Diary and Observations Made by Lieutenant Speke, When Attempting to Reach the Wady Nogal.
On the 28th October, 1854, Lieutenant Speke arrived at Kurayat, a small village near Las Kuray (Goree Bunder), in the country called by the Somal "Makhar," or the eastern maritime region. During the period of three months and a half he was enabled to make a short excursion above the coast-mountains, visiting the Warsingali, the Dulbahanta, and the Habr Gerhajis tribes, and penetrating into a region unknown to Europeans. The bad conduct of his Abban, and the warlike state of the country, prevented his reaching the "Wady Nogal," which, under more favourable circumstances and with more ample leisure than our plans allowed him, he conceives to be a work of little difficulty and no danger. He has brought back with him ample notices of the region visited, and has been enabled to make a valuable collection of the Fauna, which have been forwarded to the Curator of the Royal As. Society's Museum, Calcutta. On the 15th February, 1855, Lieutenant Speke revisited Kurayat, and there embarked for Aden.
Before proceeding to Lieutenant Speke's Journal, it may be useful to give a brief and general account of the region explored.
The portion of the Somali country visited by Lieutenant Speke may be divided into a Maritime Plain, a Range of Mountains, and an elevated Plateau.
The Maritime Plain, at the points visited by Lieutenant Speke, is a sandy tract overlying limestone, level to the foot of the hills, and varying from half a mile to two miles in breadth. Water is not everywhere procurable. At the village of Las Kuray, there is an old and well built well, about twelve feet deep, producing an abundant and excellent supply. It appears that the people have no implements, and are too barbarous to be capable of so simple an engineering operation as digging. The vegetation presents the usual appearance of salsolaceous plants thinly scattered over the surface, with here and there a stunted growth of Arman or Acacia. The watershed is of course from south to north, and the rain from the hills is carried off by a number of Fiumaras or freshets, with broad shallow beds, denoting that much of the monsoon rain falling in the mountains is there absorbed, and that little finds its way to the sea. At this season (the dry weather) the plain is thinly inhabited; there are no villages except on the sea-shore, and even these were found by the traveller almost entirely deserted, mostly women occupying the houses, whilst the men were absent, trading and tending cattle in the hills. The harbours are, generally speaking, open and shallow road-steads, where ships find no protection; there is, however, one place (Las Galwayta), where, it is said, deep water extends to the shore.
Meteorological observations show a moderate temperature, clear air, and a regular north-easterly wind. It is probable that, unlike the Berberah Plain, the monsoon rain here falls in considerable quantities. This land belongs in part to the Warsingali. Westwards of Las Galwayta, which is the frontier, the Habr Gerhajis lay claim to the coast. The two tribes, as usual in that unhappy land, are on terms of "Dam" or blood-feud; yet they intermarry.
The animals observed were, the Waraba, a dark-coloured cynhyena, with a tail partly white, a grey jackal, and three different kinds of antelopes. Besides gulls, butcher birds, and a description of sparrow, no birds were found on the Maritime Plain.
The Range of Mountains is that long line which fringes the Somali coast from Tajurrah to Ras Jerd Hafun (Cape Guardafui). In the portion visited by Lieutenant Speke it is composed principally of limestones, some white, others brownish, and full of fossil shells. The seaward face is a gradual slope, yet as usual more abrupt than the landward side, especially in the upper regions. Steep irregular ravines divide the several masses of hill. The range was thinly covered with Acacia scrub in the lower folds. The upper portion was thickly clad with acacia and other thorns, and upon the summit, the Somali pine tree observed by me near Harar, and by Lieutenant Herne at Gulays, first appeared. Rain had freshly fallen.
The animal creation was represented by the leopard, hyena, rhinoceros, Waraba, four kinds of antelopes, hares and rats, tailless and long-tailed. It is poor in sea birds (specimens of those collected have been forwarded to the As. Society's Museum), and but one description of snake was observed. These hills belong partly to the Warsingali, and partly to the Habr Gerhajis. The frontier is in some places denoted by piles of rough stones. As usual, violations of territorial right form the rule, not the exception, and trespass is sure to be followed by a "war." The meteorology of these hills is peculiar. The temperature appears to be but little lower than the plain: the wind was north-easterly; and both monsoons bring heavy rains.
At Yafir, on the summit of the hill, Lieutenant Speke's thermometer showed an altitude of about 7500 feet. The people of the country do not know what ice means. Water is very scarce in these hills, except during the monsoon: it is found in springs which are far apart; and in the lower slopes collected rain water is the sole resource. This scarcity renders the habits of the people peculiarly filthy.
After descending about 2000 feet from the crest of the mountains to the southern fall, Lieutenant Speke entered upon the platform which forms the country of the Eastern Somal. He is persuaded that the watershed of this extensive tract is from N.W. to S.E., contrary to the opinion of Lieutenant Cruttenden, who, from information derived from the Somal, determined the slope to be due south. "Nogal" appears, according to Lieutenant Speke, to be the name of a tract of land occupied by the Warsingali, the Mijjarthayn, and the northern clan of the Dulbahantas, as Bohodlay in Haud is inhabited by the southern. Nogal is a sterile table-land, here and there thinly grown with thorns, perfectly useless for agriculture, and, unless it possess some mineral wealth, valueless. The soil is white and stony, whereas Haud or Ogadayn is a deep red, and is described as having some extensive jungles. Between the two lies a large watercourse, called "Tuk Der," or the Long River. It is dry during the cold season, but during the rains forms a flood, tending towards the Eastern Ocean. This probably is the line which in our maps is put down as "Wady Nogal, a very fertile and beautiful valley."
The surface of the plateau is about 4100 feet above the level of the sea: it is a space of rolling ground, stony and white with broken limestone. Water is found in pools, and in widely scattered springs: it is very scarce, and in a district near and south of the hills Lieutenant Speke was stopped by want of this necessary. The climate appeared to our traveller delightful In some places the glass fell at 6 A.M. to 25°, yet at noon on the same day the mercury rose to 76°. The wind was always N. E., sometimes gentle, and occasionally blowing strongly but without dust. The rainy monsoon must break here with violence, and the heat be fearful in the hot season. The principal vegetation of this plateau was Acacia, scarce and stunted; in some places under the hills and in the watercourses these trees are numerous and well grown. On the other hand, extensive tracts towards the south are almost barren. The natives speak of Malmal (myrrh) and the Luban (incense) trees. The wild animals are principally antelopes; there are also ostriches, onagers, Waraba, lions (reported to exist), jackals, and vermin. The bustard and florikan appear here. The Nomads possess large flocks of sheep, the camels, cows, and goats being chiefly found at this season on the seaward side of the hills, where forage is procurable. The horses were stunted tattoos, tolerably well-bred, but soft for want of proper food. It is said that the country abounds in horses, but Lieutenant Speke "doubts the fact." The eastern portion of the plateau visited by our traveller belongs to the Warsingali, the western to the Dulbahantas: the former tribe extends to the S. E., whilst the latter possess the lands lying about the Tuk Der, the Nogal, and Haud. These two tribes are at present on bad terms, owing to a murder which led to a battle: the quarrel has been allowed to rest till lately, when it was revived at a fitting opportunity. But there is no hostility between the Southern Dulbahantas and the Warsingali, on the old principle that "an enemy's enemy is a friend."
