Volume 7, Chapter 5 -- Voyages and Travels in Egypt, Syria, Arabia, Persia, and India, by Ludovico Verthema, in 1503: *section index*


Volume 7, Chapter 5, Section 4 -- Observations of the Author during his residence at Mecca.

The famous city of Mecha or Mecca is populous and well built, in a round form, having six thousand houses as well built as those in Rome, some of which have cost three or four thousand pieces of gold. It has no walls, being protected or fortified as it were on all sides by mountains, over one of which, about two furlongs from the city, the road is cut by which we descended into the plain below; but there are three other entries through the mountains. It is under the dominion of a sultan, one of four brethren of the progeny of Mahomet, who is subject to the Soldan of Egypt, but his other three brothers are continually at war with him. On the 18th day of May, descending from the before-mentioned road obliquely into the plain, we came to Mecca by the north side. On the south side of the city there are two mountains very near each other, having a very narrow intervening valley, which is the way leading to Mecca on that side. To the east there is a similar valley between two other mountains, by which is the road to a mountain where they sacrifice to the patriarchs Abraham and Isaac, which hill or mount is ten or twelve miles from Mecca, and is about three stone throws in height, being all of a stone as hard as marble, yet is not marble. On the top of this mount is a temple or mosque, built after their manner, having three entrances. At the foot of the mountain are two great cisterns, which preserve water free from corruption: one of these is reserved for the camels belonging to the caravan of Cairo, and the other for that of Damascus. These cisterns are filled by rain water, which is brought from a great way off. We shall speak afterwards of the sacrifices performed at this mountain, and must now return to Mecca.

On our arrival we found the caravan from Memphis, or Babylon of Egypt, which had arrived eight days before us, coming by a different way, and consisted of 64,000 camels, with a guard of an hundred Mamelukes. This city of Mecca is assuredly cursed of God, for it is situated in a most barren spot, destitute of all manner of fruit or corn, and so burnt up with drought, that you cannot have as much water for twelve pence as will satisfy one person for a whole day. Most part of their provisions are brought from Cairo in Egypt, by the Red Sea, or Mare Erythreum of the ancients, and is landed at the port of Gida, Joddah or Jiddah, which is about forty miles from Mecca. The rest of their provisions are brought from the Happy Arabia, or Arabia Felix, so named from its fruitfulness in comparison with the other two divisions, called Petrea and Deserta, or the Stoney and Desert Arabias. They also get much corn from Ethiopia. At Mecca we found a prodigious multitude of strangers who were peregrines or pilgrims; some from Syria, others from Persia, and others from both the Indies, that is, from India on this side the river Ganges, and also from the farther India beyond that river. During my stay of twenty days at Mecca, I saw a most prodigious number and variety of people, infinitely beyond what I had ever before seen. This vast concourse of strangers of many nations and countries resort thither from various causes, but chiefly for trade, and to obtain pardon of their sins by discharging a vow of pilgrimage.

From India, both on this side and beyond the Ganges, they bring for sale precious stones pearls and spices; and especially from that city of the greater India, which is named Bangella[42] they bring much gossampyne cloth[43] and silk. They receive spices also from Ethiopia[44]; and, in short, this city of Mecca is a most famous and plentiful mart of many rich and valuable commodities. But the main object for which pilgrims resort thither from so many countries and nations, is, to purchase the pardon of their sins. In the middle of the city there is a temple after the manner of the coliseum or amphitheatre of Rome, yet not built of marble or hewn stone, being only of burnt bricks. Like an amphitheatre, it has ninety or an hundred gates, and is vaulted over. It is entered on every side by a descent of twelve steps, and in its porch is the mart for jewels and precious stones, all the walls of the entry being gilt over in a most splendid manner. In the lower part of the temple under the vaults, there is always to be seen a prodigious multitude of men; as there are generally five or six thousand in that place, who deal solely in sweet ointments and perfumes, among which especially is a certain most odoriferous powder, with which dead bodies are embalmed. From this place all manner of delightful perfumes are carried to all the Mahometan countries, for beyond any thing that can be found in the shops of our apothecaries.

On the 23d day of May yearly, the pardons begin to be distributed in the temple, after the following manner: The temple is entirely open in the middle, and in its centre stands a turret about six paces in circumference, and not exceeding the height of a man, which is hung all round with silken tapestry. This turret or cell is entered by a gate of silver, on each side of which are vessels full of precious balsam, which the inhabitants told us was part of the treasure belonging to the sultan of Mecca. At every vault of the turret is fastened a round circle of iron, like the ring of a door[45]. On the day of Pentecost, all men are permitted to visit this holy place. On the 22d of May, a great multitude of people began early in the morning, before day, to walk seven times round the turret, every corner of which they devoutly kissed and frequently handled. About ten or twelve paces from this principal turret is another, which is built like a Christian chapel, having three or four entries; and in the middle is a well seventy cubits deep, the water of which is impregnated with saltpetre. At this well eight men are stationed to draw water for all the multitude. After the pilgrims have seven times walked round the first turret, they come to this one, and touching the mouth or brim of the well, they say these words: "Be it to the honour of God, and may God pardon my sins." Then those who draw water pour three buckets on the heads of every one that stands around the well, washing or wetting them all over, even should their garments be of silk; after which the deluded fools fondly imagine that their sins are forgiven them. It is pretended that the turret first spoken of was the first house that was builded by Abraham; wherefore, while yet all over wet by the drenching at the well, they go to the mountain already mentioned, where the sacrifice is made to Abraham; and after remaining there for two days, they make their sacrifice to the patriarch at the foot of the mountain.

