• TABLE OF CONTENTS
HIDE
 Front Cover
 Frontispiece
 Title Page
 Dedication
 Introduction
 Preface
 Table of Contents
 List of Illustrations
 We enter on the great adventur...
 Plans for the flight
 The escape from Jedabia
 Across the deset with She-ib
 Triumphant arrival at Jalo
 Christmas in the desert
 A faulty guide on a waterless...
 The lake in the desert
 Treachery at Hawari
 Feast in the Holy Place
 The "cities" of Kufara
 The flight from Taj
 Through the mountains
 The elusive dunes
 The end of the journey
 Appendixes
 Glossary
 Index
 Map














Group Title: The secret of the Sahara : Kufara
Title: The secret of the Sahara
CITATION PAGE IMAGE ZOOMABLE
Full Citation
STANDARD VIEW MARC VIEW
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00072661/00001
 Material Information
Title: The secret of the Sahara Kufara
Physical Description: xxx, 356 p. : front., plates, ports., fold. map, facsim. ; 23 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Forbes, Rosita (Torr)
Publisher: George H. Doran company
Place of Publication: New York
Publication Date: [c1921]
 Subjects
Subject: Libyan Desert   ( lcsh )
Kebabo   ( lcsh )
Genre: non-fiction   ( marcgt )
 Notes
Statement of Responsibility: by Rosita Forbes...with an introduction by Sir Harry Johnston, with 54 illustrations from photographs by the author, and a map.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00072661
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: aleph - 001596207
oclc - 00294594
notis - AHM0306
lccn - 22006618

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Page i
    Frontispiece
        Page ii
    Title Page
        Page iii
        Page iv
    Dedication
        Page v
        Page vi
    Introduction
        Page vii
        Page viii
        Page ix
        Page x
        Page xi
        Page xii
        Page xiii
        Page xiv
        Page xv
        Page xvi
        Page xvii
        Page xviii
        Page xix
        Page xx
    Preface
        Page xxi
        Page xxii
        Page xxiii
        Page xxiv
        Page xxv
        Page xxvi
    Table of Contents
        Page xxvii
        Page xxviii
    List of Illustrations
        Page xxix
        Page xxx
        Page xxxi
    We enter on the great adventure
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 2-a
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 6-a
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 8-1
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 10-a
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
    Plans for the flight
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 24-1
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 28-1
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 32-1
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 36-1
        Page 37
        Page 38
    The escape from Jedabia
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 40-1
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 44-1
        Page 45
        Page 46
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 48-1
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
        Page 57
        Page 58
        Page 59
        Page 60
        Page 61
        Page 62
        Page 63
    Across the deset with She-ib
        Page 64
        Page 64-1
        Page 65
        Page 66
        Page 67
        Page 68
        Page 69
        Page 70
        Page 71
        Page 72
        Page 72-1
        Page 73
        Page 74
        Page 75
        Page 76
        Page 77
        Page 78
        Page 79
        Page 80
        Page 80-1
        Page 81
        Page 82
        Page 83
        Page 84
        Page 85
        Page 86
        Page 87
    Triumphant arrival at Jalo
        Page 88
        Page 89
        Page 90
        Page 91
        Page 92
        Page 93
        Page 94
        Page 95
        Page 96
        Page 96-1
        Page 97
        Page 98
        Page 99
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        Page 101
        Page 102
        Page 103
        Page 104
        Page 105
        Page 106
        Page 107
        Page 108
        Page 109
        Page 110
        Page 111
    Christmas in the desert
        Page 112
        Page 112-1
        Page 113
        Page 114
        Page 115
        Page 116
        Page 117
        Page 118
        Page 119
        Page 120
        Page 121
        Page 122
        Page 123
        Page 124
        Page 125
    A faulty guide on a waterless way
        Page 126
        Page 127
        Page 128
        Page 128-1
        Page 129
        Page 130
        Page 131
        Page 132
        Page 133
        Page 134
        Page 135
        Page 136
        Page 137
        Page 138
        Page 139
        Page 140
        Page 141
        Page 142
        Page 143
        Page 144
        Page 144-1
        Page 145
        Page 146
        Page 147
    The lake in the desert
        Page 148
        Page 149
        Page 150
        Page 151
        Page 152
        Page 153
        Page 154
        Page 155
        Page 156
        Page 157
        Page 158
        Page 159
        Page 160
        Page 160-1
        Page 161
        Page 162
        Page 163
        Page 164
        Page 165
        Page 166
        Page 167
        Page 168
        Page 169
        Page 170
        Page 171
    Treachery at Hawari
        Page 172
        Page 173
        Page 174
        Page 175
        Page 176
        Page 176-1
        Page 177
        Page 178
        Page 179
        Page 180
        Page 181
        Page 182
        Page 183
        Page 184
    Feast in the Holy Place
        Page 185
        Page 186
        Page 187
        Page 188
        Page 189
        Page 190
        Page 191
        Page 192
        Page 192-1
        Page 193
        Page 194
        Page 195
        Page 196
        Page 197
        Page 198
        Page 199
        Page 200
        Page 201
        Page 202
    The "cities" of Kufara
        Page 203
        Page 204
        Page 205
        Page 206
        Page 207
        Page 208
        Page 208-1
        Page 209
        Page 210
        Page 211
        Page 212
        Page 213
        Page 214
        Page 215
        Page 216
        Page 217
        Page 218
        Page 219
        Page 220
        Page 221
    The flight from Taj
        Page 222
        Page 223
        Page 224
        Page 224-1
        Page 225
        Page 226
        Page 227
        Page 228
        Page 229
        Page 230
        Page 231
        Page 232
        Page 233
        Page 234
        Page 235
        Page 236
        Page 237
        Page 238
        Page 239
        Page 240
        Page 240-1
        Page 241
        Page 242
        Page 243
        Page 244
        Page 245
        Page 246
        Page 247
        Page 248
        Page 248-1
        Page 249
        Page 250
    Through the mountains
        Page 251
        Page 252
        Page 253
        Page 254
        Page 255
        Page 256
        Page 256-1
        Page 257
        Page 258
        Page 259
        Page 260
        Page 261
        Page 262
        Page 263
        Page 264
        Page 265
        Page 266
        Page 267
        Page 268
        Page 269
    The elusive dunes
        Page 270
        Page 271
        Page 272
        Page 272-1
        Page 273
        Page 274
        Page 275
        Page 276
        Page 277
        Page 278
        Page 279
        Page 280
        Page 281
        Page 282
        Page 283
        Page 284
        Page 285
        Page 286
        Page 287
        Page 288
        Page 288-1
        Page 289
        Page 290
    The end of the journey
        Page 291
        Page 292
        Page 293
        Page 294
        Page 295
        Page 296
        Page 296-1
        Page 296-2
        Page 297
        Page 298
        Page 299
        Page 300
        Page 301
        Page 302
        Page 303
        Page 304
        Page 304-1
        Page 305
        Page 306
        Page 307
        Page 308
        Page 309
        Page 310
    Appendixes
        Page 311
        Page 312
        Page 313
        Page 314
        Page 315
        Page 316
        Page 317
        Page 318
        Page 319
        Page 320
        Page 321
        Page 322
        Page 323
        Page 324
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        Page 328
        Page 329
        Page 330
        Page 331
        Page 332
        Page 333
        Page 334
        Page 335
        Page 336
        Page 336-1
        Page 337
        Page 338
        Page 339
        Page 340
    Glossary
        Page 341
        Page 342
        Page 343
        Page 344
    Index
        Page 345
        Page 346
        Page 347
        Page 348
        Page 349
        Page 350
        Page 351
        Page 352
        Page 353
        Page 354
        Page 355
        Page 356
    Map
        Page 357
Full Text

THE SECRET OF THE
SAHARA : KUFARA
ROSITA FORBES


























































































ROSITA FORBES






THE SECRET OF TE

SAHARA : KUFARA

BY
ROSITA FORBES
Author of "Unconducte~i anderers," etc.


WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY
SIR HARRY JOHNSTON


WITH 54 ILLUSTRATIONS
FROM PHOTOGRAPHS BY THE AUTHOR
AND A MAP












NEW YORK
GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY



UNIW'VE'il'i' OF FL4RIDA IbiARIES




































COPYRIGHT, 1991,

NY GEORGE It. DORAN COMPANY


PRINTED IN TIE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA





i *69/s


















TO
AHMED MOHAMMED BEY HASSANEIN
IN MEMORY OF HOURS GRAVE AND GAY, BATTLES
DESPERATE OR HUMOROUS, OF SUCCESS
AND FAILURE IN THE LIBYAN
DESERTS



























163436











INTRODUCTION
BY SIR HARRY JOHNSTON
THE OASES OF KUFARA
VERY nearly midway between the great. mountains of
Tibesti (which rise to over eleven thousand feet in height);
the plateaus of Fazan; the mountainous 'island' of the
Cyrenaica; the oases of Western Egypt, and of Dongola;
lies the still mysterious region of Kufara, visited and
described by Mrs. Rosita Forbes, the author of this book.
She has been seemingly the second explorer of Euro-
pean birth to accomplish this feat; for although the Kufara
district was first placed on the map with no great in-
correctness of location by Friedrich Gerhard Rohlfs, after
his journey thither in 1878-9, he was-as Mrs. Forbes
shows-the only European of his party to reach these
oases, and his stay there was very short.
Apparently he only revealed, only realized by sight
or information the salt lakes at Buseima and a rather
problematical 'Erbelma' (qy. Erbayana, Erbelna?) to
the south-west; and either he did not see, or he did not
record the more important sheets of salt or brackish water
in the comparatively large Kebabo oasis or collection of
oases.
These lakes of Kebabo stand at an average elevation
of about fourteen hundred feet above sea level, an eleva-
tion which was divined or calculated hurriedly by F. G.
Rohlfs, but more accurately determined by Mrs. Forbes
and her Egyptian fellow-traveller, Hassanein Bey. By
these later figures the altitude above sea level of the
Kebabo Oases may prove to be slightly lower than in the
vii






viii INTRODUCTION
estimation of the older maps (1614 feet). Still it can-
not be much less on the lake levels than fourteen hundred
feet; therefore in considering the problems it is not pos-
sible to attribute the Kebabo oases, the villages of Kufara
to anything more than the site of a largish lake in pre-
historic times which sent its waters flowing west into the
great Wadi al Fardi, the course of which seems to have
passed through Taiserbo to Jaghabub and thence past the
oasis of Siwa into the Nile near Cairo.
The Libyan Desert through which Mrs. Forbes
travelled, starting from Cyrenaica and returning to
Egypt, is classed by her and by most other persons with
the Sahara; which properly speaking lies to the west of
a long chain of peaks, ridges, and tablelands grouped in
its central section under the name of 'Tibesti', the moun-
tainous country of the Tu, Teda, or Tibu (Tebu or Tubu)
peoples. But it would almost seem for reason of its
past mammalian fauna as though we must distinguish
between the Sahara and the Libyan Deserts, just as. for
similar reasons we do not extend the name of 'Sahara' to
cover the sandy and stony wastes of Arabia. The true
Libyan Desert-almost a more awful region of desola-
tion than the Sahara west of the Tibesti mountains-
would seem in ancient human times, fifty thousand, a
hundred thousand, two hundred thousand years ago, to
have been the western area of the Nile basin. Its mighty
rivers, their courses still traceable, fed by the almost
Alpine range of Tibesti, by the vanished rain from the
plateaus and ridges of Wanyanga and Darfur, flowed
towards the Nile between its nascent delta and Kordofan.
Its mammalian fauna and to a lesser degree its flora dif-
fered in some important particulars from that of the
Sahara (then possibly much covered by shallow lakes and
inland seas); and still more from the beasts and trees of
true West Africa or Central Africa. The White






INTRODUCTION


Rhinoceros or a nearly allied form of it has left fossil
remains in Algeria and is still found within the equatorial
Nile basin. It has penetrated south along the eastern
side of Central Africa, but it does not appear to have
passed into the Congo basin or to have reached the regions
south of Algeria or west of Tibesti and Darfur. The
'Black' Rhinoceros with the pointed lip has pushed west-
ward to'the lands round Lake Chad and into the basin of
the Shari, but seems never to have travelled as far west-
ward as the Niger or ever to have been found in true
West Africa. No zebra or wild ass, so far as we know,
ever left Algeria or the Nile basin to enter the Chad or
Congo regions. Many antelopes have in the near past
and present ranged between Mediterranean Algeria on
the north-west, the equatorial Nile basin, and southern
most Africa, but have not appeared in the western half
of Africa.
The region therefore into which plunged the author
of this book, with the concurrence and assistance of an
educated Egyptian of Al Azhar University, has been of
great interest to all students of Africa. Rohlfs's visit had
almost become legendary and at best its reports were frag-
mentary and inconclusive. The Kufara oasis was the
half-way house between the mysterious and recalcitrant
Negro kingdom of Wadai and the Mediterranean coast.
Wadai was the last of the great Negro States of Central
,Africa to come under European supervision and control.
But even after Wadai-to the great benefit of North
Central Africa-was conquered by the French, and its
slave trade abolished, the oasis of Kufara remained for a
few more years a legendary district, perhaps mainly
created by the excited imagination of a thwarted German
explorer, who had already crossed Africa from the Medi-
terranean to the Benue and the Niger, but who had
scarcely penetrated to this secret land of water and palm





x INTRODUCTION
trees in the centre of the Libyan Desert than he had to
leave it.
We now realise from the work of Mr. Harding King
in 1918 and from Mrs. Forbes's book, with its admirable
photographs and both vivid and circumstantial descrip-
tions, what this series of oases, salt lakes, and underground
fountains means in the middle of the Libyan Desert. It
is one of the vestiges of a formerly well-watered country
ten, twenty or more thousand years ago. It was a more
habitable region possibly at a distance in time not ex-
ceeding five thousand years. To it came, long ago, when
the intervening desert was much more traversable, clans
of the Tu, Tebu or Tibu people, nowadays the dominating
population of Fazan and Tibesti. A few Tebu--one or
two hundred-still linger in Kufara on sufferance, the
semi-slaves of the Zwiya Arabs. The author is able to
give her readers an admirable photograph of one of these
lingering Tebu of Kufara.
Who and what are the variously named Tu, Teda,
Tibu, or Tebu tribes? They are seemingly of consider,
able antiquity, the Garamantes of Herodotos and the
Romans, the Tedamansii of Claudius Ptolomeeus, the
Alexandrian geographer of the second century. They
represent one of the numerous races between the White
man and the Negro, but in their purer and more northern
extension they are a people with a preponderance of white
man stock. The skin is dark-tinted and the hair has a
kink, a curl about it; but the physiognomy is that of the
Mediterranean peoples, except for the occasionally tumid
lips. They do not indeed, differ very much in appear-
ance, facially, from the Hamitic peoples of North-east
Africa; but their language is utterly dissimilar. With
this and that corruption, change, and deficiency, it has
become the speech of Bornu (Kanuri), Kanem, Ennedi,
northern Darfur, Tibesti, Tummo, and southern Fazan.





