AFRICAN EXPLORERS

Shaw in Algeria and Tunis—Hornemann in Fezzan—Adamson at Senegal—Houghton in Senegambia—Mungo Park and his two voyages to the Djoliba, or Niger—Sego—Timbuctoo—Sparmann and Lavaillant at the Cape, at Natal, and in the Interior—Lacerda in Mozambique, and at Cazembé—Bruce in Abyssinia—Sources of the Blue Nile—Tzana Lake—Browne's journey in Darfur.

An Englishman named Thomas Shaw, a chaplain in Algeria, had profited by his twelve years' stay in Barbary to gather together a rich collection of natural curiosities, medals, inscriptions, and various objects of interest. Although he himself never visited the southern portion of Algeria, he availed himself of the facts he was able to obtain from well-informed travellers, who imparted to him a mass of information concerning the little known and scarcely visited country. He published a book in two large quarto volumes, which embraced the whole of ancient Numidia.

Map of part of North Africa

It was rather the work of a learned man than the account of a traveller, and it must be admitted that the learning is occasionally ill-directed. But in spite of its shortcomings as a geographical history, it had a large value at the time of its publication, and no one could have been better situated than Shaw for collecting such an enormous mass of material.

The following extract may give an idea of the style of the work:—

"The chief manufacture of the Kabyles and Arabs is the making 'hykes,' as they call their blankets. The women alone are employed in this work; like Andromache and Penelope of old, they do not use the shuttle, but weave every thread of the woof with their fingers. The usual size of a hyke is six yards long and five or six feet broad, serving the Kabyle and Arab as a complete dress during the day, and as a covering for the bed at night. It is a loose but troublesome garment, as it is often disarranged and slips down, so that the person who wears it is every moment obliged to tuck it up and rearrange it. This shows the great use there is of a girdle whenever men are in active employment, and explains the force of the Scripture injunction of having our loins girded. The method of wearing this garment, with the use it is at other times put to as bed-covering, makes it probable that it is similar to if not identical with the peplus of the ancients. It is likewise probable that the loose garment flung over the shoulder, the toga of the Romans, was of this kind, as the drapery of statues is arranged very much in the same manner as the Arab hyke."

It is unnecessary to linger over this work, which has little interest for us. We shall do better to turn our attention to the journey of Frederic Conrad Horneman to Fezzan.

This young German offered his services to the African Society of London, and, having satisfied the authorities of his knowledge of medicine and acquaintance with the Arabic language, he was engaged, and furnished with letters of introduction, safe-conducts, and unlimited credit.

Leaving London in July, 1797, he went first to Paris. Lalande introduced him to the Institute, and presented him with his "Mémoire sur l'Afrique," and Broussonet gave him an introduction to a Turk from whom he obtained letters of recommendation to certain Cairo merchants who carried on business in the interior of Africa.

During his stay at Cairo, Horneman devoted himself to perfecting his knowledge of Arabic, and studying the manners and customs of the natives. We must not omit to mention that the traveller had been presented by Monge and Berthollet to Napoleon Buonaparte, who was then in command of the French forces in Egypt. From him he received a cordial welcome, and Buonaparte placed all the resources of the country at his service.

He received a cordial welcome
"He received a cordial welcome."

As the safer method of travelling, Horneman resolved to disguise himself as a Mohammedan merchant. He quickly learned a few prayers, and adopted a style of dress likely to impose upon unsuspecting people. He then started, accompanied by a fellow-countryman named Joseph Frendenburg, who had been a Mussulman for more than twelve years, had already made three pilgrimages to Mecca, and was perfectly familiar with the various Turkish and Arabic dialects. He was to act as Horneman's interpreter.

On the 5th of September, 1798, the traveller left Cairo with a caravan, and visited the famous oasis of Jupiter Ammon or Siwah, situated in the desert on the east of Egypt. It is a small independent state, which acknowledges the Sultan, but is exempt from paying tribute. The town of Siwah is surrounded by several villages, at distances of a mile or two. It is built upon a rock in which the inhabitants have hollowed recesses for their dwellings. The streets are so narrow and intricate that a stranger cannot possibly find his way among them.

This oasis is of considerable extent. The most fertile portion comprises a well-watered valley, about fifty miles in circumference, which is productive of corn and edible vegetables. Dates of an excellent flavour are its most valuable export.