him a furlough of one year—a period quite insufficient for the undertaking.  He therefore determined to prove at least his fitness for the task, by making the pilgrimage to the holy cities.  He was already familiar with the Arabic and Persian languages, and had the advantage of an Eastern cast of countenance.

Like Burckhardt, he assumed an Oriental character at the start, and during the voyage from Southampton to Alexandria was supposed to be a Persian prince.  For two or three months he laboriously applied himself in Egypt to the necessary religious studies, joined a society of dervishes, under the name of Shekh Abdullah, kept the severe fast of Ramazan, and familiarized himself with all the orthodox forms of ablution, prayer, and prostration.  He gave himself out to be an Afghan by birth, but long absent from his native country, a character which was well adapted to secure him against detection.  During his stay in Cairo he made the acquaintance of a boy named Mohammed el-Basyuni, a native of Mecca, who became his companion for the journey, and who seems not to have suspected his real character until the pilgrimage was over.

Having purchased a tent and laid in an ample supply of provisions, with about four hundred dollars in money, he went to Suez about July 1st, with the avowed purpose of proceeding to Mecca by way of Jedda, yet with the secret intention of visiting Medina on the way.  Here he became acquainted with a company of pilgrims, whose good-will he secured by small loans of money, and joined them in taking passage in a large Arab boat bound for Yembo.  The vessel was called the Golden Wire.  “Immense was the confusion,” says Burton, “on the eventful day of our departure.  Suppose us standing on the beach, on the morning of a fiery July day, carefully watching our hurriedly-packed goods and chattels, surrounded by a mob of idlers who are not too proud to pick up waifs and strays, while pilgrims rush about apparently mad, and friends are weeping, acquaintances vociferating adieux, boatmen demanding fees, shopmen claiming debts, women shrieking and talking with inconceivable power, children crying—in short, for an hour or so we were in the thick of a human storm.  To confound confusion, the boatmen have moored their skiff half a dozen yards away from the shore, lest the porters should be unable to make more than double their fare from the pilgrims.”

They sailed on July 6th, and were five days in reaching the mouth of the Gulf of Akaba.  While crossing to the Arabian shore, the pilgrims are accustomed to repeat the following prayer, which is a good example of Moslem invocation: “O Allah, O Exalted, O Almighty, O All-pitiful, O All-powerful, thou art my God, and sufficeth to me the knowledge of it!  Glorified be the Lord my Lord, and glorified be the faith my faith!  Thou givest victory to whom thou pleaseth, and thou art the glorious, the merciful!  We pray thee for safety in our goings-forth and in our standings-still, in our words and our designs, in our dangers of temptation and doubts, and the secret designs of our hearts.  Subject unto us this sea, even as thou didst subject the deep to Moses, and as thou didst subject the fire to Abraham, and as thou didst subject the iron to David, and as thou didst subject the wind, and devils, and genii, and mankind to Solomon, and as thou didst subject the moon and El-Burak to Mohammed, upon whom be Allah’s mercy and His blessing!  And subject unto us all the seas in earth and heaven, in the visible and in thine invisible worlds, the sea of this life, and the sea of futurity.  O thou who reignest over everything, and unto whom all things return, Khyar! Khyar!”

