IN THE ARABIAN DESERT
by Alois Musil
(Originally published in 1930)
. . . Before noon we came to the enormous Khabra Azaman. Our sluki Kattaf had disappeared.
When we reached the southern brim of the khabra we waited for him for nearly three hours but he
did not turn up. Perhaps he had lost our scent or been killed by a wild animal. Greyhounds of the
sluki breed have an undeveloped sense of smell: they are incapable of following a rider's scent.
They follow him as long as they can see him but the moment he passes out of sight they stop, look
about for him, and appear not to know what to do until they catch a glimpse of him again. I had
often thrown them pieces of flesh and bones and watched them go past the food two or three
times without finding it. In order to find food they would have to see it. At night Kattaf would
crawl into a waterproof sack and would not come out until we had built a fire. Then he would
lazily sit down and warm himself. As a watchdog a sluki is absolutely unreliable.
. . . However, after leaving this road at Keraker with one of the professional guides that clustered then as they do to-day about the commercial centers, and heading for Swa, it became necessary to transport water for the horses as well as for the men. Since it was impossible to get the necessary bags at Keraker, the fat old camels were made to serve as living reservoirs.
A strong, fat camel coaxed to drink can hold as much as sixty or seventy quarts of water. If she is prevented from grazing and ruminating, she will hold the water in her paunch for several days. If she is slaughtered the water which is forced out of the paunch will settle in a few hours and become fit for men and animals to drink. The meat of such slaughtered camels provides food for the travelers. The stronger, the fatter, and the larger the camel, the more water she will imbibe and the longer she will be able to survive without grazing. Khaled, of course, had many camels which were marked for butchering in order that the army might have fresh meat. He was advised by Rafe, the guide, to use these camels as living bags of water for the horses.
Rafe imitated the Bedouins. When a Bedouin wants to stimulate a camel's thirst, he takes her near a watering place, binds her, pours water into the receptacle from which the camel is wont to drink, slaps the water with his palm, and coaxes the camel to drink by short songs and a peculiar smacking. The camel sees and hears, but cannot reach the water. In her craving for the water she pricks up her ears. Many riding camels are trained to tell from these motions and sounds that they are to go upon a distant journey through the and desert and to drink more greedily. If they are bound and hear the familiar smacking and songs, they prick up their ears in the direction of the water and manifest their craving by a peculiarly beseeching whine. The water is so near, the journey before them so long, and they cannot have water! When the rider does take off their shackles they run to the receptacle and drink in long, deep gulps. The rider adds water as long as they drink. Then he takes them away from the watering place and lets them graze. An hour later he drives them back to the water, binds them, tantalizes them, and excites such a thirst in them that they quiver. Then he lets them drink for a second time. In this manner every strong camel can be forced to drink sixty or seventy quarts. If the water they have drunk is to be used by men or animals, their mouths are tied to prevent their grazing and ruminating and thus mixing the water in their paunches with food. To endure any protracted journey without food, a camel must be strong and her hump, on which she lives, must be high and fatty. After several days of meager pasture the hump shrinks and when it has disappeared the animal is generally so weak that she cannot rise with load or rider.
Such living water bags Khaled drove before his army on his memorable march from Keraker to
Swa or Sab Biyar.
. . . The Prince invited me to keep him company on the journey. He led me to a small fire some distance from his tent, where his slave was preparing sweet black coffee in my pot. His riding camel was kneeling beyond the fire, and he forced my camel to kneel there too. Beside the fire a wooden stand about twelve inches high was driven into the sand and upon it sat a falcon with a red cap on its head. When the slaves had finished loading all the stores and the Prince's tent, the scribe brought forward a war mare and tied it by the rein to the camel's saddle girth, while Nuri took the stand with the falcon, put the bird on the back of the camel's saddle, and thrust the stand into the saddle bag.
