Mohammed Jhilila 1 Mohammed Jhilila Colonial Postcolonial Discourse -Travel Texts


An Essay on multiplicity in Doughty’s Travels in Arabia Deserta

One can hardy speak about Arabia Deserta without tackling the multi-disciplinary feature that marks the book; a long the peregrinations of Doughty within the Arab land, many things are echoed in a dexterous stylistic craft. by echo, I mean the resounding of Doughty’s personal intentions, biblical affiliation and stylistic enterprise. Having said this, I deem, the illustration requires a deep insight in Doughty’s career. The following paper concerns itself with the aforementioned field works hoping to come at a conclusion that linchpins of the tapestry of the whole enterprise make of Doughty a cosmopoet par excellence. Before elaborating on the ideas included within Doughty’s “Arabia”, I need to state and define what I mean by being a cosmopoet and to what extent Doughty can be affiliated in this school and philosophy. To be a cosmopoet for Kenneth Whites mirrors the capacity of the mind to think the previously unquestionable conceptions, it enables the mind to bring together items which were conceived of as having no relationships nor ties that link them. Doughty, being an outgoing figure, has, excellently, described, studied and reflected Arabia. Gypsying in the land, Doughty provided the western mind with another vantage through which it can perceive the Orient and the oriental alike. Of course as he says in the preface to the third edition:”the book is not milk for babes;” it is in fact a de facto. Before speaking about Arabia Deserta as literary work, I need to speak Doughty as learner and a literary man.

Mohammed Jhilila 2 As student he was known for his adamant character. He was known as a digger and reader; digging reflects, his scientific stand towards the areas he visited, reading, exclusively Spenser and Chaucer, epitomizes his malcontent with the Victorian decadent language as well as his curiosity to revive his country through the resurrection, if one can say so, of the language. Journeying in Arabia, Doughty in his voyage, along with the Hajj caravan, meticulously and in details represent to us everything related to Arabian lands, animals, cultures, and religions. In the Introduction to about the book T. E. Lawrence says:

We agreed that you have all the desert, its hills and plains, the lava fields, the villages, the tents, the men and animals1. From the quote we figure out that in the book Doughty provides what is geographical, the hills and plains, what is geological, the lava fields, what is anthropological, the tents and the men, and finally what is biological which is referred to by animals. The book is then a thoroughgoing the entire information concerned with Arabia are provided. Doughty could have dug the whole land if he had the adequate means to do so; during the two years journey, he attributed his time, mind and capacities to transcribe the inscriptions as well as to report the sediments that compose the geography of the land. The geographical stand of Doughty, yet, is not that scientific proper. I say this because it is merely occasionally that he describes the land without an aura of meditation. The description seems both bible-oriented and scientific proper. I will probe this point later on in the line of the discussion. Doughty’s intention was to provide a map of the area that’s why he visited the National Geographical Centre for financial subsidy but could get none. Along the Journey with the Doughty the reader is informed by the height of the areas the caravaners stop at. It hardly that he stops in a region without speaking about its height and the distance that separates it from the neighbouring villages. On page 72 for example Doughty provides his

T. E. Lawrence. Introduction. Charles Doughty, Travels in Arabia Deserta ( New York : Random House Publishers, 1959) p : 17.