INTRODUCTION


Commerce even carries its dialects into Tripoli. But this
Tibu-Kanuri group of tongues has no discernible connec-
tion with any other African group and is utterly dissimilar
in syntax and in word-roots from the sex-denoting Hami-
tic, Libyan, Egyptian and Semitic languages of North
and North-east Africa. Neither does it offer any point
of resemblance with the Nubian group, with the Niger
families, with Songhai or Fulfulde. It is rather hurriedly
called a 'Negro' tongue, which explains nothing., There
seem to have been many pre-Aryan, pre-Semitic, pre-
Hamitic forms of speech generated by the White man
in Europe, North Africa and Western Asia, which, like
the original language-impulse of the Bantu and Semi-
Bantu, were introduced into Tropical Africa and sub-
sequently adopted by the Negro, who was at all times so
easily influenced by the White invader. The Tibu speech
seems to have been one of the several distinct groups of
tongues (Fula may have been another) spoken in North
Africa before that region was invaded from the east by
the Hamites and from the North-west by the Libyans.
It was pushed, southwards into Fazan and thence ex-
tended across the Libyan Desert to the oases of Kufara.
But though ranking themselves as 'white men' or at
any rate as a racial type much above the Negro, the Tibu,
were not quickly on the White man's side in religion. The
ancient Garamantes became Christian only a short' time
before the Moslem invasion of Tripoli; and were possibly
not Islamized until the eleventh century. Probably the
Tebu of Kufara were of some vaguely Pagan faith when
their oases were invaded by the Zwiya Arabs of Fazan
two or three hundred years ago. As they only had spears
and arrows to defend themselves against the invaders who
were armed with guns, they were soon conquered, semi-
enslaved, and coerced to adopt the Muslim faith. They
seem to have possessed camels of what is known as the





INTRODUCTION


Teda or Tibesti breed, taller, stouter, clumsier in form
than the dromedaries of the north.
On this point hinges a good deal of interesting argu-
ment. Was there a native camel, a wild species of the
genus Camelus in North-east Africabefore the domesti-
cated camel was introduced from Arabia and Palestine
into Africa at an uncertain period coincident with the
downfall of the independence and glory of Ancient Egypt
-say three thousand years ago? A wild camel, very near
in form to the Arabian species, is found fossil and sub-
fossil in Algeria. It must have lingered there till the
arrival of Man who possibly aided in its extinction. Were
there wild camels similarly lingering in the Teda, the
Tibesti country and in Somaliland and Galaland down to
quite recent times? And have they contributed to the
formation of the domesticated camel stock of Africa?
The Zwiya conquerors of Kufara opened up relations
with the Sudan, with Ennedi, Wadai, and Darfur; and
on the north with Cyrene and its Mediterranean ports.
Their oases obtained wealth and importance by becoming
a halfway-house between Eastern Europe and Central
Africa, and grew rich during the eighteenth and nineteenth
centuries over the trade in ivory and Negro slaves. The
importance of the Wadai-Kufara road for camel caravans
increased greatly during the second half of the last cen-
tury because, meantime, Algeria and Tunis had become
more or less controlled by Europe. Egypt was likewise
supervised, constantly watched by European powers in
regard to the Slave trade. Even Tripoli and its sea-faring
trade in slaves was hampered by surveillance from lMalta.
Turkey, however, was left pretty much to herself after
the Berlin Conference of 1878, for motives of interna-
tional jealousy. She strengthened her hold over Cyrene
and likewise garrisoned Crete, not far away. So that
long after the Sudan slave trade had been closed in all






INTRODUCTION


other directions by British and French action it remained
alive and active by way of WadIi-Kufara-and-Benghazi,
,till, in 1912-1913, Italy took Tripoli and Cyrenaica from
the Turks and resumed the former protectorate of the
Roman Empire in this direction.
Then-as Mrs. Forbes relates-the followers of the
Senusi Brotherhood found themselves in lively conflict
with a modern-tempered European power, and had-
eventually-to come to terms with Italy.
Mrs. Forbes tells us or reminds us of the main facts
and changes in Kufara history: its occupation at an un-
known and probably distant date by the Tibu people, who
may have dwelt there when the surrounding deserts were
much less arid, and when the oases and their lakes were
considerably larger. They may have been there while
the Pharaohs reigned in Egypt and before the domestica-
tion of the camel. Then she alludes to the conquest and
occupation of Kufara by the Zwiya Arabs. who seem'to
have come from the eastern part of Fazan, especially an
oasis named Leshkerre. Before their coming the Tibu
inhabitants seem to have called 'Kufara' (which in Arabic
means, 'unbelievers', 'heathen') by the name of Tazerr;
and in a valuable Appendix the author relates the subse-
quent history of these oases when they came under the
influence of the Senusi dynasty.
The statements in this Appendix may be in all points
accurate, but it might be interesting to the reader to give
an alternative version derived from earlier French and
British writers. Some of this information was noted
when the present writer was Consul General in Tunis, and
had commenced studying the results and aims of the teach-
ing emanating from the Senusi confraternity, his atten-
tion having been drawn to this movement in Mluhamma-
danism as far back as the 'eighties of the last century, by
the influence of the Senusi missionaries on Nigeria.






INTRODUCTION


The first Senusi teacher was born at or near Mastagh-
anem on the coast of western Algeria towards the close
of the eighteenth century. He was styled-for short, as
he had a wearisome array of names-IMuhammad bin Ali
bin as-Sanusi. [Because there is no c in the Arabic lan-
guage you will find a world-wide conspiracy to use that
vowel in the transliteration of Arab names. There is like-
wise no o, so that o is thrust into o1 before Arab names
of persons, countries, and mountains in their European
rendering with an unaccountable vehemence of con-
\trariety].
Like so many Arabs and Berbers in the history of
North Africa he was a religious enthusiast, and lil:e all
such in every faith he was willing to die or to doom to
death in defence of his unprovable religious dogmas. He
resorted to Fez for his theological studies and worked at
the so-called university in that Moroccan city till he was
past his thirtieth year. He then felt inspired to preach
reform in Islam, and to that end set his face westward,
expounding his tenets first in Algeria (about to be dis-
tracted by the French entry), then in southern Tunis and
Tripoli. At last he reached Egypt and enrolled himself
as a student at the great Muhammadan university of Al
Azhar in Cairo. But his tenets, when he expounded them,
were pronounced to be heretical. so he journeyed on to
Mecca, seeking further instruction.
At this religious capital of Islami he met among other
pilgrims and enquirers a remarkable personality, Mu-
hammad ash-Sharif. a Negro prince from Wadai who in
1888 became supreme monarch or Sultan of that remark-
able country in the heart of Africa. A great friendship
grew up between the white-skinned Berber (for though
claiming to belong to an Arab tribe, the first of the Senusi
leaders was obviously of Berber stock) and the black
skinned Wadai prince, which affected for seventy years





INTRODUCTION


or more the relations between the Senusi sect and the,
central Sudan. But a/ -r the departure of the Wadai
prince the relations be' teen Muhammad bin Ali bin as-
Sanusi and the auth citiess of Mecca became more and
more difficult; and though the Senusi leader founded
monasteries in western Arabia he thought it better to
leave that land of orthodoxy and return to Africa.
He settled first-about 1844-near Derna in Cyre-
Snaica.* This region, once in far-back, pre-historic times
a huge island, had, together with Morocco, become the
only portions of North Africa where Islamic develop-
ments were unfettered. Yet even here, in the next
decade Turkish enquiries (after the anxiety of the
Crimean War was over) irked the first Senusi; so that in
1855 he moved from the vicinity of Derna to Jaghabub,
an oasis on the undefined borderland between Egypt and
the Tripolitan Pashalik. Hither he brought his two sons,
born in 1843 and 1845. They were named Muhammad
ash-Sharif and Muhammad al Mahdi, and according to
most authorities Muhammad ash-Sharif was the elder.
Mrs. Forbes, no doubt on good authority, reverses this
order and puts forward the Second Senusi-Muhammad
al Mahdi-as the elder and all along the rightful heir.
The story related to me and preserved in several books
is that one day at Jaghabub, not long before his death in
1859, the First Senusi put his young sons to the following
test of faith. He pointed out a tall palm tree near the
mosque and ordered them to climb up it and then, putting
their faith in God, to leap off it to the ground. Muhammad
ash-Sharif shrank from the test; his younger brother had
faith, climbed up the tree to near the fronds, and then
dropped to the ground and was not hurt. Him, there-
fore, his father designated as his eventual successor.
Whether or not this was a true story and whether or
He is said to have paid another visit to Mecca in 1859.





INTRODUCTION


no the Second Senusi was the younger son of the First,
he succeeded to his father's position, after a short interval
of 'regency' conducted by trusty councillors; though there
seems to have been no ill-feeling between the brothers.
Under Muhlanunad al Mahdi, the Second Senusi, the
political movement took great amplitude. His emissaries
spread far and wide over Negro and Negroid Africa.
Houses of teaching and prayer were founded in Senegal,
in western Nigeria, in Hausaland and above all through-
out the Tibu countries, Wadai and northern Darfur, as
well as in Fazan, Tunis, and Algeria. A little vague
hostility was shown towards France, but not more than
towards Turkish rule, and the feeling among the Senusiya
was rather in favour of the British. When the other
Mahdi, Muhammad Ahmad, the Dongolese destroyer of
the Egyptian Sudan, strove to enter into close relations
with Muhammad al Mahdi at Jaghabub his overtures were
snubbed very distinctly.
Unknown to himself, no doubt, the Berber blood in
the Senusi leader's veins ranged him against violent at-
tacks on civilised states. He did his utmost to prevent
the Arab fanaticism of the Middle Nile from spreading
to Egypt, or to Wadai and Bornu. His growing irn-
fluence over Turkish Africa attracted the interested at-
tention of Abd-al-Hamid, Sultan of Turkey. In 1889,
the Second Senusi leader was visited at Jaghabub by the
Pasha of Tripoli escorted by an imposing force. This
visit and other actions of Abd-al-Hamid caused the Second
Senusi perturbation. Accordingly in 1894, he transferred
himself and his funds and band of officials to the Kufara
oases, whither pursuit by Turkish troops would be very
difficult. From this safe retreat he intensified his rela-
tions across the Desert with Wadai, Kanem, and Darfur.
In 1900 the Second Senusi pope (as one might, by now
call him) moved his headquarters from Kufara to a rocky





INTRODUCTION


stronghold named Geru, in the district of Dar Gorani in
western Wadai. He did this partly in furtherance of an
unfortunate opposition to the French conquest of these
perturbed regions in the very heart of Africa. The Senusi
dynasty was never enlightened enough to perceive the
wickedness of the Slave Trade, and it resented the efforts
of the French to put down the shocking slave raiding of
the Wadai Muhammadans.
The French armies however were victorious, and the
Second Senusi died of disappointment in Wadai.
The Third in succession was the son of his brother,
Muhammad ash-Sharif and was named Ahmad ash-
Sharif. He was chosen by the confraternity because the
sons of Muhammad al Mahdi were deemed to be too
young for the cares and responsibilities of this Pope-like
position. Ahmad ash-Sharif re-established his capital at
Kufara, but in spite of his recognition as supreme head
of the institution attempts were made by the confraternity
to ignore the death of the Second Senusi, to announce
that he was travelling on secret business, that he would
one day return to resume the supreme power vested mean-
time in his nephew. It is possible this fiction was set about
by those who were led to distrust the wisdom of Ahmad
the Third Senusi.
Ahmad apparently decided that the Brotherhood
should offer unstinted opposition to the French in Central
Africa, and that they should ally themselves with the
Turkish Sultan whom his grandfather had derided and
opposed as an effete and heretical ruler. Between 1902
and 1909, Senusis were fighting the French advance on
Wadai and contiguous countries. In 1910 Turkish troops
advanced for the first time beyond Fazan into the Tibesti
mountains and Borku. But in the following, year they
were withdrawn northwards to oppose the Italian invasion
of Tripoli. Sayyid Ahmad ash-Sharif, the Senusi leader,


xvii





INTRODUCTION


joined Turkey after the outbreak of the Great Wlar in
1914 and in 1918 had to flee to Constantinople in a sub-
marine, as Mrs. Forbes relates. Thenceforth she becomes
the sole historian for the time being of the Senusi family.
and according to her relation we see that Idris, son of
Muhammad al 31ahdi, and grandson of the First Senusi
teacher has become the fourth ruler of his family and has
been accorded by Italy and Britain the title of a Prince
(Amir). His domain is now recognized as covering the
inner region of Cyrenaica between the Egyptian frontier
on the east, that of Fazan on the west, of the coast region
of Cyrene on the north and approximately on the south
of the 20th degree of N. Latitude. Jedabia as marked on
Mrs. Forbes's map is very near the Mediterranean coast,
and Zuetina, also referred to, is actually a seaport which
is to be the outlet of a hoped-for Sudan trade coming from
Wadai. Whether this important outlet is intended to
come within the Sharifian domain of Sayyid Idris is not
quite clear: it hardly seems likely that at present Italy
would allow a qiuai-independent. Arab power to attain to
a port on the Mediterranean between the provinces of
Cyrene and Tripoli.
Italy of course retains from an international point of
view the suzerainty over the Senusi Prince, whose access
to the Mediterranean she could not permit to be abused or
allow it to shelter a revival of the slave trade, practised
so long by the Turks, and at no time denounced by the
followers of the Senusi,
Somewhat similarly to the action of Italy since the
conclusion of the War, the British have been striving to
create an independent or nearly-independent Arab state in
Mesopotamia; they have evacuated Persia (though it is
still threatened by the Ruisiant Soviet) and they are en-
deavouring to recreate a wholly independent congeries of
Arab States in Arabia, especially in the case of the Hijaz,





INTRODUCTION


the Domain of Muhammad and the region in which he
was born, lived, and worked.
*What will Islam do for the world of civilisation in
return? Will it give up, once and for all and completely,
the age-long attempt to maintain slavery as an institu-
tion, to override and enslave the Negro, to persecute the
Christian, the Jew, and the harmless pagan? Will it
cease to despise true Science, and encourage unfettered
education? For a century or two after the Arab conquests
of Spain and Mesopotamia, education took great strides,
and the civilisation of the Old Worldwas really somewhat
advanced. Then followed a heart-breaking Muhammadan
reaction, as bad in its effects as Byzantine Christianity.
Under the Turks, more especially, Islam was made the
cover for a disastrous check to learning, to investigation,
to mastery over the planet and its resources. Muham-
madanism became the rallying ground for the enemies of
Civilisation. Its teaching became and has remained in-
credibly puerile and futile. Compare the curriculum of
Al Azhar with that of British, American, French, Ger-
man, Italian, Austrian or Spanish universities! The
author of this interesting story seems content and hopeful
as to the progress of Senusi teaching. I, having traced
the downward course of so many Muhammadan move-
ments, split always on the rock of Education, reserve my
opinion, and meantime distrust all Islamic agitation.
H. H. JOHNSTON.
July 25, 1921.










PREFACE


I FEEL this Libyan story needs a few words of explana-
tion, for owing to the peculiar circumstances in which it
was undertaken it is not the usual consecutive and com-
prehensive book of travel compiled after the return of
an expedition wherein the traveller is able to review the
journey as a whole. Reading such works, I have so often
found myself asking, "And then what happened?" or
"I wonder what he felt at the moment?" Well, this
is a very simple account of "what happened next." In
no way does it pretend to be a scientific record of
exploration, for, owing to the ever urgent necessity of
secrecy and disguise, the use of most instruments was
an impossibility.
The spirit of the story changes with the mood and
the method of its development. It was written in so
.many odd ways at so many odd times-under a scented
sage-bush in the sunset while the slaves were putting up
our tent, or huddled inside a flea-bag when the nights
were very cold. Sometimes, when life was exciting, it
was scribbled on a camel under the shelter of a barracan!
Twice, at least, the last chapter according to all human
calculations was completed in the hope that the tattered
copy books would somehow find their way back to
civilization and the fate of the expedition be known up
till its last moments. It is a daily record of success and
failure, of a few months in an alien world, showing how
much of that world's spirit was absorbed. Because, in
real life, the big things and the little things are inex-
tricably mixed up together, so in Libya at one moment
xxi






PREFACE


one worried because one's native boots were full of holes,
at the next perhaps, one wondered how long one would
be alive to wear them. This book records the former
mood as well as the latter, because both at the time were
equally important.
Naturally such an impossible, illogical journey leaves
one indebted to so many people that it is difficult to pick
out those to whom one owes most.
I have dedicated the story of our adventures to my
co-explorer Alhmed Bey Hassanein, for his knowledge of
the Senussi acquired during his secretaryship to the Talbot
Mission in 1916 was invaluable to me, and he was the
loyalest of my allies throughout the expedition. His tact
and eloquence so often saved the situation when my
Arabic failed, and we laughed and fought through all our
difficulties together.
Long before my Kufara expedition merged from im-
possible dream to probable fact, many officers stationed
in the Western Desert lent me their knowledge of the
Senussi oasis, gathered from careful conversations with
Beduin sheikhs and merchants, while from Khartum,
El Fasher and Cairo came maps and route reports which
were most useful.
I now know that we might have benefited exceedingly
from Rohlfs's most careful and valuable writings on the
subject of his North African travels, but unfortunately
we only possessed his "Kufra," which does not attempt
much description of the oasis he was the first European
to visit, confining itself chiefly to the relation of the
story of the destruction of his camp and the break-up of
the expedition. In a Journal of the African Society the
great German explorer gives the exact bearing on which
he marched from Jalo. Had we known this at the time
we might have arrived at Taiserbo in spite of the error






PREFACE


in the extent of vegetation marked on the map.* We
picked up the traces of Rohlfs's journey at Buseima,
where some of the inhabitants remembered him as
Mustapha Bey. At Hawari several sheikhs told us stories
about his adventures there and at Buma, but at no point
could we find any trace of Stecker having visited the
oases. On the contrary we were categorically assured
by Sheikhs Mohammed el Mad.:J, Bu Regea and Sidi
Omar at Buseima, and by Sheikhs Musa Squaireen,
Mansur Bu Badr, Musa Gharibeel and Sidi Zarrug at
Hawari that Rohlfs had no other European with him.
Stecker was the surveyor of the party, and in view of
the difference in the position he assigned to Buma and
that which we believe it to occupy, we made the most
exhaustive inquiries as to the personnel of the German
expedition; but while we collected 'much intimate in-
formation concerning Rohlfs, all evidence offered us
stated positively that he was not accompanied by Stecker
at Hawari, Buma, or on his return journey to Buseima.
On these occasions he was always described as being
"with his cook, Ali, and a big horse."
The gracious reception accorded me by H.E. the
Governor of Cyrenaica, Senator de Martino, made me
regretful that I could not stay longer in his admirable
colony. To him, to General di Vita and the Cavaliere
Queirolo. head of the Ufficio Politico at Benghazi, I
owe my delightful journey to Jedabia and a store of
invaluable information regarding the country to which
they most kindly facilitated my visit.
To any reader it will at once be evident that, after
the generous help of the Italians in Cyrenaica, the whole
SOn the Egyptian surrey map (2,000,000 series) 191, re-issued 1915, the green
area of Tnigerho vegAtntion runs across longitude 22 and touches latitude
961. It nili be seen from the map of our route that we marched across this
angle without finding Kusebeya or any trace of vegetation.