When they intend to sacrifice, the pilgrims who are able to afford it kill some three, some four or more, sheep, even to ten, so that in one sacrifice there are sometimes slain above 3000 sheep; and as they are all slaughtered at sun-rise, the shambles then flow with blood. Shortly afterwards all the carcasses are distributed for God's sake among the poor, of whom I saw there at least to the number of 20,000. These poor people dig many long ditches in the fields round Mecca, where they make fires of camels' dung, at which they roast or seethe the sacrificial flesh which has been distributed to them by the richer pilgrims. In my opinion, these poor people flock to Mecca more to satisfy their hunger, than from motives of devotion. Great quantities of cucumbers are brought here for sale from Arabia Felix, which are bought by those who have money; and as the parings are thrown out from their tents, the half-famished multitude gather these parings from among the mire or sand to satisfy their hunger, and are so greedy of that vile food, that they fight who shall gather most.

On the day after the sacrifice to Abraham, the cadi, who is to these people as the preachers of the word of God among us, ascends to the top of a high mountain, whence he preaches to the people who stand below. He harangued for the space of on hour, principally inculcating that they should bewail their sins with tears and sighs and lamentations, beating their breasts. At one time he exclaimed with a loud voice, "O! Abraham the beloved of God, O! Isaac the chosen of God and his friend, pray to God for the people of the prophet." As these words were spoken, we suddenly heard loud cries and lamentations, and a rumour was spread that an army of 20,000 Arabians was approaching, on which we all fled into the city, even those who were appointed to guard the pilgrims being the first to make their escape. Midway between the mountain of Abraham and the city of Mecca, there is a mean wall, about four cubits broad, where the passengers had strewed the whole way with stones, owing to the following traditionary story: When Abraham was commanded to sacrifice his son Isaac, he directed his son to follow him to the place where he was to execute the divine command; and as Isaac was following after his father, a devil met him in the way near this wall, in the semblance of a fair and friendly person, and asked him whither he went. Isaac answered that he was going to his father, who waited for him. To this the arch-enemy replied, that he had better not go, as his father meant to sacrifice him. But Isaac despising the warnings of the devil, continued his way, that his father might execute the commandments of God respecting him. On this the devil departed from him, but met him again as he went forward, under the semblance of another friendly person, and advised him as before not to go to his father. On this Isaac threw a stone at the devil, and wounded him in the forehead; in remembrance of which traditionary story it is that the people, on passing this way, are accustomed to throw stones at the wall before going to the city. As we went this way, the air was in a manner darkened with prodigious multitudes of stock doves, all, as they pretend, derived from the dove that spoke in the ear of Mahomet, in likeness of the Holy Ghost. These doves are seen in vast numbers in all parts about Mecca, as in the houses, villages, inns, and granaries of corn and rice, and are so tame that they can hardly be driven away. Indeed it is reckoned a capital crime to kill or even take them, and there are certain funds assigned for feeding them at the temple.

Beyond the temple there are certain parks or inclosures, in which there are two unicorns to be seen, called by the Greeks Monocerotae, which are shewn to the people as miracles of nature, and not without good reason, on account of their scarcity and strange appearance. One of these, though much higher than the other, is not unlike a colt of thirty months old, and has a horn in its forehead, growing straight forwards and the length of three cubits. The other is much younger, resembling a colt of one year old, and its horn is only four hand breadths long. These singular animals are of a weasel chesnut colour, having a head like that of a hart, but the neck is not near so long, with a thin mane, hanging all to one side. The legs are thin and slender, like those of a fawn or hind, and the hoofs are cleft much like those of a goat, the outer parts of the hind feet being very full of hair. These animals seemed wild and fierce yet exceedingly comely. They were sent out of Ethiopia by a king of that country, as a rare and precious gift to the sultan of Mecca[46].

It may seem proper to mention here certain things which happened to me at Mecca, in which may be seen the sharpness of wit in case of urgent necessity, which according to the proverb, has no law; for I was driven to the extent of my wits how I might contrive to escape privately from Mecca. One day, while in the market purchasing some things by the direction of our captain, a certain Mameluke knew me to be a Christian, and said to me in his own language inte mename, which is to say, "Whence are you?" To this I answered that I was a Mahometan, but he insisted that I spoke falsely, on which I swore by the head of Mahomet that I really was. Then he desired me to go home along with him, which I willingly did; and when there he began to speak to me in the Italian language, affirming that he was quite certain I was not a Mahometan. He told me that he had been some time in Genoa and Venice, and mentioned many circumstances which convinced me that he spoke truth. On this I freely confessed myself a Roman, but declared that I had become a Mahometan at Babylon in Egypt, and had been there enrolled among the Mamelukes. He seemed much pleased as this, and treated me honourably. Being very desirous of proceeding farther in my travels, I asked him if this city of Mecca was as famous as was reported in the world, and where the vast abundance of pearls, precious stones, spices, and other rich merchandise was to be seen, which was generally believed to be in that city, wishing to know the reason why these things were not now brought there as in former times; but to avoid all suspicion, I durst not make any mention of the dominion acquired by the king of Portugal over the Indian ocean and the gulfs of Persia and Mecca.

