London, 31st March, 1879.
[p.xxv]PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.
The interest just now felt in everything that relates to the East would
alone be sufficient to ensure to the author of "El Medinah and Meccah"
the favourable consideration of the Reading Public. But when it is
borne in mind that since the days of William Pitts of Exeter (A.D.
1678-1688) no European travellers, with the exception of
Burckhardt[FN#3] and Lieut. Burton,[FN#4] have been able to send us
back an account of their travels there, it cannot be doubted but that
the present work will be hailed as a welcome addition to our knowledge
of these hitherto mysterious penetralia of Mohammedan superstition. In
fact, El Madinah may be considered almost a virgin theme; for as
Burckhardt was prostrated by sickness throughout the period of his stay
in the Northern Hejaz, he was not able to describe it as satisfactorily
or minutely as he did the Southern country,-he could not send a plan of
the Mosque, or correct the popular but erroneous ideas which prevail
concerning it and the surrounding city.
The reader may question the propriety of introducing
[p.xxvi]in a work of description, anecdotes which may appear open to
the charge of triviality. The author's object, however, seems to be to
illustrate the peculiarities of the people-to dramatise, as it were,
the dry journal of a journey,-and to preserve the tone of the
adventures, together with that local colouring in which mainly consists
"l'education d'un voyage." For the same reason, the prayers of the
"Visitation" ceremony have been translated at length, despite the
danger of inducing tedium; they are an essential part of the subject,
and cannot be omitted, nor be represented by "specimens."
The extent of the Appendix requires some explanation.