Volume 6, Chapter 3, Section 6 -- Continuation of the Voyage from Swakem to Comol.
We remained in the haven of Swakem from the 1st to the 9th of March 1541, when an hour before sunset we weighed from before the city, and anchored for the night at the mouth of the channel. We weighed again on the 10th, and came again to anchor at night, when the dew was wonderfully great. On the 11th it blew a storm from the north, so violent that it raised great mountains of sand along the sea coast, after which it dispersed them, and the air remained obscured by the sand as if it had been a great mist or smoke. We remained at anchor all this day, and on the 12th we left this channel two leagues beyond Swakem; and being without [[=outside]] the channel we made sail. About a league and a half from the coast there were so many rocks, shoals, and flats, on which the sea continually broke, that we had to take in our sails and row for three hours, till we got beyond these shoals, after which we again made sail. At evening we came to anchor within the bank by a very narrow channel, a league beyond that we had been last in, and three leagues from Swakem; but the channel within the entrance was large, with clean ground, and perfectly secure in all winds.
The 13th we went out of this channel an hour before day, and about a cannon-shot to seaward we saw a long range of shoals with broken water, seeming to stretch in the same direction with the coast. At eleven o'clock the wind turned to the N.N.W., and as our course was N.W. we were unable to make way, and had to fasten our vessels to the rocks on these shoals, where we lay about three hours. About two o'clock [[in the]] afternoon the wind freshened at N.N.E., and we made sail N.W. But coming to the bank landward, we took in our sails and rowed into a channel within the bank, where we came to anchor. This channel is very narrow and winding, being about seven leagues beyond Swakem, whence the coast to this place runs N. and S. and then N. by W. and S. by E. I went ashore on the 15th to observe the order and flowing of the tide, and found it was full sea when the moon was two hours past the meridian, and was dead ebb two hours after the moon set. I found likewise that the ebb and flow of the tide at this place was 22 cubits. The 16th we left this channel, with the wind at north, and cast anchor half a league out at sea. The 17th we entered a very good harbour named Dradate or Tradate, the coast from Swakem here winding N. by W. and S. by E., distance 10 leagues. The land behind the shore is all very low in that space, but three leagues back from the coast it rises into great and high mountains.
This harbour of Tradate, in lat. 19° 50' N. 10 leagues beyond Swakem, is one of the best in the world. The entrance is about a falcon-shot across, and grows narrower inwards, but has 20 fathoms water in its whole length with a mud bottom; and a quarter of a league within the land there is a famous watering-place at certain wells, where is the best water and in greatest plenty of any place on all these coasts. The 19th we sailed at day-light, and advanced 3 1/2 leagues that day, having many shoals to seaward of us, and the coast for these 3 1/2 leagues trended N. and S. On the 20th at sunrise the wind blew from the N. and the sea was rough, for which reason we had to seek shelter within the shoal, entering by a very narrow and difficult channel. After we were in, the wind came N.N.E. and we remained all day at anchor.
The 21st we left the shoal with fine weather, the wind being at W.N.W., and sailed N. keeping about half a league from the land; and an hour after sunrise we came to a long and fair point of land called by Ptolemy the promontory of Diogenes. On the north side of this point is a large fine bay named Doroo, and at the extremity of this long bare point there is a large round tower like a pillar. At the entrance of this harbour or channel there are six fathoms water, which diminishes gradually inwards to three. The ground is hard clay, and the bay is very large with many creeks and nooks within, and many islands; many of these creeks penetrating deep into the main-land, so that in every place there may be many vessels hidden without being observed from the other branches of the harbour. A quarter of a league off to sea from the mouth of this harbour there is a shoal which defends it completely from the admission of any sea, as this shoal is above water, and has no passage except by the entrance already mentioned, which trends E. by N. and W. by S. A cannon-shot from this bay there is a great well, but the water is very brackish.
On the 22d we left this harbour of Doroo at daylight, proceeding by means of our oars, and found the sea very full of rocks, so that escaping from some we got foul of others, and at half past ten o'clock we had to fasten our vessels to the rocks. Proceeding onwards, we got towards evening in with the land, and having doubled a point we entered a very large bay named Fuxaa, or Fushaa, three leagues and a half beyond Doroo, the coast between stretching N. and E. with a tendency towards N.W. and S.E. This bay of Fushaa is remarkable by a very high sharp peaked hill, in lat. 20 15' N. In the very mouth of the harbour there are two very low points, lying N. by E. and S. by W. from each other, distant a league and half. As no great sea can enter here it is a very good harbour, having 10 and 12 fathoms water on a mud bottom, diminishing inwards to five fathoms. Along the land within the bay on the south side there are nine small islands in a row, and in other places there are some scattered islets, all very low and encompassed by shoals. The land at this bay is very dry and barren, and it has no water.
On the 25th we continued along the coast, having many rocks to seawards about a league off; and at ten o'clock we entered a very large harbour named Arekea, four leagues beyond Fushaa, the coast between running N. and S. with some tendence to N.W. and S.E. Arekea, the strongest and most defensible harbour I have ever seen, is 22 leagues beyond Swakem. In ancient times it was called Dioscori, according to Pliny. In the middle of the entry to this port there is a considerable island, about a cross-bow shot in length and breadth, having a bank or shoal running from it on the south side to the mainland, so shallow that nothing can pass over it. But on the north side of this island the channel is about a cross-bow shot in breadth and 15 fathoms deep, running N.W. and S.E., and on both sides this channel is very shallow and full of rocks, the fair way being in the middle. This channel is about a gun-shot in length, after which the coasts on both sides recede and form within a large, fine, and secure harbour, about a league long and half a league broad, deep in the middle but full of shoals near the land, and it has no fresh water. At this place it was agreed to send back all the ships to Massua, and to proceed with only sixteen small galleys or row boats.
Arrangements being accordingly formed, we set sail from Arekea on the 30th at noon, and came to an anchor in a port called Salaka, four leagues beyond Arekea and 96 from Swakem, the coast trending N. and S. with a slight deviation to N.E. and S.W. The land next the sea has many risings or hillocks, behind which there are high mountains. It must be noted that all the land from Arekea onwards close behind the shore puts on this uneven appearance, whereas before that it was all plain, till in the inland it rises in both into high mountains. The 31st, we sailed from Salaka, and an hour before sunset we made fast to the rocks of a shoal a league from the land and 17 leagues from Salaka, being 43 leagues from Swakem. From the port of Salaka the coast begins to wind very much; and from Raseldoaer or Ras al Dwaer it runs very low to the N.N.E., ending in a sandy point where there are 13 little hillocks or knobs of stone, which the Moorish pilots said were graves. From this point of the Calmes about two leagues, the coast runs N.N.W. to a shoal which is 43 leagues from Swakem. This point is the most noted in all these seas, as whoever sails from Massua, Swakem, and other places for Jiddah, Al Cossir, and Toro, must necessarily make this point.
The sea for the last seventeen leagues is of such a nature that no rules or experience can suffice for sailing it in safety, so that the skilful as well as the unskilful must pass it at all hazards, and save themselves as it were by chance, for it is so full of numerous and great shoals, so interspersed everywhere with rocks, and so many and continual banks, that it seems better fitted for being travelled on foot than sailed even in small boats. In the space between Salaka and Ras-al-Dwaer, but nearer to the latter, there are three islands forming a triangle, the largest of which is called Magarzawn, about two leagues long and very high ground, but has no water. This island bears N. and S. with Ras-al-Dwaer distant three leagues. The second island lies considerably out to sea, and is called Al Mante, and is high land without water; the third island is all sand and quite low, being four leagues from Salaka towards Ras-al-Dwaer, but I did not learn its name.
On the 2d of April 1541, casting loose from the before-mentioned shoal, which is 43 leagues beyond Swakem, we rowed along the coast, and entered a river called Farate, about four leagues from the shoal; whence setting our sails we got into a fine haven a league from thence called Kilfit. All this day we saw no rocks to landward, but there was a shoal to seaward. Farate is a large and fair river, the mouth of which is in lat. 21°40' N. Its mouth is formed by two low points about a gun-shot apart, from each of which a shoal stretches towards the middle, where only there is any passage. The river runs from the west to the east, having very low land on both sides, without either tree or shrub or bush of any kind. At the entrance it is 30 fathoms deep, and from thence diminishes to 18 fathoms. Kilfit is a fine harbour and very safe, as when once in, no wind whatever need be feared. There are at the entry two very low points, bearing N.W. 1/4 N. and S.E. 1/4 S., distant near a quarter of a league. It is rather more than three leagues in circuit, and every part of it is safe anchorage, having 12 fathoms water throughout; the shore is however rocky. This harbour is rather more than a league from the river of Farate, between which is a range of mountains, one of which is higher than the others.
We left Kilfit on the 3rd, an hour before day, and rowed along the coast till an hour before sunset, when we anchored in a haven called Ras al Jidid, or the new cape, about nine leagues from Kilfit. This day we saw a few shoals to seawards, but fewer than before. Two leagues from Kilfit there is a very good haven named Moamaa; and from the point of the shrubs to another very long sandy point, about two leagues distant, before the port of Ras-al-Jidid, the coast runs N. and S. with a small deviation to the N.W. and S.E., the distance being about three and a half leagues.
Ras-al-Jidid is a small but very pleasant haven, 57 leagues beyond Swakem, and so exactly circular that it resembles a great cauldron. There are two points at its entrance, bearing N. and S., and on the inside the eastern winds only can do harm. All the ground is very clean, having 18 fathoms at the mouth and 13 within; and half a league inland there is a well of water, though not very plentiful, and bitterish. This port is a large half league in circuit. It is a singularity in all the rivers or harbours which I have seen on this coast, that they have no bars or banks at their mouths, which are generally deeper than within. On the land round this port, I found certain trees which in their trunk and bark resembled cork-trees, but very different in all other respects. Their leaves were very large, wonderfully thick, and of a deep green, crossed with large veins. They were then in flower, and their flowers in the bud resembled the flowers of the mallow when in that state: But such as were opened were white, and like the white cockle. On cutting a bough or leaf there ran out a great stream of milk, as from the dug of a goat. On all this coast I saw no other trees, except a grove a little beyond Massua, in some marshy ground near the sea. Besides these trees, there are some valleys inland producing a few capers, the leaves of which are eaten by the Moors, who say they be appropriate to the joynts.
On the 4th of April, from sunrise till eleven o'clock, the wind blew a storm from the N.W., after which there was much and loud thunder, accompanied with hail, the stones being the largest I ever saw. With the thunder the wind veered about to every point of the compass, and at last it settled in the north. This day I carried my instruments on shore, when I found the variation 1 1/4 degree north-east, and the latitude by many observations 22° N. Though these observations were made on shore with great care, so that I never stirred the instrument when once set till the end of my observations, I am satisfied there must be some error; because the great heat cracked the plate of ivory in the middle, so that there remained a great cleft as thick as a gold portague.
On the 6th, an hour before day, we weighed from the port of Ras-al-Jidid, and advanced about three and a half leagues. The 7th in the morning, the wind blew fresh at N.W. and we rowed to the shore, where at eight o'clock we fastened our barks to certain stones of a shoal or reef, lying before a long point which hereafter I shall name Starta. We went in this space about three leagues. About noon we made sail and proceeded in our voyage, but in no small doubts, as we saw on both sides of our course a prodigious number of shelves; we were therefore obliged to take in our sails and use our oars, by means of which we came about sunset to a good haven named Comol, in which we anchored.
From a point two leagues beyond the harbour of Igidid, or Ras-al-Jidid, to another very long and flat point may be about four leagues, these two points bearing N.W. and S.E., between which there is a large bay; within which towards the long point at the N.W. is a deep haven so close on all sides that it is safe from every wind. This point is an island; from which circumstance and its latitude it seems certainly the island named Starta by Ptolemy. From thence to a great point of land over the harbour of Comol the distance may be five leagues; these two points bearing N.W. by W. and S.E. by E., and between them is a large fair bay. From the port of Igidid till half a league short of the harbour of Comol, the land close to the shore is all raised in small hills very close together, behind which, about a league farther inland, are very high mountains rising into many high and sharp peaks; and as we come nearer to Comol these hills approach the sea, and in coming within half a league of Comol they are close to the shore.