Then did he shew the cause why this mart of Mecca was not so much frequented as it used to be, assigning the whole blame to the King of Portugal. Thereupon I purposely detracted from the fame of that king, lest the Mahometan might suspect me of rejoicing that the Christians resorted to India for trade. Finding me a professed enemy to the Christians, he conceived a great esteem for me, and gave me a great deal of information. Then said I to him in the language of Mahomet Menaba menalhabi, or "I pray you to aid me." He asked me in what circumstance I wished his assistance; upon which I told him that I wished secretly to depart from Mecca, assuring him under the most sacred oaths that I meant to visit those kings who were the greatest enemies to the Christians, and that I possessed the knowledge of certain estimable secrets, which if known to those kings would certainly occasion them to send for me from Mecca. He requested to know what these secrets were, on which I informed him that I was thoroughly versant in the construction of all manner of guns and artillery. He then praised Mahomet for having directed me to these parts, as I might do infinite service to the true believers; and he agreed to allow me to remain secretly in his house along with his wife.

Having thus cemented a friendship with the Mahometan, he requested of me to obtain permission from the captain of our caravan that he might lead fifteen camels from Mecca loaded with spices under his name, by which means he might evade the duties, as thirty gold seraphines are usually paid to the sultan of Mecca for the custom of such a number of camels. I gave him great hopes that his request might be complied with, even if he asked for an hundred camels, as I alleged he was entitled to the privilege as being a Mameluke. Then finding him in excellent good humour, I again urged my desire of being concealed in his house; and having entirely gained his confidence, he gave me many instructions for the prosecution of my intended journey, and counselled me to repair to the court of the king of Decham, or Deccan, a realm in the greater India; of which I shall speak hereafter. Wherefore, on the day before the caravan of Damascus was to depart from Mecca, he concealed me in the most secret part of his house; and next morning early the trumpeter of our caravan of Syria gave warning to all the Mamelukes to prepare themselves and their horses for the immediate prosecution of the journey, on pain of death to all who should neglect the order.

Upon hearing this proclamation and penalty I was greatly troubled in mind; yet committing myself by earnest prayer to the merciful protection of God, I entreated the Mameluke's wife not to betray me. On the Tuesday following, our caravan departed from Mecca and the Mameluke went along with it, but I remained concealed in his house. Before his departure, the friendly Mameluke gave orders to his wife that she should procure me the means of going along with the pilgrims who were to depart from Zide or Juddah the port of Mecca for India. This port of Juddah is 40 miles from Mecca. I cannot well express the kindness of the Mameluke's wife to me during the time I lay hid in her house; and what contributed mainly to my good entertainment was that a beautiful young maid who dwelt in the house, being niece to the Mameluke, was in love with me; but at that time I was so environed with troubles and fear of danger, that the passion of love was almost extinct in my bosom, yet I kept myself in her favour by kind words and fair promises.

On the Friday, three days after the departure of the caravan of Syria, I departed about noon from Mecca along with the caravan of India; and about midnight we came to an Arabian village, where we rested all the rest of that night and the next day till noon. From thence continuing our journey, we arrived at Juddah on the second night of our journey. The city of Juddah has no walls, but the houses are well built, resembling those in the Italian cities. At this place there is great abundance of all kinds of merchandise, being in a manner the resort of all nations, except that it is held unlawful for Jews or Christians to come there. As soon as I entered Juddah I went to the mosque, where I saw a prodigious number of poor people, not less than 25,000, who were attending upon the different pilots, that they might go back to their countries. Here I suffered much trouble and affliction, being constrained to hide myself among these poor wretches and to feign myself sick, that no one might be too inquisitive about who I was, whence I came, or whether I was going.

The city of Juddah is under the dominion of the Soldan of Babylon or Cairo, the Sultan of Mecca being his brother and his subject. The inhabitants are all Mahometans; the soil around the town is very unfruitful, as it wants water; yet this town, which stands on the shore of the Red Sea, enjoys abundance of all necessaries which are brought from Egypt, Arabia Felix, and various other places. The heat is so excessive that the people are in a manner dried up, and there is generally great sickness among the inhabitants. This city contains about 500 houses. After sojourning here for fifteen days, I at length agreed for a certain sum with a pilot or ship-master, who engaged to convey me to Persia. At this time there lay at anchor in the haven of Mecca near an hundred brigantines and foists, with many barks and boats of various kinds, some with oars and some with sails.

Three days after I had agreed for my passage, we hoisted sail and began our voyage down the Red Sea, called by the ancients Mare erythraeum[47]. It is well known to learned men that this sea is not red, as its name implies and as some have imagined, for it has the same colour with other seas. We continued our voyage till the going down of the sun, for this sea cannot be navigated during the night, wherefore navigators only sail in the day and always come to anchor every night. This is owing as they say, to the many dangerous sands, rocks and shelves, which require the ships way to be guided with great care and diligent outlook from the top castle, that these dangerous places may be seen and avoided: But after coming to the island of Chameran or Kamaran, the navigation may be continued with greater safety and freedom.

[Footnote 42: This must necessarily be the kingdom or province of Bengal.--E.]
[Footnote 43: Fine cottons or muslins are here evidently meant.--E.]
[Footnote 44: This is inexplicable, as Ethiopia possesses no spices, unless we may suppose the author to mean here the sea of Ethiopia or Red Sea, as the track by which spices were brought to Mecca.--E.]
[Footnote 45: This description is altogether unintelligible.--E.]
[Footnote 46: The unicorn is an unknown, or rather a fabulous animal, and the most charitable interpretation that can be made of the description in the text is that Verthema was mistaken, or that one of the horns of some species of antelope had either been removed, or was wanting by a lusus naturae. The only real Monoceros, or one-horned animal, known to naturalists, is the rhinoceros monoceros, or one-horned rhinoceros, which bears its horn on the nose, a little way above the muzzle, not on the forehead.--E.]
[Footnote 47: The Mare erythraeum of the ancients was of much more extended dimensions, comprising all the sea of India from Arabia on the west to Guzerat and the Concan on the east, with the coasts of Persia and Scindetic India on the north; of which sea the Red Sea and the Persian gulfs were considered branches or deep bays.--E.]