A further voyage of another week, uncomfortable and devoid of incident, brought the vessel to Yembo.  As the pilgrims were desirous of pushing on to Medina, camels were hired on the day of arrival, and, a week’s provisions having been purchased, the little caravan started the next afternoon.  Burton, by the advice of his companions, assumed the Arab dress, but travelled in a litter, both because of an injury to his foot, and because he could thus take notes on the way without being observed.  On account of the heat the caravan travelled mostly by night; the country, thus dimly seen, was low and barren for the first two days, but on the third day they reached a wilder region, which Burton thus describes: “We travelled through a country fantastic in its desolation—a mass of huge hills, barren plains, and desert vales.  Even the sturdy acacias here failed, and in some places the camel grass could not find earth enough to take root in.  The road wound among mountains, rocks, and hills of granite, over broken ground, flanked by huge blocks and bowlders, piled up as if man’s art had aided nature to disfigure herself.  Vast clefts seemed like scars on the hideous face of earth; here they widened into dark caves, there they were choked up with glistening drift sand.  Not a bird or a beast was to be seen or heard; their presence would have argued the vicinity of water, and though my companions opined that Bedouins were lurking among the rocks, I decided that these Bedouins were the creatures of their fears.  Above, a sky like polished blue steel, with a tremendous blaze of yellow light, glared upon us, without the thinnest veil of mist or cloud.  The distant prospect, indeed, was more attractive than the near view, because it borrowed a bright azure tinge from the intervening atmosphere; but the jagged peaks and the perpendicular streaks of shadow down the flanks of the mountainous background showed that no change for the better was yet in store for us.”

At the little towns of El-Hamra and Bir Abbas the caravan rested a day, suffering much from the intense heat, and with continual quarrels between the pilgrims and the Arabs to whom the camels belonged.  At the latter place they were threatened with a detention of several days, but the difficulty was settled, and they set out upon the most dangerous portion of the road.  “We travelled that night,” says Burton “up a dry river-course in an easterly direction, and at early dawn found ourselves in an ill-famed gorge, called Shuab el-Hadj (the ‘Pilgrim’s Pass’).  The loudest talkers became silent as we neared it, and their countenances showed apprehension written in legible characters.  Presently, from the high, precipitous cliff on our left, thin blue curls of smoke—somehow or other they caught every eye—rose in the air, and instantly afterward rang the loud, sharp cracks of the hill-men’s matchlocks, echoed by the rocks on the right.  My shugduf had been broken by the camel’s falling during the night, so I called out to Mansur that we had better splice the frame-work with a bit of rope; he looked up, saw me laughing, and with an ejaculation of disgust disappeared.  A number of Bedouins were to be seen swarming like hornets over the crests of the rocks, boys as well as men carrying huge weapons, and climbing with the agility of cats.  They took up comfortable places in the cut-throat eminence, and began firing upon us with perfect convenience to themselves.  The height of the hills and the glare of the rising sun prevented my seeing objects very distinctly, but my companions pointed out to me places where the rock had been scarped, and a kind of breastwork of rough stones—the Sangah of Afghanistan, piled up as a defence, and a rest for the long barrel of the matchlock.  It was useless to challenge the Bedouins to come down and fight us upon the plain like men; and it was equally unprofitable for our escort to fire upon a foe ensconced behind stones.  We had, therefore, nothing to do but to blaze away as much powder and to veil ourselves in as much smoke as possible; the result of the affair was that we lost twelve men, besides camels and other beasts of burden.  Though the bandits showed no symptoms of bravery, and confined themselves to slaughtering the enemy from their hill-top, my companions seemed to consider this questionable affair a most gallant exploit.”

After two more days of severe travel, the pilgrims, at early dawn, came in sight of the holy city of Medina.  Burton thus describes the approach, and the view from the western ridge: “Half an hour after leaving the Wady el-Akik, or ‘Blessed Valley,’ we came to a huge flight of steps, roughly cut in a long, broad line of black, scoriaceous basalt.  This is called the Mudarraj, or flight of steps over the western ridge of the so-called El-Harratain; it is holy ground, for the Prophet spoke well of it.  Arrived at the top, we passed through a lane of black scoria, with deep banks on both sides, and, after a few minutes a full view of the city suddenly opened on us.  We halted our beasts as if by word of command.  All of us descended, in imitation of the pious of old, and sat down, jaded and hungry as we were, to feast our eyes with a view of the Holy City.  The prayer was, ‘O Allah! this is the Haram (sanctuary) of the Prophet; make it to us a protection from hell fire, and a refuge from eternal punishment!  O, open the gates of thy mercy, and let us pass through them to the land of joy!’