On the 21st October, 1854, Lieutenant Speke, from the effects of a stiff easterly wind and a heavy sea, made by mistake the harbour of Rakudah. This place has been occupied by the Rer Dud, descendants of Sambur, son of Ishak. It is said to consist of an small fort, and two or three huts of matting, lately re-erected. About two years ago the settlement was laid waste by the rightful owners of the soil, the Musa Abokr, a sub-family of the Habr Tal Jailah.
22nd October.--Without landing, Lieutenant Speke coasted along to Bunder Hais, where he went on shore. Hais is a harbour belonging to the Musa Abokr. It contains a "fort," a single-storied, flat-roofed, stone and mud house, about 20 feet square, one of those artless constructions to which only Somal could attach importance. There are neither muskets nor cannon among the braves of Hais. The "town" consists of half a dozen mud huts, mostly skeletons. The anchoring ground is shallow, but partly protected by a spur of hill, and the sea abounds in fish. Four Buggaloes (native craft) were anchored here, waiting for a cargo of Dumbah sheep and clarified butter, the staple produce of the place. Hais exports to Aden, Mocha, and other parts of Arabia; it also manufactures mats, with the leaves of the Daum palm and other trees. Lieutenant Speke was well received by one Ali, the Agil, or petty chief of the place: he presented two sheep to the traveller. On the way from Bunder Jedid to Las Kuray, Lieutenant Speke remarks that Las Galwayta would be a favourable site for a Somali settlement. The water is deep even close to the shore, and there is an easy ascent from it to the summit of the mountains. The consequence is that it is coveted by the Warsingali, who are opposed by the present proprietors, the Habr Gerhajis. The Sultan of the former family resists any settlement for fear of dividing and weakening their force; it is too far from their pastures, and they have not men enough for both purposes.
28th October.--Lieutenant Speke landed at Kurayat, near Las Kuray, and sent a messenger to summon the chief, Mohammed Ali, Gerad or Prince of the Warsingali tribe.
During a halt of twenty-one days, the traveller had an opportunity of being initiated into the mysteries of Somali medicine and money hiding. The people have but two cures for disease, one the actual cautery, the other a purgative, by means of melted sheep's-tail, followed by such a draught of camel's milk that the stomach, having escaped the danger of bursting, is suddenly and completely relieved. It is here the custom of the wealthy to bury their hoards, and to reveal the secret only when at the point of death. Lieutenant Speke went to a place where it is said a rich man had deposited a considerable sum, and described his "cache" as being "on a path in a direct line between two trees as far as the arms can reach with a stick." The hoarder died between forty and fifty years ago, and his children have been prevented by the rocky nature of the ground, and their forgetting to ask which was the right side of the tree, from succeeding in anything beyond turning up the stones.
Las Kuray is an open roadstead for native craft. The town is considered one of the principal strongholds of the coast. There are three large and six small "forts," similar in construction to those of Hais; all are occupied by merchants, and are said to belong to the Sultan. The mass of huts may be between twenty and thirty in number. They are matted buildings, long and flat-roofed; half a dozen families inhabit the same house, which is portioned off for such accommodation. Public buildings there are none, and no wall protects the place. It is in the territory of the Warsingali, and owns the rule of the Gerad or Prince, who sometimes lives here, and at other times inhabits the Jungle. Las Kuray exports gums, Dumbah sheep, and guano, the latter considered valuable, and sent to Makalla in Arabia, to manure the date plantations.
Four miles westward of Las Kuray is Kurayat, also called Little Kuray. It resembles the other settlement, and is not worth description. Lieutenant Speke here occupied a fort or stone house belong to his Abban; finding the people very suspicious, he did not enter Las Kuray for prudential motives. There the Sultan has no habitation; when he visited the place he lodged in the house of a Nacoda or ship-captain.
Lieutenant Speke was delayed at Kurayat by the pretext of want of cattle; in reality to be plundered. The Sultan, who inhabits the Jungle, did not make his appearance till repeatedly summoned. About the tenth day the old man arrived on foot, attended by a dozen followers; he was carefully placed in the centre of a double line bristling with spears, and marched past to his own fort. Lieutenant Speke posted his servants with orders to fire a salute of small firearms. The consequence was that the evening was spent in prayers.
During Lieutenant Speke's first visit to the Sultan, who received him squatting on the ground outside the house in which he lodged, with his guards about him, the dignitary showed great trepidation, but returned salams with politeness. He is described as a fine-looking man, between forty-eight and fifty years of age; he was dressed in an old and dirty Tobe, had no turban, and appeared unarmed. He had consulted the claims of "dignity" by keeping the traveller waiting ten days whilst he journeyed twenty miles. Before showing himself he had privily held a Durbar at Las Kuray; it was attended by the Agils of the tribe, by Mohammed Samattar (Lieutenant Speke's Abban), and the people generally. Here the question was debated whether the traveller was to be permitted to see the country. The voice of the multitude was as usual contra, fearing to admit a wolf into the fold. It was silenced however by the Sultan, who thought fit to favour the English, and by the Abban, who settled the question, saying that he, as the Sultan's subject, was answerable for all that might happen, and that the chief might believe him or not;--"how could such Jungle-folk know anything?"
On the morning of the 8th November the Sultan returned Lieutenant Speke's visit. The traveller took the occasion of "opening his desire to visit the Warsingali country and the lands on the road to Berberah, keeping inland about 200 miles, more or less according to circumstances, and passing through the Dulbahantas." To this the Sultan replied, that "as far as his dominions extended the traveller was perfectly at liberty to go where he liked; but as for visiting the Dulbahantas, he could not hear of or countenance it." Mahmud Ali, Gerad or Prince of the southern Dulbahantas, was too far away for communication, and Mohammed Ali Gerad, the nearest chief, had only ruled seven or eight years; his power therefore was not great. Moreover, these two were at war; the former having captured, it is said, 2000 horses, 400 camels, and a great number of goats and sheep, besides wounding a man. During the visit, which lasted from 8 A.M. to 2 P.M., the Sultan refused nothing but permission to cross the frontier, fearing, he said, lest an accident should embroil him with our Government. Lieutenant Speke gave them to understand that he visited their country, not as a servant of the Company, but merely as a traveller wishing to see sport. This of course raised a laugh; it was completely beyond their comprehension. They assured him, however, that he had nothing to apprehend in the Warsingali country, where the Sultan's order was like that of the English. The Abban then dismissed the Sultan to Las Kuray, fearing the appetites of his followers; and the guard, on departure, demanded a cloth each by way of honourarium. This was duly refused, and they departed in discontent. The people frequently alluded to two grand grievances. In the first place they complained of an interference on the part of our Government, in consequence of a quarrel which took place seven years ago at Aden, between them and the Habr Tal Jailah tribe of Karam. The Political Resident, it is said, seized three vessels belonging to the Warsingali, who had captured one of the ships belonging to their enemies; the former had command of the sea, but since that event they have been reduced to a secondary rank. This grievance appears to be based on solid grounds. Secondly, they complained of the corruption of their brethren by intercourse with a civilised people, especially by visiting Aden: the remedy for this evil lies in their own hands, but desire of gain would doubtless defeat any moral sanitary measure which their Elders could devise. They instanced the state of depravity into which the Somal about Berberah had fallen, and prided themselves highly upon their respect for the rights of meum and tuum, so completely disregarded by the Western States. But this virtue may arise from the severity of their chastisements; mutilation of the hand being the usual award to theft. Moreover Lieutenant Speke's Journal does not impress the reader highly with their honesty. And lastly, I have found the Habr Awal at Berberah, on the whole, a more respectable race than the Warsingali.
