Travels In Syria And The Holy Land By John Lewis Burckhardt


























































 -  A camel with a litter cost fifteen hundred in going, and as
much in coming back. Of the whole caravan - Page 162
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A Camel With A Litter Cost Fifteen Hundred In Going, And As Much In Coming Back.

Of the whole caravan not above one-tenth part were real pilgrims, the rest consisted of soldiers, the servants

Of soldiers, people attached to the Pasha's suite, merchants, pedlars, camel-drivers, coffee and pipe waiters, a swarm of Bedouins, together with several tents of public women from Damascus, who were so far encouraged, that, whenever they were unable to obtain from their lovers the daily food for their horses or mules, they obtained a supply from the Pasha's stores.

The greater part of the pilgrims usually contract for the journey with one of the great undertakers, or Mekouam [Arabic], as they are called; this agreement is only for a beast of transport and for water; as to eating, the pilgrims generally mess together at their own expense, in bodies of about half a dozen. The Mekouam, on agreeing to furnish a beast of burthen, are bound to replace whatever may die on the road, and are therefore obliged to carry with them at least one unloaded camel for every loaded one. It is a general

[p.244]practice with the Mekouam to obtain as large sums as possible on account from the pilgrims who engage with them for the journey; they generally agree among each other upon the sum to be demanded, as well as the moment at which it is to be called for: so that if the pilgrims resist the imposition, the Hadj sometimes remains encamped on the same spot for several days, the Mekouam all refusing to proceed, and feeing the Pasha for his connivance at their injustice. On their return to Damascus, if they have already extorted from the pilgrims in the course of the journey more than the amount of their contract, as often happens, they generally declare themselves to be bankrupts, and then the value of a few camels is all that remains to pay their debts to the pilgrims.

Those pilgrims who do not engage with the Mekouam, as is generally the case with those who come from Armenia and the borders of the Black sea, perform the journey somewhat cheaper upon their own beasts; but they are ill-treated on the road by the Mekouam, are obliged to march the last in the caravan, to encamp on the worst ground, to fill their water skins the last, and are often even avanized by the Pasha. It is difficult to conceive the wretched condition of the greater part of the Hadjis, and the bad conduct of the troops and Arabs. Thieving and robbery have become general among them, and it is more the want of sleep from fear of being plundered, which causes the death of so many pilgrims, than the fatigues of the journey. The Pasha's troops, particularly those called Howara, which bring up the rear of the caravan, are frequently known to kill the stragglers during the night, in order to strip them of their property.

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