PREFACE


successs of the expedition depended on the good will of
the Emir Mohanuned Idris es Senussi and of his brother,
Sayed Rida. It is absolutely impossible for any European
to set foot into Libya without the permission of the
Emiir or his wakil. We were welcomed by the Sayeds
with a hospitality that reminded us of the Arab greeting
to a guest. "All that is mine is thine." Whatever we
asked for was given us, multiplied a hundredfold. Sidi
Idris and his brother were so prodigal of their generosity,
so unfailing of their help, that we shall feel eternally their,
debtors.
Since surprise has been expressed that we should have
met with any opposition in Libya once we were provided
with Sidi Idris's pas~port. I should like to explain that
we had no permit from the Emir himself. The letter
referred to throughout the book was merely a casual,
personal letter expressing his willingness to receive us.
We had, however, a passport from Sayed Rida authoriz-
ingi the Sitt Khadija, a Moslem working for the good of
Islam and the Senussi, and A. M. Bey Hassanein to
visit the country. This document insured us the most
hospitable welcome from the official classes in spite of
the plots of the Bazama family and of Abdullah, to which
plots al ine I imagine we owe the adventures of our
journey.
Because of the good will of the Sayeds we found many
friends and allies in their country, notably Mohammed
Quemish and Yusuf el Hamri, who accompanied us
through 1,000 miles of desert till, somewhere east of
Munasib Pass, we fell into the hands of the Frontier
Districts Administration, and thereby hangs a tale, for
so few of us in England know for how much she is re-
sponsible abroad!
Egypt is like a tadpole, her head the Delta, and her
tail the long curving valley of the Nile. Therefore, of





PREFACE


all countries, she is the most vulnerable of attack, and
never could she defend her own borders! Mohammed
Ali subsidized the sheikhs of the Wilad Ali to police his
frontiers. Before the War the Egyptian Coastguards
built their forts along the Mediterranean and Red Sea
shores and pushed their outposts south into the deserts,
but during the War a far more efficient force sprang into
being.f Nowadays the Frontier Districts Administration,
a kingdom within a kingdom, is responsible for the safety
of "all country not watered by the Nile" between
the Sudan and the Mediterranean, the Red Sea and
Cyrenaica. The territory is divided into four Provinces,
and under a Military Administrator in Cairo, Brigadier-
General Hunter, C.B., C.M.G., the governors and
officials combine the complicated duties of protector and
judge, guide, instructor and friend to the tens of thousand
Bedu in who might at any time prove a thorn in the flesh
of Egypt. This exceedingly capable organization, or
such portion of it as officiates in the Western Desert,
took charge of us before we reached Siwa, and to them,
especially to Colonel MacDonnell, Governor of the
Western Desert, and to Colonel Forth, Commandant
of the Camel Corps, we owe more than it is possible to
acknowledge in a mere preface.
In fact, I find myself unconsciously including in a
long list of indebtedness the fact that, having written
their names far and wide across the Eastern Sahara, they
had fortunately for me, temporarily omitted Kufara
from the itineraries of those swift dashes into the wilder-
ness which habitually add a couple of hundred miles or
so to the known chart of Africa!
One name is always connected with theirs, because it
appears on so many desert routes-that of Dr. Ball,
F.R.G.S., the Director of the Desert Surveys of Egypt.
Encouraged by his sympathy and experience, we brought


XXV







xxvi PREFACE
him our rough notes and drawings and from them he
compiled the map of our journey. I think, therefore,
that my readers' gratitude should be nearly as great as
my own!
RosITr FORBES.

Abu Menes,
March, 1921.
















CONTENTS


INTRODUCTION BY SIR HARRY JOHNSTON .


PREFACE
cHAPTPI


I WE ENTER ON THE GREAT ADVENTURE

II PLANS FOR THE FLIGHT

III THE ESCAPE FROM JEDABIA

IV ACROSS THE DESERT WITH SHE-IB

V TRIUMPHANT ARRIVAL AT JALO

VI CHRISTMAS IN THE DESERT

VII A FAULTY GUIDE ON A WATERLESS WAY

VIII THE LAKE IN THE DESERT

IX TREACHERY AT HAWARI .

X FEASTS IN THE HOLY PLACE

XI THE "CITIES" OF KUFARA .

XII THE FLIGHT FROM TAJ

XIII THROUGH THE MOUNTAINS

XIV THE ELUSIVE DUNES .

XV THE END OF THE JOURNEY

MAP .

APPENDXES .1

GLOARY .


Ixxx
xxvii


.1 1 21
., .: 21

. ., 39



88

112

S 126

S148

S 172

185

. ., 203

* i 222

.. 251

.1 ri, ., 270

j 9 291

. .2 810

. ., 811

S 841

. 345


PAGE
SVii

. xxi


. .













LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


RoSITA FORBES .Frontis
FACOIN
THE EMIR IDRIS ES SENUSSI
THE AUTHOR AS A BEDUIN SKEIKH .
AHMED MOHAMMED BEY HASSANEIN, MY FELLOW EXPLORER
SAYED RIDA ES SENUSSI .
THE AUTHOR AT JEDABIA .
THE AUTHOR ON CAMEL-BACK .
BEDUIN WOMAN AT JEDABIA .
NOMAD TENTS NEAR JEDABIA .
OUR SOLDIER SLAVES AND THE GUIDE ABDULLAH .
WELL AT JEDABIA
SOMAD ENCAMPMENTS ROUND JEDABIA .
STAYED RIDA ES SENUSSI
THE AUTHOR IN BEDUIN DRESS .
UNLOADING ON THE SECOND DAY FROM JEDABIA .
WADI FARIG; CAMELS AT THE WELL .
A HALT FOR THE NIGHT .
CAMP OF MOJABRA MERCHANTS AT BIR RASSAM .
HASSANEIN BEY AND MOJABRAS DRINKING TEA .
FLOCKS WATERING AT BIR RASSAM
SHE-IB'S CARAVAN ON THE MARCH BETWEEN WADI FARIG AND
AUJELA .
OUR CARAVAN APPROACHING AUJELA .
THE MOSQUE AT AUJELA, WHERE IS BURIED THE CLERK OF THE
PROPHET MOHAMMED
DESERT WELL AT JALO .
THE AUTHOR WITH THE TWO SLAVES-ZEINAB AND HAUWA
xxix


piece
G PAGE
2
6
8
10
24
24
28
32
32
36
86
40
44
48
48
64
64
72
72


80
80


96
96
112







xxx LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
FACING PAGE
OUR CAMP AT BUTT.FAL 112
CARAVAN ON THE MARCH BETWEEN BUTTAFAL AND TAISERBO 128
THE MOUNTAINS OF BUSEIMA 128
CARAVAN IN DUNE COUNTRY NEAR BUSEIMA 144
THE FIRST MEETING BETWEEN THE FAQRUN FAMILY AND OUR
PARTY AT BUSEIMA 144
GARDENS AND LAKE AT BUSEIMA 160
THE AUTHOR ON A CAMEL AT BUSEIMA 160
ZOUIA WOMEN AT BUSEIMA 176
AT BUSEIMA; TF.\ (-IIN(; THE FAQRUN FAMILY TO USE FIELD
GLASSES 176
THE FOUR EKHWAN WHO RECEIVED US AT TAJ 192
HASSANEIN BEY TALKING TO EKHWAN AT TAJ WHILE THE AUTHOR
PHOTOGRAPHED THEM .192
THE KAIMAKAAN AT TAJ .208
ZAWIA TOWER AT TAJ 224
KUFARA WADI, FROM TAJ 224
BARRAKING; A Too SUDDEN DESCENT .240
A LUNCH IN KUFARA VALLEY 240
A TEBU AT AWARDEL IN KUFARA 248
OUR CAMP AT AWARDEL 256
LOADING AT AWARDEL 256
CAMP AT MEHEMSA; YUSUG, MOHAMMED AND AMAR .272
THE AUTHOR ASLEEP ON A CAMEL 272
JAGHABUB 288
WELL IN ZAWIA AT JAGHABUB 288
OUR HOST AT JAGHABUB 296
SIDI IDRIS'S HOUSE AT JAGHABUB 296
MOSQUE AND QUEBA OF SIDI BEN ALI AT JAGHABUB 296
MY LONELY PICNIC IN KUFARA WADI -04
A GLASS OF MINT TEA ON THE WAY TO SIWA 04
DOCUMENTS OF WELCOME GIVEN AT BUSEIMA AND KUFARA (TAJ) 886

















THE SECRET OF THE
SAHARA :/KUFARA









THE SECRET OF THE
SAHARA: KUFARA

CHAPTER I
WE ENTER ON THE GREAT ADVENTURE
T HE great adventure began at Jedabia, 190 kilo-
metres from Benghazi as the crow flies. It is
only a group of scattered sand houses, with the
mysterious windowless walls of the East, flung down
on a wide space of white rock and sand, yet it is the
home of the great Senussi family. We arrived there on
November 28, 1920, having come by divers methods
across the stretch of stony desert which lies to the south-
west of Benghazi, the capital of Cyrenaica. It is an
almost deserted country of flat reddish sand, sprinkled
with rocks and tufts of coarse grey grass which provides
food for rare camel caravans and fuel for the Beduin
fires. There are no made roads, but rough tracks link
the scattered Italian forts, manned by companies of
stalwart Eritreans and irregular Arab levies. To the
south, the altipiano rises in a faint line of purple cliff
which catches wonderful reflections in the setting sun.
Otherwise the vista is intensely monotonous save for
an occasional encampment of Auwaghir. Unlike the
solid black "beit esh shar"1 of the Syrian or Algerian
nomad, their tents are of the poorest description, made
of patched sacking of various grey-brown shades; they
are very low-pitched, so that even in the centre one can-
not stand upright.
/In the dry season, wherever there are wells, may be
'A glossary of Arabic words and phrases used in the book will be found on p. 337.






8 THE SECRET OF SAHARA: KUFARA
seen congregated flocks of sheep and goats and herds of
camels numbering many thousands. After rain, how-
ever, so much water lies out on the rocky ground that
the animals can drink wherever they like, so the country
presents its most deserted appearance.
Benghazi is a little white town lying on the very
edge of the Mediterranean breakers, unprotected by
harbour or mole. Famine and disease considerably
reduced its population during the War and the suqs
are almost deserted. An occasional donkey with scarlet
tassels and a load of fresh dates passes down the Sidi
Shabi where European stores and native booths stand
side by side. A few camels come in from the country
half buried beneath huge sacks of grain. In the evening
there is a mustering of bearded merchants at the little
cafe. by the mosque, while contemptuous Askari in scar-
let tarboushes and swinging capes stroll by, smoking
Italian cigarettes, but the life of the town is confined
to the European quarter containing the hotel and the
Government offices.
The biggest of the white, Oriental-looking buildings
is Government House, with a double line of great
Moorish arches decorating its imposing facade. So
different from the windowless dwellings of Jedabia with
their discreet, high-walled yards, yet it was there that I
first saw Es Sayed MIohanuned Idris bin es Sayed el
Mahdi es Senussi, the man whose power is felt even
'beyond the boundaries of Libya and Cyrenaica. The
Italians. and the Senussi had ratified a few days before
the provisional treaty of 1916 and there were great
festas at Benghazi in honour of the newly made Emir,
who was spending a few days in the capital on his way
to Italy to visit the King.
There had been an official reception and down the
broad steps moved the black mass of Italian uniforms






a


At~


THE EMIR IDRIS ES SENUSSI






THE GREAT ADVENTURE


splashed with the vivid blue of their gala sashes and the
glint of their gay-ribboned medals. Foremost came
the Governor, Senator de Martino, in the green and gold
uniform of a Knight of Malta, and General Di Vita,
with his splendid rows of decorations. Between them
walked a figure which dominated the group and yet gave
one the impression of being utterly remote from it.
Robed all in white, in silken kaftan and trailing burns,
the rich kufiya flowing beneath a golden agal, with no
jewel or embroidery to mark his state, Sidi Idris came
slowly forward leaning on a silver-handled stick. An
Italian officer murmured in my ear, "Give him a longer
beard and he would be the pictured Christ!" He was
right. The ascetic leader of one of the greatest religious
confraternities in the world had the strange, visionary
eyes of the prophets of old. His long face had hollows
under the cheek-bones. The lips were pale and the olive
skin almost waxen. He looked out, under a broad brow,
dreamily, far beyond the pageant prepared in his honour,
to realms even more remote than his own untrodden
deserts. Thus night the Nazarene have walked among
the legionaries of Rome!
The following day I met the Emir at a dinner which
Omar Pasha gave in his honour. Before the other guests
arrived we conversed, I in faltering Egyptian Arabic,
he in the classical language of the Hejaz. In the same
flowing white robes he sat in a great chair at the head
of the room and in a long line beside him sat the
ekhwan who were to accompany him to Italy. They
were a picturesque sight in their multi-coloured robes of
ceremony. Prominent among them was the General
Ali Bashl el Abdya, a delightful bearded personage with
a complete set of gold teeth, which touch of modernity
contrasted oddly with his crimson kaftan and splendid
dark burnus bordered with silver. Beside him sat the






4 THE SECRET OF SAHARA: KUFARA
venerable Sharuf Basha el Ghariam, who had been the
teacher of Sidi Idris and was now his most trusted
.councillor. His jerd was a sombre brown, and the end
of it covered his head over a close-fitting white ma-araka,
but his kaftan, with long embroidered sleeves, was vivid
rose. He had a kindly, serious face and seemed much
more interested in his surroundings than the others.
I stumbled over my words of formal greeting, ex-
pressed in the unaccustomed plural, wondering whether
the man who looked so infinitely remote and uninterested
would even listen to what I was saying. The brooding
eyes softened suddenly and a smile that was veritable
light flashed across his face. If graciousness be the token
of royalty, then Sidi Idris is crowned by his smile For
such a look the Beduin prostrates himself to kiss the
dust the holy feet have pressed! Thereafter we talked
of my journey and he blessed me in his frail voice,
smiling still and saying, "May Allah give you your
wish!" I tried to tell him of my love of the desert, of
how I was happiest when, from a narrow camp bed/ I
could look at the triangular patch of starlight beyond the
flap of my tent. "I, too," he said. "cannot stay more
than a month in one place. Then I must move, for I
love the scent of the -desert." It is true there is a scent
in the desert, though there may be no flower or tree or
blade of grass within miles. It is the essence of the
untrodden, uit tarnished earth herself!
We dined gorgeously on lambs roasted whole and
stuffed with all sorts of good things-rice, raisins and
almonds-and on strange, sticky sweetnmeats that I
loved and bowls of cinnamon-powdered junket and,
best of all, the delicious thick Arab coffee, but the Eniir
ate little and spoke less. The Senussi law forbids
drinking and smoking as also the use of gold for
personal adornment, so after the meal glasses of sweet





THE GREAT ADVENTURE


tea flavoured with mint leaves were handed round to
the solemn ekhwan, who took no notice whatever of
their fellow guests, consisting of the Governor, the
general, the captain of the light cruiser which was to
carry the Senussi to Italy, and myself. Omar Pasha
made me sit beside the Emir, who suddenly turned to
his venerable followers, "Come and salute this lady,"
he said, and instantly, with the 'unquestioning obedience
of children, they clambered up from their low chairs
and moved in a body towards me. "Aselamu Aleikum"
they murmured gravely as they shook my hand without
raising their eyes, but giving me the Moslem salutation
to a Moslem!
Benghazi was en ftte those days. There were so many
ceremonies-a review, a great dinner in the Governor's
palace in honour of Italy's new ally-so I did not see
Sidi Idris again till the last night of his stay, when there
was a general reception which brought streams of Arab
notables as well as Europeans to witness the fireworks
from the wide verandas of His Excellency's dwelling.
I saw the Emir standing aloof from the chattering crowd,
his ekhwan near him, and wondered what he thought
Sof us all. Half the guests were of his own race and
creed, yet not here was his real kingdom, but among
the ten thousand Beduin who spring to horse or camel
at his word, among the hundred thousand pilgrims who
learn the law from his zawias! We stood together on
a wind-swept balcony and looked down at a wild dance
of Abyssinian soldiers. A thousand black figures, each
bearing a flaring torch, gyrated madly in the moonlight,
yelling hoarse songs of victory and prowess. The three
things a man may be justly proud of in Abyssinia are
killing a lion, an elephant or his enemy! The fantastic
dance we saw might celebrate one or other of these
achievements. Gradually whirling into tempestuous






