Historical Reprints History Pilgrimage to Nejd

Pilgrimage to Nejd

Pilgrimage to Nejd
Catalog # SKU3858
Publisher TGS Publishing
Weight 2.00 lbs
Author Name Lady Anne Blunt
ISBN 10: 0000000000
ISBN 13: 0000000000000


Pilgrimage to Nejd

The Cradle
of the Arab Race.

Originally In Two Volumes.
Now in Both Books in One Volume

Lady Anne Blunt

It is strange how gloomy thoughts vanish as one sets foot in Asia. Only yesterday we were still tossing on the sea of European thought, with its political anxieties, its social miseries and its restless aspirations, the heritage of the unquiet race of Japhet-and now we seem to have ridden into still water, where we can rest and forget and be thankful.



The charm of the East is the absence of intellectual life there, the freedom one's mind gets from anxiety in looking forward or pain in looking back. Nobody here thinks of the past or the future, only of the present; and till the day of one's death comes, I suppose the present will always be endurable. Then it has done us good to meet old friends, friends all demonstratively pleased to see us. At the coach office when we got down, we found a little band of dependants waiting our arrival-first of all Mohammed ibn Arûk, the companion of our last year's adventures, who has come from Palmyra to meet and travel with us again, and who has been waiting here for us, it would seem, a month.

Then Hanna, the most courageous of cowards and of cooks, with his ever ready tears in his eyes and his double row of excellent white teeth, agrin with welcome. Each of them has brought with him a friend, a relation he insists on calling him, who is to share the advantage of being in our service, and to stand by his patron in case of need, for servants like to travel here in pairs. Mohammed's cousin is a quiet, respectable looking man of about five and thirty, rather thick set and very broad shouldered. He is to act as head camel man, and he looks just the man for the place. Hanna's brother bears no likeness at all to Hanna. He is a young giant, with a rather feckless face, and great splay hands which seem to embarrass him terribly. He is dressed picturesquely in a tunic shaped like the ecclesiastical vestment called the "dalmatic," and very probably its origin, with a coloured turban on his head. He too may be useful, but he is a Christian, and we rather doubt the prudence of taking Christian servants to Nejd. Only Ferhan, our Agheyl camel-driver, is missing, and this is a great disappointment, for he was the best tempered and the most trustworthy of all our followers last year. I fancy we may search Damascus with a candle before we find his like again.

The evening we spent in giving and receiving news. Mohammed in his quality of Wilfrid's "brother," was invited to dine with us, and a very pleasant hour or two we had, hearing all that has happened in the desert during the summer.

First of all, the sensation that has been caused there by our purchase of Beteyen's mare, which after all we have secured, and the heart-burnings and jealousies raised thereby. Then there have been high doings among our friends in the Hamád. Faris and Jedaan have (wonderful to relate) made peace, and between them have it all their own way now on the Euphrates, where the caravan road has become quite unsafe in consequence. Ferhan ibn Sfuk, it seems, marched against his brother with some Turkish troops to help him, and Faris retreated across the river; but most of the Shammar have, as we anticipated last year, come over to him. The Roala war is not yet finished. Ibn Shaalan, rejecting the proposals made him through us by Jedaan, persisted in reoccupying the Hama pastures last spring, and Jedaan attacked and routed him; so that he has retreated southwards to his own country. Mohammed Dukhi and Jedaan have parted company, the Sebaa having cleared off scores with the Roala, and being satisfied with the summer's campaign; while the Welled Ali are still a long way on the creditor side in their blood feud. Mohammed Dukhi is a long-headed old rogue, but it is difficult to see how he is to hold his own with Sotamm in spite of a new alliance with Faris el Meziad, Sheykh of the Mesenneh, who still has some hundred horsemen to help him with, and of another with Mohammed Aga of Jerúd. The Welled Ali are at the present moment encamped close to Jerúd, so we shall probably go there, as the first step on our road to Nejd. Mohammed of course knows nothing about the roads to Nejd or Jôf, except that they are somewhere away to the south, and that he has relations there, and I doubt if anybody in Damascus can give us more information.

The Welled Ali, however, would know where the Roala are, and the Roala could send us on, as they go further south than any of the Anazeh. The difficulty, we fear, this winter will be the accident of no rain having fallen since last spring, so that the Hamád is quite burnt up and without water. If it were not for this, our best course would undoubtedly be outside the Hauran, which is always dangerous, and is said to be especially so this year. The desert has often been compared to the sea, and is like it in more ways than one, amongst others in this, that once well away from shore it is comparatively safe, while there is always a risk of accidents along the coast. But we shall see. In the meantime we talk to Mohammed of the Jôf only, for fear of scaring him. Nejd, in the imagination of the northern Arabs, is an immense way off, and no one has ever been known to go there from Damascus. Mohammed professes unbounded devotion to Wilfrid, and he really seems to be sincere; but six hundred miles of desert as the crow flies will be a severe test of affection. We notice that Mohammed has grown in dignity and importance since we saw him last, and has adopted the style and title of Sheykh, at least for the benefit of the hotel servants; he has indeed good enough manners to pass very well for a true Bedouin.

There is a small colony of Palmyra people at Damascus, or rather in the suburb of the town called the Maidan, and with them Mohammed has been staying. We went there with him this morning to see some camels he has been buying for us, and which are standing, or rather sitting, in his friends' yard. The colony consists of two or three families, who live together in a very poor little house. They left Tudmur about six years ago "in a huff," they say, and have been waiting on here from day to day ever since to go back. The men of the house were away from home when we called, for they make their living like most Tudmuri as carriers; but the women received us hospitably, asked us to sit down and drink coffee, excellent coffee, such as we had not tasted for long, and sent a little girl to bring the camels out of the yard for us to look at. The child managed these camels just as well as any man could have done.

Mohammed seems to have made a good selection. There are four deluls for riding, and four big baggage camels; these last have remarkably ugly heads, but they look strong enough to carry away the gates of Gaza, or anything else we choose to put upon their backs. In choosing camels, the principal points to look at are breadth of chest, depth of barrel, shortness of leg, and for condition roundness of flank. I have seen the strength of the hocks tested by a man standing on them while the camel is kneeling. If it can rise, notwithstanding the weight, there can be no doubt as to soundness. One only of the camels did not quite please us, as there was a suspicion of recent mange; but Abdallah (Mohammed's cousin) puts it "on his head" that all is right with this camel, as with the rest. They are not an expensive purchase at any rate, as they average less than £10 a piece. One cannot help pitying them, poor beasts, when one thinks of the immense journey before them, and the little probability there is that they will all live to see the end of it. Fortunately they do not know their fate any more than we know ours. How wretched we should be for them if we knew exactly in what wady or at what steep place they would lie down and be left to die; for such is the fate of camels. But if we did, we should never have the heart to set out at all.

Next in importance to the camels are the horses we are to ride. Mohammed has got his little Jilfeh mokhra of last year which is barely three years old, but he declares she is up to his weight, thirteen stone, and I suppose he knows best. Mr. S. has sent us two mares from Aleppo by Hanna, one, a Ras el Fedawi, very handsome and powerful, the other, a bay three year old Abeyeh Sherrak, without pretension to good looks, but which ought to be fast and able to carry a light weight. We rode to the Maidan, and the chestnut's good looks attracted general attention. Everybody turned round to look at her; she is perhaps too handsome for a journey.

404 pages - 7 x 8½ softcover - Print size, 12 point font