Lieutenant Speke's delay at Kurayat was caused by want of carriage. He justly remarks that "every one in this country appeals to precedent"; the traveller, therefore, should carefully ascertain the price of everything, and adhere to it, as those who follow him twenty years afterwards will be charged the same. One of the principal obstacles to Lieutenant Speke's progress was the large sum given to the natives by an officer who visited this coast some years ago. Future travellers should send before them a trusty Warsingali to the Sultan, with a letter specifying the necessary arrangements, a measure which would save trouble and annoyance to both parties.
On the 10th of November the Sultan came early to Lieutenant Speke's house. He received a present of cloth worth about forty rupees. After comparing his forearm with every other man's and ascertaining the mean, he measured and re-measured each piece, an operation which lasted several hours. A flint gun was presented to him, evidently the first he had ever handled; he could scarcely bring it up to his shoulder, and persisted in shutting the wrong eye. Then he began as usual to beg for more cloth, powder, and lead. By his assistance Lieutenant Speke bought eight camels, inferior animals, at rather a high price, from 10 to 16-1/2 cloths (equivalent to dollars) per head. It is the custom for the Sultan, or in his absence, for an Agil to receive a tithe of the price; and it is his part to see that the traveller is not overcharged. He appears to have discharged his duty very inefficiently, a dollar a day being charged for the hire of a single donkey. Lieutenant Speke regrets that he did not bring dollars or rupees, cloth on the coast being now at a discount.
After the usual troubles and vexations of a first move in Africa, on the 16th of November, 1854, Lieutenant Speke marched about three miles along the coast, and pitched at a well close to Las Kuray. He was obliged to leave about a quarter of his baggage behind, finding it impossible with his means to hire donkeys, the best conveyance across the mountains, where camels must be very lightly laden. The Sultan could not change, he said, the route settled by a former Sahib. He appears, though famed for honesty and justice, to have taken a partial view of Lieutenant Speke's property. When the traveller complained of his Abban, the reply was, "This is the custom of the country, I can see no fault; all you bring is the Abban's, and he can do what he likes with it."
The next day was passed unpleasantly enough in the open air, to force a march, and the Sultan and his party stuck to the date-bag, demanding to be fed as servants till rations were served out to them.
18th November.--About 2 A.M. the camels (eleven in number) were lightly loaded, portions of the luggage being sent back to Kurayat till more carriage could be procured. The caravan crossed the plain southwards, and after about two miles' march entered a deep stony watercourse winding through the barren hills. After five miles' progress over rough ground, Lieutenant Speke unloaded under a tree early in the afternoon near some pools of sweet rain water collected in natural basins of limestone dotting the watercourse. The place is called Iskodubuk; the name of the watercourse is Duktura. The Sultan and the Abban were both left behind to escort the baggage from Las Kuray to Kurayat. They promised to rejoin Lieutenant Speke before nightfall; the former appeared after five, the latter after ten, days. The Sultan sent his son Abdallah, a youth of about fifteen years old, who proved so troublesome that Lieutenant Speke was forced repeatedly to dismiss him: still the lad would not leave the caravan till it reached the Dulbahanta frontier. And the Abban delayed a Negro servant, Lieutenant Speke's gun-bearer, trying by many offers and promises to seduce him from service.
19th November.--At dawn the camels were brought in; they had been feeding at large all night, which proves the safety of the country. After three hours' work at loading, the caravan started up the watercourse. The road was rugged; at times the watercourse was blocked up with boulders, which compelled the travellers temporarily to leave it. With a little cutting away of projecting rocks, which are of soft stone, the road might be made tolerably easy. Scattered and stunted Acacias, fringed with fresh green foliage, relieved the eye; all else was barren rock. After marching about two miles the traveller was obliged to halt by the Sultan; a messenger arrived with the order. The halting-place is called Damalay. It is in the bed of the watercourse, stagnating rain, foul-looking but sweet, lying close by. As in all other parts of this Fiumara, the bed was dotted with a bright green tree, sometimes four feet high, resembling a willow. Lieutenant Speke spread his mat in the shade, and spent the rest of the day at his diary and in conversation with the natives.
The next day was also spent at Damalay. The interpreter, Mohammed Ahmed, a Somali of the Warsingali tribe, and all the people, refused positively to advance. Lieutenant Speke started on foot to Las Kuray in search of the Abban: he was followed at some distance by the Somal, and the whole party returned on hearing a report that the chief and the Abban were on the way. The traveller seems on this occasion to have formed a very low estimate of the people. He stopped their food until they promised to start the next day.
21st November.--The caravan marched at gun-fire, and, after a mile, left the watercourse, and ascended by a rough camel-path a buttress of hill leading to the ridge of the mountains. The ascent was not steep, but the camels were so bad that they could scarcely be induced to advance. The country was of a more pleasant aspect, a shower of rain having lately fallen. At this height the trees grow thicker and finer, the stones are hidden by grass and heather, and the air becomes somewhat cooler. After a six miles' march Lieutenant Speke encamped at a place called Adhai. Sweet water was found within a mile's walk;--the first spring from which our traveller drank. Here he pitched a tent.
At Adhai Lieutenant Speke was detained nine days by the non-appearance of his "Protector" and the refusal of his followers to march without him. The camels were sent back with the greatest difficulty to fetch the portion of the baggage left behind. On the 24th Lieutenant Speke sent his Hindostani servant to Las Kuray, with orders to bring up the baggage. "Imam" started alone and on foot, not being permitted to ride a pony hired by the traveller: he reported that there is a much better road for laden camels from the coast to the crest of the hills. Though unprotected, he met with no difficulty, and returned two days afterwards, having seen the baggage en route. During Lieutenant Speke's detention, the Somal battened on his provisions, seeing that his two servants were absent, and that no one guarded the bags. Half the rice had been changed at Las Kuray for an inferior description. The camel drivers refused their rations because all their friends (thirty in number) were not fed. The Sultan's son taught them to win the day by emptying and hiding the water-skins, by threatening to kill the servants if they fetched water, and by refusing to do work. During the discussion, which appears to have been lively, the eldest of the Sultan's four sons, Mohammed Aul, appeared from Las Kuray. He seems to have taken a friendly part, stopped the discussion, and sent away the young prince as a nuisance. Unfortunately, however, the latter reappeared immediately that the date bags were opened, and Mohammed Aul stayed only two days in Lieutenant Speke's neighbourhood. On the 28th November the Abban appeared. The Sultan then forced upon Lieutenant Speke his brother Hasan as a second Abban, although this proceeding is contrary to the custom of the country. The new burden, however, after vain attempts at extortion, soon disappeared, carrying away with him a gun.
