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THE CHAPTER CONCERNING THE CITY OF GEZAN,' AND OF
Having discoursed of the places, cities, and customs of the people of Arabia Deserta, as far as it was permitted me to see them, it appears to me that it will be proper, with brevity and more happily, to enter upon Arabia Felix. At the end of six days we arrived at a city which is called Gezan, which city has a very fine port; and we found there fortyfive vessels belonging to different countries. This city is situated on the sea shore, and is subject to a Moorish lord, and is a district very fruitful and good, like Christian countries. Here there are very good grapes and peaches,
1 Jeezân, or Gheezân, is situated in a fertile district, but the town has fallen into decay. It has a few stone buildings, but the principal part consists of grass huts, with pyramidal tops. It possesses a large fort, in a ruinous condition, and the small bazaar is now scantily supplied with such provisions as the natives use, the principal of which is the dhurah (Varthema's "dora"), a species of millet, extensively cultivated throughout Yemen, where it is called täâm. There is a good inner anchorage for small boats off the town. The dress of the male portion of the population, like that of the common Arabs of the country generally, consists of a cotton cloth, called a footah, worn round the loins. El-Edrîsi states that the district of Jeezân was occupied by a family of the famous tribe of Ghassân (the Ghassanides,) which probably became extinct, or was made subject by the Imâms of Yemen, during the thirteenth century of our era. Niebuhr, Voyage en Arabie, vol. iii. p. 232. See also MORESBY’s Sailing Directions for the Red Sea, pp. 27, 28.
quinces, pomegranates, very strong garlic, tolerable onions, excellent nuts, melons, roses, flowers, nectarines, figs, gourds, citrons, lemons, and sour oranges, so that it is a paradise. The inhabitants of this city go almost naked, and live after the manner of the Moors. There is here abundance of flesh, grain, barley, and white millet, which they call dora, and which makes good bread. We remained here three days in order to lay in provisions.
THE CHAPTER CONCERNING SOME PEOPLE CALLED
Departing from the said city Gezan, we went for five days always in sight of land, that is to say, the land was on our left hand; and seeing some habitations on the sea shore, we disembarked fourteen of our people to ask for some provisions in exchange for our money. They answered our request by beginning to throw stones at us with slings, and these were certain people who are called Baduin : they were in number more than one hundred, and we were only fourteen. We fought with them for about an hour, so that twenty-four of them remained dead on the field, and all the others took to flight; for they were naked, and had no other arms than these slings. We took all that we could, namely, fowls, calves, oxen, and other things fit to eat. In the course of two or three hours the disturbance began to increase, as did also the inha
Bedouin, or more correctly Bedawîn, sing. Bedawy. From the collective Bedu, properly 'a desert.' Hence the literal rendering is desert-men ;' but the designation is frequently applied to Arabs who inhabit the open country in contradistinction to those who dwell in towns. In this instance, however, Varthema may have taken the term from the village El-Bedawi, there being one of that name midway between Jeezân and Camrân. Another locality in the neighbourhood, called Khabt elBakkâr, Niebuhr describes as being inhabited by some wandering families who were accused of plundering all travellers who came in their way. Voyage en Arabie, vol. iii. p. 233.
bitants of the said land, so that they were more than six hundred, and we were obliged to withdraw to our ship.
THE CHAPTER CONCERNING THE ISLAND OF THE RED
SEA CALLED CHAMARAM.'
On that same day we took our course towards an island called Chamaram, which island appears to be ten or twelve miles in circumference, where there is a place containing about two hundred families, which is inhabited by Moors. In this said island there is sweet fresh water and flesh, and the best salt I ever saw is made there. It has a port towards the mainland, from which it is distant about eight miles. This island is subject to the Sultan of the Amanni, that is, the Sultan of Arabia Felix, and we remained there two days. We then steered towards the mouth of the Red Sea, and for two days you can navigate in safety night and day, but from the island to Zida you cannot navigate by night. And when we had arrived at the said mouth, it really ap
1 Camrân is eleven miles long and from two to four broad. There are seven villages on the island, consisting mostly of huts belonging to the fishermen employed on the neighbouring pearl banks and turtle islands. Several spots are under cultivation, good water is plentiful, and other supplies, such as oxen and sheep, are tolerably abundant ; for which reasons, as well as on account of its secure harbour, the island is much frequented by native vessels trading between the coasts of India and Persia and the Red Sea.
