« AnteriorContinuar »
season in a warm climate, I formed the plan of spending my second winter altogether in the Sahara, and his Excellency le Maréchal Randon, Governor-General of Algeria, most kindly seconded the scheme, by offering me all the assistance and protection in his power throughout the vast regions tributary to, or in alliance with, the French.
In company therefore with a friend, also in quest of health, the Rev. James Peed, to whose society I owe many a happy hour, and to whose pencil this volume owes many of its illustrations, these wanderings were commenced in September, and continued until the following spring.
The hasty sketches taken on the spot, while they have lost none of their original truth, have gained both beauty and vigour from the graceful hand of my kind and skilful young friend, Miss Salvin ; who will, I am sure, pardon the insertion of her name among those to whom my gratitude is due.
The following pages are almost a literal transcript from my daily journal, composed at such spare minutes as could be snatched from the urgent labours of camping, cooking, horse-feeding, and preserving specimens; and generally in that recumbent posture which is supposed to woo sleep rather than the Muses.
They can therefore have no claim upon the attention of the public, except in so far as they are a faithful reflection of occurrences and impressions in a country the greater portion of which had not been before traversed by any European, and where, as I believe, no English traveller but ourselves has ever wandered. The northern portion, or “ Hauts Plateaux,” of the
Sahara is well known to the French; but of the country of the Beni M'zab and the districts south of it no account, I believe, has yet been published in any European language, beyond the meagre and often most inaccurate descriptions gathered by General Daumas from native travellers.
Geographical research appears at the present moment to be concentrated on the great continent of Africa ; and Livingstone, Barth, Petherick, and Speke have been revealing to us countries but yesterday undreamt of. Still, in less mysterious regions there may be some scraps
of interest left for tribes and oases hitherto known only by name, and which must soon fall more directly under European power. The policy of France up to the present time has been to follow the example of her Roman predecessors, to leave these friendly or neutral tribes in the enjoyment of selfgovernment, and to treat the Sahara as a natural frontier. That policy, we learn from the “Moniteur,' is now about to be reversed. No natural frontier is to be acknowledged in Africa; and we are promised in the coming winter a regularly organized expedition, which is to push through the M'zab, Waregla, Touat, and the Touareg, to Timbuctoo, and so to unite French Algeria with French Senegambia.
How far such an advance is likely to result in anything beyond the destruction of the unhappy Corps d'Afrique engaged in it may be conjectured by the difficulties which beset even in the first portion of the route a small party of travellers enjoying the assistance of the natives.
Against the suspicions of the inhabitants of the oases, and the Parthian attacks of the indomitable Touareg, it seems scarcely possible that any armed force can achieve the march, or, if it should do so, that it can add aught but the most empty glory to the survivors and their country.
To the student of humanity the interest of the Sahara appears to centre in the M'zab and the other oases here described, whose inhabitants, the descendants of the ancient Numidians, though generally confounded in European ideas with Arabs and Moors, have contrived for centuries to preserve their language and municipal independence, while surrounded by the fierce hordes of Arabian and Touareg intruders.
These islanders of the desert, utterly cut off from all intercourse with a higher civilization, have preserved a republican and federal government as perfect and complex as that of Switzerland; and though unhappily fallen under the yoke of the false prophet, have remained uncontaminated by many of the grosser vices of Islamism.
Such races bespeak a noble ancestry, and under the benign influences of a pure and simple Christianity may yet prove themselves no unworthy offspring of that Numidia and Libya which even in decrepitude could produce an Augustine and a Cyprian.
Castle Eden, July, 1860.
Departure from Laghouat — Early rising — Arab cavaliers — The
Dayats ---- Birds of prey - Unsuccessful gazelle-hunt - The tere-