A voyage to Abyssinia (Salt)/Appendix 5

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No. V.

This Appendix contains a translation of the accounts given by Ibn 'l Wardi and Marco Polo, respecting Abyssinia and the adjoining districts, (referred to in p. 368,) a few miscellaneous observations on Massowa, and some particulars regarding the trade of Zeyla and Mocha; to which is subjoined the sea-journal of the 6th and 7th of July, by which I have endeavoured to fix the position of Abdelcuria, and the north-west end of the Island of Socotra.

Extract from a geographical Work written in Arabic by Ibn 'l Wardi.

"Habesh.—This country is opposite to the Hejauz, and between them is the sea. Most of the natives are Christians; and it is a long and extensive country, stretching from the east to the south of Nubia. These (the Habshi,) are the people who conquered Yemen in the time of the Chosroes, before the introduction of Islamism. Their women are beautiful, and delicately made. One of their chief cities is Kāber," (An-kober, the present capital of Efat,) "which is the metropolis of the King, and in it are many banana trees. The Habesh do not eat the male of common fowls." (This last remark is so far correct, that they will not eat them after they have once crowed, owing to some singular superstition, for which they could not account.)

Zeyla is the emporium of Habesh to the south; the natives of which are a powerful people. Islamism prevails among them, and integrity in doing what is right.

"Boja, or Bujja.[1]—These people are the merchants of Habesh to the north, their country lying between Habesh and Nuba; and they are black, naked, and worshippers of idols. Their land is divided into many petty districts. They are sociable, good, and kind to merchants: and in their country is a mine of gold. They have no towns, nor crops of corn; but their land is an extensive desert. The merchants" (probably from Egypt) "pass through it to the valley (or torrent) of Ollaki," (the modern Salaka,) "which valley has a great population of mixed people." Here he proceeds to describe the mode of collecting the sand in which the gold is found intermingled; and then adds, that "they wash it at the wells and purify it, till the gold becomes separated, when they mix it with quicksilver, and melt it in albuwatik; and this employment forms their chief support and maintenance. Many Arabs of the tribe of Rabbea Ib'n Nuzzar have connected themselves with these people, and intermarried with them." Afterwards, in another place, describing the land of Aidhab, he remarks, that "a governor from the Bujja presides over it, and another from the Sultaun of Egypt, who divide the revenue between them. The duty of the governor from Egypt is to provide supplies," (probably for the workmen engaged in the mines,) "and the governor of the Boja has to guard it from the Habshi." This account of the Boja tends very satisfactorily to illustrate the Axum inscription.

Extract from the Travels of Marco Polo. (Lib. iii. in Ramusio, page 59, c. 38.)

"Abasch is a large province, and is called middle, or second India. The chief sovereign of this country is a Christian; and there are six other kings, three of whom are Christians, and three Moors, all subject to his authority.—The greater Christian king has his residence in the centre of the country. The Moorish king has his jurisdiction near the district of Adem (or as it should be properly written, Adel.)—The Abyssinians are a very strong people in arms, and great warriors, and have continual wars with the Soldan of Adel, and the people of Nubia, and many other nations on their confines; and hence, from their constant exercise in arms, are esteemed the best soldiers in India.

"About the year 1288, as was told me, it happened that the sovereign of the Abyssinians had an intention of making a pilgrimage in person to the tomb of Christ at Jerusalem, immense numbers of these people going there every year on a similar devotion; but he was dissuaded by all his barons (chiefs) from it, on account of the great danger he would have had to encounter in passing so many places under the control of the Moors, his enemies; and on this consideration, he commissioned a bishop, of great reputed sanctity, who went in his stead, and made his offerings at Jerusalem. On his return, he was taken captive in the city of Adel, where the Soldan ordered him to his presence, and with threats endeavoured to make him a convert to the Mahomedan faith; but as he remained firm and obstinate to the Christian religion, the Soldan ordered him to be circumcised, out of spite to the King of Abyssinia. The priest returning, and relating his disaster and the disgrace done to him, the King suddenly ordered his forces to be put in order, and marched out with them, bent on the destruction of the Sultan of Adel; which prince hearing of the King of Abyssynia's intention, called to his assistance two other Moorish chiefs (of Hurrur probably,) with very numerous armies: but they were all routed by the sovereign of Habesh, who took the city of Aden (Zeyla possibly) and laid it waste, to revenge the disgrace done to his priest. (Vide Mr. Bruce's Travels, Vol. III. p. 32.)