We proceeded at a swift pace southeastward. Soon we outran all the loaded camels and, accompanied by four slaves and the scribe riding behind, we headed the migrating tribe. A strange dispensation of Allah, for a Bedouin prince to be riding beside a Czech in the depression of Sirhan at the head of a big tribe! When I reminded the Prince of this, he replied:
"Allah has willed it. I never thought I should make friends with a man whose blood is not mine. Do not forget me, Musa, when you ride at the head of your tribe! "
On our way we came to the remnant of a limestone hillock. Wishing to photograph this witness of advanced erosion, I asked the Prince to stop, which he willingly did. Meantime Nawwaf with his party had caught up with us, and we lingered a while. Hardly were we again in the saddle when a hare darted out from under a bush near by. Instantly the Prince's hound, a sluki, was after him, and instantly too the Prince untied the falcon's cap, uncoupled the chain from a leather leash, and released the bird with the leash into the air. The falcon circled once, sighted the sluki and the hare, swooped down upon the hare, pecked him, rose in the air, plunged again, pecked another time, and the prey lay prostrate. Then the Prince upon his camel rushed up to the hare, chased the hound away from it, cut its throat, and swinging it aloft tried to entice the falcon back to him. The bird circled a while in the air, then flew down to the Prince and sat upon his hand, waiting for him to tie it, cover its head with the cap, and put it on the camel. A little while afterwards Nawwaf's falcon also hunted down a hare which Nawwaf offered to me; but I declined it asking that he have it prepared and then invite me to supper. I had received a habara (bustard) from Trad, a son of Sattam, and therefore had plenty of fresh meat for myself.
Shortly after noon we reached the springs, Uyun Edhwanat, where we encamped upon a sandy
height that rises out of a marsh. In the evening Nawwaf came to take me into the Prince's tent
where we were to have the hares for supper. The Prince sat beside me on his left heel and tossed
me pieces of the meat. When I urged him not to forget himself since he, as our head, must keep
strong in order to take care of us all, he replied that he cared most for his best freebooter, that is,
his brother Musa. He called my scientific expeditions raids.
THE Rwala buy falcons from the settlers in Sheikh Miskin and Rheybe. They hold that the best hunting falcon is reddish-brown with many white spots on its tail, though dark brown and black falcons are also good for hunting.
The falcon is an extraordinary bird. It is said that the young falcon remains forty days in embryo, forty days before it is hatched from the egg, and yet another forty days must pass before it shows whether it will fly or not. So long as the female lays eggs and sits on them she takes no responsibility about food. The male provides both for the female and the young. It brings home habari birds and hares. The female takes no notice of the young, even though one fall and cheep some feet below the nest. A hard time begins if the male bird dies. The female is lucky if she can but supply the young and herself with jerboas and mice, although these are not particularly good for them.
Settlers searching for young consider especially whether both parents are alive and they take the young out as soon as these are able to feed themselves. They feed them until they are fully developed, whereupon they sell them to the Bedouins. It is hard, troublesome worki the settlers prefer to catch full-grown falcons.
With the aid of a raven, some feathers, and a pigeon tied to a cord near a hidden net, the falcon hunter lures the falcon from the sky. He then releases the net by means of the string, catches the falcon and immediately sews up its eyelids. After three or four days the falcon has become a little tame and the stitches may be undone. The falcon hunter sells untrained falcons for from eight to twenty meiidiyyat ($7.20-$18.00) each.
The Bedouin has to train the falcon himself. The chiefs generally have a slave who trains falcons for them and also hunts with them. If the chiefs wish to hunt, they must accustom the birds to themselves or they will not return to them from the booty. The falconer needs a wooden stand about two feet high, provided with an iron spike below and covered with leather above. Upon this stand the falcon lives. On each foot it has a leather loop with a chain passing through it to about halfway down the stand. The falcon can rise a little but it cannot fly away. On its head the falcon wears a small leather helmet which can be drawn down over its eyes and fastened under its beak around its neck, so that the bird cannot throw it off with its claw.