“As we looked eastward, the sun arose out of the horizon of low hills, blurred and dotted with small tufted trees, which gained a giant stature from the morning mists, and the earth was stained with gold and purple.  Before us lay a spacious plain, bounded in front by the undulating ground of Nedjed; on the left was a grim barrier of rocks, the celebrated Mount Ohod, with a clump of verdure and a white dome or two nestling at its base.  Rightward, broad streaks of lilac-colored mists were thick with gathered dew, there pierced and thinned by the morning rays, stretched over the date-groves and the gardens of Kuba, which stood out in emerald green from the dull tawny surface of the plain.  Below, at the distance of about two miles, lay El Medina; at first sight it appeared a large place, but a closer inspection proved the impression to be an erroneous one.”

On arriving at Medina, Burton became the guest of one of the company he had met at Suez, and during his stay of a month in the city performed all the religious ceremonies and visitations which are prescribed for the pilgrim.  He gives the following description of the Prophet’s mosque: “Passing through muddy streets—they had been freshly watered before evening time—I came suddenly upon the mosque.  Like that at Mecca, the approach is choked up by ignoble buildings, some actually touching the holy ‘enceinte,’ others separated by a lane compared with which the road around St. Paul’s is a Vatican square.  There is no outer front, no general aspect of the Prophet’s mosque; consequently, as a building it has neither beauty nor dignity.  And entering the Bab el-Rahmah—the Gate of Pity—by a diminutive flight of steps, I was astonished at the mean and tawdry appearance of a place so universally venerated in the Moslem world.  It is not like the Meccan mosque, grand and simple—the expression of a single sublime idea; the longer I looked at it the more it suggested the resemblance of a museum of second-rate art, a curiosity-shop, full of ornaments that are not accessories, and decorated with pauper splendor.”



View of Medina from the West


We must also quote the traveller’s account of his manner of spending the day during his residence in Medina: “At dawn we arose, washed, prayed, and broke our fast upon a crust of stale bread, before smoking a pipe, and drinking a cup of coffee.  Then it was time to dress, to mount, and to visit the Haram in one of the holy places outside the city.  Returning before the sun became intolerable, we sat together, and with conversation, shishas and chibouques, coffee and cold water perfumed with mastich-smoke, we whiled away the time till our ariston, an early dinner which appeared at the primitive hour of 11 A.M.  The meal was served in the majlis on a large copper tray sent from the upper apartments.  Ejaculating ‘Bismillah’—the Moslem grace—we all sat round it, and dipped equal hands in the dishes set before us.  We had usually unleavened bread, different kinds of meat and vegetable stews, and at the end of the first course plain boiled rice, eaten with spoons; then came the fruits, fresh dates, grapes, and pomegranates.  After dinner I used invariably to find some excuse—such as the habit of a ‘Kaylúlah’ (midday siesta), or the being a ‘Saudawi,’ or person of melancholy temperament, to have a rug spread in the dark passage, and there to lie reading, dozing, smoking, or writing, all through the worst part of the day, from noon to sunset.  Then came the hour for receiving and paying visits.  The evening prayers ensued, either at home or in the Haram, followed by our supper, another substantial meal like the dinner, but more plentiful, of bread, meat, vegetables, rice, and fruits.  In the evening we sometimes dressed in common clothes and went to the café; sometimes on festive occasions we indulged in a late supper of sweetmeats, pomegranates, and dried fruits.  Usually we sat upon mattresses spread upon the ground in the open air, at the Shekh’s door, receiving evening visits, chatting, telling stories, and making merry, till each, as he felt the approach of the drowsy god, sank down into his proper place, and fell asleep.”