9 “Soldano delli Amanni.” This was either the reigning Imâm of Sanäa, or Sultân 'Amir ibn Abd el-Wahhâb. The latter, about this period, was contesting the sovereignty of Yemen with the former, and had already succeeded in wresting from him a large portion of the southern districts, including the sea -board. As Varthema does not mention the term “Imâm,” the ordinary designation of the rulers at Sanäa, and which he must frequently have heard used, I apprehend that he misconstrued the title into the name of a country or people, and then Italianized it, distorting “ Imâm” into “ Amanni.” Or, it may be a contraction and corruption of [Amîr el "ujamanin, (Lord of the Faithful,) another title common to all the Imâms of Sanäa.
peared as though we were within a hemmed-in house ; for that embouchure is about two or three miles wide, and on the right hand thereof there is land about ten paces high and uninhabited, so far as we could perceive from a distance. On the left hand of the said embouchure there is a very high mountain, and it is of stone; and in the middle of the said embouchure there is a certain little uninhabited island which is called Bebmendo. Those who wish to go to Zeilla take the route on the right hand, and those who want to go to Aden take that on the left hand; and this we did in order to go to Aden, and we always sailed in sight of land. From the said Bebmendo we arrived at the city of Aden in a little less than two days and a half.
1 The narrowest part of the “Little Strait” is one and a half mile wide. Varthema's description of the low land on the African side, and the “very high mountain" on the Arabian side, (Bab el-Mandeb Cape,) is remarkably correct. Native craft going from the Red Sea to Zeila, or any other ports on the former coast, still take the right or wider channel ; those bound for Aden the left. By a pardonable misconception, however, he gives the name of the two Straits, “ Babmendo,” (Bab elMendeb) to the small island which forms them, and which will be recognized at once as Perim, called by the natives, Mayûn.
The Arabs have a tradition respecting the formation of the Straits of Bâb el-Mandeb which, for its absurdity, surpasses very many of their extravagant legends. I quote the following from a manuscript in my possession, entitled Tarikh Thaghr 'Aden (a History of the Valley of Aden), written by the learned and devout Kadhi, Aboo-Abdallah bin Ahmed Muhrim. He says: “Formerly from Kalzam (the Gulf of Suez ?] to Aden, and beyond the mountains of Socotra, all was dry land : there was no sea, and no outlet; but when Alexander the Great, in his voyage round the world, came here, he opened a gulf wherein the sea flowed until it was arrested near the mountains of Bab el-Mandeb, whereby Aden was surrounded by water, and nothing was visible there but the tops of the mountains jutting up into peaks...... Then Alexander, (but others say, some other person,) cut a passage through Bab el-Mandeb, whereby the water rushed in and filled the whole of El-Kal
When the rush was over, Aden rose up, and the waters about it were drained in the direction of Esh-Sham.”
THE CHAPTER CONCERNING THE CITY OF ADEN, AND OF
SOME CUSTOMS RESPECTING THE MERCHANTS.
Aden is the strongest city that was ever seen on level ground. It has walls on two sides, and on the other sides there are very large mountains. On these mountains there are five castles, and the land is level, and contains about five thousand or six thousand families.1 The market is held at two o'clock in the night, on account of the intense heat in the city during the day. At a stone's cast from this city there is a mountain, upon which stands a castle, and at the foot of this mountain the ships cast anchor. This city
1 The ruins of these towers still exist, also of the two walls, one of which extended along the shore of “ Front Bay” (which appears to have been the principal harbour at that period), and the other over the heights commanding Bandar Hokkât, now called Holket Bay. These walls, connecting as they did the Mansûri heights on the north-east with the offshoots of the lofty Shamsân range on the south-west, completely enclosed the area where the town of Aden is situated, and which seems at one time to have been the crater of a volcano, forming a tolerably perfect circle from one to one mile and a half in diameter. According to the Arabian author last quoted, most of these fortifications were built by 'Othmân ez-Zenjily, who was appointed governor of that district by Toorân Shah bin Ayyûb, brother of the famous Salâh ed-Dîn (Saladin), Sultan of Egypt, on his departure from Yemen in the year of the Hijrah 571, A.D. 1175. Ez-Zenjily erected many other public buildings at Aden, some of which were standing when the British captured the place in 1839; but his rapacity rendered him odious to the inhabitants, and on hearing of the approach of Taghtakin, another brother of Salâh ed-Dîn, who was sent with an army against Yemen, A. H. 579, he fled from Aden, and died at Damascus four years after.
% An incidental proof that Varthema was at Aden during the hot season, which lasts from May to October. By “two o'clock in the night," I understand two hours after sunset.
3 The mountain here mentioned is the small island of Seerah, which has lately been joined to Aden by a causeway. The following absurd tradition respecting this spot is recorded by the author above quoted : “Cain, having killed his brother Abel, and being afraid of his father Adam, fled from India to Aden, and took up his abode on Seerah. Becoming sad at the separation from his home and relatives, Satan appeared