Shortly before sunset the falconer puts a coarse leather gauntlet on his right hand, removes the chain from the loops, draws a long thin cord through them, takes the falcon on his right hand, keeps calling its name, and swings it to and fro, endeavoring to make it fly. The falcon rises and circles above the falconer. He fastens the other end of the cord to a firmly fixed peg, takes a small riding bag in his left hand and a piece of meat in his right hand, and with this he beckons to the falcon, calling it by name. If the falcon does not clutch, he softly treads on the rope until the bird finally dashes upon the meat. When the falcon, after a few days of training, returns of its own accord, he lets it go entirely free. Then he obtains a hare, which has either been wounded by a shot or has one leg broken, and he sets the falcon and a greyhound on to it. If the falcon catches it, he lets it have it all.
When the falcon has caught and devoured several wounded hares with the help of the greyhound the falconer goes out hunting with it. He fastens it on a small chain behind the saddle of the camel, takes a riding bag with him, calls the greyhound, and rides out beyond the camp. When the greyhound raises a hare or a habara bird, the hunter unties the falcon, takes it on his right hand, rides up at a trot behind the dog, and sets the bird on the hunted animal. It catches the habara bird immediately, but the hare usually escapes its beak. If the falcon swoops down upon the hare and succeeds in plunging its talons into the hare's back, the falconer rides up at full speed behind it, covers it and its prey with his cloak, slaps the bird on the back, shouting kish hish, and endeavors to remove it. The falcon receives its share of the prey only inside the tent, never on the open plain.
A well-trained falcon can catch as many as ten habara and twenty hares a day if there is an abundance of game.
But the falcons stay with the Rwala hardly half a year. They do not perish, but they do not return.
During the rainy season, especially when it is cold, the falcon grows restless and disobedient. The
most reliable male gets lost when he meets a wild female. Tame female falcons are more faithful,
but even they are off and away when they sight a wild hunting falcon.
"Oh, had I a hound for the chase! And a hunting falcon! And a little camel! We should place a saddle upon it
We should ride 'tween the troop of the chief and the migrating tribe-
We should call to the hound. We should call, and the falcon would hunt.
The hunting falcon, 0 Kzeyi! has refused the chase,
Alas, for the one which refused to hunt the habara!
I changed it from hand to hand, yet 'twas like a falcon
Feeding on frogs; a sluggard, that cannot be trained.
Of our falcon so winsome and ever capturing booty,
By Allah Himself! there is no trace to follow:
It paired with a female falcon, hardy and barren,
Her marrow, two summers, two winters old, in her feet."
. . . In the territory of the Shararat a burial ground is adjacent to almost every watering place. At the wells of Hdajan there was a burial ground too. Upon one of the graves we saw lying a common dog. These dogs are only allowed to sleep by the side wall of the women's compartment. They must not enter the men's compartment because the Bedouins maintain that they are unclean, nor must they eat from any vessel intended for food or cooking. The household dogs are strong, thick-set animals with short, shaggy hair and broad heads. They guard the camels and the tent against beasts of prey and against thieves who creep in at night. Woe to the guest who is compelled to leave the tent several times during the night! They would rend him to pieces were he to go out unaccompanied by someone they knew.
The dogs become attached to the mistress of the tent and often show their fidelity in an incredible way. Mohammad thought that probably this dog was guarding the grave of a woman tentkeeper from prowling hyenas.
"Do not wonder, Musa. It is bare truth. I myself experienced it. We had a very good watchdog who followed his mistress wherever she went. Then, in the depression of Sirhan, Allah recalled the mistress of my tent from this world to the other. She obeyed. We buried her not far from the camp and went elsewhere. Our dog disappeared. We sought him, waited for him, but he did not come. Three months later I was joined by my son who wept bitterly when he heard that his mother was dead. He asked me to show him her grave. I took him there and do you know, Musa, whom we found there? Our household dog. The sand round about was much trampled, and scattered over it were the hairs of hyenas which the dog had driven away from the grave. The dog had quenched his thirst at a spring near by and had sustained himself on locusts and human and animal excrement at a deserted camp. For three months he had stayed upon the grave, in the new tent, of his mistress."