Mohammed Jhilila 3 reader with a map of Maân he also refers to some rivers and cliffs whenever he finds them worth mentioning. Reading Doughty’s ‘Arabia’ one can fish out of it any information he is thirsty for. For a Geologically oriented reader the geological features are provided. Peregrinating in the land Doughty was deeply concerned with the composition of Arabia. The basalt, lava fields, limestone and sandstones are part of his concern. What is noteworthy is that his stand towards this field work is more nihilistic and more natural; Doughty was influenced by the New-geology of Charles Lleyl. For this latter the hand of God does not exist in the formation of the land. Rather, it is shaped by the continuous movement of natural forces and natural evolutions. Doughty, in this respect, does not take it for granted that the land was formed because of the catastrophes and disasters that were punishments of God a given people. In so far as the biblical affiliation is concerned, I suppose that Doughty is ambivalent; I say ambivalent because he refers to many fields as divine-oriented for a while then as being naturalistic in other occasions. Doughty was brought up in a Christian family; he is a son and grandson of a reverend. His journey within Arabia and among the Arabs helped him as he best words it to be:” better able to read the bulk of the Old Testament” 2. For Doughty the Arabs epitomize the people spoken about in the bible and they are necessary to better understand its verses since for him they concretise the abstractions conveyed by the book. Steadfastly, Doughty refuses to change or even deceive the Beduins about his religious beliefs. He keeps being a Nassrani and preferred to risk his live than convert into Islam or even pretend that he is a Muslim. Before reaching Petra which he endeavoured to stop at, Doughty had only learnt about the noun of Prophet Salîh and his Naga- camel- but in his journey with the Hajj caravan he is informed with the location of the cities of Salîh as well as the place where the Prophet’s camel was killed. From Al-Eswad’s- Doughty’s Dalil- guideanswer to Doughty’s inquisition we read:

Charles Doughty. Preface. Travels in Arabia Deserta ( New York : Random House Publishers, 1959) p : 35. * All quotes I use are from the same book.

Mohammed Jhilila 4 And where are the cities of Salîh? It was answered” in none of these precipices about, but in yonder Jebel (ethlib)3. The religious aspects in Arabia Deserta is divine in the rigid and traditional sense; by this I mean that Doughty’s touch in the narrative can not be said to be really Christian. During his trips in the area Doughty was, though meticulously maintaining his Nasranity, more intellectual as figure than a religious one. Along his peregrinations he conceives of the Islamic rituals as being nature-related. In other words the hostility of the Arabs is dictated by the natural surrounding rather than by the religious affiliation. Else where, as we can read from the subsequent quote, his stand is more scientific as he best expresses it: How great was is this yearly suffering and sacrifice of human flesh, and all lost labour, for a vain opinion, a little salt of science would dissolve all their religion!4 The hostility and low regard of the Arab religion and cultures are not directly related Doughty’s Christian religion it is noteworthy to mention the contribution of the natural sphere in the traveller’s attitude, needless to mention that his position is not always for nor always against. Ambivalence is a linchpin of his idiosyncrasy as we will see in the following lines. Along the narrative, Doughty is characterized by his twofold description of the Arabs’ religions and cultures. For him, the Arab living in the desert is both a savage, acultured, intolerable and backward. This is, yet, not the only image the Arab is depicted; elsewhere, Doughty favourable speaks to and about the oriental as being hospitable and patient. Unlike the other orientalists, Doughty speaking about the Arab oriental says: The Arabs are too poor so to lose cattle; but these and the like, are tales rather of the European Orientalism than with much resemblance to the common experience5

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(Page : 123). (Page : 92). 5 (Page : 96).

Mohammed Jhilila 5 Doughty before and during his stay in Arabia did not rely on any traveller’s descriptions. Instead, he went on taking the risks and the adventure as it came. As it is mentioned in the introduction he even had some native friends who visited him in England. Doughty by ignoring other orientalists saved his book from being rubbed in the mud of the systematic Orientalism. Thus, as he says in the preface, the book unveils its bare land with “a smell[ing] of Sâmn and Camel”. The use of Sâmn image reflects Doughty’s craftsmanship and dexterity; the use of the term Sâmn, besides other Arabic sentences, conveys the cultural distant other. Language, being a vehicle that carries the essence of its speaker if one can say so, helps Doughty not only to describe the Oriental but also to make his reader experience the other as he is and as this latter speaks and behaves himself. Doughty could live the whole two years among the Beduins of the area this helped him know their landscape and mindscape as well. For him the journey and the writing process are supposed to "add something to the common fund of Western knowledge"6. The linguistic features and stylistic enterprise remain a cornerstone that deserves not only readable response but also responsible reading. As I have already mentioned before, Doughty’s Arabia Deserta is an echo of its author’s intentions; it is an echo of his personal intention to revive the country through the resurrection of the Chaucerian and Spenserian Language. The patriotic ambition has travelled with Doughty along the journey and after it. As it is stated by his biographer Tabatchnic he stood steadfast towards any editorial amendments to Arabia Deserta. For Doughty the institutionalization of his work to fit the Victorian’s mind is a prostitution of his work. That is why he praisingly speaks about it saying it is not milk for babes. For T. E. Lawrence the book is “a bible of its kind; it is so because of the stylistic mixtures and semantic extension brought by Doughty. The mixture of Arabic words and sometimes even sentences without harming the meaning makes of Doughty one special of his kind. At the very beginning of the travel Doughty uses only fragments of Arabic but as we deepen our travel with him he turns to using Arabic sentences and sometimes with English inflections. For instance, referring to