For tanning water-skins the Somal here always use, when they can procure it, a rugged bark with a smooth epidermis of a reddish tinge, a pleasant aromatic odour, and a strong astringent flavour. They call it Mohur: powdered and sprinkled dry on a wound, it acts as a styptic. Here was observed an aloe-formed plant, with a strong and woody thorn on the top. It is called Haskul or Hig; the fibres are beaten out with sticks or stones, rotted in water, and then made into cord. In other parts the young bark of the acacia is used; it is first charred on one side, then reduced to fibre by mastication, and lastly twisted into the semblance of a rope.
From a little manuscript belonging to the Abban, Lieutenant Speke learned that about 440 years ago (A.D. 1413), one Darud bin Ismail, unable to live with his elder brother at Mecca, fled with a few followers to these shores. In those days the land was ruled, they say, by a Christian chief called Kin, whose Wazir, Wharrah, was the terror of all men. Darud collected around him, probably by proselytising, a strong party: he gradually increased his power, and ended by expelling the owners of the country, who fled to the N.W. as far as Abyssinia. Darud, by an Asyri damsel, had a son called Kabl Ullah, whose son Harti had, as progeny, Warsingali, Dulbahanta, and Mijjarthayn. These three divided the country into as many portions, which, though great territorial changes have taken place, to this day bear their respective owners' names.
Of this I have to observe, that universal tradition represents the Somal to be a people of half-caste origin, African and Arabian; moreover, that they expelled the Gallas from the coast, until the latter took refuge in the hills of Harar. The Gallas are a people partly Moslem, partly Christian, and partly Pagan; this may account for the tradition above recorded. Most Somal, however, declare "Darud" to be a man of ignoble origin, and do not derive him from the Holy City. Some declare he was driven from Arabia for theft. Of course each tribe exaggerates its own nobility with as reckless a defiance of truth as their neighbours depreciate it. But I have made a rule always to doubt what semi-barbarians write. Writing is the great source of historical confusion, because falsehoods accumulate in books, persons are confounded, and fictions assume, as in the mythologic genealogies of India, Persia, Greece, and Rome, a regular and systematic form. On the other hand, oral tradition is more trustworthy; witness the annals and genealogies preserved in verse by the Bhats of Cutch, the Arab Nassab, and the Bards of Belochistan.
30th November.--The Sultan took leave of Lieutenant Speke, and the latter prepared to march in company with the Abban, the interpreter, the Sultan's two sons, and a large party. By throwing the tent down and sitting in the sun he managed to effect a move. In the evening the camels started from Adhai up a gradual ascent along a strong path. The way was covered with bush, jungle, and trees. The frankincense, it is said, abounded; gum trees of various kinds were found; and the traveller remarked a single stunted sycamore growing out of a rock. I found the tree in all the upper regions of the Somali country, and abundant in the Harar Hills. After two miles' march the caravan halted at Habal Ishawalay, on the northern side of the mountains, within three miles of the crest. The halting-ground was tolerably level, and not distant from the waters of Adhai, the only spring in the vicinity. The travellers slept in a deserted Kraal, surrounded by a stout fence of Acacia thorns heaped up to keep out the leopards and hyenas. During the heat Lieutenant Speke sat under a tree. Here he remained three days; the first in order to bring up part of his baggage which had been left behind; the second to send on a portion to the next halting-place; and the third in consequence of the Abban's resolution to procure Ghee or clarified butter. The Sultan could not resist the opportunity of extorting something by a final visit--for a goat, killed and eaten by the camel-drivers contrary to Lieutenant Speke's orders, a dollar was demanded.
4th December, 1854.--About dawn the caravan was loaded, and then proceeded along a tolerably level pathway through a thick growth of thorn trees towards a bluff hill. The steep was reached about 9 A.M., and the camels toiled up the ascent by a stony way, dropping their loads for want of ropes, and stumbling on their road. The summit, about 500 yards distant, was reached in an hour. At Yafir, on the crest of the mountains, the caravan halted two hours for refreshment. Lieutenant Speke describes the spot in the enthusiastic language of all travellers who have visited the Seaward Range of the Somali Hills. It appears, however, that it is destitute of water. About noon the camels were again loaded, and the caravan proceeded across the mountains by a winding road over level ground for four miles. This point commanded an extensive view of the Southern Plateau. In that direction the mountains drop in steps or terraces, and are almost bare; as in other parts rough and flat topped piles of stones, reminding the traveller of the Tartar Cairns, were observed. I remarked the same in the Northern Somali country; and in both places the people gave a similar account of them, namely, that they are the work of an earlier race, probably the Gallas. Some of them are certainly tombs, for human bones are turned up; in others empty chambers are discovered; and in a few are found earthern and large copper pots. Lieutenant Speke on one occasion saw an excavated mound propped up inside by pieces of timber, and apparently built without inlet. It was opened about six years ago by a Warsingali, in order to bury his wife, when a bar of metal (afterwards proved by an Arab to be gold) and a gold ring, similar to what is worn by women in the nose, were discovered. In other places the natives find, it is said, women's bracelets, beads, and similar articles still used by the Gallas.
After nightfall the caravan arrived at Mukur, a halting-place in the southern declivity of the hills. Here Lieutenant Speke remarked that the large watercourse in which he halted becomes a torrent during the rains, carrying off the drainage towards the eastern coast. He had marched that day seventeen miles, when the party made a Kraal with a few bushes. Water was found within a mile in a rocky basin; it was fetid and full of animalculae. Here appeared an old woman driving sheep and goats into Las Kuray, a circumstance which shows that the country is by no means dangerous.
After one day's halt at Mukur to refresh the camels, on the 6th December Lieutenant Speke started at about 10 A.M. across the last spur of the hills, and presently entered a depression dividing the hills from the Plateau. Here the country was stony and white-coloured, with watercourses full of rounded stones. The Jujube and Acacias were here observed to be on a large scale, especially in the lowest ground. After five miles the traveller halted at a shallow watercourse, and at about half a mile distant found sweet but dirty water in a deep hole in the rock. The name of this station was Karrah.
8th December.--Early in the morning the caravan moved on to Rhat, a distance of eight miles: it arrived at about noon. The road lay through the depression at the foot of the hills. In the patches of heather Florikan was found. The Jujube-tree was very large. In the rains this country is a grassy belt, running from west to east, along a deep and narrow watercourse, called Rhat Tug, or the Fiumara of Rhat, which flows eastward towards the ocean. At this season, having been "eaten up," the land was almost entirely deserted; the Kraals lay desolate, the herdsmen had driven off their cows to the hills, and the horses had been sent towards the Mijjarthayn country. A few camels and donkeys were seen: considering that their breeding is left to chance, the blood is not contemptible. The sheep and goats are small, and their coats, as usual in these hot countries, remain short. Lieutenant Speke was informed that, owing to want of rain, and it being the breeding season, the inland and Nomad Warsingali live entirely on flesh, one meal serving for three days. This was a sad change of affairs from what took place six weeks before the traveller's arrival, when there had been a fall of rain, and the people spent their time revelling on milk, and sleeping all day under the shade of the trees--the Somali idea of perfect happiness.