"Did he return with you?"
"No. he did not. He kept on guarding his mistress."
. . . At noon we noted the fresh tracks of camels here and there in the fine sand that covred the
plain in places. On examining them closely my companions Freyh and Masud concluded that they
were imprinted by animals whose home was the Nefud, for the hoofs of the camels of the Nefud
are cut by the sharp sand as if filed with a rasp; consequently their footprints are smooth or show
a large number of minute corrugations. We judged that there were more than a hundred of them
heading from the southeast to the northwest: hence the throng could be no other than the
Bedouins of the chief Eben Rakhis of the Shammar, who had been camping in the western part of
the Nefud and watering his camels at the wells situated at the border between the stony and the
sandy regions. Because the Shammar were engaged in warfare with the Rwala we surmised that
Eben Rakhis had undertaken a raid upon one of the Rwala clans north of Assafiyye. Should we
not encounter these raiders?
. . . In the fine sand we found many tracks of lizards, showing the sharp outlines of their feet on
both sides of grooves made by their tails, and near many of the bushes we saw deep spirals made
by snakes, which lean upon their own bodies, especially when crawling upward.
. . . A little later we heard a singular rumbling as if thousands of riders were galloping behind us,
and immediately we felt a violent blast of wind and were enveloped in a cloud of sand. It was the
beginning of a sandstorm such as I had seldom experienced in the desert. The wind moaned and
roared, driving great drifts of sand past us. Over the level we had been crossing surged waves of
sand two to five yards high, rising and falling with the wind. Wherever the sand encountered an
obstacle or a depression it swept away the obstacle or filled up the hole and rushed on over the
leveled plain. What luck that the storm had not caught us within the Nefud! We should certainly
have perished. And what luck that the storm was blowing from the southwest to the northeast,
thus pushing us ahead!
. . . many places in the form of springs and elsewhere filling wells from fifteen to seventy-five feet deep. In the deepest wells the water is quite tepid and somewhat salty. It is, of course, the abundance of water that accounts for the presence of men and settlements at Jowf. The largest settlement is called by the inhabitants Dumat al-jandaliyye, while the appellations Jowf and Juba refer to the entire basin with the remainder of the settlements.
Dumat al-jandaliyye comprises about four hundred dwellings and is subdivided into ten precincts. Except in the case of Mared, every precinct has palm gardens, in the midst of which are the houses. The gardens are surrounded by high walls. Through a substantial gate one enters a narrow street between two inner garden walls and, following it, comes to a small yard shaped like a cross from which four solid gates open into four houses. At the place where the four gardens meet there usually is a well from which camels and cows draw water for the irrigation of the gardens.
Of the dates grown at Jowf those smaller than a walnut, yellow, and somewhat sour, ripen earliest. The most palatable variety consists of dates that are black and almost as long as a finger, but thicker. Dates are not weighed but measured and are prepared in various ways. When they are good but unripe they are mixed with cut adher and cooked over a moderate fire until all the juice evaporates; then they are divided in the middle to dry, strung on twine, and preserved as food for travelers. Another method is to roast semh, grind it, and mix it with ripe black dates. The semh will absorb all the juice and the mixture will last over a year without spoiling.
In the gardens figs, oranges, lemons, apricots, grapes, and various vegetables also grow luxuriantly. Beside man of the walls are planted slender ether trees. The wood of these trees is used in the making of flat roofs. Immediately outside the gardens and sometimes inside them are small fields planted with wheat or barley.
Soon Nawwaf was beset by many of the inhabitants who implored that I come to visit their sick
and wounded. I was taken through several districts occupied by friends and subjects of Nawwaf.
Two of these sections were almost completely demolished, the houses deserted, the palms
scorched, the garden walls undermined. I met men rolling before them young palms which they
had dug up in the gardens of their defeated fellow citizens and proposed to plant in their own.
