« AnteriorContinuar »
they waited two moons for the arrival of the rest of the caravan, but it came not-it had perished in the Desert.
The total destruction of those caravans is no unusual occurrence. Jackson mentions one from Tombuctoo to Tafilelt, in 1805, consisting of two thousand persons, and one thousand eight hundred camels, the whole of which perished in the Desert for want of water. These horrible catastrophes are sufficiently attested by the multitude of human bones, and those of camels and other animals, strewed on the Desert, but more particularly in the neighbourhood of the usual watering places.
We have before observed that Sidi Hamet's description of Tombuctoo agrees, in the main points, with that given by Adams; and he mentions a small river of brackish water running past it, which being dried up on one of their journeys, the Arabs were under the necessity of going to a large river to the southward of the town, and two hours distant from it, for water; this river was called Zolibib. This stream running past Tombuctoo to the westward, is mentioned by all travellers. Mr. Legh's friend states that his information gives it that direction; and Denon heard the same thing from the Nubian prince, brother to the king of Darfur. The population is stated to be negro for the most part; but negroes, and Arabs, and Moors, Sidi says, all mix together and marry with one another, as if they were all of one colour. He describes the chief, as Adams did, to be a large, old, grey-headed negro, called Shegar, 'which means sultan, or king.' Adams, whose visit to Tombuctoo was not long subsequent to that of Sidi Hamet, calls this old chief, or king, Woollo; and in 1800, Jackson says, the name of the king was Woollo, and that he was also king of Bambarra; this, if true, would not easily be reconciled with Park's account of Mansong being the name of the king of Bambarra, from 1795 to 1805, at both which times, having had communications with him, Park could not well be mistaken. But it also appears from a note in Isaaco's Jour nal, that the name of Mansong's father was Woollo. The traveller before mentioned has explained these apparent contradictions: by his information Woollo is not a surname, but an epithet signifying 'great chief or commander,' which is a further testimony in favour of Adams's residence at Tombuctoo.
The king's dress, his ornaments, his turban, the loose shirt worn by the negroes, the dress of the women, their round hoop ear-rings, their necklaces, bracelets, &c. are described precisely as Adams has described them. Their manners also, and their amusements of dancing, their stained faces, the common practice of circumcision, though not Moslemins, are all noticed, so that we entertain as little doubt of Sidi Hamet having been at Tombuctoo, as Adams-but we have our doubts, and very strong ones too, of the fidelity of Riley's edition of his narrative, through the medium of another Arab,
who spoke Spanish. This we regret the more, as we now approach the most curious and interesting part of Sidi Hamet's adventures, being his account of a journey to the south-east of Tombuctoo, over a country wholly new to Europeans, and to a city twice the size of Tombuctoo, whose name, we believe, was never before sounded in the ears of an European-the city of Wassanah,* situated on the Niger, about sixty days journey to the southward and eastward of Tombuctoo. Whether the details be true or false, is a point that must be decided hereafter; if they are not corroborated by any living or recorded evidence, we know of no living or recorded evidence, at least, to contradict them; and if any part of this curious narrative should be found to militate against received opinions, it must be recollected that those opinions rest on no better authority than the contradictory statements of Arab travellers, oftentimes collected at second hand or still more remote from the original source. In fact, we know not a step to the eastward and southward of Tombuctoo excepting from Moorish or Arab testimonies, no two of which exactly correspond; we consider, therefore, the story of Sidi Hamet just as good as any other Arab story; he is not an illiterate man, but writes his own language well, and is considered by Mr. Willshire among the most respectable of the Arabs of the Desert. Mr. Riley may not have been minutely accurate; but we see no reason whatever for discrediting the narrative of Sidi Hamet because he suppresses all mention of the Haoussa country, the Bahar Soudan, Kassina, Ghana, and the lakes and swamps of Wangara, whose positions, if they exist at all, are merely conjectural; in fact, by his account, their positions are not disturbed; but are only cut off from any communication with the Niger by a chain of mountains in the east, which give a southerly direction to this mysterious stream.