Volume 7, Chapter 5, Section 5 -- Adventures of the Author in various parts of Arabia Felix, or Yemen.

After six days sailing from Juddah we came to a city named Gezan, which is well built and has a commodious port, in which we found about 45 foists and brigantines belonging to different countries. This city is close to the sea, and stands in a fertile district resembling Italy, having plenty of pomegranates, quinces, peaches, Assyrian apples, pepons(?), melons, oranges, gourds, and various other fruits, also many of the finest roses and other flowers that can be conceived, so that it seemed an earthly paradise. It has also abundance of flesh, with wheat and barley, and a grain like white millet or hirse, which they call dora, of which they make a very excellent bread. The prince of this town and all his subjects are Mahometans, most of whom go nearly naked.

After sailing five days from Gezan, having always the coast on our left hand, we came in sight of some habitations where 14 of us went on shore in hopes of procuring some provisions from the inhabitants; but instead of giving us victuals they threw stones at us from slings, so that we were constrained to fight them in our own defence. There were about 100 of these inhospitable natives, who had no other weapons except slings, and yet fought us for an hour; but 24 of them being slain the rest fled, and we brought away from their houses some poultry and calves, which we found very good. Soon afterwards the natives returned, being reinforced by others to the number of five or six hundred; but we departed with our prey and reimbarked.

Continuing our voyage, we arrived on the same day at an island named Kamaran, which is ten miles in circuit. This island has a town of two hundred houses, inhabited by Mahometans, and has abundance of flesh and fresh water, and the fairest salt I ever saw. The port of Kamaran is eight miles from the Arabian coast, and is subject to the sultan of Amanian or Yaman, a kingdom of Arabia Felix. Having remained here two days, we again made sail for the mouth of the Red Sea, where we arrived in other two days. From Kamaran to the mouth of the Red Sea the navigation is safe both night and day; but from Juddah to Kamsran the Red Sea can only be navigated by day, as already stated, on account of shoals and rocks. On coming to the mouth of the Red Sea, we seemed quite inclosed, as the strait is very narrow, being only three miles across. On the right hand, or Ethiopian coast, the shore of the continent is about ten paces in height, and seems a rude uncultivated soil; and on the left hand, or coast of Arabia, there rises a very high rocky hill. In the middle of the strait is a small uninhabited island called Bebmendo[48], and those who sail from the Red Sea towards Zeyla, leave this island on the left hand. Such, on the contrary, as go for Aden, must keep the north-eastern passage, leaving this island on the right.

We sailed for Bab-al-Mondub to Aden, in two days and a half, always having the land of Arabia in sight on our left. I do not remember to have seen any city better fortified than Aden. It stands on a tolerably level plain, having walls on two sides; all the rest being inclosed by mountains, on which there are five fortresses. This city contains 6000 houses, and only a stone's throw from the city there is a mountain having a castle on its summit, the shipping being anchored at the foot of the mountain. Aden is an excellent city, and the chief place in all Arabia Felix, of which it is the principal mart, to which merchants resort from India, Ethiopia, Persia, and the Red Sea; but owing to the intolerable heat during the day, the whole business of buying and selling takes place at night, beginning two hours after sunset. As soon as our brigantines came to anchor in the haven, the customers and searchers came off, demanding what we were, whence we came, what commodities we had on board, and how many men were in each vessel? After being satisfied on these heads they took away our mast, sails, and other tackle, that we might not depart without paying the customs.

The day after our arrival at Aden, the Mahometans took me prisoner, and put shackles on my legs in consequence of an idolater calling after me that I was a Christian dog[49]. Upon this the Mahometans laid hold of me, and carried me before the lieutenant of the sultan, who assembled his council, to consult with them if I should be put to death as a Christian spy. The sultan happened to be absent from the city, and as the lieutenant had not hitherto adjudged any one to death, he did not think fit to give sentence against me till my case were reported to the sultan. By this means I escaped the present danger, and remained in prison 55 days, with an iron of eighteen pounds weight fastened to my legs. On the second day of my confinement, many Mahometans went in great rage to the lieutenant to demand that I should be put to death as a Portuguese spy. Only a few days before, these men had difficultly escaped from the hands of the Portuguese by swimming, with the loss of their foists and barks, and therefore greatly desired to be revenged of the Christians, outrageously affirming that I was a Portuguese and a spy. But God assisted me, for the master of the prison made fast its gates, that these outrageous men might not offer me violence. At the end of fifty-five days, the sultan sent for me into his presence; so I was placed on the back of a camel with my shackles, and at the end of eight days journey I was brought to the city of Rhada, where the sultan then resided, and where he had assembled an army of 30,000 men to make war upon the sultan of Sanaa, a fair and populous city about three days journey from Rhada, situated partly on the slope of a hill and partly in a plain.