. . . The Rwala are acquainted with hunger and thirst, but they fear the latter more than the former. Water is never wasted and always carefully guarded, especially during a raid.
"On war expeditions or during raids," explained Mindil, "the commander sees that each one obtains an equal amount of water. At sunset he picks up a pebble, places it in a wooden pot, and pours out water until it is immersed. This is each man's share."
"And when the water is exhausted, how do you allay thirst?
"If hard pressed we kill the fattest camel, cut out the paunch, place it on a cloak, and squeeze the liquid from it into a leather bag, allowing it to cool and settle. We either drink it or, if it is too thick, we suck it into our throats through the nostrils. I, Mindil, have drunk such water on eight occasions and there is nobody among us who has not tasted it at least once."
"What do thirsty travelers on foot do who have no camel to kill?"
"May Allah have mercy on such wretches! Not long ago there were four men from the Bneyye
kin who were driven off during a raid. They lost their camels and their weapons and asked Allah
to help them escape with their bare lives. One of them tied a small bag beneath his shirt in which
were about fifteen large handfuls of water. They made their way home through the desert, living
on various herbs and always drinking a little water after sunset. They protected the water beneath
their shirts from sun and wind. On the third day they had about three handfuls left. They were all
thirsty and yet each one urged the other to drink, but none would drink because there was not
enough water for all. At last they decided to pour it away. They sipped the dew and went for
two days without water. By the grace of Allah it happened at the end of the rainy season, when
the sun does not scorch. After two days they could go no farther. By the will of Allah some
Sleyb found them, brought them liquid butter, poured it into their mouths, and when they could
swallow it gave them water also, thus saving their lives. In the autumn and winter a man can go
without water f or as long as three days, but in midsummer for only one day and one night, or at
the most for two nights and one day. On the second day his throat becomes parched and he dies."
WE rode northeastward toward the settlement of Kara, proceeding in a vast plain covered with coarse gravel. Far to the west and east the herds of camels surged on like waves, and between them were innumerable animals carrying tents, supplies, and litters. In the center of this farflung though rather thin line, tossing to and fro upon the back of a bay camel, moved the litter called Abu-d-Dhur ( D and h in Dhur pronounced separately, somewhat as in "add her.") which represents the sacred palladium of the entire tribe.
The Rwala have no flag of their own. They go on raids without any special device; but when waging a war, whether of aggression or defense, that endangers the whole tribe, they take with them a special kind of litter, called Markab or Abu-d-Dhur. The Markab is constructed of stout poles tied together in a rectangle. All the poles are wrapped round with ostrich feathers and to the upper poles are tied twelve short pegs with plumes of bent ostrich feathers. Said the Prince:
"Abu-d-Dhur, Father of Indefinite Periods of Time, is the name given to our litter, because it is inherited from generation to generation, from age to age, and because it will last forever. It forms the visible token of princely power, and therefore this litter remains in my tent all the time, in the part of the tent reserved for women; here it is guarded day and night, by me and my slaves, against everybody and especially against my nearest kinsmen. For if a revolt breaks out in our kin against the prince the opponents try, first of all, to snatch the Abu-d-Dhur away from him, as he who has this emblem of the whole tribe in his possession must be recognized as their prince. Should the enemy at war with us succeed in capturing the Abu-d-Dhur, the respect for it would be entirely lost, and we should not use it again."
To carry this litter when the tribe migrates, an especially strong and docile camel, usually one of white color, is selected. The animal then, as a rule, walks between the laden camels and the herds, thus forming the center of all the migrating families. When attacked by an enemy in force on the march, the best fighters at once surround the Abu-d-Dhur to protect it. If it seems that the enemy will push back the fighters who are resisting the attack and that he will break through to the pack camels, the commander of the chosen troop of fighters who defend the litter will take the camel carrying this symbol by the rein and lead her at the head of his troop against the enemy. This troop is accompanied by girls seated on shecamels, who encourage the men to persevere, and behind them follow women who threaten to beat to death anyone who deserts the Abu-d-Dhur and flees. So far no enemy has succeeded in defeating the Rwala sufficiently to take the Abu-d-Dhur away from them. The Prince, it must be said, is very prudent-the more dangerous the region, the nearer together stand the tents of the various camps.