Comol is eleven leagues beyond Igidid, and 68 from Swakem, and is in lat. 22° 30' N. This port is in the second bay, very near the face of the point which juts out from the coast on the north-west side of this second bay. Though not large, the port of Comol is very secure, as towards the seaward it has certain reefs or shoals above water which effectually defend it from all winds. The land around it is very plain and pleasant, and is inhabited by many Badwis. The north-west point which ends the bay and covers this port is very long and fair, being all low and level, being what was named by Ptolemy the promontory of Prionoto in his third table of Africa, since the great mountains which range along the whole of this coast end here.
[Footnote 293: Considering the very small rise and fall of the tide at Swakem, the text in this place ought perhaps only to have been inches.--E.]
[Footnote 294: Meaning perhaps the sandy point near Ras-al-Dwaer. This paragraph is very obscure, and seems to want something, omitted perhaps by the abbreviator.--Astl.]
[Footnote 295: This paragraph is likewise obscurely worded, and is perhaps left imperfect by the abbreviator.--Astl.]
[Footnote 296: In some subsequent passages this harbour is called Igidid, probably to distinguish it from the point of Ras-al-Jidid.--Astl.]
[Footnote 297: It is therefore probable that in all the bearings set down in this voyage, when applied to practice, either for the uses of geography or navigation, this allowance of 1-1/4 too much to the east ought to be deducted.--E.]
[Footnote 298: Named Badois in the edition of Purchas, but certainly the Badwis or Bedouins, signifying the People of the Desert, being the name by which the Arabs who dwell in tents are distinguished from those who inhabit towns.--Astl.].
Volume 6, Chapter 3, Section 7 -- Continuation of the Voyage from the Harbour of Comol to Toro or Al Tor.
Three hours after midnight of the 7th April 1541, we left the harbour of Comol, using our oars for a small way, and then hoisting sail we proceeded along the coast; but an hour before daylight some of our barks struck upon certain rocks and shoals, on which we again struck sails and took to our oars till daylight. At daylight, being then the 8th, we came to a spacious bay, of which to the north and north-west we could see no termination, neither any cape or head-land in that direction. We accordingly sailed forwards in that open sea or bay, but which had so many shoals on each side that it was wonderful we could make any profit of a large wind; for, now going roamour, and now upon a tack, sometimes in the way and sometimes out of it, there was no way for us to take certain and quiet. About sunset we came to a very great shelf or reef, and fastening our barks to its rocks we remained there for the night. The morning of the 9th being clear, we set sail from this shelf, and took harbour within a great shelf called Shaab-al-Yadayn. After coming to anchor, we noticed an island to seaward, called Zemorjete. This port and shelf trend N.E. by E. and S.W. by W. From the cape of the mountains, to another cape beyond it on which there are a quantity of shrubs or furzes; the coast runs N.E. by N. and S.W. by S., the distance between these capes being about three and a half or four leagues.
From this last point the coast of the great bay or nook winds inwards to the west, and afterwards turns out again, making a great circuit with many windings, and ends in a great and notable point called Ras-al-Nashef, or the dry cape, called by Ptolemy the promontory Pentadactilus in his third table of Africa. The island Zemorjete is about eight leagues E. from this cape; and from that island, according to the Moorish pilots, the two shores of the gulf are first seen at one time, but that of Arabia is a great deal farther off than the African coast. This island, which is very high and barren, is named Agathon by Ptolemy. It has another very small island close to it, which is not mentioned in Ptolemy. Now respecting the shelf Shaab-al-Yadayn, it is to be noted that it is a great shelf far to seaward of the northern end of the great bay, all of it above water, like two extended arms with their hands wide open, whence its Arabic name which signifies shelf of the hands. The port of this shelf is to landward, as on that side it winds very much, so as to shut up the haven from all winds from the sea. This haven and cape Ras-al-Nashef bear from each other E.S.E. and W.S.W. distant about four leagues.
At sunrise on the 10th we set sail to the N.N.E., the wind being fresh and the sea appearing clear and navigable. When about half a league from the point we saw, as everyone thought, a ship under sail, but on drawing nearer it was a white rock in the sea; which, we were told, deceives all navigators as it did us. After this we stood N. by E. By nine o'clock we reached an island named Connaka, and passed between it and the mainland of Africa. This island is small and barren, about half a league in circuit, and is about a league and a half from the main. It resembles a vast crocodile with its legs stretched out, and is a noted land-mark among navigators. Connaka and Zamorjete bear from each other N.W. by W. and S.E. by E., distant about six small leagues. About half an hour past ten, we reached a very long point of sand stretching far out to sea, called Ras-al-nef, which signifies in Arabic the point or cape of the nose.
There is no nigh land whatever about this cape, but a vast plain field without tree or any green thing, and in the very face of the point stands a great temple without any other buildings, and on each side of it is a very clear sandy coast in manner of a bay. This cape of Ras-al-nef is famous among navigators, as all their trouble and danger ends on reaching it, when they consider themselves at home and secure. We continued our course from this cape along the coast with the wind at S.E. At noon my pilot took the altitude, and found our latitude 24° 10' N. at which time we were beyond Ras-al-nef about three leagues, whence the latitude of that cape is 24° N. From this it appears that the ancient city of Berenice was built upon this cape Ras-al-nef, as Ptolemy places it on this coast under the tropic of Cancer, making the greatest declination of the sun at this place almost 23° 50'. Likewise Pliny says that at Berenice the sun at noon in the summer solstice gives no shadow to the gnomon, by which that city appears to have stood under the tropic.
Half an hour before sunset, we came to an island called Shwarit, but passing onwards a quarter of a league we came to some shelves of sand and others of rock, and anchored between them in a good harbour called Sial. These shelves and this port are 103 leagues beyond Swakem. On these shelves we saw a much greater quantity of sea-fowl than had been seen in any part of the Red Sea. From Ras-al-Nashef to the island of Shwarit may be between 16 and 17 leagues. After passing Cape Ras-al-Nashef, or the N.W. point of the great bay, the coast winds very much, running into the land, and pushing out again a very long point of land called Ras-al-nef, which two points bear from each other N.E. and S.W. almost 1/4 more N. and S. distant about six leagues large. From Ras-al-nef forwards, the coast winds directly to the N.W. till we come to Swarit, the distance being between 10 and 11 leagues.
In this distance the sea is only in three places foul with shoals: first ,to seaward of the island of Connaka, where there is a large fair shoal rising above water in a great ridge of large rocks, and running a long way toward the land; the second place is at the island of Shwarit, as both to the east and west of this island great shoals and flats stretch towards the mainland, so as apparently to shut up the sea entirely between that island and the main; the third is at this harbour of Sial where we anchored, where the sea is studded thick with innumerable shoals and flats, so that no part remains free. The island of Shwarit is a gun-shot in length and nearly as much in breadth, all low land, with a great green bush in the middle, and opposite to its east side there is a great rock like an island. Shwarit is little more than half a league from the main-land.
From Swakem all the way to Ras-al-nef, the countries are all inhabited by Badwis or Bedouins, who follow the law of Mahomet, and from Ras-al-nef, upwards to Suez and the end of this sea, the coast all belongs to Egypt, the inhabitants of which dwell between the coast of the Red Sea and the river Nile. Cosmographers in general call the inhabitants of both these regions Ethiopians. Ptolemy calls them Egyptian Arabs: Pomponius Mela and other cosmographers name them in general Arabs; but we ought to follow Ptolemy, as he was the prince of cosmographers. These Egyptian Arabs, who inhabit the whole country from the mountains to the sea, are commonly called Bedwis or Bedouins, of whose customs and manner of life we shall treat in another place.
We took in our sails on the 11th of April, and proceeded on our way by rowing. At nine o'clock we entered a great bay called Gadenauhi, about 4 leagues from Sial, the coast between trending N.W. and S.E., rather more to the N. and S. The land over the sea, which for some way had the appearance of a wall or trench, becomes now very mountainous and doubled, shewing so many mountains and so close that it was wonderful. The port or bay of Gadenauhi is 107 leagues beyond Swakem, in lat. 24° 40' N. It was low water one hour after high noon, and full sea when the moon rose above the horizon; and as the moon ascended it began to ebb, till the moon was an hour past the meridian, when it began to flow, and was full sea an hour after the moon set. By night the wind was N.W. Two or three hours after midnight we departed from Gadenauhi, prosecuting our voyage. In passing between the shoal which comes from the N.W. point of the bay and the island of Bahuto, we stuck fast upon the shoal, and were much troubled, believing ourselves in a net or cul-de-sac; but we had no hurt or danger, and presently got into the right channel and rowed along shore, against the wind at N.W. till day. The 12th, we rowed along shore, and came an hour after sunrise into a haven called Xarmeelquiman or Skarm-al-Kiman, meaning in the Arabic a cleft or opening in the mountains. This is a small but excellent harbour, 1 1/2 league beyond Gadenauhi, and 108 leagues beyond Swakem, very much like the port of Igidid.
The 12th of April we set sail along shore, the wind being fresher, and more large, at E.S.E. About noon it blew very hard with such impetuous gusts that it drove the sands of the coast very high, raising them up to the heavens in vast whirls like great smokes. About evening when the barks drew together, the wind was entirely calm to some, while others a little behind or before, or more towards the land or the sea, had it still so violent that they could not carry sail; the distance between those becalmed and those having the wind very fresh, being often no more than a stone's throw. Presently after, the wind would assail those before becalmed, while those that went very swift were left in a calm. Being all close together, this seemed as if done in sport. Some of these gales came from the E. and E.N.E. so hot and scorching that they seemed like flames of fire. The sand raised by these winds went sometimes one way and sometimes another; and we could sometimes see one cloud or pillar of sand driven in three or four different directions before it fell down. These singular changes would not have been wonderful among hills; but were very singular where we were at such a distance from the coast. When these winds assailed us in this manner we were at a port named Shaona, or Shawna; and going on in this manner, sometimes hoisting and at other times striking our sails, sometimes laughing at what we saw, and other times in dread, we went on till near sunset, when we entered a port named Gualibo, signifying in Arabic the port of trouble, having advanced this day and part of the former night about 13 leagues.
From Gadenauhi to a port named Shakara which is encompassed by a very red hill, the coast trends N.W. by N. and S.E. by S., the distance about 10 leagues; and from this red hill to a point about a league beyond Gualibo, the coast runs N.N.W. and S.S.E., distance about 6 leagues. In these 16 leagues, the coast is very clear, only that a league beyond the Red Hill there is a shoal half a large league from the land. In these 16 leagues there are many excellent ports, more numerous than I have ever seen in so short a space. At one of these named Shawna, which is very large, the Moors and native inhabitants say there formerly stood a famous city of the gentiles, which I believe to have been that named Nechesia by Ptolemy in his third book of Africa. Along the sea there runs a long range of great hills very close together and doubling on each other; and far inland behind these, great mountains are seen to rise above them.
In this range there are two mountains larger than the rest, or even than any on the whole coast, one of which is black as though it had been burnt, and the other is yellow, and between them are great heaps of sand. From the black mountain inwards I saw an open field in which were many large and tall trees with spreading tops, being the first I had seen on the coast that seemed planted by man; for those a little beyond Massua are of the kind pertaining to marshes on the borders of the sea or of rivers; as those at the port of Sharm-al-Kiman and at the harbour of Igidid are wild and pitiful, naked and dry, without boughs or fruit. These two mountains are about two leagues short of the port of Sharm-al-Kiman. Gualibo, which is 122 leagues beyond Swakem, is very like the port of Sharm-al-Kiman; except that the one is environed by many mountains, while the land round the other is an extensive plain. The entry to this port is between certain rocks or shoals on which the sea breaks with much force, but the entry is deep and large.
