תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

CAMELS AND DROMEDARIES.

191

The number of dromedaries in Alexandria is very great, on account of the passage of the different caravans; and hundreds of young ones may be seen daily in the neighbourhood of the city. Except, perhaps, a young buffalo, no animal presents a more grotesque appearance than a young camel or dromedary, with a thick coating of hair, of a very light fawn colour, almost approaching to white; their thin, drawn-up body, which at this age appears even shorter than in adult life, supported on legs that look like stilts, and with an awkwardness of gait natural to all, but rendered truly ridiculous by their attempt at playful gambol. It is curious that all the young I have ever seen of this beautifully constructed animal, have a quantity of shaggy hair ; this, in some places, rather increases as they grow up, especially in the true Bactrian camel, which is habituated to the variable climate of parts of Asia Minor. Here, in Egypt, they are, however, when full grown, nearly all devoid of hair. Now, although the camel is well adapted to receive its Arab name—“the ship of the desert”-yet in the warm climates where they are now known, whence comes this original provision of warm clothing? What does remain on them in adult life is kept close shaven, except a tuft on either hip, and one on the forehead; and the tail, which is closely clipt on the back, but with a row of stiff hairs on either side, looks like the shafts and plumelets of a feather. The dromedaries here are much larger than those of the Canary Islands. The true Bactrian, or two-hunched camel, is unknown in this part of the east, and is now extremely rare. The popular distinction, or that made in common usage between the camel and dromedary in the Orient, is the same as that between the dray and the race-horse ; the former being an animal of exceeding slow gait, clumsy make, and adapted solely for burthen ; while the latter, which is very rare, in comparison with the other, is much taller, and slighter made ; more light, easy, and active in its movements, going at a pace of eight or ten miles an hour; travelling upwards of seventy miles a day, and used solely for the purpose of despatch, and by the couriers, who sit cross-legged on a wooden framework, placed upon the hump. The movement of this beast is a kind of slinging trot, the animal throwing its long neck from side to side as it goes along. They are generally very smooth, in good condition, and may be at once known by their “ blood.” It appears to be to such a beast that Jeremiah alludes, when

192

MEMBRANE OF THE CAMEL'S MOUTH.

speaking of the "swift dromedary." In Egyptian towns the water is generally carried about the city in large leathern bags, slung on the sides of camels, and these are most miserablelooking brutes. Docile and obedient as the camel generally is, yet when vexed and enraged, it becomes a truly formidable animal. When heated or overburthened, besides attempting to lie down, it has a power of inflating the pinkish flaccid membrane of the mouth and tongue, and blowing it out of the side of the mouth, where it hangs down a considerable way, covered with frothy saliva ; the animal moves its head rapidly from side to side, and frequently (if ridden) turns round, and looks furiously into the very face of his rider, uttering, at the same time, a short abrupt sound in the throat. This note of anger is most startling, and during its continuance, they will draw in this inflated bag, and blow it forth again with great violence, the eyes flashing fire, and stamping with the forefeet. If the camel be not now either soothed or cowed by his keeper, he will often tear off his rider, and throwing down his burden, rush at the object of his anger, and lifting him up, dash him with terrific fury against the earth. I have seen a man in the large square of Alexandria, rescued with great difficulty from the terrors of such a scene.

Although it is vaunted as a new discovery, that the camel can sustain hunger by the absorption of its lump; as well as thirst, by the provision nature has made in the sacculated stomach for carrying water, yet this was long known to the owners of these animals. An old author, John Leo Africanus, mentions the fact of having seen them, when on a long journey, and deprived of food, consume “first the flesh of their bunches, then their bellies, and last their hips.” This same author very properly enumerates three varieties of camels : the first, called Hugiun, are thick and tall, and the fittest for carrying burdens; this is the common camel of Africa. The second, called Becheti, have a double bunch, which renders it fit for carriage and riding ; but these are only reared in Asia, and are the true Bactrian race. The third, called Ragnahill, being of a slender, low structure, are unqualified for carriage, but go beyond the other two in swiftness; this is what may be denominated the dromedary, and it is one of this description that is used yearly to carry the sacred Mahmil to Mekka, and ever after enjoys exemption from labour. The phenomenon of the protrusion of the membrane of the

[ocr errors]

POWER OF ABSTINENCE.