6 THE SECRET OF SAHARA: KUFARA
circles, the soldiers flung their torches into flaming piles
in the centre and their chaunt rose stronger on the
wind. Sayed Idris was pleased: "You will see cere-
monies like this in my country," he said, "but there
will be no houses. You will not miss them."
The moment the last gun, announcing the' Emir's
departure for Italy, had been fired, Hassanein Bey and
I climbed into the car most kindly lent by the Govern-
ment. When he first consented to accompany me to
the Libyan Desert, where his knowledge of the language,
religion and customs was invaluable to me, Hassanein
Bey assured me that he came for a rest cure. Later on
he assumed so many characters that it was somewhat
difficult to keep count. He was always the Q.M.G.
of our little expedition and he used to produce maca-
roons at the most impossible moments from equally
impossible places He was a chaperon when elderly
sheikhs demanded my hand in marriage, a fanatic of
the most bitter type when it was necessary to impress
the local mind, mry Imam when we prayed in public, a
child when he lost his only pair of primrose yellow
slippers, a, cook when we stole a bottle of Marsala from
the last Italian fort and chased a thin hen till, in
desperation, she laid an egg for our zabaglione! He also
made the darkest plans for being a villain and murdering
anyone who interfered with our affairs, and I nervously
listened to tales of sudden disappearances in the Sahara.
However, on the day of our departure from Benghazi
he was distinctly subdued, for, on looking at our piles
of camp kit and my two very small suit-cases', I had
suddenly noticed several exceedingly large and heavy
leather bags. With horror I demanded if they were
all absolutely necessary to his personal comfort. "Yes,
really" he assured me. "They are only actual necessi-
ties. As a matter of fact they are half empty. I










































































































THE AUTHOR AS A BEDUIN SIIEIK


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THE GREAT ADVENTURE
thought they would be useful for putting things in,"
The words were hardly out of his mouth when one of the
opulent-looking cases, slipping from the Arab servant's
hand, burst open and deposited at my feet a large bottle
of "Heure blue" bath salts, several packets of salted
almonds and a sticky mass of chocolates and marrons
glaces, together with a pair of patent leather shoes
and a resplendent Balliol blazer. Words failed mel
"Necessities!" I stuttered as I marched towards the
camion to see that the heaviest cases of provisions were
not put on top of the rather fragile fanatis intended for
carrying water.
Ten minutes after leaving Benghazi the white town
with its slender minarets had disappeared into the sand,
and our camions crawled like great grey beetles over a
sunlit waste, with here and there a line of camels black
against the horizon. It was the season of sowing and
the tribes were scattered far and wide, planting the barley
that would suffice for their frugal life next year. Here
and there, as we went farther inland, a stooping figure,
inv close-wound white jerd, pushed a plough drawn by a
camel, while a friend guarded his labours, rifle slung
across his back. Sometimes a rare traveller on gaily
caparisoned mule, his coarse brown jerd flung over his
head and hiding the scarlet sederiya beneath, gave us
grave greeting, "Marhabal" "Bien venul" We spent
a night at Soluk, where the wells had attracted a
great flock of sheep, black and brown, numbering about
a thousand. The following day we rode the thirty kilo-
metres to Ghemines on wiry Arab horses with mouths
like iron beneath the wicked curved bits, and high-
pommelled saddles mounted on black sheepskins. Three
irregulars of the Auwaghir band accompanied us, gener-
ally galloping round us in circles by way of showing off
their horsemanship.


I *






8 THE SECRET OF SAHARA: KUFARA
A small encampment of some half-dozen tents lay
beside our path, so we turned in to see if they would
make us tea. At first they refused because I was a
Christian. Then a woman in striped red and yellow
'barracan, with a heavy necklace of carved silver, came
out to inspect us. "It is all right," she said to the
others. "She is a nice little thing and she has a Moslem
with her"-this in appreciation of Hassanein Bey's
white brocaded kufiya. They spread a scarlet camel's
hair rug for us to sit on, but they were not really con-
vinced of our good faith. My companion began asking
the men if they had made the pilgrimage to Mecca.
"Not yet," said the oldest wistfully. "What is written
is written. If Allah wills it, I shall go."
We were rapidly making friends when a fierce-looking
individual with a hard weather-beaten face and stern
eyes appeared. He carried tea and sugar, but bargained
for them violently, thinking we were both the scorned
Nasrani. When we told him we knew Sayed Idris, he
laughed in our faces. "Our lord Idris is travelling,"
he said. "Would you like to see a letter from him?"
I asked. Awe showed on all their faces, and their eyes
followed Hassanein Bey's every movement as he pulled
out the somewhat crumpled envelope from his pocket.
They read the superscription reverently, and then one by
one kissed it with passionate earnestness and gravely
pressed it to their foreheads. They returned it in com-
plete silence. Without a word the atmosphere changed.
The fanatic looked at us with humble yearning. The
old man's eyes were glazed. We knew that we could
have told these three men to get up and follow us to an
unknown destination and they would have obeyed with
unquestioning, ungrudging faith. "Sidi Idris has gone
to visit the King of Italy," I said. "He has been made
an Emir." They accepted the statement indifferently.













































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AHIMED MOI3AMMIED BEY IIASSANEIN. MY FELLOW EXPLORER


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THE GREAT ADVENTURE


How could a mere king confer honour on the man whom
Allah himself had distinguished above all others living?
As we remounted the old man kissed my hand with
tender eyes, murmuring, "Inshallah ma temut illa
Islam." and we galloped away amidst the wild "Ulla-
la-een" of the women and children.
Ghemines to Zuetina meant 120 kilometres in a
camion over a very bad sandy track, but that night I
slept in a tent for the first time for six months. There
was a wonderful starry sky with a full moon, and a
Senussi sheikh rode into see us on a splendid grey horse
with a scarlet saddle. The high pommels back and front
and the wide stirrups were of silver, and the purple-
tasselled bridle was heavily embossed with the same
metal. Sayed Mohammed Hilal es Senussi is a cousin
of Sidi Idris and a brother of the Sayed Ahmed es Sherif
who fled to Turkey at the end of the War. A kindly,
cheerful personage, he apparently had cut adrift from
the stern rules of his order and found charm in a semi-
European life. His language was so full of rhetorical
flowers that I found it difficult to understand, but he
lent me an excellent horse for the journey to Jedabia.
He also requested me to deliver to his cousin, Sayed
Rida, a poetic epistle which began, "Oh freshness of
my eyes, may Allah bless your morning with peace and
Joy.
The sand dunes of Zuetina gave way to a flat, colour-
less waste tufted with grey brushwood. As we turned
our horses' heads inland tiny jerboas scattered into their
holes at our approach, and occasionally a great hawk
wheeled above our heads. Otherwise there was 'ho sign
of life save one solitary horseman in white jerd on a
white horse and a boy sitting on a pile of stones playing
an odd little tune on a wooden flute. Our grey Arab
mounts were tired when at last we mounted a low rise





10 THE SECRET OF SAHARA: KUFARA
and saw before us a fringe of patched Beduin tents., It
was the first step on a long journey. Everything was
uncertain. There were so many difficulties to be sur-
mounted, but we felt that now, at least, the last trace
of Europe lay behind us. We breathed more freely.
We both loved the desert and the dwellers therein, and
we felt that they must understand and respond to our
sympathy. I turned to Hassanein Bey as the sandy
track ran between the blind mud walls that I had seen
in so many countries. "I feel as if I had left behind
me the last shred of civilisation. The simplicity of life
is beginning to impregnate me. I believe that old
Bedltin's blessing has bewitched me. When we leave
the desert I shall be a Moslem."
We sent to ask if Sayed Rida el Mahdi es Senussi,
the brother and wakil of Sidi Idris, would receive us
and we waited for an, answer at the edge of the suq,
where grave, bearded men, with the wistful eyes of those
who look at far horizons, stood in white-robed groups.
A few camels lay beside piles of grain, but otherwise the
wide open spaces between the square walled-in yards,
where were Arab houses, were deserted. The banner of
the Senussi family, a silver crescent and star on a black
ground, floated over two of the houses and the pro-
testing roar of laden camels came from one of the larger
enclosures, for Sayed Safi ed Din, cousin of Sidi Idris
and brother of the banished Ahmed, was travelling to
'the interior the following day with the whole of his family
and sixty beasts of burden.
A soldier of the Arab guard brought us news that
the Sayed would receive us at once and we dismounted
in one of the windowless yards before the door of a big
white house. We were ushered into the usual Arab
reception room with a stiff row of crimson brocaded
chairs and sofas round the walls and a table covered by


s





















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1,


SAYED HIDA ES SENITSSI





THE GREAT ADVENTURE 11
a beautiful embroidered satin cloth in the centre. Sayed
fida came forward to meet us with a reflection of his
brother's smile. One liked him at once. One appreciated
instantly his warm kindliness and hospitality. Sidi Idris
is a mystic imbued with the aloof dignity of another
world, but his wakil is young, spontaneous and sym-
pathetic, with a very simple, unaffected manner. He
offered us immediately a house to live in while we were
in Jedabia and put at our disposal a cook and two
other servants. He made me talk Arabic to him and
corrected my- mistakes with his broadest smile. Sweet
tea, flavoured with mint, appeared in delightful, painted
glass cups, and I soon felt as if I had known our host
for years. He was amused and interested in our divers
journeys. He made plans to show us a falcon hunt. He
wanted to give us instantly anything from horses to dates.
In fact, I felt that I was in the presence of a magician
who could wave his wand and produce the wish of my
heart! In appearance Sayed Rida is large and impos-
ing with a round, olive face and very dark eyes, soft as
velvet, which crinkle up humorously as he smiles widely,
showing strong white teeth. He wore a black jelabia
under his striped silk jerd, snowy white, and g rolled
white turban above a red ma-araka. Arab hospitality is
famous throughout the world, but we left the dignified
presence of Sayed Rida feeling almost overwhelmed at
his gracious welcome.
Our temporary home fascinated me. A solitary door
pierced the mysterious expanse of yellow wall made of
sun-dried blocks of sand of all sizes and shapes. One
passed through a small roofed court to a wide sunlit
yard whose high walls ensure the complete privacy of
an Arab family. Hassanein Bey had a small room at
one end and I a great high chamber, hung with texts
from the Koran. We were a kingdom to ourselves, for





12 THE SECRET OF SAHARA: KUFARA
there was a well just under my window, charcoal in an
outhouse and a large yard beyond where we could have
housed camels and horses. As it was, we stored our
simple outfit in it, for the evening was dry and fine. We
knew from the beginning that we must travel light and
that our final success might depend on our capability for
riding fast and far., We might have to leave all our
luggage by the way and, disguised as Beduin camel-
drivers, slip away in the night into the uncharted land
where none may follow.
Thus, besides our sacks of rice, tea and sugar-the
two latter intended for gifts to Beduins who helped us
on our journey-we had only a single fly tent, eleven feet
by eight feet, which could be divided into two by means
of a canvas curtain, a waterproof ground-sheet and a
couple of beds which rolled into our immensely thick,.
wool-lined sleeping sacks, a small army canteen that was
so heavy that we had grave doubts as to its eventual fate,
a canvas washing basin and a shamadan case complete
with vast supply of candles, for I foresaw burning much
midnight wax over note-books and maps. We had
reduced our provisions to the minimum which would
support human life for four months, such as coffee, tins
of army rations, slabs of chocolate, tins of cocoa and
milk already mixed, bully beef, vegetables to avoid
scurvy, and malted milk tablets, but the daily ration was
absurdly small, for we trusted to supplement it with dates
and rice.
By the light of Hassanein Bey's electric torch we
picked our way back over flat white rock and sand to
Sayed Rida's house to dine. This time we found our
host accompanied by Sayed Safi ed Din, "the little
warrior," as he is called among the tribes. / He is a boy
with a vivacious, pale face, a charming manner and a
ready wit. He is intelligent and, far more than the






THE GREAT ADVENTURE


others, he is interested in the ways of Europe. "I think
we should get on well," he said, "for you are as curious
about me as I am about you "
The memory of that dinner will haunt me for a long
time, for it consisted of twelve courses, of which eight
were meat in one form or another. We began eating at
seven-thirty and at ten-thirty the beautifully scented
tea with sprigs of mint made its welcome appearance.
During these three hours we ate soup, chicken, hashed
mutton, slices of roast mutton, aubergines stuffed with
sausage meat, fried chops, shoulder of mutton cooked
in batter, ragout of mutton with vegetables, stuffed
tomatoes, boiled mutton with marrow, savoury rice and
sweet omelette. It can be easily imagined that the feast
left us a little silent and comatose, but not so our host.
He was literally brimming over with kindness and fore-
thought. I was suffering at the time from a severely
dislocated foot, which had not been improved by the long
ride, and I was obliged to hobble in" one shoe and a
swollen native slipper by the aid of a stick. Sayed Rida
slipped away for a minute in the middle of the meal and
when we left the house, lo and behold, a horse was waiting
for me outside the door! His kindliness was as simple
and natural as his whole bearing. We asked him if
he travelled much and he replied, "I have not time. I
have so much work. You know it is just like planting
a garden. Everything grows and grows till one's time
is full" This from the Emir's wakil, whose word was
borne across half the deserts of the world, to Nigeria, to
the Sudan, to the outposts of Morocco, to the doors
of the "House of Allah" (Mecca).
I remember opening my shutters that night to a flood
of moonlight as clear as the day. A faint myrrh-scented
breeze, icy cold from the Sahara, came in, and I
wondered whether it had blown over the unknown oasis






14 THE SECRET OF SAHARA: KUFARA
we hoped to reach. We had had a long talk that evening
of past difficulties and future, plans. In Italy KuPara
represents the goal of so many hopes, in Cyrenaica the
ambition of so many daring young political officers, that
it is difficult to realise that in England it is an unknown
name, The sacred place of the Sahara, the far-off oasis,
six hundred kilometres from Jalo, which in itself is seven
days' rapid journey from the outskirts of civilisation,
is spoken of with awe and longing in Benghazi. "I
will tell you a great secret," said the Italian major who
had spent a couple of days with Sidi Idris at Jaghabub,
and had therefore penetrated many hundreds of kilo-
metres farther into the interior than any of his compa-
triots, "Some day I want to go to Kufara. No one has
ever been there except Rohlfs, forty years ago, and he
saw nothing-nothing at alll"
Without going deeply into the story of the Senussi
confraternity, it may be explained that their founder,
SidiMohammed Ben Ali es Senussi, preached his doctrine
of a pure and ascetic Islam from Morocco to Mecca, but
his teachings met with their greatest success in Cyrenaica,
where the Beduin had almost lapsed from the faith of
their fathers. Rapidly his zawia spread along the coast,
and his authority was acknowledged by the Sultan of
Wadai, who made him responsible for the caravans
traversing the great deserts of Wadai, the Fezzan and
Lake Chad. Thus the stern beliefs of the Senussi
spread with every caravan that went into the interior.
Mohammed Ben All, so holy that he never unveiled his
face to his disciples, so honoured that his followers
prostrated themselves to kiss his footprints, died at
Jaghabub in 1850 and left to his son, Mohammed el
Mahdi, the leadership of one of the greatest and fiercest
religious confraternities in the world. Their laws were
harsh-for even smelling of smoke a man might lose his





THE GREAT ADVENTURE


right handle Their hatred of the infidel was fanatical.
They ousted the Zouia and Tebu from their ancient
homes in Kebabo and established impregnably their holy
of holies in this oasis which nature herself had protected
by surrounding it with a belt of mighty dunes and two
hundred and fifty miles of waterless desert.
Kufara, the Kebabo of old, lies some six hundred
kilometres south, faintly south-east, of Jalo. It is the
heart of the Eastern Sahara and the centre of its trade,
for the only big caravan route from the Sudan and Wadai
to the north passes through it, yet the journey is so diffi-
cult that none but the strongest caravans can attempt it.
From the well at Buttafal, a day's journey south of
Jalo, seven hard, waterless days bring the traveller to
Zieghen, where there is a well, but no fodder or oasis.
After that he must continue another five days, two of
which are through dunes, before he reach Hawari, the
outskirts of the. Kufara group, sometimes considered by
the Arabs to be a se rate oasis because it is divided
from the main group by a chain of mountains. This is
the main route and the easiest. It continues to Wadai.
To the west of this track lie three other oases. The
first, Taiserbo, is also seven days' waterless journey from
Buttafal and it is rarely approached, for it has neither
civil, religious/nor commercial importance, but its Tebu
ruins might make it of interest historically. Some
hundred and fifty kilometres beyond in a south-westerly
direction is Buseima, which is famous for its dates, for
which caravans sometimes visit it, and still farther south
lies Ribiana, to all description a lawless spot from which
come the marauding bands which make the neighbour-
hood of Buseima exceedingly dangerous.
Of course, all this information was acquired at a later
date. When I arrived at Jedabia I knew less than
nothing of Libyan geography. I did not know that the