After sunrise on the 13th we left the port of Gualibo, and as the wind was strong at N.W., making a heavy sea, we rowed along shore, and at ten in the morning went into a port named Tuna, a league and half beyond Gualibo. Tuna is a small foul haven, beyond Swakem 123 leagues and a half, in lat. 25° 30' N. The entrance is between rocks, and within it is so much encumbered with shoals and rocks that it is a small and sorry harbour; but round the point forming the north side of this harbour, there is a good haven and road-stead against the wind at N.W., the land round it being barren sand. To the N.W. of this there are three sharp mountains of rock, as if to indicate the situation of the harbour. One hour before sunset we fastened ourselves to a shoal a league beyond Tuna. This coast, from a league beyond Gualibo, to another point a league and a half beyond this shoal, trends N.N.W. and S.S.E distance four leagues.
The 14th April we rowed along shore, the sea running very high so as to distress the rowers; but beating up against wind and sea till past noon, we came into a fine bay, in the bottom of which we came to anchor in an excellent haven. This day and night we went about 5 leagues, and were now about 129 leagues beyond Swakem. For these five leagues the coast extends N.W. and S.E., the land within the coast being in some places low and plain, while it is mountainous in others. By daylight on the 15th we were a league short of Al Kossir, which we reached an hour and half after sunrise, and cast anchor in the harbour. During the past night and the short part of this day we had advanced about seven leagues, the coast extending N.N.W. and S.S.E. According to Pliny, in the sixth book of his Natural History, and Ptolemy in his third book of Africa, this place of Al Kossir was anciently named Phioteras. All the land from hence to Arsinoe, at the northern extremity of the Red Sea, was anciently called Enco. This place is about 15 or 16 days journey from the nearest part of the Nile, directly west.
This is the only port on all this coast to which provisions are brought from the land of Egypt, now called Riffa; and from this port of Kossir all the towns on the coast of the Red Sea are provided. In old times, the town of Kossir was built two leagues farther up the coast; but being found incommodious, especially as the harbour at that place was too small, it was removed to this place. To this day the ruins of old Kossir are still visible, and there I believe was Philoteras. New Kossir, by observations twice verified, is in lat. 26°15' N., being 136 leagues beyond Swakem. The port is a large bay quite open to the eastern winds, which on this coast blow with great force. Right over against the town there are some small shoals on which the sea breaks, between which and the shore is the anchorage for frigates and ships coming here for a loading.
The town is very small and perhaps in the most miserable and barren spot in the world. The houses are more like hovels for cattle, some built of stone and clay, and others of sod, having no roofs except a few mats which defend the inhabitants from the sun, and from rain if any happen now and then to fall as it were by chance, as in this place it so seldom rains as to be looked upon as a wonder. In the whole neighbouring country on the coast, fields, mountains, or hills, there grows no kind of herb, grass, tree, or bush; and nothing is to be seen but black scorched mountains and a number of bare hillocks, which environ the whole place from sea to sea, like an amphitheatre of barrenness and sterility, most melancholy to behold. Any flat ground there is, is a mere dry barren sand mixed with gravel. The port even is the worst I have seen on all this coast, and has no fish, though all the other ports and channels through which we came have abundance and variety. It has no kind of cattle; and the people are supplied from three wells near the town, the water of which differs very little from that of the sea.
The most experienced of the Moors had never heard of the name of Egypt, but call the whole land from Al Kossir to Alexandria by the name of Riffa, which abounds in all kinds of victuals and provisions more than any other part of the world, together with great abundance of cattle, horses, and camels, there not being a single foot of waste land in the whole country. According to the information I received, their language and customs are entirely Arabic. The land, as I was told, is entirely plain, on which it never rains except for a wonder; but God has provided a remedy by ordaining that the Nile should twice a year overflow its natural bounds to water the fields. They said likewise that the Nile from opposite to Al Kossir, and far above that towards the bounds of Abyssinia, was navigable all the way to Alexandria; but having many islands and rocks, either it was necessary to have good pilots or to sail only by day. They told me likewise that the natives inhabited this barren spot of Al Kossir, as being the nearest harbour on the coast of the Red Sea to the Nile, whence provisions were transported; and that the inhabitants were satisfied with slight mats instead of roofs to their houses because not troubled with rain, and the mats were a sufficient protection from the sun; but made their walls of stone to defend themselves against the malignity and rapaciousness of the Badwis, a perverse people, void of all goodness, who often suddenly assaulted the place in hope of plunder, and frequently pillaged the caravans coming across from the Nile with provisions and other commodities.
The 18th of April we fastened ourselves to a shoal about four leagues past Kossir, and set sail from thence at noon. The 19th, about half an hour past eight o'clock, while proceeding with fine weather, we were suddenly taken aback by a fierce gust at N.N.W. which obliged us to take shelter in an island called Suffange-al-bahar or Saffanj-al-bahr, losing 4 or 5 leagues of way that we had already advanced. The name given to this island means in the Arabic a sea-sponge. It is 13 leagues beyond Al Kossir, in lat. 27° N., being in length about two leagues by about a quarter in breadth, all of sand without trees or water. Its harbour is good in all weathers; but upon the main land the number of bays, ports, and harbours about this place are wonderful. The best channel here is between the island and the main, along the coast of the continent, as on the side next the island there are some shoals. Likewise in the northern entry to this port there are other shoals which need not be feared in coming in by day, and in the southern entrance there is a large rock in the very middle. The 20th at sunset we were about six leagues beyond this island of Safanj-al-bahr. From which island to a sandy point about 1 1/2 league beyond, the coast trends N.N.W. and S.S.E.; and from this point forwards to the end of the six leagues, the coast winds inwards to landwards forming a large bay, within which are many islands, ports, creeks, bays, and notable harbours.
The 21st by day, we were fast to the shore of an island called Sheduam, and the wind being calm, we rowed along the coast of the island, which, opposite to Arabia or the east side, is high and craggy, all of hard rock, three leagues long and two broad. This island is 20 leagues beyond Al Kossir, having no water nor any trees. It is between the two coasts of Arabia and Egypt, being five leagues from either. Beyond it to the north-west are three small low islands with shoals among them. An hour after sunset, we were upon the north cape or point of this island, whence we crossed towards the Arabian coast, and having no wind we took to our oars. Within a little it began to blow fair from the S.E., and we set sail steering N.W. At eleven next morning, we were upon the coast of the Stony Arabia, and soon sailed along its shore, entering two hours before sunset into the port Toro or Al Tor, which may be seen front the island of Sheduam, distant 12 leagues, bearing N. by W. and S. by E.
Toro or Al Tor was of old called Elana, as may be seen in the writings of Ptolemy, Strabo, and other ancient writers, although our observation of the latitude differs materially from theirs. But they show that Elana was situated in the most inward part of a very great gulf, called Sinus Elaniticus, from the name of this place Elana, and in lat. 29°15' N. Now we know that Toro is in lat. 28°10' N. and lies upon a very long and straight coast. The cause of this great difference, if these places be the same, may have proceeded from erroneous information given to Ptolemy and the other ancient cosmographers. But that ancient Elana and modern Toro are the same, appears from this, that from thence to Suez both on the Arabian and Egyptian coasts of the Elanitic Gulf, not only is there no memorial or remains of any other ancient town, and the barrenness of the country, want of water, and rough craggy mountains, make it evident that in no other place could there be any habitation. Hence, considering that Ptolemy places Elana on the coast of Arabia Petrea, near adjoining to mount Sinai, and makes no mention of any town between it and the City of Heroes on the upmost extremity of the Elanitic Gulf where the sea ends; and as on this shore of Arabia there is neither town, village, nor habitation, coming so near the position assigned to Elana as Toro, and as it is impossible to inhabit between Toro and Suez, it seems just to conclude that Toro and Elana are the same place.
The port of Toro seems likewise that mentioned in holy writ under the name of Ailan, where Solomon, king of Israel, caused the ships to be built which sailed to Tarsis and Ophir to bring gold and silver for the temple of Jerusalem; for taking away the second letter from Ailan, the ancient names are almost the same. Nor is it reasonable that it should be in any other place, as the timber for the navy of Solomon was brought from Lebanon and Antelibanus; and to avoid expences they would necessarily carry it to the nearest port, especially as the Jews then possessed the region of Idumea, and that part of the coast of Arabia Petrea which is between Toro and Suez. Strabo holds that Elana and Ailan are the same city; and when treating of this city in another place, he says, that from the port of Gaza it is 1260 furlongs to the city of Ailan, which is situated on the inwardest part of the Arabic Gulf; "and there are two, one towards Gaza and Arabia, called the Sinus Elaniticus, from the city Elana which stands upon it; the other on the Egyptian side towards the City of Heroes and the way from Pelusium to this gulf is very small." This is what I would pick out from ancient authors.
"As this is a point of great moment in geography, it deserves to be examined. It is observable that Don Juan admits that both Ptolemy and Strabo make the Red Sea terminate to the north in two large gulfs, one towards Egypt and the other towards Arabia, at the end of which latter they place Elana. Yet here he rejects the authority of both geographers, alleging that both were mistaken, because Tor is situated on a very long and straight coast. He likewise cites Ptolemy as making the latitude of Elana 29°15' N., yet accounts the difference between that position and the altitude found at Al Tor, 20°10', as of no significance here, though in former instances he had held the tables of Ptolemy as infallible. It is still stranger that Don Juan should after all admit of a gulf of Elana, as will be seen presently, and yet place it at a great distance, and at the opposite side of the sea from that on which Elana stands. However this may be, it is certain that Don Juan, and not the ancients, has been misinformed on this matter; for not only the Arab geographers give a particular account of this eastern gulf, as will appear from the description of the Red Sea by Abulfeda, but its existence has been proved by two English travellers, Dr. Shaw and Dr. Pocock.The city of Toro or Al Tor is built on the seaside along an extensive and fair strand or beach, and about a cannon-shot before coming to it we saw twelve palm-trees close together very near the sea; and from these a plain field extends to the foot of some high hills. These hills are part of a chain which extends from the straits of Ormuz or Persian Gulf, and which extend hither along the coast very high above the sea as far as Toro, where they leave the coast, "and with a great and sudden violence return from thence to the main towards the north-east, as angry and wearied by so long neighbourhood of the waters."
The errors which Don Juan has here fallen into, have been owing to not having examined the coast on the side of Arabia; for until the fleet came to the island of Sheduam, it had sailed entirely along the African shore; and then, leaving the north part of that island, it passed over to the coast of Arabia for the first time, where it may be presumed that they fell in with the land some way to the north of the S.W. point of the great peninsula between the two gulfs. This cape in the maps by De L'Isle and Dr. Pocock is called Cape Mahomet. Still however as the island of Sheduam seems to lie nearer the eastern gulf; its north end being at least eighteen or twenty miles to the southward of Cape Mahomet, it is surprising that Don Juan and the whole fleet should overlook that gulf, which indeed was done before by the Venetian who sailed along the Arabian shore in the fleet of Solyman Pacha. What Don Juan says about the identity of Elana and Ailan or Aylan we shall not contend about, as the authority of Strabo, and the similarity of names are strong proofs. But we shall presently see that the Arabs place Aylan at the head of a great gulf; and the distance he cites from Strabo, 1260 stadia from Gaza to Aylan, supposing it to be exact, is a proof that Aylan cannot be the same with Toro. We shall only observe farther, that the positive denial by Don Juan of there being any such gulf as the Elanitic on the east or side of Arabia, may have been the reason why it was not laid down in the maps of Sanson, or by any geographer before De L'Isle."--Ast. I. 124. a.
Arabia Petrea is divided by three mountains from Arabia Felix, and on the highest tops of them some Christians lead holy and quiet lives. A little way beyond Toro, on the borders of the sea, a mountain begins to rise by little and little; and thrusting out a large high cape or promontory, seems to those in the town like three great and mighty separate mountains. This town of Tor is small but well situated, all its inhabitants being Christians who speak Arabic. It has a monastery of friars of the order of Monserrat, in which is the oracle or image of Santa Catalina of Mount Sinai or St. Catharine. These friars are all Greeks. The harbour of Toro is not large, but very secure, having opposite to the shore a long stony bank, between which and the shore is the harbour. At this place both the coasts of the gulf are only about three leagues distant.
