CHAPTER XIX. MOSUL AND NINEVEH.
JOURNEY OF THE CARAVAN THROUGH THE DESERT - ARRIVAL AT MOSUL - CURIOSITIES - EXCURSION TO THE RUINS OF NINEVEH AND THE VILLAGE OF NEBBI YUNUS - SECOND EXCURSION TO THE RUINS OF NINEVEH - TEL-NIMROUD - ARABIAN HORSES - DEPARTURE FROM MOSUL.
In order to travel from Baghdad to Mosul safely, and without great expense, it is necessary to join a caravan. I requested Herr Swoboda to direct me to a trustworthy caravan guide. I was indeed advised not to trust myself alone among the Arabs, at least to take a servant with me; but with my limited resources this would have been too expensive. Moreover, I was already pretty well acquainted with the people, and knew from experience that they might be trusted.
A caravan was to have left on the 14th of June, but the caravan guides, like the ship captains, always delay some days, and so we did not start until the 17th instead of the 14th.
The distance from Baghdad to Mosul is 300 miles, which occupy in travelling from twelve to fourteen days. Travellers ride either horses or mules, and in the hot months travel during the night.
I had hired a mule for myself and my little baggage, for which I paid the low price of fifteen krans (12s. 6d.), and had neither fodder nor anything else to provide.
Every one who intends proceeding with the caravan is obliged to assemble before the city gate about 5 o'clock in the evening. Herr Swoboda accompanied me there, and particularly recommended me to the care of the caravan guide, and promised him in my name a good bachshish if he saved me all the trouble he could during the journey.
In this way I entered upon a fourteen days' journey through deserts and steppes, a journey full of difficulties and dangers, without any convenience, shelter, or protection. I travelled like the poorest Arab, and was obliged, like him, to be content to bear the most burning sun, with no food but bread and water, or, at the most, a handful of dates, or some cucumbers, and with the hot ground for a bed.
I had, while in Baghdad, written out a small list of Arabian words, so that I might procure what was most necessary. Signs were easier to me than words, and by the aid of both, I managed to get on very well. I became in time so used to the signs that, in places where I could make use of the language, I was obliged to take some pains to prevent myself from using my hands at the same time.
While I was taking leave of Herr Swoboda, my little portmanteau, and a basket with bread and other trifles, had already been put into two sacks, which were hung over the back of the mule. My mantle and cushion formed a comfortable soft seat, and everything was in readiness - only the mounting was rather difficult, as there was no stirrup.
Our caravan was small. It counted only twenty-six animals, most of which carried merchandise, and twelve Arabs, of whom five went on foot. A horse or mule carries from two to three and a half hundredweight, according to the state of the road.
About 6 we started. Some miles outside the town several other travellers joined us, chiefly pedlars with loaded animals, so that presently our party increased in numbers to sixty. But our numbers changed every evening, as some always remained behind, or others joined us. We often had with us some shocking vagabonds, of whom I was more afraid than robbers. It is, moreover, said not to be uncommon for thieves to join the caravan, for the purpose of carrying on their depredations, if there should be an opportunity of doing so.
I should, on the whole, have no great faith in the protection which such a caravan is capable of affording, as the people who travel in this way are principally pedlars, pilgrims, and such like, who probably have never in their lives used a sword or fired a gun. A few dozen well-armed robbers would certainly get the better of a caravan of even a hundred persons.
On the first night we rode ten hours, until we reached Jengitsche. The country around was flat and barren, uncultivated and uninhabited. Some few miles outside Baghdad cultivation appeared to be suddenly cut off, and it was not until we came to Jengitsche that we saw again palms and stubble fields, showing that human industry is capable of producing something everywhere.
Travelling with caravans is very fatiguing: although a walking pace is never exceeded, they are on the road from nine to twelve hours without halting. When travelling at night the proper rest is lost, and in the day it is scarcely possible to get any sleep, exposed in the open air to the excessive heat, and the annoyances of flies and mosquitoes.
18th June. In Jengitsche we met with a chan, but it was by no means equal in appearance and cleanliness to that on the road to Babylon; its chief advantage was being situated near the Tigris.
The chan was surrounded by a small village, to which I proceeded for the purpose of satisfying my hunger. I went from hut to hut, and at last fortunately succeeded in obtaining some milk and three eggs. I laid the eggs in the hot ashes and covered them over, filled my leathern flask from the Tigris, and thus loaded returned proudly to the chan. The eggs I ate directly, but saved the milk for the evening. After this meal, procured with such difficulty, I certainly felt happier, and more contented than many who had dined in the most sumptuous manner.
During my search through the village, I noticed, from the number of ruined houses and huts, that it seemed to have been of some extent formerly. Here, also, the last plague had carried off the greater part of the inhabitants; for, at the present time, there were only a few very poor families.