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Art. III.- Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to El Medinah and Meccah. By RICHARD F. Burton. 8vo. Vols. I. II.
London : Longmans, 1855. MR.
R. BURTON has had the good fortune to light
upon what we had thought was, in these of universal travel, an absolute impossibility for a tourist, a perfectly novel theme. The motto of his title-page, taken from Gibbon ;—“our notions of Mecca must be drawn from the Arabians, as no unbeliever is permitted to enter the sacred city:"-retains its full significance to the present hour. EI Medinah and Meccah are still regarded as cities, which the tread of an infidel foot would desecrate; and the rigour with which the exclusion of foreigners has been enforced, has hitherto sufficed to preserve one spot at least sacred from the explorations of the indefatigable emissaries of the Geographical Society, or the still more enterprising compilers of Handbooks of Oriental Travel.
In truth, an unobstructed visit to either of these cities, or indeed to any part of the wild region in which they are situated, can only be performed in complete masquerade. It is not alone that the visitor must be a Moslem. So jealous is the surveillance, that even proselytes to Mahomedanism are practically excluded, being watched with so much suspicion that it is impossible for them to observe anything with satisfaction. A western visitor of the Moslem Holy Land, if he would hope to see, and to describe what he has seen, must not merely visit in the garb of a native Mahomedan, but must be such a proficient in the language and usages of the East, as to defy the scrutiny of his prying and suspicious fellow-pilgrims.
Under these circumstances it will easily be believed that the number of Mr. Burton's European predecessors in the Haj_(or pilgrimage) has been very small. In 1503, Ludovico Bartema, “ a gentleman of the citie of Rome," succeeded, through the familiaritie and friendshippe of a certayne Captayne Mameluke,” in obtaining the entreè of Medinah and Meccah, as a member of the Damascus caravan of pilgrims, and in the garb of a “Mamaluchi renegado.” Towards the close of the next century, Joseph Pitts, of Exon, who was captured by an Algerine pirate, sold into slavery when but fifteen or sixteen years old, and compelled by the bastinado to profess himself a proselyte to Mahomedanism, was taken by his “ patroon" on a pilgriinage to Meccah and Medinah, in 1680, and Giovanni Finati, an unprincipled Italian adventurer and renegade, repeated the experiment in 1814—the year before the ill-starred expedition in which the life of Burckhardt was sacrificed. The only European whom Mr. Burton himself has met with that had visited Meccah without apostatizing, is M. Bertolucci, the Swedish' consul at Cairo, who induced the Bedouin Camel-men who were accompanying him to Taif, to introduce him in disguise. The late Dr. Wallin, professor of Arabic at the University of Helsingfors, performed the pilgrimage in 1845, in somewhat similar circumstances. But of these the former confesses, that his terror of being discovered effectually prevented him from making any observations, and the latter was hindered by the perils of his position, and the filthiness of his Persian fellow-travellers, from taking any notes of the little that he succeeded in observing:
Independently, therefore, of the interest which must attach to any account of a region so completely unknown in the West, the very narrative of an expedition so novel, and involving so much peril as well as of novelty, would be for its own sake sufficiently curious and attractive. The boldness and enterprise which Mr. Burton's former work on Scinde have shown to be his great characteristic, as well as his perfect familiarity with all the various forms of Eastern life, mark him out as peculiarly fitted at once to carry out the undertaking with success, to turn all its opportunities to the best and most satisfactory purpose, and to record its adventures with a lively and a graphic pen.
Accordingly, Mr. Burton has had the boldness to undertake the exploration of the sacred cities, not in the character of a renegado Christian, nor under a partial and temporary disguise, favoured and assisted by the corrupt connivance of some unscrupulous official, but as a regular member of the ordinary pilgrim caravan ;-following it in all the stages of its progress, seeking no concealment, affecting no secrecy, but openly and unvaryingly maintaining, in language, in observances, in food, in mode of
life, and in a word, in every minute detail of conduct and deportment, the character of a native oriental, performing the work of piety which constitutes the great event in the religious life of every Moslem !
We shall see hereafter with what fidelity and minuteness he carried out this bold and daring project; with what painful scrupulousness he accommodated to all the distasteful details of “bed and board” of the poorer class of Eastern travellers; with what solemn earnestness he fulfilled every religious observance; how he went through the prescribed round of ablutions, prostrations, bead-tellings, and prayerful evolutions; how in fine he, to all
; intents and purposes, became, for the time, a thoroughgoing Turk. On the morality of all this we shall not stop to speculate, We have no doubt that what he did, he did solely in the interest of science, and without any idea whatever of dishonouring the Christian profession; nor shall we range ourselves with the “jocose editors” in India and elsewhere, who, on these grounds, have taxed Mr. Burton with Turning Turk. But when we shall have told his story in his own words, hereafter, we shall leave him to settle the lawfulness of the proceeding with those among his own fellow religionists, who are most loud and unreserved in the abhorrence of Jesuitism, and of the arts which, in the notion frequently entertained of the order, Jesuitism is said to employ for the attainments of its ends. Never has the world seen a more thorough-going Jesuit, such as Jesuits are popularly described, than our Haji, the Dervish Abdullah-the name and profession assumed by Dr. Burton, as being one of the most familiar and convenient incognitos under which to travel in the East.