"The people of Abyssinia live on wheat, rice, flesh, and milk; and they make oil of sesamum, and have abundance of every sort of provisions. Elephants, lions, giraffes; and they likewise have many goats and fowls of different kinds, and a number of other animals; among which may be mentioned monkeys, and apes resembling men. The interior provinces are rich in gold; for which merchants travel voluntarily into the country, as "they derive great advantage from the trade.[2] I shall now speak "of Adem." Here the author proceeds to describe Aden, though it is certain from the context, that by Adem he had hitherto meant Adel; a mistake which may have arisen probably from the inattention of the transcribers.

This was written about the year 1290, and appears to me very valuable, from its occurring at a period when we have no other European accounts of the state of Abyssinia; and from its being throughout very consistent with the narrations extracted from their own chronicles. It is much to be regretted, however, that the author does not give the name of the king, as it might have materially assisted in clearing up the chronology of those times.

Additional Remarks respecting Massowa, made in February, 1810, partly extracted from Captain Weatherhead's Journal.

The town of Massowa stands upon an island of the same name, about three-quarters of a mile long by one-quarter broad, in north latitude 15° 36′ 15″, and east longitude 39° 23′ 30″. Its harbour is easy of access, having deep water into it, though the channel is narrow: and it will contain fifty sail of vessels with safety, provided they moor with one another to E.N.E. and another to the W.S.W. In general, the wind comes from the land all night, with gentle breezes; and towards ten o'clock in the forenoon, it veers round to the eastward, and blows fresh; but no sea of any consequence comes into the harbour, owing to the narrowness of the entrance. The island is a place of no strength, having only two pieces of cannon lying on the ground without any carriages, and one field-piece mounted, which is not safe to fire: the armed force amounting to fifteen soldiers only with matchlocks, and a few spearmen. The buildings consist of four mosques, constructed in a plain style, and a few stone houses, many of which are now in ruins; the great mass of the people residing in huts made of reeds, and covered with grass; each of which has a small yard attached to it. The town is regularly supplied with milk, bullocks, and goats from the country, which come over in a passage boat, that passes to and fro, from the island to the main, during the whole of the day. The people generally, however, come down to the jetty about eight in the morning, and return about sun-set to their respective homes: there are no wells of water on the island, but a considerable number of large tanks, which collect the rain-water, the greater part of which is kept in reserve for the purpose of supplying the Sheriffes dows; the inhabitants being furnished daily with this article from the wells at Arkeeko. The natives charge for supplying a ship one dollar for twenty skins, and a skin holds about five gallons. The trade of Massowa chiefly consists of cotton from Muscat and Bombay, which sells to good advantage in the interior, the natives manufacturing it into cloth, after mixing it with their own, which is of a superior qulity. A few coarse Indian cloths, and coarse double-milled broad cloths, are likewise articles of import: the exports consist of gold, ivory, slaves, and corn, from Abyssinia. The people speak a mixed language of Abyssinian and Arabic, which makes it difficult even for an Arab to understand them. The population of the town amounts to about two thousand. The natives build dows here, and small boats: and vessels often heave down and repair on the island, which has some small spots of sandy beach.

The following information concerning the trade and duties of Zeyla, summed up for three years, was given to Mr. Stuart, by the Baskatib of that place, in March 1810.


Six thousand pots of ghee; duty ½ a measure per pot.
80 bahars of coffee. These are sent by the Sultan of Harrur,
30 bahars of ivory. whose goods are exempt from duty.
Myrrh, 5 bahars; no duty on entering: four dollars per bahar
on shipping.
Ostrich feathers, 3 bahars; no duty.
Juwarry, 5160 measures; duty 10 per cent. on entering; 20 per
cent. on shipping.
Wheat, 4000 measures; duty as on juwarry.
Hides of bullocks dressed; 1 corja to ship, but no duty on entrance.
Slaves, male and female, 900: duty one dollar each, whether sold in town or shipped.
The ghee is brought from the Somaulies.
The coffee from Hurrur and Gerri.
The ivory from the Esa Somaulies, the Galla, Hurrur, and Baskola countries.
The gum arabic and myrrh, are brought by the Goodabeesa Somauli.
The ostrich feathers by the same, as well as the Esa.
The juwarry and wheat, by the Goodabeesa and Esa, from Baskola, Gerri, &c.; but never by the Heberawul Somauli.
The hides from Hurrur, &c.
The slaves are from various places, as Berbera, Hurrur, Tajoura, &c.