16- THE SECRET OF SAHARA: KUFARA'
principal villages in Kufara were Jof, the seat of govern-
ment, and Taj, the holy of holies of the Senussi faith.
I did not know that mountains and lakes, fields of
tamarisk and acacia, peaches. grapes and figs were to be
found in this Garden of Eden lost amid the impenetrable
sands, between the Dakhla Desert to the east, untraverseq
by Europeans, and to the west the trackless waste
stretching to Uau Szerir at the edge of Tripolitania, to
which remote priison some of the unfortunate survivors
of the Miani. column were sent as prisoners. To me,
Kufara was almost a mirage. It represented the secret
which the Sahara had rigidly guarded for so long against
Christian eyes. The tragic story of Rohlfs' ill-fated
expedition fired my enthusiasm to reach this centre of
the world's most fanatical confraternity, the unknown,
mysterious country untrod by foot of stranger, be he
Christian or Moslem.
Having regard to the amazing difficulties of the
journey and the almost maniacal hatred with which
strangers are regarded, it is natural that, with one pos-
sible exception, no European should ever have been able
to reach the sacred cluster of zawias and moral)its at Taj.
A French prisoner spent some time in Kufara during the
war; he was sent there from Uau Szerir by order of
Sayed Ahmed. Over forty years ago a German explorer
made a very gallant attempt to solve the mystery of
the far-off oasis. In 1879 the Kaiser Wilhelm I sent
a scientific expedition to Libya consisting of four men-
Rohlfs, Steeker. Eckhart and Hubner. It was backed
by the whole power of Turkey. It carried magnificent
presents from the Emperor. It was laden with cases of
silver and gold. Hostages were held at Benghazi, while
Rohlfs led his party to the southern deserts. He left
Jalo on July 5 with a hundred camels and a large
escort of Zouias mounted on horses, including several





THE GREAT ADVENTURE


sheikhs, the principal of whom was Bu Guettin. He
accomplished the amazing feat of reaching Taiserbo in
four and a half days, by riding nearly twenty hours out
of the twenty-four. In his most interesting book on
his North African travels, which has unfortunately not
been translated into English, he suggests that Taiserbo
may have been the site of the original Tebu sultanate,
as he saw ruins which might possibly be those of a castle
or stronghold at Diranjedi. He continued his southern
course by way of Buseima, till he reached Hawawiri,
where he was persuaded by a friendly sheikh, Korayim
Abd Rabu, to camp in an outlying palm grove to avoid
any friction with the villagers, who refused to allow the
Nasrani to enter their country.
The plucky Teuton describes the gathering outside
his tent and the long discussion as to whether he and
his companions should be murdered or not. The day
following, August 14, they were induced by Bu Guettin
and the treacherous Zouias, who were fanatically opposed
to the presence of strangers and greedy to share the spoils
of so rich a caravan, to leave Hawawiri and, skirting
the oasis, to isolate themselves in Boema, the loneliest
and most deserted spot in the whole group. Rohlfs ap-
parently agreed to this plan because the neighbourhood
of any of the main villages was dangerous. He had to
oppose the combined hatred of the ekhwan and pupils
of the zawias, religious fanatics, the villagers who
jealously guarded the privacy of their country and the
passing caravans of pilgrims and merchants. After being
held a prisoner for nearly a month in this lonely camp,
in daily fear for his life, he was helped to escape by his
original friend, Korayim, who took him by night, with
his three companions, to his son-in-law's camp, somewhere
in the neighbourhood of Zuruk. That very night
the German's camp was attacked and looted. Every






18 THE SECRET OF SAHARA: KUFARA
single note-book, iiap, drawing and scientific instrument
was destroyed, so Rohlfs was unable to attempt much
description even of his journey up to Hawawiri.
In the book which he calls "Kufra" he devotes a
chapter to his perils and battles in that inhospitable oasis,
but, after his rescue by Korayim, whose son we met at
Taj, his narrative becomes very disjointed. He was
moved to another place before being allowed to leave the
oasis. He himself thinks it was Jof, but from his
description of the journey this seems impossible. He
spent another fortnight under the surveillance of Korayim
-he tells us that he was not allowed to move without
a guard of twenty rifles-during which he seems to have
confronted every form of extortion and threat with calm
and intrepidity. On September 27 he left the oasis with
Korayim, who took him all the way to Benghazi. where,
unfortunately, the sheikh died. Consequently there is a
legend that Rohlfs poisoned him. With experience of
the greed of our own escort, I came to the conclusion
that the grateful German probably gave him too much
of his own cherished stores and the Arab over-ate!
After this ill-fated expedition no alien presence cast
a shadow on the sanctity and isolation of Kufara till
Sayed Ahmed sent his prisoner there. 'Many attempts
were made from Siwa to pierce the first barrier of dunes,
but in vain. The secrets which Rohlfs had so nearly
solved remained wrapped in the mirage of the great
deserts and Kufara was still a legend more than a fact.
The amicable relations at present existing between
Italy and the Senussi, and the genuine friendship of
Senator de Martino and Sayed Idris made it easy for
us to reach Jedabia as the guests of the former's most
hospitable Government, but thenceforth it was left us to
fend for ourselves. We could not take our kindly hosts
of Benghazi into our confidence, as they would have





THE GREAT ADVENTURE


been aghast at the idea of a young woman venturing alone
into a territory as yet unexplored. The agreement that
had just been signed with Sidi Idris gave them control
of the whole of Cyrenaica, thus assuring a future of great
prosperity to the colony, but it left the great Libyan
desert from Aujela to Jaghabub, with Kufara still an-
other six hundred kilometres to the south, in the hands of
Sayed Idris as an independent ruler under Italian
protection.
A most humorous complication added immensely to
our difficulties. Hassanein Bey, having been secretary
to the Italo-British Mission which arranged the treaty
of 1916 with the Senussi, was promptly suspected of the
darkest Pan-Islamic designs. For a week at Benghazi
we lived in a state of suspense. Intrigue was in the air
and everyone suspected the motives of everyone else. If
a camion broke down, we decided that we were not to be
allowed to reach Jedabia. If Hassanein spoke to a
Beduin, using the Moslem salutation, the eyes of our
so-called interpreter would almost pop out of his head
with interest and dismay. Relays of kindly individuals
took the utmost interest in our history, plans, ideas and
belongings. We were "pumped" until we could not think
of anything more to say; and we, in turn "pumped"
every hospitable and amiable individual who politely
and indifferently asked us our destination! At times we
must have worn such strained and agonised expres-
sions that I wonder we were not suspected of Bolshevism
at the very least. The most amusing part of the busi-
ness was afforded by the spies who constantly surrounded
us and who were so thrilled with their own importance
that I used to have daily fights with Hassanein Bey to
prevent ,him playing delightful little comedies to excite
them still more.
However, once Jedabia was reached we felt happier.






20 THE SECRET OF SAHARA: KUFARA
The open desert lay before us and the lure of the great
tracks south! Somewhere far beyond the pale mauve
line of the horizon lay the secret of the Sahara, the oasis
which had become the goal of, every explorer, from the
enthusiastic coastguard officers who dreamed of forcing a
trotting hajin through the sands, to the governments
whose camions and light-car patrols had failed to pierce
the waterless drifts. The masked Tuaregs, those lawless
riders who threaten the lumbering south-bound caravans,
bring strange tales of a white race, blue-eyed, fair-haired,
whose women live unveiled with their men. Legend
has attributed its home to the mysterious oasis whose
position varies according to the whims of the map-maker.
"Inshallah" I breathed to the stars and the winds!











'CHAPTER II


PLANS FOR THE FLIGHT

IWENT to sleep beside a glassless window opening
into an empty yard, after wondering whether we
should be able to buy necessary food in the suq, or
whether we should have to break into our hoarded
provisions. I woke to a busy scene and rubbed my eyes
in amazement. In one corner was a white bell-tent,
from which came the smoke of a charcoal fire. In
another was tethered an excellent horse with a European
saddle. Half a dozen servants appeared occupied in
preparing an immense meal. I called to Hassanein Bey:
"Where on earth did you get all this?"
"I?" he replied, bewildered. "I? It is all from
Sayed Rida. Do you realise that that horse is going to
stay here for you to ride whenever you like, that the
tent is a fully equipped kitchen and that you've got a
cook and I don't know how many servants besides? You
mentioned you liked dates last night. Well, a huge sack
arrived this morning, and meat, and bread, and tea, and
sugar, and heavens know what beside. We are the
Sayed's guests and for the Lord's sake don't say you
like anything else, or it will arrive here within an hour!"
He paused for breath, while I gazed at him helplessly.
When one has come from an Italian colony one is used
to hospitality, for, from the Governor downwards, every-
one was amazingly kind to us, but this was overwhelm-
ing. I felt that a whole garden of floral rhetoric would
not adequately express my gratitude.
21






22 THE SECRET OF SAHARA: KUFARA
We rode out through the deserted stretches of flat
white rock and sand to see great herds of camels being
watered. Bronze figures,! nude but for a scarlet loin
cloth, shouted and sang with monotonous rhythm as they
let down goatskins at the end of a rope and heaved them
up brimming to pour their contents into rough troughs.
A white morabit and single palm marked the centre of
a cluster of sand-coloured houses. Otherwise, the build-
ings were scattered over a broad expanse with a, straight
line of the suq booths in the centre. We created so much
sensation in the latter tlia I decided that my grey riding
coat and felt hat were out of place. We told Mustapha,
a resplendent individual belonging to one of the irregular
bands, whom the Political Officer at Benghazi had kindly
lent to us, to go and discover someone who wished to
sell some native clothes. He returned half an hour later
with a baffled and at the same time awed expression, in
company with Sayed Rida's confident, whose coal-black
face looked out from the folds of an immense white
kufiya. "You are the Sayed's guests," the latter in-
formed us respectfully. "Anything that you need I will
get for you at once." Gravely he offered me a bulky
parcel. It contained the most beautiful white silk jerd,
striped like the one I had silently admired the previous
night with a green and silver agal, and a kufiya that filled
my heart with joy, for it was a subdued blending of all
rich colours-purple and rose and blue on a silver ground,
with long dropping tassels. There was also a tarboush
and a pair of wonderful yellow slippers. Before the
faltering words were out of my mouth, Hassanein Bey
had pounced upon the yellow slippers. His expression
was that of a small child when a much-loved doll has been/
restored to it. "Hamdulillah!" he exclaimed, and fled,
clutching his prize.
I confess to spending a happy half-hour struggling





PLANS FOR THE FLIGHT 23
with the intricacies of the jerd and picturing myself
dressed in Sayed Rida's splendid gift offering sweet
mint tea to reverend sheikhs. Thereafter we erased any
verbs expressive of desire from our vocabulary, but we
did not succeed in evading our host's royal generosity.
'We wanted a couple of small sacks into which to put
a week's supply of rice and flour, for once we left
Jedabia we should have seven or eight days' journey
to the next oasis, and we planned to send the baggage
camels ahead and ride light on the fastest beasts we could
find. With this intention we again despatched the
brightly clad Mustapha to, the suq. Ten minutes later
he was brought firmly back by the Head of the Police,
a stalwart black with a hard, keen face. Our follower
was protesting wildly, but to deaf ears, for behind him
came the ebony confidant, Haji Abdel Salam. "I will
send you the sacks," he told me in the tone of a parent
scolding a foolish child. "The Sayed wishes to give you
everything you can need." Even Hassanein Bey's elo-
quence failed him, while I wondered if we were living in
one of the tales of the Arabian Nights.
Our peace, however, was short-lived. For the first
few days at Jedabia we were in a fool's paradise. All
round us lay the desert. It seemed so easy a thing to
hire a few camels and a guide and disappear over the
Srim of the horizon. By the fourth day we had discovered
a few of the most important difficulties. Firstly, there
were no camels. There had been an excellent harvest.
The Beduin was rich and he didn't want to work. It was
impossible to explain the exact destination of the caravan,
for the Holy Oasis is far beyond the bourne of most
camel-drivers' dreams. Secondly, all work had to be
done in secret, because the whole of our household were
spies with the possible exception of the black cook, Ali.
Mustapha had been in the Ufficio Politico and he






24 THE SECRET OF SAHARA: KUFARA
dutifully reported the minutest of our doings. The Head
of the Police, the stalwart Mabruk, was also not averse
to Latin gold, so he placed his brother to watch us as
horse-boy and, lest that were not sufficient, he sent us
a mysterious servant whose head appeared suddenly at
the glassless window whenever Hassanein Bey and I were
studying the Koran or writing notes. We were never
able to relax our vigilance for a second. We used to hold
long Arabic conversations on how pleasant we found life
in Jedabia, how we must certainly stay there a fortnight
before returning to Benghazi. We knew that every word
would be overheard and repeated.
Bazaar rumour spoilt our first plan, which was exceed-
ingly simple. We meant to persuade an ekhwan to
accompany us to see some neighboring village, where
there would be a suppositional marriage or other festa,
and from there drift on. We had not reckoned with the
fanaticism of the Moslem. Tales of a wealthy Christian
woman about to travel into the interior spread like a
bush-fire. Mustapha came to me with lurid tales of
throats cut almost within sight of the suq. Sayed Rida
himself explained that no Christian life was safe beyond
the boundaries of Cyrenaica, and that anyone supposed
to have money was a marked prey for the lawless bands
who swept out of the desert, seized their prey and dis-
appeared into the limitless sands as ants upon an English
lawn. We learnt many things that day. We discovered
that Mannismann, the German, had been killed by his
own Arab guard a few hours outside the town because
he had twelve thousand pounds in gold upon him. We
heard that the Tebu tribes of the group of oases erro-
neously known as Kufra (really Kufara) have not
entirely submitted to the Senussi rule and, consequently,
still attack any caravans travelling beyond Taiserbo.
"But I don't understand," I said. "Taiserbo is part of



















































TIHE AUTHIOR Al JEDAlIA


TIE AUTHOR ON CAMET.-BACK





PLANS FOR THE FLIGHT


Kufara, isn't it? It is marked so in our maps." "No I
Nol" replied our informant impatiently. "Taiserbo is
gareeb, gareeb [near]. You can go there easily. It is
not important. There is no sikka [way]. Kufara is
much farther on. The dangerous part is after Taiserbo.
If you go to Buseima you may have to fight."
Thereafter we began a laborious, systematic campaign
to correct the impression of a rich Christian woman. I
discarded my hat for the Sayed's beautiful kufiya. Early
and late I could be heard reciting verses of the Koran.
I already knew all the obligatory prayers, and took care
to perform them minutely. Moreover, we used to
wander through the Beduin camps which fringed Jeda-
bia, talking to the women and gradually gaining their
confidence. At first we were regarded with the ut-
most suspicion, which gradually relaxed as we gave
them Moslem salutations and told them how happy we/
were to be living an Arab life among Arabs. If a sheikh,
a Haji, came to us, I used to murmur the "Shehada" to
him: "Ash hadu illa Illaha ill Allah wa ash hadu inna
Mohammedan rasul Allah," upon which he generally
blessed me warmly. After a few days I was greeted
enthusiastically and introduced to the solemn-faced babies
adorned with silver amulets and taught how to bake flat,
heavy bread in mud ovens.
It is amazing how perfect is the wireless telegraphy
system of the desert. One night, dining with Sayed
Rida, I remarked that I was so glad there was no electric
light and that I liked the local colouring and primitive
lighting effect in Arab houses. This was translated into
the bazaar into, "She is a Moslem. She hates all Euro-
pean things. She wants to keep the old customs as our
fathers had them."
We knew our campaign had succeeded on the eighth
day, when, after the chief spy, despairing of getting a






26 THE SECRET OF SAHARA: KUFARA
glimpse of us any other way, had brought us as a gift
an absurd black bird with a bald head, a brother of Ali,
the cook, arrived from his camel's-hair tent. He greeted
us kindly and told us that the Beduins were in sympathy
with us, that they knew we were Moslems and of their
own blood.
Thus we felt we had done something to dispose of
the probability of sudden death before we were a hu ndred
kilometres on our way, but all other arrangements lagged
intolerably. The most venerable and respected of all
the ekhwan, Haji Fetater, who had done the great jour-
ney right through Kufara to Wadai, was the one man who
could probably help us on our way. He was of the
Mojabra tribe and he so loathed the "Nasrani" that
.he would not be in the same room as a Christian. I do
not know whether it was Hassanein Bey's eloquence,
or his sudden discovery that Sidi es' Senussi himself
had prophesied that the English would eventually be con-
verted to Islam, that finally induced him to promise to
accompany us. "We are all servants of the Sayed.
Only if he tells me to go, must I go," he aid, but when
the prophecy had aroused his enthusiasm, he flung back
his splendid grey head. "I will protect her," he ex-
claimed; "I will take her to Kufara, and she shall kiss
the holy qubba and be a Moslem!"
He was eighty years old, but he determined instantly
that he would run the whole caravan and generally
instruct us in the art of desert travelling. He had caught
but a glimpse of me as I was hurried from the house in
case my presence therein should pollute him. He can
only have seen an exceedingly shy young person, with
respectfully downcast eyes, in a pale blue tweed suit
huddled on a ridiculously small pony, dangling a swollen
foot in a native slipper, but he luckily took it into
his head that he liked me. Hassanein Bey rapidly