Burton was charmed with the garden and date-groves about Medina, and enjoyed the excursions, which were enjoined upon him as a pilgrim, to Jebel Ohod, the mosque of Kuba, and other places in the vicinity of the city.  On August 28th the caravan of pilgrims from Damascus arrived, and, on account of danger from the Bedouins, decided to leave on the fourth day afterward, taking the Desert road to Mecca, the same travelled by the Caliph Haroun El-Raschid and his wife Zobeida, instead of the longer road nearer the coast, which Burckhardt had followed.  When this plan was announced, Burton and his companions had but twenty-four hours to make the necessary preparations; but by hard work they were ready.  Leaving Medina, they hastened onward to secure good places in the caravan, which was composed of about seven thousand pilgrims, and extended over many miles of the road.

For the first four days they travelled southward over a wild, desolate country, almost destitute of water and vegetation.  On account of heat, as well as for greater security, the journey was made chiefly by night, although the forced marches between the wells obliged them sometimes to endure the greatest heat of the day.  Burton says: “I can scarcely find words to express the weary horrors of a long night’s march, during which the hapless traveller, fuming, if a European, with disappointment in his hopes of ‘seeing the country,’ is compelled to sit upon the back of a creeping camel.  The day sleep, too, is a kind of lethargy, and it is all but impossible to preserve an appetite during the hours of heat.”

After making ninety-nine miles from Medina, they reached the village of El Suwayrkiyah, which is included within the Meccan territory.  The town, consisting of about one hundred houses, is built at the base and on the sides of a basaltic mass which rises abruptly from the hard clayey plain.  The summit is converted into a rude fortalice by a bulwark of uncut stone, piled up so as to make a parapet.  The lower part of the town is protected by a mud wall, with the usual semicircular towers.  Inside there is a bazaar, well supplied with meat (principally mutton) by the neighboring Bedouins, and wheat, barley, and dates are grown near the town.  There is little to describe in the narrow streets and the mud houses, which are essentially Arab.  The fields around are divided into little square plots by earthen ridges and stone walls; some of the palms are fine grown trees, and the wells appeared numerous.  The water is near the surface and plentiful, but it has a brackish taste, highly disagreeable after a few days’ use, and the effects are the reverse of chalybeate.

Seventeen miles beyond El Suwayrkiyah is the small village of Sufayuah, beyond which the country becomes again very wild and barren.  Burton thus describes the scenery the day after leaving Sufayuah: “This day’s march was peculiarly Arabia.  It was a desert peopled only with echoes—a place of death for what little there is to die in it—a wilderness where, to use my companion’s phrase, there is nothing but He (Allah).  Nature, scalped, flayed, discovered her anatomy to the gazer’s eye.  The horizon was a sea of mirage; gigantic sand-columns whirled over the plain; and on both sides of our road were huge piles of bare rock standing detached upon the surface of sand and clay.  Here they appeared in oval lumps, heaped up with a semblance of symmetry; there a single bowlder stood, with its narrow foundation based upon a pedestal of low, dome-shaped rock.  All are of a pink coarse-grained granite, which flakes off in large crusts under the influence of the atmosphere.”

After four more long marches the caravan reached a station called El Zaribah, where the pilgrims halted a day to assume the ihram, or costume which they wear on approaching Mecca.  They were now in the country of the Utaybah Bedouins, the most fierce and hostile of all the tribes on the road.  Although only two marches, or fifty miles, from Mecca, the pilgrims were by no means safe, as the night after they left Zaribah testified.  While threading a narrow pass between high rocks, in the twilight, there was a sudden discharge of musketry and some camels dropped dead.  The Utaybah, hidden behind the rocks crowning the pass, poured down an irregular fire upon the pilgrims, who were panic-stricken and fell into great disorder.  The Wahabees, however, commenced scaling the rocks, and very soon drove the robbers from their ambush.  The caravan then hurried forward in great disorder, leaving the dead and severely wounded lying on the ground.