On the 9th December Lieutenant Speke, halting at Rhat, visited one of "Kin's" cities, now ruined by time, and changed by the Somal having converted it into a cemetery. The remains were of stone and mud, as usual in this part of the world. The houses are built in an economical manner; one straight wall, nearly 30 feet long, runs down the centre, and is supported by a number of lateral chambers facing opposite ways, e.g.
This appears to compose the village, and suggests a convent or a monastery. To the west, and about fifty yards distant, are ruins of stone and good white mortar, probably procured by burning the limestone rock. The annexed ground plan will give an idea of these interesting remains, which are said to be those of a Christian house of worship. In some parts the walls are still 10 feet high, and they show an extent of civilisation now completely beyond the Warsingali. It may be remarked of them that the direction of the niche, as well as the disposition of the building, would denote a Moslem mosque. At the same time it must be remembered that the churches of the Eastern Christians are almost always made to front Jerusalem, and the Gallas being a Moslem and Christian race, the sects would borrow their architecture from each other. The people assert these ruins to be those of Nazarenes. Yet in the Jid Ali valley of the Dulbahantas Lieutenant Speke found similar remains, which the natives declared to be one of their forefathers' mosques; the plan and the direction were the same as those now described. Nothing, however, is easier than to convert St. Sophia into the Aya Sufiyyah mosque. Moreover, at Jid Ali, the traveller found it still the custom of the people to erect a Mala, or cross of stone or wood covered with plaster, at the head and foot of every tomb.
The Dulbahantas, when asked about these crosses, said it was their custom, derived from sire and grandsire. This again would argue that a Christian people once inhabited these now benighted lands.
North of the building now described is a cemetery, in which the Somal still bury their dead. Here Lieutenant Speke also observed crosses, but he was prevented by the superstition of the people from examining them.
On an eminence S.W. of, and about seventy yards from the main building, are the isolated remains of another erection, said by the people to be a fort. The foundation is level with the ground, and shows two compartments opening into each other.
Rhat was the most southerly point reached by Lieutenant Speke. He places it about thirty miles distant from the coast, and at the entrance of the Great Plateau. Here he was obliged to turn westward, because at that season of the year the country to the southward is desolate for want of rain--a warning to future visitors. During the monsoon this part of the land is preferred by the people: grass grows, and there would be no obstacle to travellers.
Before quitting Rhat, the Abban and the interpreter went to the length of ordering Lieutenant Speke not to fire a gun. This detained him a whole day.
11th December.--Early in the morning, Lieutenant Speke started in a westerly direction, still within sight of the mountains, where not obstructed by the inequalities of the ground. The line taken was over an elevated flat, in places covered with the roots of parched up grass; here it was barren, and there appeared a few Acacias. The view to the south was shortened by rolling ground: hollow basins, sometimes fifteen miles broad, succeed each other; each sends forth from its centre a watercourse to drain off the water eastward. The face of the country, however, is very irregular, and consequently description is imperfect. This day ostriches and antelopes were observed in considerable numbers. After marching ten miles the caravan halted at Barham, where they found a spring of clear and brackish water from the limestone rock, and flowing about 600 yards down a deep rocky channel, in parts lined with fine Acacias. A Kraal was found here, and the traveller passed a comfortable night.
12th December.--About 9 A.M. the caravan started, and threaded a valley, which, if blessed with a fair supply of water, would be very fertile. Whilst everything else is burned up by the sun on the high ground, a nutritious weed, called Buskallay, fattens the sheep and goats. Wherever, therefore, a spring is found, men flock to the place and fence themselves in a Kraal. About half-way the travellers reached Darud bin Ismail's tomb, a parallelogram of loose stones about one foot high, of a battered and ignoble appearance; at one extremity stood a large sloping stone, with a little mortar still clinging to it. No outer fence surrounded the tomb, which might easily be passed by unnoticed: no honours were paid to the memory of the first founder of the tribe, and the Somal did not even recite a Fatihah over his dust. After marching about twelve miles, the caravan encamped at Labbahdilay, in the bed of a little watercourse which runs into the Yubbay Tug. Here they found a small pool of bad rain water. They made a rude fence to keep out the wild beasts, and in it passed the night.
13th December.--The Somal showed superior activity in marching three successive days; the reason appears to be that the Abban was progressing towards his home. At sunrise the camels were loaded, and at 8 A.M. the caravan started up a valley along the left bank of a watercourse called the Yubbay Tug. This was out of the line, but the depth of the perpendicular sides prevented any attempt at crossing it. The people of the country have made a peculiar use of this feature of ground. During the last war, ten or eleven years ago, between the Warsingali and the Dulbahantas, the latter sent a large foraging party over the frontier. The Warsingali stationed a strong force at the head of the watercourse to prevent its being turned, and exposed their flocks and herds on the eastern bank to tantalise the hungry enemy. The Dulbahantas, unable to cross the chasm, and unwilling, like all Somali heroes even in their wrath, to come to blows with the foe, retired in huge disgust. After marching five miles, the caravan halted, the Abban declaring that he and the Sultan's younger son must go forward to feel the way; in other words, to visit his home. His pretext was a good one. In countries where postal arrangements do not exist, intelligence flies quicker than on the wings of paper. Many evil rumours had preceded Lieutenant Speke, and the inland tribe professed, it was reported, to despise a people who can only threaten the coast. The Dulbahantas had been quarrelling amongst themselves for the last thirteen years, and were now determined to settle the dispute by a battle. Formerly they were all under one head; but one Ali Harram, an Akil or minor chief, determined to make his son, Mohammed Ali, Gerad or Prince of the clans inhabiting the northern provinces. After five years' intrigue the son was proclaimed, and carried on the wars caused by his father, declaring an intention to fight to the last. He has, however, been successfully opposed by Mahmud Ali, the rightful chief of the Dulbahanta family; the southern clans of Haud and beyond the Nogal being more numerous and more powerful than the northern divisions. No merchant, Arab or other, thinks of penetrating into this country, principally on account of the expense. Lieutenant Speke is of opinion that his cloth and rice would easily have stopped the war for a time: the Dulbahantas threatened and blustered, but allowed themselves easily to be pacified.
It is illustrative of the customs of this people that, when the Dulbahantas had their hands engaged, and left their rear unprotected, under the impression that no enemies were behind, the Warsingali instantly remembered that one of their number had been murdered by the other race many years ago. The blood-money had been paid, and peace had been concluded, but the opportunity was too tempting to be resisted.
The Yubbay Tug watercourse begins abruptly, being as broad and deep at the head as it is in the trunk. When Lieutenant Speke visited it, it was dry; there was but a thin growth of trees in it, showing that water does not long remain there. Immediately north of it lies a woody belt, running up to the foot of the mountains, and there bifurcating along the base. Southwards, the Yubbay is said to extend to a considerable distance, but Somali ideas of distance are peculiar, and absorption is a powerful agent in these latitudes.