"Do you take the Abu-d-Dhur with you when going on raids? "
"We never do so, " explained Mindil, "except when we engage in a war, in which we move with all our herds and tents into the enemy's territory. The camel carrying the Abu-d-Dhur walks at the head of the whole tribe) surrounded by warriors who follow every movement of the animal with the closest attention, for Allah gives signs by means of the Abu-d-Dhur from which the outcome of the fight can be foretold. Sometimes in a dead calm the ostrich feathers adorning the Abu-d-Dhur begin to flutter. At other times the litter leans to the right or left, then suddenly straightens itself, remains quietly upright, and then rocks a f ew times from side to side. All this happens by the power of Allah. He sends us help from the litter, where He seats Himself for a while. The waving of the feathers and the straigthening of the Abu-d-Dhur are signs that Allah has touched it with His power. After each victory we kill a camel before the Abu-d-Dhur in honor of Allah. We do this every year, even if we have had no war to which the Abu-d-Dhur had to be taken."
The Abu-d-Dhur projected far above the horizon on the level plain. All about us riders on camels
werq pressing ahead, while behind, like huge butterflies, the women)s vari-colored litters rose and
fell in the heavy air. Young camels were bleating, old female ones were whining, the males
grunting; children were crying and women were shouting to each other and to the camels carrying
their belongings; herdsmen were attempting to lead on the animals in their care by singing a short
melody, the last syllable of which they prolonged indefinitely; riders were galloping from one side
to the other on horses or camels; and above the whole tumult the hot, almost impenetrable air
hung in horizontal strata.
. . . All the next day I worked with the Slubi Faraj, extending my geographical map to the southeast of the Nefud. Having determined the cardinal points exactly, he proceeded to draw in the sand within my tent hills, valleys, and wells, piling up sand for the ranges and mesas, scooping it out for the valleys, and marking the individual wells by circular dips. He did not show the distances, but was precise in his designation of the respective directions. The map finished, I questioned him as to the distances between the various places. These he explained in terms of daily marches, estimating, for example, whether or not it would be possible for Arabs migrating from locality A to locality B to reach their destination the same day. At the same time, he took into account whether they were migrating in winter, when they can make at the utmost twelve miles, or in summer, when they can make fifteen and a half miles if they travel from sunrise to sunset. Shorter distances are determined by the space traversed during a migration lasting from morning to noon or from morning, when dew falls, to mid-forenoon, when it dries.
When determining the distance to a particular watering place one may arrive at the desired information more easily by asking whether the camels are driven from camp A to the watering place B in the morning, watered, and taken back without making stops ( i 2 miles) i or whether they do not reach the watering place until afternoon, pass the night there, and return the next day (i8 miles); or whether they pass the night some distance from the watering place, do not reach it until the next day, pass the second night beyond the watering place, and return to the camp the third day (28 miles). A more specific determination of distance or time is unknown to a Bedouin.
When I dismissed Faraj that evening, my map contained many new place-names and my tent was
full of yellow lice.
. . . Allah be praised! I perceived only three black common asses and eight white thoroughbreds; at the wells farther east I saw more asses, black as well as white, and several Sleyb women. As we escended into the valley two girls ran to meet us but as soon as we approached they hid in the channel. Mizel tried to coax them out but they remained within cover. The women were driving their asses away from the wells, fearing that we were Bedouins, their masters and extortioners. Upon the northern slope we saw several herds of goats and two asses carrying water bags and driven by a woman.
Reaching the wells, we found there only two young women, one man, one boy, and twelve asses which the man was just preparing to water. Mizel prevented him from doing so, however, as he would have used all the water and left none for us. The man was very angry. He took us for camel traders, cursed me and my companions, and invoked upon us an attack by robbers, a malediction that might easily be realized, since we were on the shortest route from Baghdad by way of Shethatha to Jowf and on to Damascus or Egypt.