The king of Tombuctoo being about to send a large caravan loaded with iron, salt, tobacco, &c. to trade with the king of Wassanah, in exchange for slaves, gold, elephants' teeth, &c. pressed Sidi Hamet and his brother Seid to accompany it with their two surviving camels, the negroes having few of these animals, but using asses chiefly as beasts of burden. The command of the caravan was entrusted to the king's brother, whose name was Shelbaa. They departed from Tombuctoo in the month of Shual. They first went to a small town of about two hundred houses on the banks of the Zolibib, at the distance of two hours from Tombuctoo, (Kabra?) from thence over a plain even country for six days, the river on their right hand, and every day in sight, running the same way they travelled, which was a little to the southward of east, when they came to a small town called Bimbinah. Here the
We anticipate that Wassanah will be considered the same as Kassina; which, however, is impossible: for, in the first place, Kasina is to the northward of Kabra, and secondly, forty leagues distant from the Niger.
river turned more to the south-eastward, being deflected by a high mountain to the east. They now left the river, and travelling fifteen days through a hilly and woody country, they again came to the bank. Two very large towns, and numerous blacks, appeared on the opposite side. They next continued nearly S. E. for three days, the road winding with the banks of the river. They had now to climb a high ridge of mountains which took them six days, and from the summit they observed a chain of mountains to the westward. Descending on the south side, they came again to the bank of the river, where it was narrow and full of rocks, that dashed the water dreadfully. They continued to travel S. E. for twelve days after leaving the mountains, during which time they had seen the river every day on their right hand, and had passed a great many small streams that emptied themselves into it-it was now very wide, and looked deep; had many canoes upon it, which were pushed along with flat pieces of wood. Fifteen days more, mostly in sight of the river, brought them to the walls of the city of Wassanah. The king came out to meet them, and invited the chief and the whole caravan to abide within a square inclosure near the walls of the city, where they remained two moons, exchanging their goods for slaves, gold, elephants' teeth, &c.
The river which passes Wassanah nearly in a south direction, is here no longer called Zolibib, but Zadi, and is so wide that a man can scarcely be seen on the opposite bank. The walls of the city are composed of large stones piled up like stone fences in Morocco, without clay or mud; it took Hamet a day to walk round them. The country is well cultivated, chiefly with rice; and the animals are oxen, cows and asses: they have no camels nor horses, mules, sheep nor goats; and he observed a great multitude of speckled fowls. Their houses, or rather huts of stone, are covered over with the large leaves of the date or palm-tree, or of another tree which looks very much like a date tree, and bears a fruit as large as my head, which has a white juice in it sweeter than milk; the inside is hard, and very good to eat: the trees that bear this big fruit grow in abundance in this country, and their fruit is very plenty.'-No better description could possibly be given of the cocoa-nut; and yet Adams was ridiculed for saying that he had seen cocoa-nuts growing at Tombuctoo, because he happened to describe the leaf as resembling that of an apple-tree; and because it is generally' supposed that this tree can flourish only near the sea. Yet Mr. Dupuis says, he has always understood from the natives of Barbary who had visited Tombuctoo, that the cocoa-nut grew there.
The king or chief is called Oleeboo, which means, in the negro talk, good sultan.' His dress is not unlike that of the king of Tombuctoo, only he wears on his head a very high hat made of canes,
coloured very handsomely, and adorned with fine feathers.' He rides on the back of a huge beast called Elfement, (el feel, an elephant,) three times as thick as my great camel, and a great deal higher, with a very long nose and great teeth, and almost as black as the negroes. Neither the king nor the people pray like the Moslemins, but jump about, fall down, tear their faces as if they were mad, when any of their friends die; and they make a feast at new moons and dance all night; they are very hospitable, and 'I hope,' says. Sidi,' the time is near, when the faithful, and they that fear God and his prophet, will turn them to the true belief, or drive them away from this goodly land.' We must give the following passage in Sidi's own words, or rather we should say in the words of Mr. Riley.