PLANS FOR THE FLIGHT


clinched his acceptance by repeating the "Fatha," the
opening "sura" of the Koran. This is only done on
very important and solemn occasions and it constitutes
at the same time a blessing and an oath.
Even then our kindly host was not satisfied, but
insisted on sending an escort with us, ten soldiers of his
guard, coal-black slaves, under a commander called Abdul
Rahim. He also determined to settle the vexed question
of camels once for all by sending a caravan of his own
to Kulnfra to bring back some of his belongings and
allowing us to travel with it. To anyone who does not
know the East, it would now appear that things were
successfully settled. Not a bit of it! The soldiers were
at Zuetina, distant 24 miles. The camels were at least
two days' journey away, a matter of 60 miles. They
were vaguely described as being in the region of Antelat,
the house of Sayed Rida's family. Each' day we
watched the horizon with anxious eyes. Each day we
counted eagerly every row of black specks that ap-
peared amidst the sun-browned grass and rock, but
neither camels nor soldiers appeared. We had decided
that the caravan should announce its departure for noon
and that in reality the long line of camels should steal
past our door at 3 A.M. A few would be driven round
a convenient wall and loaded hastily with all our outfit,
after which we could mount and be 50 kilometres away
before anyone knew of our departure! We could leave
letters explaining a sudden opportunity and an equally
sudden determination, and send back further notes from
every oasis en route.
Unfortunately, it was a race against time, for every-
one was growing suspicious at my inexplicable desire to
stay so long in a little mud village on the edge of the
world. Omar, our Government interpreter, was deter-
mined to get back to Benghazi for Christmas. The






28 THE SECRET OF SAHARA: KUFARA
delightful cavalry lieutenant who was political officer at
Zuetina was naturally bored at having to drive his heavy
camion three or four times a week from his little camp
by the ocean tosee what a mysterious Englishwoman
might be doing in the debatable country on the fringe
of civilisation. As the, days wore on they tried by every
means in their power to lure me from Jedabia, but my
exceedingly swollen foot did me good service. "The
stirrup hurt it so much riding here that I don't want to
risk it again till it is quite recovered," I explained.
They suggested camions, and I assured them I had so
much work to do that I was only too glad of the peace
and quiet of my Arab house to do it in.
It was a ludicrous situation. Five young people used
to forgather in the house of the doctor to partake of
M. Omar's delicious zabagliones, and not one of them
ever uttered one word of truth! Each felt instinctively
that the other was lying, but none knew exactly how
far he was bluffing or what card he had up his sleeve.
Perhaps we were a little better off than they, for we
knew their game and they luckily had failed to under-
stand ours. The political aspect was always before their
eyes. In their anxiety to know whether HI-ssanein
Bey was plotting a Pan-Islamic empire with the thirty
Egyptian ex-coastguards who had taken refuge with
the Senussi during the war, they overlooked other possi-
bilities. I think the idea did occur to them that I
wanted to go much farther into the desert than they
cared to permit, but I doubt if they suspected our real
goal. This used to surprise me immensely at the time.
Looking back, I realise that it would have been very
difficult for them to imagine that the woman they saw
in a panniered frock, with her French hat veiled in
drooping lace and high heels to match the red of her
striped cloak, would metamorphose herself into a Beduin




























































































BEDUIN WOMAN AT JEDABIA





PLANS FOR THE FLIGHT


and attempt a journey which they looked upon as, im-
possible for a European and exceedingly difficult even
for an Arab.
We felt that we had one last card to play that they
would never suspect-a midnight flight. We were loathe
to use it, however. We waited patiently for the camels
that did not come, and fenced desperately for time.
Luckily our opponents were deceived by the apparent
froideur existing between Hassanein Bey and myself.
We had made a point of disagreeing with each other
at eveiy possible opportunity and even retailed our
grievances occasionally to sympathetic ears. Suddenly,
therefore, they took my companion into their confidence,
which made things distinctly easier. Together they used
to lay dark plots to induce me to leave Jedabia, where
there was no cafr chantant and no "Hotel Nobilel"
In spite, however, of this new move, we began to get
very anxious. The spies had redoubled their vigilance.
There were no signs of camels. Mabruk, the Head of
the Police, introduced a person into our house whom he
said was an ekhwan from Kufara, evidently intending
that we should question him enthusiastically about his
journey. We refrained from all mention of it, and the
supposed ekhwan was so intensely stupid that one cannot
imagine that he could have been much use to any secret
service!
This was our position on December 4 when, on our
morning's wander round the neighboring encampments,
we saw a line of camels coming in from Antelat. We
instantly jumped to the conclusion that they were ours.
One of the spies was leading the horse on which I was
balanced sideways to protect my lame foot, so we could
show no signs of joy, but for a few hours we made happy
plans for the freedom of the desert. We had just
finished a lunch of rice, dates, mutton and mint tea






80 THE SECRET OF SAHARA: KUFARA
when the'blow fell. The black wazir arrived in consider-
able perturbation. Not only was there no news of our
camels or of our soldiers, but our opponents were well
aware, that a caravan was starting for Kufara in a few
days' time and that we hoped to travel with it "for a
day or two." Hassanein turned to me with blazing eyes
in a chalk white face. "It's come to a fight," he said,
"and I'm glad." I used to be amused sometimes at
the way he shirked doing the simplest things till the
last moment, but in sudden emergencies the whole
strength and energy of the man flamed out and there
was no one in the world I would rather have beside me.
HIe grasped essentials rapidly and left me to fill in details.
"It's flight on two camels and the caravan must follow!"
he said. As usual, I started to work out the practical
possibilities while he went to gain further news.
I think I shall always remember that long dragging
afternoon. The wind was full of dust, but I took the
pony and went down to one of the encampments feeling
I simply could not smile. I felt hopeless and trapped
as if a net were closing round me and there was a numb
dead ache at my heart. Nevertheless I could not help
responding to the smiles of the Beduin women who
pressed,round me, brilliant blots of colour in their orange
and black, or red and black barracans, with blue tribe
marks tattoed on their foreheads and half a dozen
huge silver ear-rings dangling beneath their plaited hair.
One laughed at my white hands against her black skin.
"You have soap to wash with. We have none," she
said. The lounging white figures in the suq stared at
me curiously as I passed, but did not protest. They
had stoned a "Christian dog" from Zuetina the day
before, but I was the Sayed's guest and therefore
honoured. A dignified sheikh gave me greeting. He
was a Haji and he told me: "We are all under the





PLANS FOR THE FLIGHT


Sayed's orders. You may go safely where you like
among us, for it is the Sayed's wish." Mustapha listened
eagerly. "It is true," he said. "The Sayed is great.
All the people fear him. Otherwise they would kill every
Christian in the country."
I began to realise the vast problem with which Italy
is faced and to admire more than ever the way she is
dealing with it. For the moment Europe has no message
for the fierce fanatics of Libya, but the fertile altipiano
of Cyrenaica, only a few miles from the sea, will have a
prosperous future. Italian workmen have done so much
to build up the prosperity of Egypt and Tunis. There
is a wide field opening for them from Zuetina to Tobruk
in which their industry and thrift may benefit their own
country. Cyrenaica, once the granary of the Roman
Empire, will be fittingly colonised by the descendants
of those legionaries who left their trace from Cyrene
to far-off Misda. The budding colony should have a
splendid agricultural future and the friendship between
Italy and the Senussi, recently cemented at Regima,
Should open up the old trans-Saharan caravan routes.
The Sultan used to confide his most precious merchandise
to the protection of idi Ben Ali es Senussi on its long
journeys to Wadai. 'Why should not the same' arrange-
ment be made between the Governor of Cyrenaica and
the hereditary Emir of the Senussi?
The sun was setting as I left the suq, a blaze of deep,
flaming orange that we never see in Europe. The sky
was molten in the crucible. I sent away the pony and
sat crouched on the sand to watch the glory fade. A
camel or two passed like huge distorted shadows across
the burning west. A few white shrouded figures went
by me with a soft "Bismillahl" I ached for a horse,
a camel, anything that would take me away into the
wide spaces beyond Jedabia. The strain of suspense






82 THE SECRET OF SAHARA: KUFARA'
eased a little in the evening, for during one of our games
of cross Ipurpose at the doctor's house we discovered
that our opponents proposed to prevent our accoimpany-
ing the caravan on the ground that no ekhwan was
going with it. Apparently they still did not suspect our
ultimate destination, but we were not at all certain that
they had not wired for the camions from Benghazi. We
sat up late that night in the silent court with the stars
above us, and the guardian walls, which I had learned
to love, shutting out all eavesdroppers. The spies re-
tired in a body after our frugal dinner and Ali was
always thankful to spend the night in the family tent.
We decided on a simple but somewhat desperate plan.
We felt that we should be allowed only two or three
more days in Jedabia without an open fight, and we
could not be certain of the twenty camels necessary for
the caravan. Therefore we decided to leave practically
all Our luggage behind and go off in the middle of the
night, if possible, with the ekhwan. Our little world
would be told next morning that we had gone to visit
some of the neighboring camps and would return in a
day or two. To reassure them they would see all our
clothes hanging up on their usual pegs, most of our suit-
cases scattered about the room, our sacks and boxes of
provisions stored in various corners, even my camp chair
andythe table on which I wrote.
On December 6 we did a hard morning's work.
After our date and egg breakfast we settled ourselves
with a Koran and note-books behind closed doors and
said we did not wish to be disturbed. As soon as our
retinue had retired to the white bell-tent which served
as kitchen we set to work on the provision boxes. We
emptied them of their contents and carefully filled them
with immense stones which we laboriously collected from
an inner court in course of construction. On top we








































NOMAD TENTS NEAR JEDABIA


OUR SOLDIER SLAVES AND TIE GUIDE ABDULLAH





PLANS FOR THE FLIGHT as
put layers of straw and a few tins. which could be seen
through carefully arranged chinks. We sorted out an
extra week's provisions to add to those we had already
prepared and the rest we put into big sacks, with the
intention of sending these latter at midnight, when the
spies were sleeping peacefully, to some place where they
could be stored until the dilatory camels arrived and the
caravan started. They would then be packed unosten-
tatiously with all the rest of the loads and when we
joined the caravan a few days' journey on the way to
Aujela we should recover our most necessary provisions.
We ourselves, with the tent, two rolls of bedding, a
fortnight's provisions and two suit-cases chiefly contain-
ing films, medicine, apparatus, candles, soap, etc., would
disappear the following night in Beduin clothes.
I confess to feeling a certain pang when I realised
that I must leave every single European garment behind
except a pair of riding boots and breeches and a woollen
sweater. Hassanein said he thought it was carrying
realism too far. I understood the reason when, sternly
insisting that his one suit-case should hold half the
apparatus and only the simplest necessities of life, it
disgorged seven different coloured bottles of eau de
Cologne and a mass of heterogeneous attire more suited
to Bond Street than to the Sahara. I had to superintend
the packing lest he ignore the claims ;of malted milk
tablets, towels and woollen underclothing in favour of
delicately striped shirts and a lavender silk dressing-gown!
We wondered if we should ever see again the garments
we left gracefully decorating the walls in order to indicate
the imminence of our return, or whether a new fashion
would be set in Jedabial
At lunch time the tailor came to fit my strange
garments. It appeared that Sayed Rida wished to give
me no fewer than four suits, but I assured him that I






84 THE SECRET OF SAHARA: KUFARA
wanted only one to be photographed in and to show
my friends in England. We finally compromised on
two, one of which arrived that evening, an oddly shaped
pair of trousers, very narrow at the ankle, made of white
calico spotted with green leaves, and a dress like a
voluminous chemise of dark red cotton with a blue
pattern. We were told that the camels were ready but
that the ekhwan was already regretting his moment of
enthusiasm. "Will he be ready to start to-morrow at
midnight?" '"Inslhallah!" was all the answer we got.
Our plan was so simple, but it depended on two nights'
secrecy and secrecy is impossible among Arabs!
However, we pretended not to worry. "El Maktub
maktubl" we said, but I caught Hassanein anxiously
/opening the Koran to see whether a verse chosen at
random would prove a good omen. He was delighted
because the first one he saw read: "Nasrun min Allahi
wa fathan garib" ("Victory and an opening out from
Allah are near"). I was not very much more composed
myself, for on repeating the long formal prayers that
afternoon I realized from my companion's horrified face
that I was ascribing unto Allah salutations, prayers and
-physics! (Tabiat instead of ta-hi-bat.)
Stayed Rida took us for a drive in his car in the
afternoon. There are no roads or even tracks beyond
Jedabia, but the sand is hard and smooth. The Sayed
thought it would be a good thing to show himself openly
with us, and indeed, our fame increased after that drive.
When we returned the whole of our household had
attired itself in clean white garments and there was
an awed moment while they all reverently kissed the
Senussi's hand. They dared not approach very close to
do it, lest their garments touch their holy master, but
it was wonderful to see the worship and homage /they
put into the act. They were chattels in the hand of the





PLANS FOR THE FLIGHT


Sayed. As wakil of Sidi Idris lie represented to them,
as he does to thousand like them, the mystic being
chosen by Allah to direct them. Their lives are his to
command. I-Ie is their siupreime judge as he is their
defender and their guide. It is difficult for a European
to realise the power held by the Senussi family, for there
has been nothing approaching it in Europe. It is a
reflection of the temporal and spiritual Papacy ,at its
height. For instance, Sidi Idris might order one of the
oldest and noblest ekhwan to start the following day
for a two-thousand-mile journey to Lake Chad, and he
would obey utnquestioningly, without preparation or even
surprise. "We are the servants of the Sayed," he would
say as he wrapped his burnus round him and prepared to
face the waterless sands.
When we decided on flight as the only possible
means of leaving Jedabia, we asked Sayed Rida for a
guide. He gave us Yusuf el Hamri and MIohammed
Quemish and, calling them into our presence, he told
them that if anything happened to us, whether by their
fault or not, they would die immediately. The men
accepted the statement as undoubted fact. Yet as Sayed
Rida sat in our only camp chair in my big bare room,
drinking sweet tea and eating Hassanein's last macaroons,
it was difficult to realise that the fate of a country prob-
ably lay in his capable hands. The Sayed might declare
a Holy WTar to-morrow against the infidels, and Islam,
from WVajanga to the Mediterranean, might respond, but
that afternoon our host talked with the simplicity of a
child. We were trying to thank him for his amazing
hospitality and for the permission lie had given us to travel
to Egypt by way of the great desert, which included the
loan of camels. guides and an escort of soldiers, besides
immense gifts of food and native clothing.
Coming from an Italian colony we had become used





36 THE SECRET OF SAHARA: KUFAIIA
to gracious hospitality, but Sayed Rida's generosity was
overwhelming. I have travelled in half the countries
of the world; I have been the guest of mandarin and
boundary rider, or rajah, Fijian ras and North-West
Mounted Police and of every intermediate race and grade.
but I have never received such generous. unquestioning
welcome as in Beduin countries. Some of the hnlppiest
Week, of my life were spent in Syria as the guest of a
great Arab prince. I used to think that nothing could
match his kindness, but here in Jedabia I found its
equal in another descendant of the Prophet, a Sherif
of Islam.
We asked Saved Rida if we could send him anything
from Cairo, our thoughts running to a jewel or .1 gold
inlaid rifle. He asked for a green parrot and some
gramophone records wilh a smile as delightful as his
brother's.
"You see," lie said, "my life is rather lonely. It
is not wise that I go out or that I show myself vert much
to our people. Our family is holy and we must live a
secluded life. We may not see dancing or hear singing.
Our people would not understand, but sometimes when
I am alone late at night I play the gramoplhone, for I love
music very much." A curiously sweet smile illumined
his kindly face and he beat time to an imaginary tune
with a jewelled finger. "I do not like much noise." he
said. "I like the sad. soft melodies best. I think all
music should be melancholy."
For a moment he was a child thinking wistfully of
a toy and then. as Ali entered bent double with respect
over his tray of tea, the Sayed resumed the grave
dignity in keeping with his gorgeous clothes-a purple
embroidered jelabia under an apple-green silk jubba
with a wonderful crimson and blue kufiya stiff with gold
thread and having great tassels of gold.











































WELL AT JEDABIA


NOMAD EXC.AMPMENTS ROITUI) JEDABIA





PLANS FOR THE FLIGHT


Our busy day closed with a most humorous scene.
After Ali and the spies had gone willingly to the amuse-
ment or repose they desired. we dragged the six heavy
sacks of provisions one by one out of my room across
the court to the dark yard by the main door. There was
no moon. Tinned meat weighs incredibly heavy. We
fell over a lot of loose stones and we imagined we made
a good deal of noise. The peculiar form of an Arab
dwelling, however, precludes the possibility of being
overheard. We then dug stones and sand from the
unfinished bit of the house and filled some most realistic
looking dummy sacks which we artistically arranged in
the place of real ones. At 11 P.M. we got one of those
unexpected shocks that send cold shivers down one's
back and desperate thoughts to one's brain. There was
a sudden knock at the door. It was too soon for our
fellow plotters in search of the luggage. "Min da?"
asked Ha,,anein icily and I felt the tautened thrill in
his voice. "Mabruk." answered the voice of the chief
spy and then a long ramble about wanting to see the
native garments already delivered, to make a pattern for
the others his brother the tailor was making. As a
matter of fact it was a perfectly genuine demand. We
had asked the confidential wazir to hurry up the making
of our clothes and he had done so to such good effect,
by saying it was the Sayed's wish, that the unfortunate
tailor proposed to work all night, but to our apprelen-
sive ears it sounded very suspicious. I was glad that
Hassanein had not got a revolver on him. He told me
afterwards that his first impulse had been to shoot the
man and bury him instantly! Instead of which he
murmured that the "sitt" was in bed and the magical
word which retards the progress of Islam. "Bokral"
(To-morrow.)
At 1 A.M. Hassanein, shrouded from head to foot in