Till the 21st December Lieutenant Speke was delayed at the Yubbay Tug. His ropes had been stolen by discharged camel-men, and he was unable to replace them.
On the 15th December one of the Midgan or Serviles was tried for stealing venison from one of his fellows. The Sultan, before his departure, had commissioned three of Lieutenant Speke's attendants to act as judges in case of such emergency: on this occasion the interpreter was on the Woolsack, and he sensibly fined the criminal two sheep to be eaten on the road. From inquiries, I have no doubt that these Midgan are actually reduced by famine at times to live on a food which human nature abhors. In the northern part of the Somali country I never heard of cannibalism, although the Servile tribes will eat birds and other articles of food disdained by Somal of gentle blood. Lieutenant Speke complains of the scarcity and the quality of the water, "which resembles the mixture commonly known as black draught." Yet it appears not to injure health; and the only disease found endemic is an ophthalmia, said to return periodically every three years. The animals have learned to use sparingly what elsewhere is a daily necessary; camels are watered twice a month, sheep thrice, and horses every two or three days. No wild beasts or birds, except the rock pigeon and duck, ever drink except when rain falls.
The pickaxe and spade belonging to the traveller were greatly desired; in one place water was found, but more generally the people preferred digging for honey in the rocks. Of the inhabitants we find it recorded that, like all Nomads, they are idle to the last degree, contenting themselves with tanned skins for dress and miserable huts for lodging. Changing ground for the flocks and herds is a work of little trouble; one camel and a donkey carry all the goods and chattels, including water, wife, and baby. Milk in all stages (but never polluted by fire), wild honey, and flesh, are their only diet; some old men have never tasted grain. Armed with spear and shield, they are in perpetual dread of an attack. It is not strange that under such circumstances the population should be thin and scattered; they talk of thousands going to war, but the wary traveller suspects gross exaggeration. They preserve the abominable Galla practice of murdering pregnant women in hopes of mutilating a male foetus.
On the 20th December Lieutenant Speke was informed by the Sultan's son that the Dulbahantas would not permit him to enter their country. As a favour, however, they would allow him to pass towards the home of the Abban, who, having married a Dulbahanta girl was naturalised amongst them.
21st December.--Early in the morning Lieutenant Speke, accompanied by the interpreter, the Sultan's son, one servant, and two or three men to lead a pair of camels, started eastward. The rest of the animals (nine in number) were left behind in charge of Imam, a Hindostani boy, and six or seven men under him, The reason for this step was that Husayn Haji, an Agil of the Dulbahantas and a connection of the Abban, demanded, as sole condition for permitting Lieutenant Speke to visit "Jid Ali," that the traveller should give up all his property. Before leaving the valley, he observed a hillock glistening white: it appears from its salt, bitter taste, to have been some kind of nitrate efflorescing from the ground. The caravan marched about a mile across the deep valley of Yubbay Tug, and ascended its right side by a beaten track: they then emerged from a thin jungle in the lower grounds to the stony hills which compose the country. Here the line pursued was apparently parallel to the mountains bordering upon the sea: between the two ridges was a depression, in which lay a small watercourse. The road ran along bleak undulating ground, with belts of Acacia in the hollows: here and there appeared a sycamore tree. On the road two springs were observed, both of bitter water, one deep below the surface, the other close to the ground; patches of green grass grew around them. Having entered the Dulbahanta frontier, the caravan unloaded in the evening, after a march of thirteen miles, at a depression called Ali. No water was found there.
22nd December.--Early in the morning the traveller started westward, from Ali, wishing that night to make Jid Ali, about eighteen miles distant. After marching thirteen miles over the same monotonous country as before, Lieutenant Speke was stopped by Husayn Haji, the Agil, who declared that Guled Ali, another Agil, was opposed to his progress. After a long conversation, Lieutenant Speke reasoned him into compliance; but that night they were obliged to halt at Birhamir, within five miles of Jid Ali. The traveller was offered as many horses as he wanted, and a free passage to Berberah, if he would take part in the battle preparing between the two rival clans of Dulbahantas: he refused, on plea of having other engagements. But whenever the question of penetrating the country was started, there came the same dry answer: "No beggar had even attempted to visit them--what, then, did the Englishman want?" The Abban's mother came out from her hut, which was by the wayside, and with many terrors endeavoured to stop the traveller.
23rd December.--Next morning the Abban appeared, and, by his sorrowful surprise at seeing Lieutenant Speke across the frontier, showed that he only had made the difficulty. The caravan started early, and, travelling five miles over stony ground, reached the Jid Ali valley. This is a long belt of fertile soil, running perpendicular to the seaward range; it begins opposite Bunder Jedid, at a gap in the mountains through which the sea is, they say, visible. In breadth, at the part first visited by Lieutenant Speke, it is about two miles: it runs southward, and during rain probably extends to about twenty miles inland. Near the head of the valley is a spring of bitter water, absorbed by the soil after a quarter of a mile's course: in the monsoon, however, a considerable torrent must flow down this depression. Ducks and snipe are found here. The valley shows, even at this season, extensive patches of grass, large acacia trees, bushes, and many different kinds of thorns: it is the most wooded lowland seen by Lieutenant Speke. Already the Nomads are here changing their habits; two small enclosures have been cultivated by an old Dulbahanta, who had studied agriculture during a pilgrimage to Meccah. The Jowari grows luxuriantly, with stalks 8 and 9 feet high, and this first effort had well rewarded the enterpriser. Lieutenant Speke lent the slave Farhan, to show the art of digging; for this he received the present of a goat. I may here remark that everywhere in the Somali country the people are prepared to cultivate grain, and only want some one to take the initiative. As yet they have nothing but their hands to dig with. A few scattered huts were observed near Jid Ali, the grass not being yet sufficiently abundant to support collected herds.
Lieutenant Speke was delayed nineteen days at Jid Ali by various pretexts. The roads were reported closed. The cloth and provisions were exhausted. Five horses must be bought from the Abban for thirty dollars a head (they were worth one fourth that sum), as presents. The first European that visited the Western Country had stopped rain for six months, and the Somal feared for the next monsoon. All the people would flock in, demanding at least what the Warsingali had received; otherwise they threatened the traveller's life. On the 26th of December Lieutenant Speke moved three miles up the valley to some distance from water, the crowd being troublesome, and preventing his servants eating. On the 31st of December all the baggage was brought up from near Abi: one of the camels, being upon the point of death, was killed and devoured. It was impossible to keep the Abban from his home, which was distant about four miles: numerous messages were sent in vain, but Lieutenant Speke drew him from his hut by "sitting in Dhurna," or dunning him into compliance. At last arose a violent altercation. All the Warsingali and Dulbahanta servants were taken away, water was stopped, the cattle were cast loose, and the traveller was told to arm and defend himself and his two men:--they would all be slain that night and the Abban would abandon them to the consequences of their obstinacy. They were not killed, however, and about an hour afterwards the Somal reappeared, declaring that they had no intention of deserting.
