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The progressive geography of Africa has unquestionably been retarded by the absurd and erroneous system, if it deserves the name, of Edrisi, one of the earliest Arabian writers on the subject, whose assertions were adopted by others, in some instances contrary to the evidence of the senses.* He knew nothing of Africa from personal observation, and appears to have been ill qualified to digest that information which he collected froin others. He considers, however, the Nile of Egypt and the Nile of Soudan as one, but he makes the latter to run out of the former instead of into it. His puerile account of this river is, that in some distant part of Southern Africa, it springs out of ten fountains, the waters of five of which run into one lake, and five into another. Each of these lakes again throws out three rivers, all of which, once more uniting, form a large lake under the equinoctial line; into this lake juts a mountainous promontory, which divides the water into two parts, one of which flowing northerly, forms the Nile of Egypt; the other westerly as far as the Mare tenebrosum (the Atlantic, we suppose) the Nile of Soudan. After such a ridiculous display, (which, if we did not know to be false, both on the eastern and western extremities of the continent, we might know to be impossible,) it will scarcely be argued that his information of the central parts is more correct; yet we believe that it is on his authority alone that Wangara has been placed in the position it still holds on the charts.
One early Arab traveller, however, whose invaluable work has most unaccountably been overlooked, had more correct notions of the geography of the interior of Africa, and the course of the Niger, than Edrisi. It has recently been brought to light, and nearly at the same moment by two different persons-by Mr. Burckhardt and M. Kosegarten of Jena. Of this extraordinary traveller, whose name is Ibn Batouta, some account will be found in Burckhardt's Nubian journeys, (Appendix, No. 3,) and an abridgement of that part of his travels which relates to Soudan and the Niger, forms what Kosegarten calls a Commentatio Academica.'
One complete copy only of this early Mahommedan's travels is said to exist in Cairo: this Mr. Burckhardt endeavoured in vain to discover; he procured, however, two copies of an abridgement, which are now at Cambridge, and, we believe, in progress of translation by the Arabic professor. In the mean time a brief extract from the notices given by the two above-mentioned gentlemen may not be unacceptable; and particularly of that part relating to the course of the Nile of Soudan, which is extremely interesting and important, as coming from one who was an eye-witness, who appears to have seen well, and to have collected accurate information of what he did not see.
* Leo Africanus saw the Niger at Kabra, and yet makes it run from east to west.
Ibn Batouta,' Mr. Burckhardt says, is perhaps the greatest land traveller who ever wrote his travels.' He was a native of Tangier, and travelled from the year 725 of the Hegira (1324 A. D.) to 755 (1354), being thirty years. In the course of that time he several times traversed Egypt, Syria, Arabia, Persia, the coast of the Red Sea, and the eastern coast of Africa. He then visited Bokhara, Balk, Samarcand, Kabul, India, and China. Taking shipping he landed on several of the Indian islands, visited the Maldives, and the coast of Malabar; crossed the mountains of Thibet, traversed India, and then embarked for Java. From this island he revisited China, and returned by Calicut, Yemen, Bagdad, and Damascus, to Cairo. Again he set out to perform the Hadj, and on his return visited the provinces of Spain. He next proceeded to the capital of Morocco, and thence as far as Sedjelmassa; -here the vicinity of the kingdoms of Soudan tempted the curiosity of this indefatigable traveller. It is this part which most concerns our present purpose. In 753 (1352) he crossed the desert with the slave traders to Taghary, (or Taghaza), 25 days journey from Sedjelmassa, the houses of which were built of salt stone, and covered with camel's skins. From this place he crossed a sandy glittering plain without water, or trees, where no footsteps would remain. After a journey of twenty days over this trackless desert, he reached Abou Laten, (called Ei-welaten by Kosegarten; probably the Wallet of Park,) the first town of Soudan; and here were a few date trees and water melons: the women are beautiful; the son of the sister inherits to the exclusion of the true son; a custom,' says Batouta, which I saw nowhere else, except among the Pagan Hindoos of Malabar.' This is true of the Nairs of Malabar to this day. He next reached Maly through a forest of large trees, each affording shade for a whole caravan. In the hollow trunk of one of them he observed a weaver at his loom; he also mentions a tree which affords drink to the traveller, and others in which bees make their honey. From Eiwelaten, ten days brought him to the town of Taghary, an extensive place inhabited by negro traders, and a few white people of the heretical creed of Byadha, (whom Kosegarten calls Kharid'ji), Christians or Jews. Leaving this he came to Karsekhu, (Kar Senjou of Burckhardt), situated on the bank of the Nile, which runs from thence to Kabara and Sagha or Zagha. Kârsekhu is in all probability the Sego of Park, who says that in different parts of it the names are Sego-Korro, Sego-see-Korro, &c.
