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Thursday, March 15th, 1838. Our encampment for the last night was in the valley between Jebel 'Aweibid and the western ridges of ’Atâkah. We first descended along the valley, which after a time takes the name of Wady Emshâsh. At 9h. 15' we left it, taking a course E.S. E. around a small hill called el-Muntŭla', and down a narrow pass, which was formerly considered dangerous. The pass gradually opens, and we had a glimpse of ’Ajrûd. We thought too that the Red Sea lay in sight before us; but it turned out to be only the mirage. At the foot of the pass, and near 'Ajrûd, we dismounted from our camels, and ascended a hill on the right, from which we had a wide prospect over the plain into which the pass opens, the fortress of ’Ajrûd on the left, and Suez on the right in the S. E. with the Red Sea beyond. The atmosphere to-day seemed specially adapted to produce the mirage; for as we looked towards Suez it seemed wholly surrounded by water ; while lakes and ponds apparently extended from the sea far up from the shore upon the desert plain. This plain, which we now overlooked, is not far from ten miles square, extending with a gentle slope from 'Ajrûd to the sea west of Suez, and from the hills at the base of 'Atâkah to the arm of the sea N. of Suez. But it retains the same general character as the desert we had passed. Hills and mountains and the long narrow strip of salt water were indeed around and before us ; but not a tree, nor scarcely a shrub, and not one green thing was to be seen in the whole circle of vision.
'Ajrûd is the next station on the Haj route after Dâr elHůmra. It is a fortress with a well of bitter water two hundred and fifty feet deep,* built for the accommodation and protection of the pilgrims on their way to and from Mecca. Near by it is a mosk with a saint's tomb, also enclosed with walls. The fortress stands on the S. side of Wady Emshâsh, along which on the north a range of low hills stretches from W. to E. The Haj route passes by the
* Burckhardt's Travels in Syria, etc., p. 628. Edrisi mentions ’Ajrûd about the middle of the 12th century. Ruppell singularly enough writes the name Hadgi Routh ; Reise in Abyssinien, I. p. 135. The Arabic orthography has been fixed at least ever since the days of Edrîsi.
castle on the south, and continues its course directly towards the mountains which lie E, of the line of the Gulf, and constitute the ascent to the high plain of the eastern desert. Two summits were pointed out to us, between which the road passes on towards 'Akabah; the northern one called Mukhsheib, and the southern er-Râhah, as belonging to the more southern chain of that name.
Before reaching 'Ajrûd our road separated from that of the Haj, turning more S. E., and we passed the fortress at lih. 40', leaving it about twenty minutes distant on our left. From ’Ajrûd to Suez is reckoned four hours. Crossing the plain, which is every where intersected by water-courses, we came at 2h. 50' to Bîr Suez, one hour from the town. Here are two deep wells, surrounded by a square massive building of stone, with towers at the corners, erected in the seventeenth century, as appears from an inscription. The water is brackish, and is carried to Suez on asses and camels only for cooking and washing ; being too salt to be drank. Even where it flows upon the ground round about the building, it produces no vegetation, causing only a saline efflorescence. In Niebuhr's time the water was drawn up by hand,* but is now raised by wheels turned by oxen, and runs into a large stone trough outside, where animals drink and water-skins are filled. Here our camels were watered for the first time. They had been fed in Cairo with green clover; and had not drank, it was said, for twelve days before our departure. Yet they now drank little, and some of them none at all.
We reached Suez (Arabic Suweis) at 3. 50', and pitched our tent outside of the walls, on the north of the town, near the shore: having first reconnoitered the interior and found no spot so clean and convenient among all its open places ; to say nothing of the annoyance and risk to which we should have been exposed from idlers. From the gate of Cairo to Suez we reckoned 32+ hours of march; equivalent to 647 geogr. miles, or somewhat less than 75 English miles. Our whole time, including the stops at night, was 713
* Reisebeschr. I. p. 217. These would seem to be the wells mentioned by Edrîsi under the name el-'Ajûz, between 'Ajrûd and Kolzum ; p. 329, ed. Jaubert,
We paidaving relas once crossed enty-two hemails had ju
hours or nearly three whole days. The India mails had just before been carried across in twenty-two hours; and the Pasha is said to have once crossed on horseback in thirteen hours, by having relays of horses stationed on the way.
We paid our respects to the English Vice-consul, Mr. Fitch, to whom we had letters; and of whose kindness we. retain a grateful remembrance.* He had been only five weeks in the place; and his chief business was the agency for the Bombay steamers, which were to arrive and depart every month. At his invitation we attended his soirée, where, however, we met only three other persons, and these in his employ. They were three brothers Manueli, natives of the place, and members of the Greek Church. One of them, Nicola, had been for many years English Agent at Suez, until recently superseded by the Vice-consul, under whom he now acted as Dragoman and fac-totum. We found him to be a very intelligent and well-informed man, and obtained from him satisfactory information on many points of inquiry connected with this region. At the sug. gestion of the Vice-consul, he procured for us a letter from the Governor of Suez to the Governor of 'Akabah; which, however, we found to be of little importance.