The two women begged us for tobacco-and when Tuman gave them some they kissed his hands and neck.
We unloaded our animals and watered them, the boy descending one well after another with the
canvas bucket which we would then haul up. These wells are deep and wide and fill up after
every heavy rain. They are supplied only by the rain water which remains under the layer of sand
and gravel that covers the rock below. An abundant rain had occurred in Arar and the vicinity
four years before. During the first and second years following it the wells were constantly half-full and the water could not be exhausted. The third year, however, it gathered but slowly, and
the fourth year imperceptibly. After forty-eight hours the wells replenish only to the extent of a
yield of five quarts each or ten at the most and even this small quantity will vanish unless a heavy
rain occurs. We exhausted more than twenty wells, filling our bags only half-full at that, while
our camels had barely laved their lips. To get even this small quantity of water we had examined
over a hundred wells which the Sleyb had drained dry. On the edges of the channel and upon
both its banks was a large growth of lweyziyye. Its long, flexible, green sprouts, entirely without
foliage, were covered with fruit of the size of almonds.
. . . Going southeast, on April 13, we crossed the fresh tracks of eleven asses. Mizel praised the asses raised by his kinsmen, who breed both thoroughbred and common beasts. The former are tall animals of white color, more rapid and of more endurance on the road than the best mare. The common asses are dark. In summer an ass can go two days without water. The Sleyb sell them at Baghdad and Damascus, but the asses do not last long in the city f or they miss their accustomed f odder and the pure air of the desert. I have heard that as late as a hundred years ago there were wild asses roaming near the depression of Slrhan, where they had an abundance of water and, in the volcanic district, good pasture and still better hiding places. It is said that the last wild ass was shot at the wells of Ghamr, southeast of the lake of Azrak. Old Hmar told stories of his grandfather's hunts for wild asses near the depression of Sirhan; but since firearms have come to be used by the Bedouins wild asses have become less and less numerous.
They are still to be found in Jezire, between the middle Euphrates and Tigris, whence the Sleyb
often bring asses for breeding purposes.
. . . I was assigned a place of honor at the wall separating the space for men from that for women. Muhammad, the son of Saud, came to meet me, conducted me to the seat of honor, and seated himself in the center of the long western side of the tent. After the customary greetings a slave poured several drops of water on the fingers of my right hand, and six negroes brought in a huge platter heaped with mutton and peeled wheat, which they set down in the middle of the rectangle.
Muhammad invited me and five other men to eat. On my right was squatting Sultan and on my left Turki, the son of Saud; and both selected the choicest pieces of meat to lay before me. Behind every one of us stood a negro with a dish of water. We had not eaten more than four minutes when we arose and resumed our former places and Muhammad invited ten other guests to partake. After these the feast was for fifteen persons, then for eighteen, and finally for twenty. Not until these had finished did Muhammad himself take his seat with three small children by the platter to pick at the bones. The meat was gone but enough of the peeled wheat was left for a satisfying meal. Upon his command the negroes carried away the platter with the bones and what was left of the peeled wheat to the women, regardless of those present who had had no taste whatever of the meal. The aged chief Saud was in a corner picking at a wether's head.
After the feast there was unrestrained conversation. The war, as usual, was scarcely mentioned.
We talked about the grazing lands, the need of an abundant rain, the maladies of the goats and
sheep, thieving in the camp, and the threatened raid of the Fedan.
. . . We made preparation for departure and apportioned the loads. A strong camel is capable of carrying as much as one and a half huntar, almost 660 lbs., but a camel thus loaded cannot go more than two miles an hour. Our camels were to make on the average two and three quarters miles an hour, therefore we could not load them heavier than about 330 lbs. Many of them were very emaciated and lank, but Nazel gladdened me with his prediction that they would soon fatten in the territory of the Shammar, where they would find profuse pasture . . .
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