193 mouth, is worthy the attention of zoologists, and was remarked long ago by the observant Sandys, who, though he attributed it to a different cause that of supplying moisture--says, "for in his frequent belchings he thrust up a bladder, which moistened his throat and mouth.”* Their subsisting on their fat is quite in accordance with one of the most generally acknowledged physiological facts in the animal economy; it being a reservoir to be used upon emergencies, as in hibernating animals, the tails of particular kinds of sheep, the hump of the bison, or in the human subject in any protracted illness or long abstinence; and I conceive it to be for the same useful purpose that those plates of fat, so much praised by our gourmands, are placed in the sides of the turtle.

* Appendix I.

[merged small][ocr errors]

Harbour of the Mahmoudio--A Kanghia, The Canal--Egyptian Plagues-Cotton Plant-Ap

pearance of the Country-Game-Mode of Cleaning the Canal -Atfé--The Nile-BoatmenThe English Ensign-Composition of the Soil-Scenery-Husbandry-Birds-The Fellaheen Their Costumes --- Arab Females-Their Dress---An Egyptian Eye-Old Women-Habitations

Sheykhs-Self-mutilation-Cyclopean Population-Conscription-Boolack-Approach to the Capital-Cairo Hotel de Jardin-The Lions-Citadel-View from it-Mosque of the Basha -Joseph's Well-Palace of the Basha-The Hareem-The Arms Factory- Massacre of the Memlooks--Mosque of Sooltan Hassan-Description of its Interior-The Streets-Inhabitants -Shop-keepers-Nightly Stillness—The Moocddin's Chant.

SATURDAY, 20th.—This morning was spent in preparing for our journey to Cairo. At three o'clock we arrived at the harbour of the Mahmoudie canal, which is without exception one of the most abominable sewers that this dirty country can boast of. The banks of this great vein of communication between the capital and the seaport rise high and precipitously from the water, and are generally crowded with dirty Arabs, half-naked women, and blear-eyed children, squatted on logs of timber, bales of cotton, and heaps of coal from the mines of Syria. These, with troops of camels, a wretched shed for a custom-house, a filthy coffee-shop, a troop of the never-failing donkeys, and a Babel of tongues, such as can only be experienced among the Arabs, are the impediments and annoyances a traveller has to push himself and his baggage through, in order to reach that most uncomfortable of conveyances—a Mahmoudie kanghia, or Egyptian canal-boat. For nearly a mile the line of boats extends, as close as they can possibly be crammed; and it is usual for European (at least English) travellers to have their boats sunk for some days before, choosing rather to encounter the damp and dirt consequent on their immersion in the mud of the canal, than to suffer from the numerous cockroaches and other living torments that invariably infest these conveyances. We were unable, from

A MAHMOUDIE KANGHIA.

195

want of time, to submit our boat to this process, so we had to endure (I cannot say with patience) our tormentors, which, in the shape of creeping things of all forms and sizes, still appear as the remnant of the plagues that once swarmed throughout all the quarters of this land. Our party now consisted of four, as shortly before we left Alexandria we met, most unexpectedly, Mr. A. Finlay, on his way from Bombay to England, but who consented to return with us to Cairo, and to whose knowledge of Eastern manners and customs we were much indebted in our voyage through the Levant, in which he accompanied us.

Our kanghia was a long, narrow boat, sharp at both ends, with a high projecting stern, a cabin, consisting of a kind of tenthouse raised over the deck, in size about equal to a good dogkennel, and barely capable of containing four of us, who found great difficulty in sitting upright. Our steersman, a venerable grey-bearded Arab, sat perched on the roof of the cabin. These boats have a long mast and a latteen sail, but as the wind was contrary we were unable to set ours; and so we commenced our journey by tracking, which was done by four of our crew; making about two miles an hour.

If the waters of the Tagus resemble pea-soup, those of this canal could be most justly likened to thin porridge, flavoured with the essence of divers carcases of buffaloes, camels, dogs, and asses, in every possible state of decomposition, on which innumerable flocks of gulls and several vultures were making their evening's meal. Our attention was more forcibly drawn to the scene, from the circumstance of our being obliged to use this most filthy fluid for drinking; for, although we had been careful in providing ourselves with the other necessaries for such a voyage, as provisions, bedding, cooking apparatus, &c. we totally forgot, until too late, the most essential—a supply of pure water. Leaving Alexandria, the canal winds along the shores of Mareotis, from which it is only separated by the bank; and independent of its value as a means of communication, the water is of great use as a manure in enriching the land along its banks, for which object it is raised, either in Persian wheels, or by the simple and antique apparatus of the pole and bucket, worked by a single man. The only green things along its banks are a few acacias.

We spent a night of unusual discomfort, for though we were all fatigued, and had made desperate determinations to sleep, and

« הקודםהמשך »