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For JANUARY, 1815.
ART. I. Mr. Salt's Voyage to Abyssinia. [Article concluded from p. 352. of the Review for December.] IN our last number, we anchored with the author of this work
in the bay of Amphila, where the first intelligence which greeted him was of as unpromising a nature, with
reference to the ulterior objects of his expedition, as he could readily imagine. We must previously state that, having waited at Mocha till November for the return of his messenger without hearing any tidings of him, Mr. Salt had determined to proceed at all hazards; and he had been induced to fix on this bay as the point from which he would commence his inland-journey, in preference to the ordinary route from Massowa, by the decided opinion of Captain Rudland, joined to his own experience of the difficulties attending the latter plan of operations. He was now informed that the gelve' which he had dispatched from Mocha still remained at Amphila; that Yunus was dead, having, as it was generally reported, been poisoned ; and that the messenger had failed in obtaining an intercourse with the Ras, owing to the interference of the Nayib of Massowa; who had sent down two armed dows to attempt the seizure of Yunus's boat, and to prevent the English from opening a communication with Abyssinia by the way of Amphila. This intelligence was confirmed on the first interview with Hadjee Ally, the messenger ; who had in the interval procured a copy of the Nayib's circular letter to the land of the Dumhoeta, (meaning, to the chieftains of the Bedowee tribes in the neighbourhood of Amphila,) by which the treachery of that potentate was made fully apparent.
Though highly important with the view of ascertaining the best mode of communication with the country, nothing can be more uninteresting to the general reader than the detail of those petty acts of violence, duplicity, and extortion, by which the dealings of the Mohammedan tribes on the western coast of the Red Sea have been immemorially distinguished ; and the narrative of Mr. Salt's operations in Amphila Bay is of this description, though interspersed with occasional anecdotes and Vol. LXXVI.
traits of character, which cannot well be detached from their places. A native chief undertook, notwithstanding the mandate of the Nayib, to convey to Mr. Pearce, at Antalo, the intelligence of Mr. Salt's arrival, and of his plans, with proposals for the Ras's co-operation : but the letters which that brave English seaman sent in reply, and which are highly characteristic of the simplicity, firmness, and strong natural sense of the writer, earnestly dissuaded Mr. S. from his projected enterprise, and recommended him to proceed by the old route of Massowa, notwithstanding the conduct of the Nayib, The intelligence of the removal of the Aga at that place, whose arbitrary acts (in conjunction with the Nayib) had been disclaimed by his successor, seems finally to have determined him: but, in order to do strict justice, it is proper to sum up in Mr. Salt's own words the public motives which, on the most mature deliberation, influenced him thus to resign the hopes which he had conceived of penetrating to the capital of Tigré by a route not yet explored by him.
I had now secured one important point, the means of again communicating with the Ras, and of giving him early information of my plans, though I own it was with great hesitation that I finally resolved upon the route it might be advisable to pursue. During my stay I had acquired sufficient insight into the character of these tribes to feel assured that I might have been enabled by great management, though with considerable risk, to accomplish my journey through their country; yet, could I even have effected it, such strong objections remained against the plan, that it appeared to me, notwithstanding any additional expence, delay, or hazard which might be incurred, that the road by Massowa ought decidedly to be preferred. Mr. Pearce's letters and my own experience had taught me, that during the unsettled state of the tribes then existing, no trade or regular intercourse could be carried on through Madir ; whereas an established intercourse was carried on with Massowa, which, though attended with occasional difficulties, and obstructed by many shameful exactions, had not for many years been actually interrupted. My passing from Madir would probably have shut up this channel for ever; the enmity of the Sirdar and Nayib would have been impla. cable, and it appeared not unlikely that the tribes on the coast might, on our account, have been precipitated into a war, which would have been equally destructive to themselves and to our interests; and all these consequences must have taken place without my being able to ascertain the real situation of affairs at Massowa. On the contrary, by going to that place, I should be enabled at once to face all difficulties, and I saw no reason to despair, notwithstanding the hostile letter from its chiefs, of bringing them to a satisfactory termination.'