Being desirous to learn some particulars concerning this country, I made myself acquainted with the friars, from whom I had the following information. They told me that Mount Sinai was thirteen small days' journey into the land, or about 18 leagues. The mountain is very high, the country around being plain and open, having on its borders a great town inhabited by Christians, into which no Mahometan can enter except he who gathers the rents and duties belonging to the Turks. On the top of the mountain is a monastery having many friars, where the body of the blessed Virgin St. Catharine lay buried. According to Anthony bishop of Florence, the body of this Holy Virgin was carried away by the angels from the city of Alexandria and buried on Mount Sinai. They told me farther that about four months before our arrival this most blessed and holy body was carried from the mountain with great pomp, on a triumphal chariot all gilt, to the city of Cairo, where the Christians of that city, which are the bulk of the inhabitants, came out to receive it in solemn procession, and set it with great honour in a monastery.
The cause of this strange removal was the many insults which the monastery on Mount Sinai suffered from the Arabs, from whom the friars and pilgrims had often to redeem themselves with money; of which the Christians of Cairo complained to the Turkish governor, and received permission to bring the blessed and holy body to their city, which was done accordingly, in spite of a strenuous opposition from the friars of Mount Sinai. I am somewhat doubtful of the truth of this transportation, suspecting that the friars may have trumped up this story lest we might have taken the holy body from them, as they expected us with an army of 10,000 men. Yet they affirmed it for truth, expressing great sorrow for the removal. These friars told me likewise that several hermits lead a solitary and holy life in these mountains over against the town; and that all through the Stony Arabia, there are many towns of Christians.
I asked if they knew where the Jews had passed the Red Sea; but they knew of no certain place, only that it must have been somewhere between Toro and Suez. They said likewise, that on the Arabian coast of the Gulf, two or three leagues short of Suez, was the fountain which Moses caused to spring from the rock by striking it with his rod, being still called by the Arabs the fountain of Moses, the water of which is purer and more pleasant than any other. They said that from Toro to Cairo by land was seven ordinary days' journey, in which the best and most direct way was through Suez: But that since the Turkish galleys came to Suez they had changed the road, going two leagues round to avoid Suez, after which they turned to the west.
I afterwards conversed with a very honest, learned, and curious Mahometan, whom I asked if he could tell where the Jews crossed the Red Sea; on which he told me that both in tradition and in some old writings it was said that the Jews, fleeing from the Egyptians, arrived on the coast of Egypt directly opposite to Toro, where Moses prayed to God for deliverance, and struck the sea twelve times with his rod, on which it opened in twelve several paths, by which the Jews passed over to the other side to where Toro now stands; after which the Egyptians entering into these paths were all destroyed to the number of about 600,000 men. That from Toro Moses led the Israelites to Mount Sinai, where Moses spake many times with God. I approved much of this opinion; for if the passage had been at Suez, as some insist, the Egyptians had no occasion to have entered into the sea for persecuting the Jews, as they could have gone round the bay and got before them, more especially as they were horsemen and the Jews all on foot. For though all these things came about by a miracle, we see always on like occasions there is a show and manner of reason.
I asked of this Moor if it were true that the Christians of Cairo had carried away the body of St. Catharine from Mount Sinai; but he said he had never heard of it, neither did he believe the story; and that only four months before he had been in Cairo, which city they call Mecara, where he heard of no such thing. He thought likewise that the Christians about Mount Sinai would never have permitted such a thing, as they all considered that woman as a saint, and held her body in great reverence. He told me also that two or three leagues before coming to Suez there is a fountain which was given to the Jews at the intercession of Moses, whom they call Muzau, the water of which surpasses all others in goodness. On inquiring what kind of a place was the town of Suez, he said he had never been there, as no person could enter that town except those appointed by the governor of Cairo for taking care of the galleys, nor come nearer than two leagues under pain of death.
[Footnote 299: In our mode of counting time, three in the morning of the 8th.--E.]
[Footnote 300: This nautical language is so different from that of the present day as to be almost unintelligible. They appear to have sailed in a winding channel, in which the wind was sometimes scant, sometimes large and sometimes contrary; so that occasionally they had to tack or turn to windward. The strange word roamour, which has occurred once before, may be conjectured to mean that operation in beating to windward, in which the vessel sails contrary to the direction of her voyage, called in ordinary nautical language the short leg of the tack.--E.]
[Footnote 301: Signifying in Arabic the shelf of the two hands.--Astl.]
[Footnote 302: Probably that just before named Prionoto from Ptolemy, and called cape of the mountains, because the Abyssinian mountains there end.--E.]
[Footnote 303: It may be presumed that the position given by Ptolemy is merely accidental, resulting from computed distances; and Pliny only speaks from the authority of Ptolemy. In all probability Al Kossir, to be afterwards mentioned, is the Berenice of the ancients.--Astl.]
[Footnote 304: Perhaps Wad-annawi.--Astl.]
[Footnote 305: This strange expression, as connected with the tide which is dependent on the moon, may possibly mean when the moon was in opposition to the north; or mid-way between her setting and rising.--Astl.]
[Footnote 306: Perhaps Kalabon.--Astl.]
[Footnote 307: In Purchas, Al Kossir is named Alcocer. Don John thinks this place to be the Philoteras of Ptolomy; but Dr Pocock places it 2°40' more to the north, making Kossir Berenice, which is highly probable, as it is still the port of Kept, anciently Coptos, or of Kus near it, both on the Nile, as well as the nearest port to the Nile on all that coast, which Berenice was. Dr Pocock supposes old Kossir to have been Myos Hormos; but we rather believe it to have been Berenice.--Ast.]
[Footnote 308: No wonder, as Messr is the name by which Egypt is known to the Arabs.--E.]
[Footnote 309: More properly Al Rif, which name more particularly belongs to part of Lower Egypt.--Ast.]
[Footnote 310: This is erroneous, as the Nile only overflows once yearly.--E.]
[Footnote 311: Safanj-al-Bahr. In Arabic Safanj, Sofinj and Isfanj, all signify Sponge, which is obviously derived from the Arabic word.--Ast.]
[Footnote 312: Probably meaning that part of Arabia between the Gulf of Suez and the Bahr-akkaba, called the promontory of Tor, of which Cape Mahomed forms the S.W. extremity,--E.]
[Footnote 313: Don Juan entirely mistakes this point of antiquity, in consequence of not having learnt that there was another and eastern gulf at the head of the Red Sea; the Bahr-akkaba or real Sinus Elaniticus, on which is the town of Ayla, assuredly the ancient Elana or Aylan.--E.]
[Footnote 314: If this observation be exact, the great promontory or peninsula between the gulfs at the head of the Red Sea must be extended too far south in the map constructed by Dr Pocock.--Ast.]
[Footnote 315: Had Don Juan de Castro been acquainted with the eastern gulf at the head of the Red Sea, called the Bahr-akkaba, he would have more readily chosen Ayla for the seat of Ailan, and the dock-yard of the navy of Solomon, being at the inwardest part of the Red Sea, and the port nearest to Gaza. Besides, the portion of the text marked with inverted commas, seems a quotation by Don Juan from Strabo, which distinctly indicates the eastern or Elanitic Gulf, and points to Ayla as the seat of Elana and Ailan, and distinctly marks the other or western gulf, now that of Suez.--E.]
[Footnote 316: This paragraph, marked by inverted commas, is a dissertation by the editor of Astley's Collection, too important to be omitted, and too long for a note.--E.]
[Footnote 317: The latitude of Ayla in modern maps is about 29°10' N. having a very near coincidence.--E.]
[Footnote 318: Properly speaking only to the Arabian coast of the Gulf of Suez, not at all to the Arabian coast of the Red Sea.--E.]
[Footnote 319: Surely this passage should be only three short days journey.--E.]
[Footnote 320: Mecara, perhaps by mistake for Meçara or Mezara, which is very near Mesr as it is called by the Turks. Cairo is an Italian corruption of Kahera or al Kahira--Astl.]
Volume 6, Chapter 3, Section 8 -- Continuation of the Voyage from Taro or al Tor to Suez.
We set sail the day after our arrival at Toro, being the 23d of April 1541, and on the 24th we were in the lat. of 27° 17' N. At this place, which is 20 leagues beyond Toro and 52 leagues from al Kossir, the land of Egypt, or that coast of the Red Sea which continues all the way from Abyssinia, comes out into the sea with a very long and low point, which winds a great way inwards to the land and more crooked than any other I have seen. After forming a large fine bay, it juts out into a large high cape or point, which is three short leagues from Suez, at the other extremity of this bay, and from that first promontory to Suez the land bears N.W. by N. and S.E. by S. The shore of this bay is very high and rough, and at the same time entirely parched and barren.
The whole of this large bay, except very near the shore, is so deep that we had no ground with fifty fathom, and the bottom is a soft sand lake ouze. This bay I hold to have been undoubtedly the Sinus Elaniticus of the ancients, though Strabo and Ptolemy, being both deceived in regard to its situation, placed it on the coast of Stony Arabia at Toro. This I mentioned before, when describing Toro, that Strabo says the Arabian Gulf ends in two bays, one called Elaniticus on the Arabian side, and the other on the Egyptian side where stands the City of Heroes. Ptolemy evidently fixes the elanitic sinus on the coast of Arabia, where Toro now stands; which is very wonderful, considering that Ptolemy was born in Alexandria, where he wrote his Cosmography and resided all his life, and which city is so very near these places.
The 26th of April we set sail, and at eleven o'clock we lowered our sails, rowing along shore, where we cast anchor. Two hours before sunset we weighed again with the wind at north and rowed along shore; and before the sun set we anchored behind a point of land on the Arabian shore, which sheltered us effectually from the north wind, having advanced only a league and a half this day. This point is three small leagues short of Suez, and is directly east of the N.W. point of the Great Gulf, distance about a league. From this point, about half a league inland is the fountain of Moses already mentioned. As soon as we had cast anchor we went on shore, whence we saw the end of this sea, which we had hitherto thought without end, and could plainly see the masts of the Turkish ships. All this gave us much satisfaction, yet mixed with much anxiety. As the wind blew hard all night from the north, we remained at anchor behind the point till day.
On the morning of the 27th, the wind blowing hard at N.N.W., we remained at anchor till ten, when we departed from the point and made for Suez with our oars. When about a league from the end of the sea, I went before with two catures to examine the situation of Suez and to look out for a proper landing-place. We got close up to Suez about three o'clock in the afternoon, where we saw many troops of horse in the field, and two great bands of foot-soldiers in the town, who made many shots at us from a blockhouse. The Turkish navy at this place consisted of forty-one large galleys, and nine great ships. Having completed the examination, and returned to our fleet, we all went to the point of land to the west of the bay, and came to anchor near the shore in five fathoms water, in an excellent harbour, the bottom a fine soft sand.
It is certain that in ancient times Suez was called the City of Heroes, for it differs in nothing as to latitude situation and bearings from what is said in Ptolemy, Table III. of Africa. More especially as Suez is seated on the uttermost coast of the nook or bay where the sea of Mecca ends, on which the City of Heroes was situated, as Strabo writes in his XVII book thus: "The city of Heroes, or of Cleopatra, by some called Arsinoe, is in the uttermost bounds of the Sinus Arabicus, which is towards Egypt." Pliny, in the VI. book of his Natural History, seems to call the port of Suez Danao, on account of the trench or canal opened between the Nile and the Red Sea. The latitude of Suez is 29° 45' N., being the nearest town and port of the Red Sea to the great city of Cairo, called anciently Babylon of Egypt.
From Suez to the Levant Sea or Mediterranean, at that mouth of one of the seven branches of the Nile which is called Pelusium, is about 40 leagues by land, which space is called the isthmus, or narrow neck of land between the two seas. On this subject Strabo writes in his XVII. book, "The isthmus between Pelusium and the extreme point of the Arabian Gulf where stands the City of Heroes, is 900 stadia." This is the port of the Red Sea to which Cleopatra Queen of Egypt, after the victory obtained by Augustus over Antony, commanded ships to be carried by land from the Nile, that they might flee to the Indians.