Tobacco from Muscat, 60 busta or bales; duty 2 dollars per frasil.
Coarse cloths from Cutch, 200 bales; duty 5 dollars per bale.

Miscellaneous Observations respecting the trade of Mocha in May and June, 1810.

The best time for getting a cargo at Mocha is from the beginning of March until the end of August; as coffee in those months is dry, loses little in weight, and is consequently better adapted for shipping. Spanish dollars were at this time 1½ per cent. more valuable than German dollars, a circumstance owing to the quantity of specie sent over at this season to India; at other times the German dollars are of greater value, as no other will pass in Abyssinia or on the African coast.

One hundred bales of coffee, at 305lbs. to the bale, will average 14 tons English. One camel's load of coffee amounts to 15 frazils. The brokerage paid to the Banyans is two and a half per cent.

The price of the different articles was at this time as follows:
Best coffee,[3] from Uddeen, 118, 120 dollars per bahar.
Gum. arabic, cleared and put on board, 25 dollars per bale of 330lbs.
Gum copel, (not cleared) 4½ dollars per frazil.
Lihan-mete, (frankincense from Mete) 3½ to 4 dollars per frazil.
Gum mastich, 3½ dollars per frazil.
Gum myrrh, 3¾ to 4 dollars per frazil.
Bullock skins, ½ a dollar each.
Black headed sheep skins from Berbera, Yemen sheep, goat, and kid skins dried, 6d. each.
Tanned skins, 1 shilling each.
Kia rope, 15 dollars for five frazils.

Besides these articles, indigo, barilla, salt-petre, and senna leaves, are to be bought at a reasonable rate.

Information from Bemjee, the principal Banyan at Mocha.

Expenses upon a bahar of 495lbs. net, when completely garbled and shipped on board, is as follows:
D. Cts.
Custom house and Coolie hire - - - - 0 28½
Weighing duty in custom house - - - - 1 0
Transporting to factory and starting - - - 0 5
Garbling in the factory and clearing - - - 0 25
Cleaning with baskets and winnowing - - - 0 6½
Bags and mats for packing - - - - - - 0 12½
Gunny bags - - - - - - - - 0 57
Sewing with grass - - - - - - - - 0 8
Ropes for bags - - - - - - 0 8
Packerman - - - - - - - - 0 19
Coolie hire to gate - - - - - - - 0 19
Re-weighing at the custom house and boat hire - 0 8
Duty three per cent. on prime cost - - - - 3 46
Boat hire per bale - - - - - - - 0 10
Commission to Banyan at 2½ per cent. - - - 2 90
Coolie hire in factory - - - - - 0 8
Weighing in factory - - - - - 0 4
Mats and packing mats - - - - - -0 7
Watching per bag, when left on quay at night - 0 25

Total 9 81½

Duty and expenses on a bag of 330lbs. of Gum, the duty being the same on all kinds.

D. Cts.
Arab duty 1 75
Weighing 0 75
Custom house coolies 0 25
Starting per bag 0
Packing per bag 0 12½
Double matts 0 12½
Outer matts over all 0 11
Ropes 0 7
Weighing in factory 0 4
Duty ad valorem on exportation 0 80
Packing 0 7
Coolie hire to gate 0 12½
Commission at 2½ per cent. 0 60
Boat hire 0 12½
Watchman 0 7
Re-weighing on ship board 0 6
Total 5

This is supposing the cost at 20 dollars.

Copy of the Manifest of Cargo shipped at Mocha on board the Marian.

631 whole bales of coffee, each 305lbs. net.[4]
191 half ditto.
5 ditto, on freight.
108 whole bales of gum arabic, each 330lbs. net.
69 half ditto, each 165lbs.
35 chests of gum amony, each from 400 to 450.
24 bales of gum myrrh, 330 each.
4 frankincense, ditto.
33 gum mastich, whole and half bales.
6 ditto senna leaves.
13 bales of indigo.
2 bales of gall nuts.
23 bags of salt-petre.
3 baskets of tortoise shells.
3 tons of barilla.
259 bullocks hides.
2842 sheep skins.
170 red skins dressed.