When I was brought before the sultan, he asked me what I was: on which I answered that I was a Roman, and had professed myself a Mahometan and Mameluke at Babylon in Egypt, or Cairo. That from motives of religion, and in discharge of a vow, I had made the pilgrimage to Medinathalnabi, to see the body of the Nabi or holy prophet, which was said to be buried there; and that having heard in all the countries and cities through which I passed, of the greatness, wisdom, and virtue of the sultan of Rhada, I had continued my travels to his dominions from an anxious desire to see his face, and I now gave thanks to God and his prophet that I had attained my wish, trusting that his wisdom and justice would see that I was no Christian spy, but a true Mahometan, and his devoted slave. The sultan then commanded me to say Leila illala Mahumet resullah, which words I could never well pronounce, either that it so pleased God, or because I durst not, from some fear or scruple of conscience. Wherefore, seeing me silent, the sultan committed me again to prison, commanding that I should be carefully watched by sixteen men of the city, every day four in their turns. After this, for the space of three months, I never enjoyed the sight of the heavens, being every day allowed a loaf of millet bread, so very small that seven of them would hardly have satisfied my hunger for one day, yet I would have thought myself happy if I could have had my fill of water.

Three days after I was committed to prison, the sultan marched with his army to besiege the city of Sanaa, having, as I said before, 30,000 footmen, besides 3000 horsemen, born of Christian parents, who were black like the Ethiopians, and had been brought while young from the kingdom of Prester John, called in Latin Presbyter Johannes, or rather Preciosus Johannes. These Christian Ethiopians are also called Abyssinians, and are brought up in the discipline of war like the Mamelukes and Janisaries of the Turks, and are held in high estimation by this sultan for the guard of his own person. They have high pay, and are in number four-score thousand[50]. Their only dress is a sindon or cloak, out of which they put forth one arm. In war they use round targets of buffaloe hide, strengthened with some light bars of iron, having a wooden handle, and short broad-swords. At other times they use vestures of linen of divers colours, also of gossampine or xylon, otherwise named bomasine[51]. In war every man carries a sling, whence he casts stones, after having whirled them frequently round his head. When they come to forty or fifty years of age, they wreath their hair into the form of horns like those of goats. When the army proceeds to the wars, it is followed by 5000 camels, all laden with ropes of bombasine[52].

Hard by the prison to which I was committed, there was a long court or entry in the manner of a cloister, where sometimes I and other prisoners were permitted to walk, and which was overlooked by a part of the sultan's palace. It happened that one of the sultan's wives remained in the palace, having twelve young maidens to wait upon her, who were all very comely, though inclining to black. By their favour I was much aided, after the following manner. There were two other men confined alone with me in the same prison, and it was agreed among us that one of us should counterfeit madness, by which we might derive some advantage. Accordingly it fell to my lot to assume the appearance of madness, which made greatly for my purpose, as they consider mad men to be holy, and they therefore allowed me to go much more at large than before, until such time as the hermits might determine whether I were holy mad, or raging mad, as shall be shewn hereafter. But the first three days of my assumed madness wearied me so much, that I was never so tired with labour, or grieved with pain; for the boys and vile people used to run after me, sometimes to the number of forty or fifty, calling me a mad man, and throwing stones at me, which usage I sometimes repaid in their own coin. To give the better colour to my madness, I always carried some stones in the lap of my shirt, as I had no other clothing whatever.

The queen hearing of my madness, used oftentimes to look from her windows to see me, more instigated by a secret love for my person than the pleasure she derived from my mad pranks, as afterwards appeared. One time, when some of the natives played the knave with me in view of the queen, whose secret favour towards me I began to perceive, I threw off my shirt, and went to a place near the windows, where the queen might see me all naked, which I perceived gave her great pleasure, as she always contrived some device to prevent me going out of her sight, and would sometimes spend almost the whole day in looking at me. In the mean time she often sent me secretly abundance of good meat by her maids; and when she saw the boys or others doing me harm or vexing me, she called to me to kill them, reviling them also as dogs and beasts.

There was a great fat sheep that was fed in the court of the palace, of that kind whereof the tail only will sometimes weigh eleven or twelve pounds. Under colour of my madness, I one day laid hold of this sheep, repeating Leila illala Mahumet resullah, the words which the Sultan desired me to repeat in his presence, by way of proof whether I was a Mahometan or professed Mameluke. As the sheep gave no answer, I asked him whether he were Mahometan, Jew, or Christian. And willing to make him a Mahometan, I repeated the formula as before, which signifies, "There is but one God, and Mahomet is his prophet," being the words the Mahometans rehearse as their profession of faith. As the sheep answered never a word to all I could say, I at length broke his leg with staff. The queen took much delight in these my mad tricks, and commanded the carcass of this sheep to be given me, and I never eat meat with more relish or better appetite. Three days afterwards I killed an ass that used to bring water to the palace, because he would not say these words and be a Mahometan. One day I handled a Jew so very roughly, that I had near killed him. On another occasion I threw many stones at a person who called me a Christian clog, but he threw them back at me with such vengeance, that he hurt me sore, on which I returned to my prison, of which I barricadoed the door with stones, and lay there for two days, in great pain, without meat or drink, so that the queen and others thought me dead, but the door was opened by command of the queen. Those Arabian dogs used to deride me, giving me stones in place of bread, and pieces of white marble, pretending that they were lumps of sugar, and others gave me bunches of grapes all full of sand. That they might not think I counterfeited madness, I used to eat the grapes sand and all.