Sesostris King of Egypt and Darius King of Persia undertook at different periods to dig a canal between the Nile and the Red Sea, on purpose to open a navigable communication between the Mediterranean and the Indian ocean; but as neither of them completed the work, Ptolemy made a trench 100 feet broad and 30 feet deep, which being nearly finished, he discontinued lest the sea-water from the Arabian Gulf might render the water of the Nile salt and unfit for use. Others say that on taking the level, the architects and masters of the work found that the Sea of Arabia was three cubits higher than the land of Egypt, whence it was feared that all the country would be inundated and destroyed. The ancient authors on this subject are Diodorus Siculus, Pliny, Pomponius Mela, Strabo, and many other cosmographers.
Although the town of Suez had a great name of old, it is small enough at this time, and I believe had been utterly ruined and abandoned if the Turkish navy had not been stationed here. In the front of the land which faces the south where this sea ends, there is the mouth of a small creek or arm of the sea entering a short way into the land, which extends towards the west till stopped by a hillock, the only one that rises in these parts: Between which creek and the bay or ending of the sea is a very long and narrow tongue or spit of sand, on which the galleys and ships of the Turks lie aground; and on which the ancient and warlike City of the Heroes is seated. There still remains a small castle, without which are two high ancient towers, the remains of the City of Heroes which stood here in old times. But on the point of land where the creek enters there is a great and mighty bulwark of modern structure, which defends the entry of the creek, and scours the coast behind the sterns of the galleys if any one should attempt to land in that place. Besides this, there runs between the galleys and the strand an entrenchment like a ridge or long hill, making the place very strong and defensible.
Having considered this place attentively, it seemed to me impossible to land in any part except behind the little mountain on the west at the head of the creek, as we should be there free from the Turkish artillery, and likewise the possession of this hillock might contribute to our success against the enemy. But it is necessary to consider that all along this strand the water is shoaly for the breadth of a bow-shot, and the ground a soft sticking clay or sinking sand, as I perceived by examining the ground from the foist or cature, which would be very prejudicial to the men in landing.
In regard to the particulars which I learnt concerning Suez, as told me by some of the men I met with, especially the Moor formerly mentioned whom I conversed with at Toro, I was informed that at the fountain of Moses, formerly mentioned as three leagues from Suez towards Toro, there had been a great city in old times, of which they say some buildings or ruins are still to be seen; but they could not say what had been its name. They told me also that the remains of the canal attempted to be made in old times from the Nile at the city of Cairo to Suez were still to be seen, though much defaced and filled by length of time, and that those who travel from Suez to Cairo have necessarily to pass these remains. Some alleged that this trench was not intended for navigation between the Nile and the Red sea, but merely to bring water from the Nile for the supply of Suez. They told me that the whole country from Suez to Cairo was a sandy plain, quite barren and without water, being three days' journey going at leisure, or about 15 leagues. That in Suez and the country round it seldom rained, but when it did at any time it was very heavy; and that the north-wind blew at Suez the whole year with great force.
From Toro to Suez it is 28 leagues, without any island, bank, or shoal in the whole way that can impede the navigation. Departing from Toro by the middle of the channel, the run for the first 16 leagues is N.W. by N. from S.E. by S., in all of which space the two coasts are about an equal distance from each other, or about three leagues asunder. At the end of these 16 or 17 leagues, the coasts begin to close very much, so that the opposite shores are only one league distant, which narrowness continues for two leagues; after which the Egyptian coast withdraws very much towards the west, making the large fine bay formerly mentioned. The mid-channel from the end of the before-mentioned 16 or 17 leagues, till we come to the N.W. point of this bay, trends N.N.W. and S.S.E., the distance being 8 leagues. In this place the lands again approach very much, as the Arabian shore thrusts out a very long low point, and the Egyptian coast sends out a very large and high point at the end of the bay on the N.W. side, these points being only a little more than one league asunder. From these points to Suez and the end of this sea, the coasts wind inwards on each side, making another bay somewhat more than two leagues and a half long and one league and a half broad, where this sea, so celebrated in holy scripture and by profane authors, has its end. The middle of this bay extends N. and S. with some deflection to W. and E. respectively, distance two leagues and a half.
On the coast between Toro and Suez, on the Arabian side, a hill rises about a gun-shot above Toro very near the sea, which is all bespotted with red streaks from side to side, giving it a curious appearance. This hill continues along the coast for 15 or 16 leagues, but the red streaks do not continue more than six leagues beyond Toro. At the end of the 15 or 16 leagues this ridge rises into a great and high knoll, after which the ridge gradually recedes from the sea, and ends about a league short of Suez. Between the high knoll and Suez along the sea there is a very low plain, in some places a league in breadth, and in others nearer Suez a league and half. Beside this hill towards Toro I saw great heaps of sand, reaching in some places to the top of the hill, yet were there no sands between the hill and the sea: "Likewise by the clefts and breaches many broken sands were driven," whence may be understood how violent the cross winds blow here, as they snatch up and drive the sand from out of the sea and lift it to the tops of the hills. These cross winds, as I noticed by the lying of the sands, were from the W. and the W.N.W.
On the other or Egyptian side of this gulf, between Toro and Suez, there run certain great and very high hills or mountains appearing over the sea coast; which about 17 leagues above Toro open in the middle as low as the plain field, after which they rise as high as before, and continue along the shore to within a league of Suez, where they entirely cease. I found the ebb and flow of the sea between Toro and Suez quite conformable with what has been already said respecting other parts of the coast, and neither higher nor lower: Whence appears the falsehood of some writers, who pretend that no path was opened through this sea for the Israelites by miracle; but merely that the sea ebbed so much in this place that they waited the ebb and passed over dry.
I observed that there were only two places in which it could have been possible for Sesostris and Ptolomy kings of Egypt, to have dug canals from the Nile to the Red-Sea: One of these by the breach of the mountains on the Egyptian coast 17 leagues above Toro, and 11 short of Suez; and the other by the end of the nook or bay on which Suez stands; as at this place the hills on both sides end, and all the land remains quite plain and low, without hillocks or any other impediment. This second appears to me to be much more convenient for so great a work than the other, because the land is very low, the distance shorter, and there is a haven at Suez. All the rest of the coast is lined by great and high mountains of hard rock. Hence Suez must be the place to which Cleopatra commanded the ships to be brought across the isthmus, a thing of such great labour that shortness was of most material importance: Here likewise for the same reason must have been the trench or canal from the Nile to the Red Sea; more especially as all the coast from Toro upwards is waste, and without any port till we come to Suez.
During all the time which we spent between Toro and Suez, the heaven was constantly overcast with thick black clouds, which seemed contrary to the usual nature of Egypt; as all concur in saying that it never rains in that country, and that the heavens are never obscured by clouds or vapours: But perhaps the sea raises these clouds at this place, and farther inland the sky might be clear; as we often see in Portugal that we have clear pleasant weather at Lisbon, while at Cintra only four leagues distant, there are great clouds mists and rain. The sea between Toro and Suez is subject to sudden and violent tempests; as when the wind blows from the north, which is the prevailing wind here, although not very great, the sea is wonderfully raised, the waves being everywhere so coupled together and broken that they are very dangerous. This is not occasioned by shallow water, as this channel is very deep; only that on the Egyptian side it is somewhat shoaly close to the shore. "About this place I saw certain sea foams otherwise called evil waters, the largest I had ever seen, being as large as a target, of a whitish dun colour. These do not pass lower than Toro; but below that there are infinite small ones, which like the other are bred in and go about the sea." While between Toro and Suez, though the days were insufferably hot, the nights were colder than any I ever met with.
[Footnote 321: No description can be more explicit; but Don John unfortunately knew not of the eastern sinus, and found himself constrained to find both sinuses in one gulf.--E.]
[Footnote 322: This communication was actually opened about A.D. 685, by Amru, who conquered Egypt for Moawiah, the first Ommiyan Khalifah of Damascus. It was called al Khalij al Amir al Momenein, or the canal of the commander of the faithful, the title of the Caliphs. It was shut up about 140 years afterwards by Abu Jafar al Mansur.--Astl.]
[Footnote 323: This description does not agree with the map or relation of Dr Pocock; which makes the sea terminate in two bays, divided by the tongue of land on which Suez stands. That to the N.W. is very wide at the mouth, and is properly the termination of the western gulf of the Red Sea. The other on the N.E. is narrow at the entrance; and is divided by another tongue of land into two parts.--Astl.]
[Footnote 324: This passage respecting sea foams or evil waters is altogether unintelligible, unless perhaps some obscure allusion to water-spouts maybe supposed.--E.]
Volume 6, Chapter 3, Section 9 -- Return Voyage from Suez to Massua.
In the morning of the 28th of April 1541 we departed from before Suez on our return to Massua. At sunset we were one league short of a sharp red peak on the coast, 20 leagues from Suez. At night we took in our sails and continued along shore under our foresails only, the wind blowing hard at N.N.W. Two hours within the night, we came to anchor near the shore in 3 fathoms, the heavens being very dark and covered by many thick black clouds. The 29th, we weighed in the morning, and came into the port of Toro at nine o'clock, but soon weighed again, and came to anchor a league farther on, in a haven called Solyman's watering place, where we took in water, digging pits in the sand a stones throw from the sea, where we got abundance of brackish water. Leaving this place in the morning of the 30th, we anchored at 10 in the morning at the first of the three islands, which are two leagues N.W. of the island of Sheduam. I went on shore here with my pilot, when we took the suns altitude a little less than 80°; and as the declination that day was 17°36' the latitude of this island is 27°40' N.
At sunset on the 1st of May we set sail, and by even-song time we came to an island two leagues long, which thrusts out a point very close to the main land, between which and the island is a singularly good harbour for all weathers, fit for all the ships in the world. The 2nd at sunset, we came to anchor in the port of Goelma, which is safe from N. and N.W. winds, but only fit for small vessels. A short space within the land is the dry bed of a brook, having water during the floods of winter descending from the mountains. Digging a little way we found fresh water. There is a well here also, but not abundant in water. This port, the name of which signifies in Arabic the port of water, is N.N.W. of al Kessir, distant 4 leagues.
The 4th of May we rowed along shore, and came to anchor near sunset, in a small but excellent harbour named Azallaihe, two leagues S.E. beyond Shakara, between that place and the black hillock. We lay at anchor all night, the wind at N.N.W. Bohalel Shame is a deep, safe, and capacious port, in which many ships may ride at anchor. It was named from one Bohalel, a rich chief of the Badwis who dwelt in the inland country, and used to sell cattle to the ships frequenting this port. Shame signifies land or country; so that Bohalel Shame signifies the Land of Bohale.l
At this place we found an honourable tomb within a house like a chapel, in which hung a silk flag or standard, with many arrows or darts round the grave, and the walls were hung round with many bulls. On an upright slab or table at the head of the grave there was a long inscription or epitaph, and about the house there were many sweet-scented waters and other perfumes. From the Moors and Arabs I was informed that an Arabian of high rank of the lineage of Mahomet was here buried; and that the Sharifs of Jiddah and other great prelates gave indulgences and pardons to all who visited his sepulchre: But the Portuguese sacked the house and afterwards burnt it, so that no vestige was left. On the shore of this harbour we saw many footsteps of tigers and goats, as if they had come here in search of water.
Having often occasion to mention the Badwis or Bedouins while voyaging along the coasts of their country, it may be proper to give some account of that people. These Badwis are properly the Troglodites ophiofagi, of whom Ptolemy, Pomponius Mela, and other ancient writers make mention. These Badwis or Troglodites live on the mountains and sea-coasts from Melinda and Magadoxa to Cape Guardafu, and thence all along the coasts of the Red Sea on both sides, and along the outer coast of Arabia through the whole coast of the Persian Gulf; all of which land they may be more properly said to occupy than to inhabit. In good Arabic, Badwi signifies one who lives only by cattle. Those who dwell along the Red Sea from Zeyla to Swakem, and thence to al Kossir, are continually at war with the Nubii or Nubians; while those from Kossir to Suez perpetually molest the Egyptians. On the eastern coast of the Red Sea the Badwis have incessant contests with the Arabians.