The following is the traveller's account of the present geographical state of this district of the coast and its inhabitants :
The country round Amphila forms part of an extensive tract formerly termed the kingdom of Dankali
, the sovereign of which was engaged at an early period in the wars carried on by the Kings of Hurrur and Adaiel against Abyssinia. The inhabitants are nearly allied by their habits and language to the Adaiel, and their respective territories lay contiguous till the great inroad of the Galla, who, by advancing to the coast in the neighbourhood of A sab, completely separated them. Both the district and the people inhabiting it still retain the name of Dankali, but the latter is now subdivided into a great number of petty tribes, each ruled by its own peculiar chief. The tribe of greatest consequence is that of the Dumhoeta, who hold possession of the coast from Béloul to Aréna, besides considerable districts in the interior : the number of their fighting men may be computed at one thousand. Next to these may be reckoned the two tribes of the Taiemela and the Hadarem, each of which can bring two hundred men into the field; both having their residence among the mountains in the neighbourhood of the salt plain. Adjoining them to the northward dwell the Belessua, partly dependent on the Taieméla, while to the southward at Ayth, and in its immediate neighbourhood, reside the small tribes of Adoole and Modeto, who are chiefly employed in a sea-faring life, and are connected, as I have before remarked, with the old settlers on the islands lying off the coast. The remaining tribes are termed Adalhu, Aisamalhu, Kedimto, Weéma, Mushiek, and the Assamominto; the last of which is ruled by a brother of Alli Govéta, dwelling in the neighbourhood of Aréna. To the north-west of these, lies another tribe,,completely independent, called Russamo, which is generally at variance with all its neighbours.
• All the tribes above mentioned speak the same language, and may be considered as Danakil ; their united forces are said to amount to full six thousand men.
· These tribes profess the religion of Mahomed, of which, how. ever, they know little more than
the name ; they have neither priests nor mosques in their country. In their manners they are rude and uncultivated, leading a wandering life among the hills, and shifting about as occasion requires from station to station in search of pasture for their cattle. Each tribe is perfectly independent ; though all are ready at a short warning to unite for a common cause; and being daring, resolute; and active, their numbers would render them a formidable enemy were it not for their want of arms,
poverty not allowing more than one in ten to possess a spear, a knife, or any other weapon of offence.
« The women on the coast possess very pleasing and agreeable features, and whenever we entered their huts were very civil in offering us a seat, and in affording us a draught of water, which was the only refreshment their poverty could supply. Of every other article of sustenance an extreme scarcity prevails throughout the country, Indeed, no people in the world is more straitened with respect to the necessaries of life; a little juwarry bread, a small quantity of fish, an inadequate supply of goats' and camels? milk, and a kid on very partieular occasions, constitute the whole of their subsistence. In the inteB 2
rior they live a little better, and possess large droves of cattle, which, during the rainy season, yield abundance of milk. As there did not appear to be any cultivation of the ground in practice among this people, it may be strictly termed a pastoral nation. All the natives, both men and women, have an extraordinary craving after tobacco : they smoke it, take it in the form of snuff, and are in the habitual practice of chewing it, which, in a certain degree, I imagine, satisfies the calls of hunger. The dress of the men consists of a single piece of Arabian or Abyssinian cloth loosely wrapped round the body, and their hair, which is crisped, is curiously dressed out, frizzed, pow. dered with brown dust, and covered with grease in a similar way to that practised by the Hazorta and other tribes on the coast. The dress of the women is somewhat more modest than that of the men, though not very appropriate to their sex, part of it being formed of a close covering resembling a species of drawers, the edges of which are variously ornamented with kowries and other shells. Their hair is plaited in small ringlets, and their arms and legs are adorned with bracelets of ivory and silver. The drudgery of the house, such as grinding corn, baking the bread, and fetching the water, is as usual allotted to the females ; while the males pass their time in tending their cattle, or more frequently in smoking and idleness.'