When it was rumoured abroad that I had lived two days and nights without meat or drink, some began to believe that I was a holy madman, while others supposed me to be stark mad; wherefore they consulted to send for certain men who dwell in the mountain, who lead a contemplative life, and are esteemed holy as we do hermits. When they came to give their judgment concerning me, and were debating among themselves for upwards of an hour on my case, I pissed in my hands, and threw the water in their faces, on which they agreed I was no saint, but a mere madman. The queen saw all this from her window, and laughed heartily at it among her maids, saying, "By the head of Mahomet this is a good man." Next morning I happened to find the man asleep who had so sore hurt me with stones, and taking him by the hair of his head with both hands, I so punched him in the stomach, and on the face with my knees, that I left him all bloody and half dead. The queen happening to see me, she called out, "Kill the beast, kill the dog." Upon which he ran away and came no more nigh me.

When the president of the city heard that the queen took so much delight in my mad frolics, he gave orders that I might go at liberty about the palace, only wearing my shackles, and that I should be immured every night in another prison in the lower part of the palace. After I had remained in this manner for twenty days, the queen took it into her head to carry me along with her a hunting; but on my return, I feigned myself sick from fatigue, and continued in my cell for eight days, the queen sending every day to inquire how I was. After this I took an opportunity to tell the queen that I had vowed to God and Mahomet to visit a certain holy person at Aden, and begged her permission to perform my vow. She consented to this, and immediately gave orders that a camel and 25 gold seraphins should be given me. Accordingly I immediately set off on my journey, and came to Aden at the end of eight days, when I visited the man who was reputed as a saint, merely because he had always lived in great poverty, and without the company of women. There are many such in those parts, but doubtless they lose their labour, not being in the faith of Christ. Having thus performed my vow, I pretended to have recovered my health by miracle performed by this holy person, of which I sent notice to the queen, desiring permission to visit certain other holy persons in that country who had great reputation. I contrived these excuses because the fleet for India was not to depart from Aden for the space of a month. I took the opportunity to agree secretly with the captain of a ship to carry me to India, making him many fair promises of reward. He told me that he did not mean to go to India till after he had gone first to Persia, and to this arrangement I agreed.

To fill up the time, I mounted my camel and went a journey of 25 miles, to a certain populous city named Lagi, seated in a great plain, in which are plenty of olives and corn, with many cattle, but no vines, and very little wood. The inhabitants are a gross and barbarous people of the vagabond Arabs, and very poor. Going a days journey from thence, I came to another city named Aiaz, which is built on two hills, having a large plain between them, in which is a noted fountain, where various nations resort as to a famous mart. The inhabitants are Mahometans, yet greatly differ in opinion respecting their religion. All those who inhabit the northern mount, maintain the faith of Mahomet and his successors, of whom I have formerly spoken; but those of the south mountain affirm that faith ought only to be given to Mahomet and Ali, declaring the others to have been false prophets. The country about Aiaz produces goodly fruits of various kinds, among which are vines, together with silk and cotton; and the city has great trade in spices and other commodities. On the top of both of the hills there are strong fortresses, and two days journey from thence is the city of Dante, on the top of a very high mountain, well fortified both by art and nature.

Departing from Dante, I came in two days' journey to the city of Almacharam, on the top of a very high mountain of very difficult ascent, by a way so narrow that only two men are able to pass each other. On the top of this mountain is a plain of wonderful size, and very fertile, which produces abundance of everything necessary to the use of man. It has also plenty of water, insomuch that at one fountain only there is sufficient water to supply a hundred thousand men. The Sultan is said to have been born in this city, and to keep his treasure here, which is so large as to be a sufficient load for an hundred camels all in gold. Here also always resides one of his wives. The air of this place is remarkably temperate and healthy, and the inhabitants are inclining to white. Two days journey from Almacharam is the city of Reame, containing 2000 houses. The inhabitants are black, and are much addicted to commerce. The country around is fertile in all things, except wood. On one side of this city is a mountain, on which is a strong fortress. At this place I saw a kind of sheep without horns, whose tails weigh forty or fifty pounds. The grapes of this district have no stones or grains, and are remarkably sweet and delicate, as are all the other fruits, which are in great abundance and variety. This place is very temperate and healthful, as may be conceived by the long life of its inhabitants, for I have conversed with many of them that had passed the age of an hundred and twenty-five years, and were still vigorous and fresh-coloured. They go almost naked, wearing only shirts, or other thin and loose raiment like mantles, having one arm bare. Almost all the Arabs wreath their hair in the shape of horns, which they think gives them a comely appearance.

Departing from thence, I came in three days journey to the city of Sanaa or Zenan, upon the top of a very high mountain, and very strong both by art and nature. The Sultan had besieged this place for three months with a great army, but was unable to prevail against it by force, yet it was afterwards yielded on composition [[=through negotiation]]. The walls of this city are eighteen cubits high and twenty in thickness, insomuch that eight camels may march abreast upon them. The region in which it stands is very fertile, and resembles Italy, having abundance of water. The city contains four thousand houses, all well built, and in no respect inferior to those in Italy, but the city is so large in circuit, that fields, gardens, and meadows are contained within the walls. This city was governed by a Sultan who had twelve sons, one of whom, named Mahomet, was four cubits high, and very strong, of a complexion resembling ashes, and from some natural madness or grossly tyrannical disposition he delighted in human flesh, so that he used to kill men secretly to feed upon them.