11th January, 1855.--About 10 A.M. the caravan started without the Abban across the head of the Jid Ali valley. The land was flat, abounding in Acacia, and showing signs of sun parched grass cropped close by the cattle. After a five miles' march the travellers came to a place called Biyu Hablay; they unloaded under a tree and made a Kraal. Water was distant. Around were some courses, ending abruptly in the soft absorbing ground. Here the traveller was met by two Dulbahantas, who demanded his right to enter their lands, and insinuated that a force was gathering to oppose him. They went away, however, after a short time, threatening with smiles to come again. Lieutenant Speke was also informed that the Southern Dulbahanta tribes had been defeated with loss by the northern clans, and that his journey would be interrupted by them. Here the traveller remarked how willing are the Somal to study: as usual in this country, any man who reads the Koran and can write out a verset upon a board is an object of envy. The people are fanatic. They rebuked the interpreter for not praying regularly, for eating from a Christian's cooking pot, and for cutting deer's throats low down (to serve as specimens); they also did not approve of the traveller's throwing date stones into the fire. As usual, they are fearful boasters. Their ancestors turned Christians out of the country. They despise guns. They consider the Frank formidable only behind walls: they are ready to fight it out in the plain, and they would gallop around cannon so that not a shot would tell. Vain words to conceal the hearts of hares! Lieutenant Speke justly remarks that, on account of the rough way in which they are brought up, the Somal would become excellent policemen; they should, however, be separated from their own people, and doubtless the second generation might be trained into courage.
At Biyu Hablay Lieutenant Speke, finding time as well as means deficient, dropped all idea of marching to Berberah. He wished to attempt a north- western route to Hais, but the Rer Hamaturwa (a clan of the Habr Gerhajis who occupy the mountain) positively refused passage. Permission was accorded by that clan to march due north upon Bunder Jedid, where, however, the traveller feared that no vessel might be found. As a last resource he determined to turn to the north-east, and, by a new road through the Habr Gerhajis, to make Las Kuray.
18th January.--The Abban again returned from his home, and accompanied Lieutenant Speke on his first march to the north-east. Early in the morning the caravan started over the ground before described: on this occasion, however, it traversed the belt of jungle at the foot of the mountains. After a march of six miles they halted at "Mirhiddo," under a tree on elevated ground, in a mere desert, no water being nearer than the spring of Jid Ali. The Abban took the opportunity of Lieutenant Speke going out specimen-hunting to return home, contrary to orders, and he did not reappear till the traveller walked back and induced him to march. Here a second camel, being "in articulo," was cut up and greedily devoured.
21st January.--The Abban appeared in the morning, and the caravan started about noon, over the stony ground at the foot of the hills. After a mile's march, the "Protector" again disappeared, in open defiance of orders. That day's work was about ten miles. The caravan halted, late at night, in the bed of a watercourse, called Hanfallal. Lieutenant Speke visited the spring, which is of extraordinary sweetness for the Warsingali country: it flows from a cleft in the rock broad enough to admit a man's body, and about 60 feet deep.
23rd January.--Lieutenant Speke was about to set out under the guidance of Awado, the Abban's mother, when her graceless son reappeared. At noon the caravan travelled along a rough road, over the lower spurs of the mountains: they went five miles, and it was evening when they unloaded in a watercourse a little distance up the hills, at a place called Dallmalay. The bed was about 150 yards broad, full of jungle, and showed signs of a strong deep stream during the monsoon. The travellers made up a Kraal, but found no water there.
24th January.--Early in the morning the caravan started, and ascended by a path over the hills. The way was bare of verdure, but easy: here a camel unable to walk, though unloaded, was left behind. One of Lieutenant Speke's discharged camel-men, a Warsingali, being refused passage by the Habr Gerhajis, on account of some previous quarrel, found a stray camel, and carried it off to his home amongst the Dulbahantas. He afterwards appeared at Las Kuray, having taken the road by which the travellers entered the country. Having marched eleven miles, the caravan arrived in the evening at Gobamiray, a flat on the crest of the mountains. Here again thick jungle appeared, and the traveller stood over more on the seaward side. Water was distant.
On arriving, the camels were seized by the Urus Sugay, a clan of the Habr Gerhajis. The poor wretches pretended to show fight, and asked if they were considered a nation of women, that their country was to be entered without permission. Next morning they volunteered to act as escort.
25th January.--Loading was forbidden by the valiant sons of Habr Gerhajis; but as they were few in number, and the Warsingali clan was near, it went on without interruption. This day, like the latter, was cloudy; heavy showers fell for some hours, and the grass was springing up. Rain had lasted for some time, and had not improved the road. This fall is called by the people "Dairti:" it is confined to the hills, whereas the Gugi or monsoon is general over the plateau.
About noon the caravan marched, late, because the Abban's two horses had strayed. These animals belonged to a relation of the "Protector," who called them his own, and wished as a civility to sell the garrons at the highest possible price to his client. The caravan marched down a tortuous and difficult road, descending about four miles. It unloaded as evening drew near, and the travellers found at Gambagahh a good dormitory, a cave which kept out the rain. Water was standing close by in a pool. The whole way was a thick jungle of bush and thorn.
26th January.--The Somal insisted upon halting to eat, and the caravan did not start before noon. The road was tolerable and the descent oblique. The jungle was thick and the clouds thicker; rain fell heavily as usual in the afternoon. Five cloths were given to the Habr Gerhajis as a bribe for passage. After a march of six miles the caravan halted at a place called Minan. Here they again found a cave which protected them from the rain. Water was abundant in the hollows of the rock.
27th January.--Early in the morning the caravan set out, and descended the hill obliquely by a tolerable road. They passed a number of thorn trees, bearing a gum called Falafala or Luban Meyti, a kind of frankincense: it is thrown upon the fire, and the women are in the habit of standing over it. After travelling six miles the travellers unloaded at Hundurgal, on the bank of a watercourse leading to Las Galwayta: some pools of rain-water were observed in the rocky hollows of the bed.
28th January.--At about 9 A.M. the caravan crossed one of the lower ridges of the mountains by a tolerable road. Lieutenant Speke had preceded his camels, and was sitting down to rest, when he was startled by hearing the rapid discharge of a revolver. His valiant Abban, either in real or in pretended terror of the Habr Gerhajis had fired the pistol as a warning. It had the effect of collecting a number of Bedouins to stare at the travellers, and cogitate on what they could obtain: they offered, however, no opposition.
At midday the caravan reached a broad and deep Fiumara, which contained a spring of good sweet water flowing towards the sea. Here they halted for refreshment. Again advancing, they traversed another ridge, and, after a march of twelve miles, arrived in the evening at another little watercourse on the Maritime Plain. That day was clear and warm, the rain being confined to the upper ranges. The name of the halting-place was Farjeh.
29th January.--The caravan marched over the plain into Kurayat, or Little Las Kuray, where Lieutenant Speke, after a detention of upwards of a fortnight, took boat, and after five days' sail arrived at Aden, where I was expecting him. He was charged forty dollars--five times the proper sum--for a place in a loaded Buggalow: from Aden to Bombay thirty-five dollars is the hire of the whole cabin. This was the last act of the Abban, who is now by the just orders of the acting Political Resident, Aden, expiating his divers offences in the Station Jail.