Suez is situated on the angle of land between the broad head of the Gulf, the shore of which here runs nearly from E. to W., and the narrow arm which runs up northward from the eastern corner of the Gulf. It is poorly walled on three sides ; being open to the water on the E. or rather N. E., where is the harbor and a good quay. Here were lying quite a number of the Red Sea craft, vessels of considerable size, with neat white bottoms, but with only one mast and sail, and no deck except over the cabin. The timber and materials for all vessels built here, have usually been brought from the Nile on camels.t Within the walls are many open places, and several khans built around large courts. In the large open space connected with the building occupied by the consulate, a beautiful tame gazelle was running about, belonging to the Governor, whose house was
* This gentleman died a year afterwards at Alexandria.
+ Niebuhr Reisebeschr. I. p. 218. Compare Wilkin's Gesch. der Kreuzzuge, III. ii. p. 223.
importicom the Red 'Se productions and9" E. from Pof Suez
adjacent to the same court. The houses in general are poorly built. There is a bazar, or street of shops, which we found tolerably furnished with provisions and stuffs, mostly from Cairo. The inhabitants consist of about twelve hun. dred Mohammedans, and one hundred and fifty Christians, of the Greek Church.-The geographical position of Suez is in lat. 29° 57' 30" N., long. 30° 11' 09" E. from Paris.*
The transit of the productions and merchandise of the East from the Red Sea to the Nile, has always made this an important point, and caused the existence of a city in the vicinity; though Suez itself, as a town, is of modern origin, and has been greatly aided by the concourse of pilgrims who annually embark here for Mecca. The present arrangements for making it the point of communication between Europe and India by means of steam navigation on the Red Sea, may probably give to it an impulse, and somewhat enlarge its population; but it can never become any thing more than a mere place of passage, which both the traveller and the inhabitant will hasten to leave as soon as possible. The aspect both within and without is too desolate and dreary. Not a garden, not a tree, not a trace of verdure, not a drop of fresh water ! all the water with which Suez is supplied for personal use, being brought from the fountain Nâba', three hours distance across the Gulf, and so brackish as to be scarcely drinkable.
About ten minutes, or one third of a mile north of the town, is a lofty mound of rubbish, in which a few substructions are visible, and frequent fragments of pottery. It is called Tell Kolzum. This is doubtless the site of the former city Kolzum, so often mentioned by Arabian writers, as the port where fleets were built on the Red Sea. It was the successor of the Greek Klysma; Kolzum being merely the Arabic form of the same naine.f The earlier city of Arsi
* So Berghaus, as a mean deduced from many observations. See his Memoir zu seiner Karte von Syrien, pp. 28, 29.
+ Klysma (Kaúouc) is mentioned in this place by Cosmas Indicopleustes so late as about A. D. 530. See Montfaucon's Collectio nova Patrum, T. II. p. 194. In the Council of Constantinople A. D. 553, the name of Stephanus Bishop of Clysma appears among the signers; see in Harduin Acta Concilior. III. p. 52. For Kolzum, see Edrisi Geogr. I. pp. 331, 333, ed. noe or Cleopatris is supposed to have stood somewhere in the vicinity ; and may perhaps have occupied the same spot.
The Gulf of Suez, as seen from the adjacent hills, presents the appearance of a long strip of water, setting far up like a large river, through a desert valley of twenty or thirty miles in width, the shores skirted sometimes by arid plains, and sometimes interrupted by naked inountains and promontories on either side. The whole configuration reminded me strongly of the valley of the Nile on a larger scale ; except that there the noble river bears fertility on its bosom and scatters it abroad in lavish profusion; while here desolation reigns throughout. The Gulf becomes narrower towards Suez, and terminates in a line of coast extending from the town westward nearly to Jebel ’Atâkah, a distance of six or eight miles. Further south, this mountain runs quite down to the sea, forming a promontory called Râs 'Atâkah; beyond which opens the broad mouth or plain of Wady Tawârik, and then follows Jebel Deraj or Kulâlah, and the long chain of African mountains. On the east side of the Gulf, the parallel ridge of mountains, called er-Râhah, is here twelve or fifteen miles distant from the coast. Around the head of the Gulf, extensive shoals stretch out southward far into the sea, and are left bare at low water; except a narrow winding channel like a small river, by which light vessels come quite up to the town. We saw these shoals twice while the tide was out. They extend a mile and a half or two miles below Suez, are quite level and hard, thinly covered with sea-weed, and composed apparently of sand mingled perhaps with coral. We saw persons walking upon them quite near the southern extremity. Larger vessels and the steamers lie off in the road below these shoals, more than two miles distant from the town.
The desert plain back of Suez, which has been mentioned above as extending west as far as to ’Atâkah, and north to 'Ajrûd, is composed for the most part of hard gravel; and is apparently of no recent formation, but as old as the adja. cent hills and mountains. Just at Suez a narrow arm of water runs up northward for a considerable distance from the N. E. corner of the Gulf; in which, when we saw it, the
Jaubert. Abulfeda in Busching's Magazin, IV. p. 196. Compare also Bochart's Phaleg. II. c. 18.