Three days journey from thence I came to a city upon a mountain, named Taessa, well built, and abounding in all things necessary to man, and particularly celebrated for roses, of which the inhabitants make rose water. This is an ancient city, having many good houses, and still contains several monuments of antiquity. Its temple or chief mosque is built much like the church of Sancta Maria Rotunda at Rome. The inhabitants are of an ash-colour, inclining to black, and dress much like those already mentioned. Many merchants resort thither for trade. Three days journey from thence I came to another city named Zioith or Zabid, half a days journey from the Red Sea. This is a well built city, abounding in many good things, particularly in excellent white sugar and various kinds of delicious fruits. It is situated in a very large plain between two mountains, and has no walls, but is one of the principal marts for all sorts of spices, and various other merchandise. One day's journey from thence I came to Damar, which is situated in a fruitful soil, and carries on considerable trade. All these cities are subject to a Sultan of Arabia Felix, who is called Sechamir, or the holy prince; Secha signifying holy, and Amir prince, in the Arabian language. He is so named, because he abhors to shed men's blood. While I was there in prison, he nourished sixteen thousand poor, including captives in prison, who had been condemned to death, and he had as many black slaves in his palace.

Departing from Damar I returned in three days' journey to Aden, passing in the mid-way by an exceedingly large and high mountain, on which there are many wild beasts, and in particular the whole mountain is as it were covered with monkeys. There are also many lions, so that it is by no means safe to travel that way unless in large companies of at least a hundred men. I passed this way along with a numerous company, yet we were in much danger from the lions and other wild beasts which followed us, insomuch that we were forced to fight them with darts, slings, and arrows, using also the aid of dogs, and after all we escaped with some difficulty. On arriving at Aden I feigned myself sick, lurking in the mosque all day, and going only out under night to speak with the pilot of the ship formerly mentioned, from whom I obtained a bark in which I secretly left Aden.

We at length began our voyage for Persia, to which we were to go in the first place, our bark being laden with rubricke, a certain red earth used for dying cloth, with which fifteen or twenty vessels are yearly freighted from Arabia Felix. After having sailed six days on our voyage, a sudden tempest of contrary wind drove us back again and forced us to the coast of Ethiopia, where we took shelter in the port of Zeyla. We remained here five days to see the city, and to wait till the tempest was over and the sea become quiet. The city of Zeyla is a famous mart for many commodities, and has marvellous abundance of gold and ivory, and a prodigious number of black slaves, which are procured by the Mahometan or Moorish inhabitants, by means of war, from Ethiopia in the country of Prester John, the Christian king of the Jacobins or Abyssinians. These slaves are carried hence into Persia, Arabia Felix, Cairo, and Mecca. In this city justice and good laws are observed. The soil produces wheat and other convenient things, as oil which is not procured from olives but from something else that I do not know. It has likewise plenty of honey and wax, and abundance of animals for food, among which are sheep having tails of sixteen pounds weight, very fat and good; their head and neck black, and all the rest of their bodies white. There are also sheep all over white, whose tails are a cubit long, and hang down like a large cluster of grapes, with great flaps of skin hanging from their throats. The bulls and cows likewise have dewlaps hanging down almost to the ground. There are also certain kine [[=cattle]] having horns like to those of harts, which are very wild, and when taken are given to the sultan of the city as a gift worthy of a prince. I also saw other kine of a bright red colour, having only one horn in the midst of the forehead, about a span long, bending backwards, like the horn of the unicorn. The walls of this city are greatly decayed, and the haven bad and unsafe, yet it is resorted to by vast numbers of merchants. The sultan of Zeyla is a Mahometan, and has a numerous army both of horse and foot. The people, who are much addicted to war, are of a dark ash-colour inclining to black, and wear loose vestments like those spoken of in Arabia. After the weather had become calm, we again put to sea, and soon afterwards arrived at an island on the coast of Ethiopia named Barbora, which is under the rule of a Mahometan prince. It is a small island, but fertile and well peopled, its principal riches consisting in herds of cattle, so that flesh is to be had in great plenty. We remained here only one day, and sailing thence went to Persia.

[Footnote 48: This word is an obvious corruption of Bab-el-Mondub, the Arabic name of the straits, formerly explained as signifying the gate or passage of lamentation. The island in question is named Prin.--E.]
[Footnote 49: According to the monk Picade, Christians are found in all regions except Arabia and Egypt, where they are most hated.--Eden.]
[Footnote 50: This is a ridiculous exaggeration, or blunder in transcription, and may more readily be limited to four thousand.--E.]
[Footnote 51: These terms unquestionably refer to cotton cloth. Perhaps we ought to read gossamopine of Xylon, meaning cotton cloth from Ceylon.--E.]
[Footnote 52: The use of this enormous quantity of cotton ropes is unintelligible. Perhaps the author only meant to express that the packs or bales on the camels were secured by such ropes.--E.]


Volume 7, Chapter 5, Section 6 -- Observations of the Author relative to some parts of Persia.

When we had sailed twelve days we came to a city named Divobanderrumi[53], which name signifies the holy port of the Rumes or Turks. This place is only a little way from the Continent, and when the tides rise high it is an island environed on every side with water, but at ebb tides the passage between it and the land is dry. This is a great mart of commerce, and is governed by a person named Menacheas, being subject to the sultan of Cambaia. It is well fortified with good walls, and defended by a numerous artillery. The barks and brigantines used at this place are smaller than ours of Italy. Departing thence we came in three days to Zoar[54], which also is a well frequented mart in a fertile country inhabited by Mahometans. Near this place are two other good cities and ports named Gieulfar and Meschet or Maskat.