In addition to these observations, Mr. Salt mentions two peculiar circumstances, from which, he thinks, a conjecture might be formed respecting the Egyptian origin of these people. The first is their abhorrence of the flesh of common fowls, which is common to them with the nations of Adniel and the Somauli; the other, the pyramidal construction of their sepulchral monuments. -- The thermometer, during his stay, was generally at about 78 or 79 in the shade; falling, in the month of December, as low as 72, when a shummall or north-west wind arose, attended with the appearance of pillars of sand, sweeping in various directions across the plain. "I never,' says Mr. S., • heard of any accident occurring from these “ moving pillars of sand,” nor did the natives appear to entertain any particular dread of them. I have myself been enveloped in a portion of one of them, the effects of which were exceedingly unpleasant, making the whole of my skin feel parched and dry; but I experienced no actual suffering from it, either at the time or afterwards.'
Mr. Salt quitted the bay of Amphila on the 23d of January 1810, and on the joth of February entered the harbour of Massowa. We must not, however, accompany him thither without first noticing the interesting discovery made by him, which ascertained the bay of Howakil to be the same with that which is mentioned in the Periplus of the Erythræan Sea, as celebrated for producing the stone called by the antients Opsian, or Obsidian. Some conjectures as to their identity had been formed by Lord Valentia and Mr. S. on their previous voyage to the Red Sea : but the fact is now proved, as far as such a circumstance admits of proof, by Mr. Salt having actually found on the spot a quantity of the specific substance in question : specimens of which have been brought home. He has thus been doubly fortunate, not only in settling a disputed point of antient geography, but also in rescuing the authority of Pliny from the ridicule of Salmasius. Dr. Vincent, who suggested the great probability of effecting the discovery in the manner in which it is now accomplished, but who, owing to the incorrectness of the charts, could fix on no spot on the coast agreeing with the description in the Periplus, must no doubt have been highly gratified by this confirmation of his ideas; and not less by the mode in which Mr. Salt has complimented him with the honours of the Euprixa.
Mr. Coffin, who had been dispatched from Amphila with the last letters to Pearce and the Ras, on the roth of January preceding, had in the meanwhile effected his mission in safety, by the road over Mount Senafé; a route of which no European traveller has given any account since the celebrated Father Lobo, who made his way into the interior of Abyssinia by the same passage. Immediately on receiving Coffin's last intelligence, Pearce prepared to set out for the purpose of meeting his old fellow-traveller, and conducting him in safety to the Ras; and, attended by Coffin and a considerable escort of Abyssinians provided by the Ras, he had reached Massowa on the day pre vious to Mr. Salt's arrival.
• I found Mr. Pearce, to my great surprise, very little altered in complexion, and he spoke English almost as perfectly as when I left him. It was truly gratifying to witness his raptures at finding himself once more among Englishmen, and in an English ship. In the fullness of his heart he seemed to consider every countryman on board as a brother, and it was interesting to observe, with what respect and astonishment our sailors looked up to him in return, from the various accounts they had previously heard of the intrepidity with which he had surmounted so many dangers. He subsequently gave proofs of extraordinary activity; and his knowledge of a ship, considering how long he had been absent from every thing of the kind, was very remarkable, for though we had several excellent sailors on board, there was not a single person that could follow him aloft, owing to the rapidity with which he darted from one point of the ship to another.
+ I was also glad to find that the cultivation of his mind had kept pace with the improvement of his bodily powers. To a complete knowlege of the language of Tigré, which is reckoned by the natives extremely difficult to acquire, he had added a tolerable share of the Amharic, and possessed so perfect an insight into the manners and feelings of the Abyssinians that his assistance to me as an interpreter became invaluable.