They are wild men, among whom there is no king or great lord, but they live in tribes or factions, allowing of no towns in their country; neither have they any fixed habitations, but live a vagabond life, wandering from place to place with their cattle. They abhor all laws and ordinances; neither will they admit of their differences being judged of by any permanent customs or traditions, but rather that their sheiks or chiefs shall determine according to their pleasure. They dwell in caves and holes, but most of them in tents or huts. In colour they are very black, and their language is Arabic. They worship Mahomet, but are very bad Mahometans, being addicted beyond all other people on earth to thievery and rapine. They eat raw flesh, and milk is their usual drink. Their habits are vile and filthy; but they run with wonderful swiftness. They fight afoot or on horseback, darts being their chief weapons, and are almost continually at war with their neighbours.
By day-light of the 10th May we weighed anchor from the port of Igidid, and an hour before sunset we fastened our barks to a shoal about four leagues south of Farate. In this shoal there is an excellent harbour, lying almost E.S.E. and W.N.W., but very crooked and winding, so large that we could not see to the other end. The 22nd of May, by day-break, we were a league short of the grove which stands four leagues north of Massua, having the wind from the land. At nine o'clock it began to blow fair from the N.N.E., and we entered the port of Massua at noon, where we were joyfully received by the fleet and army. From the 22d of May, when we entered Massua, the winds were always from the easterly points, either E. or S.E. or E.S.E., often with great storms. On the last day of June we had so violent a gale from S.E. that the galleons drifted and were in great danger of grounding. This storm was attended by heavy rain and fearful thunders, and a thunderbolt struck the mast of one of our galleons, which furrowed it in its whole length. On the 2nd of July we had another great storm from the east which lasted most of the day, and drove many of our vessels from their anchors. From thence to the 7th of July we had other storms, but small in comparison. On the 8th and 9th we had two desperate gales from the land.
[Footnote 325: The fleet seems only to have been before Suez from 3 o'clock on the afternoon of the 27th of April till the morning of next day the 28th, or rather Don Juan only went forwards to examine the possibility of landing. Yet De Faria says, II. 23. "That after many brave attempts made by several to view and sound the harbour, Don Stefano landed with his men, and being repulsed, chiefly by means of an ambush of 2000 horse, was obliged to retire." The silence of Don John respecting any military operations, and the shortness of time, leaves hardly room to suppose that any were attempted.--E.]
[Footnote 326: Rather Kallama or Kalla'lma.--Astl.]
[Footnote 327: Rather perhaps Bohalel Shomeh, meaning the lot or portion of Bohalel.--Astl.]
[Footnote 328: Perhaps Bells.--E.]
[Footnote 329: Badwi, or more properly Badawi, signifies a dweller in the field or in the desert; corruptly called by us Bedouin.--Astl.]
[Footnote 330: Either Don Juan or his abbreviator has omitted part of the Journal at this place, from the port of Azallaihe to that of Igidid.--E.]
[Footnote 331: Here again a considerable portion of the Journal is omitted.--E.]
Volume 6, Chapter 3, Section 10 -- Return of the Expedition from Massua to India.
Having remained 48 days at Massua, we set sail from thence on our return to India on the 9th of July 1541, one hour before sunrise, and by day-break we were two or three leagues short of the north point of Dallak, and among some flat islands that have some woods, which islands are scattered in the sea to the north of Dallak. We sailed through a channel between two of these islands, having a fair wind almost N.W. our course being N.E. by N. After doubling a shoal we came to anchor, and at two in the afternoon we sailed again with a fair wind at N.N.E. coasting the island of Dallak. An hour before sunset we came to a very flat sandy island, called Dorat Melkuna, from which on all sides extended great shoals. When the sun set we were a league short of the island of Shamoa, between which and the west side of Dallak, opposite the Abyssinian coast, is the most frequented channel for such as sail to Massua. All the coast of Dallak which we sailed along this day trends N.N.W. and S.S.E. and is very low. The 18th of July by day break we saw the mouth of the straits, about three leagues distant, "and we saw all the fleet lye at hull, and presently we set sail altogether."
Before leaving the Gulf of Arabia or of Mecca, it may be proper to consider the reason why the ancients called this Gulf the Red Sea, and to give my own opinion founded on what I actually saw, whether it differ in colour from the great ocean. In the sixth book of his Natural History, Pliny quotes several opinions as the origin of the name Erythros given to this sea by the ancients. The first is, that it took its name from Erythra, a king who once reigned on its borders, whence came Erythros which signifies red in the Greek. Another opinion was that the reflection of the sun-beams gave a red colour to this sea. Some hold that the red colour proceeds from the sand and ground along the sea coast, and others that the water was red itself. Of these opinions every writer chose that [[one that]] he liked best. The Portuguese who formerly navigated this sea affirmed that it was spotted or streaked with red, arising, as they alleged, from the following circumstances: they say that the coast of Arabia is naturally very red, and as there are many great storms in this country, which raise great clouds of dust towards the skies, which are driven by the wind into the sea, and the dust being red tinges the water of that colour, whence it got the name of the Red Sea.
From leaving Socotora, till I had coasted the whole of this sea all the way to Suez, I continually and carefully observed this sea; and the colour and appearance of its shores, the result of which I shall now state. First then, it is altogether false that the colour of this sea is red, as it does not differ in any respect from the colour of other seas. As to the dust driven by the winds from the land to the sea staining the water; we saw many storms raise great clouds of dust and drive them to the sea, but the colour of its water was never changed by these. Those who have said that the land on the coast is red, have not well observed the coasts and strands: for generally on both sides the land by the sea is brown and very dark, as if scorched. In some places it appears black and in others white, and the sands are of these colours. In three places only there are certain parts of the mountains having veins or streaks of a red colour; and at these places the Portuguese had never been before the present voyage. These three places are all far beyond Swakem towards Suez, and the three hills having these red streaks or veins are all of very hard rock, and all the land round about that we could see are of the ordinary colour and appearance.
Now, although substantially the water of this sea has no difference in colour from that of other seas, yet in many places its waves by accident seem very red, from the following cause. From Swakem to Kossir, which is 136 leagues, the sea is thickly beset with shoals and shelves or reefs, composed of coral stone, which grows like clustered trees spreading its branches on all sides as is done by real coral, to which this stone bears so strong resemblance that it deceives many who are not very skilful respecting the growth and nature of coral.
This coral stone is of two sorts, one of which is a very pure white, and the other very red. In some places this coral stone is covered by great quantities of green ouze or sleech, and in other places it is free from this growth. In some places this ouze or sleech is very bright green, and in others of an orange-tawny colour. From Swakem upwards, the water of this sea is so exceedingly clear that in many places the bottom may be distinctly seen at the depth of 20 fathoms. Hence, wherever these shoals and shelves are, the water over them is of three several colours, according to the colour of these rocks or shelves, red, green, or white, proceeding from the colour of the ground below, as I have many times experienced. Thus when the ground of the shoals is sand, the sea over it appears white; where the coral-stone is covered with green ouze or sleech, the water above is greener even than the weeds; but where the shoals are of red coral, or coral-stone covered by red weeds, all the sea over them appears very red. And, as this red colour comprehends larger spaces of the sea than either the green or the white, because the stone of the shoals is mostly of red coral, I am convinced that on this account it has got the name of the Red Sea, and not the green sea or the white sea, though these latter colours are likewise to be seen in perfection.
The means I used for ascertaining this secret of nature were these. I oftentimes fastened my bark upon shoals where the sea appeared red, and commanded divers to bring me up stones from the bottom. Mostly it was so shallow over these shoals, that the bark touched; and in other places the mariners could wade for half a league with the water only breast high. On these occasions most of the stones brought up were of red coral, and others were covered by orange-tawny weeds. Whether the sea appeared green, I found the stones at the bottom were white coral covered with green weeds; and where the sea was white I found a very white sand. I have conversed often with the Moorish pilots, and with persons curious in antiquities, who dwelt on this sea, who assured me that it was never stained red by the dust brought from the land by the winds.
I do not, however reprove the opinion of former Portuguese navigators; but I affirm that having gone through this sea oftener than they, and having seen its whole extent, while they only saw small portions, I never saw any such thing. Every person with whom I conversed wondered much at our calling it the Red Sea, as they knew no other name for it than the sea of Mecca. On the 9th of August 1541, we entered the port of Anchediva, where we remained till the 21st of that month, when we went in foists or barks and entered the port of Goa, whence we set out on this expedition on the 31st of December 1540, almost eight months before.
[Footnote 332: A large portion of the Journal is again omitted at this place, either by Don Juan or his abbreviator, Purchas.--E.]
[Footnote 333: Perhaps in coming in sight of the Strait, the ship of Don Juan was so much in advance as barely to see the hulls of the rest; and lay to till the rest came up.--E.]
[Footnote 334: By Dr. Hyde, in his notes on Peritsol, and Dr. Cumberland, in his remarks on Sanchoniatho, and by other writers, Erythros or Red is supposed to be a translation of Edom, the name of Esau; whence it is conjectured that this sea, as well as the country of Idumea, took their denominations from Edom. But this does not seem probable for two reasons: First, because the Jews do not call it the Red Sea but Tam Suf, or the Sea of Weeds; and, second, the ancients included all the ocean between the coasts of Arabia and India under the name of the Erythrean or Red Sea, of which the Persian and the Arabian Gulfs were reckoned branches.--Ast. I. 129. c.]
[Footnote 335: This might have been the case among the pilots at this time; but among Arabic geographers it is likewise called the Sea of Hejaz, the Sea of Yaman, and the Sea of Kolzum.--Astl.]
[[Footnote 336: "Table of Latitudes observed in the Journal of Don Juan." This table is omitted here, as are Footnotes 337 and 338 which pertain to small details of it.]]
Volume 6, Chapter 3, Section 11 -- Description of the Sea of Kolzum, otherwise called the Arabian Gulf, or the Red Sea; Extracted from the Geography of Abulfeda.
The following description of the Red Sea was written by Ismael Abulfeda, prince of Hamah in Syria, the ancient Epiphania, who died in the 733d year of the Hejirah or Mahometan era, corresponding with the year 1332 of the Christian computation, after having lived sixty-one years, twenty two of which he was sovereign of that principality. Greaves has mistaken both the length of his reign, which he makes only three years, and the time of his death. Abulfeda was much addicted to the study of geography and history, and wrote books on both of these subjects, which are in great estimation in the East. His geography, written in 721, A.D. 1321, consists of tables of the latitudes and longitudes of places, in imitation of Ptolemy, with descriptions, under the title of Takwin al Boldan. No fewer than five or six translations have been made of this work, but by some accident or other none of these have ever been published.The author begins his description of the sea of Kolzum or of Yaman at Al Kolzum, a small city at the north end of this sea; which from thence runs south, inclining a little towards the east, as far as al Kasir (al Kossir) the port of Kus. Hence it continues its course south, bending somewhat westward to about Aidab (Aydhab). The coast passes afterwards directly south to Sawakan (Swakem), a small city in the land of the blacks (or al Sudan). Proceeding thence south, it encompasses the island of Dahlak, which is not far from the western shore. Afterwards advancing in the same direction, it washes the shores of al Habash (Ethiopia or Abyssinia), as far as the cape or mountain of al Mandab (or al Mondub), at the mouth of the Bahr al Kolzum or Red Sea, which here terminates; the Bahr al Hind, or Indian Sea flowing into it at this place. The cape or mountain of al Mandub and the desert of Aden approach very near, being separated only by so narrow a strait that two persons on the opposite sides may see each other across. These Straits are named Bab al Mandab. By some travellers the author was informed that these Straits lie on this side of Aden to the north-west, a day and night's sail. The mountains of al Mandab are in the country of the negroes, and may be seen from the mountains of Aden, though at a great distance. Thus much for the western side of this sea. Let us now pass over to the eastern coast.
