The Gold-Mines of Midian and The Ruined Midianite Cities. A Fortnight's Tour in Northwestern Arabia.

by Richard Francis Burton.

First edition of 1878.
C. Kegan Paul: London.

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TO THE READER.

THE present publication should be considered a sequel and a continuation of my " Pilgrimage to El-Medinah and Meccah," from which the adventure forming its subject may be said to date. I have, therefore, dwelt at some length upon the mighty changes, the growths, and the developments of the last quarter century, which has produced the " Greater Egypt" of the present day: contenting myself, however, with contrasting the actual Alexandria, Cairo, and Suez with my descriptions of the same places in 1853-54.

The tale of the Mining-Cities of Midian reads, they say, like a leaf from the "Arabian Nights." Yet it is sober truth. My object has been to avoid, as much as possible, all play of fancy and the exaggerations of an explorer's enthusiasm. It is hardly necessary to state that my assertions are borne out by the Report of the Mineralogists officially appointed by H.M. the Viceroy of Egypt: and the labours of H.E. Gastinel-Bey and of M. George Marie have been carefully consulted before sending this volume to print.

How little is known of the country may be learned from the words of my friend Professor Aloys Sprenger, the most scientific topographer of Arabia: "Es (die Station in oder bei Aynuna) ist reich an Palmen, trieb einst Feldbau, und es gibt Stellen, wo man (in Rinnen ?) Gold fand." The mineral wealth of the land is equally ignored by the savant Herr Albrecht Zehme.f the most modern geographical and historical "Sketcher" of the Peninsula. Finally, the heart of Ancient Midian was traversed by Dr. Edward Riippell in 1826,and by Dr. George Aug. Wallin in 1847; not to mention such names as Burckhardt, Wellsted, and Lieutenant (I.N.) Carless, who also surveyed the coast under Captain Moresby (I.N.), and my old and lamented friend Dr. Beke, whose last writings are quoted in a note to chap. xii. Yet, apparently, none of them ever fanned a pound of sand, broke a stone, or noticed an atom of metal.

It is not easy to explain how a naturalist like Ruppell could overlook the structure of the rocks, and pass through the old Ophir without suspecting the existence of the masses of metal around and below him. But at that time he was a fresh arrival, and the completely novel aspects of oriental scenery and life possibly bewildered him. Those who remember their sensations during their first month in India will understand what I mean. As regards the Ruined Cities, he was evidently not allowed to visit them by his escort, the Huwaytat—in those days a somewhat turbulent and dangerous tribe, fond of domineering over strange visitors. With respect to the gold in quartz and porphyry, Sprenger suggests, with much probability, that Ruppell, like the men of his day, some twenty years before the discoveries in California and Australia awoke the attention of the world, never dreamt of such treasures and paid no attention to the geological features which denote the presence of the precious metal. The other travellers seem to have been wholly innocent of natural history.

Gold has been connected with our earliest ideas of the Arabian peninsula, since William, the biographer of Thomas Becket, said, "Araby sends us gold." All have read in youth of the plenas Arabum domos, and lec i beatis nune Arabum invides gazis. We, the members of the Khedivial Expedition, feel not a little proud of our new work in an old land ; and we may rejoice in having added a name to the long list of mines and places given by the exhaustive Professor Sprenger.

The Reconnaissance, to call it by its true title, was hurriedly organized, while the advancing hot season left us little time for making collections. The choicest samples of metals were submitted, after return, to H.H. the Khediv; and the rest of the samples were sent for analysis to the Laboratory in the Cairene Citadel. My bottle full of reptiles and insects was forwarded to Dr. Smith of the British Museum; the land-shells of Wady Ayminah to Mr. J. Gwyn Jeffreys of Ware Priory, Herts, who has so often lent me his valuable assistance; and a few sheets of dried plants, after being inspected by my friend and fellow-traveller, Dr. Carlo de Marchesetti of Trieste, were transmitted to Professor Balfour of Edinburgh. The photographed inscription found on the march to the "White Mountain" was sub- mitted to Professor Sprenger, to Dr. Socin of Bale, and to Mr. C. Knight Watson, of Burlington House. Finally, Mr. Reginald Stuart Poole, Keeper of the Coins at the British Museum, obligingly transcribed for me the Kufic inscription upon the glass piece bought at Burj Ziba. My many other obligations have been acknowledged in the following pages ; and, if any have been neglected, I would here offer an apology.

The matter of the volume may be considered virtually new. After the return of the Expedition to Egypt a few brief and scattered notices appeared in the Press of England and the Continent. The information had been gathered by " interviewing," and nothing appeared under my own name. For this mystery there were reasons which now no longer exist . I therefore place the whole recital before the Public, without reserve or after-thought, merely warning it that my volume begins with the beginning of a subject which will probably go far. When these pages shall be in the reader's hands, I shall once more be examining the " Land of Midian;" attempting, under the auspices of His Highness the Viceroy of Egypt, to investigate the particulars of which the generals are here described ; to trace the streams of wealth to their hidden sources; and to begin the scrutiny to which all such exploring feats should lead. I have therefore left the MS. in the hands of my wife, who has undertaken to see it through the Press.


PREFACE.

DEAR READER,

Captain Burton is in Arabia, in the Land of Midian, once more, and I am left behind—much against the grain—in order to bring this book through the Press, that you may know what was done last year; and besides the hopes of pleasing you, the thought that I am contributing the only service in my power towards his great undertaking makes me bear my disappointment quietly. My task will be finished in a few days, and I shall then take the first steamer from Trieste to Suez, where I hope to be allowed to join the Expedition. The volume you are about to read requires but little explanation. Captain Burton, in his old Arab days, wandering about with his Koran, came upon this "Gold Land," though I remark that in his recital he modestly gives the credit to others.

He was a romantic youth, with a chivalrous contempt for "filthy lucre," and only thought of "winning his spurs." So, setting a mark upon the spot, he turned away and passed on. A foreigner will exclaim, " How English !" when he reads that he kept his secret for twenty-five years, and that when he saw Egypt in distress for gold, the same chivalry which made him disdain it before, made him ask leave to go to Egypt, seek H.H. the Khediv, and impart the secret to him, and thus act like a second Joseph to the land of Pharaoh. His Highness equipped an Expedition forthwith to send him in search of the spot; and this year he has again obtained leave, and has gone to finish what he began last year. I pray you now to read the account of his labours in 1877 ; and you may probably hear more of them, as he tells me that the discoveries of metals have thoroughly satisfied him.

Trieste, January. 1878.
ISABEL BURTON.