The thermometer during my stay in Abyssinia in March, April, and May, varied according to the height of the local situation. At Chelicut it was 70; at Antálo 65; on the banks of the Tacazze 95; while on the mountains of Samen it must have been below the freezing point. During theses same months the average of the thermometer at Mocha was 78, and during January and February at Zeyla, it was 79, varying from 74 to 82.

Extract from the Journal of the Ship Marian.

July 6, 1810.

H. Course. Distance. Winds.
4 P. M. E. N. E. 4 0 W. b. N.
5 5 6
6 5 6
7 E. b. S. 5 4
8 2 6 Variable.
9 0 0 Calm.
10 E. b. N. 2 4 S. b. W.
11 3 0
12 3 0
1 A. M. East. 3 0
2 3 6
3 E. b. N. 4 4
4 4 4
5 4 0
6 East. 4 0
7 4 0
8 4 0
9 4 0
10 E. ½ S. 3 4 S. b. W.
11 3 6
12 3 6 S. S. W.

July 7, 1810.

H. Course. Distance. Winds.
1 P. M. S. E. b. E. 2 4 S. S. W.
2 2 4
3 2 4
4 2 4
5 3 6
6 3 6
7 S. E. b. E. ½ E. 4 0
8 4 0
9 S. S. E. 4 0
10 3 6
11 3 6
12 4 0 S. W. b. S.
1 A. M. 5 0
2 4 4
3 4 0
4 4 0
5 3 4
6 3 2
7 3 2
8 3 2
9 W. b. N. &c. 4 4 S. S. W.


A few days before the last sheet of this work went to press, I had the pleasure of receiving from Monsieur Henry, a literary gentleman residing at Paris, his French translation of Lord Valentia's Travels, which appears to be executed with great ability. At the same time he was obliging enough to send me a copy of another edition of the journal of my Travels into Abyssinia, extracted from Lord Valentia's work, and published by Monsieur Prevost of Geneva, with whom I had previously corresponded on the subject: and I may here be permitted to express, so far as I am concerned, my obligations to both these gentlemen for the liberal spirit which prompted them to undertake these translations under the very untoward circumstances with which they had to contend. I find, to my great satisfaction, by the Appendices subjoined to these works, that my conjectures respecting the Adulitic inscriptions have been very candidly admitted by one of the most celebrated scholars in France, M. Sylvestre de Sacy, who, in the twelfth volume of the "Annales des Voyages," has thus expressed himself, "Il me suffit de dire qu'il (M. Salt) me parait avoir parfaitement établi que l'inscription d'Adulis forme réellement deux inscriptions qui n'ont rien de commun; que de ces deux inscriptions, celle qui est gravée sur la chaise de marbre blanc appartient incontestablement à un roi des Abyssiniens ou Axumites," &c. He afterwards proceeds to observe, that he cannot agree with me in opinion, that this was erected by Aizana,[5] for which he gives such convincing arguments, that I am induced to think he is right: and if this be the case, the inscription must be attributed, in all probability, to the Emperor El Asguaga, no other reign intervening between him and Aizana of sufficient duration, to which it can be applied. It is worthy of observation that this correction takes it back to the period, at which I have remarked that a change appears to have occurred in the reigning dynasty of the Abyssinian emperors, as denoted by the prefixing of the article El to the names of the sovereigns, a circumstance that may hereafter lead to a still further elucidation of this part of the Abyssinian History; but I confess that, as yet, I have not sufficiently consulted the necessary authorities to enable me to enter into a discussion on the subject. M. De Sacy has also rightly determined, that the figures in the Axum inscription are formed of Greek characters, an opinion, which it will be seen I had adopted previously to meeting with his valuable remarks; and I am happy to find, that we besides generally agree as to the numerals to which the characters refer.


  1. These are undoubtedly the tribes mentioned in the Axum inscription.
  2. It is curious to observe how completely the style is formed on that of the Arabic.
  3. Best coffee comes from Uddeen, Gebil Saruk, Uthma, Massar, Annus, and Hemma; the second quality from Badden and Huaoss.
  4. The coffee sold in England, in 1811, at 12l. 10s. and 13l. per hundred.
  5. Vide p. 359 of this work.