The only parts of this work that have been printed are the tables of Send and Hend, or India, published in the French collection of Voyages and Travels by Thevenot; and those of Khowarazm or Karazm, Mawara'l-nahar, or Great Bukharia, and Arabia. The two former were published in 1650, with a Latin translation by Dr. Greaves; and all the three by Hudson, in the third volume of the Lesser Greek Geographers, in 1712; from which latter work this description of the Red Sea is extracted, on purpose to illustrate the two preceding journals, and to shew that there really is such a gulf on the coast of Arabia as that mentioned by the ancients, that geographers may not be misled by the mistake of Don Juan de Castro.
In this edition, the words inserted between parenthesis are added on purpose to accommodate the names to the English orthography, or to make the description more strictly conformable to the Arabic. The situations or geographical positions are here thrown out of the text, to avoid embarrassment, and formed into a table at the end. We cannot however warrant any of them, as those which may have been settled by actual observation are not distinguished from such as may not have had that advantage; which indeed is the general fault of oriental tables of latitude and longitude. The latitude of Al Kossir comes pretty near that formed by Don Juan de Castro; but that of Al Kolzum must err above one degree, while that of Swakem is more than two degrees erroneous.--Ast.
The coast of Bahr al Kolzum runs northward from Aden, and proceeds thence round the coast of al Yaman (or Arabia Felix), till it comes to the borders thereof. Thence it runs north to Joddah. From Joddah it declines a little to the west, as far as Jahafah, a station of the people of Mesr (Egypt), when on pilgrimage to Mecca. Thence advancing north, with a small inclination towards the west, it washes the coast of Yanbaak (Yamboa). Here it turns off north-westwards, and having passed Madyan it comes to Aylah. Thence descending southwards it comes to the mountain al Tur, which thrusting forwards separates two arms of the sea. Thence returning to the north, it passes on to al Kolzum, where the description began, which is situated to the west of Aylah, and almost in the same latitude.
Al Kolzum and Aylah are situated on two arms or gulfs of the sea, between which the land interposes, running to the South; which land is the mountain al Tur, almost in the same longitude with Aylah, which stands at the northern extremity of the eastern bay, while al Kolzum is at the northern extremity of the western gulf, so that Aylah is more to the east, and mount al Tur more to the south than al Kolzum. Aylah is situated on the inmost part of the promontory which extends into the sea. Between al Tur and the coast of Mesr (Egypt), that arm of the sea or gulf extends on which al Kolzum stands. In like manner that arm of the sea on which Aylah is situated extends between al Tur and Hejaz. From this mountain of al Tur the distance to either of the opposite coasts is small by sea, but longer about by the desert of Fakiyah, as those who travel by land from al Tur to Mesr are under the necessity of going round by al Kolzum, and those who go by land from al Tur to Hejaz must go round by way of Aylah. Al Tur joins the continent on the north, but its other three sides are washed by the sea. The sea of al Kolzum, after passing some way to the south-east from al Tur, begins to widen on either side, till it becomes seventy miles broad. This wider part is called Barkah al Gorondal.
POSTSCRIPT: Transactions of the Portuguese in Abyssinia, under Don Christopher de Gama.
While the Portuguese fleet was at Massua, between the 22nd of May and 9th of July 1541, a considerable detachment of soldiers was landed at Arkiko on the coast of Abyssinia under the command of Don Christopher de Gama, brother to the governor-general, for the assistance of the Christian sovereign of the Abyssinians against Grada Hamed king of Adel or Zeyla, an Arab sovereignty at the north-eastern point of Africa, without the Red Sea, and to the south of Abyssinia. In the journal of Don Juan de Castro; this force is stated at 500 men, while in the following notices from De Faria, 400 men are said to have formed the whole number of auxiliaries furnished by the Portuguese. This account of the first interference of the Portuguese in the affairs of Abyssinia by De Faria is rather meagre and unsatisfactory, and the names of places are often so disguised by faulty orthography as to be scarcely intelligible. In a future division of our work more ample accounts will be given both of this Portuguese expedition, and of other matters respecting Abyssinia.--E.
* * * * *
Some time before the expedition of De Gama into the Red Sea, Grada Hamed the Mahometan king of Adel or Zeyla, the country called Trogloditis by some geographers, submitted himself to the supremacy of the Turkish empire in order to obtain some assistance of men, and throwing off his allegiance to the Christian emperor of Abyssinia or Ethiopia, immediately invaded that country with a numerous and powerful army. On this occasion he took [[the]] advantage offered by the sovereign of Abyssinia, to whom he owed allegiance, being in extreme youth, and made such progress in the country that the emperor Atanad Sagad, otherwise named Claudius, was obliged to retire into the kingdom or province of Gojam, while his mother, Saban or Elizabeth, who administered the government in his minority, took refuge with the Baharnagash in the rugged mountains of Dama, a place naturally impregnable; which, rising to a prodigious height from a large plain, has a plain on its summit about a league in diameter, on which is an indifferent town with sufficient cattle and other provisions for its scanty population. On one side of this mountain there is a road of difficult ascent to near the top; but at the last part of the ascent people have to be drawn up and let down on planks by means of ropes.
While in this helpless condition, the queen got notice that Don Stefano de Gama was in the Red Sea, and sent the Baharnagash to him, desiring his assistance against the tyrant who had overrun the country, destroyed many ancient churches, and carried off numbers of priests and monks into slavery. The ambassador was favourably listened to; and it was resolved by the governor-general, in a council of his officers, to grant the assistance required. Accordingly Don Christopher de Gama, brother to the governor-general, was named to the command on this occasion, who was landed with 400 men and eight field-pieces, with many firelocks and abundance of ammunition. He was accompanied by Don Juan Bermudez, Patriarch of Ethiopia, whose presence was much desired by the Abyssinian emperor, on purpose to introduce the ceremonies of the Roman church.
Don Christopher de Gama and his men set out on their march from Arkiko under the guidance of the Baharnagash for the interior of Abyssinia, and the men endured incredible fatigue from the excessive heat, though they rested by day and marched only in the night. A whole week was spent in passing over a rugged mountain, whence they descended into a very pleasant flat country, watered by many rivulets, through which they marched for two days to the city of Barua, the metropolis or residence of the Baharnagash. Though much damaged in the late invasion, yet this place had several sightly buildings, divided by a large river, with goodly villages and country houses in the environs. The Portuguese were received at the gates by a procession of several monks singing a litany, one of whom made a speech to welcome them, extolling their generosity in coming to the aid of their distressed country: After which the Portuguese visited the church and encamped.
Don Christopher sent immediate notice of his arrival to the Emperor, who was at a great distance, and to the queen mother who was near, upon the mountain of Dama already mentioned. The Baharnagash was sent to conduct her from the mountain, having along with him two companies of the Portuguese as an escort, and brought her to Barua attended by a great retinue of women and servants. On her arrival, the Portuguese troops received her under arms, and the cannon were fired off to do her honour. The queen was seated on a mule, whose trappings reached to the ground, and she was hidden from view by curtains fixed to the saddle. She was clothed in white, having a short black cloak or mantle with gold fringes on her shoulders. From her white headdress a flowing white veil fell down that concealed her face. The Baharnagash led her mule by the bridle, having his arms bare in token of respect, while his shoulders were covered by a tigers skin; and on each side of her walked a nobleman in similar attire. She opened the curtains that surrounded her that she might see the Portuguese troops; and on Don Christopher going up to pay his compliments, she lifted her veil that he might see her. The reception on both sides was courteous. Don Christopher went afterwards to visit her and consult with her, when it was resolved by the advice of the Abyssinians to winter at that place, and to wait an answer from the Emperor. The answer came accordingly, expressing his joy for the arrival of the Portuguese succours, and desiring Don Christopher to march in the beginning of summer.
The Portuguese accordingly marched at the time appointed, and in the following order. Some light horse led the van, to explore the road: Then followed the artillery and baggage, after which came the queen and her attendants, with a guard of fifty Portuguese musketeers. Don Christopher brought up the rear with the remainder of the Portuguese troops; and the Baharnagash with his officers secured the flanks. In eight days, the army came to the mountain of Gané of most difficult ascent, on the top of which was a city, and on the highest cliff a chapel, near which was a house hung round with three hundred embalmed bodies sewed up in hides. These external coverings were much rent with age, and discovered the bodies within still white and uncorrupted. Some supposed these were the Roman conquerors of the country; while others, and among them the patriarch, supposed them to have been martyrs. Encouraged by the presence of the Portuguese auxiliaries, many of the natives resorted to the queen. Don Christopher marched on to the mountain of Canete, well watered and having abundance of cattle; which, almost impregnable by nature, was still farther strengthened by artificial fortifications. The emperors of Abyssinia used formerly to be crowned at this place, which was now held for the tyrant by a thousand men, who used often to come down from the mountain and ravage the open country.
Contrary to the advice of the queen and her councillors, Don Christopher determined to commence his military operations by assaulting this den of thieves. For this purpose he divided his force into three bodies, one of which he led in person, and courageously endeavoured to force his way by the three several passes which led to the summit. But after the most valiant efforts, the Portuguese were forced to desist from the attack, in consequence of great numbers of large stones being rolled down upon them by the enemy. After hearing mass on Candlemas day, the 2d of February 1542, the Portuguese returned to the attack, playing their cannon against the enemy; and though they lost some men by the great stones rolled down among them from the mountain, they at length made their way to the first gates which they broke open, and forced their way to the second gates with great slaughter of the enemy, and the loss of three Portuguese.
The enemy within the second and third gates, seeing only a few men of the vanguard, opened their gates, on which the Portuguese rushed in and maintained a hot contest with the enemy till Don Christopher came up with the main body, and pressed the enemy so hard that many of them threw themselves headlong from the rocks. Many women and children were made prisoners, and much plunder was taken. The queen and her retinue went up to the mountain, expressing great admiration of the Portuguese prowess, as the fortress had always been deemed impregnable by the Ethiopians. The patriarch purified a mosque, which he dedicated to the blessed virgin, and in which mass was celebrated to the great joy both of the Portuguese and Abyssinians.
Placing a garrison of Abyssinians in this place under a native officer, the army marched on into the country of a rebel named Jarse, who now submitted to the queen and brought his men to her service, thinking nothing could withstand men who had conquered nature, so highly did they esteem the conquest of the mountain Canete. The king of Zeyla came on now with his army, covering the plains and mountains with his numbers, and exulting in the hopes of an easy victory over so small a number of men. Don Christopher encamped in good order near a mountain in full sight of the enemy. Palm Sunday and Monday were spent in skirmishing, with nearly equal loss on both sides, but the Portuguese had so far the advantage as to compel the enemy to retreat to their camp. Don Christopher found it necessary to remove his camp, being in want of some necessaries, particularly water; and on the king of Zeyla observing the Portuguese in motion from his position on the high grounds, he came down and surrounded the Portuguese in the plain, who marched in good order, keeping off the enemy by continual discharges of their artillery and small arms.
The enemy still pressing on, Don Christopher ordered Emanuel de Cuna to face about with his company, which he did so effectually, that he obliged a body of Turks to retire after losing many of their men. The Turks rallied and renewed their attack, in which they distressed De Cuna considerably, so that Don Christopher was obliged to come in person to his relief, and fought with so much resolution that he was for a considerable time unconscious of being wounded in the leg. At this time the king of Zeyla came on in person, thinking to put a favourable end to the action, but it turned to his own loss, as many of his men were cut off by the Portuguese cannon. Don Christopher was in great danger of being slain, yet continued the action with great resolution, till at length the tyrant was struck down by a shot which pierced his thigh. His men immediately furled their colours and fled, carrying him off, whom they believed slain though he was still alive. This victory cost the Portuguese eleven men, two of whom were of note. After the battle, the queen herself attended Don Christopher and all the wounded men with the utmost alacrity and attention.