Indeed, if we could only put aside the question of the morality of the proceeding, it would be amusing to follow the pilgrim through all the phases of his assumed character as one of the holy men of Islam-to watch him as he carefully interlards his conversation with pious ejaculations to Allah, to his Prophet, and to the manifold Moslem saints whose memory is sweet at Medinah and Meccah; to see him piously pass from the Dua, or double prostration, to the Sudjah, or single one ; or meekly assume the orthodox attitude of prayer, placing his hands below the waist, and slightly inclined to the left, the right palm covering the left;" to listen to his murmured litanies, responses, " testifications," "Fât-hâhs," verses, and even whole chapters from the Koran ; to see him anxiously placing himself, so that his face should front Meccah, and his right shoulder should be opposite the right pillar of the Prophet's Pulpit! Nay, not content with the ordinary practices of personal devotion, we find him not merely discharging vicarious offices of piety in the name of acquaintances or friends, whom he had met upon his way, and who had charged him with such pious commissions on their behalf, (II. p. 79.) but even remonstrating with his companions for their want of devotion, and exhorting them to due fervour in the discharge of the observances of the pilgrimage. All this would in itself be sufficiently amusing ; but we must say with pain that there are too many serious and awful considerations, however, involved in these and many similar incidents of the book, to be made a subject of idle merriment.
We can enjoy with a more comfortable feeling the ready bonhommie with which Mr. Burton accommodated himself to the social peculiarities involved in the requirements of his assumed character. No Madani of the Bait-elShaab, just returned after a commercial tour, could fall more naturally into the ranks of the pilgrim caravan, or follow with more easy_grace all the mazes of the complicated ceremonial of Eastern life. His very stomach appears to have possessed an acclimatizing capacity,
-to have received the rudest desert fare—the kahk, the datepaste, the “mare's skin," and the clarified butter, with as inuch composure as it had been wont to exhibit under the influence of the roast beef of Old England; and to have revelled in the vile-tasted akit, or the leather-flavoured water” of the Red-Sea Pilgrim-ship, with as much seeming satisfaction as in the pale ale, or iced champagne of the Travellers or United Service club. It is only one who has really lived in the East, and who, even there, has lived in native, as contradistinguished from colonial society, that can understand how much is implied in this diversity of usages. Look, for instance, writes Mr. Burton, 'at an Indian Moslem drinking a glass of water. With us the operation is simple enough, but his performance includes no less than five novelties. In the first place, he clutches his tumbler as though it were the throat of a foe ; secondly he
a ejaculates, In the name of Allah the Compassionate, the Mer
ciful !' before wetting his lips; thirdly, he imbibes the contents, swallowing them, not drinking, and ending with a satisfied grunt; fourthly, before setting down the cup he sighs forth, Praise be to Allah!' of which you will understand the full meaning in the Desert ; and fifthly, he replies, May Allah make it pleasant to thee!' in answer to his friend's polite, 'Pleasurably and health !' Also, he is careful to avoid the irreligious action of drinking the pure element in a standing position, mindful, however, of the three recognized exceptions, the fuid of the Holy Well, Zemzem, water distributed in charity, and that which remains after Wuza, the lesser ablution. Moreover, in Europe, one forgets the use of the right hand, the manipulation of the rosary, the abuse of the chair ; your genuine Orientalist looks almost as uncomfortable in one as a sailor upon the back of a high trotting horse—the rolling gait with the toes, straight to the front, the grave look and habit of pious ejaculations. These, and a thousand similar discrepancies from what our European notions demand in posture, look, intonation, pervade the whole manner and deportment of an Easterndiscrepancies impalpable, perhaps, to an unpractised eye, but which a native will detect with rapid and unerring accuracy.
Even with qualifications such as these for eastern society, Mr. Burton found it necessary to adopt every precaution against the danger of detection. Fortunately for him, the strongly oriental character of his features and of the expression of his countenance, went far to disarm suspicion. It would be hard, we must say, for the most practised eye to discover a flaw in the “ making up” of the face or figure which are depicted in his “portrait in the character of a Haji,” as it appears in the frontispiece of the second volume of the Pilgrimage.
The original design of Mr. Burton's expedition was much more comprehensive than that of which we have an account in the volumes before us. He offered himself to the Geographical Society in 1852, to undertake an exploring expedition for the purpose of “ removing that opprobrium to modern adventure—the huge white blot which in our maps still notes the eastern and central regions of Arabia.” Failing, however, to obtain from the Court of Directors of the East India Company, (in whose service he holds the rank of lieutenant,) a prolongation of his furlough sufficient