Proceeding on our voyage we came to the fair city of Ormuz or Armusium, second to none in excellence of situation, and abundance of pearls. It stands in an island twelve miles from the Continent, being in itself very scarce of water and corn, so that all things required for the sustenance of the inhabitants are brought from other places. At the distance of three days sail from thence those mussels are procured which produce the fairest and largest pearls. There are certain people who gain their living by fishing for these mussels in the following manner: going in small boats to that part of the sea where these are found, they cast a large stone into the sea on each side of the boat fastened to strong ropes, by which they fix their boat steadily in one place like a ship at anchor. Then another stone with a cord fastened to it is cast into the sea, and a man having a sack hung upon his shoulder both before and behind, and a stone hung to his feet, leaps into the water, and immediately sinks to the bottom to the depth of 15 paces or more, where he remains gathering the pearl muscles and putting them into his sack. He then casts off the stone that is tied to his feet and comes up by means of the rope. At Ormuz there are sometimes seen almost three hundred ships and vessels of various sorts at one time, which come from many different places and countries. The sultan of the city is a Mahometan. There are not less than four hundred merchants and factors continually residing here for the sake of trade in silks, pearls, precious stones, spices, and the like. The principal article of their sustenance at this place is rice.

Departing from Ormuz I went into Persia, and after ten days journey I came to Eri[55], a city in Chorazani, which also we may name Flaminia. This region is fertile, and abounds in all good things, particularly in silk, so that one might purchase enough in one day to load 3000 camels. Owing to the fertility of this country corn is always cheap. Rhubarb is in such abundance that six of our pounds of twelve ounces each may be bought for one gold crown. This city, in which dwells the king of that region, contains about seven thousand houses, all inhabited by Mahometans. In twenty days' journey from thence, I noticed that the inland parts of Persia are well inhabited and have many good towns and villages. In this journey I came to a great river called by the inhabitants Eufra, which I verily believe to be the Euphrates, both from the resemblance of names and from its great size. Continuing my journey along this river by the left hand, I came in three days journey to another city named Schyra[56], subject to a prince who is a Persian Mahometan, and is independent of any other prince. Here are found all sorts of precious stones, especially that called Eranon, which defends men against witchcraft, madness, and fearfulness proceeding from melancholy. It is the stone commonly called Turquoise, which is brought in great abundance from a city named Balascam, where also great plenty of Castoreum is procured and various kinds of colours. The reason why so very little true Castoreum is found among us is because it is adulterated by the Persians before it comes to our hands[57]. The way to prove true Castoreum is by smelling, and if genuine and unadulterated it makes the nose bleed, as I saw proved on four persons in succession. When genuine and unadulterated, Castoreum will preserve its flavour for ten years. The Persians are a courteous and gentle people, liberal and generous towards each other, and kind to strangers, as I found by experience. While here, I met with a Persian merchant to whom I was known in the year before when at Mecca. This man was born in the city of Eri in Chorozani, and as soon as he saw me he knew me again, and asked by what fortune I had come into that country. To this I answered, "that I had come thither from a great desire to see the world." "Praised be God, said he, that I have now found a companion of the same mind with myself." He exhorted me not to depart from him, and that I should accompany him in his journeys, as he meant to go through the chief parts of the world.

I accordingly remained with him for fifteen days in a city named Squilaz, whence we went in the first place to a city named Saint Bragant[58], which is larger than Babylon of Egypt and is subject to a Mahometan prince, who is said to be able to take the field when occasion requires with 60,000 horsemen. This I say only from the information of others, as we could not safely pass farther in that direction, by reason of the great wars carried on by the Sophy against those Mahometans who follow the sect of Omar, who are abhorred by the Persians as heretics and misbelievers, while they are of the sect of Ali which they consider as the most perfect and true religion. At this place my Persian friend, as a proof of his unfeigned friendship, offered to give me in marriage his niece named Samis, which in their language signifies the Sun, which name she well deserved for her singular beauty. As we could not travel any farther by reason of the wars, we returned to the city of Eri, where he entertained me most honourably in his house, and showing me his niece desired that she might immediately become my wife. Being otherwise minded, yet not willing that I should appear to despise so friendly an offer, I thanked him for his goodness, yet begged the match might be delayed to a more convenient time. Departing soon afterwards from Eri, we came in eight days journey to Ormuz, where we took shipping for India.

[Footnote 53: From the context, this place appears to have been on that part of the oceanic coast of Arabia called the kingdom of Maskat, towards Cape Ras-al-gat and the entrance to the Persian gulf. The name seems compounded of these words Div or Diu, an island, Bander a port, and Rumi the term in the east for the Turks as successors of the Romans. It is said in the text to have been subject to the sultan of Cambaia, but was more probably tributary to the king or sultan of Ormuz.--E.]
[Footnote 54: In the text of Hakluyt this place is called Goa, assuredly by mistake, as it immediately afterwards appears to have been in the neighbourhood of Maskat, and in the direct voyage between Aden and Ormus, by creeping along the coast from port to port.--E.]
[Footnote 55: In the rambling journey of Verthema, we are often as here unable to discover the meaning of his strangely corrupted names. Chorazani or Chorassan is in the very north of Persia, at a vast distance from Ormuz, and he pays no attention to the particulars of his ten days journey which could not have been less than 400 miles. We are almost tempted to suspect the author of romancing.--E.]
[Footnote 56: Supposing that the place in the text may possibly mean Shiras, the author makes a wonderful skip in three days from the Euphrates to at least 230 miles distance--E.]
[Footnote 57: What is named Castoreum in the text was probably musk, yet Russia castor might in those days have come along with rhubarb through Persia.--E.]
[Footnote 58: Of Squilaz and Saint Bragant it is impossible to make anything, even by conjecture--E.]


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