38 THE SECRET OF SAHARA: KUFARA

a white jerd, was waiting just outside the main door.
A few minutes later there was the faintest scratch
on the heavy wood. Almost before e e had pulled it
open seven dark figures, muifled up to the eyes, utterly
unrecognisable, slipped into the yard. Not a word was
uttered. Dexterously thcy shouldered the provision sacks
and stepped away into the night without a murmur. Of
course they simply revelled in the mystery and secrecy
of it, but we wondered how soon rumour would reach
the bazaarl










CHAPTER III


THE ESCAPE FROM JEDABIA
D ECEMBER 7 dawned brilliantly fine. We rose
from our camp beds feeling joyfully that thirty-
six hours would elapse before we slept on them
again. Our morning was enlivened by the visits of two
or three friends from the neighboring encampments.
Sheikh Mohammnned the Iaji, came in to tell us that
we were welcome visitors to any Beduin camp. He
drank three glasses of sweet tea in three gulps, asked in
a. mysterious whisper for a cigarette, hastily put the
whole packet into his sleeve and demanded that I should
repeat suras from the Koran to him. I did so to the
best of my ability and he was much impressed. We
meant to sleep in the afternoon, but the unsuspecting
Sayed had most kindly ordered his slaves to perform a
dance in our honour, so about 3 P.M. the sound of drums
was heard outside our blind walls. Ali summoned us
forth in great excitement. We sat Jon two chairs before
our door and gradually the whole male population of
Jedabia gathered round us, row upon row of shrouded
white figures crouching on the sand. In an irregular
circle round a couple of hide drums danced the black
Sudanese slaves from Wadai, bought in the market at
Kufara, presents from native potentates to the Senussi
family, or children of slaves sent by the famous Ali
Dinar, Sultan of Darfur. Slavery in the East is a kindly
institution, quite unlike the horrors of "Uncle Tom's
Cabin." The blacks are treated as part of the family.
39






40 THE SECRET OF SAHARA: KUFARA
They are proud of their masters and devoted to them.
They are trusted and confidential. Thus Ali came to us
one evening in honest grief. "That Miustapha is a bad
man." he said. "He goes to the house of the doctor
and says lie has not had enough to eat here. It is not
true. The Sayed is generous. There is everything here.
It is not good for the Sayed's honour that such things
should be said."
The blacks enjoyed the dance even more than we did,
for we had just heard that through too much ardour on
the part of our allies there was likely to be a hitch in
the arrangements. The long-delayed camels for the
caravan had arrived at last. The soldiers had come in
from Zuetina. We had better all start together at mid-
night. said our confidant triumphantly. Anyone who
knows the East will realise how difficult it is for even
two or three people to slip away secretly. Everyone's
business is known from A to Z. Projects are discussed
in the bazaars whlile they are still formless in the brain
of the plotter. The idea that a score of camels and a
dozen soldiers, with luggage. tents, stores, guides, etc.,
could start secretly from Jedabia was ludicrous. Already
there was a rumour in the suq that we were going to
Kufara because of the unfortunate suggestion that we
should accompany the caravan for a day or two! There-
fore, even while we gazed at the gyrating circle of blacks,
who flung themselves into extravagant postures, chanting
their monotonous songs and clicking together short sticks,
we had sent post haste, to rearrange matters. News was
brought us that the delightful cavalry officer from Zue-
tina had arrived, two days before he was expected.
"I think I will go and have tea at the doctor's," I
said firmly to Hassanein. "I will stay with them there
for two hours, which will give you plenty of time to get
the caravan postponed."











"-4


1.%-


SAYED RIDA ES SENUSSI






THE ESCAPE FROM JEbAABIA 41
The spies were as clinging as limpets that day.
Mabruk leant over my shoulder as I spoke, pointing to
the wildest dancer with a forced smile. However, I was
determined to spoil his little effort and insisted that he
Sand Mustapha should accompany me on my walk. "I
don't like going through all these people alone," I said;
and reluctantly they had to come with me.
Our last game of cross purposes will always remain
in my mind, for, with one eye on the clock, I summoned
every atom of intelligence to my aid. I allowed myself
to be reluctantly persuaded to return by camion to
Benghazi the following week. I asked reproachfully why
no ekhwan could be found to accompany me on a little
caravan tour. They assured me that none was willing
to travel with a Christian, and that no one of that faith
could journey beyond Jedabia. I took up and emphasised
this point for some time, as it would eventually preclude
their attempting to follow us. I allowed my bitter
disappointment to be seen, was comforted and finally
cheered up with a promise of visiting all the encampments
on the way back. We parted the best of friends and I
shall always retain a grateful memory of their kindness
and care. So often we longed to confide all our plans
to them. We were sure of their sympathy, but their
very hospitality would have made it impossible for them
to allow their erstwhile guest to venture her life on such
a wild and dangerous journey.
Six months before I had talked to an Arabian Emir
about my project. "Heya magnunal" he exclaimed
to his wakils. "She is mad. If she could get to Kufara,
she could get to any place in heaven or earthly" Thus
we knew from the beginning that we must hide our
object from our generous Italian friends. If they hadn't
thought that at least Hassanein had some political aim
in coming to Jedabia, remorse would probably have






42 THE SECRET OF SAHARA: KUFARA
added to our mental troubles, but, luckily, the fact
that they were obviously watching us turned the affair
into a game and justified us in having a few secrets
also.
If my charming hosts in Cyrenaica read this book, I
think they will forgive me for the part their own kindness
and forethought forced me to play most unwillingly.
They are all sportsmen. They, too, are travellers and
lovers of the great desert. They laid the foundations of
my journey by their long years of work in North Africa.
They will reap the benefit when the friendship between
European and Senussi is firmly cemented and the Beduins
welcome the hflux of commerce and exploration from
over the sea.
I returned af 7 P.M. to our walled Arab house, but
the fantasia was still continuing. The gift of our last
packet of cigarettes had stimulated the performers to
frenzy and they were prepared to spend the night in an
orgy of dance and song. Ordinarily, I should have loved
watching their barbaric vigour and I was exceedingly
grateful to the ever-thoughtful Sayed for giving this festa
in our honour, but we had still a good many preparations
to make, so we regretfully thanked the performers and
despatched them to their homes. After a hasty meal,
Hassanein went off to make final preparations concerning
changing our Italian notes into heavy silver mejidies, the
cumbersome coin of the country, buying bread and eggs,
collecting the native dress and a dozen other things that
had to be done at the very last moment for fear of
arousing suspicion. I wrote a note to our Italian inter-
preter, who had also proved guide, philosopher and
friend, explaining that I was not to be entirely deprived
of my desert journey after all, for at the last moment I
was able to accompany an ekhwan who was travelling
to an encampment a day or two away. I then made





THE ESCAPE FROM JEDABIA


relays of green tea in an inadequate kettle and filled
both our thermos flasks, also the water bottles.
It was then nearly 9 P.M., at which hour Hassanein
had said he would return, but the minutes dragged on
and there'was no sign of his coming. At 10 I became
anxious. I couldn't lie still any more, and began walk-
ing up and down the big room by the light of one candle
guttering on the window ledge. Ali came to me to ask
if he and the servant, who was also a spy, could go home.
I said he must stay until Hassanein Bey returned, for I
did not want to give the boy an opportunity of inquiring
into my companion's designs, but each hour that went
by made our flight more and more difficult, for we could
not begin to pack beds, luggage, etc., till the house was
empty. At 11 I was nearly frantic. I don't think I have
ever spent a worse two hours. I began to wonder whether
the spies had discovered our plot and, deciding to
frustrate it at all costs, had arranged to have my ally
knocked senseless as he crossed the wide expanse of white
sandstone between our house and the scattered buildings
of Jedabia.
At 11.30, as I was preparing to set forth in search
and was actually winding myself into the intricacies of
a jerd so as to pass unnoticed in the dark, Hassanein
arrived, staggering beneath the mejidies, for a very
moderate sum in that coinage weighs intolerably. He
discharged eggs, bread and clothing in a heap and
explained that the usual Arab dilatoriness had delayed
him. The letters to sheikhs of zawias were not ready,
the eggs were not cooked, the clothes were not quite
finished. However, we didn't wait for much talk. We
sent off the servants with minute instructions about
to-morrow's work. An Arab spy is clever in some ways,
but he never looks ahead, so it is generally fairly easy
to lull his suspicions.






44 THE SECRET OF SAHARA: KUFARA
The instant the door shut behind them we literally
flung ourselves on the luggage. We wrestled first with
the beds and flea-bags, .tuffing them into old sacks to
look like native bundles. The tent had to be disposed of
in the same way-its poles tied up in a red prayer-rug,
its canvas disguised in native wrappings. Not one single
bit of European luggage must be visible. My suit-case
was already packed and it was but a minute's work to
push it into a striped flour sack, but my heart sank when
I saw Hassanein's room. It was still littered with what
he called necessities. We packed and pushed and tugged
at his bundles, getting frantically hot and tired, but
always when we had, with superhuman effort, triumph-
antly strapped up a bulging roll, a minute later he would
remember something he absolutely must put in and
want the thing undone. When but half an hour was left
before our departure was due, I became desperate and
took matters into my own hands. I packed the food
into one knapsack. The necessities I divided into two
others. I shut his suit-case firmly on the most useful
articles I could collect from the chaos. I stood over
him equally firmly while he put mackintoshes with fleece
linings, rugs and extra native dress into the bedding. I
pulled the straps to a tighter hole myself before scurrying
off to dress.
Let no qne think it is easy to get into Beduin
feminine attire for the first time. The tight white
trousers presented difficulties over riding breeches. The
red tobh was too tight at the neck. The barracan needed
much adjustment. One end flaps loose over the head,
which is already swathed in a tight black handkerchief
hiding all the hair, while the other is wound twice round
in the form of a skirt and comes up over the left shoulder
to make the front bit of the bodice. It is all held in
place by a thick red woollen "hezaam" at least twelve
























































































TIHE AUTHOR IN BEDUIN DRESS






THE ESCAPE FROM JEDABIA


feet in length.' which is wound roupd and round till one's
waist resembles a mummy and is tied one side with
dangling ends. Under this I wore my revolver belt,
with two fully loaded Colts and a prismatic compass in
a case.
Glancing round my room as I put on my huge yellow
heel-less slippers, I decided it looked a very realistic
picture of the abode left temporarily and in haste. My
cherished blue tweed hung on one hook and a rose-red
sweater on another. A few books and papers, with a
hot-water bottle and some stockings, were scattered on
convenient chairs. The cases and sacks of stones stood
formally round the walls. A bottle of complexion lotion
was prominent on a shelf and my European shoes were
in their usual row! With a sigh of relief I dragged the
sack containing my suit-case to join the disguised camp
outfit by the main door and, blowing out the candle in
my room, closed the door for the last time.
My cheerfulness rapily evaporated when I crossed
the court to Hassanein's room. The litter was inconceiv-
able. Everything that we had shut twenty minutes ago
was open. He himself, with ruffled wild hair, was still
in shirt and riding-breeches. To a casual observer he
appeared to be playing a game of leap frog with the
various bundles, in which the object seemed to be to
upset as many things as possible. "You have exactly
six minutes in which to get ready," I said in an awful
voice. A chair fell with a crash, breaking an eau de
Cologne bottle and sending a mass of little tubes, bottles
and boxes rolling to my feet. Thereafter followed ten
minutes' best American hustle. In spite of feeling like
a swathed Chinese infant in my cumbersome dress, I
attacked that room with a personal venom that surely
had effect even on inanimate things, for the suit-case shut
almost unprotestingly on a huddled mass in which the






46 THE SECRET OF SAHARA: KUFARA
parcels of mejidies stuck out like Mount Everest. I
don't know what I said. I imagined at the time it was
quite unforgivable, but Hassanein is the most good-
tempered person in the world., He submitted to being
pushed and pulled into the white garments he had to
wear over his European riding-kit-voluninous white
pantaloons, long flowing shirt and woollen jerd. 'I
believe I banged a white kufiya on his head and flung
an agal at him before rushing from the room to take
up my position behind,the main door with a tiny dark
lantern which revealed the piles of corpulent sacks.
When, a few minutes later, a stately white figure with
flowing lines unbroken save by the crossed revolver belts,
true son of a sheikh of the famous Azhar University,
joined me, I could hardly recognize in this solemn Arab
the wild individual who was playing at hay-making a
few minutes before.
Of course our fellow-plotters were late! We waited
nearly an hour crouched on the sacks, while the only
thing that broke the silence of a desert night was the
braying of a donkey near the suq. At about 1.45 we
heard the faint roar of protesting camels and our pulses
quickened. Some ten minutes later stealthy footsteps
approached. There was a light scratch on the door, and
the operation of the previous night was successfully
repeated, only this time we had another quarter of an
hour's suspense after the porters went forth with the
first sacks before they could return for the last. Our
confidant leant against the door, motionless and calm,
looking at the starlit sky. "Bahil" he murmured, as
the mysterious figures reappeared, the only word he had
uttered the whole time. Shouldering knapsack, water-
bottle, thermos flask and kodak, I stumbled out of the
dark passage into the moonless night. A strong, cold
wind met me and I wondered, shivering, why a Beduin





THE ESCAPE FROM JEDABIA


" woman does not freeze to death. I've never seen them
wear anything but a cotton barracan. Even while I
limped across the open white sands, for the camels were
hidden some three hundred yards away, near the rough
cemetery that surrounds the deserted morabit of Sidi
Hassan, I felt that I wanted an overcoat even more than
I wanted to go to Kufara!
Nevertheless,, it was freedom at last and excitement
thrilled us. There was a moment's pause on the part of
our puzzled guide when absolute blackness on all sides
gave no hint of direction. Then a muffled roar told us
that a camel was on our left and the smothered sound of it
suggested that someone was probably sitting on its head.
A moment more and a dark mass loomed up beside a
broken wall. Thankfully I subsided on a heap of stones.
It is not the slightest use arguing with a camel-driver
about a load. It is waste of energy to try to hurry him.
He is used to weighing burdens minutely, to arranging
them slowly to his own satisfaction. So I was prepared
for an hour's wait while our retinue cut rope, made
"corners" to the sacks with stones, discussed loads, lost
camels, caught them again and were generally inefficient.
I was genuinely surprised, therefore, when in only twenty
minutes everything was noiselessly packed and the camels
ready to start. Yusuf el Hamri and Mohammed Quemish,
our two confidential servants, were introduced to me in
the dark and we exchanged a few florid sentences in
which the words "mabsut" and "mamnun" played a
large part.
Then I hoisted myself on to my camel, a huge, blond
beast, with no proper saddle. A spike stuck up in front
and behind and his hump was painfully evident between
the rolled straw of the baggage serg. On the top were
folded a couple of native mats and thereon I perched in
my uncomfortable, closely wound clothes, which made





48 THE SECRET OF SAHARA: KUFARA R
mounting a matter of peril and difficulty. In spite of all
this, when my great beast rose to his stately height and
moved off into the night, exhilaration rushed over me.
I hadn't been on a camel for three months, and then on
the beautiful trotting "lajin" of the Sudan. This was
only a fine baggage "hamla," but he was in keeping
with the desert and the night and our wild, impossible
project. I was happy. Also, it was a wonderful start.
Sir Richard Burton wisely writes that the African
traveller must always be prepared for three starts-the
long one, the short one and the real one. Later we
realized how right he was, but for the moment, as our
little line of camels swayed off into the darkness beyond
the white morabit, we only felt that we had escaped.
"How amazing that they can find ,their way in
pitch darkness like this" I exclaimed, and only when
Orion had appeared in four different directions did I
begin to wonder whether they could We had started
just before three, striking a northerly course which sur-
prised us, as we kneiv that Aujela lay to the south. We
comforted ourselves with the idea that our guides were
purposely avoiding the main track, and patiently we
bore the icy wind and constant change of direction.
When, after an hotir, we turned completely round, we
decided it was necessary to expostulate. Yusuf, on being
shown a luminous compass, refused to believe that the
north was where the needle directed. We pointed out
the extraordinary movement of the stars and he remained
unconvinced. He looked pathetically at the heavens and
asked persistently fpr "Jedi," the star that had guided
him apparently in many wanderings over half Africa.
Unfortunately we could not find her for him, though we
pointed out most of the constellations from the Great
Bear to the Milky Wavy.
We continued oir aimless progress for another hour.