“At the beginning of the skirmish,” says Burton, “I had primed my pistols, and sat with them ready for use.  But soon seeing that there was nothing to be done, and, wishing to make an impression—nowhere does Bobadil now ‘go down’ but in the East—I called aloud for my supper.  Shekh Nur, exanimate with fear, could not move.  The boy Mohammed ejaculated only an ‘Oh, sir!’ and the people around exclaimed in disgust, ‘By Allah! he eats!’ Shekh Abdullah, the Meccan, being a man of spirit, was amused by the spectacle.  ‘Are these Afghan manners, Effendim?’ he inquired from the shugduf behind me.  ‘Yes,’ I replied aloud, ‘in my country we always dine before an attack of robbers, because that gentry is in the habit of sending men to bed supperless.’  The Shekh laughed aloud, but those around him looked offended.”

The morning after this adventure the pilgrims reached the Wady Laymun, or Valley of Limes, a beautiful region of gardens and orchards, only twenty-four miles from Mecca.  Here they halted four hours to rest and enjoy the fruits and fresh water; then the line of march was resumed toward the Holy City.  In the afternoon the range of Jebel Kora, in the southeast, became visible, and as evening approached all eyes were strained, but in vain, for a sight of Mecca.  Night came down, and the pilgrims moved slowly onward in the darkness.  An hour after midnight Burton was roused by a general excitement in the caravan.  “Mecca!  Mecca!” cried some voices; “The Sanctuary, O the Sanctuary!” exclaimed others, and all burst into loud cries of “Labeyk!” not unfrequently broken by sobs.  Looking out from his litter the traveller saw by the light of the southern stars the dim outlines of a large city.  They were passing over the last rocky ridge by an artificial cut.  The winding path was flanked on both sides by high watch-towers; a short distance farther they entered the northern suburb.

The Meccan boy Mohammed, who had been Burton’s companion during the pilgrimage, conducted the latter to his mother’s house, where he remained during his stay.  A meal of vermicelli and sugar was prepared on their arrival in the night, and after an hour or two of sleep they rose at dawn, in order to perform the ceremonies of arrival.  After having bathed, they walked in their pilgrim garb to the Beit Allah, or “House of God.”

“There,” says Burton, “there at last it lay, the bourne of my long and weary pilgrimage, realizing the plans and hopes of many and many a year.  The mirage medium of fancy invested the huge catafalque and its gloomy pall with peculiar charms.  There were no giant fragments of hoar antiquity as in Egypt, no remains of graceful and harmonious beauty as in Greece and Italy, no barbaric gorgeousness as in the buildings of India; yet the view was strange, unique, and how few have looked upon the celebrated shrine!  I may truly say, that, of all the worshippers who clung weeping to the curtain, or who pressed their beating hearts to the stone, none felt for the moment a deeper emotion than did the Hadji from the far north.  It was as if the poetical legends of the Arab spoke truth, and that the waving wings of angels, not the sweet breezes of morning, were agitating and swelling the black covering of the shrine.  But, to confess humbling truth, theirs was the high feeling of religious enthusiasm, mine was the ecstasy of gratified pride.”

Burton’s description of the Beit Allah and the Kaaba is more minute and careful than that of Burckhardt, but does not differ from it in any important particular.  Neither is it necessary to quote his account of the ceremonies to be performed by each individual pilgrim, with all their mechanical prostrations and repetitions.  His account of the visit to the famous Black Stone, however, is both curious and amusing: “For a long time I stood looking in despair at the swarming crowd of Bedouin and other pilgrims that besieged it.  But the boy Mohammed was equal to the occasion.  During our circuit he had displayed a fiery zeal against heresy and schism by foully abusing every Persian in his path, and the inopportune introduction of hard words into his prayers made the latter a strange patchwork.  He might, for instance, be repeating ‘and I take refuge with thee from ignominy in this world,’ when, ‘O thou rejected one, son of the rejected!’ would be the interpolation addressed to some long-bearded Khorassani, ‘and in that to come—O hog and brother of a hoggess!’  And so he continued till I wondered that no one dared to turn and rend him.  After vainly addressing the pilgrims, of whom nothing could be seen but a mosaic of occiputs and shoulder-blades, the boy Mohammed collected about half a dozen stalwart Meccans, with whose assistance, by sheer strength, we wedged our way into the thin and light-legged crowd.  The Bedouins turned round upon us like wildcats, but they had no daggers.  The season being autumn, they had not swelled themselves with milk for six months; and they had become such living mummies that I could have managed single-handed half a dozen of them.  After thus reaching the stone, despite popular indignation, testified by impatient shouts, we monopolized the use of it for at least ten minutes.  Whilst kissing it and rubbing hands and forehead upon it I narrowly observed it, and came away persuaded that it is a big aërolite.”