Lieutenant Speke has passed through three large tribes, the Warsingali, the Dulbahanta, and the Habr Gerhajis.
The Warsingali have a Sultan or Chief, whose orders are obeyed after a fashion by all the clans save one, the Bihidur. He cannot demand the attendance of a subject even to protect the country, and has no power to raise recruits; consequently increase of territory is never contemplated in this part of the Somali country. In case of murder, theft, or dispute between different tribes, the aggrieved consult the Sultan, who, assembling the elders, deputes them to feel the inclinations of the "public." The people prefer revenging themselves by violence, as every man thereby hopes to gain something. The war ends when the enemy has more spears than cattle left--most frequently, however, by mutual consent, when both are tired of riding the country. Expeditions seldom meet one another, this retiring as that advances, and he is deemed a brave who can lift a few head of cattle and return home in safety. The commissariat department is rudely organised: at the trysting-place, generally some water, the people assemble on a day fixed by the Sultan, and slaughter sheep: each person provides himself by hanging some dried meat upon his pony. It is said that on many occasions men have passed upwards of a week with no other sustenance than water. This extensive branch of the Somal is divided into eighteen principal clans, viz.:1. Rer Gerad (the royal family).
The Northern Dulbahantas are suffering greatly from intestine war. They are even less tractable than the Warsingali. Their Sultan is a ruler only in name; no one respects his person or consults him in matters of importance: their Gerad was in the vicinity of the traveller; but evasive answers were returned (probably in consequence of the Abban's machinations) to every inquiry. The elders and men of substance settle local matters, and all have a voice in everything that concerns the general weal: such for instance as the transit of a traveller. Lieutenant Speke saw two tribes, the Mahmud Gerad and Rer Ali Nalay. The latter is subdivided into six septs.
The Habr Gerhajis, here scattered and cut up, have little power. Their royal family resides near Berberah, but no one as yet wears the turban; and even when investiture takes place, a ruler's authority will not extend to Makhar. Three clans of this tribe inhabit this part of the Somali country, viz., Bah Gummaron, Rer Hamturwa, and Urus Sugay.
I venture to submit a few remarks upon the subject of the preceding diary.
It is evident from the perusal of these pages that though the traveller suffered from the system of black-mail to which the inhospitable Somal of Makhar subject all strangers, though he was delayed, persecuted by his "protector," and threatened with war, danger, and destruction, his life was never in real peril. Some allowance must also be made for the people of the country. Lieutenant Speke was of course recognised as a servant of Government; and savages cannot believe that a man wastes his rice and cloth to collect dead beasts and to ascertain the direction of streams. He was known to be a Christian; he is ignorant of the Moslem faith; and, most fatal to his enterprise, he was limited in time. Not knowing either the Arabic or the Somali tongue, he was forced to communicate with the people through the medium of his dishonest interpreter and Abban.
I have permitted myself to comment upon the system of interference pursued by the former authorities of Aden towards the inhabitants of the Somali coast. A partial intermeddling with the quarrels of these people is unwise. We have the whole line completely in our power. An armed cruiser, by a complete blockade, would compel the inhabitants to comply with any requisitions. But either our intervention should be complete,--either we should constitute ourselves sole judges of all disputes, or we should sedulously turn a deaf ear to their complaints. The former I not only understand to be deprecated by our rulers, but I also hold it to be imprudent. Nothing is more dangerous than to influence in any way the savage balance of power between these tribes: by throwing our weight on one side we may do them incalculable mischief. The Somal, like the Arab Bedouins, live in a highly artificial though an apparently artless state of political relations; and the imperfect attempt of strangers to interfere would be turned to the worst account by the designing adventurer and the turbulent spirit who expects to rise by means of anarchy and confusion. Hitherto our partial intervention between the Habr Awal of Berberah and the Habr Gerhajis of Zayla has been fraught with evils to them, and consequently to us.
But it is a rapidly prevailing custom for merchants and travellers to engage an Abban or Protector, not on the African coast, as was formerly case, but at Aden. It is clearly advantageous to encourage this practice, since it gives us a right in case of fraud or violence to punish the Abban as he deserves.
Lastly, we cannot expect great things without some establishment at Berberah. Were a British agent settled there, he could easily select the most influential and respectable men, to be provided with a certificate entitling them to the honour and emolument of protecting strangers. Nothing would tend more surely than this measure to open up the new country to commerce and civilisation. And it must not be inferred, from a perusal of the foregoing pages, that the land is valueless. Lieutenant Speke saw but a small portion of it, and that, too, during the dead season. Its exports speak for themselves: guano, valuable gums, hides, peltries, mats, clarified butter, honey, and Dumbah sheep. From the ruins and the traditions of the country, it is clear that a more civilised race once held these now savage shores, and the disposition of the people does not discourage the hope entertained by every Englishman--that of raising his fellow man in the scale of civilisation.
Camp, Aden, March, 1855.
Made by Lieutenant Speke, during his Experimental Tour in Eastern Africa, portions of Warsingali, Dulbahanta, &c.
|Date.||6 A.M.||Noon.||3 P.M.||Meteorological Notices.|
|Oct. 29.||70°||87°||*112°||Wind from the N. E. strong. (*Exposed to sun.)|
|Nov. 1.||67||88||82||Ditto. (These observations from the 29th Oct. to the 7th Nov., were taken in the tent.)|
|Nov. 7.||74||90||88||Cloudy in the morning.|
|Nov. 8.||66||83||88||Wind strong from the N. E. (In open air, but not exposed to the sun.)|
|Nov. 17.||62||110||104||In open air exposed to sun.|
|Nov. 19.||62||102||95||All these observations were taken during the N.E. monsun, when the wind comes from that quarter. It generally makes its appearance about half-past 9 A.M.|
|Jan. 1.||40||98||98||In open air exposed to the sun.|
|Jan. 2.||43||84||86||All these observations were taken during the N.E. monsun, when the wind comes from that quarter; generally making its appearance about half-past 9 A.M.|
|Jan. 24.||52||-||62||On the north or sea face of the Warsingali Hills, during 24th, 25th, and 26th, had rain and heavy clouds during the day: blowing off towards the evening.|
|Jan. 31.||71||88||93||From the 27th to the 7th the observations were taken at the sea.|
|Feb. 6.||72||88||83||On the 7th observations were taken in tent.|
|Nov. 1st.||At Las Guray||212°||88°||0000|
|30th.||At Habl Ishawalay||203||58||5052|
|Dec. 4th.||At Yafir, top of range||200.25||69||6704|
|5th.||At Mukur, on plateau||205.5||67||3660|
|7th.||At Rhat Tug, on plateau||206.5||62||3077|
|15th.||At Yubbay Tug, on plateau||204||62||4498|
|Government boiling therm. broke here.
Common. therm. out of bazar
boiled at sea level - 209°
Therometer - 76°
|Jan. 1st.||At Jid Ali, on plateau||202°||62||3884|
|12th.||At Biyu Hablay||201°||62||4449|