The inhabitants catch a great many fish; they have boats made of great trees, cut off and hollowed out, that will hold ten, fifteen, or twenty negroes, and the brother of the king told one of my Moslemin companions who could understand him, (for I could not,) that he was going to set out in a few days with sixty boats, and to carry five hundred slaves down the river, first to the southward and then to the westward, where they should come to the great water, and sell them to pale people, who came there in great boats, and brought musquets and powder, and tobacco, and blue cloth, and knives, &c.; he said it was a great way, and would take him three moons to get there, and be should be gone twenty moons before he could get back by land, but should be very rich.' We saw a great many of these people who had been down the river to see the great water, with slaves and teeth, and came back again: they said, the pale people lived in great boats, and had guns as big as their bodies, that made a noise like thunder, and would kill all the people in a hundred negro boats, if they went too near them.'—p. 341.
While they stopped at Wassanah it rained every day. This incidental mention of the constant rains is favourable to the veracity of Sidi Hamet's narrative. He left Tombuctoo in the month of Shual, (December,) which is the dry season; he arrived in March, when the sun crosses the line into the northern latitudes; and he remains before Wassanah all April and May, having had the sun on both sides of him, and, consequently, during the very height of the rainy season. The negroes were very kind and hospitable; they fed them well with rice and barley, milk, and meat. The people of the caravan received, in exchange for their goods, three hundred slaves, and a great many teeth, dazzling stones, and shells, and gold; and with these they returned the same way they had come, which took them three moons, including stoppages.
If Sidi Hamet, in presence of his brother, Mr. Willshire, and Mr. Savage, told this story, which Riley took down on the spot, we see no reason whatever to call in question the general truth of it;-if no such story was told, and we are to consider the whole as
a fiction of Riley, not only his American friends, but Mr. Willshire. also, must have egregiously mistaken his character, and with so many persons able to refute it, he must be the most impudent man alive :→→→ we cannot think so meanly of him or of them. It is greatly to be regretted that our vice-consuls at Mogadore will not give themselves the trouble to question those numerous Moorish merchants and Arab free-booters who have travelled in Soudan, and to compare their several accounts. Mr. Dupuis, we understand, has promised to collect and transmit a statement of this kind, which may throw considerable light on this mysterious country; in the mean time, let us see what can be made out from the expedition and information of Sidi Hamet. The whole of the ground travelled over by this Arab from Kabra, (adding three days for the descent of the mountainous country, which was six in the ascent,) occupied him sixty days; the first six in the direction of east, a little southerly, the remainder generally about south-east. As they travelled with asses, we cannot give more than fifteen English miles a day, which, with frequent stoppages, and good feed, this animal will easily perform. This calculation, on a rough estimate, would place the city of Wassanah in about lat. 7° N. long. 14° E. At the end of six days, from Tombuctoo or Kabra, a chain of mountains running S. E.. deflected the river from its easterly course into that direction. These mountains continue to accompany the river for twenty-seven days, when the country became more flat, and several small streams fell into the great river from the eastward.
That the chain of mountains, whose situation corresponds pretty nearly with the Jibbel Kumri of Abulfeda, should be found to stretch away to the southward, is more consistent with the physical geography of Africa, as far as regards the distribution of its mountainous ranges, than that great belt of three thousand miles in extent which some modern geographers, by uniting the mountains of Kong with those of Kumri, (on what authority we know not,) have stretched across the continent of Africa from east to west, appearing on the charts like a large cornelian necklace. Such a continued chain, in this direction, is not only not analogous to the general arrangement of African mountains, as far as they are known, but is totally unlike any thing on the rest of the globe;-whereas, a south-easterly range naturally falls in with the direction of the elevated regions of Nubia, Sennaar, and Abyssinia, in North Africa, and with those chains of mountains which stretch behind Mosambique to the southward, as far as the Cape of Good Hope.
Such a chain as we are supposing will clear up, as we conceive, some difficulties respecting the long disputed course of the Niger: we say disputed, because though Mr. Park, from ocular evidence, bas proved its course to be to the eastward as far as Silla, yet from the testimony of Edressi and Abulfeda, supported by more modern authorities,