Camp at Mount Arafat


On September 12th the pilgrims set out for Mount Arafat.  Three miles from Mecca there is a large village called Muna, noted for three standing miracles—the pebbles, there thrown at the Devil, return by angelic agency to whence they came; during the three days of drying meat rapacious birds and beasts cannot prey there, and flies do not settle upon the articles of food exposed in the bazaars.  Beyond the place there is a mosque called El Khayf, where, according to some traditions, Adam is buried, his head being at one end of the long wall and his feet at the other, while the dome is built over his navel.

“Arafat,” says Burton, “is about a six hours’ march, or twelve miles, on the Taif road, due east of Mecca.  We arrived there in a shorter time, but our weary camels, during the last third of the way, frequently threw themselves upon the ground.  Human beings suffered more.  Between Muna and Arafat I saw no less than five men fall down and die upon the highway; exhausted and moribund, they had dragged themselves out to give up the ghost where it departs to instant beatitude.  The spectacle showed how easy it is to die in these latitudes; each man suddenly staggered, fell as if shot, and, after a brief convulsion, lay still as marble.  The corpses were carefully taken up, and carelessly buried that same evening, in a vacant space amongst the crowds encamped upon the Arafat plain.

“Nothing can be more picturesque than the view the mountain affords of the blue peaks behind, and the vast encampment scattered over the barren yellow plain below.  On the north lay the regularly pitched camp of the guards that defend the unarmed pilgrims.  To the eastward was the Scherif’s encampment with the bright mahmals and the gilt knobs of the grander pavilions; whilst, on the southern and western sides, the tents of the vulgar crowded the ground, disposed in dowars, or circles, for penning cattle.  After many calculations, I estimated the number to be not less than fifty thousand, of all ages and both sexes.”

After the sermon on Arafat, which Burton describes in the same manner as Burckhardt, the former gives an account of the subsequent ceremony of “stoning the Great Devil” near the village of Muna: “‘The Shaytan el-Kabir’ is a dwarf buttress of rude masonry, about eight feet high by two and a half broad, placed against a rough wall of stones, at the Meccan entrance to Muna.  As the ceremony of ‘Ramy,’ or Lapidation, must be performed on the first day by all pilgrims between sunrise and sunset, and as the Fiend was malicious enough to appear in a rugged pass, the crowd makes the place dangerous.  On one side of the road, which is not forty feet broad, stood a row of shops belonging principally to barbers.  On the other side is the rugged wall of the pillar, with a chevaux de frise of Bedouins and naked boys.  The narrow space was crowded with pilgrims, all struggling like drowning men to approach as near as possible to the Devil; it would have been easy to run over the heads of the mass.  Amongst them were horsemen with rearing chargers.  Bedouins on wild camels, and grandees on mules and asses, with outrunners, were breaking a way by assault and battery.  I had read Ali Bey’s self-felicitations upon escaping this place with ‘only two wounds in the left leg,’ and had duly provided myself with a hidden dagger.  The precaution was not useless.  Scarcely had my donkey entered the crowd than he was overthrown by a dromedary, and I found myself under the stamping and roaring beast’s stomach.  By a judicious use of the knife, I avoided being trampled upon, and lost no time in escaping from a place so ignobly dangerous.  Finding an opening at last, we approached within about five cubits of the place, and holding each stone between the thumb and forefinger of the ring hand, cast it at the pillar, exclaiming: ‘In the name of Allah, and Allah is Almighty, I do this in hatred of the Fiend and to his shame.’  The seven stones being duly thrown, we retired, and entering the barber’s booth, took our places upon one of the earthen benches around it.  This was the time to remove the ihram or pilgrim’s garb, and to return to the normal state of El Islam.  The barber shaved our heads, and, after trimming our beards and cutting our nails, made us repeat these words: ‘I purpose loosening my ihram, according to the practice of the Prophet, whom may Allah bless and preserve!  O Allah, make unto me in every hair a light, a purity, and a generous reward!  In the name of Allah, and Allah is Almighty!’  At the conclusion of his labor the barber politely addressed to us a ‘Naiman’—Pleasure to you!  To which we as ceremoniously replied, ‘Allah give thee pleasure!’”