After the respite of a week, the Portuguese army marched towards the enemy, who came to meet them, the king of Zeyla being carried in an open chair or litter. This battle was resolutely contested on both sides. A Turkish captain, thinking to recover the honour which had been lost in the former action, made a charge with the men he commanded into the very middle of the Portuguese, and was entirely cut off with all his followers. Don Christopher on horseback, led his men with such fury into the heat of the action, that at length he compelled the enemy to turn their backs and seek safety in flight. The king of Zeyla had infallibly been taken in the pursuit, had there been a sufficient body of horse to pursue and follow up the victory. In this battle the Portuguese lost eight men. After the victory, the allied army of the Portuguese and Abyssinians, on marching down to a pleasant river, found it possessed by the enemy, who immediately fled with their king. At this time the king of Zeyla sent an embassy to the Pacha of Zabit acquainting him with the distress to which he was reduced, and prevailed upon him by a large subsidy to send him a reinforcement of almost 1000 Turkish musqueteers.
Don Christopher wintered in the city of Ofar, awaiting the arrival of the Abyssinian emperor. While there a Jew proposed to him, if he were in want of horses and mules, to show him a mountain at no great distance, inhabited by Jews, where he might find a large supply of both. On that mountain the king of Zeyla had a garrison of 400 men. Having inquired into the truth of this information, and found that it was to be depended upon, Don Christopher marched thither with two companies of Portuguese and some Abyssinians, and came to the foot of the mountain, which is twelve leagues in compass. Some Moors who guarded the passes were slain in the ascent, and on the top the Moorish commander met him with all his men, but Don Christopher, running at him with his lance, thrust him through the body. The shot of the Portuguese soon constrained the Moors to make a precipitate flight, after losing a great number of men, and the mountain was completely reduced.
Great numbers of horses and mules were found in this place, which was inhabited by about 800 Jews in six or seven villages, who were reduced to obedience. According to tradition, these Jews, and many others who are dispersed over Ethiopia and Nubia, are descended from some part of the dispersion of the ten tribes. The Jew who acted as guide to the Portuguese on this occasion, was so astonished at their valour that he was converted and baptised, and by common consent was appointed governor of this mountain. Before this it had the name of Caloa, but was ever afterwards known by the name of the Jews' mountain.
On the second day after the return of Don Christopher to the army, the king of Zeyla began to shew himself more bold than usual, trusting to the great reinforcement of Turkish musqueteers he had procured from Zabid. The youth and inexperience of Don Christopher allowed his valour to transport him far beyond the bounds of prudence. He ought to have retired to some strong position on the mountains, till joined by the emperor with the military power of Abyssinia, as it was impossible for him to contend against such great superiority, now that the king of Zeyla had so strong a body of musketeers: But he never permitted himself to consider of these circumstances, till too late. On the 29th of August, the Turks made an attack upon the camp, and were repulsed, on which occasion Don Christopher was wounded in the leg and lost four men. In that part of the entrenchments defended by Emanuel de Cuna, the Turks were likewise repelled, with the loss of three men on the side of the Portuguese. In another part Francisco de Abreu was killed while fighting like a lion, and his brother Humphrey going to fetch off his body was slain and fell beside that [[body which]] he went to rescue.
On this Don Christopher came up to relieve his men and performed wonders, till his arm was broken by a musquet-ball and he was carried off by a brave soldier. He was scarcely dressed [[=bandaged]] when news was brought that the enemy had entered the entrenchments, and had slain Fonseca and Vello, two of his officers, on which he ordered himself to be carried to the place of danger. As the enemy were now decidedly victorious, some of the Portuguese abandoned their ranks and fled, as did the queen and the patriarch, both being mounted on fleet mares, each taking a different way; he from fear not knowing where he went, but she from choice, as being well acquainted with the country.
Don Christopher sent immediately to bring back the queen, as her flight was entirely ruinous, occasioning the disbanding of all the Abyssinian troops. But at length, seeing that all was lost, he grasped in despair a sword in his left hand, saying, Let who will, follow me, to die like heroes in the midst of the enemy. He was carried however from the field by mere force, with only fourteen men, accompanied by the queen and Baharnagash, seeking some place of safety. The night being excessively dark they lost their way and separated, the queen and Baharnagash being fortunate enough to get up a mountain as they were better acquainted with the country; but Don Christopher, wandering with some companions, fell into the hands of the enemy, who carried him to the tyrant who was quite elated with his prize. The victors used their good fortune with the utmost barbarity, cruelly cutting down every one who fell in their way, which occasioned one to set a quantity of powder on fire that was in one of the tents belonging to the queen, by which all who were in or near it were blown up.
The king of Zeyla was quite elated by the capture of Don Christopher, whom he caused to be brought into his presence, and questioned him as to what he would have done with him, if defeated and made prisoner. "I would have cut off your head," answered Don Christopher, "and dividing your body into quarters, would have exposed them as a terror and warning to other tyrants." The king caused him to be buffeted with the buskins of his slaves; his body to be immersed in melted wax, and his beard interwoven with waxed threads, which were set on fire, and in this manner he was led through the army as a spectacle. Being brought back, the king cut off his head with his own hand, and caused the body to be quartered and exposed on poles. Where the head fell, it is said that there gushed out a spring of water which cured many diseases. On the same hour, a tree was torn out by the roots in the garden of a certain convent of monks, though the air was at the time perfectly calm. Afterwards, at the same hour, the emperor of Abyssinia having vanquished the tyrant and caused his head to be struck off, the tree which was then dry replanted itself in the former place, and became covered with leaves.
Most of the Portuguese who were taken on occasion of this defeat, perished in slavery. Alfonso Chaldeira followed the queen with thirty men. Emanuel de Cuna with forty got away to the Baharnagash and was well received. Sixty more followed the Patriarch Bermudez, making in all 130 men. Ninety of these went to the emperor, who was then near at hand, and very much lamented the slaughter among that valiant body of auxiliaries, and the loss of their brave commander. De Cuna with his forty men were too far off to join the Abyssinian emperor at this time. The emperor marched soon afterwards against the king of Zeyla, accompanied by ninety of the Portuguese who had joined him after the former defeat, to whom he gave the vanguard of his army, in consideration of the high opinion he had of their valour.
At the foot of the mountain of Oenadias in the province of Ambea, they met a body of 700 horse and 2000 foot going to join the king of Zeyla. Fifty Portuguese horse went immediately to attack them, and Antonio Cardoso, who was foremost, killed the commander of the enemy at the first thrust of his lance. The rest of the Portuguese followed this brave example and slew many of the enemy; and being seconded by the Abyssinians, first under the Baharnagash and afterwards by the king in person, eight hundred of the enemy were slain and the rest put to flight, when they went rather to terrify the tyrant with an account of their defeat, than to reinforce him by their remaining numbers.
The king of Zeyla was only at the distance of a league with his army in order of battle, consisting of two bodies of foot of three thousand men in each, while he was himself stationed in the front at the head of five hundred horse. The emperor of Abyssinia met him with a similar number, and in the same order. The ninety Portuguese, being the forlorn hope, made a furious charge on the advanced five hundred of the enemy, of whom they slew many, with the loss of two only on their own side. The emperor in person behaved with the utmost bravery, and at length the horse of the enemy, being defeated, fled to the wings of their infantry. The king of Zeyla acted with the utmost resolution, even shewing his son to the army, a boy of only ten years old, to stir up his men to fight valiantly against the Christians.
The battle was renewed, and continued for long in doubt, the emperor being even in great danger of suffering a defeat; but at length a Portuguese shot the king of Zeyla in the belly, by which he died, but his horse carried him dangling about the field, as he was tied to the saddle, and his army took to flight. Only a few Turks stood firm, determined rather to die honourably than seek safety in flight, and made great slaughter among the Abyssinians: But Juan Fernandez, page to the unfortunate Don Christopher, slew the Turkish commander with his lance. In fine, few of the enemy escaped by flight. The head of the king of Zeyla was cut off, and his son made prisoner. Being highly sensible of the great merit of the Portuguese to whom he chiefly owed this and the former victories over his enemies, the emperor conferred great favours upon them. De Cuna returned to Goa with only fifty men; and the other survivors of the Portuguese remained in Abyssinia, where they intermarried with women of that country, and where their progeny still remains.
[Footnote 338: Astley, I. 130. We have adopted this article from Astley's Collection, that nothing useful or curious may be omitted. In the present time, when the trade beyond the Cape of Good Hope is about to be thrown open, it might be highly useful to publish a series of Charts of all the coasts and islands of the great Eastern Ocean; and among others, a Chart of the Red Sea, with a dissertation on its geography and navigation, might be made of singular interest and utility.--E.]
[Footnote 339: See Gagnier's preface to the life of Mahomet by Abu'lfeda; and the preface of Shulten to that of Saladin--Astl. I. 130. d.]
[Footnote 340: Or al Kolzom, which signifies the swallowing up. Here, according to Albufeda in his description of Mesr or Egypt, Pharaoh was drowned, and the town and the sea took this name from that event. Kolzum is doubtless the ancient Clysma, as indicated both by the similarity of names, and the agreement of situation. It was in the road of the pilgrims from Egypt to Mecca, but is now destroyed. Dr Pocock places Clysma on his map about 15 min. south from Suez.--Ast. I. 131. b.]
[Footnote 341: Kus is a town near the Nile, a little way south of Kept, the ancient Koptos; which shews that Kossir must be the ancient Berenice, as formerly observed in a note on the Journal of de Castro.--Astl. I. 131. c.]
[Footnote 342: In this name of Aydhab, the dh is pronounced with a kind of lisp, like the English th in the words the, then, &c. About 1150, in the time of al Edrisi, this was a famous port, and carried on a great trade. Both the king of Bejah or Bajah, a port of Nubia, and the Soldan of Egypt, had officers here to receive the customs, which were divided between these sovereigns. There was a regular ferry here to Jiddah, the port of Mecca, which lies opposite, the passage occupying a day and a night, through a sea full of shoals and rocks. In his description of Egypt, Abulfeda says Aydhab belonged to Egypt, and was frequented by the merchants of Yaman, and by the pilgrims from Egypt to Mecca.--Astl. I. 131. d.]
[Footnote 343: From Aden the coast leading to the Straits of Bab al Mandab runs almost due west, with a slight northern inclination, about 115 statute miles, or 1 deg. 45 min. of longitude to Cape Arah, which with Cape al Mandab from the two sides of the Straits of Mecca or Bab al Mandab, having the island of Prin interposed, considerably nearer to the Arabian than the African shore.--E.]
[Footnote 344: A mountain so called near Sinai, which likewise goes by that name.--Ast. I. 151. h.
--This mountain of al Tur forms the separation between the Gulf of Suez and that of Akkaba, its western extremity forming Cape Mahomed.--E.]
[Footnote 345: These are to be understood as Arabian miles, 56-2/3 to the degree, or each equal to 1-1/4 English miles according to Norwoods measure, 69-1/2 to the degree.--Astl. I. 132. b.
This would only give 80 English miles for the breadth of the Red Sea; whereas, immediately below the junction of the two northern gulfs, it is 104 miles broad, and its greatest breadth for a long way is 208 miles.--E.]
[Footnote 346: [["Table of Situations, from Abulfeda," is here omitted. After the table, the note continues:]]
The longitude is reckoned by Abulfeda from the most western shores on the Atlantic Ocean, at the pillars of Hercules; supposed to be 10 deg. E. of the Fuzair al Khaladat, or the Fortunate Islands.--Ast. I. 134.
These latitudes and longitudes are so exceedingly erroneous as to defy all useful criticism, and are therefore left as in the collection of Astley without any commentary; indeed the whole of this extract from Abulfeda is of no manner of use, except as a curiosity.--E.]
[Footnote 347: From the Portuguese Asia of De Faria, II. 24.]
[Footnote 348: In an account of this expedition of the Portuguese into Abyssinia, by the Catholic Patriarch Juan Bermudez who accompanied them, this difference of the number of men is partly accounted for. According to Bermudez, the force was 400 men, among whom were many gentlemen and persons of note, who carried servants along with them, which increased the number considerably.--E.]
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