Ibn Batouta now proceeds to state the course of the Nile from the information which he obtained at Kabara. The Nile, he says, flows to Timbuctoo, thence to Kok or Kûku, (Kouga); thence to the town of Muli, the last place within the kingdom of
Muli; thence to Yuwi (Bowy of Burckhardt) the principal seat of Negro government, and which no white person can approach. From Yuwi it flows into the country of the Nubians, who are Christians, and onward to Donkola (Dongola) their chief city; thence to Jenadel, (the second cataract,) the last place in the country of the blacks, and the first of the province of Eswân (Essuan) in Upper Egypt.
Returning to his own travels, he goes on to say that, leaving the town of Karsekku, he came to the river Sausara, and thence (in ten days, according to Burckhardt) to Muli, the seat of a negro sovereign, where he took up his abode in the khan of the white men. (This answers to the Melli or Lamlem marked, in some charts, on Arab authority, as containing one of the missing tribes of Israel.) Here he resided two months, and then returned to Timbuctoo, distant, according to him, four miles from the Nile. From this place, he proceeded, in a boat formed from the trunk of a single tree, down the river, and paid daily visits to the towns on its banks until he reached Kúku, the largest and handsomest town belonging to the Negroes; thence he passed on to Burdâma, inhabited by a tribe of Berbers, and Tekedda. This last place is described as built of red stones; and here the waters also, by running through veins of copper, had acquired a reddish colour and a bitter taste. The inhabitants trade with Egypt, and carry thither slaves and copper in exchange for articles of clothing. If Kûku and Burdâma be Kouga and Baghermi, as there can be little doubt they are, Tekedda cannot be far distant from the Abiad, where copper has always been said to abound.
Ibn Batouta left Tekedda with the caravan, and proceeded towards Tewat or Twât, which is seventy stages distant. He next visited Kahor, belonging to the Sultan of Karkan; and after a journey of eighteen days, reached a place where the roads separate, the one leading towards Egypt, and the other to Tewat. In ten days more he arrived at Dekkår, belonging to the Berbers; and, after travelling a month through this country, found himself once more at Sedjelmassa, whence he proceeded to Fez, where, he says, he threw away his traveller's staff, and gave thanks to God for his safe
Although we have yet only the mere abstract of an abstract of curious travels, (which however agrees with the preceding authorities in carrying the Niger to the second cataract of the Nile of Egypt,) we have more than sufficient to assure us that the details will be highly interesting; and we are not without the hope of procuring that complete copy which eluded the search of Mr. Burckhardt.
Much still remains to be done to settle the geography of Soudan
dan and the course of the Niger. Death has deprived the cause of discovery of two of its most promising, efficient, and intelligent promoters. The expedition under Major Gray, we fear, does not hold out any sanguine prospect of success; it had returned to Galam, on the Senegal, in August last, after a most harassing journey through the country of the Foolado, in which the party were insulted, plundered, attacked, and we believe some of them slain. Of a favourable result from Major Peddie's attempt, of which that of Major Gray is the sequel, our expectations were never raised very high. The countries through which they had to pass are so populous, and the people so well armed and so resolute, that nothing short of a little army could hope to succeed in traversing them. A small body of men is not sufficient for that purpose, though enough to awaken the jealousy of the chiefs, as to its designs; and the baggage which accompanies it more than enough to inflame their cupidity.*
As a proof how much easier it is for individuals to pass through the African tribes than a small armed party, it may be stated that Mr. Docherd, a surgeon in the above-mentioned expedition, with a few attendants, reached Yamina, on the Niger, without any difficulty. Here, however, he was obliged to stay till he received permission from the King of Sego to proceed. After waiting nearly six months, he was advised to retire higher up the river to Bammakoo, in Bambarra, from which the last accounts received from him are dated in May, 1819, when he was still in the hope of procuring the necessary permission, though several untoward circumstances operated against this expectation. In the first place, the King of Sego was at war with his eastern neighbours, (these neighbours, we suppose, are the Fellata tribes mentioned by Ritchie and Burckhardt), his minister had died just about the time that he heard of Mr. Docherd's arrival; a few days afterwards, his treasurer and receiver of customs departed this life; and, as ill luck would have it, the chief of Bammakoo also died just after he reached that place. These fatal circumstances tended to confirm the blacks in their notions of the evil influence which the presence of the whites exerts on their countrymen, and especially on their rulers, whom they are supposed to have the power of destroying by charms and secret spells. In the present instance, they were more convinced of the effect of this baneful influence on recollecting that Mansong, Moodie, Bennie, and other chiefs who had dealings with
* Mr. Burckhardt thinks that a body of about 100 armed men might be able to penetrate Africa from the eastward towards Bagharmi; such a body might, perhaps, succeed among the Berbers and the blacks, but certainly not among the numerous tribes of the half-civilized Arabs on the western side. VOL. XXIII. NO. XLV.