(Page : 33).

Mohammed Jhilila 6 the Hajj Pasha, he says Emir al-Hajj but as the reader becomes familiar with the terms he uses them as if they were English ones. Elsewhere, in an unusual metaphorical description of the Bedouin, Doughty describes the latter as a ship of the desert. In fact, the reader is well acquainted with the camel being described as such but this time doughty attributes the image to the Arab man not the animal. The dexterity in Doughty’s style is also read from his sea metaphor for him, “The beduin body is as a light-timbered ship which may lie stranded till the spring-tide.”7 The botanic and the animalistic composition of Arabia are also tackled by Doughty. As far as the botanic is concerned, from the very beginning Doughty’s description of Arabia included the exposition of ingredients. While Doughty is still waiting for the hajj caravan season to come he tarries in Muzeyrîb and speaks about the fig trees. He speaks also about the fresh vegetables like lemons, dates, tomatoes and pomegranates when he arrived at ElHumeydât villages. While journeying in Arabia it could have been strange not to mention the camel being the ship of the Sahara; Doughty refers bountifully to the camel as the companion of the Arab man. It is the most frequently seen animal in the desert. Doughty also refers the importance of the sheep for the Arab being a source of milk and meat. Doughty was scarcely received without having a sheep sacrificed for him. During one of his speculations, Doughty refers to hyenas which for is behind the scatterings of the dead bodies’ bones. For Doughty the bare plain land of Arabia allows one two live at ease with himself. Despite the hardships Doughty had to go through, the area provided him with an unrestricted sightedness instead it made the natural sphere welcomed and lived with in a totally cherished harmony. This can be read throughout the narrative but the following quote best expresses the idea: No sweet chittering of birds greets the coming of the desert light, besides man there is no voice in the waste drought8

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Mohammed Jhilila 7 The smoothness of the voices of the birds is genuinely describe when it is put in a rough environment; in other words the opportunity to taste the benign voice of the birds is better appreciated when one is in a hard entourage and not within the facilities provided in the western countries. The openness of the land with no high buildings granted Doughty to fathom the orient with better insight it also helped him widen the scope of his mind. As I have insinuated to beforehand, Doughty’s intention was to add something to the common fund of Western knowledge. In Arabia Doughty is more a cosmopoet than an archaeologist or a geologist or even a politician. Along his trips the communion with nature and natural elements is described in the meditative mind of Doughty. The lava fields or the geological sediments are scarcely described in a scientific proper style. Instead of the materialistic and utilitarian mind the meditative and contemplative mind accrued. For him: Beduins complain in their long hours of the wretchedness of their lives; and they seem then wonderfully pensive.9 Having the whole season marked by its heat and drought Doughty better receives the spring time as could beautifully esteem of the green scenery as he says "beautiful is the green pageant of the oasis, after the burning barren dust of the desert"10 The out figure and the outgoing and lone character of Doughty has seized the whole Arabia within its pages it flaws easily into small details with a great endeavour to resurrect English from its decadence. Through Arabia Deserta, Doughty has booked a special position in the English literature.



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