We will conclude these quotations from Burton’s narrative with his description of a sermon in the great mosque of Mecca.  “After returning to the city from the sacrifice of sheep in the valley of Muna, we bathed, and when noon drew nigh we repaired to the Haram for the purpose of hearing the sermon.  Descending to the cloisters below the Bab el-Ziyadah, I stood wonderstruck by the scene before me.  The vast quadrangle was crowded with worshippers sitting in long rows, and everywhere facing the central black tower; the showy colors of their dresses were not to be surpassed by a garden of the most brilliant flowers, and such diversity of detail would probably not be seen massed together in any other building upon earth.  The women, a dull and sombre-looking group, sat apart in their peculiar place.  The Pasha stood on the roof of Zem Zem, surrounded by guards in Nizam uniform.  Where the principal ulema stationed themselves the crowd was thicker; and in the more auspicious spots naught was to be seen but a pavement of heads and shoulders.  Nothing seemed to move but a few dervishes, who, censer in hand, sidled through the rows and received the unsolicited alms of the faithful.  Apparently in the midst, and raised above the crowd by the tall, pointed pulpit, whose gilt spire flamed in the sun, sat the preacher, an old man with snowy beard.  The style of head-dress called ‘taylasan’ covered his turban, which was white as his robes, and a short staff supported his left hand.  Presently he arose, took the staff in his right hand, pronounced a few inaudible words, and sat down again on one of the lower steps, whilst a Muezzin, at the foot of the pulpit, recited the call to sermon.  Then the old man stood up and began to preach.  As the majestic figure began to exert itself there was a deep silence.  Presently a general ‘Amin’ was intoned by the crowd at the conclusion of some long sentence.  And at last, toward the end of the sermon, every third or fourth word was followed by the simultaneous rise and fall of thousands of voices.

“I have seen the religious ceremonies of many lands, but never—nowhere—aught so solemn, so impressive as this spectacle.”



Costume of Pilgrims to Mecca


Finding that it was impossible for him to undertake the journey across Central Arabia, both for lack of time and the menacing attitude of the Desert tribes, Burton left Mecca for Jedda at the end of September.  Starting in the afternoon, the chance caravan of returning pilgrims reached, about midnight, a mass of huts called El Hadda, which is the usual half-way halting-place.  It is maintained solely for the purpose of supplying travellers with coffee and water.  Here the country slopes gradually toward the sea, the hills recede, and every feature denotes departure from the upland plateau of Mecca.  After reaching here, and at some solitary coffee-houses farther on the way, the pilgrims reached Jedda safely at eight in the morning.

From this place Burton took passage on a steamer for Suez, and returned to Cairo, but without the Meccan boy, Mohammed, who began to have a suspicion of his true character, after seeing him in company with some English officers, and who left him before embarking.

Bayard Taylor

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