A.


UII.OADING ON iTHE SECOND DAY F1ROM JEI)DABIA


WAII FARIG: CAMELS AT THE WEL.I





THE ESCAPE FROM JEDABIA


As we were merely describing irregular circles we were
not surprised when a little before five a chorus of dogs
barking proclaimed our nearness to Jedabia. "It is
an encampment," said Yusuf. "I know where we are
nowl" and at that moment the donkey in the suq
brayed quite close to us! I couldn't help laughing. In
a few minutes our desperate midnight flights would land
us before the doors of the house from which we had
escaped so triumphantly three hours earlier. The dis-
tressed Yusuf, inexplicably bereft of his tame star, was
all for camping there and then to await the dawn, but, lest
the rising sun should reveal to the astonished eyes of the
early astir a dishevelled party asleep on the space before
the mosque, I firmly took command. By the compass
I marched them due south of the donkey's bray for half
an hour. At least we should be out of sight at dawn
and could then start off on the right track.
The wind seemed colder than ever as we "barraked"
our camels on the flat, sandy waste. We were frozen
and shelterless. Excitement, suspense and physical
labour had all combined to wear us out. My foot
was swollen and inflamed after its unusual exercise.
Hassanein had rheumatism in his back. There was an
hour to wait for the dawn. I doubt if a more miserable
couple existed than the two who rolled themselves into
the thin and dirty camel rugs and lay down on the hard
sand, their heads on tufts of spiky grass. I did not
sleep. It was too cold. The wind searched out every
corner of my aching body. I began to feel the strain
of our sleepless nights and days of suspense. Even my
sense of humour had gone. It was five weeks since we
had left England and we had got no farther than a
sand heap outside Jedabial At six a flush of pale pink
appeared in the sky in a direction which amazed Yusuf.
Shivering, with chattering teeth, we rose to a windy





:50 THE SECRET OF SAHARA: KUFARA
dawn! Mohammed was already murmuring, "Allahu
Akhbar," devoutly turning towards the kibla at Mecca.
We followed his example, abluting in the sand as is
permissible when there is no water. Luckily it is only
necessary to go through the "Fatha" and the requisite
"Raqa-at." The kneeling position hurt my foot excru-
ciatingly, and I could hardly get it into my huge yellow
shoe again.
The men bestirred themselves to some purpose. Five
minutes after the last "Salamu Aleikum wa Rahmat
Allah" had saluted the angels who stand on either side
to record a man's good and bad deeds, the camels were
loaded and we were moving away from the white qubba
of Sidi Hassan and the scattered mud houses which
appeared but a stone's throw distant. There had been
no time to eat. I tried to force a hard-boiled egg down
niy throat as I s;wayed along, but I could not manage it.
Hassanein was doubled up with rheumatism and I tried
every possible position to ease my foot. My hands were
numb as I clutched the gaudy barracan, red, blue and
orange, round me, and prayed for the sun to warm me.
Every few minutes we turned round to see if Jedabia
had disappeared, but it must stand on a slight rise as
the morabit was visible for three hours. Distance is
illusive in the desert. Everything looks much nearer
than it really is. One sees the palms of an oasis early
in the morning, plans to arrive before midday, and is
lucky if one reaches it by sunset. However, by 10.30
every sign of human habitation had disappeared and only
a flat sandy plain, tufted with coarse grey brush a few
inches to a foot high, lay all around us. Thankufully we
halted, turned the camels to graze, spread the scarlet
woven rugs in the sun, and prepared to eat.
Further troubles threatened when we discovered
that our retinue, Yusuf, Mohammed and two coal-black




I /


THE ESCAPE FROM JEDABIA 51
Sudanese soldiers, had brought no provisions of any sort.
They had trusted either to us or to joining the south-
bound caravan within a few hours. Consternation seized
us. In order to travel light we had brought what we
considered the least possible amount of food necessary
for two people for a week-that is, one tin of meat per
day, with a very small ration of flour, rice, dates and
tea. How were we going to feed six people for perhaps
a fortnight on it? At the moment we were too tired
to think. We doled out to the retinue rice, tea and
most of the hard-boiled eggs intended for ourselves and,
after the frugal meal, insisted on immediate departure.
There was a great deal of grumbling. They were all
tired and they wanted to sleep there and then. The
blacks were openly rebellious. "We are not your slaves,"
they said. "We will not over-tire ourselves." How-
ever, by force of sarcasm, encouragement and laughter,
we got them to load the camels.
In Libya they do not girth the baggage saddles at all.
They merely balance the bales evenly according to weight
on either side of a straw pad round the hump. Thus,
if the camel stumbles badly or is frightened and runs a
few paces, the luggage over-balances and crashes to the
ground, generally terrifying the beast into a mad gallop.
I suppose ours were carelessly loaded, for the tent
dropped off three times and tempers grew sulky.
About one we came to a small cluster of camel's-
hair tents in the shelter of a slight rise and the
retinue clamoured to stop there for the night. The
-Arab is greedy by nature, while the Sudanese is positively
voracious. At one meal he will devour what would
support a European family for a day. Having seen our
meagre provisions, the retinue thought they would get
a better dinner in these Beduin tents. They protested and
argued violently, but we were ruthless. There was fear





52 THE SECRET OF SAHARA: KUFARA
of pursuit and of being recognized. Yusuf joined his
hands in prayer. "We will say you are the wife of an
ekhwan," he said, "and that we are taking you to
Jalo," but he pleaded in vain. We moved on and they
followed perforce, surly, bronzed Beduins in coarse
woolen jerds, rifles slung across their backs.
The impressions cherished since childhood are grad-
ually disappearing from my mind. One hears so often
of. the untiring endurance of the Beduin and of his
frugal fare. I used to believe that he could ride fo; days
without sleep and live on a few dates or locusts. He
may be able to do the latter if he is absolutely obliged
to, but normally his appetite is large and his amiability
depends on his food. With regard to his endurance, I
have met Tuaregs who had accomplished some amazingly
swift rides, but in the French Sahara, in Syria or in
Libya, as in the Sudan, I have never found an Arab
who did not want to camp several hours before I did.
South of Touggurt I once had a delightful guide called
Ali, a blue-eyed, ruddy-haired Tuareg, who must have
had Vandal blood in his veins and he used to get, posi-
tively haggard after a nine hours' ride without a pause.
After 2.30 we could not urge our retinue farther.
It was obvious that they were very tired, but it is
doubtful if they were as exhausted as we were, for we
had worked very hard the preceding day and night,
while they were "fadhling" in the suq. However, Yusuf
seized my camel rein. "This is a good place. We
must rest," he said. It was no use exasperating them.
We had ridden for six hours. A camel does a regular
two and a half miles an hour, so we imagined ourselves
about 15 miles from Jedabia and safe from pursuit.
Almost before we had got the sacks off the camels
Mohammed had rolled himself in his jerd and was
actually asleep. Yusuf helped us half-heartedly while we





THE ESCAPE FROM JEDABIA


struggled to put up the tent, but we unrolled bedding,
put down ground-sheet, doled out provisions, fitted the
camp beds together ourselves. The Sudanese collected
brushwood, yawning violently and infinitely wearily.
We boiled tea and drank it sugarless, for the retinue had
the usual Arab passion for sugar. I looked at myself
once in a tiny hand-glass, and was thankful to put it
down, for I hardly recognized the begrimed and haggard
visage, yellow, sunburnt and lined, that peered out under
the heavy black handkerchief between the folds of the
barracan. A gale rose suddenly and nearly swept our
tent away, but we did not mind. We slept fitfully,
woke to cook rice on a brushwood fire and went to bed
about 6 P.M. with a thankfulness too deep for words.
Feather mattresses, frilled pillows, Chippendale or
Louis XV beds all have their charms, but I have never
been so grateful for any as I was that night for my
flea-bag and my air cushion.
At 6 next morning Yusuf woke us with a cry of "El
Fagr," and after the usual prayers we set to work to
break camp. We informed the retinue that we intended
to reach Wadi Farig and its well that day and therefore
they must not count on a midday halt. Consequently
they insisted on making a fire and cooking half our
week's rations straight away! We started at 8 A.M. and
continued a south-easterly-southerly course all day.
Wadi Farig is only 60 kilometres from Jedabia,
but I imagine our first day we must have made a detour
in order to avoid the main route, for it was not till
2 o'clock on the second day that a mirage on the horizon,
a sheet of silver water bordered with purple mountains,
proclaimed the position of the wadi. "It is bayid,
bayidl" said Mohammed. "We cannot reach it before
sunset. Let us rest now!" This time, however, we
would not stop. We had shared our flasks of tea and our






54 THE SECRET OF SAHARA: KUFARA
dates evenly with him at noon and we felt that after
a good night's sleep, if we could ride nine hours on end,
they could too. It was an absolutely perfect day, cloud-
less and still, but the sun was very hot at noon. It
scorched through the thin folds of my barracan and
made one wonder why Europe and not Africa invented
parasols.
The character/of the country remained unchanged.
Always the same sandy scrub stretched away as far as
the eye could see. Occasional jerboas or lizards scattered
into their holes as we approached. Once a dozen gazelle
fled swiftly across our path. Mohammed tried a shot at
them, but he was too slow. Another time we passed a
large rabbit warren and a couple of white scuts dis-
appeared into the labyrinth of holes. We struck a main
track about noon and I noticed a sage bush covered with
bits of different coloured threads. It appears that every
wayfarer adds a piece of cotton or wool from his attire
to show that this is a desert "road" and that caravans
pass that way. Yusuf contributed a white thread from
his girdle, and I a red one from my long hezaam.
All that day we met only two travellers. I discreetly
covered my face while they exchanged greetings with
our retinue. The desert telephone was at work again.
They brought news from Jalo which they exchanged
for tales of Jedabia. They were not interested in us.
Mrs. Forbes had disappeared into space, and in her place
was a Mohammedan woman called Khadija, travelling
with a kinsman, an; Egyptian Bey, son of a Sheikh
el-Azhar. She wole Beduin clothes, followed their
customs, prayed to their God, lived their life. Her
language was certainly different, but the Arabic varies
so immensely between Baghdad and Marrakesh that my
faltering conversation was attributed to my being accus-
tomed only to the classical language. Even Hassanein





THE ESCAPE FROM JEDABIA


could hardly understand the dialect used by the Libyan
Beduins. It is not a case of accent or pronunciation.
Nearly all the words are different.
I cannot imagine why Wadi Farig is marked on the
map as a vivid green splash across the colourless desert.
The slight depression running due east and west between
the two faint ridges about 15 metres high varies in no
respect from the surrounding country. Nd blade of
grass or green thing decorates it. Nothing breaks the
monotonous sand and grey brushwood except the one
well of bitter brackish water. We arrived just as the
sun was setting and had difficulty in getting the camels
past the well in order to camp on the higher ground
beyond. Hassanein was riding a nervous "naga"
(female), who never kept her head in one direction for
more than a minute or two. She now decided to race
for the well while a playful companion kicked off a bale
or two, upset the balance of the rest, caught her foot
in a falling sack and tore Wildly away, scattering her
load to the winds. My stately beast was in an amorous
mood, so, with guttural gurglings, he added himself to
the general mel6e. I had to dismount and limp up to
the rise, dragging him forcibly after me, while the men
collected our belongings and reloaded them. It was a
race with the sun, but we just won it. As the last
crimson glow faded in the radiant west and the devout
Mohiammned lifted a sandy nose from his ablutions, the
last tent peg was driven in. Brush fires gleamed on the
rise opposite, for wherever there is a desert well there
are a few scattered tents of the nomads whose homes
move with the season and the pasture.
We made a flaming pyre and sat round it in a circle
of pack-saddles. Yusuf had found his beloved Jedi and
he pointed her out to me triumphantly-the Pole star!
The silence of the desert encircled us and a faint scent





56 THE SECRET OF SAHARA: KUFARA
of thyme stole up from the cold sand. Farraj '(both the
black Sudanese were called Farraj) began intoning verses
of the Koran-a melodious sound in the starlit night.,
Then. surprised by his own song. lie suddenly sprang to
his feet and chanted loudly. triumphantly, the muazzin's
call to prayer, "Allahu Akihbar. Allahu Akhbar. Ash
hadu illa Illaha illallah wa ash hadu inna Mohammedan
rasul Allah!" The Shehada rolled splendid, intolerant,
from his lips and his voice rose higher on the cry,
"Haya alla sala! Haya alla fellah till we all took
up the chorus of "Allahu Akhbar, Allahu Akhbar!"
As I undressed in the "harem" portion of the tent,.
which had enormously impressed our retinue, I pondered
on the character of these men with whom we were to
live in familiar intercourse for months. Apart from
their fierce fanaticism, which made it a duty for them
to kill the infidel and the Nasrani as we kill dangerous
and pestilential vermin, they had the simplicity of
children. I felt that our blacks would steal all our food
one day if they happened to be hungry and defend us
most gallantly the next. They are utterly unable to
provide for the morrow. Their trust in Allah is of the
blind kind that does not try to help itself, yet the Koran
says, "Allah works with him who works." Again and
again we told them about the scarcity of food. We
showed them the pathetic limit of our provisions. They
said, "The caravan will come to-morrow! Inshallahl"
Knowing the dilatory habits of the East, I had very
little faith in the arrival of that caravan for at least a
week, but we agreed to their persistent request to camp
for two days at the wadi to give it a chance of joining
us. If it did not arrive on the evening of the llth,
bringing with it all our provisions, we should have to
send back the two blacks, and continue post-haste to
Aujela with Yusuf and Mohammed. With that intent





THE ESCAPE FROM JEDABIA


we put into one sack the smallest quantity of food for
four people for five days-that is, a tin of meat or sardines
per person per day, with coffee and dates. When this
was done we were horrified at the little that remained.
The blacks wanted to bake great flat loaves of unleavened
bread morning and evening and we had so very little
flour. I began to realise that if the caravan did not
arrive we should die of exhaustion on the way to Aujela.
Let us once lose the way, let a storm delay us, let the
retinue prove unreliable and insi?, on eating more than
theday's meagre ration and we should be lost! Yet
we were determined on one thing only-not to go back.
"In any case we have the peace and quiet of the
desert," I thought, as I went to sleep and woke a few
hours later to pandemonium indescribable. I've heard
the roar of an uncaged lion in Rhodesia, but never before
had I heard such mad bellows of rage as made the night
hideous. "The camels have gone mad," I gasped, as
I flung myself out of the tent. Thunder of sound broke
from a heaving black mass only a few yards from our
canvas walls. Shouts came from Yusuf and Mohammed,
who seemed to be aimlessly dancing round the wildly
excited beasts. Then the mass crashed roaring to its feet
and two camels dashed madly past me, missing the tent
by a foot. I found Hassanein only half awake at my
elbow. "What are they doing?" he said blankly.
"In the spring the camels' fancy lightly turns to
thoughts of lovely" "But it isn't the spring!" he
objected drowsily. "Never mind. God! They're
coming back" We retreated hastily from the tent.
In Syria I had seen a maddened beast go right through
a tent in such a mood, and the vision of the crushed
poles and canvas, intricately mixed up with shattered
baggage and an absolutely flattened camp bed, flashed
across me. I took up a strategic position in the open





58 THE SECRET OF SAHARA: KUFARA
but the bellowing brutes staggered away again, their
roars mercifully fading in the distance. "Is this likely
to happen often?" I asked Yusuf. "Yes, when it is
cold," he answered indifferently. "Two things increase
in winter, the camels and the seal"
We enjoyed the rare luxury of sleeping late next
niorning and woke to another gorgeous day. The
water from the well was almost undrinkable-it was so
salt and muddy-but we washed in it triumphantly.
Unfortunately, Hassanein was temped to wash his hair,
with the odd result that it thereafter stood up like a
tuft of coarse ostrich feathers. Everything dries appall-
ingly in the desert. One's skin is cracked and lined
after a few days. One's nails break. One's hair dries
and becomes brittle. Yet one does not mind. The
desert has a subtle and a cruel charm. She destroys
while she enthralls. She is the siren from whom there
is no escape. Cynthia Stockley, whom I met years ago
in Bulawayo, writes in one of her vivid stories of
African life that once the desert has stuck her claw into
a man, he must return to her, for only she can heal the
wound she has made.
The preceding night the wadi had been empty.
That morning it was crowded. Half-naked brown figures
hauled water for a great herd of camels who crushed
round the low mud walls of the well. A flock of sheep
waited their turn at a short distance. More camels
strayed slowly down the rise, grazing as they walked.
Some white figures came up to greet us, rifles slung across
their backs. They were the dwellers in the nuggas whose
fires we had seen the night before. The desert wires had
informed them of our imminent arrival before we had
left Jedabial They sat round our brushwood fire and
drank tea sweetened with crushed dates, as the sugar
had run out. Hassanein and I left them to "fadhl" with




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